Monthly Archives: March 2021

Time Passing

That’s a possibly depressing title, but I’m really thinking about the twice a year changing of the clocks that’s happening in the UK this weekend.

Well, I’m assuming it’s happening North of the Border too, though it would seem to be an ideal candidate for the Scottish Government to strike a pose about – perhaps changing the date of the Equinox which it relates to, because the sun revolves around Scotland rather than England?

Maybe the Scots might consider making a half hour modification, rather than the full hour forward that the rest of the UK is going to do. I suppose, though, that this might produce a rash of amusing jokes about ‘having to put your clocks back when visiting Scotland, but hey ho!

I seem to recall that farmers in Northern Scotland didn’t like having to abide by the current rule, because they had to have their breakfast and their tea in the darkness, what with them being closer to the North Pole than the rest of the UK.

Well, personally I find this clock changing stuff very confusing. I know it’s only a couple of times of the year, and once it’s done it’s done – but one of the delights of living a long life is the ability, or even requirement, to be annoyed and confused – and happily register those thoughts.

The first dilemma is whether to put clocks forward or back. I have now learnt the mantra ‘Spring forward, Fall Back’, so this has now ceased to be a real problem.

Another issue is when you wake up on the Sunday after the clocks have changed, it’s difficult to know the real time because;

you’ve remembered to change some clocks (but which ones?),

others have changed automatically (how clever!) and

some clocks you’ve forgotten all about.

For some reason the clock in the car is usually a problem for a few days – though I’m sure that somewhere in ‘The Settings’ there’s a way of automating this.

I have given up on the cooker and the microwave, because every time there’s a brief power outage they need resetting, and it’s very complicated…

A final thing for me is my daily contact using Facetime with my sister in Western Australia. They don’t change their clocks at all, but if our clocks go forward an hour, does that mean she will have to ring me an hour earlier (for her) to keep the call at the same time for me? Or perhaps it’s an hour later?

Answers on a postcard please!

Zen and the Art of Front Garden Maintenance

You may remember the well-known book of a similar name by Robert Pirsig in 1974 on motorcycle maintenance rather than garden maintenance. In fact the book was about ‘quality’ in life and all our actions, defined during a long cross-USA trip of discovery on motorcycles with his son.
I found it a fascinating book – very ‘70s, I suppose – but I loved it. He had such style in his writing and the American landscape has always fascinated me.

Well, back to Covid, and I got myself a project (naturally) for Autumn and Winter last year, as part of the lockdown. I changed our small front garden completely from a conventional (very mossy) lawn into a Zen Japanese-ish garden.

I’ve always thought that front gardens were a bit of a waste of space, apart from keeping the front door away from the pavement! However I have seen some lovely Japanese gardens while abroad (Vancouver, Chicago and Sydney come to mind), and though these were a lot larger than my little garden, a DVD of Monty Don in Japan clinched it for me. I just had to try.

So, with a bit of gentle mockery from the Probus walking group, where the conversation moved away from Tim and his privet hedge towards my travails in designing (a bit of a strong word for what went on) and constructing the garden.

It is meant to recreate a stream (in gravel) with river boulders (Cornish granite!) and a lot of bamboos and evergreen bushes forming a backdrop (Plus a couple of the mandatory miniature Acer trees)
The ‘icing on the cake’ is the use of a special Japanese rake to form the image of the flow of the stream and some eddies around the rocks. [The rake is just there for the photo!]

Yes I know it’s not quite finished yet – with a bit more planting and certainly some tidying up of gravel…. I’m not sure I’ve got it right, but it was creative fun at a time when there wasn’t (isn’t) much about. I do change the ‘stream’ from time to time (it’s meant to be very therapeutic).

It has revolutionised my relationship with the neighbours and passers-by. Most often-asked questions are: Is it a Japanese garden? [Yes – ish!] and: ‘Do you rake it every day?’ [No!].

Unspoken questions include ‘Have you lost your tiny mind! [No?]

Spring is Sprung

‘Spring is sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the boidies is
They say the boid is on the wing
But that’s absoid, the wing is on the boid!’

You may recall this piece of nonsense verse from your childhood. I certainly do, and according to Google it was first written by an author called Anonymous. A very productive person over the centuries!

Well it does feel a bit spring-like at the moment, with flowers coming up, some rain coming down (today) and a mixture of cold winds and sunny showers. Mind you, that description could fit any month, these days of global warming (or should it be global warning?)

The weather, and particularly the lighter mornings we are starting to experience, have put a bit of a spring in everyone’s step. No longer a focus on Covid and its restrictions to our lives (though a number of Probus friends are getting their second Covid jabs this week), but a looking forward to better times.

Spring, Summer, meeting people face to face, BBQs, even holidays seem possible – soon, maybe …..

On our regular walk, last week, Bill and I were fortunate enough to come across thousands of starlings (possibly the correct terminology is ‘a shedload of starlings?’) roosting on a large bare tree in a field. It was like a scene from that Hitchcock film, to the extent of the birds emitting a low pitch chattering noise, the origin of which was difficult to locate for a while – I thought it might be a swarm of bees buzzing – very disturbing.
Then they took off all together, merged with another flock (Oh, that’s the word) and started doing their wonderful ‘murmuration’ displays, right above us. Very impressive, all the more so because of it being unexpected.
I had thought these displays were pre-roosting shows, but this was 11am. Maybe even the birds are confused at this time of year!

And the trout fishing season starts on March 25th, so all will be well with the world again (or at least a great improvement)

Horses and Hard work

Excellent talk yesterday from David Alred about Nidderdale.
Obviously it helps that so many members are familiar with our local jewel of a valley. Well, this was a comprehensively researched set of photos from the local inhabitants of old photos that they had in the family. (black and white, or sepia, of course!)

It was so impressive that David talked in depth about the villages where the photos were taken, but also about the individuals and the scene. It was really personalised work – a fantastic project.

I was struck by the differences between their rural life in the 1880s to 1950 period concerned and our own lives today.

So many people were involved in manual work – really manual work, digging, scything, shearing, mining, quarry work. The photos of work in the 1990s on constructing Gouthwaite reservoir showed the hundreds of navvies hard at work with hand shovels, and even in the 1920s construction of Scar reservoir mechanical support from cranes and trains looked a bit of a Health and Safety nightmare!

Horses were everywhere, often with carts or wagons behind! Those lovely Shire horses that we nowadays see (before Covid) only at The Yorkshire Show were busy pulling massive loads of loose hay (no hay bales then) or massive pipes to conduct the water from the reservoirs being built. Not the few smart, elegant racehorses or leisure horses we see today in the valley

I never knew that Pateley Bridge had two railway stations then, linking so many tiny railway stations on the way to Harrogate (7 services each way every day!) and up the valley to the reservoirs.

With the arrival of the railways and of early cars (solid wheels – no power steering either!) villagers were able to get out a bit more, and you sense that this started the loss of this small community life, with its fairs and feasts and close local relationships.

The faces of the valley folk were expressive. Many weatherworn, craggy faces, full of experience and resolve.

I wonder how I would have coped if I had lived in those times? Not very well, I suspect. We’re all so relatively pampered now – office work, living in warm houses, machines to do all the work (though we do have to know how to get them to do what we want them to). Perhaps the next change will be all the machines doing the work, with us kept on as ‘machine minders’, with no real role other than to collect our digital paycheck. Would that be so bad?

A wonderful look back – not so far, really – to a simpler, harder life, but with many benefits that we only recognise when we lose them!