About Me

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Typical Piscean, dreamer, story teller in the tradition of my country, I love to write. I'm not sure that I'm any good at it, but getting the words down has its reward.

19 February 2018

Not a year since

I could not believe that a whole year has gone by since I last blogged.  Unbelievable!  Getting a signal has been my biggest problem, and I finally got the whole range of problems sorted out by getting a mobile modem.  Now I can sit in comfort, anywhere in the house and type to my hearts content.

This year started with the whole family being afflicted with the horrendous flu that went the rounds.  Added to that snow decided to fall randomly, we had nights of hard frost, early mornings with snow and then the odd spring like day dotted in between.

Madam Pounce passed away in her sixteenth year, peacefully, on 6th December, 2017.  Cranky, complaining and wilful to the end, OH and I returned home from shopping that day and found her curled up, as if soundly asleep, in the flower bed under her beloved YD's bedroom window.  Apart from her tail looking as if she had backcombed it, she appears to have had a very peaceful passing, most probably her heart just gave way.  She is buried with other pets that have made their mark both on our lives and this place.

Queen of all she surveys
Madam Pounce [Aka Angel]
April 2001 - December 2017

We have decided that we shall not replace her for a year or two.  Already the bird life in the garden has increased tenfold; we have Goldfinches, Chaffinches, and Bullfinches in abundance, all flitting across the lawn.  At first they seemed in shock, waiting for the inimitable Mme Pounce to land in their midst, but the Tweeting Times soon spread the word and the flocks started to appear.  The garden looks just like it did in my childhood, brimful of birds.

30 January 2017

Confused? I'll say I am

😏So, my PC decides to upgrade itself; fine, but it could have told me it was going to do that, and then it could have made a nice cup of tea for me and told me of the changes it would make.  Add to that the mischief it got up to - great for rising the blood pressure - and the changes that wrought is it any wonder that I'm not at my best and that confusion has set in.   

So, here I am, warm in the study with new wood burning log stove burning wood warmly...cuppa to hand, stack of books ready to topple over in a bid to attract my attention [coming darlings, just let Bossy Boots upgrade something else and then we can start] and...Oh! God NO! Sheena Kickthecat is coming up the garden path, trailing various quantities of scarves, of various hues and what looks like a file containing every sheet of paper ever written on, anywhere, at anytime in the world.

Sheena, don't get me wrong, is a lovely woman.  She moved into the village about ten years ago, drove Mum mad when she discovered that Mum was a veritable enclycopedia on the history of the village. She would just show up at random times, and, as Mum taught music up to a month before she passed away aged 80 and was a member of everything going on locally and not so local, Mum was usually in a rush out the door. The family joke was you had to make an appointment to see her.

Sheena, darling girl turning 68 next birthday, usually opened conversations with "Now, I know you're probably very busy with your wee students but I just wanted to ask..."  Initially it was alright, a bit mystifying with the "wee" bit as Sheena came from Drimnagh originally, and that is not in Bonny Scotland.  Sheena worked during the week so she would usually call on Saturday afternoon; and initially Mum was quite happy to tell her the local folklore. But...

Sheena takes copious notes, edits them and then contradicts everyone who has an ancestry greater than 80 years in the village; all contradictions ended with - back then - "...and Mary told me so and she should know!".  She once told a neighbour that she felt she could be called the "Jane Marple of the village".  He's still howling with laughter.  He put his own nickname on her "Biddy Butt" and it took.  Refer to her as Sheena and you get a blank look, Biddy Butt and "the look" passes from eye to eye.  We'll say nothing about the soft chuckles.

When Mum passed away, Sheena arrived up at the wake.  Neither of my two girls had met her before, and I had only seen her in passing [Mum putting the accelerator to the floor and hitting 60+ in 40 mph zones] so she...well I don't quite know whether to say "swanned" or "sauntered" so take your pick, into the house, and proceeded in a leisurely manner to go into all the rooms in the house.  Meeting her coming out of what had been my room as a child, Eldest asked her was she lost.  Eyeing Eldest up and down she asked her "and who are you then?" which, given how much Eldest adored her Grandmother, was the proverbial red rag to the bull. 

