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Archive for the ‘Countryside’ Category

Well folks, I’m back home.

After what has turned out to be the most amazing, astonishing and over-stimulating trip of my life!!

Worth every second of the months of preparation (which really depressed me) and the brutal experiences of British Security (in my opinion).

I actually returned home last Saturday night but since then have been suffering from a bad viral chest infection which everyone else had either taken with them on the trip, or caught en route, but which I avoided when away, only to succumb once back here.   I think I know where and when i picked it up but that is for later in my narrative.  Add to that some jet-lag, a migraine and a mind so wildly over-excited that I cannot lie down to sleep without seeing China in my mind and dreaming about being overwhelmed by visual stimuli.

Seven air flights, over 12 Gb of photos, a notebook full of scrawled jottings which went everywhere with me, 5 hotels, a River Cruise and more coach trips than I could count.  Ancient temples, palaces, pagodas, giant Buddhas, cliffs of coffins, the largest dam in the world which necessitated our boat passing through a night of locks, pandas, carvings, costumes, social history, political history, tea ceremonies, dhows, sampans, gardens, tombs, archaeology, geology, natural history, rickshaw rides, hospitality in C15 Beijing Hutongs, the list goes on and on.

I am going to try to write my account of this trip, primarily for myself, so that I have a digital copy to treasure: however, I do hope that it will prove to be of interest to any of you who drop in to read it, but please bear with the parts which are boring to you and just skip them whilst making allowances for my personal memories.

As usual life will not stop to give me adequate time for this mammoth task: for instance I will be away for a while next week taking Eddie to see the Supervet.  But I will try my hardest to complete this diary.

When I departed I was 50% excited and 50% anxious: I nearly turned back at Heathrow security and as I stood there in public, humiliated, crying my eyes out, (not a nice look for a 70 year old woman whose hair is falling out) I was literally on the verge of giving up the attempt.

But I am so glad I went, I would not have missed this trip for anything, and I do so hope you get some pleasure from my account:)

 

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A week ago I managed to grab a few days by the sea, courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law:)

Exhausted by the constant round of health practitioners, I was worn out and desperate for some ‘down’ time.  When I finally arrived and unpacked, I fell into bed with a good book, and believe it or not, there I remained for 36 hours.  I ached in every muscle and was just too tired to do anything but sleep and read.  Luckily I had taken home-made soup, burgers and veg/salad so had no need to go out unless I wanted to.

However, I finally came ’round’ and was able to relax and enjoy the fabulous view from their windows.

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It is such a pretty and comfortable caravan with stunning views:

 

A walk round the site and the surrounding countryside gave an overview of the site itself:

It is a mature site with hedges and trees surrounding the caravans which is lovely!!

In some sheltered sunny spots I saw lots of butterflies, Red Admirals in particular.

 

 

And one can walk directly from the caravan on to the cliff path through lovely countryside towards Bempton Cliffs which is an RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) site, of which I am a member.  We had violent winds and rain for part of each day, followed by glorious sunshine.  Which, of course, gave us lots of rainbows.  This was the view from the Dining Area of the Caravan of one such, looking towards Bempton Cliffs:

 

 

Of course I took myself for a happy day’s bird watching:

 

 

 

 

 

There is a huge colony of Gannets, but I also saw Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Herring Gulls and others which I did not stop to identify, as I was just glorying in walking and smelling and watching, in the sunshine and the wind and the sea air.

In this next one I can actually see some of the colours which Monet saw in water, all the purples, aquamarines, mauves, greens and blues.

 

On one day I went to Flamborough village and bought fresh fish from a fisherman, and it was simply gorgeous.  I bought some fresh runner beans from the local greengrocer and had a super chat with both her and another customer about goose eggs.  Then I called into the local coffee shop for a cup of tea and some homemade tea-bread: dogs were allowed in which was fun and a pleasant change from all the ghastly health and safety hype.  How can you ever develop a good immune system without coming into contact with germs?

All in all, I had a wonderfully relaxed trip with no unexpected events (bliss) except that one very sad and lonely widower propositioned me!!  He said he was looking for a rich widow, and I could truthfully explain that I was neither:)

Ho hum, I rather thought that I was safely past the age when such things could happen!!

 

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I have just seen this trailer for a new series by Jane Goodall and it looks wonderful.

Although it seems dreadful to utter the C word, we have had our first Charity Catalogues come through the post already so I might as well put it out there that I would like this Series for my present this year:)

https://www.masterclass.com/classes/jane-goodall-teaches-conservation?utm_source=Paid&utm_medium=YouTube&utm_term=Aq-Prospecting&utm_content=Video&utm_campaign=JG

Then I can go back to enjoying our wet, Spring-like August and praying for an Indian Summer through September and October to give me some kind of harvest this year.  It was too cold, wet and windy to plant out early, not really until late May, and it has come back in July, making for such a short growing season on the top of my hill.  The shortest I have every known.  I have just germinated some more French Beans and Sugarsnap peas because the last lot have not done well: these will need a couple of days to harden off and then I will plant them out, probably with fleece, to see if I can possibly get a bit of a harvest for the freezer.

