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.