All posts by Andrea Gibbons

A New Year’s Light across Ingleborough Pavements

We saw many sides of Ingleborough, but the slopes closest to Horton in Ribblesdale we walked twice. The pavements of Moughton scar are incredible in both mist and sun, the first day the clouds and mist dropped down on us as we picked our way across the limestone of Moughton edge.

But on the this first day of 2022 we went walking higher up Ingleborough and the sun emerged now and then to light up stone and grass and sky. It was a day of wonder. May the sun continue to light up this year of changes and beginnings.

So glorious.

Equally glorious, the millions of years of ice, water, sand and seismic activity that created this place, that brought us here. My geology book had a most lovely illustration.

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The Ingleton Waterfalls

Our final day of 2021, a hard year, long year, covid year but also a year that brought great change for 2022 and many good things. The day dawned wet, with low cloud. It has been raining heavily. Water thundered down with wild force enough to take the soul and cast it up into the air light as foam.

I can still hear it in my ears.

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Settle to Victoria Cave and the Craven Lime Kilns

Such a splendid walk today, although we weren’t sure about weather. The wind had finally died down, but we left the cottage in a fine drizzle to catch the train down to Settle. An incredible breakfast at the Naked Man Cafe and straight up the hills.

The sun graced us, lighting up the world below.

It only appeared now and then, but drew extraordinary colours out of land and sky. Blues I have never seen and clouds like feathers that touched the earth.

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Christmas Eve Walk: New Houses

I miss going to Arizona to spend Christmas with my mum, but this lovely cottage, Fawber Cottage, in the Yorkshire Dales is a good second best. Just released from Covid quarantine — I caught the stupid virus at our Christmas lunch, which was also doubling as my going away lunch.

The irony is not lost on me.

So I was stuck home until Christmas Eve, and even with trains cancelled and delayed, managed to get to New Houses to meet Mark in time for a walk. Just up the road from Horton-in-Ribblesdale, it is beautiful here. We walked further up the dale, up to Sell Gill where the stream pours into the earth, swalled up by the cave beneath the limestone.

The wind has surely been wuthering though.

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Fear and Radical Literature in Litvinoff

I enjoyed Litvinoff’s A Death Out of Season immensely, with its story of anarchists and revolution moving between Poland, Russia and London’s East End. It tells the story of the siege of Sibley Street, but I hate giving even that much away. They are characters elsewhere reviled that will stay with me a long time, their dreams for a better world brought alive here with no little tenderness. I also loved this description of the differences between tasrist Russia and England, though England still brought death in the end.

The difference was measured barometrically, in the gradient of fear. In Warsaw, the suitcase he carried was filled with sedition. He would have already edged towards the door, prepared if necessary to abandon it and run. Here it was so much printed merchandise, legitimate stock for Hoffman, the bookseller, who openly displayed revolutionary tracts in half a dozen languages which elsewhere were hidden under floorboards and passed from hand to hand under cover of darkness. Special Branch detectives badly disguised as working-class intellectuals dropped in to collect a pamphlet or two and take note of Hoffman’s shabby clientele, some of whom were reputed to be the most dangerous agitators in Europe. They went away smiling, smug, relaxedly British. What a country, Murontzeff thought almost affectionately. The Wiezence prison had changed him a little. For the first time in six years of exile he had the feeling of coming home. But the blandishment must be resisted. It wasn’t home at all: home was where the fear raged at fever point. (41)

A Death Out of Season (Paperback, 1979) for sale online | eBay

The trashy cover is great too. All of this is a glimpse into the Jewish East End of immigrants and radicals, of poverty and struggle. Another reason to miss Stepney, but looking forward to reading the other two novels in the trilogy. I am so glad I found Litvinoff, and even more to receive these as gifts. It took Covid recovery to find time to come back to them.

Litvinoff, Emanuel (1979) A Death Out of Season. London: Penguin.

A Classic Bristol Story

The weekend was golden, skies smiled blue. This was a while ago now, times have been busy. We were walking into town.

Coming towards us ever so slowly and creakily down the middle of the road, a woman rode her bicycle. Her left hand rested on a handle bar, her right hand pressed her phone into her ear.

As we watched, she slowed even more. Then slowly, so slowly, she toppled over to one side.

Just.

Toppled.

Over.

Without a move to save herself or break her fall.

The strangest slow motion accident I have ever seen.

She wasn’t so old, but not so young either. She lay there on her right side, unconcerned and still straddling the bike, its wheels slowly spinning. Her right arm bent beneath her still held her phone to her ear, and she continued talking as though nothing at all had happened.

We hurried to her side, asking if she was alright. As we stood there, she looked up at us, told the person on the phone she needed to go, but she’d call back. She hung up. Seemed to notice she was lying on the ground.

We helped her sit up. She insisted she was ok and didn’t need any help. We weren’t all that sure.

A white, middle-aged and highly-lycraed man pulled up on his own bike. We thought he was there to help. His beard made him look like more of an adult than us. He stood there straddling his bike in manly stance, looking down at her.

‘You see this?’ he asked her, tapping his helmet. ‘Never leave home without it. It’s dangerous out there. Your head can crack like an egg. You should never cycle without a helmet.’

You see this?’ he asked, tapping his leg. ‘A pocket for my phone. That phone never leaves my pocket while I’m cycling, never. It stays in there at all times. You need to keep your phone in your pocket. Someone calls me? I pull to the side of the road to answer.’

