Friday, May 22, 2020

Oatus Interruptus

Finished Porridge Bread

I'm right in the middle of preparing porridge bread when the phone rings. The person on the other end has a drawly, disinterested Southern English accent.

Hellooo, Mrs Moser? 
This is Dylan. I'm calling about your washing machine insurance.
What about it?
It's due to expire.
Is it?
Yes. How's your machine going?
Brilliant. No problems.
That's goood. Now, as I said, the insurance is about to run out and we can...
Who do you work for?
Ah! UK Appliances...
I hope you don't mind me saying but this sounds like a scam.
It is a scam. You can hang up now.

So I do. And I don't even have washing machine insurance. Next time I'm going to play the scatty old lady, not able to find my purse etc. for my credit card details, then when I've wasted a good ten minutes of his time I'm going to shout into the phone, YOU CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Diary Of a Young Naturalist

Brimstone moths aren't that uncommon, yet I'm always pleased to see one turn up in the light trap. When it comes to the natural world, yellow is my favourite colour, closely followed by blue.

So it is only to be expected that the cover design of naturalist Dara McAnulty's first book appealed to me greatly.  Dara is from Northern Ireland, he is sixteen years old, he is autistic and he is passionate about the natural world. He started blogging about four years ago and I discovered his blog about a year in. It was inspiring and will give this young man a lot of credit for re-awakening my own interest in nature. I'm expecting his book in the post tomorrow and am excited to read it. Thank you, Dara.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I Wish There Could Be More Hugs


Bert and I went on an exciting road trip yesterday. Garden Centres are open again and everyone wants Bert's excellent clematis. We had a quick drop off in Antrim then it was off to Portglenone via Randalstown. Bert once worked for a fellow who went via Randalstown no matter where he was going and, as far as I know, he didn't even have a special friend who lived in there. Bert hadn't planned to go that way and was actually going to return to Cullybackey! He didn't know that Randalstown is the gateway to the rest of the world but I persuaded him that it would be exciting. It takes very little to please us in these days of lockdown.

We went via the Largy Road and as we came closer to Portglenone started to see knots of people standing at gateways. What's going on? The only thing we could think of was a funeral. Funerals are different now. Services are private and only a very small number of people can attend the graveside. There can be no wake. But, as we got closer to the village the crowds grew larger. There must have been a hundred or more people gathered outside the old chapel across from the forest. Social distancing was non-existent.

Being nosy, I looked up Funeral Times on my phone. The man whose funeral had just taken place was a member of a large and well-connected family. He was a retired school teacher, had a brother a priest, played Gaelic at Uni and was well thought of in his community. There were a lot of people at his funeral but if it hadn't been for coronavirus there would have been hundreds more. I hope they will all be OK.


Zoe tells me that Evie has given up on personal grooming and rarely washes her face or combs her hair. She still brushes her teeth (I hope). I saw her today at a 2-metre distance and she looked pretty fine to me. I would have loved to give her a cuddle and sniff her shiny brown hair.

She went for a walk in the fields with Bert. It's easy to keep a distance there. They were looking for the pigs. Bert said they tramped around for at least 45 minutes but no sign of Rusty and Lily. It was only on the way back that he remembered that he hadn't actually let them out and that they were still snoring in the shed. Poor pigs. They must have been peckish. I gave Rusty one of the naans I'd made for last night's supper. Waste of flour really - they weren't very good. Rusty did not agree. He thought they were so delicious that he followed me and tried to come into the house looking for more. Evie was appalled.

James and Emily

Katy shared a video of James and Emily playing in the garden. Emily is so jolly and never seems to stop laughing. I got a pang about that. They are all supposed to be coming to visit in August but how can we be sure that it will still happen? Everything is up in the air. Plans mean nothing. We live for the moment. As Emily does.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

A Walk In The Woods

I only intended to take a short walk this evening because I'd been busy, weeding the garden, dealing with scutch grass, baking, checking the hens every hour because those fuckers aren't doing their job. One solitary egg today, not enough for the amount of corn, layer's pellets and leftover porridge youse are getting, not to mention all those shot brassicas I'm hauling into you. Then there was sorting and shelving the non-fiction. Today I did horticulture and Irish, then I made dinner, then I opened a bottle of compensatory lockdown, had one glass and went for a walk in the woods.

Bert said,

Do you ever check out those new trees I planted?

I said,

No. Not for ages.

Bert, Hannah and I all go to different places in the woods. I hack around Dave's Camp, Bert moseys around the deciduous end and Hannah favours the witchy, swampy bit.

I went to Bert's newly planted trees, tramped through the witchy, swampy part and was heading to Dave's Camp when I realised I'd lost my phone. Backtracked - no phone. I went home, borrowed Bert's phone, went back to the woods. Of course, in my distracted mood, I tripped on a tree root, fell over, narrowly missed a nettle patch and said out loud,

Of course, that was going to happen!

When a body is in one's sixty-seventh year, a body does not spring up from such a fall. Instead, a body takes stock of where it is, where the nettles are and how it is going to shift itself to a standing position. Afterwards, it might think to itself, what would Madonna have done in such a circumstance?  One decides that Madonna would not have arisen from the ground with any more dignity than Nelly, and would certainly have cursed far more than Nelly did. Madonna is not used to nettles, nor would she appreciate them as a food source for so many moths and butterflies as Nelly does.

