Tuesday, August 31, 2021


The picture bears no relevance to what I am about to post. It is here because I like it. The post is about people I know. I've changed all their names.

Bert had a haircut today, his first in a very long time. The little trim I gave him a while back doesn't really count as he was still able to put his hair in a ponytail. He looked very sensible afterwards which makes sense as his hairdresser, a fan of long tresses in men, asked him if he was sure. He said he was. And how did he want it? And he said,

Good sensible oul boy hair.

We were chatting afterwards and he told me the hairdresser is an anti-vaxxer,


She said it hasn't been properly tested. She doesn't trust it.

What about Hubby?

He's against it too. As is their son. We do seem to know a lot of people who haven't had the jab.

Do we? I suppose there's Ford. He's a bit of a libertarian.

Stan and his lad are refuseniks.And Eric is dead against it.

Paul hasn't had it but then he can't organise anything for himself. Even when his ma arranges appointments for him, he forgets or sleeps in.

Young Lothario says he doesn't trust it but I think it's because he's afraid to go out of the house.

And Robby says they are injecting tracking devices into us. 

The Super Marios aren't having it. Giovanni has done his research, says it's dangerous.

His arse! Thirty minutes on his smartphone is all the research he'll have carried out!

So, how many is that? 

About twelve. What are the stats on unvaccinated adults in Northern Ireland?

Slightly over sixty per cent fully vaccinated. Lower than the rest of the UK.

So, if that lot represent forty percent of all the people we know then we only know thirty people. Looks like our friends and acquaintances are mostly sensible folks.

Did anyone notice that all but one of the aforementioned doubtful are male?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Elephant Hawk-Moth

Found by Bert today in the middle of the yard. We're not sure where it was heading. The willowherb is not as fresh as it was so we placed him in a fuchsia bush. We might meet again next year when this happens.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Hear Me Roar

When we were young and all living at home there would often be shouting matches. Our mother was affronted at us and would say,

They'll hear you at the line!

The 'line' was the road between Antrim and Ballymena but it wasn't passing motorists she was thinking about, it was all the relatives that lived at the public house on the line that she was worried about. For some reason, she did not want Granny, Aunts Mary and Bernie and Uncles Shaun and Kevin to know that she was rearing a crowd of wild, unruly children. 

So yelling and shouting was a big no-no in our house as were the wearing of trousers by girls and/or female whistling. 

Every time you whistle, you make Our Lady cry.

Is it any wonder that I grew up loth to be anything other than gently spoken in public places? 

That has been changing recently and I'm feeling so much better about it.

It all started in Cambridge. I disembarked from the King's Lynn train with only a few minutes to spare to change for the airport train. But I misread the platform information and headed over the bridge to the other platforms. It wasn't easy as my case was very heavy, it being full of all the handmade baby clothes I'd been instructed to share with new and expected family members so I arrived on the other platform, slightly out of breath and, to reassure myself, enquired of a guard if I was on the correct platform and then he said,

The Stansted train is on platform 1, it's over the bridge, and it's just about to leave.

I turned on my heel, dragged the heavy case up the iron steps, over the bridge, down the other side. There was the train and the doors were closed. I pressed the button, doors opened. I didn't dare step inside in case it was the wrong train. Instead, I roared through the open door,


And a young woman replied mildly.


I jumped on. It was at least ten minutes before my heart rate returned to normal.

There was another roaring incident yesterday. Martha and I were sitting at a window seat in Middletown enjoying a coffee and cinnamon rolls and people watching when I leapt from my seat, ran out the door, picked up two tenners from the pavement and yelled at the young man carrying a baby who had just dropped the money from his pocket.


He stopped and I gave him the money. He thanked me. I'm sure he thought me slightly mad and I did not care. It was more about me than him. For I got to move fast, do a good deed and I got to ROAR. It felt so good.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Garlic Tears and Shiny Bales


This was a crop from a previous year. It wasn't so good this year even though I started with fresh cloves. Normally I'd have covered the beds with fallen autumn leaves to keep weeds down, last year I didn't bother. Mistake. So here I am with a poor crop and am unable to buy new bulbs from GB because of the protocol. I did (whisper it) chance eBay. The sellers on there don't do paperwork but I'll not be counting garlic cloves until they're hatched. They might be crap.

Today I'm going to look back to my recent visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk. It was just Katy and myself, James and Emily. James was supercharged that day. He loves everything about Pensthorpe and never stopped running. The water, the birds, the play park, the water, the gift shop. the water - he was soaking at the end but there was a change of clothes so no problem. I didn't buy anything in the gift shop, too busy minding the children while Katy had a look around. The books looked interesting though. It was good to see our own Dara McAnulty in fine company.

The hay was lifted from the meadow today, and it's all bare and scraped back and ready for next year. I might scatter a bit more yellow rattle seed near the stream and I am considering starting some patches of corn marigold at the sunniest edges. But mostly I am hoping to see what the seedbed will bring forth. Exciting times. No pictures though as there are four big shiny black bales plonked in it. And I thought it was to be baled the old-fashioned way. Embarrassing. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A Fallen Sunflower and an Owl Dress

 You would think that this Thursday (with just the two girls) would be less hectic than last Thursday (with seven girls) but not so. Where two girls demand rather a lot of a Granny's attention, not to mention her spare cash, seven girls make their own fun and cost hardly anything.

