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Thursday 30th April, 2020

Last day of April – not a month I’ll be sorry to see the back of. Another grey morning and the air certainly feels quite chilly. I see from several comments on Facebook that people are attacking journalists for questioning the government during the daily briefing. That’s ridiculous, s functioning democracy needs an independent media able and willing to hold the government to account. From what I’ve seen, the questioning hasn’t been very aggressive and when journalists have dug down and looked into the government’s failings they’ve been shut out. This reflects worse on the government than the media and suggests to me that they have something to hide. They should accept there have been mistskes, accept responsibility for those mistakes and explain how they are going to move forward. As a country we have handled this worse than many countries and better than some. Nobody should expect the government to be perfect but we should expect them to be honest and this is where the current crop of ministers fall down.

An ansolutely miserable day for walking the dog – we cut the walk down (only went about a third of the way round)) then turnerd back. It was foul weather. “C” didn;t seem too bothered by the shortness of it though!

There were river birds out enjoying the fish being near the surface though.

As soon as we got back, “S” and I went shopping. I dropped her off at Sainsbury’s as there were some things we needed that we can only get there, while I went and did the start of month shop at Tesco. I wore a snood pulled up over my mouht and nose as per new Scottish government guidelines and felt like a very bad bandit. About a third of the shoppers were doing similar – if nothing else it stopped me touching my face while shopping which I guess is the reason for doing it. “S” walked to meet me at Tesco when she’d got the few things we needed from Sainsbury’s, we emptied the glass into the recycling bins there then we had to go to Pets at Home for pet food for both the cats and the dog. Got home just before 1 and had some lunch.

Showered and changed after lunch (I was still quite wet from the morning walk) then it was game time. A slightlier earlier start as it was a long game – The Glasgow Game. A version of Monopoly but where you buy shares rather than properties. It’s a good take and since there are 2 share certificates for each company you often end up having to bargain to get control of the company.

Ended the game at 5pm with “S” the undisputed winner. Now making dinner – Creamy Chicken, bean and leek tray bake. This is one we’ve had before and is lovely. Our modification of the recipe, though, is that we have pasta stirred through the sauce before the last bake.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/creamy-chicken-bean-leek-traybake?utm_source=app

Tonight is Theatre night and this week’s National Theatre production is Frankenstein, we’ve been looking forward to this one since we heard it was the next one on!

Enjoying this beauty while we watch the show.

The play was outstanding – can’t commend it highly enough. The physicality of Benedict Cumberbatch’s  performance thoughout but especially in the first 15 minutes is incredible. I know and really like the book. Definitely one of my favourites which I’ve readseveral times. We also have a full audiobook reading and a radio play and this adaptation was as good as any and rar better than any film I’ve seen. Exceptional.

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Wednesday 29th April, 2020

Looks rainy outside as I lie here listening to The Long Utopia. Terry Pratchett was an excellent writer. Another 20 minutes or so while we drink our tea then up for breakfast and to start another day. I’ve been pondering the latest advice from the Scottish government on face coverings. The advice is to consider wearing a cloth covering when in confined public spaces but that it’s not mandatory. When i go shopping tomorrow, should i wear a winter snood? I don’t even like wearing things over my face when I’m skiing and only do when it’s really cold but if this helps to stop the spread and help others feel safer i guess i should.

Managed the walk without getting wet although there is certainly rain in the sky and I’m sure it’ll come some time today. Quite a bit cooler than it has been, even for these last few days and there were lots of people about today (well, 5).

The gulls were all quite active along the river.
The Heron has moved back to its old place on the islet where the Allanwater joins the Forth.

There’s a rather large tree appeared in the middle of the river. It wasn’t there yesterday but the river level is surely too low for it to have floated down? The river is tidal all the way up to Stirling so it may have been lifted during the night’s tide and then got stuck here when the levels fell. It’s just upstream frmo the wier where the old salmon trap is so I can’t see it being able to float much further unless and until we get some serious rain and the river gets back up to winter levels. We’ll have to keep an eye on it.

According to Google, this is, quite aptly at the moment, the caterpillar of the Drinking Moth!

After we got back from the walk I started to clean the kitchen, it’s a week since it was done and since we are all virtually living in here it certainly needed it. I dealt with the surfaces then washed and disinfected all of the bins while “S” swept and mopped the floor (I hate cleaning the floor). The bins were, I am ashamed to admit, absolutely disgusting. We have a full set of little bins for each of the seperate big bins – general rubbish; paper and cardboard (shredded all of the emvelopes etc frmo the post too today); plastic and metal; glass; food waste. We use a comostable caddy-sack in the food waste so, oddly, that was the cleanest. We wash out the plastic a metal before they go in but that means things often go in the bin wet so that was by far the worst and the bottles, for the same reason. Looks like I’ll need to take the glass box to Tesco when I go this week to get rid of it – it’s building up again. Anyway, they’re all outside now, upside down hopefully drying enough to come back inside after lunch.

“S” and I watched the latest episodes of Have I got News for You and The Mash Report this afternoon before it was game time. Today we played The Weakest Link.

You even get an Anne Robinson mask to wear while you insult the competitors if you’re playing the host! The questions certainly seemed a bit dated now – I think we got this not long after we were married so early 2000s and a lot of the questions would have been pop culture at the time. needless to say, the girls thought they were all historical!

Now making dinner, another new recipe – we’re trying this Lamb Meatball Jalfrezi from the Independent.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/recipes/fakeaway-cookbook-recipe-jalfrezi-meatballs-flatbread-pizza-cooking-instructions-a9320546.html

Dinner was good, as expected.

