Yorkshire dales


I’ve said in recent posts that I don’t believe in coincidence and that I’m easily distracted. Venturing upstairs to the reference and study section of Keighley library after my morning double espresso in Wetherspoons next door (see previous posts), I had to confront both.

Philip Snowden and women’s suffrage

First, ‘talking’ about how I began my blog to another blogger earlier this morning (she’ll know who she is) I mentioned one motivation being my desire to air my ire about discrimination, particularly discrimination against women. What first confronted me when I walked along the upstairs floor of the library? The ‘Snowden Library’, that of  Philip Snowden, a tireless campaigner for women’s suffrage. You’ll find more about him in one the pictures.

Proper parkin – again – and other recipes

Then, resisting the temptation to sit down all day with some of his books, I wandered to another section to see what they had about the beautiful Wharfe valley in which I live. A book about Yorkshire dishes almost jumped off the shelf at me. I opened it at a random page and what recipe did I see? Parkin! A proper recipe, almost the same as that I posted a few days ago.  And plot toffee.

I spent much of the rest of my time today with that book and recorded 27 recipes on the iPad. I’m putting some of them here as pictures. I had to include a fish recipe; in Yorkshire you’re never far from the sea and the superb Yorkshire coast. Then there’s a really weird one, ‘Long life’, using whole eggs, shell and all. I just had to include that.

Chicken stew and dumpings? I was taken back to childhood by the recipe for rabbit stew and dumplings. That was a frequent winter meal (rabbit was cheap, the cheapest meat; then chicken was a luxury, for Christmas). Now chicken is cheap and rabbit a luxury, hence chicken stew: chicken legs, onion, garlic, carrot, red lentils, barley, tarragon, parsley, thyme and sage.

Perfect for the cold, miserable, wet weather today, for which I abandoned a planned trip to one or more Worth Valley Railway stations.

Brontës

Finally, I spent a short time in the Brontë section. I knew if I got immersed in that I’d probably lose all sense of time and get a frantic phone call from Petronela asking where I was when she finished school. I just hope she’ll be returning there after the half-term break; she’s enjoying it having knocked the students into shape in the first two days.

I could spend six months in each of those sections.

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Petronela the chicken

Petronela. An extraordinary attire but I don’t like that look in her eye!

Sunday 15 October

An extraordinarily warm mid October day prompted a complete mind shift from yesterday. Then a spot of baking pushed out any stage nerves before ‘performing’ at the Ilkley Literature Festival ‘Fringe’ (in fact I arrogantly don’t have any – I never have been frightened of making a fool of myself and it gets worse with age – readers of this blog may well have deduced that 😜).

Favourite short walk

Today walking with Petronela on our favourite short local walk, intent on having a chat with another Petronela – a chicken, one of those who lays our eggs. I really wanted to get a picture of Petronela holding her namesake but we couldn’t find her (the chicken). Every one of the ladies has a name and Sue, who with Simon provides a home for these ladies who lay our “very free range eggs”, knows each one of them by name. I had to settle for the dog for my photo.

She was here earlier,” said Sue, “she was eating like a pig.” Looking at the Petronela who can polish off a plate of spaghetti bolognaise in little more time than it takes me to grate some Parmesan on mine, I held my tongue. Who cares? They both remain beautiful, as you can see. The picture of chicken Petronela is one taken on an earlier visit (by Petronela –  confusing isn’t it?).

A large group of walkers arrived just before us which prevented Sue helping us locate Petronela. Clearly most of them had not been there before so seeing the discomfort of one, as a very free range lady tried to nick his slice of Sue’s exceedingly good homemade cake, made my day.

Charity

Sue and Simon are an extraordinary, lovely couple. They sell the eggs, with an ‘honour’ system of payment, and serve homemade cakes and drinks to passing walkers if they are home, but all the proceeds go to a charity supporting teenagers with cancer. Once a year they have a charity day to support one local young person disadvantaged in some way. P and I have a money box into which change of 10p and under goes throughout the year to hand over on that day.

When I despair of the world in which we now live I think of Sue and Simon and how lucky we are to have that walk to chat with them.

