Monthly Archives: February 2014

The End is never the End ~ Part 1

The day forgot to dawn
silent dark fog surrounded the small group.
Freezing frost turned flesh to marble as it soaked into every pore.
From nose to toes they froze
leaden limbs heavy as steel,
and yet they stood exhaling white clouds of breath.


Waiting in line for the cortège to appear at the weather worn gate.
The living statues wondering when their turn would come creeping up behind to silence any thought, before it turned to words.

Judith Crooke, a distant cousin of Sidney, who travelled down from the north coast for the funeral.

Lovell Loftus, born long years before ‘special schools’ were even thought about, so spent her growing up years in the shadow of her older sister Alice. It seemed like a forgone conclusion when Sidney asked Alice to marry him, that Lovell came too. She had not really learned to run a home or deal with accounts, but sure Alice was there to deal with all that for her. She could make a cup of tea and cut the grass with a push mower, but clipping edges or weeding was not in her reckoning at all.

Mary Matterface, a widow from St Andrews by the Wardrobe, was the most recent resident of the crescent who adopted the position of controller of all their lives.

Carol Cribben, next door neighbour, counsellor & amateur gardener, was the caterer for the funereal tea.

Maisie Mullen, the oldest neighbour with very fixed ideas. Not sure if she actually liked the seventy eight year old deceased, Sidney Slythe, but, he did wheel out her laden refuse bin each week and return it to the corner before the end of the day. It might look peculiar if she did not attend, so she went along to avoid any gossip.

Julie Jenkins, from three doors down, was always waiting for her prince charming to come. Roger de Montfort was fond of telling her that Prince Charming took a wrong turn, got lost, and was too stubborn to ask for directions. Julie had cable television, she was always ready to welcome Sidney to watch the football.

Daphne, a neighbour, in whose eyes, men were like pennies: two-faced and worthless. Her world and home featured all manner of creatures – finned, furred and feathered. Some even slept inside in the bed with her! Her one concession to the male form was following wrestling on television. Sidney liked the wrestling!

Yvonne, lived round the corner. A good vintage (if you were talking about wine), she was fond of fluttering about on heels that were in no way built for comfort. She had always been the mouse of the group saying little, answering when spoken to directly, but happy to sit and listen. Her eyes did the talking for her, always alert, they darted from face to face as each had their say. No matter what was happening, Yvonne was there, somehow she never missed a beat.

Lettuce Playfair, neighbour, married to Norman Playfair, was known for feeding the neighbourhood cats.

Silently sliding to a halt, the driver’s door of the hearse opened and the undertaker emerged. Straight as a ramrod in his usual uniform of top hat and tailcoat, black leather gloves and shoes that shone brighter than a frosty harvest moon.

The gathered group twiddled their beads, more by way of habit or distraction, than piety. A bird in the tree above their heads might chirp that ‘the seasons were out of kilter’, but somehow they matched the mix of mumbling souls present, as lob-sided as the coffin being carried in through the warped stiff and rusting old country graveyard gate.

The pall-bearers completed the compliment of men present, as ill matched as the bead twiddlers. All strangers until a few hours before, unsure of foot and the task in hand, they stumbled over the rough ground of sunken graves, rabbit holes and fallen headstones to the group gathered round the open grave.

Slowly, very, very slowly they respectfully set the coffin on the ground opposite the mound of freshly dug clods of clay, with the only wink to modernity – a green sheet of plastic grass that covered the soil.

Carefully stepping backward the men straightened up to their various heights between 5’4” and 6’ 2”, as if to form a guard of honour. The mismatch in stature seemed in keeping with the assortment of ages and backgrounds. The common threads amongst them were the recently deceased and the black ties they wore.

Fresh and crisp, out for its first airing, was the tie worn by young Morgan Troy at the left front corner of the coffin. Tallest of the group and an honorary nephew, Morgan, whose father Rowland shared a love for, and worked alongside Sidney Slythe restoring his collection of vintage cars. Morgan spent many hours in the workshop with his father and Sidney. He had his own corner for working in, first it was his tricycle, followed by a two wheeler and eventually oddments from an old retired engine. He had many memories of those days and years, so many he had not shared, while others so special he could not part with them.

