25 December 2006

Yule Blog

Yuletide greetings one and all.

PG's last comment set me thinking about my wish list. The twenty billion sterling we have spent on Xmas this year would make a good start. I daresay Santa would welcome a year off; the poor chap has his work cut out. 378 million children in 91.8 million homes (leaving out all the hindu, muslim, buddhist and atheist children etc). Parcel tonnage reckoned at 321,300 tons and delivery logistics requiring Rudolph and Co to travel at 650mph and allows Santa approx one thousandth of a second for each delivery (source: The Independant).

He seems to have managed the feat once again magnificently - even taking into account the re-direction notices we left in our fireplace and involving him in a 157 mile detour (sorry Santa). To be sure, we did track his progress using state of the art Pentagon military technology at www.noradsanta.org. Would that that was all it was used for!

The three wise men started it all off though they didn't have the luxury of online shopping nor of choosing the super saver delivery or gift wrap options. Do you suppose they would have wrapped the gold, frankincense and myrrh anyway? Were they in any sense 'wise' to set this consumer madness rolling into the future? Surely this is not what they intended it to become and maybe it is time for us to come up with an alternative strategy for next year. If that 20 billion could make some inroads into my wishlist, then that is a Christmas I'd be happy to sign up to.

Holiday suggestions for Santa on a postcard please.

21 December 2006


I was bathing Ben tonight and he said 'Dad, what do you want for Christmas?' I told him I'd like all the people in the world to have what we take for granted; clean water to drink; a warm roof overhead; knowing where our next meal is coming from; adequate health care; not to be afraid that we'll be shot up or bombed tomorrow etc etc. He thought for a bit and then said 'Dad, it's not an option. It has to be something you can wrap up." Which about sums it up really doesn't it?

20 December 2006

Oh ye of Liddle Faith

The Trouble with Atheism C4 Monday 18 Dec

Oh well, they really shot themselves in the foot with that one didn't they? For some reason I expect better from C4 than an hour long piece of drivel that probably infuriated the believers just as much as it did the other believers. And as to his final and naive question as to why the believers and the non believers can't just 'get along' does the man really need to be told that beliefs have consequences?

Gary Wolf did a better job here, C4 should do better. Rod Liddle should take his dog for a walk and think things through a bit.

04 December 2006

Seasonal Nose Picking

Little voice from the back of the car on the way out to the School Xmas Fair on Saturday......
"If anyone wants to do some seasonal nose picking, do it now!"

Sunday....force 10 gusts smash two sheets of glass from the greenhouse roof and turns compost bin lid into a frisbee. Probably somewhere in Blackpool by now.

30 November 2006

Seed Bunk

While not in the same class as Jane's willow trugs, we have found this Asda basket (reclaimed from a skip somewhere or other) very handy on the allotment and it more often than not comes home with us filled with good produce decidedly not from Asda. In the check-out this week are lots of Kestrel potatoes, leeks, parsnips (some of which grew entwined around each other in a most kama sutra like fashion) and lettuce and i forget what else.

Monday was bright and breezy but not cold and a good four hour session from both of us saw quite a lot get done. I started to build a bunk bed for next years seed trays in the greenhouse. It looks ridiculously posh for an allotment being made of reclaimed bits of beautifuly varnished pine.
There is another layer to go on the top yet but ran out of nails and time to finish it - oh well, next time.

28 November 2006

Golden Cloud Sans Silver Lining

Taking Ben to school this morning there were two black horses by the roadside being groomed and brushed for the job ahead. Their job will be to carry the coffin containing the mum of one of Ben's classmates who collapsed and died of a heart attack. Bravely, the children (their are two), are already back at school but this morning they will be walking slowly with their dad behind those two black horses carrying their mum to her resting place in the Quernmore valley. I always think how beautiful this valley looks every time I drive out and this morning there is a golden light on the hills and in the clouds and I am absurdly pleased that the valley will look good for her. I would not be able to watch that scene without turning into a dribbling mess as it has too many resonances with my own childhood but I am glad that they are being involved in the process rather than (as I was), being sheltered and protected from it all because, without that involvement, you can't properly say goodbye, which makes things worse in the long run.

23 November 2006

A Farwell to Nick

We say farewell then to Nick Clarke who died this morning at the age of 58. It's a bit like losing a family friend. For the benefit of readers across the ponds, Nick was arguably the greatest radio journalist of all time, respected alike by his colleagues, by all the politicians of whatever persuasion and beloved of millions of the radio listening public. His voice alone could melt the polar ice caps and yet he was so incisive and intelligent that even the 'big' politicians feared being interviewed by him. I have no doubt, that if there were a God, he would declare himself unavailable for comment at this time.

22 November 2006

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?

