Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Day After St Stephen's Day

Apart from posting a few pictures on Flickr, I did not spend much time on social media sites over the holiday period. Reason being, I went to Instagram on Christmas morning to see if there were pictures of my grandchildren opening their presents. There were not but what was there in abundance were pictures of other peoples cosy, firelit, candle-glowing evergreen and berried interiors which threw me into a mild depression as I didn't even try the fairy lights until Christmas Eve and they didn't work so no tree! I missed it very much. So instead I continued with the uploading of archived photographs to Flickr. it was Cullybackey's turn and this was the picture I chose to show the world on Christmas morning.

An interior of a disused factory just outside the village. It could hardly be less hygge although Hannah did point out that the patch of mould in the far corner could definitely pass for a Christmas tree. Next year I'm buying new fairy lights and there will definitely be a tree!

So Christmas Day passed in a blur of cooking, eating and drinking. We watched one thing on television and it was a parcel of shite despite having Christmas trees galore, right way up, suspended from the ceiling, sideways etc. It's perfectly OK going mad on the festive greenery when there is an army of liveried servants to do one's bidding. That's right - I'm ashamed to admit we watched Victoria where Royal children went out in the snow with no hats when everyone knows that one wet flake would kill a child stone dead from consumption or a chill in Victorian times. In my defence, I will say that I kept dropping off to sleep during the turgid dreariness.

St Stephen's Day was much more relaxing but that's for another time. Except that my daughter very wisely pointed out that I might have started Christmas Day a little better if  I'd actually got in my vehicle and drove to town to see my actual flesh and blood grandchildren enjoying their presents instead of faffing around on Instagram and Facebook. Good point Zoe.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Day Before Christmas Eve

Pulling into the Tesco carpark at a quarter to nine to buy the sort of things that cannot be found in Cullybackey. Things like almond flakes and mascarpone cheese and gin. I thought I'd be stealing a march on the day but the carpark was almost full to capacity. Inside was just as crammed. There were the usual desperate men looking as if they had been cast in the fiery bowels of hell and were being pitchforked by devil's imps. There were people who hadn't seen each other since last Christmas and were wishing each other season's cheer as they caught up with the gossip in the aisles. And there were people like me, organised people clutching long lists. There weren't many of us but we noticed each other. I was so prepared I even bought a copy of Amateur Gardening to amuse myself in the queue for the checkout. There were two free packets of seeds with that so essentially it was free if one didn't take into consideration that I didn't actually need another packet of mixed cornflower seed. The mixed woodland one will be useful especially as it features the sort of campanulas that used to grow in Currels Avenue.

When I got home I was rather pleased with myself. I had smiled at lots of people, had several chats with strangers and had managed not to kill the cat that ran out in front of my van on the Galgorm Road. Hannah was home just before me after completing a shift that began at four a.m. And Bert? Bert was just getting up. He must have heard me put the kettle on.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bert And The Romanian Mustard

Bert demands,

Where’s the chalk?
I want to write something on the board.
OK. Here’s chalk.

He scrawls,


Ever Mistress Critical, I say


He changes the U to an A


Still wrong!

He tells me that, unlike Nelly, he has a 'refined palate'. This means that only the right kind of mustard will do. When He of the Refined Palate opens a tin of  Fray Bentos Corned Beef it must be anointed with the appropriate mustard. Dijon mustard with crushed walnuts will not do. At a pinch, Colman's English in a squeezy bottle might suffice but unfortunately, he did not find that as it lurked behind a jar of raspberry jam. So I must put to the very head of my shopping list the proper mustard to accompany corned beef. Because people with refined palates have very particular needs. People like me when peckish would be quite happy to pick at cold cabbage or stale crusts of bread. People like me will eat any old thing (it's true) but people like him need delicate morsels and the proper condiments.

I point out that when he says refined what he really means is finicky, picky and pernickety. He disagrees.

Nevertheless, I make a point today of buying mustard but because I am gift shopping I cannot bear to enter a supermarket. Instead, I go to my favourite Eastern European shop where I buy fresh vegetables, bread, and mustard. I'm not sure that Mr. Pernickety will find it acceptable but he pronounces it good. 

Later that evening He of the Refined Palate opens a tin of corned beef and cuts a few slices which he smears with Romanian mustard.

I say,

Mmmm! That looks so delicious. I may serve that to our guests at Christmas. Cubes of cold corned beef and a dollop of mustard. Maybe poke it on a stick. I'm sure they will think it a delectable fusion of Argentinian and Romanian cuisine and I can just hear their compliments now. 

As if!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Degrees of Lost and Found

The main theme of tonight's post shall be the mislaying of important things which is a very common occurrence in my day to day life.

But first, it would be remiss of me not to mention Hannah's Graduation. For the past four years, Hannah has been working towards a degree level qualification in counselling and this summer she achieved it.  Incidentally, she also passed her driving test (third attempt) so quite a year for her.

