Monday, September 27, 2021

Better Late Than Never

Monday is the day when Zoe tends to her vegetable garden and I make supper for everyone. When Martha was old enough to appreciate birthday celebrations I'd make a cake on the Monday closest to a birthday. It's lucky that none of our birthdays fall in the winter months as that's when Zoe takes a break from gardening.

Martha's birthday supper should have been two weeks ago but then they all got Covid-19 and had to isolate. Luckily Zoe was symptomless so could continue working. She can do her job from home so that wasn't a problem. Today was her first day back at the plot and Marthas delayed birthday celebration. She asked for enchiladas and Chocolate Guinness cake (Nigella recipe) and I obliged. No expense was spared with just one exception - I recycled the extra-long candles from Robin's cake. (Dougie's Goodies, delicious.)

Evie's birthday is next. Thank goodness Martha was quick about blowing out those candles. We'll get another turn out of them yet.



Saturday, September 25, 2021


My oldest friend just turned seventy. My youngest brother is not a kick in the arse of sixty, my oldest granddaughter has started grammar school, I'm down to three aunts, only one uncle and my toyboy husband is thinking of investing in new knees. Even my pets, pigs, dogs, cats and chickens are all ancient. Seems like Nelly is in the Autumn of her years.

But who cares! I've always loved Autumn, apart from it not lasting nearly long enough. Oops!

When I first met the Wee Manny, in Dublin, some time in the mid-seventies. 

Happy 70th birthday, Robin. I never thought you'd see it.

And an account of a long-ago adventure in which the comments have the makings of a soap opera. Well worth a read. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Panic Attack

Curtains were not my priority when we first moved to Springhill. Then Pearlie fell and broke her hip and for some reason, not wishful thinking, I convinced myself she was likely to die. And what happens when there is a death in the family? The curtains must be drawn closed. And we had none to close. In a panic, I rushed off to Dunelm Mill and bought four sets of floor-length curtains for the front of the house. Never mind, that no one would ever see them because we live up a lane on a rural road. Which was why I hadn’t actually bothered with curtains before.

Happily, Pearlie survived her fall and lived another six years. And when she did die the curtains weren’t drawn closed because who’d see them anyway?

There were two pairs, one cream coloured and one rusty red. Thirteen years later and they are still on the go. They are used in one room only, my private, secret sitting room. The red curtains are hung in autumn and winter and the lighter ones are for the warmer months.

So there I was today, standing and stretching on a step-stool, hanging the cream curtains (I’m a bit out of synch this year) when I felt dizzy, slightly short of breath, and with a tiny niggle in my throat. You may imagine what my first thought was. Especially as, only minutes earlier I’d given a couple of dry coughs. Immediately I started to panic. Corona! Maybe I hadn’t been as careful as I thought when going into town to walk the children’s puppy. Or maybe I'd picked up the virus somewhere else. For about twenty minutes I was up to high doh, wondering if I should get tested, then eventually all my ‘symptoms’ subsided and I felt normal again.

Funnily enough, as I type this, the panicky feeling is coming back. How I wish we could return to that carefree just vaccinated time when we thought our worries were almost over. Oh well. At least I have curtains, even if they are thirteen years old.

More posts about curtains.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Happy Birthday

Twelve Years Ago

Today was always going to be a busy day. We'd planned to go visit, with a view to procuring, kune kune pigs. Later we'd be going to the Wee Manny's for a surprise birthday party.

What I didn't expect was hearing from Dave that Zoe has been safely delivered of a daughter, our first grandchild. She was a week earlier than expected - the impatient little thing!

So now I must go and wash the smell of pig from my person and get myself ready to visit Zoe, Dave and daughter.


Twelve years later and Miss Martha has just started secondary school. Unfortunately, she has just missed a week's schooling due to testing positive for Covid 19 along with everyone else in her family. She wasn't too badly affected and will be back to her lessons tomorrow. Today, her birthday, was the first day she was able to leave the house. Apparently, the best thing about being in isolation was getting to watch all eight Harry Potter films again.

Evie, seen here peeking from behind the birthday girl, went back to school on Friday. She was the first to test positive and the first out of quarantine.  

