Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On Reading Books

One great disadvantage of a rural childhood was not having access to the public library. There was a library of sorts at our primary school but one large cardboard box would have held all that it contained. Our teacher Cassie was horrible and we only got to read occasionally. I don't remember being allowed to choose the books either. She'd just give one to us and that was that. The only book I remember from school was The Wind In The Willows and I recall being really confused at the part where Pan appears to Mole and Ratty and feeling much easier when the story returned to the adventures of Toad.

At home there never seemed to be enough books because we all read them so fast. I usually got first go at fresh books because I was the oldest. Our mother must have noticed this. She returned one day from shopping in Ballymena with a book for my younger sister, also a voracious reader. The book Matty brought for Anne was My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara. She informed us that Anne would get to read it first, then it would be her turn and, after that, the book was up for grabs. I could hardly bear having to wait but wait I did. Matty stood firm. My Friend Flicka was the first book in a trilogy and Matty also bought the next two, Thunderhead and The Green Grass of Wyoming. Anne got first dibs on those as well. They were a terrific read and well worth waiting for.

Christmas time brought great reading opportunities. Everyone got one or two books at Christmas, usually Puffin or Armada paperbacks and these would be hidden away with the other presents. I'd search the house until I found the stash of books, usually hidden on the high shelf in her wardrobe. For several days every chance I got, I'd be up there, standing beside the wardrobe in our parent's bedroom reading hungrily, nervous, praying not to be discovered. And I never was.

Of course when Christmas Day arrived I hadn't a thing to read and I used to look jealously on Anne as she sat there enjoying her new books. Much later when I confessed all to Matty she said it explained a lot for she could never understand why I showed so little interest in the Christmas books.

It's often a thankless task being a parent. Imagine my poor mother carefully picking out my books only to see me ignore them. I hadn't even the sense to pretend to read them. I wonder would she have preferred to know then that she had reared a sneak without a notion how to defer gratification despite the lesson with the Mary O'Hara trilogy.

Sometime soon I shall explain why it is that I particularly love dusty old books. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Buzz About Buzzards

About this time nine years ago I was obsessed with buzzards. Here are two of the three posts I wrote on the 23rd of March 2009. The third one was more about eBay and computer problems and missing out on a buzzard print so I haven't included it.



Originally uploaded by Wyrd.
Bert! What's a honey buzzard?

You don't get them here. They're mostly Southern English. Maybe the odd one passing through but not generally.

So what do you call the ones we have here?



How do you spell Colin? One L or two?

I was only winding you up.


Suppose I'd put that in my blog and made a right fool of myself!

Buzz, Buzz, Buzzard

There are a pair of buzzards are living near us and they can be spotted most days. Today while Hannah and I were driving down the road we saw one swoop down on prey in the corner of a field just beside the road. I was delighted to get such a close view. I said to Hannah,

Wow! We were lucky to see that.

Wasn’t so lucky for whatever it was got caught.

Oh well. That’s nature. Poor you moving to the town. All the wildlife you’ll see there will be mangy cats, scabby pigeons and rats.

Don’t care.

When Katy was little she asked Bert this,

Why do they call them buzzards? Is it because they make a buzzing sound?

If we’d have been decent parents we’d have got the bird books out and arranged a visit to the Natural History Museum, stimulated the child’s interest and stuff like that. Instead we laughed our legs off at her, gave her a complex and slagged her about it to this very day. My idea of a fun natural history lesson was telling Hannah all about the savage child eating bears that lived in the (local) woods. May God forgive me for I doubt the weans ever will.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

St Joseph's Day Eve

Yesterday was St Patrick's Day and this Irish woman was exceedingly underwhelmed by it all. It means very little to me these days.

Bert and the Wee Manny were returning from Fanad and Bert was outraged to discover that Kilrea was blocked off and he had to take a detour through Ballymoney to get home. The Derry branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians were marching and he would have had to wait 30 minutes for the parades to pass.

And did it ever even occur to you to park the van, go up the town, get yourselves a pint of Guinness apiece? You might have got the barman to draw a wee shamrock in the foam and you could have watched the parade go by.

I had never heard of the Hibernians until my cousin Joseph joined the White Hill Accordion Band. They weren't much chatted about in Tannaghmore. Anyway, after Mass on a rainy St Patrick's Day way back in the 1960s, Daddy took a couple of us to Randalstown to watch the parade. I was very excited. I imagined it would be full of pomp and glory like the Orange Parades that we weren't really supposed to like. It wasn't. Just a dozen or so little grey men with solemn faces and bunches of shamrock pinned to their lapels, two carrying a small banner and the White Hill Accordion Band. Cousin Joe never even looked at us. It was most disappointing.

Tomorrow is St Joseph's Day. Not a lot of people pay any attention to his feast day but I intend to celebrate it. I'll do something with wood. Chop it into kindlers maybe. Get some fig rolls in. Open a bottle of wine.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Motherless Sunday

Mother's Day again. There are yellow and purple flower buds unfurling on the kitchen table. There was chocolate too which was shared with Bert in the very earliest hours of Mothering Sunday. But, as always, this is Matty's day even though she is not with us any more.

