Monday, June 26, 2017

The Everlasting Sweet Pea

Lathyrus grandiflorus

The other day Bert asked me if I’d noticed the everlasting sweet pea that grows through the hedge next door. I certainly had spotted it for I look out for it every summer and this year it is especially gorgeous. Bert continued,

Sam Hamilton hated it, tried to cut it away. Then he tried to dig it out but it always defeated him. He said it was a weed.

 Did he? I think it is beautiful. Who was Sam Hamilton anyway?

Sam and Lizzie Hamilton lived in that house after Clint’s granny died. The McKays lived next door.

There were two houses?

Aye. They were both wee places. That’s why Clint’s ma and da moved out.

Is Sam Hamilton dead?

He would be. He was a good bit older than my father.

I’ve been thinking about Sam Hamilton and his battle with lathyrus grandiflorus ever since. It didn’t escape me that he had the same name as Adam Trask’s good friend and neighbour in East of Eden. Our road would have been a lot quieter then and Sam wouldn’t have been in fear of his life as he stood on the verge hacking at that terrible sweet pea that he hated so much. He must have been a neat Presbyterian sort of a man, a good Ulster-Scot who would not have wanted such a flamboyant weed rambling through his tidy hedges.

The house that stands there now was built on the site of those two small cottages that had previously belonged to Bert’s father. Sometimes I wonder if it is an unlucky place for it has been lying near derelict for many years, the family that lived there long gone and scattered.

Clint was the boy next door when Bert was a child. He was a bit older than Bert but company was scarce in the countryside and they spent long hours playing together, sometimes getting into trouble such as the time they broke down Johnny’s chicken shed. When Bert’s very cross parent arrived on the scene Clint quickly disappeared down the lane to the safety of the house next door. Truth is, he had little to fear as Johnny was a mild-tempered man.

Eventually the family moved to a bigger house and their place was taken by Clint’s Granny, a slight widow woman who lived there until she came to a very strange end. One morning Bert’s father was passing the place and saw that the windows were discoloured. He discovered the old woman lying on the floor beside fireplace, all that remained of her, her lower legs still clad in little slippers. She must have ‘taken a turn’ and fallen too close to the fire. The room was undamaged and the fireside chair intact. The only thing was that the interior walls and windows were covered with a dark sooty grease.

Tropaeolum speciosum

I believe I have a packet of everlasting sweet pea somewhere around but as it’s at least a year old it might not take. So I must try to remember to collect some seed from the bane of Sam Hamilton’s life for that must be a very vigorous strain. Where I should put it I don’t know as our hedges are under planted with tropaeolum speciosum, the gorgeous Scottish flame creeper and I think they’d clash with the pinks and purples of lathyrus grandiflorus. If I can get it started I’ll plant it somewhere and it will remind me of all the people who lived on this road before me and mine ever stepped foot upon it.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

First Trip In The Camper Van

After very many months we finally got the old Ford camper van out of the repair shop and through the PSV. Today we took our first trip. It wasn't far as we only had an hour. Bert didn't even have time to change out of his boiler suit! Three dogs, two grandchildren and Nellybert and we could easily have fitted in three more dogs and one more child and still had room to spare. Our chosen destination was Bracknamuckley Wood near Portglenone, ideal for a quick jaunt with a river for the dogs to swim in and beautiful woodland paths for everyone to explore. We saw a heron, Evie's favourite bird and heard jays. There were more common orchids than I'd ever seen there before and scores of oak saplings. Martha examined these with great interest. I think she thought they'd look good in the forest she intends to plant. Evie found a gall on a willow leaf.

Granny! Come quickly. I've found something interesting.

And she knew there was a grub in there. I'm really proud and pleased that the girls are so interested in the natural world. This van is going to be a natural history museum on wheels.

We found the remains of a brown and caramel coloured bird which we couldn't identify. There is a website but ours wasn't there.