Roger de Montfort was fond of centre stage no matter what the occasion. He was short and so old, his birth-certificate must have expired, yet he made more appearances than wild mushrooms in a field. A real ouldwoman’s blouse if ever you saw one, always ready for a good gossip and to add his two pennyworth, even when it was only worth quarter the price. He was handy for fetching ‘n carrying, and the ‘girls’ of the neighbourhood were not behind the door in coming forward to ask. Today he was at the front right corner bringing Sidney to his final rest.

Allen Allaway ‘ Male Friend’ of Judith Crooke, and Norman, husband and doer of deeds for Lettuce Playfair followed behind them.

The graveside prayers over, the short eulogy commenced, Morgan spoke from his heart. The gentle words were for a gentle man and caused a flutter of lace handkerchiefs from the ladies surrounding Alice, the widow.

On the outside, Alice Slythe looked composed and in control, but the hidden truth was an internal battle to stay calm and not allow the tears to flow. Once begun she feared they would never end. The tears would come, but they would come behind the closed door of her bedroom with her face buried deep in a pillow. The pillow that Sidney rested his head on every night of the twenty nine years shared in their Marriage bed. Every night. Until last Saturday.

Sidney Slythe, seventy eight and three weeks, came late to marriage. He had lived for years at the other end of the crescent with his well fed tiger cat. The large garage was ideal for working on and storing his well loved vintage cars. The gardens at front, back and sides were proof he was an accomplished plants man. He shared many cutting slips and tips with his neighbours. On bin day he could be seen going from house to house to wheel the bins to the kerbside. These weekly visits gave him the opportunity to talk to his neighbours, check on the plants he had shared and advise on the best way to prune, feed, or deal with any disease as it appeared.

Football was his passion but Alice, or should we say Lovell, could not stand it. She preferred to watch a Saturday romantic matinee or evening round of the soaps. So Sidney kept the peace and shared the games between the girls of the neighbourhood.

During the last ten years he took care of three houses. The one he lived in with Alice and Lovell, the one with the cars and the third, a family home handed down, but in a little village twenty miles away on thudder side of the Hill.

It was while checking on the latter that Saturday afternoon, Sidney felt unwell. He knew it was not good, and driving was not an option. He phoned Alice, and suggested she ask Mary Matterface to drive her over. Alas, by the time they arrived it was all over. They found Sidney sitting in the old armchair. The ambulance men assured Alice that the heart attack took him quickly.

Alice Slythe, was rather timid invisible & mousey. She was reared with her younger sister Lovell by their widower father, Leonard Loftus, whose spirit had died with his wife and only son, following a long and complicated birth. The girls were reared in the vacuum of the large detached house, still pre-war in style, with the silence only broken by the winding and slow tick of a heavy and ancient Grandfather clock or the occasional whispered question from their father.  Alice had inherited the dark mausoleum when her father died. He was a shy man, who drew comfort from his large collection of dusty old books.

One month down the line found Alice, sorting, folding and packing a couple of boxes with the contents of Sidney’s wardrobe. It was a task she dreaded, but refused to delegate. Perhaps it was an internal admittance that the ‘good byes’ would remain unsaid and she would have to face the future without her rock. The chat with Morgan, the evening before, had helped. He was a kind soul and clearly fond of Sidney. Yes, having three houses was totally unnecessary, but the problem was deciding what to do with them. All mature and ripe for renovation, was it a task she was up to… or willing to undertake? Should she just stay where she was and put the others on the market? These were not questions easily answered over a cup of coffee, but they did need to be addressed, and soon. Alice decided to sleep on it for a couple of nights. The coming weekend she would make a list, then on Monday take the first real steps on this new journey.

Thursday Special ~ What is Celibacy?

Celibacy can be a choice in life, or a condition imposed by circumstances.

While attending a Marriage Weekend, my wife and I, listened to the instructor declare:
‘It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other..”

He then addressed the men,
‘Can you name and describe your wife’s favourite flower?’

I leaned over, touched my wife’s hand gently,

And whispered,
‘Self-raising, isn’t it?’

