Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Much and the Bucket

So the latest human craze going around the big wide world is chucking buckets of icy water over each other. If you want to give money to charity, just give it away, why don't yer? On a boiling 'ot day it might be a good idea, but now? It's cooler than it ought ter be 'ere, and they're 'aving winter temperatures in Scotland, so Mavis tells me. Throw iced water about in Aberfeldy and you'll be carted off to 'ospital with per-new-monia. If this goes on they'll be calling August 'Pleurisy Month'. 'Er's a fair weather gardener, so 'er ain't bothering with the garden much just now. 'Er comes tripping down to pick a bit of mint and chives, 'as a word with the roses, and flits back in again.

Still, I aint short of company. There's Dodger and Oliver, the otters, the tortoise, and me snail. I asked Captain Padra what he thought about all this chucking about of iced water, him being a water chap and fond of a wetting. Now, he's a sensible chap and he's got a brain in there, but I had to explain it three times and 'e still couldn't get 'is whiskers around it.

'On Mistmantle, if somebody needs help, we help,' he says. 'It's more complicated here, isn't it?'

I fancy a bit of 'oliday on Mistmantle.

Friday, 22 August 2014


Call this summer? Call this August? Wind and rain and autumn temperatures, that's what we're getting just now. Rubbish, this is. Them apples are blowing off the tree, blooming 'edge'og nearly got concussed. Is it always this cold up 'ere, I asked 'er? Not necessarily, she says, we're just 'aving a cold August, she says, pity about that. Then 'er starts on about when 'er was a girl living on the north-east coast and learning to swim in the North Sea, and 'ow the tide always brought the mist in with it. Didn't make 'er tough, though, did it? One cold breeze and 'er's indoors with the fire on. Never mind, there's plenty of vegetation around to keep me warm, if I felt the cold, which I don't.

'Er's got a frozen shoulder. Not blooming surprised, I said, this weather. But it means her shoulder don't move like it should. She's seeing some Irish woman called Fizzy O'Terrapin or Terrorpist or summat, to get it going again. what's the matter with a bit of WD40? 'Er is at a great disadvantage if 'er needs to reach up high, which was a bit dicey as the curtains needed 'anging up again. They still look a bit skew-wiff to me but at least 'er can open 'em now without anything falling off the rail. Including 'er.

There's owls round 'ere. Wise old owls, they call 'em. Wise? Too stupid to go to bed at night. Middle of the night they're all hoo-hooing, making a racket and looking for their dinner. Any field mouse could hear 'em a mile off. For a sensible animal, give me a snail any day. Quiet, slow, and goes to sleep all winter. If it goes on like this, me snail may as well settle down for a kip next week.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


The old country shows still go on, though they are all smaller than they use to be. By 'country show' I mean the annual village show. It's all quite competitive, and involves a lot of judging. Locals bring their sheep, their cows, their dogs, their home grown flowers and vegetables, their home baking and flower arranging, their arts and crafts, all to be displayed, admired, and judged. There are demonstrations of wood carving, herding, archery, and all sorts of competitions. A tea tent and a beer tent at a suitable distance from each other. Sometimes there's fell racing. (Running up and down mountains.) And there's the weather.

Some of them are massive events, but the one we went to this weekend was a wee village show where Helen swept the board with the flower arranging once again. The field was on a high exposed moorland with the wind blowing a hooly, so that letting go of Tony's arm meant flying over the hills like Mary Poppins in wellies. But I kept the hair out of my eyes long enough to see what I really wanted to see, which was the dog classes.

It's not Crufts, you know. What I really wanted to see was the Dog With the Waggiest Tail. It was a hard call between the first and second places, and personally I thought the big happy black and tan mongrel should have won it. You could have tied a flag to that tail. I missed the judging for The Dog The Judge Would Most Like To take Home, but I'd already chosen my favourite - a gentle, smooth haired golden brown bitch with a tail that curled all the way round in a circle and met itself coming back. Then there were the terrier races.

What happens is that the terriers are all in boxes called 'traps' with fronts that lift up. There is a sort of fur thing on the end of a string for them to chase, and a man at the other end reeling it in. In case you're wondering, no, the dogs aren't hurt, traumatised or bullied into taking part. Have you ever tried to get the better of a terrier? They love it. We watched them going into the traps and I began to wonder.

That one, and that one, and that one, I thought - those are terriers all right. But that thing with the floppy ears? More spaniel than anything else. And the smooth coated thing with the rounded sort of face, that's never a terrier. Helen must have read my mind.

"The definition of a terrier," she said, "is anything with four legs and a tail that can fit into the box."

So that was all right. In fact, as soon as the traps were opened you could tell which ones were the terriers. They were the ones that flew down that track leaving scorch marks behind them and mowed down the judge. Of the others, one was doing all right until he saw his mum in the crowd, changed his mind and went to say hello. The other one ran round the trap and proceeded in the wrong direction.

And a good time was had by all.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Where did the week go? I can't believe it's that long since I sent anything out from The House of Stories. It's been a bit strange this week. Time flew, or as Tony would say, that's the trouble with tempus, it fugits.

There have been two days when I had to work my socks off. (Then I had to put my socks back on, but you shouldn't really put socks back on because they get smelly, so I put them in the wash and put some clean ones on, and then of course I had to do the washing. BTW, I have some socks with kittens on that Daughter gave me because she's like that.)

Now, the middle of this week was our wedding anniversary, and believe me, anyone who can put up with me for all those years deserves a treat. Anyone who can put up with him for all those years deserves the George Cross. We had been thinking about driving off to the Lake District and finding a Bed and Breakfast somewhere, but that was all put on hold because a friend of ours from Mytholmroyd had died, a delightful lady, who passed too young and too suddenly. Her funeral was on Wednesday, so we went over to Yorkshire for a bittersweet two days. We stayed overnight with The Sunshines, then made that lovely drive through hills and moors to celebrate and mourn a bright shining life and be part of that community again, one of the happiest, strongest communities I have ever belonged to.

