gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Writing 101- Lost and Found

Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.
So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of “lost and found” more generally in this post.

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If you worked in the lost property office for Transport for London you would never know what would find its way to your shelves next. Over 5 million items a year are found, lost on buses, trains, taxis and Underground carriages.
Hats, gloves, umbrellas.
Books, phones, crutches, walking sticks, dentures.
A jar of bull’s sperm.
Three dead bats.
A stuffed puffer fish.
A theatrical coffin.
An urn of ashes.
Two human skulls.
A machete.
Water skis.
A 14 foot boat.
How could you lose a 14 foot boat?

I lost something in London on the night of the Millenium. It was my child. To say this was one of the worst experiences of my life would not be too much of an exaggeration.
As a family we went to central London to witness the amazing fireworks and to be part of something very special for a new year, a new century, a new Millenium. We headed for Westminster Square, to be near Big Ben to hear those famous chimes. There were nine of us- grandparents, auntie and uncle, me and Mr G, and our (then) three boys aged 7,6 and 18 months. And a buggy pram. Unfortunately when we got there everyone else had the same idea. Most of them seemed to be well into their celebrations. I don’t like crowds at the best of times, but here it was dark, jam packed, noisy, boisterous, pushing, pulsing, jostling, shouting. They were all having a great time. I was not. We pushed through, holding small mittened hands, pushing the buggy against legs, trying to stay together.
Then Mr G let go of a hand. And a small 7 year old boy just disappeared. Gone.
In a second.
Lost.
I nearly went out of my mind. Even now, 14 years later in dreams I relive this moment.
Grandpa had been leading the way, and family members not freaking out at this point reckoned he would realise that we had been separated, get to a phone and arrange to meet up somewhere quieter. This was back in the day when we didn’t think it necessary to carry a phone everywhere. Can you imagine that now?
The time was 9.20pm. It was 11.30, over two hours later before we were reunited by the banks of the Thames. Thankfully our boy had no idea that anything unusual had happened. Never for a second did it cross his mind that he might be lost. He was with his beloved grandpa, and he was safe. He had a long walk around a crazy city and queued for a long time for grandpa to use a Phone Box. And now here were mum and dad looking so pleased to see him! And the promise of fireworks!
Happy New Year. happy New Century. Happy New Millenium.

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Writing 101- Our house in the Middle of the Street

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

I still live in the city I grew up in. Although it is not the same city at all. I grew up in Belfast right through “the Troubles”. Hotels, shops, businesses, homes, colleges could be there one day and a heap of bomb blasted rubble the next. Boarded up windows with wet paint declaring “business as usual”. Our school bags were searched and searched again for weapons, incendiary devices. A city with no night life and a fearful, watchful day time.Barricades. Burnt out buses. Bomb scares. High jackings. Balaclavas.
But to us this was normal. And it was not like that on our doorstep in the suburbs, though occasionally our windows would shake with an explosion and the air would ring with the sound of sirens.
At twelve I lived in a smallish red brick semi detached house in the middle of a quiet street with my parents and two brothers. I had no memory of living anywhere else. It was home. I had a cat and a rabbit. We had a lilac tree in the garden to climb and swing from, a path to skateboard down with a perilous step at the end should we fail to stop in time. A flat roofed kitchen which we could access via the bathroom window when we were feeling daring. That wasn’t very often. We had friends across the road, next door, down the street. We played British Bulldogs, Hide and Seek, kerb ball, Thunder and Lightening. Games that required no batteries, no screens, just fresh air and fun.
I was eagerly looking forward to having a new bedroom up in the attic. This was accessed by a Slingsby ladder which you could pull up behind you. It felt like living in a tree house. When granny came to stay I was allowed to sleep up under the eaves. Nestled in blankets and resting on caravan cushions. Like a mouse. Hidden away. Reading by torchlight. Listening to a well worn cassette tape of “Jesus Christ Superstar” until the sound went wonky as the batteries ran down. Up above my sleeping family it was as close to heaven as I had ever been.
A year later we moved away.

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Writing 101 – Happy Halloween!

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

Free free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.

Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

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We always went to granny’s South of the border for Halloween holidays. Mum would have been packing clothes, filling tins with cakes for days and once dad secured everything to the roof rack and we had a last trip to the toilet we were on our way. 114 long miles of pushing and shoving and keeping an eye that those brothers of mine didn’t cross the imaginary line into MY space in the back of the car.
Past all the landmarks – small towns, big towns, the creepy forest just over the border, the “buckets” at Drogheda, through busy Dublin, spotting the tall red and white chimneys of the power station near Howth, the last big bend in the road when mum would spit on her hanky to scrub our faces and then ignore our protests as she combed our hair.
As we climbed stiffly from the car the smell of Granny’s lamb stew bubbling on the hob would fight with the smell of her forest fern talc she loved so much.
Granny had one big room in which we ate, watched the grainy black and white tv, played the piano and played with our cousins. Having two brothers, granny’s was great as all I had were girl cousins. Loads of them. We had such fun there whatever the season – swings and swimming in the sea in summer, parties and presents at Christmas, but best of all was Halloween.
This was the 1970’s. No pumpkins, no fancy dressing up shops with expensive outfits. No scary zombies or naughty nurses, or even naughty zombie nurses. No trick or treat. It was innocent fun that we made for ourselves.