I was delighted when she told me she would be going to her graduation ceremony, especially as she didn't bother for her first degree. These are proud parent moments to be relished. The day went very well despite the presence of a local businessman known to be besties with both The Lord Jesus and Boris Johnson.

So, on to lost things. The first and longest missing was my sewing basket. I've had it for years and years and generally, I always know where it is but I couldn't find it for months. And I kept looking for it but with no success. Then one evening I opened my arms wide and asked the universe to find it for me. There were a couple of false starts and then I went to my wardrobe where I stored all my patchwork bits and pieces, pulled all that out and there was my sewing basket and another little basket I'd forgotten I owned. I was so pleased I decided to start on the Pearlie Vintage Apron project right away. After all, it was more than a year since I'd spent a week or more cutting out the squares. At present, stage one is almost complete. Yay, Universe. You're far more effective than Saint Anthony.

The next lost thing was the van keys and it was absolutely certain that it was Nelly that had misplaced them. The day after Hannah's graduation her wee car wouldn't start so I had to take her to work at a very early hour. Sometime soon after five am. I've got out of the way of these early starts since she's been driving so it has left me feeling rather underslept. This morning I got back to the house just before six am and after divesting myself of the layers of thermals and woollen garments I padded into my private, secret sitting room to see if Trump had started WW3 yet. Then I made coffee and toast and returned to my cosy warm bed. I fell asleep to be rudely awakened by Bert wanting me to collect him from the mechanic after delivering Hannah's car. He left in a hurry as the vet was coming to test the cattle and I started looking around for the van keys. Not in any of the usual leaving down places nor in any pocket or bag, not in the van. Lost! Next thing the vet arrives in the yard. I went out and told her the situation and she offered to drive to the mechanic to collect Bert. How kind. I had to go with her as it was easier than explaining where it was and that turned out rather well except the keys were still lost.

I spent a further half hour looking for them. I asked the universe to give them up but the universe explained to me that the searching process was of great benefit to me and that I would learn lessons from it. I accepted this advice and carried on. I retraced my footsteps, rethunk my thoughts and eventually, the universe directed my gaze to one of my utensil racks. The keys were not there. But I immediately looked at my other utensil rack and there they were hanging from a hook. I have never hung keys on a utensil rack before but I must have done so as I padded towards my PC to check if the world was still intact. In fact, I must have been in some sort of a fugue state which is more than a little worrying considering that I'd just driven to Hannah's work and back. I remembered that Farming Today was about brassicas and that Prayer For The Day was given by a Sikh but when my journey ended I did not remember where I put the van keys.

Well, with these great finding successes behind me I thought I'd try and locate my phone which I hadn't seen for at least a week. Lesson from the Universe? Maybe live in a less cluttered house? I looked in all the usual places. Four times over. I looked under things. The dining room table, the welsh dresser, the bed. I looked in my desk drawers at least three times. And that's where it turned up, snuggled under my passport. Plugged it in to charge and discovered that a world of things has been going on in the family WhatsApp group. Mostly parcels being posted and delivered. I updated my own information on that one.

Which brings me to my last Found which wasn't even found by me nor lost for that matter. It was a bottle of rosehip wine found by Les behind his piano which I must have given him quite a while ago. My records show that I started it in October 2012 and bottled it in November 2013. He thought I'd like it back to see what I thought of it. I've never kept wine that long so I was interested to have the opportunity. Well! It was delicious, ever so slightly fizzy - which means it might have kept fermenting in the bottle - and it was potent. Three small glasses equalled three sheets to the wind. Great stuff. I really should try to leave my wine for longer.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Sociable Weekend

Nellybert have had a particularly sociable weekend and have not let the snow keep us back. Not a bit of it.

On Friday I went for coffee with one of my co-grannies. For thanks to our modern ways (divorce and re-partnering), many of today's children have more than the requisite two of each. Later that evening I met up with two cousins, one from New Zealand and one from Hong Kong and their respective husbands. Also, there was a second-cousin and his wife that I was meeting for the first time. We had an excellent evening of eating, drinking and generally catching up. No photographs were taken by me. 

Maybe I was just a wee bit tired the next day but not too tired to take a walk up the snowy back lane with four dogs and a cat. See photographs.

In the afternoon we were visited by co-grandparents Mick and Linda. No photographs were taken by me.

Today we called on some friends who were trapped in their house by snow. We brought some essential supplies and were given coffee and wine. I took this photograph of their Christmas cactus which is splendid enough to be given a place in the Palm House.

While we were there our friends were called upon by a young, red-headed man who was delivering a tonne of firewood. The young man was unable to drive his van up the steep, slippery and snow-packed driveway. Our friend ( a frail pensioner) had been trying to clear the drive of snow but the young man (still shaking from the great feed of rum he had imbibed on the previous night) took the shovel from him and cleared it in quick time. It was amazing. Now our friends aren't snowed in anymore which is good as they have invited us for supper sometime soon and I'm looking forward to that unless Mrs, who reads this, tells Mr that I called him a frail pensioner. Only joking Rob! Sure you're only two years older than I.

Off home again to cook a plain man's dinner of mince, carrots and onions, boiled spuds and steamed broccoli with apple crumble and custard to follow. We had two plain men coming, one whose wife never boils spuds and another who only knows how to cook potato dauphinoise. Hannah is not a meat eater so I served her a healthy little dish of egg and chips which I believe she enjoyed. The meal was a great success except that Bert has started to crake on about never getting potato dauphinoise. No photographs were taken by anyone.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Reasons Not To Blog #1

When you become obsessed with stitching (hand-stitching) patchwork.

I blame the television series Alias Grace which had a lot of scenes where prisoner Grace sat in the Governer's drawing room talking to a devastatingly handsome young psychiatrist whilst stitching lace petticoats,  fine cambric drawers, patchwork quilts and the like. The thing is, one may be able to recount harsh tales to a mind doctor whilst piecing quilts but one cannot type and sew at the same time.

So that is why I've not been here for a while.

It is going to be what my mother called a crazy quilt and the fabric is mostly sourced from a collection of old aprons that Pearlie owned. Pearlie always wore an apron when she was at home even when she was very old and couldn't do chores. She said she felt cold without an apron which I found odd. For how can a little square of cotton keep a person warm?

Most of the aprons were homemade, fashioned from old dresses and the like. One of them was made from a blue skirt patterned with blowsy pink roses which I'd given her. That skirt I bought from a vintage stall in Portobello Market forty years ago and I wore it to death. Then it became Pearlie's apron and now part of a quilt. Some things just never stop being purposeful.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Scooter Menace

Jazzer and I had our Works Do in Belfast on Saturday. We went to the Ulster Museum, the Palm House, had drinks in The Apartment and lunch in Actons. A very good day out but with one problem. Scooters!

The Palm House in Botanic Gardens is a tranquil place. There is always something wonderful to look at no matter the season. It is frequented by decent, civilised people and I never, ever go to that part of the city without calling in. But on Saturday that tranquility was disturbed by a brat on a scooter. He was around seven or eight and accompanied by a doting grandparent who looked on fondly as the little wretch sped around on his wheels whooping and yelling as he went. How I longed to warm his ears. The grandfather's of course as the child knew no better.

Then as we left the Palm House we were accosted by a six-month-old pup which leapt all over us with its muddy paws. The owner and young son were mortified - well, Dad was - son didn't give a hoot. But that was a different matter as the dog was in a park and was quite within its rights to be enjoying itself. We told the owner we weren't at all bothered, loved dogs, loved their dog and a very pleasant encounter it was.

Our next run-in with the scooter menace was in front of City Hall. A male youth, probably fifteen or so, on a scooter, ploughed into a crowd of us crossing the road and nearly knocked me down. I'm afraid I broke sweet little old lady ranks and called him a fucking idiot. The young hooligan was followed by another riding just as recklessly and I was really hoping for a third so I could knock him over. But there were just the two of them.

So it seems that scooters are a thing. I would have thought that teenagers were too old for them but it seems not. I plan to carry a stout stick the next time I go to Belfast. It would be worth the court appearance.

What we saw in the Ulster Museum

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Day Before Belfast

Tomorrow I am going on a trip to Belast to the Ulster Museum and The Christmas Market. My travelling companion will be Mrs Banjo and we don't intend to do very much Christmas shopping. We have made a pact that if we go into a shop and there are queues we shall walk straight out again.

However, if we enter a public house and it seems rather busy we will summon all our patience and quietly await our turn to be served. Priorities.

Today I have been doing research for a person who is planning to write a book. Or an essay, or something.

I have also been feeling cautiously optimistic about some stories in the news.

And I have been blocking people. First, the very stupid woman who rang my phone three times. I think she might have been drunk and she sounded as if she came from Kent. I've never blocked anyone on my phone before but it was amazingly easy. Then there was the guy who contacted me on Flickr Mail to tell me I was pretty and he hoped we could be friends. That might have been a case of mistaken identity as I'm at H on my Friends & Family/General Family archive and I'm told Hannah is quite pretty. Blocked the guy anyway. Way too forward.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sparking Joy

I've not read the Marie Kondo book but I've heard all about it and these days it's practically the same thing as reading it. For instance, I know that if you're decluttering you should pick up an item and ask yourself this question,

Does this spark joy in my heart?

And if the answer is no, then chuck it, recycle it, give it away or whatever.

I can go one better than this. I ask myself the question before I even buy the damn thing. Consequently, I am coming home with ever lighter bags. A good thing as I am still awaiting my pension.

