Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Birthday Memories

Most years I write a post on my mother's birthday. Today would have been her 95th. These are some of the memories I've posted since her death ten years ago.

Martha Martha

Today is my mother's birthday. She would have been 86 years old.

Matty would have been 87 years old today. I would have been visiting her with my card and present. Still miss her every day.

This is one of my favourite pictures of her, cradling her great-grandchild and namesake, Martha. She loved that child with all her heart. I wish she could have met Martha's sister, Evie, for she would have been just as adored.

Birthday Memories, July 2014

Matty would have been 88 years old today. I'd always thought she'd live to her nineties for there is a saying around here,

a creaking gate hangs longest.

She had a great concern for her health and was always worrying about something. The odd thing was when she did become seriously ill she barely complained at all.

It's a strange one today. I always think about Mum on her birthday but today I am also thinking about Pearlie who died eight days ago at the age of 88.

During the lead up to the funeral, a great many things were, as we say in Ireland,

put on the long finger. 

These included the vegetable garden, the bees and, of course, the laundry. After the funeral, I washed all of Pearlie's things intending to recycle most of them and today was the first day in many years that I put on a wash that included nothing of hers. It was strange and, to be honest, a bit of a relief.

I mentioned that the bees and the garden were neglected. On the day of Pearlie's funeral, there was a swarm of honey bees hanging from an apple tree. No one had time to deal with it and they flew away. During the wake, the birds finished off the currants but that did not matter too much as I already had pounds and pounds stashed away in the freezer. The vegetables in the polytunnel were unharvested and it all turned into a jungle. I just about managed to keep on top of the watering which was just as well as we had a heatwave.

So here we are - remembering Matty which is poignant and sweet and missing Pearlie Blue which is strange and new.

A photograph of Matty and Pearlie took nine years ago when they were both fit and well. 

28th July 2015

There are only 365.25 days in a year so it's not that great a coincidence when folk share birthdays, anniversaries and so on. Even so,  at 20 years old, I was quite taken that my new boyfriend and my mother shared the same birth date.

Forty-two years later my mum has gone, the new boyfriend is an ex-husband and still a friend. We have between us, three daughters, two granddaughters and a grandson. Today is Mick and Matty's birthday. For the first time in decades, he is here in Northern Ireland and staying with us for a couple of days. He's had a lovely day and said as much on Facebook. Today he went to Belfast Zoo with his partner Linda, his two lovely daughters, his two lovely granddaughters and Fergus. Zoe made him a cake. Tonight he and Linda are here with me and we're watching TV and generally having a nice time.

Matty would be delighted. She was very fond of Mick. Last night, I sorted out a few things and came across her handbag, the handbag she used for the last year of her life, and a gift from me. We got it in an outlet centre in Antrim. For some reason, it ended up here and it was a couple of years before I could even open it. It contains a purse full of euros, all her various cards and this photograph. It was taken not long before she died. It's not even a proper photograph, just a sample from some Photobox pictures that Zoe ordered.

Martha Amy is in the foreground, the only one of her great-grandchildren she ever got to meet, and she is wearing a crazy hat that Matty knitted, And that would be one of the last things Matty ever made. I wonder where it is now? Some one of us will be treasuring it I'm sure, just as I treasure her handbag which is in the picture, sitting at her right hand.

Ah Matty. Missing you still. Happy birthday Mum.

Mick's birthday card

The following is part of a post written in 2018. 

Today was our mother's birthday. She would have been 92 years old. I always thought she'd make it to her nineties but she didn't. And although I don't believe in an afterlife I wish I did because then I'd know she'd be looking out for a special person (1) that she never got to meet but if she had, she'd have loved her very much.

This is from last year

The road, by Sinead

Today was my mother's birthday and it gained another layer of meaning (2).

(1) The special person I was referring to was Ava, Mum's second-born great-grandchild. Ava was very seriously ill in July 2018
(2) Ava died in September 2019. The first person in our immediate family since Matty.

