Thursday Special ~ Shorties

A body was found in the back of an ice-cream van; it was covered in hundreds and thousands so the police think he may have topped himself.

Did you hear about the fight in the biscuit tin? The bandit hit the penguin over the head with a club, tied him to a wagon wheel with a blue ribbon and made his breakaway in a taxi! *

2 bags of crisps are walking down the road on a windy and rainy night. A police car pulls up beside them and the policeman asks, “Do you want a lift?” They both reply “Sorry mate but we’re Walkers!”

A man goes to see his doctor because he’s having trouble with his hearing. “What are the symptoms?” asks the doctor. “They’re a yellow cartoon family,” says the man.

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This week I have Noreen to think for these Shorties, especially for No. 2 all Chocolate Bars from my childhood.*

Needles & pins

I found a pattern that I fancied. It would help lower my yarn mountain.

The item I chose was worked in one piece, using two yarns and two different sizes of double ended needles.

I needed to work out the pattern. My double ended needles are fine and 30 cms long. Remember I am practising this new pattern…

I have my needles, the yarn and the printed pattern with the picture of what I am trying to achieve…. It has no seams, in other words worked in the round.

It begins:

Using double ended needles, cast on six stitches. There is a reminder to keep all the stitches right way up. So that sounds like I should have two stitches on each of three double ended needles, with the fourth waiting to begin working the next row.

Row one: Knit.

Al-right, go ahead and laugh. Long arms. Long needles. Six stitches. I felt like I was back in Primary school learning to knit all over again. I was trying to knit in the round and it was proving ridiculous. The shops were closed, so there was no point in going out to purchase a shorter set.

Feelings of frustration were hovering about, so I decided to down the needles and make a cup of coffee. Having something to nibble on, always helped with the thinking… so I opened the pantry door.

Bingo!

I found an answer, even if only temporary.

A tube of cocktail sticks!

Stop laughing, you will make yourself sick. If my brother taught himself to knit (as I struggled) with two wooden skewers from the butchers, and a ball of twine, then I can do it with cocktail sticks!

I filed down the sharp points when coffee time was over and went back to work. It helped, but as Fagin sang…

I think I’d better thing it out again!

UPDATE 22:50 hrs

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Knitting with cocktail sticks. The little red item is a stitch marker, only there to give you an idea of size. At this stage there are 36 stitches in total, spread over three needles

Not perfect, but I know where I am going!

Eggs

Every now and then it’s good to pause
in your pursuit of happiness, 
look around,
and simply be happy for what you already have in your life.

What am I happy for right now?

Memories.

A friend of mine, over the sea and far away, posted an item on the book of face. She had a glut of fresh free range eggs and offered them to any of her friends. I was sitting down at the laptop for a rest when I saw her offer. I had come in from the garden after an hour of bentoverdoubleweeding, in my efforts to clear the wilderness that surrounds me. Hunger was tapping at my door and thoughts were turning to what I would have for my tea.

Boiled eggs.

I could see them with the tops lifted off, the whites nicely set and the yolks a deep rich runny orangey yellow about to spill out and down the side of the eggcups. Slim crisp soldiers in formation around the plate ready to be dunked Now nobody mention that udder stuff or you will spoil my meal and the illusion. Butter never melts in my mouth. Ugh! The very thought of it sends shivers down my spine.

So I pick up the phone and surprise my friend by asking if she will send me a half dozen eggs.

I could hear her and almost see her falling about her house with the laughter while wondering how she could send a half dozen fresh speckled hen eggs all the way over the sea in time for my tea!

She did actually ask that question when the laughter allowed her.

So I told her a story – a true story:

Auntie Nancy, a sister of my father, would be 104 if she was around today. She spent many years as a widow in the wilds of Co Clare. She reared hens & geese.

On regular occasions a sturdy brown postage box with the word Eggs printed on it in very large font, arrived with our post/mail. It was a made for the purpose box sold at the rural Post Office. Inside were two egg trays, and enough space for two dozen eggs. Nancy addressed the box to mammy, affixed the stamps and handed the parcel, tied with string, to the Post office attendant. Two days later our local postman delivered it to us. All eggs were intact, each one wrapped in newspaper to fill the space and protect them from moving about. Once the box was empty, mammy wrapped it in brown paper, addressed the parcel to my aunt and posted the box back. Those eggs were wonderful and way fresher than any you would buy in the shops today!

When Nancy came to Dublin it was usually for the day and involved a trip to Clerys Department Store. There she bought a complete new outfit – from the skin out. The parcels were taken to the “Ladies” where she changed into the finery, put the old clothes in the bin, before heading out to catch a bus to our house.