When I was in my twenties and thirties I was very attracted to vintage items. Old jugs, patchwork quilts, ancient books, and maps - that sort of thing. I still have a lingering affection for such items but not as much as before. A few evenings ago, looking at the bookcases in this room I said to my daughter,

When I was young I would have thought it heaven to have a wall of bookshelves and all those books. 

(There more than a 1000 books on those shelves and that's just in one place. There are hundreds more in other rooms)


And see all those jugs on the top shelf?

(There are twenty-one. There are even more in other rooms and some stored away)

When I had just two that I picked up in the Fair Hill market back when you all were little - those two gave me more pleasure than all the ones I've gathered since. Now I find that they mean very little to me.

 My first jug

And now I find myself looking at things, things that have hung on walls or sat on chests for a decade or more and I wonder why they are still there. Nowadays when I go into shops that sell vintage items I am interested in what I see but it is like being in a museum. I want to look at the item, think about it but I do not want to possess it. Perhaps it is a part of growing older?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Brompton Oratory

The last time I was in London I went with my sister to the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, better known as Brompton Oratory. That was where our Grandfather Ned attended Mass when he lived and worked in London back in the mid-1940s. Granda worked on building sites as a plasterer and the work was long and hard but Sundays were his free day and it must have been a pleasure for him to be part of the Oratory congregation with its fine tradition of choral music. My grandfather loved sacred music and was a longtime member of the choir in his local chapel.

Granda was working in London when he got the word that his sixteen-year-old daughter Peggy was seriously ill with meningitis and not expected to survive. He got the train to Liverpool to catch the Belfast boat but when he got to the docks he discovered that his pocket had been picked and his wallet was gone. There wasn’t enough money for the boat fare and he had no other choice but to return to London. When he got back his workmates had a whip round and gathered enough money for him to make the journey again. Ned arrived back just in time to spend a night at Peggy's bedside before she died.

All these things went through my mind as I looked at the gorgeous beauty of the church. It must have seemed very special to that wee man from Randalstown and perhaps went some way to make up for the loneliness of the migrant worker far removed from home and family. Then the organ music began. I didn’t recognise the piece but it was wonderful, so beautiful that I thought I might cry. My sister was just as moved as I. When it was over we left, almost in a daze, for our actual destination the Victoria and Albert Museum. We’d just called to the Oratory on a whim. I’m so glad we did.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Day Out In Belfast

I wonder if you might guess from which Belfast station I alighted from this morning?

When I had done with all that I walked to a cinema in the Dublin Road to watch No Stone Unturned. It was an afternoon showing so the audience was small. All, apart from one young man, were middle-aged or older and afterward, it was noticeable just how affected everyone was as they left.

There was an hour to spare after that and I just walked. Walked and walked and walked. That may even have been the best part of the day.

Monday, November 13, 2017

All The Flowers I've Never Grown. The Himalayan Blue Poppy

Meconopsis betonicifolia

The beautiful Himalayan Blue Poppy is a plant I have long yearned for. Yet it's not entirely true that I never grew one as just once I started them from seed - Thompson and Morgan seed. They are famously tricky to germinate and I only managed three pathetic specimens. The best of them grew to eight inches tall and produced one flower after which it wilted and died. The other two expired without flowering. I'm not sure what went wrong but I never tried again.

I had convinced myself that they just wouldn't thrive in the soggy Irish climate until this one time I passed a shady garden on the Hillmount Road near Cullybackey carpeted with beautiful blue poppies. I never saw them again. Occasionally I see the Blue Poppy at garden shows but they are always expensive and I'm loth to part with my hard cash as one plant would not be enough. Six would still be niggardly. There would need to be, at the very least, a dozen to make a half decent show and that wouldn't leave much change out of a hundred quid. And then they'd probably die after one season.

Maybe I should try again. After all, it's been more than twenty years since that first bitter disappointment. Since then more than two decades years of growing experience gained and nothing to lose but the price of a packet of seeds. Keep you posted!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Just Like A Pig

Could Bert be trying to tell me something? The other morning he told me this really cute story about the pigs…

Y’know, every morning since the apple harvest I’ve been giving Rusty and Lily a big Bramley after I take them out to the field. They get it just after I shut the gate and Lily always takes her apple to a special place beside the hedge and Rusty, well he just stands there and wolfs it down wherever he’s standing. This morning I got distracted before I shut the gate and the pair of them must have turned back to see what was going on. Well, they found the apple barrels and Lily, she lifted one and took it to her special place and was eating it as dainty as you like. Meanwhile, Rusty was snout-deep in the apples munching away without a care in the world.

They have such different personalities.
Yeah. They do. Tell me this – which of the pigs would be most like you, Lily or Rusty?
Lily, of course. She’s a girl, I’m a girl.

