Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sixth Bright Nite

For anagram fans everywhere. What I really think.

Incurs Tact

Fly If Bungler

Retract Guilty

Oh Blames Snoot

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Art of Coarse Wine Making

I neglected to make any wine last year. Neither did I update any winemaking records. And I'm usually particular about my records. There was no need, for not only did I fail to start any wines, I completely ignored the 23 gallons of various wines fermenting in a cupboard. No racking, no bubblers changed, nothing done. Forgotten about.

The first thing to do was change the bubblers. They were disgusting, full of dust and dead fruit flies and some were filled with a primordial soup. I'm certain had I left them any longer, new and unpleasant life forms would have emerged from the cupboard. While I was doing this I took tentative tastes of the wine and, surprisingly, most of them were drinkable.

But not this elderberry. Started in November 2017 it tasted unpleasantly musty and looked like watered-down blood. Down the sink it went.

This rhubarb was started in September 2018 and this is the first racking. It is good. I'm drinking a glass of it right now.

So, after a year of neglect, it seems not too disastrous. I intend to give a lot of this wine away. Although anyone who reads this account might not fancy it! Peter and Billy will give it a go. If you see this post guys, I have Beetroot & Berries, Strawberry & Raspberry and the good old Rhubarb 14 waiting here for you.

The rhubarb patch is showing signs of a revival. Here's to Rhubarbs 15, 16 and 17. Slainte!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Busy, Busy Day

Two trips to the dentist. Please don't ask. And in between a woodland walk and lunch with first daughter.

Then an evening chat with second daughter, the Norfolk one. There were also brief convos with Anglo-Irish grandchildren, James and Emily. James and I discussed trampolines and I'm not sure what Emily and I were talking about. She might have blown me a raspberry.

Third daughter got her foxy door knocker screwed on.

An Urban Fox relocates to Cullybackey

Now she's in with the hipster-crowd on Columbia Road, E2.

Then Bert and I watched The Holocaust Memorial Day Commemorative Service which was dignified and moving. Even hopeful.

Afterwards, I said,

From now on I'm not letting anyone, anyone at all get away with saying anything racist, sectarian or sexist. What should I say to anyone who does say anything like that?

He says,

Tell them they should be affronted at themselves.

And then?

Tell them that they are the sort of people who would have stood by and let genocide happen.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Growing Season

It may only be January but it's growing season at Nellybert's. I've been growing my waistline and Bert has been growing his hair. He hasn't had it cut for at least six months.

Are there photographs? No. Some things are just too...

Perhaps I'll ask Evie and Martha to draw a picture. That might be kinder than a photograph. Here is one from a time when Bert's barnet was a good deal shorter than it is today.

Illustration by Martha, 2018

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Ten Years Before

Some things never change much. There are still funerals to be attended and Swisser (since elevated to Professor) is still every bit as daft as academics are reputed to be. Because I am weary I am going to recycle (recycling is a good thing, is it not?) two posts from January 2010.

The Last Of The Line

On Tuesday my mother’s only brother passed in his sleep. He lived by himself but he was not alone as his nephew lived next door, his younger sister and her husband in the next house along and another nephew two doors down. So while he had his own home he also had plenty of company when he wanted it. He was a man of regular habits and it was his habit to go to his sister’s house every morning where family and neighbours would have a cup, discuss the events of the day and generally enjoy a bit of craic. On Tuesday he didn’t turn up and his sister knew something was amiss.

The doctor was called and pronounced that he had died sometime during the night and that his passing had been easy. Had he lived another day he would have been 79 years old. He was a man of strong faith and I’m told that he prayed for us all every day of his life. I don’t know what we are going to do when all the old ones are gone and we have no one to pray for us. I found myself thinking about that during Dessie’s funeral Mass and thinking too, that maybe I’ll have to take up the praying myself.

When they carried his coffin out of the house I told Bert that there would be no need for him to feel obliged to give it a lift as Dessie had enough nephews and nieces to carry him to Cork. Funerals are an occasion to see how all the cousins are getting on and I’m sorry to say that there are none of us getting any younger although most of us are wearing well. There was even, on Matty’s account, a creditable show of cousins from the other side of the family and it was good to see them there. Even the one who came up behind me outside the chapel and remarked,

Did ye sleep with the dog last night?

I can only assume she meant I was covered with dog hairs and I anxiously checked the matter with the Kerry Sister. She said that I was not and that she had given me the onceover herself before we’d left Matty’s house.

I never really answered the cousin as I was a bit surprised that she’d made the remark. It came across as unkind. I suppose if I was honest I could have said,

I did sleep with the dog as it happens but I wasn’t wearing my coat at the time.

Ah well. She showed the want of a kind old uncle to pray for her. I may have to add her to my list when I take it up myself.

Swisser's Vole

Bert comes into the kitchen and tells me,

Swisser’s been showing me pictures of her vole.

Her hole?

No her vole.

Vole. What’s she on about?

Says there’s a vole in her back yard,

Her hole!

Says it’s been there for a week.

It’s probably a rat.

Says it sits on the windowsill and looks in at her. Says it twitches its whiskers. Says it’s a cute wee thing.

