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.

23 November 2009

Weather Reporting

Windswept and Weary of all that Wind and Rain

Climate change is something that is probably on more than we human’s minds lately. If Magpies could talk to us I am sure that the crew that live in next door’s Leylandii would be howling at the wind, literally, given that it has kept them from venturing far in the daily food search. It is coming in from the West and howls up the glen, eerily banshee-like with its lonesome whistle.

The Christmas Cake is done, finished, completed and…wait for it…A HUGE SUCCESS! The next hurdle is the icing. Oh well, hopefully that will be a success too. Aha! I hear you say, what is she on about with her Christmas Cake is done…well you see the ‘09 cake is the second Christmas Cake I have ever made in 50+ years. Mum always made the cake, Mother in Law made the plum puddings and I cooked the turkey. That’s what I am good at, plain, wholesome, no fuss, honest to goodness traditional cooking.

Cakes? Considering that my Grandmother’s Mother ran the village sweet shop in another part of the county and Gran made the cakes and sweets that were sold there - it is a sad fact that yours truly has not inherited her light hand. Neither did Mum, come to think of it…I am sure there is an Army Contract lurking about somewhere for one of her apple pies for use as a missile. God love her, she hated all forms of cooking with a passion - jam making was probably the only one that slipped under the radar. If she couldn’t fry it she didn’t want to know, and my long suffering Dad was thrilled when I started learning cookery at school…be it ever so humble my roast chicken was an improvement on burnt offerings. We won’t go into casseroles. Nope! Not going there.

I am so ahead of myself this year that I have half my Christmas presents bought, in one fell swoop, in T K Maxx, in Arklow, oh! Bliss. They have a lovely trug and garden tool set and I bought two of them - one for a cousin of Mum’s who is a keen gardener and who is a joy to be with, and another for my friend who has just inherited her parents house; there is a rose garden with it to die for. Her parents have moved into sheltered accommodation and they decided that as she would inherit the house anyway she might as well have it now. She and Liam sold their house, and managed a better price for it than usual in this current downturn, and they will use it to restore the old family home which is 80 years old and showing more than a few wrinkles.

I bought some unusual glasses for sister in law who collects such things, and who has had to have new units built in the alcoves on each side of her fireplace to house them. I am in the process of having units put into the alcoves in my sitting room also, the difference will be MORE BOOKS as a poor long suffering OH moans. I look at her shelves and think…what a waste, look how many books I could get in there. He has often plaintively said “if the house went on fire you’d risk your life to save those books of yours before you’d save me” , “not at all pet,” I coo at him lovingly, “I’d dowse you in water first and then save the books, that way you could help me!” He’s still looking at me out of the corner of his eye, very suspiciously.

We have acquired a sky box and a new 32’ flat screen, [guess what OH’ll save first in the event of…] and I have to admit I have fallen in love with it. I had been very sniffy about the whole deal, there was nothing wrong with the aerial and five stations we have here, I would murmur, three home stations, UTV and the Beeb. Sufficient for my needs, but of course there was the question of Football, I was told. ED and YD put in a word for the joys of music television, Rihanna or Those Twins caterwauling at top pitch, and needless to remark I succumbed, so last Friday a strong, silent East European young man installed the needful. I asked him did he want Coffee, the reply being “umph!” and a negative shake of the head I assumed that was a no, he looked disparagingly at our tv and told us that another brand was better and two of my neighbours had that other brand. He was on a hiding to nowhere with this one, I am definitely not into the “Jones” game.

So why did I fall in love with it? Nothing to do with the fact of 7 zillion channels and record this and pause that and put the kettle on…nooooooo! The first programme was about Ron and Valerie Taylor and sharks and it tickled my sense of humour pulling OH’s leg about watching out in case the sea slipped out onto the carpet and mind that great white…a joke that soon lost it’s flavour when the news came on and reports on all the flooding going on came into view. If you have been a victim of the current floods, you have my fervent prayers and deepest sympathy, we were flooded in ‘82 in the other house and it is no joking matter.

Time to go and do a bit of housework, may your day be safe, sunny and may you be flood free, wherever you are.

04 November 2009

Of Village life

Of Village life and kindred histories

It is now fifteen months since I moved into the ancestral cottage, and I love it! There are, needless to remark, the two days. Days when I miss Mum and go to tell her something, usually some change I am about to make, but there are the glory days, some rain sodden, some washed with sunlight, in which I relish being back here. Yesterday was one of those days.

We are busy clearing out old outhouses at present, and the skip hire company is making a huge profit for itself..however needs must when the devil drives. I had called into the neighbours to ask them to move their cars as none of them have front gardens into which they could put their cars. The lane is a relic of a bygone era in which my Grandfather’s dairy cart, the neighbouring “Big House” Lagonda and a few bicycles were sufficient unto the day for travel. For the most part the residents on the lane are like myself, returnees to the family home upon the death of a parent, or the need for said parent to take up residence in “Dun Raving Happy Retirement Home” - all have made changes to their homes so there is great give and take when it comes to “Skip Hire” which has become a sort of local mutual loathing society; the loathing stems from the hoity voices of the “designated assistant who will advise you as to what YOU need in a skip”…no hazardous waste, asbestos, paint cans [empty], electrical goods, batteries, the cat, your mother in law [after Hallowe’en week end I could do with a skip for mine] or fresh air!
Are you with me so far? Good, hang on while I make a cup of tea and we’ll survive Skip-life.

I called into the neighbours at the week end to advise that the day of skip-doom is pending - five cups of tea, one gluten free bikkie and a history lesson later I returned home. Hospitality is not lacking, and I have to say that I am blessed with my immediate neighbours. In the first house I went into, upon entering the kitchen [traditional site of hospitality in the Irish home - that or the best parlour] I spotted a large blue and white plate, the exact twin to my own beloved turkey-at-Christmas-holding plate. I asked curiously where it had come from and was told it was found in the shed at the back of the house when major renovations were being done [another mover-back]. We had a great chuckle when it was discovered that I have its twin, one of the vegetable dishes that goes with it, and used to have the milk jug from the service until Mum dropped and smashed it shortly before she went into hospital. The service dates from around the 1880/90’s and the grandfather of the present owner of the plate was a gardener. I was able to fill her in on the two ladies of distressed means who were unable to pay their gardener or my grandfather who delivered milk to them, and who had run up substantial bills all over the area in the course of many years “since Father passed away”. Two houses later a soup toureen appeared in that kitchen, discovered in an attic when the parent had to move to a nursing home. The grandfather in question here was the local baker and the debt owed to him was settled by more of this beautiful dinner service.

It is sad to think of gentlewomen being reduced to such circumstances, but it was a fact of life for many “gels” who never “took” and who were left living on in the family home after the parents had passed away - perhaps a foxhound or cat for company, trying valiantly to keep up appearances and fading farther away from the harsh realities of daily life, while living an even harsher one themselves that no one ever suspected. Shades of Molly Keanes “Good Behaviour”.

I know that my grandfather never put pressure on these type of people and when he died prematurely my grandmother was amazed at the number of them who came forward to pay their bills and to confirm that the dairy would still deliver milk to them. Mum told me often about one “big house” family who said to my grandmother after the funeral that “Mr X never left us short, he was a gentleman and we wouldn’t like to see you going short at this appalling time”. My grandparents had been married for 9 years, and she was left to run a business she had no experience in and three children all under 7 years to rear. There is decency in many people but sometimes nowadays you wonder if that sort of community spirit has become diluted.

We are all agreed that we will be using our respective pieces of that dinner service that once graced a “Big House” dinner table on Christmas day. There’s more than neighbourliness unites us on the lane.