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.