Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve So Far

I took Matty Tesco shopping thinking it would be rather quiet. Surely there'd just be a few folks out topping up on fresh bread and milk and maybe an alcoholic or two topping up on their New Year booze. Surely no-one could possibly need more food after their Christmas binge?

But no. The aisles were crowded and the trolleys were overflowing. The press of oul weemin around the bargain shelves nearly had the wee Tesco woman, only trying to refill the shelves, suffocated. You could see that she wanted to strangle those oul dolls with their own big fluffy Christmas scarves. I made sympathetic noises as she struggled from under their grabbing zombie arms. "Honestly," says she, "People are just so greedy!"

Myself, I managed to sneak a wee organic chicken from under their noses. Well a body does have to eat and I hate telling Zoe lies when she comes to dinner.

Meanwhile Matty was stocking up on the all-important pensioner staples, the People's Friend, white bread, Marie biscuits and a scratch card. But I had to rush her home then as I had an important afternoon engagement...

...for which I needed new gloves. I bumped into Dave at the garage. He was buying chainsaw food and I enquired if he was coming from us or had yet to call on us. He was coming to us for a chainsaw seminar with Bert. Or at least that had been his original intention. He informed me that he too was invited to our afternoon soiree. "Oh goody," says I. "You'll be staying for a spot of tea? We're having Turkey & Bacon Pie and some of Bert's Turkey Broth."

My new gloves were a great success. The Hunter wellies were a good job too although thermal socks might have improved my comfort levels. Between the four of us, Bert, Clint, Dave and myself, we soon had the last of the potato harvest dug, gathered and stored.

So now I'm having a wee dram of Laphroaig. It is New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Woke Up This Morning And My Tay Was Too Warm (and my porridge was too thick and the fire was oot...)

Katy gave Bert a copy of B._B._King’s latest recording. We listened to it this morning.

Bit of a depresso isn’t he?

Sure is. But then it is The Blues

He gets up in the morning. He's in misery.

Sometimes he even gets up before the break of day…

Still in misery. He feels bad. The world has gone wrong. He’d soon rather be dead, sleeping six foot in the ground. Remind you of anyone?

So he's still around then?

I think so. Haven’t heard that he died anyway. (Hastily consults Wikipedia.) Yup. Still here. And! He’s a year older than your ma! Eighty-three this year and he’s still doing it!

Good going that.

And there she is doing absolutely nothing! Why couldn’t she be more like B.B. King? She might be miserable but if she was out singing the blues…making a wee bit of money for her old age.

And for us too.

Too true. But no! There she is hanging around doing puzzles and crosswords and watching Deal Or No Deal. God knows she could have sung the blues for she’s always whingeing and moaning about something.

But you need to have lived a life to sing the blues.

And being able to sing and play the gee-tar would be a help too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Greetings Then and Now

A typical early 2oth century card sent to Pearlie's mother.

This postcard was sent to Pearlie in 1940. She would have been 14 and was staying for Christmas at her future husband's home, this very house I'm sitting in now. They were, in the parlance of the time, 'far out friends'. Pearlie was already in love. Johnny at 20 years of age was, most likely, oblivious to her feelings.

A card dating from the 1930s sent to the Hillis family. Note that the rustic character is smoking. Quelle horreur!

A modern card sent to Nelly from Ganching, Christmas 2008.

Division of Labour Christmas Style

It's said that women do most of the preparation for Christmas and I'm sure that in many homes that is the case. Take our house - Bert won't go near a shop during the run up to Christmas unless it's to the garage to stock up on gas or dogfood. He wouldn't dream of buying anyone a present, much less wrap one. At a pinch he'll chop down a Christmas tree but he wouldn't have the first notion about decorating one. You might, if you're really persuasive, get him to go to the off licence to stock up on booze and he's pretty good with the Christmas meats. No fancy trimmings for him though. He'll cook a turkey to perfection, he'll carve it with skill but you can put it on your own damn plate yourself! What you want? He eats it for you?

But last night I had to concede that sometimes women get the better deal. I spent my evening baking citrus based Christmas desserts - a Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake and an Orange and Almond Cake. Whilst so engaged, I chatted happily with some folks who'd dropped by to wish us Season's Greetings. Meanwhile Bert was down at Clint's plucking and drawing teens of turkeys and geese. The conversation was terse as Clint was still traumatised from the killing that had taken place a few nights before. He'd really loved those birds.

