Monday, February 23, 2009

Bad Morning, Good Afternoon!

I played with one of Jim's catkins pictures!! Alien catkins.

Not a good morning. Enough said! We did achieve much in the garden again this afternoon, however. Jim's only one side of the sleeping shed left to paint and it looks just great. I've been weeding all around it and started to make a path along the back of the shed.

Over the time we've been here, we've dug up some metal finds, old farm equipment and lots of bottles. We also have 2 old ploughs. We have made a display up of these items in front of the sleeping shed. Jim is in the process of painting them all black. The plough he's half done looks splendid. Photo will arrive when he's done them all.

Young son Ben rang me to ask when I was coming!! I texted him dates and times ages ago but of course he failed to make a note. 25 and still doesn't keep a diary or calender. So I am off tomorrow afternoon until Thursday midnight. When I return, there will be photos and tales of Zoo Lounge (Ben's bar) a-plenty I hope. So it's off to Mallaga for me. Porta Banus to be precise.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More Sunshine, We Have Lintels.

Yesterday and today have both been lovely again. Gosh, how long can this weather last? Jim started to stain and protect the sleeping shed as it hasn't been done since we moved here. It was looking very unloved and uncared for. Here it is, Jim having just started it:
I have been flitting about doing all sorts of jobs. Yesterday I weeded our 3 round beds in the front garden. The bulbs are all coming up so quickly, if I leave it, the weeds and especially grass gets so big, if you pull the grass out, the bulbs come with it. I just about finished the beds and they look all spic and span. Below is a photo of me looking most unglamorous weeding the beds. My splendid motorised wheel barrow in the foreground.To finish a lovely day yesterday, there was an amazing sunset:We were up with the lark this morning as a plumber was arriving around 8am to give us an estimate for the radiators, etc, which will be required fairly soon. Sure enough, this Irish chap Seamus came as promised. He talked so quickly that I could hardly understand a word he said. Luckily Jim worked most of it out - estimate promised for Monday. The second plumber was supposed to come at 11am but didn't turn up! Hey ho.

Jim has been carrying on with the shed and also pruning the shrubs around it. Then he painted one of the old ploughs that we have and finally one of the garden gates! That's what happens when you get up early. So many hours to fill.

I did some weeding around the sleeping shed and also swept the veranda of same. It was full of leaves and dirt and sticks so took some sorting out. One of the shrubs Jim pruned was a red dogwood, it's in the photo above. It had lots of rooted 'babies' around it, which I took down to the wood at the side of the arboretum and planted there. This little wood is next to our road that the neighbours use for access to their land, so I'm planting lots of things down the edge as it's very open at the moment. It will look good too, so that will be a double benefit. I have also planted some on the bank I've recently cleared at the side of the vegetable plot.

Finally, I had a go at the muddy path I mentioned in my last blog. Once I started to clear the weeds, a ghastly smell pervaded the air. It was so wet and the water had gone stagnant and the mud smelt foul. I scooped the weeds off the top and as much mud as I could. Yuk, not a nice job. Having cleared it all, it does look much better already and the smell is definitely sweeter. Unfortunately the bottom section then filled up with water again. Discussions ensued and we've decided to put some more drainage in to prevent the same thing from happening again. So I can't build this bit of road until we've sorted that out. My back knew I had worked hard and is still throbbing a bit.

It's odd not having any workmen around as it's the weekend. Jim took this photo of the cottage and extension, now with lintels over the windows and patio doors, from the road leading to our neighbours' cottage.The room nearest to the camera is the sun room, which will have patio doors and large windows.
Let's hope we get some sun this year.

Jim also got a bit excited about the catkins around Doorus, so here are his photos:They are so pretty. The one of the whole tree really needs to be clicked on to appreciate it fully.

Just to remind everyone of my husband Jim's new blog. On a botanical theme, do go and support him.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spring into Ireland - Extending Extension


It's been so lovely today, even more of our spring flowers are opening already. More narcissus, crocus, celandine, snowdrops and daffodils. Vinca major has made an appearance too, though a bit tatty. I have been getting to the bottom of the bank I was clearing at the side of the vegetable plot. It looks so much better and will let much more light onto the vegetables. My back has suffered a bit but it's usually ok again by the following morning.