Ava, picture by her Auntie Naoise


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Mussenden Temple and Some Other Places

Our youngest brother Joe invited Ganching and me on a Mystery Tour. This was always a great ruse on our father's part from when we were small. He'd take a carload of us on a Mystery Tour and, for some reason, this was so exciting to me. We weren't going to the Glens, or the seaside, or to Tardree. We were going somewhere different, somewhere mysterious. Looking back, I think he might just have wanted to incorporate getting us from under our mother's feet with some jaunt to a building project he was interested in or a drive-by some farm of land an acquaintance had acquired. Hopefully, it wouldn't be a sail up some long lane so he 'could have a word with a boy', as it was never a word, it was many, many words and we were never allowed out of the car and there was always at least one collie dog in the yard and maybe some children peeking at us that we never ever got to play with.

At the end of it all, there would often be sweets so that made everything worthwhile.

Joe's Mystery Tour took us to the next county, to Downhill, to the mountain above it and back down to the Downhill Demesne and the Mussenden Temple. Such a while since I'd been there. Last time my hair was brown and Danny was in his prime and he's been dead now for seventeen years.

Danny and Nelly, early nineties. Photo by Bert.

This picture was taken at the same time. The National Trust has made many changes to the site with smart fencing, car parking, gravel paths and meadows but the old tree still remains.

The Derry Train

The coastal railway route from Coleraine to Derry is spectacular and has been rightly extolled by train enthusiasts such as Michael Portillo and Michael Palin who described it as "one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world". Seeing that train made me wonder why I wasn't dusting off the railcard and taking a wee trip to the Maiden City someday very soon.

One thing that delighted me about the Downhill Demesne was the meadow planting. It is so much more beautiful than mown grass.  On the way back we passed swathes of yellow rattle gone to seed. I was tempted to harvest a pocketful but did not. It will do far better where it is. 

To end (for now) a fantastic day out in the best company, with people I've known and loved for half a century and more. I know I promised Other Places in the title but that will do for another post. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Drumrankin, Drumkeeran, Dublin and Dingle.

 On Monday night I put the moth trap out and captured just two yellow underwings. It's not advisable to catch moths on consecutive nights as it prevents them from feeding and breeding. But... two yellow underwings. Against my own (and Rachael's) advice, I tried it again last night. The trap I'm using at the moment isn't that efficient but I'll take that as a good thing. The moths are fine without being trapped and I do get to see a few nice specimens.

This one is a burnished brass, not uncommon and really beautiful. There were two of them. Here's hoping they were male and female and will be out there tonight, making sweet, sweet love. 

This was the only photograph I managed that didn't feature an egg carton so that's the one to share. Who needs to see yellow underwings at rest? They only look good when they're on the move. 

This beauty, a Gold Spot, was in the trap four days ago. The best picture I got was of the moth positioned on my hand. Unfortunately, my hand looked as if was attached to a drowned cadaver so far too vain to show that one. Have to make do with the grey egg box shot.

It was another scorching day. Sometime in the afternoon, the clouds began to gather and there were distant rumbles of thunder. The rain never came, just a couple of spits in the early evening. I'd be glad to see a shower and so would my flower and vegetable beds. As always, the fine weather brings out the heavy grass harvesting plant. The machines rolling through this yard get bigger every year. Just a few branches ripped off the horse chestnut and a gate post knocked over. Thankfully, the dogs know to stay out of the way.

We had visitors this afternoon, a couple of younguns, Emma and James who'd never stroked a hen before. Dolours obliged them. Dolours is moving around more and can now travel about four metres. She's eating and drinking well, pecking at vegetation and searching out insects. I am thinking of applying for a Carer's Allowance. 

In other news, I am delighted that Ganching will be visiting Nellybert for a couple of days. She is doing a tour of all four Ireland-based siblings. Drumrankin, Drumkeeran, Dublin and Dingle. Exciting times. It's a ridiculously long time since we've been together. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Trouble With Hens

 I finished my last post with a mention of the white hen which, on that particular evening, was not to be found. She had my heart scalded with clocking and after three weeks and a bit, I removed her from the nest and disposed of the one remaining egg. We think the 'rooster' might be gynandromorphic, that is one-half male and one-half female. It only has one spur and its comb favours the spur side. It has never been known to crow and has been found in the nest on a couple of occasions acting as if it might want to lay an egg. If these were not such peculiar times I might have ventured to joke about this but I'd be reluctant to incur the wrath of activists and find myself banned from Blogger.

The only way I could keep Mrs White (the clocking hen) from returning to the nest was by removing her from the run. Unfortunately, life got in the way and she was forgotten and when I did remember she had vanished. I searched everywhere which took a long time. 

