Just say no!

misty village

Sigoth bemoaned the weather again today, as he has done for several days recently. I don’t blame him. We are British, so the weather is how we communicate with each other. It defines our moods, our relative positions in life and our ability to function in the morning. As such, starting the day without a quick weather-related sanity check would be unthinkable in EBL Towers. And so it was.

Apparently he has noticed it has been wet. I demurred.

“Foggy,” I insisted.

“No!” quoth he. “Wet! The ground is absolutely sodden.”

Well, he should know. He does things outdoors for fun, up close and personal with the earth, and we live on Jurassic moraines of boulder and Kimmeridge clay, so wetness or dryness is immediately apparent.

I sit inside, working at the computer, and only gaze out of the window into the distance. The distance is considerably closer of late, due to the fogs. Well, mists really. But where’s the drama in that?

The problem is obviously that he focuses on the near and I on the far. But Literature is on my side, so I share with you that great poem of 1844 by the lesser known poet, Thomas Hood:

No!

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–no “t’other side this way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all–no locomotion–
No inkling of the way–no notion–
“No go” by land or ocean–
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds–
November!

http://allpoetry.com/poem/8472903-No–by-Thomas-Hood

Regular readers will recall I enjoy chucking in a poem or two now and again. It saves me having to think up words all by myself.

Do you have a poem or quotation that describes your day today?

And even if your days are dark and foggy, may your hearts be sunny and bright.

Namaste.

Grateful

Well, this is certainly a departure. I know, I know. EBL is hardly known for her humility or tendency to appreciate the small kindnesses and glimpses of fragile beauty that surround her. However, as usual, it has been a week of events, and for once I am in the mood for some gratitude.

Yesterday and today, that is to say Stormday and Aftermathday, I travelled up and down and round about Yorkshire by rail. At least, I went to Sheffield and Leeds, which is a reasonable approximation. Naturally as my first two days of travelling since my operation it seemed only sensible to do this at the worst possible time when the national rail network was still reeling form the frankly bracing weather which we have been enjoying recently.

All my trains were on time, except one which was almost 10 minutes late. That was the one from Scotland, so perhaps it can be excused. So I couldn’t complain. Literally, I couldn’t. I felt cheated. The breakfast news team, whom I trust with my life, had lead me to expect more trauma and my loins were seriously girt.

Nevertheless, two days in a row of hurtling in slow motion along railway tracks while it variously blew, buffeted, rained, snowed and shone outside left me a little weary. The irony is that York is not currently flooded, although there may be some minor seepage. However the rest of the country appears to be submerging slowly and gracelessly under the ocean. Honestly, all the movies about Atlantis sinking implied it would happen more quickly and with considerably more men in leather kilts and sandals dashing about. Again, cheated.

Of course I am genuinely grateful not to be flooded. We had that here some years back and it was appalling. However, the English can’t face disaster with anything other than a self-deprecating quip, unless it’s with a broken beer bottle and a Spartan “come on if you think you’re hard enough” face. I find the quip less exhausting, but don’t push me.

By the time I was on the final leg of my journey home tonight I needed to relax a little. I was tense from a tiring couple of days and a distressing work issue. In a moment of weakness I opted for some relaxation music which I keep on my phone for just such an occasion. I played the very nice music and took some deep breaths and stared out of the window at the scenery.

The Derwent has burst its banks along much of the way, and was muddy and bubbly with the effect of fast flowing water charging down to join the Ouse, like a toddler on a sugar rush. It’s a perverse river in that it rises in the Moors, flirts with the coast briefly then heads inland in defiance of riverly custom and best practice. During snow melt and heavy rain it gets deep and fast and strong, and very brown from mud and silt and Moors run-off. Today the brown water and the muddy fields and winter-bare trees combined into a pleasing palate of neutrals set against a pinkish evening sky. It has been observed, I believe by Stephen Fry, but am too lazy to check, that nature is incapable of being ugly. Even in this time of horrible flooding the scenery is beautiful – except for the man-made parts. Nature, I concluded, even in times of flood and fear and raw sewage on your carpet, was awe-ful in the original sense of the word: powerful, frightening and still majestically and cosmically gorgeous. If something is going to destroy your words it is only right that it is epic.

