Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oot and Aboot

One of the many interesting items to be seen at Articlave

Despite the hugeness of our kitchen I have very little workspace so, after many months of nagging, Bert started to make me a kitchen island. We discussed it for hours and I was confident that Bert knew exactly what I wanted. I was sadly mistaken.

Now Bert is an excellent carpenter and he really enjoys getting into a new project. He works a lot with recycled wood which is both economic and green. Where he falls down is in his ability to explain what he is doing and what he intends to do. This is why I ended up with what is essentially a huge table. Albeit a beautifully made huge table with a floor made out of the upstairs ceiling in the old derelict house at Clint's place. All that was needed to complete it was a tiled top. Or so Bert thought.

The unfinished kitchen island

He has been gently persuaded that a kitchen island needs shelves and cupboards and places to hang tea towels and utensils. It is not just a huge table with a tongue and groove floor for the cat to sit on.

But anyways - we decided to go to the reclamation yard at Articlave to see if we could find any old tiles for the worktop. That has to be one of the most interesting reclamation yards in the country. It was full of stained glass windows, jaunting cars, church doors, mangles, bangor blue slates and Bann brick, huge oak beams, radiators, Britain farm animals, ornate carved thrones, lamp posts, fireplaces and a thousand other things. Everything really but the sort of tile we were looking for.
Bert tries out throne for comfort

It was still a damn fine afternoon out. We'll get those tiles somewhere else.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


cauldrife [ˈkɔːldrɪf]

adj Scot

1. susceptible to cold; chilly

2. lifeless

[from cauld + rife]

My mother-in-law has always felt the cold. She liked to keep herself ‘well happed-up’. Indeed, so susceptible to chills was she that I don’t imagine she ever suffered herself to be naked from the day of her birth until about a year ago when the carers wheeled her, roaring protest, into our wet room for a nice warm shower bath.

Mind you, this house was, before its renovation, a big cold barn of a place with just one heated room. That was where Pearlie spent most of her time, roasting her shins in front of a big turf fire.She was a great believer in layering. She always wore two vests, three sweaters, a cardigan, a petticoat, two skirts, tights, men’s socks and an apron. The apron was very important to her. When her house-working days were over I asked her why she still wore the apron. She said,

I’d be cauld without it,

I wondered how she could find warmth in a faded square of patched cotton but she maintained that it was terribly necessary to her comfort.

In bed Pearlie had an electric blanket and used two hot water bottles. At bedtime she divested herself of the skirts, the tights and one cardigan. On very cold nights she tied a headscarf Queen-style to keep off the chill. This routine continued even after this house was being renovated and she moved to a cosy and fully central heated mobile home. She missed the open fire in the moby and often had the oil heating at full blast, an electric fire and a gas heater all going together. You could see the heat haze rising from the roof on mild days. Bert eventually disconnected the electric fire as the carers and other callers were suffocating in the high temperatures. Pearlie claimed to feel no great heat. Even then she continued to wear a headscarf in bed. Occasionally, if she had misplaced her headscarf, she’d go to bed wearing a big pair of knickers on her head.

Her present room has an open fire and it is kept alight summer and winter. She gets very cross if Bert doesn’t keep it well stoked up. She doesn’t wear knickers or a headscarf any more but she asks for and gets lots of hand towels and she makes herself a little nest because her arms get cold and if she gets too warm it is easier to remove the towels than take a cardigan off. She goes to bed with a crocheted blanket round her shoulders and if the carers take it for laundering she is very indignant. Mostly they don’t but there is one…she only does it to annoy. Nowadays Pearlie wears a pair of thick brown tights tied round her neck to keep off the 'cauld' and I think it can only be a matter of time before she starts wearing her knickers as a hat for she tells us that there is a draught coming through the light fitting.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Think Bike

Most evenings, on the way home from work, I collect Hannah in Ballymena and we continue on our way towards Cullybackey. I don't drive that fast, it's a B road, pitch black so maybe I do 45mph tops. This evening we came across a cyclist riding without lights, without reflective clothing, the only thing drawing attention to his presence the tiny little reflective strips on his pedals. These caught my eye but not until I was almost upon him. I was able avoid him by pulling out at the last minute and, thankfully, no vehicle was coming towards me at the time.