She always carried a leather shopping bag on these visits. It contained at least two or three-dozen eggs complete with half the hen run on them! These had been collected just before she set out on the journey. In the bag, or should I say half in the bag were two chickens. The head and necks hung out over each side while the bodies & legs complete with claws rested in the bag. Their necks had been wrung in the morning and there would be a trail of blood dripping all the way from Ennis to our house! These hens came complete with feathers and innards. Nancy’s arrival on the avenue was announced by her laughter, which was loud and infectious.

One year when we were young, mammy was ill and in hospital. Auntie Nancy was looking after us. She cooked, fed us and generally looked after us. Brother No 4 who was aged three and the baby of the family at that time, pined for mammy and refused to eat. He refused to come to the table at meal times so Nancy sat on the stairs and fed him chocolate biscuits. They were the only food he would eat for her. Her idea was that he was at least eating something.

Nancy’s daughter Mary married in Worcester, England when I was 15. Dan my father, gave her away and I was bridesmaid. We flew to Birmingham with Nancy for the wedding. It was Nancy’s first time to fly. Being the month of February the weather was rough. We hit a few air pockets and each time Nancy shouted out “Christ, we’re sinking!” and opened a small bottle and shook ‘holy water’ on herself and everyone round about us. Daddy of course was several rows away and pretending not to know us. She shouted out to him “Dan we’re sinking! Do you want some holy water? Here come and get it!

We loved to see Auntie Nancy, she was full of fun and laughter. When daddy was taking her to the train in the evenings, we all asked to go with him, wanting to extend the days of fun a little longer.

The End is never the End ~ Part 10

Part 10

Probate was finally completed. Alice & Morgan met with the bank manager, the account was updated and changed over to both of their names. He supplied them with up to date statements.  They now had the clearance to begin work on the estate. The bank manager repeated the suggestion made by the solicitor, to have the partnership confirmed within the law and on paper. He also urged them to update their wills.

Another visit to the solicitor was organised.

The insulation was updated on the home and workshop houses, fire and intruder alarms fitted and the insurance updated. It was now time to put them on the market.

The stable houses were updated and decorated. Beds were ordered and other furniture was expected to be delivered before the end of the week. The day had been spent in town shopping for statement pieces, bed linen, and some nick knacks for Lovell’s room.

“Lovell, you have shiny object syndrome.” teased Morgan, as he counted off all the trinkets she had picked for her room. “Your room will be fit for a princess!”

Lovell smiled. A new bed for Crumbs was first on her list and even that had a glitzy look. Never mind that Crumbs always looked like she had been pulled through a hedge backways. Even five minutes after grooming her coat was a wild mass of tangles. Lovell knew exactly where this new bed would be placed: right under the window of her bedroom, with a water dish to go in the corner.

It was good to see the excitement and sparkle in Lovell’s eyes. This move would be good for her.  Morgan had high hopes of teaching her some task, so that she could play her part in the enterprise and earn a few bob, to give her a feeling of independence and spending money to boot.

It was now a toss up between ‘Clock Tower House’ & ‘Hour House’ as the permanent name for Thudder house. The clock had the once over and ‘the Convent Bell’ could be heard clearly within and without the building. It had a musical tone that was easy on the ear.

The waiting weeks before the probate was completed, were spent in thinking, planning and quizzing Mr Yeeeeeoooo on how best to tackle the various ideas they came up with. They had grown fond of the tea drinker, and he them, he proved his worth when it came to cataloguing the library books, the art work, furniture and silver. He knew who to contact about the cleaning and storing of all the objects while work was carried on to the main building.

They had decided to retain his services to oversee a sensitive restoration programme of the house, he had the experience with old properties and was well able to suggest cost-effective and well-designed solutions to any problems the survey had shown up so far. He had come to love the old place and almost nurtured it like a child. He had contacts in every field of the work required. They also asked him to design and prepare the plans for the extension to the back of the house. He gave them a choice of two. After time for thought and consultation, a third set was prepared amalgamating the features they liked from the previous two.

The plan for this new extension was tasteful. A door under the curved stairway in the hall, would lead to a long hallway between the new and the old parts of the house. Immediately behind the doorway was a toilet block for use by patrons to the main lower level of the house. A modern bespoke fitted industrial kitchen and a large utility room (it would be necessary if we were going to hold conferences or open the house as a small hotel) was at the end, behind the oratory and close to the stairs to the cellar. It also led to changing rooms, lockers and wash rooms for staff.

A private kitchen/dining/family room for private family use was next the internal wall of the kitchen and behind the door from the hall It had French doors that would open to the walled garden at the back. Four en-suite double bedrooms, completed the rooms on the other half of the extension. The two end bedrooms were suitable for wheelchair usage with access to the car park from a doorway at that side of the house. They entered the main hall from the wide area under the curved staircase, with plenty of space, it would not take from the hall.

