Monday, July 28, 2014

Birthday Memories, July 2014

Matty would have been 88 years old today. I'd always thought she'd live to her nineties for there is a saying around here,

a creaking gate hangs longest.

She had a great concern for her health and was always worrying about something. The odd thing was, when she did become seriously ill she barely complained at all.

It's a strange one today. I always think about Mum on her birthday but today I am also thinking about Pearlie who died eight days ago at the age of 88.

During the lead up to the funeral a great many things were, as we say in Ireland,

put on the long finger. 

These included the vegetable garden, the bees and, of course the laundry. After the funeral I washed all of Pearlie's things with a view to recycling most of them and today was the first day in many years that I put on a wash that included nothing of hers. It was strange and, to be honest, a bit of a relief.

I mentioned that the bees and the garden were neglected. On the day of Pearlie's funeral there was a swarm of honey bees hanging from an apple tree. No one had time to deal with it and they flew away. During the wake the birds finished off the currants but that did not matter too much as I already had pounds and pounds stashed away in the freezer. The vegetables in the polytunnel were unharvested and it all turned into a jungle. I just about managed to keep on top of the watering which was just as well as we had a heatwave.

So here we are - remembering Matty which is poignant and sweet, and missing Pearlie Blue which is strange and new.

A photograph of Matty and Pearlie taken nine years ago when they were both fit and well. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Again

This time last week I was preparing for my all night vigil with Pearlie.

Since then we have had a three day wake and a funeral and three days adjusting to life without her. We both find ourselves thinking at odd times that we'd need to look in on her, see if she wants a cup of tea, her hot water bottle refilled, some coal on the fire. These thoughts might last a split second then we remember, no old girl looking for drinks, medicine, fire, anything.

Bert is doing OK.

Miss Martha thinks we should get another old woman and call her Pearlie. I'm pleased about that because I believe it means that she enjoyed having an old girl about the place. Or maybe it was just the toffees.

I miss the toffees too.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Night Vigil

I plan to stay up all night.

Pearlie has taken another slump. She is vomiting blood every three or four hours. It started 24 hours ago. We decided not to phone an ambulance. Early this morning we had Doctor On Call and Pearlie informed him that, despite the risk, she did not wish to go to hospital. He agreed with her wishes and only administered an injection to stop the vomiting. It did not work.

Bert stayed with her last night but even though I got to go to bed I only slept for about an hour. I had two hours this afternoon which helped.

Pearlie sleeps a lot but insists on having a pen in her hand and a puzzle book in front of her. She is unable to concentrate on the puzzles.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What I Ate When Bert Was Away

Monday was a bank holiday in the occupied six counties. Bert sat sighing with this gloomy great cloud of despondency hanging above his noggin.

Tracey wants to know if you're going to Fanad.
I don't know.
Rod would love you to come.
I don't know if I can be bothered.
What else would you be doing?
Don't know. Nothing I suppose.
I think you should go. It would be good for you. I can hold the fort here. Go there today, come back tomorrow if you want to, stay an extra night if you're having a good time.

Then there was a great deal more of prevaricating nonsense from Bert to which I replied...

You know how I always know what's best for you and you're always telling me so? Well, this is what is best for you now. A break, a few hours away from all the grimness that is going on here. You'll come back far abler to cope. Just grab your clarinet,  a sleeping bag and a toothbrush and go! The dogs want you to go. They need a break too.

Long story short, he came to his senses, took the advice of a wise woman, got his ass into gear and packed his clarinet,  a sleeping bag and a toothbrush (the dogs packed themselves), got in his van and went.

Alone at last. Except for the cats, the pigs and Pearlie.

A person eats differently when they have only themselves to think of. For dinner I had a Cheese Dream. I first discovered Cheese Dreams in Bristol in 1971. It was the first time I had Been Somewhere Different. My friend Natalie and I hitch-hiked to Bristol, where we stayed with Miss Fiona Cornish of Montpelier. Miss Cornish, Bunty to her friends, ran a boarding school  for children with special needs. I do hope it is OK to say 'special needs' these days for it is hard to keep up with the correct terminology. In return for helping out with general everyday chores we got free board and lodging. Some of these days Miss Fiona Cornish deserves a post all to herself so, for today, will just concentrate on the Cheese Dreams.

