Monday, October 28, 2019

A Sequence Of Events

I bought a sourdough loaf on Saturday morning and told the man who baked it all about my sourdough starter which will be celebrating its 3rd birthday this coming March. The man said that the secret to keeping a starter lively is filtered water. Something to tell Les. Tell the truth, his bread wasn’t as good as Les’ or mine but I needn’t talk as I haven't baked a loaf in the best part of a year even though I have worked through several kilos of strong flour just keeping the starter going.

An egg for poaching

On Sunday I made poached eggs and sourdough toast. The bread was the devil to cut and a bit of it got stuck in the toaster and went on fire. I removed toaster and bread outdoors to shake out the burning crumbs and accidentally dropped the toaster on the ground. And hoped I hadn’t broken it.

Today, Monday I went into town to order floor coverings for Hannah’s rooms. As always it turned out not a simple errand and the carpet man will have to come out to measure up which saddened Bert as he wanted to fit cupboards and skirting boards and now he’ll have to hold his horses.

Whilst in town I visited Lidl to buy a few bits and pieces and as always bought more than I had bags to carry it in. In the queue, I noticed one of the Lidl staff behind me with a couple of items for her break. I suggested she go ahead of me as break time is precious. She was very gracious and left me feeling good. It’s nice to be nice and lovely to be thanked.

I had a bit of time to spare so called at one of Ballymena’s many Christian charity shops to see what was on offer. It was quiet and the lady in charge commented on the coldness of the weather. I made the appropriate responses. She said,

It’s a change to speak to someone who understands me.

I found this an odd remark and asked her what she meant.

She said,

Well, you know, speaking to someone who isn’t - ‘foreign’.

This sort of thing happens to me a lot. People, mostly women around my age, say something vaguely xenophobic and seem to invite me to agree with them. I must have the appearance of a racist.

I said,

Well, you must agree that the people who come here from other countries are very supportive of our local charity shops.

And she said,

Yes, they are. But they’re always trying to get things for less than the price.

I said,

You just need to say that the price is the price.

Then added,

And, as you know, God loves everybody, no matter where they come from.

(Left unsaid) Even those of us who were not born and reared in Harryville.

I paid the asking price, no quibbling

Back home, I made poached eggs and sourdough toast. With some difficulty as the toaster was broken. I had to hold the lever down which defeats the purpose of a toaster.

After breakfast I changed into old shoes and yesterdays jeans intending to do a bit of grubbing about in the polytunnel.

And then changed back into today’s jeans and Dune boots when Bert asked me to accompany him on a sanitary ware buying expedition. We bought a wash hand basin and toilet and then went to Tesco to buy a new toaster. This job done I returned to the van to find that Bert was unable to start it. Some sort of flat battery issue. Guess what? Neither of us had our phone. Yet Tesco isn't a bad place to be phoneless and broken down for along came Young Rainey’s even younger and more beautiful wife who gave me a lift home where there were lots of phones and numbers of people (Carlo) prepared to drive into town and get Bert on the road again.

Young Rainey’s lovely wife said,

You’re not blogging so much these days.

I said,

I know. But I’ll do one for you this evening.

And this is it. Thank you again, Sarah.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

In Praise Of The Master Electrical Engineer

Rachael loaned me a moth trap which is mine for an indefinite period, the only condition being that I must use it, record and report my findings.

I am notoriously afraid of new technology. I am the person who buys a new printer and keeps it unopened in the box for three months or more, before finding the courage to unpack it and try it out. This has happened more than once during my lifetime. A new phone? It will be weeks before I figure out all the amazing stuff it can do. Skype? A lovely idea but it frightens me. What's App calls? The stuff of nightmares. Eventually, I get there. When the stars are correctly aligned, when I can gather the necessary pluck. And so it was with the moth trap. I've had it for nearly two weeks and the only moth I've trapped was a little green and bronze one in the van yesterday. It has been photographed and has yet to be identified. Not even sure if it was a moth.

Rachael, not knowing the extent of my craven cowardice, did not help when she said,

Be careful how you move it, it's a bit delicate, hard to put together again if it falls apart - and the battery is a bit flaky. Might need a really good charge and then perhaps, another one.

Way to put off a technophobe.

I don't actually understand batteries, I know it is something to do with electricity which I also don't understand. Despite this, I decided today to charge the hell out of that flaky battery and get that moth trap on the road. So I did and when I connected the possibly charged battery to the unit that lit the fluorescent light nothing happened. Was it the charger? The battery? The bulb? How was I supposed to know? I hit Google.

The charger retailed at around £150. The battery? How much might that be? How did it all work anyway? I didn't mind spending some money. But how much? And on what?

Then in walked a Master Electrical Engineer. He didn't even get to sit down. Come here, said I. Showed him the moth trap, All he said was,

Can I have a star screwdriver and your reading glasses?

And then,

You should have said. I could have brought my *magical special instrument that solves all electrical mysteries*.

It was amazing. With the aid of my star screwdriver and my reading glasses he took everything apart, showed me how it all worked, told me about the light sensor and transformers which I didn't even know existed and offered several solutions to my problem which will involve no spending on my part. This man couldn't tell a moth from a midge yet he was ablaze with ideas as to how to actually activate a camera to take pictures of moths as they entered the trap.

I really must introduce him to Rachael.