Eight double bedrooms and four single, all en-suite, would give them small hotel status. If they included bedrooms in the extension at the back of the house then the two stable houses could be added to the list as self catering or suitable for staff or family use.

Thus it was decided to turn the place into a small hotel and conference centre. The drawing, dining and sitting rooms, would provide an elegant suite of rooms for formal entertaining, conferences or small weddings.They decided that all six bedrooms on the first floor, the two on the attic level would be converted into en suites. The four storage rooms up there would become single bedrooms, each with a compact en-suite shower room.

A coffee shop in The Oratory, somehow seemed the right move to make and the name would not change. The stuccadore came and looked at the room before anything was moved. He made drawings of the designs on the remains of ceiling plaster. He delicately chipped away part of the stud wall, allowing them access to the original leaded window at the front of the house. The Victorian oak door with leaded stained glass panel will be reinstated to its former home at the oratory. This time it would be set into the long outside wall, at the opposite end to the lancet windows, as the main entrance to the coffee shop. The remaining stud wall in front of the window needed to be removed to open up the room to the original design. The internal door where they first entered the room, could be changed to swing doors that led to the new kitchen.

Over a cup of tea, one morning, Mr Yates reminded them that these days a house on three floors plus cellar, would need to have the internal doors re-hung as fire doors in keeping with current regulations. That was a job for further down the line, firstly they needed to decide on any internal alterations such as en-suites and converting the attic rooms into bedrooms, then once the planning permission was confirmed, to begin the foundations for the extension.

Plumbers and electricians could begin at the same time as the builders, switching to each area of the house when needed. The en-suites in the bedrooms would keep them busy for several weeks. Rewiring throughout the building for electric sockets that include phone and internet access was best done while the rooms were empty and before any decorating was carried out.  Updating the central heating, adding a new larger boiler would be an essential, when adding an extension, en suites and converting the attic rooms into bedrooms. Fire & burglar alarms would be required by law, the wiring would go in while the electricians were about, but the connections would not happen at this point.

They met with Carolyn Ashby, an interior designer, who had been highly recommended and she seemed to fall in love with the house on sight. Seeing the green leather wing back armchair with detailed brass studding in the library, she suggested a large settee to match for the other end of the room. The C shaped window seat cushions in every room at the front of the house were very badly faded and threadbare, eaten by many years of unfiltered sunshine, so needed to be replaced with matching drapes. She had books of swatches and a sketch pad where she constantly added ideas and drawings, colours that blended, not jarred leaving the onlooker to enjoy the natural charm of the place.

Alice wanted the lazy-looking half sofa, half arm-chair, that lived by the fireplace in the library, to be given a new lease of life without losing the comfortable feel it had. She was not sure whether she wanted it moved to the extension or left in the library where it somehow belonged.Carolyn suggested having a replica made so there would be one in each end of the house.

The secret room she saw as a particular delight. In neutral colours with added features in Wedgewood blue.

Carolyn had a theme for every room, including each of the bedrooms It would add a touch of class to name each room, in her experience clients seemed to prefer that to numbers.  She adored the oratory and was bubbling with ideas of how to furnish it. The pews were perfect and she had come across refectory tables the week before, so would put a holding note on them.

They were sitting at the table in the library when Carolyn noticed the old monastery painting hanging over the fireplace. Jumping up she said “This will have to go, it is not right for this room”. She tried to remove the painting, but it was proving difficult.

Morgan walked over to assist her. As he moved set his hands on the frame, he heard a faint click. The right hand side seemed to project forward like a door. “Not another secret Room?” he said. “Mind you this door is very high, so it must be a compartment”.

Alice was too stunned to move or speak. She thought she knew every inch and secret of the house at this stage. She did not. The dull painting, was camouflage for a safe. Morgan’s fingers must have triggered the catch. Inside was a box. It was old and inlayed with an intricate pattern in ivory, a replica of the one found in the bedroom half hidden under the floorboard, so many months ago. The initials were the same: This box belonged to Andrei Shuyski. Alice thought she saw a tremble in Morgan’s hands as be carried it gently over to the table and handed it to her. It was heavier than the last one. Was this the stock of gemstones given to Sidney’s grandfather for safe keeping, while the other one they found, Andrei’s loose change so to speak? The day was ageing and Alice was ready for home, so she asked Morgan to take the box with them to open after dinner that evening, when they were fed and relaxed.

 

Parts 1 – 9 can be found on the page of the same name in the header above.

Thursday Special ~ The Stranger

When I was a teenager, my Dad invited a stranger into our home. We were all fascinated with this enchanting newcomer who soon became a central part of our family. We never questioned his place in our household. In our young minds, he had a special niche.

