Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Cold Nose

The dog wakes me up almost every day. Which dog? Sometimes it is Judy who pads into my bedroom and bumps me with her cold nose. Sometimes it is Roy who barks insistently from a downstairs room. If it is Roy there will usually be a cat sitting on the other side of the patio doors. The time will be somewhere between 6-7:30am. I get up, make coffee and when all dogs and cats are inned, outed and inned again, I return to bed to drink coffee and read. On Saturdays, I throw on some clothes and drive to the garage to buy the Guardian.

Today I was awakened from a vivid dream, which some might even call a nightmare. I was lying on a filthy bed in a derelict house. Derelict houses regularly feature in my dreams. In this dream/nightmare, I could not move and thought I might be dead. There were at least two other nameless people lying on beds near me and they were definitely dead, rotting in fact. I decided I was still alive and got up and left the house and the dream segued into that one where one is out in public improperly dressed. It was quite a relief when I felt Judy's cold nose against my face.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


I spent a couple of hours weeding and tidying in the polytunnel and found this bee lying on its back, too tired and spent to fly away. I tried it with some honey and its proboscis came out immediately and it started to feed.

This picture was taken using a magnifying app on my phone. That was when I saw the mites crawling on the bee. At first, I thought this was the cause of its ills but it turns out that these mites are often to be found hitching a ride on bumblebees. The mites feed on the debris to be found in bumblebee nests, such as wax, pollen and tiny insects. They are not harmful but sometimes when too many are clinging to the bee's body it can make flying difficult.

And that is the new thing that I learned today. I put the bumblebee in the garden near some flowers and left it and the passengers to get on with their lives.

Monday, March 25, 2019


Spring's here. Which is, I suppose, a good thing.

The clocks will soon go forward, the evenings will be longer and there are seeds to be sown. I can hope again.

Yet - everything feels wrong. I am filled with anxiety and am comfort eating like a savage. My granny jeans (Gap) feel tight and so does my chest. The doctor says I probably have a mild infection and has prescribed an antibiotic. That's a week ago now and I haven't picked it up. I should, even if it is only to tuck it away for a time of greater need.

And I cannot find the kitchen tiles I like. And my garlic isn't thriving and my friend's little bantam rooster died while I was looking after it. And Brexit. And Scott Walker died.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Sometimes life seems far too sad and serious to just, y’know, blog…

There was New Zealand. Thoughts and prayers obviously. Except I think we don’t actually do enough thinking. I’m thinking that the right thing to do would be to stand up to hate, to fearmongering, to lies. Let no-one away with it. Prayers are OK. Let’s pray that the world becomes less hateful, less fearful and more truthful. Let’s start with our own selves.

There was Cookstown. A local incident but still shocking and horrible. Thoughts and prayers? There will be plenty of those this Friday when the three young peoples’ funerals will be held. Such a waste of promising young lives and such sorrow for those left behind.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Conversations With Strangers: Part 2

My second conversation with a strange one took place outside the restrooms in Marks and Spencer. We'd been to the rally, taken the girls to lunch and I was all on my own waiting for them to come out. There was a comfortable seating area and I was feeling rested and content.

There was a woman close by, around my own age, fussing with a wheeled shopper. She asked me,

Do you know if the buses have started running yet?

I had to confess I did not know that.

She said in grumpy tones,

It's those protesters at City Hall. No buses running because of them. I don't know what they're even protesting about!

I said,

It's not a protest. It's a rally, part of International Women's Day. It happens every year.

Well, I don't know what they need to be out shouting and marching and stopping the traffic. There's no need for it!

Of course, I informed her (with some delight) that I had taken part in it. She did not look impressed.

Humph! I don't see the point of it. Stopping the buses. They need their backsides kicked! 

So I said to her,

You know how this country is. Everyone enjoys taking to the streets for a bit of a march or a parade.

She never even answered me. Just flounced off pulling her wee shopping trolley behind her.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Conversations With Strangers: Part 1

On Saturday I went to Belfast with Zoe, Martha and Evie to take part in an International Women's Day rally. Three generations of one family ready to Reclaim the Agenda.

I was on the train first and while I was waiting a woman, close to my own age, struck up a conversation. I've got one of those approachable faces. As all inhabitants of the British Isles are wont to do she started with the weather. It has been rather changeable recently. Then things took a different turn.

What do you make of Brexit?

