Friday, August 29, 2014

Cushions and Stuff

The other day I was listening to a discussion on the radio about how the recession has affected ordinary families. One woman had this to say,

I'm cutting back as much as I can. I go to Aldi and Lidl, I'm on online auctions, I use Freecycle, I cut coupons. I don't know what else I can do!

And I couldn't help thinking.

Well you could always consider not wanting so much stuff!

Then I remembered that, as a young woman with a very small budget, I too used to enjoy acquiring stuff.

I loved auctions, jumble sales and charity shops. I was good at jumble sales (sharp elbows) and diligent in charity shops but for auctions it was cunning strategy that was needed.

And it was just such a cunning strategy that was lacking when I spotted the notice in the paper, advertising a house clearance near Glarryford. I was looking for a sewing machine and there were two listed. Surely I'd get one Singer at least? No strategy needed!

In that part of the country house clearances were very popular with second hand dealers and farmer's wives. I reasoned that the farmers' wives at least, if they were keen on sewing, would already possess a sewing machine and that at least one of the Singers would surely be mine. I also decided that dealers would not be interested in sewing machines so they would be no competition.

The auction started in the yard at the back of the house. I was surrounded by grim faced men in tweed caps and their equally grim faced womenfolk. The Singers were lots number ninety something so I had a bit to go. I passed the time watching how other people bid. Seven cushions came up. They were a mixed lot, tatty and well worn, just the sort of cushions you could sweep off the seats in any farm kitchen. The bidding started at fifty pence. Then it went to a pound. Two women were bidding against each other and the price kept rising. The cushions were eventually sold for £12 and if I'd been the woman who lost (wised up) I think I'd have been mighty relieved. But this bidding frenzy for a handful of scruffy cushions rattled me. What if one or more of the farmers' wives couldn't bear to see me get a perfectly good Singer for a bargain price? What should I do? At last my treadle machine was called. 

Who'll give me £5 for this Singer sewing machine in good working order?

Oh no! These Glarryford women won't be able to bear seeing me get this machine for a knock down price. 

I rang out, 

Ten pounds!

Silence. Then...

Sold to the woman with no nerve!

So that was my bidding strategy. And it worked. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tenth Anniversary

This blog, Nelly's Garden, is ten years old today and that is pretty old for a blog. For many bloggers tire long before they get to the ten year mark.

A lot has changed for me this past decade. I joined the Orphan Club and, finally, so did Bert. Ten years ago I'd never been with anyone as they died. Now I have attended four deathbeds. Ten years ago I was looking forward to becoming a Granny. I now have two wonderful granddaughters. And, it mustn't be forgotten, Nellybert tied the knot six years ago.


My late father and I

Matty and Nelly

Pearlie and Bert


Top Miss Martha, Below Miss Evie



Nellybert's Leap Year Wedding 2008

Katy and Mark's Norfolk Wedding 2010

Monday, August 25, 2014

We'll Be Back

The girls went home this evening after spending three whole nights with Nellybert. That was Evie's longest period away from her parents ever. It was much easier than I thought it would be although having Hannah to help out Saturday evening and Sunday morning was a huge help. I actually got to stay in bed until after nine. I needed to after the tiny amount of sleep I'd enjoyed the previous night.

Their parents had prepared them for all eventualities including serious wet weather gear so on Saturday, a really pissy morning, we decided to defy the rain and go for that long bike ride. As only Martha had a bike I was going to be pushing Evie in the buggy. So there they were, trussed up in their rainwear and we get to the Ecos park and the sun is splitting the stones! Sod's Law I believe it is called. Evie slept for the entirety of the walk.

On Saturday night Hannah decided to sleep in the tree house and lit a big fire in the wood burner. Of course she had chosen the coldest August night since records began and a tree house doesn't hold the heat. She woke up frozen at around five, had to get up and put on all her clothes before settling down again. She got another two hours snoozing before Miss Martha came tippy-tapping up the spiral staircase to wake her up.

