Saturday, October 23, 2010


Pine Plains in Dutchess County, New York, is much the same size as Colwall in Herefordhsire, though houses are more widely spread and on big lots. Trees shade the streets. Architecture is white clapboard with porches to rock on in summer twilight. A few small buildings rub shoulders on Main Street each side of the sole intersection regulated by traffic lights. The Stissing Bank occupies one corner, the pharmacy another and The Stissing House Tavern and Restaurant a third. The Stissing House is the biggest building in town; it has an upper floor though no rooms to let; the owner/chef is French. The Colwall Park has a French waiter and does have rooms. Both Colwall and Pine Plains are set in a gentle country of small valleys, wooded hills and grass paddocks. In my youth this was dairy country. No longer. Farms are too small to survive in today’s market place.


My home is a three hundred year old cottage facing across two cricket fields to the orchards and hills of my beloved Herefordshire. The fields are home to Colwall Cricket Club. In summer I walk to the far boundary to sit on an oak-shaded bench and watch paragliders ride the up-draughts above the Malvern Hills. A pair of buzzards often circle amongst the paragliders and a white owl lives in one of the oaks. Colwall is much the same size as Pine Plains in Dutchess County, New York, where the midday Autumn sun warms the bench outside the Mountain Cow CafĂ© on Main Street This is a good place to sit. Drivers pull into Peck’s Market car park round on my left. Clients visit the law office and the realtors across the street or drop by the book store - used books, or is that pre-read? A yellow school bus passes followed by a John Deere farm tractor pulling a trailer. A new restaurant opened this weekend, Agriturismo. The chef/owner, Mark Strausman, is a name in New York. The owner’s son (14) hurries by, red-haired and a slight limp.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I had to put this up!


A loosebox door grinds open and steel shod hooves tap concrete. My room is above the stables. I am in bed at my son-in-law’s horse farm in Dutchess County, New York. I have bronchitis. The medic in Pine Plains has prescribed antibiotics for ten days, two pills a day to be taken with meals. I took a pill yesterday with dinner at 7.15. Now I get up and make breakfast so I can take the next. I dress and pad silently down the corridor passed my grandson’s bedroom. He will be three in January and is of uncertain temper when woken unnecessarily. I step over the black cat that sleeps on the stairs. In the kitchen I turn on the coffee machine before going to the bathroom, pee, wash hands, face and the important bits, brush teeth, glue in the dentures. The coffee machine commands me to rinse it, empty the coffee grinds and fill the water tank. The toaster requires six minutes to heat. I slice five mushrooms into an omelette pan and whizz a couple of eggs with chilli flakes, black pepper, garlic powder and a pinch of low salt salt. The toast is almost ready, coffee machine set to STRONG. Pour the eggs into the pan, stir once, fold over and slip onto a plate: low fat fake butter on the toast, low fat milk in the coffee. I tuck yesterday’s New York Times under my arm, follow the dog outdoors and set my breakfast on the table by the barbecue. Four cats weave between my legs. Pigeons bask in early morning sunshine on the barn roof. Mares race each other up the hill paddock towards the woods. Maples are in full Fall splendour of lipstick pink through to scarlet. Oaks and hickory prefer gold. Tea Party Candidates for Senate prefer gibberish. Old Brits run on cardiac medication...