Bleachmill house with St George’s and Yorkshire flags flying

Bleachmill house

A perfect day to meander down to Bleachmill House, our favourite short walk from our village, Menston in the Wharfe Valley, one of Yorkshire’s beautiful dales. ‘Icing on the cake’ is a mug of tea with extraordinary friends Sue and Simon in their ‘farmhouse kitchen’ and the crazy “very free-range” chickens, picking up some “very free-range eggs” before we left.

Having baked Yorkshire teacakes earlier Sue was just about to make a lemon drizzle cake. So too early – dammit; it’s one of my favourites! No cake but the usual laughs which will last me at least a week.

No need for more words. I hope the pictures, all taken on iPad except for Petronela’s pic of me delighting in a robin singing his heart out high in a tree, say enough.

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Today is going to be full of chores so it’s a good opportunity to post something about our walk yesterday, our favourite short walk around our village of Menston. Cold with a biting wind coming up the valley but a  beautiful sunny day. I had hoped to catch Petronela’s namesake but she refused to play and hid herself somewhere in the bushes.

When we arrived Sue our friend was preparing Sunday lunch so we had a wonderful ‘catchup’ sitting in her cosy farmhouse-style kitchen while she peeled potatoes. Her son and his lady have just moved in while they renovate the barn next door to be their home (it’ll take a year) so we made new friends too. P enjoyed chatting with him, also a teacher, while I enoyed chatting with his lady (who said “of course”?). My camera for some reason refused to play ball too so unfortunately no pix of Sue or her offspring (man of the house Simon had lost himself in ‘the garden’) but I must at sometime do a post on this amazing couple, who always have us laughing. P was still giggling about one episode in bed last night!

 

 

 

 

 

Odd weather yesterday (Wednesday) so with that depressing grey light in the morning, threatening  continuation of the heavy rain of the day before, and “Arctic” conditions forecast for the weekend, we decided to do a ‘big shop’ in the morning, visiting two supermarkets.

The afternoon brought almost black clouds alternating with bright sun for just a few minutes so we decided to take a walk and risk getting very wet. It didn’t rain, well hardly, so we enjoyed probably the last of the autumn colours on one of the few local walks not involving a hill, about an hour and half not hurrying.

I should have taken a camera but, as I’ve said before, I’m ‘off’ photography at the moment so just slipped the iPad in my pocket; you’ll see the limitations in some of the pictures. Petronela wouldn’t be satisfied with that so took her Nikon.

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.

I’m not going to tell you a story here, just hopefully to wet your appetite for a post soon after the 14th October. That’s the day on which the writers’ club of which I am a member, Writing on the Wharfe, will be doing its stuff at the prestigious Ilkley Literature Festival ‘Fringe’, having been invited back after its successful debut last year.

I’m working on my first ever ‘fairy story’ for the event. Because our club has grown since last year we each have only a short ‘slot’. That’s OK for my usual haiku and short short stories but having decided on one longer fairy story I’ve been working out how to present my story in the allotted time. I’ve decided to omit the centre section, just reading the opening and the ‘denouement’, with a brief explanation at the start.

Poster for our ‘fringe’event

Motivation

I’ve been motivated to write a fairy story by two delightful young ladies who generally come to our public events. So, in fact, I’m endeavouring to write two stories, the second for presentation at a later Christmas ‘show’ in Ilkley library, again a repeat of last year, but we’re hoping to take this ‘on tour’ to at least the library in the village in which I live. That one I’d hope to post here on the day after the Ilkley library ‘show’.

Talent

Part of a display Kelly currently has in the Keighley library Showing some of her illustration style

Part of a display Kelly currently has in the Keighley library

We have a tremendous range of local talent in our club, covering many different genres, some members having been published. We also have our wonderful singer/songwriter, Emma Nabarro-Steel, who published her debut (almost) album last year. Her CD is often in my player. Another member, Kelly McCarthy-Wright, not only writes stories but is a superb illustrator, her style including illustrations ideal for children’s books.

So, look out for my first fairy story (complete version) on or about 15th October and the second early to mid December. I’ll be truly interested in your feedback on each.

I’ve said it before: Bradford, my home city, has become what to me is the biggest ‘slum’ in Europe. Because on Tuesday I went to Leeds, vibrant, fun, smiling people (bit about that on my post of 14 September) I decided as I needed to visit my bank yesterday I’d go to Bradford where there is a branch. I wish I had not.

In the Bronte village of Haworth in February

I’m not going to post any pictures of the city, they would be too depressing. It’s been turned into a city of ghettos, many of poverty. The much vaunted ‘new’ shopping centre, full of the usual chain shops has, appropriately I suppose, the most boring architecture imaginable. The major shops having moved to this centre, the previous shopping streets are filled with empty, deteriorating premises. It’s all reflected in the faces of the weary, hunched over figures on the streets.

All this in what was a magnificent Victorian city, built by the wool barons to demonstrate their wealth.  Vestiges of the old city remain, including the magnificent city hall, but most of it has been allowed to deteriorate. If you look above the tired shop fronts you can still imagine the superb local stone architecture that was.

It’s no coincidence that the ghettos have something like the highest incidence of uninsured drivers, the highest incidence of deliberately provoked ‘accidents’ to seek compensation and some of the worst driving you will experience anywhere (as I experienced only yesterday and but for extreme vigilance I would now have a buckled front wing).

Some jewels

There are a few jewels, for example the Alhambra where I was introduced, as a child, by my grandmother to ballet, opera and pantomime. I don’t go any more, crossing the city to reach it is too depressing. Another once magnificent building, St George’s Hall where I was introduced to live symphony concerts, is a sorry sight and another smaller concert venue, Eastbrook Hall,  where I think I heard Eileen Joyce play, has long gone, only a facade remaining. Another former jewel which I used to visit frequently, the national media museum, following a threat to close it because of falling attendances (not surprising as you had to go to the depressing city to visit it), has been ‘taken over’ by the London Science Museum. It would have been better, as I said at the time, to move it intact to Leeds, somewhere near the superb Royal Armouries museum. Attendance would have soared. Now, for ‘culture’, I’d go to Leeds.

There are many more jewels in the surrounding vast Bradford Metropolitan District, the World Heritage village of Saltaire where I spent my childhood, the Bronte village of Haworth, Ilkley Moor and others, but the disaster of the city is slowly but surely creeping out to consume them.

Antidotes

What a difference in a similar city in one of Europe’s substantially less wealthy countries, Iași in Romania. So one antidote to the Bradford visit was to look at some pictures taken in the city when we were there this summer.

The restoration of the buildings which declined in communist times is not finished yet but there’s enough to make it a happy place to visit, bustling with culture and, soon, the swarms of young people will be boosted as the new university year begins.

Back to the Chevin (pub!)

A final antidote to the Bradford visit, a climb up to the Chevin (see my post a few days ago) on a superb autumn day this afternoon. Only high enough today to have a drink in the Chevin Inn which boasts it has the finest views in Yorkshire from the garden. I think I’d argue with that but the views are certainly superb. Viewed with a pint of Timothy Taylor’s (local brewery) Landlord bitter in front of me and, for Petronela, a not so local cider, with a packet of crisps, it’ll do. Enough to obliterate memories of Bradford. Fortunately I wrote about that visit to the city before setting off on our 2.1/2 hour walk.

 

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.