It all began with a double booking. I arranged that the three daughters of a good friend should come over last week to hang out with Martha and Evie. What I didn't know was that there was an arrangement already in planning for the granddaughters to have two school friends over for a Wednesday night camp out.

Dave's Camp

They all got together around lunchtime and from then on we barely saw them as they raced around fields, fashioned rope swings, rode bikes, played with dogs, bounced on trampolines and built another camp under the beech trees from old furniture destined for the council yard. Okay, there were a couple of dramas. One went off to have sad times in the shepherd's hut because - y'know - stuff. And another one ripped her leg on some barbed wire and never flinched when it was cleaned with TCP. That one won an award at Irish dancing the following day despite her wound. All-in-all a good day and the adults were barely bothered at all.

Today was different but still enjoyable. They paid me more attention which was nice as I was almost completely ignored when their five friends were around. Evie was back at school for a half-day today so Martha and I went trawling the town for pre-loved vintage. In Martha's book two seasons ago New Look passes for vintage. She got some clumpy lace-up boots and a cream dress with a print of long-eared owls and a peter pan collar. Sounds weird but it is adorable. Ten pounds for both items. 

In other news, Martha begins at Ballymena Academy tomorrow. That came around quicker than I expected. 

Martha was always keen on mixing up her look. Emily has that dress now. Another fashionista in the making.

Evie's sunflower must have been 3.5 metres tall. It fell over yesterday, through the tomatoes and into the sweetcorn. The tomatoes were OK but we lost three sweetcorn plants. We're not too sad.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Butterflies, Belfast and Girl Camp


We have quite a few buddleia bushes dotted around the place and they certainly do attract the butterflies and moths. The most popular place right now is down by the polytunnel where a group of unsold buddleias are still in pots. I brought my camera to see if I could catch a group shot of the peacocks or maybe the small tortoiseshells. Thanks to our nettle patches we see a lot of those. And there they were in their dozens. And then there was this one which I've never seen before around here, not ever. According to my Collins, it is a silver-washed fritillary. It likes to feed on brambles, and luckily there are lots of those around the place and the larva feeds on dog violets and we have a great swathe of those growing under the beech trees. Once again, I'm grateful that we've learned to love a bit of wildness around the place. Some might call it a mess. I call it a haven for wildlife.

Clint cut the meadow today. This is great as I was worried it wouldn't happen. Before he turned it I collected the remnants of the yellow rattle seeds and walked the field bashing out the last of the seeds. There are lots saved already but they are destined for the patch outside my window.

Apart from that, it was much too hot to do much and, believe it or not, I am still tired from the social whirl. Which began the Tuesday before last when I saw Nat and Neil.

Now For The Archive

Tuesday, 17th August

N and I arranged to meet in Belfast and I was raring to go. It was a long, long time since we'd seen each other. Of course, being me I got mega anxieties about things not working out. The last time we'd met in Belfast I had a prang with a driving instructor who was taking a lesson with a young Polish woman. The damage done was slight and the cost mighty but it could have been worse. This time I took the train and set off early so I could peruse the vintage and charity shops on Botanic Avenue. I was lucky with books - found an Ishiguro and a Banks that I hadn't read. Both from the turn of the century. I mustn't have been reading so much back then.

Then a walk through Botanic Gardens, still feeling sad that the Palm House remains closed to the public. I said to Bert a while ago,

Those gardeners will still be working away in there even though no one can come in.

And he said,

Yea! And they'll be loving it!

I expect he's right. 

Then it was time to meet Nat. She looked great. A few years older than me, and barely a grey hair. We were both wearing Seasalt tops, obviously a favourite choice for old hippies like us.

Photograph by Neil.

As they say here, the craic was mighty and there was one tale from the olden days that Nat thinks I should share here. I might just.

It was all too short for N and N were heading off the next day. But I shall be keeping my eyes and ears open for classic motorcycles for sale to see if I can lure them back to Belfast. 

Next Day, 18th August

Tired and happy. My feet were a bit achey. 15000 Belfast steps in ankle boots. Should have worn my comfy Merrells. So during the day, I rested up because that evening and all day Thursday was going to be Girl Camp!



Monday, August 23, 2021

A Tale of Two Grandas

Monday is family dinner day and today we had a few more family members at the table. Actually, that's not true as our current table only seats six so we had a buffet supper and ate outside. I made two cheese and onion pies, a tagliatelle and tuna bake and roasted a chicken. We ate whatever we wanted of that with rolls and salad. For dessert I made Evie's favourite, a steamed chocolate pudding and an apple crumble with some of the Katy apples. We need to get those used up before the wasps finish them off.

After dinner, Martha and Evie dressed Bert's hair in pigtails and yellow daisies. He was rather impressed with the results. It was unfortunate that Hector and the nephew, over to feed their cattle, turned up as Bert was crossing the yard to see to Rusty and Lily. Hector gave him a cheery wave. What else could Bert do but wave back?