Martha at Portglenone Play Park

On Sunday we'd planned a Big Day Out so after leaving Hannah and Ziggy into Ballymena we headed for Portglenone. Our first stop was the play park. Martha conquered her fear of the big slide and was thoroughly delighted with herself. Evie perfected her moves on the climbing frame and junior slide. Our next stop was Big Gortgole Wood but Martha decided it was 'too grassy' for her bike so we decided to go into Portglenone to do some shopping. After the huge disappointment on Friday when we discovered that Cully's Eurospar had discontinued the mini-trollies we were relieved to find small trollies in Portglenone. We only needed 4 items but it took two mini-trollies to carry them.

It was ice-cream time. We relaxed on a bench on Portglenone main street and watched the world go by. Then a flash car pulled up and out got a be-suited man. Then another expensive car and out got several more. Before long a dozen well dressed men (and a token woman) had rocked up with speakers, microphones and guitars. A prayer meeting! The preaching started. Nicodemus was mentioned. Apparently he 'asked too many questions'. Then a wasp wanted to share Evie's ice cream. She started to scream and yelled even louder when I dumped the last of it into the nearest bin. She was mollified when sweet, generous Martha shared hers. Between wasps and preacher men it was time to go.

Over the weekend there were certain shortcuts taken. I had decided before they arrived that we would not fuss too much about appearance. The only essential thing would be the morning and evening teeth cleaning and general removal of stickiness. Martha arrived with a set of very tidy pigtails. She departed wearing the same ones only slightly the worse for wear.

Evie refusing to show off her moves on her scooter

It was a good weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn't as tiring as I'd expected and that was due, in part, to Hannah's help. I am already looking forward to the next sleepover.

Just before they left, the youngest one said,

We'll be back.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sleepover Imminent, Loins Girded

Nellybert will be having the Misses Martha and Evie for a 3 night sleepover tomorrow. This will be an exciting challenge for us all.  The fridge is loaded with lollipops and we're stocking up on sausages and fish fingers. There are films to watch and pictures to be painted. We are going on a long bike ride even though Martha is the only one with a bike. I have a new book for bedtime reading. We're going to make a movie.

And Hannah is coming to visit everyone on Saturday afternoon. I'll probably go to bed then.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Home Alone Without Even A Cat For Company

I spent last night on my own and it was very strange. There wasn't even a cat to keep me company for, like most cats, they probably have second homes.

No carers coming in, no Pearlie to see to, no Bert or the dogs. The house is so quiet.

I watched a little TV last night. This morning there was nothing on the table but an empty wine glass and a remote control. No dirty ashtray, cigarette papers, tobacco shreds, spilled coffee, sheet music or clarinets. For Bert is a very throughother boy.

The cats came home this morning. Holly went straight upstairs and burrowed under my duvet for a day long catnap. Fred went straight to the cupboard where the dry cat food is kept and buried his head in the bag. He mustn't get fed at his other home.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Hen Funeral

Sometimes the best pictures happen when you haven't got a camera. I was walking back from the polytunnel today with a handful of salad and a couple of peaches when I saw a curious procession. Bert led the way carrying a big spade. Behind him walked a very solemn Evie. Then came Ben, carrying a box containing a dead chicken whose head and neck (recently wrung) hung over the edge of the box. Lastly came Martha carrying a small pink spade and a bunch of flowers.

They were having a funeral for the hen while I prepared lunch.

Afterwards Martha took me to see the grave. Evie was reluctant to go as she thought it was 'too sad.' This time I brought a camera.

And if things continue in this vein I may have to change the name Nelly's Garden to The Blog of Death.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Death Blog

Death Blog

Wasn't this blog once a light-hearted affair? Did I not write of all the amusing things that happened in my life? Do amusing things not happen any more or, if they do, do I barely notice them as I sit here reminiscing about funerals and pondering death?

I dreamed about Pearlie again last night. She stirred from her death bed and I fled her hospital room. Not like real life then for she died at home. I left her scattered with sweets and chocolate. Not like real life for it was me, not Pearlie, who had the extreme sweet tooth.

It's early morning when I wake. Almost the first thought to enter my head. She is gone. Again the familiar feeling of loss, of absence.

I won't pretend. I looked forward to her not being here. Looked ahead to a time when our chief responsibilities would be to each other, no old wifey sucking at our time and our energies with her endless small wants and constant disappointments. And now it is here and it is not what I thought. I never expected to feel the loss so keenly. Three years a full-time carer and now, what now?

