Yorkshire and back via Coventry

It has been a hectic few weeks recently and somehow there has always been something much more pressing than penning an update. However, I have carved out a couple of hours before dinner (which Keith is cooking) to catch up with emails and here I am at last in the sweet slot between (i) the emails I had sensible answers for and (ii) the rest – which I am putting off, hoping for inspiration.

So what’s been happening at Ruthven? Well, Mum has been rather poorly, so amidst the other peregrinations described below we have had a few trips to the BGH. She’s on the mend now we hope, and, as of today, was sufficiently chipper to decide she is much better at determining the correct dosage of her medications than the doctor or her healthcare professional grandchildren. (We knew for sure she was ill when she went quietly to A&E when Lachlan told her to). I fully expect a clip on the ear when she reads this so to get my retaliation in first am including an illicit photograph of the invalid striding out on a walk today.

Keith and I made a short trip to Yorkshire for a delayed anniversary jolly. We had a glorious dinner at the Star Inn (which I heartily recommend, though by the end of the tasting menu I was totally stuffed), mooched around Helmsley and took the walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey and back again. Helmsley is a very “picture perfect” town and clearly a popular tourist stop for visitors to the Dales. There’s an abundance of excellent cafes, art galleries and fine produce establishments, so much so that we did find ourselves wondering if the curse of Air BNB had perhaps hollowed the town of locals. However, we were heartened to find that there is a lovely big walled garden run by local volunteers (well worth a look – even at the tail end of October it was pretty – with stupendous dahlias) and a couple of well tended and well loved allotments which I always think an excellent sign of community life. We were put onto the walk to Rievaulx by a young couple who were also staying at the Star over breakfast. It sounded just the job before the forthcoming long drive back via Wales (for a family funeral), so off we trotted. It was a lovely walk through farmland and then down through woods and along the river. I found myself strangely fascinated by the drystone walls, which are a different pattern to our local ones with the stones chipped into narrow slabs. The signpost indicated 4 miles (Keith thinks 3 but I remember otherwise and am claiming the extra mile both ways) and it was definitely up hill and down dale, with a vertiginous stone staircase mid way. We were rather puffed by the time we got to Rievaulx but a cup of tea and a wander round the ruins revived us and we took half an hour off the walk time on the way back!

It was Cistercian monks from Rievaulx who founded Melrose Abbey and there were many links between the two Abbeys so I was interested in the local connections. Waltheof (a name to conjure with there) a stepson to David I of Scotland was just such a link. He had entered the church in England and had been in the running for Archbishop of York no less but fell foul of King Stephen, probably because of his links, via King David, to Empress Matilda, and was passed over. Giving up on the “prince of the church” gig he became a Cistercian monk, latterly at Rievaulx Abbey. From there he was elected to the abbacy of Melrose and, after his death, a cult of sainthood quickly grew up. The next abbot of Melrose tried to squash this, to no avail, so his successor decided to just run with it. After all, there was a vacancy for a local saint. Just to throw in another local link the same Waltheof was a direct descendant of Uhtred the Bold of Bamburgh, just along the coast, the real life character who was the inspiration for the series of Bernard Cornwell novels. televised recently as The Last Kingdom.

We wended our way back home via Wales (for a family funeral – but a life well lived and loved) and the Lake District. We returned to find Mum poorly again and Lyra very much in militant mode. Having exhausted her good girl tendencies by sweetly looking after Mum in our absence, Lyra let rip celebrating our return by rolling vigorously and repeatedly in fox poop at the first opportunity. To the black mark earned by going off without her, was added another for hosing her down and inflicting the dog shampoo to abate the stench… Things took a further turn for the worse when a day or so later the aggreived pooch managed to hurt her paw (possibly a thorn or wasp treading incident) and muggins had to hold her still whilst Raymond next door took a look. That proved my third and final strike. I was positively shunned afterwards. Madam would condescend to take a proffered tripe stick or chicken foot but all affection was withheld and if I got too close she evacuated the room. It has taken several days of intensive wheedling to be rehabilitated and allowed to return from Coventry………Mum, on the other hand, has been positively reasonable (another clear indicator that she’s been poorly).

In other news we have pressed 2 trugs of apples (28 bottles so far), I have bottled the hedgerow gin, made yet more quince jelly and another vat of quince and lemon curd and mum and I have shelled and toasted a vast quantity of hazelnuts gathered by mum under the very noses of the Ruthven squirrels. No doubt the country is going to the dogs and I have very little (for which read “none at all”) faith in the shower in power but whatever happens we will not be short of preserves.

An overdue garden update is pending, but only after the outstanding emails…

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