So I got to smell the sweet tang of sugar and citrus while Bert, poor man, had the reek of blood and guts in his nostrils. Sometimes it's good to be a woman.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Curry, Crackers and Chocolate

What does Christmas mean to me? Easy. Cookin' and bakin'!

On Christmas Day we plan to forgo the traditional roast dinner. This Christmas we're having curry.
The reason is Bert and I are, as has become traditional, making more of our Boxing Day dinner. That's the day Zoe, Dave and the dogs and a few others can come and it's always more fun.

Today I'm baking Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake which we're having on Boxing Day with Zoe's homemade coconut ice cream. Chocolate and coconut! Mmmm.... My two favourite dessert ingredients.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Healthy Eating Plan Hits The Skids

And it's not even Christmas yet! Blame it on the Chocolate Man.

This young fellow came into the office the other day looking for the boss. I could tell by his manner that this was a social, rather than a business call.

You're one of the Ladmans aren’t you?

I am indeed.

And which one are you?

I’m John.

I know Richard and Davy but I don’t think I’ve met you before. You were mentioned in company the other day. Now what was it was said? Yes! I heard you were a tremendously good cook and that you were always feeding the other fellows in the flat when you were at University.

That’s right enough. There wasn’t one of them boys could boil an egg for themselves.

So what’s your speciality?

I do a great roast dinner. But I’m terribly messy. I dirty every pot and pan the house.

Isn’t that just like a fellow. My husband’s exactly the same.

My mother’s always saying I should clean up as I go along.

Sure cleaning up as you go along is for girls.

Right enough. So it is.

I bet you Gordon Ramsey doesn’t clean up as he goes along.

I’d say he doesn’t. He’ll have people to do that for him.

He has people to do a lot of things for him. Now what is it that you do with yourself?

I’m a Developmental Manager for BigFamousChocolateCompany.

Sure so you are. I remember now. That was talked about the other day too. Wasn’t Simon saying you gave him this great giant bar of chocolate. He showed me a photo of it on his mobile phone.

That’s right. So I did.

Now don’t you be giving me any chocolate. Sure I wouldn’t stop eating it until I died of chocolate poisoning.

You like chocolate? Wait a minute there….......

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Which Nelly and the Kitten Find Themselves Feeling Rather Chilled

Apart from the garden centre, my present office is the coldest place I’ve ever worked and at least in the garden centre I could do some physical work to keep warm. So, much as I’d like to convey a smart corporate image, in jackets and heels and little silk scarves, I’m happed up in layers of wool and body-warmers, mufflers and fingerless gloves and with a long drip hanging off the end of my freezing nose and looking a lot less like a groomed and glossy receptionist and a lot more like Albert Steptoe.

But at least I was cheered up when Hagelrat invited me to do a book meme (I swear I think I started that one but maybe it’s just a geriatric delusion) and by happy chance the book closest to me was Swallows and Amazons and didn’t page 56 gave up a delightful passage featuring Titty and Dick and a lot of tackings, moorings and tying-ups to bushes that were growing out of rocks. But unfortunately the book is still in at work so I cannot do it.

The only other book I had to hand was ‘The God Delusion’ which was loaned to me by Mr D, a delightful chap in his eighties, and he says he’s definitely an atheist now. I think that’s terribly tough-minded of him at his age. I was the second person he loaned his copy to. The first was a Church of Ireland vicar and the book was returned inserted with 6 pages of handwritten notes and quotes from the bible. Mr D remains unconvinced but I expect the clergyman felt he had to try.

And on the home front Bert has embarked on his traditional Christmas preparations. This always involves a large, messy and thoroughly non-urgent task that he has been putting off for at least three years. I think it was last year he decided to demolish the turf shed and this year he’s building (from scratch) a sliding door between the scullery and the hall. The house is knee deep in sawdust and I’m terrified the kitten is going to decapitate itself on Bert’s Makita.

