Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Quidditch and Other Questions

Bert's first utterance this morning was one of his random questions.

Do you know what Quidditch is?

Of course.

Is it a sport?

Yea, sort of. It's semi-fantastical, played at Hogwarts. From Harry Potter. Why do you ask?

They were talking about it on some TV show last night.

My Bert. He's only interested in what he's interested in. Some cultural references just pass him by.

Meanwhile - Miss Martha is going to have a Room Of Her Own. Which, incidentally, means so is Miss Evie, but because Martha is Moving Out that is a big deal. I was pleased that I guessed what her room will be called - The Cupboard Under The Stairs - for Martha is a Harry Potter fan too. Apparently, there is also a Harry Potter-themed password before entry to Martha's room will be granted. I didn't guess that which is probably just as well as who wants one's granny barging into one's room uninvited?

That photograph of Lily was taken this morning. Both pigs were allowed in the orchard this morning and after they got bored gorging on windfalls Lily stripped a pinus of whatever it was that covered it during the summer. Maybe bindweed, so hopefully, that's not very poisonous for hogs.

Meanwhile - it's New Year's Eve and we are Nellybert, Hannah, The Banjos and Sarah and five dogs. The evening is still young. Unlike me. I remember reading 1984 when I was sixteen and thinking that was the scary, scary future.

Anyways, if you are still here, have a Happy New Year. Someone's bound to have one. Hope it's you.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Viewing, Walking and Ranting

Lulu and Nelly on Waterfoot Beach

Nellybert entertained Vancouver Brother for a few days over the holiday. All the cooking on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was my own effort and turned out very well. After lunch, we watched a TV programme about a steam train travelling on the Highland Railway from Fort William to Mallaig. It was relaxing, no narrative, just the choo-choo, clacking sound of the train and the gentle snoring of Eamon and Bert.

Brother Joe* had recommended The Two Popes so I watched it on Netflix with Leitrim Sister and Bert and enjoyed it. That night, before I went to sleep, I found myself yearning for that certainty of belief. Maybe that's what is needed to make my life better. I opened my arms and my heart and asked for guidance. Then I dreamed that I lived under a harsh, totalitarian regime. Guidance? Or a glimpse of the future that awaits us under The World King?

Between all the eating, drinking and lying around it was definitely time for a nice walk. Leitrim Sister, Lulu the Jack Russell Terrier and I headed off to Waterfoot beach. It was lovely, Lulu made lots of new friends, some of whom were giants.

There was just one thing that spoiled it. There were at least five children who had been given quad bikes for Christmas (Bad Santa) and they were churning around, driving like crazy on the beach and, worse than that, riding over the dunes while their foolish parents looked on indulgently. Waterfoot beach is a conservation area. I might need to pen a letter of complaint to the World King, who (I'm told) is a keen conservationist. Failing that, a letter to Moyle District Council might suffice. Ach! Who am I kidding? As long as there are stupid, irresponsible parents, there will be wrecking children. And while I'm on this rant, come May, keep your wee shites off the bluebells!

* Brother Joe is not a monk.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

All Those Boys At Christmas


I cooked a turkey, baked ham and assembled a trifle.


We had turkey, chips and pickled peppers for supper.

Bert and Brendan. 

I love Christmas Eve. For it's too late to change anything. Christmas is going to happen. It's going to be OK.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Nature Watch

I said, in my previous post, that I do not intend to let Mr Johnson's recent electoral success depress me too much. It seems if the family WhatsApp group is anything to go by, that my siblings have the same idea. We really are a left-leaning lot. In this family, if one wants to be rebellious, the only options are to vote conservative or never vote at all.

It's nature that lifts our spirits. In WhatsApp Land Leitrim Sister was cheered to see a small herd of Fallow Deer in the boggy field behind her house. Ganching can watch woodpeckers, jays, green parakeets and foxes in her London garden. Miss Kerry Niece got a good close look at a fox and London Sister managed a squirrel. In Cully, Nellybert spotted a tiny little goldcrest feeding on insects on our house walls.

And joy! There was a goldcrest back again today, I got even closer and grabbed a far better shot.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Noli Timere

Yesterday's election did not bring me the result that I'd hoped for. I didn't even want that much, just a reality check for the DUP and a hung parliament in Westminster. I got the first, but not the second. Mr Johnson got his majority and all who voted for him will get their Brexit Done. Enjoy, peeps - it is going to be quite a ride.

