Greenfields Gazette

Issue: 17
Hi Folks,

I just don't seem to have had five minutes to rub together lately - the last time I picked up my Gazette "pen" was December 10th last year and now it's April June!

Celebrations and Woeful tales
7.4.2000:    My notes begin with Christmas, which Jenny had cancelled - this being her first Christmas since being diagnosed Diabetic, she found nothing enjoyable at all about buying or preparing traditional Christmas fare. Fortunately we were invited to spend Christmas day at the home of our friends John and Anne Nicholson near Harrogate but, as I have much to write, I will simply say that we had a joyful and relaxed time - finally arriving home around midnight to begin the chores of animal feeding, bedding down and so on! Just before leaving Anne asked if we had made plans for New Year's Eve? We hadn't so the Nicholson family invited us to join them in Ripon Cathedral for the midnight service. The service itself was enjoyable (despite my singing - not a pleasant sound!) and was followed by a candlelit procession along Kirkgate from the Cathedral into the Market Square. Preceding the countdown to the millennium's end the Mayor made a brief speech (which we couldn't hear) and afterwards fireworks (which we couldn't see) illuminated the sky. But nonetheless it was a magical end to the year and a fitting way to welcome in the year 2000.

The following day I fell foul of the Millennium Bug! I recovered. Then the Bug hit my old faithful 386 computer - it thought it was Jan 4th 1980! A quick root around in its guts changed the year to 2000 and it has behaved impeccably since!

January 4th was also not a good day for one of the local horses - £50,000 worth if rumours are correct. It escaped with two others from its paddock at our neighbouring racing stables. Determined to enjoy their freedom, the three ran head-long down the field, swung around behind the farm buildings and dashed the length of the field directly in front of us. Unfortunately the stables had built a gallop around this field a couple of years ago, which they abandoned due to flooding - but not before they dug one final narrow drainage ditch. I know where the ditch lies within the overgrown grass but the young horses could see nothing of it. One dropped both front feet into it, instantly breaking its neck on the far side. A JCB pulled it to the field entrance and the nackersman winched it on board that afternoon.

Henry Horse (perhaps believing that he too was born to race) dashed around the field like a young colt - until he ran out of field. Braking hard, both front feet dug into the grass but unfortunately his back feet slipped. His right rear hoof shot forwards into the back of his front leg. The shoe merely nicked the front leg's tendon but, being stretched like a bowstring at that moment, it snapped cleanly in two. The Vet said it will never heal itself and ordered six weeks of stable rest and permanent retirement from being ridden. Now after almost four months of inactivity in his stable, Henry is finally being taken out for light strolls and much needed grass to nibble. Tomorrow (Sunday April 9th) it is hoped that he will be turned out for a more prolonged length of time and, weather permitting, finally living once more outside.

More Horsy Matters
Jenny and I were working outside one day in January when a gentleman in a van arrived in our yard. Having stated that he was looking for scrap-metal (which we had) he and Jenny got talking. "Dolly's looking well" he said, much to our surprise. It turned out that he was Dolly's original owner. Up to that point all we knew of Dolly is that she is extremely inclined to get Laminitis (a painful condition of the feet caused by over-eating) and (according to our Equine Dentist) is aged about 12 or 13 years. She must have excellent teeth... her real age is 21!! No mistake — Dolly was born when his 23 year-old daughter was aged two. "But" said Jenny "I thought Dolly came from the Gypsies". "I am a Gypsy," replied the man, impeccably dressed from his tweed hat down to his brown polished elastic-sided Dealer boots.

Jenny drives out
Jenny has been having an energetic time with her carriage driving. In February (in her capacity as child-minder, house-sitter and friend of the family) she went to look after Phillipa's two sons while she was away on holiday. Soon after arriving at the delightfully named Scroggie Hall in Balmaclennan, Scotland, Jenny met up with Jim and his Cob, Bootsie, who Jim had stabled at Scroggie Hall. Although it rained every day, Jenny was determined not to leave for home without having driven — and so she did... It was so windy that the reins were blown in all directions and when Jim pushed Bootsie on to quicken his pace, the cob spectacularly bucked in the shafts! Despite this last experience Jenny can't wait to get back to Scotland and the "liquid sunshine"! Shortly after Jenny's departure Bootsie was due to travel the 50 miles to Appleby horse-fair in Cumbria and then home again pulling a barrel topped cart.

<< Our Cerys at home.

Also in February Jenny received a phone call from her new friends Joyce and David Sugden, who we first met at the British Driving Society's Christmas lunch. The pair, from down Wakefield way, invited Jenny to a weekend of carriage driving. I duly dropped Jenny off at the National Coal Mining Museum as it is near to where Joyce's pony Fudge is stabled. In fact Fudge is stabled at the local women's prison - in the high security area, where he is looked after by the inmates. As Jenny couldn't go into this area, the inmates looked after her as well... in the Prison Officers cafeteria! After a very pleasant ten-mile drive they returned to the Coal Museum where Jenny was introduced to Wendy, who looks after the museum's Shetland pit ponies, and Colonel the Shire Horse. Jenny finished up cleaning Colonel's horse brasses and tack and feeding Sparky, the man-hating pit pony.

