An answer for Celi

Celi at The Kitchens Garden, has issued a challenge to her huge following who read, comment or become part of the Farmy Fellowship: The deal is to post an image of where we write their posts, our comments and responses.

In my case it varies like Irish weather, I no longer have a fixed desk. In winter it is normally in my living room where I can see and warm my tootsies by the open fire.

At the other end of the L shaped room is my dining table and if I need to use my printer, that is where I work.

In the preparation for hip replacement back in 2009, I purchased a bed table on castors. It has become the most used piece of furniture in my house. I can move it from room to room as I wish, the castors on the base frame slide in under my bed and allows me to type away to my hearts content without the weight on my legs.

When cooking or baking, I can access my recipe folder on the laptop by wheeling the laptop through to join me. It sits neatly under the counter top until I need to check something.

My corner for several weeks now has been in a comfortable armchair near the window for the light and surrounded by my latest crochet project – More on that another day.

Food Monday ~I am partial to a Swede.

No.

This time I am not talking about you Anders, I am in the mood for food.

Deep in concentration on my crochet the other week at Parlour Yarns… I realised the conversation had turned, as it often does, to food. Suggestions for dinner were asked for or shared. I cocked my ear to listen more intently.

They were talking Turnips of the Swedish variety. It is often known as yellow turnip, Russian turnip, or in America, rutabaga. In Scotland it is known as ‘neeps’.

I never knew it was a member of the cabbage family.

My only problem is cutting off the root, then peeling, and cutting the tough flesh into chunks.

It appeared on our table regularly while growing up, always boiled in chunks.

Jack liked it boiled with the potatoes and mashed – I now use it this way for the roof of my Shepherd’s pie with a little sprinkling of crushed crisps to finish it off.

Back to the Parlour…

Ray had the floor and was describing a simple way to produce wonderful golden yellow flesh without any peeling or chopping!

“No need to wash or peel it”. She intoned. “Bung it in the microwave and cook it for 20-25 minutes and there you have it!” 

When the laughter stopped someone asked how you knew if it was cooked?

Never stuck for an answer Ray said:

 “Stick a knitting needle in it!”

Jennifer, agreed that it worked well and I don’t think she had the sale of more needles in mind. 😉

Well, you know what is coming… I had to give it a try. I pulled out the swede/turnip from my Vegetable box.

Raw Turnip

Raw Turnip

I weighed it 900 grs. Placed it on a plate with a layer of kitchen paper over the top, set it in the Microwave ( mine is an E 1000W) on High power for ten minutes… I did not want any explosions. I tested it with a metal skewer at that stage and decide it did need more time. Two sessions of five minutes later (Ray was right!) I lifted it out onto the counter and let it sit a minute. There was a bread knife on the counter and I lifted it and cut the turnip in two as easily as a loaf of bread.

Microwaved turnip halved

Microwaved turnip halved

The flesh was soft but not soggy. I spooned it out onto the plate and it mashed easily with a fork.

scooped out turnip flesh

scooped out turnip flesh

There was more than one helping for me so I bagged the remainder and froze it. I had it yesterday with dinner and it was perfect.

I’ll do it this way in future, No struggling to peel or chop the raw turnip and the cooked shell of skin is as soft as a coarse baked potato skin.

Who pulled the plug?

Well that is what it felt like. Invisible plugs in the soles of my feet were pulled and all my energy drained faster than a full bath scented with my favourite bath oils.

No need to worry it is just a blip… CFS/ME is something that has been part of my health package for about fourteen years. It happens suddenly. Unexpectedly. Elly is one of the few people that can read the signs. She has seen the colour drain from my face and my body suddenly droop to a wobbly jelly. This time she was nowhere near me and busy with work and her own life – that is as it should be – I gave her life and not a life sentence to be tied to my apron strings for life.

Over the years I learned to read the signs, slow down and rest.

This time I had other things on my mind and blamed the ‘tiredness’ on what I was trying to do, so kept going.