I'm not going to get depressed about it, not yet anyway. Maybe things will be OK and, hey! Christmas is coming. I'm not even that much of a Christmas fan but this year I'm going to make the most of it.

Now, I'd like to share with the several people that come to Nelly's Garden some of my thoughts about the political system in this place where I live.

Firstly, it makes me very cross when people say things like,

Politicians! They're all the same. Just out for themselves.

I disagree. Of course, there are some, maybe too many, who might give this impression but I believe that most people who go into politics do so for the right reasons, those reasons being a desire to serve their community, and to make society a better place, for the many, not the few.

Another thing that bothers me is folk that don't vote. I know some and they are mostly very good people and part of me understands their disillusionment with the political process but, for fuck's sake, just vote! It won't kill you.

Living in Northern Ireland and having experienced the abandonment of FPTP voting for proportional representation has me believing that the UK is long overdue electoral reform. It would lead to much fairer representation for everyone. Parties such as the Greens are extremely underrepresented despite receiving a significant amount of votes nationwide. Obviously, this would not be an attractive proposition for the leading parties but I think it would make for a more balanced government, where everyone's voice had a better chance of being heard.

Now, I'm an oldie but this made me think. It was a while ago, back in the days of Theresa May and 'Brexit Means Brexit'. I was listening to a phone-in on Radio 4 and a  woman called on behalf of her parents who were so disappointed that their vote to leave the EU had not yet been implemented. The two old souls were so disillusioned that they were considering leaving the Conservative Party. The phone-in host enquired as to the age of the woman's parents. She replied ninety-two and ninety-four. I was amazed. Call me ageist all you wish but why were people in what is likely the last decade of their lives doing concerning themselves about a process that they will never see completed? This is why young people need to use their vote. Because of these old Tories who are certain to use theirs and they don't give one damn what life is going to be like for the generations coming behind them. Not one damn.

How Martha spent election day, making and playing with slime. She's ten. In eight years time, I hope she'll be out there taking her place in the world, changing it for the better.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Old Dairy

London is not like Northern Ireland, you wouldn't even know there was a General Election coming up. No posters anywhere, except for a few in people's windows, and all of those were supporting Labour. Somehow, I managed to avoid meeting any obvious Tories while I was there.

You'll be wondering if I went only to Islington North and stayed put but that is not what happened for I travelled widely around the capital beginning in Tottenham Hale, passing through Finsbury Park on the way to Muswell Hill. People sleep rough under the bridge at Finsbury Park which is a sobering sight. From Finsbury Park to Muswell Hill we passed the Old Dairy in Crouch Hill, which in the eighties was opposite flats where all four of my sisters used to live. The building has been gentrified and is now a restaurant.

Deirdre and Bert in Crouch Hill, the Old Dairy, sometime in the 1980s

The Old Dairy dates from the early 1890s. This recent photo is from Google Maps.

I decided this time that I wouldn't visit galleries or museums. Rather, I would walk lots and just soak up the atmosphere and history of the city. History is everywhere.

I remember Matty was very taken by the dairy. I think it tickled her that a building associated with farming was located in the heart of a huge city. But city folks like milk too and back in the 19th century it just wasn't possible for everyone to have their own cow. London contained a good number of dairies and herds of milking cows were to be found throughout the city. The Friern Manor Dairy Company which owned the building in Crouch Hill was one of many. Their cows were grazed and milked in Peckham, the milk distributed from churns and ladled into the customer's own jug.

London Sister, who once lived in Crouch Hill with Ganching, Kerry Sister and Leitrim Sister, is still not that far from an old dairy. In 1915 Manor Farm Dairy sold milk and poultry from this building in Muswell Hill.

One hundred years later, yet another of life's basic essentials was being sold from the same building.

I definitely preferred the original entrance.


Thursday, December 05, 2019

In Which Bert Is A Great Big Tease


Evie told me that Bert calls her pink booster seat a 'wedding chair'.

I said,

Why does he say that?

He says I'm too big for it. He says I'll still be sitting on it when I go to my wedding.

Well, that's not very nice of him. What did you say?