A Lighter Look At The Situation

Last Thursday Miss Martha requested we visit her grave. I'd mentioned before that I'd take her some day. As we parked outside Martha began to advise Evie with all the solemnity that a nearly-five can offer.

Now Evie, this is not for fun. We are not going in here to play. We have to be serious for we are going in to visit Pearlie in her grave, not to play!

Evie looked suitably sad and said,

But I want to visit her in her room!

Evie feeling the loss too.

Previously Martha had been asking lots of questions about the burial process and I was answering as best I could as one question led in to another. I think one thing that struck her was that people get buried in perfectly good garments. She might have thought that a shame and a waste for Martha likes clothes. What happened to the clothes led to what happened to bodies and as we entered the gates she asked,

Will she still have her hair?

We visited the grave and some others as well for Martha likes graveyards. Many questions were asked and answered and then, and I'm not sorry to report it, their solemnity lifted and they did play.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Raspberries and Kisses

I was in the house chatting to Hannah and Evie and heard distant screaming. It did not sound like 'I'm in trouble' screaming, instead it sounded like 'enraged and exasperated' screaming. It was Martha.

Just in case it was 'I'm in trouble' screaming I went out, like a good granny, to investigate.

Where are you Martha?
I'm in the green field.

Most fields are green but I knew the one she meant.

There she was, standing there with a loaded ball thrower  and two expectant dogs sitting far too close and not giving her a chance to give a good throw. It must have been an exasperated scream then.

I called the dogs back and Martha gave it her best shot. The ball landed four feet from where she stood and Jess was the victor.

So, as this wasn't working out I suggested we go pick raspberries.

The girls ate their fill and I gathered some for the freezer. We spent an enjoyable half hour picking, chatting and eating then headed for the house to get the berries frozen. The quickest way from the fruit patch to the house is a step down to the yard. It's really an upturned Belfast sink (broken) propped up with a breeze block. Rough and rustic. Last year, when I had the knee injury, I found it a difficult step but this year - no problem. I was feeling pleased about that as I stepped down. Pleased for about a split second. For - as I stepped down my foot slipped and I fell hitting the small of my back on the edge of the sink. There is a moment, after a fall, when the mind processes the damage done. The most annoying thing that had happened was that my left thumb nail was bleeding. My elbows were grazed and there was a tiny cut on my right forearm. My lower back was bruised. Grandchildren and child came running. I was petted and kissed better by the little ones.

Lucky, lucky me. I fell heavily on a step at a stone wall and the worst thing to happen was a sore thumb. Mind you, as I write this, I feel my lower back a bit achey. I'm off for a soak in a hot bath with a gin and tonic and a couple of paracetamol. I think those Martha and Evie kisses are starting to wear off.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Living In The Past

On Friday, Pearlie's Favourite Niece and myself went through her personal bits and pieces, the last bit of sorting out that ever we'll do.

It was a well-known fact that my mother-in-law was never far from a biro pen which item she always called a pencil. Her pen was grasped in her hand even as she lay dying and Bert made sure there was a pen and a puzzle book in her coffin (casket) so that she could while away the time as she awaited St Peter opening the Pearly Gates. When she wasn't completing puzzles she filled note books and it was my hope that these would be full of her memoirs.

Mostly they were not. Instead she used them to write lists, make anagrams and research the history of the British Royal Family. She was also obsessed with the life of Winston Churchill and David Livingstone.

And, much to my surprise, she took a great interest in the life and times of the Spice Girls, Katie Price and Ant and Dec.

There was a list of wine making recipes that she had carefully copied from God knows where. But the real treasure was the bits and pieces from her own family's genealogy. I saved all these writings and used them to fill in the gaps in Bert's family tree. Pearlie and I had more in common than you'd think.

  • Lists
  • Anagrams
  • Puzzles
  • Family Trees
  • Wine Making Recipes
  • Collecting Photographs

If only she'd been as interested in horticulture as Bert and I we'd have been like twins.

The little bit she did write that was personal was a delight. There were intriguing snippets of family scandal. More puzzles for me to work out and she'd make a comment on a family wedding, noting that it had poured with rain that day and then adding, 'Serve them right for not inviting us. Ha ha!' I wish she'd written more. I'm certain that had she ever got her head around the internet she'd have been a blogger too.