My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught us good from evil, and Dad taught us to obey. But the stranger… he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.

If we wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took us to sports events. He made us laugh, and he made us cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.

Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to the kitchen for peace and quiet. (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.)

Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honour them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home – not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our long time visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned our ears and made dad squirm and mother blush.

Dad didn’t permit the liberal use of alcohol but the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.

He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing..

I now know that our early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked … And NEVER asked to leave.

More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you could walk into my parents’ den today, you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.

His name?….

We just call him ‘TV.’

Yes, I agree with Frank who sent this to me, we were about the same age.

Have you ever been on the Box?

I had five minutes of fame way back ……..

It was Wednesday, 5 November 2008. I had been invited to take part in RTE Television’s Afternoon show to share my household hints and tips.

Then on 1st April 2013, I made a ‘Don’t blink or you will miss me’ appearance, again on RTE Television with the programme See you at the pictures, a nostalgic look at our cinema-going past & the impact that cinema has had on Irish culture down the years.

Third time lucky, they say…. So this time I got to dress up and tread the boards… Like a REAL actress. Stop laughing and sniggering back there, Grannymar is game for anything…. Well almost! ;) I think I mentioned it here.

Yes, another ‘Don’t blink or you will miss me’ moment in a sketch for a 4 part historical fun series for RTÉ2: Holding Out For A Hero and this time I think I said two, three, four or was it five words?

Sure who’s counting?

I had a fun day watching wardrobe & make-up artists at work before meeting the director and his team again. There were four of us ladies in the scene, the other ‘gals’ were well used to the smell of the laughter and the roar of the greasepaint….. or is it the other way around? I was fascinated at the way the camera crew brought an old building to life. We all had fun.

Neil Delamere, the leading actor (he took the day off when I was there), is determined to uncover the truth behind 4 legendary Irish heroes of yore. Neil will be treading the boards with a stand up comedy gig as part of the programme in Vicar St on Saturday 2nd August at 20:30.  He’ll be showcasing all-new material based on everything he’s learned about our four heroes – Red Hugh O’Donnell, Grace O’Malley, Cú Chulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhaill. The gig will be recorded and inserts included in the programme, and the whole project should appear on TV between late August and December.

Now I need to check my diary… Do I have anything on for 2nd August….

Apart from clothes! ;)

A week of questions

What is the best part of being a blogger, writer and/or photographer?
The doors it opens for you.

When you are reminiscing with friends, what is your favourite story to tell?
The one our chatter brings to mind.

What is your favourite place in the world?
The place I am at, in the now.

When you are looking for inspiration where do you search?
I open my eyes and really look around me.

Are you a morning person, a night owl or somewhere in between?
I am a morning, noon and night person.

What animal best represents your personality?
I was once described as a gazelle.

What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?
It was after my first day at school. My oldest brother who was four years my senior, asked when I eventually paused for breath, in my long monologue of the day’s events:

“Was there anyone as nice as you there?”

Thursday Special ~ Holy Water

With the precious load secured in the back of the hearse, the driver checked the rear-view mirror for any sign of the priest. The mourning coaches were nearly ready to move off. It was not uncommon in country parishes for the priest to cadge a lift to the graveyard, in the passenger seat of the hearse.

Father Joe was a regular, in wintertime. Sure, it saved him the petrol and the hearse was warmer than his own jalopy. He was a short, stout, fussy, fiddly man, unfamiliar with punctuality, who gave the impression of falling over his own feet.

Five minutes passed before the mumbling holy father fell into the front seat, the contents of his open bag spilled onto the foot-well around his shoes. Footering about with his hands, he gathered the accoutrements. There was something missing: His bottle of Holy water. Bending over, his hands went under the seat once more. He found the bottle and quickly put it into the bag.

At the graveside, the prayers were said and Father Joe splashed the Holy water liberally over the grave and the coffin in the final blessing before the body was committed to the freshly dug grave. Several of the mourners were overcome with coughing.

When all the rituals were completed Father Joe had a few words with the family, then returned to the hearse to cadge a lift home. Huffing and puffing he mentioned that the Holy water had a quare perfume to it. The driver did not need to be told, he almost choked on the fumes.

Fumes.

Perfume!

It was then it dawned on him.

Earlier that morning a package was delivered to his office. He did not have time to open it, so brought it with him to check out later. He had done so while the church service was in progress. Just as he discovered the contents, the mourning coach driver gave him the nod that the service was nearly over. He pushed the bottle under the seat. It was a gift from a grateful customer, a bottle of very expensive aftershave.

Father Joe certainly ended that funeral on a sweet note!

Based on a true story, told on RTE radio, by Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade