Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Tree Sparrows

Seeing as this blog is useful as an aide-memoire I really should be at it more often. So, let me tell you all about the highlight of my day. I got to see the pair of tree sparrows that have been hanging around Hannah's back yard.

Tree sparrows have been in decline over the years mostly due to changes in farming practices. Yet, for some reason, populations in Northern Ireland do better than anywhere else in the British Isles. I hope the pair we spotted will breed here. The place they have chosen to visit should suit them well - among old and overgrown trees where humans rarely step, plenty of seed plants growing nearby and old walls in which to build nests. And the added bonus of Hannah's seed feeders.

Too much tidiness is a bad thing. Wildlife doesn't like it. I will never forget the story a friend related about his next-door neighbour power hosing swallow's nests out of his eaves. Because the swallows 'made a mess'. Pure ignorance.  Actually, it's too kind to call it ignorance. It was an evil action.

Tomorrow I will take a cleaning cloth and vinegar to Hannah's window on the wood. All the better to watch and photograph the birds.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Books and Graves


It did not take me long to finish Deborah Orr's memoir. It was honestly and brilliantly written, no holds barred. It's sad that she did not live to see it published. You know, apart from newspaper pieces, I've never actually read Will Self, even though it was he who first gave me the idea of reading multiple books simultaneously. Self claimed to be reading 50 books at a time. Twelve is plenty for me.

I haven't yet opened Redemption Falls but I am looking forward to it.

On Zoe's advice, I am working on a map of animal graves as we buried our 17th dog last Friday. That was Tess, who belonged to some young friends of ours. Tess was a rescue dog (dumped by the roadside) and had been with her family for thirteen years. She had a good life with them.

If it wasn't for this blog I wouldn't be able to remember the dog burials. Currently, they are as follows,

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

Polly, Molly, Danny, Rosie, Paddy, Charlie, Bonnie and Roy belonged to us.

Penny was Pearlie's dog.

Chip (Danny's mother) and Maeve belonged to a friend.

Jock and Holly belonged to the Wee Manny family. 

Peppy belonged to another good friend.

Frank was a regular visitor here. He belonged to the Banjos.

Gracie was the much-beloved dog belonging to Zoe and her family.

And Tess was part of the Wee Manny family, next generation.

In case anyone may be thinking that we are very unfortunate with our canine companions, let it be known that these interments took place over a period of 23 years.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

On Reading

 I would love a day out in Belfast. I'd get off the train at Botanic and head towards the Ulster Museum where I'd spend an hour or so. Then I'd visit the Palm House and the Tropical Ravine where I'd take lots of photographs. After that (lunch would be fitted in somewhere) I'd stroll down towards the station calling into all the charity shops, vintage stores and second-hand bookshops where I'd buy at least three books. Not too many as books are heavy and there would be one in my bag already that I'd read on the train journey. And on the way home I'd probably be the only person in the carriage reading as everyone else, even my fellow oldsters, will be stuck in laptops and smartphones. When I was at university some years ago, long before the ubiquity of mobile devices, every solitary traveller would be reading, even if it was only a magazine. I used to try and catch glimpses of other people's books and judge them. Of course I did. 

The majority of the books on my shelves are second hand, some were even bought in the old Smithfield Market more than half a century ago. That is where I sourced most of my Steinbeck novels. Many of those paperbacks were ancient when I bought them and are crumbling to dust now. I cannot bear to part with them unless I can replace them with another copy in better condition. A few I bought new in Palmer's Newsagents in Antrim. I also bought a few books of poetry there from The Penguin Modern Poetry range. All those poets are dead of old age* now but they were pretty modern then. Can you imagine being able to go into an ordinary newsagent nowadays to buy American classic literature and volumes of poetry?

Since lockdown, I've been buying my second-hand books online and it's like this. Ganching or Mikey or somebody else will blog or tweet about a book and I'll think to myself, Barbara Pym? I've never read her. And minutes later I've ordered a Pym from eBay.  