Called dad while dinner was cooking, it’s his 83rd birthday. So sad that the present situation means we can’t spend time with him. We should be going home this weekend to celebrate with everyone on Saturday but this birthday party has also been put on hold like my sister’s. We came back to the UK to be able to spend more time with family and we’ve been locked down for 6 weeks. Once we can visit family again we are due a major blowout.

Roman Holiday was good, we all thoroughly enjoyed the harmless innocent fun of it.

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Tuesday 28th April, 2020

Grey looking morning today and definitely chillier. The morning papers seem full of the PMs comments yesterday about not lifting the lockdown. The various ministers on TV and radio yesterday all gave out the same message so it looks like the more reckless members of his party have been disappointed. This is good, choosing between public health or the economy is a false choice. We’re not through the peak yet so any easing would rapidly increase infection and the death rate would rocket to US levels. We have to keep going. 20,000 hospital deaths is a frightening number. The recent reports of a serious and connected illness affecting children is deeply worrying. The only option is to maintain the lockdown and stop the spread. Everything else can be dealt with later.

Not too bad a morning for walking the dog.

Spent most of the day helping “E” with her school work then before we knew it, it was game time. Had to play in the living room today as we were pllaying the Doctor Who game (a question/answer game with one set of questions on DVD).

Straight on with dinner after we finished as it takes quite a while to make. We’re having Asian Aubergine and Pork Hot Pot.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4679/asian-aubergine-and-pork-hotpot?utm_source=app

Never made this before and it was really good, highly recommended. We had it with noodles and some mixed veg.

Bake Off is on this evening as is Inside the Factory so this evening’s viewing is all sorted through until 10pm.

More from Doodlemoose, we think we have them all.

Inside the factory was fascinating, making Baileys. Enjoyed this while watching.

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Monday 27th April, 2020

Slept solidly through until about 6 which was pretty good considering my back is still painful. Up for breakfast but a slower move afterwards as we watched the PM. He hit the right tone, it was really important that he put the neoliberals in his party back in their boxes and confirmed that public health will guide the lifting of restrictions not economics. Let’s hope this continues and he is able to pivot the Tory party back to a more centrist road open to collaboration and less nationalistically jingoistic. Let’s hope he starts to look more towards Europe again and less towards the USA.

Breakfast was porridge for most of us but toasted cheese for “I” as she’s unfortunately decided she doesn’t like porridge any more. AFter breakfast we watched the PM as I mentioned then out with the dog. A normal walk today, just the river loop on our side. Not as nice a day as over the weekend – quite a cool wind on our side of the loop but got quite hot when the wind was blocked on the far side of the loop.

Birdsong on today’s walk.

After the walk I helped “E” with her French work (this is getting hard, I decided not to use the actual names of any of the family. I know that virtually everyone who looks at this knows us but it is public on the web and fully accessible so it didn’t seem fair to identify them directly. The problem is when I write about I being me and also when I write about “I” being number 1 child. I hope it doesn’t get too confusing as I always try to put ” ” around the initials I am using to indicate individuals).

After lunch we did a little more in the garden – the grass is coming back but it still needs a bit of TLC to keep it going. We had some rain this afternoon and more is forecast during the week which, to be honest, I’m quite pleased about. It shold help bring the new growth on as our sprinkler doesn’t cover the whole garden at once and I think rainwater is better anyway.

Today’s game was old-school Trivial Pursuits with the Genus II set of questions from back in 1988. All of the questions seem to be History questions they’re that old! We use the Disney board (because it’s pretty and we don’t have an ordinary board) but we use normal counters (much to “E”s unhappiness.

We had some support from “T”

This week’s pudding is good old fashioned pineapple upside down cake courtesy of the Dairy Cookbook and “S”s handiwork this afternoon. Look’s yummy.

It’s Meat-Free Monday today so, of course, a meat free meal. We’re having spinach and ricotta canneloni. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any dried canneloni from Tesco this week so I had to make it frm fresh lasagne sheets (softened in hot water then rolled around the filling). It’s topped with a vegetables in a tomato sauce with grated cheese (cheddar and red leicester) on the top. Each piece also has a small cube of mozzerella inside. The filling is simply shredded spinach, ricotta cheese and finely chopped mushrooms.

We’re having it with garlic and herb bread.

Tonight is Film Club and my choice was drawn from the cup (that’s two of mine). We’ll be watching Mad Max Fury Road.

Huge disappointment when we came to watch the film – it’s no longer available as part of the Amazon Prime package so we drew again. Second out was Roman Holiday which we have on DVD but didn’t play on our player (we bought it back in Singapore but it should have been ok to play, I’ll have to look) so we drew again. “I”s first choice – Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is what we ended up watching.

Followed by episode 2 of Noughts and Crosses

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Sunday April 26th, 2020

Slept really well last night, absolutely flat out until 6:30 which was nice for a change. Got up to make breakfast about 8:30. Eggs Florentine for breakfast – one of our favourites.

After a couple of crosswords we took the dog out for a good lng walk along both banks of the river again. Not quite as nice a day as yesterday but very pleasant nonetheless.

This plant is growing down the bank – it looks really quite tropical and very out of place here.

According to Google it’s a Western Skunk Cabbage, if anyone knows any better, please let me know. We’ll keep an eye on it each day to see if it opens into anything special looking.

There are dinosaurs living on the opposite bank.

