Thursday, February 27, 2020


It was March five years ago when Roy came to live with us. He'd been Bert's Aunt Nessie's dog and after she died he continued living with Nessie's partner Paddy. Now Paddy was dying and needed homes for all four of his dogs. One went to Paddy's carer, two went into council care and we got Roy.

I wasn't even that enthusiastic. I'd never met Roy but Bert was keen to give him a home. He felt he owed it to Nessie. We went to collect him. When Paddy went into the hospital, his carer had taken on the job of feeding the dogs daily but they were still spending most of their time alone. I stayed in the van while Bert climbed over the gate and opened the front door and two dogs ran out. The smaller one just sniffed around a little, the collie (our new dog) was thoroughly delighted to see him, jumping up, his tail whirring like a windmill. I gazed at our new dog, the one that I was only mildly interested in and thought to myself, "I love him!" Love at first sight.

Close up, he was shaggy and smelly, rather worried. He'd never travelled in a vehicle before. We got him home. Introduced him to Judy and Jess who weren't impressed. Fed and watered him. He settled in.

Roy liked people, food, dogs, cats and lying just outside the door watching the world go by. Roy didn't like vehicles, collars and leads, walks, upstairs, balls.

As he became even more settled he learned to enjoy treats, herding pigs and walks.

But walks had to be on Roy's terms. There were rules. Only the back lane and woods. If he was spoken to on the back lane he would turn and go back to the house so we learned to pretend not to notice him. If he got as far as the woods he'd go off and do his own thing and then come back at a time of his own choosing.

We took him to Donegal once. Obviously, he did not enjoy the journey and when we got to the caravan he refused to go to the beach and spent the entire time either in the caravan or just outside it. That was his one and only trip away. Afterwards, the only journeys he ever took were occasional visits to the vet's surgery.

He never ever went upstairs. He wouldn't play fetch or chase balls. He was just Roy and he did things his way.

Y'know he wasn't even that old. Around eight when he came to us he must have been thirteen when he died. In the last year he stopped being able to jump up, wasn't able to get on the sofa any more. Even his tail didn't whir so much. He still loved his comforts, first in the queue for supper, had his favourite visitors, Les, Ben, Mel. Harassed Bert for walks in the woods, me for treats.

And then, this Tuesday past his legs just stopped working. They'd been wobbly for a while and he'd been taking arthritis medication. Bert tried to help him but he kept collapsing. Zoe said he seemed bewildered. Yesterday morning, first thing, I called the vet to request a home visit. We made the decision to have him put peacefully and gently to sleep.

He is the fifteenth dog to be buried here.

Polly, Molly, Danny, Penny, Chip, Jock, Rosie, Peppy, Paddy, Charlie, Bonnie, Holly, Maeve, Frank and Roy.

Nine family dogs and six belonging to friends

We'll never forget you, Roy..

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

And Again

Old Roy went out at around seven this morning for his morning pee. He came in, lay down and hasn't managed to get up since. He has been eating and drinking but, apart from one failed attempt, hasn't been able to stand upright.

This might be it for Roy. He's with us nearly five years now and he was an old dog when he came. I didn't expect him to still be here in 2020.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Feeling Better

Judy would like it to be known that she is feeling a lot better and is glad to be home. She would also like to give a big shout out to everyone at Oldstone Veterinary Clinic in Clough, and most especially her cousin Corinne Robb who was very kind.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dog Talk

Judy, poor pooch, is unwell and is in doggy hospital. What seemed like an ordinary upset stomach (lots of boking and loss of appetite) has turned out to be an infection. Bert knew last night that she was sick when one of her favourite visitors turned up and instead of the usual ecstatic welcome, loud barking, full-body wiggling and jumping up, all she could manage was a few woofs, and a few tail wags before staggering back to her favourite armchair.

Jess is distraught. What didn't help is that we are looking after Zoe's dog Maya for a few nights and I think Jess believes we have swapped dogs. So I took her with me on a trip to Ikea to cheer her up. Which was OK until I decided to take her for a bit of a walk to cheer her up even more. The first 15 minutes were fairly OK but by the time we passed Decathlon she was not in good form. I realised that the constant road traffic, the people and the noise of the planes were affecting her. She is not a city dog. We started walking back and she looked so cringey and scared that I started to think that people might think I'd stolen her and was wondering how I could convince anyone, who might challenge me on that point, that I wasn't a dog-rustler.

One thing is for sure. She won't be going walkies in a built-up environment, next to an airport ever again.

Where Jess belongs.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Mid-Term Sleep-Over

When the girls come to Nellybert's for a sleepover we like to provide healthy food options - like chocolate milkshake devised from Martha's own recipe, milk, chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream, cream, ice cubes, and squidgy shop-bought chocolate sauce. She forgot the marshmallows. What did it taste like? I don't know. The very thought of it made my few remaining teeth tingle.

Evie turned it down as well, so it was just Bert and Martha.


Slime time! They are so experienced at making slime that I no longer need to supervise. My role is to provide them with the ingredients and to admire the results. And, of course, to clean up afterwards.

Every bowl in the house is put to use.

My favourite.

Thursday night is Music Night at Nellybert's. The girls never heard Bert and Les play together before. Evie runs to tell me,

They're really good!

So I go with her to see and listen and there is Martha getting her clarinet out and preparing to join in. She got a lot of compliments too.

That trampoline has seen better days.

Posing up a storm. For exploring the overgrown brambly wreck next door Martha is wearing a grey tulle skirt and unicorn socks.

Climbing trees.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Naming of Things

The technician is the modern missionary bringing every bird, every grass blade, wave pattern , and molecule into the fold of human knowledge and domination. As we continue to unfurl our presence on earth, must everything have a name and a use? 
Robert Perkins, Talking to Angels, 1996

Reading this reminded me of two conversations with Hannah. The first, some time ago, when we were walking in Bert's wood and Hannah pointed out a favourite tree. I couldn't identify it and said so.