An enraged "MAAAAAAAM" hollered down the hall, I came out from the sitting room where Mum was being waked and in a mood to swing anything that came to hand out the door [the Parish Priest having been telling me all about my Mother, me being a total stranger to her it seems, and that he would do the eulogy and not her lifelong pal who knew her better than anyone - besides her only child] and there was Sheena.  Smiling politely [alright, so those that know me well would say "smiling like a wolf about to devour a juicy rabbit] I asked her who she was and could I assist her.  "I'm Sheena Kickthecat, I was Mary's closest friend and I am looking for her notes on village history".  AHA!

At this juncture, I should mention that her surname is Irish and she pronounces it in such a way that ~"Kickthecat"~ is what it sounds like.  I still haven't worked it out yet.

"Well, Sheena [safest option] you see Mum never kept notes, all the history and family lineages were in her head.  There is a tradition of seanachai in our family and so..."  My reward was a huge smile and an inquiring eyebrow raised.  "...and you of course will follow in her steps..." a quick glower over her shoulder at Eldest warning her not to say I already do, I replied "no, regrettably I never succeeded in that.  I take after the other side of the family".  A quick prayer to all deceased ancestors at that point, seanachai comes in from both parents.  Eventually, an hour and two cups of tea later both she and the Parish Priest were last seen wandering down the garden path in mutual empathy. 

I managed to avoid her until the Village History Festival a couple of years ago, but when a neighbour [a mere 56 years residency] told her that I was the go-to for information, she started haunting me.  Eventually, Himself, with retirement on the horizon and a strong dislike for the lady in question, told her in polite language one Saturday afternoon that she should ring before coming up and that he didn't like people just popping in.  He said it with a straight face too. 

I think it's beginning to wear off, I'll have to set him on her again.  Two weeks ago she arrived as I was about go to keep a hospital appointment.  I managed to deal civilly with her, but it really has to stop.  She has the whole place driven mad, and now that the last of Mum's generation has passed away, there are now only five of us who fill the category of "Old Village". [wherein our families arrived 1865, 1874 and two in 1900 and one in 1917.  '65 was a good year for our family]. 

Needless to remark all five have their own histories off pat, handed down from Mother to daughter, and I have both mine and all of theirs off as well.  Useful tool actually, when it comes to living in a small village.  When you know the history you'll never fall out with anyone once you keep the facts to yourself.  There's no point is starting a feud by coming out with the juicy news that in 1910 X's Grandfather threw a rusty horseshoe at Y's Great Grandmother's herd of goats and scattered them for miles around the area.  That must have been some temper he had...

12 January 2017

The start of another year...