And thus began my life of Celibacy……

This came from John, who is a dab hand in any kitchen.

Seven Wonders of the World

A group of students were asked to list what they thought were the present “Seven Wonders of the World.” Though there were some disagreements, the following received the most votes:

 Popular list

While gathering up the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not finished writing her paper.

So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.”

The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help”.

The girl hesitated, then read:

“I think the ‘Seven Wonders of the Word are:

 To See


To Hear

To Touch

To Taste


To Feel

To laugh


And to Love

A gentle reminder that the most precious things in life cannot be built by hand or bought by man.

Don’t be to busy to cherish and enjoy these Wonderful Treasures!

Thank you Brighid for the timely reminder.

Thursday Special ~ Clever jury

In a criminal justice system based on 12 individuals not smart enough to get out of jury duty, here is a jury to be proud of:

A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt, but there was no corpse.

In the defence’s closing statement, the lawyer, knowing that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick….

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all,” the lawyer said as he looked at his watch.

“Within one minute the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.”

He looked toward the courtroom door.

The jurors, somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened.

Finally the lawyer said, “Actually, I made up the previous statement. But you all looked on with anticipation. I, therefore, put it to you that you have a reasonable doubt in this case as to whether anyone was killed, and I insist that you return a verdict of not guilty.”

The jury retired to deliberate. A few minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty.

“But how?” inquired the lawyer. “You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you stare at the door.”

The jury foreman replied: “Yes, we looked. But your client didn’t!”




Thanks to Peter for sending this little number to me.

I need….

A bin house.


To house all my refuse and recycling bins. Over the years these have grown in number and sometimes in size.

When I came to live in Northern Ireland almost thirty seven years ago. we had a large tub shaped refuse bin made from a very strong moulded rubber/polyurethane? material. It had a lid that you twisted to lock it in place.

Wednesday was our ‘bin day’ and a bin man arrived a couple of minutes before the lorry, to lift the bin out from the side of the house and carry it to the kerbside ready for emptying. When empty the bin was placed back at the side of the house.

In the early to mid 1980s our local council provided us with a large grey wheelie bin for our household rubbish. With that change, we had to wheel out our own bin to the kerbside. Not a problem for us, but say you lived on a farm with a two mile lane to the roadway, you still had to wheel the bin all the way to the road, come hail, rain, potholes or blizzard, if you wanted it emptied.

The wheelie bins had many advantages.

  1. You could wheel them rather than lift and carry.
  2. They had a hinged lid that was heavy enough to stay in place and keep the rubbish inside even on a wet and windy day.
  3. The bin was high enough to prevent neighbourhood dogs from trying to get at the contents and pulling rubbish all along the street.

Next came a smaller version in blue. This was our first official attempt at recycling and it was for newspapers and magazines. No envelopes.

I had already been recycling paper and glass for some years myself. Kerbside collection made this much easier.

A few years later we were provided with another large wheelie bin, this time in brown for our garden grass & hedge cuttings or the cut up pruned branches of trees. We did have the option of buying a compost bin to compost our own garden waste.

The side of our house was becoming very colourful. 😉

The next change was to take away our blue paper bin and replace it with two boxes, one red and one black with lids that clicked into place. These were our new recycling boxes for a limited group of recyclable items such as glass  bottles and jars, paper and some plastics. They also took some cardboard but it needed to be no larger than the size of the box. My faithful old Stanley knife has come in handy over the years! You needed a brick to stop the lids blowing off or the boxes from blowing down the hill.

Boxes were emptied once a week, on a Wednesday and the wheelie bins  moved to Friday, every second week.

Next came a kitchen caddie with corn starch kitchen caddy bags to line it. The caddie was for vegetable and fruit peelings at first, but later we were encouraged to add any waste food eg, plate scrapings and bones. Now it includes both cooked and uncooked food waste. These go into the brown (garden waste) bin. We were provided with a large red tag to attach to the handle of the brown bin when we need the caddie liners and a new bundle is left with our empty bin.

Now thanks to another EU ruling to reduce our general waste, the wheelie bin is being replaced with a smaller size model, so I expect it to arrive any of these days.

