Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hunger's Mother

I was mopping the kitchen floor when Bert called from the depths of his man cave,

Is there anything instant that I could have for lunch?

And he'd only had his breakfast an hour before.

I replied,

Yeah. There's lots of things.
What like?
A wide range of ready to eat meals.
The Spar.

Once again I explained ingredients to him. Eggs, bacon, potato bread, tomatoes. A small fry. He's making it right now. It's not that he minds preparing food. He just cannot bear to think about it. He'll probably have pickles with his fry.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Interesting Day

Today I met up  with Grannymar for a coffee and a stroll around the Castle Grounds in Antrim. It's been six years since we had a real life meeting and there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then but my fellow blogger hadn't changed a bit. One of the very many great things about blogfriends is that many years can go by but you still pick up just where you left off.

On the way home I called with two of Matty's oldest friends, sisters-in-law who live next door to each other. Both are doing great and that was good to see. I also got to meet one of the sweetest and most lovable toddlers I've come across in a long time.

I got home later than I expected to find Bert in a fainting condition, weak from hunger and wondering had I brought home anything to eat. He always asks this whenever I've been out for more than an hour. There are two things he has yet to absorb and they are firstly, when I go out to meet people socially food shopping never enters my head and secondly, there is always lots of food in the house. He never asked me a single question about my day just lamented that all he'd had to eat since breakfast was an egg and a slice of wheaten bread. There was no other food in the house.

Of course he was wrong about this. There were the usual staples, bread, beans, tinned fish, home made rhubarb tart, cauliflower cheese etc. I took him by the hand and pointed at the big door under the fridge.

See this Bert. It's not just a big box to hold the fridge up. If you open the door and pull these drawers out there are all sorts of things in there.

He said,

I would never think of looking in there.

He got quite excited about some fish fingers and a bag of frozen peas so I left him to it. Then he was off out to his music night and left me to dine on my own which was fine as I'd eaten at Anna's just before I got home. Another reason why food shopping wasn't on my mind.

But before I thought of food I started a rhubarb wine and bottled a damson and blackcurrant. It was when I was pulling frozen rhubarb out of the big chest freezer that I noticed a few boxes of dinnerish stuff and pulled one out at random with no notion of what it might be. Whatever it was I reckoned it might go well with pasta. So that was my dinner, A bit of pasta languishing in the store cupboard, lying in an almost empty packet, the dubious thing from the depths of the freezer and the dregs at the bottom of the damson and blackcurrant wine flagon. It turned out to be chicken and mushrooms in tomato sauce and it wasn't bad at all. And I got to feel virtuous by 'using things up'. Bert would rather have died of hunger than eat it. I wonder if that is why he is thin and I am not.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Managing His Man Cave

One of my daily chores was tidying and wiping the coffee table in Bert's man cave. And every day, as I carried out this one-minute job, I'd find myself feeling a bit resentful. Thinking...

Bert never lifts as much as a spoon!

I'm always lifting and laying after  him!

I bet if I stopped cleaning up after him he'd soon notice!

Then I thought,

I will just stop cleaning this table for a week and I'll document it every day and we'll just see how bad it gets.

So I did stop cleaning it and, much to my surprise, Bert did bring dishes to the kitchen and he even emptied ashtrays. The table stayed much the same throughout the week. Apart from Wednesday morning, the day after he had his mates around for a music session. That was the fourth picture along. He never even noticed that I wasn't clearing and wiping his table every day. I wiped it this morning and it was a little grubbier than usual but that meant it was more satisfying to wipe down.

So, there you go. A daily chore has become a weekly one and I don't have to be resentful any more. It's only a table in a man cave.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Funeral for a Bullfinch

Thursday rolls around again and today we had three collections. First was Ben, just finished the very first of his GCSEs. Bert collected him, took him for a hearty breakfast, then they both picked Evie up from playgroup.

She arrived back here in very bad form. Apparently there had been some sort of difficulty with a boy named Kai. It must have been bad for she was inconsolable for at least ten minutes. He had 'noyed' her by looking at her from under the table. Doesn't sound like much but a three-year-old looks at the world differently than we do. Cuddles, a sausage roll, red sauce and a glass of milk set her on her feet again.

