Funny how we take everyday things for granted. Postboxes for example. On my regular Ribblesdale stroll this week I noticed snowdrops growing by a postbox — and have to admit that until I’d seen both snowdrops and postbox together I’d not taken much notice of that bright red metal thing. It got me thinking about other postboxes around the Dales. I hunted through my photo archive for some more examples … and found these in Chapel-le-dale, Langstrothdale (above) and Mallerstang.
If you know of any postboxes in picturesque Dales locations let me know – I might do a bit of ‘collecting’ myself. Apparently there is such a thing as the Letter Box Study Group www.lbsg.org with a website and more than 600 members. I shan’t be joining, but surely taking photos of postboxes is more acceptable than searching the country to capture gas holders? I read this week about one chap who has this as a hobby. His pastime came to the notice of the newspapers when it was decided that the famous gas holder beside the Oval cricket ground in London (yes, non-cricket fans, it really is famous) is to be saved from demolition because it is seen as some kind of icon. Historic England adds: ‘…but our other beautiful gas holders are going’ [to be demolished]. Beautiful? Come on! Seems it is acceptable to churn up hundreds of miles of priceless countryside for the pointless HS2 railway, and to allow our green and pleasant land to be fracked up to kingdom come, but not to knock down a rusting, useless gas holder? It’s a mad, mad world.
Took my first sunset shots of the year last Sunday up on Winskill Stones in Ribblesdale. The late evening sunshine lit up the limestone and also the distant western side of Penyghent. The last few minutes before the sun disappeared over Lancashire provided some startlingly vivid colours.
The following time-lapse shots are a bit arty-farty for me, I know, but I display them only to show the speed of the water at Stainforth Foss on Tuesday following heavy overnight and morning rain in Ribblesdale. The shutter speed is set at just one-fifth of a second which tells you much about the volume and speed of the water passing in front of my camera lens. If you’d like to join me for a couple of minutes at the popular spot you can see a video here https://youtu.be/Agba6D6Txvg Excuse the quality — it’s taken on my normal camera not a video camera, and I was being buffeted by a strong wind.
After the rain came Wednesday’s snow. The village (Langcliffe) took on a different persona — cosier, somehow. The photo of St John’s church (above) looks like a black-and-white, but it isn’t. And despite seeing them a thousand times before, I just had to take a trip further up Ribblesdale to see how the Three Peaks were looking in the snow – and they didn’t disappoint.
This week I’ve had to endure one of life’s greatest hardships. It’s not been easy for me, especially living on my own. Having no kids or partner around to help out has been a total nightmare. Yes, the TV remote broke. Getting up to manually change channels or just to turn the damn thing on and off has left me exhausted and frustrated. Must be the batteries (the remote’s, not mine) I thought, so off I trotted in the snow in search of power. Alas, new batteries didn’t solve the problem. So, another trip to town for a replacement zapper — no one had anything suitable for my TV. Amazon it was then. Three days delivery they said. Aargh! Just how did folk manage before remote controllers?
Regular readers will know of my fondness for the deserted Ribblesdale hamlet of Thorns (pictured above), just a mile or so from Ribblehead Viaduct. Thorns was an important location on a former packhorse route. Records of the settlement I often visit for quiet contemplation, date back to 1190, when it belonged to Furness Abbey. Wills, parish records and censuses indicate that there were five tenements in 1538, three households in 1841, and one uninhabited dwelling in 1891. Those stats are courtesy of the charity Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) which this week announced it was looking for budding archaeologists to take part in an archaeological survey of Thorns. Visit the website www.ydmt.org for more information.
Yesterday was my birthday. It’s the 63rd time this as occurred so I’m used to birthdays and I don’t take much notice of them now. However, I must admit I was a bit taken aback when I read that a birthday flypast tribute by the Red Arrows had been arranged. How pleasing too that my big day was also the 80th birthday of the Spitfire and I could share my special display with that great invention.
The village school closed back in 2007. It was sold six years later for £230,000 and remains unoccupied, the new owners’ plans being refused permission by the National Park. I’ve often wondered who pocketed the money and what was done with it. What I do know for certain is that some accountant somewhere declared that the school as an education establishment was ‘economically unviable’ and shut it down. Its closure certainly wouldn’t have been decided by locals or teaching staff. Village schools help keep dales communities together – but that’s not something an accountant working on behalf of government can quantify in monetary terms so it is ignored.
I know a lot of teachers – or more precisely ex-teachers (many of them jumping ship as soon as their pensions would allow them to do so) – and I’m probably more sympathetic to the plight of teachers and how the education system is being run than a lot of the general public. I attended teacher training college before finding an opening in journalism and I was married to a teacher for many years. So I’ve kept an eye on education matters – as we all should, really … after all, this is the country’s and our children’s/grandchildren’s future we’re talking about.
The problems and solutions are far too numerous and complex for me to go into in depth here. But I will say that I wish politicians would just leave alone something about which they know and understand very little. Many of them attended expensive private schools which bear no co-relation with the education of the masses. Most have no idea about the everyday life of teaching a class or running a school, yet ministers (and accountants) decide the rules and regulations by which our children are educated. I have the feeling that government would prefer if teachers just brainwashed children so that they don’t have any individual thoughts, or think creatively or question their elders.
One of my singer/songwriter heroes is Tom Paxton, and this week I listened again to one of his songs from the 1960s, called ‘What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?’. The verses, although based on the USA at the time, could well ring true today in this country and elsewhere. Here are some of the words which his little boy said in response to the question:
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody’s free.
And that’s what the teacher said to me.
I learned that policemen are my friends.
I learned that justice never ends.
I learned that murderers die for their crimes.
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.
I learned our government must be strong.
It’s always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
I learned that war is not so bad.
I learned of the great ones we have had.
We fought in Germany and in France.
And some day I might get my chance.
That’s what I learned in school today.