There is a push for more recycling so a new three tier wheelie arrived last Thursday in the pouring rain. It stands over four feet high and bulky enough to remain outdoors.

New recycling bin

New recycling bin

This leaflet came with it explaining what goes where.

Already I see a problems.

The previous boxes sat into each other for storing and I kept them dry in the garage from week to week only filling them every other Tuesday evening.

The boxes on this new contraption do not fit inside each other for storing. The top box has a lockable lid but the other two boxes do not and there is a gap all the way round so the rain can get in. Cardboard goes in the bottom box, and means it could be quite soggy by the time it is collected.

We are allowed to hold on to the old red & black boxes to use for overflow or excess of a particular item e.g: bottles or drinks cans…. after a party.

I have not put my Kerbie boxes out since the third week of January. Last night I sorted out all the items I had collected over that time and placed them in the new 3 tier stack, it was less than half full. I can see my neighbour across the road making use of any spare space in my boxes in the future.

Speaking to my local Councillor this morning, he reminds me that the Council are paid for all the recycled items by weight, and hopefully it should help to lower the rates bill for all householders!

They do not take gift-wrap, posters, or greeting cards with glitter on. Something to think about when making a purchase.

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Old friends from the back…

Back at the beginning of the month I wrote a Post about Grey hair and wrinkles, it reminded of another tale from the past.

Many years ago on a Dublin bus, I climbed the stairs and walking along the aisle I saw a friend sitting in a seat. I sat in beside him and nudged him with my elbow, while enquiring how he was.

You guessed it.

It was not my friend, but a total stranger.

I am not sure which of us were the more surprised. I know I blushed with embarrassment. What to do? Move away to another seat, or brave it out, apologise and hopefully turn it into a conversation starter?

Yes. That is what I did and we had a great conversation all the way home.

Movies 2

Last Wednesday, I listed Movies that I had recently seen and some I had on my ‘to watch’ list.

Enough Said

 – I considered it light weight and a filler for a couple of hours on a wet evening.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler ****

– I did enjoy this one about the life of a Butler to eight US Presidents.

Philomena (2013) *****

– This movie struck a deep cord within me. I lived every moment of it and it took me several days to move on from watching it.

Being of an age to the real Philomena and growing up beside one of those homes, we were told the girls there were orphans and knew nothing of any babies, this whole era of cruelty from within the RC Church in Ireland, leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth.

In 1993, the Convent and Magdalene home close to us was to be sold to a developer for public use. It was known by that stage that some 133 graves existed, unmarked, in a cemetery on the convent grounds. The graves belonged to women who had worked in the service of the convent all their lives, they were buried without notification to possible family…unmarked, unremembered.

An initial exhumation order was given for 133 bodies (and only 75 death certificates existed), and at time of exhumation, another 22 bodies were discovered. All 155 bodies were cremated and reinterred in the Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin.

Last Vegas (2013)

– Four guys, all friends in their mid sixties fly to Las Vegas for a weekend bachelor party for their last remaining single pal.   I would describe it as a typical American movie with the guys TRYING to behave like they were half their age.

 The Book Thief (2013) *****

– The tale of a young girl, Liesel, taken from her home and placed with adoptive parents, during the horrors of World War II in Germany. She finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. Under the stairs in her new home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by the family.

I would put this movie on a par with Philomena.

The Artist (2011)

– I fell asleep. I’ll have another go at it next week.

Jobs (2013) ****

– The story of Steve Jobs,  from college dropout into one of the most creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century. I enjoyed it.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

– I was utterly bored with this one and not even George Clooney could improve it for me. Perhaps it had something to do with the accents, I struggled with them at times. Voices can make or break a movie, play or radio programme for me.

Museum Hours (2012)

– A disaster for me: I had sound and no picture. I need to sort that one out!

Parkland (2013) ****

– The story of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Interesting, so long as you do not mind the sight of blood!

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

– Set in In 1985, a Dallas electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease.

Now which of these will I watch next?

The Iron Lady (2011)
Black Swan (2002)
All is Lost (2013)

*  Stars awarded by me.