Saturday, October 29, 2011

My Name Is Charlie

There has been great controversy in this house about the naming of the stray collie I found last weekend. I was against naming him to start with because that was the first step to wanting to keep him but Loveheart convinced me that he needed a name because, "What if he's off the lead and you want him to come to you what are you going to call?" So we decided on Charlie. I think Hannah chose it. I know another dog called Charlie but as we don't move in the same circles these days that hardly matters.

When Pearlie heard this she was not pleased. "That's a stupid name for a dog! You should call him Prince." She had a dog called Prince at one time. Bert told her she could call him Prince Charles if she liked but we would call him Charlie.

When her sister Lizzie heard the name she wasn't impressed either. "I don't like dogs having people's names. You should call him Rex. He's the image of a dog I had called Rex. It's a terrible nice name for a dog." I pointed out that I liked people names for dogs. After all, since I've known Lizzie, we've had dogs called Danny, Polly, Rosie, Molly, Paddy, Bonnie and Judy. And Rex is a people name. She was having none of it. "He's that like my Rex, it would be a great name for him." she said. I said, "Well maybe so but Charlie he remains until such times as a new owner might rename him." She pursed her lips.

Later on we were looking at an old photo of Lizzie and Rex. "I don't think they look alike," I said. "Rex has a big broad muzzle and Charlie's is much finer." "Huh!" says she, "He's young. It'll grow."

I said to Bert later, "Charlie's nothing like Rex." Bert says, "Sure he is. Black and white, four legs, two ears."

Charlie is making slow and steady progress. As the week has progressed he has learned to trust people more and he gets on well with other dogs. He wagged his tail for the first time yesterday. This evening he has been playing with my brother's Jack Russell terrier. He is still very timid and terrified of sudden noises. I think he is going to be OK.

Lizzie and Rex sometime in the 1940s.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oops! I Did It Again.

On first entering our house

It is five years since I found Bonnie straying on the Dreen Road and nearly three years since I found Fred abandoned outside Kells. Neither of them were as pathetic as the wee border collie Ben and I found yesterday sitting in the midst of a deluge, in a ditch near Ladyhill. He was soaked to the skin, filthy, skinny and scared. Between us we managed to get him into the car. At first I drove past him but there was a walker a few hundred yards in front and I stopped with him. He said he'd seen the dog and had enquired at a nearby house. He said the people knew that the dog was there and were 'keeping an eye on it'. He wondered if it had been clipped by a car. I decided to go back. I approached the dog and it ran off frightened. It did not look injured and did not run far. It settled itself down on the sodden ditch. Eventually between us Ben and I managed to get it into the boot of my car. I drive an estate so the wee dog was not enclosed. This meant it could benefit from the heating system and it also meant we could appreciate its stench which was very bad. I left Ben home and hurried back to Cully.

The little dog has been here over 24 hours now and has warmed up, got dry and eaten several small meals. He is traumatised but is starting to come round. He picked a little enclosed corner to lie in and I have laid blankets down for him. Last night he slept under a rug with a hot water bottle. I have been in contact with the dog warden and she told me that the place I found him is notorious for dog-dumping and that they are nearly always collies. I have offered to keep him for a while.

My daughter and family were here today and she is worried that our house is too busy for a traumatised dog and that he needs somewhere quieter. She does have a point but I think he will get used to us. In fact I think he's starting to already. He does seem to be glad that there are other dogs around. I get the feeling that, so far in his life, his significant relationships have been with his own kind and that he is suspicious of people.

My plan, if the dog warden cannot reunite him with his owner, is to settle him down, get him checked by the vet, eventually get Hannah to clean him up (she loves grooming dogs) and, ultimately, find him a loving home.

Wish us luck!

Taken this afternoon, dry, fed, watered but still unsure

These pictures were emailed to the dog warden just in case someone reports him missing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

All Fall Down

I sent Bert off to Stanley's funeral today looking very smart indeed. Actually that is a lie. I got home from my own physiotherapy appointment just as he was on the point of leaving and was able to give him a final dust down with the clothes brush and pronounce him fit to be seen.

