Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Olden Days Revisited

Last day of the month and, boy, was it a stinker. Lashing rain, sleet and high winds. thankfully, apart from a little bit of yard work, I was able to stay indoors for nearly all the day. We had few callers (yippee!) just my brother and partner collecting their Jack Russell we'd been minding while they had a little break. And Clint but I managed to avoid him as I was watching House of Cards which is beginning to find its form after a slow start.

Tomorrow is the first of April so there will have to be more seed-sowing action in the poly tunnel. There are a few bits and pieces sown but the to-sow list is rather long.

Today Flickr's 31st most viewed picture is this house in the olden days.

Springhill in the Sixties (596 views on Flickr) 

The 31st most interesting picture is of Nelly in the olden days. The long hot summer of 1977, my first trip to London. Still rocking plaid flannel shirts. 288 views on Flickr.

I remember the photograph was taken by Margaret Donnelly, a young innocent  from County Kildare. She confessed to me that the reason she befriended me was because she wanted to learn how to drink alcohol, smoke cannabis and have sex. On our return to London we wrote for a while. Imagine it! The days of writing letters. She was planning to enlist in the RAF and, eventually, I lost touch with her. No Facebook, y'see. Those were certainly the days.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Wall

Katy, Hannah and Zoe, sometime in the 90s. 365 views so far...

...and the 30th most interesting photograph on my Flickr account on 30/03/15. That's my three girls in Dreen, perhaps taking a break from a game of rounders. Clint has all those trees cut down now and cattle sheds where they stood. In my uni days I used to walk up the road from the train and look for the first glimpse of the trees and feel so proud that I lived in such a wooded place. Clint said the trees were diseased but what really bothered him was the amounts of leaves that dropped in Autumn. The trees were a delight but, it has to be said, his cattle sheds are very fine too. He cut down the trees and dismantled the dry stone wall that Bert's father built. Said it was 'full of rat's nests'. It wasn't.

Johnny building the stone wall

 Summer wall

Winter wall

I was so cross with Clint for getting rid of that wall but it's been a long time and I had to let it go. I have the photographs and my memories.

 And Finally.  Look! Those girls were only following in their mother's fashion footsteps with that flannel checked shirt look. It wasn't the Seattle grunge scene a-tall.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Damp Sunday

When I opened the door of the chicken house this morning the new hens, all seven of them, flew into my face. It was rather worrying. Now I know how Tippi Hedren felt.

We have Martha and Evie here on a sleepover tonight. We sowed seeds, baked biscuits and watched Puss in Boots. I got them off to bed in good time so Nellybert could watch Poldark. At around the three-quarter mark the two girls trooped into the kitchen and on to my lap as bright as two buttons. And there they stayed until the show was over. Evie remarked that Poldark 'looks like Fergus'. I must remember to tell Auntie Hannah that one.
Baking biscuits

Tonight the 29th most viewed photograph on my Flickr is one that the Kerry Sister took many years ago.

Seamus and Katy

This must have been in an odd-shaped frame at some point. It is one of my favourite photographs of Daddy and has been viewed 615 times. My other favourite picture of him was also a Kerry Sister picture and it hangs upstairs.

The picture of Evie and the stuffed hedgehog has moved to 29th most interesting so I won't use it again. I often wonder how Flickr decides these things.

So, that was my damp Sunday, the first day of Spring, brightened only by grandchildren, Poldark and a lovely phone call from Katy. Tomorrow will also be a rainy day. I'm not sure how I shall spend it apart from grandchildren and making food and poking around my photo archives.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Forward

The clocks go forward tonight and, apart from taking note of that momentous fact, I have very little to write about. Except....

We introduced the new hens to the old hens. The rooster was beside himself to be presented with seven virgins. He literally did not know where to begin. So far they all appear to be getting on well, but knowing chickens there will be at least one in Coventry tomorrow.

The house is full of men playing banjos, guitars and clarinets. I fed them mince and onion pie and and steamed syrup pudding and now I'm ignoring them.

I'm slowing plodding through House of Cards Season 3. What is Doug up to? Will Freddy get his revenge?

I have fallen in love with Flickr once more and to celebrate that and March 28 here are some pictures.

Number 28 in the most viewed category. 631 views so far. Using 'wellies' as a tag increases hits.

Number 28 in the Interestingness category. Evie meets Mrs Tiggywinkle in the Ulster Museum. Now must go show my face in the music room. House of Cards isn't really grabbing me this season.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Reading Books

One great disadvantage of a rural childhood was not having access to the public library. There was a library of sorts at our primary school but one large cardboard box would have held all that it contained. Our teacher Cassie was horrible and we only got to read occasionally. I don't remember being allowed to choose the books either. She'd just give one to us and that was that. The only book I remember from school was The Wind In The Willows and I recall being really confused at the part where Pan appears to Mole and Ratty and feeling much easier when the story returned to the adventures of Toad.