The music played through the head-set like a soundtrack to my own personal movie. It set the scene for some inner dialogue and reflection, and I obliged, trained up by years of film watching and exposure to the tropes and truisms of Hollywood (and more lately Studio Ghibli). The music and the landscape made me feel grateful for being able to live in such a marvellous world. I was seduced into gratitude for not being flooded, for living somewhere so clearly superior to the rest of the planet, for having a safe journey to a warm home and loving partner, for just, well, everything.

I even started a list. I know some of you keep gratitude journals and I’m sure it is a worthwhile thing to do. Whenever I try the list is the same day after day: Sigoth, Offspringses, work colleagues, a job I enjoy nine days out of ten (because there are always some occasions when people are simply disappointing). The list may have the odd additional entry, such as Netflix or tea in bed or whatever ephemera have pleased me that day. Yet the core remains the same, my foundation for living, and I don’t need a journal to remind me of it. I know I’m blessed, even if I sometimes forget for an hour or two. Even if sometimes I get impatient with Sigoth or irritated by a colleague, just as allegedly Sigoth is driven to distraction by my quaint and endearing eccentricities (not nearly as infuriating as his faults of course). In my heart of hearts, I know.

At this point I feel it highly appropriate to refer my honourable friends to the beat poem, Storm, by Tim Minchin. I love Tim Minchin (not in a creepy way). He is a Dawkins kind of a chap, and the poem is a paean to rational and scientific wonder. No hocus pocus, just honest glory in the natural world.

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just fucking silly”
Or something like that.

http://www.releaselyrics.com/1187/tim-minchin-storm/

If the very nice relaxing hippy music doesn’t soothe my troubled mind, then a dose of Minchin does.

Meanwhile I’m off to get into pyjamas and shake off this unfamiliar and bizarre gratitude. What is the world coming to? I’ll be turning into a nice little old lady at this rate and I can’t allow that. (Actually there’s no real danger of that happening. Don’t worry.)

Do you have your core list, your foundations, that keep you going through thick and thin? Hold them fast and share them if you will.

Namaste.

 

Daffodilly

Today I had a day off and Sigoth and I went into York to buy each other birthday presents. It’s that time of year.

On the way into town, sitting on the Park and Ride bus (the one that was late because the previous one broke down), I stared out of the window at Monk Stray, enjoying the daffodils that lined the roadside. They clustered thickly, bobbing in the draft from passing traffic and gleaming in the Spring sunshine. What a beautiful day.

Hold on!

Daffodils?

What?

It’s 2nd of May!

Crazy Springtime seems to have hit various corners of the globe (and by corners I mean curved edges) this year. Pretty much every Northern Hemisphere blog I read is talking about the wrong kind of weather, even when it isn’t British.

God knows we Brits like to talk about the weather. We have so much of it, in such a short space of time, that it seems rude not to. It’s not epic, like some countries; just a continuous, ever-shifting pattern of change and confusion. The other day the weather forecast predicted overnight frost, sunshine, showers, snow flurries, winds and general cloud all on the same day. In the same place. Temperatures between Aberdeen and London can easily and regularly vary by more than 10 degrees Celsius.

Back to those daffs, though. It’s not right. I have checked the historic record, by which I mean family photos of trips to Farndale to see the daffodils, or pictures taken of spring flowers.

For evidence:

199504 Farndale running down path1995 April

Farndale. Wild daffodils cover the area and attract visitors every year. They bloom later in Yorkshire than down south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

R199504 Rillington daffodilsillington, also North Yorkshire. These were planted by the local schoolchildren to brighten up the beck in the village.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1199903 Helmsley 001999 March – Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Just a nice place to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2005 March – we planted some trees at the end of the garden…also in North Yorkshire. We had to fit them around the daffodils.

