Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Snow in Trelystan. Rest of world isolated.....

We have snow and deep drifts have blocked the lane. There is much talk amongst the men folk of 'getting through'. Each man bravely embraces his inner Polar Explorer and sets out to bring home life's necessities.

The Glamorous Ass. is gone all of 5 minutes - long enough to discover that snow deeper than the bonnet of the pick-up is indeed impassable.
It's possible that this does not bode well for tomorrow night's New Year's Eve dinner and I shall have to amend my catering arrangements. (Perhaps using some of those recipes suggested by yesterdays commenters - for which many thanks.) My neighbour did point out that if we couldn't get out to go shopping then it was unlikely that anyone would be able to get to us either and I would not need to worry about crab and smoked salmon for 10. A good point.

As I write I can see that snow is still blowing in across the dark face of Badnage Wood. There is a wicked wind which makes the temperature seem even lower than it actually is. I'm not sure if this latest snow is 'sticking' or not - there's a slushiness about it. We'll see what happen when the temperature drops at dusk.

Me, I'm perfectly happy not to 'get through' - an afternoon by the fireside away from the world, with one of my Christmas books seems like the best of plans.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Duh! The difference a day makes.

Stupid or what? (Don't answer that. Rhetorical question.)

I've been labouring - and I do mean labouring - under the misapprehension that New Year's Eve is on Friday. I've vac'ed and wiped at a gentle pace and Silvo'ed the family silver*. This last task I found was actually rather pleasant and restful - no pressure - listening to an audio book and letting the cares of the world wash away.........tra la. Dogs snooze by the Aga, outside the snow falls, all is silent and still at this end of the Long Mountain. Domestic bliss.

Our son phones, asks how to make vegetable soup and tells us his plans for Thursday. Thursday? What is so special about Thursday?

O.M.G. Thursday is New Year's Eve. Eeeeek!

Oh dear. Like a cartoon character I go into overdrive, arms, legs and brain flailing. I need to feed eleven hungry souls. A day makes a huge difference.

Expect nothing coherent from here until I have a plan. I am working on that.

*Family silver? Sounds good but don't get any ideas - we've only some pretty coffee spoons, 4 candlesticks (which I could use to bonk burglars over the head with if provoked), 8 napkin rings and a christening mug.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Well known phrases and sayings - No 7

My Glamorous Assistant is in his shed whittling a heron and I'm at the kitchen table with a coffee and am defeated by the crossword. I'm putting off the inevitable.

Which inevitable would that be I hear you ask? (Hint: a dust-bunny scuttles under the sofa and sunbeams bounce off the dog nose-prints which adorn the glass door.....)

The inevitable post-festive tidy-up that's what - because as everyone should know: 'After the Lord Mayor's Parade goes the man with the brush and shovel'. It seems that only short hours ago I was primping and preening, bedecking my halls with boughs of holly, setting the perfect Christmas scene in fact. Now my visitors have all been and gone, we're partied out, tired and weary - and so is the house. I feel it has the interior decor version of a hangover.

Today I am the equivalent of that man with the brush and shovel - after the pomp, pageantry and glitz somebody has to clear up the crud. I wonder if today's slightly less familiar 'well-known phrase' has its origins in Victorian times? A quick Google obligingly came up with 'The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894' - and a number of interesting facts; that the average horse produces between 15 and 35lbs per day - in the Times of London in 1894, one writer estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. It all has got to go somewhere.

I ponder this as I dust and vac and remember that old chestnut:
A little boy goes up to an old gardener and says 'what do you put on your rhubarb?'

'Usually well-rotted horse manure' replies the gardener. 'We have custard on ours' says the boy.
Yes. Well.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Greetings from the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan

Ahh, the Naivety....

Best wishes from my wintery fog-bound kingdom where, in the lanes, the snow is indeed glistenin'. It's a beautiful sight, this winter wonderland.

Off now to do all the things I should have done days ago. The imminent arrival of visitors, the prospect of mass catering and a house hidden under a furry layer of dust does focus the mind....

Friday, December 18, 2009

At dusk. On the field.

I do practical and pragmatic things - I tip the hens' old water down a rat hole (remembering too late and with a gulp that those pesky rats might have feelings too). I shoo those birds inclined to spend the night in the comfy nest box up onto their perches. I slide doors, drop pop-holes and flick the switch of the electric fence to 'on'. I hope to keep any sharp-toothed and clawed predator away tonight at least, as always.

Hens in, job done, I stand a while and rub my hands to restore a little feeling - perhaps to remind myself that they are still there. How cold it is tonight. How good to feel the ground hard underfoot. The temperature has not risen above zero today.