There are so many of us today mindful of our dead mothers. On Friday a young friend called round and he mentioned that his son, aged six, was having a difficult week. At school all the talk was of making Mother's Day cards but his mum died suddenly about a year ago. He chose not to make a card. It's sad for us grown-ups but how much harder it must be for a little child.

My mother Martha with her granddaughter Katy

This is one of my most cherished photographs of  my mother who would have been my current age at the time it was taken. So - I'm wishing a happy Mother's Day to all us mothers and sending caring thoughts for all the motherless children.

It's Bert's first Motherless Sunday too.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Half A Dozen Eggs

How did it get to be Friday already? This week has been a funny one weather-wise. Divinely spring-like on Tuesday. I worked outside and discovered that Roy likes to explore. And that his exploring includes the road! We had to put a temporary gate up which displeased a number of callers. I felt a teeny bit bad about it but Bert enjoyed taking visitors out of their comfort zone. Roy is going to get extensive training regarding the lane way. He needs to know it is a forbidden area.

Bert and I also had a difference of opinion about egg donations. We like to give eggs to our friends yet I also like to be able to make an omelette or a cake using free range eggs. I was delighted to find, on returning from picking Martha up from the school bus, that my new Magimix replacement bowl had arrived in the post. Far less delighted to find that, in my absence, Bert had given away all the eggs. So, no point in keeping those leftovers for a Spanish omelette and out the window goes any plans for a cake. We had the same discussion a week previously but when I speak I hear sounds coming out of my mouth something like this,

Bert, I'd like you to make sure that there are always six eggs in the egg rack. More than that then give them away to your heart's content.

He hears this,

Drone, drone, drone, blah-blah-blah, yadda-yadda-yadda.

So that was the past few days, minding dogs, arguing about eggs, bit of gardening. I sure do lead an exciting life.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Dogs and Children

Evie delights in collecting eggs

Nellybert have enjoyed a very doggy and children rich few days. We had Miss Evie as usual on Thursday and she had a play date with the three Miss Liddys. Four girls all at once can be intense. I was rather hollow-eyed when everyone went home, Bert was not as tired as I was as he'd spent a nice, relaxing afternoon digging holes in a field.

 Martha plans her next move

Friday I spent in Belfast and on Saturday was The Sleepover. That went very well. The girls are obsessed with Little House on the Prairie. Martha is Mary, Evie is Laura and Nellybert are Ma and Pa. Mary Ingalls got frustrated with Laura Ingalls because Laura wouldn't go with her to the creek to catch catfish. So she hit Laura (Evie) with a pink handbag. There was a bit of consoling and then, when the dust settled I suggested Mary (Martha) should go fishing with Pa (Bert). This was agreed.

As Bert described it,

I had to stand with her waving bamboo canes over  a puddle for ages.

But it was worth it for they caught lots of catfish and flatfish and salmon and we had them for our supper. Well actually we had stew but we added the pretend fish to it and enjoyed it very much.

In the middle of all this was Roy, the new dog. It is probably not recommended that a dog should be introduced to a new home on the same weekend that little children are sleeping over. Nevertheless it worked out well for us. Roy is sevenish, far too fat and very gentle and friendly. I am sure he is going to enjoy living here.

Bert's Aunt Nessie got him as as a pup.  But then Nessie became ill and died before he was a year old. She got her partner Paddy to promise that he would look after Roy. Then Paddy had a fall, broke his hip and started a decline. He is in his mid-80s now and it looks that he will not be going home. His carer got in touch with us to ask our advice as to what should be done with his dogs. Paddy had four! Bert, knowing of the promise Paddy had made to Nessie, immediately offered to take Roy. Another little dog, a terrier and Roy's companion, will be going to the Dog's Trust. The other two were outdoor dogs, collies that were likely palmed off on Paddy and dogs that he was never able to look after properly. They were never trained and are quite vicious. They will be taken into the care of the local council and will probably be put to sleep.

Poor old Roy has lost his master and his long-time dog companion. Things are changing for him. He is very focussed on food and judging by his claws and coat he has spent very little time out of doors. But he likes people, has been around children (thanks to Paddy's carer) and most important of all, gets on really well with other dogs.

Needless to say Jess and Judy are rather miffed but I expect they will get used to it.

It seems Roy is the sort of dog who goes on the furniture.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Friday, Saturday, New Dog Day

Hannah and I went to Belfast yesterday. Bert was forced from his bed at an unnatural hour to take me into Ballymena to be early for my train. Hannah was still brushing her teeth but we managed to make the eleven o'clock with ten minutes to spare.

Mainly we just looked at things although Hannah bought a couple of books for her course. We explored Botanic Avenue and Smithfield Market but were unable to find Keats & Chapman. It was an easy and relaxing day.

Today might be different. Evie and Martha are coming for a sleepover. And we are getting another dog. It is not ideal that these two things happen on the same day for Roy (the dog) is a bit of an unknown quantity. The girls were asked before the dog thing happened so, in my opinion, neither can be cancelled.

There is a story behind Roy which I'll tell when I've met him.