We sorted out the hens, collected eggs and passed the time very pleasantly until it was time to collect Martha from school. We all checked out a charity shop in Harryville where I bought a bunch of books for 60p, some bright pink Crocs for £1 (real ones and I promise I'll only wear them for gardening) and the girls added to the dressing up box.

We weren't long back when Bert discovered this poor bullfinch that had flown into one of the sun room windows. That meant there had to be - A Funeral.

Martha collects the poor wee thing in an environmentally friendly open casket - half an egg box. Sort of appropriate, eggs, birds....

 Ben was chief grave-digger. Note girls' tragic stance. Note Young Loveheart's dog Phoenix, a part of the funeral party. Our dogs did not attend.

Left alone at the grave side, Phoenix cannot help wondering why perfectly good food has been buried in the ground and a piece of concrete slab placed on it. Little does she know that the slab is there to prevent her from digging the bird up.

The girls lay flowers on the grave while Phoenix watches. I have to say that her owner was almost as bemused as she by the proceedings. I had to explain to Young Loveheart that the game of Playing Funerals is useful for helping young children to accept the cycle of life and death.

The posy that the girls gathered. I think it looks very pretty even though it too will soon wither and die.

Thursday is turning out to be Nellybert's favourite day of the week.

Monday, May 18, 2015

From The Sallagh Braes to Lough Neagh

Warning: While this post does not contain Game of Thrones spoilers it does show some gorgeous pictures of the Northern Irish countryside.

One of Game of Thrones' many pleasures is spotting the location. A few episodes ago we had Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark standing on the Sallagh Braes looking down at a computer-generated Winterfell. Tonight we had Fair Head and what I believe was the shore of Lough Neagh. I know that some of the location work was filmed in Antrim as a cousin of mine just happened to be cycling by as the actors were taking a break. If one is a fan, as I am, it is also fun to chat to various folk we know who have worked as extras on the show. We were hoping to see Martha and Evie's Daddy tonight but there were no wildlings to be seen anywhere.

A friend told us this story. One of the people working on the show approached his brother asking if he knew any folk with with horse riding experience who might come on the show as extras. Our friend's brother rides with the local hunt and at that time he was sporting longish dark hair and a heavy beard.

So what did he say? 
Said he didn't know anyone.

Martha and Evie's Daddy said that extra work is long and tiresome and that often, when scenes run over, there is hardly enough time to eat. He had a day working as crew and said that was much better, with tastier food and more breaks.

Another friend told us that way back at the start when Khal Drogo and Daenerys had their first very sensual love scene that the tent of romance was pitched in a cattle shed in Buckna. I'm glad I didn't know that at the time for it would have ruined the vibe.

Ah well. Maybe we'll get to see Martha and Evie's Daddy be a wildling next week.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jelly Babies

Today I ate an entire bag of Jelly Babies and they were not even the good Bassett ones – just inferior Spar Jelly Babies. I am very ashamed. According to the bag that was 180g or 7 servings. According to the complicated table on the back of the packet I consumed 'food' that amounted to 635.4 calories, roughly one third of my daily recommended intake. I was warned that the sweeties might contain Peanuts, Nuts but I did not detect any as I scoffed those babies down. Naturally sugars were the main ingredient. Water was the second (healthy) then Beef Gelatine. Oh dear! I'm sure that Beef Gelatine is what the food industry gets when it boils up cattle hooves and other horny and grimmish bits. Not very yummy sounding. More cheeringly the Babies contain Vegetable Concentrates (Nettle and Spinach) but I don't think that compensated for the boiled skin and tendons.

Spar also informs us that they help locally, raising over a million pounds for local community projects. As there are approximately 12,300 Spar stores in 34 countries this amounts to just over £80 per store. I'm not impressed.

Finally the packet states that if the consumer is not entirely satisfied with the product then it can be returned to the point of purchase without her statutory rights being affected. I shall go back tomorrow and wave the empty packet at them and complain about being forced to eat cow's toenails mixed with sugar and then demand my pound coin back but I don't think they'll be overly impressed.

