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

Sunday morning

Celia will recognise the scenario: go for a walk that includes a visit to a place with small, independent shops; stop in those shops and see a dress/shirt/cardigan you like; try it on; buy it; return from your walk with a new addition to your wardrobe. However, I have added a new twist. The shop is in Maghera, a small town not far away, so when we returned there to buy groceries, I went back to the shop, Allie Mae, to take a second look at two more items I had seen, and I bought them too. The shop will soon have a website and be selling via shopify, so if you want to look at the stock, sign up here.
Not all walks end in shops. Walks around Cousin’s are entirely retail free. It was warm and sunny this morning when Westie Boy, Poppy and I followed out usual route to the end of the road and back.

Shaded

Blue skies

Fortunately it had rained in the night so Poppy enjoyed a paddle in the larger puddles while Westie Boy drank. I admired the view.

Interesting

Both dogs are now lying on the floor asleep.I may take them for a shorter walk when we come back from hearing Alan Johnson later today. They only had one good walk yesterday, but Poppy was tired by the late evening. She took to her bed while I read the Guardian and was soon snoring, then dreaming, making little woofing noises and moving her front paws. I must have been very quiet when I came to the kitchen this morning as I surprised her sleeping on the sofa. Continue reading

Wednesday

Morning:
The number of dogs to be walked today is growing. Cousin’s Son D and his wife have gone to Liverpool with her brother for the day, leaving their two dogs at home. I shan’t walk them all together, so I shall probably get three walks myself, meaning my step counter should be recording a good number by nightfall. The main road has become so much busier it rules out any walks that take in even a small stretch of it, so the only down side is the repetitive nature of these walks. However, at this time of year there are always new plants coming into flower, calves in the fields, neighbours on the road.

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In a moment we are off to Bellaghy to collect our tickets for Friday (Van Morrison) and Sunday (Alan Johnson). Two very different ‘acts’ at the same venue, the Seamus Heaney Homeplace. In preparation for listening to Alan Johnson, I caught up on his memoirs. He has written four volumes, and until a month or so ago I had only read the first one. The fourth has recently come out in paperback, so I am guessing this round of talks and interviews he is doing is to promote sales. It’s a musical memoir. I was nearly at the end when I realised The was no mention of Van the Man. A quick glance at the index confirmed the Belfast Cowboy’s omission. On the spur of the moment I sent Alan Johnson an email. Somewhat to my surprise I received a reply within forty-eight hours. He explained he loved Astral Weeks, but there were other musicians whose music he preferred to Morrison’s. It was a pleasant friendly email, as one would expect from this Johnson. Continue reading

The week so far

Monday
Already a day behind. I am reassured to read that 59% of people polled in a survey wouldn’t trust Boris Johnson enough to buy a second hand car from him. However as a significant number of members of the Tory party have chosen to elect him to a post which is somewhat more important than selling second hand cars, that reassurance is tempered with fear.
Some of the red tops are printing headlines suggesting Johnson is a champion, a knight in shining armour who is going to tilt with the EU and get an advantageous Brexit deal. This is disingenuous. For one, there is no deal that would make leaving the EU a better option than staying in. Secondly, the EU has made it clear there is no better deal than the one secured under Theresa May for Brexit. Johnson et al are engaged in window dressing, preparing to blame the EU for intransigence, when the ones being intransigent are Johnson et al. These same Merry band of cynics will then turn to the electorate, claiming to be patriots, and call a election. It feels like a runaway train. What we need is someone who can apply the brake.
Anyway enough of such things today.
The promised rain came at breakfast time yesterday, so we had a slow start, but by midday Cousin and I were on the bus to Belfast. We had been expecting to go out to meet her daughter K and go on to Downpatrick, but Cousin’s ‘phone rang once we were on the road to say the plans had changed. So instead we spent a few pleasant hours in the city, and I acquired a Van Morrison self-guided walking tour manual. I didn’t manage to get a collapsible lunch box for Celia as they were out of stock, but
I did make the decision to purchase a reversible dress for my second great niece. I had seen them when I was with Fiona, but was hesitant. Second great niece has a big sister and bigger girl cousins, so has an inherited wardrobe. I decided to Ask Her Mother. She gave the purchase the thumbs up, so in a few days the postman should be delivering one of these.
Tuesday:
A two walk day, the first with one dog, the second, appropriately, with two. Westie Boy went well ff to the beautician with Toots this morning, so Poppy and I had a walk on our own. She is very interested in the cows, not in a bad way. She wags her tail, and her body language is entirely friendly. Some of the cows seem to reciprocate her interest, leaning over the hedges and sniffing the air. I was back in Belfast, back at the falafel place, back at the Ulster Museum. I could spend a lot of time there very happily. I loved the Cornelia Parker Left Right and Centre film. Also the exhibition of woodcuts by women artists. Inevitably I didn’t have enough time, and I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to get back before my return home. Suddenly the days are speeding by. We are hoping to see Uncle Bill on Thursday, it’s Van Morrison on Friday, Alan Johnson on Sunday, and I still haven’t quite finished my book An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris which I am finding gripping.

Tomorrow, Cousin’s daughter K is coming with the lovely Westie Pup, now the sweetest natured little dog you ever could meet, so it could be a three dog walk. The chances of taking pictures with three leads are about nil.

