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Books and chocolate

It seems to be a pattern this year, just as I am embarking on blogging about a trip away, life intervenes and the posts stop before they really get started.

Oh well, I hope that my Scotland trip will still appear here, but for now my seasonal offering this year is a tradition from Iceland I have just heard about from litlovers facebook page:

The “Jólabókaflóð” – literally, the Christmas Book Flood.  Apparently Icelanders love books perhaps more than any other nation in the world, and every Christmas everyone will find at least one book under their Christmas tree.

 

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Bells ring out at 6.0 pm on Christmas eve and then Icelanders sit down to a formal meal:  many  listen to the service on the radio even if their families aren’t religious, just because this is the beginning of the Christmas celebrations.  Once the meal is over and cleaned up, the gift distribution (or book distribution) begins. In fact, it’s a tradition in Iceland to open the books and spend all Christmas Eve reading and drinking hot chocolate, or better still, to climb into the freshly cleaned sheets of your bed, in your new pyjamas, with your new book plus some chocolate, and spending the night under the covers eating and reading:)

Its interesting that chocolate in some form seems to go hand in hand with reading:  clearly I am Icelandic:)

I hope you get some good books this Christmas!

 

https://helenafairfax.files.wordpress.com/2015/12/iceland-1.jpg?w=300&h=200

 

On hold

I am in Paris and things are working out with some creative thought.

Unfortunately I am having trouble putting photos on my WordPress blog with my iPad so, although I am writing posts each day they will have to wait until I can sort out this problem. But I will be back when it is sorted.

with lovely , lovely pix:)

It has been a hard few weeks: poor Minstrel has left a huge void.

Three weeks ago I scattered his ashes along with those of Spot, his earlier amd most beloved companion.  We had planted a tree for Spot in a place where he loved to rest and I scattered the joint ashes around this tree in the little spinney.

But we now have little Chester/Jester who has come to keep lonely Saxon company: from the same animal sanctuary.

chester-2016-010

As you can see he is a Shetland.  He came on trial but has fitted in well and is a very amenable chap although not backward in coming forward!  As our vet said, “He is a leader isn’t he?”  And that is just what Saxon needed: they got on well from the beginning.  As Chester/Jester was unloaded and came into the field he just took off and inspected everything with no qualms, basically saying, “Come with me or not, it’s up to you but I’m going this way.”  Saxon looked bemused at first but then followed on behind and now they are inseparable.

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We prefer the name Jester but as we have not yet been given his Passport we can do nothing about that.  He is a rescue from the Shetland Isles, as yet we do not know his full back story.  He is 12 years old and 35 inches at the shoulder, only 2/3rd the size of Saxon.  In fact when he stands in front of Saxon he looks as though he could almost stand under Saxon’s tum!

The temptation is to treat him like a large dog but we need to remember that he is in fact a large horse, just in a small body.  He now whinnies at me when I go out to the field and seems very sweet but it is important that he knows who is boss.

We had the vet out last week to file down Saxon’s teeth which were giving him trouble.  Our vet, Chris, has had Shetlands for many years.  At Easter he had to have his two put down, they were 34 and 36 years old respectively.  He was heartbroken.  He said they used to wander wherever they wanted, often coming into the kitchen.

So he went and adopted seven Shetlands from the Sanctuary that Chester/Jester and Saxon come from.  Chris and his wife began taking the ponies into Old Peoples’ Homes and to Schools for children with special needs.  But because of Health and Safety rules the ponies have to wear socks and horse nappies.  Two of the ponies did not enjoy this so they were left at home to graze peacefully, but the others loved it.  One old lady spent her last months knitting socks for the ponies: when she died Chris asked her family if they would like her favourite pony to come to the funeral.  They were overjoyed, said yes at once, and the pony led the cortège.

One particular incident which moved Chris profoundly was when a boy of 8 who was deaf and blind was shown one of the ponies. The lad felt it all over and then just leaned over the pony’s back with his arms around its neck, feeling it breathing and stayed there for ages, at least forty minutes.  The pony remained still the whole time.