Sunday, August 22, 2021

More Posting Please

This Sunday, 22/8/2011

I've been having a think. I need to begin using this blog as an aide-memoire and if I only post a few times a month then that's not going to be very helpful. I'll start with today, a Sunday - it started dull and has finished pleasantly sunny, blue-skyed and mild. Very nice. We'll have more of that if you don't mind.

Mick and Linda have been staying with us since Friday but they're not here right now. They've spent the day at Mount Stewart with the Haribos and I hope the weather is as pleasant in Down as it is in Antrim because Miss Evie forgot her coat. Yes. Martha and Evie have been staying too.

A while back when I told Martha that her Granda would be staying here this time instead of at her house she was taken aback. But not for long.

I know Granny! Evie and I can stay with you too!

Well - we do have two spare rooms and the Haribos have none since Martha got a room of her own. So I agreed, for two of the four nights.

The first night (Friday) was hectic. The girls were very excited and stayed up way past their bedtime.  We did have a lot of fun though and we were all quizzed on what it's like being so old and then made to play a thankfully tame game of Truth or Dare.

Yesterday they went out with the Norfolk Grands and Hannah and got very spoiled. I had a plan for the evening as everyone was tired. We watched a movie,  Martha's choice, Mr Peabody and Sherman which was thoroughly enjoyed by both the children and three of the adults. Granda Mick took the opportunity to take a nap.

For my archive

On this day a week ago* I was delighted to receive a message from an old friend who lives in Devon. I hadn't seen her for about 12 years and before that another 20 or so. We made plans to meet on Tuesday for such are the joys of social media. To be continued...

*15th August 2021.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Busy As A Bee

I have visited four gardens in the past three weeks, the walled garden at Glenarm Castle, Antrim Castle Gardens, the walled garden at Houghton Hall (Norfolk) and Pensthorpe Natural Park (also Norfolk)

They were all inspiring and gorgeous and although I have nothing at all against walled gardens or castles, Pensthorpe is definitely my favourite. It's got water and wildfowl and is designed by the brilliant Piet Oudolf

Of course, when I got home and looked at my own garden I was less than pleased with it. Overblown and collapsing - it does not look its best in late summer. Truthfully it only looks good for a couple of weeks in May. Certain plants have got out of hand, especially the cephalaria and sidalcea. I always mean to stake them in time and always leave it too late. They were cut to the ground and I intend to dig half of them out. Aunt Nessie's geranium was reduced by eighty per cent. It's a real stinker too. My hands smelled horrible when I'd finished the job.

We spent a few hours yesterday razing the meadow area of the garden. Bert trimmed, then mowed it twice and I lifted the cuttings and wheeled six barrow loads to the compost heap. I'll sow more yellow rattle in there and hopefully, it will look better next year. The proper meadow is a worry. I don't know if Clint is going to lend me some cows to chomp it down. He is disdainful of my meadow grass. Says the cattle won't like it. If he doesn't I will have to arrange for someone to come in to cut and lift it.

In other news, Bert has decided to wind down the horticulture business. Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol has made it difficult/impossible to source liners from his usual English outlets. The amount of business we give them isn't enough for them to bother. I'm not sorry. We'll have more time to do meadow, woods and bee stuff.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Granny Fuzzbomb

 One of the things that worried me (slightly) about going to Norfolk was that after two long years James and Emily might have forgotten me. I needn't have worried. There was no shyness, no hesitancy. They slipped straight into beloved grandchildren mode right from the start. 

On a walk with Granny

Eating KitKats

New sunnies

Now, if I might be excused I'm going to cut myself a fringe. 

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Ten Things I Did Today

I am borrowing/copying Ten Things I Did Today from Ganching. Her consent was sought and granted when she visited Nellybert's the weekend before last. I believe it was the raspberry and coconut ice cream that swung it for me. Feed a blogger well and she'll let you steal all her best ideas.

Lulu belongs to Leitrim sister and Dmitri. We had the pleasure of looking after her last weekend and I found her a great solace after Dolours left the stage. Cannot wait until the Leitrim Crew head off on their travels again. Brexit has brought at least one advantage, as pets cannot travel freely and have to stay with Aunt Granny.

The Ten Things...

1. Woke up missing Lulu.

2. Went out to the woods to check that Foxy had made good use of Dolours. She was gone which is a relief.

3. Entertained visitors (Bert's cousins) and sent them off with a boatload of begonias, lobelia, lilies and peaches.

4. Spent an hour or so perusing documents and photographs regarding Bert's family convoluted family tree. (Thank you, cousins) Fellow genealogists will be glad to know that the Robinson Riddle has been solved. Maybe.

5. Spoke to Katy and Mick regarding my imminent trip to Norfolk. Getting really excited.

6. Consulted experienced meadow makers on Twitter.

7. Gathered quantities of yellow rattle seed from my meadow.

8. Had words with Bert regarding his negativity towards my meadow-making plans. It's not that he is against meadows, it's just that he cannot let the farming indoctrination go. 

9. Ate too many biscuits. Again.

10. Tried to find something to watch on TV. Failed.