We don't really care why the chicken crossed the
road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our
side of the road or not. The chicken is either with
us or it is against us. There is no middle ground
I invented the chicken. I invented the road.
Therefore, the chicken crossing the road
represented the application of these two different
functions of government in a new, reinvented way
designed to bring greater services to the American
Now at the left of the screen, you clearly see the
satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.
We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we
have not yet been allowed access to the other side
of the road.
MOHAMMED ALDOURI (Iraq ambassador)
The chicken did not cross the road. This is a
complete fabrication. We don't even have a chicken.
This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were
quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on
The chicken's habitat on the original side of the
road had been polluted by unchecked industrialist
greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled
habitat on the other side of the road because it was
crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.
To steal a job from a decent, hard-working American.
I don't know why the chicken crossed the road, but
I'll bet it was getting a government grant to cross
the road, and I'll bet someone out there is already
forming a support group to help chickens with
crossing-the-road syndrome. Can you believe this?
How much more of this can real Americans take?
Chickens crossing the road paid for by their tax
dollars, and when I say tax dollars, I'm talking
about your money, money the government took from you
to build roads for chickens to cross.
No one called to warn me which way that chicken was
going. I had a standing order at the farmer's
market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a
certain level. No little bird gave me any insider
Because the chicken was gay! Isn't it obvious? Can't
you people see the plain truth in front of your
face? The chicken was going to the "other side."
That's what they call it -- the other side. Yes, my
friends, that chicken is gay. And, if you eat that
chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott
all chickens until we sort out this abomination that
the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly
harmless phrases like "the other side."
Did the chicken cross the road?
Did he cross it with a toad?
Yes, The chicken crossed the road,
But why itcrossed,
I've not been told!
To die. In the rain. Alone.
I envision a world where all chickens will be free
to cross roads without having their motives called
into question.
In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the
road. Someone told us that the chicken crossed the
road, and that was good enough for us.
Isn't that interesting? In a few moments we will be
listening to the chicken tell, for the first time,
the heart-warming story of how it experienced a
serious case of molting and went on to accomplish
its life-long dream of crossing the road.
Imagine all the chickens crossing roads in peace.
It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.
It was an historical inevitability.
I may not agree with what the chicken did, but I
will defend to the death its right to do it.
What chicken?
To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.
You saw it cross the road with your own eyes! How
many more chickens have to cross before you believe
The fact that you are at all concerned that the
chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying
sexual insecurity.
I have just released eChicken 2003, which will not
only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your
important documents, and balance your checkbook -
and Internet Explorer is an inextricable part of
Did the chicken really cross the road or did the
road move beneath the chicken?
I did not cross the road with THAT chicken. What do
you mean by chicken?
Could you define chicken, please?
I missed one?

15 November 2006

Hunter Gathererer Clods

The Brave and fearless hunter returns from the fields after eating a pack of sherbet lemons facing perilous danger to bring home the bacon sprouts to his hungry tribe of clods.

14 November 2006

Beta Blockers

The transfer to the new beta blogger causes all sorts of problems requiring large doses of mogablog in order to retain sanity.

13 November 2006

Ecky Thump

oh dear oh dear oh dear it will no doubt be clear that I have been assiduoulsy studying html coding farting about with my blog and making a mess of things. Bothered? look at my face......etc.

Raked lots and lots of fallen leaves from the windy streets around the park today to make into mulch/compost and decided to change career and become a street cleaner. People actually stop and talk to you!

08 November 2006

Winter Work

Well, that's enough creativity for one year! Now back to gardening. The autumn sown broad beans think it's spring and i hope we get a bit of cold soon or they'll get too leggy and winter will pounce on them one day and give them a nasty surprise. We harvested the very last crop of tomatoes on Monday....in the first week of November! I ask you, what is the world coming too?

We've sent off our seed guardian seeds down to the HSL and some pictures of our heritage crops for use in their catalogue. There was mangold, achocha, asparagus kale, blue queen dwarf beans, caseknife, grass pea cicerchia. We got a nice e mail back to say they were very happy with both the seeds and the photographs. Now looking forward to receiving the HSL catalogue after Christmas to plan next years gardening adventures.

If you missed out on GG's very good recipe for using the mangolds then here it is again. I hope a few readers can be persuaded to give mangolds a try out...they are yummy.

Parboil mangold, small turnip, parsnip, carrot; fry small onion with crushed garlic and place with bare covering of vegetable stock & majoram in roasting dish, (at this point the colours are exquisite - marbled butter-cup yellow in the mangold, orange of carrot, white of turnip,cream of parsnip and dark red of onion), top with mixture of wholemeal breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and parsley and dot with butter. Bake for 40 minutes. Delicious.

Work goes on clearing and manuring and this year I'd like to collect masses of leafmould to cover the bare plots as we haven't got round to sowing any green manures.

Should do a bit of shed maintenance too really. Maybe I could just ring Alizon for that :-)....she owes us.

07 November 2006

On Pendle Hill - Part 2

Dear reader: This is the second part of a shortie called ‘On Pendle Hill’. Part one is a post or so ago so read that first or skip the whole thing if you don’t like shorties!

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to schools of witchraft & wizardry or to broomsticks or to persons who could remotely be described as having a life is entirely intentional and actionable…..if you dare.

Part 2:

Hey-how for Hallow-e'en!

When all the witches are to be seen,

Some in black and some in green,

Hey-how for Hallow-e'en!

Thout! tout! a tout, tout!

Throughout and about.

(tibbs and alizon trick or treating)

Turning north and west, Tibbs flew low over Cat-Gallows Wood and Scriddles Farm. Ahead lay the dark heart of Bowland Forest where, in olden times, the Om Ren stalked the unwary hunter or shepherd. On a bad day, he would tear them to pieces or perhaps hurl them over a precipice. On a good day and in a fine mood he might be satisfied with uprooting a tree to bash them with.

They had all, even Tibbs, saved many a shepherd from the unwelcome attentions of the Om Ren. He was, after all, at least as thick as a mountain troll and possibly twice as gullible and so presented no threat to a Witch. A simple fuddling spell was usually enough to set him wandering, confused and disorientated with a sour and puzzled expression, back into the depths of the forest. They looked for him more out of habit than anything else for he has not been seen by any of the forest spirits (according to Tibbs), for at least two hundred years now.

Demdike sped up and edged, as close as she dared, alongside Alizon.
‘Tha’ve bought nuther new un then?’ she said, nodding at Alizon’s broom, ‘wastin tha monee agin’.

‘Aye, ‘tis the new Cirrus 2006,’ said Alizon, ‘from the Hogwash school of witchcraft and wizardry down the valley. `Tis very fast and light with built in nav control.’ She pressed a knot in the witch-wood and an illuminated display panel appeared at the top of the broom. Demdike cackled and almost fell off her broom calling over to the others to come and see Alizon’s latest folly. Alizon explained that the broom had the latest satellite Witch Positioning System (WPS) technology and she showed them the displays for course, wind speed, altitude and proximity sensors. She showed them how to programme in their destination and watched as the system worked out the fastest route to Lancaster through the various cloud formations avoiding areas of potential rain or wind sheer but including suggestions for sightseeing variations or coven visiting en route. By now, they were all cackling so loudly Tibbs wondered if there were heads turning in the farmhouses below. ‘Tis Wi-Fi enabled,’ said Alizon, not about to give in. The howls of derision rose to deafening levels and a fox looked up and gave an answering howl on the moors below.

Alizon pursed her lips and pressed another knot on the Cirrus 2006. Up on the display came the Witch Shopping Channel with a special offer on “Thermal Tights for Late Night Flights – Double Stitched, Padded Gussets for Strength and Durability’ - Offer must end 5th November”

‘How much?’ gawped old Chattox, squinting at the tiny screen.

Demdike was laughing so much her eyes were streaming and she could no longer see where she was going, let alone the WPS display…. now announcing “Camel Motions Make Better Potions – See our new range of energy saving cauldrons – Super Low Carbon Emissions Guaranteed”.

Demdike stopped to wipe the tears from her eyes. Whin Fell lay far below outlined in moonlight and shadows; the familiar pattern of limestone rocks unchanged for countless centuries, centuries which had seen the world change beyond all recognition. You were counted lucky, in 1620, if you had sufficient food, clothing and shelter just to keep body and broomstick in one piece. There were precious few opportunities for retail therapy in 1620: there were precious few shops! Perhaps one could forgive a little indulgence now and then. She felt uneasy, nevertheless. Somehow the balance felt all wrong now: the earth was being consumed and yet still they wanted more and more and more and more and the spirits of many animals had given up and left with many more preparing to do so. It could be a cold and lonely planet in not too many years if people did not soon come to their senses. ‘Perhaps,’ she thought, ‘witches should intervene a little more.’ Tricky business that though, as Demdike knew to her cost.

The others had crossed Whin Fell already and were turning now towards Clougha Pike and the lights of Lancaster beyond. Demdike roused herself, flicking her fingers to send her negative thoughts and feelings back into the darkness where they were always available. After all, if a witch cannot have a little fun on All Hallows, then when can she?

By the time she caught up, Alizon was demonstrating the Cirrus 2006’s turbo boost and stealth modes and enjoying the looks of disbelief and incredulity from old Chattox; even Tibbs was impressed which was a rare thing indeed.

They glided silently across Hala Beck and angled down onto the allotments looking for the familiar outline of Tom’s shed. It was quickly apparent to them that something was not quite right and they fell silent, allowing their senses to probe the air, the soil, and the echoes of recent activity (which remain present far longer than mortals ever suspect). Tibbs sensed a hedgehog in a dense part of the hedge behind the shed, drowsy and almost asleep, but aware, as animals always are, of the presence of immortals. Tibbs changed shape and nudged through the undergrowth stopping to make the formal greetings and ask the necessary permissions before proceeding into the hogs lair to ask for news.

Alizon felt no need to wait for Tibbs news. She felt sure she knew the story already from the feel of the soil and the stillness of the air above it, and she was sad. She dismounted and parked her broom against the greenhouse. Noticing a cracked pane, she placed her palm against it and spoke a few words and felt the glass meld and become whole again. A further incantation banished a years worth of grime and mould and the glass sparkled in the moonlight.

Demdike walked round the plot, noting here and there the tell-tale signs of neglect and sensing the lethagy of the plants that remained. She spoke the spells of release at each corner of the plot; north and south and east, from where new life begins, and west, to where it departs. She felt the ground stir and the air lift the instant the spell cycle was complete.

Tibbs emerged from the hedge boy-formed, pulling a large thorn from the black sleeve of his jerkin. He sensed at once that old Demdike and Alizon had done what was required to heal the plot and to make it vibrant once more. He felt sure the new owner would notice the change the next time he or she came to visit. There was, however, further business to attend to that would require powers beyond his but which, (if the hog had told him correctly), old Demdike and old Chattox could perform easily if they so chose. Tibbs called them together behind old Tom’s shed, and this is what he said.

‘All things have their place and their rightness; the rat, the crow, the fox and the magpie. Even the unseemly things of this earth that are untouched and feared; the hairy spider, the snake that slithers and the maggots that eat of dead flesh.’ He paused while they nodded agreement. ‘Except for the slug,’ Tibbs coughed, ‘which is a right royal pain in the butt!’ The witches nodded harder. ‘Be that as it may,’ he continued, ‘there is great fear hereabouts. In the low reaches of the plot and the dead of night there be mortals who do sit with guns shooting all comers for sport and for fun. Rats crawl, mortally wounded, to die in the Beck. Crows fall dead from the sky and rot where they fall. The birds have ceased to sing in the day now and offtimes, the plot holders look skyward and wonder why.’ As Tibbs finished speaking there came the clear sound of a gun; distinct it was, from the intermittent sound of pre Guy Fawkes night fire-crackers being let off.

Old Chattox spat a curse and rose swiftly into the air. She circled above the sound of gunfire and from her broom there descended a thick mist which shrouded the area. To mortal eyes, it would appear strange enough, and from above, stranger indeed: a pure circle of cloud-formed opaqueness glittering with eerie moonlight, beautiful yet sinister.