Chris confirmed that, unlike most horses, Shetlands can live out in the worst weather because they have two coats of hair, rather like water birds have with down and feathers.  The base coat is very dense and soft like down, with the longer coarser hairs making up the top coat.  So we have bought Saxon a new, very thick, padded winter coat with a cover which goes all the way up his neck to his ears and fits round his neck so that he can stay outside more in winter with Chester/Jester.  But Jester will just have to come in and spend the night in the stable if the weather is too bad for Saxon, even though Jester gets bored and wants to be out and about.

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(This is not Saxon’s new coat, but gives the idea.  His is navy blue with green edging.  This photo comes from Google images.)

So there we are, the continuous circle of life moving onwards.  Sometimes comforting, sometimes feeling rather cruel when we might rather get off and take time out.

But it is a great blessing to have two happy ponies once more grazing in the field behind the house: to look out at empty fields would be desolate.

 

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The one left behind

They came to take Minstrel’s body away yesterday.  I remembered the day 20 years ago when he came to us.

I had driven over to Matlock to fetch him in a horsebox which had an open internal body so that the horse could see the driver and vice versa (my choice).  There was only a short partition between us meaning he could lean over, just, to us. He did not like the journey much and was shivering with stress so we stopped early on in the journey at a Newsagent to buy him some mints: horses usually LOVE mints.  Minstrel certainly did and my companion fed him polo mints all the way back to our house.  Minstrel’s stomach always ruled his life!

Saxon our remaining pony was adopted from a local animal sanctuary when Spot our first and oldest pony died.  Spot had been Minstrel’s companion and when Spot went blind Minstrel became his guide and security, leading him around the fields and standing guard over him when Spot lay down to sleep and rest.  When Spot died at the grand old age of 32 Minstrel was beside himself with grief: it came off him in waves so tangible that it affected all who came near him.  Before that I never knew that horses could shed tears.  Minstrel became iller and iller with grief, hence the adoption of Saxon.

Now Saxon is left alone.  He does not appear to be grief-stricken as Minstrel was all those years ago.  We left Minstrel’s body in the field for 24 hours so that Saxon could come to terms with what had happened and so that he was in no doubt that his friend had not just left, but had died.  For the first day and night Saxon stood beside Minstrel’s body but after that he drifted around the field.  After Minstrel’s body was taken away we brought Saxon into the stable for the night: the place where he felt secure.  But yesterday afternoon and today he has been standing at the top of the field looking for – what?  Something.  He is constantly scanning the horizon.  Is he looking for Minstrel or any horse/pack that he can find?

Saxon has always been a nervy pony and clearly hates being alone: in the horse world this means that he is vulnerable to attack by predators.  Some horses can cope, some cannot.

So what to do?

Husband resolutely states that this must be my decision.  However, he refuses to let local farmers run other animals on our land, which would provide company for Saxon.  He also refuses to let anyone else come and pasture and stable their horses with us, which would have also helped.  He suggested getting a pig or a goat, but they would be lots of work and more vets’ bills.  If I were younger I would leap at the chance but having a gammy knee is not the time to take on more work.

This appears to leave two alternatives.  One is to return Saxon to the Sanctuary.  But he has been here for over 12 years and is at home here.  He is also bonded to us.  I rang the Sanctuary today to find how they were doing and it appears that things were so bad this summer that they were one month away from having all their animals put down.  The last thing they can manage is yet another animal.  So that one is off the agenda.  Of course there are other sanctuaries but it seems hard on Saxon who is an old horse (27) with not many years left to him.  The second choice is another horse.  The lady at the Sanctuary said that they have a 12 year old Shetland pony who is beautifully natured and will get on with anyone.  He was abandoned some years ago on Shetland itself.  Forewick ChesterI don’t know much more about him yet.  He is only 35 inches tall at the withers (about 8.75 hands) so would, in theory, be easier to manage than a large horse.  Saxon himself is only 12 hands.

Also it appears that Shetlands are good-doers, hardy and easy to care for.  Tick, tick, tick.