I was ten minutes from home and it was time to employ Bert's phone. It is a simple gadget and as I am accustomed to a smartphone I find it decidedly un-user-friendly. At least I am number one in his contacts list which makes things easier. This wasn't always the case. It irritated me that the Aarons, Alans and Arthurs came before me so I changed my handle on his phone from Mary (my real name) to A Wife. I ring A Wife and I hear a little tinkle in the distance. I walk towards it, the tinkle is louder, and there is my phone hiding in a patch of dead branches. If I could I'd have taken a photo of the wee darling but Bert's phone takes shite photographs.

You know, losing my phone was worth it for the pleasure of finding it again. I went home, met Bert on the way who was wandering out to help me look for it, went indoors, poured a glass of wine, set up the moth trap, put the porridge loaf in the oven and watched an episode of Normal People which is a whole other story.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bluebells And Other Matters

No Portglenone bluebells for me this year, instead of the blue carpeted forest, just this tiny little patch of bluebells a field length from our house.


The field across the road

We had a small loss this week. A pair of robins had a nest in the polytunnel, built inside a flowerpot that lay on its side on a potting bench. Bert had arranged other pots around it so that it would be difficult for cats to get near. If we were quiet and still we'd see the robins carry food to the hatchlings. I hadn't looked but Bert had peeked and reported two young ones. A couple of days ago the parents stopped coming and when Bert checked the nest was empty. The other pots hadn't been moved so it might have been raided by a rat. The robins will have to try again.

I didn't watch Mr Johnson's broadcast to the nation last night but reading online reports this morning it seems not to have gone down too well. Apparently, we are to trust in good, solid British common sense. Speaking for myself, I'd prefer some good, solid leadership.

Saturday, May 09, 2020


This handsome beetle is a cockchafer, no friend to gardeners, especially those who like a nice smooth lawn. Discovered in the moth trap this morning, it rested for most of the day and after climbing to the top of a wild strawberry launching pad flew off with a loud drone. Sadly I did not capture that but will know for the next time.

Notice that the birdsong is not yet drowned by the noise of the traffic on the B96 but it's getting there. Every day there seem to be more cars out and about. Their journeys cannot all be essential.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

A Return To The Dead Rat Tour (For Ben)

I'm cheating tonight whilst staying on the rat theme. A post from two years ago.

Steeped In Folklore

There is a particular kind of child that I am very fond of and that is a child who has a morbid interest in dead and disgusting things. I was that sort of a child myself.

Years ago, when Ben was only a lad, we found a milk churn in the shed that had housed peanuts for wild birds. A few had been left moldering at the bottom of the container and a rat had climbed in and eaten its fill and then found that it was trapped. This happened more than once. By the time Bert realised what had happened and it was the sweet stench of dead animals that alerted him, there were at least five rats in there and only one was still alive. And what were we going to do with it. I said that the surviving rat had suffered enough and we should let it run free. So Bert upended the barrel on a piece of waste ground and Ratty shot out like a bullet zig-zagging to a place of safety.

The remaining contents of the churn consisted of mouldy peanuts mixed with a mummified rat, a couple of cannibalised rats and an out an out stinking rat. Ben was fascinated. It was a Bank Holiday and we were having people round and, as each group arrived, Ben wondered if they would be interested in seeing what had come out of the peanut barrel - we called it Ben’s Dead Rat Tour. I was slightly surprised at the number of folk who actually took him up on his offer.

I was reminded of this on Good Friday. The previous day Martha and I were exploring and I took her to see the calf’s placenta that Bert had hung on a tree not far from where the Dead Rat Tour had taken place a decade earlier. Like the gory little beast she is, she was delighted with it. She asked me why Bert had hung it in a tree and thanks to a conversation with Bert and some internet research I’d carried out I was able to tell her. In all the years that calves have been born here I hadn’t realised that Bert hung the afterbirth in a tree. Why? Because his father did it. Why did his father do that? For mine didn’t. Because it was lucky.

Apparently Johnny had a particular thorn tree he used but that’s gone now so Bert threw it over another tree. It was hanging fairly high so the dogs couldn’t reach it and Ziggy really wanted to. For it was his persistent barking at the afterbirth that drew my attention to it.

It seems that Johnny's habit of disposing of the cow's cleaning is an ancient tradition that is carried out all over the world. In Germany, the country folk hung the afterbirth on an apple tree to ensure that the cow would give birth again the following year. In Yorkshire a mare’s placenta was hung on a thorn tree to help the foal to thrive. Looking further, in South East Asia, Africa and North America human placentas were also placed on trees to bring good fortune.

Searching for an image I found on Flickr a photograph of a Tree Hung With Cow Placenta To Encourage Bovine Fertility And Milk Production, Kanadukathan Chettinad, India. I wish I’d got my shot of Tree Hung With Cow Placenta Because That’s What Da Did, Cullybackey, Ireland but I was tardy and a fox made off with the tasty treat.

I missed out on the rat photographs too. Sure, I took them but they don’t seem to have survived the occasional computer crash.

