Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas in Norfolk

Nellybert and Judy have been in deepest, darkest Norfolk for four days now. It was a tremendous palaver organising care for two dogs, two cats, seven chickens, two pigs and a rake of cattle but we appear to have managed it.

The nearest we got to the Queen was listening to her lecture her subjects this afternoon, after lunch but I'm sure she is coping without us.

Baby James had a very enjoyable Christmas, Santa Claus came but now, like lots of others I'm sure, he is tired and worn out after a surfeit of  Turkey and grandparents.

Tomorrow is our last full day here then back to Cully on Sunday.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I Dream of Queenie

It is eight days to my favourite day of the year, the day after Christmas. It is my favourite because it is the longest time until Christmas the next. I got all my shopping done, most parcels delivered, one returned because I omitted to put the house number and it is off again too. I was putting some bits and pieces in a wardrobe today and noticed a box, I pulled it out and there were a number of presents I had bought for various family members that had been forgotten about! Old Timer's syndrome strikes again. Mind you, I bought them in  summer time. Months ago!

We are off to Norfolk on Monday and have a schedule of animal and house sitters arranged. No more the days when we threw some clothes in a bag, a mattress in the back of the van and just took off. I miss those days. Still, it will be good to see Baby James and his people again.

I saw some pictures in the news today of the Queen and Prince Philip alighting a train at King's Lynn station. The very same tatty old station that I came through when I was travelling to Katy's. She'll only be a few miles away. I wonder if I'll bump into her?

Apparently the Queen features in more British and Irish dreams than any other human being. I've dreamed about her a few times myself, no later than last night. I bumped into her on a tour of one of her houses. She and one of her ladies-in-waiting were polishing some banisters. They were both posh old birds but really friendly and chatty and it turned out the Queen knew everyone I knew and was asking about everyone. It was a really pleasant dream.

I told Bert about it and he said, "Of course she'd know all about you. Aren't you her subject?" That rankled a bit. He said he's never once dreamed about the Queen his entire life. Not very loyal of him, is it?

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Life Cycle of Slugs

It has taken me a long time to be able to tell this story for I really hate slugs. They are more loathsome to me than any other creature. My first very close encounter with the horrible slimy things was on the shores of Lough Neagh. I might have been six or seven and my cousin Patrick the same age when I made the mistake of letting him know that I disliked slugs. The ones around the lough shore were very big and black, the kind that seem to skim through coarse grass. Of course he started picking them up and throwing them at me. Of course he did. He was a boy. I'm sure he enjoyed watching me run and hearing my screams of terror. I don't remember if he got in to trouble for it, probably not. I was just relieved that none of his sluggy missiles got caught in my curly hair. Uggh!

But that's not the story - that's just a bit of background. Here's another story. It didn't happen to me but to my sister. It is the Story of the Slug Dance. My third and fourth sisters lived in London when they were very young and not having lots of money they lived in a rather damp ground floor flat. But they were young and enjoying themselves and where they lived didn't matter much to them. One evening they decided to make themselves a treat. I don't remember what it was, maybe custard. Anyway the third sister was standing at the stove, in bare feet, stirring a saucepan when she felt something tickle her foot. She looked down to see a great big slug slithering over her toes. Spoon flung into the air, custard everywhere - she's doing the Slug Dance and fourth sister killing herself laughing at her. I could never have laughed knowing there was a slug in the house. Houses are supposed to be slug free spaces.

Which was why, a while ago, I was very surprised to see two very small slugs climbing the wet room wall. Sometimes one might find its way into the house on a lettuce or cabbage, but two? Crawling side by side up my white panelled walls like two friends out for an evening slither. I disposed of them and thought no more of it. The next day there was another one. Like the other two it was tiny, a slug in it's infancy. I wondered how they were getting in. The next day brought another two until on day seven I said to Bert,

That's seventeen altogether!

And he says,

You're counting them!

As if this was a strange thing!

 I had finally figured it out. I'd brought a house plant in that had summered outside and placed it on the wet room floor. There must have been slug eggs in it which, in the heat of the house, had hatched out so all my little baby slugs thought it was spring and were off looking for food. They were the kind that eats decayed vegetation. Actually good slugs. If one can say that. Of course I had the plant out by the roots, no eggs left but I flung it out anyway. And that was that. Except a couple of days later slugs eighteen and nineteen turned up. I killed them. Then a week went past. We were a slug free zone. I rejoiced. Then slugs twenty and twenty-one appeared. I flushed them down the toilet. That was three weeks ago. It's over. I think.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tale of the Riverbank

I have been trying to get back into the habit of taking a daily walk and as this place is close to home I've used it quite a bit recently, sometimes with the dogs, sometimes without. It is one of those walks where you are expected to keep dogs on a lead. I don't like those kind of places. Probably about half of the folk who walk dogs there do obey the rule. I'm one of the half who usually doesn't.