There was a copy of Star of the Sea on the shelves for years which I'd never got round to reading. Then I heard an excerpt from it on Radio 4 Book of the Week. I decided I needed to read it but it had disappeared. I must have given it away. On to eBay and bought it again. Bert read it before I got round to it and we both enjoyed it. He'd already tackled Redemption Falls but said Star of the Sea was far better. 

Motherwell replaced the O'Connor in the reading basket. I'm already well into it will probably finish it by the end of the week. 

I'm only a few pages into The Devil's Chimney which Bert has just finished. He liked it but said he is not sure what was going on. Hopefully, I'll be able to explain it to him when I'm done with it. The Devil's Chimney was a Botanic Avenue buy. The Muriel Spark came from god-knows-where. I'd not read Spark since my early twenties and only remember The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and The Girls of Slender Means (which I must re-read). There was something about a shared Schiaparelli dress that was (I think) emerald green.  Perhaps it wasn't. Anyway - A Far Cry From Kensington was very enjoyable and I'm off now to my favourite bookseller on eBay for another Spark.

*Lawrence Ferlinghetti died only as recently as January 2021.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Solace and Sorrow

Is there anyone who hasn't turned to the natural world for comfort during this awful pandemic? Even though the frigging virus is also a part of that same natural world. 

I was feeling really flat yesterday and forced myself to go do some polytunnel pottering to cheer myself up when I heard the pheasant squawk. 

Must go fetch the camera and see if I can capture it. Will be a change from my millions of pictures of finches and collared doves. But when I got back the pheasant had turned into...

...a hare! The first one I've ever spotted around here. I took a few quick shots then fetched Bert. He just managed to see it before it disappeared into the wood. He said it has been decades since there have been hares in these fields. 

It really cheered me up to have seen it and I spent a contented half-hour sowing nasturtiums and beans. 

No more sightings or squawks from the pheasant so I decided to take a dander towards the wood, camera at the ready. No pheasants here, just a quick glimpse of a red fox disappearing into the trees. No photograph to prove I saw it. No time. Now I was even more delighted. Until I considered that, although Fox is a beautiful animal, it will be hungry and pheasants and hares may need to take care.  

It is only a small sorrow that the fox might eat the foolish pheasant. It would be a rare thing if it killed an adult hare but foxes will kill and eat entire leveret populations. 

Bert and I were discussing this when he remarked,

Y'know, I haven't seen any buzzards around for a while. I wonder if some sheep farmer is poisoning them?

Last week we'd found a dead buzzard at the edge of the wood which Bert thought might have been poisoned.

My mood plunged. What if someone was systematically poisoning the buzzards? I felt hatred towards that someone. And couldn't stop dwelling on it. The country is full of sheep at the moment and some sheep farmers believe that buzzards kill newborn lambs. They don't, although are known to feed on dead or stillborn lambs. 

So there we are. Nature isn't all primroses and songbirds. It's horror and death and bastard farmers flailing hedges, cutting down trees and poisoning birds of prey.


I did eventually see that stupid pheasant. But not today. When I told Hannah about the fox she said,

Oh good! There will soon be some interesting bones in the wood.

I called her a ghoul.

Hannah's shrine of bones

The buzzard's feet

Red dot: dead buzzard
White dot: Hannah's bone shrine
Blue dot: Where the hare sat
Orange dot: The fox


Friday, April 09, 2021

Niggles and Twinges

One of my sisters was of the opinion that our late mother, famously hypochondriac, experienced most of her mental angst through her body. I fear this is becoming true for me too. For instance, I have had a recurring pain, more of a niggle really, on the left side of my head. This will be a brain tumour. A twinge in my left nipple, this must be cancer. Only this afternoon I found myself very weary and went for a lie-down. I had an ache in my upper left arm. I felt my pulse and it was racing which must be a sign of a heart attack. I counted the beats of my heart in 60 seconds. Seventy bpm. Googled this and found it to be normal.

All this hypochomdria distresses me. It's not the fear of a terminal illness but the dampening of pleasure in everyday living.  And I know what is causing it. Too much time on my hands and stress about Covid, lockdown and the return of unrest (riots) to our towns and cities. I almost miss Trump as the focus of my anxieties. This is all getting a bit too close to home.

Well, perhaps they'll cool their heels tonight. Out of respect for their Queen's bereavement.

In the meantime, I have birds to watch.

And these two to cheer me up.

Saturday, April 03, 2021


 On Tuesday morning Bert asked me if I'd like to go with him on a plant delivery to Broughshane. I thought about it for a moment or two then said I would. The chance of an outing is rare enough these days. For those who aren't familiar with this corner of North Antrim, Broughshane is a village famous for its floral displays. I was told by a former resident that those who don't keep their garden nice are not well-accepted in the community. Which may, or may not be true. 

Bert was bringing James McNeill a good selection of climbers, camellias, an acer and a magnolia stellata in bloom. I remarked to him as we were bringing them in that they'd not sit long. While we were in there I spotted some gorgeous lithodora 'Heavenly Blue' and thought I'd quite like three of them for planting in a big pot. Yet for some reason, didn't buy them.

That afternoon we got a call from Broughshane. Plants all sold can we have the same again? So next day we were back and I was intent on my lithodora. I was disappointed to see the plant stands almost empty and no Heavenly Blue. I enquired and was told another delivery was due. 

Next day was Thursday and we were having Martha and Evie all day. I picked them up in the morning and drove straight to Broughshane. Still no lithodora. We bought lots of sweets, the ingredients for an Ulster Fry and a new kettle. I reserved three lithodora 'Heavenly Blues'. When we got home Bert said McNeills were calling. They needed another delivery.

So, on Friday I made the fourth trip of the week to Broughshane. No lithodoras. As we were leaving I was accosted by a woman wanting all the gen on the magnolia. I told her as much as I knew. I believe she thought I worked there and I was beginning to feel that way myself. On the way home I decided that if I'd missed out on the lithodora I was going to have Bert's last magnolia stellata. And so it was. 

All my own work. I did all the weeding, digging over and planting myself and went to bed last night tired and happy.

I still haven't given up on the lithodora. This is one I had a few years back. It didn't survive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021



Workers were installing fibre-optic cable on the other side of the orchard hedge today and Bert went over for a chat with them. Judy, Jess and Ziggy did not get to meet these fellows as they were working beside the road and that is a dangerous place for dogs. In fact, Bert was just saying this to the cable-layers,

It’s a bloody awful road to be working on, is it not?

Then. Crash. Bang.

The fellow looked over at the two vehicles which had just collided. He replied,

Aye. It is.

Both cars were badly damaged but no one seemed to be hurt. The drivers were a young mum on the school run and a care worker out on her rounds.

A few people had stopped to help and there was a lot of phoning going on. Then someone’s dad arrived and it turned out that Bert knew him. They decided that it would be better if the damaged cars were off the road.

And that is how they all ended up in our yard. The two wrecked vehicles, the younger woman’s father, husband, the children’s grandmother and a chap who managed to get the care worker’s car out of the ditch and into the yard. Then there was the care worker’s boss, two of her co-workers and the police.

It was very exciting for the dogs who didn’t know who to make friends with first. The biggest group of folk that they'd seen in over a year. Their new friends were a mixed bunch, from little girls, one with a wobbly tooth, and even a couple of police officers.

So here we are with two bashed up vehicles sitting outside. Luckily it’s a big yard. We’re only glad that it was cars that got wrecked and not people. That wouldn’t make for much of a light-hearted blog post.

Drive safe, folks. You never know the minute...

