Gastronomic Interlude!

Norfolk Edge beach cafe at Winterton, Norfolk

Amazing what you find while looking for little terns. Young men cooking marvellous food!

Skilled and efficient and rightly proud of their superb beach cuisine.

Here we heard the immortal words, “Does the dairy free still want truffle oil?” That’s what I call beach food!

If you are anywhere near North Norfolk — check them out!

Farm engineering, Hill Farming, lifestyle, Pest-control

Squirrel Wars!

Yesterday Hefin came and fixed our roof. A squirrel had found a hole in the soffit(the timber under the eves) and had moved into the roof space above the bathroom for the winter months. It was disturbing Bill as he cleaned his teeth, by moving its furniture around in its garret, reorganizing the insulation and planning to rewire the electricity. Something had to be done —

— while squirrel was busy stealing the bird’s peanuts, Hefin sealed up the hole!

Invisible mend!

Today I was sitting in the bathroom contemplating the infinite when I was disturbed by the sound of someone dragging a concrete block across the roof. I rushed downstairs adjusting my clothes and burst out of the front door, ran around the house in time to see it. Evicted squirrel was perched on the roof above the mended soffit grasping the edge of the corner most roof-slate with both his little hands and heaving with all his might. I screamed. He paused and looked down at me enquiringly without releasing his grip on the slate. I yelled, I picked up a stick and beat the side of the house. He made a snap decision, stopped his attempted incursion and leapt the 8 feet into the nearest tree. Aha! So that is how he gets up!

Who? Me?

So here we are again in the land of imperatives. Not for us a good read or a spot of light editing with out feet up. We spent the morning up the slithery bank mindful of all the historical figures who have fallen to their death from trees. Wielding Great-granny’s Edwardian long-tom and our state-of-the-art long handled clippers and pruning saw, we have removed the treacherous elder that was allowing squirrel to leap across onto our roof.

Job done!

Transporting the brushwood to the heap we notice that the rickety sheep fence where it crosses the stream has, in our recent absence been busy turning itself into a dam by weaving sticks and leaves into itself and catching lots of silt. The whole construction now being frozen solid and ready to stand up to the force of the water when next in flood until inevitably it will collapse allowing the water to flow down the valley and the sheep to flow up into our precious re-wilding habitat.

Beaver technology

Another imperative! To stand up to my reconditioned knees in freezing water and demolish the half built dam.

It’s good to be home!

Health and safety, Humour, lifestyle

One of those days!

Putting on my glasses while leaving the bedroom I noticed a spec on the lens, thus distracted, I walked into the low beam which floored me, moaning and clutching my forehead.

I struggled downstairs clutching my re-booted head which remembered that I had not checked the freezer since I had switched it on several days ago in such bright sunshine that I could not see the little indicator lights. Never mind, I had thought, loading it with frozen fish, scallops, squid and prawns — I’ll check it when it gets dark! It has been dark on and off several times since but today it is bright again so, ever adaptable, I open the door to feel how cold it is. I am knocked back a second time this morning , this time by the disgusting smell of corruption — of rotting flesh — wasted seafood — green slime drips out onto the floor. I pause and experience a wave of sympathy for the poor fishermen whose produce rotted in Calais because of the wrong paperwork, then start lobbing out my lovely fish as Bill retires gagging.

Back to basics, I pull out the freezer and trace the wire to a plug that I had forgotten in a cupboard I don’t use and switch it on — all the little lights sparkle into life — well at least the freezer works but there is another whiff. In that cupboard with the disused wedding presents from the one before last there are signs of mice — that distinctive musty smell (Mus musculus) and tell-tail chocolate sprinkles — really disappointing, as I had thought we were rid of them.

So I set to — washing out the freezer, the cupboard and the floor — I set the mouse traps by the likely looking hole, a job I hate, then I rise with a sense of completion and crack my head on the overhanging work-surface, sending me reeling a second time and wondering what new horrors will be jarred to the forefront of my mind.

Just another day at the end of the rainbow!

lifestyle, Wales

Give us this day…

When everything you know seems under threat you start to realize what really matters. Here’s a tribute to our local baker.