It's been quite a week so far. Bert was in hospital on Monday having a 'day procedure'. He went there for 8am and got home around 9pm. Pearlie was her usual unsympathetic self. I told her he'd be resting (he had a general anaesthetic) and that I would be fixing her supper. She started to protest saying, "I want Bertie to make it!" I told her to wise up and she started to dry eye cry. Bert laughed and walked out of the room. Tears don't do it for him and I should know. Little wonder after half a century of witnessing his mother's crocodile tears. Pearlie got her supper, made by my own fair hands, and did not eat it. Her choice. She's an intelligent woman (if a little manipulative) and, if I say so myself, her requested supper was a delicious panada that Nigella Lawson would have been proud of.

But we were all out of sorts this week. Pearlie started her Tuesday with a big row with her carers about missing stockings and I started mine with a big row with Pearlie about the very same thing. OK - it's no huge thing that I've been doing her laundry for years now but, on the very odd occasion when something gets misplaced I do get to hear about it. You'd think I do it deliberately. The truth is she'd annoyed me the previous evening by showing Bert no compassion for his pain and discomfort and I was angry with her.

It's a rattling thing when someone you've known for years and who seems so dependable, so strong and so there, just leaves this world so suddenly. Stanley was an important part of the support system for Pearlie's sister and a good friend to very many people. He was a beloved father and grandfather. He was fit, fearless and fun-loving. He loved animals genuinely and without sentiment. His funeral was huge, even by Irish standards. We saw him every two weeks when he brought Lizzie over to visit Pearlie. He used to give us good advice about the cattle and pigs. We will miss him.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Once Again, In The Midst Of Life

How strange life is. We have just had a lovely Sunday where our house has been buzzing all day long. I have been looking after my darling Miss Martha and Raich and Sylvie came round to work on the plot. Of course Sylvie, being a little un, spent most of her time playing with Martha, leaving her mum to dig potatoes like a demon.

Building jigsaws

Meanwhile, in the background, Nellybert know that an old family friend is grievously ill and on life support.

Bert's friend comes round, He is a social worker and Raich used to be a social worker. They get talking about a scheme to introduce adolescents with serious mental health issues to the great outdoors (where Raich now works for a nationally known organisation). They swap email addresses and agree to fix up a meeting. This all takes place in my kitchen while I look on with some pleasure.

Bert receives a message to inform him that, at hospital, the life support for our friend is to be switched off.

Hannah and Jakers arrive to work on a ratty project to make the living quarters more fun-filled for their happy rodents and the social worker joins in. Hannah, Martha and I rack wine, clean up and wash dishes. Hannah and Martha see this as fun. I find that Martha thoroughly enjoys washing demi johns with bottle brushes.

The girls who never take their coats off

Then word comes through that S has died at approximately midday.

So, on this Sunday at Nellybert's, toddlers and children had fun. Social workers made plans to help the unfortunate, wine making and cooking ensued, potatoes were dug and vegetables harvested, friends conversed. People made things with wood in Bert’s workshop while Bert wandered around looking very sad, Pearlie wept, watched Noel Edmonds and did puzzles, I went to town and bought mushrooms, chocolate and wine and pondered very hard on what a complicated and poignant thing that life can be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Looking Forward

Bert is out tonight playing the claro and the whistle with his muso mates. Pearlie and I are all on our lonesome. Pearlie is doing her puzzles and worrying that Bert isn't saved. I am making wine.

One of Bert's (muso) friends has connections with a greengrocer and he brings us quantities of fruit and vegetables for the pigs. Sometimes if the produce is only slightly sad looking I use it for other projects. Like making wine. The other day he brought us lots of carrots. And as I had already defrosted Clint's windfall peaches from the summer I had two lots of wine to make tonight.

Making wine is like planting trees in that it requires a bit of belief in the future. Trees can take a lifetime to mature, while country wines get there in a year or two. A lot can happen in a lifetime, a lot can change in a year or two.