Thursday, March 25, 2021

A Return to Refined Tastes


Bert has yet to let the notion of his ‘refined tastes’ lie.

This is a man who refuses to take cold milk on his Weetabix and doesn’t like peppers unless they come from the Polish shop and are marinaded in oil and spices. He’ll only take tiny helpings of pasta and adores pickled fish in jars.

He’ll have mango chutney with all Indian dishes, even when it is not an appropriate accompaniment and adds quantities of soy sauce to any stir fry. When making an Ulster Fry he will often fry a pickled gherkin. He over salts everything.

I’ve said to him (often) that it’s not ‘refined taste’, it’s impaired taste from years of smoking. Of course, he disagrees.

An example of his refinement.

The other day we had a proper lunch so decided on tuna and onion sandwiches for supper. I made the filling, tuna, finely chopped onion, tomato and mayo. I split a soda farl, halved it, buttered it, plonked the filling in my half and went off to eat it. The Refined One was left to assemble his own. It was a work of art. An open sandwich, garnished with spring onion, and served with black olives and a sliced pickle.

He mocked my sandwich. Said it was like something you’d take to the bog for a day castling turf. I said his food looked like something served up to Oberon, King of the Fairies, the only thing lacking a scattering of borage flowers.

What’s really going on.

Bert’s mother was a terrible cook so from about the time he was twelve he prepared most of his own meals. Because his mother was useless in the kitchen he had no idea of how to make nice food and relied heavily on shop-bought sauces and seasonings. He got a taste for them.

Of course, since then, he became quite a capable cook, despite his propensity for adding unusual ingredients to food. He is completely banned from interfering with my cooking. I don’t care what he adds when it is on his own plate but not while it’s still in the pan.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Thirtieth Day

 My thirty alcohol-free days are up today. There are two bottles of wine in the cupboard and I may open one on Friday evening. After all, there is little point in completing the experiment and then starting to drink on a weeknight. 

I'm feeling so dull these days. Lockdowns are tough-going. I miss charity shops and friends coming round and taking the train to Belfast. Most of all I miss my grandchildren in Norfolk. It has been 19 long months since I've seen them and they are getting so grown-up. My Katy sent these pictures and I just gazed and gazed at them.

One good thing about all this extra time at home is the opportunity to read. I managed to complete three books from my reading basket these past few days.

I've been a long time labouring at Sybille Bedford and often lost track of who was who and where. A family tree would have been useful. A Legacy was replaced by the Authenticity Project, a mother's day gift from Hannah.

Next book completed was The Ghost Road, the third in the Regeneration trilogy. All were excellent. As shown, I replaced it with another Pat Barker which I'm looking forward to starting.

Just think! So many books being published right now and I'll be eighty-something before I get around to reading them if Barker and Ishiguro are anything to go by. Never Let Me Go was an odd read but I liked it enough to make plans to read his most recent publication before I'm even seventy. I replaced the Ishiguro with the Hilary Mantel. Bert read that recently and recommended it. Hopefully, it will warm me up for the Cromwell trilogy.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

An Early Start

 Judy the Rude insisted that I get up at five this morning so she could go pee. She's old and her bladder doesn't function as well as it did. I get that. I'm old too. After we'd both done the needful I returned to bed but couldn't sleep. It was light just before six so I got up, had coffee and watched the birds at breakfast. There were newcomers today. A pair of siskins. 

The goldfinches brought a few more of their kind to the table, not quite a charm near enough and there were more chaffinches than usual. A good start to my day.

The new seeds I bought yesterday at Pets at Home are going down well with the finches. I'll get a really big bag next time.

All that before collecting Martha and Evie for Home Schooling Thursday. The last two sessions were really good but today they were a bit fractious. There was an incident with a fireside poker and I had to explain lethal weapons and then get a bit shouty. Proper school from next Monday.

Martha had a Teams music lesson at three and her teacher noticed the picture of the guitar player on the wall behind her. 