Demdike toured the nearby greenhouses tapping each one with her wand. From each, the glass seemed to flow like a silven waterfall and to mould itself; now into a fox, now a rat, here and there a crow or a magpie, all with eyes blacker than death itself, and with teeth, claws or talons gleaming with a lethal sharpness.

The thick circle of cloud grew tighter and tighter around the hapless shooters as they re-loaded their weapons. ‘Tha’s a bit rum,’ said one, looking around uneasily at the encircling mist. They all stood now, dropping their weapons and staring around the circle looking in vain for a gap or a way out. The air within the circle became icy cold and the men, in panic now, started to make a run for it. As they did so, there emerged from the mist, thirteen forms of pure malevolence: dripping blood from talon or claw and staring with cold, dead eyes as the three, now petrified mortals, shrank back to the centre of the circle whimpering with fear. Then emerged from the mist a little boy, of angelic countenance, followed by three dark figures shrouded in black hooded cloaks who seemed to glide across the earth behind him. The men slumped back down onto the crates they had been sitting on and searched the boys face for some glimmer of hope. Tibbs approached to within a few feet of the men and stopped. Slowly, very slowly, he raised his glittering red eyes to them.

‘Trick, or treat,’ he said.

It is said that the men were discovered three days later, dishevelled, speechless and utterly exhausted and completely unable to find their way out of the allotments. When someone rang old Tom about it, he burst out laughing and said ‘Tha’s easy enough. Tell each one to take off an item of clothing, turn it inside out, and put it back on and then they’ll find the way out.’ His laughter brought on another bout of coughing and when it had subsided he said as an afterthought ‘Oh, by the way, tell them tomorrow….no rush.’

‘Eejits,’ said Alizon, picking up one of Tom’s choicest pumpkins.

‘Aye,’ said Demdike, ‘eejits right enough.’

‘Them leeks look good,’ said old Chattox pointing, ‘there, next to that shed with the bit of stained glass in the door. Oooh look! They’ve got some mangel wurzels too….haven’t had one of those in a good many year.’

‘Go on then,’ said Demdike, ‘but mind your manners…..not too many now.’

On the flight back to Malkin Tower, old Demdike pulled close to Alizon again and whispered. ‘How much were them tights again….the purple ones?’

Days later, when Tom felt strong enough, he was taken down to the plot for a last look. The birds were singing like crazy and his plants seemed to be dancing on their beds. He noticed there was a pumpkin missing and smiled.

T' end

Clods Caution: As Alizon mentions in the first part of this tale, prior to their executions, the Pendle Witches placed a curse on the City of Lancaster. It states that whoever shall come to live in the City shall never be able to leave it. Uncannily, the curse seems to work very well. Many have tried, but very few have succeeded.

06 November 2006

For Fawkes Sake!

Sunday pm. Went up to Miss Whalley's field at noon with Ben to help build the bonfire. carried dozens of pallets up the hill and stacked them till we had a bonfire 30 foot high! Others built a viking ship replete with portholes and sail and all outlined in fire rope or whatever the stuff is. neither the council nor the vampire developers can do anything with this piece of land because Miss Whalley donated it to the children of lancaster in her will for ever and ever and ever amen so the vampires can just fuck off. There are some developers who want to ruin the canal corridor (which is council ownded land) and stick up a fucking multistorey car park and a shopping development with a bunch of shops that we neither want nor need and ruining what could be a magical open space with all sorts of goodness done to make it even better council willing which they're not. I hate them and all their ilk.
Sunday 7.30. The fire is lit and flames shoot into the sky and you can feel the heat and we are standing a good 50 yards away.

Kamal (from Turkey) is wearing a silly hat...we all are and we have eaten the parkin which was parkin good. I ponder as I gaze the mountainous flame the source of writers block which in my case turns out to be a catholic eejit of an English teacher and i can't even remember his name or how old I was but not very. anyway, the assignment was a composition and I wrote one about the aberfan disaster in wales when a school was buried by a mountain of mine tailings. many children and teachers were killed and the news affected me badly not because I had any particular connection with those children, teachers or that area but for some reason it just did and I decided to write about it. hands it in and said eejit calls me out in front of the whole class...
Teach: Who wrote this?
Clod: I wrote it.
Teach: Don't believe you. Where did you copy it from?
Clod: Nowhere, I wrote it.
Teach: Did you get it from a newspaper report?
Clod: No.
Teach: Who helped you then?
Clod: No one, I wrote it myself
Teach: You must've had help
Clod: No.
Teach: You must've. Who was it?
Clod: I didn't, no one, I......
....and so on for ten minutes or so till it got so upsetting and humiliating that I could've hit the twat or shouted out....oh all right then fucking aldous fucking huxley wrote the damn thing and are you happy now? but i didn't of course and it may be possible to discern that i am still somewhat angry about it. i wish the eejit would read this and then explode. anyway i was gazing at the huge flame and wondered why I still found it difficult to sit down and write the end of my story and i decided that was the reason and let's face it it's always easier to blame someone else isn't it? Jesus, why am I so angry today? Is it coz I got told off for leaving the marmite and the marmalade jars out on the kitchen table? could be....who knows?

31 October 2006

On Pendle Hill

What use is winter other than for firesides, mulled wine and stories?

On August 20 1612, ten people were hanged at Lancaster Castle for the murder by witchcraft of seventeen people. They are known the world over as the Pendle Witches.
What is not so well known is that Old Chattox (Anne Whittle), Old Demdike (Elizabeth Southerns) and her grandaughter Alizon were jolly keen gardeners……….and still are!

All Hallows Eve 2006 – Part One

Old Demdike smoothed out her black smock. Her ‘familiar’ Tibbs, (at sundry times a fox or a hare or a little boy with black and brown jerkin), lay, now in the form of a black labrador, curled up cozily in front of the big log fire in the drawing room of Malkin Tower.