The upshot is that Chester, for that is the name of the Shetland, is coming on Sunday morning to see how he and Saxon get on.  Of course this will be explained by husband to family and friends with uplifted eyes and a deep sigh, as being my choice:  I suppose it is, but only because all other avenues were closed off to me!

I hope that this will help Saxon to be happier, give Chester a good home and help the animal Sanctuary.  Nothing will fill that particular hole in my heart though.

(Husband has just come in and said that he dislikes Shetlands! OK but what does he want to do?)

As for me, apart from the internet I am holed-up and taking some days off away from the world.  I cannot speak to anyone yet without breaking down and it is taking all my energies just to get through at the moment.  Minstrel was cremated today and his ashes will be coming home in a few days.  I will scatter them along with those of his oldest and greatest friend, Spot, whose ashes I still have.

I have asked for a tiny piece of his forelock to keep in a drawer because it still smells of him.  These animals, they do so get into your heart.

Intermission

I was editing the next part of my Scottish trip but this morning we had to have our beloved Minstrel put down due to a dreadful and terminal attack of colic.

 

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I will get back to you when I have recovered myself a bit.  The kindest most good natured horse I have ever known.  We had him for nearly 20 years.  Our wonderful vet would have tried anything and so would we but he said that he was in agony and the journey alone to the vet hospital would be purgatory, then months and months of pain and terrible distress, and for a pony in his late 20s that was unkind to say the least.

The guilt is what is getting to me the worst.  Yesterday I thought he looked a bit under the weather but nothing to make me worry and I was bone tired and hardly able to stand myself.  If only I had taken action then and not fallen into bed.  My husband gave them their evening feeds and noticed nothing amiss but I should have gone to check myself.  But by this morning it was too late.

Life is full of ‘if onlys’.

I’m off to Oban on the West Coast of Scotland to visit friends who have moved there to live: I have not seen them for over a year and the trip which was planned earlier in 2016 did not work out because of accidents to, and sudden and severe problems with, one of my knees.  It should take about nine hours to drive there barring severe traffic, bad weather, road diversions or road works.  But in UK most of these will occur so I am not expecting a hugely fast trip and anyway it will be more fun to take my time and see things that I want to see.  One thing I have learned this year is that we must take every opportunity to do things we want to do, never put it off!!

So . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dates worked out with friends’ timetable: tick.

Places I wish to visit en route: tick. (Ripon, Carlisle, Birdoswald Roman Fort, Loch Lomond, Oban, Killin, Stirling, Falkirk, the Antonine Wall, Hexham, Corbridge Roman Town, Middleham Castle, Richmond Castle.)

Route planned: tick. (Must include the A66 and the A68!)

(A few notes about my route.  I am basically travelling North up the West, and back South down the East, sides of the country, although I am not heading to the Western route immediately.

From home I am taking the A1 from here northwards to Scotch Corner.  The A1 used to be called the Great North Road as it was the highway from London to Edinburgh.  It has been superceded to some extent by the newer M1, the first motorway built in this country, but I suffer travelling the first part of the M1 northwards from here to Leeds as PTSD makes the journey distressing, both mentally and physically (some terrible things happened to me in Leeds many years ago) and anyway I prefer the A1.  Since becoming more of a secondary route it is not usually so busy, fast or intense as the M1.  Scotch Corner is so called because it is the point of divergence for northbound traffic which splits here to head either West to Glasgow [on the A66] or continuing to Edinburgh.  From Scotch Corner I shall take the A66 which is a lovely road over to the West through Cumbria and there stop over in Carlisle, thereafter joining the M6 leading North to the M8 taking me round Glasgow to Loch Lomond [another stop there] and then up the side of the Loch on the A82 to Crianlarich and on to Tyndrum, from where I shall cross West to Oban on the A85.

On my way home I shall cross Scotland from Oban to Stirling via a stop for lunch at Killin, coming back along the A85 and turning off at Lochearnhead on to the A84 and M90.  Then continuing on down to visit Stirling Castle and Falkirk [another stop here], M9 and A720 round Edinburgh and travel South on the A68 through Northumbria which is a road I love and which holds many happy memories, to Hexham [a stopover here too].  Thence continuing on the A68 all the way back to the A1 near Darlington, this time Southbound, Richmond and home.