  • My friend recovering from a fractured hip, returned home on 10th February. She needed some help with shopping etc., and my daily visits did mean that I actually sat for at least an hour to chat.
  • I was expecting visitors (Post for another day.)
  • I cut my finger badly. It has healed well on the surface, but internally it will never be the same. So now I have two index fingers that refuse to work on a touch screen – First World Problems
  • Regular weekly appointments to attend.

This is NOT a ‘pity me’ post, it is an explanation for my absence from blogging. So no sympathy comments or I will unfriend and block you. SERIOUSLY!! I do not need sympathy, it is energy I need.

In these circumstances the longer I push against the grain… the harder the recovery time. It took me all my time to getup, wash, dress and make my meals. Thankfully my freezer was well stocked with home prepared meals allowing me to thaw, heat and eat them.

There were aches and pains in all my limbs and back. Even reading made my eyes heavy and concentration evaporated.

Thinking. Thinking of a few words to put on a page became impossible. I actually closed down the laptop and put it away. I almost returned to pre technology days with only the odd visit to Facebook so family would know I was alive.

That might explain my lack of posting in the last few months:-

  • January: 6 posts
  • February: 12 posts

Tuesdays are when I go to Parlour Yarns for my weekly injection of fun people happily knitting or crocheting, nattering & laughing. I normally come home full of ideas, stories, high energy and good spirits.

Two weeks ago I had to push myself to attend. During my morning I managed three rounds of a crochet granny square… it was all I could do. Before I came home, Jennifer our leader encouraged and gave me an idea. A simple idea. It was just what I needed to get back on track.

Once home, fed and rested, I gathered all the odd remnants of yarn, the half used balls and all the odds and sods lurking at the bottom of a large see through storage crate. They were every colour of the rainbow and more.

I began a corner to corner (C2C) crochet throw in random colours, a first for me. Each line was a different colour and the early rows used up the little scraps of colour. The different textures and colours worked well together.

C2C Shrug

C2C Shrug

It became like a drug. I sat in my corner at every opportunity… my plan was to work to fifty rows before beginning the decreasing, with a finishing border all round the edge to complete it.  It was so relaxing and distracted me from my aches and frustrations.

I have worked the fifty increase rows and now am ten rows down on the decreases with all this yarn still to play with:

Oddments of yarn

Oddments of yarn

I feel the energy slowly returning. No way am I ready to climb Cave hill, but by the time the rain stops and the throw is finished… I might be ready to take my camera for a dander.

 Life has been busy

In Never neglect a Fall, I wrote about my friend breaking the neck of her right femur on 20th January. Since she lives alone, I have been shopping, doing little tasks and spending time with her to break up the long days indoors.

It means my own routine has had to change about a little for the moment. I have been busy in the background.

I played with…

  • Emulsion brushes and a roller.
  • Washing wall tiles.
  • Reinstated a piece of needle art.
  • My sewing machine and some fabric.
  • Began a project in crochet.
  • Did some hand sewing repairs.
  • Made some bows.
  • Baked Guinness wheaten bread. Yummy.
  • Guinness Pizza bases. Double Yummy.
  • Made a batch of pancakes/crêpes for the freezer.
  • Bought more paint.
  • Bought more heat logs for my fire. The evenings still get cold and with the fire lighting, I am more inclined to sit and knit or crochet. I have a feeling in my gut that with Easter being early, it might be a cold one.
  • Planned the menus for meals when Elly brings some of her friends to visit next month. It will mean, I can sit and talk to my visitors and not spend the time in the kitchen while they are here.
  • Planned for future social events.
  • Bought an evening dress.
  • Sorted items to go to a charity shop.
  • Cleared two cupboards

 

The list is more to prove to myself that I have actually been productive and that life is just not slipping by.

Now where do I start next?

 I made a phone call

 

Telephone

I like talking to real people. In person. If that is not possible, then a real person on the other end of a phone will do. In this case I mean when doing business.

An ATM does not smile or say “Good Morning!”

An automated phone call with fifty two options followed by a Concerto does noting for me. If I have to continue to press buttons to complete my business, I HANG UP!

I like to speak to a real person, who can answer all my questions, with an interesting voice or accent while interacting with me. Hopefully we both come away from the call feeling better about the day.

This morning I did feel better.