It was a great Christmas, everyone was in total agreement.  We sat around the table taking our ease, chatting and laughing, opening crackers in a desultory manner.  The turkey cooked to perfection and all those I love present.
The cat, in a state of shock, was even allowed to sit in front of the fire.  Principally because since we got an inset stove I'm not afraid of her usual trick of trying to see what's up the chimney when the flames go up.  This new feature in our family room has also removed my long held fear of a spark on the carpet setting the whole place alight. 
Believe you me, up at this height when the gales blow, it is a distinct possibility.  Since my childhood I can remember occasions when my Mother put out the fire on gale force nights, as she called them, and we felt the cold chill of a winter's night, rather risk a downdraught and it's consequences.  The view is glorious...but as with anything you pay a price.
The general topic of conversation, however, on New Year's Eve was, on occasion, rather grim.  Neighbours dropped in, an old friend who has moved back to Ireland arrived unexpectedly by very welcome nonetheless, and the right kind of relative, those you know make such an event were with us during the day. 
The conversation ranged from changes in the place in the almost nine years since Mum passed away, to how much youngest daughter is enjoying her new job.  After three years of seeking work this was truly a gift from Santa, and the smile on her face as she hurries off to work is definitely my best present.
Chief topic of chat was the future.  Where will things go from here on a global and national basis.  We're Irish.  We love talking politics.  We love trying to see into the future...we're all convinced we're mystic minded, but with the way the world stage is playing out, this year there were no definitive "we will..." this year; "If God spares us we might..." was more the norm. Even during the Recession when everything went totally pear shaped, we Irish kept the bright side shining as best we could, but this year...well we'll cross everything, pray to God and steer clear of the rocks...and hope that things won't be too bad.
The cat, facing either her 14th, 16th or possibly 15th year has no such worries.  OH will continue to feed her as if she was suffering from malnutrition.  The rats will continue to sit waiting for her now corpulent form to catch up with them.  I think they misjudge the hussy.  One found to his cost last night that Madam may be making up for the skinny years with a girth like a beanbag, but she can still cut it with the best.
On the lane two houses have been sold.  One of the neighbours was a childhood friend and will be very much missed, the other, well let's just say that the new people are truly friendly and we look forward to seeing their smiling faces for a long time to come.
Mary Mulgrave* bought herself a new car.  The other one was 25 years old.  No scrappage deal could tempt her to get rid of Horatio as she called her car.  She's already a liability on the road.  Things go beep she tells us.  It's one of "them new fangled gewgydags" and she's been back to the sales man twice to order them taken out.  As he explained to her, they keep the car running.  Well, her son did warn her that she should have bought second hand.  There's a dent on the front wing.  That came about because the "whatjacallit" beeped [seat belt alarm to you] and the button she thought was a demister started telling her where to drive..."sure didn't she know the roads better than that gobbledeygook thingummy" she told us.
A very Happy New Year to one and all...I'm off to find a lane Mary can't drive on, and where there is shelter from the gales and Mozart playing in my ears so I can't hear anymore world news!
 * Not her real name

24 November 2016

As Autumn folds into Winter and Christmas is just around the corner

As Autumn folds into Winter and Christmas is just around the corner, we are basking in sunshine here in the garden today.  That is not taking into account the bitterly cold east wind, whistling like the Bean Siodh [ban-shee] around corners, or the presence of wasps harvesting windfall apples.  We have been busy putting winter colour into the garden this autumn.

Himself has put the garden to bed, sinking into the sofa before a roaring fire each evening with a sigh as he “complains” how busy he is.  The roaring fire is now safely ensconced behind a glass door.  We opted for an infill style stove in the family room and a more traditional wood burning stove in my study.  He is in his element, coming up to three years since he retired, life in the garden is his idea of heaven, today is his first day of indoor decoration.

We had a lovely week in Kerry in September despite Atlantic gales, heavy rain and sleet, snow and heat – and all that in two hours - one of the days.  We know how to read the cloud formations and where they’re heading so it is a simple matter of going opposite to the sunshine.  To my delight, I found, way off the beaten track, a warehouse filled with material that would lift any dressmaker or upholsterer’s heart, at prices that were way below shop prices. 

For €15 I bought beautiful net curtains for study and bedroom. A pair of navy tartan curtains at €5 have now been transformed into curtains for the shelving in the utility room and, taking the tab off the top of the other curtain in the pair, I now have a very nice table cloth for Christmas day.  I splurged out in another shop on two sixteen piece plain white dinner services.  At home, locally, I would have paid over €80 – in the little side street shop in Listowel the two sets cost me €38 and they are just what I was looking for.  My “Bargain” brain being thus satisfied, all that was left was to enjoy the colours of the hedgerows.