At home there never seemed to be enough books because we all read them so fast. I usually got first go at fresh books because I was the oldest. Our mother must have noticed this. She returned one day from shopping in Ballymena with a book for my younger sister, also a voracious reader. The book Matty brought for Anne was My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. She informed us that Anne would get to read it first, then it would be her turn and, after that, the book was up for grabs. I could hardly bear having to wait but wait I did. Matty stood firm. My Friend Flicka was the first book in a trilogy and Matty also bought the next two, Thunderhead and The Green Grass of Wyoming. Anne got first dibs on those as well. They were a terrific read and well worth waiting for.

Christmas time brought great reading opportunities. Everyone got one or two books at Christmas, usually Puffin or Armada paperbacks and these would be hidden away with the other presents. I'd search the house until I found the stash of books, usually hidden on the high shelf in her wardrobe. For several days every chance I got, I'd be up there, standing beside the wardrobe in our parent's bedroom reading hungrily, nervous, praying not to be discovered. And I never was.

Of course when Christmas Day arrived I hadn't a thing to read and I used to look jealously on Anne as she sat there enjoying her new books. Much later when I confessed all to Matty she said it explained a lot for she could never understand why I showed so little interest in the Christmas books.

It's often a thankless task being a parent. Imagine my poor mother carefully picking out my books only to see me ignore them. I hadn't even the sense to pretend to read them. I wonder would she have preferred to know then that she had reared a sneak without a notion how to defer gratification despite the lesson with the Mary O'Hara trilogy.

Sometime soon I shall explain why it is that I particularly love dusty old books. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Buzz About Buzzards

About this time nine years ago I was obsessed with buzzards. Here are two of the three posts I wrote on the 23rd of March 2009. The third one was more about eBay and computer problems and missing out on a buzzard print so I haven't included it.



Originally uploaded by Wyrd.
Bert! What's a honey buzzard?

You don't get them here. They're mostly Southern English. Maybe the odd one passing through but not generally.

So what do you call the ones we have here?



How do you spell Colin? One L or two?

I was only winding you up.


Suppose I'd put that in my blog and made a right fool of myself!

Buzz, Buzz, Buzzard

There are a pair of buzzards are living near us and they can be spotted most days. Today while Hannah and I were driving down the road we saw one swoop down on prey in the corner of a field just beside the road. I was delighted to get such a close view. I said to Hannah,

Wow! We were lucky to see that.

Wasn’t so lucky for whatever it was got caught.

Oh well. That’s nature. Poor you moving to the town. All the wildlife you’ll see there will be mangy cats, scabby pigeons and rats.

Don’t care.

When Katy was little she asked Bert this,

Why do they call them buzzards? Is it because they make a buzzing sound?

If we’d have been decent parents we’d have got the bird books out and arranged a visit to the Natural History Museum, stimulated the child’s interest and stuff like that. Instead we laughed our legs off at her, gave her a complex and slagged her about it to this very day. My idea of a fun natural history lesson was telling Hannah all about the savage child eating bears that lived in the (local) woods. May God forgive me for I doubt the weans ever will.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

St Joseph's Day Eve

Yesterday was St Patrick's Day and this Irish woman was exceedingly underwhelmed by it all. It means very little to me these days.

Bert and the Wee Manny were returning from Fanad and Bert was outraged to discover that Kilrea was blocked off and he had to take a detour through Ballymoney to get home. The Derry branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians were marching and he would have had to wait 30 minutes for the parades to pass.

And did it ever even occur to you to park the van, go up the town, get yourselves a pint of Guinness apiece? You might have got the barman to draw a wee shamrock in the foam and you could have watched the parade go by.

I had never heard of the Hibernians until my cousin Joseph joined the White Hill Accordion Band. They weren't much chatted about in Tannaghmore. Anyway, after Mass on a rainy St Patrick's Day way back in the 1960s, Daddy took a couple of us to Randalstown to watch the parade. I was very excited. I imagined it would be full of pomp and glory like the Orange Parades that we weren't really supposed to like. It wasn't. Just a dozen or so little grey men with solemn faces and bunches of shamrock pinned to their lapels, two carrying a small banner and the White Hill Accordion Band. Cousin Joe never even looked at us. It was most disappointing.

Tomorrow is St Joseph's Day. Not a lot of people pay any attention to his feast day but I intend to celebrate it. I'll do something with wood. Chop it into kindlers maybe. Get some fig rolls in. Open a bottle of wine.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Motherless Sunday

Mother's Day again. There are yellow and purple flower buds unfurling on the kitchen table. There was chocolate too which was shared with Bert in the very earliest hours of Mothering Sunday. But, as always, this is Matty's day even though she is not with us any more.

