The Elephant in the Room

Well, not really a room, more a district and a city. Let me explain.

When I visited Coventry last week I was surprised and intrigued to find representations of elephants.

A Line of Balancing Elephants

I live close to the Elephant and Castle in London. I’m used to references to elephants hereabouts. We have a magnificent one with a howdah on his back that adorns the delapidated shopping centre; there’s Elephant Cars based in Elephant Road; the Electric Elephant Café here in Walworth, offices in Hannibal House; Elefest, once our annual beano celebrating all things Elephant connected. But I was unaware of any pachyderm associations with Coventry, usually a city more renowned for its connections with Lady Godiva’s naked horse riding event. However, elephants there definitely were.

 

An Elephant in the Wall

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Under the Same Sun

Westie Puppy is back in her Belfast home and thriving. MasterB has not been outside for two days. The birds are emptying one of the four feeders in the garden and ignoring the others.

Half past five tonight and it was still light. It is spring. The evidence is all around us in the shape of daffodils, snowdrops, crocuses. New shoots pierce the earth. Trees are in blossom. Neighbours are turning the earth in their gardens and planting small purchases made at flower nurseries. I went out without my gloves.

Today is St David’s Day, 1st March, just over two weeks to go before Ersatz Paddies take to the streets wearing dubious hats and swearing allegiance to Guinness. When I was a child being Irish was unfashionable. Actually, it was more than unfashionable, it was social leprosy. I remained largely ignorant of this due to Mother’s relentless programming. My sister and I were brought up to believe our half-Irishness was a miraculous bonus, something of pride and joy. Similarly being the daughters of a working mother when girls we knew at school had mothers who mainly stayed at home. How I looked down on them. I’m sure the feeling was mutual.

I was around twelve when the penny finally dropped that I was doubly socially inferior as far as many of my classmates and their parents were concerned. At Mother’s funeral one of my cousins, the one who the rest of us see as being fantastically and unaccountably right wing, queried my description of Mother as Irish. It’s how she described herself, I replied. Another cousin said Mother would have called Derry Londonderry. No she didn’t, I said, hearing Mother’s voice in my head saying she came from Co Derry.

A few years ago Cousin and I deposited our grandmother’s autograph book at the Linenhall Library in Belfast. Much as we valued it, it seemed to have a significance beyond our family. It’s clear that my grandmother and her friends all considered themselves uncomplicatedly and proudly Irish. There are many patriotic entries for St Patrick’s Day; verses, pressed shamrocks, pen and ink drawings of harps. My grandmother signed the Ulster Covenant. Look online and you can find her name. I am guessing that post Partition she may have called herself British, but I don’t know. By then she was married and trapped in a cycle of pregnancy and increasing hardship, leading to her premature death in 1927. Continue reading

Westie Pup

I should hate to disappoint a newly ennobled Octavia by refusing to comply with her request. So here are some pictures of Her Puppyness with all her dishevelled charm.

She may grow into her ears one day.

Getting photos of her awake and still is a challenge in itself. She is full of life, loves being with people and has a Miss Marple like interest in everything around her.

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Saturday

Day five of my holiday (or four if you don’t count Tuesday which was when I travelled) and this is my first post. I am sitting on a warm bus heading into Belfast and just beyond to visit Uncle Bill and his wife, and to go out to lunch with them and their elder son. I’m armed with a book for my uncle, chocolates for my aunt, and nothing for my cousin.

I have my ‘phone and its charger as since Monday the battery has starting running down very rapidly. I hope there is a power point on the bus home, or I may not be able to tell Cousin I am back at Toomebridge, and the walk to her house in the dark is not something I should like to attempt.

In contrast with my journey from London to Belfast n the summer, this time the ‘plane was half empty and we arrived twenty minutes ahead of schedule. It was still early afternoon, so we reached Cousin’s in daylight where I was greeted by Westie Boy and made Westie Puppy’s acquaintance. She belongs to one of Cousin’s daughters, and is a temporary resident while her toilet training is completed. She’s a rough and tumble scruff at the minute, and it’s hard to imagine her as a townie sophisticate in Belfast, sitting primly by her owners while they enjoy a cup of coffee in the city. Though she does love to sit beside you, to lie on your feet, so that bit will be fine, but I think we’ll have to get her used to the brush before her first public appearances. Continue reading

The Penultimate Leg part 1

I was going to call this the last leg, but that will be Heathrow to Home, and even this penultimate leg divides in separate parts however you look at it.

I was early to bed and earlyish to rise. With only five Singaporean dollars to my name this morning, the hotel blow out buffet was never an option. But I had a very good vegetarian selection at a nearby Indian café last night for a princely almost five dollars, and had the sense to ask if they did breakfasts. The answer being in the affirmative, once washed and my bags rearranged for the nth time, I set off.