OK. Lily’s most like me because she’s a lovely pig and Rusty is like you because he’s a rough, scruffy brute.
No. Not that!
OK. I get it! You think Lily’s like you because she’s such a dainty eater and Rusty’s like me because he’s a greedy pig.
Yes, that’s what I was thinking.

 A dainty eater

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

When I'm Sixty-Four And A Half

I've been thinking about this Senior Citizen thing coming up next March and it seems I should be making some lifestyle changes.

I say to Bert,

When I'm an Old Age Pensioner I am going to have ROUTINES. For instance, I'll always go shopping on one particular day. And I'll start liking Marie biscuits.
Oh yes?
And I'll have a regular shampoo and set and wear lilac cardigans and suede sandals from Hotter.
I'll watch the soaps, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.
You should.
I'll start going to church.
Oh yes. And Daniel O'Donnell will be my new favourite singer and I may even learn to perform a gentle jive.
You're on your own with that one.
I'm taking up crochet. I'll make crocheted blankets for my even older friends.
Good idea.

Later on, as we breakfast on boiled eggs and toasted wheaten bread I say,

Another thing. When I'm an OAP I shall eat like a bird. Old people do that.
What do you mean, what? How come you were able to accept all the other stuff I might do and not that I could become a light eater?
Well. I could see you having a regular shampoo and set and starting to crochet but I can't imagine you ever losing your appetite.

Cheeky bugger.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Looking Forward

In around four months time I will be, at last, in receipt of my State Pension. I'm rather looking forward to it. It's not a fortune but it will bring me a bit more financial independence. I won't be getting the full amount as there are some gaps in my National Insurance record. But not to worry, for if I buy credits amounting to around £1,800 I can increase my pension by £1.13 per week. which means that by the time I reach my 95th birthday I'll have broken even on the investment. Yay!!

Not going to do that.

While I was doing these calculations I also worked out how much I lost out on because the government raised the pension age. Almost all my life I expected to retire at 60. If everything had stayed as it was I'd have pocketed around £35,000 by now. But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining as I'd probably have spent it foolishly anyway.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Seasonal Bleatings


The first day of November and autumn must soon be over. Then it's winter - but that is good because it brings spring closer. But first, there is Christmas to be contended with.

Hannah and I were discussing that today and it turns out we'd both like to ignore Christmas but that won't be possible. At least, not for me. I don't want to that curmudgeonly grandparent that won't do Christmas. There are things about the festive season that are unavoidable. We are working on a strategy though.

First thing - there will be no gift opening ceremony. No more will everyone have to assemble and unwrap presents together. This Christmas we'll open our parcels whenever we feel like it. I might open mine one at a time every few hours. That way I'll be sure to remember who gifted me what. Bert will probably open his on Boxing Day.

Next rule - we'll drink alcohol at breakfast time. Champers instead of coffee and Bailey's Irish Cream on the porridge.

All the year round - who can be bothered with decorating trees but the children like it. Why not keep a bush in the corner at all times? We could ring the changes, something with catkins in spring (Corylus contorta), flowerful in summer, autumn foliage then an evergreen. Festoon with fairy lights and festive season all year long. Job done.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Last Night of October

They walk among us. But you'd never know it. Unless...

Unless their lack of enthusiasm for the Hallowe'en Festival should give them away. No hollowed out pumpkins on their doorstep, no costumes, no nuts or apple-bobbing. No evil witches. No parties. No candy at the door for trick-or-treaters. Of course, I'm talking about evangelical Christians.

Mind you, I don't know what I'd do if a trick-or-treater ventured up this lane. There are two small Bounty bars in a drawer that I'm trying very hard to save for Bert seeing as I've finished the Häagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Failing that I might be able to run to half a dozen free-range eggs or perhaps a bottle of blackcurrant wine that is far too sweet for my taste.

Not a witch but might consort with one.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Wrens and Stuff

Sometimes, when I don't blog it's because there is far too much going on and I don't know where to start. Right now I'm perturbed by racist attitudes that some people believe are acceptable now. That kept me awake last night. Thank you, Brexit and Trumpism.

Then there is this the book I'm currently reading, Profound Simplicity by Will Schott. It's from the olden days (1979) but still very thought-provoking. I'm applying some of its principles to my everyday life. So far I'm doing in several areas - less hole-scratching, more positivity and a huge reduction in feelings of guilt. Take that Catholic upbringing!

The other thing is the wrens. The sweet, brown, sneaky wrens that live in the polytunnels. Impossible to photograph so I just watch them. They delight me. Here's someone else's picture.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Retro Blogging

Whilst messing around with the design feature on Blogger I have accidentally reverted to something referred to as 'classic'. I was warned that some design features might be lost, instead, I find that my Flickr links have come back. So I'll stick with it for a while as it reminds me of my youth. The following paragraphs were first posted in 2004.  So was the picture which has no connection with the post.

Drumkeeran Road

The Toome Incident

Yesterday I was driving through Toome village at between 15-18mph. I was intending to turn left into a supermarket car park. Ahead I spotted three young boys aged about six to seven looking as if they might run out in front of the car. My mother cried, “watch!” just as I started to brake and two of them darted out. Then the third that had hesitated took off. My feet went to the floor and I actually closed my eyes (a first while driving), as I did not want to see his little body hit by the car. He made it and Mother who had kept her eyes open said the car stopped with an inch to spare.

Then I was angry. I wanted to turn the car and give chase to the little bastards and have a word with them. Sensibly Mum advised me against this. We stopped in the car park outside the supermarket where I started to shake and cry. If I had been travelling just the smallest bit faster I would have hit that child.

So if in the future, anyone spots a white Astra driving through Toome like a snail, it will probably be Nelly. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Curly Baps

It has taken me a little while to get back in the swing of things since my sojourn in England and London. I learned while I was away, that the capital and the country are actually different places* or, at least, so says LS who declared to me that she could 'never live in England' despite having lived in London ever since she graduated. Myself, I couldn't live in London but I very much love to visit it.

But first, there was Norfolk where I stayed with my daughter Katkin and her family. Master James was a delight, utterly obsessed with trains and other modes of transport but mainly trains. Unfortunately, he wasn't entirely well when I was with him - treated us all to a spot of projectile vomiting, a skill he has inherited from his mother. If it were an Olympic sport she could have been a gold medallist. Thankfully, she grew out of it and so will James.

And, like his mama, he has lovely curly hair. Apparently, it had been due for a trim but his parents decided to postpone it so I could enjoy his curls. I was reminded of my old friend Sheena who doted on children with curly hair and would often snip a keepsake lock with or without parental consent. It seemed a harmless hobby back then. No doubt, these days,  she'd have been prosecuted. Sheena would have adored our James.

Katy and James at Brancaster

*This might explain the Brexit vote in London where 59.9% voted to remain. Very much at odds with England as a whole.

Monday, October 09, 2017

The Night Before Norfolk

Well, here we are - the night before I leave for deepest Norfolk. I didn't plant the daffodil bulbs or rack the wine. I think it's safe to assume that both of these tasks can be postponed for ten days or so.

I did plant the garlic though it wasn't a straightforward task. You see there is this little white hen who can escape her enclosure even though the surrounds are more than eight foot high. I think she flies onto the branch of a tree and from there launches herself over the fence. From then on she does fun things like root through the compost heap, lay eggs in secret, private places, nibble Nelly's chard and uproot her leeks.

Evie finds the secret nest (photo by Zoe)

So I planted about half the garlic and went back to the house for more cloves and a wee coffee. And when I got back there was the little white hen who had unplanted it. So a job that should have taken an hour took nearer two for then I had to build an intricate cage around the bed to prevent further incursions. The little white hen tried to blame the damage on the polytunnel robin but I knew that was a lie. Little robins couldn't do that much mischief in so short a time.

Today I started packing and when I got bored with that the girls and I went out to pick damsons. I thought they were over but the Wee came round (just back from four weeks in Vietnam) and informed us that he'd spent the morning making damson jam. Of course, I'll not be making jam as wine is far nicer. We got about six pounds from the tree. Enough for twelve bottles of wine.

Martha picking damsons

From tomorrow I'll be away from the keyboard. I haven't decided if I'm going to take my iPad. Maybe not. A week away from the internet might be good.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Garlic and Sourdough

There is a trip planned for next week and I have an awful lot to do before I leave.

  • Plant garlic.
  • Rack wine.
  • Plant daffodils.
  • Turn up new black trousers.
  • Buy toiletries.
  • Organise spending money.
  • Buy presents.
  • Wrap presents.
  • Sort clothes for packing.

Today I made a list - not the one above. And collected my big suitcase from the attic. I put my long list on top of it and smiled a satisfied smile. That'll do. For today.

I also had this conversation with Bert.

I'll be wanting you to keep my sourdough mother alive when I'm away.
What! Can't you get Hannah to do that?
It's not hard.
I'll never remember.
I'll also be expecting you to put the recycling out on Wednesday night.
But if you don't do that it's not the end of the world. However, that sourdough has been going for seven months now. I'd hate it to die just because no-one was able to give it a spoonful of flour, a dribble of water and a wee stir.
Can't you take it with you? If I forget you'll yell at me and if Hannah's responsible for it you won't yell at her.
This is true. But Hannah's got enough on her plate. I'll get Les to remind you.

Last year's garlic

I'm definitely not taking that sourdough mother with me. Imagine trying to explain that to airport security.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Bonnie's Stuff

Bonnie, March 2009

Bonnie came to us as a neglected and unloved dog who had lived her life on the end of a chain. Her collar, a stiff, cracked old thing, had chafed all the fur from underneath her chin. She was matted and smelly and very timid. The first thing we did when we knew we would be keeping her was to give her a bath. Afterwards, I wrapped her in old towels and covered her with a woolen blanket. She seemed baffled by the attention but not unhappy. As soon as I could I bought her a new collar, soft leather, and bright red. She seemed pleased with it and wore it the entire time she was with us. I kept it for a long time after she died but eventually disposed of it.

That was her first possession. She never 'got' balls. Her thing was squeaky toys. She loved them even after she had carefully detached squeaker and eyes. I kept her stuff in a straw basket and every night she'd take them all out item by item. And the first thing out of the basket was always the plastic Santa Claus. Bonnie really did like her stuff.

Bonnie, in January 2012. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Last Day of September

This is the last day of my September Every Day Blogging Marathon and I'm feeling slightly jaded. Seeking inspiration, I checked the archives to see what Nelly posted on this day ten years ago.  It happened to be about Banjo Man. And included a very good picture taken by Zoe, a ridiculous video clip and a frothy piece about how much I loved Marty.

And as it happened, Nellybert had the Banjos around last night for a quiet and pleasant evening of music and story-telling with a side-order of boking. These days Marty plays guitar when he's not gigging and he is becoming rather good at it. I was sitting there with old Frank on my lap and I was absent-mindedly stroking his long bat ears and I had this thought. Young dogs and puppy dogs are much loved by everyone. Puppies just want any warm friendly body to lie against and then they are content. But old dogs, old dogs that are not one's own old dog are a different matter. When they choose to lie on a lap and have their ears stroked and then fall asleep then that is a great privilege, one that should be acknowledged and appreciated for old dogs are discerning.

Friday, September 29, 2017

29th September

Bert says,

If there's one thing that will gladden a countrywoman's heart it's a big pile of brand new buckets.

He may well be right about that. By the way, thanks, Richard. I love my new buckets.

Bert also said,

Why are you photographing the buckets on their own? Shouldn't you be in the picture too so people can see what a big stack of buckets there actually are?

O.K. You take the picture.

And he did and it was a terrible picture. He footered around with the camera settings and made my trousers too baggy and my feet too long. But not to worry for I found some sort of rudimentary editing application that went some way to remedy these problems.

It's a big improvement. But I might have to have a word with Richard about the buckets. They seem to have warped.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

28th September

My youngest granddaughter was on her own today as her big sister was engaged in after-school activities. We ran errands, did homework, watched Paw Patrol (dreadful show) which she loves it so much she bought Paw Patrol underpants with her own money. After her allotted telly time was up we collected seed, gathered eggs and changed a bed. She is very good at pillowcases. She told me that she likes doing grown-up things. 

I'm looking forward to tomorrow as I'm going to Belfast with Mrs. Banjo a.k.a. Jazzer. Our plans include a really good lunch, some browsing around the shops and a few little drinks. But I will set my alarm in order to prepare for the trip because, since Hannah started driving herself to work, I've been missing my early starts. In fact, I am in danger of becoming as tardy a slugabed as my husband. And that would never do.

Now I must go add sugar and yeast to my grape wine, or as vintners prefer to call it, just plain wine. An early night is called for as I have lots to do in the morning.

And now - a random picture. It's my most-favorited on Flickr.

Macy in Drumkeeran Moss

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

27th September

I posted this picture from last weekend to Flickr and my sister, the girls Great-Aunt Jean commented,

I can see the influence of Honey magazine circa 1972!

I could see exactly what she meant.

Martha wears jersey cotton nightie, Ballerina by Cath Kidston. Unicorn wellies from Sainsburys. Evie wears jersey cotton nightie, Spray of Flowers by Cath Kidston. Wellies, model's own.

Photographs by Granny. Shot on location at Murlough Bay, County Antrim.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

26th September

Peter landed in yesterday with a huge bucket of grapes from his granny's greenhouse. Haven't weighed them but there must be at least 8 pounds. So checking recipes for grape wine which is, actually, just wine and I've got enough and the method for mashing given in the first recipe I read is treading with the bare feet. So, if this stuff turns out to be drinkable it will be all for me for I'm sure no one is going to want to drink wine that has been trampled by my tootsies. Unless perhaps Jazzer who is game for anything and also likes wine.

Monday, September 25, 2017

25th September

Three months until Christmas *shiver*.

Anyway, it's not here yet and the last 64 haven't been that hideous, except maybe for a couple. But, that's another story.

We got back from our little camping break in Murlough Bay yesterday but we did not return home in the vehicle we left in. Instead, we returned in the car of  Martha and Evie's Great Uncle Joe. And a great uncle he certainly is - a great brother too for rescuing us from Ballycastle. Joe is a mechanic and came all prepared to fix the van or tow it home, not realising that it wasn't our regular van. Had it been a London bus he might well have sorted it but not a vintage camper with automatic transmission. Not his area of expertise. Nevertheless, it was great to be rescued even if we had to leave the camper in a garage forecourt. And speaking of garage forecourts, many thanks to Mr Sheskburn* who was kind enough to tell us not to worry and that we could pick up the van whenever it suited us.

That turned out to be today. Our regular mechanic and friend arranged a tow for us (Mate's Rates) and Bert went down to meet the guy in Ballycastle. Of course, the damned thing started at the first turn of the key. This was after he'd paid him too. Sensibly, Bert decided to let it be towed anyway as it was perfectly likely that it might have died again two miles up the road.

Hopefully, Ernie will get her back on the road before winter sets in and we'll get another wee jaunt in her before Christmas. Ugh! That's just where I came in. Still, I'm an optimist. I'll look forward to Boxing Day, my favourite holiday of the year - the one where it's a whole 364 days to Christmas.

Picture totally nothing to do with the post unless I hark back to the doggy stories I told Bert and the girls on Saturday night. Bert reckoned Judy is eight and Jess seven. Nelly's Garden says no.

Judy turned seven this summer.

 Judy, August 2010

Jess will be five in November.

Jess, December 2012

*Mr Sheskburn - I actually called him that to his face. He said, 

No. It's McNeill.

It was only later on that evening that I realised that Sheskburn was the name of the river that runs through Ballycastle.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

24th September

Camping at Murlough Bay was wonderful. Before we went we had supper from Morton's Fish and Chip shop. As always, it was a long wait so while Bert queued Martha, Evie and Granny went to the nearby playground. This was followed by a visit to Morelli's for four ice cream cones. Yummy. Then time to go to our camping site before it got too dark.

While I sorted out the sleeping arrangements Bert and the girls took a walk.

Evie only needed carrying for a few moments. Far more fun to be had on the ground.

They were away for ages and by the time they got back it was time for teeth brushing and on with the Cath Kidston nighties. The young misses are posh campers. Storytime next. I had to tell a lot of stories from real life. Most of them were about dogs. Bert wasn't a lot of help. Occasionally he'd fill in a missing detail. He mostly listened and I've been told he enjoyed my tales as much as the girls. Eventually, they began to drift off which was just as well as, not only was I getting hoarse, I was also running out of suitable stories. I'd foolishly remarked to Bert that the only story I hadn't told them was the one about the nights he'd spent in the cave in Marseilles and that they'd need to be at least twelve before they heard that one - whereupon Evie started to howl, crying that she wanted to hear the story about the cave in Marseilles. So, the absolute last story of the night was That Time Bert Slept In The Cave Near Marseilles.

Of course, I completely removed the part about the paranormal attack and replaced it with a sort of Princess and the Pea treatment involving buried treasure and it went down a treat. They can hear the scary version when they're older. Of course, knowing Evie she'll be sceptical. This morning, she was telling me the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and she was scathing about 'talking animals'. I think she meant the snake.

The camper van was a little cramped for four but it was lovely to watch the dawn break over the sea. We weren't paying that much attention to time but it might have been after nine o'clock that we set off for the beach while Bert snatched some extra sleepy-time.

The girls on the Game of Thrones trail still wearing their Cath Kidston nightdresses. Murlough Bay was used as a filming location for at least three episodes of the show.

After that walk, we returned to the van and the girls had a second helping of cereal, some thorough teeth brushing and a perfunctory wash before dressing for the second walk of the day. This time they took Bert to visit the bothy where the evil witch lived, the cave with her captured and chained baby dragon and the twelve, very vicious flying monkeys. I enjoyed a coffee and a read of my book and after about an hour I wondered what was keeping them. I went out to see. And met them coming back.

They'd found another beach, a secret one beyond the little cottage and would I like to see it? I would. Bert was exhausted so he went back to the van. The witch was dead, vanquished by a magic spell involving a red bucket and some magic stones so we didn't have to tiptoe going past the bothy. The flying monkeys were back in the zoo, and the baby dragon had been freed.

And the secret beach was delightful.

We played on it for ages.

That land mass on the horizon is The Mull of Kintyre.

The girls are very good at climbing mountains.

Building a stone house for a woodlouse. Her name was Alice. Alice Wood. Get it?

As we wandered back I was informed that a new witch had moved into the bothy and that the flying monkeys were back. When this witch goes to the Spar for her groceries her broomstick is parked in the air above the shop so as not to arouse suspicion. When we passed her home Martha peeked in and said she was eating her dinner. What was she having? Two roast children (Martha said) with an accompaniment of slugs and boiled grass (Evie said). 

The way out of Murlough Bay is very steep and winding and I said a prayer that the old van would make it and my prayer was answered. Perhaps I should have looked a bit further ahead as she broke down on us as we came into Ballycastle. But that's another story.


There was a happy ending.