Thursday, September 29, 2016

On The Kindness of Strangers

I am not the kind of person who feels the need for the latest phone but, several years ago, a young friend who does feel a need for the most up-to-the-moment gadget, sold me his old iPhone. This phone came complete with something called a Griffin All-Terrain Survivor Case. It wasn't elegant. It looked like it ought to belong to a macho building site worker or maybe a mountaineer. I kept the case despite its ugly appearance because you'd never know when something bad might happen. Since then that phone has survived several falls on to hard surfaces and even a winter's night lying in the yard outside our house. It rained that on night but not heavily.



Not like the downpour that Evie and I were caught out in this afternoon. That was one of those sudden heavy showers that soak you to the skin after a few minutes. We were crossing the road, only yards from the van when it started and by the time we reached it we were both drenched. I could barely pull the car key from my saturated pockets in my haste to get Evie into the dry. We drove home singing 'silly songs' about rain and getting wet and when we arrived on our yard there were Caitlin, Cara and Maria over to play while their Mummy and Hannah went out for coffee.

First Evie and I had to get into dry clothes while Caitlin, Cara and Maria rang brass bells, banged Fisher Price pianos and blew harmonicas. Then the phone rang. British Telecom wanting to speak to Bert. I told them he was on holiday and wouldn't be back for a week. Next week I'll tell them he's in hospital, the week after I'll say he's in prison. I'd only put the phone down when it rang again. I'm still wet and the girls are still ringing bells, bashing pianos and blowing harps. It's a young woman, foreign accent, talking about a phone. I could barely hear her. Then I realised she's talking about my phone and she's on my phone! I'd dropped it. I was able to tell her that my daughter lived around the corner from where she'd found it and I'd be very grateful if she left it there.

Evie's dad brought it round later that evening. He said the finders were a young couple, very pleasant. I wish I could have thanked them myself. The phone looked OK. But it had been dropped in a downpour and there was water inside the casing. For the first time ever I took all the casing off and that six-year-old phone looked like it just came out of the box. It's elegant now but I'd be better to put all that rufty-tufty casing back on. You'd never know when I might be half way up a mountain on a very rainy day.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Getting Stuff Done

One of my plans for September was to write a daily post to Nelly's Garden and it seemed to be going fine until the 17th of the month. On that particular evening I was feeling extra tired and the very idea of dragging myself into my private, secret sitting room to write was wearisome indeed. Instead I posted this to Facebook.

Was going to write a blog post every day in September but then I got this nice bottle of red and the craic was good and I realised the internet is not the boss of me! Well, maybe Facebook is - a little bit.

Of course I thought I'd just miss the one day...

Then I read Oliver Burkeman's column in yesterday's Guardian. This paragraph resonated with me for I am always making complicated lists and plans that never succeed in the way that I'd hoped. They actually make me feel like a failure most days.

When attempts at unbending discipline fail, I turn to a post the Buddhist teacher Susan Piver wrote in 2010, entitled Getting Stuff Done By Not Being Mean To Yourself. It relates her own frustrating attempts at rigid scheduling, and the approach she chose instead: asking what she felt like doing. 

So today I did keep asking myself what I felt like doing and at one point in the mid afternoon I realised that what I really wanted to do was go to bed and nap. Which I did, and then when I got up about an hour later felt really refreshed and did lots of things without once consulting a list. And I even updated my blog.

Earlier today...

Sister and daughter 

We all went to Waterfoot for a walk on the beach.

Dogs and daughter

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Early Start and an Anniversary

Today started rather well. I got up just before 5:30 am and drank the cup of coffee my daughter made for me, then into the van, Ziggy on board for company and for our viewing pleasure a huge, nearly full moon setting in the south-west. Hannah was dropped off at work about a quarter to six and we spotted Daniel the Tesco cat approaching the staff entrance for his breakfast. Then Ziggy and I headed for Antrim to search for the exact pair of pale pink slipper boots that Miss Martha wants for her birthday. Approaching Asda, Ziggy alerted me to the Asda cat (name unknown) heading for the staff entrance for his morning meal. In the door at 6:00 am and slippers and croissants purchased by ten past. By 6:30 am we were outside my daughter's house posting Evie's forgotten homework book through the door. Met the next door neighbour, Hannah's colleague departing his house and wished him good morning. Like my conscientious daughter he too is expected to be on duty at six but apparently this does not trouble him.

Off home for more coffee, croissants and apricot jam. Hens out. The other bantie is sitting on eggs but I'll deal with that tomorrow. Bert is still in bed and will remain there for a further two hours.

It was my father's birthday today, his exactly a week after my own. I found myself thinking about him throughout the day, trying to remember specific things, early memories. I remember the feel of his large hand enclosing my tiny one as he walked me down the kesh beside our first home in Cannionstown. Going out in the green AEC lorry, me and my sister, both of us sitting on a thick rug in the middle where the heat of the engine beneath warmed our legs and bums. No call for seatbelts back in those days. There are other memories that aren't mine, ones my mother told me. She said he carried me down the stairs on the 9th of March  wishing me a happy half-birthday and she said that I'd stand in my wooden cot rattling the sides with excitement when I heard his lorry arrive in the yard.

I don't know if my younger siblings would agree with but sometimes I think that we older ones knew the best of him when he was in his thirties and had less to worry about. For there were four more children in his forties, he bought the farm, worked two jobs and sometimes times were hard for both my mother and father. And as if that wasn't tough enough they found themselves the parents of teenagers. Oh dear. Daddy just didn't get teenagers. But that is quite another story. Today on the 97th anniversary of my father's birth I'll only be thinking about those early years.






Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wild Life


This little creature is a Goldcrest. Earlier today it flew into a window and stunned itself. Bert saw it happen and picked the wee bird up before either of our two cats came upon it.

Hold on, 'til I get my camera, although I really hope it's flown off before I get it.

It didn't fly off, still too stunned. I asked Bert,

Is there something wrong with its feet?
No. It's not used to standing on flat surfaces. It needs to be holding on to twigs.

We took it over to the clematis montana and set it on a tendril. It fell for a moment, then found its wings and flew away over the hedge and into the meadow. Relief.


Now this fellow is a vine weevil. I've no idea how it found its way into the kitchen but that day that Bert got injured by the bullock there was one in the cab of the van. I was going to tell him all about it but forgot when I saw how he was hurt. Vine weevils are the enemy of horticulturists for their larvae love to eat the roots of plants such as clematis, primula and strawberries. I let the little brute wander around the kitchen and hope it dies before it finds one of my plants. They make a horrible, crunchy noise when they are killed and I'm just not in the mood.

Isn't it funny how one of God's creatures is a complete darling and another an utter bastard. Makes one think.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Looking Back: This Day Five Years Ago

When Pearlie was still around, before I burned my diaries....


The Diary of Nelly Dismal

My 25th year found me living alone in Drumtara, pregnant, poor and lonely. I was also very bored so, to pass the time, I kept a journal. It ran to two volumes and I have to admit it was one of the most tedious, self-obsessed and whiney journals ever written. It didn't contain an ounce of humour or interest and every time I've looked at those two notebooks since I have cringed.

So why did it take me more than three decades to rid myself of these woeful books ?

Today, during an epic attic clearance, I decided the time had come to burn the dreary things and the only place in the house with a burning fire is in Pearlie's room.

What's that ye have there?

Just some old diaries.

What! Reach them to me!

They're not yours Pearlie. They're mine. Just some old diaries I kept when I was in my 20s.

Setting them carefully on the fire.

I'd love to read those!

You would not.

Piling the coal around them.

I'd have been very interested in those.

I bet you would.

I felt a tiny bit guilty depriving Pearlie of the pleasure of finding out what a shallow twat I was when I was 24 but very, very happy to be rid of the reminder. Thanks be for the cleansing power of flames.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Getting Comfy


Why Paddy pictures two days running? Two reasons. One - I'm very tired and haven't the mental energy to come up with anything more challenging. And two - I'm sorting out my photo folders and have started on the Ps in the critter folder.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Dogs In Our Lives, Paddy

Paddy

That is a photograph of Paddy taken in 2004 when he was full of vim and vigour. That would be Hector's cattle he is running at, the bad article - running the beef off them. He might have been around Judy's age, five or six - we never knew for certain how old he was. We'd had him for six months then and eight years later he was dying of old age.

Dogs -  they're not with us for that long at all. Only the memories last.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Flying Visit

Back from a flying visit to beautiful Eelburn and the people and dogs had a ball. Well - there was a ball for a while but then Dora lost it. There was this one time we'd been playing on the beach and the dogs had had their chow and the people were going out to eat when we looked back and saw this sad sight.

Left Behind. Jess and Dora

Of course we went back and took them with us.

Worst Bit. Jazzer snoring.

Best Bit. Under a quilt, lying on a sofa to escape the sound of Jazzer snoring and looking out on a skyful of stars.




Saturday, September 10, 2016

Eelburn


Just a short one. I had a lovely birthday and now Bert, Jazzer and I are off to Eelburn for a day, a night and a morning. Back tomorrow.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Twenty-One X Three

Sometimes, when I blog about a birthday I like to use an anagram as the title, an anagram which contains the person's age. Today is my birthday and the best anagram to be found is 'His Extremity'. I may find a different title as 'His Extremity' might give a casual reader the wrong idea.

So, on my birthday I was taken out for breakfast by two of my husbands - the current one and the one before that. It was very pleasant. We called with The Pet Shop Boy and he greeted me,

Happy Birthday Nelly! Twenty-one?

And I replied,

Twenty-one is exactly one-third of my actual age.

I've a good bit of birthday left and later I may drink wine. We had cake yesterday and there may be more today.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Fame At Last



It is always very heartening to realise that people actually read this blog. I've long been used to folk sidling up to me at country funerals and addressing me as 'Nelly' and only today I was in Tescos when one of the employees greeted me thus,

Good to see you wearing shoes that match!

Although I cannot beat Hannah's experience - for she was walking her little dog on the river path when a complete stranger came up to her and spoke to the dog,

Hello Ziggy!

She then said (rather shyly) to Ziggy's owner,

I read your blog.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

And So It Begins

I was going in to town this evening to pick up Hannah and decided to change shoes. My jeans were rather shabby and my shirt unironed but I thought they might do. I was only going to Lidls after all. Off I went, ready for anything. No matter about the faded jeans and the wrinkled shirt, my shoes were shiny.

When I got home I had some chicken business to attend to for Flour the Silkie is sitting on eggs for the third time this year. I've decided to let her get on with it. I removed the original eggs and set three below her plus the one she laid this morning and moved her to another shed. Apart from feeding and watering she will be left to get on with it in peace. It is a little bit late in the year but very warm for September so it should be OK. She is in good condition and I will make sure she gets plenty of nourishing treats as the sit progresses.

When all was done I went upstairs to change beds as more guests are expected in the next few days. I was very surprised to see one of my new shiny shoes lying on the floor. Didn't I....? Then I looked down at my feet.


The bits on my shabby left foot are flecks of straw from making a cosy bed for Flour.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Debeukhaw & Freebody


I've owned this velvet jacket for 39 years and it was vintage back when I purchased it from a stall in Portobello Road Market, summer of 1977. I spent about three months that summer working as a chambermaid in a hotel off the Bayswater Road. We started early and finished early and on Saturdays my sister and I would  go to the market. My favourite part was the vintage clothes stalls under the bridge. In those days I mixed vintage with hippy-dippy and very lovely I looked in it too. I wore that jacket with everything but mostly with a loose black or white top and a mid-length red cheesecloth skirt. Footwear would be sandals or boots depending on the time of year.



For some reason I was rarely photographed in the jacket. This picture is the only one I can find and it might have been one of its last outings before relegation to the back of the wardrobe.  I came across it again while I was clearing out a wardrobe for Hannah. And briefly considered recycling it. And decided not to. It's almost unwearable now, places were the velvet has rubbed thin and the crepe de chine lining has become very delicate. It's been through a lot. I partied in that jacket. It occurred to me for the first time in almost four decades to examine the label which I found tucked in a side seam. It was hard to make out but I managed to decipher it. Debeukhaw & Freebody, London W1. Strange name 'Debeukhaw' maybe Polish? I decided to Google it. There was no Debeukhaw & Freebody, there wasn't even a Debeukhaw (although there is now thanks to my Google rating) but there was a Debenham & Freebody. My lovely jacket had been a department store buy! Albeit a very posh department store. I'm still going to keep it for another forty years.

Monday, September 05, 2016

No Need To Apologise Revisited



Can it be ten whole years ago that I worked in that godforsaken hostel in Dunclug? The one that has been evacuated, knocked to the ground and grassed over. Such stories could be told and here's one of them from 2006. I hope that poor Eamonn straightened his life out. It's far more likely that he is dead and buried by now for he was a terrible martyr to strong drink.

No Need To Apologise

This good woman has got a poor cratur from Cashel* sitting in her office and he’s telling her how he’s starving, hasn’t a cent to his name, hasn’t ate a bite for four days and how there’s all these young boys outside torturing him and he doesn’t want anything to do with them, he just wants a quiet life and a new start.


So Eamonn you’re starving and you haven’t eaten for four days? Where’d you get the money for the drink then?

Sure a boy I met on the train give me the drink.

Right. Would you like a cup of tea and a bit of toast?

I would surely.

So the good woman and her colleague the good girl make the poor cratur a cup of tea and a bit of toast and he seems happy enough. Then he notices a television sitting on the floor.


Could I have that TV? Sure I haven’t even a radio or anything to put the evening in.

Well I’m sorry about that Eamonn but that TV belongs to someone else who has moved on. I couldn’t loan it to you. I’m sorry.


The poor cratur went on about this TV for longer than the good woman’s patience could stand and she tried to hurry him out. She offered to escort him to his flat as the young hoods were hovering about and had rang the doorbell several times wanting to know when that Eamonn boy was coming out. She noticed, whilst walking over, that Eamonn’s gait was awkward but put it down to hunger. But at the door of his flat there was a clatter and a great pile of CDs, DVDs and a DVD player fell at his feet. The poor cratur was very dismayed.


Oh my CDs are destroyed.

What are you doing with all those? Where did you get them? And what’s that you’ve still got up your jumper?

It’s nothing. I’ve nothing up my jumper.

You have. You’ve something square up your jumper. Did you take those things from the office?

I did not. They’re my own. Are you calling me a t’ief?

I’m not calling you anything. I just want you to explain to me why you’ve got all that stuff up your jumper and what it is you’ve still got up your jumper.

I’ve nothin’ up my jumper.

You have. I can see the square edges of it just there.

Are ye callin’ me a t’ief?


The good woman realised she was getting nowhere and as she had no real idea what had been in the bags in the office she knew she was on shaky ground. So she returned and consulted with her colleague the good girl. They saw that the bags of booty in the office had indeed been tampered with. They decided to return to Eamonn’s flat to give him the opportunity to redeem himself. Optimistically they took fresh black bags to receive back the purloined goods. When they came to the cratur’s flat they discovered he had company. Saoirse was with him but as they entered she disappeared into the bathroom.

She needed to go to the toilet.

Tell you what Eamonn. Give us back the stuff you took and we won’t call the police.

I took nothin’. Call the Guards if ye like!

At this point the cratur took his phone out and after punching in a few numbers he started shouting,


Mammy! They’re sayin’ I’m a t’ief. Tell them Mammy I never stole anythin’ in my life!