She said,

You always need to name things. It doesn't matter to me.

I found that a strange thought for, it is true, I do like to name things, be it tree, flower, bird or butterfly.

More recently, since Hannah has moved out and lives looking on to a wild place full of birds and mice and foxes, we were talking about the birds she watches from her window. Bert has put up feeders and I offered a spare bird book. She declined it saying,

I love watching them. I don't need their names.

It's a different outlook on enjoying nature. Mine is different, I want names, information, domination. I love binomial nomenclature and regret that I have only sparse knowledge of Latin.

My girl told me that there were chaffinches out back of her place, and a robin and a bullfinch so she knows a lot more than she's letting on.

Hannah's wilderness

The book she refused. Too many ducks.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The House Slugs Are Back

Judy, dear old thing, has become slightly incontinent in her old age so Bert and I are on high alert during the night hours. One woof has us leaping from bed to make sure that the good brown dog gets outside in time.

The other night it was me up at half-five in the morning. While Judy was outside watering the garden I took the opportunity to have a pee myself. And it was while I was sitting there that I noticed two dark smudges on the wet room walls. Two slugs, one minuscule, one merely tiny.  I disposed of them, not like four years ago when I flushed all house slugs down the toilet. Nowadays I'm much kinder and I left those babies outside to make their own way in the world - whilst secretly hoping a blackbird would eat them first thing.

Next evening, I'm in the kitchen, making biscuits, (Bert begged me) sleeves rolled up, covered in flour, the very picture of a devoted and kind wife. Then I feel this soft plop on my forearm, like a drip from the ceiling. I look up. Nothing to see there. I look down and there it is, a tiny slug, translucent, a half-incher. It's the same breed as the wet room slugs. Where the hell did it come from? Thanks be it landed on my arm and not in the treacle and walnut cookie dough. Not that we'd ever have noticed it.

Bert has taken Judy to the vet and she suggested that the incontinence might be due to a hormone imbalance. Propalin Syrup was prescribed and it has made quite a difference. Maybe it's my imagination but Judy also seems livelier, more energetic. even glossier. I'm thinking of trying her prescription myself.

Friday, February 07, 2020


The term “wee dote” refers to someone who is cute/adorable especially in the facial skin region; usually made use of as slang in Northern Ireland. It originates from Shakespearean language “to dote on someone” i.e. to show affection. 1) “aww look! he's such a wee dote, I want to hug him.”28 Jul 2019 (Quora reply)

Recently, one of Hannah's friends (female) enquired,

How's your wee dote of a Mammy?

I was not best pleased to hear this. Wee dote? Nelly?

Bert says,

You're about the furthest thing there is from a 'wee dote'.

That's better. Even though...

My stature, if not my waistline, might be described as 'wee'.

And it's true that I am a 'Mammy'.

My facial skin is in pretty good nick for a sixty-something.

My dogs find me adorable.

But I am not a 'wee dote'. Although there is a possibility I might be approaching my dotage.

A Wee Dote

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Pondering Time

No blogging yesterday even though it was the Youngest (Leitrim) Sister's birthday. She knows I was thinking about her.

Leitrim Sister isn't the only one to be occupying my thoughts for I've also been thinking about my Katkin and my Antrim family. And about the olden days - when Martha was a baby.

For I've been sorting out bits and pieces, trying to declutter and in the process, I've been checking out DVDs from a decade ago, when Martha was a baby. Her entire existence seems such a short time to me. She was brand new then and her life was uncomplicated and magical, her parents entranced with her. Watching it made my heart ache for I thought too of Ava, who didn't even get to be ten.

It must be an old girl thing this looking back. When I was younger I'd go through old photographs and enjoy them but then, that was more than just a remembrance of things past. There was all the time to come as well.

There is some sweetness in the thought of one's future running out. How many more seasons for snowdrops, celandine, dog violets? How many more sunsets, how many more dogs?

And yet we plod on Bert and I. Living these last few decades, wasting our time. Maybe that is what time is for. Squandering. Maybe not.

Martha's first birthday

Monday, February 03, 2020


The depths of the wood

Twelve will be my new magic number. Twelve batches of wine at a time, for dealing with 20-25 makes it seem like a job which is probably why I ignored all two dozen flagons in the year 2019. It's all been sorted now bar the bottling and the drinking and I'm down to 17 gallons.

Also, twelve books on the reading pile. That had crept up to eighteen and reading was becoming just another chore. I finished three last week and have not added any others, not even the Sara Baume that Hannah gave me for Christmas. My current top book is The Secret Commonwealth and I'm still reading Human Traces.

We watched Dunkirk last night and I enjoyed it. Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy. How could I not? Bert said it was OK. Not his favourite war film. He prefers darkness, I like heroes. I'm simple like that.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

February Second

The second day of February and I am charging through the country wines, which were ignored entirely in the year 2019. Racking. bottling, sampling and note-taking. A few didn't come through but most did.

Sampling. Deary, deary, deary me. I'm sampling a rhubarb as we speak. Slightly hazy, good flavour, probably very strong. I never measure for alcohol content, tasting tells the tale.

I have given very little thought to This Brexit Thing. On Friday evening if there was one mention of the b-word on telly we changed channels. And ended up watching Graham Norton but when the extremely creepy Jim Carrey came on we had to abandon.

The first week of February is heavy on family birthdays. Brendan from Kerry, Mark from Norfolk and Dr Leitrim sister from...Leitrim - lá breithe shona duit. The rest of the month brings birthdays for the Antrim branch of the family, Leanne, Morgan and Cara.

Feliz cumpleaños to all of you!