Not very kitten-friendly

Bert says it won’t because it’s not clever enough to override the safety features. But is it little wonder I fear that Bert takes a very cavalier attitude to Fred’s wellbeing when Hannah found the poor wee thing in the pet food fridge this evening? Luckily it hadn’t been in there very long and was happily lapping away at an open tin of cat food. But what if Hannah hadn’t been going to feed the dogs at that very minute? Bert said it would have learned the wee brute not to go in there.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas Memories

Hannah and I must get together and write a post on "The Year The Wee Manny Ruined Christmas" as I was doing Class 'A's at the time and don't remember it rightly. And a child's memories are always more poignant.

In the meantime I'd call this a Must Read.

Friday, December 12, 2008


But what does Friday actually mean to fifty-somethings with elderly in-laws ensconced in the good room?

A body spends the whole working week looking forward to Friday. Why? I get home. I look at the sink full of dirty dishes. I see the overflowing laundry basket for Friday is Pearlie’s ‘Big Wash’ day. I think about the dirty floors, for twelve carers a day, two dogs, two cats and Bert do leave their mark.

The weekend. It’s really just a catching up with the housework time for me.

You know something? I hate sharing my life with Bert’s mother.

And if I wasn’t three-quarters on the road to being pissed I might elaborate on that.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Facebook Is For Messagin' Not Just For Wordscrapin'

I've only recently started to avail of Facebook's instant messaging application. I found myself having a laugh with the delightful Miss E of Vancouver town as recently as late last night. It was nearly bedtime for me - but she was fresh as a daisy for sure.

I also had a brief interchange last night with Beowulf (we talked dogs and Ikea furniture) and tonight I've been discussing lipstick and tattoos with Mr Damien Mulley.

So tell me this, experienced peeps...

What is the polite way to break off a real time exchange, bearing in mind that I'm only supposed to be on the computer a few minutes at a time (hah!) as I have dishes to wash, old ladies to attend to, cakes to bake, books to read and husbands to smile at invitingly?

Happy Birthday Katy

Katy, originally uploaded by ZMB.

Happy birthday darling Katkin.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Our Piggy Did Not Die In Vain

Eat Me

I got a bit pissed at Bert yesterday because he threw out the peanut butter.

Why? What was wrong with it?

The sell-by date was 2007.

For God’s sake! That’s only last year. Sure it wouldn’t have done you a pin of harm!

So you can imagine how annoyed I am about this Irish Pork Crisis.

…..the UK Food Standards Agency said it believed no pigs in Northern Ireland had consumed the tainted feed. But it said pork labelled ROI or NI should still be thrown out or returned.

Like any sensible person, I think it’s terribly wrong that pigs are fed contaminated foodstuffs, but this reaction is overkill. Our pig (currently resident in the Nellybert freezer) scoffed her fair share of store-bought grub. And we’ll be eating her. It would be rude not to.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I Was Wrong

Earlier today I left a most, unladylike comment on Hannah's recent post. I was totally wrong. That picture wasn't Bogie. It was Bert's dad. That was the picture on his first driving licence.

Willy John is on the left.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

This Is Puck, The Redfern Duck

If you arrive at work with wet woollen gloves, pull each one over the bottom of a small jar. Stand open ends of jar on a radiator. Gloves will dry in half the time it usually takes.

* * * *

To get nuts out of their shells in one piece, soak them in salt and water for a few hours.

* * * *

To prevent a cake being overfired on top, run cold water over buttered greaseproof paper. Shake well and place over cake before putting in the oven.

* * * *

The clearing out of Pearlie’s previous abode continues. It goes slowly because I cannot resist reading every magazine or newspaper cutting she ever kept. One thing I have no trouble disposing of are the gospel tracts. She kept all of these and there must have been hundreds of them stashed here and there. It gladdened my black Catholic heart to cast these good Protestant missives in the trash bin. I was a lot less cavalier about disposing of the scores of bibles she kept. At one point in his life Bert’s father was a Sunday school teacher and the family has gathered more bibles than a horse has hairs.

The vast collection of biros has also been tossed. After years and years they just stop working and if Pearlie had enough spare hours in her day to test old pens, I don’t. I’m far too busy stacking bibles, trashing tracts and reading ancient household tips.

Pearlie also kept little cuttings that took her fancy. I liked this old style advertisement.

This is Puck, the Redfern Duck

The wet he never feels,

Because his boots are watertight

With Redfern's Soles and Heels

Monday, December 01, 2008

Moon And Venus

Moon And Venus I, originally uploaded by Sea Observer.

