Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Hag Stones

We went to our favourite beach on Christmas Eve.
It wasn't a particularly nice day. The sun shone in fits and starts, and I think we got rained on and blown at, but it didn't matter.
It was the first time we'd all been together for more years than we could count, and the weather wasn't going to put us off.

Christmas Eve

We collected hag-stones along the way, peeking through them at the charcoal grey skies and tumultuous white foam on the sea. They are magical, hag stones, the 'eyes' in them said to be doorways to other worlds, especially if you look through them in moonlight.
A perfect circular eye encompassing your heart's desire.
When I looked through them, I saw all my family together in one place.

They say that you don't find hag stones, they find you.

I have collected them for years. Perhaps one day I will hang them from the bedpost to ward off nightmares, or string them from the ceiling to protect my animals. Who knows.

On Christmas Eve, my loved ones held firmly together in their ring-eyes, I was happy to thread them onto some pretty ribbon as a memory of our first Christmas together in this house for eight years.
A very special time.

It seems unbelievable, but just a few weeks ago I wondered how I'd ever get the house together for Christmas. Much as I longed to see my boys, I dreaded them coming home and feeling that Christmas wasn't what it used to be. I've not been hugely well this year and as a result, the place has looked more and more like an ill-fated jumble sale as the months have gone by - unloved; stuff everywhere, dust settled in drifts.
The worse it gets, the less you feel able fee to deal with it.
The worse you get, the less you care.

I don't really want to think about it. Mercifully the In-Charge and #2 Son helped pull it together - I'd never have managed it without them. We blitzed everything: threw the vacuum cleaner, a load of dusters and buckets of hot water in, locked the doors and fought it out.
I wasn't the last man standing. The effort nearly wiped me out, but it was worth it. By the time #1 Son arrived the night before Christmas Eve, lights were twinkling, the Christmas tree was glowing in the corner and the house was rich with the scent of venison and spices.

The eve of Christmas Eve

Everything is ready

The stars that #1 Son and I made when he was three were hanging - traditionally - in the hallway, all the most special cards that we've received over the years were brightening the walls on their ribbons, beloved decorations had been taken from their tissue lined boxes and the candles were lit.

We didn't do much. Apart from our walk on the beach, we mostly sat around catching up with each other. We laughed a lot, drank champagne for breakfast, talked about life on the far side of the world and life on the ocean wave. We filled and refilled glasses with red wine, we ate all the delicious treats we associate with Christmas, and couldn't eat some chocolates that were just too beautiful to consume. We opened presents, laughed as Model Dog opened her present and SuperModel's, and flitted in and out of a jigsaw on the table in the corner - another tradition that has lain dormant for years. And then on Boxing Day we welcomed friends for a supper party just as we used to in days gone by.
After so many silent years, the winter song of the house has been renewed.
What a joy.

We lay around

Model Dog opened her present and SuperModel's

Chocolates just too beautiful to eat

Bollinger for breakfast

A suitably themed jigsaw for 2014. The flag was the most difficult bit - maybe we have lived out of the UK too long

Now they have gone back to their own worlds. #1 Son to Edinburgh and Iceland before heading back to the West Indies to meet his boat. #2 Son happily not to the far side of the world this time, just elsewhere in Ireland, where he's planning to stay for awhile.
Standing in Dublin Airport a few days ago, waving goodbye, I thought of the Hag stones, threaded on their scarlet ribbon.
I'm glad the Hag stones found us on Christmas Eve.
They are locked safely in the eyes of the stones, my darling boys.
Whenever I look through, I will see them, spooling out along the paths of their own lives, yet held fast within a circle of warm light that spells Christmas.
You see, they are magical, Hag stones.
As magical as Christmas itself.
As magical as love.

You can read about another Christmas here

And here

Or even here

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Wild, Wintry West

The In-Charge came home last night and said, 'It's all white on the hills along the road. And we're going to get 60' waves tomorrow.'
'Goodness,' I replied. I was diligently working the border of Tina's blanket at the time (Tina is waiting to collect it and send it off - it's a Christmas present for her sister), so I wasn't concentrating very hard.
'Where's the snow?' I asked, far more interested in set-dressing than water. 'Up around Skreen?'
It was indeed around Skreen that winter has descended, perhaps a little early for Christmas, but it's getting the right idea.

