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.