Sunday, 19 October 2014

I'm finding it hard to write today because

I'm finding it hard to write today because:
  • It's too sunny. I need to be outside to soak up a ray or two before the winter sets in.
  • It's too cold. My fingers are too stiff and I want to curl up by the fire.
  • It's too wet. There's a line in Gabriel Garcia Marquez when he writes, 'It's raining too hard to think.' Oh yes, I know that feeling.
  • I'm too tired. I had a late night and all I want to do today is flop about.
  • The gas person/electrician/plumber/parcel delivery person is coming some time today. I don't want to get stuck into something and then lose my train of thought.
  • I really ought to do something about the jungle that is my garden.
  • I'm meeting a friend for coffee later, so there's no point in starting anything.
  • Next door's dog is barking/baby crying.
  • I need to so more research.
So how come, when I get passed that lot, I love it once I can settle down. All I have to do is turn the computer on, open a file - and the hours fly by. Passing delivery men - pah! A coffee stop - wonderful - but not for too long as I need to get back to it.

I tell the world that I write because I breathe - and that's true. I can't imagine living without scribbling things down. My notebook is beside me (and full of random thoughts) all the time. So why the fiddle-faddling delays to turning the wretched computer on?

(Am I the only one who does this ...?)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sharing your home with wild life.

This is a seasonal post - as some wild life is looking for somewhere warm to spend the winter. And so am I.

Let's be clear. I'm not talking dogs and cats here. Nor hamsters and guinea pigs and budgies. No, I'm talking wild life.

I live on the edge of a market town - I won't tell you exactly where, because I go awol from time to time and it's bonkers to advertise which house will be empty. All you need to know is that I can walk across fields within five minutes of closing my front door.

There are implications in the garden.

I know there are foxes in cities - do they have the same distinctive smell as those in the country? When I walk down the garden in the morning, I always know if one has visited in the night from the pong. Though it doesn't happen often - there's plenty of rabbits in the forest. One summer there were badgers, taking a liking to the fallen crab apples (from my neighbour's tree) and eating so much fruit they were mildly sozzled, which was funny (except for the piles of poo left on the grass). I've had deer, too - muntjac deer who, you may not know, have a particular liking for rosebuds. (Good thing I've never tried entering roses in a show!)

Frogs, hedgehogs - anything is welcome if it eats the slugs and snails. I've also had the occasional slow worm. And birds - oh the birds! I can spend hours by my back door, just watching them.

So you see, I think I've made friends with the wild life in my garden.

And in the house? There are flies in summer, of course. And crane flies, midges, moths, butterflies, and numerous other flying things. Plenty of spiders. Do I evict them all? No - most do me no harm and seem quite happy where they are. I have been known to zap the occasional fly that has really got on my nerves, and will wallop a wasp that lacks the good sense to go out the window. But the rest can stay.

Then, after the harvest and as the nights grow cold (around now), I sometimes get a resident field mouse, come in out of the cold for the winter. One I can manage - he generally hides in the cupboard under the stairs and escapes back to the fields in the spring. I make sure there's no food left out to tempt him into the kitchen (mice wee as they run along, which isn't the healthiest thing in the kitchen). But a family of mice - there I draw the line. I've a humane trap to take them outside, and if that doesn't sort it then I'm sorry, they just have to go the hard way. Rats - I really can't make friends with rats (though I didn't do badly in Laos!).

There's the occasional bird that gets lost in the house - but that's not really a countryside thing. But I have had bats - three times. There must be a colony near here as they dive-bomb the back of my house in the evening, feasting (I think) on mosquitoes. Occasionally one gets lost and ends up in my bedroom.

The dos and don'ts of getting bats to go outside:

Don't turn the light on. Poor thing will flap round and round the light and be truly terrified - much more than you are.

Do - open the window, very wide.

Do go out of the room and close the door (with the light off). By the time you've made a cup of tea the bat will have found her way out.

And you? Who else shares their home with a creature or two?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The wonderfulness of daughters.

Last week one of the daughters had a birthday.

They can be cruel reminders, if we let them be, these offspring birthdays. They are mumble-mumble years old now, so we must be (oh heck) mumble-mumble-mumble, and give another ten years or so we'll be all zimmer frames and meals-on-wheels and watching Flog It on iPlayer ...

ENOUGH!!!!

We do not have to count years. We don't even have to recall, all those years ago, the nappies and sleepless nights, the mumps and chickenpox, the time when you (insert all bad-mother memories. If you can't recall them your children will). And then the bedtime stories, the birthday parties, playing hide and seek in the forest ... the parents evenings, the concerts, the prizegivings ...

And look at them now, all these daughters of mine (I have four). It's hard to connect them with all that long-gone childhood. But, as each has a birthday, it's time to celebrate what wonderful, feisty, independent, free-thinking, bolshy, unique women they have become.

One of the especially wonderful things about them is the support they give me. I do know I've given them the heebie-jeeebies a couple of times. In spite of assurances I won't put myself at risk, it happens occasionally. (I promise I'll never go playing with tigers again.) It can't always be easy wondering what I'm going to do next. Yet, whatever they say to each other behind my back (let's be honest, we all talk about our mothers behind their backs) they have always been encouraging and supportive to my face.

Who cares if I'm mumble-mumble-mumble with young women like this around me to keep me on my toes.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Men and the travelling woman.

As some of you know, I travel independently. And I don't just mean organising my own flights and hotels, I mean I travel on my own. Without going into detail, it just worked out that way. Now I've got the hang of it, I love it.

But it does raise issues with travelling men. Now, I'm no spring chicken. I've got a bus pass, if you must know. Wrinkles to prove the years of experience. (Botox? Why would it want to do that? I'm getting on a bit. Get over it!)