I was quite shocked. Another moment and I might have knocked him down. It's a fairly narrow road. All the way into Cullybackey I wondered, should I turn, should I tell him that he was in danger? I didn't. What stopped me? Fear of being seen as interfering, fear that he might not speak English and wouldn't understand me, fear that I'd have to go the whole hog and drive him and his bicycle to his destination.

So if a cyclist is injured or killed on the Cullybackey or Kilrea road tonight I'm afraid I will be partly to blame. What should I have done?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Effect of Office Mint Yoyos on the Older Shoulder

I'm confused. Some research, recently in the news, suggested that alcohol can actually be beneficial to one's health. It shows that men benefit more from alcohol than women, which is bloody unfair but does help to explain the continued survival of the Wee Manny and others like him.

Now in the three weeks since I've foresworn alcohol I've been feeling decidedly under the weather. At first I thought I was getting the flu but that turned out to be a cold (the first since I gave up smoking several years ago) and then I got the runs, which lasted the best part of a week and now I've got The Shoulder and a vague, fluey, tired thing going on. And I'm wondering to myself if it wasn't the gin that was keeping these plagues at bay.

I mentioned it to the postman this morning,

Y'know something Sven? Since I quit drinking I haven't had a well day.

Says he,

That'll be the toxins leaving your body.

This is what I'm wondering. Is my current poorly form the result of toxins leaving my body or, did the gin actually provide a health benefit? There is only one way to find out. I shall have to continue with this experiment in abstemiousness for a longer time.

One good thing is that I've lost three pounds since taking the pledge. But then, a couple of days ago, I fell, like a savage, to the office mint Yoyos. I thought they might ease The Shoulder. They did not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Older Shoulder

You know you're getting older when little niggles and aches take far, far longer to go away. I have a sore shoulder. It doesn't sound like very much but I am finding it terribly bothersome. It is only with a painful shoulder that you'll realise just how bloody heavy your arm is. 

It serves me right for not sympathising appropriately with Pearlie and her sore neck.

She told me she had a pain in her neck and all could I think was, well - you're a pain in mine. My just desserts are here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Countdown to Christmas

There's nothing wrong with having a plan, is there? So far I have....

1. Had annual conversation with Matty about how much she is not looking forward to Christmas and how much she hates the thought of it. (Told her to wise a bap, whatever that means)

2. Informed several people (again) that I do not send Christmas cards.

3. Ordered free range turkeys from Clint.

4. Informed cousin Margaret that no - indeed I will not be buying Miss Martha a Santa Claus outfit.

5. Decided to stay off alcohol, at least, until Christmas.

6. Experienced slight frisson of dread at the thought of New Year's Eve party that Hannah is planning at Nellybert's.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Suffering Grandmas!

I am greatly maligned.

Firstly my youngest daughter informs the entire world that I might know what snot tastes like. As if!

Then the oldest daughter photoshops my thumb to make it look as big as a house. She must have done for there's no way my digit could ever look that gigantic.

Miss Martha

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Where The Dead Things Are

Some might say that I’m a morbid person because of my keen interest in road kill. It’s a fascination that stems from my childhood. Doesn’t everything?

In those days I had a favourite cousin who truly was a mine of misinformation. We were visiting her house one day and she says,

There’s a dead RAT stuck in the hedge down the lane. Do you want to see it?

Oh yes!

It’s really rotten and it’s stinking too!


C’mon then…

We headed down the lane.

We’re coming near it now.

Where? Where?

It’s down there under that tree. Now hold your nose.


Because if you breathe in the smell of it you’ll DIE!

On we went, me holding tight to my nose and not daring even to open my mouth. My face was purple and my eyes were popping with the effort of holding my breath. I tried so very hard to see the dead rat but it must have been covered in long grass and I was frightened to get too close, so never got a glimpse nor a whiff of it at all.

Of course I passed this interesting information on to my other cousins and my brothers and sisters.

You must never breathe in the smell of a stinking dead animal, or you'll DIE!