The Heron was in front of the old Salmon trap today so mananged to get quite close to it. Found out a little more about the Salmon traps. The river shallows and flows over a stone weir at this point called The Dykes. The salmon trap was designed to catch the salmon as they navigated the shallows. It was built by the Craigforth Estate and its now broken so the fish can swim past and through with no risk. Apparently (although we’ve never seen it) there is a seal living this far up the river living comfortably on the fish rich river. Up until the relatively recent past, 1000 ton ships made their way up the river as far as Stirling harbour to export fish from the Forth and other rivers in the area. Hard to think of sea-going ships coming this far inland.

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/56/a1/99/56a199811e15ab8eb405ead1999a6c1f.jpg

It’s good to see lots of bees around on the daily walk.

This is the route we take when we take the dog on the longer walk. The obvious gap is because we forgot to turn strava on before we started.

Played Doctor Who Cluedo this afternoon

Sunday roast for dinner. One of Tesco’s marinated roast in the bag chickens. They’re really nice.

My back went really sore while we were playing Cluedo. I guess too long sitting inappropriately on chairs in the house. Had an hour horizontal on the bed before i made dinner then needed a couple of nurefen after we ate. Dinner was lovely.

After dinner we watched Race Around the World. Really disappointed our favourite players went out at the start of the episode and our second favourites came second.

After this finished we started watching Noughts and Crosses. A bit late but seems a good series.

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Saturday April 25th, 2020

Up earlier than we’d like to be because the puppy dog wasn’t feeling well. Clearly something has upset her stomach as she’s been in the garden for quite a while eating grass and already this morning she’s been sick. Hopefully she’ll be feeling better soon.

Listened to Mark & Simon over breakfast then carried on with puzzles while “S” took a group calls with some of her friends. Everyone seems to be doing fine but it sounded like the weather in Thailand was bad.

The weather is absolutely gorgeous here today and as it’s the weekend we went for a longer walk than usual heading across the footbridge and back down the other bank of the river back to where the Allanwater joins the Forth.

Even found out what the concrete blockhouse built across the river is – it’s an old salmon trap. The massive treetrunk on it is a result of the floods during the winter.

By the time we got home, someone was really tired.

Spent some time in the garden this afternoon reading while “S” and “E” did some painting after which it was Game Time.Today we played Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Not the most photogenic game but it was good fun.

Now I’m about to start making dinner, it’s chicken enchiladas today. No recipe so no pretence that these will be any form of authentic but they are a style which we all really like.

This evening we’ll catch up on the National Theatre live broadcast. This weeks is Twelfth Night (starring Tamsin Greig). Looking forward to it.

This was absolutely outstanding. Tamsin Greig as Malvolia was amazing as were the entire rest of the cast. Superb.

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Friday April 24th, 2020

Another absolutely lovely day. I have a very strong feeling that as soon as the lockdown is lifted, it’ll start raining and carry on for the rest of the year! I saw one of the funniest things I’ve come across all year on Facebook this morning. Below is the Google Maps pinning for South Yorkshire Police Operations Complex. Look at the name of the street it’s on! I would love to have been at that Council meeting when they decided on the name of that road!

The walk was lovely, the weather is really sunny and the fields were awash with litytle yellow flowers we think are Marsh Marigolds. They’re really pretty.

There was hardly a breath of wind and the river was really still – almost like a pond.

The cows were down by the river too. The scene reminded us so much of some of the rivers in northern Thailand we half expected to see elephants coming down to drink! (Apart from the church in the background)

This evening is Musical’s night. Today is one I do not know at all. The sequel to Phantom of the Opera. We will watch it, of course, but I don’t know it. Hope it’s good. I hope we get Evita soon.

Helping “E” with her Technology work again today. Went through a process with her to help her be able to develop ideas for her chair design quickly and easily. It’s looking good.

Have read through the Scottish governments paper on the approach to lifting the lockdown. While the First Minister has stressed that the time is not right to ease the lockdown and hasn’t given any indicatin of when the time is likely to be, this paper is very detailed and shows there is at least a plan. I see also that the Welsh Asembly are introducing a “Traffic Light” system to guide their lifting of the lockdown. Only London to publish their thinking now. Maybe once the PM gets back from sick-leave we will see something frmo them. We have to have some over-arching control from National government so we can see how the devolved administrations fit in to the overall picture.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making/

Over lunch we watched the newest episode of The Mandalorian. The best yet – I think we’re building up to a big season finale climax. Will be good. “E” is now back on with her Technology work and I’m wondering what to do for the afternoon – think I might put the table up in the garden and try and find my reading sunglasses!

By the time “E” had finished her work it was game time. One of our absolute favourites today – The Big Taboo. It’s a mix of Pictionary, Taboo and Charades (but with a stuffed toy). It’s good fun, we’ve had it for years and it’s always been a favourite. My sisters old dog used to be in love with Bendy Bob (the stuffed toy) and would watch us play the game longingly!

Today is Friday which means it’s Pieday and today’s Pie is a Moroccan Chicken Pie from the National Trust cookbook.

So we’re over a month into Lockdown now and I must admit I am quite proud of how my little family have coped (obviously I’m proud of my family every day but especially at this difficult time). As I think I have already said, we have the advantage of actually liking to spend time with one another. I think this comes with being an ex-pat family. We rely on each other much more than families who live their whole life in their home country have to. We’ve never been able to rely on grandparent babysitters, it’s never been possible for the children to simply ‘go out to play’ and when we holiday we usually come back to the UK which isn’t like spending 2 weeks on the beach in an all inclusive. Anyway, whatever the reason, we can still find reasons to laugh every day and we all make a point of finding time to be together even though we can’t get away (if that makes sense). I’m also really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to play a different board game every day (and we haven’t finished them all yet) and we’ve eaten a different dinner every single day. Having said all of that, it would have been even easier to cope if we’d been living in the house we had in Peru or the house we had in Romania. Ho humm, can’t grumble. Can I get a job in government offering advice to people on how to cope?