At the bottom of the bank is a way through to the willow plantation and if you turn left, to the arboretum. This path has always been a bit muddy but now is almost impassable. I have started to build a path to replace the mud - watch this space. I know I only took photos 2 days ago but I have more today, the flowers all look so pretty. They do look better enlarged, click on them and you will see:

More of the narcissus have come out. They look so cute with their bobbing heads.

An early Vinca Major, a bit tatty but a lovely colour

3 new snowdrops. It rained overnight so they have jewel like droplets of rain on them. This is my new desktop picture

The little bunch below seems to be growing daily

Not a flower yet but the first leaf of one of my very favourite plants, Alchemilla Mollis. The new leaves appear through the old brown rotting ones of last year from velvet buds.

Broom's welcoming yellow is all over our land

This celandine, along with others, is now in full flower. I love the heart shaped leaves, some of which seem to be variagated.

Forgive me for more crocus photos, but they came out so well. These are really large ones for crocus.

How unusual is this shot? Like little treasure troves, guarding their secret contents.

This beautiful bright yellow primula seems to have appeared overnight.

Finally in the garden I came across this shining copper red grass. The ones behind have had a haircut!

The red reminded me that while Jim and I were looking out at the bird nuts today, there was a gorgeous red squirrel wrapped around them. I reached for my camera but BlackJack spotted it and scared it away. They are so much more attractive than the grey ones and quite a bit smaller.


The extension, having not moved for ages a month ago, is also growing daily. Jim and I have walked around in our 'rooms' and I'm getting very excited now about actually living in them, though I know it will be a while yet. The photos below show from floor slab to the state of play today. Oh, and our very pleasant Blockman is called Declan:

Declan on the right in the 'sun room'

Jim outside my patio doors! The window you can see will become the door to my room.

The Great Wall of Doorus and Jim's shadow

Declan balancing on Jim's shoulders?

Jim went into town today and bought a super collection of bulbs. He knows I hate planting them so that will be his job. He bought some beautiful gladioli, dahlias (corms), some lilies, mixed montbretia and some of the dark red montbretia, 'Lucifer'. (Leatherdykeuk - Jasfoup beware).

We are both uplifted by the weather and the speed of the building work. I am off to Spain (Porta Banus) on Monday until Thursday to visit my youngest son Ben, who has a bar there. I'm quite excited about that too as I last saw him for a few hours on my 60th birthday in September. It was his birthday on the 18th February, 25 years ago. It hardly seems possible. The wonderful thing is I now keep in touch with a lot of his old school friends through Facebook. They are all grown up now and making their way in the world. Finally, a photo of a celandine that was too bright so I played with it!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We Have Walls..

It's true, we have walls, well, some walls. It's amazing how quickly they are going up. We have a special chap to lay the blocks, 'Blockman' as we don't know his name. It's very exciting seeing the rooms take shape. This was yesterday:

The blocks are all in piles. Martin the builder in yellow jacket, 'Blockman' in my room!

Walls all along now. Gaps for windows. My studio will have patio doors

It's been lovely and mild the past few days so I have spent most of my time on the land. I have still been clearing the bank at the side of the vegetable plot. Almost finished now and I've also been clearing the other side, which of course you can't see. The little stream runs down the other side, but only when it's been wet. I'll take some photos that side when I've cleared away the piles of rubbish I've cut down.

Jim finished the living willow fence and the woven fence. They both look utterly splendid:

He has the other side to do now.

The woven fence, now with a pole at one end

close up

Artistic Shot

Me and the cleared bank in front of me. The whole area looks so much bigger now

Looking from the other direction. Jim has planted some primulas he bought. His 'twee' garden!

The spring flowers have really started to appreciate the warmth. This will be our first celandine. Should be fully out by tomorrow.

