Sunday, January 25, 2015

Burning Books

One of my delights is reading to Martha and Evie and that pleasure is greatly increased when I am enjoying the story myself. At the moment we are all loving the Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. A few weeks ago I was given a pile of books by a friend. Most of them were Charlie and Lola books which were new to me but I knew Martha would be pleased with them. There was also a Winnie the Pooh book which was unfamiliar. Martha picked Charlie and Lola for this afternoon's reading session. It was OK. It might grow on me as I become familiar with the characters. Evie chose the new Winnie the Pooh book. As I opened it I saw that it was  a Disney book written by someone called Tammi J. Santa Croce. The children appeared to enjoy it but not me. It jarred. The prose was inelegant, the tone simplistic, the story trite. Croce had endowed Piglet with a stammer which was entirely ignored by me in the reading. The worst of it was the author's treatment of Tigger. She had him saying things like 'li'l buddy', 'where are ya?' and 'tigger-ific'. The most awful part was when he said, 'Hey, buddy boy! Whatcha doin'?' I was appalled and resolved to get rid of the dreadful book at my first opportunity. It's actually burning on the fire right now.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poorly Pig Tale

Rusty got sick last weekend and at first we thought it was a return of the pneumonia that he suffered from when he was a little pig. We got a shot from the vet and put him under an infra red lamp. It was a bad sign that he just stood there and took the shot. Poor thing was too weak to struggle.

Lily made all our lives difficult. It is so hard to nurse a sick pig when there is another one vying for attention, the warmest part of the enclosure and all the food so we decided to separate them.

He was completely off food and would not drink so we brought the vet out the following day. His verdict was that Rusty had 'got a foundering' and we were to give him warm liquids and tie a blanket around him. His temperature was low and he got another shot to prevent him from taking anything while his resistance was low, He needed to be warmer. So we built him a little den within a stall with rubber matting and piles of cardboard on the floor. It was lined with bales of hay and he had piles of straw bedding. This kept the heat in as did the blanket tied round his big round middle. He still wasn't eating or drinking but he was starting to feel warmer.
Rusty on the mend

The next morning I went out half expecting him to be dead but when I went into the house there were morning snuffles and grunts coming from both sides. Rusty was up and he felt considerably warmer. He took a decent amount of water and afterwards a bowl of warm mash which he wolfed down. While all this was going on Lily was squealing with rage so as soon as I'd finished with Rusty she got her breakfast too. I went indoors to tell Bert the good news.

I had the dentist that day and while I was out I stocked up on strawberries, grapes and bananas for the patient. As soon as I got back I was hand feeding strawberries to the poorly boy while his sister raged. She got some but Rusty had most of them. Lily knew she was being short changed.

Rusty continued to eat and drink so we put them together for a while. That did not work out as Lily started to bully him. He is a great lump with big scary tusks yet he is mortally afraid of his sister. He is a far nicer pig than Lily.

I had another appointment today and while I was gone Bert tried them together again leaving a door ajar so that Rusty could escape her wrath if he needed to. After a while he heard them squealing and within moments Rusty was at the back door looking in at Bert with a beseeching 'rescue me' expression. I don't know what we are going to do. If I felt he was completely well I would let them sort it out between them but that doesn't seem fair when he is recuperating.

 The day the pigs came

People – pet pigs are not for the faint-hearted. In fact they are not for anyone who has an ounce of sense.

In other news – my hospital appointment in Belfast went very well and it seems I will be getting my cataract surgery sooner rather than later.

Strawberries are their favourite food

Saturday, January 17, 2015

On This Day

On this day eight years ago Bert took Pearlie to a hospital appointment with a specialist. It was her stomach was bothering her and she was told she would be having an endoscopy. They never did find out exactly what ailed her and she died of whatever it was 7 and a half years later. Meanwhile, I went to a funeral.

