Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Grey Man's Path

The Grey Man's Path, Fair Head, County Antrim
Photograph taken from 'Ireland: Historic and Picturesque' by Charles Johnston, 1902

A recent picture of the Grey Man's Path found at

I'll be trying this one out pretty soon. I hear it's hairy, scarey and not to be chanced near twilight. For that's the likeliest time you'll come across the Grey Man himself!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Devil Dogs

We have had Scruffalo staying with us all this week while the Kerry Sister and Brendan were in London. I'm afraid to say that he bullied our entire houseful of dogs and cats except Fred.

We had to tell Scruff the story that He Who Cannot Be Spoken Of told us.

When He Who Cannot Be Named was a young lad the family had a German Shepherd dog. This dog was very mild and quiet and all the children of the family could pull his ears and tail and ride on his back and the dog never as much as growled at them. The people who lived across the field had a wee yappy Jack Russell who would come over regularly and torture the big dog. The little dog would bark and circle, snap and nip at the German Shepherd. The big dog never retaliated.

Then one evening, for no apparent reason, the big dog crossed the field and tore the throat right out of the Jack Russell.

Scruff paid this story no mind and continued intimidating big, silly Bonnie to no ill effect.

We returned the boul’ Scuff tonight and Bonnie came for the run. Both dogs ran into Matty’s before me and when I got in she was sitting there with a face like a fur hatchet and acting like Bonnie was going to take a lump out of her. Poor old dog had to go sit in the car.

Later the bro says,

You’d think you’d brought a grizzly bear in with you.

And I said,

Yes. With big slavering teeth.

And a half masticated lamb in its jaws.

And the blood running out of its mouth.

And divil’s horns and a tail.

Aye. We’d better make sure Matty never hears that tale about He Who Cannot Be Mentioned’s dog.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lent Schment...

...or Wagon off the wagon.

I know. I know. I'm a heathen now. And a lush to boot.

My Lenten fast has come to an end. I'm halfway down my second glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and I feel rather odd. Sort of woozy and sleepy...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wagons Roll!

"Wagon" - Irish slang. A difficult, awkward or cantankerous woman.

The first time I ever head the expression ‘wagon’ was from a relation of mine speaking about one of her in-laws. I thought it had a quare ring to it but wasn’t sure enough of its meaning to use it myself. It seemed to be some form of derogatory term used to describe other women and, as such, would not be a very appropriate word for the likes of a well-reared, educated and kind woman such as myself.

But that is enough lies for one evening. I was reading the Swearing Lady the other day and came across the word ‘wagon’ again and I thought to myself that I’d need to get a handle on this expression so that I can slip it into conversation. For I have known many wagons in my time. I even live with one. And poor Bert, he has two oul wagons to contend with. The man is a blessed saint that he hasn’t us both poisoned.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mother's Day

The old girl who started it all

Matty has Leitrim Sister staying with her this weekend and, happily, this sister is a talented cook, who positively relishes making great food for squads of people.

So we've got a small clan gathering this afternoon - just the nine of us. More to tell later on.

Of course Mother's Day is not just for mothers - it's also about children, without whom Mother's Day would not be possible. I'll be seeing two of my girls today but I'll be thinking about my other girl, the newly-engaged Katy from Norfolk.

Big hugs and kisses for Katy. (Did I mention she is Engaged? To Be Married? To Mark?)

The three that made a Mammy out of me

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring At Last

crocus lawn, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Paddy's Day

Five years ago today, Dee Mac and I went to Crosskennan Animal Shelter and brought Paddy home to join the Nellybert family.

He's come a long way since starting of as a rather diffident, snake-hipped fellow. That's him on the left of the picture. At that time Danny was the dominant dog in our house but sadly, Dan died a few months later. 

Paddy's confidence grew and grew but still he wasn't the numero uno dog in the house. That role fell to Rosie. However, as you can see, she adored him. Together they were the scourge of every fox, rabbit and cat in the country. They scunged far and wide and had many adventures and near-death experiences.

Regular readers will know that Rosie scunged her last several months ago. After nearly five years Paddy was Chief Dog. I think the role agrees with him. Don't you?

