Tag Archives: Family

Where to begin…

Two weeks home from a wonderful week in London and I have not written one word about it.


Was it a failure?

NO WAY was it a failure!

It was so fantastic that I am struggling to come back down to earth once more. The days, the people, the places and the fun & laughter and of course Toyboys… they still swirl around in my head.


With Barbara my niece

With Barbara my niece, photo taken by my grand niece Rebekah

I had/have several crochet projects going on that had time limits, so my fingers were kept busy during the swirling, twirling kaleidoscopic aftermath of my adventures.

There were also other reasons .

  • I am playing my part in the preparations for a family gathering. For me that task is baking.
  • Over the past few months I noticed that I was finding it more difficult to spend time reading or working at my computer. I was blaming my eyes, they would become tired quickly and the screen, the print or photographs seemed dull. An added difficulty was having a ‘Shiny’ screen that acted like a mirror in bright light ( no. I did not appreciate seeing my ould ragged face every time I opened my laptop). Poor Tobias Laptop has been limping for a long time, but on Thursday just as I found some time and inspiration to post on my blog, he gave up the ghost. Died. Dead as a door nail.

I do have so much to share, the holiday and the craft work of the past months. I also have wonderful photos on a USB key, and only managed to add one for the moment.

It might be next week, but I promise details.. some of them anyway… a girl needs her secrets! 😉

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.

A new beginning

While I slept, the new year began.

The last days of 2015 were special with a late Christmas visit from Elly, George & Buffy. Good food, wine, treats and shared time are what I like about these visits. Storm Frank howled about outside, but indoors, the fire sparkled and glowed as we chatted and shared stories from the past few months. It has been a busy year but Elly was here at the important times – making the days around surgery easier for me, and assuring her that I was coping well.

I gave Elly life, but not a life sentence to be tied to my apron strings for all my days. Some people find this difficult to accept, there are those who feels she neglects me… just because she does not run up the road every other weekend. I never want her visits to be a chore for her, she still has a key and knows the door will always be open for her and or George.

We may not see each other for months at a time, but we are in contact on an almost daily basis in the background. Modern technology allows her many options of checking on me. We share a calendar, so she is aware if I have medical appointments, meet friends for coffee or have lunch dates with Toyboys! She knows if I am active on social media, and if I am missing in action or awol …  She will make contact to check that all is well with me. Once I am happy, she is happy!

It is not much fun for her at times being a ‘one and only‘ with no siblings to share the burden of her mother. Thankfully with George she has been welcomed into the heart of his family, and for that I will be forever grateful.

I try not to be the Motherinlawfromhell, but George assures me that I am not and that I came as part of the package with Elly when they married. He is always helpful, kind and caring to me. I am so lucky – there are many out there who are not so fortunate with family relationships or in-laws.

So, all the ‘Mum you need to try this’ or ‘Mum you need to install that’ and ‘Mum can you fix this or sew that’ moments, keep me not alone up to date, but using the grey cells and my talents.

Day and daily I give thanks for life’s greatest gift:-

A bundle of joy and wonder, effervescence and caring for all she meets – a real chip off the old block that was her father. 

That is my Elly!

On this first day of the new year, my wish for her is a long, loving and interesting life with my son in law, George.


George & Elly on the first steps as a married couple.

May there be many new years ahead for them.

A few more Firsts

First driving lesson.

It was on the firm flat 5 km beach called Dollymount Strand on Bull Island. The island was located on the northern end of Dublin Bay. The island is connected to the mainland by the Bull Bridge, a one-lane wooden road bridge. In recent years, access by car is limited to a portion of the island near the Bull Bridge and two sections reached from a causeway road at Raheny.

I was just seventeen and daddy was my tutor for the day. He showed me the clutch, break and accelerator and how to change gears. Then pointing straight ahead he said:

“I’ am getting out, you drive down to that mound of sand, then turn and bring the car back.” Then added “If you cannot bring the car back, don’t bother coming back yourself!” 


First sewing machine.

I always liked playing with fabric. My father worked in the ‘rag’ trade – not selling rags, but fashion fabrics. Latterly he worked his agency from home, so we were surrounded with texture, colour, and types of fabric that would be on the streets, at least six months down the road.

When the new season’s samples arrived, mammy and I would spend several evenings helping daddy to record the details of each fabric blanket in his little black book. There might be up from twenty to forty colour-ways on the one blanket. Occasionally we drifted into conversation:

Me: I would love a dress/skirt/coat in this colour.

Daddy: If you would sew, I could get you the fabric.

Me: If I had a sewing machine I would sew.

Daddy: You will have to wait until you leave school, for a sewing machine, You do not need any distraction from your books. (Somehow helping him was not seen as a distraction!)

The morning after I finished my final exams, my first ever sewing machine was delivered to our house. It was a Brother straight stitch. I was in heaven. By the time daddy came home for his dinner, I was wearing a new fully lined sleeveless dress! That machine cost all of £24 sterling and well paid for itself, with the dresses, tops, trousers, suits and even a tweed winter coat that I made during the twelve years I had it.


