Looking Back at My Holiday

I have been working pretty solidly since getting home, the weekend no exception. I got back tonight and, having fussed MasterB, fed him, cleared the poo from the litter tray, I made my own evening meal. I lingered over it, knowing that when I put my fork down I needed to read some notes for work tomorrow morning when the alarm will be set for six thirty. So a few minutes ago, when i looked at some pictures from my recent holiday they were a welcome reminder of rest and relaxation.

A man came to the house with a book that belonged to his family. Generations past they kept a shop, and it seems my family were among the customers. Cousin and I scanned pages from the 1840s, worried perhaps we were going to find unpaid bills that would by now have accrued considerable interest. There were lots of sundries, quantities of leather, salt, tobacco and bread, but fortunately no outstanding debts. Phew.

Groceries and Sundries

Visiting Uncle Bill, now resident with his son, another of my cousins, we again admired the temperament of the two dogs, brother and sister, found with their mother abandoned by the side of the road in a ditch. They seem to have suffered no lasting trauma.

Bookend Dogs

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Homeward bound

We reached the airport betimes, travelling on a section of road that only opened this morning. Maybe someone cut a ribbon in the pre-dawn, maybe there was a fanfare. I don’t know. Cousin thought it might be busy, but the cars were sparse and we had one of those once in a lifetime conversations where we admired the unpitted tarmac and the smoothness of the ride.

The journey was so quick that I was turned away from bag drop and told to come back in half an hour. I sat on a metal seat and ate my lunch. The airport seemed very quiet. Even security, an area I have learned can take a long time to pass through at Belfast International, was nearly empty. However, I set off an alarm when I passed the first scanner and had to remove my shoes, enter the thing that looks like the orgasmatron in that Woody Allen film, and submit to being patted down before I could collect my hand luggage and proceed.  Continue reading

Out to lunch

I can see that if I am to keep my posts up to date on this holiday I shall have to work a bit harder. Today has been grey but still warm. We are promised rain tonight and tomorrow. So Cousin and I took the dogs out for a walk around five after I got home from a day of social activity. Good dogs both, walking well on their respective leads, allowed to stop and sniff, but not to eat any finds in the verges. As so often in the countryside some of the locals are unappreciative of the beauty of their surroundings. Meals from fast food joints are discarded, probably from car windows, and litter the verges and hedgerows. There are empty cans, polystyrene boxes, greasy paper bags. Hideous to you and me, but to Poppy a positive cornucopia of gourmet possibility. She is, after all, a Labrador, a breed not known for persnickety appetites. One of these mornings I mean to time how long it takes her to eat her meal. I would put it at something less than thirty seconds.
Poppy and Cousin stopped at the fungi, and Westie Boy and I continued up the last and steepest hill. Our goal, before we turned round was Angela’s blue hydrangea bush, but as passed along the road a volley of barks came from a white dog on the doorstep. The dog looked very much like Angela’s daughter’s Akita. The daughter lives next door to Angela, and every time we pass without this dog throwing itself against the door snarling and baring its teeth against the glass is a welcome moment. Maybe it wasn’t the Akita. Westie Boy and I didn’t stay around to find out. We quietly turned round and made our way back whence we had come. When the barking ceased and there was no sound of dog claws on the road behind us, I breathed easily once more.
We caught up with Cousin and Poppy near Cousin’s son’s house. The moment Westie Boy spotted her on the road ahead of us his ears pricked up and he increased his pace so the distance between us and Cousin narrowed in a trice. Continue reading

The end of the weekend

I have eaten all three of my meals at home today, not unusual, but either I am being particularly uncritical or the meals have been particularly good, for as I finished the last mouthful of my freekah based salad this evening I reflected that I could not have enjoyed better meals anywhere. OK lunch would have been improved by a side portion of rice, but otherwise it was all perfection. I reckon I have had fifteen portions of fruit and vegetables today, and that includes a rather lovely alcohol free cocktail of mango, orange and something I have forgotten Celia bought me at Sound Unbound this afternoon. It was made by Mix and Match Unlimited if you are looking to try it.

My neighbours B&J who looked after the incomparable MasterB when I visited Australia in 2016 told me about Sound Unbound. They also kept a close eye on him and gave him love and attention when I was hospitalised for a few days at the end of last month. But that’s another story, and yet another post I haven’t got around to writing. If you follow the link you’ll see we were spoiled for choice with music in a variety of venues, all for free. It was eclectic, it was vibrant, it was eye-opening and it was fun. I rather liked Zwarm who performed in St Giles Cripplegate, the church where my paternal great  great grandparents married. I think they would have been quite surprised by today’s use of the space.

Zwarm at st Giles Cripplegate

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The Mumbot

I do hope her creator has copyrighted her, because I think the Mumbot has the potential to be a global star.
My cousin Russell told me about her a while ago. He had been doing a workshop with adults who had a range of mainly invisible disabilities. They were making super heroes out of old packaging, one woman had very firm ideas about what she was making, The Mumbot.
As her design became clear, Russell worried about safeguarding issues, but by the end of the project hers was the creation he wanted to buy.
We talked about the Mumbot again last week, and again I looked at the photograph. Since then, I have had a yearning for my own Mumbot. It’s been a stressful few weeks for one reason or another and I feel the Mumbot could be just the super hero for our times in general and for me in particular. Continue reading

By Request

Cagey has asked for pictures of the cat that looks like Queen Victoria. She means Lily.

