The Good News and The Bad News

First the BAD NEWS.  While fooling about with my newly extended lens yesterday I managed to scratch the lens.  I just cannot believe I did that. A strong line was curved across every image I took yesterday.  I cannot clean the mark away.  Senior Son has put his thinking cap on but from now until I can find a replacement I will shoot knowing that I will be cropping about a third out of every  image.  The good news is that I did not actually cry.

And now more bad news. Daisy (my Ayrshire heifer) is NOT pregnant.  My pursuit of making my own cheese from my own milk has hit a bump in the road. But all is not lost.  The good news is that on Monday we will  start a series of injections to bring her into heat.  If all goes well she will calve in May.  Which is a lovely month with lots of spring grass and not too hot.  So fingers firmly crossed again.  

Don’t you be giving me that look Miss Daisy! You are in the dog box madam.

Now where is my third crisis?  Bad luck comes in threes you know (Another superstition!)   But really such small problems I am having …

Oh guess what this is?

No you are all wrong. This is a butter mold.  I found it in a little antique shop last night. It is a bit wonky but quite a find for me. I cannot make one of these. So next time I make butter I can squish the whey out with this thingy and it will be a nice shape too. Now all we need is a cow who gives creamy milk instead of dirty looks! I am so lucky to be able to get my fresh milk from the lady down the road until Daisy begins to feed the farm.

And the other good news is that this is the last of the bee shots until I take a really fantastic one.  Their expressions never change!!  What about a smile!? Maybe one of them scratched my lens in protest at having it pushed into their faces once too often. Poor girls. 


Combining Two Bee Hives.

AS well  as taking a little honey from my bees,  it is time to think about doing everything I can to ensure their survival through our brutal winters. My rule is two full supers of honey per hive by winter. Two hives are looking quite short so I have begun to supplement feed them already.  I know it is early but they need a little help until the late summer flowers start to bloom.

The weak hive will never get up to par before winter.  You will remember that we  checked it for mites and disease on Tuesday.  All clean. It will be combined with the Blog hive.   The Blog Hive is roaring ahead very quickly increasing its numbers and storing away its honey. It is a calm strong hive that will be grateful for the extra hands I hope. We will use the newspaper method for the merger. Kind of ironic actually. Newspapers and mergers!

The weak hive appears queenless. They have gathered some honey which is good.
I could find no larvae in the hive at all.  Weirdly I cannot see any queen cells either. Also it appears that the hive has more drones than usual.  Which happens in the absence of a queen bee. The queen in the Blog Hive will have something to say about them I am sure.

OK, I talked to the weak hive telling them that it might be scary at first but I was sure they would make friends at their new condo and if they got bored waiting they could read the newspaper before they started eating it. Then I moved their super (the super is the box full of bees) closer to the Blog Hive.  Then I took the TOP super off the Blog Hive, laid a sheet of newspaper over the top of the BOTTOM Blog super and its nosy bees.  (They got the comic strips). I made a tiny slit in the paper with a knife. I positioned the Weak Hive super on top of the newspaper, then another sheet of newspaper on top of that, another slit and the second Blog Hive super returned to the top.

I put the top cover back on with a little gap left open for air and ease of movement. 

In two weeks I will go back and take a look.  By then bees should have nibbled through the paper. Thereby slowly getting acquainted with the each other.  Hopefully the new bees will be absorbed  into their hive. The queen will have them smacked  around the head a bit for being such bad housekeepers and then set them to work. The drones will be sent out to sit on rocks and sulk.  Here it is all closed up again. I hope I have not started a war. 

You can see the newspaper above and below the Weak hive.

Ok I am off to do my monthly shop. So I suppose I should get my brain in gear.

No that is not a shot of my brain! Though my brain often feels a little green and soppy!!


Searching for the shot.

Last night the new macro  extension tubes for my old Nikon were delivered.  Such excitement.  I am a little girl with this stuff.  I lined them up, (there are three) put them on and off the camera. Lined them up again and waited until morning. This morning I screwed the biggest looking one in between the lens and the body just like it said and went hunting!

Found a fly! Though I have to admit that it is not hard to find a fly. And the shot is kind of ordinary. Some of it is in focus. Just not the bit I expected. I have to think about depth of field a little more.