 

 

 

 

Just to reiterate, today is 2nd May. I should be seeing gorse, rhododendrons, hawthorn, bluebells…even in North Yorkshire.

Then I noticed that the trees were getting this fuzzy, green stuff on their twigs, which it turned out were “leaves”. There were gorse and hawthorn flowering elsewhere on our journey, on Strensall Common and even opposite the Stray, above the daffodils on the banks.

It’s like the weather has become fractured, doing March and May simultaneously.

Either 2013 will be over in double quick time or we’ll be having June in November and it will be always Autumn and never Christmas.

At least we can have fun finding out!

Namaste

Equinox and Equilibrium – Bloggers for Peace

Things must be bad. In fact, the Apocalypse may be as nigh as a very nigh thing. Today is the Spring Equinox in EBL Towers, and possibly across the whole Northern Hemisphere, which takes its lead from here, and the weather is so cold that even the weather elves on the BBC were complaining about it on the Breakfast News. The BBC Weather team are resolutely of the opinion that all weather is good for something and it isn’t just about being sunny all the time. They will occasionally try to look a little sorry if it has rained for 51 weeks of the year, but only if flooding means they can’t get home for tea. Otherwise they tend to take the meteorological high ground (again, useful if there is flooding), and explain that the weather is not a convenience for humans but a Force of Nature, that farmers need some rain, and that you should just wrap up warm and stop complaining. Obviously no one takes any notice because complaining is compulsory in Britain in order to satisfy the expectations of tourists and generate national income. Once all the visitors go home we relax and party like it’s 1999.

So today when not one, but two, of the elves muttered about the fact that it was unseasonably chilly and you’d never think it was Spring, would you, I got goosebumps and a feeling of Doom. Who were those presenters and what had they done with the actual weather people?

Despite hideous prediction of flood and snow and blizzards anywhere north of France, here in the northern part of England known as God’s Own County we have some cloud and chilliness. The birds are still singing, although we may have to run a soup kitchen for the hedgehogs: apparently the cold Spring may be killing them. They don’t want to get out of bed in the cold, and they don’t have enough snacks to keep them going.

If I may side track for a moment, I have been thinking about how to respond to Kozo’s monthly Bloggers for Peace topic on Flash Forgiveness.

Then I realised that today was a good day to give it a go. Already I have forgiven the grumpy weather elves for being grumpy about weather. Whether or not they care what I think.  I have allowed my initial irritation to fade away and turn into material for a blog post. I know you’re all pleased. I can see it in your eyes.

After digesting the news – bloke with red briefcase about to commit daylight robbery on the general population – I forgave the government for being total idiots. Today I am trying to think of government as a kind of scheme for keeping troublesome toffs off the high street.

I turned instead to my knitting projects. Always a great source of calm and balm for the soul are the knitting needles; in extremis I can use them for not being forgiving. The shawl is finished bar the fringe, which I plan to do later today when I am back from the hospital, so I started work on the fair isle yoke of the jumper I am knitting.

Did I mention the hospital already? I’m going back to see the consultant today after various traumas and cancellations and reinstatements. Honestly, the admin at that place is horrendous. Today though I am forgiving flashwise, so let’s just say that the individuals I talked to, and there were very many of them, were all kind and helpful. It’s clear they need me to go in and completely redesign their admin systems from scratch and deliver a few seminars and workshops for management on how to run a piss-up in a brewery, but apart from that they are fantastic. Anyway, today I find out if I am going back for a further operation or not, and if so, whether that is tomorrow.

If I suddenly go quiet for a few days, then the answer to both questions was yes.

Back to the fair isle then. I started the first round of pattern, which is the really important one that sets it up for the whole yoke. I did my 25 stitch pattern of knit 5 in yarn one, knit one in yarn 2. I got to the end of 250 stitches and realised what a seven year old could have told me: 5+1 does not go into 25.

You nit-wit knitter, EBL! The pattern has an extra stitch on the repeat to make it work, so that you have four lots of 5+1 then a final 1.

