Ragtag Tuesday: Touching the past

Nothing makes me feel older than looking at these three photos does.  They seem to be illustrations from a history book, but they’re not. I can reach out and touch them, because every one of them features my mother.

This is her christening.  And here are people I never met: her father Charles, the curate, who died long before I was even thought of.  Her mother Annie, from whom she became estranged. Annie’s mother and father Arthur and Elizabeth Pickard, long long dead.  Her sister Blanche and brother-in-law Jack who took themselves off to live and work in Swansea, so I never met them either: though my mother inherited almost all that Blanche had when she died in 1964.

News of my mother’s birth would have travelled by word-of-mouth or by letter.  I communicate with friends in four continents in an instant, by the click of a mouse or a quick call on Facetime.

When my children were small in the 1980s, we went to an exhibition featuring the future – a fax machine.  We got very over-excited sending drawings to one another down the phone line. Who uses fax machines now? They’re nearly as dead as the fountain pen. But even the telephone barely existed for most people when my mother was born. She lived to see her grandchildren use word processors, computers and mobile phones – but she was happier with what she knew.

I guess this photo was taken during World War One. Over the last few weeks our attention has been so taken up  by the horrors of trench warfare that it’s hard to imagine that in a small northern coal-mining town, life would have gone on much as usual.  Clergymen and miners were all exempt from conscription. Though my mother remembers food difficulties. It was her job to run to the shop and get a supply of golden syrup, and then to sit fishing the flies before it could be used  in cooking.

I have little grandchildren  of the same kind of age as my mother and her little brother Arthur in this photo (and for those of you who’ve been asking, Zoë is doing well thanks.  She should now be just under a fortnight old, but she’s three months old instead).

Theirs is a world of babygrows, disposable nappies, easy-care T-shirts and jumpers and the constant background whirr of the washing machine. My mother remembered the dampness and drudgery of Monday and its all-day washing as the worst day of the week.

Here’s another from the war years:

How could life have been so very – well – Edwardian?  Those floor-length clothes for my grandmother in the previous photo! That sailor suit for Arthur and a mob-cap for my mother!  Imagine getting Arthur and Betty along to the photographer’s studio in their Sunday-best, clean, tidy and with immaculate shoes.  These days, family portraits are all about getting out into the countryside with tousled hair then running barefoot through the heather.

I find it unsettling to look at the images.  

I feel strangely unconnected, as though my mother is from some strange unknowable place with which I have no relationship: ‘The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.’ L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘past’.

Ragtag Tuesday: a parcel of deer

If you live near Studley Royal and its deer park, as we do, you’ll be used to deer.  They’re very shy though, and unless you’re there very early, or when poor weather is keeping visitors away, you’ll only get distant views of them.

Yesterday though, we were having a walk, a long walk, just outside the park grounds.  Our path had led us upwards, through woodland, and alongside the long stone wall which bounds the estate.  And that’s when we noticed them.  A stag with his harem of does – some twenty or thirty of them.  We stuck our noses over the wall, and watched.  The deer watched us, and concluded that since these faces apparently had no bodies attached, they posed no threat.

The stag – and there was only one – was striding around in an assertive manner, aiming to garner respect.  The deer weren’t bothered either way, and there were no other males to impress.  He realised he was wasting his time, and fell to grazing instead.

I’m still stuck without a camera, so these slightly fuzzy efforts will have to do as a record of a few magic moments shared with a parcel of deer we came across .

Did you know that ‘parcel‘ is a collective noun for deer?  Me neither.  Try these too.

Herd – leash – gang – brace – clash – bevy – rangale – bunch – mob.

We’ve seen the deer. Now we can continue our walk.

Today’s Ragtag prompt is ‘parcel’.  And as usual, click on any image to view it full size.

Ragtag Tuesday: Flying the flag

Last time, we had to get to York to catch the coach to London.  This time, York had two coaches stuffed with its own.  Harrogate and Ripon had two, up from zero.  And Leeds had upped its game from two to five.