Found a trapped grasshopper.  Well at least he sat still!  Is he dead? What am I doing?

Now here is a very nice sunflower.  Finally getting somewhere.  Need to do better though.

Then I saw the Tuberosa just coming out – rich in heady perfume.  How to photograph a scent. Those beautiful crisp white waxy petals will be great! I took some time to set up the tri pod, (hate that thing, have to get a monopod), struggled with the focus, which was wandering in and out – and then not doing anything at all!  What was going on? Were the connections awry? My settings wrong? Not enough light? Huffed and puffed and carried on,  my language deteriorated, my knickers got  in a knot. Then the camera stopped focussing at all, everything stopped!   Damn new fangled things. This thing has wrecked my camera! Now I can’t get it off!  It won’t come off!.  And the camera is dead!  This new tube thingy has upset the balance! It has killed my camera! How did I let Senior Son talk me into buying this damn thing!! … pause … Oh.  The battery is dead.  Oh, well then, that would explain it. Quick glance around. No-one saw.  Only Thing 2, who has seen this kind of thing before.

Later I went back out with my camera all charged up and everything good to go. Saw a movement in a squash flower.  Bingo!

Stand by. I am going out again.  The light is brightening.  The tomatoes are going to be neglected today.  And I will see you tomorrow.  I am off to shoot bees!

I love these things!


Sustainable/Self-sufficient/Subsistence? Labels.

Sustainable sounds so similar to subsistence. (Please excuse the alliteration) Subsistence is hand to mouth, then the hand is empty. Sustainable involves the land and using your hands to feed your mouth while enriching the land to grow some more. Sustainable growing is by nature more upwardly mobile. Subsistence is hard to get above.  Both involve a lot of hard work.

Though this guy only goes to work twice a year.

Sustainable should be fresh, healthy and thoughtful. Sustainable is creating a mobile cycle of fresh food and living in this one space. It is healthier because of its insulation and self-perpetuating systems.  I struggle here because I do not like the word Sustainable. It does not describe what our personal goals are. There is more than an element of subsistence in sustainable. How do I describe it to you?  What is the word?

Our goal is to grow almost everything we need right here where we live.  All the food for ourselves and our animals. Raise a bit of cash to pay the taxes, the little electricity we need and the odd pair of high heels (and a new nightie, I tore mine this morning climbing through a fence.)   This is self-sufficient isn’t it?  We are cutting down the number of goods and services we bring onto the property.  Thereby limiting the amount that gets taken off as waste. And forcing the re-use and extended use of what we already have.  Most importantly we want to: Improve our lands. With the help of the cows and sheep, develop richer and more fertile soil. We want our families and friends to be welcome, relaxed and well fed with clean food. They can trust and rely on our food and our home. Until we get so old  – that we die.   Then the next generation will take up the  heady mantle and do with it what they will. Isn’t that what it is all about really? What do we call that? Do we need to call it anything?

The word sustainable has become a marketing tool.   It is a word we are being trained to recognise as describing safe, land friendly, green, organically grown food. It is a label that should help us choose the right goods to buy. It is a label we are being taught to recognise. But like the words healthy and green, that we encounter on a huge number of incredibly unhealthy supermarket items, it is becoming abused. These labels have become nebulous. We can no longer trust labels.  Sometimes labels reflect political objectives.

Poor old Organic growing has become fraught with rules and regulations.   If you see Certified Organic,  buy it because it has become very difficult and expensive to gain this certification. It is ridiculously strict. Government intervention is leaving sticky fingers all over it. Lobbies and Big Business have ensured that Certified Organic is really really hard work.  Monsanto is thought  to be trying to eradicate Organic seeds. I still feel like I can trust Certified Organic as a product to consume. The growers who do not want the paperwork and endless inspections and directives from a nefarious government body, label themselves Organic, Organically Grown or plain Sustainable.   Fair enough.  I like these growers too. Myself I am leaning towards Self-Sufficient or Old Fashioned.  Or just plain Bugger Off.

Old fashioned food. Old fashioned ways of producing it.  All these old-fashioned systems result in a sustainable organically managed lifestyle. And I am my own boss. And Daisy is my closest neighbour.  Who hates fences too. Is Old Fashioned the word I am looking for?

