As we say goodbye to Corrèze for now, it seems fitting that the Ragtag word for today is ‘crepuscule‘. It means twilight, and I always thought of it as an evening word. But it can mean dawn as well. So was this photo, taken from Sharon and Andrew’s house, and home to us for a week, taken in the morning or the evening? What’s your guess?
This Country Mouse, this bumpkin, loves a trip to London. I love visiting my family above all, especially William and little Zoë (who’s doing alright. She’s been moved from Intensive Care to High Dependency and back to Intensive Care: out of, and now back into an incubator. These set backs are not unexpected in such tiny babies, but the staff are confident that she’s basically doing well. Slowly she’s learning to breastfeed).
I love the neighbourhood shopping streets. They’re often, and depressingly, a bit grubby and litter-strewn. But they’re full of life. Turkish, Lebanese, Italian, Chinese and East Asian, English, Syrian, French, Ethiopian, Eastern European, Caribbean shops, take-aways and restaurants rub along together. There are barbers and hairdressers, some specialising in working with the tight curls of the local black population. They may not open early, but they’re busy until late. Markets sell fruit and veg. by the bowlful, and the fish stalls are an education in unfamiliar marine life. No pictures – sorry. When I take William to the park, I may find myself making common cause with grannies from Poland, France or Thailand.
I love the happenstance of walking the backstreets almost anywhere in central London. When I have to get to King’s Cross Station, I often get off the tube at some station beforehand and complete my journey on foot. That’s how I found myself in Smithfield Market, England’s largest wholesale meat market, trading in meat sales as it has been for over 800 years. Then nearby is the church of Saint Bartholomew the Great. It ought to be twinned with Fountains Abbey. One was founded in 1123, the other in 1132.
Summer in the countryside is show time. Here in Yorkshire, Harrogate kicks it off in July with The Great Yorkshire Show. Then week after week until the end of September, villages, towns and whole Dales follow on with theirs.
This is when farmers, breeders, stock men, makers of agricultural machinery and equipment and The Great British Public all get together to celebrate all things rural, and in the case of farmers, normally so isolated in their day-to-day working lives, simply to meet and have a chin-wag.
Emily wanted to take City Boy Miquel to a proper country fair. So the Wensleydale Show in Leyburn it was. He saw more sheep and cattle in a single day than he’s probably seen in a lifetime.
We began with the sheep dog trials. One expert dog, guided by the whistles and calls of its master, has to encourage a small group of sheep down the hill, through a gate, up the hill again and through another gate, round and back again to finish up closeted in a small wooden pen. Those dogs and their shepherds were pretty good. But from the sheep’s point of view, why go through a gate which has no fence on either side of it? Why not just go round? And certainly, why go into a small pen when there’s all that hillside to enjoy? Fun was had by all but the frustrated shepherds, none of whom completed the course with a full scorecard. But that didn’t stop them being pretty damn’ good.
One big field, and one small pen …..
Gotcha! Sheep contained.
Off to inspect the sheep themselves. Some had dense clouds of thick warm wool, others rangy dreadlocks. Some had squat round faces, others magisterial aquiline profiles. Miquel was astonished to find that sheep weren’t simply, well, sheep.
…. wool ….
…. and more wool.
Poultry. Large hens and ducks, small hens and ducks, sleek hens and ducks, messily-feathered hens and ducks, long scaly legs, short feather-trousered legs. White eggs, brown eggs, blue eggs, speckled eggs …..
Cattle with beautiful hides, and bulls looking unusually complacent in this showground setting.
Best in show.
Best of all, a heavy working horse, a Suffolk Punch, just the one, a reminder of what crop farming and ploughing used to involve. This splendid beast was traditionally tricked up in her party clothes, reminding me of Whit Mondays when I was a child, when the shire horses employed for delivering beer and ale to pubs were dressed in all their finery for this one special day of the year.
And in among, we watched displays in the show ring, sampled local cheeses and pies, bought decadent and wholly nontraditional treats like gooey chocolate brownies, and generally enjoyed All the Fun of the Fair.