Dinner was good, we’ve had it before but it’s not one i make regularly.

The show was entertaining. Nowhere near his best but by no means bad. Worth a watch while it’s available if you can find the time! ‘E’ didn’t enjoy it and went upstairs about 20 minutes before the end. The rest of us thought it was ok. A little twist at the end that we weren’t expecting.

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Thursday 23rd April, 2020

I didn’t take the dog this morning as I had an interview. First time using Zoom, Skype is better. Anyway, not the job for me.

While they were all out they managed to get a photo of the heron in flight.

Straight to Tesco for the weekly shop as soon as they got back frm the walk. I maanged to be a littl earlier than usual and there was hardly any queue to get in. Managed to get everything apart from flour which is still a rarity. Took the shoes we were disposing of to put in the clothing bank in the recycling centre in the Tesco car park but it was overflowing – I don;t feel comfortable doing what many others have done and just leaving the bag in the pile next to the bank. It feels like I am fly-tipping and I’m sure it’s not hygenic. I left the bag of shoes in the car and will keep trying each time I go.

Today is the 170th anniversary of Wordsworth’s death. I posted Daffgodils a couple of weeks ago as they were in blook on the walk. This is the poem of his I remember studying at school. Definitely prefer Daffodils!

“If from the public way you turn your steps
Up the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll,
You will suppose that with an upright path
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent
The pastoral mountains front you, face to face.
But, courage! for around that boisterous brook
The mountains have all opened out themselves,
And made a hidden valley of their own.
No habitation can be seen; but they
Who journey thither find themselves alone
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites
That overhead are sailing in the sky.
It is in truth an utter solitude;
Nor should I have made mention of this Dell
But for one object which you might pass by,
Might see and notice not. Beside the brook
Appears a straggling heap of unhewn stones!
And to that simple object appertains
A story–unenriched with strange events,
Yet not unfit, I deem, for the fireside,
Or for the summer shade. It was the first
Of those domestic tales that spake to me
Of shepherds, dwellers in the valleys, men
Whom I already loved; not verily
For their own sakes, but for the fields and hills
Where was their occupation and abode.
And hence this Tale, while I was yet a Boy
Careless of books, yet having felt the power
Of Nature, by the gentle agency
Of natural objects, led me on to feel
For passions that were not my own, and think
(At random and imperfectly indeed)
On man, the heart of man, and human life.
Therefore, although it be a history
Homely and rude, I will relate the same
For the delight of a few natural hearts;
And, with yet fonder feeling, for the sake
Of youthful Poets, who among these hills
Will be my second self when I am gone.
UPON the forest-side in Grasmere Vale
There dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name;
An old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength: his mind was keen,
Intense, and frugal, apt for all affairs,
And in his shepherd’s calling he was prompt
And watchful more than ordinary men.
Hence had he learned the meaning of all winds,
Of blasts of every tone; and, oftentimes,
When others heeded not, He heard the South
Make subterraneous music, like the noise
Of bagpipers on distant Highland hills.
The Shepherd, at such warning, of his flock
Bethought him, and he to himself would say,
“The winds are now devising work for me!”
And, truly, at all times, the storm, that drives
The traveller to a shelter, summoned him
Up to the mountains: he had been alone
Amid the heart of many thousand mists,
That came to him, and left him, on the heights.
So lived he till his eightieth year was past.
And grossly that man errs, who should suppose
That the green valleys, and the streams and rocks,
Were things indifferent to the Shepherd’s thoughts.
Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breathed
The common air; hills, which with vigorous step
He had so often climbed; which had impressed
So many incidents upon his mind
Of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear;
Which, like a book, preserved the memory
Of the dumb animals, whom he had saved,
Had fed or sheltered, linking to such acts
The certainty of honourable gain;
Those fields, those hills–what could they less? had laid
Strong hold on his affections, were to him
A pleasurable feeling of blind love,
The pleasure which there is in life itself.
His days had not been passed in singleness.
His Helpmate was a comely matron, old–
Though younger than himself full twenty years.
She was a woman of a stirring life,
Whose heart was in her house: two wheels she had
Of antique form; this large, for spinning wool;
That small, for flax; and if one wheel had rest
It was because the other was at work.
The Pair had but one inmate in their house,
An only Child, who had been born to them
When Michael, telling o’er his years, began
To deem that he was old,–in shepherd’s phrase,
With one foot in the grave. This only Son,
With two brave sheep-dogs tried in many a storm,
The one of an inestimable worth,
Made all their household. I may truly say,
That they were as a proverb in the vale
For endless industry. When day was gone
And from their occupations out of doors
The Son and Father were come home, even then,
Their labour did not cease; unless when all
Turned to the cleanly supper-board, and there,
Each with a mess of pottage and skimmed milk, 0
Sat round the basket piled with oaten cakes,
And their plain home-made cheese. Yet when the meal
Was ended, Luke (for so the Son was named)
And his old Father both betook themselves
To such convenient work as might employ
Their hands by the fireside; perhaps to card
Wool for the Housewife’s spindle, or repair
Some injury done to sickle, flail, or scythe,
Or other implement of house or field.
Down from the ceiling, by the chimney’s edge,
That in our ancient uncouth country style
With huge and black projection overbrowed
Large space beneath, as duly as the light
Of day grew dim the Housewife hung a lamp;
An aged utensil, which had performed
Service beyond all others of its kind.
Early at evening did it burn–and late,
Surviving comrade of uncounted hours,
Which, going by from year to year, had found,
And left, the couple neither gay perhaps
Nor cheerful, yet with objects and with hopes,
Living a life of eager industry.
And now, when Luke had reached his eighteenth year,
There by the light of this old lamp they sate,
Father and Son, while far into the night
The Housewife plied her own peculiar work,
Making the cottage through the silent hours
Murmur as with the sound of summer flies.
This light was famous in its neighbourhood,
And was a public symbol of the life
That thrifty Pair had lived. For, as it chanced,
Their cottage on a plot of rising ground
Stood single, with large prospect, north and south,
High into Easedale, up to Dunmail-Raise,
And westward to the village near the lake;
And from this constant light, so regular
And so far seen, the House itself, by all
Who dwelt within the limits of the vale,
Both old and young, was named THE EVENING STAR.