Not pretty all the time!

Old Fashioned-Refreshed.  What do you think?   In the twenties and thirties this was an old fashioned, diverse, sustainable (minus the word)working family farm. Everything was handcranked, dragged by a horse or using leverage, or pullies or was run by an old tractor. Wire and string was always saved. Old nails were straightened and stored.   A couple more  horses were still in the barn for emergencies.  The attic was full of centuries of interesting stuff.  Later the  old car would rust into the weeds out the back, next to the old wagon, but only after it had been driven for years until it was plain old.  Then all the reusable parts were ripped out and stored for ‘just in case’. A tiny windmill raised the water. The used water from the washing up was emptied onto the precious flower beds. There was a little electricity and a little gas for the car which left the garage on a very rare occasion.

I can work that hard.

So.  Old fashioned aye? Well, then my next step is wean myself off frequent supermarket visits.  Presently I go to a supermarket (forty minute drive) once every two weeks or so. (In my little VW that runs on recycled cooking oil.. what a hippie!!) It is easy not to shop often in the summer. I have fresh veges, fresh milk and a freezer full of meat.  So I am going to change my supermarket visits to – once a month. My next shopping day is Friday. I think the trick is to have a really good list and to remember to take it shopping with you!  I do not have a big kitchen or big pantry or reliable storage in the basement (it floods) so I am going to have to be clever.  We will see how clever I have been when winter comes and all the gardens freeze!

This means that when we crush the grapes it will have to be by hand… I mean FEET!!


Waiting for the little Mites

I woke up this morning to find that my internet connection was down.  I was practically hyerventilating within seconds. Am I one of the addicted ones?  Grimly I  turned everything off. I reluctantly backed away from the keyboard and went for a longer walk than usual. Something is happening to the air out there.. clouds are building, maybe rain?.  That would be great. Then I did some house work (Not  too much, it is hard to get excited about housework.) Put bread in to rise. Sorted tomatoes for todays Summer Sauce. Hung the first load of washing out (I like hanging it out, it is the getting it IN that has always been my problem). Moved Mama and her Flerd to a new field. Then decided to check one of my hives for those wretched varroa mites. Fingers crossed as I have not had any yet.

The best way to pre-empt infestation by the mites is like everything in the organic world of growing, OBSERVATION, Prevention and Note Taking. Now, I cannot go and look into the eyes of every bee on my morning walk the way I do with stock. Though bees eyes are quite startling. But I can make notes about any unusual behaviour. I have not seen any deformed bees, neither have we had heavy unexplained deaths. No bad smells in there. But my notes tell me that this hive is not thriving. Maybe the mites are there.  I think like most parasites there will always be a presence we just need to make sure the balance does not tip in their favour.

I slide a white sheet under the grill in the base (to catch the mites when they fall so I can count them) dust the bees with powdered sugar and wait a bit.  I do not need to  dust each frame as I am only looking for mites not treating for them, so I just pour the sugar along the tops of the frames then brush and knock it among the bees. Thereby limiting the disruption. The bees are noisy and agitated around their hives this morning which is  another sign that a storm may be coming.  Mama and her babies are quiet. 

Now my internet is back on.  I had such a long wait that I have even sliced some more tomatoes for the dehydrater. I will dry them then pack them into jars and rehydrate them with olive oil and garlic and basil. Then store in the refrigerator.  I dislike the dehydrater because it is noisy and uses electricity (which we try not to depend on) but I LOVE Sun Dried Tomatoes. We cannot sun dry them here as there is too much humidity. So the next best thing is to pop them  into the noisy energy guzzling horrid little plastic machine.

Now we are waiting for the bees to clean up the hive and each other thereby dislodging some mites.  Oh I forgot to tell you, the Custard Squares I made for  Sunday’s dinner were great. The pastry was a bit dull due to the heat probably. The flakiest bestest pastry is made in the winter when the kitchen is cold.  I will link you to a lovely French site that I found, her Egg Custard recipe of so simple and very tasty.  I made this custard with freshest milk and freshly gathered eggs.  I use a little less sugar than she does. Next time I will use honey and see what happens.

