Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

It's seven o'clock and I've had four hours sleep. Awakened by Roy barking to be let out. I'm not pleased. I look outside, then I go outside to look at the sky. Sun's not up, the moon is waning gibbous but so bright. There is a passenger jet blinking past and Venus is dazzling in the east. I think it's Venus. I decide to have coffee and keep and blog Christmas Eve even though I've already got plenty to do. Who hasn't?

Who hasn't? Well - Bertram for a start but he'll find something useful to be getting on with as the day progresses. Just like yesterday when he took over my kitchen to melt beeswax, something I think could have been postponed until the festivities are done.

Blog excerpt from ten years ago.

And on the home front, Bert has embarked on his traditional Christmas preparations. This always involves a large, messy and thoroughly non-urgent task that he has been putting off for at least three years. I think it was last year he decided to demolish the turf shed and this year he’s building (from scratch) a sliding door between the scullery and the hall. The house is knee deep in sawdust and I’m terrified the kitten is going to decapitate itself on Bert’s Makita.

Two minutes past eight. The eastern sky is brightening and I'm off back to bed with another coffee. I won't stay long.

Just long enough to read another few pages of Fire and Fury. I've got to the bit where Bannon's still in the West Wing but teetering.

By nine o'clock I had the Heavenly Chocolate Pudding on the hob. It's Evie's favourite. Bert is still in bed but awake. I asked him, ever so nicely, not to embark upon any project that encroaches upon the domestic sphere. He promised he wouldn't. Actually, he said he might stay in bed all day. Surely in jest?

Twenty-five past ten. I'm tired. Hens fed and watered and a Christmas gift from one of the red girls. A big brown egg. They've all been off the lay for weeks except for the white one and she lays out. Her current nest is underneath the palm tree which is very inconvenient as collection entails having to kneel in the earth and stretch in to lift them.

Eleven forty-five. Managed to get Bert (he did get up) and Vancouver Brother out of the house for an hour or two and am eating a favourite breakfast of toast, strong cheese and my own chilli jam. I have produced a giant bowl of breadcrumbs for the turkey stuffing. I still haven't laid eyes on the bird.

A quarter to two and the boys are back after breakfasting at Grafters. I've had a shower, read a bit of my book, took some photographs with my new (to me) camera, cleaned out the fire and peeled a dozen onions. I am at present drinking a cup of peppermint tea and feel very tired.

Much more practice needed with this camera

Three hours later. Nearly 5 o'clock and I have a new lease of life. Trifle started - the fruity, cakey alcoholic bit and with the help of Vancouver Brother vegetables and meat prepped for tonight's supper. Melanie has just arrived bearing gifts. I got two geranium Rozanne. Apparently I said on this very blog that I wanted those. Who needs letters to Father Christmas? I just tell the blog and I get everything I want. Martha, Evie and their parents will be here any moment. Aha! That's them now. It will be a few hours before I return to blogging.

A quarter past seven. Listening to Dixieflyer (our brother-in-law) on Mad Wasp Radio. We've eaten, exchanged presents and said goodnight to two extremely excited young women. Supper was good, sausages, mash, veggies followed by my choc pud, Bert's ganache and vanilla ice cream. Banjo Man has been and gone and I'm not the slightest bit tired.

Great-Uncle Eamon and the noisiest girls in the world.

Nearly half-eight. I've had a glass of wine, courtesy of The Bun, and a little doze so now it's time to load the dishwasher and make the turkey stuffing. Bert has offered to chop onions and grate carrots. The turkey has been weighed. It's a big one and will need the most of five hours in the oven .

Half-past nine. Eamon and I finished making the stuffing, Bert cleaned up and we completed another stage of the sherry trifle. The men are cooking the ham and no doubt they'll eat a whack of it after I go to bed. But that's OK. They're good fellows, they deserve it.

Wishing everyone who visits the Garden a peaceful Christmas.

And hit publish.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Calling

It is nearly seven days since I updated the blog. Blame Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Monstera Deliciosa (Tales From A Room)

I look back at this picture taken Christmas 1976 ( I was 23) and it brings back so many memories. That dress. Floral, bought from the Go Gay Boutique (yes, really!) in Lower Mill Street, Ballymena. It was floor length, fashionable then and showed a lot of cleavage which I was shy about hence the long fringed shawl. Silly to be shy, for I had a most magnificent bust. But unlike maxi-dresses and fringed shawls,  bosoms were not so fashionable back in the mid-seventies.

Who was the guy in the background? Somebody sleazy, masquerading as respectable. He sired a child back then that he ignores to this day. Shame on him. Nothing to do with me.

I remember that night so well because I was to meet a boy at that party. Someone I'd been seeing for a while, someone I thought I was in love with. Heck, I was in love with him in the way people are before they know what love is. He jilted me that night. Went off with someone else and broke my heart. I knew I'd been stood up when that picture was taken and I was pretending not to care.

The plant was a Swiss Cheese Plant, a Christmas gift from my friend Rosie. I had it for years.

Forty years later and a favourite haunt of mine is the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast. There the Monstera Deliciosa plants are enormous. That picture only shows a few of the leaves at the base of the plant. That baby is more than ten foot tall. So I'm yearning to have one for myself. On my most recent visit to Ikea, I said to Zoe,

Should I?

And she says,

You should.

So I did.

Call back in several years when it's ten foot tall.

Friday, December 14, 2018

A Spoilt Walk

I took the dogs for a lunchtime walk by the river path from Cullybackey. Sadly, our walk was curtailed because of the danger from falling trees and branches. It wasn't even windy today.

No doubt, the signs are put up so that the council isn't liable should someone be killed or injured by falling timber. Or maybe (my suspicious mind) it's that damn hotel trying to do another land grab

Back in 2006, the wire fence that the hotel put up was ripped down and when the fence was replaced with those metal barriers that are placed around building sites someone (not me) used bolt cutters to dismantle them and then threw them in the river. Total renegades live around here and they will not have their walks curtailed.

Another annoyance, actually more upsetting than annoying was that our walk coincided with a pig delivery to the local abattoir. Their poor, pathetic squeals carrying over the fields would make any meat eater feel horribly guilty. 

The final blight on my walk was the number of discarded dog poo bags. I can never understand this. Why pick up dog faeces in a plastic bag then hang in on a branch, or fence or throw it on the ground? Most of the bags (I counted at least a dozen) were within five minutes walk of a bin.

Do they pick up the dogshit only if someone can see them? And toss it as soon as no one is looking? No matter why people do it, they are dirty savages festooning the pathway with their little black bags of filth. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I've been on tenterhooks all day. Even though I don't actually know what tenterhooks are although I intend to find out before this blog post is published. One could even say that I have been 'on eggs' which means nervy, slightly anxious, worried about sudden a move or commotion that might damage one's eggs. What has me on tenterhooks, on eggs? Three things, in order of importance from not to a lot.

First thing - will I get the dress I'm intending to bid for on eBay? I love shopping for clothes on eBay. I relish the thrill as the final seven seconds ticks by. My bid goes in at eight seconds to the finish which is far more fun than Auction Sniper. Of course, I don't always succeed but it's all part of the game.  And I got the dress.

Second thing - will Theresa May survive the confidence vote? It's not that I like her or anything but the wannabes waiting in the wings are mostly a crew of despicable blackguards and a leadership race at this time of crisis is the last thing needed. I still hope that Brexit will not happen although that seems unlikely now. If it does happen my next hope is that Ireland will be whole again and that Scotland declares independence. May survived it.

The third and most important thing - a friend got some really good news today after a worrying health scare. Relief reigns. Thank you.

See the dog in the middle? That's Judy. She's a floozy. I'm not sure what exactly a floozy is or even if a mongrel bitch can be one but I intend to find out before this blog post is published.

See the fellow that all the dogs are sitting and lying on. That's Peter. He loves Judy and Judy loves him. At least she did until another visitor arrived then off she went to schmooze with Trev. Peter was sad. Trev's beard isn't anything like as long or as red as Peter's beard. And we all thought that dogs are supposed to be loyal. Not Judy.

plural noun: tenterhooks
  1. a hook used to fasten cloth on a drying frame or tenter (see tenter1).

  1. a girl or a woman who has many casual sexual partners.

Oh dear. The floozy definition is rather judgmental. And Judy definitely doesn't have casual sex with our friends - unless intense sniffing of beards is some sort of foreplay.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Ink On Her Hands

Some Thursdays Miss Evie alights from the school bus in something of a rage. Yesterday was one of these days. I understand this for the trials of Year 3 must be difficult for a young person. She was crying frustrated tears, I went to take her little paw but she pulled it away. Why? She had ink on her hands. And she had - the sort of thick and sticky ink contained in cheap ballpoint pens.

So we had to go to the bus station toilets. There were quite a few people waiting on the seats for it was a cold and windy day. I looked meaningfully at a young man with a holdall on the seat beside him. He removed it and I sat down because I knew it might be a long time before Evie and Martha would emerge. There was some light conversation with the other people waiting while behind the toilet door I could hear Evie’s frustrated sobs and Martha attempting to soothe her. Then the outside door opened and a tall young man burst in shouting.

You have to help me! You have to help me!

We all looked at him with interest. I don’t know what the other people thought but my guess was a medical emergency and that the bus station staff would take care of it. First aid, ambulances, that sort of thing. Probably happens all the time at bus stations.

He went on,

My girlfriend was on the train but she couldn’t open the door! And now she’s gone and she’s a foreigner and she won’t know what to do!

The person behind the desk explained to the young man that she couldn’t do anything as it was a matter for the railway staff and he’d have to ask them to help. But the next stop was Cullybackey and his friend could always get off there.

The young man was sobbing and distraught. He left the waiting room and another young fellow got up to see if he could help him which I thought very kind of him. But he was back in soon after as there was nothing to be done.

Meanwhile, Martha opens the door and says,

Granny, we need your help.

I went in. Evie still had ink on her hands and it wasn’t shifting. I told her not to worry as I had special stuff at home that would take it off and that mollified her. We left the waiting area.

The young man who had lost his girlfriend was outside, still distraught. It occurred to me that I was going to Cullybackey and that, teens of years ago, I’d have involved myself in his drama and ended up regretting it. But I didn’t because, for all I know, his girlfriend (if she even was his girlfriend) might have looked out to the platform, saw him, and thought to herself,

I’m not too sure about this one. I’m not getting off this train!

And we had our own drama to contend with. The ink on Evie’s hands.

When we got home I mixed sugar and cooking oil into a paste and Evie rubbed it into her hands and most of the ink disappeared. I told her the rest would wear off and that the sugar and oil paste was a special trick I learned from her Great-Grandmother Martha. She was OK after that.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Today's Question

These past few days I've been racking and bottling wines. Much easier in the winter months when there are no fruit flies. Recent batches are an improvement on some that have gone before in that they're dry. And strong. I do dislike sweet wines. Today was bright and sunny and I loved the way the sun caught this blackberry and raspberry and made it glow. Obviously, going by the lovely red colour, a lot more rasp than black.

The bright day tempted me out to the tunnel where I chopped down the remains of the sunflowers (saving seed) and cleared one of the vegetable beds. The bed was covered in cardboard to keep down weeds and on top of that will go a barrow load of well-rotted manure.

I went to inspect the midden for a choice bit of well-rotted dung for the veggies and peach trees. It was easy to spot the good stuff as Zoe had got there before me. Following Zoe is mainly how I grow my fruit and vegetables. Returning indoors I noticed how gorgeous the sky was in its colours of carmine and dove grey. Bert was sitting smoking by his fire and in deep thought. He had been looking at the sky too and had a question for me.

What if the sun was to go down on the other side of the sky? D'ye think anyone would notice?

My answer?

I think the vast majority of people would notice. As long as humans have existed the sun has set in the west. We might not always be paying attention but we'd figure out something wasn't right.

Isn't he lucky to have me to answer his questions?

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Mrs Google Woman

Bert must think that I am a veritable Fount of Knowledge because he is always asking me questions and expectant of a full and correct answer. I should try and remember some of the best ones.

Today’s questions included,

Which President came after Bush senior?
Too easy. You should know that Bert. It was Clinton.
I thought it was. Just checking.

Other people fact-check on Google. Bert fact-checks on me. But I don’t always know the answer. For instance,

Who won the fight last night?
What? What fight?
Fury and Wilder.
How should I know? Go check it on your Smart TV.

Bert’s television is smart, his phone is dumb.

He has his friends at it too. Rod was round the other night and we were watching vintage pop on Bert’s Smart TV. Rod asks,

Where is Clodagh Rodgers from?
Newry? Wait a mo’ - I’ll check Google.

Turned out it was Warrenpoint. I’m not infallible.

Clodagh Rodgers. God, she was deadly. Amazing legs but couldn’t dance for toffee.