Adding the border

We have been in the teeth of a storm for the last three days. Bitterly cold winds screaming in from the north like banshees on broomsticks - tearing the face off you if you're daft enough to be out. Hail flinging itself at the roof and windows like gunfire, odd snatches of sunshine luring you to a false sense of security. I was at a craft fair with my friend the Goddess of Plenty on Sunday. By mid-morning, in a blitz of thunder and lightning, the power had gone, never to return, and at the end of the day we were both so numb with cold it's a wonder we managed to pack the car and drive home.

But this morning lying in that half world between sleeping and waking, listening to the trees moaning around the house, my brain snapped on like a light switch.
60 foot waves? That's not a storm, that's a tsunami.
We are only 70' above sea-level ourselves, we can see the sea from our upstairs windows. The river runs practically past our door.
What does he mean, 60' waves?
I pictured walls crumbling, cars floating, trees like flotsam, the bridge swept away on an angry, churning tide.
Lying there, I suddenly wondered if the distant roaring I could hear was the sea, preparing to strike.
I decided it was time to get up. The hens wouldn't stand a chance.
But later, as I headed out of the village, the sea just looked grey and cross and murky.
I noticed that the sea road was closed though.
And this evening the wind is still roaring. Hail has come and gone and come again.
It isn't over yet.

I hated the wind when we first moved here. There are times when I still hate it, but by and large I like the connection it gives me. Lying in bed, cocooned in my warm nest, safe within the thick, 200-year old stone walls of this house, there is something wonderful about the wind and the trees battling it out all around me.It is like being in the centre of the vortex - the eye of the storm - or at the bottom of the sea. Something wild and elemental is happening, but just beyond my reach. And I am not quite as fearful for the trees as I used to be, after years of watching how they dance to the wind-demon's whim.

It isn't always like that, of course. Sometimes a gale finds its way inside the roof, you can hear it whirling around in apocalyptic rage beneath the slates like a dervish, trying to get in, in - in to the heart of the place, hungry to lay waste. It has managed that, once or twice, slates spinning off like fish-scales - but hopefully not today. Today it doesn't sound personal, not like the night that still haunts me, when I woke to hear the wild beast of heaven swarming overhead like a demon on the rampage.

It's my hens I feel most sorry for. Who would be a hen in this weather?

A brief moment of sunshine - it didn't last!

Poor little dotes. They are blown hither, thither and yon. They look bedraggled and cold, and spend all day hiding in the shrubbery below the wall.
At least they get a hot breakfast and supper. From the indecent speed with which they gobble it up, I think they like it! Simple to make, but it makes all the difference to their day - half a kettle of hot water in their 'cornflakes' and then I splat it about on the grass for them.

Hot mash makes for happy hens

But at least they are all there at bedtime tonight. Cold, damp and blown but otherwise unscathed.
As are my roofs. And my trees.

To come away unscathed is to be blessed.
So mercifully, just a normal wild, wintry day.
Let's hope the 60 foot waves will only feature in the annals of local folklore.

Monday, 8 December 2014


I actually went to the ballet recently.
That's about the third time in twenty odd years. How sad is that?
I love ballet, but we don't get a huge amount of it here in the North West, and when we do, I miss it, or am too broke, or hear about it after the event.
But this time I actually made it to the one and only performance.

Ballet Ireland Swan Lake photo by Ros Kavanagh, taken from Internet

I have my friend, the Goddess of Plenty to thank, because if she hadn't invited me to go with her, I'd never have known it was on.
Ballet Ireland in Sligo, dancing Swan Lake. Goodness gracious.

DodoWoman joined our happy band, and when the three of us arrived at the theatre in Sligo, we wondered for a moment if we'd got the wrong night and were in for a Panto instead. The foyer was heaving with  hordes of excited children.
I have to confess, my heart sank slightly as we took our seats in the balcony - three solid rows of young kids behind us, more on either side. I wondered whether it would be Swan Lake to Tchaikovsky or to a stream of burbling chatter.
At least that took my mind off what sort of performance Ballet Ireland had in store. The last ballet I'd seen on our relatively modest stage had been performed by a very reduced company. Lovely, but not the full monty, and I although I was just happy to be there, deep down I didn't really want a compromised Swan Lake - I wanted the traditional, full, unexpurgated version in all its moonlit, feathery glory.