View from our front window

View from our ‘front’ window. Most of the trees are still largely green. Few leaves have fallen

The obvious signs of autumn are coming late this year. Most of the leaves are still on the trees, even the horse chestnuts, usually the first to undress, have kept their clothes despite the high winds of the past few days though there are quite a lot of conkers down. Maybe that’s only because the children have been throwing sticks up to bring them down. Last year the trees were almost bare at this time; this year most of them are still green. Even the acer outside our window is only a little rusted.

On the other hand, the berry trees – rowan, hawthorn, etc – are particularly laden with their red feasts. Not for long I think. Blackbirds seem satisfied with six berries for each meal; the crows, flapping to stay on the thin branches, take far more. They might wish they had been less gluttonous if the harsh winter foretold by the berries occurs. Or maybe they just know I’ll keep the bird feeders full from the first frost.

The temperature is down, only 17degC in our flat first thing in the morning. As the energy supplier has recently hiked the price by 12.5% we’ve resisted putting the heating on yet. If the sun stays out it will get up to 19degC in our sitting room/kitchen, which has large windows facing south. The bedroom, facing north, will remain cool.

Wharfe Valley

Some of the near white drystone walls dividing green fields in the Wharfe valley between Burnsall and Grassinton

The ‘white’ drystone walls glistened in the sun

With bright sun yesterday morning we decided to take a ride up the beautiful Wharfe valley, which gets wilder the further up you go. We didn’t go far, only as far as the village of Grassington but it’s a lovely ride from Bolton Abbey past the Barden Tower , closely following the river, to Burnsall then Grassington (I’ve put a link on the placenames for those don’t know the Yorkshire Dales, or you can google them). Though it’s much visited there’s not really much special about Grassington unless there’s a festival on but the surroundings are wonderful. The autumn colours we expected on the way were in short supply. The ‘white’ drystone walls were a substitute delight in the sun.

The touristy shops beckoned but we just settled for some ‘Thirst Aid’, proclaimed on a blackboard outside a small coffee shop, which was suggested would help with the “steep” climb (not really). Just two tables outside in the narrow street on an even narrower pavement but the small space had beckoned to the sun and seemingly trapped it. The declared “outrageously good coffee” was excellent.

So, a day doing nothing special but, arriving home, Petronela and I agreed it was a ‘special day’.

Haiku

autumn comes tardy

nature’s paintbox still half closed

birds gorge on berries

View of Otley from the top of the Chevin

View of Otley from the top of the Chevin

Two reasons to stay right where we are in Menston in Yorkshire, Otley  Chevin and the Washburn valley. Catching a bit of news on the radio this morning I was intending to post something (a grump) about that but it will keep till tomorrow.

Otley Chevin is no more than 5 mins by car from home. We usually walk but had a brief visit there the day before yesterday on the way to do something else. In the picture you’ll see the rather ‘cute’ small town of Otley nestling below.

I always smile when I see the sign about the dry stone walling training area; the former assistant head of the school where Petronela and I met refused to believe you could build walls without mortar. They are, of course, a major feature of the Yorkshire landscape. He also refused to believe that the sheep on the moors here roam free without shepherd or sheepdog; of course they do.

Washburn valley

The Washburn valley, perhaps the smallest of the Yorkshire dales, is one of my favourite places, only 20 minutes away by car. We did set out today with the idea of finishing a walk there with the always delicious home made cakes at the ‘heritage centre’. Though we have been many times, clearly never on the last Sunday of the month as we didn’t know there were no cakes on that day. We settled for the free homemade biscuit! Petronela is still grumbling about it! She looked her usual gorgeous self though in one of her ‘ie’ (Romanian traditional blouses).

The ‘lake’ is a reservoir, one of four, created between 1869 and 1966 by damming the small river in this little vale, to satisfy the increasing demand for water from the city of Bradford. Perfect walking weather, warm but not hot. Not too many signs of autumn yet, a bit of colouring of some leaves and a few fungi.

Emily and Charlotte

Catching up this morning on reading some of the blogs I follow I particularly liked a post from one of my Romanian blogging friends, Monica (mopana), who writes in both Romanian and (excellent) English – good for me to practice my Romanian. It was all the more poignant as I knew a little later I was meeting another delightfully happy young friend, Charlotte.