Old Chattox stood by the west window gazing through the smokey leaded panes out onto the side of Pendle Hill where a procession of men, women and children carrying ridiculous looking brooms and lanterns snaked their way up the winding path to the summit. Alizon came over to stand and watch. The children, pinkfaced in the wind, jumped out at each other from the rocky outcrops hooting and wailing and letting out piercing screams of delicious fright.

‘All Hallows’, muttered old Demdike, dipping into the fireside cauldron for another glass of warm spiced wine, ‘tis the same every year now’. Alizon turned from the window to face her grandma. ‘Do they celebrate our deaths then….up there?’

‘Them?’ Old Chattox snorted derisively, ‘they celebrate nothing!’ ‘Look what they do at Yuletide; they see nothing; feel nothing. They care even less.’

‘True enough’, old Demdike sipped her wine and scratched behind Tibbs ear. ‘Whither tonight then – this All Hallows?’

A shower of sparks drifted up as burning logs shifted and resettled. Alizon came over to squat beside Tibbs and pull his silky black ears, which he loved. She watched the sparks rise and settle on the sides of the chimney creating patterns of glowing, dancing red spots on the sooty face of the bricks. She threw on another log to make more sparks rise. Tibbs transformed into his boy form, sitting up and squatting companionably at Alizon’s side to watch with her, his blond hair glowing red-gold in the firelight. ‘I want to go back to Lancaster’, he said, his hand creeping into Alizons lap to hold hers. ‘It’s been long enough’.

‘Tosh’, grumbled Chattox, turning from the window and forking her fingers, ‘long enough is not long enough. I can still feel the rope round me neck!’ She walked to the fireplace joining the others and fingered a not-forgotten tightness at her throat.

‘394 years’, said Tibbs, ‘you miss mortality so much, still?’

Demdike watched Chattox approach over her gently steaming wine glass.
‘The mortals were stupid then and they are stupid now…..the centuries do not change that’. She gestured to the lantern lit procession on the hill outside. ‘Perhaps no more stupid there than they are here’.

‘Aye’, Alizon agreed, squeezing Tibbs hand, ‘we cursed that city well enough ‘er we left and some are there now that have learned and not a few that can SEE.’ Tibbs smiled now, encouraged by Alizons support. ‘And’, added Tibbs, ‘owd Tom grows a fine big pumpkin’. He looked up at old Demdike with the question in his eyes for it was she who would decide.

Demdikes eyes were now fixed on the fireplace and she was silent. The flames glazed her eyes till she saw far beyond them. Presently she sighed, drained the last of her warm red wine, and putting the glass down said simply, ‘We’ll go then.’

Old Chattox said nothing. It was pointless to complain, and besides, she was curious to see the old place after all these years. She too had a soft spot for ‘owd Tom’ who was kind and generous and whose pumpkins did make the finest soup in Lancashire, east, west, north or south, and that was saying something.

Alizon stroked the witchwood of her broom and there came the sound as of a strong wind in a living tree and the ash and hazel twigs scratched together and quivvered in anticipation. ‘Do you follow?’ she said, turning to the still boy-formed Tibbs. ‘I will,’ said Tibbs. ‘With me then?’ Alizon asked. ‘No, I will fly,’ said Tibbs, reluctant to break his fireside reverie. Tibbs stirred, and as he rose, he transformed into a large raven who’s feathers seemed to absorb every last drop of the now dwindling firelight. His raven eye flicked from Alizon to Demdike to Chattox, now all mounted and ready. ‘Away then,’ he said, rising swiftly and soundlessly into the moonlight above Pendle hill, where below, the revellers now circled a blazing summit fire.

They saw nothing, as usual.

……........to be continued

19 October 2006

'Ol Tom

I’d grown used to seeing him sat there between the shed and the greenhouse always gazing east across Hala beck and east again across the motorway that rumbles endlessly on, and east again across the Quernmore valley and then east again to who knows where? Not that gazing east is compulsory on our allotments, it’s just that if you’re prone to gazing, then that’s the direction to do it in. West would be boring….just a row of houses. North ditto. South…....a hedge. East has interest; a big sky; birds wheeling about above the beck; the felltops of Clougha and out over the Bowland forest to Amsterdam and beyond.

He sat on one of those old school chairs familiar thirty or more years ago; the ones with a tubular metal frame and a bit of moulded and varnished plywood to sit on and another bit to rest your back against. I remember dragging them stacked ten high, (to impress Susan Laker – who I fancied), across the school hall after assemblies or whatever. Remarkably, after all these years, his chair looks in good nick; not too much rust in the metal and the seat worn to a smooth, comfortable looking sheen after years of…....well, sitting.

No one seems to know for how many years he’s been sitting there soaking up the sun and the wind and the rain - though he’d drag the chair into the greenhouse if it came on too strong. Long enough anyway for the allotment to have cloaked itself round his being so he became the very soul of it and now he’s not there the soul seems to have gone out of it and the plot seems to be in mourning and is that possible?

His clothes wore him like the clay does its topsoil and so he blended into the plot and became indistinguishable from it so that some days you wouldn’t even register his presence at all till some small movement or other caught your attention: like scenery so familiar your brain filters the information and puts it into the ‘Take for Granted – Ignore Until Told Otherwise’ compartment of the brain wherever that is. I’m sure She Who Must Be Obeyed thinks I have a big one of those.

Whatever it is then, it must be serious to stop your easterly vigil so I will take it up for you then and wish you well. I hope you don’t miss the plot as much as the plot misses you. How bad can a dressing gown and slippers be? No, OK don't answer that.

11 October 2006

Reasons to be Cheerful # 1

Scientists discover incontrovertible evidence of chaos theory and loop quantum gravity in the interior of a red cabbage on an allotment in Lancaster.

