Saturday, July 31, 2021

The One I Called Dolours


She got five extra weeks and enjoyed a lovely spell of weather. She was still eating and drinking but had lost all her mobility again. She was as tame as anything and so light to carry.

We found out today what ailed her. Dolours was only going to get worse and would die anyway. Bert did the needful thing and I took her to the woods. The bag felt weighty. It's a strange thing that creatures so light in life are heavy in death. I picked a lovely spot for her and came home. I still have her bed to clear away and all her dishes to clean. Tomorrow morning will be the first day in ages that I don't have to go out to her shed, wondering if she made it through the night and then have mixed feelings when I see that she did. 

No RIPs. Dolours will be food for the foxes tonight.

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.