Daily mileage worked out: tick.

B&B research re budget price, accessibility, ground floor rooms and walk-in showers: tick.

B&Bs booked: tick.

Plants planted: plants watered: animal food bought: husband food bought: lists of instructions for husband written: vet’s instructions for dog and gecko written out and medication  timetabled:  an evening out with each of two of the three grandchildren achieved: medications gathered in: physical aids gathered in: maps sorted:

Gosh, will I ever get off?

Yes, its Sunday lunchtime, I’m ready and I’m leaving.

First stop, Ripon in Yorkshire.  I want to see the Cathedral and especially the Crypt.  Apparently it is only an hour’s drive away from my home, according to Google.

I hit the motorway, sun shining, easy listening – Vivaldi’s Concerto for Flute and Oboe on the Radio.  Freedom.  I feel eighteen years old.

Ring husband – “Did I forget to collect my Magnesium oil from the kitchen worktop?”  (In this new car you can phone using the car itself, hand free, magic!!!)

“Cannot see it, you must have picked it up!”

Ring husband – “I forgot to mention the vitamin drops in the Gecko’s water, they are on the bathroom shelf.”

Ring husband – “I think I forgot to water the plants in the conservatory, would you mind giving them a little please.  Thanks.”

The traffic gets really bad, no chance to ring again, road works, diversions, everyone slowing down.

It takes me several hours to reach Ripon and I am shattered: from the driving and the leaving home.

The city of Ripon is located in North Yorkshire on the River Ure. Ripon is a beautiful market town that was founded over 1300 years ago, and is famous as an old Cathedral City where monasteries have stood since the 7th Century.

(from  http://www.ripon.org)

Find hotel which is in the main square, (the half-timbered building to the left of the obelisk at the rear of the square)

ripon-market-place

(photo from http://greatnorthartshow.co.uk)

 check in for their really cheap Sunday night special, park car, have bar snack, settle in room, unpack loo seat (from its three bags which are meant to camouflage its existence) and fall into bed by 8.0 pm and sleep.

Nine p.m.  Oh really, this is too much, I had forgotten all about the hornblower.  He blows his horn each night at nine in the evening, once at each corner of the square.  Four  times!!!

The following article is taken from the BBC in 2014,

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northyorkshire/content/articles/2008/07/10/ripon_hornblower_history_feature.shtml

Ripon hornblower, George Pickles

Ripon hornblower, George Pickles

Ripon’s hornblower

The watch has been set in Ripon every single night for well over one thousand years. The ceremony is one of the oldest still performed in England. George Pickles is the current hornblower and tells the story of this ancient ceremony.

The setting of the watch dates back more than 1100 years to the year 886. That was Saxon times, and also troubled times. The Vikings were raiding up and down the east coast and occupying parts of the country. The local thieves, rogues and vagabonds were taking advantage of the unsettled situation.

On the English throne at that time was King Alfred the Great. He had lost his father and three elder brothers fighting the Vikings, but he was intent on victory and bringing stability back to the country. In 886, at the age of 37, he recaptured London from the intruders and set about touring the country drumming up support and giving confidence back to the people.

The 886 Ripon hornThe original horn given to Ripon in 886

When he arrived in Ripon, he liked what he saw and decided to grant a Royal Charter to the settlement, which is all it was at the time. The only thing he had to offer the people as a symbol of that charter in those simple times was a horn.

On the advice of the King it was decided that the people of Ripon should become more vigilant and should always be alert to the danger around them. They could lose their settlement and the relatively good way of life they were enjoying, should an unexpected enemy descend upon them.

Setting the watch in RiponThe Hornblower sets the watch

It was therefore decided to appoint a wakeman. That was a man who would stay awake and patrol the settlement and the surrounding areas from dusk till dawn. He kept a watchful eye for any approaching enemy or troublemakers, while the rest of the people slept safely in their beds. It was further decided that the wakemen should put the charter horn to good use. He would sound it at the four corners of the market cross each evening at 9pm to let the people know that the watch was set and he was now on patrol.

