Sunday, February 05, 2023

Bert Gets Cooking


The kitchen is full of wonderful smells. Spicy smells. Bert is making curry. And I am knitting.

There is other news about Bert - a good thing that came from a not-so-good thing. About a month ago we both had the coronavirus, Bert was much sicker than me, possibly because he neglected to take a booster jab in the Autumn. He threw up for days and was unable to eat, losing ten pounds.  During this time he didn't smoke. When he started to feel a little better I tentatively suggested that as he had been without nicotine for more than a week it might be a good thing if he took the opportunity to break the habit. He said, 

We'll see.

And I thought, let it be his decision. I won't push it.

A month later and he has still not smoked. He is starting to think of himself as someone who has given up. which is very positive. 

Of course, by now, that ten pounds has rolled back on - a good thing as he's on the slim side already. His appetite has improved and he is taking a great interest in baking and cooking. He is very self-critical of the results - the other night his fairy cakes didn't rise but his shortbread was delicious. He is devoted to Mary Berry and wonders why I use butter when Mary is all about margarine and I tell him to wise up, that was then and this is now and that's a really old book and I bet she never shouted for marge on the Great British Bake Off.

An Interlude

He shouted that dinner is served and it was delish and then we watched Happy Valley which was great and I am looking forward to watching it again tomorrow with Deirdre and Dmitri, fresh back from Lisbon, reunited with Lulu and cannot get iPlayer in lovely Leitrim.

Re the photo. I'm taking a picture of the current project every morning. It is not a giant hat, it is the bottom part of a multi-coloured stripey jumper.

Saturday, February 04, 2023

Dogs and Knitting

Life cannot always be about exciting day trips to European cities. Most of the time I just stay home where it can be quiet. But not when the dogs come for, as I have mentioned before, Nellybert provides complimentary dog-sitting services to friends and family and for the past seven days, we have been busy.

The first to arrive was Elvis, a beautiful whippet/collie cross, just under a year old. This was his first-ever sleepover. He met a lot of new dogs and was sweet and good-tempered with them all. I hope his people go on more trips as we would be delighted to have him back again. The only crime he committed was getting hold of a ball of purple wool and tangling it into juggins. And because Bert is a stranger to socials, and had not the wit to take a picture of Elvis all bound up in the purple wool, instead making haste to free the little dog and lessen its distress. Silly Bert. Imagine thinking that helping a pup is more important than getting a cool photo for my blog.


Tuesday evening brought Rex and Ozzie. Rex has stayed here many times but Ozzie was a first-timer. Rex did no bad things except be terribly jealous of all the attention Ozzie was getting. It would have been difficult not to be fond of poor one-eyed Ozzie, a rescue dog from Ukraine who nowadays spends his time between London and Portballintrae. Ozzie’s only bad action was starting a fight with Phoenix, a long-time visitor to this yard.

Lulu from Leitrim was the next dog along. Her people are off to Portugal for a long weekend, which is about a month in dog years. We see quite a bit of Lulu and she is generally a very good girl. However, she blotted her copybook this afternoon. I was sitting right here and was aware that she was playing some scrabbling game under my feet. Maybe a piece of pizza crust? So engrossed was I in my knitting that I did not look down. When I did glance at the floor there was my ball of crimson wool in rallops. Brand new the previous day and the band only off it. At least she didn’t do such a thorough job as Elvis did with the purple. Probably because Bert got involved in that siege. The crimson was untangled in fifteen minutes while the purple took me two and a bit episodes of Fortunes of War to save.

Wasn't me.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

On Reading Books Revisited

A post from 8 years ago. I never did get around to explaining my liking for dusty old books. 

One great disadvantage of a rural childhood was not having access to the public library. There was a library of sorts at our primary school but one large cardboard box would have held all that it contained. Our teacher Cassie was horrible and we only got to read occasionally. I don't remember being allowed to choose the books either. She'd just give one to us and that was that. The only book I remember from school was The Wind In The Willows and I recall being really confused at the part where Pan appears to Mole and Ratty and feeling much easier when the story returned to the adventures of Toad.

At home there never seemed to be enough books because we all read them so fast. I usually got first go at fresh books because I was the oldest. Our mother must have noticed this. She returned one day from shopping in Ballymena with a book for my younger sister, also a voracious reader. The book Matty brought for Anne was My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. She informed us that Anne would get to read it first, then it would be her turn and, after that, the book was up for grabs. I could hardly bear having to wait but wait I did. Matty stood firm. My Friend Flicka was the first book in a trilogy and Matty also bought the next two, Thunderhead and The Green Grass of Wyoming. Anne got first dibs on those as well. They were a terrific read and well worth waiting for.

Christmas time brought great reading opportunities. Everyone got one or two books at Christmas, usually Puffin or Armada paperbacks and these would be hidden away with the other presents. I'd search the house until I found the stash of books, usually hidden on the high shelf in her wardrobe. For several days every chance I got, I'd be up there, standing beside the wardrobe in our parent's bedroom reading hungrily, nervous, praying not to be discovered. And I never was.

Of course, when Christmas Day arrived I hadn't a thing to read and I used to look jealously at Anne as she sat there enjoying her new books. Much later when I confessed all to Matty she said it explained a lot for she could never understand why I showed so little interest in the Christmas books.

It's often a thankless task being a parent. Imagine my poor mother carefully picking out my books only to see me ignore them. I hadn't even the sense to pretend to read them. I wonder would she have preferred to know then that she had reared a sneak without a notion of how to defer gratification despite the lesson with the Mary O'Hara trilogy.

Sometime soon I shall explain why it is that I particularly love dusty old books. 