The custard squares were made by baking the custard, in a pie dish, between two layers of flaky pastry. Chilled, frosted. Served in tiny squares. Maybe we will get some rain. That would be great. 

We had the custard with lavender jelly that  I made in the spring and home-made unsweetened yoghurt. And that was just the dessert!  OK.  It has been a few hours and still no sign at all of mites on the white card. So I have given that hive a tentative ‘all clear’ until next time. Though I will leave the white card in for 24 hours anyway.

I had better go and get the laundry off the line. It is starting to rain. YAY!


The Barn at Rest.

Earlier today I wrote  a totally different post for you. But it was being difficult. It did not reflect how I feel today. So I took the camera to the barn. The day shifts out of gear in the barn.  Stepping out of the high summer heat. The clamour quietens. It has five big doors and they are all wide open yet it still retains this nebulous dusky air.   The barn has secrets. Enough words.


Love c


You say Tomayto and I say Tomarto – Summer Sauce

Where I was born and where I learnt to cook, in New Zealand, when we preserve our produce we call it Bottling and  we “Put them Down.’  Here  (US) we say “Put them up’ and call it Canning but both are in a glass jar with a sealed lid. Does this have something to do with being in different hemispheres.  (Up/Down?) So, here (US), when I say, I am putting down some tomatoes today, I get a very funny look!!  Was that a complicated thought?

Not to worry the sun still rises in the East and sets in the West. This is this mornings Rise.

Before we start the Summer Sauce. One of my Dear Readers left a quote for me in a comment last night and I would love to share it with you.

‘Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements’  Marcel Boulestin.

I LOVE THAT! I looked him up.  This fellow was great. He had the whole Clark Gable moustache thing happening. He tried and  failed at all kinds of things before he moved to the UK and discovered food and the restaurant business. And excelled. More importantly he wrote his way through each career change.  He never gave up. I love his story.  Great quote. Thank you.

NOW Summer Sauce.  Look who is trying to get into the shot of my jars!  Mary’s cat is developing a nose for shoes and cameras!

The concept of summer sauce was developed through my much acclaimed laziness when it comes to cooking and if I cannot memorise a recipe I seldom use it again.  I love to be IN the garden. So this recipe that really is not a recipe starts in your garden or farmers market.

Step 1. Take a very large basket and proceed to walk about the vegetables and pick whatever is ready. I will pick lots of tomatoes, a few  zuchinni (courgette) , egg-plant (aubergine),  couple of leaves of swiss chard (silverbeet), a fennel bulb and sometimes potatoes and always onions and garlic.  Whatever you have in the garden that takes your fancy with the majority of your basket holding tomatoes.

Step 2. Pick whatever herb you love the most.  I pick handfuls of basil, thyme and rosemary.  A little celeriac.  Sometimes dill.

Step 3.  If you like it spicy. Pick a chilli or two.  Our John has a little Thai Chilli that I pick, deseed and pop in. Sometimes a jalapeno. Sometimes a capsicum (sweet pepper).

Step 4. BIG POT.  Wash Core and chop the tomatoes.  You can peel the tomatoes if you want to.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I usually peel the tough skins off the really big ones and just chop and chuck the rest in. Roughly chop up the rest of your vegetables.  Onions and garlic  and into the pot. A little salt. Boil, Bubble, Toil and Trouble, etc, until soft and well cooked.

Step 5. BLEND and seal into your beautiful shiny jars. Sometimes I blend it all, especially if I have been lazy enough NOT to peel the tomatoes. Sometimes I blend half and return to the pot. Sometimes I don’t blend at all. Just be very careful blending a hot tomato mixture, just little bits at a time. Don’t burn yourself.  I like it a little chunky so I only pulse once or twice.

Step 6. The sealed jars go  into a hot water bath and boil for about 30 minutes OR the safer option: into plastic containers and freeze. (I have people collecting their cottage cheese containers for me all winter and I use these). I bottle some and freeze some.

When you open a Jar of this during the winter, the scents of summer will float into the kitchen with you. This is why I call it Summer Sauce.  It brings the summer into the winter kitchen!.