Ballet Ireland photo from the Internet

I have heard the music many times in the intervening years, and it never fails to move me, but there is nothing like hearing it in the hush of a darkened theatre, waiting for the curtains to rise. What I hadn't expected was to be transported, with the first bars of the score, back to my own childhood, sitting in the stalls at Covent Garden at the tender age of eleven, staring at the rich velvet curtains, waiting, waiting, hardly able to breathe with excitement. As the ballet unfolded, I recalled every nuance of that first magical experience, the haunting music flooding through me like adrenaline, the dancers an enchanted dream just beyond reach - the exquisite romance of it all, the pathos, the heartbreak.

It was a fabulous performance, that night in Sligo. The Swan Lake I had fallen in love with all those years ago, not changed, or reduced, or modernised, just the tried and tested classic that bewitched me as a child.

Wonderfully, it betwitched the countless children in the audience too.
There wasn't a peek out of anyone during the whole evening.
Thank you, Ballet Ireland.
And thank you, Talentui Goddess  

Photo:  taken from the Internet

Saturday, 6 December 2014


All in all, it's been a difficult year. I've spent most of it feeling very unwell, so as much as possible I've kept my head below the parapet, which has kept me away from blogging.
But even though I haven't been online very often, my blog has been a warm, furry presence out there, awaiting my eventual return.
So you cannot imagine my dismay when on Thursday, after a long absence, I opened up Blogger only to be told 'You are not the author of a blog yet'.
Thinking I'd done something wrong, I tried again.
Then I switched email account and tried a third time.
I did everything my technically-challenged brain could think of.
No joy.

It may sound a little dramatic, but given the circumstances, it felt like the last straw.
In desperation, I sent an email to the GeekWizard (who retrieved everything off my blue-screen-of-death hard drive), but he has - rather thoughtlessly, I feel - moved to another country and is currently house-hunting and up to his gunnels. I sent a similar email to WonderBrother (who salvaged my blog once before when all was lost), but he - also rather thoughtlessly - has acquired a new, uber-demanding job in yet another country.
Neither was at the other end of my emails at the time.

It was then, after turning off the depressing message that I was 'not the author of a blog yet', I went back to my emails. There was one from my first-born nephew, about a photo he had kindly sent me a few days ago. He was, the email said, studying for his MBA exams next week.
My addled brain lit up. My nephew, I suddenly recalled, works for Google. (In yet a third country.)
I communicated my misery to him in Helsinki, and told him - in fairly round terms - what I thought of his employers.
He answered at once, bless him. He doesn't work for Google (it's one of the other big names out there), but said he'd have a look.

It took most of his precious revision day, and involved him setting up a blog of his own to see how the system worked - and there were odd hours when either he or I were offline, but at bed time - oh Hallelujah! - there it was!
He had managed to retrieve my blog from the jowls of perpetual oblivion and return it to one rather distraught owner.
He is a Genius and a MegaStar!

I think you can see the seeds of greatness in this photo, taken when he was less than a year old. It's one I'm particularly fond of.

 Thank you, dear Nephew!

Friday, 5 September 2014

A Pet Evening

Last week, while the Godson was here, the Silver Beast decided to break down.
She's been very good this last year or two, living quietly in her kennel-yard and going everywhere we've asked, with no complaint. But no longer. She went from moody to recalcitrant to point-blank refusal in just 4 days.
The started-motor had died.

Happily, the Godson drove us hither, thither and yon, bless his heart, but alas, even he finally had to go home, and still the garage hadn't been able to get to her.
It was my friend DodoWoman who stepped into the breach, as ever.
'I need to ask you a huge favour.' I said - hesitantly.
'What?' She sounded slightly anxious, but when I asked if we could borrow her small car, her response was immediate and generous to a fault, as always. 'Of course,' she said with verve and vigour. It was only afterwards I wondered what she'd been expecting me to say.

I have fallen in love with her Hyundai. It goes like a dream, is incredibly comfortable, and when asked if it wants a drink responds with an astonishing, 'No, I'm good thanks.'
It was - as with all the lends of her cars over the years - a godsend for which I am forever grateful.

The Silver Beast, having had her moment of cosseting and one-to-one attention, is now safely back in the yard, happy and  full of well-being, so yesterday evening we set out to return DodoWoman's car to its own cosy nest.