Slievegrine Gallion at sunset

Fungi

At the top of the hill

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 Roads Well Travelled

My photographs so far are fairly sparse.

Sunshine

Fungi

In my defence, it is quite tricky to take photographs when you have a Westie at the end of a lead in your left hand, and a yellow Labrador at the end of a lead in your right. And you are making sure each dog stays ‘in lane’ so that you don’t get tripped up, tangled or twisted.

Poppy at the field gate

Other than that, the walks up and down the lane have mainly gone well. I say mainly as both canines disgraced themselves when we met a black Labrador, also on a lead, on the road. Honestly, you’d have thought they had been brought up in the gutter, or had never seen another dog in their lives. Gone were the socially adjusted dogs I know. Poppy and Westie Boy tolerate each other rather than being best mates, but faced with a dog they didn’t know they reacted as one, lunging and barking.

Once was enough, but we met the dog again and the whole performance was repeated. Seeing another dog coming towards us I expected the worst, but apart from suddenly pricked ears and quickened gait, we walked by without incident.

During the day yesterday I took the longer road to Belfast, travelling there and back by bus to meet Fiona. Regular readers of this blog will anticipate an account of shopping, but not this time. On Wednesday afternoon a friend of Cousin’s called at the house. She runs an antique business and I have been a customer of hers in the past. Her daughter Charlotte is a curator at the Ulster Museum, and curated the Fashion and Feminism exhibition Fiona and I visited last year. I said how much we’d enjoyed it, and a few hours later we got a message to say Charlotte would be happy to take us around her new exhibition Vice Versa.

It’s not a large exhibition, one gallery, but fascinating. Charlotte loves her job it’s clear. She talks knowledgeably and entertainingly. It was a lesson in socio-economic history, and much much more. Charlotte will be doing talks and arranging workshops I shan’t be about to attend, but i’ve A feeling Fiona might. Continue reading

Departure Day

Just a few minutes to go until my flight is announced. I am not someone who usually enjoys airports, but after a morning of domestic activity – stripping the bed, loading the washing machine, hanging out the wet bed linen, ironing it, remaking the bed, and a dozen other little things I needed to do before leaving home – the air conditioned anonymity of the airport has been pleasant and the time has passed very quickly.

I heard that today may be the hottest day of the year so far in London. I shouldn’t be surprised. It was great for getting my washing dry, but not the sort of heat I enjoy in cities. So it is with a sense of relief that I am heading to the colder climes of Co Derry. Continue reading

Timing

When I booked my flights to Belfast earlier in the year I wasn’t to know my departure was going to coincide with the almost certain elevation of Boris Johnson to the post of Prime Minister. I’m not going to go on about it. Marina Hyde expresses the whole fiasco so much better than I could here. Though I can’t resist adding a link to the very wonderful Michael Spicer and his latest YouTube on what is fast becoming known as kippergate.

It’s people like Michael Spicer and Marina Hyde who give me hope that my country is not totally beyond redemption, and at some time in the future may rediscover reason and self-respect.

It so happens my departure also coincides with a heat wave I am very happy to miss. I am less happy that the forecast for almost all my stay in Co Derry is for rain. But hey ho, I’ll take the waterproofs and it’ll be ok. Of course I shall be still be in the UK, but with Johnson running (sic) things, the break up of the Union may be close. I have my Irish passport now, as well as my British one, but at this rate I’m going to have an English one before very long. Never mind, it’ll be dark blue. That is, I am told, what matters.

MasterB will be in the tender care of the Young Relative. She visited again on Friday evening and he made clear his pleasure at seeing her. The family of the ginger female down the road, who gave birth to five ginger kittens a couple of weeks ago, is also on holiday, and their own Young Relative is in residence to cat sit, so these two YRs may meet up and socialise. On Friday it was YR, Octavia, Celia and me at the local Lebanese. B&J would normally count as back up, but they mega Prom fans so will be at the Royal Albert Hall every night for the next few weeks. Actually both Octavia and Celia are away the first week of my holiday, so I am glad there is the other YR for support close by. I am also glad I invested in a sod stream lat weekend so she has easy access to fizzy water, and I have an extraordinarily good little fan from Lidl which I hope will help on hot nights.I don’t think I am going to need it in Co Derry. Continue reading

To Blog or to WhatsApp?

My friend Octavia has been away for five weeks and is due back tonight. I’m hoping to see her tomorrow if jet lag doesn’t claim her. It was Celia’s birthday on Friday, mine tomorrow, and we are meeting up with a small group of mutual friends to have lunch in a local, unpretentious gaff at Borough. Yes, there are unpretentious places at Borough if you know where to look. I took my cousin-in-law to the same place for lunch when she was over with Food NI last month, and she loved it.
While Octavia was away, she sent me WhatsApp messages with photographs of stunning views. I suggested she start a blog. After a few days she said that it took her minutes to WhatsApp some photos, whereas it must take me much longer to write a blog post, (I assume she meant the type of post I am writing now), and when she had time to spare, she wanted to relax, not write.
Fair enough.
It did get me thinking though. I use WhatsApp sometimes to send photos too. I think it’s a great medium for quick communication. But as a record keeping app, it’s lacking. It became quite frustrating getting tiny photos to see on my ‘phone when I should much rather look at larger ones on my laptop screen. Continue reading