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?



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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Time Flying

I ought to have known that the days would fly by, but the fact it's Friday already is something of a shock only a handful of walks left with Westie Boy before I head home again.


Toots is similarly shocked.

As are the cows.


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The Arrival of Spring

In the short time I have been away winter has begun to recede and make way for spring. Walking Westie Boy the past couple of days my heart has lifted to see the snowdrops and crocuses in gardens and by the roadside, fat lambs in the fields and yellow gorse in the lanes. The days are noticeably longer, dwindling to soft greys and blues as the sun streaks the clouds with pink.


While I looked, Westie Boy sniffed. He may have missed the rabbit that hopped ahead of us, but his nose twitched at burrows, his head disappeared down the entrances to larger animals' abodes, and we had a difference of opinion about the wisdom of rolling in cow dung and fox poo.


Ewes lifted their faces as we passed, keeping a watchful eye. Their lambs, less wary, bounced about them, or nuzzled at their bellies. Farmers were making the most of the extra daylight, working in the fields. Once the elderly golden retriever at the bottom of the hill rushed out barking, but when we passed on later walks, he slept on on the porch step.

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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

Springhill House, Moneymore, Co Derry

One day we went to Springhill. Described in the guide book as ‘surely the prettiest house in Ulster’ it’s a mile away from Moneymore, and some of our relatives used to work there living in a house in the grounds. We reckon it might have been the lodge, just near the gates.

 Lodge House

Lodge House

None of those relatives are still alive to refute the stories told about them in our branch of the family, and of course they may have their root in vulgar jealousy, but they sound as though they shared some genes with Hyacinth Bucket. Although they were employees, they believed themselves better than Springhill House’s owmers, the Conynghams, who danated the house to the National Trust in 1957. There were peacocks back in the day, and my relatives felt personally slighted if they spent time on the lawns of the big house rather than with them.
For some reason I didn’t take a picture of the front of the house. I can’t explain this lapse and I apologise for it. But I have borrowed this one from Wiki.
Springhill House

Springhill House

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A Sign

A good day. Actually, a very good day, despite getting very wet. My bag, trousers and jacket are drying in the bathroom. Whether they will all be fit for use tomorrow, I don’t know. My trousers will be, my jacket should be, but my bag is a big question mark.
Too much to write in the few minutes I have spare before dinner. So for the moment, just a sign. It’s not the best one I have seen. That was a house name for a house just above the beach. I guess the family is called Scott. The house is called Scotts on the Rocks. I also like the sadly defunct fish and chip shop called Cod Almighty.
But this bus stop intrigued and puzzled me.

Hole in the Hedge

Hole in the Hedge

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Upperlands: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Cousin’s sister Mary suggested we meet and walk around the dams at Upperlands.


I haven’t been there for years and was completely disorientated. This is where we spent most of our holidays when in NI, though as a teenager I would stay with more cousins in Co Tyrone.

The Dams

The dams are being used now to produce electricity for local use; that hydro-electric power I remember learning about in geography O level. This was the map of my childhood summers, but so much has changed.
Back in the day, Upperlands was dominated by Clarks Linen factory.

Clark’s Factory

Clarks remains, but in much more modest accommodation, and owned by a Welsh firm called Evans.

New Premises

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A Walk Around Lough Fea

Drama in the garden tonight. We have a feline visitor. He’s ginger, but not Ginger. He has white patches on his face and white stripes on his back legs. Instead of welcoming him with open paws as he does Ginger, or excitedly rushing up to him as he does Sonny, NotCat chased him under a car, and is now watching, though his tail has resumed its usual size.
But back to my week in NI. We set off in the car to Lough Fea. Despite its proximity to Cousin’s, I don’t think I have ever been there before. Westie Boy had a tablet to stop him being carsick. It nearly worked.
We set off at a good pace in an anti-clockwise direction to leave the pushchairs and smokers behind us. A strange number of families seemed to be finding pleasure throwing stones into the water. And I do mean throwing; there was no skimming going on.

Lough Fea Anti Clockwise Path

But our haste told against us. The path goes all around the lough, but there’s a section a few hundreds yards ahead of this picture where you have to take to a path by the road for a while. We wanted to do that bit at the end once Westie Boy had had a good walk. We retraced our steps.

Lough Fea Clockwise Path

What is it about yellow flowers? Or is it just me? The land around the lough is managed but not cultivated. The sun shone and Westie Boy behaved himself really well.

Weeds and Water

Anyway, now a short break for some pictures. Continue reading