Saturday, July 30, 2011

Great Aunt Nelly

I have a great niece!

Congratulations to Connor and Leanne. I'm looking forward to seeing the little one soon.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Visit To Rathlin

For many years now I've been meaning to visit Rathlin Island. But somehow the months slipped away and it was winter and then I'd have to defer it for another year.

But this year I was determined to get there. Swisser was up at the weekend and I asked her to come with me. She had been many times before but was more than happy to go again.

We went over on the old ferry. There weren't that many people on it and I'd say about half of them were members of the PSNI. Swisser and I were intrigued. We wondered if there was a serious crime wave on the island and the police were going in mob-handed to sort it out. There was a Massey Ferguson tractor and bush-whacker on board as well as the police Land Rover and an unaccompanied trailer load of building blocks. When we got to the island the crew asked the police to take the trailer off the boat and they happily obliged. It looked odd to see a police vehicle hauling building materials but Rathlin seems to be that sort of place. People just do what has to be done.

We set off walking to visit the RSPB bird sanctuary. It was a fair walk on a hot day but glorious. There is no intensive agriculture on the island and consequently the meadows and verges are teeming with the flowers and wildlife that I remember from fifty years ago. We saw harebells, wild angelica, meadowsweet, a variety of thyme and all the meadow grasses and flowers that are rarely seen at home.

I enjoyed the reserve. Although there were lots of other visitors the ambience was pretty wonderful. Just people of all ages delighting in the spectacular views of the colonies of birds. We saw guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, puffins, cormorants and many other seabirds. The guides were helpful and informative. I'd recommend this to anyone with even the slightest interest in wildlife.

Of course by this time my big silly face was as red as a tomato from the sun, so we decided to take the Puffin bus back to the harbour. That too was an experience. The driver was packing punctured bicycles into the back compartment, rescuing cyclists, everyone who got on had to clamber over a dog called Theo and no one minded and meanwhile the Puffin driver had us all in stitches with his banter and nonsense. He gave a running commentary of the history of the island and a bit of current affairs as well. We got dropped off at a little bay where grey seals were enjoying the sun at the edge of the water.

We weren't the only ones either. I'm sure there must have been twenty other people, most of them children, observing the seals. The animals did not seem too perturbed. I got the impression they are well used to it.

We never did find out exactly what the police were up to (even though we asked them) but I don't think it involved anything worrying for they all looked pretty happy and were enjoying the views, taking photographs of each other and they seemed to like the bird sanctuary. It will ever remain one of life's mysteries for me.

We took the new fast ferry back which was smooth and speedy but not nearly as much fun as heading over with tractors, trailers and the polis.

I can't wait to return to explore the rest of the island although I'll be lucky ever to hit on such a beautiful, beautiful day.

And I can't believe I waited so long to visit somewhere practically on my doorstep yet one of the locals told me that there are many people in Ballycastle who have never visited the island. Imagine!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Sting

I had big plans for today but they didn't work out. For the second time in just over a week one of our hives swarmed. I came over to see the sight but didn't don the bee suit (big mistake) as I was right in the middle of a gardening project. Bert said, "They're really quiet, they won't touch you." He was probably right about 29,999 of them. The Psycho Bee stung me right in the throat. I was annoyed but not too worried. While Bert went off to capture the swarm I returned to my gardening. Young Rainey turned up and I broke off to chat with him.

It must have been forty minutes before I realised something was up. My skin felt on fire and little pimples rose up all over me. My chest felt tight and I was itchy all over. I got a pain in the middle of my back. I felt panicky. Young Rainey was Googling bee stings on his iPhone and reading out the symptoms. I panicked some more. He advised I went to the doc. I pooh-poohed thinking that I was imagining everything except the rash, which was getting worse by the moment. When my hands started to swell up in front of my eyes I did realise something was up.
I got my rings off in time and got Bert to take me to the GP which, luckily, is only five minutes away. It was out of hours so I got seen straight away. According to the doc I was having an allergic reaction, uncomfortable but not life-threatening (TG). He prescribed steroids (six straight away) antihistamine and an adrenaline shot in case I got stung again. He did not suggest we get rid of the bees.

I got worse before I got better. The hives all ran into each other and made giant hives about eight inches long and 3 inches wide. I felt as if I was on fire. But I did not scratch. I was nauseous and could not eat. I was shattered. Although it was a sad loss of a glorious day I spent most of the afternoon sleeping in bed. Here's hoping for more garden work tomorrow.

Not Psycho Bee

The thing is I've been stung lots of time before with minimal side effects. I wonder what was different about this time?

And the bees? Apparently, according to our favourite bee man, who knows everybody in the Irish bee world, we've got 'swarmy' queens and they'll never settle until we change them for sweet-tempered, settled queens which we'll probably have to import from England. See this bee-keeping lark? It's not easy. And don't get me started on bastes (cattle).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Be Aware!

Despite reports that Facebook is losing ground, especially in the United States, it still seems ubiquitous here in the Old Countries. Everybody, the world, his wife and the oul' Granny is on it. The young ones are mad for it with their weird txtspk (which I despise) and, if it used to be that people were cool if they were on it, now it seems they're even cooler if they're not. So obviously I'm not cool.