They make bread in the old fashioned way from simple ingredients — just flour, water, yeast and salt. Here’s some dough proving, slowly — waiting to be put into crocks…

and baked into delicious, crispy wheat or rye sourdough bread. There are wholemeal wheat, rye and spelt loaves and “Llanidloes specials” with the magic cheesy crust. There are olive ciabatte, Chelsea buns and almond croissants.

Baked each day and delivered to local shops. No plastic wrappers, tiny carbon footprint, no waste — they sell out every day but nothing for the birds as the humans fight for every last crumb!

adventure, Hill Farming, lifestyle

Diminished Responsibility!



Today we wanted an adventure so we set off to test the roads and our new off-road tyres.


So far so good!


Up the cwm and into town — the Co-op shelves were almost empty — their lorry was missing, presumed lost — come to think of it we saw a lorry stuck on the hill.  We got our pills and enough ginger wine to last until spring and sped homeward.

We thought we’d avoid our dangerously steep cwm with its sheer drop one side and all the inconveniently placed oak trees, unyielding in a slippery situation.

We went the other way — we were trying to be responsible.

It was odd that there were no tyre marks into our turning — just beautiful virgin snow (powder, if you are a skier) about a foot deep.  We chose this route as it has steep banks (quite a lot of roads here are narrow tarmac strips suspended between precipice and ditch) — we could see which way the road went.  As we drove higher we could see the drifting — ridges of white dunes crossed our path from bank to bank — deeper and deeper as we got higher and higher.  Now we remembered seeing the drifting starting two days ago, before the 20cm of last night’s dump.  There are no houses up here and no lights — just white drifting snow and wind.

‘Shall we go back?’

‘Not yet!’

The technique was — drive as hard as you can until the drift stops you, then reverse and do it again.  Each time we got a little further using our makeshift bulldozer — back and forth — higher and higher — deeper and deeper!

Amazingly we reached the crest and it became slightly easier as we descended into the dip — into the unknown.  We turned at the bottom and could see the tracks where a quad bike, coming the other way, had given up, and turned for home.  That cheered me up.  I was being very quiet and brave! We followed in it’s tracks.

Now we had about half a mile of a straight, steep rise which Alan took at speed (relatively) drifting and sliding, sometimes almost travelling sideways but keeping going, then suddenly we had crested the hill and could feel the road, solid again , under our wheels.

Downhill for a couple of miles, and we could see where our young neighbour had come out of his track and headed down our way –‘hope to God we don’t meet him coming back!’  We did not.

It’s going to be minus 15’C tonight and maybe snow some more — where shall we go tomorrow?

Hill Farming, Humour, lifestyle

Suddenly Summer!

‘We’ll do that in the Summer!’ we say, ‘In the long balmy days, free of water-proofs and wellies; when the sheep look after themselves and we can enjoy all the things that drew us to this place.’



‘We’ll do it after shearing, and after we’ve wormed the ewes and caught all the lambs and sprayed them against “fly strike” and after we’ve immunised them all (it’s too hot to tag their ears yet), and after we’ve sprayed the nettles and cut the thistles (and Alan’s mended the rough cutter — and by the way, the dish-washer’s broken), meanwhile we’ll spray ourselves with midge repellent and cut the thistles by hand — will you sharpen the sickle and the bill hook.

Digger rests, engulfed in Summer

Digger rests, engulfed by Summer

And while our rough cutter waits for Alan  and the digger with its poorly track awaits attention from the mechanic, all around us grass grows, you can almost hear it, and men work through the long days into the nights to cut silage and bale it all before the thunder storms come.  The mechanic rushes from farm to farm to keep the wheels turning.

The bracken, which should have been cut by now, stretches to the sky and spreads to shade the sheep, who far from being relieved by the removal from each of a couple of kilograms of organic insulation and carpet fibre, are now bothered by the sun.


Seeking shade in summer pasture


Sheep shadow

They use their bodies to mark out the exact outlines of trees on the hillsides — sheep shadows, and they pant and look at me accusingly as we might ask the Almighty why we have to suffer so at the hand of cruel destiny.