On day two of our holiday we travelled out to Brandon Head.  The brambles were top-heavy with blackberries, rose hips from the dog roses that gracefully fragranced summer evenings and the deep red holly berries shone like beacons of welcome.  The mountains were at that stage when the deep purple of the heather is slowly turning to a rich molten brown and the mulberry bushes were the icing on the cake.  I was put in mind of the lines
        “Where the bee lurks, there lurk I…”

We used to sing this in choir in school.  Our class were the bane of Mother Stella’s life.  Coming in on two-part harmony wasn’t our forte…had she tried Gerry and the Pacemakers she might have had better luck.  Still, something stuck in our sludge like brains…her description of our intellect.

We celebrated 38 years since we first met on Hallowe’en Sunday.  This year, instead of going out for a fancy meal, we decided that we would take off early on Sunday and head out to the university town of Maynooth in Co. Kildare, travelling through the lovely little villages of Clane, Sallins, Saggart and Prosperous on the way.  The hedgerows were ablaze with full Autumn colours reminiscent of a Robert Kincaid picture.  Across the fields the lines of trees, in various hues, was intoxicating.  We picnicked near Clane, along the canal side, admiring the barges tied up along the quay.  Such a lovely elegant manner of travel.  We have promised ourselves a trip along the Royal Canal next Spring.

Inspired by our day out we decided on Bank Holiday Monday to head off again.  This time we took the road to Roundwood in Co Wicklow cutting off just before the village to take the road to the Sally Gap.  My sister in law always amuses me by calling it Sally’s Gap, thinking it refers to a girl called Sally.  Instead is named for the willows [also known as sally-rods] that were prolific once upon a time in those parts.  No matter how many times I tell her the true origin of the name, and I am the local on this, she [non-local] always insists she is right.

From a view point along the Gap route, we looked down on Lough Dan where the t.v., series “Vikings” is filmed.  The lake was like a still black mirror reflecting the scree down the mountainside.  Further into the valley the trees were like a beacon of wine, silver, gold, bronze and winter green.  It was as if a carpet of jewels had been laid at our feet and we could only feast our eyes with this intoxicating sight, frustrated that we had forgotten to bring along a camera and, needless to remark, my phone decided to indulge in a touch of rigor mortis otherwise known as flat battery!

Onwards to the crossroads and decision making time.  Turning left would bring us back to Enniskerry and Roundwood, straight ahead would bring us to Blessington and its lovely lakes and a right turn would take us to Kirrikee and the opportunity to travel down the mountainside to visit Gleann na Smol [glen of the thrush] and a chance to pick up some fresh free range eggs.  No contest, we turned right and the view ahead was awesome.  Miles and miles of moorland.  Grasses of cream and green and wine, turf banks covered by ling and overhead a lone hawk hovered.  As we turned down the steep road, barely a lane, for Gleann na Smol, two grouse broke cover and swiftly flew low across the road to hide in a fold in the turf.

Luck was not on our side.  Mrs Duck was not in laying form.  She is on strike until January.  Given that the road down to the glen is almost vertical, we won’t be risking the icy journey through the mountains to find this hidden gem.  Spring will come and with it Aylesbury duck eggs.  We finished our journey at Johnny Foxes famous pub in Glencullen with an Irish coffee and then home by Kiltiernan to a warm fire and hot meal.

As I write I am under observation.  A large and very chubby Robin is sitting on the vegetable garden fence.  He is not too pleased with life.  The mild autumn has meant that the Mother Robins have seduced the males and there is an abundance of Robins this year.  Territorial wars have broken out. 
The Great-tits are flying around at high speed calling “News!  News!” and we may have to bring in the stately Bullfinches to negotiate a peace treaty.  The front garden is being strongly contested by two ebullient robins.

The chubby chap from the veggie garden has been named “The Bomber” after the famous Kerry football star of the ‘70’s The Bomber Liston whose feats on the playing field made the Kerry team the legend it is.  Over near the clothesline, Paudie Robin holds sway, named for another great Kerry stalwart Paudie O’Shea.

The Bomber Robin
One of our first stops when we arrive in Kerry is at the late Paudie O’Shea’s pub on the road to Slea Head.  Everyone who is anyone globally is in a photo up on the walls of the Pub.

