Sunday, December 28, 2008


I've done it again, and I promised myself that I wouldn't.

For such small things, their absence really makes a difference.  What may not have been a beautiful reflection - but at least a familiar one - is changed utterly.  Without those beautifully curved, or at least bushily abundant, landmarks, the pasty blob of skin becomes rudderless.  Piggy lights, ample hooter and the too-wide cavern beneath are stranded on a (if you're lucky) cactus-free but boring terrain.  You decide you never, ever want to drive through the endless plains of mid-America, because you would recognise the scenery only too well.

The application of a hint of mascara, good foundation and a cheerful lipstick helps somewhat, but somehow without the landmark eyelashes, the face is not a pretty sight - particularly in the first hours of morning light.

Being too lazy to make an appointment in good time, and then the demands of the season eats into the hours that are left.  And then, if you are quite unlucky but intensely creative, you spot a box in the chemist - Home Eyelash Dyeing - and your feverish hands pluck it from its perch and drop it into the silly small basket which is already over-laden with more than enough toiletries to cope with any female relations whom you suddenly have decided will be offended forever if they turn up and there is no gift for them.

Of course all these things languish in the back of the wardrobe for days.  The sensitive females don't show, no urgent wrapping is necessary.

On the third day of Christmas, the discarded paper from received gifts that have added to the accumulation of debris on the bedroom floor cry out for dumping, and in the course of the operation the treacherous little box emerges and calls to you.  Such a quiet few days ahead.  Ample time to beautify yourself for the New Year round of events (there are none, but you never know what will turn up).  You look at the directions - which, of course, are written in such a small font that you cannot remove your spectacles and read at the same time.  You memorise Steps 1, 2 and 3 and head for the bathroom.  Applying first the lotion, then the gel onto the miniscule comb that you drop several times into the wash-basin, then comb to lashes may sound like a simple routine.  It's not.  Especially when hampered by several re-reads of the instruction leaflet that slides dangerously over the porcelain lid of the w.c. every time you put it down.  (Yes, I have already closed the lid on the w.c. but you're never sure, are  you, that you did that, so the fear is all encompassing). 

What a lovely neat job.  It will be a great success this time....I'm sure of it.  Black lashes begin to make themselves visible.  It says 'brownish-black' on the box.  But still....  More and more black lashes continue to people your forehead.  The end result is more like Coco the Clown than Coco Chanel.   You scrub with soap and hot water, resisting the use of the nail brush in case you remove all hair follicles accompanied by underlying skin.

Twenty minutes later you resign yourself to the fact that you won't be going anywhere over New Year.  You will be hiding behind a heavy veil, only emerging from the (fairly) safe confines of the bedroom until the colour fades.

That's when you promise yourself, Never Again! 

I really mean it this time!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


He said it was the best Birthday Party ever - hubby that is.

There were eight adults and eight children, ranging in ages from 2 months to 13 years of age.  Adults at the table, little ones with plates on their laps, except for eight year old Ethan who had a special little table all for himself with the adults, because he likes to share the conversation. Ethan

I can only claim responsibility for the preparations.  Got up early and made huge cauldron of soup and marinated eight steaks and eight fillets of salmon, ready to pop the 'surf and turf' in the oven as soon as guests arrived.  Never sure if families can manage to actually arrive close to time set, and didn't want the worry of deciding when to start the cooking.  Put plates in the trolley for heating.

Daughter and partner did the rest of the honours and supplied huge Malteser Cheese-cake for dessert.  Put night-light candles all around it and Granddad dutifully blew them out.  Gs & T all round while we waited, and a couple of bottles of Wolf Blass while we eat, finishing up with Irish Coffees.  Son number four and wife called while we were setting up and left their 12 year old son to join his cousins (company for the 11 year old lad who was getting a bit swamped with little girls).  Two friends of son number three (local lad, girl from Aix in Provence) joined us while we sat round the table recovering from the elegant repast.

All but one had left by 9.30 - he stayed another half hour debating the state of the nation before moving on to another party.  I was whacked by then and only fit for bed, but the Birthday Boy manfully put in the couple of mandatory hours in front of the TV before succumbing to the arms of Morpheus.

Best gift this year (bought for me by me) was Jennifer Johnston's 'Foolish Mortals',  Unusual story, delightfully told, read it in two days then nearly wept because it was over.  Reminder to me:  Don't be a greedy reader!  Take your time and make the joy last longer.  I've been promising to do that for more years than I care to remember........