His charade with the phone complete he continued to brazen it out. His accomplice remained hidden in the bathroom.


I’m not a t’ief. It’s terrible you’re saying that about me!

I’m not saying that about you. I can’t say for sure that you took those items from the office but then again you are not giving me a good reason why you had them hidden up your jumper.

It’s because I have no pockets!


The good woman did not argue this point with him. Saoirse remained in the bathroom. It was the good woman and the good girl’s opinion that she had the good stuff in there with her. But there was nothing they could do. And the cratur knew there was nothing they could do. They decided to leave with their empty plastic sacks. The cratur said,

Are you goin’ to apologise for callin’ me a t’ief?

I tell you what. If you’re still here in a month – and you haven’t stolen anything - then I promise I’ll go down on my bended knees and apologise to you.

There was never any danger that the good woman would have to keep her promise for the following day the poor cratur was taken away in handcuffs, in the back of a police Land Rover, after being arrested for thieving! Just imagine the good woman’s feelings.

But that’s another story.

*The cratur was not from Tipp. Certain names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Sunday Evening Viewing

Aidan Turner                         Robin Ellis 

Bert found himself in a dilemma this evening.

What will we watch tonight? Victoria and Poldark are on at the same time. Should we watch Victoria first then catch Poldark on iPlayer?

I didn't care and would have preferred Game of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 6 but didn't like to say. I know how he gets on Sunday nights. So I said,

What do you want to watch?

And he said,

Poldark.

So Poldark it was. There was Aidan Turner all sweaty and shiny, showing off his gym-honed bod as he chiselled at the inside of a copper/tin mine searching for another lode. And all the other miners fully dressed shaking their heads at him as he frantically hammered. That Cap'n Ross. He never gives in. And there was George Warleggan (the snake) looking remarkably like my ex-boss and Demelza shaking her auburn curls (not a patch on Angharad Rees) as she marched the cliff again. They're never off that cliff in Poldark. Galloping it, walking it, gazing wistfully out to sea on it. Mind you, If I had a cliff like that near me I'd be on it all the time too. Just not so close to the edge.

There was the obligatory love scene. Ross all tanned from his frequent shirtlessness and Demelza pale as milk. Gentle kisses. Married sex. Yawn. Next morning she wakes, turns to smile at him and realises he's outside chopping wood. Bert says,

Why is he in the middle of the field? Be far wiser doing it close to the house then he wouldn't have to carry the logs so far.

Maybe he didn't want to wake Demelza. He's considerate like that. 

Every other day of the week Bert watches manly stuff. The News. The Weather. Farming programmes. Shows about Hitler. Gritty films. YouTube videos about pipe-smoking. Then on Sundays he turns into Walter the Softy. Poldark, Call The Midwife, Downton Abbey. He was heart-broken when Downton finished. No more Lady Mary, he loved Lady Mary.

As for me - I much preferred the first Poldark, the one from the 1970s with the delicious Robin Ellis and the peerless Angharad Rees as Demelza and I never recovered from the loss of Hamish Macbeth. Sunday evening telly, there's something about it. Get a good show and you'll never forget it.




Saturday, September 03, 2016

Empty Streets and Dry Garages



When Lizzie was here yesterday we got talking about a photograph of Pearlie taken as she cycled through Cullybackey when she was in her early twenties. Lizzie claimed that it had been made into a postcard. No one could recall where we'd last seen it.  So today when Bert and I called in at the Cullybackey Historical Society Open Day we were pleased to see that very picture. We cannot be certain it was Pearlie but the timescale fits and it looks like her. According to Bert his father didn't own a car back then so cycling or walking would have been her only option. I'm sure that's not true. Johnny is bound to have owned a car in the 1950s. How else would he have got to Portrush? And he was always in Portrush. Bert asked me if my father had a car back then.

Of course he had a car! He might have had to share it with his six brothers but they always had cars. Sure they had a petrol pump. They'd have looked well walking or cycling when they had access to free petrol. And how could they have courted girls on the far side of Randalstown without wheels? Not like your lot who wouldn't have walked the length of themselves for a woman. Folk who thought three fields away was a big distance!