So to hell with your Guinness and your shamrocks. Paddy's Day isn't green as far as I'm concerned. It's black and white.... and pink.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bunny Girls

I hadn't a spare minute to blog this past weekend because I was cleaning and baking and walking and stuff. And Mel was over. And Ganching.

Inspired by Ganching's recent hosting of an 'awesome' birthday tea, I fell 'til a marathon scone, cake and bun-making session helped by Miss Mel and Miss Hannah. While I was supervising the oven and making the sandwich fillings, they decorated the cup cakes. I think you'll have to agree that their efforts were both tasteful and restrained.

Ganching was most impressed. She agreed that it was an 'awesome' spread and said as much. Although she did add that at her birthday tea, she didn't expect the guests to actually prepare the food.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nobody Wants It

When I take Matty shopping on Thursday nights we usually go this convoluted journey that avoids both the rush hour traffic on the A26 and the narrow roads around Cookstown Junction. Tonight I found myself, without thinking, taking the narrow road instead of our usual route. I realised that I wanted to avoid passing the entrance to the army barracks where those two young men were murdered last Saturday night. I mentioned this to Matty.

She told me that on that night my 16 year old niece had been visiting a house very close to the barracks and had heard the shots and then afterwards the sirens. She knew that something very bad had happened. When she got home she found out, from Sky news, what exactly had taken place. The next day she told her granny that she felt very tired. When Matty asked why, she said she had been unable to sleep for thinking about the shooting.

I felt very sad about this. I really had dared to hope that her generation would not have to go through what we experienced.

For it was only when it was over, when I really, truly believed it was over, that I knew how much living with the troubles had blighted all our lives. I don't want those times to come back. Nobody wants it. Do they?

You Don't Say

What would we do without these health pundits? I really don't know. The latest bit of unbelievable news  concerns chocolate. You know...that brown stuff made from lard and sugar with a tad of cocoa bean somewhere in there - apparently it's bad for you if you eat too much of it. And, because we are all thick as bricks and don't know what is good for us, the brown stuff should be taxed so we don't eat so much of it.

Chocolate is already as dear as poison. I remember when Mars bars cost five pence - that is  five old pre-decimal pennies and the chocolate was thick enough to break your teeth on and the caramel was awesome and the whipped bit was...alright. Because if I'd wanted a Milky Way I'd have bought a Milky Way. And they were about 8 inches long. You ate them by nibbling off all the chocolate, which took ages, then you ate the boring Milky Way bit. Then you ate the chewy caramel. By this time there was chocolate up your nose and  caramel in your hair but you didn't care because you were only eight years old and you only got about three Mars bars a year.

Compared to the Mars Bar of yesteryear, today's  is a far inferior product. But taxing them? They're dear as poison anyway. Aren't they already taxed?

So leave us alone Health Bullies and Bosses. We're paying enough tax already.  If we want to eat sugar and lard and the food companies are mustard-keen to sell it to us then keep on saying so on the packet and let us make our own choices. 

Monday, March 09, 2009

Clean Meat Never Fattened A Pig

The Cave Hill, Belfast

I used to wonder what the saying 'clean meat never fattened a pig' meant and, to this day, I'm still not sure. It was often said in our house if, for instance, one of the wee ones dropped their jam sandwich (alternatively 'jam piece') and picked it up again for the scoffing thereof. With seven children in the house, it wasn't just that food couldn't, shouldn't be wasted, it was also a matter of us living not that handy to the shops.

Another one of the parents favourites when one of us (never me) was tardy about redding the plate was, 'think of the poor starving children in Africa.' As I grew older and hungrier the cleaning of the younger sibling's plates was never a problem. The new mantra was, "Ate your dinner quick before Nelly has it off you!" Daddy would often remark of my appetite, "Sure thon Nelly one would ate her way through the Cave Hill if it was made of apple tart," or whatever the plat du jour happened to be.

There was rarely a meal time passed in our house without a glass of milk or cup of tea spilled all over the table. Jerry, who often helped Daddy on the farm, would remark, "Matty, ye'd need some class of a drain and spoutings on this table."