Because the first wakeman of the day needed to be paid for his work it was decided to impose a tax on the citizens. After much debate it was decided they would be levied according to the position of their house door. If your door faced onto the market square, or a main thoroughfare of the city you were considered to be well off and were charged four pence per door, per year tax. If your door was down the side or round the back you were considered to be less well off and you were only charged one penny per door each year.

“If your door was down the side or round the back you were considered to be less well off and you were only charged one penny per door each year.”

George Pickles

It is still evident today that homes built after this tax was introduced were designed in a way that the position of the door brought them into the lower tax bracket. They were built with a very narrow frontage and most had a ginnell down the side leading to the door. There is still evidence if you look at the oldest properties in the city.

This system prevailed until 1604, when a second charter was granted to the city by James I of England, who was James VI of Scotland, and was the first king to reign over a united Britain. It was decided that the time had come to make things more democratic in Ripon. The wakeman of the day had become a very powerful man and was elected or re-elected annually by 15 of his peers, these being the most influential men in the city. These men were the city’s ‘police force’ and ruled the city with a rod of iron.

That year a mayor was elected democratically for the first time by vote, by all the people. The first mayor of 1604 was Mr Hugh Ripley who happened to be the last Wakeman of 1603. He lived in the house which still stands at the south west corner of the market square. Wishing to keep the setting of the watch ceremony alive, the mayor appointed a hornblower to carry out the duty of sounding the horn at the four corners of the market cross each evening on his behalf.

Because he didn’t trust him, and to ensure that the hornblower fulfilled his obligations, he imposed an extra duty on him. After setting the watch at the market cross, he must find the mayor of the day, wherever he may be in the city and sound the horn three times in front of him, raise his hat, bow his head and say the words “Mr Mayor, the watch is set”. This is to prove his duty has been done.

That ritual is still carried out at nine o’clock every night at the Obelisk and has not been missed, not for one night, in over 1100 years.

George Pickles

How on earth could I have forgotten about this.  But to be fair, it is not something I have given a moment’s thought to for over 40 years.  Back to sleep, too tired to stay awake any longer.  Lovely high bed, comfy mattress, no responsibilities except for myself.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh:)

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View of Ripon Cathedral at night.

 

 

 

 

Back again!

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Well, I’m not sure whether any of you are still around, I would not be at all surprised if you had given up and deleted this blog from your blogroll/’following’ list.

It finally took two months, yes, two months before we had proper internet connection back to our house.  I nearly went mad.

Finally it turned out that our telephone land line had been fixed up in the early 1960s but to a sub-station miles and miles from here.  All our neighbours were connected to the local one.  For some reason this means that to internet providers we are classified as being a ‘silver’ line, ie there has never been any kind of phone line to our house and no engineer has ever been to our door.  This was after weeks of speaking to engineers, having them visit here, trying out new routers, you name it and we did it.  Anyway, our land line not only covers miles and miles, losing speed all the while, but is also made up of cobbled-together lengths of copper and aluminium, depending on what cost the least when the line was laid and repairs were made.  All in all, apparently it explains the problems we are having.

At the end of 2017 we are due to be upgraded but until then, if we wish to keep our current phone number and land line we will just have to put up with s**t connection.  However, ours is better than in some parts of the UK albeit much worse than our neighbours.

At least now we know, and we do have a new router too (which was a whole other story with which I will not bother you but involved the code on the router from the factory not being the same as the one on the box) and a connection of sorts.

Recently, I took myself off to visit friends who moved to Scotland a year ago, so, time allowing, I will try to post some of the events which occurred during that trip.  Thanks to the wonderful automatic car we bought this summer, I, bed raisers, chair raisers, and a six inch raised loo seat, set off with crutches, walking sticks and leg brace, and had a super time.

So, a wave to anyone out there, hopefully this blog will be operational again now and I will also be able to read yours.

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Images in this post are from Google images and are not mine

No internet

After several weeks of next to no internet connection we hope to be sorted out by the end of this weekend, so I will hopefully be able to continue blogging and replying to comments.  Grrrrrr.

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