Butterflies III: Half an Hour of My Life revisited

Ariège, France, Wildlife

It’s time for Flashback Friday again, and as butterflies have so far been in fairly short supply this year, I thought I’d return to a happy moment in France, in August 2013, when we had friends from England to stay …

Butterflies III: Half an Hour of My Life

There we were at Roquefixade, showing our favourite walking destination off to two of our Harrogate friends, when a butterfly discovered me.  Then another.  These two creatures played round my wrist for more than half an hour before finally dancing off into the sunshine.  They made our day.

I’m thinking they’re the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus).  Any dissenters?

And if you’re wondering why this post is called Butterflies III, here’s why …

In the same month, I wrote about a Butterfly Bonanza, and at the end of July, about the rare Mountain Apollo

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday

‘Except ye Lord keep ye Cittie, ye Wakeman waketh in vain’ revisited

England, history, North Yorkshire, Ripon, Traditions

Ten years ago today, long before we imagined we’d one day be living here, we were having a short break from our lives in France here in Ripon. And this is what we saw…

July 2012

‘Except ye Lord keep ye Cittie, ye Wakeman waketh in vain’

That’s the  verse from the Psalms, inscribed above the town hall in Ripon, where we’re spending the next few weeks to avoid the cold and rain of the south of France (no, really, they’ve got the heating on over there).  It reminds us that every evening – EVERY evening – for well over a thousand years, the Ripon Wakeman has sounded his horn to the 4 corners of the city to announce that all is well.

We had to go and check it out yesterday evening.

Promptly at 9, a smartly dressed individual in buff coloured hunting coat, tricorn hat and white gloves took his place before the obelisk on the Market Square and sounded his horn 4 times, once at each corner of the obelisk – one long mournful note each time.

Then he grinned at us, a small crowd of 20.  ”Want to hear a bit of history?’  Well, of course we did.  He made us introduce ourselves, and we found we too came from, well, about 3 corners of the world: Catalonia, Italy, Australia, even South Shields and Merton.  And here’s some of what he told us:

In 886, Alfred the Great, 37 year-old warrior king, was travelling his kingdom to defeat the Vikings and to drum up support.  Arriving at the small settlement of Ripon, he liked what he saw and granted a Royal Charter.  He lacked the wherewithal to produce an appropriate document, and so gave a horn which is still safely locked in the town hall.

‘You need to be more vigilant, there are Vikings about’. Alfred warned.  So the people appointed a wakeman to guard the settlement through hours of darkness, and he put that horn to use by sounding it at the 4 corners of the Market Cross to announce that all was well as he began his watch.  The city’s now on its 4th horn.

If you want to know more, our current Wakeman, George Pickles,  has written the whole tale for the BBC website.  It’s a good yarn.  Read it when you have a moment.

The Market Square, where the Wakeman does his job.

2022 Update: These days there’s a team of three Wakemen, and one of them is a woman. Only Lockdown – sort of – interrupted the tradition, when the nightly task was performed from the comfort of the duty-Wakeman’s garden at home, courtesy of Facebook.

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday

A Flashback to the Orange Man

Ariège, Food & Cooking, Spain

Here’s a blast from the past: from November 2012 in fact, when we were hunkering down for winter in France. It was round about now that The Orange Man arrived …

THE ORANGE MAN

Winter has arrived.  How do I know?  Although the nights are cold, the afternoons are still for going walking or tidying up the garden wearing a tee-shirt, beneath a duck-egg blue sky. So until the other day, I thought we were clinging on to autumn.

But on Thursday, the Orange Man arrived.  This is exciting enough news for it to be worth phoning a friend.  Every year, once winter kicks in and the orange harvest is well under way in southern Spain, a huge container lorry arrives in Lavelanet. It parks up at a disused petrol station on the main road into town and becomes an impromptu shop.