If the scent is sour or the jar lid hisses on opening. Or you are in any way suspicious of the contents. Throw away.  Botulism is real. It goes without saying that you will sterilise everything when you are canning/bottling. We don’t want any nasties.

I will be making a pot full of this every day until I cannot bear it anymore. And the delightful thing is that every batch smells and tastes slightly different because my ingredients and herbs change their intensity and availability every day.  Date each jar or container. It is fun to know when you gathered the sauce ingredients.

Summer sauce is like visiting your summer diary.  And it is a tasty scented diary. You can smell the day and then add summer to your winter dishes! Oh I love it.

Our John had the audacity to suggest that my gardening shoes might be past their best. What is he thinking.( Splutter, splutter.)  I have only just got them comfy!! Plenty of wear left in these babies!

I am cooking dinner for some friends this evening.  I am going to make custard squares for dessert.  Or try to. If they work I will share them with you tomorrow. So while you are at the market, pick up a dozen fresh eggs as well. We will be making custard!


Basil Pesto

Here is the pesto recipe.  Remember when making a dish with so few ingredients use the very best ingredients. At the Farmers Market in Evanston the other day I saw baskets of basil. Freshly picked. Gorgeous. Pine nuts are horribly expensive but worth it. Walnuts are an alternative.  Walnuts will change the color and taste though. Make sure your oil is the first press and from a glass bottle.  And lovely aged parmesan if you can bear it.

If you don’t have a garden, you can grow basil in a big pot on your window sill in a sheltered warm spot. As long as you croon to it every morning and water it TWICE a day in the summer.  Feed it once a week with a good natural fish fertiliser.  I LOVE basil!  Can you tell?

You will see from the picture below ( not a very good image I might add but I was in a hurry to EAT it!)  You can see that I actually stir the grated cheese in.  When we used to buy this in big jars freshly made on the Amalfi Coast in Italy the guy pulsed it in.  So you choose.

I take the flowers and stems off for this recipe. Though they are perfectly tasty in salads.

Basil Pesto

2 cups ripped basil (rip down the seam)

4 big chopped cloves of garlic

1 cup pine nuts

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup parmesan cheese

1/4 cup romano (this is optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In Food  processer:  Blend basil, garlic and nuts. Drizzle in oil.  Lightly pulse in cheese. 

Refrigerate. If I make enough I freeze  some in ice cube trays.   Place in a sealed bag.  They are fine in the freezer for a few months.  Then I use them for flavoring soups and stews during the winter. Lovely as a topping on grilled fish. 

A perfect lunch. 

Hot penne pasta, lightly stir in the pesto and top with grated parmesan and ground pepper.   Make a side salad of any edible greens you can find, dress with a tiny drizzle of olive oil and teensy drops of balsamic.  Divine.

OK. Just for discussions sake. I popped out and picked a cup of lime basil leaves. Halved the recipe. Replaced the pine nuts with walnuts.   See how fast it is the make? And LOOK! Not very pretty. But pretty tasty.  There is an  interesting lime hit left in your mouth.

A lovely girl from England who works in aromatherapy commented last night about Lime Basil.  Which got me to thinking  about how you could use this heady feel good herb in that line of work. Here is my suggestion. Grow a long bed of it.  At Dawn, when it is dewy and the world is still sleeping.  Sneak out. Throw your nightie into the weeds and tuck yourself in amongst the lime basil, wriggle a bit to release the fragrance, then just relax there, sigh, breath in that delicious scent and watch the the sky as it slowly lightens. Therapy.

I am making more summer sauce today. Our John is bringing in HUGE buckets of tomatoes every day now and so I had better get Cooking.  My summer sauce is the basic component for most of my winter dishes so I make as much as I can. I will write it up for you tomorrow.


Morning Walk through the weeds down the back.

Early this morning I took you all to walk the fences with me. I do this walk every morning and evening for the dogs toilet time.  This is the wild area, where the weeds and all that wild  grass is allowed to grow. I even throw seed gathered from the garden down  there to encourage wildflowers.   We cannot farm it anyway as the farmers are paid a government subsidy NOT to grow on it.  It is along a waterway.

As we pass I need to point out that our vines are still hanging in there. 

