Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Horticultural Tale

Many years ago when I lived in town I had these very unexpected visitors. Mick, my first husband, was at work and myself and the girls were all at home. I was washing dishes and noticed a parked car with at least four adult occupants. It seemed out of place at nine o'clock in the morning but I never thought it would have anything to do with me. Then the door knocked and there on the doorstep they all stood, the occupants of the car, and the tall bearded one was brandishing a piece of paper which he said was a warrant to search my house for drugs. He might have announced it differently but that is how I remember it. They were one woman, three men and a golden labrador. The woman sort of herded the children and I into the living room while the men and the dog set to searching the house. Katy, who was about six, was very excited about the dog and wanted to know if we could keep it. I was worried. About a year previously I'd held a party in the house and someone had cannabis and I fretted that there might be a fleck of it left behind for at that time people were being charged and taken to court for very small amounts of hash.

The police officer who was 'guarding' us attempted light conversation. She noticed some unfinished patchwork I'd been working on and talked about that. Apparently she had an interest in needlecraft too. I couldn't really engage with her for worrying about the untidiness of the home that they were rampaging through. At last the bearded one appeared. He asked me to come into the kitchen. My heart sank. Had they found cigarette papers, a grain of dope? No. I walked into my kitchen to find one of the officers holding a house plant. Beardy said,

Can you tell me what this is?

I was amazed and relieved and answered,

It's a plant my friend bought me for my birthday. She got it in a florist shop in Wellington Street. You're joking. You can't really think that it's a cannabis plant?

He wasn't joking.

We're taking it with us for investigation.

I got cheeky.

Well, I'll be wanting it back and you'd better water it!

They left.

A week later I'd heard no word so I went to the phone box at the bottom of the estate and phoned the police station and got through to the switchboard.

Hello. This is Nelly Moser. I'd like to speak to Sergeant Willis please.
I'm afraid he's not in his office today. 
I'd like to leave a message for him.
Ask him if he has completed his investigations regarding my house plant I'd like it returned please.

The switchboard woman tittered and said,

I'll make sure he gets the message.

A couple of days later the door knocked and there standing on the doorstep was one of my unexpected visitors from that morning, the youngest of them, given the shit job of returning my birthday present. I took it from him and noticed it was light.

This plant hasn't been watered since you took it. It's bone dry.
We watered it every day!
I don't believe you.

A couple of months later my sister and I were at a friend's gig in the  Smithfield Bar and I noticed Beardy Willis and his drug squad chums sitting at the back. I quietly pointed them out to her,

That's the crowd that took my house plant.

They left soon after and the landlady set two drinks in front of us.

What's this?
That's from Sergeant Willis.

And that was that. My dizygotheca elegantissima lived on for a few years but eventually died and was never replaced. It never got to be as big as the one in Belfast's Botanic Gardens.

Dizygotheca elegantissima or False Aralia

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Distant Donkeys

A person could nearly be happy if it wasn't for the relentless brutality of the reported news. Today Bert and I travelled to Loughgall to pick up clematis liners in one location, compost in another. There were friendly people,  friendly dogs, and slightly distant donkeys - Armagh and Tyrone are pleasant places. The orchards in Armagh are laden with apples but apparently it's not good news for farmers. More work for the growers with lower prices and the Irish cider companies have quotas. This is how market forces work in the 21st century, the better things are the worse they are.

In Springhill there is a glut of raspberries and blackcurrants and, hopefully, of peaches. This is a good thing. Nelly fills the freezer, all the visitors get free fruit and the birds, insects and pigs eat the leftovers. No money involved. When I'm picking currants one hen, the smart hen, follows me around eating the fruit that I drop. She's not actually that smart because she hasn't figured out she can pick the fruit straight off the branches. Those blackbirds could teach her a thing or two.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


So many weeds to pull and so much fruit to pick. I say to Bert,

The days aren't long enough,

And he says,

You can see them getting shorter too! Winter is coming!

Damn you Bert, I may have anxiety but you are a pessimist. Yet it may be that I have nurtured my own optimism as an antidote to my anxiety.

In the right (wrong) frame of mind I can turn any pleasant thought to a negative.

My word, the raspberries are doing fine this year,

To be followed by,

I wonder how many years I have left in which to enjoy raspberries.

Short lived delights like laburnum bring sad thoughts too. It is glorious in the few weeks when it blooms, so loud with busy pollinating insects. Evie calls it the corn tree because, to her, the drooping acid yellow blossom look like corn cobs. Every year the laburnum's glory is tinged with sadness as I remember that my time to enjoy it grows less and less.