This is why knitting and maths are the same thing, my dears. This is why you have to know how to count and do your times tables. The lad Gove may care to note: it is probably the only real use of times tables that you have as an adult, so unless he expects the employment crisis to be solved by making everyone knit their housing benefit, he should go back and try again in redesigning the curriculum.

However, today I am being flashy about forgiving, so poor old Govey gets another chance (try harder next time, boy!) and I have to do the hardest thing of all. Can you guess what it is yet? You, at the back? Speak up!

That’s right. Ten points to Hufflepuff. EBL has to forgive herself.

Well, my dears, that was a low blow. Now I also have to forgive Kozo for putting me in this distressing position. I do, my dear, with many hugs!

Forgive myself? How hard can that be? Oh, wait, pretty hard, as it turns out.

It means I have to admit I may occasionally make mistakes, and not just big mistakes that anyone can make, but little, silly, inconsequential ones that are just ridiculous. I do realise that those of you who are not wedded to the Craft may be bemused by all this talk of repeating patterns and so on. Any of you who knit will be aware it’s a relatively common issue. And if EBL, which is to say “I”, had actually just read the pattern instead of diving in with needles blazing, it would have been simplicity itself.

So I undid most of the 250 stitches (the first 24 were fine!) and I had a serious conversation with myself about forgiveness.

The good news is that it seems to have worked. I knit as a thing to do, not because I want the product by a fixed deadline, so taking a little longer to do it right is not a big deal. I know I should read the pattern properly, and as there is no rush, I will allow myself time to do so. Doing and undoing are all art of the same thing; they are about creating the final jumper. The universe does this kind of thing all the time, making rain and rivers and floods and droughts, and life and death, over and over. Today the Great Wheel turns another quarter and we have Equinox. Today, in sympathy, I can turn myself and forgive.

After all, if someone else had done it I would have said “Oops! Let’s just undo it and start again. It’s not a problem.”

So in the end that’s what I said to me.

Now I have done five rows and the pattern is set and looking good.

Of course, in the midst of all that I realised I was late for a meeting which I had agreed to dial into (I have a day off). So I had to forgive myself all over again. As things happen in threes, I am waiting for the next opportunity to practise my new-found skill.

My dears, if forgiving other people is hard, is it easier to forgive yourself? Or is it the other way around?

Other Forgivers for Peace include:

http://bloggers4peace.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/kozo-cheri-asks-that-you/

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/03/18/say-cheese-for-forgiveness/

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/spring-approaches/

http://iangudgercs.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/things-that-erode-peace/

http://ejjudge.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/powerless-a-bloggers-for-peace-post/

http://hopethehappyhugger.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/sharing-time/

http://heartflow2013.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/be-true-to-your-words/

and so many more!

Namaste.

 

Snow train

The train had arrived early in Leeds in spite of Snowmageddon. Our management had told people to leave early in case of travel problems, with a predicted 15cm of snow across the Pennines which would inevitably cause difficulties for those travelling more than a few yards from Leeds City Centre. I left at my planned time and the train arrived early. It hadn’t read the memo, or, indeed, the weather forecast, and had crossed the Pennines in excellent time.

At York we sat outside the station for a long time, trapped as two other not-very-useful Engines gossiped idly on platform 5. We imagined them stamping their wheels and rubbing their fenders to keep warm, sheltered snugly under the Victorian roof and thinking little, caring less, for Engines which had arrived early or kept to their timetable.

“We’re waiting for two other trains to move so we can come in on Platform 5,” the conductor announced, keen to demonstrate his frustration and lack of culpability. We were all in it together alright.

The minutes crawled by, slow in the frozen wind, and we waited. There was sighing and tutting and raising of eyebrows. None of them achieved a forward momentum. I played Sudoku on my phone. It didn’t seem worth calling home where Sigoth was snuggling and thinking of dinner. Other passengers however chose to share their outrage with loved ones, and many conversations ensued along the lines of “I’m stuck outside York now, we’re waiting for a platform.” It was generally followed by a character-defining pronouncement of either “hopefully not long now” or “probably be ages, bloody trains”.