It's getting late and I left those plumes in the camper van - tomorrow I'll photograph them and see if they can be identified.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day

My father died in the month of June, not long before before Father’s Day and I found the run up to that third Sunday in June almost unbearable. I remember feeling bitterly resentful at all the advertising and posters encouraging shoppers not to forget that most special man in their lives. Twelve years have gone by now and I don’t mind so much. Father’s Day is just another day. It belongs to other people now.

But there are still some important fathers in my life. The children’s father is celebrating his day in sunny Cypress, Martha and Evie’s father went on a family day out canoeing and James and his father and mother are sweltering in Suffolk. Closer to home, one of my best ever girls, Miss Erin has given her partner his most wonderful present ever, a baby daughter who arrived yesterday afternoon, just a few hours early for her dad’s first Father’s Day.

Death and birth, birth and death and that all-important bit in between. It’s what keeps us going.

Seamus and Bert

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Right Decision

I find, that when life is full and complicated, it's far harder to make the time to write this blog. So. What's been going on? First of all, I spent a lot of time with small children, the majority of whom were not even related to me! Martha and Evie on Thursday, all day because their school was closed for voting day - then their friends Caitlin, Cara and Maria on Thursday afternoon.  Five girls altogether.

I stayed up late on Thursday evening then got up very early on Friday morning to check the election results. Roughly four hours sleep in all. The results were better than I expected. A hung parliament. Exactly what we needed. No landslide for the Tories, no improved majority, a good slap up the bake for Mrs May. I allowed myself to feel pleased until... this.

Company expected on Friday afternoon, one of Hannah's friends and her little boy. Not quite three, he was a live wire who spent almost the entire visit 'adventuring' with Hannah.

Saturday was sleepover day with the girls. Zoe brought them out mid-morning and we were all very excited. The girls because of all the telly they were going to watch, me because I haven't had them for a sleepover for ages and Zoe because she was going to get some uninterrupted sewing time. She had hardly left when she was back with the saddest news. My brother-in-law had just returned to Kerry after taking a stint on that journey and he had also spent part of three previous summers rowing the naomhóg from Dublin to Spain with Danny, Liam Holden and Brendan Begley.

On Sunday I brought the girls to Cara's party where there must have been at least two dozen children in full roar. I surprised myself by actually enjoying it.

Come Monday I was exhausted. Girls and their parents for tea. I cooked something cheesy and spinachy (Jamie Oliver) that was delicious and Sticky Toffee Pudding (Nigella) that was a bit overdone. Can't wait to get it right as it was still yummy. Monday evening we settled down to watch Better Call Saul and I fell asleep on the sofa and missed the best bit, a scene with Mike in it. Watched it again this morning.

Then to the internet where I found out that a former boss from my days in the hostel in Spide City had died. For so often, these days, that is where we first hear this kind of news. It wasn't a shock for I knew she was very ill and I arranged to go to her funeral. Then Jazzer rang. She had an urgent appointment  in a Belfast hospital and wanted me to go with her for support. I explained about the funeral and she understood. I carried on with my day but something was nagging at me, I felt anxious.  And I did what I always do when I'm anxious, ate a lot of food. Then it came to me - Anne, the woman who had died was a famously kind person who cared very deeply for her friends and family. If I could have asked her about my dilemma she'd have told me not to be so silly and take my friend to the hospital. So that's what I'll do. It feels like the right decision.

Thursday, June 08, 2017


Thursday is my looking after the girls day and it is also the day of the week that citizens of the UK vote, as vote we must when we are called to do so. As Martha and Evie attend a school that is used as a polling station, they get the day off lessons. They've been getting a lot of days off recently. My local polling station is also a primary school, five minutes walk from our back door and the school that Bert used to go to. I like to take Martha and Evie with me when I vote and Martha likes to get a look at how other schools do things. It is also an opportunity to let the girls see that the right of suffrage is important.

Yet I do have to be careful not to influence them overly. After all, they have the right to make up their own minds when they are old enough to vote and I do hope that will be when they are sixteen rather than eighteen. But I do tell them that I will not be voting for any of the candidates whose posters adorn the poles and posts outside the school because I do not agree with the things these candidates believe. Evie has a political insight she wishes to share with me.

