It was -3 degrees in the night. It was still -3 degrees, at nearly nine o’clock in the morning. But I started my walk anyway. Right here in the garden, next to this hellebore.
Here were the pleasures of scrunching through crisp, frosty grass. Through small puddles, frozen solid. Watching long shadows extend the trunks of trees across the width of a field. Sheep doing their best to scratch a breakfast from the hoary grass. Bracken with delicately rimed edges. A car on the roadside, blinded by Jack Frost’s artwork.
The sun rose and despite the cold, quickly burnt off the chilly white from the fields. The newborn lambs, which I’d hoped to spot in West Tanfield had been kept indoors – I could hear their plaintive bleating in barn. Instead – winter blossom, catkins, and a sky-blue sky.
I’m a simple soul. Watching a line of clean washing blowing and tugging on the line on a sunny, breezy day is one of life’s small pleasures. Gathering up the clean dry clothes and sheets at the end of the day, and burying my nose into the pile for that incomparable fresh smell of clean washing is another.
Perhaps this is why, when I’m in Spain, I’m a sucker for shots of long lines of clean washing draping from a balcony, or hanging from a sagging line on some tall apartment block.
And that is my angle on why I’d never have a tumble drier in the house, Ragtag Daily Prompt readers. Damp-and-refusing-to-dry washing is much more my cup of tea.
One of the joys of being in Valencia was walking down streets and through parks lined with orange trees. It’s orange season right now, so they were looking at their best. They’re bitter Seville oranges of course, the ones we use for marmalade. Juicy sweet ones would probably be too much of a temptation for passers-by.
Last Sunday though, when we were walking in the Turia, we spotted fallen fruit under many of the trees. A forager by nature, I couldn’t leave them there to rot. No, we had to gather them, so that when we returned home, we could have a very special souvenir of our holiday. Home-made marmalade, cooked from fruit gathered in Orange Central: Valencia.
Chopped and ready for the final bit of cooking.
I can’t show you the finished article. The marmalade is simmering on the stove as I type.
Today is the day when the Three Kings – the same ones who visited the infant Jesus – begin their journey to visit all children in the Spanish speaking world to deliver presents to them. We watched the Carnival parade they brought with them as they passed through Barcelona earlier this evening. Dancing, singing, exhuberant and imaginative displays had us enthralled for an hour or more. It was never like this in biblical times, I’m sure.
Winter childhood meant cold and frosty mornings, barely daring to get out of bed to shiver while washing in an icy bathroom, before returning to an equally icy room to muffle up in a vest, a blouse, a cosy cardigan and a sensible pleated skirt. Little girls didn’t wear trousers in those days and tights didn’t seem to exist, but I don’t remember my legs resenting being bare between sock-top and skirt bottom. But then boys of my age were wearing short trousers too.
I remember Jack Frost too. He had spent the early hours of the day sketching dizzyingly complex and beautiful patterns in luminous white on the inside of my bedroom window. It’s rare to see these intricate motifs on house windows these days. But the other day, arriving early in town, I passed a car park full of vehicles exhibiting examples of his artistry. I had to take a shot or two.
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.
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.
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…
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.