Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Trip To Belfast


I managed a day out in Belfast today, my main objects being a visit to the newly refurbished Tropical Ravine in the Botanic Gardens, some new reading glasses from Flying Tiger and a present for Bert.

I had mixed feelings about the Tropical Ravine. There is no doubt that it needed the refurbishment, if only for the survival of some of the older plants in there but it has lost much of its former dilapidated charm. Now it seems less mossy, too modern. I much preferred it as it was.

The grounds outside the Ravine have had a makeover too, planted mainly with geraniums. I was pleased to see that I have in my own garden, all the varieties I spotted except 'Rozanne' and I want 'Rozanne'.

The Palm House was in disarray today with many plants pushed to the side for cleaning but the display of pelargoniums on the Museum side was spectacular. Lots of varieties that I don't have but would love to own.

My next stop was the vintage store on Botanic Avenue where I bought Bert two shirts. That was the present ticked off my list.

I lunched in the Linen Hall Library and it was very quiet in there. Then a bit of a wander around the city centre. I got some lace-up shoes I've been thinking about for a year or more and two pairs of readers in Flying Tiger. I was disappointed not to get the apple green ones I bought last time as I've had such a lot of compliments about them. My fashionable niece even advised that I should base my whole look around them.  I still have the apple green ones but Jess, the hallion, jumped on them as I was getting dressed for bed one evening and they don't sit right any more. Three quid glasses just cannot handle being pounced on by sprollies.

There was a bit of time to kill before getting the train so I had a drink in Robinsons. I took it outside and as I sat there I thought of how thirty years ago a person might be taking quite a risk sitting across from Europe's most bombed hotel (33 times in 25 years). Thankfully those days are over.


On the train home, I read the book I picked up in the Linen Hall Library charity shop. Letters between Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh. It was rather 'laugh out loud' in parts but so prejudiced against Jewish people. That was shocking. Or maybe it was just Lucian Freud? Still appalling. It was written by a Mosley, so obviously shameless.

I got Bert to try on his shirts as soon as I got home and was pleased that he liked them. He especially liked the denim, a vintage Ben Sherman, so much that he kept it on and went out to clarinet practice still wearing it. That's never happened before and I've been buying him clothes for more than thirty years.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

That Was The Week That Was

It seems that the more there is to write about the less I write because there is NO TIME and I am TOO TIRED.

On Day 1 after my last post, I went (with Bert) to visit an elderly relative and then, because we were in the general area, went to a disused diatomite quarry that has become a haven of delight for newts, butterflies, psilocybin mushrooms and other wonderful things. When we got there we found it had been devastated by earth moving machines. Bert was very sad.

On Day 2 after the last post, I cooked a delicious meal for the family and played adventures with Martha as Evie was sick.

On Day 3 I was visited by the elderly aunt and her (sort of) nephew. She filled nephew's car boot with spare shrubs and perennials from my garden. Afterwards, Bert continued work on our new lawn and I  cooked a sensible manly dinner for Bert and one of his friends. Lots of potatoes.

On Day 4 after my last post we visited Jazzer who has been dealing with some very sad events recently. To cheer her up we brought a chainsaw and cut down a tree that has been threatening the foundations of her house. Then we went out to lunch and had two large glasses of wine each. On my return from the outing I had to take a long nap.

On Day 5 I picked the girls up from school and took them shopping. I needed new shoes for a funeral and I got the children  some summer togs for their holiday. Martha opined that the tops would go very well with a pair of denim shorts. So I bought those as well. Then we went to the wake which was a first for the girls.

On Day 6 I went to the funeral. My cousin's husband, still in his fifties. They were close neighbours of my mother and had always been good friends to both my parents. At the funeral reception, I found myself looking around and wondering where he was.

Day 7 - I gardened, cleared a new bed and planted the geraniums I'd bought at Garden Show Ireland. They'd been potted on and were just beginning to flower. And of course, I glanced at the Royal Wedding for an hour or so. It was quite cheering and distracting. Later on,  we had Jazzer, Marty and Ben round for the evening.

