Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pearlie Update

Interweb good wishes must be especially blessed for Pearlie is doing far better than we hoped. She's through the surgery, in a bit of pain but in real good spirits.

Thanks for all the lovely messages and phone calls. Bert is very appreciative and in much more positive frame of mind.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Cyrus Affair

I’m reminded of the 1969 Blind Faith album cover.

That caused a bit of controversy at the time (the cover had to be changed for the US market) but nothing compared to the Miley Cyrus Affair.

The cops would be interviewing the photographer, Bob Seidemann, if he took that picture today.

My opinion? I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things since I was sixteen but I thought then that Seidemann’s picture was beautiful, not salacious at all and I still think that.

Incidentally Seidemann’s model, Mariora Goschen, who was 11-years-old when the picture was taken, works today as a massage therapist.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not Good

Last night, at around midnight, Pearlie fell and broke her hip.

Right now she is in the Royal Victoria Hospital awaiting surgery.

Considering the circumstances her form is fairly good.

Bert is devastated.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Vintage Chic

My Facebook so-called friends might have decided that I haven't a stylish bone in my body but I know they're wrong, wrong, wrong. Youse ones just don't get it for I have a style all of my own. Only today I picked up two gorgeous dresses in the Cancer Research Shop. They're both navy so I'll have to head out to Junction One and score me some navy shoes. Both dresses are smart enough for any formal occasion. One was a plain vintage dress from M&S and that cost me three quid. The other was a never worn Rodier dress that was marked at £179 and I got for a fiver. I tried the Rodier dress on for Pearlie and she liked it although I'm not sure that is a good thing. Bert's reaction was even better. His eyes had that sparky look he gets when he likes me in something and he said,

You've got a waist! Either that or you've got a hell of a big arse!

I think I might get married in the Rodier dress.

Compared To Bloody Who?

Apparently my so-called friends have voted on my Strengths and Weaknesses on Facebook and these are the results.


most helpful
best mother (potential)


most useful i.e. useless
most fashionable i.e. unfashionable

So what do I take out of that? At first I thought that my helpfulness cancelled out my uselessness but then I realised it probably didn't. So I can take it that my 'friends' think I'm a kindly, interfering bag lady, old and in the way. Thanks a bunch.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Matty: The Early Years

The following is part of Matty's account of her life pre-school and in infant class. In it she writes about her terrifying teacher Miss Wade and her efforts to ensure that Matty wrote with the 'right' hand. By todays standards that sounds so inhumane.

It's hard to believe that teachers could treat little children like that. Miss Wade also features towards the end of this extract when she makes Matty sit outside on the cold step because of her mistaken belief that the child was suffering from a contagious condition. Even after the passage of more than seventy years Matty has keen memories of this cruel woman.


Martha before she started school

I was born in the townland of Leitrim about two miles from Randalstown on the 28th July 1926 and christened Martha after my Daddy’s mother.

My earliest memories are from when I was three and are of my playmate Malachy Cunningham, whose family lived close to us, playing with me on a heap of sand at the end of our house and of Arthur O’Neill, who did some gardening for us, wheeling Malachy and me about in a barrow. Arthur would make up poems about us but I cannot really remember them. Malachy and I were both too young to go to school but we had great fun playing together.

When I saw my three older sisters Kathleen, Josephine and Sadie getting ready for school I wanted to go too but I was four years old before Mammy allowed it. It was about three miles to walk and sometimes two of the big girls who lived out our way would give me a lift on their bicycles. At school the big girls would fuss over me and carry me about. I am told I was a chubby little thing with blonde curly hair. Master McNamee was leaving Creggan School about the time I started and he cut off one of my curls to take with him. I can tell you I was not pleased.

When I started school first I would sometimes be very tired so I would put my head down on the desk and have a little sleep. No one bothered me, as I was still too young to be doing lessons. We had two goats at home called Betty and Daisy so I had a bottle of goat’s milk to take with my sandwiches at lunchtime.