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Last Minute Bits And Pieces

There I was, thinking I was the only sad person in the world with time to write on her blog on Christmas Eve when I spot that 'Various' is still 'listing' away happily.  If a bright young thing like Various can find time to write, then it's safe for anyone to put pen to paper (in a manner of speaking).  I expect that Oubliette is up to her tonsils in all sorts of domestic chores, having decided to entertain practically the whole world (it seems) to celebrate Christmas Day in her new mansion.

Me, having been invited out for dinner tomorrow (yippee, no spuds to peel!) I had intended to pick up just one or two last minute things (like replacing the pressie I bought for ME but had to give to my sister when she called yesterday and I had nothing ready).  Jennifer Johnston's 'Foolish Mortals' had hopped off the shelf into my bag full of books for other people the other day.  Knowing how much I deserve a present, and the unlikelihood of any of my nearest and dearest selecting that particular book, I pretended not to see it.  Nevertheless I had it propped beside my bed, savouring the anticipation of the read.  When sister and Hubby arrived, I wept silently as I bravely wrapped it in festive paper and parted with it to my only sibling - (Hubby got sweets, in case you're interested).  My reward was being able to find another copy today when I went in to contribute once again to the financial gain of my Book Lady.

Just as I was about to put the feet up for a few minutes, daughter-in-law phoned, hysterical.  A certain supermarket had failed to deliver her goods ordered on the Internet.  (Wouldn't have happened in Uncle Fergal's time!).  Since this would have a disastrous effect on my dinner tomorrow, there was nothing for it but to brave the traffic again and challenge the store - incurring, for my kindness, having to deliver the stuff myself.  By the time I got home, the ham (one of my two chores for tomorrow, the other being the Bread Sauce) had uncoiled itself in my largest saucepan.  Why didn't I buy bacon instead of Centre Cut?  It would have been cheaper, sweeter and in one piece.


Anyway, at this stage (6.30pm) the Spiced Beef is cooked for after-Mass sandwiches, the presents are underneath the tree and the Candle is lighting in the window.  And Santa is surely on his way, heading this way from the East - Maybe in China now, do you think?  He'll be here before dawn and that's when the excitement starts for the little ones.

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas and optimism in abundance for the wretched year they say lies ahead.  Maybe it won't be as dreadful as predicted.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Feeling Frail

What a shitty few days its been!  Is one allowed say 'shitty' on one's Blog?  Now that 'Feck' has been declared a non-dirty word in the UK, maybe anything goes.  And anyway it's the truth.

Rain, rain, rain and cold, piercing cold, for the past few days.  Until today.  But then, today I am prostrated with a stinking cold, fever, runny nose, headache, the lot!  Not a pretty sight.  So un-Christmassy too, not to mention inconvenient as I have loads of presents to wrap before I forget what is for which child and end up giving the baby a hardback novel and the 11 year old footballer a set of novelty knitting needles.

Actually I'm quite proud of myself because this year I left nearly all my present money with the nice lady in the bookshop.  No shoving and pushing through the crowd in Smyth's, or queuing forever in Argos for me.  All good educational stuff, well stories are educational aren't they?  Most of the things I learnt in life were found in the pages of books.  That's why I'm such a sad person, having constantly been disappointed when life did not live up to this dream world I inhabited throughout my teens.  In vain I waited for my knight in shining armour to appear on his white horse, but  had to settle for an ordinary, (sorry partner) mortal in the end.  He didn't whisk me up onto his horse and ride off into the sunset only just ahead of a posse of irate uncles and brothers.  Well, to be fair, I don't have any brothers, but he didn't whisk me off anywhere, in fact I suspect he was running in the opposite direction when I managed to snare him in my big butterfly net and pinned him to the wall as a trophy.  He looked so sad, splayed there that I eventually released him on condition he would make an honest woman of me.

By the way, did you ever go sailing either on the sea or the river?  If not, try the sea while you are young and lithe and can dodge a swinging boom, whisk 'bumpers' out of the sea at lightening speed and control the churning workings of your innards.  Its not for the fainthearted, I can tell you.  Lough Ree 015

When your body slows down you can take to the river and relax as you meander along enjoying the scenery with less danger to life and limb. 

As I do so often, I managed to be a little different, sailing safely through the waves to the east, south and west of our lovely island and only coming a cropper on the comparatively safe waters of Lough Ree. 