These gorgeous crocuses are up by our gate

Our first fully open daffodil


Pretty little wild strawberries

Buster has been a bit naughty yesterday and the day before. We heard him barking (well, howling) in the distance and Jim wandered down our road to the lane and Buster was barking at a new born calf and its Mum. He was a nightmare to get back to our land and we hadn't taken the lead. We put him in the barn and locked him in there for a good while. He howled! We hoped he'd learnt his lesson but yesterday he did the same thing, only this time he was in the field with the cows and howling at them. I have to say, the cows were ignoring him. This time Jim took the lead and dragged him back straight away. Into the barn once more, this time for an hour. So far he hasn't done it again so we are hoping he really has cottoned on. He probably just wants to play with them as he thinks everyone and everything should play but we can't have him barking at cows.

It's so exciting to see the extension actually progressing. At this rate the block work will be finished by the end of the week.

That's about it for us. I ache all over as does Jim. Old age catching up with us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Letter 'N' Meme

I have been tagged by The Weaver of Grass with a letter. I have to write about things beginning with that letter. Gosh, I think the letter 'N' is pretty ghastly I have to say. Still, I've been thinking about it for a few days, so here goes:

N for Nureyev (Rudolf) A Russian ballet dancer who escaped the restrictions of the Russian ballet in 1961 when the Kirov ballet went on tour to Paris. As I've mentioned before, my father was principal percussion at the Royal Opera House for 25 years and I was lucky enough to see many performances of ballets and opera. Sadly I never saw Nureyev in person as any tickets were quickly taken by my Mother of course.

Nureyev was the supreme male dancer who believed men should be allowed to dance with the same fluidity as the female stars. He was 23 when he partnered 47 year old Margot Fonteyn in Romeo and Juliet. Luckily one of these performances was made into a film which I watched in 1967. I have watched it many times since. Fonteyn looks about 15 and the final pas de deux, where Romeo dances with the drugged (he thinks dead) Juliet, has to be seen to be believed. Fonteyn and Nureyev remained friends for the rest of their lives and he imparted a new vigour and youthfulness into her dancing, so expressly illustrated in that film of Romeo and Juliet. Sadly he died of Aids in 1993, aged only 55.

New Boots and Panties, Ian Dury and the Blockheads

From one extreme to another but both men were true exponents of their genre.

The year was 1977 and punk rock had hit the music scene like a sledge hammer. However, attempts to find a record label to publish the above completed album were at first unsuccessful. Dury's lack of commercial appeal and his unorthodox look worked against him even in the year of the Punk Rock explosion. However, it was released in September 1977 to great critical acclaim, not only in the music press, but also in the highbrow papers, a very favourable review appearing in The Guardian.

On a personal note, it was many years later (the year 2000) that I came to enjoy the music on the album. I was taking my Granddaughter Kirsty to London to see her Uncle Jason on his 30th birthday. I racked my brains trying to think of some music she might enjoy. Most of my CDs in the car were classical and opera. Not the musical fare of teenagers generally. Sifting through my then partner's collection, I came across New Boots and Panties and took it with us. Kirsty was so taken with it that we played it all the way there, a trip from Derbyshire to South London. In spite of myself, I enjoyed it hugely. Not so the party. The car engine blew up in London and we didn't arrive at Jason's until 10pm when almost everyone else had gone home.

Track listing

  1. "Wake Up and Make Love With Me" – 4:23
  2. "Sweet Gene Vincent" – 3:33
  3. "I'm Partial to Your Abracadabra" – 3:13
  4. "My Old Man" (Dury, Steve Nugent) – 3:40
  5. "Billericay Dickie" (Dury, Nugent) – 4:17

Side Two

  1. "Clevor Trever" – 4:53
  2. "If I Was With a Woman" – 3:24
  3. "Blockheads" – 3:30
  4. "Plaistow Patricia" (Dury, Nugent) – 4:13
  5. "Blackmail Man" (Dury, Nugent) – 2:14

When I left school, I should have gone to University and was going to become a teacher. However, becoming pregnant in the 6th form rather put paid to these plans. When my daughter was 18 months old I was looking for work. A chance call into an employment agency resulted in my going for an interview in the bank across the road from them, The National Provincial Bank, Catford, South East London. What was the only O level I had failed? Why Maths of course. However, I charmed my way into the job and, with breaks for children and running my own Bed and Breakfast for 9 years, that's been my main place of work. Of course National Provincial became NatWest and eventually they were taken over by The Royal Bank of Scotland. I worked in various offices of the bank, from Catford to Thetford, Norfolk. From Thetford to Sheffield, then to Bakewell, Derbyshire. Finally to Matlock, also in Derbyshire. We all know what a mess they're all in now. Not my fault, I left in 2002.

Auntie Nancy

I have known 'Auntie' Nancy for as long as I can remember. Not a true relative, she's one of those 'pretend' aunties but that didn't make any difference to me. She had a shock of dark auburn hair which turned completely white when she was relatively young. She came from Warrington and had the strong accent to match with a volume always on the loud end of the scale. She, like my mother and maternal grandparents, had hearing difficulties. She used to call me flower, then with a wink, she'd say 'cauliflower'!

For ages we called her 'the Smarty Lady' as she always brought us a box of Smarties when she visited. A real treat in those days. She moved from Warrington to Finchley, North London and later to a new house over the road from my parents. Nancy had a sister Bessie and they both remained spinsters their whole lives. Nancy was also often the chosen one to go on my Mother's jaunts to The Royal Opera House when there was 'something big' on. They used to go together to watch 'Tosca' and 'weep buckets'. Then, as a sort of penance, they would endure the 4 operas in Wagner's 'Ring' cycle. I was always a bit jealous of those outings.

She worked her entire life in the civil service and was secretary to 'Sir Charles' for years. I never knew who he was! It was a bit of a mystery and I always felt Nancy had a bit of a 'thing' for him. I remember as a small child watching her type at home and being utterly amazed that anyone could type so quickly. When I later learnt to touch type myself, the mystery was unveiled. Nancy also used to have a full set of Beatrix Potter books, which she read to us. I have loved those stories ever since. She moved back to Warrington to be near her niece and is now approaching, if not already 90. I haven't seen her for many years and must make the effort to go and see her this year. Time for some reminiscing.


Suggested by my husband Jim. What a huge world that word encompasses. I have always had an affinity with plants, flowers, birds and animals. At school I loved taking in acorns, spiky conker shells and their shiny chestnut coloured fruits for the nature table. Occasionally my father would find an empty bird's nest in a bush and I'd proudly take that too - a real trophy.

My parents always used to feed the birds 'save it for the dickies' they would say. To this day I have always had a bird table and fed the 'dickies'. When my daughter came to stay she said it was just like being at her Grannie and Granddads' house with the birds on the table and breakfast in the conservatory. That made me smile.


A section of nature of course, birds have been a life long love of mine. Jim, my husband, is also a great fan and was a member of a birdwatching group in Worthing, Sussex. His daughter Ali works for the RSPB but not at the moment as she has a small baby to look after. He and Ali went to observe and count nightjars for a survey Ali had to complete.

Jim then took me to experience the unique sights and sounds of these amazing birds for myself. At first one can hear the male's churring call. It was a little hard for me to hear but once I had 'tuned in' I could catch it quite clearly. Then the nightjar males 'clack' their wings together in a courtship ritual. It is such a surprising and noisy display - quite unlike anything I have seen or heard before. If you ever get the chance, do go and see for yourselves.

Narcissus and Nasturtium

I'm sure if you follow my blog, you will have observed my love of flowers from photographs of the garden here in Ireland. At the moment, the narcissus are already in flower, though there are many more to come. The first of the 'daffodils' their little nodding heads herald spring as much as the snowdrops and crocus. The second group of narcissus are a gorgeous creamy colour and have a wonderful scent that drifts on the air as you pass by.

The first of the narcissus at 'The Deenery'

I have always loved nasturtiums. At school we used to grow them in pots for a competition. My father knew the trick of putting them in poorer soil so mine used to have lots of flowers and not too many leaves.

I once rented a house in Derbyshire and planted the whole of the small front garden with every shade of nasturtium. It was an absolute picture and passers by used to stop and comment on them. In Worthing they have never done terribly well but here in Ireland they seem to pop up all over the place, many of them self seeded and they flower right up until the first frost. Some of the modern varieties have gorgeous variegated leaves and others trail for many feet along the ground with little or no effort on my part.


Whenever I hear the word 'Norway' it reminds me of the time I played the role of Anna in The King and I! At one point Anna is teaching the King's many children some geography. She is pointing out 'Norway' on the map and makes the children repeat the word. Then a big row breaks out because Norway and many other countries are shown on the map as larger than Siam. The children have been told that Siam is the biggest country and are angry with Anna! How the real Anna coped I cannot imagine.

In December 2001, just after Christmas, my then partner and I went on a mini cruise to Norway, Bergen being our main destination. The journey overnight was pretty spectacular in that we had the worst storm the crew could remember for 16 years! The boat pitched and rocked but although I didn't feel at my best, I did manage to sleep most of the night. I think there was one other couple at breakfast!

Bergen is a lovely old town with wooden fronted colourful shops and of course, inches of snow on the ground. We had decided to take a trip up one of the fjords rather than explore more of the town.. The air seemed so crisp, clean and fresh everywhere. The water was just as I'd imagined it, glass clear and mill pond still. The scenery was like a winter wonderland, snow coated all the trees and muffled every sound. The churches with their thick coating of snow on the roofs stepped straight out of Christmas cards.

We stopped in a small town and walked to a waterfall. It was very slippery but well worth the effort as most of the fall was frozen. Stalactites of ice hung down all along its width, the whole thing looked like a scene from The Snow Queen. It was cold, but not the miserable damp cold you often feel in Ireland or the UK. This was a dry cold and the whole snow covered experience was so so beautiful. I would recommend it to anyone.


Nylons, or nylon stockings, were one of the most sought after items of clothing in wartime. The first pair of nylons were shown in February 1939 and were a vast improvement on the previous hosiery for women, which was usually thick and wrinkly like Nora Batty's.

The first pairs of stockings in the US were sold at that time for $1,25 a pair then during the war the price rocketed to $10 a pair on the black market. Wartime pin-ups and movie stars like Betty Grable auctioned nylons for as much as $40,000 a pair in war-effort fund raising. That's a few million dollars now. Rumour has it that the US soldiers often carried pairs of nylons to make 'instant friends' with the girls they met abroad. During the war some girls used to paint their legs if they couldn't afford nylon stockings and even drew a line up the back of their legs in an effort to complete the deception.

Tights of course have mostly replaced stockings although many men still seem to find stockings and suspender belts much sexier. Personally, I hate the things, then I hate tights too.

Nursery Rhymes

Thankfully I didn't find out for some years that most nursery rhymes had their roots in history somewhere. I have always loved the catchy rhythmic rhymes and their odd sounding tales of blackbirds in pies, a big egg falling off a wall and Jack and Jill trudging up the hill, then falling down in a splash of buckets and water. How tedious to find out the truth about these silly songs.

Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
To see a Fine Lady ride on a White Horse
With rings on here fingers
And bells on her toes
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

Before the suffragettes came along, women often had to us devious means to get their wishes. Lady Godiva was one of these and the nursery rhymea above refers to her story. Her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, imposed a very heavy tax on his people. Godiva was upset by the hardship suffered by the town's folk and argued their case with her husband. He listened at first with patience, then with increasing annoyance. Finally he offered her a dare - 'Ride through the streets of Coventry naked and I will do as you wish'. He was sure Godiva would never do such a thing.

Little did he know. Godiva rode through Coventry, naked but for her copper tresses, riding a magnificent white horse. All the town folk stayed inside to spare her blushes. True to his word, Leofric removed the tax. 'And she shall have music where ever she goes' probably refers to the praises heaped upon her when ever she walked through the town. What a girl!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon (the sort you fire, not the church man) during the English Civil War and it was mounted on the top of St Mary's at the Wall Church in Colchester. The church tower received a blow which sent 'Humpty' crashing to the ground below. Naturally 'all the King's horses and all the King's men' were quite unable to fix the smashed cannon. If true, that little rhyme, still as popular today, would have been written in 1648 or thereabouts.