Martha and Evie had friends over on Friday and, following in Ben’s footsteps, she gave them a tour. First the new calf, called April and doing well and look, there is the afterbirth hanging on a tree! Shall we get closer and poke it with a stick?

The day of the Dead Rat Tour barbecue. Ben is taking his tour to the right of that shed in the background. Sadly there is no photograph of the placenta but it looked rather like a red and cream satin ballgown all tattered and torn.

Monday, May 04, 2020

A Rat In The House

Warning! Graphic Content Which Some Readers Might Find Upsetting.

When Hannah had a mouse problem she did not want to use conventional mouse traps that injure or kill the little varmints. A humane mouse trap was researched, purchased, baited with bread and raisins and placed under the kitchen sink.

Over a period of two weeks she trapped over thirty mice and, as each little prisoner was taken outside and tenderly released, it became apparent that they were coming straight back in again. That bait was so tempting especially as she was now offering up Ziggy’s doggy treats. Over time we noted that the mice were looking exceptionally well-nourished and sleek.

It was around then that our cats Holly and Fred rediscovered the joys of hunting. They were even eating the mice, leaving nothing behind but tails and intestines.

By the time we came upon this scene, there was nothing to be done to save the mouse

Then - they upped their game. Nellybert were pottering around the kitchen when we heard a high-pitched squeal. Big Fat Fred had brought in a baby rat with intent to murder. Bert wasn't having it. He shouted at Fred who dropped the ratling and ran off.

Close the doors! We’ll catch it and drive it outside!

We didn’t catch it but we drove it – to the safe haven underneath the kitchen units. I thought Bert had fitted them tightly but it seemed not tightly enough to prevent a baby rat slipping under to safety. (Everything is always Bert’s fault).

So. There is a rat living in our house. I am appalled.

I say,

A rat in the house! You know, if this had happened to my mother she’d have been straight on the Ballymena bus, into the Housing Executive to demand a new house. And in those days she’d have got one!

Bert goes quiet. I decide not to make a big thing of it and go outside to water my seedlings. At the back of my mind, I am thinking – there is a rat living in my house.

When I go back inside I find that Bert has a plan, a good plan. The rat is only a baby. It will fit into Hannah’s humane trap. So it is sorted, and already baited with one of Ziggy’s yummy dog treats.

Several hours later I check the trap. And there is the ratling, scoffing on doggy snacks and somewhat perturbed to find itself without an escape route. I take it outside and release it. I expect it to head for the wilderness behind the shed but makes a poor decision, doubles back and scampers into the shed.

Bert was all concern when I told him.

There’s no escape route from that shed, nowhere to hide.

So out I go again to rescue ratling and find it cowering in a corner. A bit of a chase and off it goes. Rats are fast, even baby ones but it did have a good energy boost from that dog treat. It runs to the top of the shed, into the tractor house and behind a pile of compost bags. To safety.

Wrong. Holly de Cat pounces and again, foolishly, I manage to chase her away. She cannot have been that interested for she follows me, strolling carelessly, into the house. The ratling is safe, for now, and gets to live another day although the cats might get it in the end. If not, it begins a dynasty of very lucky rats.

Soon afterwards I received a series of ads on social media. How on earth do they know?

Friday, May 01, 2020

Sorting the Books

It has come to this. Over the past few days, I have been reshelving my books in alphabetical order. So, when Zoe enquired if I had a copy of Normal People, I was able to tell her that I had and that it would be a cinch to locate it as I had just completed the 'R's.

I'm on the 'T's now. S took up a lot of shelf space as did M. The downstairs bookcase accommodated A-N and it looks like the Billy bookcase in the bedroom will hold O-S. I will have to steal Bert's bookcase, install it in a spare bedroom and hope that it will do V-Z. There are no 'U's but a good few 'W's.

My books reflect my years.

I own more volumes by Murdoch, Steinbeck, Atwood and Lessing that any other author. In the second league would be Tyler, Trapido, Faulks, Lodge and Munro.

Whilst engaged in this task I thought of books that I used to own and no longer have. P.G. Wodehouse, G.R.R. Martin, lots of Stephen King, C.S. Lewis (adult), a nice old copy of Titus Groan, illustrated. The only ones I regret are the Wodehouse.

There are two shelves of children's fiction, again showing my age, E. Nesbit, Joan Aiken, Alan Garner, Arthur Ransome, John Rowe Townsend. Then there are the other books, the non-fiction, the reference books. They will go in the main bookshelves where five shelves have been left empty. I don't think they'll all fit. A cull might be necessary.


I was wrong about U. I have two Updikes.

Monday, April 27, 2020

In Her Own Words

My mother at around eight years old. That would have been in the early 1930s. She looks feisty.

It is her anniversary today, and she's dead nine years now. She would have despised lockdown. No callers, no runs out in the car. I'm glad she missed it.

Matty would have been pleased to know that we were all thinking of her today. And as staying at home and baking is the new going out I am happy to be able to share (courtesy of Kerry Sister) our mother's recipe for boiled cake.

And this is Mum's recipe for wheaten bread which comes (I think) via Ganching.

I haven't got a recipe but I do have this piece of writing. I am certain that if Matty had ever got to grips with social media she would have had her own blog.