I spotted this celestial sight as I was driving home from work this evening. Sadly I had no camera. Fortunately good old Radio 4 was on and I soon heard what it was all about.

Thanks to Sea Observer for the borrowing of the excellent photograph.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chain Gang Chic

I read that folks sentenced to community punishment are soon going to be wearing high-visibility 'shame jackets' emblazoned with the words 'Community Payback' on the back. I can't say I approve. After all, doesn't everyone and his dog wear hi-viz on the streets these days? What's wrong with good, old-fashioned black and white horizontal stripes? I saw, sometime in the late nineties, offenders garbed in this traditional fashion as they cleaned the streets of a small town somewhere in Mississippi, and I have to say that this looked a lot more eye-catching and shameful than a bright orange jacket. 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving USians!

talking turkey 1, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Pig For Life Not Just For Sausages

Alfredo Le Ginger got added to my sidebar today. Happily Holly is slightly less in hate with him than previously. Now she just glares at him disdainfully rather than the full arched back, hair standing on end, snarly thing she had going.

The pigs have been removed from the sidebar as they are currently hanging up by their heels in Stevenson's. Bacon and sausages will be back on the menu soon. Bert loved those pigs but not too much. So we'd like to get a couple of sows and keep them for breeding. It would be good to get to know a pig for a little bit longer than a few months.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Little Bit Distracted

Funny old week I've just had. On the surface it was the usual ho-hum stuff but it's so quiet. Too quiet. Ominously quiet. I keep wondering if I'm still going to have a job come the new year and that's strangely demotivating.

However, as always, the weekend has been busier. I made that Coconut Bread as recommended by Zoe and Bert cooked the very last leg of pork* from last year's pigs. We were having a Russian judge, a postman and Swisser to dinner. What a lovely evening we had. The judge was delightful and not at all what you'd expect. For one thing she was an amazingly smiley person. She does have this judge's face for hearings. With just a little persuasion she showed it to us and it was very stern and solemn.

Today I returned to sorting out the stuff from Pearlie's previous abode. This is turning into one of the labours of Hercules. It is never ending. Today it was her zip collection, her button collection, her handkerchief collection, her marbles, her flint arrow heads, her apron pocket collection, 40 years worth of newspaper clippings, mostly weddings, obituaries and fatal accidents. Oh and anything to do with the Royal Family.

And speaking of which, we were at the table yesterday when Aunt Lizzie's papillon wandered into the kitchen and cocked his leg against the dishwasher. The postman said,

Hey! That dog just pissed up against your dishwasher!

Oh. Sure it was only a wee drop.

Aren't you going to kick it's arse?

Just think of it this way. If the Queen was visiting and she brought the corgis and one of them took a leak against the dishwasher you wouldn't mention it would you? In this house Bert's Aunt Lizzie is just like the Queen. If anybody was to kick Pepe's arse she'd never darken our door again and Pearlie would be devastated.

*Pigs are going tomorrow. Bert is very sad.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh How I Wish That Skippy Was Here

The hole what I fell in

I’ve never got into the habit of carrying a phone with me. After yesterday I think perhaps I should. After leaving Hannah in to work I took Paddy and Bonnie for walks in Currell’s Avenue. I was wearing my Hunters so decided to go off piste. We were in this boggy field between the river and the Ballygarvey Road and I went to cross an old wooden bridge over a sheugh. Next thing I’m sitting on my ass on a whole heap of mud and my left leg is stuck in a hole in the bridge, damn and blast it to hell. Of course my first thought was,

Am I going to lose my welly here?

No thought a-tall for my leg, just my welly for a damned expensive welly it was too. Then I thought,

Am I going to get my leg out or am I going to be stuck here for hours?

Then I thought,

Will I have to chew my leg off?

Then I thought,

If I had a big rock I could smash the wood around my leg and get it out.

Then I thought,

If these dogs were any good a-tall like Lassie or Black Bob, or if they were even as smart as Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, then they could go and fetch help but they’re not, they’re crap dogs and they’re not even looking at me, they’re running ahead regardless as if Nelly with her leg stuck in a bridge is a really normal thing to be happening.

Then I thought,

If I imagine my leg is really skinny like Kate Moss’s leg then I could wiggle it out or die trying.