Eventually another trian strolled past heading north.

“That’s the culprit!” the conductor told us. “Feel free to gesticulate as he goes by!”

And everyone laughed. Some of us waved, ironically I’m sure. People turned to their neighbours and smiled and agreed it was good to have a conductor with a sense of humour. We felt warm and companionable, thanks to a single quip. Onward, fellow travellers!

One man made everyone’s miserable, cold, frustrating journey better. How easy it is to share a little joy, if only we remember to try.

Namaste.

 

Dawn

I went to catch the bus yesterday morning, in the small, wee hours, stumbling down the village with suitcase and laptop and handbag, fiddling in my pockets for my gloves, checking my train ticket for the umpteenth time, checking my purse for change for the bus fare. You know the general confusion and fumbling of early morning starts.

I reached the road and got ready to cross over, and suddenly became aware that I could see the bus stop.

I know, my dears, that this might not sound like such a surprising thing. Bus stops are usually fairly noticeable, by their nature being designed to draw attention to themselves for the sake of bus drivers and bus travellers alike. A bus stop you couldn’t see would be a sorry excuse for a bus stop. It would fail to fulfil its basic purpose, which is to designate a place where buses, well, stop.

That is not of course quite what I meant. EBL is not entirely senile yet. What I meant was that I could see the bus stop from a distance without the aid of artificial light. This was not because I had consumed an unusual quantity of carrots, but rather because the sky was less inky black and more pearly grey than has been its habit over the winter months. In other words, and with great fanfare, EBL is proud to announce Signs of Spring.

I know you will be enthralled to hear that Sigoth has been painting the guest bedroom. We are very excited to have a guest bedroom, having only now, after several hundreds of years, sufficiently ejected Offspingses to enable us to call the bedroom in question “guest”. Youngest Offspring will return at the end of March to claim it again for a few weeks, but for now it is a lovely shade of guesty blue. We are even getting new carpet to match.

The point of this apparent diversion in the narrative is that while paint was drying Sigoth opened the window to let in fresh air. We did not expire in an icy blast, like Shackleton and company huddled at the Pole. In fact we were pleasantly surprised by the almost balmy quality of the air wafting inside. More importantly we heard birds.

There is that moment, after a long, dark winter, eagerly awaited following the Solstice, when the Earth awakes and suddenly one day it is lighter and brighter and the trees have buds on their branches and the sparrows do their feathery fandango at full volume under the roof tiles, the dirty little buggers. You see them hopping about with a glint in their eye and chirping the sparrow equivalent of “D’you want to come up and see my etchings?” at any passing Sparrow Lady. There is something slightly scandalous about sparrows, especially in the spring,

As we looked out of the window and breathed in the mild, fresh air, and listened to the avian porn, we also noticed the carpet of snowdrops in the garden.

It’s somehow always the way of it, for me at least, that one day it is dark and cold and winter, and the next the snowdrops have appeared and the birds are at it like bunnies and the world is made anew. Then we have a cold snap and it seems winter is fighting back, reluctant to relinquish its supremacy just quite yet, desperately and futilely hanging on to power like a Caesar caught in the forum on the Ides of March.

Winter can protest, and send us freezing sleet and howling gales still, but it can’t argue with the dawn. So it was that I knew in my bones at last, at 6.45 in the morning, that Spring was really on its way, because the sky was grey and I could see the bus stop from the other side of the road.

 Namaste.

 

 

Slip Sliding Away

Those of you who have been kind enough to spend time in my corner of yon t’Interweb may remember that I often catch the 6.55 bus to town in order to transfer to the 7.23 train. Usually this is a seamless process and I tend to be half asleep as I am transported to the delights of Head Office.

Today I awoke to the shock news that it was winter and that there was ice on the roads. In this part of the country the council is very efficient at gritting. We are the leading Winter Olympic Team in Laughing at the Soft Southerners Who Can’t Cope with a Bit of Frost. We chortle at London’s hapless attempts to keep trains running after a millimetre of snow, and snort at their feeble cries that it’s a really, really hard thing to do. (Note for those not familiar with English geography: for the purposes of identifying a Southerner, anyone living in the Southwest counts as a Northerner when referring to snow, ice and gritting.)

