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

Lost on the Surrey/Sussex Borders

So far 2017 seems to be The Year of Not Blogging, but hopefully that will change. It is also the year when language comes under fresh assaults from people who call lies alternative truths.

But let’s draw a veil over the last few days and think of something else, something that reminds me why the world is somewhere I still enjoy, and why I think it’s worth fighting to protect.

As I said in my last post over a week ago, Celia and I went on a ramble and as it was the anniversary of Aunt’s death, we thought we could call it Auntie Mary’s Walk. Just one problem: we’re not entirely sure where we went. Celia and I have yet to go on a ramble where we don’t get lost.

At this point I’m pretty sure we were on the right track.

Hedgehog Lane

Hedgehog Lane

Postbox and Black Cat

Postbox and Black Cat

This wasn’t the route we were following, but it ran alongside ours for a while.

Fancy a Pint?

Fancy a Pint?

In retrospect, perhaps we should have followed it, as we never did reach the pub. As the pubs we have planned to eat at in the past have invariably been closed or no longer serving food, lunch has been the point where we have deviated from our planned route and ended up somewhere we did not expect to be. This time, although Celia called the pub and confirmed they were indeed still open and sold hot meals, I announced that given our track record, I intended to take soup with me. It was this (deserved) lack of faith that prompted Celia to go to Stanfords and buy a map. Though she did bring sandwiches.

We got lost quite early on, but were rescued by a woman walking a rather lovely Golden Retriever called Bingo. Naturally I do not know the woman’s name. She set us on the right direction and off we went. Given that we passed most of the things she told us to look out for, I don’t understand how we found ourselves at the wrong end of the map.

However by that time we had been thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The fields and ditches were covered in a dusting of snow.

A Dusting of Snow

A Dusting of Snow

Continue reading

First Anniversary

This Saturday will be the 14th January. I understand that on the other side of the pond the floss-haired one will be inaugurated as President of the United States, something that strikes me as a being a joke too far, as well as being a jolly disrespectful thing to do on the first anniversary of Aunt’s death.

Or so I thought, but Lyn has just emailed me to say it’s the 20th, not 14th, so goodness knows where I got that idea from.

 

Auntie Mary october 2015

Auntie Mary October 2015

I meet quite a few Americans through my work. I have yet to meet one who says (confesses?) s/he voted for Trump, which may be significant in itself as I am meeting those who travel away from their home country, and I know a large number of US citizens never acquire or use passports.

A woman today, I’ll call her Jane, told me she is returning on Saturday, and marching on Sunday as a Nasty Woman who is not going to be quiet. She won’t be alone; just her party comprises two busloads of similarly nasty women. She cheered my heart. Continue reading

Nature Walk

Vicki was dubious about our accommodation when we booked. Now she’s converted. The staff are friendly, the position in Battery Point couldn’t be much better; it’s clean, simple with comfortable beds and good showers. I’d happily stay here again, so if you’re planning a trip to Hobart get in touch and I’ll give you the details.

,

Tonight we have borrowed plates and cutlery so we can eat ‘at home’ after a day at Mount Wellington. We went up by minibus to a summit shrouded in mist. Everyone else was staying with the minibus, but we had opted to walk down. Vicki started to have second thoughts on the way up, but screwed her courage to sticking point and off we set. The first, and longest, part of the walk was decidedly rocky. I have dodgy knees, so chose to lower my centre of gravity for extended sections of the path and move down on my bottom. The mist was my friend as I tend to fear when I can see how far down it is should I fall.

There was lichen, fungi, trees, plants I have never seen before, the sound of birds who mainly stayed out of view, but we saw some with yellow flashes on their sides. It was something of a nature walk.

I was in my walking boots and Vicki in her Blundstones, advertised as boots you can wear anywhere, doing anything. She disagrees. On steep descents her toes started slamming in the end of the boots; she has at least one blister to deal with now. Our progress was steady but slow, Vicky nursing her toes, me taking photographs. A few people passed us on the way up. Brave souls. You wouldn’t catch me doing that ascent these days.

As we walked on there were more trees, more bird calls. Then water. Lots of streams crossing our paths. Bubbling rivulets tumbling poetically. More walkers headed uphill. One or two coming downhill at a faster pace than us. Some trees seemed to have had their bark shredded by sharp claws.

Animal droppings at the beginning and end of the walk Vicki identified as wallaby. m. We hit a clearing; cars, toilets, picnic tables and a coffee van. We ate our sandwiches and enjoyed hot drinks. We had now reached the final ‘easy’ section. But if you have dodgy knees steps are often painful, not easy. It was beautiful though. Fern something, and it was very ferny.

