Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Distant Donkeys

A person could nearly be happy if it wasn't for the relentless brutality of the reported news. Today Bert and I travelled to Loughgall to pick up clematis liners in one location, compost in another. There were friendly people,  friendly dogs, and slightly distant donkeys - Armagh and Tyrone are pleasant places. The orchards in Armagh are laden with apples but apparently it's not good news for farmers. More work for the growers with lower prices and the Irish cider companies have quotas. This is how market forces work in the 21st century, the better things are the worse they are.

In Springhill there is a glut of raspberries and blackcurrants and, hopefully, of peaches. This is a good thing. Nelly fills the freezer, all the visitors get free fruit and the birds, insects and pigs eat the leftovers. No money involved. When I'm picking currants one hen, the smart hen, follows me around eating the fruit that I drop. She's not actually that smart because she hasn't figured out she can pick the fruit straight off the branches. Those blackbirds could teach her a thing or two.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


So many weeds to pull and so much fruit to pick. I say to Bert,

The days aren't long enough,

And he says,

You can see them getting shorter too! Winter is coming!

Damn you Bert, I may have anxiety but you are a pessimist. Yet it may be that I have nurtured my own optimism as an antidote to my anxiety.

In the right (wrong) frame of mind I can turn any pleasant thought to a negative.

My word, the raspberries are doing fine this year,

To be followed by,

I wonder how many years I have left in which to enjoy raspberries.

Short lived delights like laburnum bring sad thoughts too. It is glorious in the few weeks when it blooms, so loud with busy pollinating insects. Evie calls it the corn tree because, to her, the drooping acid yellow blossom look like corn cobs. Every year the laburnum's glory is tinged with sadness as I remember that my time to enjoy it grows less and less.

Perhaps it is me who is the pessimist.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Off To Norfolk

I'm off to Norfolk tomorrow to see Katy and family. Sweet Baby James will be one year old this weekend and soon I will have to desist from calling him Sweet Baby.

 Today was a good day, I spent most of it planting vegetables and picking and freezing fruit, pounds and pounds of fruit, mostly white currants and raspberries. I still need to complete my packing.

The best thing about today though was the news about Theresa Villiers. Good bye and good riddance to the toffee-nosed witch. Northern Ireland has hardly had a worse Secretary of State and there have been some duds over the years. Hopefully this Previously Unheard Of (they usually are) will be a tad more useful than Helmet Head Villiers.

Anyways - back to the packing. I'll freeze the blackcurrants in the morning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ten Dogs At A Party

We had some friends around for a barbie yesterday and for the first time ever there were more dogs present than humans. Sadly, some of the dogs were not well-behaved.

There were our own three dogs,

Judy - she found it all rather difficult for she is not really a dog person. She much prefers people. Luckily Rod came round later and he is one of her most favourite friends. Luckily he is a dog person and was not too fazed to be greeted by nine dogs leaping on him as he came through the door.

Jess - like Judy she found it all a bit too much. Her sister Dora was there and her brother Rex. She likes Dora and always shows her where the best shit for rolling in is. Rex - she can take or leave him. Her best bit was when Rod came. He understands the shit thing and is not too precious about it, Rod and Marty retreated to the kitchen to play music and Jess lay faithfully at their feet. She is a huge Rod McAuley fan. In fact her other name is actually Sprollie McAuley.

Roy - Roy loves a bit of doggy company. He feels he is the old gentleman of the house and enjoys the odd row with the other boy dogs. He always wins.

There were the Reed dogs.

Frank - Frank is old and deaf and very bolshie. He also likes a row with the other boy dogs and always wins.

Dora - she is very sweet and loves to roll in shit. her favourite is fox, second favourite pig but when these are not available she makes do with cow.

There were the Kenny dogs.

Rocky and Dougie. - Good dogs, Jack Russell Terriers. Bothered no-one.

Dora - also a Jack Russell Terrier, Very small and sweet, wants to be cuddled and loved all the time. Actually quite needy. You'd think butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Until she got into the hen run. OMG! Swisser and I were gathering white currants and suddenly there she was, crept under the wire, through the tiniest gap and within seconds had one of the brown hens in her tiny little jaws. I went after her and she has down in a giant nettle patch. I tried to prise her jaws open but it was impossible, they were locked. Poor hen is squawking in pain and fear then Swisser gives the dog a good thump and it released. I caught the wee brute and got it out of the run. The hen disappeared. Carried it into the house and dumped it, quite unperturbed despite choking on feathers.

There was Swisser's dog - Rex. An absolute sweetheart, one of the sprollies, brother of Dora and Jess. Bit of a mummy's boy, not allowed to roll in shit. He was bullied by the old fellows, Roy and Frank but held his own.

Ziggy - Hannah's dog. Most well-behaved dog at the shindig. For a change.

And what of the hen? It wasn't easy finding her for it's a very nettly chicken run and full of fruit bushes. But we did. She hadn't a tail feather to her name, bruised but not bloodied. She has been moved in with the banties and their babies and seems content enough. Her poor sore bum is purple from that antiseptic spray. She keeps looking at it, perhaps wondering where all her lovely feathers have gone. The rooster is down to only three wives.

And what of the humans? They ate, they drank. they talked nonsense. Some of them argued, some of them went home early, some stayed up very late, some played music, some sang. Some banged on about politics and Brexit and Bonfires. Then they told me to give it a rest.