I wish there was a decent photograph of that greeny bronzey flying creature I trapped in the van but all my pictures were terrible. Instead, I offer a snap of the garlic I sorted for seed and that I planted yesterday.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Just Another Saturday

It was quite the day today as far as the Brexit negotiations went. Earlier this week I thought I might sit glued to the Westminster channel for most of the day but, in the end, I decided not to. Our elected representatives would do whatever they thought they ought whether I was paying attention or not.

Instead, I went out to the polytunnel, dismantled my bean poles, fed the remainder of the broads, runners and French to Clover the cow and her friends, chopped up the sunflowers, dug up nettles and creeping buttercups, hoed, mulched, watered and wheeled many barrow loads to the compost heap.

Then I came in to check Guardian Online to see what those rascally parliamentarians had been up to.

And read,

MPs have inflicted a humiliating defeat...

Another one! It's been one humiliating defeat after another since our present PM took over. He must be getting tired of humiliating defeats, just as that other blond across the pond gets tired of winning.

Then I checked out who voted for what and quelle surprise! My elected MP had voted for the first time ever just as I might have urged him to. What a turn up. I'm still not voting for him next time. He'll still get in.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lost Lives Again

This was the most beautiful day in balmy Belfast. And I spent the first part of the day in my favourite part of the city, the Botanic Gardens taking in a quick scoot to the museum and a longer one to the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine.

Paper sculptures inspired by Michelle Clapton's costume designs for Game of Thrones, created by Billy Butchkavitz. Currently at the Ulster Museum.

A selection of beautiful blooms seen today in the Botanic Gardens in the Palm House and Tropical Ravine.

But my main reason for today's trip to the city was to see the film Lost Lives at the Queen's Film Theatre which premiered in London yesterday. The book Lost Lives is a memorial to all who died as a result of more than three decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. My own copy is much read and referred to and has often been wept over. I wanted to see this film.

It was harrowing and beautiful, telling the stories of some of the people who died, beginning with Patrick Rooney in 1969. He was nine years old and the first of many children who were killed during the troubles.

I'd never heard of the Orr brothers, Malcolm and Peter, 19 and 20 years old. They were murdered in 1972, shot in the head and dumped on a roadside near the airport. No one knows who killed them except that they were two Protestant boys who had Catholic girlfriends. The grief of their parents as their coffins were removed from their home was terrible to see. There was so much grief portrayed in the film.

And it made me so angry to think that there are people right now who are utterly unconcerned about Ireland, about what we have come through, about our fragile peace.

The filmmakers were definite that every single death recorded in the Lost Lives book should be included. And so at the end, all the names were listed. Beginning in 1969 with 21 deaths, peaking in the first half of the 1970s (my father's brothers Sean and Brendan were murdered in 1974) then gradually declining through the 1980s, 1990s onwards. Yet one of the heart-wrenching names to see was one solitary death in 2019.

I had to compose myself as I left the theatre. And it felt strange to be out in the sunshine again in Belfast, with people going about their business, just like any other city, on any fine afternoon. My edition of Lost Lives records 3697 deaths between 1969 and 2001 and 45% of those occurred in Belfast.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Braid And The Broo

London Sister was with us this weekend. When Ava died she and her husband were in Brittany so she was unable to attend the funeral. So, this weekend, she came over to spend time with our brother and to see his family. She also spent some time with me and my family.

On Saturday we met for lunch in Middletown which is a great place to visit. It’s also where Sir Ian McKellen goes for coffee when he is in Ballymena. We were LS, Nelly, Zoe, Martha and Evie. After that, it was another look at the Fiddle and the Fife exhibition at The Braid.

This is Leslie Craig from Cullybackey, a very accomplished accordionist and composer. He stated that his first experience of playing in a session with other musicians was at Byrne's pub on the Antrim line.

Sheena and Paddy her father (to her right) were my neighbours from home. She was full of love and a true celeb

The photo and words are by Leitrim Sister who visited the Braid a few weeks ago with myself and Ganching.

The Tannaghmore connection continued. This Lambeg drum belonged to the Tannaghmore Ancient Order of Hibernians. If it's our Tannaghmore then it must be really ancient as I've never heard of a lodge in the townland.

While we were absorbing our local musical history Miss Evie was engrossed in another traditional pastime. Playing with conkers.

On the way home, we passed this building.

The Crown Buildings on George Street which formerly contained the office of the Unemployment Bureau known locally as the 'broo'. Long queues would form outside and while they waited, people carved graffiti into the soft Bann brickwork. It's still there, not that anyone would notice it unless they took a closer look. Which we did.


History isn't just in museums. It's everywhere.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Reasons To Be Thankful, One, Two, Three


  • Met someone new with whom I think I might get on well.
  • Swisser visited and I made her a delicious vegetarian meal which we all enjoyed.
  • Really got into my Margaret Atwood book, The Stone Mattress.


  • A pleasant day. I worked in the garden and found a spot for half of my salvia patens 'Blue Angel' that I'd grown from seed.
  • I booked a ticket for a matinee at the Queen's Film Theatre next week.
  • Rusty wandered into the house which, for some reason, I found amusing. The dogs chased him out. Pigs not allowed. 


  • I enjoyed seeing the leaves begin to turn and made plans to go walking in the woods soon. With my camera of course.
  • I lit the first fire of the season in my private, secret sitting room.
  • Talked to Hannah, who scolded on the state of the world, then told me a true story about kindness which cheered us both.