Friday, 30 March 2012


A couple of days ago I caught one of those Radio 4 gems that you never plan to listen to, but accidentally catch. It was about Crows.

I didn’t used to like crows or rooks or jackdaws ( I’m not very good at telling them apart, but apparently they are all related ). I used to think of them as the bully boys of the garden, who kept the finches away from my feeders.
However, the rookery based in the trees behind my house here in Hebden Bridge has provided me with hours of fun, watching their industry.... and playfulness.

They have observational as well as experiential memory apparently....they watch, and remember what they have seen. Some are thieves, and will hide food, but if they realise they have been watched, they will wait until the watching crows have departed and they will re- hide it, as they expect their observers to steal from the original hiding place. However, crows that have never stolen food themselves do not have this expectation about others’ behaviour and will not re hide food. I’m not sure exactly what controlled experiments have been done to establish this, but I found it fascinating.

They have large brains, they use tools, they work in teams, they communicate with each other in quite complex ways and they do not require immediate gratification....they store food for later, hiding and re -hiding it, presumably depending on their previous level of criminality !

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Beautiful young women's memories

Joy and her dashing young husband, mum and dad.

Yesterday I received a phone call from one of my mother’s friends. Irene and my mother knew each other when they were 15. Irene is now 80, and my mother, who would also be 80 now, died 30 years ago. I haven’t seen or heard from Irene in well over 45 years.
We had a lovely chat.... about her children, who I remember playing with as a child, and about what has happened to her, and to me in the last 45 years ago and of course, we also talked about my mother. The phone call lasted well over an hour, we had lots to catch up on.

The conversation has led me to think about my mother’s friends, who were such an important part of my growing up. I remember them all being very beautiful, and I remember them being very important to my mum.


Doreen, who, we all thought looked like Elizabeth Taylor, was crowned Miss Wembley sometime in the early 50s.


 Joan, who was my favourite, and my Godmother,( we have always kept in contact)  was similarly gorgeous, Irene was very pretty, and my mother, who I think was just stunning, was famous for her 21 inch waist. In fact, Irene even mentioned it in our phone conversation .

Joan on the left, Joy, my mother, on the right

The 4 of them were teenagers together, they learned their secretarial skills together, they got their first jobs together, they went to dances, they experimented with alcohol together.... and sex I expect. They “dated”  dashing young men together, were bridesmaids at each others’ weddings and then spent time together as young mothers.  Now, the 3 that are still alive, are all 80 and all their dashing young husbands are dead.

What things they have seen....born in the early 1930s....childhood in the depression, and the war, teenagers in the immediate post war world, and young mothers in the Cold War. These are times that our children learn about in history lessons, and for Irene, Doreen and Joan, they are times that seem just like yesterday. Irene and I will now keep in touch, and I'm going to see if I can find Doreen's phone number.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Smiling reflections

Today, on yet another canal walk ( from Hebden Bridge to Todmorden and back) a man called over to me from the opposite bank and said
" You look happy".
It was the understatement of the year. I had a grin fixed from ear to ear, as I walked along the tow path of the Rochdale canal.


Natural beauty,and man made amusements had me smiling out loud.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Evidence of humans

Not the greatest photo....but you get the gist.

This morning I really enjoyed Rosemary's post about a canal walk, and went for my own canal walk, from Hebden Bridge to Mytholmroyd, along the Rochdale canal.

As I had thought, spring isn't as advanced here as with Rosemary, but there was some evidence that it isn't too far away.

However, what I enjoyed most from my walk, were the images of how people have made their mark on this lovely place. From decorated boats, derelict mills, with their own special beauty, to stone walls,  canal side window displays and sheer architectural ingenuity.

only in Yorkshire.......

now...grandchildren, who do you think lives here ?

I love the gargoyle perched on top of this canal side window

My feet are in the reflection of this canal side window sill display

One of the canal side houses always has an interesting the summer there are all manner of containers used to grow all sorts. I'm sure it will look better than this later in the season.

Thanks for the canal walk idea today Rosemary, I have loved it.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Bibi, Annick and Jamon

I feel that since retiring (nearly 2 years ago) I have had time to let my thoughts wander. I have only just realised what a luxury this is, although I do sometimes think that my wanderings and ponderings are evidence of a butterfly brain, that somehow I managed to conceal throughout my working life.
For instance: earlier this week I posted a photo onto Facebook, of 2 of my former students from the time when I worked in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (1984/5) One was a then, 18 year old Spanish student, ( Bibiana) living with an American family for a year as part of the A.F.S programme.  The other, was Annick, from Belgium.

Bibi and Annick in my sociology class 1985

Bibi’s “AFS mother” was also a teacher at the school, and we have remained great friends, and over the last 25 years  I have caught up with her in Arizona, where she now lives, in Wisconsin, Yorkshire and Ireland. I’m hoping she will make it over to France to see me there.
Anyway, Bibi and I have also remained in contact, and a few years ago I attended the baptism of her beautiful daughter, in Benicassim, in Spain. It was an incredible occasion. Bibi’s whole family was there of course, and that included her American family from the year she had spent in the US that coincided with my time there. Another of the guests was the other student in the photo I had posted on Facebook, Annick, who was also in Sheboygan on the AFS scheme. So it was a fabulous multinational gathering, and Bibi’s gorgeous daughter’s baptism was celebrated in very fine style.

Bibi's Spanish family

and photos of Jane, her AFS mom and Lee, her AFS dad.
I knew I loved jamon before the party, but watching the master carver approach the stunningly arranged leg with his jamonero and his puntilla ( just 2 of the knives the master carvers learn to use during their apprenticeship), I was completely overcome by the whole process.

Bibi with her daughter, and Annick

Today, in the Sunday Observer magazine, there is a supplement on Spanish food, and there, on page 39, is step by step instructions on how to carve jamon. The accompanying article about the respect for the knives, and for the pig ( mmm, not sure how the pig felt about that ) and the skill involved in carving this £440 worth of pig’s leg, had me searching through my photos for the jamon that Bibi served at her daughter’s baptism celebration.

So, there it is, I began the week remembering  the beautiful and bright Bibi and Annick. Then my mind wandered around thinking of the last time I had seen them both in Spain.... and then, to round it off, the Observer article had me yearning for some delicious slices of Iberico Bellota.....and it all led to this blog posting.

I am looking forward to where my mind takes me next week.