And so the kitchen has had a facelift, new emulsion on the walls, the ugly entrance to the attic now possessed of a glamourous door, brass handle and twenties style architrave.  A pull on the handle and a stair unfolds to allow me investigate the one area of the house I have never visited in over 60 years…the attic.  Oh God! Another area to sort out.

Christmas is on the horizon and I am remarkably ahead on the present-shopping line.  I’m slightly suspicious that someone has been left out, but my list has been long drawn up, written in, for once, legible script, and pinned on the back of a book on my desk where the super-sleuths in this house would never think of searching.  Sometimes I think they are 03 not 30+.  

Dingle Bay Kerry

The view from Mt Brandon...next parish

10 July 2016

Sunday and the living is easy...after another week!

I had the house to myself today, so I decided to have breakfast in the Garden Room, sit back and relax with a good book and forget about the world for a while.  It's been one of those weeks...again!

Afterwards, I decided that I would sit in the study, and listen to a Mozart piano concerto for a while; I have a random selection on the computer and it reminds of me of my childhood listening to Mum playing our piano.  Even now, eight years on since she passed away, former pupils and their children who were former pupils often stop me in the supermarket, or in the street, to say how much they loved learning to play, taught by her they also got lessons in local history, and a running commentary on whatever birdlife was flitting in the bush outside of the room where she taught.  On the wall is a picture of John B Keane, one of my favourite Irish authors and a Kerryman to boot!

The veranda was painted for the first time five years ago in sage green.  We're now repainting; inspired by The Durrells, we're going forget-me-not blue and I have mixed two tubs of emulsion to create a new colour; brilliant white [half a tub left over from last years redecorting programme] and magnolia [a quarter tub] and for good measure a quarter tub of a light lemony cream emulsion.  We will be gorgeous!  Even Mme Pounce approves.  I'll put up a picture of the new look when it is finished.  I'm moving away from sage green and winter holly green on flower pot holders, to the forget-me-not blue and a lovely deep wine colour and the cream/lemon/white mix.

We spent the week in something like suspended animation, a cousin of Himself's rang the week before to tell us that she would be spending her holidays introducing her new beau to friends and family.  They met in Scotland a couple of years ago at a Rugby match and are now an item, she told him.  He issued an invitation to lunch for last Wednesday as it was one of two days we would be guaranteed to be at home all day. 

"Lovely" she said, "we'll see ye then around twelve thirty on Wednesday".  

Cometh the day, not cometh the cousin.  Half twelve rolled into half one, and two thirty became three.  Luckily I had prepared a salad lunch [as Mum used to call them] and they never left the fridge where I had placed them until she should arrive.  Around four, aggravated by not hearing anything, and I suspect embarassed as she is usually a stickler for the conventions, he rang her.  

"Oh I forgot", she gaily replied.  "We got chatting over coffee and time ran away, besides which I'm on holidays".  Through gritted teeth [all his own] he suggested a phone call would have been nice.  

"Not at all" said she [risking life and limb for keeping him from his veranda painting], "sure what would ye have been doin' anyway?"  No comment.  Smirk!

"Well" says she brazenly "tell ye what, we'll drop in sometime tomorrow just for a coffee, say around three in the afternoon?  We can fit you in between visiting my old school pal Maureen and he wants to see the Art Gallery place in town".  

"Lovely" returns himself.

Thursday afternoon paint brushes were downed at two pip emma, a quick shower and there we were, sitting relaxing [well I was relaxed, I know she wouldn't show, we've been down this road with her before] in the sunshine in the garden.  At four thirty, growling like a Kodiak bear, he stalked off to change into his painting garb and blue paint flew in every direction.  We have a beautifully blue speckled veranda floor now, forget-her-not?