About a year later I discovered that school was not the great place I thought it was. Miss Wade was teaching me to write and she found out that I was left-handed. She was determined to make me use my right hand. She would put the pencil in my right hand and walk away. I would start writing with my left hand again and she would slip up and beat me hard on my knuckles. As a last resort she tied my left hand behind my back and eventually, after a time, she got me to use my right hand. During that time I used to wake up screaming at night and Mammy thought I was having bad dreams. In those days children never talked much about how they were treated at school.

Reading came very easily to me. I was not always able to pronounce some of the words I read but that did not stop me reading my only problem was I could not be kept up in books. I would read the same books over and over again until they were in tatters. Sadie and I used to borrow books from our landlord Johnny Haire. He had a bookcase filled with books that he and his sister had won as prizes at Sunday School. Johnny told us that if we took good care of them we could borrow his books anytime. We did as he asked and really enjoyed reading them, as they were all well written children’s stories.

There were places near our school that we liked to visit. On winter mornings we would go across to the blacksmith’s shop to get our hands warmed before school started. I can still remember the smell of burning hooves when the horses were getting shod.

At lunchtime we would go to McAteer’s shop and if we had a penny we could buy ten chocolate caramels or a pennyworth of broken biscuits or a couple of pencils at a halfpenny each. Across the road from the shop was where Pat McAteer and Tommy lived. Pat was a shoe mender and we liked to watch him cutting out the shapes of soles and heels in brown paper before he cut them in leather. He was a little man and he always wore a black bowler hat.

Tommy was a very fussy person and he was always warning us about jumping off old wallsteads. He said we would finish up, when we got older, with pains in our legs. If we bought cough sweets he would tell us not to eat too many or we would go to sleep and not wake up. He warned us not to go near the quarry hole at the back of our house. It was filled with water and was supposed to be so deep that three men could stand in it one on top of the other. The only time we ever went near it was in springtime when it was full of frogs and we would listen to them croaking and wonder how they could make so much noise. Tommy had lovely gooseberries growing in his garden but he would not let us have any until after the twelfth of July. He said they would not be properly ripened until then.

One day at school Miss Wade noticed a sore on my leg. She said it was ringworm and sent me to sit on the cold step outside until home time when my sisters would bring me home. I was glad when the time came for I was cold and miserable.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Way Matty!

Matty's story 'My First Job' was featured by Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By. Matty was totally delighted. Thanks to Grannymar for the nod and the encouragement. Here's the link.

She was even more excited when Len from Down Memory Lane asked to use the piece in his Antrim Guardian column. After all hardly any of her mates use the internet but they all take a scally at the local paper.

Matty says we're not to forget about Ganching who has always been very encouraging of our mother's writing right from she first began.

There'll be another piece from Matty soon.


The title 'Way Matty!' was inspired by a conversation with a very old friend a very long time ago. She was telling me about this expression. She explained,

It's what some men in America and Canada say when one of them does something the rest of them think is really good. They'll say to the wally who did the clever thing, Hey! Way to go! and if they're real dickheads they'll just say Way!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Refuge That I Run

Nellybert has a new venture on the go. We’re now providers of hostel accommodation for hens suffering domestic abuse. Six new hens arrived at the weekend and the hen house has become a refuge for battered chickens.

A while back Clint went to England and purchased a number of fertilised eggs from specialist chicken breeders. These included Barnevelders, Lakenvelders, Cream Legbars and Buff Suffolks. With eggs you cannot be certain to the sex of the chicken and, as is usual, Clint’s eggs hatched out roughly half roosters and half hens.

Roosters are mad about sex and would be at the hens constantly. There was one particularly popular unfortunate Cream Legbar that had them queuing up and as one randy rooster jumped off another one jumped on. Her poor back was in juggins and as Clint put it,

Those roosters have her treaded within an inch of her life.

Thankfully I’ve a lot of experience working in hostels so Clint’s chickens are in safe hands until he gets his own coop in order. It’s just like any other hostel really. There are cliques, there are arguments, they steal each other’s food and there’s always one that the rest pick on. And, like any other women's hostel, there are the inevitable disreputable looking males* hanging about outside trying to gain entrance.