It doesn’t sit on her windowsill and look in at her!

Come and see the wee film she took.

I go into the other room and Swisser reaches me her phone. I watch a little film of a large brown rodent sniffling and zigzagging about in her herbaceous border, its big scaly tail snaking behind it. Sadly she has no footage of the charming creature sitting sweetly on her sill looking in at her.

Well! What do you think? It’s a vole, isn’t it?

It’s a rat.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Catch Up

The sky this morning

Rained all Thursday morning but, thankfully eased off when I went to meet Martha and Evie from school. Evie had a tremendous hufflepuff because Martha won the coin toss to establish who would get first go on Granny's PC for spelling revision. She recovered enough to work on a painting of trees,. I was pleased to hear her remark.

This picture is going great.

Love her self-belief.

Emily, our youngest (Anglo-Irish) granddaughter had her second birthday on Friday. I thought about her all day and wished that she lived closer to us. 

Friday was going to be a leisurely day, just some grocery shopping and preparation for a supper with Swisser and Hannah. Then Hannah's car wouldn't start and She needed a lift to work. Then, because her friend's father was seriously ill in hospital, a lift to Antrim town. I thought I'd do my food (and wine) shopping while I was there but couldn't as I'd left my purse at home. No matter. Turned out I'd everything I needed anyway, except wine and Bert got that. Then picking Hannah up after the hospital visit. Supper was good, veggie lasagne followed by a raspberry and apple crumble. 

Saturday brought sobering news of a death. Not unexpected. I hardly knew the man, we'd only chatted a few times when he'd called to pick his son up. But I knew of him. He'd been a history teacher at a local grammar and was very well-liked in his community. 

Today has been a quiet day. A few callers dropped by. I'm surprised that all everyone wants to talk about is Harry and Meghan. What about the Labour leadership contest, the bushfires in Australia, the impeachment of Donald J Trump, the coming election in Ireland? Who cares about the Sussexes? Not me.

Only thing left to say is goodnight from me and goodnight from Big Fat Fred.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Gorbin' and Aytin'

On Sunday I baked scones in order to delight Swisser who was calling around. It's just as well she brought her own supply of tasty treats as those scones were the worst I've ever made. I could not figure out where I'd gone wrong as my scones are usually quite delicious.

Bert said,

You would have been a popular girl during the Bogside riots.



Those scones.

I'm thinking, he must mean that when the Derry folk wearied of civil unrest they'd call round to my house for a reviving cup of tea and a hot buttered scone before hitting the streets for more rioting.

He said,

When they run out of cobblestones they'd use your scones instead.

Ha! Very funny.

It was yesterday before I figured out what happened the scones. I was going to try again. This time I wouldn't use the mixer. I'd do it all by hand. This time I'd use fresh buttermilk instead of past sell-by date (October 2019), this time I'd make sure the oven was pre-heated to the correct temperature.

I gathered my ingredients, buttermilk, egg, butter, salt, soda bread flour. And I realised what had gone amiss. There was no soda bread flour and I'd used strong white by mistake. No wonder the scones were as hard as rocks.

Soon remedied. Off to the shops for the proper flour and as I'd decided to make a bread and butter pudding as well I added cream and sultanas to the shopping list.

And it all turned out really well. The scones were up to my usual standard. Bert had made a vegetable broth so we had that and cheesy scones for supper. It was good and I ate too much. In fact, I barely stopped eating the entire evening.

It was close to midnight when I realised I was a thousand steps from the recommended number so I thought I'd march around the house for a while until my pedometer marked the desired 10,000. And it was while doing this that I thought how ridiculous I was. Nelly, striding from room to room, counting steps, circling the kitchen island all whilst chomping on a big wedge of bread and butter pudding.

So I decided to give my digestive system a holiday and fasted until four o'clock this afternoon when I had a bowl of vegetable soup and three scones. And then later on a big wedge of bread and butter pudding.

By the way, Rusty and Lily just loved Sunday's hard scones.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Right Up His Street

Nelly: Hey! How do you fancy going to the cinema tomorrow? My treat.

Bert: What to see?

Nelly: Little Women.

Complete silence from the Bert corner. His brow furrows and his mouth twists a little. He's thinking hard. Thinking about what he should say.  Then he speaks.

Bert: Mmm. Not really sure what I'll be doing. Maybe think about it tomorrow?

Nelly: Hah! Just kidding about Little Women. 1917 is on in Antrim.

Bert: Oh yes! I'd really like to see that. Let's do it!

I'll go see Little Women with Jazzer.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Screaming At The Moon

It's the Wolf Moon tonight, the first full moon of the year and so-called because wolves howl a lot at this time of the year. There was also penumbral lunar eclipse but too much cloud cover to see anything. It would have been better observed had it been last night when skies were clear and the moon, nearly full, was beautiful. No howling wolves here but foxes woke me from sleep with their screeching and screaming. It was close to the house, maybe as near as the orchard and when I opened the window I could hear twigs and branches snapping so maybe in the overgrown wilderness behind Hannah's rooms. 