Friday dawned and after going off to do the weeks grocery shopping in the morning, I left him mixing more emulsion to paint the walls of the veranda while I went off to visit my last surviving aunt who lives in a care home about ten minutes away.  Knowing that Theresa would, inevitably turn up, I left a tray of buns and goodies and cups etc., on a tray in the kitchen.  

"What's that for" he asked; "so you only have to boil the water for the tea or coffee when they arrive".  

"They won't" he snorted, "your man is going back to Scotland tomorrow and we won't get a visit".

Four o'clock, while having a good chuckle over family history with my aunt, the cell phone rings.  

"Can you come home please?, would you mind? they'll be here in an hour, she just rang".  

"I'll be back at five" I told him, and I was true to my word.

Twenty to eight her car slid into our front yard.  "Ah sure there ye are" she greeted us gaily, "didn't I tell you we wouldn't be putting ye out if we were a trifle late".  If Himself had a custard pie to hand, she might have gotten it in the face! 

29 June 2016

So I said to him..."Do Not mention Galway to me..."

Last Saturday we had a day of Summer.  In the midst of all this rain, it was balmy, we lunched in the garden and even Mme Pounce was feeling benign towards the baby Blue Tits.  She waved a lazy paw at them as they swooped past her on their way to the new bird feeders.
The good weather was obviously having an effect on Himself and he chose right between the second cup of tea and a dish of home grown strawberries to mention a trip to Galway.  Having had a peek at the week to come weather wise, Atlantic gales followed by rain, rain and more rain on Wednesday and Thursday, I issued an ultimatum.  Don't mention Galway unless you have thoroughly checked the forthcoming weather forecast.  We're off to Navan tomorrow instead.  By car. In comfort. Dry. There is an antique store up there that I have a passion to explore.  I need a new desk.  Investigation day in Auctioneer/Antique store #1234,5678,999 coming up.
I'm not looking for something ridiculously expensive.  If it has a couple of homely dents in it, so much the better.  When Mme Pounce decides to use it as a sharpening post behind my back, I promise her fan club faithfully I shall not assassinate the hussy for the damage.  I might get forgetful about cuddles though.
One of my elderly cousins died last week.  She celebrated 92 years last October, and was hale and hearty living her own independent life until fifteen months ago.  An early breakfast accompanied by cover to cover reading of The Irish Times every morning, followed by daily Mass in the local church, home after a coffee with one or other of the millions of friends she had, and a phone around to all the children [Mondays] grand-children [Tuesdays] and great-grand-children [Wednesdays.  Thursday morning was grocery shopping in the local small supermarket; delivered by "that young lad Seamús" that afternoon.  Seamus was 62 and was in the same swimming club as I was when we were children, but at 92...62 is a baby.
Friday was Day Trip day with the Ladies Club and Saturday was housework day.  Sundays were organised around the two children [57 and 63 respectively] living locally and the second and fourth Sundays were Mass at 10 a.m., lunch with newspapers in a local pub and an examination of each issue in the paper with friends.  Evenings spent playing the piano.  In fact, she often made it clear that family life got in the way of book reading, piano playing and setting the world to rights.

Fifteen months ago she took a bad fall, broke her hip and spent six months in hospital.  This lady who, up to her fall, talked two miles to my home village every afternoon and took the bus back to her own village, hail, rain or snow, was disgusted that following the fall, she had to use a walker and the two mile trip was a thing of the past.  One thing followed another and she began to suffer stomach pains, a thing unheard of in someone with the constitution of an ox.  A tumour developed and was rampant and inoperable before you could say ~Atisshoo~, and on the 19th of this month, she stole away peacefully in the night to join her husband, her closest friend and cousin my Mum, and all the generations of a family of whom she was extremely proud.

I shall miss her dreadfully.  She was my last link to my Mum.  They were almost identical in looks, being cousins and best friends and close as children and adults, listening to her was like hearing Mum's soft gentle voice again.  Edwina [Edie] was wonderful when Mum passed on.  A tower of strength.  Many's the night we talked about their childhood here, where I live. 

