Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Cutting Capers

 I have just phoned Daughter 1.

The conversation went something like this.

NM: Well, how are things?

D1: Grand. We're just waiting for her to come out of surgery. Should be about twenty minutes.

My thoughts: What surgery? Am I supposed to know about this? Did Daughter 1 tell me her dog was going to the vets for an operation and I've forgotten? I'm always forgetting what people tell me. Sometimes I just don't listen enough. I try to cover up my foolishness.

NM: So, this was a planned surgery? 

D1: Not exactly, but they did say she should come in fasting, just in case.

NM: Look, I know this is going to sound stupid but I'm not sure what you're talking about. Is it Maya?

D1: It's Martha. She had an appointment at the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children this morning. They decided to set her fracture under anaesthetic.

NM: Oh! 

Maya is perfectly fine

Explanation. Martha fractured her right pinky finger before Christmas whilst doing headstands. She is very into gymnastics and what her great-grandmother Martha would have called 'cutting capers'. It has been in a splint since then and did not keep her back in the slightest. I had been informed about today's appointment and did forget about it.


Update: she's fine. She was the only patient in her department today and got lots of attention and then they kicked her out as soon as they possibly could. She'll be back to cutting capers, and playing the clarinet and piano as soon as she can. Well done, NHS. We're really lucky to have you.

Her Mother

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Doing Christmas

I didn't make such a great fist of Christmas this year, no Christmas cake, no tree, no fairy lights, no three desserts. No shops.

The no shops shopping was the good part. I did Christmas present shopping online and it was OK except for around five of my gifts not arriving on time. And that was despite being ordered weeks in advance. It's a hard thing to admit but Amazon, no matter how wrong the company seems, is at least reliable. Note to self - more forward planning for 2021.

When it came down to it I missed not having a tree. 

Bert volunteered to be with his elderly Aunt on Christmas Day so I spent a good part of that day on my own. There was a family Zoom call planned for the morning which featured Martha and Evie, James and Emily showing us all their presents. I missed half of it due to connection problems and lack of forward planning and had a jolly good cry about it. Then of course, I had to cry about how sad Christmas is when we think of all the people (and dogs) that aren't with us any more then had to give myself a shake remembering that I have family members missing a child who, had she lived, would still be young enough to believe in Father Christmas. 

Boxing Day was better. Lockdown began but we did have Martha and Evie and their parents around. More Christmas food and then a round of Blind Man's Buff, Chinese Whispers and Charades. Is it just me, or are  Blind Man's Buff and Chinese Whispers maybe not terribly PC? If not, I've yet to receive the memo and anyway now that we are (apparently) no longer sophisticated Europeans these things don't matter. Who knows. Anyway - it was great fun and we laughed a lot which was heartening.

Bert spent today with Aunt Lizzie, I footered about doing little bits and pieces which included graping silage to cattle, a first for me. It is great to still be having new experiences in one's late sixties. I also watched the first episode of Bridgerton and cracked open a bottle of Malbec while it was still light outside.

Next year (if I'm spared) I'm Really Doing Christmas, fruit cake, plastic Santas, tinsel and everything. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Lockdown Christmas Eve

 I had my long-awaited knee X-ray yesterday. The appointment was at 2pm and, as I always like to be early, I presented myself at five minutes before the hour and was seen immediately and back in the van ten minutes later. The downside of these speedy appointments is that we wait much longer to get them and longer again for the results.

Yesterday's other noteworthy event was my first sighting of the Jupiter-Mercury Christmas conjunction. The big night was last Monday but it was too cloudy to see anything. The two planets are drawing apart but we were able to see it in our own yard and I was glad that I had the opportunity. We earth-dwellers do set a lot of store by these heavenly events even though the planets are always there and the conjunction is simply an optical illusion. Still, it was magical.

Thinking of it I was reminded of my obsession with the Hale-Bopp comet in the late 1990s. Bert’s father Johnny was fascinated with it too and probably first saw it from this yard in 1996. By the time the comet was at its most spectacular Johnny was dying. Earth’s view of Hale-Bopp peaked in April 1997, Johnny died less than two months later. When I think of Hale-Bopp now I feel sorry that he didn't get to see it in its full splendour. The point of my story - take every opportunity to gaze at the heavens.

Pearlie and Johnny

So today, it’s Christmas Eve again and this is my sixty-eighth Christmas. As always, things to do. I’ve wrapped all the presents available to me for half of my order from Berlin has yet to arrive. I spent most of the morning making stuffing for our one-legged turkey. Then at half-ten stopped everything to listen to Miss Evie and a multitude of musicians aged from four to eighty take part in a Christmas recording of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas organised by the BenedettiFoundation.

Evie is one of the cellists (white jumper) roughly in the middle of the screenshot. Only a close relative would bother to seek her out as the picture is so teeny, but she was there, she took part and I am very proud of her.

Tomorrow will be a quiet Christmas, just Bert, Hannah and myself and Bert will be spending a good part of the day with his elderly aunt in Kells. I expect I’ll have a few hours on my own. It will be different and I’m even looking forward to it a little bit. Especially the family Zoom call at 9pm. My one-legged turkey should be starting to sizzle nicely by then.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Lockdown Christmas Dec 18

One of the more interesting things about social media is how it gives one an insight into how other people are coping in the run-up to Christmas. There are pictures of decorated trees on Instagram, family WhatsApp photos of adorable five-year-olds in nativity plays, videos of folk in their reindeer antlers and hideous Christmas jumpers and exciting blogs about London flat dwellers having been delivered fourteen-foot trees when they'd only ordered a four foot bush.

This year is a Christmas like no other with most of the world coping with a pandemic and some of our governments coping rather badly. And here, in the British Isles everyone intelligent one of us, no matter what size our island, has the added concern of what is going to happen after Brexit. 

Still. Christmas. I'd promised myself that this year I would not add to my anxieties by leaving everything to the last minute and that I would shop online. It was all going rather well. Except for one order, something Christmassy ordered from a company advertising on Facebook. There was nothing to indicate that the items were coming from Berlin and it was two weeks before I heard a peep. A few more anxious days followed then joy, I got a notification that my parcel had arrived at Princess Royal DC. I had no idea what or where Princess Royal DC was but I suspected it might be a boat. Turns out it is a distribution centre in London. Six days later my parcel is still there and it contains items meant for nine different family members.

This place is massive. It is also 17 mins by postman's van from London Sister and just under an hour from Ganching.

Now Bert has taken to watching the news and bounces in to tell me snippets he thinks might be of interest, like,

Stanley McConaghy* was on the news again, tonight!


Looks like BT42 (our postcode) is the most coviddy** hole in Northern Ireland!


You're never going to get that parcel before Christmas. Just seen a report of the distribution centres in London. Mountains of parcels. They can't cope.

*A dog.

**Stricken with coronavirus

Monday, December 14, 2020

I'm Not Good With Old People

I'm not good with old people... which is strange, as I am myself old people. Nevertheless, there have been elders in my life that I have really cared about.

Let me list some of them,


Susan was our next-door neighbour when I was a young woman. She got me, I got her. I could talk to her about (nearly) anything. Young girls must have their secrets. She validated me. She was an honorary granny.


Paddy was Susan's husband. He was prone to falling asleep in his chair while Susan and I chatted and put the world to rights. For some reason, he always woke up abruptly if the conversation ever touched on racy subjects. Susan was not afraid to talk about sex and because I had become a fallen woman she considered me someone she could speak to on such matters. God love both of us, we were each as unworldly as each other, she in her 70s, me in my very early 20s.


It was a long, long time before Pearlie and I saw eye-to-eye and to some extent, we were always at odds. The problem was, we were both in love with the same man and, in her heart, she never believed I was worthy of her son.  


James wasn't even old. Maybe mid-forties, but he seemed old to a teenager. Looking back I think he might have loved me a little but he never, ever made me feel uncomfortable. He loaned me an old fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorder and lots of recordings of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Howlin' Wolf, Lighnin' Hopkins and many other blues artists of that time. There was no text, just music. I had it for ages so I owe James a lot. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

On Writing

 Since lockdown, I've been making more online impulse buys, sometimes even whilst having a glass of wine. And instead of looking forward to what postie brings I rather dread it. Oh dear Lord, what have I bought now!