Funerals seem to feature large on this blog. Probably because I come from a large family and funeral attendance is an important part of Irish culture. Country folk, particularly the older people would tend to go to every funeral about the place. It was my father's main form of socialising after he retired. And as the Wee Manny says,

Sure we have nothing better to do!

Eight years ago I wrote this about Aunt Bernadette's funeral.

The funeral service was one of the best I've ever heard. For once the priest spoke of a real person rather than a plaster saint. My Aunt was not the easiest of women yet he described her in a way that highlighted her humanity, helped me to understand her eccentricities, her outspokenness and made me wish I'd had more time for her. A lesson learned. We froze at her graveside. I'm sure it served me right.

Mum and Aunt Bernadette sometime in the 1970s

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Morning Matriarch

a woman who is the head of a family or tribe.
"in some cultures the mother proceeds to the status of a matriarch"
an older woman who is powerful within a family or organization.
      "a domineering matriarch"

So how does the Matriarch of the Springhill Tribe put in her morning?

It is winter so many of her matriarchal duties take place within the home. The Matriarch will rise two minutes earlier each day. There should be no concern that she will, one day, find herself getting up before she actually retires as the process is long. It is written in her Book of Rules that she has to earn the right to rise two minutes earlier each day. If she does not she must set her alarm at the same time as on the previous night. At the time of writing she is striving to arise at 8:02am and hopes to have achieved this by the middle of January.

On rising she must first attend to her duties of animal care. Dogs go out the double doors and cats go out the back door (Fred) and front door (Holly) as each cat dislikes dogs and hate each other intensely. When this task is completed the Matriarch lets dogs back in and returns to bed with a cup of coffee and a book. In the Matriarch's Book of Rules this still counts as getting up two minutes earlier every day unless, on finishing her coffee, she snuggles down under the duvet. Snuggling down under the duvet forfeits the right to arise two minutes earlier the following day. After drinking coffee and finishing a chapter of a worthy book she arises from bed for it is time to Feed the Hens.

Feeding the Hens is an arduous, complicated task and can only be overseen by the Matriarch. Three minutes later she is back inside the house preparing her second cup of coffee. Then it is time to Check the Internet. That duty completed it is time to Update the List. The list updated the Matriarch carries out the third important task of the day which is, Feeding the Machines. When all three machines, washer, dryer and dishwasher are whirring merrily away on the greenest settings then the Matriarch can prepare her third cup of coffee. After which, Morning Ablutions.

To be continued.

Monday, January 12, 2015

In Which I Find Myself

Over the past few months I have been feeling under-employed, with too much time on my hands, that sort of thing. This feeling probably began around four months after Pearlie's passing.

I was sharing my feelings of ennui with Les,

I don't know what to do with myself. I don't know what my role is!

And Les replied,

Nelly – you are a matriarch. That is your role.

Matriarch. I rolled the concept around in my mind. Matriarch. Liked it very much. It is obvious when I think of it. The matriarch Pearlie died and I must fill her shoes. Even though she had huge feet and mine are average sized.

So what does a matriarch do?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the role thus,

a woman who is the head of a family or tribe.
"in some cultures the mother proceeds to the status of a matriarch"
an older woman who is powerful within a family or organization.
"a domineering matriarch"

So how does the Matriarch of the Springhill Tribe put in her day? That is a very big question and as I'm feeling rather tired I'll leave it to tomorrow. Matriarchal duties can be exhausting.

Tomorrow. More tomorrow. For it is written in the Matriarch's Book of Rules,

Always leave them wanting more.*

*This statement only applies to story-telling and not to other important things like Food and Love.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Joys Of Pig-Keeping

Miss Martha is otherwise engaged for ten weeks. She is doing an important after school class in the martial arts and is likely to become a child not to be trifled with. The sad part is that her class will be on a Thursday which is her day for spending the afternoon in Cully. The jolly part is that it means we have Evie all to ourselves and, as the van only has three seats, we can have days out that include Bert. He had errands in town so we decided to pick up Evie from nursery, do the important business, then go to Cafe Couture for lunch.