*The One That Everybody Hates & The Other One

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ballymena Blogmeet

This past week I’ve been having strange dreams, anxiety dreams. Dreams where I’m late for important interviews, dreams where I’ve got assignments and just as I’m ready to hand it in I realise I’ve missed an essential part of it. I’ve been waking up in a muck sweat panicking and then I realise it’s not really happening and still I feel on edge the whole of the day. So what’s up? What am I worrying about? Could it be that I’ve got a blog date? With Hails?

But Hails you say - but Hails is lovely! Hails is a total honeybun, a real sweetiepie!

Hmmm… If you’d been thrashed as thoroughly, frequently and humiliatingly at Scrabulous as I’ve been by Hails you might think again. She might seem like a pussycat but I know her as a ruthless, unpitying destroyer.

But that was then.

Hannah and I thoroughly enjoyed our morning with the lovely Hails. She’s a great girl and great crack. She’s off on an adventure soon so we’ll wish her all the best. And thanks to the magic of the internet Coffee Helps will still be with us.

Godspeed Hails. See you when you get back.

She threatens promises that she’s still going to keep murdering me at Scrabulous but one of these days…

Friday, April 18, 2008

What The Flickr!

patchwork detail, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

This detail from an eBay sourced patchwork quilt is one of my most commented upon photographs. It's handicrafts and kittens that top the comments league in my photostream.

The quilt has turned out to be a white elephant. I won't put it on a bed because it's too heavy to launder and it's far too big to hang on the wall.

Fanad Flickr'd & Faved

Fanad, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

I'm still jealous of Zoe. This photograph has been favourited more than 20 times. Still hasn't had as many views as 'Our Ken's' For Sale Sign. Yet.

For Flick's Sake!

For Sale Sign, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

I still haven't discovered why this fairly dull photograph has had the most views on my Flickr photostream. 683 so far.

Flickring Interesting

William, Mary & Ollie, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Swing Low Sweet Boob Of Mine

It's said that when a woman reaches a certain age she has to make a choice between her face and her arse. I choose my face but, as the regular reader knows, I have been making some rather heroic efforts at reducing the dimensions of my backside without sacrificing too much in the face department.

But nobody ever told me about the risk to my front elevation. It's large and matronly and has always been so. I remember a boy telling me, when I was about nineteen, that my boobs were like the Queen's - low slung! I was mortified. The Queen was, and still is, twenty-seven years older than me.

Back to the present day - I lament to Bert,
My boobs are destroyed with this bloody dieting. They're hanging to my waist!
He says,
Not at all.
I'm mollified. But he continues,
Sure it's just the one of them hanging to your waist.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Exodus 31:15

We've had a very productive Sunday. I got the greenhouse cleaned, Bert did a bit more work on the bathroom project (still got all his fingers) and made the kitchen chimney starling proof. Gracie's folks came out and a good part of the vegetable garden was dug, manured and rotivated. Credit to Z & D for doing most of the spade work.

I popped in to see Pearlie.

We're all in the garden today.

Are ye?

Aye. Z and D are there. They're working very hard in the vegetable garden.

Humph. Ye'll be lucky if anything grows for you.

What do you mean?

Planting on the Sabbath!

But we're not planting! Just getting the ground ready.

It says in the bible, 'Six days ye shall labour but ye must keep holy the Sabbath Day!'

Oh. Alright then. Do you want tea or anything?


Right. I'm off back to work. See you...

I suppose I should be relieved that she didn't add the bit about being put to death for toiling on the Lord's Day. And I wondered if Pearlie, her being so pious and all, mightn't have been answered better studying her bible rather than working at a puzzle book.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Loom Of One's Own

I'm engaged on something at the moment which I call 'The Martha Project'. Matty has been scribbling away at bits and pieces ever since she retired and I thought it would be a good idea to gather these writings together.

I've asked Matty if I can put some of her stories on the internet and she has agreed so I'm going to share a little bit of it now and again. The picture I've chosen to accompany this piece is used by kind permission of Len Kinley at Down Memory Lane. Thanks Len.

