Sunday, October 28, 2012

Howard's Choice

A few weeks ago a friend of ours told us that he was going to get a couple of pups. His landlord's Springer spaniel had dallied with a farm collie and was expectant. The sad thing was, that the landlord planned to have the remaining pups put down. When we heard this we were aghast. "How," said Bert, "Are you going to feel choosing pups knowing that the rest of them are going to be killed? "If needs be," said our friend, "I'll take the lot of them." Bert decided that we should help him out. It's must be twenty years since we found ourselves with an accidental litter of pups and we knew that we could find them good homes if we tried. We know a lot of people who love dogs.

The last time we found all the pups good homes. One bitch went to the foot of Slievegullion and in time she had her own litter. Swisser took one of those,  a bitch her boys named Tracey, and they have her still although she (the dog) is very old now.

We saw the pups today. Coincidentally they were born not far from Slievegullion. I'd planned to photograph them individually but they are still far too young to be long parted from their mother and she is very protective. I think the farmer is relieved that they are all going to find homes although our friend informs us that he thinks we are mad. "But why?" I said. "Because they are not pure bred."

Pffft! Cross bred dogs are, in my opinion, the best dogs ever. And, even though this is a good thing, because people are now much more likely to have their dogs neutered, cross breeds are not as common as they were in the past.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Birthday for Joe and Jean

Four years ago I used this picture to accompany this post.

It's London Sister's birthday today and it would have been our cousin Joe's as well. They were born on the same day and in the same parish.

Joe died four weeks ago from brain cancer. Tonight was his Month's Mind and the chapel was packed to the doors. The service was beautiful. His daughter, a very talented harpist, arranged and took part in providing the music just as she'd done at her Daddy's funeral. His son read a heartfelt and tremendously moving prayer that he and his sister had written for tonight's service. My brother and other family members did readings. Joe was a well-beloved husband, father, son and brother. He was a good, caring and helpful friend to so very many people. He was funny, open-minded, curious and intelligent. He was the sort of man who should have lived to a ripe old age because he was the sort of man who added value to his community.

He is going to be missed so very much.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Look Back In Fear

Fifty years now since the Cuban missile crisis and I remember it like it was yesterday. My sister and I were nine and six then and she tells me she remembers it too. What made this particular situation so frightening for us children was that the adults were terrified. Our parents were afraid and so were their friends and neighbours. I can remember their hushed, terse conversations. I remember the priest praying with the congregation at Mass. He was anxious too. But the person who was most afraid was our primary school head teacher Miss Cassie. She was almost blubbering with fear as she led the innocents in prayer. No wonder. She knew she was going to Hell.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Spit of the Devil

After a few fine, bright days the rain came back. I had made the most of the fine weather gathering blackberries and rose hips by day and making, progressing and tasting country wine in the evenings. Wednesday was a very productive day for I was out in the fields for hours berrying and listening to Nelson Mandela's 'Long Road to Freedom'. The reading was so engrossing that I probably stayed out longer than I had intended.

Nearly twenty years ago, and after a few failed attempts, I finally passed the driving test and got my driving licence. Within weeks I decided that I'd make the trip to visit my sister in Kerry. It was quite a journey back then, as roads were not as good and there were many little towns and villages that could not be bypassed. I was over ten hours on the road and by the time I got to the sister's house, ten miles west of Dingle, I was completely exhausted. It was good to get to bed that night. The only problem was that every time I nodded off to sleep I woke with a jolt, my hands on a steering wheel and the dusty road ahead of me. I've never had such an experience before or since - until Wednesday night.

That day in the fresh air and the evening sterilising, racking, stirring and tasting had me ready for a good night's sleep. My only problem was that each time I drifted off I was jolted awake, my hand stretched out to pick just one more juicy berry...

Postscript: Bert has just informed me that blackberries picked after the 29th September are 'no good.'

Who says so?
Alan Titchmarsh. He says that after the 29th September they are as bitter as gall.
Because the devil spits on them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Let It Be

I hear that home owners are to get new rights to attack burglars. Nellybert are home owners and only as recently as yesterday we observed some thievery from premises near to our home. We decided not to attack.

This is what occurred. We were in the garden discussing horticultural matters when we heard a strange noise. It was a crashing, clanging and harrumphing sort of din. We thought it might have been a bullock or some such large animal somewhere where it ought not to be so we went to investigate. Bert took up a vantage point overlooking the yard of the next door premises and I, more daring and foolhardy, actually went to the premises and peeked round the corner. We both saw the same thing. A young man, in possession of a van, loading scrap metal into its back. So engaged was he in his task that he never noticed either of us.

As I've mentioned before the premises next door have been abandoned for teens of years. All the good scrap is gone thanks to the boys that go in for that sort of thing. And, as my experience of informing the police on that occasion did no good at all, we decided to let the matter rest. The wee bits of bent rubbish that he was gathering up would hardly make anybody a fortune.

I did note his vehicle number just in case he'd committed a murder, or some such heinous crime, on his way to our part of the country.

Monday, October 08, 2012

A Foreign Country

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

That is the opening line to L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between which was published in the year that I was born. With all that has been in the news recently about that dead celebrity I have found myself thinking back to what life was like for women and girls back in the late 1960s and 1970s for things were certainly done differently then.

There was a change in the air. What was known then as the Women's Liberation Movement was beginning but it was many years before the effects of that filtered down to the ordinary woman. Women's Libbers were mocked and trivialised and in the home and workplace the old attitudes continued for quite a long time.