Charlotte, 10 years old, has severe cerebral palsy – spastic quadriplegia, so all four limbs are affected. But what a happy little girl she is, particularly when with her loving sister Emily.

I spent a lovely hour in the sun chatting with her on a near perfect English summer day. Speaking is difficult for her but with a bit of perserverence it becomes easier to understand her; she seems to have no problem understanding me.

The occasion was an annual charity bun fight at the home of other friends, from whom we buy our “very free range eggs”. I ‘do’ the posters and flyers for the event. This year it was raising money for a Mollii suit which, worn for an hour each morning, helps Charlotte have an easier day, but each year she must have a larger one at a cost of around £1,000.

Here’s the English text from Monica’s post, entitled:

Be happy

Can you see?

Can you hear?

Can you speak?

Can you walk?

Can you use your hands?

Then…

Be happy!

Others cannot

Another reason we cannot but be happy is where we live, in the Wharfe valley in what we call ‘God’s own country’, Yorkshire. Here’s a quick snap taken along the short walk from home to meet Charlotte today.

Looking over the Wharfe valley to the north

I have my own little tradition for 8 MarchInternational Women’s Day (but first encountered as simply ‘women’s day’ in Romania). I try to do a post about women, remarkable (aren’t they all?), undervalued or oppressed, on this day.

Remarkable

I have several in this first category close to home in our local writers’ club (see below), all with outstanding talent, and at least one in Romania who I’ll mention though there are far too many to mention individually – just look at the bloggers I follow, some of them as young as in their teens!

I’ll try to mention some remarkable women below. As a start I’ll just mention two most influential for me: my grandmother, an unmarried mother in the early years of the 20th century who managed to regain ‘respect’ and was the most influential adult in my early years; my mother who, as a war widow raised three young boys, I being the eldest, with very little money, despite being seriously ill much of the time.

Of course I have to mention my wife if only because she’s stuck with me for almost 17 years. However, one notable achievement was, arriving in the UK with her English limited to “Hello, I’m Petronela. I don’t speak English”, she obtained the GCSE C grade English, necessary to have her Romanian degree and teaching diploma recognised and gain ‘Qualified Teacher Status’, within a year and has been teaching in UK high schools ever since. Highly valued by her pupils and their parents, getting results from children labelled as under-achievers as well as those in ‘more able’ streams, she’s still undervalued by her current so-called ‘senior management team’. Despite this, while many colleagues have long and frequent absences for ‘stress’, many leaving the profession altogether, she has days absent – for genuine physical maladies – counted on no more than two hands in a decade or more.

I mentioned my grandmother above but I’ll add my ‘honorary grandmother’ (there’s only a year between our ages) who kept some traditions of the Romanian Bucovina alive when oppressed by the ‘Securitate’, secret police, in communist times. She still makes some of the best traditional food I’ve tasted. I’ve blogged about her more than once. Her name – Lucreția Hariuc.

Undervalued

I’ll mention just one group this time – nurses (of course I know there are male nurses), not undervalued I think by most patients but certainly by successive Governments in the UK.

Oppressed

I’ve had a go at two dreadful sources of female oppression in the past: female circumcision and forced marriage, both still rife even in Britain either directly or indirectly, especially in my locality.

I’d add every female in the USA, whether they know it or not, now that Trump is in the White House.

For this year I’ll add another group, just giving you the link here:

https://www.facebook.com/SheDecidesGFI/?pnref=story

Some of my local female heroes

I say ‘female heroes’ because giving them a different title already discriminates in my view. Just to list all the amazing females only in my village would make my post impossibly long so I’m going to mention only the female members  of our local writers’ club, founded and run by, of course, a woman. I cannot do them justice here nor would I wish to choose among them so here they are in alphabetical order (there are a few others in the members’ list but they rarely come to meetings so I don’t know them well enough to comment). Where the members listed have an example of their writing on my village website the name is a link to this.

Becky Bond

Becky, writing with unique humour, even on tragedy, recently threw in her job at the BBC because she was told she could not write anywhere else and went freelance. At the moment she’s my ‘muse’, being instrumental in extending my story-writing from a maximum few hundred words to, currently, over 10,000!

