28 September 2009
I spent most of last week cleaning the house from end to end, prompted by a call from an elderly cousin of my Mothers. I had only met this cousin once nearly 30 years ago when Mum held a sort of hen party of her own prior to my wedding. All relations etc, who were not invited to wedding came to a supper and a good night was had by all, I escaped as soon as possible I remember, the alternative was to fill in a forty page form on the future groom, his prospects, intentions towards me, outlook on life...you get the picture! Edwina, a spinster of her parish, seven years older than Mum and cranky since childhood had been the loudest Torquemada-style Inquisitor at this 'do' and I could see why Mum had as little contact as possible with her. Think of Pride and Prejudice with Edna May Oliver as Lady Catherine de Burgh and you get the picture...if you'll pardon the pun.
House now sparkling! she arrived on Friday at 3.30p.m., precisely, and I do mean precisely. Dropped off by another cousin [my vintage] who smiled sweetly at me, said "she's all yours" and fled the scene like a rabbit seeing a very big fox. As soon as I find out what relationship that person is to me, I shall cut her out of the family tree, with vengeance! Sniffing with disdain at all the work OH has carried out, Dweena preceeded me into the house, sweeping down the hall, opening doors as she passed and commenting on each in turn. By the time we reached the kitchen at the back of the house she raised a supercillious eyebrow, and unfortunately for her,not being n possession of a lorgnette, glared at me and said 'awfully small init". Thus did I discover that her words were to be somewhat foreshortened by ill-fitting dentures which cut her words short - but not blurry short enough by halves! It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her that I am in the process of adding an extension with new enlarged kitchen when I thought rebelliously "hell no, no business of hers".
Fortunately, I had remembered that this particular cousin was snob personified so THE VERY BEST CHINA was out, the sandwiches wafer thin and the cakes and biscuits displayed to perfection. I offered her tea or coffee, glaring at me she said "Don't drink coffee, foul brew, never had time f'rit, I'll have tea. Earl Grey." This last thrown at me with a smirk that clearly said "gotcha on the hop now". I said nothing, left her to snoop...'er I mean her own devices and headed for the kitchen, returning with a carefully laden tray with the necessities.
Taking a disdainful sniff of the tea she exclaimed with some surprise "It's Earl Grey". "Well, that's what you asked for isn't it Dweena?" I replied. Score 1-0 to me. The afternoon stretched into early evening. Around six thirty I asked her, having exhausted all lines of conversation by this time, what time would Delia be collecting her at. "Collecting me?" eyebrows raised and glare fully centred on my forehead she replied. "I've come to stay for the night, I told you that earlier when I spoke to you on the telephone". I must be going deaf. "First I've heard of it, and I hadn't prepared a room for you, only having two bedrooms at present and OH and I sharing one of those. "Well, [simmering lower lip] it's awful to be my age, nobody seems to want you anymore..." Ye Gods! sneaky Delia had really landed me in it, and imagine, I had never met her before. Crafty b-b-b-b-b-rat!
I rang ED, told her that her visit that evening was either cancelled or she was on the put-u-up and prayed that she would decide to come and help me entertain Edna May! Bless the girls heart, she did. The bed was soon made up, suitable night attire found for Dweena and the long, slow progression towards bedtime began. Dinner, chicken soup followed by roast chicken [God bless Knorr] Kerr Pinks and mixed veg, followed by Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream seemed to calm the visitor, mind you by the time she had commented that she wouldn't cook this, that or the other this that or the other way she was lucky that she wasn't served her head in a weak batter and flambéd!
I had elicited Delia's address during the course of dinner, and phone number. After a breakfast of tea [I won approval for this being Bewleys Irish Breakfast Tea] boiled egg [6 minutes precisely] and toast [pale gold dear and don't spare the marmalade] I rang Delia. Adopting as sweet a tone as I could [while feeling like tearing her throat off down the phoneline] I asked her what time she would be collecting Lady Dweena at...to this she replied that she wouldn't be able to collect her until around sixish, she was working in the garden all morning and would then be doing her grocery shopping. "Fair enough" I said, bid her good morning and hung up. After a post-breakfast stroll around the garden I started to steer Dweena towards my car. We weren't out of the woods yet, she was becoming enchanted she told me, she thought she might stay for the week end. No comment! Two hours later we pulled up outside Delia's house in Dunshaughlin. "what lovely surprise for her" said Dweena, "wasn't it good of IE to run her home and what a lovely time she had had!". What a pretty picture Delia's face was.
Lessons learned. Delia's phone number is now on my caller ID, next time OH want's to go and visit his Mum using my car because his is in for a service he can wait and see if the coast is clear!
Rewards for such suffering come in delightful ways though. Yesterday morning after Breakfast I was enjoying a lazy second cup of tea and browsing through the Sunday papers when my eye was caught by a young dog fox, dark black patches on the back of his ears, black ring around his brush and a tiny white tip. This years cub, learning his new territory. He quartered the lawn for juicy tidbits, ignored the 7 magpies sitting in a circle around him and generally made himself familiar with the garden, disappearing from view now and again while he rambled around the other side of the house; he reappeared on the lawn again and proceeded to chase his tail, the magpies, if they could have folded their wings in front, merely stood back and laughed raucously at him. Two robins decided to dive bomb him, clearly of the opinion that two robins good, seven magpies useless...Reynard ignored the lot of them, after sitting flat out, stomach to the ground, chin lying compass like facing east for ten minutes he got up and slowly trotted off down the garden, over the wall and away with him. I shall be keeping an eye out for this handsome chap. I hope he becomes a regular daytime visitor.
12 September 2009
This spell of fine weather seems to have everyone in autumnal reflective mood, and yes, I have been hit by the joy of it too.
Thursday morning I awoke after a restless night. One of those nights when you tell yourself that you know you have switched all lights off, treble checked and re-checked and still can't settle. I had a list of "things to do" the length of my arm, visit to hairdresser, meet family solicitor, grocery shopping...you know it all too well. As I wandered out to see if there was any post, the phone rang and it was the very nice lady who works for our solicitor ringing to apologise and to tell me that he would have to cancel. "Not a problem!" I said, "we can reschedule for next week". I was delighted! The golden sunlight in the garden was calling to me, and I decided that there was nothing wrong in blowing off the rest of the morning.
I was due to meet with Tiggywinkle today, and had intended turning up with a nicely cut and coiffed hair-do, but truth to tell, I don't think I could have borne to sit in the hairdressers and look out at such a wonderful day. Even though the forecast is good up until next Thursday, and even if my hairdresser and his staff are the best in the world - nothing loathe I blew it off.
I gathered up secaturs, gardening gloves, bucket [for the weeds, although the back is much better, bending is still cautious] and headed out after what seemed to be the worlds most wonderful boiled egg and toast with lashings of tea to follow. Old tracksuit on, tatty runners and a song in my heart. I marked out what was for pruning, sauntered 'round the outside of the house, and sat down to re-lace my tatty runners. I broke my arm in '98 following a fall occasioned by a loose lace so I am vigilant nowadays. Sitting down was the best and worst thing I did that day.
The worst? The pruning went by the wayside. The best? I sat, for three glorious hours, shaded by the dining room until the sun came around to that position. Sitting there I relaxed and listened to the robins singing their territorial little hearts out, watched squadrons of blue tits fly in from every direction in the garden. There were swifts riding the thermals and butterflies aplenty visiting one of the still flowering buddleia bushes. OH has been busy cutting gorse and dead bushes and trees. Three elderly maiden elderberry tree's have been cut back to a height from which they will recover, survive the winter and live to provide the woodpigeons with fruit next autumn. As a result of all this the view across Dublin Bay to the Howth peninsula has been considerably improved.
In the bay, sailing from Dun Laoghaire harbour was a flotilla of small yachts; probably one of the sailing schools still making the best of weather and time before their intrepid young Captain Bligh's have to return to school. Like swans on a calm mirror like pool they turned with gentle elegance outside the harbour. At lunchtime the car ferry arrived, like some giant whale, gently slipping into harbour, her wake like a small tidal wave rocking the tiny yachts and dinghies.
The magpies soon became accustomed to the navy and grey lump sitting on the bench at the top end of the field. Having established that I was not edible - one magpie hopping right up to peck at my runner, they busied themselves hunting for slugs and bugs and whatever tasty morsels lurked in the newly cut grass. Most of them are this years issue, they are just coming out of their moult and look like Max Wall as they hop, skip and trundle across the lawn.
I went in around one to make a cup of tea, and as I waited for the kettle to boil, there, rolling like a little barrel across the top lawn was a hedgehog. I was delighted to see him - or indeed her - because the previous afternoon I had found what looked like the spikes of our garden hedgehog up under the pine trees. We have a new resident dog fox, a big fellow with a gorgeous coat and white tipped tail, and I was afraid he had taken our little hedgey pig. He has dined recently on a couple of plump woodpigeon, there are feathers galore around the place. All this despite my leaving chicken carcases out for him. The Silver and Bracken vixens don't come around these nights until the early hours and I miss seeing them.
Last week there were several nights when there was a full moon magically lighting up the garden. The owl was busy - afterall it was a hunters moon - swooping across the field down into the glen, then up to his favourite perch beyond the gorse.
Yesterday morning, after breakfast, I brought my much needed second cup of tea out to the bench to see what I could see before heading off to do the daily chores. As I sat watching some ants busily move some breadcrumbs, out of the corner of my eye I caught movement. There, daintily coming across the rocks was the Dogfox, picking his way carefully before disappearing into the gorse.
Winter will be upon us in a few weeks time. These are the days God sends us to set us up for the coldest season. One is nearer God's heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth. It is just over a year since I moved back in here fully, I still look for Mums coat tossed across a chair - thrown impatiently as she sought to get a little extra time in her beloved garden before her busy afternoon started; but things have changed and, at last, I now consider this our garden - OH and mine. Yet she still walks with me when I am out there, and God help either OH and I if we move a pot to another place from where she positioned it, we can hear the sharp intake of breath, and yes, we put those pots back where she put them. I have come home. At last.