Did you know Granny that you can get toilet paper that has Donald Trump's face on it?
She thinks this is very funny. I have to confess that I am shocked that she should even know such a thing for when I was five I didn't know the name of a single politician. By the time I was seven all that I knew of were Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and Gerry Mandering.  And that out of those three Mandering was the worst blackguard. I'm sure I was twelve before it dawned on me that gerrymandering was not actually a person and that it wasn't gorillas that were fighting the Americans in Vietnam. Hopefully my grandchildren will have more sense than me.

On the way back from the polling station we lean over a five-bar gate and watch Bert's cows and calves and I thought of Daddy saying that the people who did not exercise their right to vote were no better than the beasts of the field. Lucky old beasts of the field, for they will not go to bed tonight fretting about what the morning will bring. I know my chosen candidate will not be successful. All I hope for is that Mrs May will not get the big victory she wishes for.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Contains Spoilers!

Tesco in Ballymena have a charity book stall that raises funds for diabetes and, when I'm in there, I usually have a rummage through it. I'm afraid that it does not show Tesco customers in a very good light as the books available are pretty poor. Too much Cecilia Ahern and Dan Brown and not enough Good Stuff. However, I struck lucky the other day and picked up a copy of Louis de Bernieres' Red Dog which is something I've always wanted to read. So much so that I already have a copy, somewhere, some place. It might take me a week to find it for long gone are the days when I categorised my books by genre and the novels by author. Far easier to plop 50 pence in the collecting tin and start reading immediately.

When I got back Bert spotted it straight away.

What's that about?

It's about a dog. Set in Australia.

Does it have a happy ending?

Unlikely. When does a book about dogs ever have a happy ending?

Five minutes later I find him reading the book. The last few pages. One of Bert's strangest habits is that he reads the ending of a novel before the beginning.

Well? Happy ending?
Nope! It's at the vet. Got poisoned with strychnine and is being euthanised as I read.
Thanks for the details. Not!

And that's the true thing about dogs - they die far too soon. To love a dog is to store up a future sorrow. I've written about this before. 

Right now I have friends whose senior dogs are giving them a lot of worry. We're thinking about Frank and Tycho and hoping that they'll both be around for a few years more.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Amazing Jumping Smarm-Hound

Bert: C'mon Judester, show Charlie your amazing jumping abilities.

Judy: Sure thing Dawds! Just waiting until the stupid collie gets out of my way.

Charlie: Complete arsehole...

Bert: Clever girl, Judes!

Charlie: Sad human-pleaser, Judes!

Bert: Don't listen to him Jude. You're awesome.

Judy: Am I Dawds, am I?

Judy: Kiss, kiss, slurp, slurp.
Charlie: (offside)  Puke, puke, retch, retch.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Dining on Dianthus

Around five o'clock yesterday while planting in my raised bed I spotted a flying creature that I was sure I'd never noticed before. It was feeding from a patch of sweet william (dianthus) at the end of the bed. I stopped to watch it. Its wings were a blur, tinged with orange and constantly in motion as it moved from flower to flower. Its backside was bulky, dark blotches on a pale background and the proboscis was long and black. I called Bert over to see it and he was quick to identify it as some sort of hawk moth. After about five minutes I thought I'd fetch my camera from the house and the hawkmoth was still there when  I got back. But I was still too late for it had finished with the flowers and flew off before I'd even removed my lens cap.

Later on that evening we researched the butterfly sites and identified it as a hummingbird hawk moth. or macroglossum stellatarum. One interesting observation was the moth often returns to the same feeding site at the same time every day.

So today, hopeful, moth and camera ready I headed for the polytunnel to await my visitor. Perhaps it wasn't warm enough, and maybe too windy, for it didn't show and I had to make do with this Red Admiral which also seemed to be enjoying the dianthus patch.

One thing's for sure, and Zoe agrees - we are definitely going to continue growing flowers alongside the vegetables in the tunnel for not only are they gorgeous, we are also getting a greater variety of insects visiting us. Good pollinating insects. And often we don't have to sow these flowers for they just turn up.

