Tag Archives: time

the hills have the long watch…


(please read this aloud and let the words take you wherever they may…)

Here I sit, uncold, wrapped in the jumps

That my brain takes from Here, to There, from Now to Then.

When I settle, deeply, warmly into Then

Outside, the russet-tinged clouds scud and scurry

Outside, the rusted tin roof screeches, echoing the owl of last light.

The limbs of the tree dance,

wind pushed togetherly, sway mightily.

We go to the line of the roof,

gable eyes winking, flashing and winking.

It nods to the left, my right, shows me the old house.

The wall of gathered river-cobbles rounded by

Concussion, collision, crafted erosion.

Here they stand, where they were laid down, in lines of curved straightness.

Trapping a horsehair from centuries long gone.

The cobble’s an egg-shell containing a fossil.

River sand limestone, grit, hair and water.

They stack up in courses, lines and right angles.

Long stone for the door jam, windows and corbels.

Put there by Old John, Jack, Will or long-Henry.

My gaze leaps the old house, springs over tin barn

Over to the hedgerow that marches the old road

Laid down by Romans, or even before them.

Trodden on by peddlers, tin-men and farm-hands

Weary and wary and stepping through puddles

Hands cupping treasures, or casting out crumbles

The sky gaze over but never the same one.

The hills have the long watch

They’ve witnessed

The marriage, the murder, the chase and the capture

The lost and the found and the sly interloper

The birth of a baby, the death of a lover

The shriek of a coachwheel, the cry of a robber

The creak of collision, the crack of a leg-bone

The stealing of purses, hearts, souls and virtue .

This road lines past the high hills, the place where my heart lies

Heather, furze, whimberry, rowan and hawthorn

Edge curved paths hug the whitestone cliff

Past the long barrow, the holes of the dry wall a window

The home of the adder, sneck yates, the droveway.

A long stone, a walkway, a ‘wonder-where-that-goes?’

A lost hour, a found way, a new way to Haxby

A once hidden valley, a discarded horseshoe

A long line of engines, toiling and trundling.

I find myself lost and lose myself found

I trudge and upwalk, steps into bounds

The rise is a hill, the steepest of mounds

I slip, only once, my blood stains the ground.

Then I’m free of the climb, up, look once around,

free now of rhyme, now I’m on top of the hill

The top of the hill, here it’s cold and I spy

A bottle, long buried, the neck winks a glimmer.

A picnic, the twenties, flannel for him,

Wool skirt for her, a blanket for both.

Some brown ale, a salt egg, a shared patch of sky.

His interlaced fingers cradle his head

As the sky races on, clouds huddled, rush by

She talks of the future, the summer they’ll wed.

He thinks of the sky, the day it turned red.

Not here, but in Ypres

Green Howards go forward,

Onward to chaos

The mud turns to the colour

Of shepherds warning

A lobster a boiling

A storm

Of shouting, screams, shells falling then

-John, what do you think? What shall we do then…?

He blinks, shakes his head,

begs his leave (for now lads)

Of Johnson and Wilson and Smith, Lees and Thomas.

He knows where they are (forever they’ll be lads)

Forever Green Howards, never now tailor

Or farmer, or blacksmith, tanner or turner.

John turns to his Mary, sweet sun on his meadow.

She knows, will not mention,

uses love to heal terror.

They swig from the bottle, then bury it

Under a slip of a Rowan, the berries her children.

The red of a warning, food for the skylark

The finch and the redwing.

Hiding a bottle until now, when I find it.

That was my brief pause, where John had his picnic.

Onward, well downwards

The path, steep, heel ruts for toe-holds,

A curlew overflies and answers another

I dip below wind, warm now and cautious.

It’s steeply slippy, hands grasp the bracken.


The hills have the long watch, the furze, deeply trodden

A march stolen, a hidden down treasure,

A stop, stump-trip shinned knee.

The wait of a parent, the crunch of the gravel,

the kiss of the key on the lock, unsteady.

The stars freckle the night and wink.

The hills know, but will never tell

of the birth and death of those flickery candles.

The dance of the lights, the death of the night

The courtship of the dawn and the gloom.

They have felt the weight of clawed paws

The prance of hares leaping in the long grass

as they pause at the shock of the eclipsing moon.

Here ends the rainbow, here, here and here.

There goes Auld Tom, driving the herd, switch flicking

Feet stretching from lowlands to Durham, finally York.

Here stands James Douglas, his army

of Scots and their taking of Byland.

Here knelt a king, cowed by the Bruce.

The shadow the abbey, whole just for now

Bore witness to the rout.

They marched on the old road, laid by the first feet

Which laid the barrow,

Opened the lime of the hill to bury a king.

The hills embraced him, enfolded his cairn in moss and turf.

Then they waited, until he became part of the earth,

Returned to his home,

Returned to the long watch.



Give us this day…

Making bread. Our daily bread. That’s what I’m doing right now. And this is what I want to explore in this post.

Why did people stop making their own bread? Time. It takes time to make bread. And most people simply don’t have the time it takes to make bread, so the supermarket loaf is an easy an appealing alternative.

The process is simple, but not something which you can speed up in any way. There are three distinct periods when when you have to wait. The first prove; the second prove and the final baking.

So lets go through the stages which include the gifts of time:

1: Mixing the ingredients:Bread ingredients

I use:

500g of strong wholemeal flour

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of sea salt

25g of fresh yeast (amazingly cheap from the local supermarket they won’t advertise it, but will sell it to you if you ask them)

25g butter

340ml lukewarm water

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Mixing the dry ingredients.

