Ragtag Tuesday: Any Questions?

I was brought up on Any Questions, a topical radio debate programme which has been a firm part of the BBC Radio 4 schedules on Friday evenings for getting on for 70 years.  Our family always listened when I was younger, but I don’t these days as it does terrible things to my blood pressure when right-wing Daily Mail readers take to the podium.

All the same.  It was coming to Masham, the town-next-door.  A loose cohort of us got free tickets.  That’s not quite true.  Malcolm and I didn’t, but meeting in the pub beforehand, we started to feel left out, and managed to snaffle two late-returns.

Getting ready for the action in Masham Town Hall.

You have to turn up easily an hour ahead of transmission. If you want to, you write a question which might get included. You have to be warmed up.  Radio Leeds presenter Andrew Edwards schooled us in the gentle art of clapping, cheering and booing to make our views clear to the listening audience (‘No heckling please’).  The lucky questioners were announced.  Two of our team made the cut, though in the end, only passionate 17-year-old ‘It’s our future’ Charlie had her question dealt with on air. I made the nearly-got-included list.

It was all fascinating stuff.  Star of the show was probably the CEO of Siemens UK, Jurgen Maier: measured, lively and likeable.  A Remainer, but desperate for business certainty, he’d back the current Brexit deal.  Leaver Jake Berry, Northern Powerhouse Minister, actually said  ‘I don’t think any of us knew what we were going to get when we voted Leave….’, but nevertheless isn’t in favour of a People’s Vote on the Final Deal which Lord Adonis is campaigning for.  There was Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, Jenny Chapman  and the other MP was John Redwood (‘fervent Brexiteer’).  He really is from the Dark Side.  Uncivil, dogmatic, he didn’t attract much enthusiasm even from those who subscribe to his reactionary, long-held views in favour of Leave.

Charlie needed her selfie with Andrew Adonis.

If you want a flavour of the debate, you can listen here if you’re eligible to listen to BBC transmissions.

And the next day, we went back to Remoaning in Harrogate again…

A pavement poll on the People’s Vote.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Broadcast’.

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: 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!

Inspired by the Middle Ages

Mediaeval encampment at the Château de Lagarde.

Our third address in France was within a couple of miles of a splendidly ruined castle, Lagarde, commanding wonderful view of the Pyrenees.  And on Saturday, there was an event which commanded our attention from 10 o’clock in the morning, till 10 o’clock at night when it closed (we did pop home several times, but always came back for more).  I took masses of photos so I could share the day, but readers of my last post know why I no longer have the camera.  These shots are courtesy of my phone.

The distant Pyrenees.

It was an inspirational day.  Dozens of enthusiasts from all over southern France came to share their knowledge.  All were dressed authentically: linen was the material of choice – no cotton or polyester need apply.  They brought history to life, demonstrating the labour-intensive nature of making chain mail armour, for instance.  A chain mail tunic represented 400 hours of work, and cost as much as a farm.  Attack someone dressed in one and you wouldn’t kill him.  Far better to demand a ransom from the family of such a rich man.

We met a pilgrim on his way to Compostela, a shell at his belt.

A pilgrim on his way to Compostela.

We watched fighting spinning and weaving, musicians and dancing.  There were thrilling demonstrations of horsemanship.

A procession towards the end of the day.

As night fell, the medieval world fell away.  Jugglers and acrobats quite literally played with fire, and the event concluded with the most exciting and memorable firework display we have ever seen.  I got some rather good pictures.  Nobody will ever see them.  Grrr.

It brought the Château de Lagarde  to life.  We had an inspirational glance of the life of a bygone age.

Château de Lagarde

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is ‘inspire’.

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’.