At the present time there are several varieties of red poppies growing beside the veg and another, Zoe's bread seed poppies are just about to bloom. We also have foxgloves, nasturtiums and marigolds growing freely. All are self-seeded.

If all goes well there should be a decent crop of peaches this year. This tree is supposed to be espaliered but Someone must have forgotten to prune a branch.

So I'll be on the lookout again for the hummingbird hawkmoth but, even if I do get a picture it won't be as good as this one.

Photo courtesy of Jindrich Shejbal via Flickr.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Young Gardener

We were visited this afternoon by two community gardeners and Miss Martha excelled herself in making them feel welcome. She herself has been a keen gardener and a habitué of the polytunnel from a very early age. 

It started with strawberries. Once Martha realised that strawberries could be grown she never looked back.

It was no time until she was looking after her own plants.

Here she is wheeling bedding plants to her own little plot.

With a little bit of guidance from Bert she was soon on her way to becoming a horticulturist.

She has always been very conscientious about watering.

And digging. She likes to dig.

Here she is watering her beloved strawberries.

She soon outgrew the miniature pink rake although I still use it to level my raised beds.

Our young gardener has recently become very interested in trees. Here she is watering an oak tree that we inherited from Martha's great-grandmother Martha. It has since been planted in our wood. Martha has her eye on the hundreds of beech seedlings that have sprung up under our trees and wants to plant her own wood.

Inspecting the plants for pests.

A day off gardening. Martha checking out the Spring bedding in the Palm House in Belfast.

Planting perennials while little sister looks on and learns.

So, it was very little wonder that Martha enjoyed talking to the community gardeners this afternoon. She took one of them to see her pond and showed him her most recent addition to the garden and when he asked her what it was she answered "Lithodora 'Heavenly Blue'." I believe he was impressed. She then presented him with one of her beech trees which he graciously accepted. No matter that he too was surrounded by beeches, sure one more would do no harm.

Her next project? A fairy house. We'll keep you all posted.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hard Times

My Uncle Vincent's funeral in Rasharkin was held on the same day as the interments of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. I have to say that the old nun's death passed me by what with everything else that was going on at that time. But I'm rarely in that churchyard and when I visited it last week on the eve of Aunt Marian's funeral I was surprised to recognise so many names of people who are buried there. One of the most startling was the grave of the three Quinn brothers from Ballymoney who died in a sectarian arson attack on their home on the 12th of July, 1998.

Marian had lived to 83 years of age and she had lived well. The priest who conducted her Requiem Mass made much of her sense of adventure, her love of travel and her strong attachment to family. It was probably one of the most inspiring eulogies I've ever heard and, I can assure you, I am very hard to please when it comes to preachers. One thing I noticed in the chapel was the presence of three young brothers, great-nephews of Marian's I suppose, who were around the sort of ages as those other three brothers lying in the churchyard. The Quinns would be grown men now, probably with families of their own but they never made it to adulthood just like so many of the youngsters murdered in Manchester the other night.

It is hard not to feel a terrible sadness right now for it happens that tonight is the 43rd anniversary of the deaths of our father's two brothers, my uncles Shaun and Brendan. Sometimes I forget it is their anniversary. But not this year.

Yvonne and Anne
write far more eloquently on this than I can. There is a lot of reading here but it is very worth it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Martha's Duck Pond

Martha, Evie and I went to the charity shop in Wakehurst Road to see if we could find anything to beautify their garden. I explained that whatever we bought if we bought anything, it would have to be lovely and it would have to be tasteful and that was why I refused to buy the purple unicorn with the tatty acrylic mane.

It's not tasteful Martha.
But Granny! I'm not going to taste it!

We ended up buying some polished stones for twenty pence and when we got home we made a pond. Bert dug a hole and I found a clear plastic box and Martha edged it with old Bann bricks. She insisted we put stones in the pond so that whatever chose to live in it could easily find its way out. When we'd filled it with water she ran upstairs to the bathroom and collected all the rubber ducks because,

Evie and I are big girls now. We don't need rubber ducks in the bath anymore.

I'm not so sure about that.

