Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Yesterday morning, I'm getting ready to go into town. My bank first, as I need to set up internet banking so I don't have to actually go to the bank ever again and then Waterstones to pick up some books for my sister. And I might as well get some wine while I'm out. I'm going to wear a mask, a white cotton one that looks like I repurposed my knickers.

Upstairs changing into something civilised and I hear a siren in the distance. It gets closer. I look outside - a fire engine. Then police cars. Something bad has happened. I go to town and do my errands. It's not until I get home a few hours later that I hear what the bad thing was. Just one and a half miles from here three people lost their lives in a devastating car crash. Three people in their 50s, one woman, her husband and her brother. It made the news that evening. Six years ago there was another fatal car crash at the same crossroads, three English soldiers returning from a fishing trip, they overshot the crossing and collided with a tractor. Two died. We heard the sirens that day too.

 The thing is, that woman, her husband, her brother - yesterday morning, they were just living their lives, doing stuff, making plans. And now they are not. This isn't the city. Sirens are notable, recalled. This isn't a war zone, we're not used to sudden death any more. We were once, but the Troubles are over now. We lead quiet, uneventful lives and we like it like that. But, as Seamus Heaney wrote, 'Anything can happen.' And this, just this... because anything can happen, be good to each other, meet people half-way, say the kind thing, patch up your quarrels and hug your darlings.

The road, by Sinead

Today was my mother's birthday and it gained another layer of meaning. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Don't Mow, Let It Grow

Every picture tells a story...

This used to be 'a lawn'. We'll work on making it less Yorkshire foggy more meadow flowery. Meanwhile, ringlets adore it.

To be encouraged...

Self Heal

 Yellow Rattle

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Happy Birthday James

If it wasn't for the current situation I'd be counting down days until seeing this lovely five-year-old, my first and only grandson. Happy fifth birthday James. See you as soon as we can.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Screen Time

Like many other children, my two oldest grandchildren would like to spend a lot of time with a screen in front of their faces. In this, they are not alone as Granny Nelly is also often found in front of a PC screen for she is old school.

However, their sensible parents place some restrictions on their screen time which allows more free time for reading, songwriting, gardening, trampolining, crafting, fighting, dressing up, imagination, conversation, slime making, art, more fighting. You get the picture.

Does looking at my vast collection of short videos count as screen-time? Not at all. Martha and Evie would see this as an opportunity to study history. For instance, this screenshot of Hannah and Holly is from a little avi shot more than two years before Miss Martha was born. I always did think, back in the olden days, that no portrait could ever fail to be improved by the addition of a cat and a backdrop of long grass.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Living Our Best Lives

I have a nephew, whose partner (my honorary niece) posts Instagram pictures of her two youngest daughters 'living their best lives'. It's inspiring. Last September those little girls lost their big sister to cancer. My nephew and niece lost their beloved first daughter. And there they are, less than a year later, broken-hearted, but for the sake of the two little girls, the two big brothers and themselves, trying hard to live their best lives. I call that heroic. For it's not easy and I say that having no idea what it must be like. I can only imagine.

I had a few flat days recently, no particular reason, pissy weather, not much going on, a bit bored.

Then I saw that Instagram post. My two great-nieces, living their best lives with the help of their loving parents.


This photograph was taken by Ava's Auntie Naoise at the Sunflower Field at Portglenone. 

Ava Grace Byrne might only have had eight years of life but she was, and I do not say this lightly, an inspiration, and a legend. Like Ava, and like her bereaved family, I am going to try hard to live my best life.

Friday, July 03, 2020

A Bucket of Bleach

My Granny Mac's house on the Staffordstown side of Randalstown had an outdoor toilet and no running water which was not unusual in rural Ireland in the late 1950s. Despite this Granny kept a clean house. Water was pumped from a well in the garden and carried into the kitchen in a white enamel bucket. Granny used a lot of bleach. Her pine kitchen table was scrubbed every day with a bleach solution and was as white as snow. Likewise, the wooden boards that covered the outdoor toilet. Bleach couldn’t disguise the toilet smell but it went some way.

I’d been warned never to drink bleach as it was a deadly poison. This lesson was so well learned so that when I used the outdoor toilet one morning just after Granny had scrubbed it and got bleach on my bum I was worried. I tried to clean the bleach off with the lavatory paper (cut up newspaper) but didn’t succeed except for transferring it to my hand. Poisoned bum and hand. This was a very bad situation.

Without thinking things through I went into the house and plunged my poisoned hand into the big enamel bucket of water in Granny's kitchen. Now there was no bleach on my hand. But then it dawned - the water was poisoned now and Granny would use it to make tea and everyone would drink the tea and then they would die. I would have to confess.

Aunt Clare came into the scullery and filled the kettle. I wanted to tell her about the poisoned water but I couldn't for she was scary. I couldn’t tell her and even if I told Granny, Aunt Clare would find out and she’d be so angry. She would shout at me, she might slap me. I couldn’t risk it.

So I said nothing and waited for them all to die. It was an anxious time.

Granny and Aunt Clare. They survived. No thanks to me. Aunt Clare is in her eighties now. I hope no one tells her about this. For she might still slap me.