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.