He wondered who it was, suggested Robert Johnson. But it's not. Too old, for Johnson died at 27,  and too round-faced as Johnson had a long face. Long as a Lurgan spade. So not Robert Johnson. 

The only clue I have because I bought it in a charity shop was that it was one of three in the same style and the other two were of Louis Armstrong. Any suggestions? Anyone?

Saturday, March 13, 2021

End Of An Era


Prisoners of Geography was a bit of a plod. I bought it for Bert (he likes that kind of thing) back in the days when visiting bookshops was a thing. Jared Diamond covered some of the same ground in Guns, Germs and Steel and I think he made a better fist of it. The Marshall was replaced in the reading basket by Julie Buntin, who I only heard of this week, thanks to Mikey who recommended it to all his followers on Twitter. I wonder if I was the only one who had a copy bought and paid for from eBay just moments after reading his tweet?

Today marked the end of an era in our wee village when the only remaining garage closed its doors for the last time. It was a popular family business and the two brothers who owned it will be much missed, as will their friendly staff.  It was the closest shop to our house and so easy to nip down to if we needed something at short notice. I don't know where I'm going to get my Saturday Guardian now or where Bert will fill the van.

And closer still to home there has been another change. I said to Bert,

Y'know those lads that pick up the recycling?

What about them?

They'll be saying the wee woman who lives up that lane must have died.

Why so?

No empty wine bottles in the recycling bin.

Of course! They'll think you died of the drink.

There is just one empty coffee jar and two spice jars in the glass bin. Normally there would be a bunch of empty wine bottles. I'm doing 30 days alcohol-free and this is Day 20. Bert is still enjoying his cider and the occasional dram of single malt. He does miss his glass of wine but I'm not opening any. Not until the weekend after the 30 days are up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

March Reading

My practice of reading several books at a time is working well. Now if I begin a book I almost always finish it and my night table is no longer piled with unfinished tomes. If I buy or find something new it has to wait until a space opens. The idea originally came from Will Self who claims to read 50 or more books at a time. That would be daunting - a dozen works better for me.

I finished The Salt Path by Raynor Winn this morning and added Shuggie Bain to the reading basket. I've had Shuggie for a few months now. Bert read it first and really liked it. He is a slower reader than me but he raced through it. Zoe told me that she read it quickly as well. It's at the back of the pile so I'll probably not get to it until Friday at the earliest. Something to look forward to.

I didn't expect to enjoy The Salt Path as much as I did for Raynor Winn writes honestly and her descriptive powers are mighty. It was as if I was there with them. She had me longing to walk the Undercliff when John Fowles did not. Guess I'll have to make do with Portglenone Forest.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Bert Got A Pfizer

We had an early phone call yesterday. It had just turned 9am. Early? Of course, it's early for Nellybert do not keep office hours. Now, I could well be up an hour or more at 9am, but that is my time. Not a time to be taking calls intended for Bert who will be lying in his pit for at least another hour. I brought the phone to him.

An hour or so later he came to me saying,

When will I be getting my Covid jab?

How should I know?

It's just that Liam there was telling me that he's got his and he's a couple of years younger than me.

Is he? You wouldn't think it to look at him. Wait 'til I check the NHS website.

Which I do and see that Bert's age group is being invited to book a test. Did I ever mention that he's six years younger than me? Although you wouldn't think it to look at him.

But the PC wouldn't allow me to book his test. I tried again, and again. Then I tried doing it on my phone and was able to start the booking. But the screen was too small and I kept pressing the wrong button which sent me back to the beginning.

I shared my experience on Twitter and Facebook. Twitter ignored me but Facebook was lovely and helpful. I got a phone number to call to make a telephone booking. It took ages to answer and when I was offered the options I foolishly chose the one where I had to listen to the privacy policy. At about eight minutes in I couldn't bear it any longer and discontinued the call. Tried again. This time it took even longer to answer and when it did I was immediately cut off.

