Saturday, August 30, 2008

Old bones

This jolly vehicle is my youngest son's van, which he uses for his work as a street entertainer, as he has a good deal in the way of props and gear to take around with him. He bought it last year and arrived in it for the first time to visit me in November. The occasion was the final clearance of my late husband's house, and he had brought a friend with him to help him hump stuff about.

I took one short ride with him then, just to the other side of the village, but it proved to be a major operation to get me into the passenger seat. As you can imagine, it is not possible to step straight in as one does with a car, and the built-in step-up is 16" above the ground. Well, I could lift my leg up far enough to put my foot on the step, but it then required a considerable heave upwards, plus a twist, to get one's bottom on the seat. On that occasion it took Richard pushing from behind, and his mate in the driving seat pulling from in front, to get me there. Since then we have been talking of getting a portable foldaway step that we could carry in the van if I wish to travel with him in the future - which I most certainly do.

I love to travel by road with Richard. We used to do regular five-hour journeys together at one time, when he would drive me from Hertfordshire to Shropshire for an annual Growing Old Disgracefully event. He is a relaxed and easygoing driver and does not mind stopping, or turning round and going back to see something, or anything that I may wish. Once we stopped off to go to a garage sale we passed on the way, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. We can talk comfortably and easily together about almost anything, like mates more than like mother and son; he is certainly on my wavelength, and I hope that I am on his.

But it's beginning to look as though this will never happen again. He arrived last night for an overnight stay, and we took the opportunity to study the problem of getting me into the van, with the aid of a small step stool. We tried it forwards, we tried it backwards, we tried it sideways, but there was no way that I could make the necessary movements to get up there on my own. Even with my son pushing behind it didn't really work - it seems that ageing, stiffening skeletons simply cannot make the sudden heaves, leaps and twists that are required to get into a large van. It might possibly be easier if he fixes a couple of grab-handles to the doorframe, but it's a lot to ask him to do, for the occasional journey I might take with him in the future.

"Bugger being old" I wailed miserably, as we gave up the effort and retreated into the house, and was comforted by a massive hug. But unless the neighbours were busy snapping us through their curtains in the dusk, I am afraid there are no pictures recording this event!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Slideshow :: A ride on the Macclesfield Canal

While I was in Bollington, some friends joined me for lunch on board the White Nancy Cruising Restaurant, on the Macclesfield Canal. It was a mixed experience: the food was very good, but it was hard to see enough of the canal itself and the passing countryside, and photographs were not easy to take through the windows. When the meal was over however, there was the possibility of standing up front and taking pictures without intervening glass.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh! wanton woman that I am .....

..... I was warming up some Chinese food left over from last night's takeaway, and I managed to burn my crispy wan tons in the microwave!!! I forgot to turn down the heat from max, didn't I? Last time I did that it was a croissant. Third time may not be lucky. And cleaning the microwave is such a pain.

And as if that wasn't enough, I seem to have swallowed a large lump of broken tooth from a back molar ..... never felt it go ..... Chinese mush is hardly challenging, even for elderly much-filled teeth, so it must have gone with the handful of nuts and crystallised fruits I had for 'afters'.

The dentist can fill or extract the tooth, but I don't want him to extract my brain, and I'm afraid he can't fill the holes in it either. I've had better evenings .....

..... but I've had worse ones too.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Red Oaks Farm

The views from the farm B&B are another feast for the eye, but this is a working farm, make no mistake.

The cows, which are bred for their beef, are a relatively rare French breed called Bazadaise. They know when it is time to come for a feed, and wander in from the field, apparently without being called. The sheep are also bred for their meat.

Billy Bull has already picked out his next partner and will stick close to her until she becomes willing. I know, because I watched from my bedroom window with my camera poised for a long time, waiting for him score, but was disappointed!

The poultry in the paddock provide fresh eggs for the guests' English cooked breakfast. The kitchen garden has home-grown blackberries and Tayberries. These berries were freshly picked for our breakfast too. And being off alcohol at the time, I drank the most delicious home-made elderflower cordial.

Of course, farms are not all views and flowers and pretty animals. While Mrs Farmer was providing all this lovely food, Mr Farmer was shovelling shit in the farmyard, loading it into lorries, and taking it off to spread over his fields. The smell was apalling, but there's no such thing as a free breakfast!

On arrival I was offered supper on the patio, overlooking the fields, which was lovely but rather breezy. The rest of the time the guests all ate in the dining room, which is an eye-goggler of a different sort!

A good time was most certainly had!
And if you should want a really comfortable, well appointed and reasonably priced B&B, in or near Bollington (near Macclesfield in Cheshire),you will find it here:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blooming B & B

While I was away I stayed at a wonderful farm bed and breakfast, on the edge of the village, overlooking the farmland where sheep and cows were grazing, and where chickens, ducks and geese foraged and had dust baths in the paddock under my window. There was a bit of a walk from their gate past the farm sheds to the house itself. On one side was a drystone wall then the meadow with the sheep, and on the other, against the sheds, were old farm implements and stone troughs planted as rock gardens. They were a lovely sight to see, so full of colour and texture and shape.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Visiting again

I have just come back from another trip, visiting old friends and making some new ones. I went to the village of Bollington near Macclesfield in Cheshire, which is where my husband and I bought our first home after returning from India in 1959, and where two of our four sons were born. I had been there briefly last year and written about the experience here.