Yesterday we scooped up my parents and went for a tour of some favourite places from long ago - Blanchland, and the Derwent Reservoir where Dad used to fish. Blanchland is a hidden secret. It used to be an abbey - the name is said to come from the white robes worn by the monks - and the houses are almost all made out of the old abbey buildings. There are cottages in what used to be the cloister. The reservoir is a place of big skies, trees, and fishermen. Children rode about on their bikes, knowing they were in a safe place. Dad looked out over the water. There was peace. For the first time this week, time stood still for us.

Sunday, 10 August 2014


The New House of Stories is well and truly warmed. The Cahooties arrived on Friday evening. They are working all the hours God sends and getting their wee house in order and had just driven up from Yorkshire and looked exhausted, so it was a delight to pack them off to a cosy bedroom for the night and let them sleep as long as they wanted in the morning. No hassle, there wasn't much to do for the party.

If you love cooking you might really enjoy all that stove and oven glove lark getting ready for a party, but I suspect even the dedicated find it a bit stressy. Our party catering was -

whizz round shop for little snacky things that will keep for ages if they don't get used, and a variety of drinks

count glasses and supplement with plastic ones

buy bubbles for children

cut up cheese

hull strawberries

slice peppers, carrots, etc, because it's healthy and colourful

put stuff in bowls

put drinks on tables

blow up balloons

sit and chat to the Lassie and see if anyone's going to turn up. And suddenly they did, and more and more of them, the house filled up, people who hadn't met for ages got together, people who'd never met before had great conversations, there was laughter, the sun shone, guests spilled out into the garden, children blew bubbles, food and drinks were enjoyed, and suddenly it was five thirty, then seven, then eight, and the last people left shortly before nine. It seemed like no time at all. Tiredness hit me as if I'd walked into a wall, but there wasn't much clearing up to do.

And the New House of Stories gave a sigh of delight.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Much and the House Warming

'Ouse Warming. They've been 'ere a blooming year and now they're 'aving a 'ouse warming, I ask yer! This weekend, better late than never, eh? Shoulda done it winter, that's when 'ouses need warming. Mind you, 'er's talking about Open 'Ouse, so just as well it's 'appening in summer if they want to leave doors open all over the place. What did 'er ever do without me to look after 'er, eh?

Mind, it'll be nice to 'ave some visitors, specially now them cornflowers are dying off and I can see where I'm going. Me snail can't, but I can. It's getting lively round 'ere, what with the 'edgehog, and the odd field mouse running over me foot, and them peacock butterflies, and me other stone mates. We've got some early windfall apples, and if young Oliver doesn't stop chucking 'em at the shed I'll clip 'is ears for 'im. Nice 'edgehog, that. 'Edgehogs generally eat snails, but he won't bother mine because stone snails don't agree with 'edgies. Not good for the teeth.

'Er can't come into 'er garden without talking to plants. You should 'ear 'er. 'Hello, how are you today? Aren't you pretty? Who needs water this morning?' Don't know what the neighbours think, if they can 'ear all that. They'll all be round at her bloomin' 'ouse warming to see if 'er's as balmy as 'er sounds. Believe you me, they won't be disappointed.

You haven't had an Archers Update for some time. It's all a bit fragmented, really, but I'll try. Here we go -

Elizabeth Pargeter should be slapped. I know Nigel fell off the roof, but that's no excuse for what she got up to.

Shula's son Dan joined the army and went to Sandhurst.

Charlie is a bully and a meanie. How dare he talk to Adam Macy like that!

Ed blocked the combine harvester and bought Emma a new dress.

Jennifer has invited the entire village, if not the county, to a party to admire her new fitted kitchen. That's Jennifer for you.

Linda has found rare butterflies on the land where the council want to make a road, and is having it declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest. (The land, not the council.) That way they won't be able to put the road through the middle of Brookfield Farm, which as you know is farmed by David and Ruth Archer, and has been in the family for at least three generations.

Tony Archer is getting very excited about cows, the policeman who likes Fallon is singing in a band with Jolene, and Lilian didn't really knit the cardigan for the baby, Peggy did because Lilian can't knit. Oh, and Pat Archer went to see Richard who is now calling himself John, which he should, because that's his real name after his father, who was... but it's a long story.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Prickles and points

Claire and Nick came over yesterday, all the way from Sheffield. Nick came to do the pointing (repairing the bits that hold the bricks in the back wall together) and Claire so that we could go on inventing new ways of changing the world while having fun and laughing a lot. We've been doing that for well over forty years, and boy, are we good at it. In the evening lovely hedgehog came to see what was going on and escaped again, if you'll pardon the expression, sharpish. It's shy. Perhaps I need to give it a little cat food to encourage it.

We spent this evening at my sister's. The rain has been slooshing down so it's cooler than of late and she had the fire blazing away in the stove. She too has a garden hedgehog, or possibly two, in her cottage garden. (You wait for years for a hedgehog, then they all turn up at once.) In spite of the lure of a little dish of something, the cottage hedgehog didn't appear in its usual spot.

I apologise to her cats. I took some bubbles to blow, thinking that the cats would enjoy chasing them. Cats watched with mild interest. 'Move a bit closer', said Helen. So I did, and the cats were out of there like ferrets up a drainpipe. Was it the smell of soap that put them off?

After a delightful evening, we opened the back door to leave. Snuggled by the fence was the sweetest little hedgehog. Result!