03 October 2006


Despite the forkast wind and rain over the weekend we spent hours and hours in bright sunshine pulling spent crops, digging over and manuring beds, emptying the compost bins and mulching the strawberry beds and picking seed pods so the mice in the shed could have a jolly good feed. Don't know why the met is getting the forcast so consistantly wrong at the moment but I'm not complaining.

The tomatoes just kept on coming this year and have been wonderful. For those who may be partial to a bit of tomato sauce, this is a great way to use up a glut.

12lb Ripe Toms sliced
1.5oz salt
pinch of cayenne
ditto of paprika
1lb granulated sugare
1pt spiced vinegar
4tbsp tarragon vinegar

Put the tomatoes in a pan and cook gently until the skins detach. Rub the pulp through a seive and return to the cleaned pan. Add the salt, cayenne and paprika and cook until the mix begins to thicken. Add the sugar and flavoured vinegars and cook gently until creamy. Pour the souce into warm, clean sauce bottles and cover. Makes about 3 pints.

It is quite unlike any of the crap off the shelf varieties and the spices give it a subtle but delicious kick rather than putting the boot in so it still goes well with any number of dishes.

27 September 2006

Crab Apple Jelly

Every year you said it wasn't worth the trouble
you'd better things to do with your time
and it made you furious when the jars
were sold at the church fete
for less than the cost of the sugar.

And every year you drove into the lanes
around Calverton to search
for the wild trees whose apples
looked as red and as sweet as cherries,
and tasted sourer than gooseberries.

You cooked them in the wide copper pan
Grandma brought with her from Wigan,
smashing them against the sides
with a long wooden spoon to split
the skins, straining the pulp

through an old muslin nappy.
It hung for days, tied with string
to the kitchen steps, dripping
into a bowl on the floor
brown-stained, horrible,

a head in a bag, a pouch
of sourness, of all that went wrong
in that house of women. The last drops
you wrung out with your hands;
then, closing doors and windows

to shut out the clamouring wasps,
you boiled up the juice with sugar,
dribbling the syrup onto a cold plate
until it set to a glaze,
filling the heated jars.

When the jars were cool
you held one up to the light
to see if the jelly had cleared.
Oh Mummy, it was as clear and shining
as stained glass and the colour of fire.

Vicki Feaver

26 September 2006

Ben on the Tracks

A picture from outside the shed looking inside the shed and then outside the shed again and looking behind the shed all at the same time. Photoshop can go swivel. Good job the kettles boiling after all that effort!
'Yak Yak blether blah blah blah ya de ya de yah da....if only dad would shut up gardening could be fun'.

On the tracks at the Brandywine crossing in BC.

11 September 2006

External Auditors

The external auditors arrived on Saturday, (from Cobden Cobden & Cobden in Chesterfield), heavily disguised as Gravy Grandma and Grandad Beard. Ben worked really hard tidying up for the plot inspection in the hope of a glowing report or maybe rising up the allotment league tables a bit.

‘Wait’, you say, ‘they don’t have allotment league tables!’ ‘Ha’, sais Clodhopper, ‘just watch…..New Labour isn’t finished (quite) yet.’

Auditor 1 recoils nervously at her first sight of a Mangold. ‘Is that thing loaded’?

Auditor 2 swiftly whips out a 4 litre box of Cabernet Sauvignon…’We must stay tonight and eat this mangold to be on the safe side’.
‘To be on the safe side of what’?

The External Auditors are made to pick their own dinner….. spuds there beans there beets there leeks there and lettuce there getonwithit, whichtheydo. They then dissapear to go and watch Watford play Bolton (big mistake – Bolton win with a last minute penalty)……so we head on home to cook the pickings and drink the wine.

Cathy cooks THE most fabulous allotment meal and the Auditors visibly cheer up.

Then it is our turn to dissapear to play for a dance leaving the Auditors to read bedtime stories to Ben which they do nightnightsleeptight.

The roasted mangold is SO
delicious we wonder why it is only grown as a fodder crop….seems ridiculous but I bet no one has seen one in a shop….have you? Don’t take my word for it……can heartily recommend you grow some next season and try it out and not just for hurling either!

We get back from the dance after the witching hour and the auditors have become so cheerful they go to bed.

08 September 2006

Love in the Mist

Love in the Mist snuggled up behind the greenhouse...as you do.

These Abysinnian Gladiators guard the greenhouse and deter all would be tomato thieves.

07 September 2006

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbours Onions

The hell I shalln't! Just look at those beauties. They make ours look like adolescent pimples.
Cathy's been collecting seeds to save from various crops and here she is filling a basket with main crop desire. I did a spring clean of the shed and contemplated my navel which is getting bigger than it should be really.

29 August 2006

Moving Swiftly On

The achocha is very pretty but it's not produced a lot yet and a good puff of wind will have the whole lot over if we don't put a bit more support in.

These are grass peas from Italy, an experiment. You let them dry and treat like chick peas.

These are fingers from Scotland. You put them on a Celtic harp and they produce utter magic. But who's are they? The give away is below.

26 August 2006

Fungus Talking

Autumns fingers creep over Clougha and finger the plot imatiently. Enough of early springs and late Summers 'it's my turn now'.

Gaze at our Big Brassica Bed. Doomed, all doomed. What a bummer!

A sniggering laugh from the shadows
'you bet they are'

In the gloom twixt shed and greenhouse a fleeting movement

'You're Clubroot aren't you, why don't you just fuck off and leave us alone'?

'That's not my real name', the shape drifts back.

'Oh, I know your real name and I know (spit) your pH and I almost saw you then'.

'Oh yeah! What do I look like then'?