We sheared them on the day before the heat wave struck and as I walked into the first hot summer sun  where they had been lying the buzz was deafening so that we looked about for a cause (continuing the biblical) — a plague of flies had hatched that day and roared in anticipation.

That day we lead them through the woodland to our upper field where the orchids grow and where there is hardly a fly in this shady pasture — like us, they don’t know how fortunate they are.

Orchid in the Summer Pasture

Orchid in the Summer Pasture

Ecology, Hill Farming, Humour, lifestyle

Hearts of Oak

‘The measure of a man’s importance is the size and number of his woodpiles’.

I was told this fact many years ago in rural France — it made a great impression — so contradictory was it to the progressive philosophies of my young French friends that I found it oddly reassuring — and still do!

We have woodpiles — burning wood when you have lots of trees is great but trees need cutting down and they don’t go quietly, they have a lot of stored energy and can lash out ferociously.  They need logging and drying and wood burns amazingly quickly so you need loads and plenty of room for storage.  We have an old barn, thirty feet by twenty feet already full of timber.

Last back end (as they say in Lancashire) we culled a Leylandii hedge, grown 40 feet high in a blink of Mother Nature’s eye. We cut off the branches and burned the brush-wood —


— but when the exalting roar of the chain saw had stalled for the last time we were left with a daunting amount of timber — a mountain where our new workshop was waiting to be built.


There it lay until last week when we were taken in hand!

Not by the Forestry Commission or the satellite snooperage of Rural Affairs, Wales (it was nothing to do with illicit romance in the hills) — it wasn’t even our very grown-up children who, though they never tidied their rooms, now worry about the state of their decrepit parents.   No, it was a  young neighbour (well relatively young) who knew that all we needed was a tiny push, a little encouragement.

‘I’ll come and help you on Tuesday — I’ve nothing much on this time of the year — I’ll be with you at midday.’

We refused, we protested, we were tempted, we said he’d have to have lunch (would there be meat? — Yes), he accepted, we capitulated, it was arranged and, in the intervening few days, we got on with what we should have been doing for months!

By the time Tuesday came we had started two new woodpiles and that day something strange happened — tree trunks scudded over the ground, whizzed through the air, crashed into trailers, flattened the saw trestle and just about spifflicated two pensioners temporarily under vigorous new management.

Chainsaws started willingly and logs marched to the music of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice jumping happily onto the new woodpiles.

By evening, by some miracle of effort and teamwork, well mainly one man’s effort (we helped as hard as we could and tried not to get in the way) we had uncovered the bare earth where our new workshop is to be sited.


Temporarily repaired trestle on the almost cleared site — Digger just watched and didn’t help at all.


It’s a miracle.  Just another of the miracles of living here — Thank you David!

One of new woodpile waiting to be sheeted.

New Woodpile


Birds, Hill Farming, lifestyle, Wales

Aerial Dog Fights

We are not in a war zone but over the undulating landscape of Mid-Wales fighter aircraft of the Royal Air Force rent the sky and intertwine their parabolas as they pass behind the hills to emerge and cross, one with the other with micro-second clearance — they travel in pairs, weaving like mating dragonflies on amphetamine, never quite making contact, thankfully — so far.

Photo: Cpl Paul Oldfield RAF/MOD [OGL (]

2 Hawk TMk2 Aircraft courtesy of Cpl Paul Oldfield RAF/MOD (OGL v1.0)

They use this area for low level training (I don’t think it’s a secret) and use our house as a landmark or perhaps we are located exactly on the intersection of the invisible lines of the virtual grid that is projected onto the land by a NASA satellite  (the eyes in the sky).  When we were slating our new roof the eyes in the sky were obviously interested, sending fighters to make pass after pass over our house, lower and lower in the sky, trying to topple the large khaki penguin, wrapped up against the elements (it was winter — we do everything late).  Were we part of a secret military exercise — a pretend enemy missile installation under construction — subject to constant aerial monitoring and due for annihilation when we fixed the last ridge tile?  Or was the intelligence officer just keen on DIY, trying to see how we feathered and leaded the valley of our new roof?

Anyway we enjoyed the attention.