I was born on a farm near Cullybackey and when I was seven weeks old I was taken from my mother. A girl called Mary lifted me and put me in a cardboard box. She was taking me to her Dad as a present for his birthday now that he was retired. We arrived at Drumkeeran Road and Mary took me into the house and sat me down on the floor. The first thing I did was a piddle for I was very scared.

The big man looked at me and said,

You are not exactly the kind of a dog that I would’ve wanted but now you are here Matty and I will look after you.”

Mary went back home knowing her Dad was pleased with his birthday present.

Matty made me a good place to sleep in the wash house and that place was called “bed”. When the big man shouted “bed” I ran and jumped into it. That was the first word I learned and next was my name “Jess”. I was happy enough with that name because before I was just called “pup”.

My favourite thing was a hand brush and I gave it some abuse and before long when I had finished chewing it you would not have known what it was. I think Matty had to buy a new one and keep it hidden from me.

A lot of things were not allowed in this house like jumping up on armchairs or sofas but I got lying on a mat in front of the fire and it was very cosy.

The big man Seamus, who is Matty's husband, thinks I am a very clever dog but then collies are well known for being clever. When I was put outside to go to the toilet I would let them know I wanted to come in. I would go round to the front window and tap it very hard with my paw and they would open the door and let me in.

My first winter I saw snow for the first time and I was scared for I lost my sense of direction. I was glad to get back into the house for my paws were frozen.

One morning the big man and Matty went off shopping and left me alone. I slept for a while but when I woke I got bored and lonely. Now if I could open that back door I could go and look for them for I missed them. I jumped and banged against the door but it did not open but what I did do was push the bar across and the door was now locked from the inside. When they came back they could not get in. Matty had to come in through a window and get the door unlocked. I made them feel so welcome they forgot to be cross with me.

Sometimes Mary would bring her dog with her when she came to visit. To me that dog was an intruder and I showed it no friendship. I was also scared the big man and Matty might like it better than me.

One morning when I went outside and looked into the field beside us it was full of woolly animals that I had never seen before so I went to investigate. They started running up and down and I ran after them. I was enjoying the fun until Matty came out and shouted at me to come in. I knew she was cross. She went on and on about me chasing sheep until my head was aching. It did not happen again and for weeks after that if someone mentioned the word “sheep” I hid behind the sofa. It was a sad affair and me supposed to be a sheepdog!

Sometimes when the big man had some work to do in the fields he would take me with him and I would lie with my head between my paws watching what he was doing or sometimes I passed the time hunting for rabbits. We would both come home tired.

There is a very noisy road near us but I am not allowed to go there. One day I took off up the road and the next thing I heard Matty shouting and she brought me back. Her friend Agnes, had rung to tell her what I was doing and that put an end to my adventure. I will maybe try again sometime.

If Mattie and the big man were going away for a few days they took me to Mary and Bert’s to stay. I would follow Mary about and she was very good to me but I avoided the other dogs as much as possible. When the big man and Matty came back to collect me I got so excited I was barking and whining at the same time and I jumped up on them. They would bring me home and everything would be back to normal.

One night I was put out for my usual turn before bedtime and I thought I would go to that noisy road where I am not allowed to go and I had an accident. I was told later I was hit by a car. When I came round I was lying in the ditch with a very sore leg and feeling very frightened. I limped back down to the house, crept in the back door and got into my bed a very sorry dog. The big man and Matty took me to the dog doctor who stitched up my leg and then put some kind of plaster onto it. The people who work in that place were very good to me and told me I was lovely. I was that pleased I was all over them!

I don’t think I will ever want to go back to that noisy road again. Matty was right when she warned me against it.

Matty would take me for walks around these roads that have a lot of traffic and I would have to wear a lead. I missed the freedom of doing my own thing and running where I pleased.

I liked when some of the family came to stay and I got so excited when I saw them for I knew they belonged to the big man and Matty, even if they had not been home for some time I still knew them.

Some of the younger people who called would be a bit rough with me treating me like a toy. They maybe pulled at my tail or my ears. Many a time I was tempted to give them a sharp nip. Children should be taught by their parents to show kindness to all animals for we are not all vicious.

I have lived eleven years with the big man and Matty and I have always been loved and cared for but of late I get tired very easily.

Matty tells the rest of the story.

Early one winter evening Jess lay down at the front door and breathed her last. We were very sorry that Jess had died and we tried not to cry about her for she had gone so peacefully. She had given us so much happiness and she had lived a very happy life with us. No other dog could replace her. She was the greatest, our dog Jess.

I wrote this poem about Jess when she was here with us.

When the children had grown and flown the nest
And we thought it was time to be having a rest
But the days were long and the callers were few
So we decided that what we would do
We would get a little pup just a few weeks old
That would keep us company so we were told
Now this wee pup is fully grown
And many's the bad thing she has done
But we do not love her any the less
For she is the greatest, our dog Jess
She gives us all her love and devotion
But for good behaviour, she hasn’t a notion

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Natural World

The natural world is a great source of interest and comfort during the lockdown. Bert is growing vegetables and making compost, Hannah is studying the populations of birds and rodents that live in the wilderness outside her rooms and I am walking for at least an hour every day and taking an interest in everything around me. Like the huge plantation of hogweed growing at the top of our road.