I told him I'm not even going to have a wedding. It costs too much money. I'm just going to live with somebody.


A sad day for hens. One died of natural causes and four by a fox. Needless to say, all roosters survived. Bert saw the arrogant brute this morning and considered shooting him but decided not to. We were letting the hens out to wander the yard every afternoon so our fault.


We took Martha and Evie for dinner at the Pizza Parlour. It has changed hands and moved premises but the pizzas are still as good as ever. Bert ordered a large anchovy and olive and was almost beaten by it. I said, "Why don't you take a little break, then go back to it?" He said, "Yeah. That's what Italians do." I said, "And while they're taking their break they slip out of the restaurant and whack someone." He said, "While everyone else in the restaurant laughs loudly at silly jokes and no-one hears a thing."

Full disclosure, we just watched The Irishman, then GoodFellas, Bert for the fourth time, me for the first. I'd only ever caught the scene where Christopher from The Sopranos got his foot shot at by Joe Pesci, so sorry Italian-Americans for the lazy stereotyping, blame Martin Scorsese.


Whilst uploading the Pizza Parlour photos from my phone I came across one on the family WhatsApp page, shared by my brother, a photograph of his beautiful first grandchild who died in September. There will have to be a new kind of Christmas in Ava's family, one where there will always be someone very special missing. It's going to be hard.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Maria Goretti and Other Saints

I may have mentioned before that Bert uses me instead of Google so when he recently asked,

Who is Padre Pio?

I wasn't that surprised for Padre Pio is not talked much of among Presbyterians. My brief summary of the life and times of the holy man complete he went on to enquire,

So, who was Maria Goretti then? And Dominic Savio?

I replied,

What is it that you're reading there? The Sacred Heart Messenger? Catholic Herald?

He held the volume up.

I'll have to add that to my to-read stack.

Anyway, to get back to Bert's early morning question time. I told him.

Actually, I do know quite a bit about Saint Maria Goretti, for we had her holiness rammed down our throats at home and at the convent. She was a great example to be held up for she died for her purity. I remember asking Mammy about what the fellow who killed her wanted to do to her and she wouldn't tell me! So, we're expected to die for our purity when we don't even know what purity is. 

As to Dominic Savio, I don't know. But he must be a quare holy fellow because I have a cousin who has Savio for his middle name.

Which cousin?

The really tall one.

I googled Dominic Savio and it turned out he was this goody-goody, celebrated for his piety. He was studying to be a priest, got pleurisy and died aged fourteen. I told this to Bert, who said,

Fourteen? That's a bit young to be made a saint. What's all that about?

I don't know. Ask the Pope. Anyway, fourteen isn't that young. Maria Goretti was twelve. 

Later I found myself thinking about Maria Goretti or, to be accurate, a namesake. I did know a girl of that name, a dark-haired girl around my own age. We would have been about fourteen at the time. This Goretti must have had a ship-wrecked Spanish sailor in her ancestry for she was exotic, she was sensuous, and she had the hairiest legs I'd ever seen on a girl. She was also an accomplished Irish dancer. That is when I first noticed the hairiness. We walked home from school together once. Just once, for she was a bit of a loner, held herself apart. On that walk, we passed quite a few men and I was aware that she was having an effect on them. They all looked at her, some of them yearningly. To tell the truth they might not have been fully-fledged men but to me, then, any fellow over seventeen was a man. So, while the men yearned after my companion she walked aloof paying no attention. I think I must have had a crush on her myself.

Of course, all this was projection on my part for who knows what was going on with Goretti. For some reason, I've held on to that memory for over fifty years, the sensuous young girl named after the Italian virgin martyr.

One thing about the trio Bert asked about, Padre Pio, Dominic Savio, Maria Goretti - they were all Italian. The Catholic church never looked too far afield when they sought saints to inspire their flock. I don't know about Padre Pio (mystic) or Dominic Savio (prig) but poor Maria Goretti was the victim of a murderous rapist and instead of recognising that fact, our elders used her experience to keep us girls in line. So, what happened to her murderer? According to Wikipedia, Serenelli, 20 years old at the time of Maria Goretti's death, went to prison for 27 years. He repented and on his release sought the forgiveness of the Goretti family and joined a monastery.

This morning, Bert's question was,

How many men's names begin with 'N'. I can only think of five.