'Sort of a cross between Alfred Hitchcock and that big eejit in Little Britain'.

Clubroot grunts, irritated now. 'Hmmphh, well I'm stopping anyway and this Globular Warming will help me nicely thank you....think I might just spread out a bit too'.

'It's Global Warming idiot and don't even think about it or I'll push your pH up to 8...maybe even 9 and starve you to death'.

'Globular Smobular whatever. I don't starve easily and where are you going to get your brassicas from then'?


'Oh, that'll be satisfying won't it', Clubroot sarcastic now.

A shed plank whacks Clubroot where it hurts.....'OUCH'!

'Thanks Shed'

'No Problem'

Twilight deepens and children gather to play hide and seek on the allotments, careless like the fairies from the bottom of yer garden.

24 August 2006

Tangled Up In Red

The camera had not crossed the event horizon after all. It turned up down in the cellar in the side pocket of a rarely used rucksack. No one knows how it got there or no one is telling.

Because we did not pick out the side shoots the tomatoes are now in fall me down tangled up mode and we can't risk raising them coz the stems will just break. However incompetent it all looks it will give the other plotholders a good laugh and there will still be masses to harvest. The spare plants we had after filling the greenhouse were put outside and they too are very productive.

14 August 2006

Big Brother

While we've been away the eejits at work have clearly been misbehaving as the powers that be have now limited network access to a variety of internet sites on the grounds that too many staff are wasting time and bandwidth and hampering legitimate work related net access. The list of sites blocked includes:-
Online auctions Online gaming Pet sites Sports sites Sites kids often waste time on Sites about and selling clothing Sites about going on holiday Webmail sites Big brother.

Clearly then allotmenteering is not one of those categories people 'waste' time on and I may possibly be the only one who looks at these sites. You may think well why aren't you working instead of reading the muppet or mildew or horticultural or whotever. Well quite. In my defense all I can say is that I'm often at work till 11 at night when other network users are either tucked up safely in bed or in the pub and a large part of my job involves waiting for mayhem or chaos to break out and then dealing with it when it does. If nothing happens then nothing happens and so I may kill some time on finding out what killed my garlic. On the downside of this new regime is that they have also blocked pictures displaying so all I can get is your words of wisdom but not browse the often beautiful photography that goes with it.

Oh yes and that brings me to another whinge for the day. I have turned the house upside down and my camera has just vanished into a black hole or has at least crossed the event horizon and it's beginning to look like it's gone forever. I will send a jar of our finest preserve to anyone that comes up with the correct wacky location for my errant camera.

11 August 2006


Back home now and the plot looks good but since I seem to have lost the camera d'oh I can't put a picture up. We didn't pick out the tomato side shoots enough and the weight of fruit is now pulling some of them over. Everything else seems to be doing OK so there must've been a fair bit of rain over the last fortnight while we we're galavanting in Portugal.

I notice BBC News Magazine are running an allotment article today.

The Festival was completely bonkers as ever with far far too many nights that stretched into mornings and a bunch of folk that really have to be seen to be believed. Instead of running dance workshops next year we are discussing running workshops on cricket and how to make a good cup of tea, both of which the Portuguese, despite being otherwise delightful, are completely clueless about.

01 August 2006

Ovar & Out

Gotta leave the wide atlantic rollers of Ovar and head inland now to Carvalhais. ItÅ› too steamy so we are going to be extravagant and take a taxi there which will set us back 80 euros but given the distance that aint too bad and it would be a complicated journey by public buses and mega exhausting in this heat. Feeling a bit stronger now and more up to playing 3 two hour long sets + workshops in between. May not have access to a computer there so this may be the last post for a week or so.

28 July 2006

Ovar the Rainbow

We are in Ovar just south of Porto for a few days before heading inland to play at the Andancas festival for a week. If anything it is possibly a bit cooler here than it was in the UK but still pretty steamy. Not quite able to enjoy the moment though as stricken with a bout of bronchitis which is bad timing indeed. However it seems to be abating a little today and thank goodness I have four more days or so to get better before we have to play.

20 July 2006

Reality Cheque

The night sky was full of the heat of the day and the promise of more with beautiful and indescribable colours, crimsons, violets, reds and others that have no name.

Peace is not a destination. A road map implies a destination and movement, both of which are false. Peace is like rain, it comes into being if the conditions are correct otherwise it cannot be. It never came from the barrel of a gun and never will. Peace also requires vulnerability and open hearts. This is why politicians and so called religious leaders can never bring it about. Both are enclosed within their unbreakable shells of opinion, ideology or faith. Their hearts are closed and hard. Children of any race or culture will play happily together; race, religion and political boundaries mean nothing to them at all. The conflict can never end until we have learned this lesson from them. It is not that they are bad teachers it is just that adults are too stupid for words.

Woke this morning to the sound of rain trickling and gurgling in the gutters and to fresher air and a cooling breeze so welcome after the last few days.

14 July 2006

Carbon Dating

These are some of Ben's camping buddies.....they seem to be exploring the make-up potential of raw carbon.

They will go far.

13 July 2006

Plum Duff

This plum tree is only a youngster and it flowered beautifully and set to fruit so heavily that we had to remove some to prevent the branches collapsing under their own weight.

Over the space of a month it has turned from a healthy specimin into the sorry state you see in the picture and the branches are dying from the bottom up. Anyone know what might be going on here?

03 July 2006

Wildlife Garden

This is the wildlife garden and pond we have been working on at Ben's school. We ran a plant stall on Saturday during the school fete and Cathy worked up an activity which involved people walking round and identifying 10 of the plant species therein with plenty of clues to help them. A pleasing number of people took part also spending time reading the notices explaining what the wildlife garden was all about and looking at the childrens art work which we put up on posts round the pond. If they identified all the plants correctly they could choose a free plant from the stall.