They weren’t as gullible as me for we all walked to and fro school along the Lisnevenagh Road where the Burnhouse trucks with their loads of dead animal carcasses passed often enough, leaving behind a miasma of putrid reek that hung in the air long after the lorry passed and none of us ever died of the stink of dead animals, not even one of us. So far.

This photograph taken on the Pipe Road during the 2009 Spring heatwave

When I was a child I'd have walked five miles to see this dead lamb melted into the tarmac. I still would. And I'd take a photograph too.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

We'll Be Old Ourselves Some Day

Poor old Matty does not get it easy with her arthritis. It is only in her hands, mainly her thumbs, but she seems to suffer a lot from it. The only treatment her GP has ever offered her is painkilling medication but doesn’t seem to help much. She recently had an x-ray carried out and I have made her an appointment to discuss the results with her doctor and it’s not until the 16th November. I really want to tackle this with the doctor, make sure that everything that can be done is being done. With this aim in my mind I asked her not to confuse the issue by discussing any other ailment she might have during her consultation. This was over the phone and I got the impression that she was a little deflated at the prospect.

Well. Is there anything else you’d like to see him about?

Well, you know how I’m tortured with my eyes.

Can you not leave your eyes until another time?

They’re driving me mad with the itch and the water pouring out of them and I’m always rubbing at them.

But that’s why they’re annoying you because you’re always rubbing at them. I’ll see if I can get you something at the chemist.

I got something from the chemist before and I couldn’t see for half the day.

OK. We’ll talk about it later.

I went to see her at lunchtime with the utterly useless potion I got at the chemist. I found her engaged in cleaning out drawers whilst bent over at the waist in that very position that always brings on her angina pains. I made her stop it and told her to take some of her spray before an attack came on. Thwarted out of an angina episode she made the tea while I finished tidying her cupboards. Her new cleaner was coming at two and she wanted the place spick and span before she arrived.

We sat down to a cuppa and I started talking about what I hoped to achieve with the doctor. But all she was interested in was her itchy eyes and her itchy knee and her itchy fingers.

The doctor says it’s just dry skin.

Do you not use moisturizer a-tall?

Ach sure I was never used to moisturizer or anything like that.

But you’re in your eighties now! You used to have fairly oily skin. Now it’s dry. You need moisturizer!

The doctor gave me a big jar of stuff once. I forget what you call it.

Why don’t you get some more?

Sure I still have it.

Well why don’t you use it?

I’ve had it about three years.

Jesus! Don’t use it! Throw it out.

I decided to change the subject to take her mind off her itch. Perhaps my choice of subject was not ideal.

Pearlie is complaining of a very sore neck.

Is she?

She said the other night that she wished she was dead.

I can understand that. All old people wish they were dead.

Do they? How awful. Even the jolly-natured ones?

Maybe not them so much. They just persevere and don’t let anything get them down.

So it’s just the miserable ones that wish they were dead?

I dare say.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My Obsessive Compulsive Walking Habits

Warning! This post contains at least twenty uses of the word 'I'.

Since the first of November 2005 I have kept a walking log. Obviously this means that I have been using a pedometer for just over four years. There are 32 days unaccounted for due to broken pedometers or computer screw-ups.

I've clocked up 17690642 general steps... of which 5152690 aerobic steps.
The amount of time spent on aerobic walking was 44115 minutes. That's 735 hours, or 30 days. It doesn't sound nearly enough. I am such a slacker!

The 17690642 general steps amount to 7076 miles or thereabouts. I wonder how far I'd have got if I'd just kept going?

The most steps I've ever done in one day was 28187 in June last year. That was the day I climbed Mount Brandon in County Kerry and then took a long beach walk in the evening. That was the day I broke my last camera by sitting on the damn thing. And I was so high on walking I didn't give a damn.

I could do better than this and I'd like to. The current recommended amount of steps per day is 10000. That's not enough on its own to promote health and fitness. I believe 16000 a day would help with weight control and general fitness. For me, finding the time is the difficult part. A winter's day spent at a desk does not allow many spare hours for walking which is why I try for a constitutional every single lunchtime.

So back to the obsessive walking log - it's a bore sometimes filling it in, but between it and this blog I've got a fairly good record of what I've been up to these past four years. And if nobody else cares, I do.

In other news - I've decided to stop drinking.