Then I went to the Spar for a few bits for supper and spent £30. How did that happen? Oh yes. I was also replenishing the baking cupboard.

When I got back I tried booking on the PC again. Same result. I wondered if it was something to do with cookie files as I had used the PC to book my appointment and maybe they thought I was trying to jump the queue for the second jab. I opened settings and was about to remove the cookies when I remembered that the last time I did that I lost all my passwords and it took ages to restore them.

BTW, if someone smarter than me knows any little workarounds about passwords I'd appreciate hearing about it.

Then I had my bright idea. Book the test using another browser. So I did and Bert was booked in for his first vaccination the following afternoon. It took about two minutes.

While he was at the vaccination centre I went to the Range and bought two cushion pads and a small saucepan. He was out of there just as I was leaving the store. Then we went to a nursery in Dervock and got over 100 native trees for planting in the wood. 

And that's what counts for an eventful couple of days during Lockdown-21.

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

The Hamely Tongue


 The 2021 Census wants to know if I understand Ulster-Scots. Of course I do! Do I speak it? Sometimes. Read it? Definitely. Write it? The odd word here and there.

So, me being fluent and all in the Hamely Tongue I was rather put out to read that the crime writer Denise Mina said that no one outside Scotland would understand the phrase “as small as a midgie’s oxter” Really? And shouldn’t it be “as wee as a midgie’s oxter”? Maybe North Antrim is actually a part of Scotland? If that is so, I would just like to say that we are very proud of Nicola Sturgeon today.

Or in Ulster-Scots

Wur aw vary prood o’ oor wee bantie the day.  

Saturday, February 27, 2021

A Good Day For Planting

 Lizzie's funeral was an early one, 10am in Ballyclare. Due to the pandemic restrictions, only a handful of people were able to attend. Lizzie was a well-liked woman, and even though many of her friends and relatives had died before her if these were normal times the church would have been full. In normal times the service would have been in church. In normal times there would have been a queue of people waiting to give the coffin a lift, but today that job was left to four men, three in their seventies and one (Bert) a mere lad in his early sixties. That is what happens when a person gets to be ninety, a person without issue and all that is left is a solitary nephew and a handful of cousins.

Last Monday, Zoe offered to come out today to help Bert plant the bundle of native trees bought to replace the larches that had succumbed to ramorum disease. It was a great day for it, mild and dry and the ground still soft enough to make planting easy. We planted around 150 bare root saplings and a few in pots. While we were planting them Zoe suggested we call the stand of new trees Lizzie's Wood. So we will. Lizzie would have been tickled pink to hear that. In years to come, we might walk through the new planting and listen to the birds singing in the branches and remember Lizzie and how much she loved the 'wee birds'. I will remember too how much she disliked the bigger birds, the jackdaws, crows and jays and most villainous of all, in her book, the sparrowhawk.

Off to the wood, Martha at the wheel.

Bert and Zoe handled the spades.

And, for the day that's in it...

From the days before tractors - a very young Lizzie with her father's farm horse. Used for ploughing and other jobs, he was also a much-loved family friend.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Last Aunt


Lizzie 1930-2021

So that's it. Bert's last Aunt has gone and now he's the only only one still standing from that branch of the family tree. An era ended. No-one comes after him.

Lizzie loved dogs and dogs loved her. It was when she asked Bert a few months ago not to bring our two when he visited that he knew things weren't right with her. She had an underlying condition, and who hasn't at 90? But it was Covid-19 took her in the end.

Monday, February 22, 2021

A Tale of Two Leaks

Today was rather lovely, looking a lot like Spring and the first outside drying day of the year. Apparently, it is to be wet and stormy tomorrow but I care not for there will be more fine days to come. Anyway, I have a clothes horse and a dryer.