Ring a Ring a Roses
A pocket full of poses
Atishoo, Atishoo
They all fall down.

I was told that this rather pretty little rhyme which has children hooting with delight as they crash to the floor was actually written about the great plague or the Black Death. This would often start with cold like symptoms, such as sneezing and of course, fairly soon afterwards would lead to the death of the afflicted. A bit macabre.

Well, Weaver, I hope you feel I have done justic to the letter 'N'. When I began to think about it, I could have made a very very long list indeed, but enough is enough.

Did you notice I managed to avoid 'N' for Nasty Neighbours.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Photo Day Around Our Land

It rained on and off today but by the late afternoon the sun had come out so I decided it was time I took some more photos round and about The Deenery! I checked our post box first and a note scrawled on the letter inside said 'recorded delivery letter at Dromondoora Post Office'. Jim and I puzzled over what it might be then he made the suggestion perhaps it's a letter from the neighbours' solicitors. Well, I then had to jump in the car and go and collect it! All sorts of thoughts, not good, were going through my head on the way there. Was it about the dog? The road? The lovely postmistress brought me the offending letter and - it was our Tesco car insurance!! Phew.

Back to the photos: I started looking for anything in flower.

Jim planted these quite late last year but they've managed a bud each. I love snowdrops

Even dandelions look lovely in the sunshine when colour is thin on the ground

Budding Daffodils

Narcissus were the first to flower

Narcissus flower in the sunshine

The contorted willows looks great at any time of year

The first purple crocus to flower

Honesty seeds. A splash of white

Pretty primroses

The bank I have been clearing at the top of the allotment

The next section to be cleared. A mass of ivy

We have to devise a way to keep Buster off the allotment in the spring/summer or he'll trample all over the vegetables - or just dig them up. He loves eating the strawberries too. Jim has decided to extend the living willow fence to the edge of the allotment bed. He will then fence the side either with chicken wire or woven willow panels, depending on time constraints. I think he's making an excellent effort. This is the first time he's attempted a living willow fence:

Still to be finished of course

He has also made some woven willow fencing at the bottom - the part you see first when you enter the allotment area. I think it's wonderful, though again, not finished yet:

Isn't it just the bees' knees? It's very strong too

I moved on to the fairy hill and found a few more snowdrops. This one looked particularly fine:

Sam and Jason bought me this new fairy for Christmas

The bleached gnome is still playing his flute, the fairy (also pale and wan) watches from her perch and a hedgehog snuggles in the foreground

This view is taken from the fairy hill. Living willow fences at the bottom and to the left. The muddy section is where the builders have put their rubbish/rubble! It was all humps and bumps but now they're flattened it. We'll have to think of something to do with this area. Any suggestions. It's very very wet.

This is the section of road I built. The builders' machines have demolished it. More jobs to do in the Summer.

I turned left, past the bird station (moved from our back garden which is now a building site). This little coal tit just ignored me

Talking of builders, we are waiting for the young man to arrive and do the block work, ie, build the walls. Tuesday today. Maybe tomorrow! At least the blocks are here:

This lovely primula is in the grotto bed. Last year we planted some new ferns here and they have done very well, as has the bugle I brought from our garden in the UK

This yellow crocus was growing on our compost heap so I transplanted it to the top grotto bed

I almost trod on these tiny new lupin leaves

Red Dogwood at its best

The 'Digger Tree'

Lough Graney from our gate

Martin the farmer's gate! And cows eating from the byre. This is just to the right of our gate

The road to our neighbours' house. Subject of many complaints! Our cottage on the right. The red you can see is the membrane under the concrete floors

Martin's cows. If you click on the photo you can see the cow on the right's tongue!

I hope you've enjoyed my photos. I did end up taking a bit of an eclectic mix.