The man with the lorry, the Orange Man,  speaks only Spanish, and sells only oranges.  Not singly or by the half-dozen, but in large 10 kilo boxes.  10 kilos, 10 euros.  What a bargain.  These oranges, though sometimes a little knobbly and in irregular sizes, are the juiciest and tastiest you’ll ever eat, and it’s no wonder that whenever you pass, you’ll see someone pulling up their car and opening the boot for a case or two.  Our Spanish friend won’t have to stay long.  In a few days the entire container-load will be sold, he’ll return to Spain …. only to return when he’s loaded up again.

When he departs for the last time at the end of the season, we’ll know for sure that spring has arrived.

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday: a chance to go down Memory Lane and give an older post an airing.

A Castle Fit for a Captive Queen Revisited

North Yorkshire, Walking, Wensleydale

We seem to have been to Castle Bolton quite often recently. It reminded me that shortly after we came back from France, one of our early walks was here. Maybe it’s time to revisit my blog post about it, to remind myself, if nobody else, about its history.

A CASTLE FIT FOR A CAPTIVE QUEEN

October 2014

We travelled the road in thick white mist, fearing a dank and gloomy day.  But the higher we climbed, the more the mist fell away, and the brighter the sun shone.

Looking down over Wensleydale from Castle Bolton

As we began walking, Daphne shared some of the castle’s history with us.  It has belonged to the Scrope family since the time it was built in the 14th century, and has always been admired for its high walls.  It’s a proper castle, looking exactly like the ones you will have drawn when you were eight years old.

Bolton Castle

Tudor history is largely about the constant religious and temporal battles between the Catholic  and the Protestant church, which Henry VIII had made the Established Church, with the king as its head: the Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith (unbelievably, Henry hung onto this title, awarded him in his pre-Protestant days by Pope Leo X, in recognition of his book  Assertio Septem Sactramentorum which defends the supremacy of the pope).  His son Edward briefly succeeded him, and then his daughter Elizabeth, and both were Protestants.

But Elizabeth’s rule was threatened by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, and she was held captive first at Carlisle Castle, then at Bolton.  Here she was attended by 51 knights, servants and ladies-in-waiting, not all of whom could be accommodated in the castle itself.  She also had cooks, grooms, a hairdresser, an embroiderer, an apothecary, a physician and a surgeon, while furnishings fit for a queen were borrowed from nearby Barnard Castle.  She went hunting, learnt English – for she spoke only French, Scots and Latin – and spent time with local Catholics.  She made an unsuccessful bid to escape from captivity.  It’s said she climbed from an upstairs window in the castle, and fled on horseback past the nearby market town of Leyburn.  It’s here she dropped her shawl and so was discovered and recaptured.  And that is why, so they say, the long escarpment above the town, nowadays a playground for walkers and sightseers, is still called ‘The Shawl’.

As we enjoyed our history lesson, we passed a field of Wensleydale sheep.  We very much admired their sultry fringes.

Wensleydale Sheep

And onwards. Autumn colours.

A completely pointless stile in the middle of a meadow.

Then Aysgarth Falls.  What a wonderful lunch spot.  The crashing waters made conversation quite impossible, but we sat enjoying the surging waters, the coppery leaves above our heads, and the all-encompassing percussion of the tumbling River Ure.

And then it was time to turn round and head back by a different route.  Another great day’s walking, with an added history lesson.

But wait! This post was all for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when we’re invited to dig up a Post From the Past. But Becky’s Past Squares demands a look at the past too: here’s Bolton Castle, square style:

Then there’s always Jo’s Monday Walk

Revisiting A Sheep is a Sheep is a Sheep

Blogging challenges, Festivals, Heritage, North Yorkshire

Somehow, we forgot all about Masham Sheep Fair last weekend. We forgot about the dozens of different breeds of sheep on show; the sheep-shearing demonstrations; the sheep dog competitions; the children, some really quite young, demonstrating their knowledge and prowess as sheep-handlers. There’s no help for it. We’ll have to revisit this post from October 2014 instead. And by the way. Please don’t show yourself up. Pronounce Masham correctly. Mas-ham. Anyone who lets the side down and calls it Mash’em is immediately recognised as an outsider.