We’re not paranoid, not even when a massive Hercules transport plane hoves over the horizon which, in these hills, can be just yards ahead.  Motorists on the mountain road swerve to avoid the huge alien craft that rears up as they approach the crest of a hill!

The remains of a fuel tank from such a plane was in our barn for years, jettisoned by a pilot who misjudged the height of our hill, and quickly squirreled away by conspirators to fill the oil lamps of this valley for a generation — or so they say!

The aerial activity recently has been more pastoral.  The crows that roost and build their nests in the wood do not like the buzzards, nor are they very keen on the red kites —


— that swoop down from great altitude to pick up the remains of pheasant carcasses left on the hillside for them by this lazy farmer’s wife who is fed up with making soup.


The buzzards are ever present,


mewing to each other and circling above the trees and crossing the valley.  The crows are intelligent and social creatures and resent this invasion of their airspace so have formed an air force of their own.  They  climb up high in ones and twos and swoop down on the buzzard from above and behind and the buzzard will twist and roll to face the enemy with his talons outstretched and they will engage and drop and spin in the most aeronautically alarming way — a real dog-fight.

They recover and the buzzard continues to beat his Herculean way across the field of combat as the crows re-form to attack again.

It’s hard not to sympathize with the plucky crows especially after the chicken incident — imagine our delight when a great bird of prey alights just under our bedroom window to consume its prey — we are honoured and watch and wait, enthralled, to photograph its every move and later rush out to examine the spot — only to discover the remains of our last bantam hen!

173Best Buzzard



Photo of Hawk aircraft by Cpl Paul Oldfield RAF/MOD [OGL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Hill Farming, lifestyle, Welsh language

Why Welsh is an up-hill business.

Getting around this time of the year is not always easy.

Winter near Staylittle.

Winter near Staylittle.

My problem is that when I venture out alone it is usually dark so I can’t see the little icons on the second, magic gear knob — the one that engages the four-wheel-drive. So after I’ve had a little slide I have to stop and look for the light switch and maybe also my bifocals.  But the problem is, for the occasional night driver, when you get your head in just the right position to see the hieroglyphics on the knob, your own shadow falls exactly on that very same knob — spooky?.  You can drive one hundred miles at night in Wales and only see five other cars but when you are stopped on the back road to Staylittle, rummaging for your reading glasses, another car will blind you with its headlights and, finding you stationary on a mountain pass in the middle of the night, the driver will get out, or at least wind down his window, to ask you if you are alright and discern with his knife sharp perception that you are definitely not alright, but then, probably you never were.

084I go to Delife to have my Welsh lesson.  It is beyond Staylittle which used to be called Stay-a-little, a much better English name for such a friendly place, albeit a tad exposed and chilly in winter, on the west side of our hill where the weather comes in from the Atlantic, whistling up the Celtic Sea, carefully avoiding Ireland, to dump its full ferocity on the Cambrian Mountains where we live.

You wouldn’t think that language had anything to do with altitude but it has!  In the sheltered valleys of Mid-Wales only the road signs are still bilingual; the indigenous population was long ago polluted by generations of English speaking in-comers, who passed by on their way to Ireland but dallied, drawn by the beauty of the place and the passion of the people and the strangeness…  Nothing is more sexually enticing than strangeness (good old genetics, it just loves difference) so they stayed and fell in love and intermarried and, with the collusion of the government, bought up their children to speak English.

Farmers don’t marry for love; they marry for land, nothing is more alluring to a farmer than three hundred acres of prime pasture and so the farming families who are rooted in the land have not intermarried to the same extent.  They live on the hills and they still, by and large, speak Welsh.

The frontier between these two foreign lands, with their amazingly different languages, runs around the edges of the hills at about 200M and that is why I go to Delife for my Welsh lessons.  Although the Government pays lip-service to the promotion of the Welsh language, with the recent round of cuts, my previous class folded.  But, up in the hills where neighbours still chat in Welsh and the sort of folk who settle there want to join in, a kindly lady minister is running a class in a pub, without training (I assume), or vetting, or funding, or overheads, or fees, or forms, or appraisals, or even cake — it is the only class that I have ever come across that is not struggling for numbers.