Sorting through a bundle of paperwork, I discovered my renewal notice for motor insurance was due tomorrow. The reason it had not been sorted, is I was still waiting for an answer to whether I am allowed to renew my driving licence. Yes, the medical forms are still doing a tour of Northern Ireland before the final decision is made and I am informed. :sad: If the licence is declined, there would be no reason for motor insurance.

Living in hope, I phone the insurance company to renew coverage for another year.

I spoke to a delightful young man (DYM). I gave him my policy number and said I wanted to give him money. He laughed and asked the required questions to make sure we were on the same page.

I then enquired if he could do better for me than the figure I had in front of me.

DYM – “Now let me see… I can reduce it to £xxx.xx” he said.

Me – “ I am always surprised that if I ask, the renewal cost is always reduced, yet if I say nothing the full amount would be taken, without comment.”

DYM – “It is a discretionary reduction. There is no obligation to give it. A customer who has been with us just a year or two would get a small reduction. Since you have been with us for a good number of years then the reduction is worth more for you.”

So I happily gave him the long number on my card and answered his other questions.

Today I have £51.53 to play with all because I made a phone call and asked for a reduction. It would not have happened if I paid by direct debit.

I have an ‘under-the-stairs’…

I have an ‘under-the-stairs’… in a house with no stairs.

Let me take you back…

“Elly!  Please bring me a fresh roll of kitchen paper!”  I called as I removed the last sheet of paper from the current one.

“Where are they?”  Came the reply from ‘the One with her face always stuck in a book as she came into the kitchen.

“Under the stairs. I said.

Giving me a rather funny look, she headed to the cupboard in the hall, and retrieved a new roll for me.

Exchanging the paper roll for a warm freshly baked peanut biscuit, I said “Thank You.”

Sending Elly to the cupboard under the stairs was a regular occurrence.  It was the storage space for all the spares – Boxes of tissues, kitchen rolls and loo rolls, soap powder, bottles of vinegar, conditioners, disinfectants and the box of shoe polishes.  It also had space for the brooms, vacuum cleaner, ironing board, iron and my sewing machine.

I suppose in a way, I was following on my mother’s tradition, since that was where she hoarded the many extra bits and pieces.  Back then we had to keep the entrance way clear as the gas meter was housed in there on the back wall.  The gas man needed to be able to bend down and shine his torch on the meter in order to read it.

Now we had no gas meter, so that was a problem less.

My PROBLEM was we had no stairs either!  We lived in a bungalow, so the cupboard ‘under the stairs’ was not!  It was a full height cupboard in the hall. Just like Granny and mammy before me, I brought the name with me from some place in the past.

Is it any wonder Elly grew up like she did!!!!! 😆  😆

Now I need to know if you have a place that has a name that visitors or strangers to your house would not understand?

Folding doors

Mammy had ‘folding doors’ that didn’t!

In my parent’s house there were many rooms, some with more than one door.

The busiest two rooms on the ground floor were the kitchen and the dining room.

Today I am focusing on the latter.

The dining room was a very lived in room. It was warmed by a crackling fire, the food, the banter and laughter of all who spent time there. Breakfast was the quietest meal with the muffled voices of the sleepy eaters at the table as daddy listened to the morning news on the Radio

With eight pairs of long legs (when we were small in number) the dining table was always extended for our meals, there was no hope of feeding all of us round the rectangular enamel topped kitchen table. When numbers swelled the kitchen table was carried to the dining room to extend the table even further. On occasions a small low table was set for the little people allowing all the adults to sit round the large table/s.

The dining room had three doors:

  • The door from the hall which was at a ninety degree angle to the door to the kitchen,
  • The French windows to the garden and opposite them
  • The folding doors opened to the Sitting room as we called it, others might call it a lounge or living room.

In summertime the folding doors and the French windows were always open, extending the room out into the garden. In wintertime the French windows remained locked but the folding doors were opened to double the size of the space with fires brightly burning in both rooms.

The house regularly overflowed with visitors, those invited and expected or those who happened to call in, stay to share our meals or to stay overnight or for a weekend. Nobody was turned away and mammy regularly relived the ‘loaves and fishes’ to extend the food for all the visitors. Nobody ever left the house hungry.