And let’s include this blast-from-the-past in Becky’s Past Squares, as well as including it in Fandango’s Flashback Friday, a celebration of past posts which deserve another outing.

A SHEEP IS A SHEEP IS A SHEEP …

… or not.

On Saturday we called in, far too briefly, at the annual Masham Sheep Fair. This is the place to go if you believe a sheep looks just like this.

Saturday was the day a whole lot of sheep judging was going on in the market square.  Here are a few of the not-at-all identical candidates. And yet they are only a few of the many breeds in England, and in the world. There are 32 distinct breeds commonly seen in different parts of the UK, and many more half-breeds.  I was going to identify the ones I’m showing you, but have decided that with one or two exceptions (I know a Swaledale, a Blue-faced Leicester or a Jacobs when I see one), I’d get them wrong. So this is simply a Beauty Pageant for Masham and District sheep.

And if you thought wool was just wool, these pictures may be even more surprising.  Who knew that sheep are not simply…. just sheep?

An inveterate food forager

Ariège, Food & Cooking, North Yorkshire

I was brought up foraging. At four years old, I’d get up with my mother at half past five in the morning and go scouting for mushrooms on the now-deserted wartime air-strips near our house. At five years old, I went as part of the autumn school day to gather rosehips for Delrosa. Expert pickers got a tin badge. Smaller fry like me got nothing. Blackberrying of course we took for granted.

Later, much later, Malcolm and I moved to France. There, foraging is a way of life. Nobody leaves the house without their ‘Au cas où’ bag – ‘just in case‘ they find something for the cooking pot. It might be wild asparagus, wild garlic or Alpine strawberries in spring, cherries later, then blackberries of course. Autumn was bonanza time. This was the time to stagger home with sacks full of walnuts, of chestnuts, of sloes, of mushrooms of every kind. Autumn hikes were constantly interrupted by the need to squat down and fill a bag with yet more free food. You can read all about it here, for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when I described how ‘all is safely gathered in’.

Sweet chestnuts

Now we’re back in England, the custom continues. I’ve discovered that locally, we’re regarded with good-humoured curiosity because of our inability to pass free food by without snaffling it. It starts with wild garlic, sometimes dandelion and nettle leaves in spring. During the last month we’ve picked several kilos of bullaces (wild plums) from Nosterfield; ditto blackberries from wherever there have been good supplies; windfall apples and crab apples from beneath village trees; a magnificent puffball weighing in at more than a kilo, which – thickly sliced and dredged first in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and grated parmesan and fried in butter – made splendidly tasty steaks. Finally, this weekend, I glanced upwards on a familiar woodland path, and spotted golden mirabelles winking down at me. I summoned reinforcements (Malcolm, with bags, boxes and a useful stick) and now there are jars of tart but tasty mirabelle jam to see us through the winter, as well as plenty more waiting to be made into tarts and puddings.

Simple, but very real pleasures to add interest to our daily walks.

Voilà! And … What’s in a Name Revisited

Blogging challenges, French language

For today’s Fandango’s Flashback Friday, here are two – yes two posts from previous Septembers – one from 2011, the next from the same day in 2013. One’s a quick and useful French lesson, and the next might already be history. Who knows what first names are doing the rounds in France now?

Voilà!

September 2011

Voilà!  The most useful word in the French language.

Here’s what happened at the baker’s this morning.  Translations appear in brackets.

Me: Oh!  Isn’t the pain bio ready yet?]

Madame: Voilà! (Nope.  Quite right)

Me: So if I call in after 9, you’ll have some?  Could you please save me a loaf?

Madame:  Voilà! (Yes, and yes).  Would you like to pay now, then it’ll be all done and dusted?

