Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Wrong Jelly and Other Stories

The girls are here for a sleepover and earlier today Bert took them grocery shopping. We needed some special ingredients for a sweet making session and for pizzas. He came back in a rage,

That Fullans is the worst shop in the world! They had nothing we wanted, No pepperoni, no anchovies, no mozzarella, no dislocated (sic) coconut! I'm never going in there again and all the staff do is stand about the aisles gossiping to each other!

But he proved himself a hero. Went to another shop, the trusty old O'Neill's, and got everything on the list except he bought packet jelly instead of ready made in a plastic tub. Jelly wasn't on the list but Martha convinced him that it was an essential. That's all very well but if the grandfather then fails to make the jelly and if at bedtime all a child wants is some jelly then Houston We Have A Problem.

So Martha and I jumped in the van and drove to Cully and bought the right kind of jelly. She was wearing a striped onesie and I forgot my partial denture but, who cares, we were on a mission. On the way back we went the long way and listened to Keltic Storm's version of  Mairi's Wedding three times. I love that me and the girls are so uncool we are actually cool and I'm sad that sometime in the near future they'll be letting me know that saying cool is no longer cool or even a thing.

This is the recipe book we are using for the sweets. It belonged to their mother when she was only a little bit older than they are now although this wasn't the cover of Zoe's book. If it had been I believe it would have been thrown out long ago. Both Margaret Powell and her pupil look terrifying. The early seventies can still send shivers.

Sleepovers mean bedtime stories. Tonight we had Madeline, a great favourite of the girls and of mine. The books are a pleasure to read, short and bitter-sweet. Tonight's story was about the time Madeline had her appendix out and how all the other girls were so envious of  the attention she received.

After that it was stories from real life.

Who do you want the story to be about?
What age do you want me to be? Forty?
No! A wee child.
OK. I'll tell you about my first day at school.

So I did. And I told them about Malachy's first day at school and how kind Mrs Magee was and how mean Miss O'Neill was and about the time George didn't do his homework and stood up and read an essay he was supposed to have written at home and stood there looking at two blank pages and told the story out of his head and how I admired his nerve and then Martin told Cassie on him and George got the ruler and how I lost respect for Martin for ever and ever. I explained how Mrs Magee was always Mrs because we respected her but how Cassie was called Cassie behind her back because we did not respect her because she was mean and cruel.

After that I tried to think up some stories about their Mum when she was a naughty little girl but I couldn't think of any because she was a rather good child. There is only one and as Martha said,

Don't tell us about the time that she cut out pictures from a book and glued them on the wall and said the dog did it. We've heard that one a million times!

They were freshly painted walls, though.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Last Picture I Posted On Flickr #1

First of all, I don't know for sure who the photographer was. The subjects are my mother, my brother and my brother's daughter and the occasion was London Sister's summer wedding in North London, twelve years ago. You wouldn't think it to look at the photographs but Matty was feeling poorly that day. It turned out she had shingles which was affecting her face. She was very stoic about it and did not succumb to complaint until she was back home.

That was Matty all over, a bit of a hypochondriac at times, she whinged about the little things, a hack on her thumb, a touch of cramp, but she could be remarkably brave about the big things. I'll never forget the day she received her terminal cancer diagnosis. The house was full, lots of us around, everyone shocked and filled with faint dread and yet, there was Matty apparently enjoying all the attention.

I sat down beside her on the sofa and squeezed her arm,

How are you doing Mammy?

She turned to me with a very open expression on her face and said,

Och, sure I always wondered how I would die!

Not the answer I was expecting at all.

People often say after someone dies from cancer that they 'lost a battle, bravely fought'. Well, Matty didn't fight at all, she just got on with it. She was brave, though.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Easy Peasy Wine-Making

I had an email today from someone near Portglenone who wanted to know if I could recommend (or give) classes on wine-making. Naturally, I was suspicious. Did this person really need advice or did he have some nefarious reason for seeking my counsel? I was  tempted to recommend the ancient tome First Steps In Winemaking by C.J.J. Berry which I threw out years ago (it was in tatters) but instead said soothing things. I couldn't remember the name of the Berry book so Googled 'ancient wine-making book' and it came up straight away.

What I would have liked to advise my Bannside friend was this,

Sterilise everything.

Take three pounds of anything flavoursome and fruity (or vegetably).

Steep it and add one bag of sugar. Lidls is good for cheap sugar.

Add one teaspoon of yeast with added nutrients.

Fiddle about racking and so on for a few months. Sterilise everything.

After about six months bottle. Sterilise everything.

After about three months fall to and get pissed.

Easy peasy.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Good News

We had some really good news about Roy today. It's two weeks since he was had the balls lopped off and not only has that healed very well, the growth on his anus has shrunk. Roy's buddy Adam (the vet) was jolly pleased. And so were we. Judy was seeing the vet today as well. She's looking good and can carry on with the pain relief medication.

Adam asked, how has Roy been? We were able to tell him that Roy had shoulder-charged one of Howard's dogs out of his way when the silly sprollie was interfering with his pig-herding duties. Still macho despite the loss of his cojones.

And although Roy is no longer on medication we intend to keep on giving him the cheese.

The patients

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Remembering Home on Mother's Day

Although the house in Drumkeeran was the place I thought of as ‘home’ I only lived there for a very short time. In 1978, when I was expecting my middle daughter, I moved to Ballymena and lived in various houses there until Bert and I moved to a new build in Cullybackey. Nevertheless, the house on the Murphystown Road, where my parents lived was the place that I called home.

I was around seven when we moved to the Murphystown. It was a shoddily built farmhouse that belonged to people whose patriarch had never wanted it to fall into Catholic hands. Apparently the old man had died in the house and the moaning noises that I often heard coming from his bedroom might have been an echo of his dying or even a haunting, because his last wish had not been respected. Or, it could even have been the wind blowing through the rotting window frame. My father did not prioritise the maintenance of that house for his main interest was the development of the small farm the house came with.

We lived there for nearly twenty years before moving into a new bungalow that my parents built. That house is the one that my mother lived in until she died, the place that I thought of as ‘home’ for the next thirty odd years.

Our parents had hardly a bean when they moved there, all available funds having been used to build it so it was furnished on the cheap. It wasn’t exactly what our mother wanted but she made do. Making curtains, upholstering and painting and decorating. In what spare time she had left she also created a lovely garden, something she never had the space for before. Daddy was not a gardener but he bought a ride-on lawn mower and began to take great pride in his lawns. Over the years the house became more what Mum wanted. She had a bit more money to spare and she began replacing all the old stuff with better quality furnishings. She didn’t go mad though. She still had an eye for a bargain and many items were bought in charity stores. She became quite house proud.

I remember her saying many years ago,

I do try to keep this place nice but what with your Daddy and the dog it’s not easy….

When she got ill we all spent a lot more time at home. Yet it was only a matter of time that ‘home’ would be no more. That is when I started taking the photographs. The first batch were taken when she was still with us, the second batch soon after she died but before we cleared the house. It has taken until now for me to be able to look at them, sort them out and share them.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

A Cure For Sure

Roy had his operation today. Not on the growth as the vet is going to leave that alone for the moment. Instead, the old lad had his testicles removed which will cut off the supply of testosterone to the lump on his bum and prevent it from growing. I hope it works.

So far, the old fellow has recovered well. He has enjoyed supper and taken a sedate dander around the yard.

Other news - I visited the pharmacist yesterday to inquire if she could sell me an over the counter medicine to ease my throat. She said that the most effective thing would be some sort of antihistamine but only a doctor could prescribe that. I said I had some in the house. She said I could give it a go. So home I went and raided the medicine chest. There were two cards of pills and I was sure one of them was antihistamine. This is where Wikipedia comes in handy. One of the pills turned out to be a sleeping tablet, the one that Bert took more of than he oughter when he first had the manflu. The second was antihistamine and Mumsnet opined that it would cure post-nasal drip, the cause of all my woe. A Cullybackey pharmacist and Mumsnet. This was a cure for sure!

Thirty minutes after taking it my nose had dried up and so had my throat. Hot tea wouldn't lubricate it and wine didn't work either. But the good news is I've had three of those pills now and I'm feeling much better and the throat is getting back to normal.

I have decided to begin clearing my attic seven minutes at a time. Today I threw out the box, leads and manuals from three cameras ago. It's a start. To celebrate this achievement I am posting a picture of my youngest grandchild.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sick Of Being Sick

It is a month now since I was in Norfolk and anxious that I would not carry the dreaded manflu to Katy and family. The very first night that I slept there I was woken up by that tickle at the back of the throat that is usually the first sign of a virus infection. For the first few days I was achey and sore and feeling well below par. Then I got the stomach bug and forgot all about the flu-like symptoms. Ten days later I was still feeling shitty - got home and found Bert wasn't much better. The virus travelled into my chest, a week or more of dry coughing then there were headaches. A couple of days ago I thought it was fading but no! Damned thing has settled in my throat. Still, mustn't grumble too much. It is years since I had such a persistent infection.

There was a rumour in Hannah's work that a tremendous amount of mourners at a recent very well-attended funeral had been struck down with this flu-like illness. Bert was certainly one of them as his symptoms began within days. Yet again, we must not complain as it turns out that the uncle of the fellow whose funeral it was caught the bug and died within a week. But he was well into his eighties, Bert and I have youth on our side. Well, Bert has anyway. I get my state pension this coming week. Fingers crossed I live to enjoy it.

Another sad story - bloody Beast from the East has destroyed my wallflowers and ceanothus.

One of the many wrens who live around here.