Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Would you believe, the ONE school textbook I thought we didn't have to buy because its already in the house can't be found?

We spent Monday afternoon tearing the girls' rooms and all the bookcases apart- and what d'ya bet, as soon as I buy a new copy, the old one will be discovered somewhere really obvious?!

What sort of Murphy's Law is that? €218 so far on textbooks for Youngest this term, another four texts at least to buy, and Middlest has lost the copy of MacBeth which Youngest needs.




Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Of Churi Dahl, Weirdies, and Thrift Shop

The Lady for whom Middlest has been 'au pairing' this month wanted some small alterations to her daughters' new Churi Dahl Dresses (spelling? my Gujarati isn't so good...) and they are so very pretty I took a few photos to show you!
The baby's dress: (purple trousers to match)

These are the cuffs on the trousers- aren't they gorgeous? The colour is bad, they are forest green in reality.
And the toddler's dress, which go with the green trousers:
I used to wear Churi Dahl in East Africa, both for smart and for comfort, and boy! in a really hot, humid climate they are the most comfortable garments you could wish well as covering up so well that you don't get burned, which is obviously also an issue.
I have about five outfits myself, and a Hindi friend used to share her formal ones with me when we had 'big' occasions. I wore the most ornate of mine here in Ireland once when I had to attend a formal School Charity Ball, and no one seemed to mind. I love them, comfortable and you feel fabulous!

Today is the last day before School starts for Youngest, and as she had school meetings this morning I was ambling around town for a bit. There's a furniture display in Johnston's Court and I thought this chair was just hilarious:
But these metal wall ornaments were ace...

...and I wondered whether I could play with the design for an embroidery, redwork perhaps, or in black thread? or perhaps appliqué? Anyhow, I though they were 'my' thing!

And then, in the Thrift shop I found this suede shirt, brand new, with amazing cutwork all around the hem:
Actually by its length its more of a tunic...should be a useful garment!
I also got matching pillowcases for Middlest, pink, with pictures of shoes on....absolutely spot on if you only knew- Imelda Marcos had nothing on our Middlest (in the shoe department- as far as I know, Middlest's dictator tendancies are quite stunted)...and a lined school skirt for Youngest. I paid €3 for the grey skirt and another €3 for a packet of navy blue dye: new, the school skirts cost upward of €40. Bargain!

Now tell me, am I thrifty, or am I thrifty?!

(Actually, its call being stingy, I know!!!)

Friday, 26 August 2011

A Walk in the Woods

This morning I decided to go to Hazelwood and see whether I could find seeds and nuts to plant for trees. I have been reading about the composition of hedgerows and thought I would try to grow my own! When they heard where I was going, Youngest, Small Dog and Eldest thought they would join the expedition. We were nearly two hours walking, and I think I found more photo ops than seeds, but it was such a lovely morning that it was just wonderful to be out in the forest!

Youngest and Small Dog aka Heinz.
 A very light-starved toadstool...
...and a very well camouflaged toadstool, isn't the camouflage amazing?
There was a long stretch of dense canopy shade, and then in the one spot where the sun shone through there was this ragwort growing about 4' tall!
Clover, beech, and moss- an amazing variety of mosses on the ground and on tree trunks.
Yew candles, lots of them and very pretty.
View across Half Moon Bay from along the lake.
View across Lough Gill towards Clogherevagh and the islands.
I came across Peter Pan crowing in the old Yew- 'Oh the cleverness of Me!'
New Boots? Oh Yeah! First outing and they had a lovely time too!
This should have been at the start, as I took it when we got out of the car on arrival. As you can tell, it was a lovely morning.
And now I have two somnambulent gargoyles and one snoring Dog Person all sprawled in the sitting room watching  the DVD of 'Ice Age' (???), as one does after a long walk in the woods!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Progress? I Think...

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week I was busy out of the house, or, when I was at home, I worked in the garden.

To the uneducated eye this stretch of gravel may look very dull, but I assure you that many hours of hard weeding went into making it look this boring!

