Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Big Old Sumach and the Snail


The big sumach that I see from my window must be around fifteen years old now. It didn't turn out to be the sumach I wanted, the Stag's Horn sumach that has furry new growth and is gloriously coloured in autumn. I wrote a plaintive post about this some years ago and was sent a sumach from my cousin Dermot. It is doing well but planted too close to a bloody rhododendron hedge. The hedge might have to go, but the birds do love it so. Dilemma.

The old sumach, pictured above in a photograph taken last July, is also very popular with garden birds. Probably because it is usually hung with feeders. They never nest in it but they do like to congregate there. It's where I take most of my bird photographs - which reminds me - time to give the window a wash! Especially as I've just spotted a big snail slithering down it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

The Prince's Birthday

There are some dates that stick in one's mind and today is one - Prince William's 40th birthday for I was in London the day he was born. There was no internet, or instant news back in those days. Instead, walking down a North London street, my own recently born bambino in a sling, it was seeing the signs outside newsagents - IT'S A BOY! I was so silly back then, that I let the thought enter my head, that perhaps, someday, my baby would meet him and they might marry and she'd be Princess Hannah. She dodged a bullet there. I mean, I know we are a tad on the dysfunctional side - but... that crowd?

Hannah with Aunt Gan.

It was Hannah's first visit to London. I was taking her over to meet her Aunts, all of whom lived at the same address in Crouch Hill, although in two different apartments, the older ones top floor, and the young ones below. I remember being shocked that some or other of the four of them (probably Kerry Sister) would go down to the shop below in her pyjamas. Such carefree behaviour had yet to reach dour old Ballymena town.

I don't remember Vancouver Brother being around even though he was based in London at that time. Perhaps he was in the Falklands as he had two stints there after the war, re-building the airport, him and a few other Irish lads. 

I look pretty chilled in that picture. I wonder why? And me with a nine-week-old bambino. I'd not a worry in the world. The Aunts had everything taken care of.  All I had to do was feed the child. It was a lovely holiday.

It was 1982 - there was no internet, no smartphone, no digital cameras. All I had was a cheap Kodak, point and shoot. And then there was the trip to the chemist with the film, and maybe a week later, a fresh folder of photos and most of them were shite. No filters either. You got what you shot. Come 40 years later the damn things are fading, turning orange. Even so, I love this photo of London Sister. When I get Photoshop and a few lessons from Baby Hannah (all grown up now) I'll make a better job of my photographic memories.


Monday, June 20, 2022

Doggy Day Care


Lulu - 7 night stay, full board. Fee - one bottle of Dingle gin.

Nellybert has been doing Doggy Day Care for the last few days. Lulu (above) is still with us and settling into a nice routine. Up bright and early, toilette, breakfast. Back to bed with Bert for two-hour lie-in. Up again around 10, breakfast again, run around yard, follow Nelly everywhere, light lunch, run around yard, hang out with Ziggy, schmooze with every caller, run around yard, stand in front of every vehicle that enters or leaves yard, including farm vehicles, and the bigger the better. Supper, rat patrol, put hens in, bark for 30 minutes, beat Nellybert into submission, sit on laps for an hour or more, evening pee, rat patrol, treat, bed with Nelly, under quilt, of course. Nighty-night. Big sleep, wake up and repeat.

Rex - 2 night stay, full board. Fee - one very good Prosecco which I did not share with Bert.

Rex is back with Swisser. His stay was a short one. Most callers thought him the handsomest collie X in the world. He got on well with Lulu although the two nights they were both here were very hard on Jess who became bad with her nerves. Rex, her litter mate, is naturally dominant which his sister resents. Jess dislikes all her litter mates apart from Dora. Ziggy was not impressed with Rex at all but at least Zigs can escape to his own apartments. Judy? She ignores the whole lot of them.


Jess Dora


Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Ten Years Ago

 Sometimes, when I cannot think of a single thing to blog about, I go to the archives. This one is for Ben - the time he broke my greenhouse.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

People In Glass Houses

Bert, like myself, comes from a farming background but farming was never where his heart lay. From an early age, he was drawn to horticulture. His father Johnny would have liked Bert to follow in his footsteps and encouraged him to take an interest in livestock. He gave Bert lambs and calves to rear and when market time came Bert pocketed the profits. He did not reinvest this money in livestock. Instead, he bought a greenhouse and grew salad vegetables in the wintertime and tomatoes in the summer. In time he went to Greenmount College where he studied partying, drinking and horticulture. That greenhouse must have been a good one because it has stood in the same spot for more than 40 years. Now that Bert has 6400 square feet of polytunnel to play with, the greenhouse is all for me to potter around in. Most years I've used it to grow bedding plants but this year I'm growing tomatoes.

We have our godson staying with us this weekend and we get him involved in our projects. This evening he helped me plant leeks and he also mowed the lawn. He loves the lawnmower. I have to admit I had a few concerns about safety and discussed these with Bert who assured me he could come to no harm. I decided to let Bert have his way in this. After all Ben will be thirteen in a couple of weeks. I watched Ben on the mower and I even took a little film of him. He showed a lot of confidence. Maybe too much confidence?

Still from my mini-movie. Does Charlie look a little wary?