Have a look at her (non WordPress) blog. Often hilarious, always unique.

Ruxandra Busoiu

Certainly a remarkable young (mid 20s) Romanian woman who not only founded and runs our local writers’ club (Writing on the Wharfe) but over the past year has pushed us into involvement in the Ilkley Literature Festival (Fringe) and performing in a local (Ilkley) library. She’s served on a local youth offending team for a while now and is currently seeking to become a magistrate; will the white haired male wrinklies dominating our magistrates’ courts allow it?

Marjorie Hanbidge

Marjorie, before retirement, founded and ran a nursery school in the Wharfe valley. She’s another who usually makes us smile or laugh when she reads her poetry at club meetings. I call her our own Pam Ayres. Despite being very seriously ill just before Christmas and still not fully recovered, she was at the first meeting after Christmas to entertain us.

Kelly McCarthy-Wright

Kelly is a wonderful illustrator. I’ve said that in the unlikely event that I have a book published which requires illustrations, I’ll insist on her being the illustrator. She’s no mean writer either and is another who has the ability to make me laugh with her writing.

Emma Nabarro-Steel

Emma is our singer songwriter. A talented musician on both guitar and piano, she once regarded herself as a jazz singer. Now she says she doesn’t know what she is; all I know is that her songs – music and lyrics – delivered in a wonderfully soothing, soft voice, frequently have my hairs rising and sometimes bring a tear. You can explore, or buy, an album released late last year. She also delivers some super-crafted short stories and poetry, being eg instrumental in my attempt at writing a sonnet.

Catherine Turnbull

Catherine, when she joined the club, was editor of a local newspaper but, victim of the now familiar reorganisations in news media, she crossed the fence and now works in ‘PR’ for a large national organisation. She’s been widely published in the mainstream media and is instrumental in keeping us in touch with writing and learning about writing opportunities, some of which I’ve taken advantage of myself.

The author, Christmas morning 2016, with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and champagne breakfast.

Breakfast, Christmas 2016

I’ve been following Cristian Mihai’s blog almost since I began blogging approaching five years ago. I was first attracted to it because of the excellent writing in English by a Romanian, having taught English in Romania for around a decade. Since then I’ve found other Romanian blogs written in excellent English covering one or more of the wide diversity of topics you would find on mine, which as followers will know, breaks one or two cardinal rules if you want a lot of followers: posting frequently, even daily, and sticking to a theme. As I also speak and read Romanian pretty well, though I’ve never cracked writing it well, I now follow quite a few Romanian blogs posting in just Romanian or both Romanian and English, though I was sad to see that after my long absences several seem to have ceased to blog.

I used to post fairly frequently, though never every day, but some serious health issues two and a half years ago meant that posting became very erratic, particularly as I was also attempting to keep up with editing, and blogging on, a site I created for the Yorkshire village in which I live.

Our 'music corner' at home, showing tv with Vienna New Year concert 2017, panpipes sitting on the Yamaha 'piano'

Vienna New Year concert 2017

So followers may well find me writing on any one of my major hobbies – music, photography (on film); food and cooking; my efforts at writing fiction or ‘poetry’, as distinct from journalism (which was my profession), and our local writers’ club formed and run here in Wharfedale by a Romanian (!); classic cars particularly my mini and vw camper; and a few others. Or my major hobby-horses which include: discrimination in any of its many forms; the beauty of Romania, it’s people, traditions and food, particularly my love affair with the Bucovina; the idiocy of politicians; my experiences with our superb National Health Service and its staff here in the UK and the determination of those in charge of it and successive Governments to destroy it; habitual use of certain ‘four letter words’; and again, a few others, including scrambled eggs! (I know, overuse of exclamation marks but perhaps merited here 😉 ).

So, you have been warned; I am not taking up Cristian’s reblogging offer to find a lot more followers, but just to give him a bit of support. Hence this introductory blog which will be the first I’ll be asking him to reblog. After that, perhaps a few of my past blog posts then one or two new ones.

This facility must surely be invaluable to those younger than me who wish to get better known and maybe make a bit of money out of their writing so it would be very sad to see it not continue. I have no such ambition. I write because I like to write – that’s all.

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