I was surprised. One doesn't expect such a blunt question from a stranger.  Still, I answered her.

Absolute shambles.

She agreed.

This Karen Bradley. What do you think of her?

She should resign. Possibly the worst Secretary of State we've ever had.

She agreed then said,

I liked the last woman. What was her name again?

Theresa Villiers. Awful woman. Hadn't a clue about Ireland. Supported Brexit. 

What about Geoffrey Whatshisname?


The Labour man.

Jeremy Corbyn?

Yes. Do you like him?

Perhaps not the best Labour leader for the present time. What do you think?

I prefer the Conservatives.

Really? Conservative with a small 'c'?

What do you mean? Oh! I hear the train coming. I'd better go out and find a place.

Three minutes later the train did come. I didn't see my interviewer again.

 Zoe and Martha on the train

 Gathering for the rally

Flying Tiger

My second conversation with a stranger in the next post. She spoke violently and rather than sloping off, she stormed. All I could do was laugh.

Friday, March 08, 2019

March Reading List

For several months now I've been reading 10-12 books simultaneously. I was inspired to do this by Will Self, who in answer to the question,

What are you reading currently,


Before I read digitally, I’d be reading perhaps 10 books simultaneously – but now I read as many as 50 at once...

This intrigued me. I don't read digitally apart from journal and newspaper articles so thought that 10 would be a good number to start with. So far it has worked out well.

Since embarking on this project I usually have ten on the go, never more than thirteen. I have a system (I love systems) where I aim to read three of the books every night. If there is time, and there usually is, I read three in the morning. That way each book will get picked up every other day or so.

When a reading session is finished one book is retained, the one I am most eager to go on with, and two will be returned to the back of the queue and two picked from the front for the next session. This method has increased my reading dramatically and I have completed more books in 2019 than I'd normally read in half a year.

The books are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and there is normally a couple of very light reads among them. These light reads are not necessarily the most enjoyable but I usually persevere.

Currently, I'm reading twelve books, fiction by Charles Frazier, Esther Freud, Kate Atkinson, Patrick Ness, Toni Morrison, Anna Burns, Sebastian Faulks and Matthew Thomas and non-fiction by Stephen McGann, Suki Kim, Edward Stourton and Catherine Simpson. Stourton is the light read. I may not finish it.

Half of the books are from the local library, one is a new book (Milkman) and the other five are second-hand. I got Jazz in Amsterdam.  Varina and Human Traces I'm reading after Bert. He loved both. Almost finished Hideous Kinky and have just begun Simpson and McGann. 

  I should return to this theme in a few weeks time so that we can all see how I'm getting on. One more thing, I should add a previously read book to the mix. There are novels on my shelves I've had since I was sixteen years old. I'm sure some of them could bear another read. After all, there must be some reason I've held on to them for half a century.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Blogger's Block

I struggle these days with Nelly's Garden. Two recent posts have discouraged me. The most recent was A Bit Of A Siege in which I described some fraught visits to Ikea. A response (from a dear cousin) worried me. I'd been critical of some aspects of my Ikea experience but ultimately felt that part of what went wrong was my own fault. My cousin had a relative (her husband's side of the family) who worked in the Belfast store and she was concerned, on his behalf, that I had a less than satisfactory experience. That worried me. Made me think that my attempts at light-heartedness might be making someone else feel less than good about themselves.

What can I say? I'm a snowflake. At least no-one has got in touch to rail against me for disrespecting the besieged defenders of Derry.

The other posting that attracted opprobrium was Alpha and Loudmouth. I wrote that one out of shame. Shame because I listened to vile racist abuse and did not speak up. In the comments in response to a regular commenter, I remarked that both women would have been Trump supporters if they lived in the USA. I am certain of that. This drew fierce comment from another regular commenter. I get it. I was associating racists with Trumpism. And I stand by that in the context of this place.

The thing is, I know my conservative (right-wing) and Loyalist neighbours. They don't trust Catholics, they don't like foreigners, they have little compassion for immigrants. They voted for Brexit, even though as citizens of Northern Ireland that was very much against their interests. British right-wingers mainly approve of the United States' current leader.

Definitely, Trump gets a very bad press in the kind of papers I read but I do understand this - not all Trump supporters are racist but, it does seem, that most racists are Trump supporters. And this is what I would like to know, and I know I have at least one Republican Trump supporter who reads this blog, is this - what is it about this man that you support?