And speaking of modern day petrol stations I have sad news to report for one of the guys in the garage has been rather dry with me these past couple of weeks. Normally he's all friendly banter which  I thoroughly enjoy. The first time I noticed he was a bit 'off' with me I thought he was distracted, maybe having an off day. He's been 'off' with me for a couple of weeks now and I think I must have offended him in some way. Perhaps because a couple of weeks ago I couldn't recall receiving change and when I queried it, it turned out I had. I should have been embarrassed but I wasn't and maybe that is the problem. Ah well. I hope he gets over it soon. I miss his banter.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Early Riser



Up early this morning taking Hannah to work. Driving before 6 a.m. is a pleasure for there is hardly another soul about and the journey into town and back home takes about 25 minutes. I stopped at the garage in Cullybackey to pick up buttermilk for I had scones to bake, visitors expected - Bert's Aunt Lizzie and a cousin from Scotland. I spent an hour or so washing floors and other boring household tasks, baked the scones, then gazed at my chickens for recreation.

The visit was very pleasant but afterwards I was extremely tired and popped off to bed for what is known as a power nap. It was supposed to be 30 minutes but turned into an hour and a half and I awoke feeling utterly exhausted. How does Hannah do it? Recovered enough to make supper, water the vegetables and gaze at the chickens.

Then phoned Jazzer to arrange crazy, mad birthday weekend a week hence. Only Jazzer will do for crazy, old bird madness. Opened a bottle of rose petal wine (strange and potent) and watched that Game of Thrones where Hodor broke Locke's neck.

I promised to blog every day. Didn't promise that it would be interesting.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

All The People I Talked To Today

I might try to blog every single day during the month of September which won't be easy as I am practically brain dead and the only thing I am any good at writing is lists. The other day I found my husband sitting in front of my screen perusing my To Do list with a quizzical look on his face. I was displeased and a little bit embarrassed. As soon as he left I opened a new sheet on my spreadsheet and entered some words.

The next day while I was organising my digital images into folders he crept up behind me and peered over my shoulder. He does this a lot and I'm not keen on it. I said,

Are you looking at what I'm doing?

And without any shame he answered,

I am.

And I said,

You're looking at the wrong thing then. You should be looking at this. 

And flipped the screen.



He said,

That's not very nice.

But I know he really thought it was hilarious.

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To begin this month of daily blogging I offer a list: Some names have been changed to protect privacy.

All the people I talked to today in real life

1. Bert. We talked a lot. No serious conversations. Lots of laughing and saying, bah, bah, bah which is our new joke. I may explain this later.

2. Hannah. General chatting about work, family, tree houses and stuff.

3. Evie. She was almost too excited about beginning her academic career to talk about anything much except maybe cats and hunger.

4. Martha. We discussed music and dancing. She said she likes Irish music especially when it is fast and bouncy.

5. Ploppy. Inheritance, cars and general gossip.

6. A young man in a coffee shop. Geeshie Wiley. He brought the subject up and I was very impressed. We also talked about people falling out of tree houses and what can be done to avoid litigation.

7. Bilrus. We talked about families, life, Game of Thrones, politics and small man syndrome. Bilrus is a very tall man with a very small boss.

8. Howard. Dogs, mutual friends and the work place.

9. MM. Sinn Fein shenanigans and politics in general.

10. Locky. Horticulture and mutual friends.

11. Peter. The property market.

12. A Wildling. The misadventures of small dogs.

13. Rod. Families, music, mutual friends, food, dogs. He had supper with us and said he didn't mind that the lid of the pepper pot fell off when I was seasoning the cabbage. Said he liked pepper a lot. Said yum-yum. Then he played his guitar.

14. Les. We had a discussion about a mutual friends experience of bullying in the work place. Food, families, music. Then he played his guitar while Bert played the clarinet.

That is all.