Unlike the rest of the British Isles and Ireland, we have not been basking in unalloyed sunshine all week, despite all promises and expectations. We have skulked under grey skies and dismal-ness.
I think there were a few brief hours of fitful sunlight on Wednesday afternoon, but that was it.
However, yesterday, although the clouds sat heavy on our shoulders the entire day, it was blissfully warm and even more blissfully still.

'Let's take the dogs and go to the beach on the way,' the In-Charge suggested, just when the sun would have been dipping over the yardarm. ''It will be low tide.'
So we drove both cars over to DodoWoman's house, left her Hyyndai to await her return from forrin-parts and moseyed down green, summery lanes to our second favourite beach. We passed lazy amblers, dogs and companionable horse-riders on the way.

It must have been about 7.45pm when we got to the beach. The tide was at its lowest ebb.
There were sandbars showing all across the bay, the sea pooling around them like silk, the sky pearling softly into the water, and everything the shade of sophisticated dresses, neither silver nor grey nor quite lavender.
And on the spit of land behind the beach, harebells, wild scabious and white heather spread in drifts through the grass.
We walked along the beach in our shirtsleeves, not a breath of wind, the air balmy and gentle, the only sound a heron hurrying home to Culleenamore.

It's not often that we are walking the beach on such a pet evening. It's not often that we are on the beach as the day melts into night.
But the combination of the two sent me tumbling through a mindfall of years, walking a beach on the far side of the world, saying goodbye to my childhood, the night before I left that tropical island forever.
It is strange, what ghosts walk in the gloaming.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Dragon Chick and The Giant Umbrella

We have, as it were, cashed in the rainy-day fund and bought a large umbrella.
A very large umbrella.
So far, this has just led to monstrous amounts of work, but hopefully it will all be worth it in the end.
We have got a polytunnel.

I have never remotely desired a polytunnel. I cannot envisage waking up in the morning and thinking: 'I can't wait to get into that tunnel', whereas I often rush out to the garden first thing with my early morning cuppa.
But recently the In-Charge and I went to visit a friend's garden. We had 'messages' in the area, and Annette, although she was away, invited us to make free of her verdant spaces, which we did. The In-Charge even got bitten by her young rescued pony - but he's well able for that sort of thing. He likes horses, and this one and he share the same name. Anyway, it was no'but a lad's trick.

In Annette's garden

Annette has a wonderful garden, which expands and changes every year, and seems to be continuously bursting with flowers. And she, along with everyone else in the north west, has a polytunnel. We stood in it, out of the mizzle, and admired the wall-to-wall sweet peas. The hot, humid air was laden with their scent and it was a very pleasant place to be.


We discussed it all the way home and have since visited other peoples' tunnels - by way or research. We ate warm, pungent tomatoes in one at Rossinver, admired jungle-like eucalyptus and dahlias in another near Frenchpark, and nearly passed out over the asparagus in a third (on account of the heat, not the asparagus). All grist for the mill.
It didn't take us long to decide.
As far as the fund is concerned, today is the rainy day.

Needless to say, being one of our projects, nothing has been simple.
Well, it was simple deciding where to put it because there wasn't much choice, but after that it was all up- or down-hill, depending on which way you look at it.
The ground wasn't level (and lies in the teeth of the westerly gales). There was a large tree adjacent to the site, not to mention a deep and open drainage channel. Moreover, it was the best grass on the property - how could we kiss goodbye to that? And - and, this was my beloved hens' paddock, one of my favourite places in the garden - could I bear to part with it?

The hens' and bees' paddock

The best grass on the property, a large tree and a deep ditch

 But on the other hand, it gets a lot of sunshine.

By the time we'd reviewed all the ins and outs, it didn't look good.
'It's going to cost as much to put up as it costs to buy the damn thing,' the In-Charge muttered.
All the same, we bit the bullet and set off on a Day Out to visit a supplier who seemed the most reliable, knowledgeable and reasonably priced. It turned out that not one but two of our closest friends had also bought their tunnels from him.
It would be delivered, he promised, a week later. IKEA fashion - ie in a lot of bits like a giant jigsaw.

But first we had a great deal of work to do and a gazillion tons of earth to move. We hired a Dragon Chick from Andy, the builder, and our friend Robin came and worked miracles with it, the first of which was to get it up the bank to the required location.