In the west, low on the horizon - and so slim that it could easily be missed - is a crescent moon. It hangs sketchily - as if some calligraphic hand had flicked it in with a confident stroke of the pen; silver on a ground of deepest blue. Pretty little cushions of pink clouds organise themselves - but not for snow I think, even on this cold night. Just for delight.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Carols. More of.

Young Farmers' Carol Service tonight - the County service held in St Michael's at Chirbury, because this year our very own Chirbury and Marton's Huw Thomas is County Chairman. With the office comes responsibility and the onus for organising Shropshire events in 2010. Tonight was the first.

Well. It was a bit like the Pantomime without the beer, but with a bishop and carols. I hope that doesn't sound too trite - because it was far from that. The Church was packed with young people from across Shropshire and many of us locals too in support of our local group.

A young woman from Brown Clee YFC opened the service, singing the first verse of "Once in Royal David's City', unaccompanied, from the back of the Church - her bright clear voice soaring confidently into the rafters. This solo piece, in a hushed and expectant church, always and without fail will send a shiver of something or other down my spine.

Then enter Lynn on the mighty organ and the congregation joins in with gusto for the rest of the carol. An opening prayer by the Bishop and we're off - a medley of poetry, music, sketches and song interspersed with the odd carol to make sure we all get to our feet occasionaly. No chance we'll fall asleep though - these young people tell the familiar Christmas story in their own way, injecting wit and humour and unexpected talents. Each group in the County has contributed a piece. There may be the odd gaff and pratt-fall along the way - but hey! they're amongst friends - it doesn't matter. We laugh, we sigh, we strain to hear some of the softer or more garbled voices. No matter, it is good.

The three kings finally arrive bearing gifts, heads swathed in their girlfriends' pashminas and wearing - was it curtains or dressing gowns? 3 strong solo voices sing the words of Melchior, Caspar and of Balthazar, whose doom-laden words are portentious:
'Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.'
Clun Valley YFC brought 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas' into the traditional mix - and were this the Pantomime Competition I have no doubt they would have won the cup. Four confidant voices accompanied by Wayne on that most curious of instruments, the piano accordian.

But of course, it was not about being 'better' and winning anything tonight. It was about being there amongst friends, being part of a community, celebrating and taking part. It was all of that. With a Bishop and Carols. And mulled wine.

Well done them.

Me? I'm all carolled up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Singing in the Rain

The main criteria for anyone wanting to join Marton's merry band of carollers is a chipper disposition; the ability to laugh when lashed by winter's winds and a persistent drizzle has turned the song sheet to papier maché. It appears that the voice of an angel isn't a requirement - I alternately squeak and growl in the background but always with a smile on my face. I pass the test. On this, my inaugural outing, I was made most welcome.

A small group of us set out last night to visit homes on Marton's main street to bring seasonal cheer and raise a few pounds for the Church roof fund. (Another bottomless pit I suspect.) Had we wished to go round the whole parish we would need to have started out earlier in the year - a lot of the village community live in outlying farms and cottages. Not the best of nights to be out, cold and wet, so a limited number of homes was a good idea. But hey! Well wrapped up and with those sunny smiles firmly in place off we went, 'topping and tailing' (that's the first and last verses) all the old favourites, reserving 'Away in a Manger' for houses with children. We were accompanied by 2 flautists and 2 clarinetists who added a little je ne sais quoi to the scratch choir.

There were a lot of folk out last night - either that or sitting in the dark behind the sofa saying 'Shhh' as Rosemary's gloved finger pushed the doorbell and she prepared to proffer her collecting tin. Still there were enough people in to make it worth while. Doors opened and householders stood and shivered, listening as we sang loudly and enthusiastically, taking our lead from the two who do actually have the voices of angels. A glass of sherry was most welcome halfway round, thank you. Our players treated the householder to 'Frosty the Snowman' by way of thanks and we all 'la-la-ed' lustily along as the words weren't on the churchy song sheet.

The last elderly lady pushed a neatly folded fiver into Rose's tin and wished a us 'Merry Christmas' and was persuaded to take herself in out of the cold. Grace's clarinet had fallen to pieces - might the rain have dissolved the glue? - and the other musicians were obviously a little concerned about the damp affecting their instruments. We now look less like a band of carol singers and more like a gang of drowned rats with raindrops on our whiskers.

So what did we do? We did what carol singers have done down the ages; took ourselves to sit in front of a blazing fire with a glass of something warming and waited for the sensation to return to frozen fingers and toes. Ahhhhh Glorious!

Young Farmers' Carol Service on Wednesday. That will be indoors but there is no guarantee it will be any warmer.

Friday, December 11, 2009


A beautiful morning here in the small mountain kindom of Trelystan. The frosted ground is white and crisp underfoot. The sky is of the clearest blue with just a couple of perfectly placed dainty clouds. All is well with my world.My eye is caught by what appears to be smoke in the distance where garden meets field and field drops away to dingle. It's fog coming up from the valley like a stealthy beast, flooding the dingles, dips and hollows - moving at quite a lick for a bit of cold wet air. Pretty soon my world is white and muffled and lit by a pearly ethereal light. Only the tops of the trees of Badnage wood can still enjoy the sunshine. Time for a photograph or two in the vain hope I can capture something of this morning's 15 minutes of magic.When we first moved here I was enthralled by the play of weather on the wood that is our backdrop - the twists of mist which hang and twine in the treetops, the silvery sheets of rain, and frosts and snows and always the sigh of the conifers dancing in the wind. Would I still be as fascinated at winter's end, after months of bleak dreariness? Five winters on I can still watch and listen as I did in those early days - the weather in these hills is still every bit as special.

Almost as quickly the fog slipped back down the hill. No doubt there is some sound and prosaic meteorological reason for its coming and going.
As I write this, a few hours later, we're wrapped in fog again - it rolled back up the hill. This time it's the real thing; thick, heavy and here to stay.

Me? I'm now going to don coat and wellies and take the dogs down the garden where Chester can fulfill his hunting instincts by flushing out pheasants. By then it will be time to come in and light the wood burner - if it's good for nothing else this cold, grey weather makes indoors a very cosy proposition.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mince pie any one?

It's that time of year again. The smell of baking fills the house, sweet and spicy. I feel unnaturally organised and domestic as, on taking two trays of mincers out of the Aga and dusting them with icing sugar, the doorbell rings and visitors arrive unannounced. They are much impressed with my creativity.

'Tea?' I ask. The answer is 'yes, of course - with hot mince pies please'. We all sit down around the log-burner's warm glow to sip our tea and put the world to rights. What a cosy, homely scene it is.Well, that got rid of one tray of pies - our guests wrapped some up and took them home. In case they are stranded between here and Longridge and need emergency Christmas fare perhaps.

I've hidden some away and the remainder are disappearing alarmingly quickly - the Glam.Ass. it seems can't get enough. So - if you would like one, pipe up.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

More than one

In our house, more than one is a collection. What starts as an innocent acquisition is joined by one other, similar; and then a third. Before one knows it there is 'a collection'. As you know the Glam.Ass. is collecting money, little 'silver joeys' - although he tells me he's not going to buy any more. That is not quite the truth I think. He was spotted cruising eBay, studying 11/2d coins. No, I didn't know they existed either, or if they have a name. Three'apenth perhaps.

Me? At present I am collecting milestones, those way-markers that marked the miles on the old Turnpike roads. I keep them as knowledge in my head, a bit more information about things which went before and forged the landscape. I don't have to bring them home or house and dust them. This is a Good Thing.

This is the one, first spotted by D as part of her research into the Bishops Castle Turnpike Trust of 1768, that sparked my interest:Not a thing of beauty really. Do you think I should go along with a pot of paint and a litte brush to spruce it up a bit? Let everyone know that they are 20 miles from Salop and 1 from Montgomery? Further up the road another has survived and is now half-buried, but sadly few are left. They are largely redundant now and we speed past them. I quite like the incidental link with the past and the serendipitous discovery of another.

Almost unbelievably there is Milestone Society - whose aim no doubt is to protect and catalogue. My 'geek sensor' goes into overdrive and I back away. Glad to know these things exist but only too happy to let them rub along without me. I am in un-joining mode at present.

If you would like to see the site of my latest discovery - click on Mr Cary's most excellent map above and head West- north-west out of the little town of Bishops Castle. It's number 2.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Think about it...

'Do you know' observed the greengrocer outside Welshpool Market Hall, 'that we've only had all this bad weather since they started saving the planet?'

He's got a point. I think we just had guilt-free weather before.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I want me mam....

How lovely it is to lie, snug in bed, and listen to the weather roar outside. The rain lashes against the house and a gust of wind from the east whistles under the eaves from time to time. The window is slightly ajar - wide enough to let in air but not enough to let in too much of that wicked weather. All of me is warm and cosily tucked up. I've a book to read; Wolf Hall which has, amongst all things promised on the cover, a most soporific effect. All is well in my bed-time world.

But what is that raucous din that breaks the night air? It is a shed-full of young cattle bawling just the other side of the garden wall, that's what. I think they have been brought to over-winter here and their assorted mothers have stayed elsewhere. They have been weaned. It is a heart rending noise - and one I've written about before. They'll settle down and get used to being in this strange place without the reassuring presence of their mums.

I've just been across to see them and they are mostly quiet now. Though wary at first, their nosiness soon overcame any fear of a fool with a camera and they jostled and snorted to get a better look. We had a few words along the lines of 'Shh. No more of that noise tonight.'

I got a moo or too by way of answer. That's a 'Yes' then?