But you don't need to hear about that.   Maybe another time!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Poem...Or something


a house that has a mouse behind the skirting?

Did you buy some cheese hoping

to please his taste-buds for certain?

For you I suggest a Danish Blue

or a rare Camembert to share.

But a piece of Red Cheddar might

better suit this spell of cold weather.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Well, we have finally finished decorating my bedroom.  I use the word 'we' rather loosely, because all I contributed to the task really was advice, mainly ignored by the handyman who shares my life.  He has long known that my choice of colours is tasteless (in his manual), and that I pick furnishings that he finds unimaginable.  But I got my new (ivory) wardrobe, and my brown & beige rather Hessian-like carpet, (which arrived at about five o'clock yesterday and generated such a flurry of moving stuff around that I was dizzy just contemplating it) and my curtains on a nice wooden rail (light wood, to match mirror surround on wardrobe - but of course!). 

The mirror itself, picked by The Boss, is delightful, even though I hate the strip light that has been secreted behind the wood to light it.  Ah well, I have my table lamp which I can use instead.  He'll never notice.  And looking out from the mirror at me is my Frank Sinatra singing Airman Teddy presented to me by intuitive No. 1 Son some years ago.  When he sings, (Ted, not the Son) "Come Fly with me...." and his eyes glint behind their goggles, his scarf floating behind him, I go all gooey inside.

The paint was another matter.  He drew the line at "soft Kenyan" brown walls (jealous of Mr Obama I'd say, even though the choice was pure coincidence) and substituted an orangey-peach which is quite tolerable and probably less depressing.  It all looks rather well with my Argos teak shelves and locker and my large book-case full of rubble which it is now my job to sort through and discard.  I have spent almost two hours at it this morning and have managed to fill the very bottom of a black sack with a few bits and pieces.  I mean, how could I throw out the twenty-six copies and notebooks that are essential to my chosen role of scribbler?  And the photos of the kiddies at the parish fair?  The article I contributed to a magazine in 2004 now has two holes punched in it (two more in the cover where they were kind enough to place my name) awaiting a suitable folder to preserve them for posterity.

The set of cards with messages inscribed in Polish that I picked up on a holiday in Poznan some years ago are far too nice to discard, if  you'll pardon the pun, even though I no longer have any friends who speak Polish.  The jigsaw puzzle that was too hard for anyone in this family to do is intact but the box is open, so I can't be sure of that.  I doubt I will complete the 'intensive language course in French', received free from a Sunday Newspaper offer three years ago, but I should really; and I'm sure the box of receipts for things long forgotten will prove to have been essential if I dump them.

These objects are the ones I can immediately see.  There is a large (and very pretty) raffia box and two huge ugly boxes full of interesting things yet to be investigated.  A brief peep into the drawers of my beautiful wardrobe has just unveiled the fact that the top one, at least, is full of stuff that hubby obviously removed from the book-case pro t, knowing I would have to deal with them if I had to find somewhere to keep my frilly underwear (and loads of medication!)  But perhaps I have enough done for today and should, get dressed and interest myself in preparing a light repast in case anyone calls for lunch.  (I haven't had a luncheon visitor in yonks, but one never knows, does one, when the door-bell will ring.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Scary on the road this morning.  Bright sunshine dazzled me as I approached a crossing - never even saw traffic lights and wondered why other motorists didn't ced right of way.  Skidded to a stop on the frosty surface!  Phew!  It wasn't that close really, but frightened the bejaysus out of me, I can tell you.

Trip to Harry Corry for curtains for bedroom in process of decoration.  Tidying fit before I left home, and dumped measurements in bin.  Hubby will be so disappointed at yet another example of my stupidity.  Bought curtains and rail - naturally, wrone size least they are the colour I want!  He has gone to change them, bless him!  carpet coming tomorrow, crack of dawn, and furniture to be moved back into position.  At least all the stuff on the landing should get into the bins before the festive season gets into full swing.

Birds are devouring the nuts and bacon and things we put out for them.  Such a variety of kinds of birds.  I swear I saw a robin as big as myself out there this morning.