Thus living on through such a length of years,
The Shepherd, if he loved himself, must needs
Have loved his Helpmate; but to Michael’s heart
This son of his old age was yet more dear–
Less from instinctive tenderness, the same
Fond spirit that blindly works in the blood of all–
Than that a child, more than all other gifts
That earth can offer to declining man,
Brings hope with it, and forward-looking thoughts,
And stirrings of inquietude, when they
By tendency of nature needs must fail.
Exceeding was the love he bare to him,
His heart and his heart’s joy! For oftentimes
Old Michael, while he was a babe in arms,
Had done him female service, not alone
For pastime and delight, as is the use
Of fathers, but with patient mind enforced
To acts of tenderness; and he had rocked
His cradle, as with a woman’s gentle hand.
And, in a later time, ere yet the Boy
Had put on boy’s attire, did Michael love,
Albeit of a stern unbending mind,
To have the Young-one in his sight, when he
Wrought in the field, or on his shepherd’s stool
Sate with a fettered sheep before him stretched
Under the large old oak, that near his door
Stood single, and, from matchless depth of shade,
Chosen for the Shearer’s covert from the sun,
Thence in our rustic dialect was called
The CLIPPING TREE, a name which yet it bears.
There, while they two were sitting in the shade,
With others round them, earnest all and blithe,
Would Michael exercise his heart with looks
Of fond correction and reproof bestowed
Upon the Child, if he disturbed the sheep
By catching at their legs, or with his shouts
Scared them, while they lay still beneath the shears.
And when by Heaven’s good grace the boy grew up
A healthy Lad, and carried in his cheek
Two steady roses that were five years old;
Then Michael from a winter coppice cut
With his own hand a sapling, which he hooped
With iron, making it throughout in all
Due requisites a perfect shepherd’s staff,
And gave it to the Boy; wherewith equipt
He as a watchman oftentimes was placed
At gate or gap, to stem or turn the flock;
And, to his office prematurely called,
There stood the urchin, as you will divine,
Something between a hindrance and a help;
And for this cause not always, I believe,
Receiving from his Father hire of praise;
Though nought was left undone which staff, or voice,
Or looks, or threatening gestures, could perform.
But soon as Luke, full ten years old, could stand
Against the mountain blasts; and to the heights,
Not fearing toil, nor length of weary ways,
He with his Father daily went, and they
Were as companions, why should I relate
That objects which the Shepherd loved before
Were dearer now? that from the Boy there came 0
Feelings and emanations–things which were
Light to the sun and music to the wind;
And that the old Man’s heart seemed born again?
Thus in his Father’s sight the Boy grew up:
And now, when he had reached his eighteenth year,
He was his comfort and his daily hope.
While in this sort the simple household lived
From day to day, to Michael’s ear there came
Distressful tidings. Long before the time
Of which I speak, the Shepherd had been bound
In surety for his brother’s son, a man
Of an industrious life, and ample means;
But unforeseen misfortunes suddenly
Had prest upon him; and old Michael now
Was summoned to discharge the forfeiture,
A grievous penalty, but little less
Than half his substance. This unlooked-for claim,
At the first hearing, for a moment took
More hope out of his life than he supposed
That any old man ever could have lost.
As soon as he had armed himself with strength
To look his trouble in the face, it seemed
The Shepherd’s sole resource to sell at once
A portion of his patrimonial fields.
Such was his first resolve; he thought again,
And his heart failed him. “Isabel,” said he,
Two evenings after he had heard the news,
“I have been toiling more than seventy years,
And in the open sunshine of God’s love
Have we all lived; yet if these fields of ours
Should pass into a stranger’s hand, I think
That I could not lie quiet in my grave.
Our lot is a hard lot; the sun himself
Has scarcely been more diligent than I;
And I have lived to be a fool at last
To my own family. An evil man
That was, and made an evil choice, if he
Were false to us; and if he were not false,
There are ten thousand to whom loss like this
Had been no sorrow. I forgive him;–but
‘Twere better to be dumb than to talk thus.
When I began, my purpose was to speak
Of remedies and of a cheerful hope.
Our Luke shall leave us, Isabel; the land
Shall not go from us, and it shall be free;
He shall possess it, free as is the wind
That passes over it. We have, thou know’st,
Another kinsman–he will be our friend
In this distress. He is a prosperous man,
Thriving in trade–and Luke to him shall go,
And with his kinsman’s help and his own thrift
He quickly will repair this loss, and then
He may return to us. If here he stay,
What can be done? Where every one is poor,
What can be gained?”
At this the old Man paused,
And Isabel sat silent, for her mind
Was busy, looking back into past times.
There’s Richard Bateman, thought she to herself,
He was a parish-boy–at the church-door
They made a gathering for him, shillings, pence
And halfpennies, wherewith the neighbours bought
A basket, which they filled with pedlar’s wares;
And, with this basket on his arm, the lad
Went up to London, found a master there,
Who, out of many, chose the trusty boy
To go and overlook his merchandise
Beyond the seas; where he grew wondrous rich,
And left estates and monies to the poor,
And, at his birth-place, built a chapel, floored
With marble which he sent from foreign lands.
These thoughts, and many others of like sort,
Passed quickly through the mind of Isabel,
And her face brightened. The old Man was glad,
And thus resumed:–“Well, Isabel! this scheme
These two days, has been meat and drink to me.
Far more than we have lost is left us yet.
–We have enough–I wish indeed that I
Were younger;–but this hope is a good hope.
–Make ready Luke’s best garments, of the best
Buy for him more, and let us send him forth
To-morrow, or the next day, or to-night:
–If he ‘could’ go, the Boy should go tonight.”
Here Michael ceased, and to the fields went forth
With a light heart. The Housewife for five days
Was restless morn and night, and all day long
Wrought on with her best fingers to prepare
Things needful for the journey of her son.
But Isabel was glad when Sunday came
To stop her in her work: for, when she lay
By Michael’s side, she through the last two nights
Heard him, how he was troubled in his sleep:
And when they rose at morning she could see
That all his hopes were gone. That day at noon
She said to Luke, while they two by themselves
Were sitting at the door, “Thou must not go:
We have no other Child but thee to lose
None to remember–do not go away,
For if thou leave thy Father he will die.”
The Youth made answer with a jocund voice;
And Isabel, when she had told her fears, 0
Recovered heart. That evening her best fare
Did she bring forth, and all together sat
Like happy people round a Christmas fire.
With daylight Isabel resumed her work;
And all the ensuing week the house appeared
As cheerful as a grove in Spring: at length
The expected letter from their kinsman came,
With kind assurances that he would do
His utmost for the welfare of the Boy;
To which, requests were added, that forthwith
He might be sent to him. Ten times or more
The letter was read over; Isabel