It was obviously a breakfast venue popular with locals too.

You may not find Dynamic Dining in any of the eating guides to Singapore, but I recommend it for good food and friendly service. There was a slight hiccough with my coffee which was served already sweetened, but my food was great from the word go. It turns out one of the cooks used to work for P&O as a chef. The before and after pictures of my meal tell their own story.

 

This chap arrived by motorbike just as I was paying.

Then back to the hotel and a quick trip to the eighth floor for some last views of Singapore.

 

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A Hit With a Pig

Closing the car door, I realised I was giving off a fairly strong smell of pig. It's not a bad smell, but it is fairly distinctive; earthy with an overtone of muddy straw. Fortunately Vicki was probably similarly aromatic. Anyway, she didn't seem to mind, and after all it was she who had organised our trip to Edgar's Mission and a spot of pig cuddling.

Not only cuddlesome pigs, but a gorgeous dog called Ruby who was sent to be shot because she was a failure as a farm dog, hopeless at herding stock, and far keener to interact with humans.

Do you feel a bit of a theme developing here? Last week Gem/Jem, now Ruby. Though the first would be my childhood's black Labrador Tessa, the gun dog who wouldn't retrieve, whose days were at one point similarly numbered.

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The Dog Days

I didn't take my camera with me when we went to the cinema yesterday morning, and as it turned out we continued straight on to Melbourne Museum, so for the first day since I arrived here I took no pictures. Well, that's not quite true. When we got back we found Mel had come round accompanied by Wombat, another neighbour's dog and the only dog Billie seems to feel friendship for. Here are both dogs being hopeful as cheese is cut on the counter.

He's her toyboy, being around three years old compared to her sixteen. He's also a lot bigger as he's a bull mastiff. Like other bull mastiffs I've met, he's a gentle giant, fond of leaning against you and soliciting affection.

We broke open the sloe gin Vicki bought in Richmond, and the cocktails were delicious. As lovely as the ones we had in the bar on Sunday. Maybe lovelier. We stopped at two, which was wise.

It's a good thing I'm leaving soon as I could get a taste for these. Although Melbourne's tall buildings are impressive, it's the vernacular architecture I like; the streets of low rise houses with tin roofs; lots of bungalows (strange that in the UK the word bungalow is almost a term of abuse, perhaps if they looked more like these they'd have a better press) with flowers and shrubs in the gardens.

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Flora and Fauna in Melbourne

As the number of days I have left before I fly home drops to single figures so the temperature rises. Tomorrow it is expected to be 38c in Melbourne. We're planning a day in an air-conditioned cinema followed by an air-conditioned museum. I thought I might do another trail in Melbourne's arcades this afternoon, but the promise of Martinis at two has persuaded me to put that off. In the meantime I'm enjoying herbal tea at the kitchen table.

Hobarts's gardens were full of colour. I'd have thought that was normal, but we were told last year there was a drought and nothing was growing. People are making the most of the current lushness.

In Seddon, the flowers are also blooming. I am very fond of amaryllis, and this one is in a garden just round the corner.

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Of My Australian Trip, MasterB and a Day on das Boot

Bar a rather late contribution to a photo challenge (I am always amazed at how some people apologise for their ‘lateness’ less than twenty-four hours after the challenge is announced) it feels as though I have been an absentee blogger and bloggee, or whatever the right word is for someone who reads blogs, for a long time. Oh only just over a week? Well, there you go.

The lovely Romeo has injured his leg and is confined to quarters, so MasterB, who has been refusing to go outside unless I am right beside him armed with my Super Soaker, is being bravely independent and has let me know my hovering is de trop. Therefore I am indoors, impatient to go to bed, but happy My Boy is feeling confident in His Own Garden.

The countdown to my Australian adventure has begun. I have been making lists of lists. I thought I was being over organised when I tried to sort my currency last week, only to be told I should have allowed a month. Fingers crossed I am not reduced to begging. Every day I tell MasterB I shall be back before Christmas, that although I shall not be with him that does not mean I do not love him. I am secretly worried that when I get home he will look at me and say, “I live with B&J now. See you around.”

I don’t want him to be unhappy while I am away, to pine, but I do want him to be thrilled to see me when I get home. Is that too much?

Older Nephew is going to complete the boat winterising. I love das Boot but I am not a good boat owner. I wonder if I should give it to Older Nephew now. Should I pop my clogs he would inherit it. I have no intention of popping my clogs just yet.

We had such a lovely time on the river. There was no other traffic. Lots of birds, especially grebes, which I thought were supposed to be rare, but obviously not on the Cam. Lots of herons.

Heron taking off

Heron taking off

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