Our farm looks out across the valley to three roads. The oldest snakes up the steep sided valley with huge slabs of stone laid across it in parts. Sadly, a few years ago now in a flash flood, it was badly damaged but before that the stones were pretty much as they were laid a few thousand years ago. My hero, Caerilius Priscus possibly led the Ninth Legion down the next road which is called Stairs locally. It goes straight up the hill and stones the size of gate posts were driven into the hill to keep the road from slipping down. The third is a tarmacked track which also goes straight up and is a short cut to Halifax. My kids spent hours watching cars trying to get up and down it in the snow with binoculars. A car got stuck on Wednesday night and they managed to free it at lunchtime today. As a child we also lived by a steep hill and my Dad actually used to walk up and check for stranded cars on the A59 at Blubberhouses because there were quite a few deaths. Once the local farm hand got his prize and joy (a Cortina) stuck at the bottom of our drive which formed one side of a crossroads. He walked up every night after work for 3 days and proudly showed my Dad that he was nearly free. He had carefully dug round the wheels which were then stuck up on top of 18” pillars of ice. It was stuck for about 2 weeks.
The early harps were made with curved bottoms so that they rested lightly on your shoulder and moved with you as you played. A friend of mind in Haworth had one dated 1786 with 3 beautiful painted panels fastened down the back. A nightmare to change strings though. We only had to replace one once and we threaded the string through the hole at the front and used a crochet hook sellotaped to a garden cane to grab the string and pull it out of the bottom. As the gut string was cut to a set length we had to very carefully sellotape that to a long length of fishing line so we could pull it back through after we had tied the knot. Modern harps have holes cut down the back to make life easier! A pupil of mine told me her cat likes to sleep inside her harp and crawls in through one of these holes. My daughter had a kitten called Catkin and she did exactly the same. When we started to play the harp she let out a yowl and scratched her way up to the hole and bolted. We have had nearly a foot of snow this week and I discovered just how un-aerodynamic the hens actually are. it was too deep for them to hop around so when I fed them I scraped a patch of grass and banged the feed bin. They would fly out of the wood with their legs stuck out in front and crash land up to 10 yards away sometimes on top of each other. No harm done however. Thank you for all the messages (and for reading the blog) – and yes a bag of chips in Whitby sounds just the job! 🙂
Life on the farm in the snow isn’t easy. Some visitors this morning were caught out. The road is never gritted but in deep snow it makes it easier to drive and the visible top half of the drive looked okay so they came down to see us. You turn the corner and it suddenly becomes artic! Six of us pushed the car back up to the road in the end! All my hens were back this morning thank goodness. There is a steep-sided valley with a stream at the bottom at the edge of our farm. If any animal or human, for that matter, slips or, in the hen’s case, gets blown into it you have to follow it for half a mile right down into the village before you can climb out again. In the storms just before Christmas I was worried that people might think a stray hen was the perfect gift from Heaven. I have no gigs this weekend but am inundated with pupils which I love. I even had a teenage mathematician this morning practising how to work out the perfect Harmonic Curve! The others were very amused with my version of a Spanish tune which was used by Steve Wright on the Sunday Love Songs radio show …
If you didn’t get out of bed the very second the morning bell went you were in trouble. It was the Headgirl’s job to wake everyone up, about 100 girls in total in dormitories of up to 30. My bed was closest to the door once and we all used to shove it up against the door so that she couldn’t get the door open. It gave us a few more seconds in bed but it was surprising how quickly she got round the whole school. If you were still in bed when she came in she rang the bell right next to your head. If that didn’t work or you were just stunned for a second with the noise she would grab your mattress at your feet and roll it up. The technique must have been practised by each new Head as it very effectively put you on the floor. Very surprisingly I had forgotten all about this until we watched a programme about Borstal Boys the other night …! In this programme the warden just tipped the whole bed over so I guess we were lucky! The harps are struggling with the cold at the moment. I took ‘Chorus’ out last week to play to some ladies and the Village Hall was swelteringly hot. The harp literally shed a bucket of water. I explained to the bemused ladies what was going on as I dusted and mopped the soundboard. Luckily I was booked to talk about the harp as well so we had a good laugh and after 20 minutes Chorus was sounding her best.
Was too busy doing Winter Weddings these past two weeks but the weddings were particularly amazing – every year winter weddings seem to take on a new high. The ‘tech’ teams for the lighting are now arriving in huge artics! The old country house hotels I work in are transformed into wonderlands – either with huge ‘Victorian’ mechanical Christmas toys or ceilings lit up with thousands of tiny lights so that when you look up you think there is no roof and you are literally looking up into Heaven itself. The weather was either wet and grey – in which case it was lovely to be transformed – or it was deep in snow ‘deep and crisp and even’! Back at the farm Dodge the donkey was unimpressed however. He loves to work and we are looking for a small cart for him. Growing up we had a donkey called Flossy and Dad commissioned a proper sleigh to be made one Christmas. Wooden reindeer antlers were strapped onto Flossy’s bridal and there were secret wheels set under the skids out of sight. She pulled this sleigh around the houses where we lived and Father Christmas sat in the sleigh and gave out presents. Occasionally disaster would happen as Flossy loved sherry and mince pies. She was quite a large donkey and if she tried to set off up the garden path she completely forgot about her precious cargo and it was left stuck in the gate hole as she grabbed her booty.