Went forth to show it to the neighbours round;
Nor was there at that time on English land
A prouder heart than Luke’s. When Isabel
Had to her house returned, the old Man said,
“He shall depart to-morrow.” To this word
The Housewife answered, talking much of things
Which, if at such short notice he should go,
Would surely be forgotten. But at length
She gave consent, and Michael was at ease.
Near the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll,
In that deep valley, Michael had designed
To build a Sheepfold; and, before he heard
The tidings of his melancholy loss,
For this same purpose he had gathered up
A heap of stones, which by the streamlet’s edge
Lay thrown together, ready for the work.
With Luke that evening thitherward he walked:
And soon as they had reached the place he stopped,
And thus the old Man spake to him:–“My Son,
To-morrow thou wilt leave me: with full heart
I look upon thee, for thou art the same
That wert a promise to me ere thy birth,
And all thy life hast been my daily joy.
I will relate to thee some little part
Of our two histories; ’twill do thee good
When thou art from me, even if I should touch
On things thou canst not know of.—-After thou
First cam’st into the world–as oft befalls
To new-born infants–thou didst sleep away
Two days, and blessings from thy Father’s tongue
Then fell upon thee. Day by day passed on,
And still I loved thee with increasing love.
Never to living ear came sweeter sounds
Than when I heard thee by our own fireside
First uttering, without words, a natural tune;
While thou, a feeding babe, didst in thy joy
Sing at thy Mother’s breast. Month followed month,
And in the open fields my life was passed
And on the mountains; else I think that thou
Hadst been brought up upon thy Father’s knees.
But we were playmates, Luke: among these hills,
As well thou knowest, in us the old and young
Have played together, nor with me didst thou
Lack any pleasure which a boy can know.”
Luke had a manly heart; but at these words
He sobbed aloud. The old Man grasped his hand,
And said, “Nay, do not take it so–I see
That these are things of which I need not speak.
–Even to the utmost I have been to thee
A kind and a good Father: and herein
I but repay a gift which I myself
Received at others’ hands; for, though now old
Beyond the common life of man, I still
Remember them who loved me in my youth.
Both of them sleep together: here they lived,
As all their Forefathers had done; and when
At length their time was come, they were not loth
To give their bodies to the family mould.
I wished that thou should’st live the life they lived:
But, ’tis a long time to look back, my Son,
And see so little gain from threescore years.
These fields were burthened when they came to me;
Till I was forty years of age, not more
Than half of my inheritance was mine.
I toiled and toiled; God blessed me in my work,
And till these three weeks past the land was free.
–It looks as if it never could endure
Another Master. Heaven forgive me, Luke,
If I judge ill for thee, but it seems good
That thou should’st go.”
At this the old Man paused;
Then, pointing to the stones near which they stood,
Thus, after a short silence, he resumed:
“This was a work for us; and now, my Son,
It is a work for me. But, lay one stone–
Here, lay it for me, Luke, with thine own hands.
Nay, Boy, be of good hope;–we both may live
To see a better day. At eighty-four
I still am strong and hale;–do thou thy part;
I will do mine.–I will begin again
With many tasks that were resigned to thee:
Up to the heights, and in among the storms,
Will I without thee go again, and do
All works which I was wont to do alone,
Before I knew thy face.–Heaven bless thee, Boy!
Thy heart these two weeks has been beating fast
With many hopes; it should be so–yes–yes–
I knew that thou could’st never have a wish
To leave me, Luke: thou hast been bound to me 0
Only by links of love: when thou art gone,
What will be left to us!–But, I forget
My purposes. Lay now the corner-stone,
As I requested; and hereafter, Luke,
When thou art gone away, should evil men
Be thy companions, think of me, my Son,
And of this moment; hither turn thy thoughts,
And God will strengthen thee: amid all fear
And all temptation, Luke, I pray that thou
May’st bear in mind the life thy Fathers lived,
Who, being innocent, did for that cause
Bestir them in good deeds. Now, fare thee well–
When thou return’st, thou in this place wilt see
A work which is not here: a covenant
‘Twill be between us; but, whatever fate
Befall thee, I shall love thee to the last,
And bear thy memory with me to the grave.”
The Shepherd ended here; and Luke stooped down,
And, as his Father had requested, laid
The first stone of the Sheepfold. At the sight
The old Man’s grief broke from him; to his heart
He pressed his Son, he kissed him and wept;
And to the house together they returned.
–Hushed was that House in peace, or seeming peace,
Ere the night fell:–with morrow’s dawn the Boy
Began his journey, and when he had reached
The public way, he put on a bold face;
And all the neighbours, as he passed their doors,
Came forth with wishes and with farewell prayers,
That followed him till he was out of sight.
A good report did from their Kinsman come,
Of Luke and his well-doing: and the Boy
Wrote loving letters, full of wondrous news,
Which, as the Housewife phrased it, were throughout
“The prettiest letters that were ever seen.”
Both parents read them with rejoicing hearts.
So, many months passed on: and once again
The Shepherd went about his daily work
With confident and cheerful thoughts; and now
Sometimes when he could find a leisure hour
He to that valley took his way, and there
Wrought at the Sheepfold. Meantime Luke began
To slacken in his duty; and, at length,
He in the dissolute city gave himself
To evil courses: ignominy and shame
Fell on him, so that he was driven at last
To seek a hiding-place beyond the seas.
There is a comfort in the strength of love;
‘Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain, or break the heart:
I have conversed with more than one who well
Remember the old Man, and what he was
Years after he had heard this heavy news.
His bodily frame had been from youth to age
Of an unusual strength. Among the rocks
He went, and still looked up to sun and cloud,
And listened to the wind; and, as before,
Performed all kinds of labour for his sheep,
And for the land, his small inheritance.
And to that hollow dell from time to time
Did he repair, to build the Fold of which
His flock had need. ‘Tis not forgotten yet
The pity which was then in every heart
For the old Man–and ’tis believed by all
That many and many a day he thither went,
And never lifted up a single stone.
There, by the Sheepfold, sometimes was he seen
Sitting alone, or with his faithful Dog,
Then old, beside him, lying at his feet.
The length of full seven years, from time to time,
He at the building of this Sheepfold wrought,
And left the work unfinished when he died.
Three years, or little more, did Isabel
Survive her Husband: at her death the estate
Was sold, and went into a stranger’s hand.
The Cottage which was named the EVENING STAR
Is gone–the ploughshare has been through the ground
On which it stood; great changes have been wrought
In all the neighbourhood:–yet the oak is left
That grew beside their door; and the remains
Of the unfinished Sheepfold may be seen
Beside the boisterous brook of Greenhead Ghyll.”