Dyna beth od — Tybed pam

That’s odd — I wonder why!

030 (3)

lifestyle, Psychology

Gender Bender — the trailblazers!

Despite the explosion in categories of gender and sexuality, it makes me sad when I read of the difficulties that young people can still have when they fail to fit their particularly allotted stereotype.

I don’t have many gender issues – I’m sure I’m not the only woman who feels that she is in drag when she dresses up to go to a wedding but I’m fairly happy in my skin, albeit a bit baggy, and I’ve never really been convinced that being born female has held me back —  I’m still a tomboy but more often than not I’ve had more pressing problems than the trappings of gender. I’m just relieved to have been born in my time and place and to have had the privilege of a career and a house full of children.

In the early days I rather enjoyed being a novelty – for that is all I was — an ostensibly normal woman (looking quite young) practising a traditionally male profession reasonably competently – not some sort of child prodigy or weird intersex.

I think I’m saying that not fitting a stereotype should be a pleasure and not an unavoidable burden, laced with self-doubt and loathing, but the pressure to conform may be getting greater with  all the gender crap (this is a medical term) that bombards us daily.

My understanding of sexual attraction is that it is mainly related to features associated with fitness to breed but women’s magazines project anorexic models as the norm — women who surely never ovulate naturally. I used to think that fashion photographers must all be gay (perhaps they are) and were promoting an android and defeminised image of women to gratify their own sensibilities — you really do wonder who their target audience is. The adolescent boyish look has given way to pale childlike look so that you wonder about the demographic of the person who finds it attractive — the paedophile or the necrophile? What is going on here – is the heroin-addict look really so attractive in a woman?

Image is all.  The normal woman promoted in the media is still seriously under weight but now almost universally has large, firm and strangely inappropriate bosoms–

Thanks to Barbie Fantasies (CC BY 2.0)

Thanks to Barbie Fantasies (CC BY 4.0)

— it was a novelty on Strictly Come Dancing to spot a single pair of small, normally jiggling breasts, ones that might, sometime in the future, actually lactate!  The owner would be mortified.

Fourteen year old boys display their abs on Facebook and will soon be complaining about their short stature due to premature fusion of their long-bone ends and acne caused by their anabolic food supplements.

Thanks to Peter Taylor's Memorabilia Birmingham (CC DY NC 4.0)

Thanks to Peter Taylor’s Memorabilia Birmingham (CC DY NC 4.0)

Buying clothes for teenage girls was never easy – the wrangle over school shoes, and it’s no comfort, when years later they proudly display their bunions, to say ‘I told you so!’

I worry about the sexualised wardrobe of many very young girls –Boob-tubes and Cuban heels for six-year olds, not to mention lewd and provocative statements emblazoned across their chests.  I worry about what this says about these innocents to men of more traditional cultures. Fourteen year old girls may run rings around boys of their own age and culture but they are still innocents in the real world.

A woman in her twenties with a normal Body Mass Index ( not media-skinny or food-industry-obese) who chooses not to wear sexualised clothes is not weird or threatening. She is normal by her own parameters and probably a lot more healthy and sexually attractive ( fit to breed!) than the Barbie doll look-alikes that our image-makers and advertisers foist upon us.

This Christmas I had great difficulty selecting a gift from a local supermarket for a two year old – to my surprise, the shop had two sections for this age group – one, camouflaged, for little boys with rockets and guns and action men and construction sets with pictures of little boys building bridges with their Dads ( so they must have been taken on a Wednesday or an alternate week-end). In the fluorescent pink, girl’s department, there were tea sets and pots and pans, little plastic microwaves that pinged, ovens and kitchens, severed plastic heads to make-up, Barbies and little princesses with tiara’s.  I felt ill.

I know I really just needed to find a better, independent toy-shop.  Time was short and the only safe gift for any child, it seemed, was  a cuddly creature, a zoo or a farm – but even the dinosaurs had been castrated!  What gender confusion will that create in our two-year-old’s psyche?


Thanks to David for  his image of Joan of Arc from Meridan Hill (Malcolm X) Park (CC DY 4.0)