My first formal dance.

Nowadays it would be called a School Prom.

Unlike today, our school Formal Dance was held after we had finished all exams and the final term completed. We left school in June and the dance was in September. The evening consisted of a dinner and dance in an hotel. I no longer remember which one or if it still exists. There were no gatherings in the hours before the event, parents stayed at home and each couple arrived on their own. When the dance was over we returned home, often around midnight.

I spent a couple of days making my own full length dress. A princess line in a beautiful shade of blue with a motif, Dupion fabric.

My beau for the evening was Ray, a regular visitor to our home, a part of the gang and good friend. We had a Dress suit/tuxedo in the wardrobe for the use of all the lads in turn. I offered it to Ray for the evening, He might have been working and studying at night, but pennies in those days were hard come by. He accepted my invitation and offer of the suit.

On the night in question, he arrived in the suit and bow tie, with an orchid and the biggest box of chocolates that I have ever seen. It was the shape of a casket with six tasselled drawers. It became my first work box for sewing!

Ray & Marie

Ray & Marie

We had great fun and we are still friends to this day!

10th of November.

A time of the year when I would normally be found deep in layers of warm clothes.

An hour before sunrise the temperature was 16°C and felt even warmer.

The winter layers are ready, fuel for the fire stacked high, but in the meantime… soft rain or not, I will go a wandering, sure as daddy would have said:

“It is good for the completion”!

Today would have been his 104th Birthday.



Clare, can you see your Dan in his Irish Grandfather?

In the doldrums

Not me.

I have been busy making up for lost time.

My eye surgery was a wonderful success and I have found a new joy in craft work that had been neglected for the past year or so.

There was a t-shirt that Elly threw on my bed one morning, way back last year.

“Could you alter the neckline for me mum, it is far to high and tight? You know me, I hate tight necklines they make me feel like I am choking. I think it needs to be shortened about three inches… and the side seams taken in”.

I love how my non ‘needle’ daughter sees her mother! 😛

The t-shirt is well on the way now and I have a morning’s hand sewing left to finish it off… photos to follow.

I emptied, washed and refilled my heat packs and made a new one to Elly’s specifications. I use a fleece fabric.

I washed and re-corded my kitchen blinds.

Fabric that I bought over a year ago for bathroom curtains, has now reached the top of my sewing bundle. And I still have a fitted sheet to alter.

I completed some crochet items, a star knee blanket, a jacket – which you have seen, two berets and a third is at the final stage.

These tasks all take time. I am slower than I used to be and the late, but welcome Gypsy summer as my friend Celi calls it, gave us extra daylight for the past month. The first of November was a wonderful bright and sun filled day, so totally different and warmer than 1st of June – our high summer.

I am also enjoying driving again. For quite a while it was local and utilitarian. I am venturing further and even had a week in Dublin. Elly suggested their late bank holiday weekend and she stretched it by taking an extra day’s holiday on the Friday. We did Girly things – shopping, eating, visiting friends and an evening at the Movies. George worked in the background and my car was given the works, a complete Valeting – it looked like it was just out of the showroom. Pity the skies cried all the way home to County Antrim!

I do have photos, but need to sort them out.

I am back! And hope to return to regular blog reading and commenting, although I missed it, the weeks away from screens large and small, was good for my soul. I knew you would understand. Good friends do.

Good and Not so good

The past few months have been busy, but not that you would notice. I have been staying off line for many and varied reasons.

When the weather was favourable I spent time outdoors. Sharing coffee outings and walks with a lady senior in age to me but with a bright mind to compensate for her physical frailty. The challenge was to find somewhere new for our coffee each week and now our list is growing.  Only a few disappointments. One place was no longer trading, another had changed hands and was closed for refurbishment. There are a few earmarked for return visits.

On my travels I discovered a wool/yarn shop that hosts a morning of crafting where we bring the piece of knitting or crochet that we are working on and work away while nattering and sipping coffee. I had not realised how much I missed the camaraderie of kindred spirits and the inspiration we seem to feed each other. **

Last week was a difficult one. I travelled to Dublin at short notice for the funeral of a life long friend. She had lived a few houses away from my parental home for all of her life. The two families have kept close contact since them. This meant I met the grieving family, most of my siblings and several of the ‘old guard’ neighbours, a few of whom I have not met for about forty years! They needed no introduction the greeting was always the same: You look so like your mother! Thankfully they remembered mammy in her younger days, so I took it as a compliment! 😉 That part of the few days was good for my soul!

I stayed with my sister for a few extra days. She had been very involved in the care of our friend for the past four years of illness and would miss her daily visits. The end came suddenly and was a shock to everyone.  May my friend Rest in Peace.

I almost had a passenger stowed away in my car. She somehow dicovered how to self pack, I found her in a bag one morning!