Lunch as soon as I got back then started to help”E” with some Technology home-learning work. We’ll need to carry on with it tomorrow.

This afternoon’s game was another old classic frm my childhood -Wildlife. It’s not a game you could make now, totally incorrect in every sense but good fun nonetheless. You take the part of a zoo owner and travel the world collecting animals for your zoo. It was made in association with the WWF at the time so had good intentions just isn;t how we think of protecting animals today. It’s good fun but takes a good 3 hours to play.

Dinner was another new recipe, from the Independent again today. Chicken with Chorizo Crumb. It was delicious and will go on the regular list for the future.

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/recipes/chicken-chorizo-crumb-ingredients-cooking-instructions-a8177066.html

Chicken, potatoes, Courgette with crumbed chorizo in a tomato base with a chorizo/breadcrum topping. Lovely.

We watched the BBC Big Night In this evenoing. ALl things considered it was very good and rasied a lot of money for some very good causes.

We joined the clap for NHS this evening, of course at 8pm properly prompted by the BBC. Puppy dog came out and sat with us and politely woofed. I’ve been thinking about the NHS. Having lived around the world with such variable health systems i can talk with experience how good our NHS is. At the end of the day, our NHS is funded through taxation and we need to change the view that taxes are something the government take from us and accept that taxes are our contribution to maintain our society and to share the burden of looking after EVERYONE. Both mum and dad would have been dead by the end of 1997 if it wasn’t for the incredible treatment they got, for very different and very complex things, from the NHS. It gave us 20 more years with mum, much more than expected. And thankfully dad’s still going strong. The most important thing about the NHS is that it doesn’t matter how much you have. The treatment and care they received is available to everyone. However much they have. That is special and is important. The NHS will look after all of us when we need it. We have to protect it, we have to look after it, we have to care for it so it can do the same for us. To do this, we need to pay for it. And we need to make it clear to all of our politicians how important it is to us so they will start to value it.