Social networking can be elevating and depressing in equal measures.

I was recently most depressed to find on checking out Facebook that a young acquaintance of mine had just been punched in the face by her delightful boyfriend and there she was on the internet telling everyone about it. I suppose there was an element of name and shame going on there but if that was the case it was lost on me as I don't know the arsehole. What depressed me was that she felt she had to go on the internet to look for support. Where were her family, her real friends? I'm afraid I did not comment and I may have to defriend. I feel real sympathy for her but I don't know where she lives, I don't have her number and I'm not her friend. What's the point of me knowing?

Then there was another young friend who status-updated her happy thoughts on her impending marriage. It was, and she admitted this, rather cheesy. I felt that other, less happy people might have been upset by her smug-about-to-be-marriedness and thought two things. Quit it! Learn to spell!

To balance out this negativity and blahness I had a private message from a young woman who I'd known as a child and the sentiments she expressed gave me a glow that lasted all day.

Finally, and this is something to beware of - if you die in a tragic accident, accidentally run over your mum, get arrested for murdering patients in a hospital or piss on a war memorial it will be that wacky profile picture from some social networking site that will find it's way into the papers. Think on.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Stuff

There are people who love getting new stuff. Sometimes I am one of them. I love new clothes, especially pants and socks and I love new pens and books and stuff for the kitchen and duvet covers and plants and other things like that.

And while I like the idea of new cameras, TVs, phones, computers and so on I am not so keen on the reality. I am the kind of person who could buy a new peripheral for my computer and leave it in its box for six weeks because the dread of setting it up and getting it to work paralyses me.

Today I got a new phone and a new TV. The new phone was because I put my old one in the sink with the dishes and attempted to wash it. I did not mean to do it but I was in a terrible tizzy because I had had a lot of company staying over for more than a week and I was in this robotic trance of must wash dishes, must wash dishes.

Anyways the phone is up and running although my contacts have disappeared. The TV is a different matter. It is unlike any I had before. It is out of its box but that is because Young Loveheart tuned it in for me and did lots of other complicated stuff involving the attic and swearing at McSquirter (Hannah will know what that means). I was even able to watch New Tricks and News at Ten but changing the channel fucked it up. It's OK because Young Loveheart is coming back tomorrow to tweak something after Bert buys some other thing from the electrical shop in Cully.

I'm very confident that the TV will be up and running by Thursday so that if one of Bert's annoying friends turns up to talk about matters horticultural, I will be able to escape upstairs and not miss The Killing.

Then later on, when he feels like it and I feel like it, Young Loveheart is going to show me how to work the electric sewing machine that has been sitting unopened in its box for three months. Then I can make a start on that patchwork quilt for Miss Martha.

In other news I have decided not to drink for a month. I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


This evening, in a frenzy of dish cleaning, I picked up my mobile phone and immersed it in a sinkful of sudsy water. It was strange to see its bright little face blinking out at me through the Fairy Liquid soup - gave me such a start. So I did what any sensible person would do. Abandoned dish washing for I was obviously overdoing it. A child took my phone apart and set its component parts in a warm dry place (thanks Ben) while I cracked open a bottle of Italian red.

The phone may or may not survive. Who cares? Not me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Biking It

Matty and I went out for a bike ride probably a quarter of a century ago. I can't recall very much about it. I only know that I was with her for that is my blue ladies racer lying in the hedge. It's not that good a photograph - I should have got all of Matty's bike in there and avoided those pylons. And yet - it is a good picture. Look at her happy, happy face.

It is one of those pictures taken in the olden days that were not considered good enough for a frame or an album, just one of those photographs thrown in a box and forgotten about. Then decades pass and everything changes and then they become precious. That bike ride I can barely remember but there she is. We must have enjoyed ourselves for just look at her happy, happy face.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Horticulturist's Apprentice

Martha takes her duties as trainee horticulturist seriously. Here she is testing strawberries. She also tested blueberries but we don't have a photograph as we were too busy testing them ourselves.

Martha surveys the vegetable plot. She likes to confuse the senior gardeners by switching labels around. She thinks that if we can't tell a turnip from a carrot by now we should get ourselves another occupation.

She casts her eye over Bert's clematis to ensure that they are ready for selling on.

Here we find the little gardener potting on some of Great-granny's house plants. This job was seriously overdue and it took Martha's encouragement for Granny Nelly to get a wriggle on!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Keeping Busy

Bert and I had a busy, busy day yesterday. OK - Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest but we had loads to do. We worked in the garden all day long and only had two visitors - Rachael on co-op business and Young Rooney. They didn't stay long. We finished the day with a barbecue, home-grown pork from the freezer and home-grown vegetables from the garden with wine from Asda's finest range. We're not self-sufficient in wine yet but that's s an ongoing project. I have parsnips and rhubarb in the freezer and blackcurrants in the fridge. The meal was delicious but I could have done with a little bit of company.

We were busy today as well. (When did I ever get time to go out to work?) And we had lots of company. We had Rachael and Les and Dessie and Marty and Rod and Rod's mum and Tracy and Kelly and Matt and Zoe and Dave and Martha. And we managed to keep some of them for company for tonight's barbecue.

Sometimes life can be sweet.