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.
Tonight Westie Boy and I have enjoyed a local walk and wish I had taken my camera as the skies were again beautiful, and the Sperrins were softly violet in the distance. Cows grazed the fields; rabbits fled at our approach; a bird of prey hovered and swooped; there were raspberries ripening in the hedgerow, honeysuckle arching yellow and pink flowers up into the air, yellow cowslips, and lots of green green grass. The rust red roof of a barn at the end of the lane looked as though it had been placed there for painterly effect. We met a woman walking an old dog. A stray, she explained who had arrived one day and never left. Grey muzzled, he responded to Westie Boy's ecstatic overtures with resigned calm. He has arthritis and heart problems; on his last legs, said the woman. But loved, and enjoying an amble in the cool of the evening. Not a bad way to spend one's last days.