So no more Jelly Babies for me. Not even Bassett Babies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Looking Forward

Some patients see very well the day after cataract surgery. Other patients see well a few days after surgery, and still others may need a full month to reach their maximum vision improvement.

I woke early this morning and removed the eye covering. Disappointment. I may as well have been looking at a white saucer with that eye. So it seems that I'm not going to be one of those who enjoy immediate improvements. But as the day progressed I noticed the mists clearing just a little and I'm hopeful that my sight will be even better tomorrow.

My eye feels as if it has been punched. That should feel better tomorrow too.

Tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Pass the Chopper Please

The alarm this morning was set for 05:30. It was tough getting up especially as I'd been wakeful during the night. I showered, dressed, breakfasted and called Bert at 06:30. He appeared downstairs in a pair of Crocs, red tartan pyjama trousers and an ill-matching green check pyjama shirt. To say he looked odd would be an understatement. The 5 minute drive to the train station was not without event. As usual Bert left fastening his seat belt until he was actually driving and, as he did so, he almost caused an accident by swerving towards the middle of the road just as another vehicle was overtaking. This is why I was taking the train instead of having Bert drive me. He is not at his best first thing in the morning. What would I have done if he had been in an accident? I would have had to get out and hitch a lift with someone going into the village. Then the thought of Bert standing by the side of our road in that crazy outfit while all our early bird neighbours drove past rubber necking the scene made me laugh and I recovered my humour. It would have been the talk of the village before the clock struck ten. Ernie would be one of the first to hear. The lads in the garage would spread the news widely. Perhaps it would have taught Bert to fasten his seat belt before driving off.

The train journey went smoothly (lots of yawning fellow passengers) and I got to the hospital fifteen minutes before my appointment time. The nurse who was first to see me tsked when I gave her the letters from Eye Casualty. “He'll not take you” she said, meaning the surgeon. I was crest fallen. This was my fear, the worry that had kept me so wakeful the previous night. She told me to wait until she had the chance to speak with him. Five minutes later the great man entered. My nurse consulted with him. Five minutes later she was back at my side announcing, “He's going to take you! Come on. He says that eye has been clear since March!” I was delighted and rather pleased that I had kept attending Eye Casualty so that all the relevant notes were there.

Now to the actual cataract removal. A friend told me that it would be twenty minutes of discomfort but well worth it. Yet I didn't find it uncomfortable, just very, very odd. The people who carried out the procedure were lovely and the great man turned out to be pleasant and easy to talk to. He oversaw the procedure which was carried out by another. The colours and shapes that I saw as my eye was being worked over were strange and beautiful. It seemed to take a long time to prise the cataract away. (I was told afterwards that it was very dense.) I was listening to the conversation between the surgeon and the nurse as he requested instruments and I could not help giggling when he asked for “the chopper”.

When all was done I was informed that it had gone very well and then I was wheeled off for coffee and biscuits and a chat with a nurse on aftercare. Bert and one of our friends picked me up and we went back to his house for lunch.

Home again, home again jiggety-jig to find most of the family already there.. Martha and Evie were very taken with my eye-dressing. Martha said I looked like a pirate. I was spoiled by everyone and now, as soon as I've posted this I'm off for a lie-down. The eye dressing doesn't come off until tomorrow and I'm excited to see what I can see.

Nelly the Pirate

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Garden Show Ireland and a Stranger in the Dyke

Zoe, the girls and Granny went to Garden Show Ireland at the Castle Grounds in Antrim. I went last year on my own and enjoyed it very much. However it is far better with company. I did not buy a single plant, just took photographs. The truth is, I don't even have enough room for the plants I already have. My new rule will be - no new perennials unless there is an area of the garden already prepared for planting.
Beautiful aquilegia

Gorgeous iris

 At one of the show gardens where Evie kept trying to sit on the hedge

Zoe and Evie

There was so much for children to do there. The girls had a cookery session and a kite making workshop. There were swings, slides, golf, climbing and a chill out area. That last was bliss. Mood lighting, air conditioning and an episode of Bill & Ben The Flowerpot Men. It was close to being my best bit. Evie's worst bit was getting covered in mud three times and the stilt walkers. Her best bit was the jazz band and Martha's best bit was dancing to the jazz band. Zoe's best bit might have been the 30 minutes she got to look around on her own and possibly seeing Monty Don.