Now, my tip is to put the butter into the water so it melts,m thus making it easier to mix by hand. Ideally, put 200ml of very hot water in the jug, then the butter and add the remainder of the cold water when the butter has melted. Melting the butter in the water.

The fun bit comes next. Add the water and mix the dough with your hands. It’s wonderfully grounding to mix and knead and transform the initial soggy mess into a firm ball of dough after 10 minutes or so of kneading.

Then comes the first prove. the yeast needs time to eat the sugar and fill the dough with air, so its covered with a damp tea towel and left for an hour in a warm place until it has risen.

proving the dough by the fireside

2: The first rise:

And this is when I get the first gift from my bread. I have a spare hour. The bread can’t be rushed, so I have a while hour to turn to another task. Some days I will cook a soup; other days I will go for a walk, or pop to chat with a neighbour. This time, I am going to spend a little time finishing a lino cut for a Christmas card. Just a few extra slithers of lino removed, until I’m satisfied. Then Bert the pug is finished:


After that, I will wash the dishes and have a cup of tea.

And this is the incredible benefit of making bread. We think that it is easier to buy a loaf from the shop, because it takes too long to make a loaf. Yes, it does take time, but making bread has it’s own swathes of free time, bookended by the stages of the process. This is the gift!

Here you go! Here’s an hour? What would you like to do? Read a book? Pop to the shops, or the gym? Have a nap? Watch a tv programme? The last loaf I made saw me sitting in the living room, kneading the dough in a bowl as I watched a film with my children. (Gremlins, if you are interested!). Making the bread didn’t interfere with a normal evening. It was just a part of it.

The first rise

3: The second rise:

After the first rise comes ‘knocking back’. Basically you knead the dough for about 3 minutes longer, gently. After this, you put it into an oiled loaf tin (I use a 2lb one). Then, here comes the second gift fro the bread! More time. This period is roughly 45 minutes as the bread rises for the second time.

On this occasion, I am going to play my guitar and intersperse this with another cup of tea. What would you do if you had a spare 45 minutes? Go for a run? Walk the dog? You have enough time to write a blog post maybe? I would be interested to know how you would spend this time.After the second rise

4: Baking the bread:

This is the wonderful stage when the house fills with the soul warming scent of baking bread. There is a sense of anticipation as the dough transforms into a golden brown loaf. The oven is set to about 200 degrees C, for about 40 minutes (until the turned out loaf sounds hollow on the base when knocked with a knuckle).

And again, here comes the third gift. More time! Another block of time in which I can do something. I’m going to tackle a bit of ironing. With the radio on. I find ironing a meditiative process. Soothing, calming and centreing. I appreicate the measured blocks of time that come with baking bread. Simple tasks of this nature have the effect of freeing the mind as the hands work. I find myself solving problems and coming up with  new ideas as i knead the dough. It could be a poem, a song, or a way to refine a part of my life.

5: The finished loaf: Time to eat...

And there it is. Hot, golden, smelling amazing. The finished loaf, tastes so much better than a loaf bought fom a shop. Partly because I have invested so much time in it; partly because I appreciate how much time it has given me to do other things.

Does a loaf take too long to make? I’d argue that the opposite is true. Making bread creates time.

What do you think?

Patience is a…

Patience is a natural human state. This is something which I have realised of late. We have been inculcated since the Industrial Revolution into thinking that we aren’t, and that patience is some lofty virtue, almost unattainable in the modern world.

This is the view from inside my village bus stop.
This is the view from inside my village bus stop.

Patient people are portrayed as being highly spiritual, wise, often mature in years and wrinkled of countenance. ThinkMother Theresa, The Dali Lama et al.

There is a lot to think about here, and, here I sit, the words are unformed as yet. I have to explore this and I’d appreciate feedback and discussion.

So what is patience? Patience is freedom, Patience comes with freedom and it makes you freer.

It makes you appreciate the things which you have. I currently am hungry, so I have started cooking some food. I know that I will have to wait for longer than would perhaps be usual because I am cooking, as is my wont, over the fire. This takes longer, but, with patience, I am free to sit and write this, look out the window at the swaying trees, smell the onions and chilli wafting from the fire place.

So I am hungry but happy knowing that this is the best seasoning. When it is cooked (an hour? Two? I honestly don’t know how long it will take), I will enjoy every last mouthful and be thankful that I have food.

I am just brewing my second cup of tea. I had to wait until the kettle boiled before I could start cooking my break fast meal. But I have time and time is patience.kettle whistling

And I think thats the trick of it. Time. We are so constrained by time in this modern world. We judge people by their ability to be on time. And we have broken it down to time units. A minute. “He’s five minutes late.”

Are birds late? Do snails berate each other for tardiness?

Consider dogs. Dogs have patience in spades. They can sit and sit and sit. And when the time comes, or the owner comes back from where they have been, what does the dog do? Act cross because he’s been waiting? No. the dog is rewarded and happy and this joy is seasoned by the anticipation.

“You’re late.”

We all have heard this in the workplace. Yet somehow, it’s ok to stay late. If being on time was such a valuable skill, surely managers and bosses would value leaving on time too. Other wise, staying longer at work means that you are late somewhere else.

So whats it about? Control. Plain and simple.

Patience then is power and generosity. It gives pleasure and takes away other people’s worries. If you are late, I don’t mind. why should I? I have no right to control you, no desire. If I’m late, maybe I stopped to look at a pretty scene, or help someone who was lost. Maybe I forgot my bag and went home to get it. If you’re waiting for me, look up or look inwards and look forward. It’ll be worth it.

What do you think?