On Saturday a family friend, a retired police officer, stood in our kitchen and explained to us why he had decided not to take up a lucrative job offer to train detectives in Afghanistan. He had grandchildren, he had sons and he had an elderly aunt who depended on him. He told us that money was all very well but how much money does a body really need? He wanted to see his grandchildren grow up, he didn't want to make his aunt fearful and unhappy. That man, who had recently passed a medical with flying colours, is this night lying in hospital after suffering a catastrophic stroke. He is very, very ill. That's the change a few days can bring, never mind a year.

Little wonder Pearlie fears for her Bertie's unsaved soul. Me? I'll carry on making wine in the hopes that we'll all be around to drink it in six months, a year or even, 2013.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ahoghill Folk

The story goes that this oul fella who ran a wee grocery shop in Ahoghill (it was a good while ago) had a smart salesman come in on him that sold him a powerful lot of toilet paper. Says the salesman to the shopkeeper,

With all these new houses going up about the village you're bound to be able to get a turn at it. And at the price I'm giving it to you for, you'll get a good turn too.

The shopkeeper allowed himself to be persuaded. But the expected sales did not come. No matter what he tried the people of Ahoghill would not buy his toilet paper.

A few months later the salesman reappeared and this time he was pushing toothpaste. The shopkeeper refused to buy saying,

Huh. Ye can take it away out of here. If the Ahoghill folk won't even clean their arses they're hardly likely going to be brushing their teeth!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Effortlessly Uncool

"Hollister is the fantasy of Southern California. It is the feeling of chilling on the beach with your friends. Young, spirited with a sense of humour, Hollister never takes itself too seriously. The laidback lifestyle and wholesome image combine to give Hollister an energy that is effortlessly cool."

None of this is true. This place is truely awful with a real sense of entitlement. Its dark, false and the clothes and entire atmosphere of the place reek of trying far, far too hard.


So sayeth Robbie B. on a discussion board.

I was talking to a young cousin of mine today. She was telling me that she had arranged an interview for the post of sales assistant at the Hollister outlet in Belfast. Obviously I had never heard of the place which is, as I'm sure Hollister would agree, the proper order. Folks in the autumn of their years knowing about such a place would never do.

Anyway - at a little before the appointed time – the Young Cousin entered the dimly lit store and approached two young fellows that seemed to be staff members,

May I speak to the manager,” says she.

Both young men stared at her. They looked her over from head to toe. They did not speak. She started again. “Might...”

One of the young men showed her the palm of his hand. They sauntered off. My cousin did not know whether to consider herself rebuffed or to laugh. She laughed. Undaunted she approached another sales assistant and repeated her request to speak to the manager. With poor grace the young woman went off to see if the manager 'was able to speak to her.' Moments later The Manager, he of the upraised silencing palm, hove into view. He gave my Young Cousin a rictus grin which, she said, seemed to cause him pain. She said, “I'm here for the interview.” He said, “Oh yes! Friday! Interview Day.” He would interview her as soon as he could find a moment and indicated the interview area which was right in the middle of the shop! The Young Cousin decided there and then that the job would not suit her and walked out.

As she emerged, blinking, into the light she was approached by another young man who, ironically, asked her if she would be interested in working for Hollisters. She replied, “I'd rather die.”

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Ride A Cockhorse

Sometime in the very early sixties

That is Bert on his rocking horse. The picture was taken in the yard. I expect he soon outgrew his toy for it spent decades in the attic of this house. Eventually, while the renovation was going on, it ended up in a shed. Then a few years ago Bert dragged it out and repainted it.

Fifty years later - Miss Martha and Cockhorse

The first time Martha played on Bert's old rocking horse I recited the following poem.

Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross
To see a fine lady on a white horse
Rings on her fingers
And bells on her toes
She shall have music wherever she goes

I remember Matty reciting this version to me when I was a little. Bert never named his horse but Martha decided straight away that Cockhorse should be its name.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Oh October!

Oh October! How I have longed for you. No more parties, no more weddings.

The last wedding is today. I am channelling the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Watch out for my acid tongue and devastating one liners. I will also NOT BE DRINKING.