But still I never worked out what 'clean meat never fattened a pig,' meant. I used to think that pigs wouldn't thrive unless you introduced some form of dirt into their food. When I was very young I'd watch the Hannas mix up the pig swill using their forearms to stir the feed and I'd think this was how they introduced the dirt. I also thought it wasn't very effective because the Hannas were very clean people and Mrs Hanna kept a spotless house. All the men were required to remove their work boots before crossing the threshold. This was a far cry from the housekeeping standards set in our house. Like Bert today, my father paid little heed to the scatterings of mud, straw, silage and worse that fell from his clothing and boots.

But it seems that he had the right idea after all. Because when I googled 'clean meat...' I discovered that some scientists are saying that exposure to dung is actually very good for the health because it strengthens the immune system and that keeping too clean a house can lead to an increase in the incidence of childhood asthma and allergies.

Did I ever mention that my three lovely daughters aged 34, 30 and 26 are as healthy as trouts and always have been?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bring On The Flickr Foot Fetishists

Over the past few days I've gathered two new contacts for my Flickr photostream and they have something in common - an interest in feet/footwear. The first one favourited my picture of Bert snoozing in his big workboots. I checked him out to see if I could figure out what it was that appealed to him about that particular photograph. Was it Bert? The dogs? No - it was the big boots. All his favourites are pictures of men in heavy work boots. His entire photostream consists of big fuckoff work boots and the fit men wearing them. No harm in that. And Bert was dead chuffed to be included.

The second new contact preferred naked feet. No harm in that. But this contact likes naked feet with missing toes. He even likes pictures of newly severed toes. Mmmm. Takes all sorts.

Beowulf - do not click that link. You didn't like it the first time. You won't like it now.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Fear of Falling

Ugh! A light fall of snow this morning – the sort of nasty wet snow that soon turns to slush. I spared a thought for the fears of old folk, for Lizzie, Pearlie’s sister, had taken a fall last week and was very stiff and sore. I’d planned to call with her during my lunch break.

But before I could do that a woman, older than me came crashing through the office door. She was frantic. “Please help me. My husband has fallen and I can’t get him up by myself!” It was a good thing that there were two men in the boardroom engaged in a business meeting. I went straight in and told them they were needed and they sprang to their feet.

I was terribly worried as to what we were going to find but happily the gentleman appeared not to have hurt himself too badly or to have taken any sort of a turn. His first words on being helped to his feet were, “Thank God to get off that cold ground.” The poor chap was soaked to the skin so I advised his wife, now a lot calmer, to get him dry clothes and keep him warm.

I visited Lizzie as planned and found her in low spirits. Falls really knock old folk’s confidence. Added to which she was in quite a bit of discomfort. We chatted for a while and I returned to work.

But first I called in on the folks from the morning. The man appeared to have got off lightly. He told me he’d gone outside to do his few chores as normal. These usually took him an hour. When he didn’t come in at the expected time his wife went out to see what was keeping him and found him lying at the bottom of the garden. He had slipped and fallen on his side and his arthritis had prevented him from getting up. He told me he must have been lying there for 45 minutes, but that “It felt like a fortnight”. He had shouted for help but it is a long garden and no one had heard him.

One thing I noticed about the incident was afterwards when the fellows, who’d been having a rather tense meeting returned to the office, their mood seemed to have altered a little. There was less locking of horns and more of a cooperative atmosphere. That’s the effect of teamwork I suppose.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Big Boot Icon

big boots, originally uploaded by NellyMoser.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

At Last! March Arrives.

Every now and then it behooves a lady to ask herself these questions,

  • Am I drinking too much?
  • Would I like to feel a bit sharper at the weekend?
  • Is wine terribly fattening?

If the answers to these questions are, as follows - possibly, definitely and hell, yes! then it is time for the lady in question to jump on the wagon for a few weeks. And then if she goes to visit her old mother on a particular Wednesday and notices a great, greasy smudge on her old mum's forehead, then is the perfect time to announce, "Guess what Mums? I'm off drink for Lent."

And all was going well until Friday when my thoughts turned to chilled white wine. It was so hard driving past that off-licence for I had such a 'nyang' for a delicious chardonnay or pinot grigio. But drive past it I did and now it's official - I'm off drink for Lent. Sure it'll do me no harm.