Out early the next morning to feed them and still no sign of her. Then I heard a soft clucking and out she appeared from under a rogue raspberry bush near the gate to the run. She was ready for breakfast and, I'm glad to say, was right off the notion of clocking.

Meanwhile, Dolours still lives, eating and drinking well and standing on her two feet. She has limited movement but it's an improvement. Every day I bring her out of the hospital wing and leave her in a different part of the garden with food and drink close by. She is even starting to grub around for insects.

I can see where this will go. Dolours will improve enough to get around in a limpy sort of way. She'll be ever so happy and I'll be grateful to her for bringing some meaning to my life and then she will die of some other henny ailment. Best not to get too attached.

In other news, unrelated to hens, my only grandson was six years old yesterday. I've not seen him since he was four because of lockdown. I will be going to Norfolk in just over a fortnight and cannot wait to see James and his little sister Emily. 

If Dolours survives until then, Bert will be responsible for looking after her. It's a worry. His track record is not good. I left him in charge of two adorable black chicks when I went to Vancouver and when I got back they were no more.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fear of Flying

 In years gone by, Nellybert traditionally had people round on Orangeman's Day. We weren't actually celebrating the Twelfth ourselves, just enjoying a gathering with other like-minded souls, some various musicians and Ernestino. In recent years it's all gone a bit quiet. Not that I mind for I'm not as big on parties as I used to be and, of course, Covid 19 has put paid to a lot of socialising.

This week the gathering of three bubble families was delayed until the 15th of July. And did we get the weather! I made tacos and Jazzer made a salad and we both made two kinds of ice cream, chocolate chip and coconut and pineapple. I almost wish I'd never found out about homemade ice cream as it is far too delicious and I am currently low on willpower. We spent most of the day outside watching and being watched by Dolours the immobile hen who sat in an improvised roost in the flowerbeds sipping water and nibbling on sunflower hearts.

Jazzer is mortally afraid of creatures with wings be they ladybirds, butterflies, songbirds or hens. If they sit nicely with wings folded she is merely nervous but when the wings start to flap she freaks. At the same time, she has deep compassion for wounded or poorly creatures, human or animal and she found herself drawn to Dolours. When it came time to put the wee hen to bed she said she'd like to carry it. This was a very big deal. I told her to keep the hen's wings folded in as she was being held and all would be well. 

When Dolours lost the use of her legs I brought her out of the hen run and placed her in another shed expecting her to be dead within a few days. Eighteen days later and she is still around. I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad thing.

Jazzer was delighted that she had managed to overcome her fear even if afterwards her heart was racing. 

It was a different story this morning. I'd set the moth trap the night before, not that well as it turned out for the lid wasn't properly placed, which left an escape route and there weren't many in it, maybe a dozen yellow underwings and a few others including an elephant hawkmoth and a garden tiger which I was pleased to show Ben and Sara. But not Jazzer - she hovered in the doorway praying that nothing took wing. And nothing did. Just as well too as the spotted flycatchers are partial to a big moth.

Garden Tiger

Elephant Hawkmoth

The heat today was heavy going for folks used to cool and rainy summers and it is to be hot all weekend. I gave myself two must-dos today, buy new scissors and update this blog. Tomorrows must-do will be to find the white hen which is quite another story.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Happy, Happy Face

 Post from 10 years ago, about a bike ride from more than thirty years ago.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Biking It

Matty and I went out for a bike ride probably a quarter of a century ago. I can't recall very much about it. I only know that I was with her for that is my blue ladies racer lying in the hedge. It's not that good a photograph - I should have got all of Matty's bike in there and avoided those pylons. And yet - it is a good picture. Look at her happy, happy face.

It is one of those pictures taken in the olden days that were not considered good enough for a frame or an album, just one of those photographs thrown in a box and forgotten about. Then decades pass and everything changes and then they become precious. That bike ride I can barely remember but there she is. We must have enjoyed ourselves for just look at her happy, happy face.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Stink Bomb Funly


Driving through a village in North Antrim, Bert (62) says…

Oh, look! There’s Stink Bomb!


Stink Bomb! Jim Funly’s sister.

And who’s he?