For it has been a leaky few days and there have been a lot of wet towels. Our first problem was the downstairs toilet cistern and the second, the dishwasher. The drip from the cistern had been an ongoing problem and on Saturday Bert set to dealing with it. Unfortunately, he made it worse and had to wait until today to get the part he needed to fix it. The next plumbing job on his list was the dishwasher. We had been noticing a faint but horrible smell coming from around the cooker and thought it was gas leaking. Bert called a gas fitter who arrived in the yard twenty minutes later. The gas man tested all the fittings and pronounced them safe. He did notice the whiff but said it definitely wasn't gas. Maybe we had a wee dead mouse behind the kickboards? He charged Bert twenty pounds and was on his way. I was mightily relieved. Wee dead mice are far less of a health hazard than leaking gas pipes and twenty quid is a small price to pay for the reassurance that all the fittings were safe.

So! Off with the kickboards. There were zero rodent corpses to be seen but there was a slick of sludgy, stinky water underneath the dishwasher and the cabinet next to it. The dishwasher had a tiny little hole in one of the outlet pipes. Bert thinks he can fix it.

It's a shame that we're on lockdown because the godson is a qualified plumber and I'm sure he'd have given Bert a hand if he'd been able. Bert hates plumbing because it's so fiddly and he thinks the plastic fittings used nowadays are shoddy. According to the first daughter, everyone hates plumbing, even plumbers and there might be something in that as the godson, between jobs when the first lockdown started has not been back on a site since. He's been painting and decorating and now he's working in a pharmacy selling lipstick and indigestion tablets. That young fellow could turn his hand to anything. Just like his da and his godfather.

Sunday, February 21, 2021


We visited Bert's Aunt this afternoon. I'd always thought that, when this was all over, we'd be visiting Lizzie in a lovely care home where she'd live out her twilight years. But no. It seems that Covid and cancer mean that she will not be leaving the Robinson Memorial Hospital.  We spoke to her from outdoors through a window, slightly ajar. She couldn't seem to turn her head but appeared to acknowledge our presence by making hand gestures. Bert told her he wished he could hold her hand, but y'know, this old Covid. She turned her hand as if reaching out towards him. When we left her window he was close to tears. I don't think Lizzie will make it until March.

Before she went into hospital she was very fractious. No doubt, from the fear, anxiety and pain she was suffering. On one of the days Bert was looking after her she told him that he had no more sense than when he was six-years-old and that it was time he grew up. When he told me that I thought it was hilarious. Lizzie used to keep those sort of things to herself but by the time one is ninety years old, why not tell it like one sees it? Lucky for Bert, I like him being in touch with his inner child.

Because it was such a lovely day we went home by a scenic route, past Craig's Wood and the Moss where Bert's father used to cut turf and where we'd go help him bring it home. Lizzie was so often involved in that. Those were such carefree days, days when we were younger, so much younger than today.

Guess that's life.

Photo taken by me in 1988. Bert was 29, Lizzie was 57.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Through A Window


I'm recording the birds I see from my window and it occurred to me that I'm like a primary school teacher with a roll book. The goldfinches showed up for the first time yesterday even though my nyjer seed feeder has been in place for at least two weeks. It seems they preferred to visit the feeders outside Hannah's windows. 

It was very wet today and the pied wagtails did not appear. I hope they come tomorrow. A solitary wren footered about the crevices in the stone wall. Wrens have no interest in feeders, they only care for live insects.

Both pictures above were taken through the window so not that good but I like them because they are my birds. The first sunny day I'm cleaning that window.

Monday, February 15, 2021

First Thing


How do I start my day? I get up early, switch on the electric blanket, go downstairs, let the dogs out and make a cup of coffee. If there’s nothing much going on in the world, if nobody’s whining about not getting elected, and nobody’s getting impeached I return to my cosy bed with the coffee and read one or three of my books. I am usually accompanied by a dog and a cat who hate each other. They position themselves at opposite ends of the bed. Sometimes they glare at each other, other times they ignore each other.

