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I know, I know, that title is incredibly bad – but I just couldn’t help myself.

In an email conversation with my US pal, Rox, she referred to the stone blocks of which so many Yorkshire buildings are made as ‘bricks’ – turned out she hadn’t realised we shaped stone before using it. I had never realised before how important building materials are to regional identity, in the UK at least. Here are some pics of the sandstone used up at the now ruined Howley Hall.

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Sandstone is soft, and therefore easy to shape into blocks, but also very prone to weathering. Howley Hall stands at the top of a hill, on an exposed outcrop – rather like Hardwick Hall, it was built as a big statement to the surrounding peasants and landowners. However an exposed site means regular maintenance is necessary – which Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, gets, and Howley Hall doesn’t.

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One benefit of the weathering means the beautiful patterns in the rocks are exposed.

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Do not get excited about the blue streaks; they’re the remnants of some vandal with a can of spray paint.

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I do love interesting bits of rock. Maybe I should retrain – yet again – this time as a geologist.

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Ah, one of the lovely sights of spring – hyacinths. However, you may also have noticed that this one is on the outside of my house, as its powerful scent made the lining of my nostrils feel like it had been scoured with chemicals. M’husband has complained about the impact of hyacinths on his nose for several years now. I insisted that they were far too lovely to banish although I conceded that they could live out in the conservatory rather than the house proper. But this year I joined him in olfactory misery, and out it went. Don’t know whether it’s me who’s getting more sensitive with age, or plant growers who are developing ever more powerful bulbs.

While the snow was still on the ground, I went to see SarahP’s allotment as I have volunteered to be her allotment buddy. I wanted one of my own, but m’husband complained it would be too much work and after some thought I felt he may have a point. So now SarahP is going to do all the thinking and planning, and I will go along and dig, and weed, and harvest – all the fun stuff.

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The allotment, along with some scrubby-looking winter greens and SarahP’s pride and joy, the polytunnel.

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We did a little digging and unearthed these Jerusalem artichokes. SarahP kindly said I could take them home, even though I’d never eaten them before. I duly found a load of recipes, all of which carried a warning about the amount of bottom wind J-artichokes provoke. So I am proceeding very carefully.

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Sparky had a good sniff round, then balanced daintily on the edging to the asparagus bed. That’s Young Aragorn stomping around upon the asparagus bed, doing his best to ignore his mother’s instructions to get off.

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SarahP inspects one of her compost bins. The lumpy green thing on her front is BabyF, now two and a half months old and snoring contentedly.

The first plan was for me to organise firstborn and son-in-the-middle, both currently on halfterm break, into washing down the polytunnel and filling sacks with well-rotted manure. However the manure is currently on hold whilst m’mother finds out the best time for us to raid the manure heap as m’father’s best friend Charles has put his slightly agressive French cows in the same field.

Third-and-final-son has escaped allotment work – for now – as he is away all week on a ski-ing trip with school. I am missing him hugely. I would usually get a Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter DVD viewing marathon in half term, as that is one of Third’s favourite activities. We usually go to a bookshop in halfterm, possibly the cinema, and have lunch at McDonalds or Pizza Hut. But not this time.

Firstborn does not want to come to a bookshop with me any more. Son-in-the-middle does, but all is dependent on whichever other appointments he has made. I miss the company of Third-and-final. However, even as I mourn I can’t help noticing how much more space there is in my house with only two boys, and I can’t help looking forward, just a little bit, to when they are older and (hopefully) move out.

I’ve had enough of looking at snow (yes, despite rain and sleet, snow is still lurking on the shady side of the streets and valleys) so I went looking for a holiday pic and found this one in the files for 2005:

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My babies with their body boards on the beach at Porthcurno. 2005 wasn’t that warm a summer – there’s another pic taken on the same day of me coming out of the sea looking absolutely perished – but at least we weren’t washed out or snowed under.

This was also long before it had occured to me that I, as a mother of three boys, would be hearing things like this:

Me: What’s that mark on your chin?

Firstborn: I burnt it with my hair straighteners.

And this, in the supermarket:

Son-in the-middle: I need more styling putty and hairspray.

Me: What, both? Have you seen the price of those? How about this own brand version?

Son-in-the-middle: No, I want the VO5 all-weather hold spray.

How times change.

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Sparky and I tried a camera settings test at Oakwell Hall. The pic above is using the Auto setting, and the picture below is the snow setting. All these pictures are straight out of the camera; there has been no fiddling with light levels etc.

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I could see no difference. But m’husband, with his professional eye, could: “Look in the bottom right corner,” he enthused. “Can’t you see how much lighter it is on the snow setting?” Well, kinda.

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This is a favourite tree of mine, and I also liked the way the snow topped the horizontal branches. The first pic is on auto.

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The second pic is on snow setting.

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And then, just to see what would happen, for the third pic I set the camera to ‘leaf’.

I can’t swear to any actual differences, but for some reason I prefer the leaf setting picture best. However, despite my efforts to take each pic from exactly the same spot and angle, I appeared to have shuffled a little as I adjusted the camera. So that may explain my preference also.

I think I have a long way to go before I get a photographer’s eye.

Sparky offered to be my model as I took out my camera yesterday to try the snow setting.

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This trial would have been more effective if I had remembered to also take some pictures without said snow setting. I may try that today if all doesn’t turn to slush.

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Big sky and the water tower. In normal conditions, when I stand here I am treated to the sound of birdsong (skylarks, possibly? I am not that good on birds) but not today. I do love looking at sky that’s so blue, however.

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Then looking the other way, down the Calder valley. It’s difficult to get a clear view with the low winter sun, so I am looking forward to heading up here in midsummer. Sparky was very fed up by this point – for while I was finding the snow satisfactorily crunchy, the frozen surface layer was just  thick enough to support her light weight for a split second before each foot in turn would go through with a slight ‘pop’.

We are left with a combination of snow, ice and slush, and there’s a waiting game for Thursday when we are forecast to get either snow or rain.

Heavy snow. Heaviest for at least 12 years, and more forecast to come tonight. So I cancelled tonight’s antenatal class (rather than face six pregnant women slithering around in the car park in one of the higher points of Kirklees), drove carefully into town and then had a very enjoyable walk in the snow with Sparky.

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The statues in front of the viaduct.

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The first floor of one of the unused mill buildings on Bradford Road.

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Looking down onto town from the top of Caulms Wood. It was nearly 5 o’clock when I took these pics and getting a little dark, so my first attempts (using the ‘snow landscape’ setting on my camera) didn’t work out. Then m’husband (a former professional photographer) suggested I use the stabilization setting instead, and this pic and the following one came out great. snow5-feb09

It’s lovely snow. Really dry and powdery. From Siberia, apparently. We shall order more of that variety for next year as it is far superior to the soggy flakes we normally have to put up with.