Allanah in a bag

Allanah in a bag

Allanah whimpered all the time I was packing my car. Playing with a ball will have to wait until my next visit.

I moved to Elly’s for a couple of days and Buffy had great fun smelling the messages on my trousers and shoes. We played ball and tug the rope at every chance she got and the head went down when I was leaving.

** On my visits to Parlour Yarns I learned about Marinke Slump from A creative being, known to all as Wink.  A young creative and inspirational force who used blogging in her attempts to fight depression through crochet. She was so talented sharing patterns and publishing a book of her ideas and patterns. Alas the final post on her blog was not from Wink but from her sister… the depression had won.

Design Wars has asked that people pay their respects by sharing a mandala with the hashtag ‪#‎mandalasforwink. Parlour Yarns in Carrickfergus are taking up the challenge with a display of mandalas in the Courtyard on15th of August. Below are my contributions.

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We all know people suffering the agonies of depression, it would be difficult to find a family untouched by this dreadful affliction.

Unfortunately, many people fail to understand the deeply imbedded negative thought patterns that depression has for the individual struggling with it. Fighting the demons of depression when their voices are louder than any of those around, is not easy. Medications don’t help with that aspect of depression; the negative thoughts have to be fought with positive thoughts which have to be internalized to be effective because when one is in the darkness, other peoples voices are not heard over the din inside the head.

It’s hard for those who don’t go through the struggle to understand. It’s like having your wires crossed and certain signals not allowed through. The dark place is real and no one likes being in the dark. The mental pain and anguish is as real as the physical and all they want is to find a way out. Something’s wrong  and the patient can’t understand why.

If you are a sufferer please try to talk about it; don’t keep your feelings bottled up. If people don’t want to listen…find someone who will.

May we together hold hands and circle those who suffer, with our love!

A day to remember

A day of bright sunshine
Glinting on my Autumn Glory
And the Love of my life, my anam cara by my side.

1977-07-09 Marie & Jack

1977-07-09 Marie & Jack

Was it really thirty eight years ago?
We were given twenty years,
But looking at that photo, I am back on that day
And still thirty in my head!

There might be wine tonight!

It was a very good day!

At 06:30 I was making a cake, well actually two cakes.

While they baked, I showered and made myself beautiful prepared for the day.  As I finished breakfast, the phone calls began… at one stage there were toyboys on the landline, the mobile and on Skype all vying for my attention. Don’t tell them. I didn’t.  You know they all think they hold the number one spot!

My date for morning coffee had to be posponed until today (Wednesday), so one of the cakes will be grand to bring with me and extend the party.

The skies cleared and the sun danced in my honour. The Postie serenaded me on the doorstep and the window cleaner brightened my world even more. A day not to be wasted, so I headed out in search of fun,

Carrickfergus Harbour

Carrickfergus Harbour

Look how smooth the water was.

I found a Toyboy

I found a Toyboy

I found a Toyboy

Brendan was on holiday from the US with his mum and aunt. I met them at the Castle taking photos… you know the routine

“I’ll take one of you two, then you can take one of us and….!”

I approached and asked “Would you like one of…..

A chorus of “Oh yes please!”, came back before I finished the sentence, and I was handed an iPad.

I took several at different angles to make sure they had a worthwhile selection.

Job done, I asked for payment…

Well it was my birthday and a photo with a Toyboy was not much to ask, was it? I handed over my smart phone and Brendan’s mum took the photos, then followed hugs and another rendition of Happy Birthday. They were next headed for Ballycastle and invited me to join them. I had to decline the invitation, so we said farewell and I headed off for my walk along the promenade.

I had not gone too far when there was loud tooting of a car horn. Turning round I saw my new found friends driving along Marine Highway with arms outstreched from every window  of their car, singing Happy Birthday to me!

The remainder of the day can be found in the slide show.


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Barbara, I was just about to light the candle on my cake when the phone rang, it was your dad. Growing up we always shared our birthdays, his being two days before mine, so he sang Happy Birthday as I blew out the candle!

For all my knitting friends, I found the extreme knitting at Parlour Yarns, Carrickfergus,they do have a Facebook Page. The piece was sitting in a basket with an invitation to knit a few stitches, a row or half the rug! It was very heavy, the yarn was carpet wool in four colours with two strands of each colour. You would need a tub of good hand cream to sooth the fingers after working on it for any length of time. I once used carpet thrums to make a 10 ft X 6 ft Mister Men rug for my kitchen floor. It was back in the day when I had a little doll to play with – then she grew up and ran away for her own adventure!!!!! I do love you Elly, REALLY!

In all I had a very good day.  Thank you to all who played any part in my celebration, with calls, texts, postings, cards and song singing.

You all rock.


UPDATE: What a difference a day makes:

The Sky has a hangover today

The Sky has a hangover today

We are back to whistling winds and driving rain. Did yesterday really happen? Was I dreaming?