Thing Two is admiring Our Johns fence. It has kept the deer and coyotes out so far.

Daisy through the fence. So quiet and gentle at this time of the morning. 

A profusion of my weeds.  This is one my favorite shots this week.

There now. Home. I have made the pesto and will pop the recipe into a post tomorrow. I added lemon basil to this mornings mix but I am not sure that it is a success.  Good old fashioned basil is the best.  Lemon basil has a fantastic scent, and is good in salads when really fresh. The scent is quite divine. I roll the leaves over my skin  when no-one is looking. It is my favorite new herbal fragrance. No money in it though!

Still no rain but just a bit cooler, so I had better get out there and get busy.

Firstly, while the bread is rising, I will go and cut another load of corn stalks. Soon they will be too dry, the sweetcorn will be finished and the protein levels will drop so then at last I will be able to stop this chore. It is my least favorite job.  But I cannot let free, good food go to waste. Lots of fibre,  average forage.  Except I am doing the foraging.  The farm animals  seem grateful though. Well they better.

Talk to you tomorrow.


Why can’t a Guy buy a Girl a Drink?

I know that what I write today has nothing to do with old-fashioned farming.  But it is an old-fashioned thought. Queenie Wineti is supplying the visuals.  

You see I had this interesting experience in the city on the weekend.  I had walked from the Metra Station to the Union Station  to catch my last train, I had an hour to spare so I decided to sit down with my notebook  and catch up on a few thoughts. When I travel,  my favorite places to write are busy cafe’s or bars. So I found a little bar in the  Union Station terminal. Quite ghastly but dimly lit, which frankly I prefer in a bar. I hate brightly lit bars why do they do that?

I ordered a beer. Then almost bumped into a guy behind me as I  turned away from the bar.  At a glimpse this guy had an uncanny resemblance to an actor whose name I just cannot remember, you know the guy, he was in that thing, that one with that girl.   What was that girl’s name? Anyway he apologised, I accepted and moved away.

He sat at a table opposite mine.  He caught my eye as I looked up from my book. (oops, eye contact, bad)  Just one eye though as he was on his phone.  After a bit I went back to the bar to get another beer (it had been a long hot day in the city)  and still with his phone hand on his ear he raised his voice and called out “Put it on my tab!” to the bargirl.   I smiled at the bargirl,   (widening my eyes to her, like… shout across the bar why don’t you. )   Although I had not been asked if I wanted him to buy me a drink, I thanked him with a tip of the cold frosty bottle,  ( he was still on his phone) and went back to work.  A few minutes later, he said goodbye to his phone,  stood,  stepped right up to me  and said he hoped I was not upset that he bought me a drink. Some girls think it is an insult or something.

I looked up from my book, laid down my pen. Pushed my stool back to get OUT of his space, which had been my space – he was way too close.  And told him quite truthfully that No, I was in a bar, having a drink was not that unusual in a bar. And him buying me a drink was very kind and thank you very much. ( It was the manner in which he bought me the beer that was slightly less that clever. I mean one does not buy a girl a drink while talking to someone else ON a phone! )  I smiled. He had been brave. I flashed my diamonds around.  That usually calms them down a bit.

So we spent a pleasant few minutes having an old-fashioned chat about not very much.  I mean if a guy buys a girl a drink  and she accepts and I think it is nice to, then he gets a couple of minutes.  As well as that, when you get to a certain age it  doesn’t matter who buys the drink  as long as I get one.

Then he said can I tell you something and I paused somewhat apprehensively, turning my watch around my wrist so I could see it better,  (your three minutes is ticking buddy) and said you can tell me anything you like ’cause we will never see each other again.  He blinked at that but took it well I thought. It turned out that he had seen me at the Metra  (that is  5 blocks away) and just happened to be walking in the same direction, behind me, ( oh really I thought) and although he was catching a bus  (a bus?) he came into the railway station to have a quick drink.  (only bar in town open?, my right eyebrow raising) Then wow, he  saw me again.  (Oh goodness,  what a coincidence. Both eyebrows up by now)  So he bought me a beer.( Hmm. Well. OK…I had a stalker, an unusually honest stalker, who wore baggy shorts and looked like a guy in a movie ). But, why can’t a guy buy a girl a drink? 