The Dragon Chick

Then it was just dig, dig, dig.

Bye Bye lovely grass.  Bye Bye hens if you don't watch out!

The hens helped. In fact, they were so helpful it's a wonder that none of them got flattened in the process.
I think they thought the Dragon Chick was their mother, constantly unearthing yummies for them to eat.

Model Dog helped too

When Robin and the Dragon Chick returned to their rightful dwelling-places, we were left looking at the beginnings of a decent swimming-pool, 5 tons of gravel - and a lot of flat-packed metal and wood.

Happily, the In-Charge's godson - little knowing what he was letting himself in for - emailed to ask if he could come and stay for a few days.
Why yes, dearest boy - how positively wonderful it will be to see you! How long can you stay? (And please bring your boots.)

Much debate as the fun and games begin

A lot of standing around in the mizzle

Down one ladder and up the next

Bless his cotton socks, he mucked in like a good 'un. We have, indeed, all mucked in like good-'uns.
We are now at the stage of wondering whose blimming idea this was in the first place, but at least we are finally ready to put the roof on.

The giant umbrella is nearly ready.
All we need is a bit of sunshine to 'stretch' the plastic.
And a pile of people to tug and pull and - ooops, not that way...

PS: Unfortunately, because we've been so busy, we forgot to pick the beans.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Felt All Over

When we were at the Museum of Country Life recently, the bit I liked best wasn't the Museum at all (fab and all as that was).
It was the Café.
No surprise there, cake-aholic that I am, but - although they had very delicious cakes - it wasn't even that.
It was the exhibition of felt pieces on display that grabbed me.
One of the waitresses said they'd been made by local school kids.
I wanted to take them all home - the felt, not the kids.

Some of the wonderful display of felt pieces

I love making felt. I think it should be obligatory for everyone at some stage, male or female.
So many people over the years have said to me: 'I'm not a creative kind of person'.
I find that very hard to believe. Everyone is creative. If they think they aren't, they just haven't plugged into the right socket yet. They probably haven't had the opportunity to be creative.
They need to go on a felting course, even if it's only for a single morning.

No one can fail to be creative with felt.
And who knows where one small session of 'making' might lead?
That would just be the start of it.

I think problems with creativity are largely about expectations.
Take art. For nine and a half out of every ten of us, there is such a gaping chasm between what we see in our heads - or even in front of our eyes - and what we manage to produce on paper/canvas or whatever, it's no surprise we feel as if FAILURE is stamped on our foreheads after every sorry attempt.
It's the same with so many creative disciplines.
The words you write don't express what you'd like to say.. The lump of clay won't centre on the wheel, no matter how often you try. The pink fluffy whatsit you're making doesn't look anything like the one in the magazine.
It's as if there's some vital link missing somewhere in the chain from brain to hand - the messages aren't getting through, or else they're being distorted en route. Your head wants to achieve but it ain't coming out through your fingers.

I guess it's probably age related as well. It's ok to splodge paint about when you're four, you're thrilled with anything at that stage, but splodges aren't terribly satisfying if you're 40 and you were hoping to run up a little Cezanne.

It isn't like that with felt.
Possibly because there aren't really any expectations with felt - or certainly  not in those vital, early stages.
You start with a bit of wool in your hands. You choose a colour you like, several colours that appeal to you.
You have soap and water, and someone shows you how to work them together, with a chik or a mat or something to provide a bit of friction.
You work away in the dark - you can't even see what you're doing.
But voilà - magic happens willy nilly.

When you unwrap your warm, soapy bundle, there it is - a unique fusion you have created without glue, or needle and thread, or any other invasive method of joining. The colours you have chosen have come together in a pattern that you may or may not have devised, to form an entirely new material that is robust yet fragile, tactile yet also a feast for the eyes, enduring yet delicate.
You cannot help but be thrilled - I promise you.

I'll promise you something else too.
You'll want more.

Gradually you become more adventurous.
You try bigger, more elaborate, more precise, more abstract, wilder, finer tuned - who knows, but whatever it is you want to try, more will be the operative word.
More and more and more.
It's fun, it's alive, it's creative, it's addictive.
It's failure-proof.
You cannot help but create felt, and you cannot help but create pattern.
It's just so satisfying.