Colonel is over six feet tall at the shoulder (18hh+) and both Jenny and Wendy, being five-feet and a tealeaf high, had to stand on a box to put his tack on! Jenny had a quick look at the museum and was, of course allowed behind the scenes, but we both intend to return for a thorough tour both above and underground. Perhaps we had better not leave it too long- Jenny has received a message from Wendy saying the tack needs cleaning again!

In the meantime Jenny has a new and local driving chum - a large policeman called Nigel - or "Ben Hur" as Jenny calls him. Sometimes Nigel brings his Dales pony Seren to us complete with carriage and at other times they travel out with our Cerys and her exercise cart (as shown here). The last time out they travelled the back-ways to Raskelf and back (a round trip of some 10 miles) having stopped off for tea and biscuits and a puncture repair on the way. They also got lost... so much for taking a policeman with you!

We lose a well-loved friend
Born in the kitchen of our previous house, our very good friend and much loved cat Panda died on March 26th from kidney failure at the age of sixteen. Panda was everybody's friend - newly introduced cats found him no threat, visiting dogs and people were warmly welcomed - and in winter, he would keep my neck warm as a "living scarf" laid across the back of my neck from shoulder to shoulder. I've known him to stay up there for a half hour or more as I've been digging the garden and, so practised and secure was he, that I often forgot his presence.

The Sky at Night
It was midnight; April 6th when our intrepid explorer accompanied by a pair of mean wolves met... the Aurora Borealis! As neither Abi nor Kasha, our two German Shepherds, had leads on, I was walking with my head down, keeping an eye on them in the moonlight. For some reason I looked up and found myself staring at a just discernible patch of rosy sky where no self-respecting glowing patch should be - not on the horizon but hovering above it. Glancing across the sky I was just aware of a number of dark parallel oblique slashes cutting across a slightly glowing cloud - ghostly would perfectly describe it. The dogs and I turned east heading for home and by the time we had covered the two-hundred yards a similar patch was beginning to glow in that direction too. Everything began to happen faster - I shouted upstairs for Jenny to come out and by the time she did (dressed only in her dressing gown - brrrrr!) an arc of light had grown across the sky to connect the two patches and twisting ribbons of faintly-green light had begun to sail and flutter their way between the two. To my utter frustration Jenny just couldn't see these ribbons, despite their being directly above her head - it was, as I said "ghostly" and ethereal and I think I was just more tuned into looking for the varying effects. By now the sky was glowing bright. From a point directly above us, rays streamed down to end unnaturally some distance above the far horizon. I can best describe the overall effect by equating it to the theatre - imagine sitting in a seat directly below the circle the lower rim of which is used for the mounting of spotlights.

The climax was quite breathtaking. Above our heads another red patch grew in intensity, resembling a pair of blood-red butterfly wings in shape from the "body" of which rays of light streamed out to west and east and all northerly points between. The night was lit as if by a full moon, yet no moon was discernible as it was only two nights since the birth of a new moon. As the effect faded Jenny decided to make her way to bed but I stayed until 1:15, by which time much of the activity had ceased. A slight breeze, introducing a little chill to the night, finally decided me to retire but also brought to my attention that for the last hour all bird activity had ceased and there had not been one breath of wind to cool the otherwise warm night (I had felt no need of my coat and had given it to Jenny soon after she had appeared).
These photographs were taken from Internet sites but unfortunately I was unable to find illustrations that correctly matched our experience. In particular I couldn't find any photos showing the way that the rays converged at a single point directly above our heads. Is this convergence a reality or an illusion? One Internet sites describes the effect: "When the activity reaches Zenith, by an optical illusion, it seems like the rays stretch out in all directions above our heads. This form of the northern lights is called aurora corona". That was certainly our experience and something neither of us are ever likely to forget. As Jenny said the next morning - it's as though the entire show was put on solely for us.

Strangely it seems as though few saw the Northern Lights that night. Jenny tried at one point to telephone Radio York but the phone remained unanswered. No-one we met subsequently had seen it or indeed heard of it, although one of Jenny's friends did say that she had heard a mention on the radio and thus confirmed that it had not been a joint dream. But it seems strange that so little was broadcast - especially as Scotland was the furthest south any sighting was expected.

Crufts Report
For the first time in a good few years I went to take a look at Crufts. My publisher Berjaya were there with two stands featuring my open edition head-study range of prints and so were Classic Designs. However, due to the vast crush of people present, I could only find one of Classic Design's four stands. This one (hall 4) was displaying two of my limited edition prints and others were in browsers. Having recently given up smoking (I still have!) and finding the crowd hard going, I was not too pleased to see such a minimal display and, after about two hours, I left. However, two weeks later the count of Limited Edition sales cheered me up quite dramatically. Despite what I thought was a poor display (there were probably much better displays on the other three stands) the final tally stood at a most respectable 59 prints sold.

And Finally...
Another Phill Bearden masterpiece and one that now graces our kitchen - framed with the following text which you may recall from the previous Greenfields Gazette:
Wife drives husband mad over stubble
No, I haven't given up shaving. Jenny is taking driving lessons - carriage driving - and under instruction from teacher Pat, she let rip at full gallop across a field of wheat stubble. Not along the lines of growth, I should point out, but across them. Fine for anyone sitting on the sole double seat. Not so fine for yours truly who travels standing on the back step. My teeth rattled. Every internal organ rippled. My brain beat time against the inside of my skull and the world vibrated before my eyes! Since then she's calmed down - which makes for a much more pleasurable Sunday morning.