Me:  Voilà! (Makes sense.  I’ll do that)

By the way, I was all grottily dressed in my oldest paint-spattered, holes-in-the-knee-ready-to-face-a-morning’s-tiling gear.  This is Laroque after all: no shame in working clothes here.

Madame:  You’re looking very chic today, if I may say so!

Me:  Voilà!  (And don’t I know it).

Why bother to learn more French?  Voilà donc!

What’s in a Name?

September 2013

When I was at school, my French text books were peopled by characters such as Jean-Claude, Jean-Charles, Jean-Paul, Jacques and Georges.  There were Marie, Marie-France, Marianne, Jeanne and Jeanette.

My own classmates answered to names such as Valerie, Jean, Judith, Janet, Susan and Mary while the boys’ school along the road had types like Alan, Norman, Brian, Keith, Bob (not Robert or Rob), Bill (not William or Will) and inevitably, John.

These names identify us firmly as children of the 1950’s.

So over the last week, on our journey through France, I’ve had fun looking for evidence of the latest trends in French first names, via Coca-Cola’s latest marketing scheme of personalising drinks bottles with the current most popular given-names.

British Summer Time: the Final Days Revisited

Blogging challenges, Wales

This post from August 2016 reflects the melancholy I always feel at this time of year: that summer is departing, and with it the long days and short nights whose absence so depresses me each winter. So I’m choosing it for this week’s Fandango’s Flashback Friday, particularly because it brings with it memories too, of the beauty of Anglesey in Wales.

BRITISH SUMMER TIME: THE FINAL DAYS

August 2016

We’re more than half way through August.  It ought to be high summer, but autumn’s on its way.  As we walked down the road yesterday, a few crisp brown leaves blew across our path.  Mornings start later, night comes sooner.  The combine harvesters trundling round the fields seem almost to have completed their work.  The shops are full of neat school uniforms and bright pencil cases ready for the new academic year.

Before it’s too late, here are some summer time views, from Moelfre in Anglesey.  And because it’s British Summer time, the sea isn’t always blue and nor is the sky. But that’s fine: we expect that here in the UK.

Butterflies: Half an Hour of my Life Revisited

Ariège, Blogging challenges, Wildlife

It’s time for Fandango’s Flashback Friday. I’m taking you to France, to a gloriously sunny day – 20th August 2013. Happy Memories.

Butterflies: Half an Hour of my Life

August 20th 2013

There we were at Roquefixade, showing our favourite walking destination off to two of our Harrogate friends, when a butterfly discovered me.  Then another.  These two creatures played round my wrist for more than half an hour before finally dancing off into the sunshine.  They made our day.

I’m thinking they’re the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus).  Any dissenters?

A Whiter Shade of White?

Blogging challenges

Casting around for suitable ideas for Jude’s Life in Colour – White – challenge, I remembered a post I’d written two years ago. Not only does it work for Jude (up to a point) but it fits the bill for Fandango’s Flashback Friday. Here it is:

IDENTICAL?

I’ve never been much good at twiddling with the controls on my camera.  I even joined a photography course recently, in an effort to get to grips with apertures, shutter speeds and ISO controls.  But it just made my head hurt, and I reverted to ‘Automatic’ as my default modus operandi.  I decided I’m a snaphot-ist, not a photographer.

Yesterday however, just for a bit of fun, and having an hour to spare, I turned to the ‘palette’ settings and took an identical shot using every single one. Though I forgot to take one on ‘Automatic’, so the tale isn’t quite complete. Can’t do it now. This little twig of blossom (cherry?), a chance discovery found in the road, wilted in the night.

Which do you like best?  As ever, click on any image to see it full size.  They’re in strict alphabetical order – no favouritism here.

Bleach by-pass

Three posts in three days. That’s a bit much. But I’ve pushed out all my last thoughts before taking a blogging break. I just might post the odd thing – such as Six Degrees of Separation at the start of next month – but so total will be my break that – sorry – I may not even read your offerings, fellow bloggers.