But I think the rubber ducks are very tasteful indeed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Six Months Later

Six months ago I visited one of my aunts, one who lives a mere ten miles away from me. It was a lovely visit, long overdue and on the drive home I promised myself, just as I'd promised her on her doorstep, that I'd come back soon, that I'd not leave it so long again. Yesterday I kept that promise, exactly six months since I'd seen her last. The pity of it, it was too late for Marian was dead. Today I go to her funeral.

There's a lesson there, don't you think?

Centaurea or Bachelor's Buttons always blooming in Aunt Marian's garden in May.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Garden Pests

Northern Ireland is currently experiencing Summer Time and I have been making hay while the sun shines, or sort of... I have been weeding, sowing and planting and Nelly's Garden is actually looking OK. If it wasn't for all the interruptions life would be great.

First of all, I took Saturday evening and most of Sunday as a vacation from what the Americans call yard work. We went out for dinner with the Banjos and slept over. Then on Sunday, we all went to Garden Show Ireland. It was Marty and Jazzer's first visit (even though they live in Antrim) and I think they enjoyed it. I bought my usual geranium and wanted to buy some white papaver Orientale but missed out on pot plants so bought root cuttings from a beautiful Dutchwoman. Two white, two salmon pink and two red. Hope they grow! Going around the exhibits I realised that my bay tree is probably worth £120 and that the three trees I'm nabbing from Bert would cost me nearly 500 if I was buying them from a garden centre. And - the half dozen lupins I'd planted the day before and that were grown from a teeny little seed were worth nearly fifty quid at Garden Show prices. I actually felt quite rich.

Monday was family gardening day and it started off well when the black and white cow had a healthy bull calf standing by her side first thing in the morning. Then there was great excitement when Evil Edna started to show signs of imminent calving. Unusually, for Edna, she was considerate enough to hold off on the big reveal until the girls' homework was done, then had the calf birthed just as supper was being put on the table.

Yesterday Hannah and I went shopping in Antrim. I bought a hand weeding tool and Hannah bought socks. Bored with the shops we went to the Castle Grounds to walk. The council workers were still clearing up after Garden Show Ireland and I found a lithodora 'Heavenly Blue' in a bin and nicked rescued it. Another £7 saved.

Today, nothing much to do so worked in the garden. Planted geraniums, crocosmia 'Lucifer', cosmos, potentilla' and used my new weeding tool which is very useful for grubbing up dandelions and creeping buttercup. It was a very enjoyable day except for the invaders. First, there was the chicken escapees, three of the young hens that have no trouble flying over the fence. They spent the day in the flowerbeds gathering up grubs and insects.

Then I was wandering around taking pictures of this and that and heard this crashing noise and there was...

...Lily, who had to be quickly headed off before she started trampling on my freshly planted flower beds.

The next invader was driving a shiny red car that whizzed into the yard with one door hanging open and that turned out to be a mother and child delivering leaflets for a church lecture. I'd already noticed posters for this event in the village and was astonished that such people still walk among us. I told the woman that I was a firm believer in evolution and she looked at me very askance. She suggested I should come and add to the debate. I said I probably wouldn't.

Click to enlarge and get a better look at Evie's plastic dinosaur and the potentilla and geranium that flank it. The invite from the crazy people is propped against the alpine strawberry.  

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Truth About Nelly's Garden

Everyone should know that Nelly is an enthusiastic gardener and a knowledgeable plantswoman - or is she? You might have seen the photographs that seem to prove it - on the blog, on Flickr, on Facebook and Instagram. It's time the truth was told.

I am an enthusiastic gardener on fine days. Late autumn, winter, and early spring are far too cold and dank for anything other than minimal effort. And yet, a proper enthusiast would be out all year round except maybe for December and January.

The photographs? That's down and judicious cropping with the very occasional use of photo-editing. That is rare though for I'm not much good at Photoshop either especially as I actually use GIMP. I might remove a blemish from a petal or get rid of an unnoticed piece of debris.

