Small Triumphs

Against the brutalities of the world, small triumphs are like anchors, keeping me safe, secure while the waves crash around me: finishing a library book and returning it before the due date; recycling some small electricals; posting a present to a friend whose birthday falls when I’ll be in New Zealand. 

The news continues to broadcast from a world untethered, a world where interrogators arrive in planes with diplomatic immunity, bone saws in their luggage, and the President of the United States expresses a willingness to believe the Saudi Royal family  knows nothing about it. Given that country’s reputation for state control, and the Crown Prince’s hands on actions, are we really to accept that they were so busy watching the Saudi version of Bake Off that they temporarily abdicated that control to persons unknown? Continue reading

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Halfway Point

So where was I? Kittens maybe.

Dizzy and Dora

You might at first glance wonder where Dora is, but you can see a little of her behind her more dominant brother.
Or perhaps I was talking about plants and photographing them when walking the dog.

Hydrangea

Rosehips

Orange

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Back in Co Derry Again

London was 32C as I trundled my bag up the road to the railway station and on to the airport. I’d packed a cardigan and a waterproof at the top of my bag for easy access. The forecast for Belfast was for 16C. It wasn’t supposed to look like this:

Touchdown

But it was cooler. Much cooler. For the first time in weeks I slept under a full weight quilt. Most nights recently I haven’t had so much as a sheet over me at night. It felt good.
It must have rained a little in the night as when I woke the flagstones were wet. More rain was forecast and the skies had a grey look about them. So when Westie Boy and I embarked on our morning constitutional I wore my waterproof. I was glad enough of it to start as there was a nip to the air, and for a few hundred yards I thought it would have been nice to have gloves too. But the rain held off, and the sun made fitful appearances through the cloud. Continue reading

Here Come the Hols

Two and a half weeks to go until I cross that little strip of water known variously St George’s Channel and the Irish Sea for my hols in Northern Ireland.
Can’t wait.

Oh hang on a moment, I need to sort out some photos first. Maybe I can wait.
The plan hatched earlier in the year, which i hope is still live, is to have a family day with Uncle Bill, with as many photos as we can lay our hands on, and have a good session of family stories. Continue reading

Just One Picture

Could there be a more perfect view?

Slieve Gallion (1,737ft)

In the past I’ve walked up it when I used to take part in the Sperrins hillwalking festival. Nowadays I look at it when I do the regular walk with Westie Boy when I stay at Cousin’s. Aunt Ella’s funeral was two weeks ago and I spent two more days in NI, enjoying beautiful spring weather in the countryside. Tonight I booked flights for ten days in NI in August. 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.

S is for Snow

We’re late. Take off should have been thirty minutes ago. I lift my head from the magazine in my lap and see snow falling, snow I did not know had been forecast. As I watch it becomes heavier, swirling little white dervishes covering the grass and the stationary planes.

Across the aisle there is no visibility from the starboard window. In minutes the snow has covered it as effectively as a shutter. Continue reading

In Departure

I’m very much looking forward to be reunited with MasterB tonight. Having the dog, cat and kittens at Cousin’s is lovely, but none of them replaces my boy.

That said, and our reunion warmly anticipated at least on my part, I shall be delighted to see WestieBoy, Mistress Lily, Dizzy and Dora when I am next this side of the Irish Sea.

Last night I introduced Dizzy to the delights of technology, and he got the idea and the bug so quickly we were already talking about restricting his screen time access.

 

 

 

 

He reached a high score of 420. I was impressed. I deleted the game and tried to install another one, but my iPad decided this was all together too much and baulked, so I put it on my ‘phone, then had a little tussle reclaiming it from Dizzy. Still, it meant Dora was able to play undisturbed with the mouse which is everyone’s, including the dogs’, favourite toy, and to have forty winks undisturbed by her much larger brother.

 

Just look at that little face. I’m increasingly convinced she’s not from the same litter as Dizzy and that he is several weeks older than she. Did you see them with their mother, I asked Cousin. It transpires there were two adult cats with kittens. Do you think they could be from different litters? Oh yes, she replied, the man is a rascal. Dora remains shyer than Dizzy. That sentence is misleading. Dizzy and shyness are complete strangers. He has decided WestieBoy is his pal and role model and greets him confidently, quite without fear, and thinks his new big friend would be a handy cushion.

Dora claimed WestieBoy’s bed in front of the fire. Although it is much greyer than a week ago thanks to the muck and the slush that have stained the dog’s underbelly a dark brown, she seemed touchingly to think she was not highly visible.

 

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Forty-Eight Hours

In forty-eight hours I shall be at Cousin’s. I’ve missed autumn, and now it’s the build up to Christmas and the shortest days of the year. I’m anticipating dark afternoons wearing a hi-viz jacket when walking Westie Boy, heat from the wood burning stove, and a cold bathroom.

What I hadn’t been anticipating until a text came this afternoon were cats. But I now know three cats have joined the household. What Westie Boy makes of them I am eager to see. Why three, what they look like and how they were acquired, I have no idea. I’m hoping they are able to come indoors. Cold evenings are the perfect time to have a warm cat on your knee.

The plan is to see Uncle Bill on Thursday, so that’ll mean a trip to Belfast. I hope there’ll be a second trip too, but a week goes by very quickly. I’d like to go to the Fintan O’Toole lecture at Heaney Homeplace, but that’s on Thursday too, and I don’t think it’d work. Anyway, who would I go with?

Pylons

Golden


On a long leash


Slieve Gullion

A year ago it’d have been Ann D, but she since died. I think this visit is where I will have to accept that death has happened, because from here I find it impossible to imagine Cousin’s without Ann’s presence and conversation. Maybe that’s where the cats will come in. Cats for comfort and distraction.
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