Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Today was one of those days that reminds one of how sad life can be. We went to the funeral of a man in his early fifties who had died from a brain tumour. I didn't know him well but I knew other members of his family, his older sister in particular. This man had spent his entire working life in a local tobacco factory which, up until recently was one of the most important employers in the local area. Between 2014 and 2017 everyone who worked there was made redundant. Many of those attending the funeral today were ex-workmates of Hugh. No problem getting time off for a weekday funeral - they all had time on their hands.

I went for a quick walk in the early evening. Now that the days are lengthening it is possible to do that and I'm grateful for it. Ziggy and I weren't even five minutes from the yard when I spotted a thrush lying at the side of the road. I thought it was dead but when I looked it was still moving. I picked it up and returned to the house and left it in the greenhouse. I expected it to be dead when I got back. Ziggy and I walked for thirty minutes and when we got back the bird was still alive. I made it as comfortable as I could and left it. Thirty minutes later Bert returned from visiting his aunt. He looked in on the thrush and said it was getting very cold. Fifteen minutes later it was dead, I was racked with guilt. should I have interfered? Should I have hastened its end? And if so, how? I wouldn't have the courage to do anything violent for fear of increasing its suffering. After it died I felt its little body and it seemed to have a chest injury. No doubt a blow from a car, one of those bastard cars that drives far too fast on our B-road.

Peter called round after work and he told me that a friend of his says that the best way to hasten a small suffering animal's end is to wrap it in kitchen roll and place it in a freezer. I don't know. That wee thrush took a long time to die.

Ziggy, my companion on today's walk. His little face reminds me that life is not always hard to bear.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Scent of Witch Hazel

That Paulo Coelho piece on washing dishes has stayed with me. The thinking can be applied to any minor annoyance - for instance, it's a pet hate of mine that Bert gets toothpaste juice all over the mirror almost every day of his life. But why fret? It only takes moments to clean and I'm much better off pondering on how lovely it is to have the company of a funny, kind man even if he is a bit throughother in the bathroom and everywhere else.

Last autumn he planted a hamamelis (witch hazel) in the garden. It will flower in the winter time, he said. And it's scented. The smell will be glorious.

It flowered just before Christmas. Wait until we get a balmy day, he said. Wait until you smell it then.

So the balmy day came. Can you smell it, he said. Isn't it lovely?

I couldn't smell it. Not even when I got right up beside it and buried my nose in its flowers.

What does it smell like?

Flowery. Like Zoflora.

Like Zoflora?

I couldn't smell a thing. Was he gaslighting me? Yet, I worried. Am I losing my sense of smell? He smokes, I don't. It should be me that has the keener sense of smell.

Later that day I accidentally broke a bottle of Zoflora. I could smell that. Bert is sitting in the next room, smoking.

Can you smell that?

Yea! Zoflora.

I walked into the next room and I couldn't smell anything. Worrying. Yet when the cat shit in the wet room I got that whiff. Of course, I looked it up on the internet. It could be a cold. I haven't got a cold. It could be nodules. No thank you! It could be something totally drastic the same as the person had whose funeral I am going to tomorrow. Or Bert could be gaslighting me. But he hasn't the imaginative powers to do that. Nor is he mean enough. And he could smell the Zoflora from the next room.

I wonder what the hamamelis does smell like.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Scrambled Eggs

Bert said something terrible to me this morning. He didn't know it was a terrible thing. In fact, I'm sure he that he was just making me a kind offer. This is what he said,

Do you want scrambled eggs?

I said,

No! I don't.

I did not explain. I did not say 'No thanks. I had sourdough toast and brie for breakfast.' I just thought, why not boiled, why not fried, why not poached? Anything but scrambled. Why scrambled when you, my dear husband, have probably cleaned scrambled eggs from a saucepan less than ten times your entire life.

Every time I get this way I am reminded of an awful Jilly Cooper book that I read centuries ago where the romantic lead dismissed an ex as 'one of those girls like scrambled egg, amazingly easy to make, but impossible to get off the pan afterwards.' Such a cruel remark. I never did like any of the characters in Jilly Cooper novels.