I love to sow seeds and take cuttings and make beautiful plants that I can plant in my garden in spring. Then I either forget where they are or even what they are and by the time I get back to them they are no longer healthy or beautiful. Example - I sowed a lot of wallflowers last May and potted them on and then, instead of planting them out in the autumn I left them standing by the polytunnel all winter. By the time I got to them, something had beaten me to it, the wind, the cold, vine weevil, maybe all three and less than ten percent were salvageable.

This is what I imagined...

Botanic Gardens, Belfast

...and this is what I got.

Nelly's Garden

Ah well. Better luck next year.

Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to the iris blooms, the geraniums, the lupins, the aquilegia and all the other early summer flowers. I'll be taking lots of photographs and making sure that weeds and scruffy things don't feature. They'll be there - just not in the pictures.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Best Day Of My Life

Today was family gardening day and it was Martha and Evie's Dad's turn to choose the dinner menu.

Pulled pork, sourdough loaf, and lemon meringue pie.

It was a very slow and easy process.

Saturday afternoon - shop for ingredients.
Saturday night - assemble sourdough starter.
Sunday afternoon - I was going to bake blind the pastry case for the lemon meringue pie but gardened instead.
Sunday evening - mixed sourdough, kneaded (using the dough hook on Kenwood) and left to rise.
Monday morning - assembled ingredients for pulled pork and put it all in the slow cooker. This was going to cook all day. Make and bake the pastry case. Leave to cool. Turn oven up and bake the sourdough loaf for 30 minutes. Make lemon meringue filling, cool, turn oven to low, make meringue topping and bake. All done except salad.

Monday afternoon - family arrives.

The girls and I went shopping for last minute milk, butter, cream and ice lollies. It was a very pleasant day and Martha suggests a walk so we strolled round to take a close look at the strange wooden sculpture that has appeared on the river bank.

Martha wants that we continue our walk on the river path as we have their dog with us and "Gracie would really love a walk because there's no point her hanging around the kitchen with you Granny because all the cooking is done and she won't be getting any titbits."

I agreed that this would be an excellent idea. The river path was crowded with people and dogs. And why wouldn't it be on such a beautiful May Day holiday? We climbed up the steep bank beside the path and followed another little pathway that wended its way through a sea of bluebells, wood anemones and the beginnings of wild garlic. It was like another world. A fairyland. An adventure. The girls loved it and so did I. Here and there trees had fallen over the little path and while the girls clambered over these obstacles with ease, they presented a bit of a challenge for me. Oh, to be young and limber again.

We rejoined the main path and went off to see the horses and donkey. Martha asked me if I was having a good time and I answered her that I was having the best day of my life. I think that was a very honest answer. But it was time to head for home. There was a salad to prepare and dairy products sitting in a very warm van. I reached into my pocket for my key and it wasn't there. Panic! Had I left it in the van? Of course I hadn't. The van was tightly locked and my key was nowhere to be seen and I didn't feel up to retracing our footsteps with the girls in tow. Evie was already starting to tire. No phone, no money, no vehicle. We went to the garage and borrowed their phone. No one at home! All out in the garden making potato rigs, strawberry beds and so on. Victor sorted the girls out with some much-needed water and we set off walking home. Normally a twenty-minute walk it was going to take twice that with Evie unable to walk that fast. We were halfway up the road when our rescuer appeared. The girl's dad off on an errand to pick Hannah up. We told him what had happened, gathered Hannah up and then at everyone's insistence stopped by the river path to go key hunting. I checked the local shop to see if anyone had handed the keys in but no luck so I hurried off to catch up with the search party. They were (I could hear the girls chattering) up on the high path and as I went towards them I heard excited whoops and looking up, saw them all trooping back towards the car park.  I knew then that their mission had been successful. It was a lovely moment in which we all played a part.

Dave who was calm, sensible and practical.
Martha and Evie who remembered exactly where I had walked and what I had done.
Hannah who was enthusiastic and said, "I'm very good at finding things" and who found the keys lying hidden in a patch of wild garlic at the very spot where I had clambered awkwardly over a fallen tree.
And myself, the very reason why we were all so bloody happy. For I was the silly sausage who had lost the keys in the first place.