Lily


She settled well in the countryside after a lifetime just outside Belfast. Having watched the inhabitants of her new demesne from a high vantage point she finally descended among them to rule the space. She commandeered the dog basket, stretched out on the sofa, rolled on her back on the floor confident that none of her subjects would annoy her. Continue reading

There Will Be Tears

There is nothing pleasant about seeing a ninety-six year old man in tears at his wife’s funeral. Uncle Bill bore up well, and showed evident pleasure greeting his various nieces and nephews outside the crematorium. The service, conducted by my cousin Tom, was kept light at Uncle Bill’s request, and it was good to see him nodding and smiling, laughing at one point, as Tom reminded us of happier times. The tears came afterwards, when we gathered to have tea and sandwiches and Uncle Bill was assailed by a stream of people offering condolences.

I’m glad to say he smiled again, and we made plans to meet in the summer (we being as many of the clan as can be assembled at one time) with photos to share, pencils to annotate, and memories to swap. His younger son, the one who lives in Melbourne, looks so like his father it’s a bit like time travel. He goes home tonight, so the jet lag he’s just getting over will be overlaid by the next long haul flights. But it was good to see him by his father’s side, and I’m sure he’d vote it worth the discomfort. Both sons are supportive, and the family is close. They are concerned for Uncle Bill, but while he mourns the loss of a wife, they have lost their mother, their children have lost their grandmother. That’s never easy, no matter how old you are. So mutual support all round will, I trust, be the order of the day. There are bound to be more tears, more moments of dislocation and aching loss, and that’s right too. Continue reading

A Different Death

As it turned out, by the end of yesterday evening it wasn’t Cat’s life and death I was thinking about, but my Aunt Ella’s. I got the call around 10.30 to say she had died earlier in the evening. An expected death, but not expected quite this soon. Tonight I spoke to her husband, my Uncle Bill, Mother’s favourite sibling and the last one surviving. He’ll be 97 in the autumn. I don’t know how old Aunt Ella was, but I’m guessing around the same.
We spoke the other night after I had spent some time over the weekend with his daughter-in-law who was in London for a few days. It was she who told me Ella had widespread cancer and the doctors were talking about weeks, at the most, months. Yesterday afternoon I sent this picture to her of her then infant husband with his mother Ella.

Mother and Son

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Maybe I’m a Millionaire

On the way home from a good day out in the Smoke with Celia I bought a copy of the day’s Guardian and a lottery ticket. We’d walked, talked, eaten, been to the British Museum; Celia to the Scythians exhibition, me to look at the Assyrian galleries in greater detail.

The day was colder than I’d thought when I left home. I was glad of the hat I bought in Leigh on Wednesday. Lunch was in a small Korean café in Museum Street called Bimimbab. Delicious. I’ll happily go there again.

Doing the lottery routinely is a relevantly new thing for me. In the past I have bought the occasional ticket; at one place of work I was part of a consortium that never won anything; but buying a ticket every week is a recent development. It has a lot to do with Brexit and my fears for the future. The chances of winning the lottery are extraordinarily remote, but a touch less remote than if I had no ticket. Continue reading

More or Less Christmas

A few days before I left London for Northern Ireland Celia and I were walking down the road spotting the windows where the early adopters of Christmas 2017 decorations had been at work.

Early adopters for London that is. My first walk with WestieBoy revealed that all of Cousin’s neighbours had already dressed their homes for the festive season. Any idea I might have had that this was a country thing was put to flight when we had a three generations meal just outside Belfast. The bus between the Europa station and Saintfield went past house after house bedecked with fairy lights. My cousin Alex and his daughter Nadine were negotiating about how many trees they needed to get. Last year they had four.

I was invited to a wreath making session on Saturday morning, I declined but there were several other occasions where I found myself completely at sea amid earnest discussions about garlands, table runners and goodness knows what esoteric necessities of which I was completely ignorant.

I realised I have never been in Ireland in early December before, though I have spent Christmas there. I was culturally challenged.

I expect Auntie Anne (my mother) made a lot of Christmas, remarked Cousin. Not really, no, I answered. Mother was an ardent declutterer decades before the term entered popular usage. She tolerated Christmas decorations when we were small, but by my teens insisted that cards from friends and family were the only ornaments that mattered. I don’t remember the last time we had a tree. Cousin was surprised. She questioned me further which made me reflect on how Mother had so wholly abandoned this tradition from her native land. Not that there would have been much jollity in her home when she was growing up, but she must have seen what other families did.

I like a bit of tinsel, I am big on fairy lights at any time of year, I have gold and silver stars and little padded Christmas trees that I scatter on surfaces. Mother would not have approved. But I don’t have a tree, and the mass rush to buy and consume at Christmas leaves me cold. So I was very pleased to read this article in today’s Guardian.

There was a programme on the television earlier this week that I could not watch. It was about the most expensive presents imaginable. People with untold wealth commissioning others to find gifts costing millions of pounds. I found the concept obscene. The idea seemed to be to make the rest of us jealous of the mega rich. It made me feel their lives were very poor if this was their definition of pleasure and success. Ostentatious wealth is somehow very unattractive. That isn’t stopping me from buying a lottery ticket for tonight’s draw but my ambitions are fairly modest;enough to buy a two bedroom property with private garden in the same locality I live in now.

I’m set to enjoy my pared down Christmas. There’ll be parties and socialising, but no diamonds either on display or coveted. You can keep your designer labels and overpriced witnots. The gifts I’m giving are not expensive, but I have thought about the recipients. Prosecco will be drunk, nibbles eaten, carols sung, and far from feeling deprived, I anticipate thoroughly enjoying the jolly season.

Have a good one.