Jim Funly, from school. He’s a preacher or a politician. Or both.

I’ll check that.

Two minutes later…

Wow! He’s something else. Ugly as sin and a sectarian bigot to boot. What was he like at school?

That and stupid too. Also smelly.

What did he smell of?


Names and places have been changed. Vegetables still vegetables. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

My Feathered Friends

 Eight days now since Evie found the bundle of feathers and stink that used to be Helen and eight days since we put Dolours in chicken sickbay. Chicken keeping isn't supposed to be like this. It's supposed to be feeding, watering, cleaning out and gathering eggs - not all this death and decrepitude. 

Someone once told me that sheep are buggers too, always looking for fresh and inventive ways of dying, said that if they could die twice they would. Seems like hens aren't that far behind them.

The one that I call Dolours cannot walk. Apart from that she is well-feathered, alert and eating and drinking. I wish now that I'd taken her to the vet at the start, but I expected her to either die or get better within a day or two. She spent a good part of today in a shady part of the garden, nibbling seed and drinking water and looking around her like a gentlewoman enjoying a day at the seaside.

A vet's appointment is still an option even though I heard of a man, new to keeping hens, who was recently charged ninety pounds for a consultation and 2 grammes of lice powder. 

The one that Martha calls Sugar has been trying to hatch eggs since Easter and a couple of weeks ago I got fed up with lifting her off her stash and anyways, I wanted to find out if our rooster actually is intersex. She started off with three marked eggs, two of which have disappeared so now she is putting all her energy into sitting on one egg which, if it hatches, will probably be another rooster. 

I'm away out now to see if Dolours tried the freshly pulled lettuce leaves I pulled for her and in the meantime here is a photograph of the chaffinch that knocked itself unconscious by flying into a window. It recovered eventually. 

She was still a little dizzy at this stage. I was worried she'd lose her grip on the branch and gently lifted her off whereupon she flew into a clump of lupins. I left her to it and the next time I looked she was gone.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Helen is Found

 One month and a day ago Helen, my favourite hen, disappeared from the hen run. 

...we had a call from Clint. Apparently, there were a lot of hens wandering the road in front of the primary school. Anything to do with us? I checked and all my hens were home. Except for Helen. I spent an hour looking for her but no joy. And to think that only a few hours earlier Evie and I had been in the run hand-feeding her RJ Kerr soda bread.

Perhaps she'd turn up in the morning. Perhaps she choked on the soda and died. Perhaps Foxy…?

But she did not turn up in the morning.

I'd looked everywhere that evening, poked through the extensive nettle patch at the bottom of the run, looked under every gooseberry and blackcurrant bush but there wasn't a sign of her - until today. It was Evie who found her remains beneath the biggest blackcurrant bush right next to the hen house. I raked her out and Bert took her off for a decent burial in the midden. Poor Helen. I wonder if it was the soda bread?

Martha is staying with us tonight and she is currently hogging the TV. Under Bert's very nose she opened her own iPlayer account so she could watch junior telly. I advised her that it would be mannerly not to make changes to our devices without first asking permission. She agreed in principle. Tomorrow we are getting up early and taking the train to Belfast. We are both looking forward to it. Will take my mind off Helen. 

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Missed It!

 Two goldfinches in the airport snack bar.

One says to the other,

Is it not near time we were heading to the departure gate?

The other one, munching away says,

Ach sure, we've loads of time. Cool your heels...


Ah for fuck's sake. We've missed it!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Sister Benedicta Revisited

I wrote Sister Benedicta over fifteen years ago. I'm so glad that my oldest granddaughter, going to her new school in September will not experience anything like this.

By the way, that being on the brink of ruin period did come to an end soon afterwards. It is just unfortunate that it coincided with my starting grammar school. Another thing, although I never told my mother about charity collections or sports kit I always asked for and got my art supplies. I had priorities.



For most of his life, my father had two jobs. He was a HGV lorry driver and a farmer. There was a time just a few years after he bought the farm when things did not go well for him. He had replaced his old faithful ERF truck with a more modern Seddon-Atkinson lorry. And this lorry gave him a lot of problems. He was sold a pup. And because he was self-employed he earned no money on the days that the lorry was broken down. That would have been bad enough but then there was also a run of bad luck on the farm. He lost a bullock in a freak accident; a cow died calving and there was a run of dead calves. This left my parents with a lot of financial worries, which my mother confided in me. In hindsight, she realises she probably shouldn’t have because I was only 11 or so and took it very much to heart.