On Day 8 after my last post, we still had Jazzer, Marty and Ben and Jazzer cooked breakfast and mopped floors. Some friends are just keepers and her Ulster Fries go a long way towards making up for her singing performances on the evenings before.

On the evening of Day 8, when everyone had gone, we watched The Handmaid's Tale, me mostly with my hands covering my eyes. Then I wrote this post.


The devastation at the old quarry

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Paper Money

When I'm 64 (from March 2011)

That is the age at which I will now receive a state pension.

Oh well. I think I shall have to become a bank robber.

Don't tell anyone I said that.

Joking aside - it was terribly unjust that women were entitled to a pension five years before men. What was that all about? And it's not as if 60 is even old these days. Or so I like to kid myself.

It's the kids I feel sorry for. There they'll be trying to get a foot on the career ladder starting with something humble and character-forming like working the aisles in B&Q or Tescos and there will be all the old codgers like me taking their jobs. And I will too - if the bank robbing thing doesn't work out.

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Nelly's Garden has sure turned out to be quite the aide-memoire pour moi. For, thinks I to myself - I should write about how great it is to finally be in receipt of the long-awaited state pension and I knew I'd written about it before and, there you go, seven years ago I was positively longing to be a pensioner. It turned out I didn't do anything quite as drastic as robbing a bank or getting a job. As if! There's rarely a morning that passes that I don't wake up and thank the universe that I don't have to go to work.

So it is that even the grandchildren, at least the ones that live in Ireland and are aware of the existence of money, knew that I was looking forward to my pension. For as we headed into the local Spar yesterday afternoon and I opened my purse to check how much money I had, Evie exclaimed,

Is that paper money Granny?

And Martha asked,

Is it your pension Granny?

I think she's been looking forward to my pension as much as I have.

I knew I'd have a little spending spree when it finally came and as it came with another little windfall there was definitely going to be some addressing of pent-up need on the wardrobe front. So I went shopping yesterday just before I picked up the girls, thrifting and regular, and got a lovely rust-coloured linen cardigan (for a pittance) and some ridiculously cheap biker boots in TK Maxx plus some navy trousers. Got home and discovered I'd got the wrong size trousers and the boots still had a security tag on them. The cardi was still delicious, no issues there.

So, it was back to the shops today. As I entered TK Maxx the security alarm shrilled which really confused the guy on the floor. But no bother, he removed the tag and I swapped the trousers for a very useful structured black jackety, cardigany thing. In the thrift shops, I bought a very nice summer skirt. Fits lovely but you'd know you're wearing it. I reminded myself that Loulou de la Falaise said that when it comes to clothes she didn't like to feel too comfortable and I think I might take that to heart except when I'm gardening. 

And I hope Martha will be pleased with the three quid Mini-Boden dress I found in Ballymena's latest charity shop. It's from several seasons ago but that means vintage and Martha likes a bit of vintage.

The personal motto for the rest of my life is - just because you're fat doesn't mean that you can't have Nice Things. 


Martha's dress and my pre-loved cardigan and a Brand New Book because no shopping spree is complete without one.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Garden Show Ireland 2018

Much to my surprise and delight, we've just had several consecutive days of sunny weather. In fact, on one of those days, I actually had to remove my fleece. For me, warm dry weather means gardening, lots of gardening for I really am a fairweather horticulturist. The first of the pleasant days I spent on an outing to Garden Show Ireland at the beautiful Castle Grounds in Antrim. My pockets were stuffed with my new pension entitlement so I was able to spend freely. There is nothing I like better than access to plants with funds to spare. What I did not take into account was plants in pots are heavy and I had travelled by train. Sure the journey from show to the station was less than 15 minutes but fifteen minutes is a long time to carry two heavy bags of hard to find perennials.

That was on Friday and my arms and shoulders are still aching. Next year I'll take a wheeled trolley.


Two of the stall holders at the show. Our friends, Frank and Linda McCooke from Slemish Market Garden. They were selling vegetable transplants and herbs and were doing a roaring trade. While I was visiting their stand it was announced that they'd taken the silver medal in the Grower's section. And very well-deserved too. The McCookes must be the hardest working family in the Ballymena area. Yet they've always got time for a chat and a laugh with their customers as my photo shows.


This was my favourite part where all the exciting plants were to be found. I acquired some new geraniums for my collection, a polemonium, a creamy saxifrage, nine exotic lily bulbs and long sought after white oriental poppies.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Rainy May

So far, this Spring the weather has been disappointing. There were two beautiful days at the weekend where I got lots of outdoor gardening accomplished but there is still far too much to do. Most of my homegrown perennials are still sitting in pots beside where they are supposed to go but hey! - look on the bright side (even though there isn't one) all this rain means I don't have to water them.

Even so, I'm off to Garden Show Ireland tomorrow. Last year we went with the Banjos and it was a scorching day but this year I'm going alone and BBC weather informs me that it will be overcast but with no torrential downpours or hailstones expected. Here's hoping.

In spare moments (and there are lots of them) I'm transferring files to a bigger external hard drive. This is one from May 2012 which delighted me. Annoyingly, I cannot find the original copies. Where do digital photographs go?


Postscript: Lost digital photographs are to be found in unsorted files. Hurrah!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Seven Years

 It's been an ordinary day. I woke up far too early, got up, went back to bed with coffee, then fell asleep again and had a crazy dream about being in a crowded, confusing house with far too many disparate people. This is becoming a recurring dream and it all seems so strange. Actually, that used to be my life and sometimes, even in waking hours, it still is.

I forgot that it was Mammy's anniversary.



Instead of remembering I had one of those pleasant, mooching about days. Bert and I went out for breakfast and when we came back we both pottered. I've been admiring the primroses that are naturalising at the edge of the old laneway that backs our yard. Sometimes it is good to just let nature take its course. Matty would have approved.

Bert was wondering what he should do next. It's good when that happens on a pottering day. A day when you don't have to do anything. The birds had other ideas. They started to scold because their feeders were empty. He knew what to do next. Matty would have approved of that too. She always took notice of the birds.

It was London Sister who reminded me of the day that was in it. And I remembered that last year I met the occasion with a great deal of melancholy. Not this year. She'd have approved of that.



Tomorrow we are going to her house to remove the last bits and pieces of furniture before we put it up for sale. I'm not sure what she'd have thought of that. I'm not sure what I think of that either.


Seven years. Where did it go? I think I might have spent it pottering.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Monday Suppers: Spag Bol

I tried something new today. Spaghetti Bolognese. Spaghetti Bolognese! The dish that even students can make and that everyone else has been serving up for over half a century. I have made it before, probably at least 480 times before but today was the first time ever I used a recipe.


And this is the book I used. It's a great favourite of mine although generally I just make desserts.  


This is the recipe. Usually, when I make spag bol I go overboard with the herbs and throw all kinds of vegetables in. That's what happens when you've been making the same dish since you were twenty. Bad ideas become a lifetime habit. This recipe just uses onion, tomatoes, garlic, carrots and celery. Not a bell pepper in sight. And the solitary herb used was oregano. I cooked everything far longer and slower than I normally would and the only variation from Penny Stephens' book was using damson and blackcurrant wine instead of red plonk.

The verdict? It was very tasty. Dave called it a 'triumph', Zoe had a small second serving and Martha and Evie cleared their plates and asked for seconds despite having already eaten spag bol for school lunch. Bert said it was nice but too many carrots. I'm having the leftovers on sourdough toast for tomorrow's breakfast. Hannah said that Thai people would be horrified by what Irish people eat for breakfast. She was referring to something she called 'slop' and I would call 'porridge'. Apparently, Thai people eat supper's savoury leftovers for brekkie and so shall I. Tomorrow anyway.


And these are the grandchildren with Hannah and Mel. They are drawing nicely with every Sharpie, colouring pencil and oil pastel in the house. Last week they had that table upside down in the middle of the yard with my blue silky cushions padding it and a small dog wearing a pink plastic tiara perched on top. I'm afraid I was cross and I regret that. I should have taken a photograph instead.