It really is a lovely walk, along the riverbank part of the way and there are bluebells in Spring. And  it is truly beautiful in Autumn when the leaves are on the turn. And there are donkeys. But this walk also has its downside. You are in sight and sound of the pig processing plant and sometimes you will hear the pigs screaming when they are being unloaded. That is probably the worst thing. Then the path leads to Galgorm Manor Hotel (very swanky) and the new building that they have erected looks very ugly when seen from the riverbank. The second worst thing (after the screaming pigs) is some of the other people.

For, despite the anguish of the pigs and the horridness of the hotel, the walk is very popular and particularly so with dog walkers. Some of the dog walkers are the type who pick up their dog's shit in little black bags then hang it on the low branches of trees. How can people be so vile? Many of the dog walkers are pleasant people who smile and say hello. Some are not. The last time I went on the walk, a few days ago, I had Judy, no lead on her, bad, bad me. There is one narrow part at the beginning and a thin schoolmasterly, vinegary little man was approaching. He had with him a thin, vinegary, yappy Jack Russell Terrier. As soon as he spotted Judy he gathered up his yap dog, and back tracked. I bored on, ignoring him. As we drew level, he's standing there with his skinny dog in his arms and Judy and I just didn't see him at all. He muttered,

Should be on a lead, Should have it on a lead.

Judy and I pretended not to hear. A bit further down the path we met a lovely young woman with an Rhodesian Ridgeback also off the lead. Judy and the Ridgeback had a bit of fun together. Afterwards I pondered the thin man's words. I suspect he would not even have spoken to me had I been a man for he seemed a timid sort. I'll bring a lead with me next time.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


Today turned out to be a pyjama day. Woke up to the above and rushed outside to take a photograph of it but I had to hurry as it was melting by the moment. It looks nice but it felt horrible. White stuff always improves the look of a tatty winter garden although I could not be bothered to remove the orange thing lying in the middle of it. What is it? It is an orange plastic creel used for gathering spuds from about forty years ago. Why is it lying there? Bert threw it to encourage the dogs into the long wet grass to wash the cow dung from their paws before they came into the house and jumped all over the furniture. Isn't he considerate? I told him, for I'm always nit-picking, that most people throw balls or sticks. I shouldn't be surprised if there are crocuses growing through that thing in the springtime.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Thy Inky Travesties









Tired Mummy

Happy Birthday Katkin, see you soon!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Funky Funk Donkey

I really do hate this time of year. It's dank and gloomy and I have a rotten cold which I caught from Bert and he caught from Evie. Bert's was man-flu but I got the girly version which means I still have to make the dinner.

Thankfully Christmas will soon be over. My heart always lifts after Christmas. My favourite day of the year is Boxing Day because it's 364 whole days to the next one. This year we are going to Norfolk to see baby James and his folks. We are taking the van and, I swear, we could have got flights to New York for the price of it.

Today's achievements? I went out and looked at the polytunnel. I lifted some begonia corms and harvested some kale. Made a chicken pie (frozen pastry) and crispy kale for dinner.

Today's goggle box fix? The last episode of Catastrophe and most recent episode of Fargo. I watch too much TV these days.

Most irritating thing on the news? Donald Trump. As nephew Ryan wrote,

I'm with you Donald, and I also think we should ban the sea until we know more about the rain.

Most heart-warming news item? The donkey that was rescued from the flood.

Happy Donkey Saved From Floodwater Mike is the luckiest donkey in all of Ireland.
Posted by The Huffington Post on Monday, 7 December 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Ah Bruno. He was Bert's very first dog, one he had from a puppy. He came from a neighbour, a collie crossed with something. Who knows? In the days before neutering, responsibility and quiet roads male dogs were always wandering around impregnating bitches all over the place. And as roughly 33% of the dogs in Ireland were Border or Glenwherry collies most of those dogs were collie crosses.

Pearlie named him. She named all the dogs. Bert didn't care for now he had his very own puppy that followed him everywhere. Bruno even followed him to school, the Diamond Primary School, only a stone's throw from his house. The day that Bruno followed Bert to school was also the day the school photographer was there. Back then, the road wasn't as fast or busy as it is now and folk didn't concern themselves if their dogs strayed on the road.

Nowadays we're always taking photographs. Almost everyone has their own camera phone and most people have a digital camera as well. It's a far cry from the time when film and photo processing were expensive. So now our photographs are mainly digital and practically free. Even our pets have hundreds of pictures taken of them. But, as far as anyone knows there is only one photograph of Bruno. The one the school photographer took.

Bruno was about three years old when he was knocked down and killed on the Dreen Road. He went down the steep bank at the top of the lawn and was hit by the breadman. He was killed in exactly the same place where Charlie was to die more than forty years later. Little wonder we have it fenced off now. The Dreen Road is a dangerous place for a wandering dog.

Bruno lived at a time when photographs were precious. Maybe there was no camera in the few years that he lived. But it is rather wonderful that there is one excellent picture, taken by a professional photographer, to remember him by. Every time Bert comes across it he sighs. He loved that dog and the day the breadman came up the lane to tell them that Bruno was dead was one of the saddest of his life.