On Christmas morning the folding doors were locked when sleepy little people came down the stairs, prepared to head out fasting in the winter darkness to 6 a.m. Mass a car journey away.

On our return, we little people were packed off upstairs to hang up our coats, go to the loo and wash our hands… Once we were out of sight and busy, mammy pushed on the sitting room door from the hall (to remove the chair she had set against it the night before) to gain entrance to the wonderland inside. She switched on the colourful fairy tree-lights and put a match to the already prepared fire in the grate. When all was done she slipped out the now unblocked door closing it gently behind her, to begin cooking breakfast for the hungry hoard. The table had been set for the meal in the early hours of the morning.

Once the little people returned to the ground floor we gathered in the dining room around the crib as a family to say a prayer of welcome to the baby Jesus. Then we lined up at the folding doors. Youngest first and then the rest of us by age to the eldest with daddy standing like a sentry with hand raised to the sliding locks at the top of the doors ready to unlock them.

Then the doors opened…

Sliding sideways into the stud wall cavity on either side, turning the two rooms into one.

Where mammy got the term ‘Folding doors’ we never discovered, but they were and to this day, my sister (who still lives in the house) calls them the folding doors.

Granny had a ‘coal hole’ that wasn’t.

My wonderful Granny lived in three different houses during her lifetime before spending the final 2 years in a nursing home.

Her third house is the only one I knew from the inside, since she moved there the year I was born. It was a three bedroom red brick mid terrace house. For some reason it seemed rather dark compares to our family home, where granny was a frequent visitor. There was a bus stop just round the corner from Granny’s house with a bus that travelled across the city to the very avenue we lived on and stopped practically at our door.

We as young children loved to go and stay with granny. She found fun in everything she did. Even folding a bed sheet became a game, when little arms and fingers had finally managed to find the corners… the sheet would be given a little tug and fly and flap upward until it finally came to rest on the little helper’s head. All the while, granny would be laughing her head off.

Without the laughter, it was a very quiet house – no gangly long legged noisy brothers running about and it was the days before TV and the radio was kept in the kitchen, where most of the activity occurred. The dining and living rooms were separate with no ‘folding doors’ between them.

Evenings were spent in the living room which was brightened by the setting sun. At times the only noises were the rustle of granny’s newspaper or the loud ticking of the clock on the mantelpiece.

I remember as a very small child, staying at my grandmother’s house in summertime.  I was in bed before darkness in the room above the living room and through the open bay windows hidden by billowing curtains with plate sized pink cabbage roses on a pale blue background, came the sound of a returning procession of dray horses plodding slowly home to St. James’s Gate Guinness Brewery with their empty stout barrels on huge carts with steel rimmed wheels.  The roads were cobbled and the rhythmic clop, clop, clop of the horses was as regular as a Town hall clock or church bell.

Without the heavy load the horses seemed to dance along with the extra chorus of their tackle clanging with each footfall, perhaps it was the thought of home, food and a bed of fresh hay that put the extra spring in their steps.

A modern tanker emblazoned with the company logo, does not play the same music for me somehow.

To the rear of the house was an enclosed walled yard with a large brick built shed in one corner. The half ton of coal was carried through the house each autumn and deposited in the back corner to fuel the winter fires. The mangle with a tin bucket was closer to the door and daylight, there was no electric light in there. Granny called it the ‘coal hole’.

It always puzzled me that a shed with a full size door and plenty of space could be called a coal hole. There was no hole in the door or in any of the walls. I know. Yes I do, because I searched every inch of them!

It was many years later that I learned that granny grew up in an impressive mid-terrace, two storey over basement period property dating from c.1850. It was on Constitution Hill, off the Phibsboro Road in Dublin. With the city centre just 1.8km away and within a short walk was/is the 1750 acres of The Phoenix Park.

The basement comprised three large storage rooms. One was actually out under the public footpath and had a circular metal access cover that was removed to allow the coalman to drop down the order of fuel from his cart, directly into the basement. A coal hole was where the coal was kept, although Granny did not take the basement area with her when she moved, the name stuck with her and in the post war house I visited, the shed became a Coal Hole!