Next on the agenda is dealing with the two veg beds, which, as you can see need quite a lot of attention. I harvested a bucket of onions and garlic from the right hand one, but its since gone over to dock. And the left one is just a Triffid Nightmare. The rhubarb is happy but the Brown Wind ruined the raspberries, and the rest is just things gone to seed and running rampant. Its keeping me awake at night with its Rave music...

In the greenhouse (cupboard!) I sowed a few seeds in the hopes of having a last hurrah before the winter sets in. We very often have mild weather until the end of October, and some years it has even been mid-November before we've needed the heating, so with a bit of luck we'll get something out of this batch.

I sowed mangetout, borage, mullein (an investment against next spring) also cress and winter salad. The cress, peas and winter salad are sprouting, the others are still thinking about it. Also, indoors, I sowed Evening Primrose, which is germinating madly, so that's exciting! Oh, and spring onions... (As usual I got my seeds from Seedaholic.)

I found some cabbage seedlings around the side of the house, so I put them up on the shelf to see whether they would recover. Also, the apple pips I planted last summer sprouted, to my surprise, so I separated and re potted them. I don't know whether they will ever do much, but its worth keeping them going to see what happens. Oh, and I shook out some seeds from a foxglove on the lane and sowed them to see whether they would germinate (VERY clearly LABELLED!!).

I pulled the rapidly multiplying montbretia out of the salad bed, and intend taking them in to the Churchyard and planting them there next week. For the moment they are in water with some compost tea added to hopefully keep them happy. They'll be drunk as skunks by Monday.

And so to the salad bed... minus the aforementioned montbretia, and all the chard which had gone to seed. Parsley, ditto, mustard, ditto ditto. I pulled up reams of strawberry runners which were holding a Berry Olympic around the edges of the fact there were so many strawberry runners that there was no room for weeds, which was kinda handy I suppose.

I've planted a few of the perpetual spinach at the far end, as usual I forgot to water them so they were a bit sulky. I'm waiting to see whether they turn up their toes or kick up their heels.

I have to admit to having mixed feelings about growing strawberries. For a start, although home grown berries are delicious, there are never very many per plant, and you'd need to put down about 40 or 50 plants to be worth eating. And secondly, take your eye off them for a fortnight and they either keel over and die or they run rampant and strangle everything within reach. Or perhaps its just my slap-happy approach to gardening which is at fault, rather than the strawbs!

And just to finish, Heinz has learned a new trick which is either funny or annoying, depending. If you ignore him when he wants to play, he goes gets Bear (present from Eldest), brings it to you, and if you still ignore him he somehow flips it up at you to get your attention! Yesterday everyone was out for several hours so I was working on the laptop and Bear kept hitting me, and occasionally landing on the keyboard!

So there it is. Getting out into the Garden is a step, right?
And the Hub bought me hiking boots so now I need to brave the wider world...well, step outside the gate at any rate...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A New Resident in the Beck-House

There is a new member in the Beck household: Middlest decided to re-home a stray found in town by friends. They advertised for two weeks to find his owners, but no luck. I had mixed feelings about having another dog, and a small one at that, especially since Middlest is living-in at her present job, and will only be home periodically once College starts. But as you can see, he's such a clever animal that Youngest is even teaching him to type....

I don't know how much more he has to grow, not much I think, and he is a gas character: bright as a button, nosey, and full of bounce. They called him the Kiswahili equivalent of 'Heinz 57', though the vet thinks he's a Jack Russell- Dachshund cross, more 'Heinz 2' (that sounds more like a new car oil, huh?!).

Hoover Dog and The Fluffster aren't quite certain of him yet. Hoover Dog would quite like to be friends, but its a bit like Piglet and Tigger, when someone is so very full of bounce you never know quite what will happen next, and Hoover Dog likes predictability! The Fluffster has gone all curmudgeonly and grumpy over the whole issue and really objects to being invited to play by a mere pip-squeak of an animal...

Life in the Zoooooooo......