I listened for a while. They were much too close to the chicken run for my liking although the hens were securely locked up. But, mating season and they were preoccupied with other matters. Hens were unperturbed as were the dogs. I closed the window and returned to bed. Excitement over.

Then dreamed an amusing dream about fervent Unionists rallying against Nationalism. A purple car containing Shinners was driving around Ballymena terrorising the locals. The Orange Order was mobilised, a pipe band skirled up and down Wellington Street and people strode purposefully around costumed as B Specials, WWI volunteers and nurses. There might have been wooden guns. My role was to pour oil on troubled waters, to bolster confidence, to explain that things weren't as bad as they thought. There was also something about working in a hairdressing shop in Harryville and wanting to give up the position, but feeling that I needed the money and then remembering that I was a pensioner and need never go out to work again. That was a relief. 

I woke up to Judy's cold, nudging nose and this gorgeous morning sky and...

wallflower in bloom. In January?

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Stats And Stuff

I have been writing Nelly’s Garden for 15 years, 4 months and 12 days. During that time there has been 3133 published posts which works out at a post every other day and we all know that’s not happening. So, what’s going on? What has changed over the past 15 years, 4 months and 12 days?

I became fifteen years older and a small bit wiser.

Back in 2004, I didn’t actually expect anyone but a few fellow bloggers to read the damn thing.

Now so many of those fellow bloggers have quit. Some of whom I greatly miss.

Then one becomes disheartened.

Gets to thinking, who even fucking cares what I blog?

Becomes self-conscious. People come up to me at funerals and address me as Nelly.

Run out of things to say.

My husband doesn’t read it.

Many of my friends don’t read it.

Sure I hardly even do anything anymore.

And some of the things we do are secret.

And I don’t want to offend anyone.

Peak blogging year was 2005 when I wrote 486 posts. What was going on in 2005? I had a job, there was a lot going on, a lot of material for blogging. Looking back, it’s a wonder Nelly's Garden didn’t get me the sack. Nowadays, with absolutely everyone on social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram most people tend to be much more careful about work-blogging.

My slackest year for blogging was 2013, just 99 posts that year. I vaguely remember feeling very flat. Matty had died in 2011 and that took a lot of getting used to. And we still had Pearlie, getting frailer and frailer and that was hard too. Bert tried to cheer me up by buying me a ticket to Vancouver and that was a good experience although there was no blogging from British Columbia. Martha and Evie were pre-school age then, always fun but tiring too. 

So here I am, in 2020, wondering how much longer I can keep this thing up. My sister, whose blog is nearly as old as mine, posts every day. And has a full-time job. I don't know how she does it. Actually, I do. Her life is more interesting than mine.

There! I've answered my own question. I just need to get a more interesting life. Either that or start spilling the secret stuff. Wish me luck.

This is the very first picture I posted to Nelly's Garden.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Sugar Rush

I was telling Bhrian about my serious sugar consumption over the holiday period. He told me about his healthy diet.

Porridge and fruit for breakfast, lunch is a salad, lean meat, a drizzle of ranch dressing.

Sounds good. What about dinner?

Ah. Dinner. Well, I make about three dinners. Y'know, kids wanting different things.

(He has a lot of kids)

Then, I can't be bothered making myself anything, so I eat bits of everything that the kids are having. And - the leftovers, so maybe dinner is not so good.

I said,

Well. I've been eating industrial amounts of trans fats and sugar. I woke up the other night and my pulse was racing. I think I was having a panic attack.

Fats and sugar are the worst combination. So addictive.

I know. I read a short story once about a morbidly obese man who bought margarine and white sugar and mixed it into a paste and ate that. That makes me feel a tiny bit better about eating four mince pies today.

At this, Bert cuts in.

Four mince pies! You ate four!

I said,

I hope you never have to go to an AA meeting. I can just hear you. Some poor addict would be talking about how much they were drinking and you'd be like - you drink gin straight from the bottle at eight in the morning!

I went on,

They'd kick you out for being so judgy.

I'm not sure if the AA people would do that as I've never actually been to a meeting. Yet.

Then Bhrian told us about a short break he and the family took to Letterkenny after Christmas.

Did you all go? 

Not the eighteen-year-old. He stayed home. The morning we were leaving he was practically pushing us out the door.

Bhrian described the holiday and it sounded idyllic. Lots of long walks on windswept beaches. I said,

I hardly know Letterkenny apart from passing through. But Uncle Vincent used to live there. He worked in a confectionery factory and I remember him telling us that if we only knew what went into sweets we'd never let them pass our lips. I was dying to know the details so pressed him on it and it seems that the vats of sugary stuff were very attractive to all sorts of flying insects and that they'd often end up in the finished product. Didn't put me off sweets one iota.

Bhrian agreed.

Probably made them even tastier. 

Yea. Hygiene is bound to be greatly improved since the 1960s, no more wasps and flies in our chocolate caramels and now they're nowhere near as delicious.

Tomorrow I plan to have porridge and fruit for breakfast and I've already researched bean sprouting. I think there might be some mung beans at the back of the cupboard. They've only been there for about eight years but I'm sure they'll be fine.