The Old Bleach Factory as it would have looked when Matty worked there.

My First Job

In the year 1941 I began work in the Old Bleach Linen Company in Randalstown. I was 14 and half years old and I had no choice as to where I would work. My older sister had put my name down for a job and when a vacancy came up I was sent for.

It was a cold winter’s morning in January when I started off to walk four miles to the factory but it was no bother to me as I had eaten a good breakfast before I left home. I met up with the other girls on the way and the road did not seem long, as the chat was good.

Most of the older girls in the factory had bicycles but the younger girls, like myself, had not been working long enough to have the money saved to buy a bicycle. Between food rationing and so much walking we had no problem keeping slim. Dieting was a word almost unknown in those years.

We arrived a few minutes before eight that morning. There were five other girls beside myself starting too. I remember their names as Gwen McComb, Netta Conway, Minnie Rowan, Agnes McDonald and there was another girl whose name was Allison and I think maybe her first name was Lily.

I was told I would be working in a loom shop and when I entered the room the terrible clattering of the looms shocked me. I looked around me at the bare walls without windows, the light of day coming through panes of glass in the roof, and I thought to myself, ‘I will never be able to stay in a place like this.’ But as time went past I grew used to it.

I started my training with a girl called Mary McLarnon. Mary was a neighbour of ours and it was nice being with someone I knew. She was very patient with me showing me all I had to do like how to thread shuttles, and how to make sure to always have one ready to put on the loom when the other ran out. She also taught me what dangers to avoid.

The only tools a weaver needed were small clippers or scissors and a heddle hook and, not forgetting, a hand brush to clean your looms at the end of every week.

Two weeks later I was operating a loom of my own and I was very pleased with myself. It was fascinating watching the shuttle flying backwards and forwards and the heddles going up and down and to think that cloth was being made perfectly and at great speed before one’s very eyes.

I soon got bored with only one loom so they gave me a second one and I was kept quite busy and it was good to be earning more money. The first pay I earned in the factory was 12 shillings and sixpence (62.5 pence). I got keeping the sixpence and Mammy got the rest.

With walking to work every day we had no travelling expenses and we would bring a lunch with us. At the back of the factory we had a canteen where all you could have would be a cup of black tea that had a very stewed taste. It was awful but we had to take it and be glad of it for it was the only break we had all day. Afterwards we would go for a walk and it was good to get out in the fresh air.

Shortly after I started working in the factory I made friends with a girl called Ria Smith. We discovered there was just two days between our ages and we remained good friends for the rest of our teenage years.

It was during the war years that I worked at the Old Bleach and the factory was getting big orders, which meant they were employing a large number of people. I was moved around a lot to other loom shops that had different types of looms for different types of cloth but it was very good experience and you met up with other workers who were very friendly and helpful.

Most of the time I was weaving very plain cloth like linen, cotton and jute but on a few occasions I got something different to do like tablecloths with coloured borders and once I wove striped linen towels with lovely pastel colours and was told they were being made for the Rainbow Hotel in New York.

Once I was taken before the Manager for a fault in the cloth I had woven. This was the first time this had happened to me and I was upset. I told him I’d get myself another job. He said there were no other jobs to be had about here. I said I could always get married and he laughed and said, “Well you can count me out because I’m already married.”

In later years I sometimes had to train young people to operate a loom. You would have them there for a couple of weeks and it held you up a bit but you got extra money for it so I didn’t mind teaching them.

Although it was a very dreary environment to work the friendship between the workers made it a happy place to be and there was a good relationship between workers and management.

By 1952, the year I was leaving to get married, things had changed a lot in the factory. It was becoming more modern. A new building had been erected for automatic looms and as one girl could now operate about 10 looms it meant big pay-offs. There were other factories producing synthetic materials that were cheaper than linen or cotton and that was the beginning of the end of the linen industry all over Northern Ireland.

October 2004


The place is a house somewhere near Cullybackey. The time is approaching 11pm.

