Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Frozen Flowers to lift the Spirit

In amongst all our sadness for Sam, after losing her beloved husband Richie, I am posting these pictures of brave flowers that have weathered extreme cold and snow in our Northumberland garden and are still there to cheer us.

These are Old English roses, Graham Thomas, that often go on flowering until Christmas.

This rose, growing on the house wall, was planted a very long time ago. It is a once-a-summer flowerer. What is it doing flowering now?

This orange-berried Pyracantha is keeping its food for the birds for a little while yet.

Here you can see what last night brought - freezing fog. Proper colour of the flowers is there in the middle.

And this brave fellow, Hebe Diamond, will flower most of the winter. I love it for that.

This did its flowering proper in the summer, as it should. Now it is doing it all over again in this inclement weather.
Here is one of G's roses - sooo beautiful.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Snow and Church

A trip up to the Church, to see how the heating was working - it seemed great, but what will the cost be?

Here we see it sparkling clean after lots of hard work!
The view as I started down the hill again

Church gate to House gate.

Two pictures, taken in the garden:

Two lovely people who live next door:

Where is that food I thought you had?

Move over, I want it! Oh, you blurdy cheat, it is only a camera!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Fund-raising Day

Picture taken by Our Lovely Lady Vicar!

What a day! We started with a Benefice Eucharist - attended by 30 + people, a lot for our little church. S0me were normal church-goers, some were Methodists from the village, some were visitors from round about and there was the odd Roman Catholic too. The singing was great and Jerusalem lifted the roof! I shall not comment on the sermon because I know that our lovely lady vicar has sussed me out and will, without doubt, read this!!! (I need emoticons on the blogs!)

From the church, we moved across the Village Green to the Women's Institute Hut for a fund-raising lunch. At first we thought that we were short on numbers but late on others arrived and we were washing up the odd plate to accommodate the last 'extras'. We fed 46 and there was much left over - not sure how many baskets! At £10 a head, there was a good take there, don't you agree? The really amazing thing was that by the time the last guest departed for the Garden Fête, the tables were clear and the washing up had been done by teams of volunteers.

The earlier part of the afternoon was dry. People rolled up from up and down the Tyne Valley, having seen an advert in the local paper, The Hexham Courant. Apparently it was raining heavily there about lunch time, so it was only dedicated garden lovers who turned out. However, trade in the Gazebo was brisk and cakes, books and bric-à-brac were snapped up, as well as raffle tickets. From there they graduated to the door-in-the-wall into the garden, where G was taking their entrance money. It gave me great pleasure that there were so many oohs and ahs to make all the hard work over many years really worth while. So often one enjoys one's garden in a solitary way and to share it with so many is absolutely indescribable. From there they moved on to the Conservatory and 'Cream Teas'. These were fab - I had one later. A home-made scone, with plenty of strawberry jam and lots of whipped cream and a welcome cup of tea.

For me it was lovely to see so many stangers enjoying our garden and amongst them unexpected friends/aquaintences.

That was not all though. After the guests had mostly disappeared, the really lovely people who proved themselves and earned endless brownie points, set to, to help with the clearing up. Now the gazebo is empty and will hopefully be able to dry out tomorrow. The Conservatory is back to normal. All the plants that were left have moved on to be ready for the Kirhwhelpington Fête.

AND - the takings are in the region of £1200, which means that the WI Hut Appeal and the Kirkheaton Church Rewiring Fund are both about £600 better off.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Bereavement Councelling