Yesterday a photographer from the local paper came to take photos of me and Eddie:  he behaved like a pro but I was not very happy about having my own photo taken.  The photographer was a lovely young lady who said it made a change from football matches!!

Today I have been clearing piles of papers from several years ago and researching suggested supplements online for therapeutic ketosis and immune support.

Life has thrown us another curveball in that a house we have long had in the back of our minds for our old age has just come on the market.  But we cannot bear the thought of leaving our present home for at least four or five years.  So what to do?  It is unique, as our present house is, has even better views than we do and is just on the edge of the village instead of down the lane in a small hamlet.  The last owners of this other house have been there for 35 years so if we do not take the plunge now, will we lose the chance?

It is very expensive which might just take the choice out of our hands; we are having ours valued on Monday.  This other house is modern, smaller, and we would want to spend quite a lot and make some substantial changes, but it is on fairly level ground, five minutes from the bus, ten minutes from the doctor and shops, yet has a paddock which would take the geese and ponies, a stable and huge workshop garage, garden shed and is fully dog proofed.

However, it has street lighting which I hate, a busy road running past, and is semi-detached which we are not used to.  Oh dear, this is so very hard.  I know what I would say to someone else, but it is quite different when it is your own home you might have to leave, which you have loved and rebuilt over 40 years and where all your pets are buried and which has all the plants and trees from friends and family now deceased.  Here we just walk out of the gate onto a lane with trees all round, where we feel totally safe, comfortable and at home.  But good sense suggests that we think extremely carefully about our decision as in all the years we have been here, we have never seen another house, except for the one now for sale, which has things that we both need and want.

We went to look at it yesterday: it is not surrounded by trees as we are here.  When I went to bed last night our owls were hooting and chatting in the big trees outside the bedroom window. Our pheasants and badgers creep over the fields and through the undergrowth and the hedges we planted 30 years ago and wait for us to feed them every evening. How can we leave them?

But, if things go badly for me healthwise in the next little while it would be much easier for me to manage in this other house, and if I die before my husband, he could actually continue on in this new house whereas he says he could not manage here alone.  Oh, how hard it is to grow older physically but stay young mentally.

You have to admit that life on this hill is varied!

 

 

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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.

chester-2016-003

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.

Image result for horse rug

(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.

 

chester-2016-002

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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:)

oban-2016-3-078

View of Ripon Cathedral at night.

 

 

 

 

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Life has been complicated lately: I have had a couple of accidents, nothing in themselves but the accumulation of trauma has caused an old injury on a knee to re-assert itself.  So I have not been able to sit, lift or drive.  Walking is compromised and going to the loo is cause for imagination and extra dexterity!!

Husband is not himself either, so all in all, we have had some weeks of abnormal home life.  At  least, I insist that it is abnormal and not the beginning of new ‘normal’ around her.

I have had to cancel a couple of trips to see close friends, one in Ireland and the other in Oban, much to my disappointment.  And also had to cancel our appointments with the Supervet to take our two dogs for consultations:(

There is another trip planned which I will tell you about in another post, so fingers crossed it will come to pass.

But I wanted to share a short video with you of the most inspiring and wonderful person who has helped me enormously this year while I was feeling so helpless and desperate.  I identify so much with her and regard her as a role model.

I hope you enjoy this too:)

 

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You could not make this up!

Yesterday was a busy day here.

Work on the fence round the new veggie patch.

A trip to an Agricultural Merchant to buy fence posts, half posts, fencewire strainers, stock fencing and a sheep hurdle.

Some digging in said veggie patch and planting out the garlic since I assume the worst of the winter rain is now past.

It was hot and sunny and blissful to be working out of doors amongst burgeoning Nature.

As I removed the horticultural fleece from the Kale I joked that now it would snow.

And of course, it did, today.  But luckily it did not settle.

Whilst I was working in the warm soil and husband was stringing wire, we had a visit from someone we used to know many years ago and with whom we are not so much in touch nowadays.  A nice chap who went to the same Church that we frequented when we were Churchgoers.  As we have become backsliders and more agnostic he has remained loyal, faithful and very active in the Church even though he has changed denominations.

Half way through me planting the garlic he said to me,”Did you know that I am no longer preaching?”  I replied in the negative and asked why.  “Oh, they asked me to leave because of my hobby of writing erotic literature”

I did not see that one coming.  Luckily I was bending over looking at the earth so he could not see my face.

“But surely you write under a nom de plume?” I choked.

“Yes, but they found out anyway”.

“Well, that seems a little hard given they must believe that sex was invented by God”, I ventured.  “Of course, it might be different if it was considered pornographic.”

“Well, it is published on a rather extreme website,” he countered.

Silence from me for a moment.  I was having trouble with my breathing.  And anyway I needed to collect my thoughts.

“And you decided to choose to continue your writing rather than your preaching?”I queried, placidly planting more cloves.

“Oh, yes”.

Longer silence from me.  This from someone who had preached for over thirty years. Who had devoted his and his family’s life to supporting the local church. I was rather at a loss for words.

“Its very popular, I won a prize on the website last year and get thousands of hits”, he said.  “But of course it’s only e-publishing.”

“How’s the family?” I asked.

 

 

 

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