I was still feeling discombobulated about Bert's breakfast choice when Hannah got home and told her about what was annoying me and she said that Paulo Coelho had something to say about that. Well, he usually does. She gave me the gist of it and I immediately felt better about the whole thing. I checked it out and it goes like this,

'When you're washing up, pray. Be thankful that there are plates to be washed; that means there was food, that you fed someone, that you've lavished care on one or more people, that you cooked and laid the table. Imagine the millions of people at this moment who have absolutely nothing to wash up and no one for whom to lay the table.” 
― Paulo CoelhoThe Witch Of Portobello

So there you go - if you want a guide to decent living Coelho trumps Cooper every time.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My First Flickr Pickr

When I first started using the Flickr photo sharing group in 2005 I was (I thought) very particular about the sort of picture I would be sharing. Looking back it was clear that I had not a clue. This is the very first picture I posted.

Then I cropped it.

I thought it was the dog's bollocks. Truly worthy of Flickr and worthy of me. Because I was the sort of person who lived in the countryside and knew a nice sky when she saw one, the sort of person who cared about skies. The truth is my sister Patricia could take a far better picture using a pinhole camera and wearing a blindfold. But that was me back in 2005. The sort of person who wanted to impress the world wide web. In my own quiet, tasteful way.

So begins a little series of pictures and why I posted them on Flickr. So far, I've uploaded 4450 images to the site so should keep me busy for a little while.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Getting Things Done

  • Booked flights to catch up with Katy and her growing family. Yea! Seeing James again and meeting Emily for the first time. I don't really mind (much) missing the first couple of weeks. It gives everyone a chance to settle down before I come crashing in.
  • Cleaned the Hillbilly Hen House. Hosed it down, made it very nice. I'll do the Orchard Hen House on Friday. Two in one day is way too much.
  • Got into the polytunnel for the first time this year and started getting sorted. It will be Spring before we know it!
  • Sorted out some financial matters, the pension (at last!) and something else as well. I will not be scrimping when I go to Norfolk. Emily needs dresses! James needs trains! Everyone else needs wine!
  • Got my tooth fixed - the pretendy one that Jess nibbled. Bad Dog!

Now with all that taken care of I can relax and tomorrow I'll enjoy the company of my two older grandchildren. Can't wait.

Friday, January 19, 2018

An Open Heart

Tonight we are having one of those nights that would be so wonderfully awesome if we were all completely sober and could take credit for the awesomeness of our drunkenness. For a start, there was the amazingness of our delight in the Sicilianess  and the Anarchism of the houseguests who had to retire early because of early starts which left a company who were composed of two passionate advocates of the importance of an Irish Language Act, two who could not care less and one eighteen year old who enjoyed stirring the pot.

Have to say though that I truly appreciate Bert, reared Ulster Protestant, travelled the world, shook that shit off and opened his heart and his home to absolutely everyone.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Emily Anne

Most people when compiling a family tree work backward as far as possible. I've only been able to get back as far as great-great-grandparents so I made up for that by going sideways and starting exploring the vast number of cousins, first, second and third. At the beginning of this week, there were 1158 of us. Now there are 1159. Our fourth grandchild came into the world yesterday and she is Emily Anne. There are several Marthas in the family and quite a few named James, three Evies but, so far, only one Emily.

Snowdrops will be Emily's flower.

Emily will be a lucky girl, blessed with a big brother and two loving parents who waited a long while to meet their children.

I am so looking forward to holding this beautiful dark-haired child.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Phone Call

On the evening of the shopping trip, I received a phone call from Ganching requesting a favour. A very good friend of both her and London Sister had to return to Ireland because his mother had died and both my sisters were coming over for the funeral. Would I pick them up from the airport?

Of course.

Would I go to the funeral?

I would.

In Ireland, funerals are generally held two days after the death unless of course, close relatives need to travel from afar in which case it might be three days until the burial. In country areas, the funeral is usually preceded by the wake. It is a very busy time for the bereaved.

I wouldn't be going to the wake but I would be trying to straighten up the house in preparation for my visitors. Swisser had stayed the night and the spare bed needed to be changed. I was starting to realise what life must be like for Kerry Sister who runs an Airbnb. After a quick and largely futile (four dogs, wet weather, and Bert) sweep and mop it was time to pick Ganching up. She had arranged with Our Joe to attend the wake outside the city of Armagh, a little over 60 miles away. That left my evening free to continue tidying the house but I was so exhausted from the previous day's outing that I fell asleep on the sofa.

My sister returned sometime around eleven o'clock  and we stayed up until after midnight hemming funeral skirts and chatting. I checked my route on Google Maps and printed it out then went to bed feeling a little anxious about the next day's journey. I have a horror of lateness, the road was not familiar to me and a lot hinged on London Sister's plane being bang on time. I slept badly and woke far earlier than I needed to - maybe four hours shuteye. Not enough.

Still, my early start gave me an opportunity to have a sensible chat with myself and I was calm enough as we set off. The plane was dead on time and all was looking good. London Sister had printed out a far better itinerary than mine and she has the reputation of being an excellent navigator so I was feeling confident enough. Until I messed it up at the carpark. I couldn't figure out how to use a credit card to get out of the damn place. Panic bubbled up. But not to worry - my sisters were there.

You can do this Nelly! You can get out of the airport! You're doing great! 

With this encouragement ringing in my ears, I gathered up two pounds and fifty pence and went to the parking office, explained my predicament (stupidity) paid over the cash and they raised the barriers. We were off!

And it all worked out well. We got to the church half an hour early. The service was sad but lovely and afterward had a delicious bowl of soup in the church hall. The priest sat beside us but didn't annoy us. Then this thing happened. A man, a very nice man, sat down beside me and informed me that his wife reads my blog. If she happens to be reading it now maybe she'll tell him how welcome I felt in that place I'd never visited before. And, seeing how decent and good his family are I would have loved to have known his mother.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Shopping Trip

In the many years I’ve known Swisser we have never gone shopping. It’s a very girly thing to do, don’t you think? That changed yesterday. Of course, being people of intellectual leanings, for I have two (mediocre) degrees and she is a professor, we couldn’t hit the shops before we had taken in an interesting exhibition of political cartoons in the Linenhall Library.

Nor could we begin sales-hunting until we had been for lunch at the John Hewitt. That was my first visit to this well-known pub and I really liked it. The food was delicious and the ambience most relaxed.

After lulling me into a sense of false security in Marks & Spencers, Swisser led me into a succession of shops, some of which I had never entered previously. In fact, I’d thought that old people might not even be allowed. But it turns out that even the trendiest of shops are only too delighted to welcome anyone in possession of money. My favourites were Zara and Urban Outfitters. I also discovered that I am an excellent stylist as all of the items that Swisser purchased were found and recommended by me. Despite dressing like a particularly dowdy farmer’s wife I am actually a fashionista at heart. Really, I am, I just don’t choose to wear it. Right, this minute I am rocking a purple Regatta fleece and Primark pyjama bottoms. This may not tick any fashion boxes but I am very happy and comfortable. And warm.

I bought a long-sleeved burnt orange thermal vest in Marks and Spencers and an oversized plum tartan shirt in Urban Outfitters. I won’t wear them together. Although I might if I feel like it. My choices for Swisser were,

Shift dress from The White House.
Vintage short navy jacket from Urban Outfitters. I advised a change of buttons but Swisser likes the originals.
Plum colored top from Zara.

All garments cost less than £50 in total.

Later that evening I heard that Swisser has very strong opinions about fleeces as they pollute the oceans.  This is worrying as I own three fleeces and several fleece blankets. She said that it is OK if they are never laundered which is one of the things I liked about them - ease of washing and drying. She still has one but never washes it but worries if she wears it in the rain. Sometimes I wish Swisser wouldn't tell me these things. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Looking Back

A post from ten years ago....


People take different approaches to organising their stuff. One thing is constant - the more stuff a body owns, the harder that stuff is to organise.

We knew somebody once cleared his house regularly. His credo was - if he hadn't used it in the past year out it went.

Stuff can take you over. The trick is if you bring new stuff in then heave the equivalent amount of stuff out. Easier said than done.
Which brings me back to the Nessie problem. She is one of those people, as is her partner, to whom stuff flies like iron filings to a magnet. Got some unwanted stuff - Nessie will have that. The end result is that her house contains so much stuff that there is no room for a normal life to take place. Sit at the table to eat a meal? Impossible. The table is stacked high with stuff. Prepare a meal? Not possible. Food consists of uncooked items; the current favourite being scallion sandwiches. Neighbours do provide plated food but that is mostly fed to the collies.

Nessie has never thrown out a loaf paper in her life. There are tens of thousands of loaf papers stacked to the ceiling. What Hannah couldn't get over was the wall of cushions. Most people use cushions to add a little comfort to their lives. Nessie builds walls with cushions. Polystyrene carry out containers? Nessie never parts with these useful items. She'd use them under plant pots if she had room for plants.

I'd guess Nessie hasn't a clue what is in the boxes and bags of stuff that she has piled high to the ceiling. Somewhere in there, and it may never be found, is her mother's wedding ring. The same wedding ring that caused a massive fall-out with her sister Pearlie many, many years ago.

Stuff. Wedding rings. Loaf papers. Cushions. Nice wee tins. Buttons. Old magazines. Odds and ends of wool. Bits of scrap metal. Old clothes. Patchwork quilts. Books that we'll never open again. Clutter. Yours is shite. Mine is treasure.

The wall wasn't just made out of cushions it was made from a variety of useful wall-making objects. bert says that the living room is actually massive but at the minute it measures about 4*3 feet.

There was an antique Werther's Original sweetie tin which must've dated back to when Werther's first came out in 1672.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Jumping Judy

Judy went back to see Kim today for a check-up and she's doing well. Her form has improved so the medication is working for her. I thought she'd be anxious when we drove into the car park but not a bit of her. Padded in ready to be friends with everyone. And delighted to see Kim again - even licked her face.

Time passes quickly for dogs. It seems no time since Judy was this small.

That's the first day we brought her home. Before she got into her jumping stride.

The following pictures are stills from a video. Judging by the size of Miss Martha Judy must have been under two years old. Her prime. Those jumping days are over now.

Martha was amazed!

Many dog years later lying around on damp grass chewing sticks. No wonder her joints are sore.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Judy Starts Feeling Her age

About a month ago Bert noticed Judy wincing when she jumped on to beds. We both put it down to a minor injury which was wishful thinking. She was also hesitant getting into the van and on walks, she was far more sedate. So five days ago we took her to the vet. 

Judy has had little experience in the vet’s office. At first, she was so pleased – new lovely girls to schmooze with! But then - we left her! And those lovely girls stuck a sharp needle in her leg and she woke up in a pen, feeling groggy and all alone.

While she was sedated she had two X-rays and it turns out that she has moderate arthritis in one hip joint and mild in the other. She isn't even eight years old but the vet said that once a dog is over seven it is considered to be elderly.

So, she's on some kind of medication trial and goes back to the vet's office on Friday. Supposed to be taking it easy and she certainly has. She has had lots of extra attention and petting and the meds do seem to be helping her.

Zoe said we should think of giving her herbal medications too. There is a Dorwest pill, Garlic & Fenugreek Tablets For Dogs And Cats that our old dog Danny took and that seemed to do him a lot of good. He was still going strong in his seventeenth year when he died in a road traffic accident.*

Judy is a very loveable dog and there have been lots of inquiries regarding her wellbeing. Our friend Richard called the other day and told us of a very efficacious treatment that his brother had procured from Pets at Home for his ancient labrador. It seems the old dog is doing so well on it that our friend’s father has decided to start taking it too. The results have been very good and the old fellow has been rising every morning feeling as lithe as a sixteen-year-old. I wasn’t able to ascertain the name of this wonder drug but we have decided we will wait until our human guinea pig has been on the pills for at least two months before we follow his lead. Unless, as Richard says, his father starts running around the yard barking at birds in which case we might hesitate.

* Bert ran over Danny. We sometimes wonder if the old codger committed suicide. He was nearly blind and very deaf and the only eye-witness (Pearlie) said his death was immediate.

Monday, January 01, 2018

New Years Day

It seems remiss not to mark the first day of the year with a blog post so here we go.

How do I feel right now?

Tired and a bit overfed. We had a huge roast dinner last night which Jazzer and I cooked. She did the soup, the beef, and the roast potatoes. I did three vegetable dishes, Yorkshire puddings and a summer fruit crumble. A joint effort. Then there was too much alcohol and some terrible TV. Jools Holland's show wasn't too bad but it feels a bit of a cheat knowing that everyone there was pretending it was the last day of the year. I mean, we weren't actually sharing the festivities with Beth Ditto, George McCrae and Adrian Dunbar. And, by the way, does anyone else think that Ed Sheeran is a bit bland?

What's been going on?

Leitrim Sister was up for a couple of days. As always, I enjoyed her company. It was horribly cold while she was here but we didn't let it keep us back.

What's happening tomorrow?

Going to Ikea with Zoe and the girls. I'll be buying James some new bits for his train set.

What am I going to do next?

Going to phone James' house to find out what he needs then I'm for having a G&T and maybe a bit of Netflix. Godless is good.