There are so many of us today mindful of our dead mothers. On Friday a young friend called round and he mentioned that his son, aged six, was having a difficult week. At school all the talk was of making Mother's Day cards but his mum died suddenly about a year ago. He chose not to make a card. It's sad for us grown-ups but how much harder it must be for a little child.

My mother Martha with her granddaughter Katy

This is one of my most cherished photographs of  my mother who would have been my current age at the time it was taken. So - I'm wishing a happy Mother's Day to all us mothers and sending caring thoughts for all the motherless children.

It's Bert's first Motherless Sunday too.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Half A Dozen Eggs

How did it get to be Friday already? This week has been a funny one weather-wise. Divinely spring-like on Tuesday. I worked outside and discovered that Roy likes to explore. And that his exploring includes the road! We had to put a temporary gate up which displeased a number of callers. I felt a teeny bit bad about it but Bert enjoyed taking visitors out of their comfort zone. Roy is going to get extensive training regarding the lane way. He needs to know it is a forbidden area.

Bert and I also had a difference of opinion about egg donations. We like to give eggs to our friends yet I also like to be able to make an omelette or a cake using free range eggs. I was delighted to find, on returning from picking Martha up from the school bus, that my new Magimix replacement bowl had arrived in the post. Far less delighted to find that, in my absence, Bert had given away all the eggs. So, no point in keeping those leftovers for a Spanish omelette and out the window goes any plans for a cake. We had the same discussion a week previously but when I speak I hear sounds coming out of my mouth something like this,

Bert, I'd like you to make sure that there are always six eggs in the egg rack. More than that then give them away to your heart's content.

He hears this,

Drone, drone, drone, blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda.

So that was the past few days, minding dogs, arguing about eggs, bit of gardening. I sure do lead an exciting life.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Dogs and Children

Evie delights in collecting eggs

Nellybert have enjoyed a very doggy and children rich few days. We had Miss Evie as usual on Thursday and she had a play date with the three Miss Liddys. Four girls all at once can be intense. I was rather hollow-eyed when everyone went home, Bert was not as tired as I was as he'd spent a nice, relaxing afternoon digging holes in a field.

 Martha plans her next move

Friday I spent in Belfast and on Saturday was The Sleepover. That went very well. The girls are obsessed with Little House on the Prairie. Martha is Mary, Evie is Laura and Nellybert are Ma and Pa. Mary Ingalls got frustrated with Laura Ingalls because Laura wouldn't go with her to the creek to catch catfish. So she hit Laura (Evie) with a pink handbag. There was a bit of consoling and then, when the dust settled I suggested Mary (Martha) should go fishing with Pa (Bert). This was agreed.

As Bert described it,

I had to stand with her waving bamboo canes over  a puddle for ages.

But it was worth it for they caught lots of catfish and flatfish and salmon and we had them for our supper. Well actually we had stew but we added the pretend fish to it and enjoyed it very much.

In the middle of all this was Roy, the new dog. It is probably not recommended that a dog should be introduced to a new home on the same weekend that little children are sleeping over. Nevertheless it worked out well for us. Roy is sevenish, far too fat and very gentle and friendly. I am sure he is going to enjoy living here.

Bert's Aunt Nessie got him as as a pup.  But then Nessie became ill and died before he was a year old. She got her partner Paddy to promise that he would look after Roy. Then Paddy had a fall, broke his hip and started a decline. He is in his mid-80s now and it looks that he will not be going home. His carer got in touch with us to ask our advice as to what should be done with his dogs. Paddy had four! Bert, knowing of the promise Paddy had made to Nessie, immediately offered to take Roy. Another little dog, a terrier and Roy's companion, will be going to the Dog's Trust. The other two were outdoor dogs, collies that were likely palmed off on Paddy and dogs that he was never able to look after properly. They were never trained and are quite vicious. They will be taken into the care of the local council and will probably be put to sleep.

Poor old Roy has lost his master and his long-time dog companion. Things are changing for him. He is very focussed on food and judging by his claws and coat he has spent very little time out of doors. But he likes people, has been around children (thanks to Paddy's carer) and most important of all, gets on really well with other dogs.

Needless to say Jess and Judy are rather miffed but I expect they will get used to it.

It seems Roy is the sort of dog who goes on the furniture.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Friday, Saturday, New Dog Day

Hannah and I went to Belfast yesterday. Bert was forced from his bed at an unnatural hour to take me into Ballymena to be early for my train. Hannah was still brushing her teeth but we managed to make the eleven o'clock with ten minutes to spare.