Man: Will you come out with me to check I've closed in the hens?

Woman: Why?

Man: It's pitch dark out there.

Woman: And?

Man: I'm feared out there.

Woman: You're feared? What of? The dark?

Man: The divil. But I'm not feared if you're with me.

So now I've another string to my bow. Divil-protection.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Fifteens, originally uploaded by ZMB.
ZMB's recipe seems to have disappeared. Never mind - here's one Beowulf made earlier.

'Fifteens appear to be a Northern Ireland thing, the rest of the world should be educated. To wit:

15 McVities Digestive Bisuits
15 Marshmallows
15 Red Glaze Cherries
1 small tin of sweetened condensed milk
1 good handful of desiccated coconut

1. Crush the biscuits into a large bowl, add mallow and cherries, mix.
2. Now pour the condensed milk into the mix, stir it up until it gets into a sticky lump.
3. Tip it all out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and mould it into a log shape, roll the whole log thing in the coconut.
4. Wrap the beast up and refridgerate for a day, when it’s set you slice it up as you see fit (monster slices for the men, teeny-weeny arty slices for the women).
5. Eat.'

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bert's New Toy

Projects at Nellybert’s can take some considerable time. One that seems to have been going on forever is the upstairs bathroom. It was always useable as it contained the standard bath, toilet and wash basin. However not many people, other that the utterly shameless Nellybert, did use it for there were no curtains and only one window with frosted glass. The other window looked out over the road and would have afforded passing motorists an excellent view of whoever happened to be easing their bladder or bowels at the time. Eventually I purchased some gorgeous curtains from EBay and after a couple of months Bert put up curtain track and it was only a few weeks later that I got round to hanging the curtains.

The gorgeous poppy curtains

That achievement spurred us on because it wasn’t long before Bert embarked on boxing in the bath. He used old pine tongue and groove panelling that had featured in the bathroom before we’d renovated the house. It was at this stage that we regretted using a wood effect vinyl floor covering for the two woodinesses (antique and faux) laughed at each other.

The panelled bath

But there was still the space at the end of the bath. We’d considered a piece of old furniture for this and had left the floor uncovered until we found it.

The space at the end of the bath

Eventually I decided that Bert would build me a shelving unit. Plans were discussed. Plans were even drawn. Leitrim Sister had an idea, West Belfast Social Worker had another idea, Bert had an even better idea – or so he has convinced me. The only thing was – Bert’s idea needed a Compound Mitre Saw! I’m not sure what this actually does (Bert assures me it is an essential) but this I do know – men should always be encouraged to buy expensive power tools because it gives women such leverage when it comes to getting things done around the house.

You've spent all that money and I’m still waiting for my shelves, table, bed whatever!

Bert's new toy

Monday, April 07, 2008

Work Is The Curse Of The Blogging Classes

When I worked in Spide City and Tinkerton I had a rich seam of blogging material to mine. It carried only a little risk – the people I blogged about were unlikely to read what I’d written. Had they come across the blog they might have recognised themselves but the ones that provided me with the best stories did not have access to the internet and if they had they’d have been unlikely to be reading blogs. Some of my co-workers knew about the blog – in fact I believe I offended one by referring to her as she who must be obeyed. I don’t know whether it was the phrasing or the font size that bothered her for I never asked. Had my superiors taken umbrage at my ramblings I’d have been pleased. Getting dooced would have been a good route out of a job that I’d started to hate. But they never took it under their notice.

Nowadays I work for builders and property developers and I barely mention my working life. It’s not anywhere near as mad as my previous job but it does have the odd daft moment I’d like to write about. But I won’t because all our customers have broadband and my boss has a Mac in every room of his home. And I quite like the boss, most of the customers and the job.

So when I yearn for my old job it’s only the stories I heard, the things that happened and the excitement that I miss. What’s left for me to blog about now?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey

Matty and Hannah and I took a trip to Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey today. I wanted to get a Mass Card for a friend of ours whose father died earlier this week. I don't really understand the etiquette of Mass Cards so I thought it would be a good idea to take Matty who knows all the ins and outs.