A little repeat ~ Getting Lost

Yesterday took on a different direction than the one I intended, so the story of Granny and the ‘coal hole’ will have to wait for another day… do not worry it will happen. While trawling back for some information, I discovered this post written almost four years ago. In light of the recent Post about my unfortunate neighbour, it shows that the topic was not foreign to my mind:

Getting Lost

Posted on March 9, 2012 by Grannymar

They found her in the sheugh.*

Well… it was actually Patsy the dog that found her.  Jim took Patsy for a walk each evening before turning in for the night, he felt it settled and calmed him down, ready for sleep.

There would be no sleep tonight. The images of Josie lying in that state played like an ancient movie before his eyes.  One image on top of another until the mound filled his skull.

Josie was past the three score years and ten. Jim was not that far behind her, having lived in the same village since their days at the two teacher school.  Josie sat at the back with the ‘Big’ boys and girls, while he sat with the juniors up front near the blackboard, where Mrs Murphy could keep her beady eye on them.

“Poor Josie.  Poor, poor Josie”! Jim’s bowed head shook from side to side with each whispered word. How long had she been lying there with the cold dirty puddle frozen solid about her? Why was she crossing the rough ground at that time? The way she was facing meant she was heading away from home and the only connection she had at the other end was the church.

Maisie Meehan said Josie often went that route to church of a Sunday evening, to avoid the group of teenagers with their BMX bikes and skateboards, who congregated round the monument on the main street. Engrossed in their loud music and shouting over the top of it, they never notice the frail old woman struggling to get round them.

The back lane was quieter.

She must have tripped, it was a wonder she was not dead.  It might have been a blessing if she was. The state of her these last few months was nothing ordinary.

“What in all that was good and holy, was Josie doing out in her nightdress”? Asked Patricia Peel as she poured another cup of tea for Jim, adding a generous drop of milk and three heaped spoonfuls of sugar.  Patricia believed in the old ways. Weak tae with plenty of sugar – for shock!  Jim needed something a little stronger, but Patricia kept a dry house.

The ambulance was quick of coming, and the man and woman on board were very gentle with Josie.  They soon had her on the stretcher and away to the hospital. The few gathered onlookers were able to give her name, age, address and the fact she lived alone with not another living soul to call her own.

As the tea went down the tales filtered out from the group in Patricia’s kitchen. Josie had become very forgetful of late, she would forget to make her meals. Walk up the street to the shop in her slippers. Not remember to put on her overcoat when going out in the bitter driving sleet.

And… then there was tonight…. Found lying in that ice in her nightdress, thin as muslin, the only protection was to her modesty.  On her feet she had her Sunday best shoes, on her head the familiar blue felt hat and her handbag still over her arm.  Maisie had taken charge of the bag and of course she had to inspect the interior.  Well you never know, it might have thrown some light on things for them.

“Josie was definitely on her way to church” declared Maisie.  “All that was in the bag was her Goodwill envelope and a cotton handkerchief with a ‘J’ embroidered on one corner”.

“But this is Wednesday.” said Jim, finally finding his voice. “Has she been out there all this time? It is a wonder she is still alive!”

“I should have called in more often” said Patricia, “But she was growing more deaf, and closing in on herself as the months went by. It was very difficult to have a conversation with Josie.”

It was at this stage that Winnie broke her silence, she had been sitting silently with a deep frown on her brow for the duration. “I… I have to admit, I was a little afraid of her” she said.  “Josie had the peculiar grin on her face and her eyes were staring at you, She gave me the creeps.  You never knew if she heard what you had to say or understood any of it!

Josie had slowly drifted behind the screen of dementia.  Lost to the world.

Everyone knew she had no living soul to care for, or look after her, yet they all went about their business not paying any heed.

*Sheugh – A narrow open drain or ditch, often with water in it. It comes from Ulster Scots.**
** Thanks Nelly, that one phrase gave me the inspiration for this piece!

Now if you need cheering up… I wrote another piece with the title Lost that should make you smile!