Sunday, 31 January 2010

Childhood winters

All of the recent snow and ice and terribly low temperatures have made me think back to when I was a child, and the differences (apart from the obvious one of my age) between winters then, and winters now.

Well, of course we always had snow. That was taken for granted. Sometimes we were lucky enough to see snow just before we "broke up" for the Christmas holidays, and we could usually guarantee that there would be snow on the ground for some, if not all, of the 2 weeks we were free from the classroom.

I can remember playing out with my friends in the snow. So cold that my fingers were completely numb, but not wanting to go inside to warm up as I knew full well that my Nan would grab my hands, feel how cold they were, and make me stay inside incase I got (as she told me) "frost bite". And never ever could we put our hands in front of the fire to warm them as she said this would cause "chill blaines" (whatever those were).

My friends and I would play for hours sliding down hills and streets on anything we could use as a makeshift sledge. Large pieces of cardboard; sitting inside bin bags until they were too tattered to use any longer; and once, I committed the mortal sin of "borrowing" a silver plated tray that belonged to my Nan and sliding for hours and hours faster than anyone else.......and then tried to sneak it back into the pantry before she saw the dents and scratches all over it.

Snowball fights were great. Unless of course you played with the bigger kids (especially the boys) who always compacted their snowballs so that when they hit you, instead of breaking open in a cloud of fluffy snow, would hit you on the side of the head like a house brick and leave a lump for days.

And then there was the heating. Nobody had the luxury of central heating back then. I can remember my sister and I snuggled up in our beds under a mountain of feather eiderdowns and blankets, hugging hot water bottles. And waking up to ice on the inside of the bedroom windows (which we always drew faces in). And the smell of the paraffin heater in the kitchen when we got up for breakfast.

This winter it made me smile to see all of the little children in the village tearing about on sledges, making snowmen and having snowball fights. Most of them had never seen snow before. And they got 3 extra weeks off school too as the two little village schools were closed because the roads around here were virtually impassable to anything but a 4 x 4.

But most of all, the difference that strikes home more than any other is having my Nan. On those stay-inside-days, she would always find us something to do. She would have us baking scones or cakes, and Angela and I would always fight over who got to lick the spoon with the left over cake mixture on it (oh how Edwina Curry would cry out in horror at two little girls eating anything containing raw egg). Sometimes she would get out the different polishes and let us clean the silver and brass from the display cabinet. She taught us both how to knit and crochet (although my attempts were pathetic and never amounted to anything other than a very very very long 3 stitch wide string).

But story time was the best. She always made time to sit with us on the sofa and tell us a story of her own invention, or read to us from a book. With the heat from the fire, and her lovely voice bringing alive the wonders and magic on the pages she read from, I would soon drift away to sleep and dream of all the wonderful and uncomplicated things that children dream of.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Murphy the spaniel and Crazy Mazie the Shetland pony

My Saturdays are usually the same - up early (no lie on for me EVER), walk the dog, have a brew, and then drive the short distance to the farm with the dog in tow. He spends the 2 mile drive jumping round the inside of my landrover like a lunatic as he knows he now gets to spend a couple of hours chasing chickens, rabbits and sheep whilst I muck out the horses, then he gets to tear down to the field racing Crazy Mazie - who I never bother putting a headcollar on as she finds her own way just fine.

He is quite funny actually as he doesnt know quite what to make of Mazie my teeny weeny miniature shetland pony

Here is Mazie with my friend Laura

Murphy has been around horses all of his life - from an 8 week old floppy eared puppy when I first introduced him to my girls, and has seen them every day since over the past 9 years. He is used to huge things stepping over him, and dodging hooves in the stables at feeding times, and he knows that he is not allowed to chase them and must never ever bite them.