“We might lose the house. We might be very poor.”

What did that mean? I hardly dared to ask. I couldn’t comprehend what losing the house might mean. Maybe living with Granny? Horrible thought. As for ‘very poor’ I thought I knew what that meant. It meant nothing to eat but dry bread and water, crying hungry children, being barefoot in the snow and no Christmas presents.

I remember praying very hard in Chapel that we would not starve. Then I passed the 11+ and I was going to The Convent. I knew Mammy was worried about the price of the uniform but she got it all anyway except for the jumper and the scarf, which the nuns sold themselves at a ridiculously high price.

So I started The Convent. Maybe it was nerves or maybe it was a particularly chilly September but it was very cold. The uniform was so cheap and shoddy you could have spat through it. The rumour was that McKillen's bought it in for a pittance, sold it to us for a fortune and gave the nuns a kickback. The blazers were warm enough. They were probably made from the bits of felted up wool sweepings from the Lancashire factory floors, dyed navy blue and sewed into an ugly box-shaped garment with a posh badge and braid added on afterwards to give it a bit of ‘class’. But the sadistic nuns didn’t allow us to wear the blazers inside so we froze. They kept the central heating turned off too. Within a couple of days at least half the girls had bought a school jumper.

After the first week, there were only a dozen of us without the jumper. I was so cold I could hardly think. By the end of September, there were just two of us, myself and a girl called Eilish. And then there was just me. My humiliation was total. Or so I thought. For there was a lot more to come.

Mammy finally scraped the money together to get me the jumper in October. I honestly don’t remember what it cost but it would probably have bought her enough wool to knit the entire family jumpers. Oh aye, I forgot to mention that we weren’t allowed to have home knit jumpers.

Oh, The Convent! It was money, money, money all the time. At least once a week Sister Diabolical would sweep into our classrooms and announce that we were taking up a collection for the poor starving Black Babies in Africa or the poor starving White Babies in Dublin and we were all to bring in at least two shillings the next day. We were to ask our mothers as soon as we got home. Of course, I never mentioned this to my mother for fear of worrying her and then got roundly humiliated the next day when they took up the collection.

Then there was the PE kit. We were to have tennis rackets, hockey sticks, this kind of a skirt, that kind of shoes. Once again this was never named by me at home. So I spent my entire first year in an agony of shame and dread and consequently never learned a thing.

Then Sister Benedicta took a pick on me. She thought I was a scruffy tyke and she was right. She sent me out of class one day to comb my hair.

“Nelly Moser, your hair is a disgrace. Go to the washroom right now and comb it!”

So I went to the washroom and looked in the glass. My hair was untidy, too curly and tangly. I had no comb so I tried to fix it with my fingers but it was no good. I was terrified going back to class because I thought she’d have another go at me but she never even noticed my hair was no different.

Then there were Sister Diabolical’s surprise fingernail inspections. She’d sweep in and go round everyone and inspect our fingernails. Humiliation for anyone whose nails were less than pristine. We’d all be frantically using compass points to clean them before she got to us. Once after failing inspection, I got sent to the washroom to give them a good scrub and when I got there I scrubbed and scrubbed till they were nearly bleeding. Then Sister Benedicta nobbled me at break time for having all these white soap flecks on my jumper.

“Nelly Moser, you dirty, dirty girl. You’ve been eating ice cream and got it all over yourself!”

As if. As if I had the money for ice cream.

In those days it was a small school with just two streams. We’d all been streamed on the first day. The second class was for those who’d scored less well on the initial tests and a lot of them were being paid for anyway because they hadn’t passed the scholarship. But at least their families were wealthy enough to afford the fees.