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Of Churches and Paint

On Thursday of this week the Hub had two pieces of Church work to do, and suggested I went along with him. The first concerned the Sound System in our Cathedral which has become increasingly out of kilter over the summer, part of the nave was deafening, the other was faint, and up near the front people couldn't hear properly at all.
A friend came to play with the settings, whilst the Hub read parts of the Prayer book into each microphone in turn, and yours truly ran up and down the aisles and scrambled across pews to listen from all corners! It was soon sorted, and whilst the Hub fixed the woggle on the Lectern, I examined the framed certificates and photos in the Vestry- I always learn something new!

One very large, framed, open letter to a past Rector on his transferment-ing to a new Parish is beautifully calligraphated(??) with watercolour illustrations, by hand of course. It is dated 1917.

This is the Cathedral, at the time, although it was just a Parish Church back then:

This is the interior- more of which below:

This is a medallion of 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree' by WB Yeats, one of our fairly well known locals!

And just to amuse you, this is another piece of history, a list of the Rectors and Curates since 1635. I don't know whether it will enlarge for you, but if you look at the lower left side you can see where several hands have updated it using very scratchy pens!

Outside, the restoration work continues on the Tower. On Sundays we all have to dodge plaster and rubble,  flakes of paint, and  four hundred year old dust bunnies flushed out of hiding. No one wears their best coats at present, and last week I saw an eighty plus year old man using his sleeve to dust down the pew before his wife sat in! He saw me giggling and threatened to use my scarf next week!

And so to the story of the paint: With all the re-plastering and damp course work being done, the remaining  interior paint is in a shocking state. The Vestry got someone to come up with two new paint schemes and last Sunday everyone had to inspect them and note which they preferred. The two boards were propped up down by the Font, and I tell you, with all the hullabaloo and heated discussion its a wonder no one was knocked into the Font! It was nearly as exciting as the X Factor I'm a-tellin' yez!

Well the second Church job was to visit the RC Church out at Collooney as they have just finished having it painted. (We stopped for MacDonalds' on the way, and ate it on the Battlefield at Carricknagat- 1798- no corpses one does...)
It was beautifully done, lovely warm, rich reds and creamy beiges, with white on the mouldings, and looked fresh and welcoming. However the ceiling is in three sections, whereas ours is one large expanse, basilica style I think? Also our lights aren't pendants, but fixed so if we have a darkish ceiling we'd have to bring torches to read the prayers...and that's for Morning Service!

Soooooo, much discussion ensued, and the decorator has to be re-consulted!

Still, it was interesting...AND I managed to be out for three hours without panicking, and even talk coherently (I think?) to several people. No small achievement...But I didn't manage to get myself to see Youngest's Show- an Auditorium of 500 people was just too much. I feel bad for her about that, as apparently she is excellent, a total witch of a woman on stage!

Friday, 19 August 2011

The Experimental Year Project-cont'd...

I think I must define some parameters, a few ‘wills’ and ‘will nots’, which is a bit difficult with all the ideas jostling for space in my head.

Perhaps some aims would be more constructive?

I want to be well, or as the Book of Common Prayer says, ‘to renew a right spirit within me’, which is a beautiful and succinct way of expressing the desire to be at peace with oneself and the wider surroundings.

I want to live so closely with the Land, the Countryside, Nature (??) that I experience the rhythm of the seasons and can see, smell, touch the changes which go with the seasons. I have an idea that this disconnection, which is part of modern living, is at the root of some of our collective malaise.

I want to grow more of what we eat, and to forage what can’t be grown due to the short seasons and stony soil. I want to learn more about the growing habits of edible and medicinal plants too, and any others which would have been common in the past…preferably without poisoning either myself or my family!

I want to find out more about the country ways, how they evolved and what needs to be kept and remembered against the future- and how I’ll do that I don’t know.

I want to use the camera to keep a record of what there is to see; to see beauty in the everyday and the mundane, not for the sake of ‘art’ but simply because it’s there and I can.