Must go now - kiddies will be in from school in a minute, starving and full of woe, if this past week is anything to go by.  They are full of excess energy because it is too cold for them to play outside.  Might have to tie them down in front of television......  Yet another pot of spaghetti bolognais to be ladeled onto plates.  Maybe they'd like French toast instead?  No, the spag will do fine.  Good for their little tummies (and my pocket.  Bless the person who invented a mincer for meat).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Getting Started

Spent yesterday morning with my Therapist (physio, not Psycho - maybe that's where I'm going wrong.  While she lit the candles and put on a soothing tape, (and, on my insistance, warmed her hands) we philosophised on the difficulties of men and women coexisting in permanent relationships.  As she moulded my swollen lets into a less piggy-like shape, I let the confusion slip away until an hour later, I couldn't have cared less about anyone's problems.  Least of all my own.

A relaxing lunch in The Courtyard completed the treatment.

As I try to work myself up into seasonal humour, and begin my Christmas shopping, I thought I'd put in a lettle story.  It might cheer us all up.  No?  Ah well!  I do my best.

Clever Santa

Niks sat at the kitchen table. His brow was furrowed and the pencil was grasped so tightly in his eight-year-old fist that the knuckles showed white through his skin. His little pink tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth as he tried to think and write at the same time.

Niks was writing a letter – or trying to. It wasn’t easy. The page that he had torn out from his school copy only had few words on it as yet, but was already grubby from rubbing out mistakes.

The letter was to Salavecis – that was the first thing he had had to change, because now that he lived in Ireland he had discovered that in this new country, Salavecis was called Santa Claus. Niks was fairly sure that Salavecis would remember him from last year – but would he know that his home was no longer in Latvia but in another place, miles away from where the snow would be piling up against the doors and windows of his grandmother’s house? His mother had said that of course he would, but Niks wasn’t so sure. After all, his mother couldn’t even help him with spelling the words he wanted to say – she could speak English fairly well, but writing it down was a different matter. That’s why Niks had to work so hard in school, so that he soon he could help his mother to fill in all the papers she had to deal with so that she could get a better job.

“I’ve been a good boy. Please bring me a football and a surpris….” The black lead in the pencil snapped in half. He must have been leaning too hard on it. Niks searched his school bag for a parer.

As he thought of the little house in Latvia where they had lived with his grandmother Natasha and his cousins Mikhail and Ivan, Niks began to feel lonely. He had nobody to play with here after school. There weren’t any other children living in these apartments, and his mother didn’t like him to play outside much. She worried about him. His mother had friends all right, but when they were together they spoke in Latvian or Russian so that didn’t help him to learn much English. He thought again about his cousins, and felt a bit sad, so he crossed out ‘football’ from the page and added on ‘friend’ instead. He would have liked to get a new page and start again, but knew he couldn’t waste another from his copy. When he gave the letter to his mother to post to Salavecis, Niks thought that maybe he made a mistake changing his letter. Santa couldn’t really bring a friend all the way from Lapland in his sack, and he really did want a football. But it was too late now – the letter was gone.

Niks needn’t have worried. When he opened his eyes on Christmas morning there, underneath the little Christmas Tree with lots of surprise presents was a lovely black and white football – a proper one that bounced really loudly on the wooden floor. Wow! Santa had known what he really wanted after all. Niks was so happy.

When they came home from Church, Niks started bouncing the ball around the room and up and down the hall. He kicked it really hard and it went flying into the kitchen and his mother yelled at him, “Niks, take that damned ball outside before you break everything!” He held the ball carefully under his arm while he went down all the steps to the front door, then he bounced it in front of him right out to the gate and on to the small patch of grass outside. He threw the ball up into the air and bounced it on his head, then chased it and picked it up and did it again. Then he dropped it on his toe and bounced it there, like Rhonaldino did on the television.

“Hey, that’s cool. Can we play?” Niks looked around. Sitting on the wall outside the next lot of apartments were two little boys about his own age.

“O.K.” He kicked the ball in their direction and the red-haired one caught it deftly and kicked it back to him. The other boy, in a bright green jacket, chased across to him. “Kick it to me, go on!” he cried. They played happily together for half an hour or more before being called for their dinner.

That night, as he climbed into bed, tired out from the excitement of Christmas Day, the little red-headed boy in Apartment 14d said, “Hey Ma, I’m glad we moved here in time for Christmas. We made a friend today – he lives next door and said he’d meet Sean and me in the morning for a game of football.” Just a few short yards away, Niks lay happily in bed looking out at the night sky. How had Salavecis known, when he landed in his sleigh on the roof last night, that Niks had really wanted the football and a friend?

Santa Salavecis really is wonderful!