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. 

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Sea Coots

Today I took my dogs and my sore knees for a walk on the beach at Portballintrae. I know. We're supposed to stay at home, but mine was a mission of mercy as I was bringing half a dozen freshly laid eggs and a pot of homemade raspberry jam to an isolated old lady. Who would be Swisser.

Who frequently reminds me that she never reads my blog. So. Open season.

The walk was challenging. Longest I've been on since August last year when I went on a socially distanced walk with Zoe, Dr Leitrim Sister and Dmitri. I remember that walk well, the first one ever with Lulu the JRT and getting a picture of an interesting day-flying moth. I wish I could remember what it was.

Remembering has become a bit of a thing for me. Some events from half a century ago are vivid while others, more recent, can be cloudy. Like, where did I put the tinfoil and did I close the hens in? What is the name of that moth and what are those black and white birds? I know Bert told me but I cannot recall. My mind is all taken up with the birds I see from my window, the robins, a pair of wrens, blackbirds, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, pied wagtails, magpies, pigeons, crows, greenfinches and today, a small flock of long-tailed tits that I had been waiting for.

Those unnamed birds were seen today on Portballintrae beach. I asked Swisser if she knew. She answered me an unasked question. I repeated the question.

Do you know what those birds are?

She said something vague about Covid.

You don't know, do you?

(She never admits to not knowing anything.)

Then she said,

They are coots.

I said,

They are not. Coots aren't seabirds. They like rivers and marshy places.

She said,

They're sea coots.

Later in the walk, we spotted a birds bobbing in the water and she pointed them out. She said.

There they are again. Sea coots.

It was a lovely walk. And they weren't sea coots. They were oystercatchers.