Before 1970 a working woman could not secure a mortgage without the signature of a male guarantor because women were not expected to be in continuous employment. And before the 1970 Equal Pay Act it was legal to pay women lower rates than men for the same work. In the workplace women were often sexually harassed and had no redress other than leave the job. This was seen as quite acceptable then.

The other night I heard a story of sexual harassment that shocked me. This happened to a friend of mine. She is sixty-one now and was eighteen then.

My friend was working as a dental assistant in a surgery in a small English town. Her employer, the dentist, a man in his forties, was a person with a quirky sense of humour. Often while treating his patient and with my friend assisting him he would open his flies and bring out his penis. The patient, lying in the chair, jaws wide open, would not be aware of this. My friend was terribly embarrassed by this behaviour but, because she thought it was expected of her, she laughed it off. As she said, "I'd far rather he didn't expose himself but what could I do?" In those days an employer could get his jollies in this manner and pretend he was 'just having a laugh.' Nowadays he'd probably be struck off and have to pay compensation to his victim for constructive dismissal and mental distress.

But you know what also shocked me about this sad tale? My friend said that it was also normal practice for both her and the dentist to smoke cigarettes in the surgery while the patient was being treated. That dentist chap's bound to be nearly a hundred now if he's still alive (which is doubtful). And that is just as well. Imagine being treated by a dentist with his dick hanging out of the front of his trousers and a fag hanging out of his mouth.

The past is indeed a foreign country.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

In The News

So I nervously checked my blog archive to see if I'd ever mentioned Jimmy Savile and apparently I did on one occasion just over seven years ago. I didn't praise him or anything. Just used one of his dopey catchphrases.

One thing that has resonated with me about this posthumous exposure of Savile is that the girls he is accused of having assaulted are now women of around my age. And he would have been around the same age as some of the creeps who seemed to believe it was acceptable to grope and grab at me and my friends and cousins when we were in our early and mid-teens.

In the sixties and seventies there were far too many adult men taking liberties with young girls for there was not the same revulsion for that kind of behaviour as there is now. We girls warned each other about the 'perverts'. We could understand why they'd fancy us but it was incomprehensible to us why they dreamed that we might find them attractive. It was easy enough to fend off those fellows with the greasy comb-overs and the tweed flat caps but God knows what might have happened if we'd ever met anyone charismatic.

Times have changed a little. I don't think there can be many male teachers left that would get away with 'pinging' a girl's bra strap as happened at my sister's school. Nowadays that guy would be out of a job real quick.

The thing is, Jimmy Savile must be one of thousands if not tens of thousands, of famous people who have used their fame, their power and their influence to take advantage of and assault young men and women below the age of consent. It is common knowledge that musicians such as Jimmy Page and Bill Wyman went out with girls in their early teens. Even the late and greatly admired John Peel had liaisons with girls in their teens. He admitted himself to having married a 15 year old when he worked in the United States. I remember reading this about Peel many years ago and thinking that Julie Burchill was a bitter bitch but maybe she had a point.

So what's my point? I'm really not that shocked about these revelations about Savile. Like many others I always knew there was something. But I didn't think that it would be as ordinary as being attracted to very young women. What is shocking is that he did it in plain view and he got away with it. Seems a shame it's all coming out now that he's dead.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Blackberries, A Funeral And An Eely Song

After the blackberries were gathered I went to my cousin's house. He'd died in the early hours of the 26th September after a long illness, patiently and bravely borne. He had enjoyed the support of a very loving family and it seemed to me that he was happy during the last year and a bit of his time on this earth. He said as much too. His funeral was on Friday past and it was a big one for he was greatly loved.

It was at the funeral of another school friend about five years ago that my cousin addressed me as 'Nelly' in the graveyard. I was surprised. Somehow I'd thought that my neighbours and relations from way back when wouldn't know about the Garden. I should have had more wit. Anyway he said he enjoyed it and ever since then I'd always thought of him when I was putting together a new posting. This following post is an old one from around that time and, I think, the sort of post he liked reading.

I'll miss thinking of him when I come to Nelly's Garden although, not as much as he'll be missed by the family who adored him.

Eels! Eels! We Like Lots Of Eels!


Yesterday evening while excavating the freezer I found a bag of frozen eels. Bert was ecstatic for he'd forgotten we still had them. He has only recently discovered the joy of eels and he cannot believe he lived until the ripe old age of 48 before tasting them. Those of you who know him personally will hardly be surprised he took to the Lough Neagh delicacy, as eels, like most of Bert's favourite foods, fall into the category known as 'close to minging'.

That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of eel myself but in moderation only. I couldn't gorge myself on them nor eat them on consecutive days.

Bert fried a huge panful of them, ate two helpings and set aside a large portion for today's lunch. I merely nibbled on two small pieces.

When I returned from work this evening I asked him,

Did you have a nice day darling?

He answered,

No. I had a terrible day.

Why? What happened? 

Well you know the eels I was keeping for lunch? I refried them and they were just perfect. My mouth was watering for them. I was even singing an eely song while I was buttering my sodas and making my tea.
The one that goes, 'Eels! Eels! we like lots of eels!' sung to the air of the Bavarian Drinking Song? 

Aye. That one.

What happened? Did you burn them? 

Pearlie rang over wanting me for something.
Oh God! Were you over there for ages and burned your eels useless? 

No! They were out on the plate waiting to be eaten.

Oh dear.

Yes! I came back over and there was the plate sitting where I'd left it. Not an eel in sight. The plate was spotless!

 Aye! She's the only one big enough to have reached it. Not one solitary eel left....