So I did. I imagined my leg was totally skinny and wiggled it out and it hurt like hell and it came out with Hunter still attached.

And I jumped up and walked about and everything still worked so I thought I’d better take myself and my two useless dogs homewards but before I went I took a photo of the hole in the bridge and I wished that I could have had a picture of me with my leg stuck in the bridge and if Skippy the Bush Kangaroo had been there (s)he would definitely have gotten that picture.

What's that Skip? An old lady's got her leg trapped in the old wooden bridge?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Holly Is Not A Happy Cat...

...but Bonnie is pleased with her new kitten.
Sharing the scoff
On Friday I was walking on the Ballymena-Doagh road when I heard a tinkling and a squeaking. I looked around and there was a little ginger kitten following me. The tinkling was coming from a little bell on its collar. There were no houses nearby and I could not undestand why such a young cat was out on the road. There had been a woman driver behaving oddly about five minutes before I encountered the kitten. She had went to pull in, spotted me and drove on. I looked behind me and she'd pulled to the side again. I thought she might have noticed a flat tire and wondered if I should offer to help but she drove off again. Did she dump that kitten? I think she did. I couldn't leave it - the road was far too busy and dangerous. Maybe it was someone's lost pet but little cats do not tend to stray far from home and this one was at least a quarter of a mile from the nearest house. Nevermind. He lives here now and Holly de Cat is not best pleased. But Bonnie is delighted with her new kitten.
Resting up a spell

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yahoo! Ignorant

It’s not just history that matters in Norn Iron. Geography matters too. Depending on your political stance you’ll either be Irish or British. You’ll be going to Londonderry if you’re a Prod, Derry if you’re a Catholic, Stroke City if you think that’s all a bit stupid. Prods reckon Ulster has got six counties, Nationalists know there are nine. And some roads in Norn Iron aren’t just roads – they are Traditional Routes.

Here’s my take. I’m Irish. And I’m British. I live in Northern Ireland, I’m an Ulster woman, I live in the UK. I go to Derry for Londonderry’s such a mouthful.

But stuff like this truly pisses me off. I do this survey and I get to the final hurdle and this is what I’m confronted with. I don’t live in any of these places. Where’s Norn Iron? Is it Lancashire & North West or Scotland?

Which region in the UK do you currently reside?

Please choose ONE answer from the options below

Please select an answer.

Southern Regions

London (Inner and greater London & neighbouring regions)

Wales, West, Westward


Lancashire & North West



Tyne Tees

Anglia Regions

Yahoo! You're ignorant and you suck. Name suits ye.

Suckered Again

Friday afternoon and I'm finding it very difficult to get any work done in the office. It's this bloody cat. You try typing a report with a wee ginger bastard climbing on your head and walking across your keyboard. 

This might turn out to be a great big mistake. Or not. We shall see. And to make matters worse I think it has testicles,

And the kitten said, (I think it means 'feed me you fucker.')

9n          99p[jjjjmgg89g9

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance London, three of the four surviving British World War I veterans attended a ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Henry Allingham, 112, Harry Patch, 110, and Bill Stone, 108, represented the Royal Air Force, Army and Royal Navy respectively.

These last few years Bert and I have taken a note of the number of veterans remaining from the First World War. It won't be long now until there are none left. Amazing as these old guys are they aren't immortal.

We watch the Remembrance Sunday coverage every year and I never fail to find it deeply moving. I've always had a great deal of sympathy for the armed forces - even in the darkest days of the Northern Ireland conflict - even through Bloody Sunday and all the other atrocities committed by the security forces. It wasn't a popular view for a Catholic to hold (and maybe it's part of the reason why some in my own family affectionately referred to me as 'The Unionist') but I could not stop caring for the individual soldier or police in the midst of it all.

So there you go - an opinion - I hate warring and I hate most of the reasons that make wars but I do not hate those who fight in wars.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In My Opinion

I've figured out what's missing from my blog. I don't have enough opinions. Nor am I opinionated. This is something I will have to work on.

Meanwhile here is a picture from my archives featuring Bert and two cute little kittens.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Dark Side

A local man from the Kells area said that as far back as he can remember the Tardree forest area always had a scary reputation. That's where the bogie man hung out - whoever or whatever the bogie man of the day should be. And maybe those tales were told in his grandfather's time and all the grandfathers that ever went before, right back to the time of the faeries.