Two or three years ago, we set up a Local Ministry Group (LMG) in our United Benefice of three parishes. This is a requirement if someone wants to become a Locally Ordained Minister.One of our members soon came forward for this and after a gruelling 2 years, she is embarking on the third and last. She has practiced as a doctor for many years, and a few years ago trained to become a Councillor, in all sorts of disciplines, including bereavement.
A group of Bereavement Councillors was set up in the Upper Coquet valley a few years ago and this is gradually extending to cover more and more of North Northumberland, right up to Berwick.
I am a member of our LMG and it was mentioned about a year ago that there would be a chance of training anyone from this Benefice, if anyone was interested. Several thought about it but they have pulled out for the time-being for various personal reasons. It seems that I am the only one left in, currently. I have been waiting since then for a chance to be trained.
On Wednesday, the existing group were having a refresher day and I was invited.
I wonder what the ordinary person thinks is meant by Bereavement Counselling. I imagined it meant listening to people releasing their feelings, after losing someone close to them. Beyond that I did not know.
After the session on Wednesday, I realise that listening is very important but there is so much more. Not just what is done to help the person, (I hate the word client), but also how to start, finish, cope yourself, etc etc. We started with a session during which they went through things they had found good - like a genuine smile - and things they had found hard. The latter part threw up all sorts of things that made me realise how difficult it could be at times. The innitial listening is the 'easy' part if you can get them to really talk about the things that matter, that is!
After coffee, we split into 3's and fortunately were able to use 3 different spaces. The leader/facilitator floated between the groups, listening to how they were getting on.
Two chairs were placed facing each other, with a third to the side for the Observer. The other two were for the talker and the listener. Having been warned not to choose anything too recent, were asked to speak about a personal bereavement and I waa asked to go first. I decided to talk about my Mother who died 15 years ago. It was surprising how real this became for me once I was launched into my account - and very emotional. I had never talked about it but do think about it sometimes and I remembered it as if it was yesterday. It did seem a little strange at first to have the Observer there, but I soon forgot about her and talked directly to the listener, who kept very still and did not interrupt until near the end (we had had the 2 minute warning!) when she asked a question. At the end the Observer made her comments and we talked about it a bit. Then we played musical chairs and I was in the observers place. The trained councellor was the listener, so I was able to watch and observe her as she listened to a very traumatic story. I had to try to distance myself from that because my job was to comment on the Listener. This was good practice, because whilst taking it all in etc, one must keep oneslf one step removed when doing the real thing. Musical chairs again and I became the Listener. I got 'good marks' for body language and attention and non-interruption and the question I asked at the end!
We gathered again in the main room and shared a few things that had come out of the excersise, before eating the pooled lunch and chatting about holidays in France and India and other things to relieve our minds after quite a gruelling morning.
After lunch we revisited the problems, available facilities etc and lots of new things came up in the discussion. By this time, I had enough confidence to ask a few questions myself and even make a comment which hit a nail on the head!
By the time we broke up and headed for home, I was shattered! However the drive through the glorious Northumbrian countryside, in the only bit of sun of the day (week?) rested my mind and I was fine by the time all the young rang me to wish me a happy birthday.
Now it is decision time. I know that I would like to train further and take up this very worth while job. But I have questions to answer for myself. Will the time that I will have to be out be unfair on G? How much stress will this put on me, especially if I get a hard case? Will I be able to cope? And most important of all - these will be real human beings I will be trying to help and am I capable of doing a good job? It would be so easy to make matters worse, with the wrong comment or approach. I must talk to the trained Councellor, but she cannot make the decision.
Also I do not know when I will be able to get further training, and time, tide and old age wait for no man!
I will keep you posted!

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Food Flying Squad

Most of you will know what the Women's Royal Voluntary Service is.

Just before the war, Lady Reading was asked to mobilise the women of the country into a voluntary force. Many were called up or went to nurse, but there were a great many who had to stay at home to look after families etc. They flocked to her banner and were taught to do all sorts of things, one being driving ambulances, which they did in London during the blitze to great effect. Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WRVS to find out more.

After the war (I think) the Food Flying Squad was founded, to do exactly what it said - get food quickly to where it was needed in an Emergency. I joined in 1956 and what fun we had! We had a fleet of lorries and I had to get an HGV licence (of a sort). Driving these things involved double de-clutching which is something all you babies have probably never heard of! We had a stores lorrie, 2 food lorries and a water tanker, as far as I can remember. We carried evil stove things - can't remember what they were called - which had to be lit and kept going to boil water. Also we built the original form of a barbeque - a sort of box built of whatever you could find that was fire-proof, with a grid over. We could produce sausages etc and also stew which was cooked on the stove thingie.

I was made Transport Officer and so had to learn the basics of engines, putting in anti freeze, changing wheels etc. We also had a tent and I remember shinning up the tent pole to get a toggle over the top if it, to the astonishment of the rest of the group who were all much older than me! Thankfully, we never had to go to a real emergency, but I remember feeding the police at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. They were married in York and the reception was at Hovingham so there was an awful lot of road to patrol. We got to see the cars go by - whoosh and they were gone! We were based near Hovingham and as our home was Croft-on-Tees, we had quite a drive and had to get up onto the hills. We did not try to go up Sutton Bank (1 in 5 slope, I seem to remember) so we had to go down to Ampleforth. Sorry about the geography - only a few of you will follow it I fear.