Until next year.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Day Trip To Portrush

Last year Hannah and I took Martha and Evie to Portrush to go on 'everything' at Barry's and Kiddieland. We had a great time so we did it again this year, except sadly, Hannah couldn't make it so Ben came in her place. I don't know if  a 17-year-olds can be a mensch but if he is too young right now, he's certainly on his way. He didn't mind carrying their pink coats, only flinched a little when I asked him to hold my Cath Kidston bag when I had to rummage through my backpack looking for even more cash to turn into amusement park tokens.

On the train

We took a few photographs while we were there. The best ones were of the more sedate rides as the hectic ones were all too fast for my limited photographic abilities.

Worst ride was the Ghost Train. Not even a tad scarier than it was when I were a girl and eight tokens for us all to go on. Martha referred to it as 'getting it over with'. Next year, if we are spared we're giving the Ghost Train a miss and having an extra ride on what Bert calls the 'hobby horses'.

It all fair took my mind off Brexit and the Chilcot report. Sometimes we have to forget about the grim stuff and just have some fun.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bonfire Tales

Scene: A car park in a village near Ballymena. Around one-third of it is taken up with the beginnings of an Eleventh Night Bonfire made up of wooden pallets interspersed with tyres. Near the main bonfire there is evidence that there has already been a smaller fire. The car park surface is damaged. Household furniture and other rubbish is scattered around and one of the two entrances to the car park is blocked. Several young boys are clambering over the pallets and hanging around. Most are under sixteen years of age. A vehicle pulls into the car park, inside are two young girls and their grandmother.

Six-year-old child: What is that Granny?

Granny: It's a bonfire.

Six-year-old child: What is it for?

Granny: Well, there are some people who have a special day when they like to watch marching bands, and people called Orange Men and Orange Women walk in a parade and lots of people come out to see them and the night before this special day they like to light a big fire and that's what that is.

Six-year-old child: But why is it so messy?

Granny: I'm not sure.

Six-year-old child: When is the special day?

Granny: It's the 12th of July, twelve more days. The fire will be lit on the night of the 11th of July.

Six-year-old child: So it's going to be left all messy until then!

Granny: Probably.

Six-year-old child: Will they clean it up afterwards?

Granny: (laughs) No. No they won't. It will get cleaned up afterwards but not by them. They should clean it up but they don't.

And this is a village that prides itself on being one of the best kept in the area. Apart from the annual eyesore in the car park it is a well-kept little place. Ah well. I expect the residents think it's an improvement on times gone by when the bonfire was built in the very centre of the village and they lived in fear of their homes and businesses being burnt to the ground. It's an odd thing, this culture lark.

Killing Slugs

The very minute you arrive in my yard I'll be saying,

Well! What do you think? Did the vote please you? How do you feel about it now? What about your silly oul'  Da that was for voting Leave because there was too much paperwork and regulations. What does he think? Your Ma, who was voting Leave because there were too many Eastern Europeans in the town, is she happy now? 

Or, if you're English I'll be saying,

I know you voted to Remain but what does it feel like knowing that everybody hates you? And that we're all thrilled that Iceland fucked you out of the European Championship.

And if you arrive in my yard and I know you voted to Leave I'll pretend that I don't care, mutter some banality and avoid you. It's a big yard and a big enough house so it's easy to do. And that's if I like you. If I don't like you, you're going on my list.

I thought I'd have to sort my Facebook friends but nobody that voted Leave is on there gloating so I haven't had to do that. If any of my Friends voted Brexit they must Regrexit so I'll leave that for now.

A casual friend turned up the other day with his delightful two year old. We went out to view Honey's chick,

Well Rodders, how did you vote? 
I voted Leave. 
Did you? Do you realise this means we can no longer be friends?

I mentioned my list. I kill slugs. I grow things, gardeners kill slugs. It's not a pleasant thing to do and I wish it wasn't necessary but I crush those slugs under my heel and I do it fast and hard and I only kill the sort that eat seedlings. When I kill slugs I have a mantra, it goes something like this,

Boris Johnson. Theresa Villiers, The Ballymena UKIP councillor, Michael Gove, That Unmentionable Harridan who writes for the Daily Mail, Gregory Campbell, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Kelvin Mackenzie, The Sun, Jim Allister, William Wright, Arlene Foster, Donald Trump...

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Bad Thing That Happened To Bert Before That Other Bad Thing That Happened

Here it is. My first post since England and Wales carelessly waltzed Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the European Union. I still cannot gather my thoughts to blog about it. Maybe tomorrow. There is still so much going on.

This has been such a difficult fortnight. I'd been so agitated about the upcoming referendum results not to mention the appalling horror movie that was the endless commentary. I was fearful that the result would not be the one I wanted and even fell out with Clint because he was voting to leave.

Then, a week before the referendum Bert bashed his ribs in an accident involving a cow. He was helping Clint dose cattle and standing on a five bar gate when the big beast banged into it, causing him to lose his balance and fall on to the gate on his left side. When it happened he was winded, could hardly breathe and was very shocked. Bert never, ever expects bad things to happen to him, unlike his wife who envisages her immediate death every time she descends the stairs.

Clint was his usual unsympathetic self and carried on dosing the beasts. What else would you expect of a stoic?

Poor Bert. He was in so much pain and discomfort but all his friends rallied round and soon the painkillers were rolling in for it is a tradition among country folk to use up all the old medications before new ones are sought. He was even given Tramadol that had been subscribed for a dog but, I’m glad to say, he did not try it.

He seems to be recovering but it is such a slow process. When all his decent pain relief ran low he went to see his GP and she pronounced the ribs badly bruised. One of our friends is in the farm supplies and animal feeds business and he told Bert that there is hardly a week goes by that he does find one or two of his customers nursing bashed ribs because of rampaging beasts. See Bert! Now you know why I am timorous around cattle. You can never mock me again.