So is Tardree a place where mountain bikers cycle and horse riders amble and families picnic and dog walkers exercise? Or is it a place of shady assignations, drug deals and illegal raves? Are there caches of terrorist guns buried there and men with machetes chasing innocents all the way to Ballymena? Are there malevolent faeries watching over it all?

All of the above I should think.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Just Going Out For A Ride Dear - Back Later

I decided to take my lunchtime walk in the forest today. Tardree Forest has a reputation for being a dodgy place, reputed to be full of doggers, cottagers and the like. But I thought to myself, "Sod it. I don't care. I want to walk among the trees." And I did. And for most of the time I was there I saw not one soul.

The thing is that when a place gets a rep you get to thinking that anyone you see there is up to something. And, of course, you expect them to think that you're at some sort of rascality too.

But I saw no one. Until I was walking back to my car -and there was a cyclist, maybe fortyish, wearing the full gear, lycra and helmet and he's walking along with his bike, which I thought odd.
Then I thought, "Shame on you Nelly. Maybe his bike is broke." So I said, "Your bike OK?" and he says, "Yes. It's fine." And I say, "Just odd to see a cyclist walking y'know?" And he says, "I'm getting picked up."

Coming behind me are two women on horseback and when they see the cyclist they stop and wait a bit.

I get into the car thinking that he probably thought I was trying to pick him up. I wonder did he have an assignation with those horsewomen? Rare place Tardree.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Fifties Baby

In the 1950s expectant mothers knit bootees, bonnets, cardigans, matinee jackets and leggings for their babies. The favoured colours were white, lemon and pale green. Blues and pinks were for when after baby was born. It was held that anything brighter than pastels would hurt baby’s eyes. There were no scans in those days so the only way you’d ever know the sex of an unborn child would be by swinging a gold ring on a thread over the bump. If the ring went clockwise it was going to be a boy and anti-clockwise indicated that a girl was expected. But it was still best not to get the pink or blue wool out yet as this test often proved unreliable.

As well as his wardrobe of hand-knitted garments baby would also need lots of little woolly vests, at least three flannel nightgowns with embroidered ducklings marching across the bodice and two dozen terry towelling napkins. Baby wore plastic pants over a big napkin and this made his bottom look very large indeed. Baby also needed a soft white shawl for swaddling for there was no central heating in those days. Summer wear would have been romper suits for boys and smocked dresses for girls.

Prams were gigantic, pushchairs were merely large and car seats were non-existent. Baby travelled on mother’s lap, who sat on the front seat beside father, who always drove. Mother and father might both be smoking but mother would be very careful not to drop her ash on baby’s head.

Fresh air was considered essential for baby’s wellbeing and he’d be well happed up, settled down in his gigantic pram and left in the garden for at least three quarters of an hour be it snow, hail, rain or shine. If baby cried it was considered to be good for him as it strengthened the lungs. The only thing that mother worried about while baby was in the garden was that a crow might come down and peck at his nose or that a cat might climb into his pram, curl up on his little face and smother him. Mother’s vigilance was constant.

Baby did not have the toys that the modern child depends on. A rattle was considered sufficient amusement. Those were simpler days and who is to say that they were not better times. Is today’s child any happier with his primary colours, his designer wardrobe, his Cat boots, his baseball cap, his baby-walker and his pram that cost twice as much as Nelly’s current car? Will he grow up more contented than his grandfather who was taken for walks in a rattly old pushchair or left in a freezing garden determinedly waving his rattle in the air to keep the crows and cat at bay? I think not.

Maybe there is just one area where the modern infant is more fortunate – none of those rotten, scratchy, itchy, woollen vests.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Tardree, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dowsing For Dogs

Honestly. I don't know how I ever get time to go to work because when I'm on holiday I'm busy from sunrise to night. Today's been really full. I had to make chilli con carne for at least 16 people. Hugh Wanker-Whittingstall recipe - we used own chillis, (thanks Les) own pig, own onions, thanks to Mr Tesco and Mr Lidl for rest of ingredients. Nobody told me that chopping and de-seeding 8 chillis led to first degree burns of fingers!

