Sunday, 20 December 2015

Holiday Mishaps I Have Known

I was cruising round cyberspace ( in my Buick convertible, no less) reading people's Christmas posts and got to thinking about Christmases past when I lived in East Africa. They were extremely varied: occasionally disastrous, often hilariously funny and always action-packed.

There was the year when I gave Eldest and Middlest (aged maybe 6 and 4?) the hand-beater to whip the cream and they got so enthusiastic they turned the entire dish of cream into butter...plum pudding and home made butter anyone?

There was the year I catered for about ten and all the guests brought extra people who were lonely. We had the oddest multicultural gathering ever, including an ex-pat French Chef working in a Nairobi restaurant, and not enough chairs, plates, or food. Bread and butter for Christmas lunch all round. That was the same day that three  guests decided to climb on the roof to fix the TV aerial...the corrugated tin roof which was not built to withstand three men tromping round on it. It sagged so alarmingly that Pa-in-Law made us all get out of the house in case it caved in!

There was the year when, due to financial constraints, we had to go vegetarian but some guests just couldn't stand it so they nipped out mid-afternoon to the nearest kiosk (a sort of tiny African shop in a shed) for 'nyama choma' (local fire-charred goat's meat, tough as old boots but very tasty). That was also the year the askari (security guard) brewed a huge batch of changa'a (moonshine) under a bush in our garden without our noticing and the entire farm staff got so intoxicated they didn't wake up for nearly three days...

There was the year Eldest was three years old and the Hub made her a wooden Rocking Horse and the minute she got going she rocked so hard she upended it. By 8.30am Christmas Morning I was examining her at 20 minute intervals for concussion, having already bandaged her head and arm.

There was the year we were all at the in-Laws for Christmas, which always involved a huge table, beautifully laid out under the umbrella tree, and one of Pa-in-law's farm suppliers arrived with a belated gift of two turkeys...very alive and gobbling furiously! He had heard that wazungu (white folks) like turkey at Christmas and was being truly generous. Pa put them in the pig house to keep them safe from the dogs, but they gobbled and squabbled all day and quite put everyone off the usual grand turkey spread that Pa had prepared! Pa was only DISGUSTED!

There was another Christmas when Pa-in-law had the usual twenty or so people to lunch and mid-afternoon a gang of the twin's friends (17 years old-ish) decided to saddle up every horse they could find and go for a gallop on the vlei...I never discovered exactly what happened but it had something to do with swimming the horses across the dam and unexpectedly discovering a grumpy hippo in residence...anyhow they all returned indescribably wet and muddy, including the horses!

I won't say things have calmed down in recent years, but the entertainment tends to Church and other people's children related, so just different. Pa-in-Law, God rest his soul, was one of the greatest party givers I've known and tolerant of incredible chaos during the holidays. I won't say he instigated things, but they sure happened around him and he would just sit and smoke and smile like the eye of a tornado.

So how will your Christmas be, do you think?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Dangerous Texting

Here’s a funny story from today for you- I met an 8 year old on the school stairs at break when I was texting.

Oh sorry, sez I, I shouldn’t be texting on the stairs should I?

You shouldn’t be texting in school, sez he.

Aren't teachers allowed to break the rules sometimes? asked I.

No, teachers have to extra obey absolutely every rule and always, sez himself.

I laughed- I thought that was a most excellent  answer!...especially coming from one of the boldest boys in the school!

Monday, 16 November 2015

So Where...?

'Heavy rain led to flooding in parts of Country Tyrone and motorists were advised to drive with care or avoid roads altogether due to the adverse weather conditions.' 

Strange advice for Met Eireann to be giving motorists...I wonder how the farmers will feel having to tow random cars out of their fields?

If they'd meant motorists to take to the boats they should have been specific.

Honestly guys?!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Gift of a Day

Today I spent at the beach. After the rotten summer that was in it, the last thing we expected at the back end of October was the sort of long mild sunny day which demanded a winter picnic on the beach. But there it was.

After a good walk at low tide, some friends and their little people arrived. We had hours of poking about in rock pools, wading in the waves, digging up dead crabs, trying to push limpets off their perches, hunting for fossils and comparing all the different sorts we found, climbing rocks and just generally doing beach 'stuff'. Afterwards we sat on the rug with mugs of hot chocolate, apples and crackers watching the tide creep in and the waves grow higher. Surfers arrived and we watched them too.

It was nearly 4pm by the time we all got back to the cottage for a rather late lunch but such a day just wasn't to be wasted indoors!

I know I enjoyed my children when they were little and they remember some of the fun outings. But now that I get to occasionally borrow friends' little people I am enjoying the 'footling' times and inquisitive minds all over again. Little people are such good company, whether they are inadvertently knee deep in a rock pool or emptying the mantelpiece of all the wooden elephants...

Yes, a day like today is simply a heart-warming gift, there's no other way to describe it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

October Weekend

Recently there was an online post written by an American (to other Americans) who had spent a year living in Britain and Ireland about some of the differences between the continents. Apart from being awfully funny to us local yokels, there were scraps of insight, as you might expect, of how others see us. One of those scraps went along the lines of; 'A bar is called a pub and is actually a sort of communal living room.' All the people I have repeated this to have firstly laughed and secondly agreed.