Evie was convinced that she would be given a complimentary lollipop after her meal so when this didn't happen she was rather sad. So we went to Lidls and bought ice cream and other essentials.

On the way home we listened to Alan Bennett read In Which Pooh And Piglet Go Hunting And Nearly Catch A Woozle. We all enjoyed it very much. Every time we hear it I have a new best bit. Today it was...

Piglet passing the time by telling Pooh what his Grandfather Trespassers W had done to Remove Stiffness after Tracking, and how his Grandfather Trespassers W had suffered in his later years from Shortness of Breath, and other matters of interest

As we approached the end of our lane I noticed the oncoming traffic slowing down and pulling out as if to avoid something. I said to Bert,

What is it?
It's a woozle!

Unfortunately it wasn't a woozle. It was Lily. The pigs had broken out of their paddock and Lily had spotted the recycling bins at the end of the lane. No doubt thinking they were full of delicious food she went down to investigate. She overturned the bins and spread the contents around and by the time I got out of the van she had crossed the road and was trying to batter her way into another field - grass being greener and all that kind of thing. The good pig Rusty contented himself eating silage in the yard. We had got home just in time. 

Yet another rethink needed on keeping the kune kunes contained. Pet pigs? Don't even consider it!

Hey Pig-Keeper! Call that a fence?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

First Funeral Of The Year

As it turned out I went to today's funeral (the first of the year) with the Wee Manny. He arrived at our house more than an hour early all suited and booted. In our part of the world, by the time a man is in his middle age he has his funeral rig ready at all times. This outfit will consist of a dark suit, a dark tie, black if the funeral is that of a close family member and, given the Irish climate, a heavy dark overcoat.

It was a battle getting Bert to wear his suit but he allowed himself to be persuaded. The funeral suit is a much easier option than trying to find other items of dark (clean) clothing. And the dark tie is always in the inside jacket pocket.

The reason I went with The Wee was because Bert was picking Hannah up from work and the Wee and I, both being Virgos, are very particular about punctuality. We were there at least half an hour before the proceedings began. The Cuningham Memorial is very close to where I live yet this was the first time I'd ever been inside it. The interior is very traditional, with heavy roof beams and beautiful stained glass. The pews are those old fashioned ones with doors. Ours seated just three people. As always, on entering the church, I had to stop myself looking for the holy water font and in the pew I noted the absence of kneelers. Presbyterians do not kneel. At least I did not attempt to genuflect as I entered the pew. I did that once but I hope no one noticed. That was at Church of Ireland wedding so you'd almost get away with it.

As we sat in that pew I reflected that The Wee is actually my oldest friend. Not old in terms of age, but old in the length of time we've known each other. I met him nearly forty years ago and I knew of his existence a couple of years before that. The Wee was one of the cool dudes, living mostly outside Ballymena, in London, Amsterdam and other interesting places. I first met him in Dublin while I was visiting my sister who was at Trinity College. He and I had a mutual friend and the three of us went on a pub crawl. Little did I know that we'd still know each other forty years on and that we'd go to funerals together and that we'd have spent the time before discussing our favourite baking dishes and other mundane things. He introduced me to Bert nearly thirty years ago so I expect I'll have to be friends with him forever.

The man whose funeral service we were at was the father of one of my youngest friends. I've known Mel for sixteen years and although I did not know her daddy very well, I know that she loved him dearly and he loved her just as much. His passion was breeding horses which he'd been doing for about as long as I've known The Wee. For the very first time ever in our village we had a horse-drawn carriage carrying the coffin to the cemetery. It was drawn by two black horses and somehow I missed seeing it. The reason? Bert distracted my attention by pointing out a familiar face that he was certain belonged to an old enemy from Ballymoney. I was certain it was not our enemy although the lady did look familiar. It turned out to be our vet from Clough. I'd never seen her in a dress before.

God Rest You John A. You left a fine legacy behind you.