‘Yarn bombing is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk. It is also called yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, kniffiti, urban knitting, or graffiti knitting.’Wikipedia
Thirsk has adopted yarn bombing in a big way. It’s the town where I first came across it, at Remembrance tide two years ago. St. Mary’s church was festooned – drowned almost – in a sea of poppies knitted by keen volunteers from miles around. It was a arresting, beautiful, and had the effect they were seeking. As we paused to look and admire, we did indeed remember the fallen of the two World Wars.
This year, Thirsk asks us to remember the NHS (National Health Service), now 70 years old. Various knitted offerings are clustered in the Market Square. It’s witty, charming, and reminds us all how much almost every one of us is grateful for the NHS and all who work in it.
If you saw my post at the weekend, you’ll know my head and my heart are just in one place: thinking of little Zoë, one week old today and doing well: her mum has been allowed home, so that’s one milestone. Luckily the hospital is a walkable distance from the family home, so that’s all good.
The Ragtag Challenge word today is ‘blue’. So this gives me a chance to show you William visiting his new little sister as she experiences life under an UV lamp: all good for clearing up the jaundice that many little babies seem to experience shortly after birth.
And here’s the blue knitted octopus that the nurses gave her to clutch at, as she waves those little arms about.
She’s doing well, so far. 29 weeks in the making, and she even has some hair.
Best not go and see the Handlebards. Not if you’re hungry, anyway. Here is a theatre troupe who will drink your beer and steal your strawberries all in the name of art.
But our date with the Handlebards has been in the diary since February. Ever since I saw this witty and inventive lot at Bolton Castle last year I’ve been on their mailing list. Last year I saw the female troupe. This year we went to see the men at work. William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Sixteen characters. Four actors. No problem. Men can multi-task too.
And multi-task they did. The Queen’s English, broad Scots, Northern accents all had their places. Hats, jackets and gilets all stood in for the characters who wore them, but who were temporarily detained in another role. Balloons barely concealed behind an voluminous white pinny lent girth and a (sort of) female form to Maria, while sporting a little number in prettily sprigged voile enabled us to understand that the (bearded) Olivia was now on stage.
Occasionally audience members were pressed into service. The cast took any opportunity to help themselves to crisps, wine and cake, legitimising the thefts by working them into the action on stage. Nobody thus deprived of their picnic minded at all. Picnic? Yes, it was a lovely summer’s evening. We’d all spread ourselves over the lawn of the Ripon Workhouse Museum, armed with blankets, garden chairs and baskets of treats. Gruel was not on the menu.
It was all a bit exhausting, even for the delighted audience. How the troupe summon up the energy to cycle off to a new venue day after day is beyond me. But that’s what they do, up and down the length of the kingdom throughout the summer season. ‘Have bike, will perform’ must be their motto. Here’s what they say:
Since 2013, the HandleBards have clocked-up over 7000 miles by cycling around the world to perform Shakespeare. Described by none other than Sir Ian McKellen as ‘uproariously funny’, we set the world on wheels with our unique brand of extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic, environmentally friendly cycle-powered theatre.
We love an adventure.
You really should go and see them after all. And take a picnic. A picnic big enough to share.
Diaphanous sugar-pink wraiths trailing long floating tendrils pulsated gently round their royal blue tank: hypnotic: mesmerising. They neither paused nor hurried. They simply oscillated, surged, ebbed, flowed. These ethereal creatures didn’t merit their prosaic name of Black Star Northern Sea Nettle. Who dreamed that one up?
When we finally left them to it, we discovered we hadn’t finished with pulsing creatures. Here was a Blue Spotted Ribbon-Tail Ray. He gently wove round the tank, his flat body slowly rippling to the rhythm of his inner pulse.
Then there were the frogs. Look at these two Amazon Milk Frogs. They had nothing to do but regard us without interest, as their chests swelled and deflated – pulse, pulse.