The WRVS Emergency Service does much the same as we did but does not have a fleet of lorries! You will have heard of them in this country, attending things like the Tube bombing, the Lockerby air crash, floods and many other things.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

6 random things

Have only just discovered this tag!

I was 5ft 2 1/2 ins when I was younger - now about 5ft 1in I should think

Was the eldest, with 3 brothers, 7, 15 and 17 years younger than me. (Oh and a half sister 6 years older)

Have lived in North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland all my life - bar 4 years in Singapore

Absolutely love my garden and am never happier than when I am working in it.

Have been a County (Northumberland and North Yorkshire) and District (Richmondshire) Councillor

Was an active member of the WRVS for about 20 odd years, starting with the Food Flying Squad and ending with District Organiser for Hexham area , via North Yorkshire Hospitals Organiser and NY County Organiser.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Farne Islands.

It was a fabulous day on Monday. The one break in a rainy period. The gale had dropped, the sun was shining, the sky was full of dramatic clouds. The sea was reducing, allowing landings on the Islands.

So, G, daughter(C) and boy-friend (M) and I, drove up the road to Seahouses. We found The Old Ship for a bar meal. It is fascinating, with masses of tiny rooms with 2, 3 or 4 tables and claims to have the smallest bar in England. The sandwiches were fab - I had crab, caught off Seahouses, so split fresh. I never go up the coast without having crab, it is so good.

The harbour wall was a great place to lean and chat while waiting for the departure of our boat to the Farne Islands. We looked up the coast to Bambrough Castle

On our way to the Farnes, we were privileged to see a flight of gannets, on passage up the coast, on their way to the Bass Rock, where they breed.

After a while we reached the first island and the Stacks - vertical rocks covered in Guillemots. The young were already jumping off and they will all soon have left for the winter. The one in the picture was very low down but some of the nests were very high and a terrible drop for the youngsters. They are the first to leave. We sailed up and down, close to the rocks, so that everyone could have a good view of the masses of birds.

We sailed on to the outermost island, with the Longstone Light. This was where the Darling family lived and we saw the window from which Grace saw the Forfarshire's lights as she hit the rocks. She persuaded her Father to row with her, in the dark and the storm, to rescue any survivors. They saved 9 men, but there was a large loss of life. Grace was about 25 at the time and she died 2 years later of tuberculosis and is buried in Bambrough Churchyard. On this island we saw Grey Atlantic Seals - large animals which looked to me more like sea-lions! Many of them were sunbathing on the rocks, but gradually they were washed off as the tide came in.

After that we went back, via the place where the Forfarshire sank, to the Inner Farne. This, like most of the Islands, belongs to the National Trust, so you have to pay if you are not a member. It is beautifully cared for. The Trust keeps someone on the island for about 9 months of the year, observing the birds. There is a track made of slats and wire netting which visitors must not leave. Even there you have to take care because Tern chicks can be found on it. As they are well camouflaged, they are easy to step on.

The top of the Island is covered in holes, made by puffins. These are such fun little birds and it is impossible to describe their comical behaviour. They are also very colourful.

We followed the track to the old lighthouse where I found this. She clattered her beak at me to warn me off.

Further on we came to the Shags

After this back to the boat and so back to Seahouses
and the drive home. (This is Cheviot from the sea)

Sunday, 2 March 2008


I have been asked about sounds. Sensations rather? Colourful, noisy. Smells of spices. The noise is paramount. Vehicles often have 'hoot your horn' on the back. Why? Because you may be going to overtake on either side and the driver may not be aware you are there anyway. So you hoot. There are lots of hooters - some are musical, some are short and sharp. If you have both, you put your hand on the musical one and keep it there as you overtake. In the busy parts of the towns, the cacophany is all you hear. If you are on the balcony of your room in the Amarvilas Hotel you may hear the sound of the mezoin calling to prayer. Or the sound of the fair that is going on a little way away. And as you listen, you can see the Taj looming through the murk. There are other countries that are more colourful but there is lots of colour in India, mostly to be found in the ladies' saris.

Friday, 29 February 2008

Transport in India

These comments on transport in India are based on my experiences in Rajasthan and may well bear no relationship to other parts of this sub-continent.

