Saturday, May 8, 2021

Galloway Gate - free this weekend


About the Lune Gorge, and several pieces about Fell ponies and their owners and the land they belong to -
- go on, it's worth a look and costs nowt!

I've updated all my book prices too, and the full list is here: http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk/prices.htm

While you're thinking, here's a sample from Galloway Gate.

Darkfall CV-19

Dusk drifts smoke-blue from the east.

Sheep nipnipnip at the frosting grass

(eat, eat before night). A distant dog

barks the same rhythm, with no message.


We have met no-one since dawn.

No bikers from the Devil's Bridge,

no walkers queueing for the mountains,

no chatty neighbours bringing eggs,


and for this we are thankful.

Only one con-trail, pink, in the west

draws a line at the end of the day.

The blackbird whistles the trees to bed.

The air is clear of everything but rooks

whose funeral wings wipe the sky clean.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0872GB6VP

Saturday, April 17, 2021

HRH

I did not watch The Funeral. I am sure it will be more or less on a loop on social media and several TV channels for the next 24 hours. 

 


I drove my old Fell pony instead and thought, as we trundled gently through the sunshine, of the carriage drivers I've known who will do it no more, and the one who said that his Fell team were "all ancient, like me."


 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday and Remembrance Sunday

Easter Sunday and Remembrance Sunday have two things in common, and one of them is that they are Sundays.

The other is that they make us feel better about death.

Both are linked to a human pattern of thought wants to attribute purpose to a person dying. "Jesus died for our sins." "Soldiers died to keep us free." To which I have to say, "Sentimental tosh. They were killed." 

Or, since the grammar checker advises against the use of the passive voice, "Someone killed them". 

Or, to remove more vagueness, it wasn't "someone" who killed them, it was another man (on the whole). 

"A soldier killed them."

...or a Government employee of some kind, whatever term you choose -- a man (or a woman) employed or co-erced to behave in a way that served policies that had been formed by other men in authority. Pilate's power came from the ruling Roman empire. Rommel and Himmler and other generals derived their authority from Hitler's Nazi regime.

So let's rephrase it yet again:

"The Empire of Rome killed Jesus."

"The Nazi party killed Corporal Jones and his mates."

And both can be boiled down even further into:

"Political power and greed killed them."

I don't believe for more than half a minute that either group of victims was intending to "die for us". 

The notions of sacrifice that are attached to Easter and Remembrance Sunday have been put there by other people, and that's because humans don't like guilt and regret and loss, and they do like a story to have a purpose; the same way we like fiction better than news broadcasts, and conspiracy theories better than science. Humans like over-simplification - the "elevator pitch".

Still, if we must have a story and a purpose, then let's respect Jesus (if he existed) and the war dead (who definitely did) for having been regarded as a notable threat to a policy or a system. 

But consider also the possibility that the lofty notions of sacrifice or deity have been attached to their deaths afterwards, by those who survived, to make them (us) feel better.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Awesomeness of the Fell Pony

You may have noticed that I have a very strong bias in my horse "character" preferences. Hoofprints in Eden, Scratch and String of Horses all feature or star Fell ponies. Guess why...


Because they are awesome...

Newcomers to the blog may not realise that I don't just write books about Fell ponies (or that I write other things as well). I write the script/s and commentate  for the Fell Pony Society's Display Team. I edit the Fell Pony Society's Magazine, and look after their web site. I serve on the FPS Council and on a couple of sub committees. I'm on the FPS sub committee that's planning the celebrations of the Society's Centenary coming up in 2022 - helping with a book, a video and an exhibition. 
 
I also look after the historical resource that is the Fell Pony And Countryside Museums web site, which gives background and historical context to the real life collections at Dalemain.

Not bad for an awd OAP grannie, eh? Oh aye, and in between times I drive my Fell pony.
 
Step aside, we're comin' through.



 

Good Friday

Out of pure curiosity I enquired within the Oxford English Dictionary online and found these gems:

1825 Manch. Guardian 2 Apr. 3/3
In the houses of some ignorant people, a Good Friday bun is still kept ‘for luck’, and sometimes there hangs from the ceiling a hard biscuit-like cake of open cross-work, baked on a Good Friday, to remain there till displaced on the next Good Friday by one of similar make.

 
1876 F. K. Robinson Gloss. Words Whitby Pref. p. xii
Best flour biscuits are made on Good Friday, to be kept as a year's supply for grating into milk or brandy and water to cure the diarrhÅ“a; and with holes in the centre, we have seen ‘Good Friday biscuits’ hanging from the ceiling.
 
It seems Good Friday has been Good Friday since about 1300AD and not, as I've occasionally been told, "God" Friday.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

You have to be Carefully Taught

Sometimes in life I've been confused by my upbringing.

Tory, middle class, religiously inclined mother (who would help almost anybody) and Labour, working class, officially-atheist father (who spent his life criticising everybody, including himself).

I've just found myself quoting Hammerstein's lyrics from South Pacific:

You have to be taught, before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You have to be carefully taught...


Maybe I should be grateful for the confusion.

Friday, February 8, 2019

I fell for the Fells

I fell for the Fells



When I first holidayed in the Lake District, in 1968, I was determined not to like my mother's choice of venue. The thing that swung my acceptance was the promise that she would come pony trekking with me if I accompanied her planned "little toddles" up the fells.

I enjoyed the holiday, plodging in the rain over Catbells and round Stonethwaite and Watendlath, but the highlights were always going to be the pony treks. I fell instantly in love with my mount. He was a Fell pony, brown, rounded and muscular, with a long black tail and a massive curtain of mane that entirely hid his face. Nonetheless, the eyes underneath were friendly. He carried me up Latrigg with an eagerness I hadn't met before in ponies of his size.

I didn't know it then, but the trek leader was Betty Walker, a leading light of the Fell Pony Society. She rode another brown Fell pony, Angus.
She fed me snippets of Fell pony lore at every opportunity. Did I know the Fell ponies had been in the Lakes as long as the Herdwick sheep? No; I was much more impressed by the ponies' strength and willingness and the fact that they were capable of living free, all year round, on the fells where I'd been walking. I was 16, and freedom was a magnet.

Because of those Fell ponies I spent every university vacation in the Lake District, working with them. When I married I moved here permanently (and bought a Fell!).

Over the years since then I've done a lot of background research about Fell ponies, and their spell over me has grown stronger. They are a distinctive part of our farming and industrial history. Until the 20th century they were the mainstay of local transport: hardy and hard-working, they took the shepherd up the fell, carried hay to the stock in winter, pulled the trap to market, or walked hundreds of miles as pack-horses with wool destined for Europe.

For thousands of years we'd have gone literally nowhere without them.



Sue Millard is a writer, Fell pony owner and amateur historian who lives on a small farm in the Westmorland Dales section of the National Park. She serves on the Fell Pony Society's Council as its webmaster and Magazine editor.

Links:
The Fell Pony Society http://www.fellponysociety.org.uk
The Fell Pony Museum at Dalemain http://www.fellponymuseum.org.uk
Jackdaw E Books http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk