Sunday Night

Cousin is watching a programme called Suits where the most commonly used line by any character is I don’t give a shit about…. If there were a swear box it would be getting quite full. As dialogue goes, I feel it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Do the script writers have these words on a clipboard and paste them in every few lines or so? I think I’ll stick with Shakespeare.

Night is falling and I plan to head off to bed soon. Tonight we have not been to the hospital so we are at home and the prospect of getting to sleep before midnight is deeply attractive. Westie Boy and I had another walk.

We have a deal: he can stick his head into rabbit holes so long as I can take photos. These are my favourite gate posts along the road. I must have photo graphed them dozens of times.

Quite a few of the pictures of hedgerow flowers I have tried to take have suffered from a sudden impatient tug by Westie Boy at the other end of the lead. Really he is not keeping to his part if the deal very well, maybe he resents the fact that I refuse to let him roll in the cow manure that patterns much of the road.

Weekend plans

Friday already. The days are flying by. Staying with Cousin is like stepping into a life I know but do not usually live. I catch up with her friends, her children, the dogs, her in-laws, our shared family.

Walking Westie Boy yesterday I met her neighbour Julie. “How long are you home for?” she asked. Home is a loaded word, and I am not sure I could ever live here. Apparently I am an Irish citizen by right and birth, but I am English in my core. It is England that has raised me nurtured me, made me who I am. Mostly. Because in England I am aware that under my Home Counties accent lies another self, my half-Irish self, complicated by it being a Northern Irish, Protestant self, which to some means a non identity, a non country.

Which I find odd; because my English self is descended from immigrants from both Germany and France, and maybe elsewhere that I don’t know about. Why is it that your claim to nationality in one country should depend on ancestors rooted there for millennia and in another by your ancestors desire to belong to that country?

After Mother died I donated her mother’s autograph book to the Ulster Linen Library. The entries were from before her marriage. Around 17th March many were signed by friends describing themselves as proudly Irish. There were carefully inked harps and shamrocks; poems about Ireland; love of country written in flowing copperplate. A few years later those same people presumably described themselves, post partition, as British. Nationality is a strange creature. Continue reading

The Cool of the Evening

More by luck than judgement I left London as summer suddenly reached for the high temperatures. “It's too hot, ” said Celia in an email earlier today. Here, in the depths of the Derry countryside it's warm and sunny, and just the right side of comfortable. There's a breeze this evening, and I am sitting at the back of the house, in the shade, planning to make a soup from Cousin's abundant parsley crop. She also has an abundant broccoli crop, and we have been looking at ways to cook the leaves. The three dogs are trotting in and out of the houses. Cousin's son and daughter-in-law are still resident in the granny annexe next door while they build a mansion up the road. If they were to add another storey it would be as big as the whole block of flats where I live in London.

For the first time ever there are no cats. The Big Cat succumbed to old age one day at the edge of winter; Fido, the ginger and white cat, still youthful, died in his sleep in a favourite spot on top of the tumble dryer. His death was a shock and a mystery. Fido dealt with Pip, but Cousin is reluctant to bring a new feline into the household while Pip and his issues are still next door neighbours.

Cousin's friend, with whom I have enjoyed jaunts to the John Hewitt Summer School, swapped books and spent many happy hours, is in hospital in Antrim, so that's where we were last night. She has had treatment for cancer since the start of the year, hopefully this is now the end of it and she'll make a good recovery. We talked about Aunt, the Earl Bishop, and looked at an anthology of Irish poetry she had in her room. Nurses came and went, Cousin's friend had her meds which included a sleeping pill, and gradually her conversation became more slurred until she stopped talking altogether and fell asleep. We tiptoed out and Cousin drove us home under skies that were mauve and cloud streaked, lit by a full and shining moon.

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Just Wonderful: Love London

For this post I am going to try to eschew politics as I feel I am going to tip over the edge soon. I believe it was Harold Wilson who said a week was a long time in politics, but here in the UK five minutes can be enough at the moment to find the world you thought you knew has been turned on its head. So let’s have a break from Brexit, though like some ghastly ghoul in a B movie we know it’s going to keep coming back. Like hiccoughs. Only worse. Much worse.

Fortunately, there are parts of life that continue affirming, and often unexpected. I was about to go to bed on Friday when I received an offer of tickets to a performance of Beethoven’s 6th. A couple of texts back and forth established it was local, no charge, and in a multi-storey car park. Who could refuse? Certainly not I, but it turned out lots of my friends who had a bewildering array of entertainments booked for Saturday could, while I had just planned to be at home with MasterB. Note to self: get out more. Steph was free and not only embraced the offer of a spare ticket but offered champagne chez elle before the event. I had to pass on that as I was working and would need all my time available to get to the gig for the appointed hour.

God, I love London. I know the venues around the multi storey car park: Bussey place, the Peckham Plex, but somehow Bold Tendencies had not registered on my radar. Thank-goodness for B&J, sometime and future cat sitters who had bought the tix. We met at Frank’s Bar, a rooftop space with jaw-dropping views and a large clientele. As Steph said when she arrived shortly after I did, “Where the fuck do all these people come from?” Steph says fuck a lot.

A bar with a view

A bar with a view

B&J’s glasses were empty. They had been there a while. Steph and went to the bar. The queue was six deep and a mile sideways. I have no bar presence whatsoever so my expectations were low. I come from a long line of publicans, and some might think that would mean an advantage when it comes to getting the attention of bar staff, but I think it must be indelibly written on my aura that my role is collecting empties and wiping tables. Much to my surprise we were served within a few minutes, minutes during which Steph talked about the mud at this year’s Glastonbury. Mega mud. Continue reading

So Why the Long Face?

The weather, work and pleasure have conspired to create a pleasant week. It’s been warm and sunny suggesting that Summer may be catching up belatedly on her duties to ripen the corn, make us smile and allow the baring of feet.

Work has taken me to interesting places, and MasterB, intimidated by two new young cats on the block, has needed my reassurance and company in the garden, meaning I spent a relaxed hour or so reading my book by the cherry tree when I got home this evening.

Hampton Court Flower Show has been strutting its stuff. I didn’t have tickets, but I did visit the palace which was wonderfuly empty while the horticulturalists and other thrill seekers examined the exhibits and stocked up on plants.Entrance gates Hampton Court palace
I caught some of it on the television and was very taken with a pergola made from the splayed branches of a dead tree reaching toawrds each other lke etoliated fingers. I was hoping to find a picture online but no luck so far. If you were there and you have posted a picture, please do put a link to it in the comments box. Continue reading

A Day Trip to Harwich

The coach left at 8.45am so there was no late breakfast on Saturday morning. It was great to have a day away immediately after returning from das Boot, and this one was arranged months ago, a charabanc outing to Harwich and Dedham with the local archaeological society.

Celia and I were early, partly because my efficient kidneys meant a loo stop before departure was compulsory. Though only for me; Celia is a camel. We diverted to Waterloo station. Why didn’t we think of buying our copies of The Guardian? Probably because apart from the loo, my thoughts were focused on snacks. This meant that although the day was a good way of escaping Brexit, it also turned into anxiety about finding a newspaper. Over the last ten days my need to know the news has reached maniacal heights. I did pick up a tweet which made me laugh aloud.

As we among the last on the coach we didn’t get to sit together, but we both found congenial travel companions who added to the day’s enjoyment. I was, unsurprisingly, eager to use the facilities when we arrived at Harwich where coffee tea and cake awaited us at the second oldest building in the town. It turned to be facility. Singular in more ways than one, in that it was a little hut outside at the back of the building.

The only times I have been to Harwich before have been to take the ferry to Hook of Holland, and I have never seen anything of the town. I knew it was a town that has suffered from the loss of the Royal Navy presence and reduced port activity, so I was expecting a rather down at heel feel. But it felt contented, arty crafty, quirky, and quite comfortable with itself.

Government House

Government House



Official Venue Shanty Festival

Official Venue Shanty Festival

Continue reading

One Week On

This whole media access thing is very strange. I know I have comments on the blog, because I have had notifications via my ‘phone (battery how dead), but I cannot view them or answer them via my iPad because despite positive bars apparently the signal strength is insufficient. It was also insufficient last night when I posted via Blogsy, which is where I am typing now. Does Blogsy have some special deal with the internet? Why is it that nine times out of ten I can post from Blogsy but be unable to view anything else online? Not being technically savvy, these things bemuse and bother me.

Older Nephew came to das Boot today shortly after a text from Celia had alerted me to the fact that the Brexit narrative had again deviated from the expected path. This time it was the announcement that BoJo is not going to stand as a candidate to lead the Tories. Unable to face up to the crisis he has created, was Older Nephew’s opinion. I agree. Continue reading

Wet Weather Boating

The rain is streaming down the windows. We got afloat in a window of pale blue skies and light winds. MasterB walked to das Boot on his harness, having a good sniff around, and deciding that as the cows were in the field he preferred to got on board earlier feather than later. Which was a bit if a shame I thought, as no one was around, no sign of any feral cats, the rain we had been driving through had stopped, and it was a lovely evening. Maybe tomorrow. But despite the fact that I forgot to bring an adequate supply of his favourite biscuits, he has been and is being a little star.

To those of you who have heard and believed that cats are aloof, standoffish, users, it may stretch your belief when I say he's a great little companion. But he is. I sometimes (make that always) feel guilty about bringing him to das Boot where he has a mch more restricted life, but his being here makes it so very much better. Right now he's alternately dozing and listening to the sounds of the birds beyond the boat. I have the curtains open, and when a bird flies past his attention is caught. Continue reading