In most western cultures I enjoy the invisibility of older women. Where youth and wealth are valued we are also-rans. We slink into the shadows, from where we can see and hear much more than you can possibly imagine. There are, I have discovered, advantages to being invisible.

In many Far Eastern cultures older people are revered. Once people get over the fact that many of my contemporaries are already dead, I am treated with great respect. There is always someone to help with the rucksack, or steer me in the right direction if I'm lost. Plus countless young people wanting to practise their English, so I am never without company if it want it. Occasionally a young man will show 'interest' but he knows I have a British passport and he lives in poverty. I try to be kind.

And then there is Ireland. I love Ireland. I love the lakes and mountains, the music and the Guinness. But there I was, tapping my feet and sipping the black stuff, when up came a beery bloke about 10 years younger than me and asked if I was dating!! The first time it happened I just laughed, as you would. Every night, someone sidled up to me, would l like another drink - I often had another half, as the music was wonderful and I needed little encouragement to stay. But what was going on? Just the craic? A bit of fun? That's how I looked at it, though I haven't been hit on like that since I was 16. I confess to being a bit clumsy in the being-chatted-up department.

(I can only assume that many Irish women are chained to their sinks, have taken their intelligence and humour to work in the cities, or have more sense than to go near any of these beery blokes. But I'm guessing - if anyone knows where Irish women are hiding, do let me know.)

The daughters might be pleased to know I haven't come back with a toy boy.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Blog changes.

I've decided to drop my twice-weekly blog to just once a week.

I could provide lengthy justifications, explore changes in the blogworld, go into apologies and all that stuff.

So here is the truth.

I'm dropping to once a week because I want to.

We live in a culture where we expect explanations. Small children ask why and we do our best to answer them. We try to make the world logical, and explicable, and predictable. It's not, of course - while some things obey the laws of physics or nature but much of what happens is fairly random and we only ascribe meaning to it because it makes us feel more comfortable.

So I could offer explanations, if I tried. I could witter on at length about what blogging means to me, to you, its place in the general blogosphere. It would be twaddle, of course, and probably not very interesting twaddle.

But I do think that sometimes we carry on doing things because it's expected of us, or we believe it's expected of us. So this time I'm just doing what seems right for me. And I'm not even saying sorry.

And the plan - to blog on Mondays, unless I have a particularly wonderful weekend, in which case anything can happen. It will be interesting to see who sticks around.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

I'm back from Ireland, with pictures, as promised.

Well, I made it back in a thunderstorm! After eight days of untypical Irish sunshine the heavens opened as I struggled the last few miles home. Oh well, my home was still standing and it was easy enough to get warm and dry.

As for Ireland ... there is something restorative about south-west Ireland that I'm not sure I can put into words. And so here, without much in the way of annotation or comment, are a few pictures.


Looking out at the lake from Ross Castle


Fuchsia  (but you knew that anyway)


The Meeting of the Waters, on the Lakes of Killarney


The Gap of Dunloe


From Mount Beentee looking west, towards Caherciveen.

Then finish the day with a pint or two of Guinness and some wonderful music:


*sighs* Even organising this post is enough to make me want to go back!

(There are some more pictures on the website if you're really keen.)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Gap of Dunloe

My daughters might never speak to me again for writing this. For the first time I crossed the Gap of  Dunloe we did it together, and the day was so wonderful it has become part of the family story, a 'do you remember when' that still makes us smile.

I simply couldn't resist doing it again, and it was different - my excuse for writing about it now.

For a start, we went the 'wrong way round', beginning with a boat trip across the Killarney Lakes. I had forgotten how long that takes, chugging across the water, the mountains benign in the sunshine. Holly trees clung to the waterwide. Reeds swayed in the breeze. From time to time the boatman told us Interesting Things, but I forget all of them. I was more intent on just being in the boat, bobbling along on the water and looking up at the mountains.

After several days with no rain, the water levels were very low - so low that at one stage we had to get out and walk along the bank or risk grounding. And when we arrived at Lord Brandon's Cottage the quayside was about a metre higher than the water, involving some inelegant scrambling to get out of the boat (and complaints from a heavy tourist who seemed to think everything should be organised just for him. There's always one.).

A quick sandwich (note for daughters - the little cafe is much improved, so no cotton-wool bread wrapped in cling film) and it was time to find a pony to take me over the Gap itself. And this is where things unravelled a bit. There was only one pony, defended by a determined Irishwoman intent on taking me in her pony and trap. Should I stick to my guns, ride alone across the mountain, or accept her offer (even though I knew she was probably taking a backhander for it)?

I took the pony and trap - and can tell you that it is as uncomfortable as riding but at least you can't fall off.

The main difference fom years ago - there is now a tarnacked road the whole way. Where there was once a stony track, now there is a proper road and even the occasional car. Which makes the whole thing more hazardous than it was, with pony carts, cyclists, walkers and cars all sharing a narrow road.

However, it is still astonishingly beautiful. The road winds along a valley before zig-zagging up the mountainside. Sheep nibble at the short grass; birds fly high above the mountainside. The ponies haul the traps up to the saddle and then the view stretches out below. The river burbles, lingers in small lakes, and the tumbles on down towards the sea. And the mountains, blue and mysterious, loom over everything. Trees dominate the lower slopes; the higher slopes are vast and craggy and wonderful.

So it wasn't the day I expected it to be. There are some magical days that should never be repeated. But would I go back to the Gap of Dunloe again and again - oh yes. And there are pictures, but they are still on my camera, so that will have to sit till I get home.