There was also a fab collection of birds made from felt and scraps of other materials

If you don't believe me, get on-line and find a felting course near you, or ask around and when you've found one, don't hang about - try it.
You won't be disappointed.
And who knows where that portal will end up taking you?
And you'll never again think you're not creative, either.

Oh, and if you're anywhere near The Museum of Country Life in the next few weeks, pop into the Café and see this lovely exhibition while you can - I don't know how long it'll be there.

Time to get felt all over.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

It's a Walk-Out!

We have, as they say, lost the run of ourselves altogether.
One day out (at the Museum of Country Life) and that's it - the In-Charge and I have downed tools, gone on strike and walked out.
Our work lies abandoned where we left it and we have been taking days off, one after the other, on the trot.

I'm not sure that we needed one, but we have had a teensie little excuse for such idleness.
A painful, messy, and - well, revolting excuse.
The In-Charge burst his finger open. I think his endless stint on the roof and then weeks mending the wall have taken their toll.
It was, inevitably, gory, and eye-wateringly painful.
A large stone slipped, squashing his hand onto another stone and one of his fingers bore the brunt. About 3 inches split open to the bone.
It wasn't pretty.

Being a man, he refused point blank to go to A&E, and as I didn't have half a dozen Bouncers and a lot of rope handy, there was nothing I could do to enforce a visit.
Instead, an alcohol wipe was briefly passed over the extreme surface, a squirt of dry antiseptic was sprayed in the direction of the wound, as many butterfly stitches applied as possible and painkillers administered.
You may now address me as Matron (a starched hat is in the post).

My immediate prescription was lots of R&R, so we have, unexpectedly had what you might call a bit of a holiday.
And mercifully, although it's been a tad breezy, and we've had some heavy bursts of rain, the weather hasn't been too bad.
The first few days he lay in the sun - arm propped high on cushions - and for a short while, I even drove him around. But that didn't last long. You know what men are like.

And we've sallied forth on lots of outings.

The Models with #2 Son on our favourite beach

We went to our favourite beach, walked to the far end and got utterly drenched on the return journey.
Thank you, Hurricane Bertha.

SuperModel taking off

Even the Models were a bit taken aback by the overwhelming overwhelmingness of the rain. SuperModel suffers from a rare and very sad affliction. She dissolves in the rain, so it is imperative that she stays well away from any but the lightest of showers. (Luckily, she doesn't 'absolve' in the sea as well. Or the lake. She's OK in water that she chooses, but that definitely doesn't include hose-pipes, bathroom showers, rain etc etc. That kind of water is very, very dangerous indeed.)
So, on the beach, as soon as the car was dimly visible (a distant speck - she is a Sight Hound after all) she just bolted. Bullets and guns come to mind.
The In-Charge and #2 Son eventually caught up with her. She was huddled in the lee of the car, shivering and completely unable to understand what had taken them so long. 
Even my faithful Model Dog finally left my side as we neared our destination and, with an apologetic backward glance, turned and ran for the cover of the open car boot.

Fortunately, a good rub down and - in the case of the two-legged members of the party - a hot shower soon revived us all. (The In-Charge has perfected a method of showering/washing that doesn't involve his right hand. I think he takes it off and leaves it outside the door.)

Since then we have really caught the holiday-bug.
On Sunday, we went to Carrick for the day. A friend told me there is an indoor market (of the junk rather than the food variety) next door to the weekly car-boot sale, so we piled the dogs into the car and set off first thing.
We had a great time - and a sunny one withal.
We bought a pair of cast iron legs that will make a perfect table for the garden, once we decide which of three table tops to award them to.
I bought some beautiful phlox from a German chap, two large baskets of shells (for an as yet unidentified project in the garden), a pretty little dish which caught my eye and a gorgeous paperweight that the In-Charge thoughtfully brought to my attention.
Meanwhile, the dogs lapped up a serious amount of flattering attention, behaved immaculately and - as always - served as an introduction to all sorts of people.

We bought a paperweight, lots of shells and a little plate

On our way home we popped into Strandhill People's Market, but sadly it must have rained there a good bit, as the stall holders had all gone home by early afternoon, when we arrived. The In-Charge bought a delicious sausage in a roll from the only remaining stand and then we too headed home for tea and a lazy evening. On our journey we listened to a programme about the Irish Wolfhound in which they quoted the most perfect description I've ever heard of those - and all - hounds: 'A lamb in the house, a lion in the chase'.