Got back home to discover the coffee supplies were running dangerously low and headed out in the van to replenish. On glancing to my right at the bottom of our lane I spotted a large-headed fellow standing in the dyke. Or so I thought. It was actually an election poster featuring Ian Paisley Jr, or Ian Óg as ussuns like to call him. I really, really need to get these eyes fixed.

Stranger in the Dyke

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Feeling Lucky

Up this morning at 6:30 and on the train to Belfast at 7:22. Almost fell asleep. Taxi from Great Victoria Street to the back door of Eye Casualty and I was the second punter through the door at 8:50. Sitting in the Pharmacy at 10:00 waiting for my prescription... and waiting. I started to feel a tiny twinge of annoyance. Then I gave myself a shake. I'd just benefited from a free consultation, a free eye exam, free advice and here I was waiting for my free medication. How fortunate is that?

The outcome is I'm to take two new lots of eye drops, one a steroid, I'm to show up for the procedure on the 11th of May and, hopefully, I'll get the cataract removed and the artificial lens fitted. Oh happy day, please let it be so.

I decided to walk from the hospital to the city centre and got soaked to the skin. Missed my train by four minutes then killed an hour in Botanic Avenue charity shops where I purchased a small brass elephant for a fine pound coin. Who cares about missed trains and drenchings? Not I.

Elephant. A symbol of strength, protection and good luck

Monday, May 04, 2015

An Update On My Little Life

The first thing is these damn eyes of mine. Way back in January I got a date for the cataract procedure, for the 19th February and I was most delighted. Then that procedure was postponed and I started to think I had been forgotten about. Meanwhile the eye infection kept recurring and eventually I couldn't use steroid eye drops any more. Now I've got a new date for the procedure - next Monday, seven days hence. And the eyes are still bothering me. The condition has been diagnosed as adenoviral keratitis and it is affecting both eyes. So I'm off to Eye Casualty tomorrow with a letter from my GP. Catching the 07:22 from Cullybackey so hopefully I won't be at the hospital for the entire day. I expect to hear if I'll be able to go ahead with the procedure next week and, of course, I shall keep you all (all several of you) updated.

The second matter is Roy, the fat old collie we inherited. He's not been mentioned for a while. Happily he has fitted in with us far better than we ever hoped. He loves most people, though not that keen on the ones under three foot because they squeal a lot and he doesn't like CBeebies too much. When the small folk are around he hangs out in other rooms.

We thought, when he first arrived, that we'd have to put him on a reducing diet to get his weight down  but wait for a few weeks until he was well settled. It turned out not to be necessary. He started racing about after the other two dogs and within a fortnight the weight started to drop off him. The more weight he lost the faster he could run so he is a slender dog now.

I must organise an 'after' photograph. The 'before' one has already been recorded.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

My Little Life

I don't buy newspapers as often as I used to but I do get the Guardian on a Saturday. At £2.70 I consider it a small luxury. It will take me most of the week to finish it. The magazine is the first part I'll tackle, then the main paper followed by the family section and finally, the review. The sports, travel, cookery and finance sections are usually ignored although last Saturday I did read the AP McCoy interview. He's a local lad who started his career over at Billy Rock's yard. McCoy went to the same school as my brother and sister though I'm told he wasn't there that often. Too busy riding horses.

So it must have been Wednesday before I got round to the Toni Morrison piece in the Review section. That was a good and interesting read. I haven't kept up with Morrison. There are a few of her most recent books to read and that article reminded me that I still want to read them and I'm encouraged to go back to some of her earlier novels which are still on the shelves. Somewhere. Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye. I really haven't kept up.

I was struck by this statement from Morrison which stung a little and I've been pondering it ever since.

 “So much contemporary fiction, even when it’s well written is sort of … self-referential. I used to teach creative writing at Princeton and I would say ‘Don’t do that. Don’t write about your little life’.” 
Because isn't that what a personal blog is all about, and I know it is not considered creative writing, it is just writing about one's little life. My self-set task for the month of May will be to try and do it better. Perhaps with just a little more creativity.