Matty usually goes to Antrim with her favourite sister-in-law on Saturday mornings so I phoned first.

You not out with Maud this morning?

No. I told her I just didn't trust my legs today.

Bert and I discussed this over our porridge.

Says she just doesn't trust her legs to go out shopping with Maud.

Why not?

Maybe she's afraid they'll go shoplifting or slope off to score some weed. Or maybe they'll slip into a betting shop and blow the pension on the Grand National.

Happily she felt that her legs were trustworthy enough to go on a jaunt with Hannah and Nelly.

The Abbey is, like all respositories of rosary beads, mass cards and religious paraphernalia, a weird and wonderful place. You go in. The first thing that you see is a miniature priest's mass clothes. You wonder why? Who'd want that? There are shelves and shelves of religious pictures and statues, there are rosary beads galore, there are stands and stands of pre-signed mass cards. There is a monk sitting in the corner to bless the holy stuff you buy for it's no use if it's not blessed. There is Status Quo playing 'Whatever You Want' on the sound system. Whether this was the monk's choice or the delightful young shop assistant's choice I do not know. Probably the monk as he was 50+.

I quickly choose my mass card; a bargain at two quid. Meanwhile Matty gets heavily involved in a conversation with the shop assistant on the possibilities of buying a book o the life of Saint Anne but, said saint being slightly obscure, none was to be found. Matty reports that Anne is the patron saint of grandmothers. With Jesus as her grandchild, she would be, wouldn't she?

Experienced Matty's untrustworthy leg in one of Portglenone's charity shops. She does this genuflection thing with it. She says the strength just leaves her leg for a moment. I tried distraction as a cure and pointed her in the direction of a shelf of brand new shoes. No shoes were purchased -just another beige skirt.

The day ended well. After dropping Matty off in Tannaghmore and Hannah in Ballymena, Rosie and I went for a brisk walk in the Ecos Centre. It was there that I bumped into an old chum who shamelessly told me that he'd always had the hots for me. What's not to like about hearing that?

Of course I told Bert the minute I got home. He laughed.

Aren't you raging? Aren't you going to go in and start a fight with him?

No. I'll just congratulate him on his good taste next time I see him.

What's not to like about hearing that?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mervyn's Gone

We heard an unmerciful squawking just outside the window - then it was further away. We ran outside. The squawking (a rooster's) was, by now, coming from the far end of the garden.

It wasn't Plum for he was safely tucked up with the hens in their new house. It wasn't The One That Everybody Hates or The Other One for they were perched in the old hen house. It had to be Mervyn - too proud to share space with the other bachelors. It had to be Mervyn who has refused to come in these past two nights. It had to be Mervyn who got his wings clipped for flying over the eight foot wire surrounding the new hen run to run with the new hens and fight with Plum. Poor Mervyn. King of the chickens but no match for Foxy.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Barefoot Colleen*

You Are Bare Feet

You are a true free spirit, and you can't be tied down.

Even wearing shoes can be a little too constraining for you at times!

You are very comfortable in your own skin.

You are one of the most real people around. You don't have anything to hide.

Open and accepting, you are willing to discuss or entertain almost any topic.

You are a very tolerant person. You are accepting and not judgmental.

You should live: Somewhere warm

You should work: At your own business, where you can set the rules

What Kind of Shoe Are You?

*That's what Matty used to call me when I was a girl. It embarrassed her that I liked to run around in my bare feet. I think she was worried that people might think she couldn't afford to keep me shod. Despite this result, these days I like my shoes and boots and have plenty of them. I love shopping at TK Maxx and the outlet stores. I rarely spend more than fifty pounds on a pair of shoes. I like them to be fairly plain, reasonably stylish and, above all, comfortable.

Thanks to Grannymar for this meme.

Happy Birthday Joe

Taking pic of zoe's dog, originally uploaded by KatyKatkins.

The brother likes to think of himself as a man's man. Lot of nonsense! He's never happier than when he is surrounded by women.

Happy birthday Joe - hope it was a good one.