We lived then in half of what had once been a farm, but which had been divided into two cottages [ours was on the right of the picture]. The other half was occupied by a couple with three daughters, two of them still at home. We were 'commuters' and they were local people, working pretty much on whatever came to hand. We all became very close over the years: the mother cleaned for me and also babysat, and the middle daughter, who was in her teens, came to me as a mother's help at the times that my two middle children were born at home in the cottage. My husband used to help them out with jobs that needed doing and the youngest daughter and my sons used to play together. We were very much part of each others lives. After six years we moved to a larger house in the same village, and four years after that, in 1969, my husband was moved from Manchester to London and we came to live in Hertfordshire. [The cottages are decorated with bunting for the first Bollington Festival in 1964.]

After forty years, all the girls are now married and only their father is still living. He is almost 93 and unable to care for himself. His middle daughter, who has her home in Macclesfield, has virtually moved in with her father to look after him, but drives to her own home twice a day to cook meals for her husband and two middle-aged sons. She can only leave her father for about an hour at a time, and no longer has any life of her own. I wanted to visit the old man while I still could, and renew my acquaintance with his daughter, who had spent so much time caring for my children. [Seen in the next picture with my two eldest sons.]

I took with me two heavy photograph albums from the time that we lived there, and also a DVD player with a CD of pictures of my boys as they grew up and had children of their own. Over the three days (staying in a B&B) I had expected to visit them only on one day, but in the end I saw them on each of the three days, and we were still going through photo albums! It proved to be the best way of filling in all those years since we had lived next door to each other. It was an emotional experience. There was a time, after my husband and I were separated, when he used to call in on them once a year, on his way to Leeds on family business, and we all missed him as we talked over old times. Also I was very moved on my last evening when my friend told me that her mother had been deeply upset when we had to move away, as she felt that we had been the best neighbours they had ever had, before or since! I wished I had recognised her feelings at the time, and could have acknowledged them in some way.

Before I left I had a chance to look round the half of the cottage in which we used to live. Experience has taught me that doing this can be a more painful than rewarding experience, since one's old home will inevitably have been altered, so one doesn't find one's memories intact. Curiosity always wins, though, in my case, and I am glad to say that, although the kitchen had been entirely remodelled and extended, in the rest of the house I was able to pull my memories around me again.

[This is our part of the cottage from the garden.]


Those of you who have been following my posts about 'green burial' may remember my eldest son's contribution which I quoted here. Today I have received a follow-up from him which is worth adding to the series:

Interesting idea in the paper today – facetious but nontheless interesting. Discussing how to use waste to produce compost – an Australian has been doing composting trials on cattle carcasses (in case we get foot-and-mouth). He stuck 16 cattle in pits and added organic matter like straw and woodchips. They were buried in pairs and he exhumed them two at a time, every three weeks for six months. After 3 weeks the bones looked steam cleaned. After 6 months they had good compost. Suggestion was then made that instead of heading to the crematorium you could head to the compostorium to continue being useful after death.

Now there’s an idea.

One of my greatest regrets is that, not only shall I never see my grandchildren grow old, but also that I shall not see how the world at large develops, and how mankind manages to save our planet, or if indeed he does! Green burials have become pretty commonplace in my lifetime, and perhaps, as we take recycling ever more seriously, there will eventually be a move towards recycling our corporeal selves in this novel way. A compostorium does not seem likely to have the appeal of burial in a woodland glade or park, but to the scientists and rationalists among us, it might be seen as an appropriate and acceptable means of disposal.

UPDATE :: I just found this article on "the death industry" on the web, and thought it well worth reading. It's dated 2003, so compostoriums/compostoria (?) are not such a new idea. You have to read to the bottom to get to them though.

Hen party!

Pam left a comment on my last post in which she referred to my "appearing as a chicken", which may set you wondering. I have written several times about the Yorkshire singer and songwriter Jake Thackray, and I belong to an on-line group of admirers and performers of his songs. We get together from time to time for a Jakefest, when all our performers get a chance to show what they can do.

It has become traditional for the women members of the group to put on a small comedy act in costume to illustrate one of the songs while it is being sung. In the past (for those of you who know Jake's work) we have done The Ladies' Basic Freedoms Polka, The Castleford Ladies' Magic Circle and Sister Josephine; this year it was The Bantam Cock. We all made ourselves as feathery and beaky as possible, and clucked and foraged between the verses, while the young bantam (played by the son of the singer and the guitarist) strutted about amongst us. Any one of us that he succeeded in poking with his feather duster considered herself 'tupped', and let out a loud sqwark and flapped hugely. We had rehearsed our movements carefully in a very large room, but found ourselves performing on about a 3' depth of stage in front of the curtain, and the whole thing was horrendous and hilarious at the same time.

[I'm the one second from the right, wearing my childhood sunbonnet!]

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!

Dear Readers ~

A good friend has gently pointed out to me that, at my age, my 'bloggies' are going to start worrying if I do not post for long periods. Of course, I should have realised, and there is nothing other than laziness, and perhaps an occasional bout of low spirits, to prevent me making a brief posting to say:

Sorry, but I'm too busy / poorly / pissed off to post just now - but I'm definitely not dead!