It's a wonderful start to the day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

In Which Bert Displays His Vast Knowledge Of All Things Windsor

My main interests right now are the Trump impeachment proceedings and the numbers of garden birds coming to the feeding station right outside the room where I sit at my desktop keeping up with the Trump impeachment proceedings.

So it was a welcome diversion when the Te*****ph posted pictures of Princess Anne and her current husband watching the rugby in their ‘sitting room’ at Gatcombe Park. It is obviously a much better thing to debate the poshness, cosiness and relatability of the Princess Royal’s den than to be concentrating on the amount of pressure her dear mother and the eldest brother have been putting on the government regarding legislation which might have a detrimental effect on their privilege.

So much so, that when Bert informed me that Princess Eugenie had delivered a baby, my first remark was,

So what? Another freeloader!

Yet still, I asked,

What was it?

I don’t know. But it weighed 17 pounds.

But back to Anne’s living room. The Te*****ph were trumpeting it as how the posh really live and I’m thinking, if that’s posh then Bert’s Aunt Lizzie must be really posh for all I could see was mismatching furniture, ornaments and pictures cluttered everywhere and rugs (trip hazards) scattered all over the existing carpet. No doubt a closer examination would show canine piss stains in all the corners. Just like Lizzie’s.

I showed the picture to Bert and he had to agree, was just like Lizzie’s house.

Then he said,

So who was that bloke with Anne? Was it Mark Phillips?

No! They’re divorced for more than thirty years. The new hubby is Tim Laurence.

Who did she have the weans with?

Mark Phillips.

And that was Eugenie and Peaches?

No! Peter and Zara.

Did she have any with the new bloke?

No. They were both over forty when they married. He was in the navy. It was a good career move for he’s a vice admiral now. I think he was only a cabin boy when they got together. And where did you get Peaches from?

Well, I knew it was the same name as Marty’s dog.

Marty’s dog is not called Beatrice. By the way, the new royal freeloader is a boy. You remember what it weighed?

Yeah! Eighteen pounds. That’s a good weight for a boy.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

The Swear Box

 A couple of weeks ago my oldest granddaughter and I had a falling out. The details are for us alone to know but I must admit, I lost my temper. 

As she reported to her mother, the worst thing was that I swore. I felt bad when I heard this and I suggested to Martha's Mama that maybe we should install a swear box. Because of our proximity to a Covid case (Aunt Lizzie) it was two weeks and a negative test before Nellybert had the girls again. All was forgiven but the swear box was discussed and duly implemented.

All went well. Just one mild expletive passed my lips at lunch and 25 pence was deposited. Until it was time to drive them home. Martha had noted that Granny suffers from 'Road Rage' and that this might be an opportunity to expand the coffers. It had already been agreed that any monies in the swear box would be Martha and Evie's to spend as they wished. There was a delay in setting off due to a forgotten item and a 50 pence expletive was uttered. 

Quick, Evie!

Said Miss Martha,

While you're in there, take 50 pence out of Granny's purse and put it in the swear box.

I robustly refused permission.

All went well on the journey home apart from one small annoyance and another 50 pence was left owing. Martha remarked something along the lines that driving seemed to be a difficulty for me in that I was easily annoyed. She gave the impression that she could cope with this if it meant that the fines might benefit her and her sister.

As soon as I got home I transferred a pound coin from my purse to the swear box. Hopefully, it will be the last time I'll ever have to do that. This is the best idea ever, for my delight in thwarting those rascals out of their swear box monies will be far greater than the short-lived release of firing one off.  

A picture from way back when we could have actual days out.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

They Fitted Faded Yogi

 Our Dede, Leitrim Sister, Dr Byrne, my youngest sister despite being born during one of the coldest winters on record is one of the warmest-hearted people I know. 

I've not seen her since August and even then we didn't hug. 

Happy birthday, Dede. I hope it was a good one.