After the first year, I got put into the second stream because I’d performed poorly in my end of year tests. I was mortified but in the good old Convent tradition more was to come. Sister Benedicta was our form teacher. She introduced an encouraging little ritual to motivate us to be smart and tidy schoolgirls. At the end of every month, she’d have a class prize for the most well-turned-out girl. And while she was about it there would be a dishonourable mention for the least well turned out. The prizes were nothing to get excited about – maybe a holy picture or a cheap set of rosary beads. Anyways Mary Teresa won it the first month. Her father was a wealthy businessman and she got a new uniform every term. I got the dishonourable mention. The second month Mary Catherine won it. I got the dishonourable mention. The third time it was Mary Teresa yet again and myself for the booby. After the Christmas term, Sister Benedicta got bored with her little scheme and it was never mentioned again. Maybe she just got bored of humiliating me because by that time I’d gone numb and had stopped reacting. Bullies need a reaction.

I begged and begged Mammy to let me leave after the third year. I told her they’d probably throw me out anyway. I did no revision for Junior Cert and failed Math, French, Irish, Geography and History. The parents relented and I went to Antrim Tech to do a pre-Nursing course. I learned to enjoy school again and when I wasn’t top of the class I was second. I also smartened up my act and became one of the most well-groomed girls in my class.

Incidentally, Sister Benedicta was her real name. She’s probably dead now. I don’t really care.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Day Out In Great Company


Strange to see the toys we used to play with on an antique stall

Evie and I planned this long-overdue day out last Monday. Big Sis was going school uniform shopping with her Mum so Evie was at a loose end. Our first stop, Evie's choice, was St George's Market. It has been a long time since I was there and apart from masks and hand sanitisers, it was all much as usual. There were the regular interesting stalls but we were only there for the food. Although had I a spare couple of hundred on me, I might have been tempted by a big dramatic painting of a jackdaw. 

The next place Evie wanted to visit was Victoria Square because there were 'lots of shops'. It turned out that as far as she was concerned there was only one store she wanted to visit - the dreaded Claire's Accessories. I waited outside the door while she spent a good twenty minutes (I timed her) examining the merchandise. Only one purchase was made - a present for her sister.

The next place she needed to visit was Smiggle which is actually worse than Claire's. Evie looked at everything and then bought one thing, some sort of a puzzle. The moment she got outside she ripped the packaging apart and immediately regretted buying it. That put a damper on things for thirty minutes or so during which time we went to Matchetts to buy Bert some clarinet reeds. Then the next stop was Waterstones, a store we both like. We chose two books each and then had lunch in the cafe. 

By the time we left the bookshop, Evie had decided she did like her new puzzle

Of all the street musicians we heard in Belfast, Evie said this percussionist was the best. 

He beat out an impressive rhythm using old plastic buckets, saucepans and other bits and pieces. I suggested to Evie I might buy her some drumsticks and set her loose on the contents of my kitchen cupboards. She seemed to like the idea.

Evie's next port of call was Søstrene Grene but by this time we were hot and tired and as it was getting close to home time, and we took a slow leisurely stroll to the train station. It was more than thirty minutes to departure but we found a cool spot to relax and read our new books.

Heading home

Evie got met at the station by Big Sis and I travelled the next stop along and got met by Bert and the dogs, fashionably late as usual. It was a most enjoyable day.

The books I bought

I chose Starve Acre because of this review,

'The best closing line of any novel we have read this year... A strange and unsettling read'

And knew that as soon as Bert picked it up and read that he'd turn straight to the last page. Which he did this morning. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Wee Day Out

I never used to worry about leaving this place unattended. Just get in the vehicle and drive away with never a thought. These days it is all careful locking up, anxieties about the pigs and hens, maybe somebody coming on to the yard, stealing tools, equipment, plants. It must be something to do with getting older. And it is part of the reason that Nellybert outings are too few and far between.

But today we went out for breakfast, a plant delivery to Montrose, a trip to the supermarket and a jaunt to McNeill's in Broughshane for bird food. 

As I remarked to Bert the other day, the wee boys' grocery bill is nearly as much as our own - the amount we are spending on mixed seed, nyger seed and sunflower hearts and that's us with a field full of grasses going to seed at the front of the house, it is little wonder the wee boys are becoming so numerous.

This one has just left the nest. Both parents spent half an hour toing and froing from the fat ball cage feeding it titbits. Bert wondered about the other nestlings but I reckoned this one, the first out, was their pride and joy, their big hope for the future and they were going to put the effort in. Even if it killed them.

We returned from our jaunt to find the place unburgled, unburnt, and unflooded. The wee boys had their feeders loaded and it seems that they prefer the grub they get from Ronnie in Portglenone to Jimmy's in Broughshane. They'll have to get used to it though as we bought 20kg.