August is a pretty daft time to start such an Experiment, is it not? The end of the growing season, of the Summer, and the beginning of Autumn and the drift into cold and dark. I have always loved Autumn and also Winter, the bleakness, the low sun, the appearance of bare trees and branches against the sky, and the way one can see so much further without any leaves on. I love watching the rain blow up the valley, and sitting by the fire on a stormy night. I don’t like the nor’easterlies we get up in the mountains here, but at least my Rowan tree is good and strong so there’ll be no witches blown into this house!

Yes, August is not really the best time to begin. Have you ever looked at the date of some important event or historical achievement and thought, ‘isn’t that an odd day to have done….?’ It took me the best part of secondary school to figure that history is a progression, and the likes of Walter Raleigh and Henry the Navigator weren’t necessarily looking at the calendar when they finally achieved their dreams.

Not that I rate myself among such august company, it’s just an observation! So, August it is, and so the Experimental Year shall begin…

Two things I need to get this week though, before I start hiking around the bogs and glens- a decent pair of shoes, and a waterproof raincoat, neither of which I own, odd as it may seem.

Job numero uno!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Experimental Year Project

Just when you think you have your life as sorted as it can be, and the moves down to a fine art and can catch any curveball which comes your way, things shift.  As some of you know, the last eighteen months for me has passed in an almost continuous downward spiral of depression and increased inability to cope with even the smallest daily mediocrities, let alone any of life’s challenges.

I’ve taken the drugs, stronger and stronger. Some days I’ve pretended all is well and managed to function for an hour or two in public, but other times I have taken refuge in a dark room for days at a time. I am regularly ill, have two to three day migraines, and stamina and general health are very poor. By now the toll isn’t just on myself, but also on the Hub and Youngest.  The Health Service is so stretched that whatever assistance there may once have been is needed more by others, if it was ever available.

I’ve read books on Depression, on fighting the demons, on winning the Battle for one’s mind. I’ve done workbooks on Cognitive Therapy, of developing oneself , and read more and more books and advice- journaling, walking, distractions. It’s reached the stage when I am often too fearful to go outside my own front door: like Chicken Licken I fear the sky may really fall on me.
So last week I bought a book which I heard of some time ago but never read: Richard Mabey’s ‘Nature Cure’. All I knew about the book was that it is his account of getting to the other side of a truly horrendous season of depression. It is more than that. Firstly, it was a nervous breakdown he had as well as depression, and secondly, it is so much more than a journey through his mind. It is an interesting, thought-provoking look at where he fits in the natural order, but even that doesn’t do justice to it.

But it has got me thinking, (as if I don’t already do enough of that!), but this is linear thinking (I think), rather than corkscrewish cogitation, and a plan or project is slowly forming in my poor darkly abused mind:
What if (I love ‘what if’ scenarios!)…what if I could live as close to the Land as possible for one whole year?
What if I could be a part of the circadian rhythm of the seasons instead of floating by them, ignoring them, or complaining bitterly about inconveniences the season brings?
What if I was able to connect with what is happening in the countryside around me rather than living on the periphery but apart from it?
What if I took a step backwards and delved into the roots, customs, ways and means of living in this place, just this one place, for a year?

I can’t ditch the ‘mod cons’, as my Granny would call them, and I have to consider the fact that the Hub is working, and Youngest in her penultimate year of school so will have a lot of studying. Also it would appear that Middlest (and her dog) is moving home as well as returning to College (she says her party days must be regulated???) from September onwards, so my Experiment will, of necessity, be tempered by reality- not a bad thing perhaps.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Garden News

Since there was a break in the rain this morning, I decided to sort out some jobs, instead of the endless monotonous weeding. I repotted the four Woad plants which survived the Winter (or my neglect, depending on your opinion?) To separate their intertwined roots I had to tip them out and tease them apart ever so carefully, so I hope they do alright.

So much for the Salad Bed- its been over-run by parsley and strawberries, and the single montbretia which arrived last year has somehow multiplied into about ten plants at least. The Chard (red stems) are pretty much done for, and the parsley needs a severe talking to. If I just cut all the parsley back I'm wondering if it will behave itself for another year- does anyone know? Or once it has gone to seed as spectacularly as this do I need to start anew?