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Wednesday April 23rd, 2020

Another lovely day – up for breakfast; a couple of crosswords while we finished off our tea/coffee then out with the dog for our morning walk. One of the answers to the crossword today was Bakewell and I mentioned that I always through Bakewell was named because they needed to be Baked Well. This casued some amusement (the crossword clue was talking about an almond and jam tart named for it’s village). I nevber really liked Bakewell tarts and I remember Mr Kipling claiming to make exceedingly good ones so I never really considered the name. Anyway, made to feel quite foolish!

Lovely and sunny with lots of swans on the river. The watyer level is very low at moment which is a big change frm the winter when the path we walk along was close to a metre under water.

Once we got home I started playing with the printer. The print heads have got clogged up so it isn’t printing at all well. It’s a bit of a faf to clean them with the cleaning kit we have. Basically we have to squirt cleaning fluid into each of the nozzle heads, leave ot to soak in then replace the cartridges and run through the printers head cleaning/nozzle alignment processes several times to get it all clear and working. It’s worth doing because it is a good printer when it’s working properly – it’s just a pain to have to do and it has pretty much taken all day. The printer lives in the cupboard under the stairs so this whole exercise gave us the excuse to sort out the shoe racks – a major undertaking!

Finished putting everything back in the cupboard about 4 so it was a later start to Game Time so today we chose to play a shorter game – Logo.

After game time it was straight into making dinner. A fairly quick one today, thankfully, from the BBC Good Food site.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/pork-medallions?utm_source=app

Dinner was absolutely excellent. It’s a new recipe for us and certainly one we’ll have again. Highly recommended. Although, of course, we won’t have it again during lockdown as my personal challenge is to make something different for dinner every day. Doing well so far. A good mix of old favourites and new ideas. Cooking has been my post-work de-stress for several years now so this opportunity to challenge myself is a chance to also stretch my creativity.

We held our second lockdown film club today. The World’s End. This is the first time the girls have watched it, they’ve seen the other two in the cornetto trilogy so this was well anticipated. I think it grows on rewatching, I’ve seen it 4 times now and thoroughly enjoyed it tonight. The girls both liked it but thouvht the other two were better and think Shaun of the Dead is the best.

Anyway, perhaps i shouldn’t have written that. The girls did point out that the first rule of film club is that you don’t talk about film club.

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Tuesday April 21st, 2020

Slept better last night, no cat waking me up at 1am tyo be let into one of the girls bedrooms – why is it that however many times we ask them to leave their doors slightly ajar at night for the cats they always manage to shut them so one of us has to get up in the middle of the night to stop a cat, usually “R” scratching the life out of the door!

Lovely walk this morning, no rolling in dead bird which is a bit of a result. A few people about so “C” was on her lead but it is a lovely day, it really is.

Decided that I don’t need to go shopping today, the shelves in Tesco seem back to normal (apart from, of course, any form of baking items. We’re still OK for plain flour and reasonably OK for self-raising but we are going through it so it would be good to see if back on sale soon). I’ll leave the shopping to Thursday and see how we go. Hopefully a sign that things are starting to get a bit more back to normality. I was shopping twice a week as I couldn’t guarantee what they had in and because the buying restrictions on many items made it difficult to but enough food for a family of 4 to last a full week. That all seems to have eased now. We’ll see how I get on shopping on Thursday and if I need to go back top twice per week from next week I can.

Started preparing dinner as soon as I got in today. We’re having Lancashire Hot Pot and I an slow cooking the lamb as a casserole all day. I want it to make a nice rich casserole to complement the potatoes. Not at all how my nana used to make it. Hers was, of course, much more traditional with everything cooked together in the same pot for the whole time. I like to have it with more of a gravy in it so slow cooking the meat, onions, carrots, mushrooms, celery and black pudding for the whole day should blend all of those flavours fantastically and give a nice thick stock as the base when I assemble it with the sliced potatoes later.

There’s new work posted from the girl’s school for them today.They are using Google Classroom and this is the first real update for them since the ‘first day’ of term yesterday. They are now both upstairs working on it.

This afternoon’s game was a classic game with a twist, and the first of 4 versions of this game we’ll be working through. Our Trivial Pursuits board of the Disney version. We also have the classic Genus 2 set of questions and we have both Dr. Who and Harry Potter sets of questions. Today we played the Disney questions – they’re quit5e hard so we played the fast version of the game where you get a piece of pie each time you get a question right.

We’re having another ‘Film Club’ night tonight and it is my choice – The World’s End. We have introduced the girl to The Cornetto Trilogy over the last 3 months so this is the final instalment.

This afternoon, “E” used our Doctor Who Cookbook to make what should have been shortbtread type vanilla biscuits.

Unfortunately, the mix was far too runny to make biscuts so she put it into a bun tin and baked it as cupcakes. The plan is to give them a chocolate topping to finish them off.

Meantime, I assembled the HotPot which is now in the oven.

The cakes were “chocolated” before dinner was finished and looked great. Something to have during tomorrow’s game time.

Dinner was ready straight after this and was absolutely delicious. As hoped, cooking the casserole slowly all day made it incredibly richly flavoured and the meat was really tender.

After dinner we didn’t have film club, we’d forgotten Tuesday is Bake-Off day so we watched that, a much better episode than last week, then we watched the Greg Wallace Inside the Factory about the Heinz soup factory. “C” joined us on the sofa to watch.