Today it was this book, Joanne Harris - Ten Things About Writing. I found it on the Guardian website and thought it might help with the blogger's block I am occasionally afflicted with. It got great reviews. Even Neil Gaiman had nice things to say. And Matt Haig too, who always says nice things.

I'm not sure if it is exactly what I was looking for as it seems to be about serious writing and there is even a chapter about agents. Maybe I should have waited for inspiration from Miss Martha, who has embarked on a writing career and is the process of self-publishing her first book. It seems she started the book yesterday and is already more than halfway through. I was allowed to read it today.

Her main character is called Enola which gave me a little concern as I will always associate that name with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Evie: Granny, do you know what Enola is backwards.

Me: Alone. Martha, do you know what else the name Enola is associated it. You might not have heard of it. It was the name of a plane, the Enola Gay that dropped...

Martha: Yes! It dropped a nuclear bomb on Nagasaki. I read about that in a Michael Morpurgo book.

Of course, she did. I am so glad that my all grandchildren love books. When I have WhatsApp calls with James and Emily in Norfolk they are always showing me their favourite books. If you want your kids to be smart, all you have to do is read to them, every night. 

Martha has her book all planned out with an introduction and chapter headings and six chapters completed. Her best friend is lined up to do the illustrations. Here is a taster.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Lockdown Christmas Dec 5


Christmas progress has been slow. Since my last posting my only tick-off the list has been wrapping and posting the Kerry presents, the purchase of three rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and ordering another half-dozen bottles of red wine. Does it count that I remembered A Lidl Christmas pudding at the back of the larder? From 2019 but I'm sure it will be fine.

Other than that it has been an uneventful week. Cold and dank weather too, which has played on my sore knees. I did get the appointment for the X-Ray which will be the day before Christmas Eve. There was a time when I'd have considered this timing to be inconvenient, there being so much to do in the days before Christmas. But not this year. This year the run up to the holiday will be quiet. There will be no visiting and no shopping. It will be wonderful.

Bert and I had this conversation this morning,

Bert, I read on Twitter that Trump has raised millions of dollars since losing the election.

How'd he do that?

Asking his supporters to help fund the campaign to challenge the results.

Millions of dollars you say?

Supposedly. Think of it this way. If every single person who voted for him sent ten dollars, he'd have over740 million dollars.

Then how much would he get if all the people who voted for him and whose votes weren't counted sent him ten dollars?

Probably around zero dollars.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Lockdown Christmas Dec 1

Full disclosure. I've already bought most of my Christmas presents and some have even been delivered thanks (or no thanks) to Amazon who signed me up to Prime without my knowledge. I cancelled it after the presents were delivered and I think that cost me an extra £7. As the presents were heavily discounted I'm not too worried about that.

Also, I've already had the Christmas beverages delivered, although I might have taken a teeny dip into that. It's the stress y'know. A friend of ours had the same delivery around the same time and the delivery man joshed him about the amount. Our friend explained,

It's for a Christmas party.

(This was before parties were verboten.)

The delivery man joked,

Ha! I'll be back again before Christmas.

And he was. The very next day.

But back to Day 1, or the day before Day 1. I had an amazing day yesterday. My knees (after the usual morning stiffness) were easy and I felt full of energy. Bert and I cleaned the hen house and considering that two weeks ago I was considering giving up chicken keeping due to being unable to care for them properly, this was very cheering. I actually managed more than 10,000 steps for the first time in three weeks.

I paid for that today. Very low energy. Finished reading Carol Shields Unless and watched Steve McQueen's Mangrove Nine and mainly lolled around. I did tend to my chickens and, as a treat, let them run around the yard where they scattered in all directions. When I counted them in tonight three were missing. It was a foggy, foxy sort of day. Hopefully, the three that are gone were oldies. My two favourites are still there and, of course, the two roosters.

My sole contribution to Christmas prep was fetching the festive wrapping paper from the attic.

And posting this picture. Holly de Cat when she was a little'un. It's my most 'borrowed' photograph on the internet.