‘It’s all about road safety’. He said, smiling, his teeth white.

She smiled back, nodding. We all nodded.

He rode away. We stared after him.

We helped her stand up, walked her bike over to the little grassy bank for her. She sat down, refused any further help. Said she’d be ok and asked us not to call anyone. She repeated this several times, and told us she just needed to sit for a bit. So right or wrong, we didn’t. We continued our walk, though with some misgivings. She sat on the bank a while, talking on her phone again. In our last view of her, she had restarted her wobbly ride, on a sidewalk this time.

Bristol Autumn

It is actually winter I think, 4th December…winter, right? It’s winter in Manchester. It snowed and everything. I take the train south and time moves backwards to an earlier season.

Autumn is one of my favourites. Crisp air and blue skies with a hint of gold, the glow of changing leaves. Ashton court was beautiful. Open space, I desperately needed open space. Ancient oaks. Deer. It was warm enough tucked into the back of the golden stones collecting the sun to enjoy an ice cream.

We walked home across Clifton bridge, down through town. We passed hundreds of bikers dressed as santas (and elves, and reindeer and assorted holiday characters) driving jubilant and loud through the streets.

Knitting Sticks

Knitting sticks! I had never heard of them before, but they are ingenious. Were I a knitter I would have some idea how they work exactly and all the ways you could use them, but essentially they allow you to stand or walk and knit at the same time. I am not a knitter nor do I depend for life on how much knitting I can produce in a day, but I love the beauty with which this desire and this need has been satisfied.

A knitting stick is a piece of wood with a hole in the end for the needle.  It’s tucked under your arm [or held fast in a belt] so you can knit with three or four needles.  They learned in the 1800s that if you had a stick, you could knit faster and therefore earn more money.  The money that they earned was a pittance but it was better than nothing.

This is all from the Dales Countryside Museum exhibition Love Tokens, Sittings and Songs in Hawes, showcasing the collection of John Dixon:

It’s probable that knitting sticks, sheaths as they can be known, were used from the earliest days of knitting. Many have a ledge or slit so they can be held firmly in a belt or apron string on the right side of the waist. They anchor the knitting needle onto which the knitting is worked and allow the knitter to work close to the point of the needle. They also enable the knitter to work while standing or walking about and to “park” their knitting if they need to use their hands for other tasks like opening a gate on the way to work at a lead mine or moving a pan from the range.

In their book Old Hand-knitters of the Dales, Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby, the founders of this Museum, talk of one of the earliest recorded knitting sticks possibly being of Northumbrian origin and dating to the 15th or 16th century, a time when knitting flourished as an industry in Britain.

Wensley Dale Knitters, illustration by G. Walker from Costume of Yorkshire, 1812
Wensley Dale Knitters, illustration by G. Walker from Costume of Yorkshire, 1812

So practical, but also so beautiful, some simple and stylish, others more fascinating and some of them wonderfully odd. They were all hand carved as gifts, some love tokens as the exhbition title goes.

As the old illustration shows, this was a social and most companionable form of knitting. There are series of pictures taken of older folks sitting outside their doorways in their chairs, ready to chat to any passers by. They sang songs as well.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, people would come together to knit, whether it was outside their homes during the day or at their neighbours by the light of a peat fire in the evening.

They sang songs to count the rows knitted with their knitting sheaths and curved needles known as pricks. The sittings were social and also saved money, with only one house having to keep a fire going.

“perhaps the most characteristic custom of the Dales, is what is called their Sitting, or going-a-sitting. Knitting is a great practice in the dales. Men, women, and children, all knit … the men still knit a great deal in the houses; and women knit incessantly. They have knitting schools where children are taught; and where they sing in chorus knitting songs, some of which appear as childish as the nursery stories of the last generation. Yet all of them bear some reference to their employment and mode of life; and the chorus, which maintains regularity of action and keeps up the attention, is of more importance than the words.”

This was such a surprising most wonderful thing to find. We came to Hawes on this rainy day, clouds low so low over the earth. A quite miserable day. We caught the most wonderful community run Little White Bus from Garsdale station. We came to see the town, to see Wensleydale Cheese being made (but it was closed), to see Gayle mill (also closed), to see the ropemaker (closed). I don’t mind that they were closed, we came over our own holidays after all. The exhibition made it all worth it though, and the village itself. It is beautiful there on the banks of Gayle Beck, with narrow streets and alleys, houses that all seem to face inwards towards the village and the community life there.

Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful

Small is Beautiful By E. F. Schumacher

I read this a number of years ago now, but still it surprised me that it should be written in 1973. Before I was born. I forget just how long Western white folks have known we were hurtling into climate crisis, though I know our indigenous kin have been voicing their warning since Europeans set foot in their ‘new world’ and began the first wave of extinctions and genocide.

This is a book critiquing economics as they are (still are, despite all good sense and years of warning) and providing a vision of economics as they could be. I feel that there are so many people rethinking economics now, writing for popular audiences with books splashed across Waterstones’ tables, that it is almost encouraging. But this analysis of the modern world as Schumacher sees it is still a good place to start, and I’ve been meaning to come back to it for a while.

He begins with the very European separation of man (because it was almost always man after all, and that was always a part of the problem) from nature.

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