By Monday, we were up and ready for the off, the dogs dancing at the door.
All we had to do was decide where to go.
As we needed to visit a wood yard for several items, we decided to go to Sligo. We haven't been out that way for ages, since the end of term in May.
It was a breezy day still, but Bertha having plumped for places further south, it was mostly just sunny and warm. Sligo is very busy this week, and all wrapped up in the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, so we left it singin' an dancin' and headed out to Half Moon Bay, to Hazelwood for a lovely, peaceful walk.

Hazelwood House, picture taken from the internet

It is heartbreaking that such a house has slithered into rack and ruin, instead of being put to some latterday use. It was built in the 1730's - Richard Cassells was the architect - and owned by the Wynne family, but they ceased to live there donkey's years ago. Let's not go into the whole sorry, sordid Saehan occupation of the site, but if someone doesn't rescue the house soon, it will probably be too late. It may already be too late - who knows when this picture was taken? But imagine if it could be used to benefit the whole community.
We noticed a For Sale notice on the gate, but I didn't see exactly what was for sale. 
Let's hope the Save Hazelwood House society can, indeed, save it.
(Click here if you want to know more.) 

Map taken from Sligo Walks - Hazelwood

At least the woods, surrounded practically on all sides by Lough Gill and the Garavogue River, remain and are open to the public. We didn't follow the well known sculpture trail, we just enjoyed the scenery. From Half Moon Bay you can look across to Cottage Island and Church Island on Lough Gill. We stood for a long time staring out across the water. Back in the mists of time, we used to go to both those islands in the little boat with the In-Charge's father. We'd load up with fishing rods, rugs, picnic baskets, the dogs, and the Volcano, that marvellous contraption for boiling water almost instantly over a campfire, and we'd set out for a blissful day messing about in boats.
'What's it like on the lake, Sammy?' my father-in-law would ask the old black lab.
'Ruf, ruf,' he'd bark his own reply.
It's a perennial joke, but it reminds me of him.
The days that used to be.


We left Hazelwood and popped into McHale's wonderful wood yard nearby to get the pieces we needed. I quite fancied a mosey out to Dromahair, but by then the car was rather laden, so we went down towards Doorly Park to find the scaffold-board man instead. We wished we'd had the foresight to bring the trailer at that point, but we'll go back another day.

Yesterday, we again got up bright and early and went off to The Organic Centre in Rossinver.
Sadly, once there, we couldn't think of a way of passing the Models off as Blind Dogs, so we had to leave them in the car, parked under some shady trees with the windows open. They were, to say the least, extremely put out, but there you go.
It was a quiet day at Rossinver and unfortunately the cafe wasn't open, so no coffee for the In-Charge. But we looked in all the polytunnels, ate the warm, aromatic tomatoes straight from the vine that were offered to us, admired the wonderful home-made benches, the imaginative fence posts and the willow sculptures.

The Organic Centre has lots of things to admire

After that we drove up to Enniskillen, on to Omagh and then back via the Atlantic route, stopping to picnic,  look at things and walk the dogs in between several gusty rain showers. In Ballyshannon we were too late to find a cafe, so drank coffee and ate ice cream in the car on the deserted little harbour below the town, and stared out at the cross, grey waves snapping at the squally rain. In the distance lay a gleaming sand bar, lit up by a stolen ray of sunshine, but we were too tired to go and find it, and in the event, it too was swallowed up in mist by the time we left.

This morning we haven't gone anywhere.
The In-Charge's new toy has arrived. He has bought a Bosch 'silent' vacuum cleaner, so that he can clean around Hobbes without waking him up - like they do on the ad.
He got it on-line, super-duper-ultra-reduced because it was shop-soiled or something.
I tried it, but it wasn't on silent mode and Hobbes leapt up and ran out in disgust.
The In-Charge was also disgusted. I had taken the first 'go' on his new piece of  kit, a presumption of the first order and not to be tolerated. However, I've apologised profusely, willingly agreed to re-sign the pact that forbids me from using the vacuum cleaner - ever, and peace has been restored.
He is away now, cleaning the house in blissful silence, without needing ear-defenders for once.

Judging how long it's been since the old vacuum died, he could be gone some time.

The Models are consequently sulking in their beds.
It looks like our Walk-Out is over, for the time being anyway.