But Mazie is a complete mystery to him. She smells like a horse. She sounds like a horse. But she isn't much bigger than he is - so he STILL cant help walking up behind her and giving her a doggy hello (ie nose up the bum for a good identifying sniff). And likewise, SHE still gets a look of complete horror and shock on her face at having a spaniel suddenly put his cold wet nose under her tail. I really do need to video this at some point because the same thing happens every day. And every day I end up laughing so hard that I cry just at the look of outrage on her face. Thank goodness she has never tried to kick him.

Mazie came to me when I heard that she was about to be put to sleep as her owner no longer wanted her as she has a dislocating stifle (that would be her knee joint if she were human). I went up to see her and amidst a herd of beautiful healthy and obviously well cared for mini shetlands, there was this manky bedraggled and underweight little mite, and my heart melted.
She had been overlooked and ignored because she was no longer of any use as a breeding machine. I promptly drove home, got the trailer and went back and picked her up.

And how very glad I am that I did. She is the sweetest, most adorable, and comical little thing you could ever meet. Cheeky is her middle name and everybody loves her. If she were human she would have been the class joker, always wearing the dunces hat and standing in the corner of the classroom. Or Bertie Bunter, as she will scoff anything she can get to before you can. I have, on more than one occasion, chased her around the farm with a bag of apples in her mouth that she thinks most definately shouldn't be shared out amongst the other horses, and which she grabbed as I climbed out of the car. Maybe I should have named her "The Artful Dodger"?????

This afternoon, her poor leg was a bit stiff and so instead of the usual gallop to the stable to see if she can steal everyone elses tea before I can get there, she hobbled along behind us. And when I glanced round to check if she was ok, there was Murphy, shoulder to shoulder with her, as though he was making sure that she was ok as a thank you for never kicking him. If Mazie stopped, Murphy stopped. When she walked on, so did he. It was beautiful to watch.

But the real tear jerker came as I was about to leave. I put their rugs on, made sure they were ok, kissed them on the noses and as I went to lock Mazies stable door, there was Murphy standing in the straw with her, licking her nose.

I could almost imagine her saying in a very "Violet Elizabeth" type voice
"Dont you dare put your nose near mine - I know exactly where it's been"

Oh no - I have a new passtime!

I can't believe I have been introduced to the joys of blogging by my 60-something year old Aunt. I intended to read hers, leave a comment, and then log out.
Instead, after browsing through lots of other blogs and becoming more and more interested in the concept, I've started off my own.

Up until today, I have limited my thoughts and ramblings to the rather huge collection of diaries that have grown in number over the years, and which at present are packed away in a very large box, kept in what I have lovingly nicknamed "The Glory Hole" aka my spare room.

I can't bare to do anything else with the room at the moment, as the previous occupants of my house decided to paint it's walls fluorescent pink..... not terribly horrific for a little girls bedroom in a modern house perhaps, but as this is a 300 year old cottage, it's just wrong on so many levels. So, the poor little room is destined, for the forseeable future, as a dumping ground for things that I can't be bothered unpacking, throwing away, or designating a proper place in my new home.

In my own defence, I have only been here for three months, and as the rest of the house needed re-painting (given the gaudy colour choices used in every room) I am sure that the little pink bedroom will survive as it is for another couple of months.

Hmmmm, so what else do I want to write down on my first morning as a blogger?

Well, I'm recovering from a broken arm at the moment (another excuse to not paint the bedroom). This was a legacy of the lovely ice and snow that we had here on the West Pennine Moors for 5 weeks. I was walking my dog on New Years Day evening, just coming out of the forest at the back of my house, and down I went. What a start to 2010. But I got a lovely ride in the ambulance, plenty of gas and air (which didn't work by the way), a 6 hour wait in A & E, and was then taken home by my lovely friend Laura (who was still suffering from the most incredible hangover after polishing off a bottle of Jagermeister the previous evening). As ill as she was, she made me cheese on toast, a cup of tea and then stayed over in case I did anything else to myself that night.

I'm lucky to have such good friends. I jokingly said to her that if it was the other way round and SHE was the one with the broken arm and I was the person with the monumental hangover, she would have been getting a taxi back from A & E, and her cat to make her the cheese on toast !!!