I also had to plant bulbs on dog graves. Well - you're in Lidls and see all these cheap narcissi bulbs but where to plant? Then beloved dog dies and that gets you remembering edges of lawn just studded with beloved dog graves and not even own beloved dogs.

It's a damn big lawn. Dogs we know are buried there are in order of interment:-

Polly: sweetest little Jack Russell cross. Given to Pearlie soon after she was widowed. The girls never forgave us for parting. She only lasted a few months before succumbing to the horror movie that is the Dreen Road.

Molly: Springer spaniel just arrived in Nellybert's yard. Unknown to us she was riddled with cancer. We kept her six months. I adored her. We spent a fortune at the vet. Eventually had to have her put down.

Danny: Best. Dog. Ever. Nellybert's first beloved pooch. Committed suicide under the wheels of Bert's van sometime in 2004. He was nearly seventeen.

Penny: She was Pearlie's dog. Died on Christmas Eve aged around fourteeen. Her demise marked the beginning of Pearlie's decline.

Chip: Not our dog but Danny's mother. Eighteen when her owners had her put down. They had nowhere to bury her. We had all the room in the world.

Jock: Not our dog either but the beloved pet of the Wee Mannys.

Rosie: She won't be the last but she was the first to have a dozen or so narcissi planted on her grave.

Trouble is after a while you forget where the pet was planted but that's where dowsing comes in. With the aid of metal dowsing rods we were able to establish exactly where Polly, Molly, Danny and Jock were laid. Whilst about it I checked Harry de Cat and Penny. We're just planting narcissi on our own dogs and Jock for now. Harry's still marked with quarry tiles under the buddleja.

I don't know how it works or why but if you use the metal rods over a grave they cross of their own volition at the exact spot where the animal lies. While checking out our pet's burial spots today the rods crossed in places where we, to our knowledge, had buried no animals but, as Bert reminded me, that big lawn had seen many beloved pets buried long before we came to Springhill.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

There's No Such Thing As Bad Publicity

Two overpaid presenters have been suspended from the BBC for making obscene phone calls/remarks on Radio Two. And this is the big story on the news. Because one of them, a shagger extraordinaire, did the rude thing with some actor's granddaughter and then the pair of them taunted the poor man about it.

Now the granddaughter, fetching little article she is too, has got a huge mega-boost of publicity for her showbiz career and we're all saying,

Him out of Fawlty Towers? Didn't even know he was still alive.

Sad about Ross and Brand though. Still I expect they'll weather the storm.

Film & Book

Monday was our first Pearl-free evening in ages. I got very mellow indeed and watched Cave of the Yellow Dog. I adored it. Hardly anything actually happened but it was mesmerising. In some way it was like a documentary but without the irritating voiceover. No Ewan McGregor or Bill Paterson intoning, "The family are now taking down their yurt.."

One of the most enjoyable wildlife documentaries I ever watched was on Portuguese telly with the sound turned down. I think voiceovers are greatly over rated and frequently patronising. But back to that film - I'd definitely recommend it. Maybe have a nice cup of Earl Grey, wee special brownie...

And I read The Shack. A rare read indeed. Not my usual thing at all. It didn't do me a bit of harm and maybe a wee bit of good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The following is based on a true event. One of the most difficult things about having Pearlie living with us is the struggle to hold on to a sense of myself as a fairly decent human being. There is no feelgood factor.

A few weeks ago I went on a shopping expedition to get Pearlie some decent clothes. Pearlie has never had the remotest interest in clothes and, as long as I’ve known her, has garbed herself in layers of hideous greying underwear, jumpers, cardigans, vile skirts, men’s socks, battered footwear and the lot topped of with a horror movie of a headscarf and a home-made and much patched apron. She had the look of a poverty-stricken Eastern European peasant from the nineteen-forties only with added nylon and polyester.

But now it’s up to me launder this gruesome stuff so I’ve been sneakily throwing out the worst of it and replacing it with decent clothes from Marks & Spencers and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. There will be no more baggy, outsized interlock cotton vests with fraying hems in this house.

Sure ye could put a stitch in them.

Excuse me Pearlie. A stitch? I do have a life. (Or at least I used to)

Her hideous long-legged cotton knickers bought from the packman are slowly being replaced by similarly granny ones from M&S only the Marksy ones are light and thermal and almost pleasing to the eye.