I've missed our routines and am hoping that we will all be back to some sort of normality by next week. Martha has already made sure that the traditional Monday birthday meal at our house will still take place, albeit two weeks later. It's to be some sort of sour cream chocolate cake and enchiladas. We'll work out the details on Thursday. I may have to buy some more birthday candles* for I don't think I've got twelve decent-sized ones.

*I re-use birthday candles until they are about 45 mm. Shorter than that, they look really daft. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Rare Bird

It was dusk when I remembered that the polytunnel seepers were still running. Ground mist was rising in the field next to the tunnel. Taps off, I stopped to look and saw a hare, moving fast and close to the edge of the wood. It heard my noise and stopped still. I watched it until it moved and disappeared into the trees. A lovely moment.

Earlier today I came across a picture of a bird that I could not identify, not even with the help of Collins Birds of Britain and Europe.

Checked the photo info. It was taken in Norfolk, October 2017. Looked like a wader. Where was I that day? Wells-next-the-Sea watching curlews? 

Completely stumped I turned to social media and contacted my most bird-savvy Facebook friend and previously my A-Level. English teacher, Brian. He was quick to identify my long-legged friend as a black-winged stilt (juvenile). I was very impressed. He'd only ever seen them in Lanzarote so it appeared to have been a rare sighting. But I was doubting myself, not even completely convinced that the photograph was actually mine. (it was). I investigated further and found that the black-winged stilt had been photographed at Pensthorpe Natural Park, Fakenham, which is practically beside where Katy lives. Not a rare sighting at all, just like if I went to Belfast and told everyone I'd spotted sun bears and meerkats without mentioning it was at the zoo. 

Perhaps you will be thinking that my English teacher, bird expert, Facebook friend must be very ancient indeed. Actually, he isn't for I was a very mature student and am older by a few years.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Walking The Dog

No family for dinner today. Instead, I delivered dinner to the door and took the pup for a walk. They are all isolating and the wee dog goes boogaloo if she doesn't get her walk.

Posie the pup. Photographed by Martha.

Another picture from a few years ago. The pre-Covid days. Who would have thought that there was going to be a pandemic and that these two little ones (and their parents) would all be affected? Answer to that question. Epidemiologists thought it might be likely.

So far, they're all well. As soon as the youngest gets her sense of taste and smell back I'm buying her everything she wants. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Eight Things That Happened Today

 It's only just gone 6pm so who knows what I might still do before this day draws to a close but anyway, it's Saturday night and I this thing needs to be put to bed.

1. Got up at sparrow's first fart, drew jeans over a voluminous Victorian-style nightdress, put a coat on, a mask, dragged a comb through my snowy mane and headed to the New Garage to buy a paper. This is not the experience it once was. No Darwin to have the craic with, just a soulless trek to the newspaper stand, then off to the self-service till, five pounds in, thirty bob out, no human contact whatsoever. It does have its charms.

2. Back to bed with coffee and the news. A ponder on my early morning dream which was all about the day before my return to university as a (very) mature student. I had two essays to write but partied instead. 

3. I'm up again and Ben emerges before I complete my 30-minute chore blitz. We chat about the previous night when we entertained ourselves YouTubing on everyone from Willie Drennan to Robert Plant and Tricia Moriarty ft. Naoise Casenove. Ben was very impressed with Tricia's music and I was unimpressed with the mullet Plant sported in his Big Log days.

4. Bert's up now and after a small breakfast, they head to the long shed to play with Bert's new air rifle. Apart from the clarinet, that's all Bert has done this week, playing with guns and bows and arrows with various of his friends aged from twenties to sixties. Adulting is over-rated.

5. Ben's girlfriend arrives then the Banjos. Jazzer is staying Marty is not. 

6. Jazzer and I inspect the meadow. It does look rather boring. Creeping buttercup making an appearance, a few docken plants coming to the fore. I scattered corn marigold seeds  around the edges. Just one patch taking hold will make me happy. I still haven't sowed the yellow rattle.

7. Jazzer has made a chilli. She has omitted beans, says she does not like them.

8. We have had the annual (?) reappraisal of our connection. There is a lot of birthday wine and chocolate. All is well.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Trawling the Archives Again

Last night Bert was trying to work out how long we've been living in our present house. He says,

I'm sure it must be thirteen years now.

And I say, 

I think it has to be more than that. We moved house not long after I began blogging and I've had Nelly's Garden much longer than thirteen years.

I do tend to use this blog as an aide-memoire, and God knows, I need one of those. I checked it out. Found out that come next month we will have been living at Springhill for sixteen years. I also realised that once again I'd missed Nelly's Garden's anniversary. Yes, folks, Nelly has been cultivating this particular Garden for seventeen long years. Of course, we all know by now that personal blogs are kind of over. It's all Twitter and Instagram now for the oldsters and Snapchat and TikTok for the youngsters but I don't care. I have a blog that's gearing up to do its 'A' levels and will soon be heading off to Uni. And if I get the chance I'll do it for another seventeen years.

Another thing I checked out while I was trawling the archives was mentions of parties and wild times. I'd assured the Wee Manny on Tuesday that I never blogged about the mad shenanigans he and we got up to back when we were young striplings in our fifties. I believed I was telling the truth. Well, turns out I wasn't and there are lots of accounts of those crazy nights. But no photographs. Glad to see I had some shreds of sense and decency.

I'll just throw this one in there. Some of the musicians (Bert is the one with the clarinet) that played at my birthday party eight years ago. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Garden Safari

There was a time when if I took a photograph of a flower and there was an insect on it I considered the picture to be marred. What was I even thinking about then? For pollinators make a flower picture. They are meant to be together. Take today. I was sitting on the step with my phone in my hand and decided to take a photograph of this bindweed bloom at my side. Just as I pressed the button this flew in.

One of the hoverflies. Just look at its delicate wings, and the elegant markings. The shot is greatly enhanced by its presence.

As the evening wore on I wandered over to see who was feeding on Bert's unsold buddleias. It was mostly small tortoiseshell and a few peacocks. The small tortoiseshells are doing really well this year. 

As I was taking pictures a small green fly landed on camera. Way to avoid having its image recorded. I watched it for a time then transferred it to a buddleia leaf and got my shot.

It's a beauty but it does have a dark side.

The common green bottle fly, Lucilia sericata (Meigen), formerly Phaenicia sericata, is a common visitor to carrion, feces, and garbage. Lucilia sericata, is also one of the most common species in the genus (Whitworth 2006). This blow fly is a member of the family Calliphoridae, and like many of the other blow flies, L. sericata plays an important role in forensic, medical and veterinary science. In forensic science, the larvae or maggots help to determine the period of insect colonization as it relates to the time of death, aiding law enforcement in their investigations.

An insect yet to be identified, feeding on corn marigolds.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Tuesday Catch-Up

I had an unexpected day off from cooking for the family yesterday. The call came just as I was popping the meat and vegetables into the slow cooker. So we have a rather large Chilli-con-Carne to polish off this week. The reason for the cancellation was one of the children in my grandchild's school class had been in contact with a positive Covid-19 case which is rather unfortunate as the entire class has been sent home, not to return until they have each had a negative test result.

I also heard about four members of the same family, all strong evangelists, who are out at services all day Sunday singing and praising the Lord. No masks are necessary as God will protect them. All four were hospitalised, one is still in intensive care and one has died. 


I'm slowly working my way through Modern Nature by Derek Jarman as I wanted to read about his garden. But it's about much more than the garden, describing his work, relationships and his illness. Jarman could be harsh about people he didn't like and I was struck with his comments on the journalist Julie Burchill who he described as 'ugly', 'po-faced', false and homophobic. I enjoyed Burchill when I was young but I'm not much of a fan these days. 

So I wondered what Ms Burchill had to say about Derek Jarman and, as always, the internet obliged.

Julie opined that visual artists just cannot write (making an exception for Tracy Emin). She herself, wouldn't dream of 'downing the typewriter' to make 'a daubing' and she goes on to sneer mightily at Jarman's literary output. Ah well. She is a critic after all and is absolutely entitled to her opinions. Maybe Jarman's writing is a tad on the clunky side and there is no doubt that Ms Burchill does have a flair with words but, guess what? I'd far rather read Jarman's honest words than anything by Burchill.



Gloriously warm and balmy day. We had visitors, very old friends and it was great to see them. There was much conversation about our young days and all the crazy gatherings we had and it seems that even though I despair of my memory I have better recall than anyone. 



Sunday, September 05, 2021

A Nice Afternoon In Town

 Bert and I went to town yesterday to shop for my birthday present. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

It was anything but. The town was horrible, far too many people, too much traffic. I got him to drop me off outside Sammy Moore's in Ballymoney Street. 