So this is a shout-out to North Yorkshire County Council who spectacularly failed to grit the lane last night. It is unusual, to be fair. The consequences, however, were entirely predictable and underline why they should grit the damn lane as a matter of course.

The 6.55 bus was a little late. Three of us were waiting at the bus stop: myself and Sigoth, and our lovely neighbour, Marathon Runner with Diabetes. We were stamping our feet and puffing into our hands and talking about the owl we could hear, badminton tournaments and Christmas parties at work. It was convivial and we were not surprised the bus was a little late because clearly the roads were not in peak condition. We had all slithered precariously across the glacier at the roundabout so we knew it very well and were considering Writing A Letter to the Council to voice out displeasure.

As we waited at the bus stop a car fishtailed round the roundabout because he was going at more than one mile an hour. We all ducked into the shelter to avoid being walloped.

The bus eventually appeared about 15 minutes later, chugging along very slowly as befitted the conditions. We all dug out our passes and change and watched him inch his way round the roundabout. Our stop is at the end of a lane and the buses come up, go all the way round the roundabout and head back to the main road again. It confuses the hell out of tourists because you can’t tell so easily where the bus is going (north or south) after that. There’s a trick to it called “reading the destination on the front,” but this is not always possible because it scrolls and you have to catch it at the right moment.

Anyway, this was the bus we wanted. It slipped as it approached the roundabout and slowed down even more. Then as it started to go up the incline and round the edge it lost all grip on its rear wheels, slid sideways and stopped. After a couple of minutes it was obvious there was nothing for the wheels to grip and it sat there, hazard lights flashing and one road junction completely barred.

An oil lorry came along behind it and skidded into the verge. Eventually he got the vehicle under control but couldn’t get past the bus.

The bus inched forward slightly then slid back. It began to spin a little. The woman in the upstairs front seat displayed true Yorkshire grit by sitting calmly throughout, no matter how the bus danced and pranced. It was like dressage for motor vehicles.

Time went by and the sky grew lighter. Cars and vans came along, skidding and sliding too. They had to go the wrong way round the roundabout to get to their exit. The bus inched forwards a little more. After 20 minutes it had got round the first quarter of the circle. We cheered and stamped our feet and Marathon Man posted pictures on Facebook. Sigoth tweeted the Council to let them know about their dangerous and inept #FAIL.

After another 20 minutes or so it was clear the driver could do no more. A small van arrived from the bus company with sand and a shovel. The bus driver got out and apologised to us for the delay and offered us some of his coffee from his thermos. The man deserves a medal.

The rescuer used up all his sand and the bus began to skate towards the third quarter leading back to the bus stop. A large oil lorry slid into a hedge, recovered and carried on down the other exit. As the bus crawled towards us the man with the sand pushed the left front wing to guide it along its way. It was so slippery on the road that this actually worked.

The driver got the bus to where we were standing and appeared to stop although he was moving slightly without volition.

“Jump on!” he said, voice tight with stress.

We hesitated at the thought of imminent disaster, then jumped on and sat down and everyone on the bus said hello and smiled. We wobbled off down the lane, crawled over the hump-backed bridge and lurched towards the main road. Traffic on the main road roared by. The main road had clearly been gritted. Cautiously we felt our way onto the carriageway, although it was hard because our lane was very icy at the junction too so we had no power.  

It was an hour late, but we were on our way. By the time the kids come down for the school bus I hope the ice will be in retreat and they will be safe.

I understand that some drivers get frustrated when they are caught behind the slow moving gritting lorries. They are idiots. Those lorries are absolutely vital and you don’t know how much until they miss you out.

So here I sit in the station café with a steaming mug of tea, waiting for the next train 2 hours after my usual one, and wondering what it will be like when I come home on Friday.

Namaste.