Monday, January 30, 2023

Belfast Then and Now

Last week, while in Belfast I took a walk from Yorkgate station to Carlisle Circus then, after the exhibition, from Carlisle Circus to the Linenhall Library. I was most comfortably shod in my new Blundstone boots so the walking was a pleasure despite my achey hip and knee.

The first part of the walk took me past the memorial to the McGurk's Bar bombing in 1971. The pub was blown to pieces and fifteen people died. That was one of the many atrocities that took years and years to get through to me.*

I passed near Gresham Street and thought of all the times I hitched to Belfast when I should have been at school, making my way to Smithfield Market and Harry Hall’s second-hand bookshop. Ages were spent in there choosing Penguins and Pans some of which are still on my bookshelves today. Pocket money gone, I’d begin the trek from Smithfield to the Antrim Road where I’d thumb a lift just in time to catch the school bus from Antrim, back home and the parents never had a notion. Imagine taking rides with strangers in the 21st Century, now that we are led to believe that every other person is a predator. Although, I do think that most of the people who gave me lifts back then were probably protecting me from the bad actors.

Sixteen-year-old me would have been lugging a satchel stuffed full of Steinbecks from Harry Hall's. Nowadays me bought one solitary book - May the Lord in His Mercy be Kind to Belfast, by Tony Parker. I had a copy years ago and wanted to read it again. 

*During the early years of the conflict there would be times when I would not be fully aware of what was going on. In 1971 the violence escalated and it peaked in 1972. The ‘News’ became unbearable and truth was in short supply.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

 Back in November I booked myself a ticket for the Van Gogh exhibition in Belfast.

Christmas happened, then Covid 19 happened and about a week after that I thought to myself,

Really must find out when this event is taking place. Maybe the 17th?

So I checked out my booking and guess what? It was happening in two hours' time. I’d got my Van Gogh mixed up with my Emily’s birthday. Obviously, I didn’t go. Instead, I booked another ticket.

My new slot was at 10am today so it was an early start. I took the train to Yorkgate and walked to Carlisle Circus. But I was still too early. There is not a lot going on there. Not even a coffee shop! So I went for a walk. When I got back to the venue there was a small queue where almost everyone waiting was eligible for the bus pass.

The event was described as an immersive experience; I wasn’t sure what that would mean. It wasn’t quite what I imagined but then I’d imagined a dream. Despite having been to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam a few years ago I learned more about the artist today than I ever knew.

The immersive part of the exhibit was wonderful, the only downside being that it was cold, cold, cold. We had fleecy blankets but they weren’t enough to keep us from freezing. It would have been much better if it had been warmer and our experience would have transcended perfection if we’d been offered some hot tea with a pinch or two of magic mushrooms. The only downside about that would have been the decanting onto Carlisle Circus of several dozen tripping elders. It is to be hoped that the few young couples present with infants would have declined the offer of hallucinogenics.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Return to the Redshank Lawn


This post was written over 10 years ago and harks back to the late 1970s.

The bambino rolling around in a bed of persicaria maculosa (redshank) is now a professional gardener. Yet the first garden she ever knew consisted mainly of redshank!

redshank, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.
I moved to Drumtara in 1978. The house was newly built and I was its first tenant. Reader, I had nothing!

Well - I had a child, another on the way, several hundred books, a bed, a toybox full of toys (but that wasn't mine) and a couple of chairs.

Word soon got out that I was in need of household effects and furnishings and friends rallied around to help. I soon had more furniture and bits and pieces than I needed. I never said no and that is a habit I have to this very day.

The house sorted, I began on the garden. I'd never had my own garden before and I was very excited. With help from my father, I began to create a lawn for the children to play on. It was hard work breaking the soil, getting the stones and builder's rubble out and raking and finishing. At last, Daddy pronounced it ready for sowing and gave me a plastic bag of grass seed. I scattered, sowed and waited with mounting anticipation.

It wasn't long before the first green shoots appeared. At first, it was only a light green haze but as the days progressed it became greener and greener. My father came to look at it. There were a lot of areas where the seed hadn't taken. He said, "Don't worry. They'll fill in."

The grass continued to grow. It actually started to look quite lush. Except... except it didn't really look like grass. Daddy said, "Redshank." I was very disappointed. My first attempt at sowing a lawn and I had created a weed patch. A lush and green weed patch but a weed patch all the same. I asked my father what I should do. He said, "Just cut them back, don't let them flower, the grass will come through."

I didn't even have garden shears so I tackled my weed patch with the kitchen scissors. It took a long time and I got blisters. But the grass came through just like Daddy said. Of course, the kitchen scissors proved impractical when that needed cutting and I acquired garden shears from somewhere and used them to keep the grass in check. To tell the truth, it was never much of a lawn but it was good enough for my children to play on.

Nowadays I have a lawn and a ride-on mower and a man to cut the grass for me. It's not the best lawn in the world but it's certainly good enough for my grandchildren to play on.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Semi Flimsy Ivies


Summer-born Pippin has taken a while to get used to the cooler weather, but now that the snow is here she cannot be kept indoors. She has fallen in love with her winter wonderland.

It's my youngest granddaughter's fifth birthday today and I've been thinking about her all day, wishing she could be here to build a snowman (or snowcat) and play with Pippin. I did get to speak with Emily on the phone this evening which was lovely.

If all goes according to plan both Emily and her brother James will be here next Easter holidays. Something for me to look forward to. I shall knit her a girly cardigan all pink stripes and embroidered flowers. There is no point in knitting James anything. He doesn't care about clothes. All he wants is a Tesla car. A proper one as Santa Claus did not oblige.

James and Emily