Fiona Cornish's Cheese Dreams


  • 2 slices of buttered white bread
  • cheddar cheese for filling
  • lard


  • frying pan
  • stove

Sophisticates might like to adapt the basic recipe. I like to add tomato, sliced onion and seasoning. I also prefer to use hemp or rapeseed oil instead of lard. But basically it is a fried cheese sandwich. Bert dislikes Cheese Dreams very much so I tend to eat them when I am on my own.

The next day I had muesli for breakfast and another Cheese Dream for lunch. Bert phoned to say he was having a fantastic time and he'd like to stay an extra night. I said, no problem, so happy you're having a lovely relaxing break. I was feeling guilty about eating Cheese Dreams all the time so for dinner I boiled a free range egg and steamed some chard and broad beans and had that. It was grim beyond belief. For a late night snack I had muesli and ice-cream. I wouldn't recommend it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shiny Stones and Vintage Dresses

Hannah and I took Evie and Martha to Belfast on Thursday. We visited lots of charity and vintage shops and Martha got this...

I think it was probably a dress worn by a flower girl at a wedding. It cost £4 which I thought very reasonable and we purchased it at the Rusty Zip on Botanic Avenue. Obviously Martha wore it home on the train and the next day she wore it with her tiara to Springhill. She wanted to wear it all day but I chatted her out of it with stories about how she might like to pass all her dressing up clothes to her own daughter some day and that the new (to her) dress was far too old to be washed in the machine.

Imagine if you were picking blackcurrants and got purple juice on it. That would never come out.
It would be alright if I was eating baked beans and spilled some because the dress is the same colour as the beans and it wouldn't be noticeable.
I expect you're right. Baked beans would be fine but blackcurrant juice would be a disaster.

The blackcurrants have been wonderful this year. I have picked pounds and pounds of them and if it isn't raining a deluge like today I'll pick pounds more tomorrow. The other currants, red and white have been average. it is a race to get to them before the birds. Gooseberries were OK too. Need more bushes! There will be enough goosegogs for a few crumbles and pies. Les, who gave us the bushes, came out to pick berries we helped him. The next day we got a jar of delicious jam!

Back to Belfast. While Martha got a vintage dress and some flowery jim-jam trousers (£1 from Oxfam) all Evie wanted was a shiny polished pebble from the shop at the Ulster Museum. And a Pear Picking Porky.

For me the very best bit of our day in Belfast was having a picnic in Botanic Gardens and watching nearly tame robins and blackbirds squabble over our leftover crusts. There was a lot of resting (for Hannah and Nelly) and a lot of crazy running about (for Evie and Martha). Perfect!

Monday, July 07, 2014


So there was Nelly, wondering if she could get away with not cleaning the curtains before the wake, and there was Pearlie, off her meds and existing on a few sips of water a day. Then on Saturday night she asks for a cup of water. This is a woman who hasn't willingly touched water since the last day she worked in the moss, probably about a quarter of a century ago. It was a tradition among the Orrs to quaff large quantities of sweet spring water on the return from a day working with turf. T'was handy that they had their own spring. You'd be thinking about that first drink of water the whole way home from Craig's Moss.

So, she asks for a cup of water,

....and a cup of warm tea. And apple juice and Lucozade. Have you any orange squash? And if there's anything else you have about you.

Since then she has been drinking well. And do you know what? I think she might be on the mend.

Friday, July 04, 2014


I hardly know what to write any more. On the surface things go on as normal. We had a weekend away. The first time we went anywhere together for more than a year and it was lovely. The music sessions continue, there are visitors, family and friends. We garden, the grandchildren come and life goes on.

But there in the background Pearlie is growing weaker. I suppose we are waiting for her to die but that will be in her own time. And this strange thing is happening for as she declines she becomes sweeter and more contented. All her crankiness has gone. She doesn't do puzzles any more, nor does she read or watch television. I think she spends a lot of time having interesting dreams.

And she barely eats and hardly drinks and cannot swallow her medication. The doctor is coming to visit her today.