The only thing was, we seem to have lost a hen. Maybe Foxy. I'll know for sure at bedtime.

Tomorrow I'm going out again, first to pick up Jazzer and go to lunch, then pick up the schoolies. It's going to be a fun day.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right...

 ...or do they?

I decided to move my primary bird feeder. It had been placed in the position that Pearlie had enjoyed, just outside the window that she could view from her hospital bed. I don't know which she liked the most, watching the wee boys eating the peanuts, or bossing Bert to keep the feeder full. Back in Pearlie's day, it was all about peanuts and fatballs but I like to provide a variety of seeds and mealworms too. 

The problem with a feeder close to the house is that it makes life easier for the cats. They are both old now and not such active hunters but if there are going to be small birds strolling around the front door gathering up the overspill from feeders, and especially if those birds are this year's breeding and short on sense, then it is much easier pickings for Holly and Fred.

Still, we got to June before we had a fatality. I'm not even sure what it was as Fred had the head and breast devoured before Bert alerted me to his crime. I went out to him, caught him in the act and as there just happened to be a vat of rainwater and a bucket sitting handy, I filled the bucket and drenched the murderous bastard. That disturbed him at his repast.

I did try to identify it by the wings and tail feathers but not sure. Possibly some sort of a tit. I thought of posting a picture of the remains on Facebook but decided against it as,

(a) it won't bring it back and

(b) it might depress someone.

So I moved the feeder to the shepherd's hut. High enough to deter cats and close to a big thick hedge.

It was only there moments before the birds found it. The first caller was a great tit.

Quickly joined by a goldfinch.

Then my current favourite birds...

Two baby tree sparrows.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The Wee Boys


Oh! I wisht the wee boys were here!

Which is something Bert’s mother probably never said but it has been attributed to her and oft-repeated so she might well have said it. The wee boys were the swallows and Pearlie was expressing her yearning for the summer, for longer evenings and warmer days.

The warmer days and long evenings with us and I am determined to enjoy them. The wee boys are here too, nesting in the shed, the same place as last year. The spotted flycatchers have arrived too but aren't nesting in their usual spot behind the trellis at the front door. We think the nest is in a hawthorn tree, still near the house but it’s unlikely we’ll see the young ones until they’re flying. I don’t mind, just glad that they’re here.

Yesterday evening, Bert and I were relaxing in the polytunnel, remembering what Saturday evenings used to be like. We’d be so excited for company, maybe the Wees, or the Banjos. Possibly Swisser, always Ian. Who knows who might call in for we were a party house. And if we weren’t having people round we’d be going out ourselves. Good times.

I said to Bert,

I never gave birds a thought back then! They must have been around but I paid them no mind. 

When Matty retired she told me that she could spend ages, just watching the birds from her kitchen window. I remember thinking that she must very little to do with her time. But I get it now, for what could be a better use of our time?

 A swallow flew into the house this morning. I was making coffee when I heard the noise of it. Went into the sunroom and it was flapping against the windowpane, desperate to escape. It was being observed with great attention by Holly de Cat. She was chased off and I caught it (gently) in two cupped hands, straight to the door for release. I only held it for seconds, yet time enough to take it all in, it was so light and delicate, all glowing colours. A jewel of a bird. It was a sweet encounter for me, much less so for the bird. I thought about it all day. 

Young swallows from a few years back.

I just looked out the window. There is a collared dove out there, a chaffinch, a blackbird and a great tit.


And a goldfinch.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Bert's Birthday Cakes

Bert's birthday cake is traditionally served on Zoe's gardening day which is the day I make everyone supper. This has been going on for some years now and there are photos to prove it. It doesn't matter whose birthday it is for everyone gets to eat cake.

Back then Martha would always get involved in the blowing out of candles. She has since learned to hold back.

The icing had to be pink as Martha informed me that it was Bert's favourite colour. Evie is beginning to take an interest in the proceedings. She always liked cake.

Bert is wearing his best birthday boiler suit. 

1919. Martha can now be depended upon to present the birthday cake.

2020. Best cake ever but social distancing put quite a damper on the celebrations. Martha and Evie were not happy that they could not help blow out candles.  

Is it just me, or is Bert getting smaller?