Photo-20161116234800978.jpg

While we waited for the bus a kookaburra laughed loudly and invisibly nearby. There was quite a long wait and we checked our phones, replied to messages and sent new ones. We were deposited in the centre of Hobart, not far from our starting point. I have been wearing my boots for the last few days, but as we walked down to Salamanca Place I realised I was walking like a Walker; someone who has spent a large part of the day in the hills and been happy. Someone who has enjoyed reconnecting with nature and feeling her feet upon the ground in places that, if no longer wild, are not part of the tamed existence of the city.

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

Continue reading

Out of Reach

It's a rule of fruit picking that the best fruit is either too high or protected by nettles and brambles. Still, it's that time of year when the blackberries are ripening and high on my list for this morning was to go a-gathering in Reach.

I've written about Reach before. It's a village near das Boot with a perfect pub and a perfect organic farm. Most of my blackberry gathering over the last four summers has taken place there. Not all the berries were ripe. Some were still at the flowering stage, so should I get back within the next month or so there's a good chance I shall get a second crop.

Continue reading

Wednesday Postscript

I don’t mean to rub it in but I shall be afloat again tomorrow. If it helps, I can go because I do not have any work, and work equals income, until Monday.

Not my boat

Not my boat


I didn’t mean to post twice tonight, but MasterB is outside, I have finished The Tidal Zone, and I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to clear some space in my laptop’s memory. I’m hoping the next book group book will be delivered before I leave. It’s Jane Gardam’s The Queen of the Tambourine which I thought I had, but if I do it’s buried deep in the bookshelves. The library doesn’t have it, so I ordered a second hand copy from AbeBooks. My idea is to sit on das Boot and read it.

Night is falling earlier. It’s an unwelcome reminder that bare-toed days are numbered. We are two months past the longest day so just four months off the longest night. Grabbing time at das Boot before the temperatures drop is a priority. I shan’t venture far; some short walks locally, maybe drive to Reach and the organic farm.

local landscape

local landscape


Continue reading

A Week

I feel like someone who has got behind with her homework; no posts for a week, and the less I post the less motivated I am. Is this the beginning of the end, or just a bit of a pause? So just a few random thoughts about the last week or so while I catch up.

British politics continue to bemuse and frustrate me. Goodness only knows where or what the Labour party will be in twelve months time. Theresa May, our safe pair of hands, has suggested that people who live in homes where the government would like to frack could receive financial compensation. Sorry, but to me that makes no sense. Fracking makes no sense; the risks far outweigh the advantages, surely we should be investing in sustainable energy? And those people who live on that land are only the temporary custodians, the effects of fracking are something that future generations will have to deal with.

The local feline population has quadrupled over the last few weeks. The mystery of the pretty tabby has been solved, and she’s a he, so I got that wrong. My neighbour Wendy has been rather hoping he’s homeless, but it turns out he is called Romeo and is the loved cat belonging to the local Kurdish supermarket. The manager was both surprised and amused to learn Romeo has been exploring our garden. So that just leaves us wondering if the scruffy black cat with the white bib, the white and ginger cat, the two huge cats that look like pumas, have homes. The two fluffy black and white cats live over the wall; I think the smart (as in appearance, his IQ is questionable) black cat with the white bib is Johnny from over the road, and there seemed to be another tabby tonight. I am going to be on litter tray duty for a while yet.

But MasterB is still enjoying his new wobble biscuit toy, which from my point of view is great, as it doesn’t roll away and get hidden or stuck in awkward places round the flat.

Wobbly toy

Wobbly toy

Continue reading

Wet Weather Boating

The rain is streaming down the windows. We got afloat in a window of pale blue skies and light winds. MasterB walked to das Boot on his harness, having a good sniff around, and deciding that as the cows were in the field he preferred to got on board earlier feather than later. Which was a bit of a shame I thought, as no one was around, no sign of any feral cats, the rain we had been driving through had stopped, and it was a lovely evening. Maybe tomorrow. But despite the fact that I forgot to bring an adequate supply of his favourite biscuits, he has been and is being a little star.

To those of you who have heard and believed that cats are aloof, standoffish, users, it may stretch your belief when I say he's a great little companion. But he is. I sometimes (make that always) feel guilty about bringing him to das Boot where he has a mch more restricted life, but his being here makes it so very much better. Right now he's alternately dozing and listening to the sounds of the birds beyond the boat. I have the curtains open, and when a bird flies past his attention is caught. Continue reading