You'll never get parked close enough. Just do the circle and I'll be waiting for you outside.

I was in and out in five minutes. The service in Moore's is the best in town. I stood there with my very big package and waited for Bert to come round. And waited. And waited. 

Ten minutes later he appeared. I got the box in the back of the van and jumped in. 

What happened? I thought you'd be here before now.

Why didn't you have your phone?

I didn't think I'd need it. Why?

I found a really great parking space and phoned to let you know. 

Why didn't you just keep to the plan?

This is not an unusual thing for Bert to do. We make an arrangement and then he goes off-piste.

Anyway, he kept going on and on about me not having my phone and I pointed out that expecting me to lug a huge box to wherever it was he'd parked wasn't on. And the whole thing turned into a row with me doing all the yelling. Saturday afternoons in Ballymena can be so stressful.

So, what did Bert buy me for my birthday?

A carpet cleaner. Come Christmas he's going to buy me a carpet.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Sowing Yellow Rattle


Before I went to Norfolk I harvested yellow rattle seed from the meadow, The plants, hand sowed last year had grown well as I got a good yield of seed with plenty left to self-sow.

This little triangular scrap of a field has always been called The Meadow. Our place is on the left of the picture, the field on the other side of the road is also part of our farm while the ground adjoining the meadow is not. A stream runs by the side of it. The wooded area is where Zoe grows willow for basket making and other projects. It is our dream to make this little place live up to its name.

Yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) is an annual, completing its life cycle in one year. In early spring the seeds germinate and grow quickly. As their roots develop underground they seek out the roots of plants growing nearby, especially grasses. Once contact is made the yellow rattle draws water and nutrients from them, suppressing the growth of grasses by as much as 60%. In the resulting space, other flowers have room to grow.

The meadow in June. There is still a lot of ryegrass coming through. Clint kept it far too well fertilised when he had the run of it. Hopefully, the rattle will diminish the ryegrass vitality.

It's July and the rattle is flowering. 

So, this day - I sowed more yellow rattle in the patch outside my window and tomorrow I will go into the meadow and disperse the remainder.  I'll use my metal hoe to scrape the ground. Clint cut and lifted last week so the field will be in good order for sowing. When the corn marigolds and cornflower set seed I'll sow them around the edges of the field but what I really want to see are the seeds that lie dormant coming forth. I want cuckoo flowers (cardamine pratensis) more than anything, and orange-tip butterflies. Just like there were in Paddy's Field fifty years ago. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Ten Things I Did Today


1. Got up ridiculously early thanks to Big Fat Fred who has worked out that if he races up and down the attic stairs, scratches all the bedroom doors and mee-yows piteously, that I will then rise raging and shouty from my bed to feed him/let him out and that he, caring not a damn about my noise and fury, gets everything he wants.

2. Returned to bed with coffee and finished  Muriel Spark: The Complete Short Stories which was mostly wonderful. I'd read lots of them before but it was a long time ago and I'd forgotten. Also, some things read in one's teens and twenties aren't properly appreciated. This is great because then they can be re-read and relished in one's later years. If this offends younger readers, too bad, you'll realise I'm right some time in the future. 

3. Checked the moth trap. Realised that I love beetles as much as moths and butterflies.

I believe this one is Nicrophorus Investigator. It eats dead things which makes it very useful.

4. Went to town with the aim of perusing the charity shops for something new to wear. The only pretty things I found would have pleased Miss Emily more than her Granny. Returned with four plates and two books.

5. Sorted seeds and sowed wallflowers and Sweet William - far too late but why not? They are seeding themselves at this time of the year anyway.

6. Received the illegal garlic cloves I ordered from eBay. They look alright. 

7. Ripped asunder my horribly rootbound monstera deliciosa, took cuttings and may well end up with eight new monsters. At least I can now sit on the upstairs bog without being smothered in big holey leaves.

8. Helped Bert make a pizza. All he did was top it and put it in the oven. OK, he picked and cooked beans and served too.

9. Watched the first episode of Vigil and liked it. Suranne Jones is incredibly real and beautiful. No wonder all the girls think she's so fine.

10. Remembered I hadn't closed in the hens. Did that thing, gazed at the stars and peed outside. Goodnight.