Trains. The very word brings to mind strange carriages, with barred windows, and people thick on the roof and hanging onto doors. We did no see anything like that. We did see trains with barred windows but no sign of people on the outside. These were "people" trains according to our Guide! They seemed to travel fast and we were led to believe that they were reliable. However - one couple decided that, rather than sit in the coach for a number of hours, they would take an express train from Agra to Delhi, with their luggage accompanying us. Seats were booked and off they went to the station about the same time as we left in the coach. They were taken by a representative of the Agents. A train came in with barred windows and looking much like one would have imagined. However, they were told it was not theirs. A little while later another identical train arrived. They were hurried to the end AC carriage and told to get in as this was were their seats were. It was packed to the gunnel's, including people on the upper level - the luggage rack in our speak but it was said to have air conditioning. Two sleeping Indians were evicted from their seats, but that did nothing to remove the feet hanging down in front from the rack above! Or the stink! As you will guess, they removed themselves from the train pdq! As a result they had to pay for a taxi to take them to Delhi which turned out to be a much better option. Goodness knows what the whole incident cost them. Their account of it was even funnier than my version, as you will no doubt guess.
We also saw a number of goods trains and tanker trains. These, like the people trains, were incredibly long and were doubtless a good means of transferring goods. There was no electricity in sight, so the diesel engines must have been adding to global warming.

Road Transport.

Buses. Here we really did see people hanging on to every available hand-hold as well as packed in tight, within. They are reasonably cheap and frequent, but I don't know how much they covered longer distances. We saw a lot of them on the main roads, without the hangers-on. Thi is not a good picture, unfortunately

Coaches. These are at least 20 years behind those in the West. They have cart springs and as they are narrow, there is not a lot of room. The luggage space above the seats is very limited and the seats themselves are rather narrow. This is our coach.

Cars. Car ownership has exploded in the last few years in the cities. Many of them are made by Tata, but there are a few American makes. The most common is the Indian version of the Morris Oxford. A great lack of pictures I am afraid - these are jeeps. Love the monkeys!

On the whole cars appear to be well cared for. The rule of the road is basically "do not keep to the rules". Left hand drive does apply but you overtake on either side, hooting like a maniac so's the guy driving knows you are there. On roundabouts, whoever gets there first goes, though I believe it is meant to be give way to the right, as here. The lorries are numerous and usually in your way, as are bullock and camel carts and cows, who wander down the middle of the road in their own good time. Pedestrians seem to be all over the place too. In other words, on no account drive yourself! They are building duel carriageways as main link roads but so far lane discipline is non existent. Oh yes - don't ever use your indicator!

Motor bikes are legion. Helmets are compulsory in some states but are only worn by some people.

Bicycles are even more legion.

Bullock carts and camel carts are the main form of transport of goods in the countryside but are to be found in towns and cities too, bringing in stuff from outside. On the whole, out in the country, they do keep to the left but are not so good in the towns. Often the camels and water buffalo are decorated with fascinating designs and colours. You see the occasional horse too and it will probably be covered in all sorts of decorative materials. Elephants are only used for ceremonies like weddings and for carrying the tourist up to the Meherangarh Fort above Jaipur.

Lorries and Tractors.

I have already mentioned lorries but there are a large number of tractors hauling stuff too. Both are likely to be very highly decorated and you often see stalls selling stuff to do it with. They take great pride in making them as beautiful as possible. Sometimes you wonder how they can see out of the windscreen and side windows! Unfortunately this is the best picture I can find - the tractor is hidden and neither are decorated I like the goats though!
Last but not least - auto and cycle rickshaws. Tuktuk is a name not used so much in India, though of course most tourists call them that. It ubiquitous and a very good way of getting around in the town. You agree a price before-hand and climb in. They are designed for 2 or 3 but we must have seen 6 or 7 at least crammed in on numerous occasions. The cycle rickshaw is not so common but there are plenty of them. Both sorts are driven/propelled by the poorest people, so using them is definitely a good thing to do and as they are cheap, a good tip should be payed too. There are also tongas drawn by scrawny and often lame horses. We had a ride in one. Two face forward and two back and the poor old horse is made to trot/canter, expecially as in our case where the group had several and the owners are very competetive!
This also applied to our ride in cycle rickshaws. G hated every minute of it as he hung on by his eyelashes! I was too busy trying to take pictures and keep my 'spare' hand inside and hang on all at the same time to be frightened.
The brown bit in this picture is the cycle rider, not a bit of a horse!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Delhi Street Scenes

While in Delhi, we went for a ride on a bicycle rickshaw. These are a few of the pictures I took:

This is typicla of the electricity wiring in Delhi streets. In fact it is a rather better example than some.

Sorry that the lay-out is so bad. I still haven't got the mastery of it!