Mainly we just looked at things although Hannah bought a couple of books for her course. We explored Botanic Avenue and Smithfield Market but were unable to find Keats & Chapman. It was an easy and relaxing day.

Today might be different. Evie and Martha are coming for a sleepover. And we are getting another dog. It is not ideal that these two things happen on the same day for Roy (the dog) is a bit of an unknown quantity. The girls were asked before the dog thing happened so, in my opinion, neither can be cancelled.

There is a story behind Roy which I'll tell when I've met him.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A Farewell To Holly

Today was a very busy day for this retired lady of leisure with three entries in the diary. In the afternoon I had a dog delivery to make. Ziggy was to be returned to his owner after his regular Monday to Tuesday sleepover. His owner Miss Hannah and I had a coffee date and, as his habit, Ziggy remained in the van and got the hazard lights going to alert all passers by that it would be seriously hazardous to their health if they should attempt to steal his vehicle.

The evening brought the boys to our house for Music Night. I served them home made sausage rolls and chocolate fairy cakes. They particularly enjoyed the fairy cakes.

But, before all this, we had a dog funeral. The Wee Manny's dog was put to sleep last night. Holly was really Mrs The Wee Manny's dog and she was devastated to lose her but Holly had a good long life. She was a black Labrador cross, a rescue dog that they'd got more than a dozen years ago. The Wee brought her round this morning to be buried in our garden. The list is growing. I wrote about our pet cemetery back in 2008.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Dowsing For Dogs

...dogs we know are buried there are in order of interment:-

Polly: sweetest little Jack Russell cross. Given to Pearlie soon after she was widowed. The girls never forgave us for parting. She only lasted a few months before succumbing to the horror movie that is the Dreen Road.

Molly: Died February 2004, Springer spaniel just arrived in Nellybert's yard. Unknown to us she was riddled with cancer. We kept her six months. I adored her. We spent a fortune at the vet. Eventually had to have her put down.

Danny: Best. Dog. Ever. Nellybert's first beloved pooch. Committed suicide under the wheels of Bert's van sometime in 2004. He was nearly seventeen.

Penny: She was Pearlie's dog. Died on Christmas Eve aged around fourteeen. Her demise marked the beginning of Pearlie's decline.

Chip: Not our dog but Danny's mother. Eighteen when her owners had her put down. They had nowhere to bury her. We had all the room in the world.

Jock: Not our dog either but the beloved pet of the Wee Mannys.

Rosie: Died October 2008. She won't be the last but she was the first to have a dozen or so narcissi planted on her grave.

And since then....

Hannah's rats - Rocky, Pepe, Polly and Meka. They have their own special plot in front of the green house. It's teeny.

Five more dogs.

Peppy: Belonged to our friend Rod. She was a frequent visitor to our house. He still stops by her grave.

Paddy: Died February 2012.

Charlie: Died June 2012.

Bonnie: Died June 2013.

Holly: Buried today. Much loved pet of Mrs The Wee Manny.

Holly and her companion Rocky. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Watch Out! There's A Thief About.

Anyone who keeps a dog about the place will know that there are things that dogs find disagreeable.

They dislike strangers coming around. Friends are absolutely fine and must be welcomed with jumps,  excited yips and leaping on to coffee tables all the better to see them. Then when the visitor is settled down they must be snuggled against, looked at adoringly and thoroughly inspected for morsels of food or tennis balls about their person. But strangers may not even get out of their car for fear of the menacing dog circling their vehicle. If the stranger is brave and gets out anyway then that stranger must be a friend  and will be treated accordingly.

They do not like cats being paid attention to. If anyone should be stroking a cat, giving it a treat or having a pleasant conversation with it, the dog must immediately leave its comfortable sofa, go to where the cat is being made much of and glare at it in a very overbearing manner.

And they can see no sense in very small children holding food. They have no problem with bigger humans having food and eating it in their presence but how can anyone reasonably expect them not to take food of a tiny child who dangles it in front of their noses. I remember our first dog Danny meeting a woman pushing a small child in a pram. We both noticed that the child was clutching a very melty Mars Bar. A moment later the melty bar was in Danny's mouth. The child made no protest. I think he was glad to be rid of it. I didn't know then that chocolate is very bad for dogs but it didn't do him a pin of harm and he lived at least another ten years.

Just like Danny before her, Judy deeply disapproves of toddlers owning food. Yet she is also aware that I disapprove of her removing food from little ones. This is why she is looking so sneaky in the photograph. She hopes I am distracted both by my camera and the the black hen. She was disappointed. Evie got to keep her pancake on this occasion.

Now Evie is two years older and not little any more. She is 'a big girl' and very well able to keep Judy in her place.