He was a little earnest but not a crashing bore.  He introduced himself, we shook. All very civilised. His feet fiddled as he talked. He answered my questions about his kids (two both in college studying law and medicine)and his job, (who knows) and oh your grandparents are from Germany how interesting,( Don’t mention the war) I zoned in and out.  His wife was off the scene I gathered but one always wonders.  If he had been too dull  or even slightly lewd I would have said thank you so much for the drink,  it was lovely to talk to you  and now I  really need to finish this piece of work. I would have placed my half full bottle  firmly back on the table,  wiped my hands, picked up my pen and allowed the contact to drop.  He would have had  his three minutes of polite nodding and small smiles. Then the cut-off. I think it does not hurt to be polite.  Yet Firm. But I was still trying to digest his having followed me here. I mean that took a little thinking about. Was it a bad thing?

But maybe he was just one of those much maligned nice guys. But there was nothing on television, he actually really seemed like a nice fellow,  so he got twenty minutes and I got another beer.  And once he got over his terror of talking to a live woman he even became a bit interesting or maybe that was the beer. But it was a perfectly cool  interlude in a busy day.  Soon I began to slowly pack away my book and pens and he got the hint and thanked me genuinely for talking with him. Oh and evidently I am quite striking and have a distinctive walk.   I wasn’t going to argue though was I, that would have been rude.  Even if he had followed me half way across town.  And what does striking really mean anyway?  I am not sure I want to be striking. But I was determined to be kind.  (Why is that so hard?) I mean why can’t a guy buy a girl a drink.  Have a little chat without a keyboard   and then off we all go.  He really was a nice guy. And yes I meant to say nice.

And NO, I really did not think we had time to eat before my train, and  didn’t he have a bus to catch?  ( Oh yeah that’s right.)  So off he went. I wanted to tell him that he really should take  that plastic ID on a string from around his neck.  But maybe Mike was his second name or something.

The moment he was around the corner I upped sticks and smartly decamped to my gate to wait for my train. I sat quietly surrounded by about 300 noisy co-travellers and wondered.

Two people of the opposite sex can stop and just talk can’t they?  Mostly this is what people want when they buy each other a drink.  So why are guys afraid to buy a girl a drink nowadays? Are the girls so lacking in confidence that they feel they cannot control a small exchange of words?  Have they become harsh with fright?  Why are we dubious about accepting a drink even from a fairly harmless stalker guy.  Who I might add walked behind me for 5 blocks. Keeping his eyes to himself I hope!  Now,  I know that there has to be some kind of attraction and all that stuff, but come on girls we can manage that, can’t we? A bar is comparatively safe.   Men are not all bad. ‘No’, is a very useful word if an unpleasant connotation enters your conversation.  But do it gently.

So don’t be insulted if a guy buys you a drink.   If you want to accept, take the drink, say thank you, take charge of the visit by asking him a few questions, chat for three or maybe four minutes, (well I am a fast drinker) make sure he knows you are only available for a minute or two, ( wave to someone across the room, over his shoulder and mouth ‘back in a mo’) after his three minutes, excuse yourself, shake hands (this is important – a very useful social nicety that ends an episode), leave the glass behind, nice to meet you and be gone.

If you do not want to accept a drink, smile and say No Thank You.  Give no reason. No discussion.  Just No.  Smile and move aside quickly.  Be kind but firm.

Or and I know this is an outrageous thought.  Have a chat. You might enjoy yourselves. One day you may even meet a friend who was as stranger.

The loneliness and aloneness of ordinary and often very  intelligent and  lovely people is escalating.  It is making people sick.   We are looking for friendships with our keyboards.   No wonder we are all so shy and inept at real conversation.   A bar is one of the last bastions of controlled somewhat civilised communication.   In the afternoon anyway.  Well mostly controlled. Sometimes. And well civilised.. mm.. maybe that is the wrong word too.  But you know what I mean!

So let the nice man buy you a drink.  Only one mind.  Use words. Maybe he really is a nice fella.  I had a very enjoyable twenty minutes.  

OK.. back to the farm.  I know I promised you Queenie  but the others just kept popping into range putting in their two cents worth.

Be kind