Perhaps it is me who is the pessimist.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Off To Norfolk

I'm off to Norfolk tomorrow to see Katy and family. Sweet Baby James will be one year old this weekend and soon I will have to desist from calling him Sweet Baby.

 Today was a good day, I spent most of it planting vegetables and picking and freezing fruit, pounds and pounds of fruit, mostly white currants and raspberries. I still need to complete my packing.

The best thing about today though was the news about Theresa Villiers. Good bye and good riddance to the toffee-nosed witch. Northern Ireland has hardly had a worse Secretary of State and there have been some duds over the years. Hopefully this Previously Unheard Of (they usually are) will be a tad more useful than Helmet Head Villiers.

Anyways - back to the packing. I'll freeze the blackcurrants in the morning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ten Dogs At A Party

We had some friends around for a barbie yesterday and for the first time ever there were more dogs present than humans. Sadly, some of the dogs were not well-behaved.

There were our own three dogs,

Judy - she found it all rather difficult for she is not really a dog person. She much prefers people. Luckily Rod came round later and he is one of her most favourite friends. Luckily he is a dog person and was not too fazed to be greeted by nine dogs leaping on him as he came through the door.

Jess - like Judy she found it all a bit too much. Her sister Dora was there and her brother Rex. She likes Dora and always shows her where the best shit for rolling in is. Rex - she can take or leave him. Her best bit was when Rod came. He understands the shit thing and is not too precious about it, Rod and Marty retreated to the kitchen to play music and Jess lay faithfully at their feet. She is a huge Rod McAuley fan. In fact her other name is actually Sprollie McAuley.

Roy - Roy loves a bit of doggy company. He feels he is the old gentleman of the house and enjoys the odd row with the other boy dogs. He always wins.

There were the Reed dogs.

Frank - Frank is old and deaf and very bolshie. He also likes a row with the other boy dogs and always wins.

Dora - she is very sweet and loves to roll in shit. her favourite is fox, second favourite pig but when these are not available she makes do with cow.

There were the Kenny dogs.

Rocky and Dougie. - Good dogs, Jack Russell Terriers. Bothered no-one.

Dora - also a Jack Russell Terrier, Very small and sweet, wants to be cuddled and loved all the time. Actually quite needy. You'd think butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Until she got into the hen run. OMG! Swisser and I were gathering white currants and suddenly there she was, crept under the wire, through the tiniest gap and within seconds had one of the brown hens in her tiny little jaws. I went after her and she has down in a giant nettle patch. I tried to prise her jaws open but it was impossible, they were locked. Poor hen is squawking in pain and fear then Swisser gives the dog a good thump and it released. I caught the wee brute and got it out of the run. The hen disappeared. Carried it into the house and dumped it, quite unperturbed despite choking on feathers.

There was Swisser's dog - Rex. An absolute sweetheart, one of the sprollies, brother of Dora and Jess. Bit of a mummy's boy, not allowed to roll in shit. He was bullied by the old fellows, Roy and Frank but held his own.

Ziggy - Hannah's dog. Most well-behaved dog at the shindig. For a change.

And what of the hen? It wasn't easy finding her for it's a very nettly chicken run and full of fruit bushes. But we did. She hadn't a tail feather to her name, bruised but not bloodied. She has been moved in with the banties and their babies and seems content enough. Her poor sore bum is purple from that antiseptic spray. She keeps looking at it, perhaps wondering where all her lovely feathers have gone. The rooster is down to only three wives.

And what of the humans? They ate, they drank. they talked nonsense. Some of them argued, some of them went home early, some stayed up very late, some played music, some sang. Some banged on about politics and Brexit and Bonfires. Then they told me to give it a rest.

Until next year.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Day Trip To Portrush

Last year Hannah and I took Martha and Evie to Portrush to go on 'everything' at Barry's and Kiddieland. We had a great time so we did it again this year, except sadly, Hannah couldn't make it so Ben came in her place. I don't know if  a 17-year-olds can be a mensch but if he is too young right now, he's certainly on his way. He didn't mind carrying their pink coats, only flinched a little when I asked him to hold my Cath Kidston bag when I had to rummage through my backpack looking for even more cash to turn into amusement park tokens.

On the train

We took a few photographs while we were there. The best ones were of the more sedate rides as the hectic ones were all too fast for my limited photographic abilities.

Worst ride was the Ghost Train. Not even a tad scarier than it was when I were a girl and eight tokens for us all to go on. Martha referred to it as 'getting it over with'. Next year, if we are spared we're giving the Ghost Train a miss and having an extra ride on what Bert calls the 'hobby horses'.

It all fair took my mind off Brexit and the Chilcot report. Sometimes we have to forget about the grim stuff and just have some fun.