Perhaps half an hour passed. Ben announced that he was going out to gather up the grass and said that he just loved mowing the lawn. A little while later I heard a crashing noise but did not take it under my notice as Bert is always making crashing noises. I was just getting myself into the mood for staking my tomato plants when I realised I'd been listening to clinking noises for quite a while. It sounded like someone throwing broken glass around. I went outside. And there was Bert, stoically removing broken glass from my very bent greenhouse. And there was Ben looking white and worried as he collected the glass in the wheelbarrow. He told me straight away what had happened. He'd meant to reverse but had gone forward and the front of the greenhouse had got bashed in.

Afterwards, Bert told me that Ben was very afraid that I'd be mad. I'm glad to say that I wasn't. Instead, I told him that he'd just learned that he'd have to be more careful when using machines and then I got on with staking my tomato plants.

I did tick him off later on for drinking coke whilst on the trampoline.

"Ben," says I. "I'm prepared to forgive you for bending my greenhouse but I draw the line at you spilling disgusting, sticky coke on the trampoline." And that was that.

Monday, June 06, 2022

It's Been A Bit Of A Green Week

 A few days after the Assembly elections, Banjo Man looked out our window and remarked, 

Have you noticed how green everything is since Sinn Fein won the election?

He was right of course. The grass was lush and emerald and the beech trees were newly furled and fresh-looking. It was May after all.

Out in the polytunnels, the new irrigation system was performing well and all the seedlings and plug plants were flourishing.

I'm still feeling enthused about my compost project. Got an additional bin from Dee Mac and started another pile. I'm getting so into it that I've started to slightly resent all the vegetable peelings and such that Rusty and Lily eat. 

Fred has found the Catnip (Nepeta cataria) we planted. About two-thirds of cats respond to it and he is one of them.

Thursday was our day out in Derry, enjoyed by all despite it being a bit damp.

Our first stop was the Plantation of Ulster exhibition at the Guildhall. Martha is becoming a history buff so she found this really interesting. She was even more interested when she found there were dressing up opportunities.

Zoe decided to be a Gael, that was easy, all she need to do was wrap herself in a couple of lengths of homespun. The girls were Planters (better clothes). The first picture is planter Evie oppressing native Zoe.

Then a walk around the walls. Matha lectured us on the architecture and told us all about oubliettes and murder holes. They're doing the Normans at school. We checked the famous mural. Those green school uniforms fit my theme. I don't know what's going on with the mini-diggers and the hi-viz guys but we'll find out someday.

Bert didn't do no-mow May. He didn't have to as he already has no-spray, let-it-grow, glorious wilderness all year round and that wee patch of a lawn gives him a lot of pleasure. This is more than can be said for his two new frames of bees. They are savages. The girls do gymnastics on the grass and poor Evie was stung on Friday. She was stoic and couldn't understand why I panicked. It was Bert's turn the following day. One actually flew up his nostril and stung him. I am giving them a wide berth.

The week ended with an enjoyable lunch, more gardening and a lot of hoo-ha about the platinum jubilee. Apparently, some of it turned out to be enjoyable, especially when the Johnsons got booed. There was something twee with Paddington which I must admit I rather liked. There is a sweetness about that bear and it seemed to rub off on the (green) Queen

Monday, May 30, 2022

Six Things I Did Today*

 *An occasional borrowing from Ganching.

1. Got up very early, read some of my books and then closed my eyes (just for a minute). Was awakened three hours later by the eldest daughter who had arrived for a full day of gardening on her vegetable plot. 

2. Attended to my latest obsession which is nurturing the compost bin. About ten days ago I trailed it out of an overgrown part of the garden and set it up beside the shepherd's hut.

It's almost full already, a mixture of grass cuttings, leaf casings and blossoms from the beech trees, general green stuff, veg peelings, a fish head, wood ash and some pee. 

It's coming along nicely. We have compost all the time just by chucking stuff in a big pile but that's Bert and Zoe's domain. This is mine, something I can micromanage, poke at and sniff. It used to smell great but recently... maybe go easy on the pee.

3. Made a birthday cake for Bert. There was the traditional pose with the two oldest grandchildren. A reader might note from this picture the placing of two bags of sugar on the shelf behind. This is a rural Irish custom as one can never have enough spare bags of sugar. Also in the background, a DAB radio which is always on as its owner (me) can never remember how to get it back on again should it be turned off. This is something that needs to be addressed owing to rising electricity costs. 

4. Watched the season 2 finale of Love/Hate with Bert. Which is excellent. Alerted to it by Kerry Sister.

5. This is a strange one. Fell down an internet rabbit hole with King Crimson. I was well aware of them in my teenage years but they weren't top of my pops. I reckon I'm just about old enough now to appreciate their brilliance.

6. Made a plan to go out after dark and listen to the long-eared owl babies. They're back again, somewhere around here, I don't know exactly where and that's OK. I've learned to let them be.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

48 Years Ago Today

Somehow, right now, these memories sting more. 

Lost Lives, pp 1522-1523, entries 1130, 1131 and 1132

Sean went to Micky Mallon's funeral, so did my father and sister. Sean is reputed to have said afterwards that it was 'a big funeral' and hoped he'd not be at as big a one again. Micky's father ran a country pub, as did Sean. His own funeral, a few days later was a big one too when he was laid to rest with his younger brother, Brendan.

There are three thousand, six hundred and ninety-seven entries in my copy of Lost Lives and that wasn't the end.

For all of the people who died during the conflict, there must be tens of thousands of people left grieving. May those days never return.

A Shooting at the Pub

Our Road