The stall does not look so big in this pic but there were a fair few plants in there and the majority of them sold making the PTA about £75 which, if I have my way, they will spend on a half decent strimmer for the garden as the school does not possess one of it's own.

The pond viewing platform displayed some of the childrens artwork and other information.

I hope the display encourages the teachers to do some more work with the children in the wildlife area. It is a resource that more could be made of. Hopefully all the health and safety concerns have now all been met.

Can't blame the head really, it's a damnably litiginous world we live in now and they have to be careful coz if johnny gets post traumatic stress disorder from being croaked at by a frog, then someone is gonna have to Pay Compensation.

These blousy Livingstone Daisies did a good job attracting folk to the stall.

Such a hot weekend! And getting even hotter today. Spent all morning clodhopping; mostly hand weeding and ho hoeing. Stopped at noon and went home to cool off.

The white spider lilly Cathy sowed in the spring has flowered beautifully and now graces our bedroom windowsill. I needed to take it into the garden to get a decent shot of it. It leans out of it's pot at such a crazy angle that it is threatening to fall over.

27 June 2006

Berry Good Morning

The garden seems to be holding its breath this morning. There is a hushed stillness over everything. Even the birds seem reluctant to break the silence and those that do seem shy of their own chatter. Other mornings they are full of exhuberance and vitality but not today. Today everything seems to be tapped into the well of power behind life and is drinking quietly, gratefully, together.

Religion is one of the most destructive and divisive forces known to mankind. Each would have us drink from their own branded well and so divide us and have us destroy one another; in the name of what?

Things are waking up now but the stillness and silence has been established and no amount of noise can break it. The redcurrants are positively dripping off the bush and the first rasberries are ripe and ready to pick. I feel a fruity breakfast coming on.

20 June 2006

Midsummer Moments

The cooler weather and rain has been a blessing and is giving me a break from watering.

Most things are pretty much established now and are
growing well. The broad beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn look particularly fine and, touch wood, the dreaded black fly seems to be keeping a low profile for the moment.

I am pleased to say that most of the scurvy has cleared up now and I am able to get my hands mucky again though I have to be careful and smother them with emmolients to try to prevent it returning.

Today we be mostly 'arvesting strawberries and radish and lettuce and it do be so pleasing I am going to put them all in one sandwich and eat it neat so I am. Was getting very jealous of all the more southerly plotters who have been munching their own lettucees for weeks if not months now. The asparagus lettuce is very nice but I think my second sowing of it has been ruined as I left the seed tray out and it got thoroughly swamped by the rain.....der...should've sown it straight into the ground and that's the last of that seed I think. Oh well.

Was reading Seed News last night and I must confess I did not realise quite how much of a badness it was to use F1 Hybrid seeds. Now I have been shown the light, verily I vouchsafe unto thee, tho I be tempted 40 days and 40 nights, never again will I be seduced into such
wickedness no matter how tender, succulent, juicy, long, short, fat, hairy, smooth or disease resistant or damned cheap the product shall be amen..... three hail marys and four alfalfas.

When firms like Monsanto start taking over seed companies.....yech! tis time to revolt neh?
maybe long past time?

The eggs are from the very nice man further down the plots with the er....chickens. They were so warm and fresh and delicous but clearly they have been genetically engineered because they are making Ben's legs grow twice as fast as is normal for a seven year old.

After he'd stuffed me down the water barrel I thought it jolly decent of him to let me know that help was on the way and would be here in an hour or two and would I like a rocket sandwich to keep me going?

16 June 2006

This Life

What IS this life so full of slog
I have not time to sit and blog?

.....nor even eat vanilla fudge graham
wafer clusters with cashews whatever they

08 June 2006


...What's this chap doing about at breakfast time (Cinebar moth - Tyria Jacobaeae)? He's supposed to be nocturnal.

Oh dear, that's why he's not camera shy...it seems his night time wanderings in between the sticks of restless beans are over for ever.

What a beauty he was. The black and gold caterpillars of cinebar were used to control ragwort which they love to munch.

Seems to me there are far far fewer butterflys and moths around than there should be for the time of year. Anyone else noticing this?

Some of our plant outs will not yet be deep rooted enough to cope without water in this heat and it looks set to continue into next week by which time I will have hoiked 50 zillion cans of water 30 metres. I should then be ready to take on Arnold Swartzenegg.......er and similar oiks. Who says allotmenteering isn't aerobic?

Moons nice tonight. Hope it's clear when it comes full. There something special about the midsummer full moon neh? Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, Hot Moon are other names it goes by.

06 June 2006


Felix sunning himself on the rocks at the bottom of the garden. He's about to stick his head in the spiders web in the crevice.

"whatya lookin at wise guy - gemme a croaka-cola"

05 June 2006


Looking forward to these in a week or two with a nice single malt....I mean single cream.

The dreaded eczema has struck again and is doing a passable job of turning my hands into mincemeat. Just when I thought it was clearing up too. SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) has put me on a dairy free regime to see if that helps.....What, no cheese...intolerable. Anyway we'll give it a go and if it doesn't work I'll just have to chop my hands off and garden with my teeth. SWMBO is doing sterling work keeping it all going and has caught up with the planting out of stuff and much else besides. I did manage a bit of trimming the grass and another sowing of lettuce and collected a pile of comfrey to make some smelly fertiliser. No sign of of parsnips whatsoever which were sown yonks ago. So who looks a dumb ass now after all the blurb on parsnips last month? D'oh. Maybe it was duff seed. I dunno.

Fossicking about with
a camera is relatively
painless and I like these of the bees
borageing about in a buzzy
sort of way.