On Friday night last in Ellen's that was particularly apparent. It was a filthy night out, lashing rain, too dark for the moon to be seen, and the wind rising to gale force. In fact the wind was so strong that the front of the pub was bolted closed and everyone was splashing through the mud to the back to get in...where else but the West do you try every door in the pub to see which is open? As a result there were only about fifteen or so die-hards crammed into the small dimly lit front bar, elbow to elbow with fiddles, bodhrán, guitars, an accordion and a dancer. The drink was flowing alongside the music and of course, coming up to Hallowe'en, there had to be ghost stories.

Now the thing you have to understand about Irish ghost stories is that they are a most singular genre; they can be startling, horrid, gory, fearsome, suspenseful, true, imagined, but are as likely to end in laughter and argument as tingling fear. In fact, the one thing they generally are not, is macabre, although you may want to check under the beds when you get home...also, to an academic, they often have no beginning or end or apparent resolution. A really good Irish ghost story is as much the starting point for conversation as a story in itself, and there was never yet an Irishman who didn't have an opinion and like to hear himself propound it!

And so it was that we told ghost stories, and, being western Irish, we told true stories as well as imaginary ones, and laughed, and looked to each other for more. And then back to the music, some poetry, insult and laughter, more music, and then, refreshed, back to the real world of driving rain, wind and the road home.

Yes, the Irish communal living rooms are as alive and well as their music and their story telling.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Hole In Wall

Right this minute there is a hole in my sitting room wall. Panic not, people, it goes up, before out. When I left the house early yesterday evening the landlord was perched on top of the chimney mildly landlords do?

You want the story?

Installation of a closed stove. Pending installation? Potential installation?

Some of you will know that its a rather old (in places dodgy) cottage I live in, so it will surprise you not at all to learn that the installation was not progressing as hoped.

The plumber, referred to as 'yon fella' by the landlord,R, arrived yesterday about 2 o'clock and within 30 minutes had  the carpet rolled back, furniture moved (myself having emptied the room of sundries last Wednesday when Yon Fella was first expected), ripped out the 1950's? '60's? fireplace surround and were navigating around the piano with barrow loads of shovelled rubble and debris. Next the  back boiler was dismantled and hauled out, soot and substantial trickles of water all across the floor. Luckily there's no foundation so I guess most of it just soaked into the ground between the tiles.

I will post photos when it is done, because the remains of the original fireplace which emerged were quite interesting, typical 18th C rural Irish, which is appropriate to what I know of the house.

Apparently the chimney has to have a 'liner' inserted, so next thing R. is strolling around the roof with the QE2 on his shoulder...actually its more of a long metal bendy tube which had to be slid down the chimney, with a rope attached to the end so that it could be pulled from below in case difficulty arose, which of course it did.

A sample of the conversation being yelled between Yon Fella, crouched in the fireplace with his head up the chimney, and R. sitting atop the chimney:

YF: Let it down easy now, I've the rope, twist it as ye go.

R: Can ya see it? I've a good part down.

YF: (tugs on the rope) Not a bit. Would there be a kink in this chimney?

R: There could be anything in this chimney for all I know. Have ye got it yet?

YF: (tugs again) Nope. Can ye see anything?

R: I'd say it was relined recently, its definitely not the original chimney.

YF: Recently?

R: 20's maybe, good strong brick. (no body asked 'which '20's?' 17s?18s?19s?) Throw me up another bit of the ould tape till I try something.

YF: (goes out to van, rummages, tells me to duck and fires a roll of tape onto the roof which R catches) How can ye not know which way the chimney goes?

R: Was I here when they built the damn thing? Try now...

At which point I unfortunately had to leave, but I expect my absence freed up their language which probably expedited success. By the time I returned last night the lining was through and various  cementings had been done, the water had gone and there were no dead or wedged bodies that I could see.

And that, dear readers is how it stands. No sign of them this morning but sure its early yet for Yon Fella to be about. I swear R will have him murdered before the job is done. Like many plumbers round here he is as unreliable as an Irish Summer but just as pleasant when he finally arrives.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Yet Another Stupid

Yesterday mid to late morning I received a call from a friend: 'We're having an early lunch at the café down the road from you, come join us! Ten minutes!'

Oh how lovely, sez I and rush around collecting keys, phone, money, put the fire-guard in front of the fire (yup, still not warm enough to let the fire die out), lock the back door, jump into the car, look at the clock and think: 'What a cinch, I'll easily make it in ten minutes.'

Something felt funny though and I looked down at myself to find...

...I was still wearing my pyjamas!


(The weather is so bad and drying clothes so difficult that I've been staying in pjs until all the chores are done, as its easier to launder them than jeans or tracksuit pants, and cleaning out the fire etc gets pretty mucky.)

So I leapt out of the car, rushed into the house to dress and comb hair and then got caught behind a four-miles-a-fortnighter at the end of the lane. I was only five minutes late though, which, considering the circumstances was pretty amazing of me, don't you think?


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