So there you go -  the best day of my life was still the best day of my life even though there was a big problem right slap-bang in the middle of it.

Other good things that happened (1) dinner turned out well and (2) I had my first ride on the quad while we were looking for a lost pig. It was scary and fun and we found the pig.

I didn't bring a camera but there were bluebells and there was Gracie so here is one Zoe took earlier.

Gracie, the bouncing bluebell girl. Photograph by Zoe Bowyer

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Busy Day

First of all, I baked this loaf. It had been rising all through the sleepy-time hours so I gave it a quick knockback, turned the oven on to high, took my coffee back to bed then baked it for thirty minutes exactly.

Sorted out my chickens, showered and went to Belfast.

Then straight to the Ulster Museum to look at the exhibition that wasn't child-friendly, the Francisco Goya 'The Disasters of War'. It was harsh. I also took another look at recent Irish history section, the part that depicts what some call 'The Troubles'. I have a friend, a Republican and Sinn Fein activist, who finds this part of the museum anodyne but I am always affected by it and often tearful. The so-called Troubles were my entire adult life from around fifteen years old until they ended, if they even have ended. Maybe my friend is right. I'm sad and sniffly at the Ulster Museum but in our other city at the Museum of Free Derry  I was in pieces.

As always it was impossible to resist the Palm House which is so close to the museum and the delights of the exotic and wonderful plants within. Just one niggle - why aren't they named. I always feel I don't know a plant unless I have its Latin name. I knew the Dizygotheca elegantissima, Passiflora caerulea, Crassula ovata and Monstera deliciosa because I have or have had those plants at some time but what's this?

Or this?

No doubt I'll find out some day.

It was a good day. I needed to get out on my own and when I got home the people I live in where in very good form (they had enjoyed a Nelly-free day) and the sourdough bread was very delicious indeed. 

Since posting this I had the following message on Facebook from a South African friend.

The yellow flower is a Hibiscus that is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae. They grow prolifically in SA.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April Sleet Showers

It was bitterly cold today and not boding well for my Wednesday trip to Belfast. Will just have to wrap up good and warm. Despite the snow and the sleet I managed a little outside gardening and rather more inside. I'm behind with seed sowing this year but they'll catch up.

I did manage to take a couple of garden pictures between the showers. Close up as the flowerbeds still need a bit of work.  And I started another sourdough loaf. If Bert doesn't get to it before my camera does I'll have a nice picture of it tomorrow. Now, time to sleep.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Look What He's Done To My Bread Ma

I persevered with the sourdough bread, kept the mother going and worked out a recipe and method that works for me. My last two loaves have been excellent. The trouble is, they are so yummy that it is hard to get a photo before the bread is scoffed.

I was going to take a photograph earlier today but it would have meant decluttering the kitchen and today was a gardening day - so no time for housework. If there was to be a picture of my delicious bread then everything had to be just right, perhaps an artfully placed linen tea towel, or a posy of spring flowers, maybe I could even arrange one of the cats to sit on the dresser to add interest to the background. What I wouldn't want is dirty dishes, piles of unsorted laundry and a massive heap of newspapers on my catless dresser. I consoled myself with how very pretty my loaf looked, good texture, unburnt crust, decent shape. With a few slices cut from it would make a very decent picture.

Now imagine how I felt when Bert hacked my lovely loaf to pieces before I had the chance to Instagram it. It couldn't have been less photogenic if a rabid donkey had got to it. Why? He couldn't find the right knife, sure it was only going to be eaten anyway. What did it matter what it looked like?

It's a pet hate of mine when people leave loaves, pies, and cakes looking unpresentable. And, of course, when I say people I mean Bert. Do you know what he'd do if he thought he could get away with it? I'd be taking some delicious baked thing out of the oven and before it even had a chance to cool he'd have pulled a lump out of it to taste it. Sharp rap over the knuckles with a wooden spoon soon put that nonsense out of him.

Anyway, here is a picture of one of my first loaves. The one that got mauled looked better, was bigger and tastier and was going to have a better tea towel. Here's to the next one.