Thirty years and some months separated us in age, and, in keeping with family tradition she was the archivist of her branch of the family.  Mum was our archivist.  None of Edie's children ever had the same interest, and I am the last archivist of the family left who actually met a lot of the "older generation".  I have told my girls our history.  YD is the one most likely to continue the tradition, ED will have the written version.

Edie's Grandfather was my Grandfather's favourite brother.  Most alike in looks, mine was the younger, a bachelor until his late 40's, he helped support his brother's ever increasing family financially.  I remember Edie's Grandfather, he used to give me an old 3d on a Sunday "to buy sweeties"; the image of my Grandfather, he is the reason I have a picture in my head of my Grandfather who died in '32 when Mum was three.



Just for to-day Lord
I ask you to stay,
Help me and guide me
on my lifetimes  way,
And when the hour comes Lord
at the end of my day,
I'll go with you Lord
wherever you say.
A prayer Edie taught me as a child.

22 June 2016

That was the week that was...and we could've done without it!

I knew it, the minute OH arrived with bunch of roses from the garden in hand. Spotted what was coming a mile off.  Move over Agatha Christie, Agatha Raisin, Jane Marple, there's a new detective eye on the block!

What the heck is she on about, says you, dear Reader.  Well, the sight of a mixture of Peace, Gertrude Jekyll, Iceberg, and Queen Elizabeth roses alerted me to the fact that OH was about to suggest a few days in his home townland.  Sister in law being otherwise involved this month, [she owns the family home] and with the wet and humid weather it didn't take Einstein to work out that we were, he hoped, going down there for a few days to cut the grass, reclaim the lane from the encroaching bushes, and I could cook for him, tidy up, and watch him watch endless football matches.  I hold my hand up.  I have total disinterest in football, be it soccer, gaelic, rugby unless Ireland is playing, then national loyalty kicks in.  So, making the supreme sacrifice [says she with huge grin on face and laughing so hard the keyboard is confused] I said yes before he asked me.  Ahhh! watch his face light up.

By nature, I am one of those individuals who is not intimately acquainted with boredom.  Once I have a book close at hand, life is good.  My survival kit for these sort of visits down to this neck of the woods is a canvas bag containing

  • Notebook and four pens [in case the ink runs out] for observation notes
  • mobile phone for picture taking
  • No less than three books for reading [for a four day stay]and this time the choice was a detective novel, a book on the lives of the Commanche Indians bought at the aforementioned May Farmer's market  and Conor Fitzgerald's "The Dogs of Rome"
  • plain paper pad for doodles and other scribbles
  • at least two Mozart discs for player - on this occasion Clarinet and Piano concerto's and a jazz cd
  • Battery charger for phone
  • spare batteries for playing Mozart 
  • spare pair of reading glasses
  • tin of mixed herbs and jar of garlic granules to spice up the food
We left home on Tuesday morning, bright and sunny at ten a.m., birds singing their little heads off since crack of dawn at 3.30.  Ten minutes down the M50 and oh frabjous day! The heavens opened, think downpour, aquaplaning, and in the far off distance sheet lightning just to bring back some electrifying memories.  

By the time we reach Mullingar, Himself is fidgeting uneasily behind the wheel of the car.  "Always the same" he mutters, "when the place gets overgrown the flippin rain comes to make sure I can't cut the stuff back" and other such encomiums on the weather, the county, gardening in general and the fact that he has been garden-grumpy for most of May and the bulk of this month so far.

We arrive, eventually, despite a washed out road which made skating on thin ice look tame, to a damp house and sub zero temperatures which made Iceland look like the Bahamas.  It is June for God's sake!!

Two hours later, Aga burning merrily, electric blankets warming up the bed, car looking miserable outside the kitchen window, next door's cat lounging droopily in the door of the shed - mice being reluctant to run around in such weather and birds considering it an insult to their feathers to get wet, we have our lunch.