Where’s all my other knickers? Did Margaret take them home to patch?

In the bin long, long ago.

I spent over three hours picking out a skirt, a cardigan and underwear for Pearlie. Had I been shopping for myself I’d have completed in half the time. But I know how hard she is to please. Skirts must be lined, they must not be too long or too tight. Knitwear must not be bulky but it must not be too light. The sleeves must be roomy, likewise the neck. Colours must not be too bright. I played safe and got dark green. I’ve seen her wear dark green a lot. The underwear was thermal, soft and it fitted her. Exhausted I made my way home.

I didn’t show her the new duds at first. I knew she’d be bound to hate something and I even had a notion of packing them in her case so that the first time she saw them would be when the care assistants at the respite home hung them up in her wardrobe. But next day she was in a good mood and I felt I could handle the criticism so I showed her what I’d got. And amazing joy – she liked everything! I was delighted.

But that was Sunday. On Thursday Favourite Niece came out to pack her suitcase. That evening I didn’t get home until nearly eight and I was feeling pretty tired. I was surprised to see that Favourite Niece’s car was still in the yard. Moments later FN bounced out of Pearlie’s room went straight up to me and said, “That skirt’s no good. It’s falling off her. Can you get it changed? And she doesn’t like those knickers. Says she’ll be far too cold in them.”

Did I stay cool? Not exactly. I swore a bit ( a lot) then I did get cool. Well maybe more cold than cool. You know that cold anger thing where you might like to kill somebody? That was me.

Since then I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’ve been thinking about choices and how it is supposed to be important to give old people as much autonomy as possible. And I was also thinking about how great it would be if middle-aged people got to exercise some choices too like whether we wanted to launder patched rags or not. Or maybe we could choose whether or not we welcomed an aged dictator and a haphazard team of carers into our lovely home.

So anyway after thinking long and hard I have decided that these are the really important choices to offer my aged dictator.

  • Milk or Tea.
  • Pink hot water bottle or blue hot water bottle.
  • Shape up or Ship Out.
  • My Way or the Highway.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Old Duffer's Dogs

You know those three random pictures from my Flickr photostream that are displayed on this blog's sidebar? Well these three pictures were the ones that were on this morning. And funnily enough they were the perfect illustration of something that Bert and I have been pondering recently.

Losing dogs is not just about missing that beloved pooch. There is another sadness and that is the line that is drawn under a goodly chunk of our human lives.

This dog belongs to a pair of headcases. His testicles are in full working order and his owners are completely unaware of the damage those acrobatics are doing to his hipbones

We were persuaded to take Danny on by The Rons sometime in the first few years after Nellybert got together. Best and sweetest thing they ever did for us. We were young and daft and so was our dog. Danny lived until his seventeenth year and by the time he died we were all a lot more sensible and sedate. During the time we had Danny the family accquired a driving licence, three degrees, two businesses and two houses. And we had a hell of a lot of fun, much of it inspired by Dan.

These dogs belong to mature people. They are all fully vaccinated, well-nourished and regularly exercised.

By the time Rosie came along Nellybert was starting to wise up. Nelly became a full-time working woman, through truth be told the brilliant career never quite took off. Partying was still a big priority although stamina wasn't what it was. During the time we had Rosie we widened our social circle, came to terms with not having our own Nellybert bambino and got a little bit more sensible. We lost two Dads and watched two Mums get older and frailer. The family accquired another driving licence and a further degree.

These dogs belong to Old Duffers

And then we got to be middle-aged. Bert's got a theory that dogs are different depending on the age of the people that look after them. We started of as younguns with a crazy jumping dog that ended up crippled because of all the capers he cut when he was a young dog. God love Danny. He had a lot of fun. He was a lot of fun - but his owners hadn't an ounce of sense. We laughed like loons at all the crazy things he got up to.

By the time Rosie came along we were a bit wiser. By the time Paddy appeared we were even more sensible. Now we have Bonnie we're even thinking about getting pet insurance. Danny (who irresponsibly fathered pups the length and breadth of Ireland) was the much loved dog of ridiculously irresponsible owners while Bonnie and Paddy (both neutered) belong to two seriously, sensible Old Duffers.