Back in May we had 'The Brown Wind' which burnt all the leaves which were out. No raspberry flowers, or apple blossom or anything else which fruits, as a result. At the time it was horrible, days of gale force winds, but as you can see from this acer, which is in the same state as my apple trees and fruiting canes, its going to take more than one season for plants to recover.

The Hub has been rescuing plastic sheeting from his Work skip, so this morning we laid it all out to see was their enough to put together a bit of a polytunnel. He reckons we have enough for the roof, and we'll use pallets along the sides for the present. He's going to get a few poles from the Sawmill down the road, and a coil of rope, so I'll keep you updated!

And here we have the salad I picked earlier for lunch- ssssh, don't tell them, its dandelion leaves! And some other greens too- of course!!

So that's the state of the Nation as we go to press today!!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Hungarian Rhapsody

Have you visited Postcards from Wildwood and seen this A.MA.ZING embroidery? It is done on a duvet cover... Isn't it just fubulouso?

I asked Lady Wildwood if I could use her embroidery as the basis for appliqué and she graciously gave me permission to use her flowers. It took her 10 years to embroider- a huge project! Imagine!

So I started by breaking up the length and dividing the border into sections to work on.
I've been wanting to try an intricate appliqué for ages, I like the Baltimore Album quilts but there is no way I'd stick to something so huge. I thought this lovely border would make a good start for a strippy quilt, or the center strip in a hanging.

Not that I intend to work on it for ten years....!

My thanks to Lady Wildwood for letting me play with her work and photos!
(I sound like Oscar Wilde, don't I! 'Ah, Lady Windermere, your fan!')

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Handbag Morals!

This is an Aesop's Fable kind of post...or Heckety's Fable more like...

Clown Daughter Numera Una (see I can do agreements when I choose) bought a nice big black smart handbag a few weeks ago. You know, the sort you can never find when you're looking, but which is just essential to the working woman's accessory fit-out, and the mother's, and the quilter's, etc...


On Monday I was handed same bag with handles dangling loose, the attaching loops not torn out of the top of the bag, but ripped apart and torn through ...

'Mom d'you think you could fix this?'

Remember the old 'Jim'll Fix It' TV show? or if you are too young, the more recent 'Bob the Builder' song- 'can he fix it? yes he can!' ...You may call me JimBob...I've sewed it together so well that I figure its probably the straps will break next as there's no way my stitching will give way!

But, and herein lies the moral of the story...I asked Eldest how on earth she had managed to break the bag in the first place? She hummed and hawed for a bit and then finally admitted that she had used it to carry all her tools and electrical supplies back to Players after a show in another venue.

Right. That, of course, is what handbags are meant for.

Moral? Render unto handbags that which therein belongs, and render unto a TOOLBOX that which THEREIN belongs.

Clown Daughter Extraordinaire!

So I guess that my next project will be to design and make an over the shoulder Tool Bag,  suitable for Eldest to lug around Dublin....Why couldn't she be a secretary or something harmless, why a Theatrical Light Designer and blinkin' Electrician, for Pete's sake?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Shower Wars!

So, you've heard of The Bride Wars...The Restaurant Wars...Star Wars... now there are 'The Shower Wars'!

Not heard of them yet? Well they go something like this:-

Mom: We're leaving at 4o'clock.

Girls: Its only five to three.

Mom: We're leaving at 4 o'clock and you are all still in your pjs.

Girls:....silence...thoughtful silence...profound silence...worried the clock silence...then all three together: Bags I first shower!

Eldest: Me first! staggers down passageway richocheting off the walls, turns on shower, leaps in and undressess (yes, really!)

Middlest: simultaneoulsly I don't need a shower Ha! strolls away to get dressed.

Youngest: simultaneoulsy, and shoving Middlest out of the way I'm faster, bags me first! tears up stairs

Sound of downstairs shower and shrieks laughter, then upstairs shower goes on, water comes to a halt downsatair, howls of annoyance and Its not fair!

Eldest storms out to stairwell, dripping, and yells at Youngest, Middlest in bedroom humming loudly...

You get the idea, yes?

That's 'The Shower Wars' for you!


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