In a matter of weeks that will be a jungle. I plan to document the progress.

Inspired by young naturalist Dara McAnulty I rose early to record the morning birdsong. Sadly, my efforts were marred by two noisy birds ruining everything, the two roosters, Fudge and The Other One. I don't mind the crowing of cockerels but it's not very musical. Next time I shall go to the woods.

I have the loan of Rachael's moth trap which is exciting. It was very cold last night so not very many, just nine moths and one very cross wasp. Most of the moths were Hebrew Character. This I know because of my photos and this excellent book.

Hebrew Character

I also collected a Common Quaker and an Early Grey and two unidentified. Hoping for more tomorrow morning.

But, by far, the most exciting encounter with the natural world was this evening. Hannah heard a thud on her window, checked it out and there was a sparrowhawk plucking and eating a wild dove. She called us over to see and it was an amazing sight, if not a little gruesome.

...nature, red in tooth and claw

I'd often seen those piles of feathers in the woods, evidence of a sparrowhawk kill, and now to see how it happens. Hannah said that after a while the sparrowhawk flew off with the remains of the dove, most likely to share with its nestlings.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

When Ziggy Met Judy

First of all the title of this post and the photographs contained therein have absolutely nothing to do with its content.

I read today that the police in Northern Ireland have been instructed that they may not issue fines to people in breach of lockdown regulations without seeking the approval of a senior officer.

There has been some concern that the PSNI have been overly zealous in handing out fines and of course, the rumour mill is in full swing. I heard that a person from Ballymena was fined 60 quid for going to Asda for groceries rather than a local supermarket. I'm inclined to believe that might have been a tale. Then there was a news story (or was it Twitter?) that reported a woman and her autistic child ordered out of their front garden and into their house. Who knows - but it seems harsh.

And only this morning Swisser, who lives on the coast, said that tourists and holiday-homers were buying up all the supplies in the local shop to such an extent that the shop owner phoned the police who attended the scene of the crime and ordered all the strangers out. Nice story. No doubt the cops informed the visitors,

This is a local shop for local people 

Another tale from today. People who live in the idyllic coastal village of Helen's Bay are being inundated by visitors from the city coming to walk on the beach. Some locals have shown their disapproval by smearing dog shit on their vehicles. Or so I've been told. I was also given the impression that these disapproving Helen's Bay residents have taken to writing Go Home on the outsider cars. In canine faeces. I'm torn. I don't want to believe this. Or do I?

What have you been up to darling and what is that brown stuff on your protective vinyl glove?
Just dog shit dear. I've been using my pointer finger to write, on a stranger's car, fuck off back to Belfast.
Oh. Do make sure you give your hands a good thorough wash. Supper's nearly ready.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Rage Against The Machine

I've noticed these past few days that while traffic has decreased (a lot) on our little B road, there is an increase in what is known around these parts as 'boy racing'. It must be hard on young bucks, no excitement in their lives, not allowed to go anywhere for fear of the PSNI flagging them down to ask, Is Your Journey Really Necessary? So, out for a quick burn around the country roads for a wee spurt of adrenalin.

Why not?

Because you are all annoying wee fucks in your souped-up cars.


One of you killed a wren.

Your deluded ma wouldn't agree with me but I believe that wren had more to give the world than you.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Reasonably Happy

This evening, in the polytunnel, a glass of wine to hand, three books on the go, three kinds of nasturtium to sow and two sorts of chilli seedlings to pot on and I felt happy enough.

Almost as if I wasn't living through a global pandemic.

But know what's really annoying me right now? Television advertising that is riding on the back of stayingathome and beinglockeddown. Hey, peeps! This is all a bit shite, you can't go out, God knows how long it's all going to go on and hopefully we wontdie because we'reallinthistogether and theresnoflour or tinnedtomatoes and isnttheNHSwonderful? And carerstoo, letsclap and sellthemabadge. But..... buy our frozen chips, our pasta sauce, our toiletries and all will be well. For we really do care about you.

I have made up my mind to avoid all companies and institutions that are providing soothing, family orientated advertisements. Call me cynical all you like but I don't think they really give one fuck about us.

On a lighter note, I've told Martha and Evie that when all this has passed we'll be having a two-night sleepover. Their mother?

Two nights! You can have them for a fortnight! 

Can't wait.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Lord's Work

The worst thing I read online today was that Mr Trump has decided to suspend funding from WHO.
The attempt to shift blame for (Trump’s) disastrous failure to protect his country, despite repeated warnings from the international body and others, could not be more naked or repugnant. (Guardian Editorial)
So, if anyone reading this is displeased that I agree with the Guardian’s view, and that I see the current (and unworthy) President of the United States as repugnant then feel free to stop reading, following or friending me and I’ll be happy to reciprocate.
Then the best thing I saw on the internet today was this bit of class drumming and weather forecasting by Owain Wyn Evans. According to an evangelical friend of ours Mr Trump is doing God’s work because he disapproves of gays.
And if God exists I’ll bet she thinks that Owain Wyn Evans is doing the Lord’s work here. As does Sarah Tanat Jones.

Sunday, April 12, 2020


Bert and I never go anywhere on Bank Holidays because we don't like crowded places. So this particular stay-at-home Easter is not that unusual for us. Yet I find myself yearning for outings, the beach, Belfast, Leitrim. It's all very well choosing to stay home but when one must stay home that is a very different thing.

I was supposed to bake a chocolate cake today but couldn't be bothered. We'd only have eaten it anyway. Instead, I'll hold off until Tuesday and share it with Zoe's lot. Zoe still comes once a week to work on her vegetable garden. She doesn't come into the house and we keep our distance from each other. Then I prepare something for her to take home and cook.

We had fish pie for supper, which I took a bit of trouble over and it was good. I still haven't got into this thing of taking pictures of food. Another little project that has fallen by the wayside is wearing all my clothes. These days I just put on comfortable jeans and jumpers and hiking boots or trainers. I am taking a lot of walks. A road one then a woods and fields one.

This little cottage is about 15 minutes away from where I live. It has been empty for many years and is derelict but I think it looks lovely with its lemony yellow door.

Nowadays everyone is out walking. I've spoken to more neighbours this past fortnight than the entire time I've lived on this road.

I prefer the woods for I don't have to say hello to so many people. I don't have to say hello to anyone unless it is to one of the animal skulls that we place on branches. This one is either a fox or a badger. It's been around for a year or more.

This one is new and also unidentified. Just remembered that I've got the jawbone and incisors in my pocket. I must remember to set them out to show Martha and Evie when I see them again.

Holly likes to go walking in the woods too. I say hello to her.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Little Things

The ceiling in my bedroom has cracked and is likely to fall down someday soon. I don't care. I will move into another room and the ceiling will get replastered and I will have the room repainted. I'm thinking of yellow or green. But I will have to consult with Marty for he is the boss of colour schemes at Nellybert's. He is also painter in chief. All this will have to wait until the lockdown is over.

I am not sure if the weight of ivy on this wall will pull it down, or whether it holds it up. This one sere leaf caught my eye while I was out there today.

Walking in the wood is the highlight of my day. I've still to catch sight of Foxy. Bert and Hannah see him often. I'm still waiting. I came upon his path today, well-trodden. There will be cubs somewhere in the wood.

I bought this primula on my last trip to a supermarket which seems like an age ago. Next year, when it flowers again I will remember this strange time. Today is the first day I have acknowledged feeling a wee bit scared of what is in front of us. It is at night when I sleep and dream that my fears manifest.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Loving Lockdown

It's only been a couple of weeks so maybe the joys of lockdown will wear off given time. But, be prepared, there are going to be a lot of extra bambinos come Autumn. Obviously, this does not apply to the likes of Nellybert, The Banjos or The Wees but it seems that forced togetherness is actually making some couples extra appreciative of each other's company. Take me and Bert, we're getting on famously and have resurrected little pet names we like to call each other. It's actually the same pet name. Nothing as commonplace as 'babe' or 'hun', for Nellybert like to address each other as 'dick'.

All three of us took walks in the wood today. Hannah and Ziggy went first. When Hannah goes to the wood she sees jays and foxes and woodcocks. When Bert goes he looks at the trees and plants even more trees. When I go, I look for evidence of what is being killed and devoured. I pick up bones and take photographs of fresh kills, mostly wood pigeons and magpies, the occasional pile of rabbit fur and, my favourite, owl pellets.

I'm building up quite the collection of owl pellets. When Martha and Evie can visit again they will dissect and unpack the contents. I'm looking forward to that.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Bit Fed Up

The Wood

Hannah has informed Nellybert that we no longer have to do food shopping. She will do it for us. It's a relief. We were in Lidls last week and it was an unnerving experience, too many people in the shop, and no social distancing possible. We were glad to get out of there.

London Sister phoned yesterday to talk plants among other things. She is working hard in her garden and is keen to start sowing but only has rocket and sunflower seeds and the local garden centres are all closed. I sent her some of my spare seed and stuck three first-class stamps on the envelope which is probably an overpayment but I didn't want to go to the post office. I'm not even sure she'll get them as I'm not sure about the postal service anymore. Maybe I'm just in a pessimistic mood these few days.

I really miss having a good supply of potting compost and those silly impulse plant buys I'm always making. And I miss not being able to buy bakers yeast. Who cares about toilet paper? I want yeast. I haven't been able to get any for over three weeks now.

Still. All small stuff. I could make my own potting compost if I wanted to and I've got the sourdough and soda bread options for baking.

Since this began I've been taking two walks a day. One government-sanctioned exercise period on our road where the traffic has eased quite a bit. There is a marked decrease in the number of fast-food wrappers that usually adorn our verges but around the same amount of empty energy drink cans and cigarette packets and now, far too many discarded disposable gloves. They are disgusting pigs, the people who throw their filthy crap out of car windows.

My other walk is at home so nobody's business but mine. We're lucky to have the wood and we all walk in it at some point during the day.

Bert just got me to watch a little short on iPlayer. It's called The Farm and the episode is entitled Dog. It really cheered me up, especially as we'd previously watched an episode of The Last Kingdom which was the opposite of cheerful with eye-gouging, torture and death in childbed. I might have to put Uhtred Ragnarson on hold for a while.

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Life

For two consecutive nights, my dreams have featured feral children.