Coach to London?  Yes, to support the March for the People’s Vote.  You’ll know there were about 700,000 of us.  You’ll know the arguments.  So let’s just talk about a fun day.

A day in which I could take few photos, because I was on Team North Yorkshire, and often doing duty carrying one end of our banner. We did sing though.  All the Yorkshire marchers who could be found as we passed the Grosvenor Hotel were rounded up for a photo call.  A passing marching band (there were  musicians….)  struck up with ‘On Ilkley Moor baht’at‘ and all right-thinking Yorkshire folk joined in with lots of enthusiasm but little melody.

We talked.  How we talked.  We made common cause with voters from Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency, from Devon, from Northumberland, from Leicestershire – the banners proved that no part of the nation was unrepresented.

And we carried flags.  EU flags, Union Jacks, Yorkshire flags, Italian flags.  Progress was slow.  We snuck off to coffee shops (staffed by Italians) and pubs (staffed by any and every nation) for a quick breather and still easily regained our places.

 

Have you ever tried to fit 700,000 people into Parliament Square?  No, can’t happen.  In any case, thousands and thousands of us were still marching as the speeches started, as they continued, and after they had finished.  That was disappointing, as last time, I’d been inspired and energised by so many fired up and dynamic contributions.

Instead we got street theatre.  Anarchists on wildly decorated bicycles, a Boris Johnson look-alike, a tricycle.  It was, despite our serious purpose, lots of fun.  And tiring.

 

Look.  This is us on the coach home.  Our flags are still in place.

But I’ll end on this story, which makes me in equal measure sad and angry.

On the bus down, a French woman who has lived in the UK for 32 years told us that she no longer feels welcome in the UK, has suffered abuse, and has been told to ‘go home’.  She’d always previously loved Britain’s diversity and felt us to be accepting and tolerant.

And sadly, after two years of this different treatment, she’s decided she and her British husband have had enough and they’re moving to France. Even though she has considered Yorkshire her home for over 30 years.  This is not the first time I’ve heard tales like this.

It’s no secret that I voted Remain.  But nobody, however they voted, seems happy with how things are going.  If you believe that, having been given the chance to vote on continued EU membership, we should now be given the opportunity to vote on the Final Deal (including an option to remain), please write to your MP.  Here’s how.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Flag’.

Ragtag Tuesday: a serendipitous sunset

I was dashing out to a meeting yesterday evening when this sight greeted me at the end of the road.

Pure serendipity.  I suddenly realised how early I was.  There were five minutes to spare when I could stand and stare at the black outlines of the newly-skeletal trees.  The sky was transforming from a sappy fresh green and yellow through to a pale teal blue, before bleeding into grey-edged tones of salmon pink cloud.  Why hurry?  I stayed and enjoyed the moment.

Tuesday’s Ragtag Prompt is ‘Serendipity’.

Ragtag Tuesday: Rugged rocks

We both had an affair on holiday. It was a delight while it lasted, and when it ended, as it had to, there were no hard feelings. We’d like to do it again.

We both fell in love with the Corrèze in the Limousin. As far as the eye could see there were majestic rolling hills: forested, green, largely uninhabited other than by the occasional herd of Limousin cattle. Settlements were well-ordered and charming towns and villages, often demonstrating a history dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond. Of course we were smitten.

Then we continued on to our old stamping ground in the Ariège. Not all of this département is actually in the Pyrenees, but the mountains are always visible. And as soon as we saw them again, we knew our affair was over.

The foothills of the Pyrenees – the Plantaurel – from our friends’ house in Laroque.

The Pyrenees tug at our hearts like no other landscape. The gentle foothills are given added character by the backdrop of the mountains. We used to watch for the first flurries of snow on the peaks, maybe in September, while we were still in t-shirts.

When we lived in Laroque, this was our view from our roof terrace, and my daily joy as I hung out the washing there.