Beloved cheers up when he realises Somewhere is playing Someplace at three o'clock and his afternoon is sorted.  He switches on the TV and sits back prepared to shout for Somewhere when it occurs to him that the blue screen is very attractive in colour but there are no little figures running around a pitch.  He splutters, mutters, stutters and emits non printable words at goal speed.  "Perhaps", I said helpfully, "if you switched on the switch upstairs and plugged in the lead, you might get a signal".  With a loving look in his eye at me, he races up the narrow stairs and two minutes later Someplace scores the first goal.  Insult to injury don't you know!

I retire with Mozart and Maigret to the front parlour, put a match to the fire [having first checked that the chimney is not blocked].  There have been instances when sooty deceased members of the blackbird, sparrow and finch families have graced the parlour and welcomed my poor sister in law with sooty wing prints on the pale grey walls.

Two hours later, several oceans of grey rain falling out of the gutter like a sheet of grey water, and the grey walls, green carpet, and green suite of furniture have displaced the ability of Mozart and Maigret to comfort me, I saunter into the kitchen where Beloved is sulking.  No, not skulking, or maybe a tiny bit, because Someplace has wiped the pitch with Somewhere and of course it was an unfair match, the referee was blind, the players away with the fairies and the ball didn't magnetically race into the proper goal.  By this stage we decide that if the rain continues, sister in law will not need to have a swimming pool put in the front garden...the rain will do it for her.

We dine at eight, open a bottle of vino and sit back and watch a DVD of a well known spy film.  I'm happy as Pierce sorts out the baddies and Himself drifts off to a dream where Somewhere won by 497 goals to 0.  

Wednesday dawns, and more rain.  The bottom of the garden is flooded and Mr Grumpy is threatening, with a shaken fist, the clouds which float past [menacingly] in return.  

By early afternoon, the thunder and lightning has arrived, The Other Place is playing Where d'ja Call It and as the lightning is close at hand he won't risk putting on the TV.  I have, cunningly, brought a LUDO board with me, and have not forgotten the dice this time, and we pass the afternoon outplaying each other.  The humour he is in, well lets just say he tries to wipe me off the board.  Final score Me 3 games, Him 0.  

I'm a LUDO expert in my own mind, my Mum first introduced me to the game as a child.  I was in bed with one of the many ailments that found their way to me, it and books were the foundation of a sane mind. Well, I like to think so anyway.  Things are not improved by Where d'ja call it beating The Other Place.

By seven the rain has stopped and an orchestra of birds begin to sing at the top of their voices, to the accompaniment of the sound of dripping leaves. The waters are slowly seeping away and we meander around the garden.

Thursday brings a whole new world.  We tidy the rain sodden debris as best as we can.  Sister in law rings to see has the lawn been cut yet, OH tightly replies "no, how the ..ll could I and it raining for two solid days and nights?" and she breaks his heart by telling him it has been lovely "up here".

I suggest we head to Longford Town and picnic on the way.  A friend and former neighbour from the Wicklow days has set up a cake shop in the town and I am keen to see her new premises.  We picnic near the river shown above.  It's the Inny River and anyone familiar with the Percy French song "Ballyjamesduff" will be familiar with the line

Just turn to the left at the bridge of Finea

except, that if you turn to the left you wind up in the hedge or down watching the swans if coming from the other side of the bridge!

My friend is delighted to see us, and we catch up over tea and a bun in her shop in between darts behind the counter to serve the customers.  Her wedding cakes and special occasion cakes are mouthwatering looking, long may she prosper.

In the evening the grass is cut, and the worst of the encroaching hedges trimmed and disciplined.  We decide that if it is raining or looks like it, we will return home the next morning.  Under a lowering sky on Friday we arrive home to sunshine, birdsong and lunch in the garden before, singing contentedly, OH heads off to address a branch on the apple tree which has collapsed and to inspect the tadpole situation in the rockpools.