In these dreams, I have tried and failed to contain the children. Which is a rather obvious analogy for Covid-19.

Earlier today, Bert and I were having a conversation about stupidity. We came to the (obvious) conclusion that the most dangerous people in the world are the stupid, those so stupid that they think they are clever. Can you think of anyone?

Someone called to our house this evening. He didn't get to come in and when I came to investigate I found him standing less than a metre away from Bert. I said (not joking)

You're too close.

(I know, it is so weird. We'll laugh about it afterwards.)

He said,

Ach. That's a lot of nonsense.

I said,

You might think so. But we don't. So respect our opinion.

He was stung. Not used to outspoken women. (I don't care.)

These are strange, strange days.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Quiet Saturday

 Crocus in the garden, with monkey puzzle in the background

I was awakened by the dogs at ten past six, then waited until seven before going to get my Saturday Guardian. I buy it once a week at my local garage, and the rest of the week I read it online. There were more people around than usual, one man doing a fairly big shop. I filled a basket too, milk, 4-pack of toilet roll, bleach, cheese, chocolate. Life's neccessities. I sidestepped the other customers as much as I could and kept a very decent distance from Hans.

The tightening of restrictions in the sensible part of Ireland was mentioned and it was said that it might be time for a proper lockdown here too. There are a lot of people who are flouting the advice/rules, whatever it is.

Bert has been ever so slightly getting on my nerves these past few days and I'm sure I've been getting on his. But I had a thought, this...

If I have to be closed up at home with one other human being, Bert is a good one. He is patient, kind, funny and so what if he doesn't put the milk back in the fridge or the lid on the tea caddy? To show my gratitude I baked him a cake and didn't use a recipe. I put apricot jam in it and plain yogurt and it was lovely.

 A patch of wood anemone in Bert's wood

The first few days of staying at home were unsettling. I spent far too much time online, scrolling through news sites, coronavirus updating and Twitter. I exhausted myself so much that I could barely read for pleasure. These past few days I've been spending less time online and more time gardening, walking and reading. And weird tasks like degunking the shower outlet.

And I've pulled a chair over to the window in my bedroom and sometimes I sit there, reading, or just watching the chickens. It's very peaceful especially as there are far fewer vehicles on our road.

Bert has just called me to watch the final episode of  This Country. Stay safe everyone.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Life Interrupted

In the polytunnel, today. 

Going through my seed boxes today and found that I had no ordinary peas or spring onions. And all the gardening outlets are closed. The Range is open but they are only permitted to sell cleaning products and hardware. Montrose Garden Supplies have shut their doors. I suppose it makes sense. You know what gardeners are like. We'd be defying government advice and queuing up to purchase pansies and compost.

But there's always online. My favourites are Real Seeds and Chiltern but both companies are experiencing unprecedented demand and neither could deal with my order. I don't trust eBay for seeds and I try to avoid using Amazon so that's out. Eventually, after some trickiness with changing passwords, I managed to place an order with Mr Fothergill. And Zoe will be glad to hear that I've reserved a bag of multipurpose compost from the local garage. Only one per customer.

But these are small difficulties compared with what some people are going through in these awful times. We're observing social distancing, as are all our friends and family and we remain tremendously grateful to everyone out there on the front line, the carers, health workers, retail staff, community workers, police. You are all heroes. If I was having to go out there every day I'd be needing a big hoard of toilet paper which I haven't got. And if I had, I'd swap it for compost and seeds.

I was cross when I heard all the hoo-ha about Prince Charles and the Duchess in social isolation. Really? There is no way he'll be on his own. There is bound to be at least six flunkies running around after the pair of them. It's got to be quite an honour to be infected with a double-strength dose of the Royal virus that has already been through Prince Albert of Monaco. This will be a whole new level of six degrees of separation.

So who'd you catch it from? 
Idris Elba. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Zoom Lens

I got to see my two oldest grandchildren today. I didn't get to hug them or to come any closer than 4 metres, twice the recommended social distancing length, and they didn't come into the house. I took this film of them on their beloved trampoline.

Using the zoom on my camera. I stood well back.

It was odd.

This is our day for eating together as a family, We won't be able to do that for a while.

I made a fish pie and a steamed pudding this morning. They got their share to take home and eat in their own house. Miss Martha said, and I quote her mum, that

...everything (Granny) cooks is amazing. Even the things I don't like.

So I assume she doesn't like fish pie, except for mine* of course.

*Thanks also due to Mary Berry for the recipe.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Who Is It This Time?

Bert thought this might be a fox hole and maybe it once was. He said it's been around for years or since he was a wee lad. That's decades, half a century's worth.

Ziggy decided to investigate. That's the last picture I took as the noises that emanated from that tunnel were worrying. He was barking and something else was chittering. He emerged, arse first and the something else was right behind him making frantic chirping noises. It was a badger. Out Ziggy came and made then moves to go right back in again. We tried to discourage him and eventually had to pick him up and carry him away from the area.

Checked YouTube when I got back home to make sure that the chittering noises we heard were badger. I had no idea how many and varied are the sounds that badgers make.

And there was me always used to think that they spoke like this,

"Now, the very next time this happens," said a gruff and suspicious voice, "I shall be exceedingly angry. Who is it this time, disturbing people on such a night? Speak up!"