Anyone living in the Ariège could name the peaks, count them as their friends – Le pic de Saint-Barthélemy, le Pic des Trois Seigneurs, Montségur. Locals would tell you, every spring, exactly how little snow should remain on the high slopes before you could plant your spuds and beans. They would be the ones to relish the mountains in every way. They’d grab their snowshoes as the snow deepened to enjoy a silent walk in the crisp, cold empty landscape.

No snowshoes here. Just a rugged, snowy walk near Montaillou.

They’d know where to look for alpine strawberries in summer, and have secret places that they wouldn’t tell their closest friends about where they’d gather mushrooms in autumn.

They loved the rugged beauty of the mountains as we did, from the majesty of the snow-covered peaks, to the riot of wild daffodils, then gentians in spring, to the muted soft green palette of the hillsides at dusk on a summer’s evening, to the rich russets and golds of the autumn woodland.

I can’t visit the mountains though without being aware they demand our respect. They’re mighty, rugged and visually stunning. As we gaze at lines of rock, crumpled in geological eras long past, as we look at tumbled boulders lining the valley floor, or delicate but dangerous sheets of scree, they remind us that, compared with them, we are here on earth for a very short space of time. They have witnessed civilisations and religions rise and fall, harboured refugees from war and conflict, provided impenetrable barriers to would-be conquerors and generally put us in our place. It’s this combination of love and respect for them that draws me and moors me to them. Mere hills and plains simply can’t compete.

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is ‘Rugged’.

Click on any image to view full size.

Ragtag Tuesday: Driving. England; France; Spain. What a contrast!

We’ve just landed home from our epic car journey through France and Spain.  2,715 miles on the clock.  The worst of those miles were those completed here in the UK.

This morning near the Blackwall Tunnel, London.

I’m not being entirely fair.  We had more than a few traffic-jam moments in Barcelona and Toulouse, but we’ve also enjoyed miles and miles of empty motorways and other roads, particularly in France, where driving was nothing but relaxing.

RN 20 near Pamiers, France.

What really makes a difference though, are the motorway service areas.  I’ve written before about France’s quiet uncommercial aires, which complement the ones with restaurants, shops and all the trimmings.  Even these can be havens of peace though.  Look at the Aire de la Porte de Corrèze.  Yes, it’s got all the usual facilities.  But it’s got space and peace too: a country path, a woodland walk, and a quiet pond.

Now look at the ‘Extra’ service area on the A1 M near Peterborough.  Outside space is strictly for parking in.  Land is scarce and ruinously expensive in the UK of course.  But if only we could have stretched our legs and breathed a little fresh air as we took a break in our journey north.  It would have made so much difference.

Today’s Ragtag challenge is ‘Contrast’.

PS.  I arrived home to some good news from the Police in Barcelona.  They have recovered certain items following last week’s thefts.  I still don’t know what.  Watch this space!

Ragtag Tuesday: Migration difficulties

We’ve been on the move since my last post: firstly to friends near Laroque, then to Emily and Miquel in Barcelona.  England – France – Spain – France and back to England again: passports required to get out of and back into England.

The trouble is, returning to England may prove tricky.  No passports.

The first thing we did in Barcelona was to go and meet Emily and Miquel from their flight from Seville.  I left Malcolm while I went to link up with them.  A man wheeling a luggage trolley veered into the car, and so Malcolm jumped out to have words with him.

We were duped.  As he did that, Luggage Trolley Man’s accomplice whipped my handbag out of the car.  So …. no handbag, no purse, no credit cards, no camera with some 140 shots on it, some of which I wanted to share with you,  no keys and NO PASSPORTS.

Thanks to Emily and Miquel, we’ve reported the whole thing to the Police, and since then we’ve applied online to the British Consulate for emergency travel documents. We’ve done every single piece of work towards getting these, and for a single-use piece of paper, we’ve been charged £100 each.  New passports will be £75 each.  Temporary migration for us was incredibly easy.  Immigration – less so.

All the same, we’re having a high old time.  We are neither political nor economic migrants.  We need to keep things in perspective, and put it down to experience.

This week’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘migration’.