Sunday, June 28, 2015


Martha has always had a keen interest in umbrellas

Apparently we are to expect a heatwave. Hopefully it will arrive by Thursday when Hannah and I are taking the Misses Martha and Evie to Portrush on the train. Martha is very excited because she knows that Barry's Amusements are in Portrush. I had to give her a little talk about this as she believes that Grannys and Aunts have unlimited pocketfuls and bagfuls and lorry loads of coins and flat money (notes) and that any unwillingness on our parts to part with this is just inexplicable perversity.

So I told her that we would be bringing a packed lunch, and that we would have just one ice cream and that all the rest of our money would be spent in Barry's going on dodgems, carousels and other exciting rides. We would definitely not be going into shops to buy pink tat.

For I made a mistake last Thursday after I met Martha from the school bus and she had no coat. This was unfortunate as I was expecting her to walk to the town centre with me so I could collect my new spectacles. She fretted about getting her pony tail wet because Mummy had plaited it so it would go all crinkly and if it got rained on the crinkles would come out. I thought the crinkles had already come out but I didn't like to say.

Never mind,

says I...

If it gets too rainy I'll buy you an umbrella.

It was just a light remark but you could almost hear her brain whirring into gear. She didn't hear idle words. She heard a solemn promise. She was fixated. I tried to fob her off with a magazine but she was having none of it. But I could buy Evie a magazine. Into a newsagents we marched and she spent long minutes deciding which magazine Evie (she) would like. Then it was off to the Tower Centre. I knew there was a bargain shop in there that might sell children's umbrellas and so there was. Pink ones. The Frozen characters, Elsa and the other one. Plastic. Tat. Five pounds. In no time at all I'd spent nearly eight pounds on nonsense. The girls didn't see it like that, Evie was as thrilled with her magazine as Martha was with her umbrella and sure, it's only money. It grows on trees.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Back to Buts

Back to buts was a frequent Mattyism. It meant a return to the usual. Bert is back from Spain and things are beginning to get back to normal. He had a lovely time and brought the girls some souvenir flamenco dresses. I think they are the dressing up equivalent of the big straw donkeys that holiday makers used to bring back from Spanish holidays. Now that baggage space on planes is so restricted there will be little demand for that sort of article.

There was great excitement at Clint's place today. He got a big swarm of bees landed on one of his bushes. Bert was called on to gather them up. This is the third swarm Clint's had in a month and he had no use for it. Swarming bees tend to be quiet so, as usual, he braved it without his beekeeping suit. And it worked out for him. No stings. When he returned he decided to check his own hive and donned the protective gear. Our hives are Irish black bees and they always seem to be very angry. The minute he went into the hive they attacked him. One stung him on the Adam's apple and he got four on his hands. I was pulling the sting out of his  neck and asked him,

What happened there?
I hadn't my gloves on.
How did they get you get stung on the neck? 
I hadn't fastened the jacket up. I thought it would be all right if I was quick about it.
It's never all right with those bees. You're an eedgit.

Ah Bert. He's great entertainment value. It's good to have him back.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Home Alone: Days 5 and 6

I swapped child minding days with the co-grandparents so I could attend my post cataract procedure check up today. So yesterday Hannah and I took Evie to lunch in Cafe Couture then off for a browse at a Harryville charity shop. I gave Evie a two pound coin to spend and she slotted it into a toy drum machine and that was the end of that. Despite our turning the machine upside down many times and Hannah inserting her weird long fingers into the machine's inner working the coin stayed put. I advised the shop manager that the £3 price sticker on the gadget should now be upped to £5.

Off to the hospital today for a 4pm appointment. I was there for three hours and found myself sitting next to the same man that I sat next to on the day of the procedure. We swapped notes. Seems we are both doing great. Thankfully the surgeon agreed. I discovered the reason why things were taking so long for he was teaching a student and was taking enough time to ensure that she was benefiting from the experience. A lovely man. So I was there for a long time and so what? Once again I got to see what is wonderful about the National Health Service. And I've been flagged as 'urgent' for the left eye cataract.

Not a word from the holiday maker but thanks to Jazzer and the immediacy of Facebook I've seen three photographs. Her camera isn't very good but it seems that he is covered in mosquito bites and looks really sad as if he is totally missing Jess and Judy. The poor man.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Home Alone: Days 3 and 4

When I woke up yesterday I felt pleased to know that Martha, Evie, their parents and their dogs were coming to spend the afternoon and have supper with me. Solitude makes a fine relish for Company. It was another warm day so all doors were open and my own three dogs and the four guest dogs were free to come and go as they pleased. Why it pleased two of them to go upstairs and piss and shit I do not know. How did I know that there were two guilty parties? Simple. The poo (Frank? Ziggy?) was very small and the pee (Jess? Judy?) was very large. Is it any wonder that my eldest grandchild, the owner of a sharp tongue, described this house as 'decorated in dirt'.

There were visitors expected in the evening, although they were probably coming to see the dogs rather than me. They cancelled so that left me another solitary evening with only the four dogs, two cats, a glass of carrot wine and the last episode of Game of Thrones for solace. The animals were mostly nuisances, barking at every shadow and, before the supper table was cleared, I found a dog and a cat standing on the kitchen table licking plates! Hang your furry heads in shame Jess and Fred.

Game of Thrones. It was action packed from the start and with a lot left hanging. I watched it 'on eggs' as I'd heard that something really big (bad) was going to happen and I feared for all my favourite characters. Yet they made it or I hope they did. The big ending did not disappoint at all for he was a pious, goody-goody, Belfast-dissing jerk. Sorry Naoise.

So here I am on Day 4. I'm having an avocado for my lunch and I might bake biscuits.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Home Alone: Day 2

I have started talking to the dogs and I only saw one person today. Well, there was actually about six more as, for some unknown reason, two car loads of people landed on the yard looking for a house that did not exist. One was a driving instructor's car the other was a civilian. I have no idea what they were up to but the pack of barking dogs certainly discouraged them from leaving their vehicles.

Apart from this one thing I had a lovely lonesome day. I bottled wine (blackcurrant and apple) and I gardened. And the gardening was where I screwed up. There was this heavy stone sink. Last year it contained some pretty yellow crocosmia, Emily McKenzie, I think. This year I thought I'd put geraniums (pelargoniums) in it. But it was in the wrong place. I needed it to be 8 foot further to the right. I lifted it and moved it and tried to take care but it was too heavy and now I have hurt my back. Stupido. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Home Alone: Day 1

I woke up just after six a.m. and actually got up! There had been no word from Bert so I assume he had been allowed on the early morning plane that was taking him on a holiday to Majorca where Jazzer had rented a villa for the week.

So now I am home alone with only four dogs (Jazzer's dog is staying), two cats, two pigs, nine chickens and seven bastes. Bastes are what old-fashioned country folk call cattle. I don't have to do much with the cattle except keep an eye on Evil Edna and the bull.

Which one is Evil Edna?
The one with the long tail.

Apart from collecting the Guardian at the local garage I never left the house and it was bliss. No callers apart from Hector back and forth all day lifting hay. I gardened and made an omelette for lunch using the elephant garlic scapes that Les gave me for flavouring. It included the German salami we got from Bilrus and three kinds of tomatoes I also made a carrot and pepper soup this evening so am eating properly. So far.

 4 lbs of blackberries found in the freezer

I started a blackberry wine and bottled an elderberry wine. There was about a pint left over. When Les called round to water his garlic I shared it with him. Am now feeling very tired due to my early start and a busy day. One episode of The Newsroom a glass of wine and a bath and I shall retire.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

One Week Later

Taken just after the first attack. Three more would fall victim to Bastard Fox.

Part of the reason I write this blog is to remind myself what is going on in my life. When did I have the cataract operation? Look it up on the blog. Just over four weeks ago. When was the last time the fox got into the hen run? That would be in July 2012, and in the month of May 2008 and 2009. The May attacks were bad ones and, like this year, would most likely have been carried out by an adult fox with cubs to feed. We thought that the 2012 attack was a junior for on that occasion the hen survived.

This time we lost five in three separate incidents. Reminds me of Lady Bracknell for to lose two is unfortunate, five seems careless. Here's what happened. We kept them in the day after the first two were attacked. Foxy was interrupted and only got a bite or two of the rooster. Bert sprayed the weeds and brambles around the fence to see where it needed reinforcement. That was going to take a day or two to sort out. The day after I felt so sorry for them not getting out to forage and grub that I let them out and put Rusty and Lily in with them to deter Foxy. That worked. Foxy was not going to go into an enclosure with two great pigs in it. Had he done so I am certain that the pigs would have not paid him a bit of attention. I've mentioned before that pigs are rough and they managed to dislodge part of the chicken shed. It was the part that provided an escape route under the house. Two hens disappeared. We heard or saw absolutely nothing. I assume they went into the tangled undergrowth that lies between our place and the derelict, overgrown property next door. Where a fox was waiting. We were down to ten hens.

I had a plan. We would move them back to the old run, the one that no fox had entered for three years. We would do it on the following day after I had returned from some business in Ballymena and after a thorough inspection of the perimeter. Bert was in a hurry to get it done and persuaded me to move them before I left. He said he had sorted out the perimeter himself. With the help of a friend we moved the ten hens to their new home and I headed into town. Three hours later I returned to the news that the fox had got in and killed one of my favourite chickens, a big silvery grey girl.

The remaining nine have been closed in ever since and I feel so sorry for them. Bert is going away next week and there is not enough time to strengthen security. We'll get something sorted when he comes back.

He saw the brute yesterday at the edge of the wood. It gave him a cool stare. The gun was in the house.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Ten Years Ago Today


Today is the 10th anniversary of my father's death. 

Heading out to a wedding

Apart from their wedding photographs there appear to be very few pictures of my parents in their younger days. I wondered why that should be. Perhaps it was because they were in charge of the camera and any photographs taken would be of us. I'm sure I can remember Daddy not being keen on having his photograph taken and would only submit on special occasions such as weddings. There were lots of weddings. Between them our parents had more than fifty nieces and nephews.

Of course when we grew up we were always taking photographs of them. As you can see Daddy found it hard to take it seriously. He was probably saying something like, "What are you taking pictures for you fool idiot!" As time went on he learned to accept his children's desire to document his existence.

 I wanted to take this picture in the garden. By then Seamus wasn't that mobile but he was prepared to oblige. Times had changed.

This picture was taken on the day of my sister Deirdre's wedding. It was a year or so after Daddy's stroke. He wasn't able to walk my sister up the aisle so Matty did the honours. It is almost painful to look at these images, to see how failed he had become. But there is joy in it too because of the love that they still had for each other.

Eleven months later I went to visit Matty. We had planned a jaunt to Magherafelt and a visit to Daddy in his care home. She visited him five to six times a week. Every chance she got. We got in the car and I said,

Magherafelt first or Daddy first?

She said,

Magherafelt first.

We spent an hour in Magherafelt and then back to Randalstown to visit with Daddy.

I remember I used to fuss over him a lot when we visited. But on this occasion I just kissed him hello then sat back on a sofa while Mammy sat close to him. I spent some of my time in idle conversation with another resident. But mostly I just watched them. Daddy seemed more responsive than usual. She was talking quietly to him, he was listening intently. They were touching each other on the arms and hands. After about thirty minutes she said we would go. I went over, kissed him, said, "See you soon." She said her goodbyes too. In the car, on the way home I said,

That was a lovely visit.

She agreed.

I left her home and went home myself. Got changed into gardening clothes and then the phone rang. It was the care home.

I got to see Daddy sooner than I expected and for the last time.

There are a lot of people who believe in angels. I'm not one of them. Except for this day ten years ago. It must have been an angel who guided me to that sofa, six feet away from my mother and father as they spent a part of their very last day together loving each other.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Murder in the Chicken Run

When a rooster flies at you and puts his spurs into your leg, you notice it. This fellow was a big heavy lad and he ruled the roost. I'm going to miss hearing him crow tomorrow morning.

Yep! Foxy got into the hen run this evening, killed my beautiful rooster and one of the new chickens. He (or she)  dug a way under the fence from the garden of the derelict house next door. He'd already killed the big fellow and was making off with the hen. Bert gave chase and Foxy was unable to get his prize under the fence. So he didn't get his dinner. Bert had to pull the poor hen's neck as she wasn't completely dead.

I miss my lost roosters more than my hens. They may not lay eggs but they have bigger characters. I need to get another one and I need to make sure the damnable fox doesn't find it so easy to get into the run. Bert went out with the gun but saw no sign of it. I'm in two minds about killing them because I'd be thinking of hungry cubs. And Evie wouldn't be pleased. She's in the fox camp.

And from Hannah's perspective - this.

Photo by ZMB