Thursday, June 28, 2018


Whenever County Antrim folk (and other North Irish people) are blessed with a prolonged spell of hot weather we may well experience the following:

The Common Herd

Disbelief. This can't be happening to us! Why it's hotter than Spain.

Elation. I'll bet all those folk flying off to Spain will wish they'd stayed at home.

Pessimism. It can't last. This will probably be all the summer we'll get.

Despair. It's far too hot! It's too warm to work. I'm not worth tuppence in this heat.

Cattle Farmers

Hope. Good to see a blink of sun and the cattle are out in the fields again. Maybe we'll get a bit of grass this year.

Making Hay. Every farmer in the country. Last year was so wet that hay was worth its weight in gold.

Pessimism. This year hay will probably fetch about three quid a bale.

Despair. We need rain! The grass has stopped growing.


Delight. Boys-a-dear. Isn't this great? I thought we were never going to see a decent summer again. Fantastic gardening weather.

Irritation. Every other bugger in the country is lying sunning themselves in their back garden and we're watering from morning to night.

Pessimism. The state of those roses. They're wilting in this weather. And the irises hardly lasted a week in the heat. And those bloody weeds! Nothing stops them!

Looking On The Bright Side. At least the slugs and snails are giving it a rest.


Fetch ball! Sleep! Drink water! Go to the river! Fetch stick! Swim! Eat! Sleep!

Monday, June 25, 2018

The New Lawn

At long last Bert has got interested in the garden and, I have to say, I am very pleased about it. There have been false starts before but this time it feels like it might be a permanent interest.

There was the time he decided to make a vegetable garden in the very same spot where our new lawn is now. Although, to tell the truth, it might be more accurately described as a patch of grass. I remember how discouraging Pearlie was about that as he dug and toiled.

But she was wrong.

The vegetable garden twelve years ago. These days, most of the veggie growing takes place in the polytunnel with Zoe as the keenest gardener of us all. The stone wall was very new then but it still stands. There are flower beds and the new lawn in that patch now. We're even building a patio although I promise there will be no bodies buried under it!

This used to be our vegetable garden.

And this used to be a lawn!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Vampire Teeth

This afternoon, on picking up my grandchildren from the school bus, I informed them that I had some bad news.

Martha asked,

What is it Granny?

I'm afraid we have to go to Sainsbury's.

Evie said,

That's good news for us.


We like Sainsbury's. There's something there that we want.

I'm sure!

As we drove there I said,

It's Bert. He wants me to get naan bread. Sure it would be no trouble for me. Aren't I in the town already. Not that he'd ever do food shopping if he was in town!

Martha says,

I know Granny! I've asked him to take us to Sainsbury's about five million times and he never ever does.

We arrive. I ask,

So what is it you want?

Vampire teeth. There's a machine. You put a pound coin in and there are lots of things you can choose.

I gave them a pound each and sent them off and began shopping.

I bought naan bread.
Onion bhajis.
A sports bra.
A blouse.
Jam tarts.
Some pears.

The girls found me. They did not have vampire teeth as the machine had run out of them. Martha had bought a squishy orange thing that looked very flimsy and Evie had some metallic slime.

On the way out I realised I'd forgotten to buy wine but decided that was probably a good thing.

The journey home was very quiet as the girls played with their squishy, slimy objects. As soon as we got home they raced out to play on the trampoline and that was pretty much the last I saw of them.

I said to Bert,

Martha told me she asked you to take her to Sainsbury's five million times and you never would.

That's right, I never did take them to Sainsbury's.

Did you know that there is a vending machine there where a child can insert a pound coin and receive a piece of complete crap?

Yeah. What did they get? Vampire teeth?

Hopeless at going to Sainsbury's but makes a good climbing frame.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day

So, Father's Day again...

But they do get easier as time goes on. This is the fourteenth one since he died. The first one was very hard as he died in early June and right from the start the shops were full of Father's Day reminders. I remember feeling ridiculously annoyed and cross about it.

It passed. Father's Day is just another day now. To do with other people, not for us. I had a lot of company this weekend, the Banjos, Dr Leitrim Sister and her husband. Six people, not one of us with a living Dad. Memories were shared.

And here are some more.

A handmade card that Daddy received from his granddaughter in 1989.

One of a series of photographs that my sister Patricia Moriarty shot. They are some of the best pictures ever taken of our father.

One of my own photographs. I think he might have been calling me an eedjit as I was trying to get him to smile.

The pair of them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fudge And Other Lovely Things

I'm feeling anxious tonight. One of our roosters (Fudge, the best-looking one) has escaped the coop and is running loose. Ben and I have tried to catch him but in doing so we have thoroughly spooked him. It happened while we were moving his lot to another house. I had him gathered up twice but he was too strong for me and got away. I hope his might stands him in good stead if he meets Foxy tonight.

It's been a while since the blog has been updated but there has been a lot going on. On Saturday I took the girls to a sixth birthday party and it was a hot day. Baking hot.

I love that Cooper the Labrador thinks that it is his birthday. Martha and Evie are in there somewhere.

Later that evening Bert and I went to Toome to hear A Talk. The subject of The Talk was the same as the recent film Maze (currently on Netflix) which told the story of the 1983 mass prison breakout from the Maze prison. The film was rather sombre. The Talk given by three of the people involved less so. It was an interesting night.

On Sunday Zoe and I and Leitrim Sister took part in Procession2018 in Belfast which was a wonderful experience. We marched with at least a thousand other women (and a smattering of men) from the Titanic Slipway to City Hall.

We were walking with the Leitrim group that campaigned hard for the recent Irish referendum on abortion rights. There were a few frosty faces from onlookers but far more reactions that were positive, particularly from older women.

On Monday I made cheese and onion pie and a rice pudding for our family dinner and Martha asked,

Granny, why is your rice pudding so tough and ricey?

Although Bert thought it was yummy. Tough and ricey is his favourite pud.

Yesterday I went to Ikea with Zoe and bought a very pretty cushion. There were thousands of them so I expect almost everyone else in the world possesses this lovely thing.

And another lovely thing...

This claret-coloured poppy just turned up among the ordinary self-seeded papaver somniferum that grows in the polytunnel. I must mark it and save the seed.

Fudge turned up! No chicken dinner for Foxy tonight.

Fudge is the big boy in the middle of the picture. 

Friday, June 08, 2018

Selling Sweeties

So, there was Granny about to tell one of her interminable tales that begin,

When I was a young girl...

And Evie chips in,

And now you're an old woman.

I laughed and said,

It's not so bad being an old woman.

And she says,

Yeah! You don't have to go to work!

I couldn't help but think - that child isn't even in Year 3 of primary schooling yet and already she's looking forward to her retirement. She must have realised that running that sweetie shop is going to be a pretty tough ride.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Don't Mow. Let It Grow

This was, for a few years, a shorn lawn. Then the ride-on mower started playing up and we decided not to replace it as we found we actually prefer the long grass. As do the insects, the insect-eating birds, the wildflowers and the children.

In springtime we have cuckoo flowers and wild orchids growing through it. Dog violets and primroses grow profusely under the beech trees. There are not so many summer meadow flowers apart from plantains but this bugle appears to be colonising parts of the garden.

I've always liked long grass as this collection of photographs shows.

Bert has reseeded a small area at the side of the house that we will keep short as will be a lovely backdrop for my flowerbeds and hopefully it will keep the bindweed in the old hedge from encroaching any further into my flower beds.

The beginnings of the grass that will be mown. That bit at the back where Bert is digging a grave for one of my favourite hens will be kept wild. Too much effort to tame in and dead chickens need to go somewhere.

So what happened to the hen? Every day she escaped the run and wandered about wild and free pecking and scraping and living a very happy life. Only yesterday I was out and about doing stuff in the garden and I thought what a sweet picture she'd make against the emerald green of the new grass. I never did get round to fetch my camera and within an hour she was gone. Young Lockhart and His husky dog Phoenix had called to visit us and it had been a while, so long we'd all forgotten that Phoenix and hens don't get on.

Ah well. Was a quick end and she died happy.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

In Which I Become My Own Cleaner

We had a young man visit us a week ago who was very enthusiastic about his new cleaner.

You should get one. It has entirely changed my life. She comes once a week, spends an hour and a half cleaning and it only costs me #18. My house is spotless and I have nothing to do other than wash dishes for the entire week.

That wouldn’t work for me. Ninety minutes wouldn’t look at this place. Not with the size of it, four dogs, a constant stream of visitors and Bert tramping dirt of the yard the entire, live-long day.

Oh, not-a-tall. You should get one. It will change your life. She is so efficient. It used to take me half the day just to clean my kitchen. I kept getting distracted.

I’d look well getting a cleaner and me retired, fit and able and anyway – it would stress me out – I’d feel I’d need to take the rough off the house before the cleaner came.

Aye, I do that too.

This boy has passions. The last time he was here he’d just bought a sports car. Best thing in the world. We’d happened to mention we were looking for a car for Hannah who’d just passed her test and nothing would do him but she should get a sports car just like his. He couldn’t be chatted out of it.

Anyway, after he’d gone I had a think about the cleaner idea. It’s not that I wanted to hire one but perhaps I could be my own cleaner? I decided to get up earlier the next day and clean for 90 minutes. Well, two sessions of 45 minutes with a refreshing cup of coffee in between.

I got up early the next morning and in ninety minutes I washed dishes, cleaned the kitchen, sun-room, hall, and downstairs bathroom. I brushed and mopped landing and stairs and put laundry on. When the timer pinged I had not managed to get round to my private, secret sitting room, the scullery, upstairs bathroom or any of the bedrooms. Nevertheless, I marched up to Bert, who was still in bed reading the last couple of chapters of Cold Comfort Farm and announced that I’d cleaned for an hour and a half and he owed me nine quid. (His share of the cleaner’s wages.)

And I’ve been my own cleaner ever since. I usually just do it for an hour but if I’m going out early I’ll be efficient for 30 minutes. It does make a difference as getting basic cleaning out of the way means I can spend the rest of my time doing what I please and what I please is mostly working in the garden. I reckon Bert owes me at least 60 quid by now although I don’t expect to receive it any time soon.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Back To School

Bert and I accepted an invitation to attend Grandparent's Day at Evie's school. Evie was slightly concerned that Bert would turn up in his 'muddy farm boots' just as he'd done the other day when he met the pair of them at the bus station.  So I chose his outfit and I have to say he looked rather nice. Slim-fitting navy trousers (he has the figure for those), a linen shirt and his best Converse sneakers. He'd even combed his hair.

It was an enjoyable morning for us all. The children whose grandparents couldn't be there weren't left out. I had two extra ones, good friends of Evie, join us for story reading (Evie chose excellent books) and again in the play park where I was expected to applaud cartwheeling, handstands and Irish dancing. After refreshments, we were invited to visit our grandchild's classroom which was really inspiring. A far cry from the drab and regimented teaching environments that was Nellybert's experience.

I left the school feeling very happy that Martha and Evie go to a really good school with impressive facilities and a dedicated staff team. They are lucky girls.

After that, it was back to the usual. Bert got changed back into his working clothes and worked hard all day, watering, weeding and putting up orders.

By ten o'clock the poor man was exhausted and tottering around like a ninety-year-old. Says I,

It's a far cry from the spritely young granda you were this morning.

He could only agree.