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.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

23rd September

Apparently, today is the end of the world. I'm trying not to worry too much about it as the day is nearly half over and there seems to be no sign of the hidden planet that is going to zap us into nothingness.

We'll still be going to Murlough Bay with Martha and Evie and I am hopeful that we'll be in time for one last supper out of Mortons in Ballycastle.

If we make it to tomorrow I'll be back in Nelly's Garden. That is all.

Friday, September 22, 2017

22nd September

If this post wasn't called '22nd September' it might well be titled 'Stuck In The Mud' or maybe 'Liar, Liar'.

Back story - the fields are wet, very, very wet. For most of the day, Bert had the pigs in what he calls the back garden. Then he decides they should go out to the fields because tomorrow we're going out in the camper van and they'll not get much of a chance to eat grass. But, this evening they wouldn't come in at supper time. I don't get to hear about this until eight o'clock.

What time did you put them out?
Three o'clock.

I say to Hannah,

Did you see where they were when you went for that walk in the woods?
They were still closed in that yard when we went out.
What time was that?
About half-five.
You didn't put those pigs out until after five. They don't think in terms of time. They'll be out there eating grass until past our bedtime.

Hannah says,

Oops, Bert. Sorry for dropping you in it.

This is Bert being Bert. He thinks short-term. Doesn't think of the bother he'll be giving himself hours or days down the line.

He says,

Sure they'll be alright. They've got access to the cattle shed. They'll come in when they're ready.

This is not likely. On previous occasions when they've been put out to grass very late they eat until they are full then lie down at the back of a hedge, Normally this might be OK but the fields are saturated, it's autumn and Rusty has a history of pneumonia. I'd rather they were in their cosy warm stall no matter what time of the year it is. So I donned wellington boots, took a torch and went out to look for them. Eventually, I found the grass munching stop outs but not until I'd lost my footing, fell over and got clarried in glaar from head to toe. Luckily I'd had a very nice dinner and a glass of wine so found this amusing.

Tomorrow they'll be staying in the so-called back garden where the grass is sparser but I'm leaving word with Hannah that they are to have extra treats at supper time which should make up for it. I don't think she'd enjoy searching for lost pigs and falling into mudholes as much as I would.

I really should have got someone to take a picture of the state of me when I came in from the fields. Anyway, here's one of the pigs.

That red stuff is not blood. It is the remains of mashed blackberries left over from wine-making. It will be slightly alcoholic, something the pigs do not object to.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

21st September

Martha has been hinting for a while now that she wants a pre-loved bicycle to keep at our house. Her 'hints' have, in the past, involved her physically pushing me towards bikes for sale in charity stores and I have resisted, telling her that we'll think about it in in the spring. She has a good bicycle at home but it's not convenient to bring it here. Here, there is a bicycle in the shed which is supposed to be Martha's but she never rides it.

Then there was today. Evie has a pretty pink bike that Martha rides at every opportunity. Today they fought and squabbled over it until I was almost demented.

Why can't you ride your own bicycle?
Because the handlebars are too low.
 Can't Bert adjust them?
He tried but they won't move.
Let me see you riding this bike.

So she gets it out and starts riding. Her knees are practically level with her ears as she pedals. I can see why she prefers Evie's bike.

O.K. I can see that is no good. We'll look at those bikes in Ahoghill.
Can we go now?
It's too late. Charity stores close at four o'clock.
What about Halford's? It will still be open.

(Martha lives a stone's throw from Halford's and is probably very familiar with its opening hours)

Martha! Bikes at Halford's cost over a hundred pounds. You don't have a hundred pounds and neither do I.

She got it. We're going to look at bikes at the mid-term break.

On looking for a picture to accompany this post I found that I have no pictures of the girls on their bikes. This will need to be remedied. Meanwhile here's one of the parents' pictures. It's over two years old and I think she was probably close to outgrowing that bike too.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20th

Off to Toome this morning fror a wee dander up the canal with two young friends. On the way, I passed the Moneyglass Estate where a good bit of location work for Game of Thrones was shot. There was something going on but I couldn't quite make it out. Always important to keep one's eye on the road when one is driving. But that's where the internet comes in handy. When I got home I checked this site out. Seems like Winterfell is going to be an important filming location for GOT Season 8 and perhaps there will be some extra work for this guy.

Which guy? Martha and Evie's dad. He's the good looking one with the beard.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19th

The 19th September - the anniversary of Miss Martha's birth and the sad, sad anniversary of Shirley's death. That photograph was taken more than eleven years ago when Shirley would have been in her very early twenties. If she were alive today she'd be in her mid-thirties, still young.

A while ago whilst searching on-line for Susan McKay, for I'd just read her book, Northern Protestants: an Unsettled People, I came across this article. It's a bit sketchy on Shirley's life in Ballymena but otherwise an accurate enough account of some of the events that lead to her death.

And I'll only speak for myself when I say she was let down. She became a lost soul and easy prey for the predator who ended her life. Susan McKay should have concentrated more on Ballymena for it's Ballymena that knows what happened to wee Shirley.

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18th

Martha chose the menu for this evening's meal. She chose chilli - a new favourite and chocolate birthday cake for afters. Her birthday's not until tomorrow but traditionally (been doing it for a couple of years now) I always make a birthday cake on the Monday closest to a person's birthday.

I went to a lot of trouble with the cake. None of that bunging it all into the food processor and whizzing it up like Nigella recommends. Oh no! I'm out with the Kenwood, proper caster sugar, softened butter creamed to whiteness. Then add the (sifted) flour and beaten eggs bit by bit. Lovely stuff. Then into the tins, into the oven and I'm off for a wee break on the worldwide web to check up on the Emmys. Twenty-five minutes later Bert interrupts me.

That timer thing on the oven is chirping. I nearly didn't hear it because of the radio dinnling away.

Oh dear. I didn't hear it at all for I'm occupied looking at the fancy dresses on some women that I've never even heard of.

The cake was, of course, burned. Only slightly but enough to depress me. I shaved the burnt bits off but it still wasn't right. I decided to go again. This time I bunged everything into the processor. No caster sugar as I'd run out so used ordinary and a bit of Demerara. Bunged it into the tins, the oven and kept a very tight eye on it. Came out perfect. Then I decorated it as instructed. Chocolate glace icing, ugly orange dog, eight pink candles and green smarties to represent the grass that the dog was supposed to be sitting on. I added some pink smarties and a glittery candle in the shape of an 'eight'. It was a horror show. Martha loved it. Even though the dog had slipped back and was teetering at the edge of the cake.

Meanwhile, Bert, Hannah, the girls and six dogs had disappeared into the woods to look for fungi and fairy rings. There was some sort of tale about stepping into fairy rings and disappearing and however they managed to create this illusion, Bert was completely taken in by it. Apparently. They were full of stories about it.

It was yet another amazingly successful birthday dinner at Nellybert's. I really love being a Granny and I know Bert feels the same about being a Granda. If the weather holds we'll take them out in the camper van at the weekend. Just the two dogs though. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17th

The first day in weeks that it did not rain and I was feeling fragile. I have no recollection of writing yesterday's post so have no idea what I was on about. I do not like 'going out' and intend to do much less of it in future.

All the guest dogs have gone home and the regular dogs are feeling very happy about that.

Tomorrow I have to make a chocolate cake and have already eaten all the chocolate.

I need to catch myself on.

That is all.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

September 16th

Well. Apart from what would have been my father's  98th birthday, this turned out to be a very interesting night out.  Cannot bear to wait the extra hour until the taxi home is due.  What happens next? I'll tell you tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15th

Bert sent Evil Edna and her boy calf to market. Eight years she has lived here so it was a wrench. Never mind, that every chance she got she was ornery. If Bert wanted the cattle to go left Edna went right. She was a complete pain-in-the-ass cow. And always the difficulty with the calf. They never took to sucking and always gave Bert a big headache. Despite this all he was sad, very sad to see her go and had to spend an hour playing sad melodies on his clarinet to console himself.

I tried to console him myself.

It was all for the best. You just need the one obstreperous old cow in your life, eating you out of house and home. The one you married.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14th

At last! Bert is working on a tune that I actually enjoy listening to. He says I will be fed up with it before he is finished but I don't think so. It's not Jazzer you call me. She is the one who cut her husband's banjo strings after listening to him play his part in Duelling Banjos once too often.

Bert's melody?  Si Tu Vois Ma Mère.

Today was child day and I was frogmarched to the craft and hobbies store to buy decorations for Martha's birthday cake. She chose an orange dog even homelier than Scooby Doo and neon pink candles. I will have to include multi-coloured Smarties to pull the whole thing together. Pictures are promised.

And speaking of photographs. Before we picked Martha up Evie and I shopped at the Polish store where we bought....

I loved the picture on the cocoa packet. Pasta is always good and Bert likes nothing better than some tinned crap. Although maybe not so fond of the sos tomat.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13th

Because it did not rain for the entirety of the day we call this fine weather. Maybe even the beginning of an Indian Summer. Huh! Hardly - not with the ground quaking under my feet because it is so saturated, the cattle eating us out of house, home and silage because the pastures are soaking and the neighbour's potato fields full of blight.

But - look on the bright side. I gathered three pounds of damsons from the fallen tree, defied the local blackbird and stripped the blueberry bushes, got a bucketful of Katy apples and even found a few end of season strawberries before the wasps did.

Earlier in the day Nellybert hid the bright lights of Ballymena to conduct a little financial business and buy Bert a new outfit. Skinny jeans for a slim man and a granda jumper. Apparently granda jumpers are the height of fashion in TK Maxx. Bert was delighted.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

September 12th

Yet another day of incessant rain? No. There was a couple of hours of the sunshiney stuff just before midday. Bert and I spent it cleaning the yard and were actually rather pleased when it started to rain again. Weed scraping is tiring work even when you have a brand new scraper from Clady Timber.

I ate so much cake on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday that I decided not to break my fast until past midday. We had Irish poached eggs on Polish toast. Being slightly hungry was a rare experience for me and greatly enhanced my pleasure in the food.

The attic-clearing continues but it is still pretty full. I discovered that a cat has been peeing in my collection of Cath Kidston fabric shoppers. (Only the Tesco ones) The bags are currently in the washing machine although a wiser person would have put them in the bin.

Monday, September 11, 2017

September 11th

Bert finally got around to reading Saturday's Guardian.

It makes a very depressing read,

says he.

D'ye think so? It's just that at the moment there is a lot of stuff going on that is affecting America, Europe, here. Nobody really thinks about the floods in India and Bangla Desh or, the horrors in Syria, Yemen and Myanmar. We only care about what happens to ourselves and those most like us. And! Talking about depressing - did you read John Crace's bit about London being a few hundred miles closer to Pyongyang than Los Angeles? Best not to think about all that stuff.
Huh! It's hard not to be depressed when you look out at that!

And he looks through the sun room doors at the rain sheeting down just as it has been for the past week or more. I refrained from pointing out that at least we don't live on the Florida Keys.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Bert is very sensitive to unpleasant weather which is why I find it strange that he is happy to slugabed on fine, sunny mornings. You'd really think he'd want to be up and about enjoying the balmy weather.

Later I ran out of self-raising flour and had to make a quick dash to the local Spar. Whilst waiting in the queue I perused the headlines of the local papers to see if I could find something to elevate the spirits. The Irish News led with a story that loyalists had planned a bonfire on every corner in response to the suggestion of injunctions preventing them building boneys on council land. That would have been fun for everyone. But hardly earth-shattering news. The Belfast Telegraph's big story was that the farmer who was killed by her cow last week was  'ready for Eternity'. Good news indeed if you like that sort of thing.

Back at Springhill the heavy downpours continued but, despite this, Bert's mood improved for it was Monday and Evie appeared soon after 2pm. She spent an hour jamming with Hannah then Bert and her went out to play. That always cheers an old granda up.

For supper we had sausage, mash and beans then coconut cake for afters and we pretended it was still my birthday. There must be no cake until next Monday when we will pretend it's Martha's birthday. She is eight the day after and wants either Elsa or Winnie the Pooh figurines for her cake. If these decorations cost me more than three pounds they will be on all her cakes from now until she's twenty-one. That's a promise!

Best part of Saturday's Guardian.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

10th September

All the wine and chocolate that I had for my birthday had me feeling rather lethargic today so I did not do much. My achievements were very small. But I have decided that I really must clear a lot of the junk out of my attic and that I will do this two or three items at a time. Today I put one old radio out for recycling to the special bin in the council yard for electrical goods. It will join the incredibly expensive yet ultimately crappy juicer that burned out long before it ought to have. The juice fad is over and done with.

I also binned two teacups from Ikea. It felt strange to do it but I hate them, they are too small and nobody would ever buy them from a charity shop.


We watched Victoria and I cried profusely when the Queen's spaniel died. I was less moved by the demise of the incredibly attractive Lord Melbourne who grew paler and paler as the episode progressed. Apparently, the real Lord Melbourne was somewhat plainer than Rufus Sewell who played the part in the TV show. For me, Rufus has never been more attractive than when he hammed it up as Seth Starkadder in Cold Comfort Farm.

As I dabbed at my eyes during Poor Dash's death scene I said to Bert,

How do you think they got the wee dog to lie so still?

He said,

Oh, they'll have shot it.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

9th September

I would have been 14 years old when I first heard the Beatles song 'When I'm Sixty-Four'. I thought it a jaunty little tune but wasn't keen on the lyrics. When you are only fourteen, sixty-four seems a long, long way away. My elderly parents weren't even as old as that!

Now, fifty years on I have today attained that ancient age. And it's not so bad. I had a very good birthday with friends, family, chocolate and wine and Netflix.

I have no photographs of myself at fourteen so will have to make do with a picture of the Beatles from half a century ago.

Friday, September 08, 2017

8th September

Dog-wise, Nellybert's has been extremely hectic this evening. We've had our own regulars Judy, Jess, Roy and Ziggy along with our weekly boarders Frank and Dora whose humans are holidaying in Spain. Then along came Rex (full brother of Jess and Dora) who came with Swisser. That was seven of them then brother Joe called. When are you off to Italy? I ask. Tomorrow says he. Are you still alright for Jack?  Of course, says I. Although I had completely forgotten. He'll be overlapping a day with Frank and Dora and I forgot about them too. That's how it is. You ask me many months in advance if we'll look after your dog. I agree that it will be no problem. Then I forget all about it but it always turns out OK.

Turns out better than Jack and Rex's relationship anyway. They had two big rows and Rex had to be banished to Swisser's car. Personally, Bert and I (and Hannah) don't agree with un-neutered male dogs. Except for Roy but he was in double figures before we took him on and I thought surgery at his time of life an unnecessary trauma. Ziggy and Frank have been 'done'. So there we were with three fully intact male dogs, Roy, Rex and Jack. Roy took no part in the shenanigans but Rex and Jack were very much at loggerheads.

Later when it was just Bert and myself and Roy and Jess and Judy and Frank and Dora and Jack (Ziggy had retired with Hannah) all watching Narcos I pondered on how Frank was my current favourite dog of all time and he's not even my dog. But we get on great Frank and I. Wasn't always so for I used to hate him because, when he visited, he always pissed all over the house. I don't mind that now. Gradually, over the years, we have less and less carpeting so pissing, although not encouraged, is less of an issue. Boy dogs just can't help themselves.

But Frankie. He's old now. Well into his mid-teens and he's so dignified. He's vulnerable too but we don't talk about that. We pretend he's still the macho dog he always was. I love him. He's a big part of the fabric of my life for we've only got a few more years and they're precious to me.

Frank, the early years

Frank, the adventurous years

Frank with Ben and Judy

Thursday, September 07, 2017

7th September

Continuing on the theme of daily achievements I can report that I....

Baked an excellent loaf of sourdough bread without recourse to measurement tools.

Finished a superb bottle of Damson Wine so delicious that it made me want to cry.

Listened to a potential Ted Talk from my nearly eight-year-old granddaughter on the pointlessness of homework for primary school children. It was such a well thought out argument that I couldn't help but wonder if she had been listening to the same programme on Radio 4 that I'd caught a couple of days ago. Impossible, as she'd have been in school at the time. Bolstered by her argument, we polished off homework in about seven minutes flat then moved straight on to Horrid Henry on Netflix. She was middling on the spelling of 'sequencing' but she convinced me that it wasn't crucial.

Made (for the third time) that delicious tomato salad so good that I am duty bound to share the recipe. It's from The Guardian courtesy of Anna Jones.

This is my take.

Some tomatoes. Preferably home-grown, include a green one.

Put in a colander, sprinkle with sea salt and let liquid seep into a bowl. Discard liquid.

Add finely chopped chilli. Mine are home-grown. Yum!

Add two cloves of amazingly fresh and deliciously juicy home grown garlic cloves. Yum!

Season with black pepper. Add one part red wine or balsamic vinegar. (I'd run out so used cider vinegar - was OK.) Then three parts olive oil. Look, I know this is boastful but I used home-grown, home-pressed olive oil straight from Sicily. A gift from Hannah's boyfriend and probably the culinary highlight of my entire life so far.

Believe me, this is undoubtedly the best tomato salad ever.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

6th September


On most evenings I would tend to consider my achievements and ponder on whether I have met the goals that I set myself in the earlier part of the day. On most evenings I have to admit that I have met very few of those goals. Obviously, this is because I have unrealistic morning expectations.

Today I renewed the tax on Hannah's car.

Then I picked several pounds of blackberries...and a bucket full of damsons.

And I made a delicious tomato, garlic and chilli salad all with home grown ingredients. Except for the vinegar. Even the olive oil was home grown and pressed but not by me as I don't live in Sicily. However, Hannah has a friend who does and I have to say this is the most delicious olive oil I have ever tasted.

Damson pickers 2008. 

Damsons are going to be easy to pick this year as the biggest and best tree has fallen down. It was really old and decrepit and almost entirely covered in moss.  I'm surprised it lasted this long. It does make the fruit very accessible. There are still three more trees on the farm so damson wine will be available for a few years yet.

Sod it. Talking about damson wine is making me thirsty. Must go and see if there is any from last year's left. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

5th September

We had two visitors today, Bert's cousins, who used to stay and play at Springhill before Bert was even born.

Margaret trying out Pearlie's bike.

Christina on horseback, Pearlie holding the reins.

Bert and Margaret.

Margaret and Christina are cousins too, the daughters of Johnny's sisters. They have good memories of being here when they were very young and remembered the layout of their Grandfather's garden and where all the fruit grew. They got very excited that the horse chestnut tree was still there and that there were conkers.

The cousin's grandfather, Robert Orr. A small man and a very good gardener. I believe we're still reaping the benefits of his excellent soil management to this day. The past may well be another country but it's not that very far away.

Monday, September 04, 2017

September 4th

We had six callers this evening come to look at the pigs. One of them was Curtis who is a long-time fan of Rusty and Lily. You could even say they've grown up together. It is Curtis' auntie who wants to get a couple of kune kune piglets and he told her that he knew where she could see some fully grown ones. Rusty and Lily had retired for the night but the smell of freshly cut oranges soon roused them from their bed to meet their visitors.

Curtis and Rusty

At first Curtis' auntie was surprised at how big they were but we pointed out that it's not that they're actually especially big, they're just wide. We held nothing back. They break out. They're rough. A male will rip the side out of a collie dog with his tusks. They steal food. It was no good. The sheer cuteness of Rusty and Lily could not be denied. They just won everyone's hearts.

Martha and kune kunes

Aren't they cute?

Sunday, September 03, 2017

September 3rd

It is pissing with rain and, according to the weather forecast, it will continue to do so for more than a week. Usually, I manage not to let dreek weather annoy me but I'm finding that hard today. To make matters worse Bert, who is always badly affected by damp and cold conditions is hanging around the house sighing and moaning.

He posits going to visit Howard as he has a tree to deliver there. I am delighted as it means I will have the house to myself for an hour or two. Howard is called and the visit arranged. Then Howard calls back. He has forgotten something - his landlord has cemented the access lane and it cannot be driven on. The visit is off.

Bert follows me into my private, secret sitting room.

Can you not just imagine I'm out?

I put my head in my hands.

I'll try that but it's going to be difficult.


Because you're standing there chittering at me.

Ah well. Perhaps it's for the best that he stays home because, sure as shooting, soon as he leaves the yard one of his friends will turn up and I will have no peace. It's what usually happens.

We have a friend who relishes her peace so much that she used to have a sign at the end of her lane which said 'Visitors By Appointment Only'. I may get one of those some day. Only mine will have a simpler message - something along the lines of 'Fuck Off'.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

September 2nd

Woke up at six o'clock on the dot. I am still operating on Hannah Time but, since Monday, she has been driving herself to work. I've got a bit of a cold (Thanks, Rod!) so turned over and slept until eight. Wakened by strange noise coming from below. Tried to figure it out before realising it was a low but insistent yipping from our two guest dogs Frank and Dora. Time to get up.

Another day in paradise.

Which I spent in the garden, weeding, digging up plants and putting them somewhere else. After a while Bert came out to help. That man is amazing with a fork and spade but moves far too fast for me. There goes my verbascum phoenicum 'Violetta' discarded along with a dandelion. I repotted it. Next to be rescued from the weed pile pieces of my lovely yellow crocosmia. Although I don't know why I bothered as it actually does grow like a weed.

This is where I put Anna's sidalcea.

It had wilted a little but a top dressing of our own compost and a good watering had it looking a lot better.

Very much looking forward to seeing how it does in its new home. I couldn't resist doing a little bit of propagation. If it grows it grows. All in all a most enjoyable day.