During these strange times, I'm feeling rather badger-like too. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


It occurred to me this morning that if I should slip this mortal coil long before my time, that there are still quite a few items in my wardrobe that I have yet to try out. So, why not use this time of 'cocooning' or to put it another way, 'social isolation' to experiment with 'looks'. After all, who is even going to see me?

Take this skirt, which belonged at some point to someone from Bodenland - then they flogged it on eBay and yours truly paid good pension money for it. It's never had an airing.

I teamed it with a wee linen matchy cardi from Alex &Co and a Fatface teeshirt I usually wear in bed. Then cowboy boots (what! cowboy boots?), which are years old  and a scarf I bought on Rathlin Island, back in the days when you could go places.

When he saw me, Bert said,

Are you going out?

And I said,

What! Looking like this?

And he said,

I dunno. Looks good to me. Though maybe not the teeshirt.


To anyone who reads Nelly's Garden. Like everyone else, I'm stressed by what is going on. A bit scared too. But I'm not going to use this blog to dwell on it. Instead, it will be a bit of distraction for me and for you.

Keep yourself safe and others too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Playing School

Holly giving her presentation

Bert wasn't at home when the girls arrived today. They were out of school early and had their homework done and despite the heavy rain there was no mention of Netflix. It was straight under the stairs to pull out the dressing up boxes. Favourite outfits are a cross between Jane Eyre and Little House on the Prairie. Today they were playing school and were all over the place looking for folders, pens and vintage books. Martha has always preferred "old books with tiny writing" and Evie's choice would be pocket-sized volumes from The Observer's range.

Then Bert came back. They were at him immediately.

Bert! Bert you're playing with us. We're playing schools. I'm Sunny and Evie is Holly. We're head girls! You're Bud, Bud Sorenson and in this game, you're not stupid, you're clever, You're head boy. We're going to do projects and then we're going to do a presentation!

He was allowed to have a coffee before the game began and from then on it was upstairs, downstairs, in my lady's chamber. While all this was going on I was making food.

Bud and Sunny await their turn

Listening to them was great entertainment. Martha, a born performer, played the kazoo and tap-danced. Bert discussed the book he had 'read', E. Nesbitt's The Wonderful Garden,

I read this book. It had nice pictures. I liked it very much.

It seemed to please them enough. Sadly, I did not hear Evie's presentation which occurred moments after I took the pictures as I'd gone outside.

Playing school might be a popular game in the coming weeks as they are likely to be off and will be missing the real thing. We're living through a rare time. It will soon be time to hunker down and isolate.

Friday, March 13, 2020

No Joke

It is no joke being a reluctant hypochondriac during a global pandemic. I never wanted to be the kind of person overly concerned about health and well-being. My mother was, lots of her sisters were. I thought it was dreary and self-defeating and swore it would never happen to me.

But it did, it crept up on me, especially in the middle of the night when sleep wouldn't come. I try hard to resist it. I fight it all the time.

That pain in my chest. I just slept awkwardly on my tit. Not the beginnings of pneumonia.

That cough. A tickle, just the common cold.

That fever. We had an oil delivery. I notched the heating up. And I'm wearing a particularly cosy cardigan.

That urge to self-isolate. I'm just fucking sick of callers. It's an excuse not to socialise.

I was OK until Wednesday. I wanted to go shopping in town, to visit TK Maxx, Camerons, all (nearly all) the charity shops in search of something new. I was discerning, only bought one coat for me (Barnardos) and one jumper for Bert (Marie Curie) and was heading back to the van. There was a group of young men walking in front of me. One lad pulled a big wad of kitchen roll from his pocket, snottered into it, threw it on the ground and spat. I froze. Slowed my step, made sure I was at least ten feet behind them. We all got to the next set of crossing lights, they stopped, I started walking backwards, the green light comes on, we all move forward, me maintaining ten-foot distance, they turn left, I turn right, big sigh of relief.

I couldn't get over it, told everyone about how spooked I was. Next morning I wake up with the cold and convinced myself I had the virus. For about twenty minutes. All that rummaging through clothes rails, God knows who else had been there before me, God knows where they'd been, what they had wrong with them. That new (to me) Zara coat will be the death of me.

I caught myself on. Went for a walk (in a graveyard, poignant) met the grandchildren, helped with homework, baked biscuits, forgot I was dying and so on...

Then, later, just after Martha and Evie had gone home, Banjo Man calls in, watery-eyed, streaming with the cold and freshly sent off a site in Dublin town for coughing too much. The site foreman had asked him to get checked out and let them know if he was OK but testing is suspended here so all he can do is self-isolate, just in case, while we all build up our herd immunity. Apparently 20 cases of Covid-19 in Northern Ireland but if testing is suspended it is bound to be many, many more.

Then this morning I woke up convinced my cold was something worse and it was more than an hour before I caught myself on.

Bert went shopping in Lidl and there was no toilet roll and no butter. Also, no maple syrup which is a great shame as I had accidentally dropped our practically full bottle on the tiled floor - huge mess to clean up. And me not well.

The Zara coat I risked my life for. I have requested if it should end badly for me, that I am to be buried in it.