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We spent days carving turnip lanterns. This gave us RSI in our hands and wrists, and had the terrible consequence of having turnip at every meal time. But it was worth it. Our frolics were lit by a wax candle (pre tea light days) gently toasting the inside of the hollowed vegetable, filling the air with the aroma of burning turnip.
We always had brown lemonade which we thought was very sophisticated and for a treat there was barnbrack – a type of fruit loaf- that for Halloween had a ring in it. If you were lucky enough not to choke on the cheap metal ring then it meant you would be getting married in the next year.
Then there was mum’s Apple tart, containing more 5ps wrapped in tin foil than apples it seemed. If you were cute you would watch as she cut it into slices ensuring your piece got the most money.
There were sacks of monkey nuts. These were peanuts in their natural state, still in the shell. Little piles of dry peanut shell would litter the room. Harder to crack were the more exotic hazel nuts, Brazil nuts and the tricky Walnuts. Cracking them open with granny’s ancient nut cracker took much more effort than the small reward of a slightly fusty dry tasting nut, usually with a great deal of shell still attached.
For games we ducked for apples and there was a nail above the doorway so we could tie yarn to an apple, let it swing free while we tried to take bites out of it. How we never got terrible diseases from the sharing of apples covered in slobbers playing both these games I will never know.

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Dressing up was a mask made of brittle plastic of a pig or a witch, eye and nose holes in places where no human face had features held on by elastic that would snap within the first few minutes.
If you were really lucky you got a cardboard witches hat which didn’t even have the luxury of elastic to keep it on.
We entertained ourselves by dancing along to granny’s LP collection of James Last, Mantovani and a Wombles record owned by a cousin. I remember vividly choreographing a ballet routine to the “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” and a dance number for everyone singing “Remember You’re a Womble”. Aunties, Uncles, parents, and granny sat patiently cracking nuts and scoffing Black Magic Chocolates through all these antics.
And no Halloween was complete without sparklers bringing their own scorched odour and glittering showers of sparks and the thrill of twirling something so magical.

Two highlights stand out of these not at all scary very innocent Halloween parties.
We always had a box of indoor fireworks, which wowed us with the Magic Fern and the volcano, and especially when a good linen table cloth caught fire from a spark.

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And writing, producing and performing a sketch based on the Two Ronnies skit on TV known as the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town. We thought we were very racy getting away with blowing pretend farts in front of the grownups. Granny in particular loved it!

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I still love Halloween, I love to decorate the house, cut pumpkins, play the same games – yes we too have a nail in a doorway for the specific purpose of hanging apples, I have tasteful Yankee Candle tea light holders that smell of burning turnip of course!

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See for Yourself

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

man’s thoughts
woman’s thoughts
older woman’s thoughts

It’s good to come here to have space to think. To talk things over. Peaceful. Those trees are really turning now. Such beautiful colours, reds, yellows, deep orange….I wonder if…..She’s very quiet. Should I just tell her what I think?

I’m glad we were able to escape that over heated hospital room…that September breeze feels so cool on my face, and the crisp, dry leaves under my feet….I’m so confused. Talk about information overload! So much to think about. What am I going to do? We both need to make this decision. It’s not just about me anymore. I want to know what he’s thinking…

I thought with only three months to Christmas I’d better start knitting for Tom. He’ll be six now. So far away. It will be spring time there. Hard to believe when the nights are getting so short now and those leaves are falling making such a mess everywhere. I know it’s ridiculous knitting a Christmas jumper when the family celebrate Christmas on the beach, but I always made one for his dad, and while there is strength in my hands I will do the same for him, the wee love. I wonder how big he’s grown?Imagine having a grandson you’ve never seen. All these years. Not a day passes when I don’t think of him. I want to know does he ever think of me.

The doctor is offering the opportunity of a lifetime. I know it’s experimental but if it were me I would jump at the chance! I know we haven’t been together very long but I want to tell her how I feel. But I’m afraid my honesty would spoil what we’ve shared these last few months. Good times! Look at her….Such a beautiful face. And those eyes. Those beautiful eyes…Hasn’t she suffered enough?

I’m afraid. Afraid what surgery would mean. Afraid and yet astounded at the thought that life could change so dramatically . I’ve often lain in the darkness wondering just what it would be like. How will I adapt? And if the surgery is a failure, how will I get over that too? How will he cope? Is it too much too soon?I wish I could read his face

I hope Tom likes this red yarn. It was a favourite colour of his dad’s – like his favourite football team. Perhaps I should write, or phone, make the first move. But I’m afraid to fly. At my age! On my own. Afraid of the journey. Afraid of a closed door. Afraid of being rejected. By my own son! Again. But to see the look on wee Tom’s face if he opened the door and I handed him the jumper in person!

I just want her to see me

I just want to see him

I just want to see

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Today’s blog posting is a short piece of fictional writing based on the theme suggested in the Daily Post Writing 101 course.

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Mr Buttons and Naughty Lucas. Our Dogs.

Writing 101 challenge – Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.
Today’s twist: write your post in the form of a dialogue. You can create a strong opposition between the two speakers — a lovers’ quarrel or a fierce political debate, for example. Or you could aim to highlight the difference in tone and style between the two different speakers — your call!

You’re sitting on my side of the couch.
no I’m not
You are too.
no, really I’m not!
And get your skinny leg off mine
why are you so grumpy anyway?
I’m older than you, can’t you give me some respect?
but you never want to play! You’re boring
You’re annoying!
Why won’t you play with me? I think you’re great
It’s been nothing but trouble since you arrived. You’re so cute and playful. I’m just old and stiff. I think they love you more than me
but mum adores you! You let her stroke you when she is sitting reading quietly. You protect her from everything. I just drop chewed toys in her lap and steal her yarn. That makes her crazy
Fair point Lucas. That’s all true. Do you remember when you chewed that first edition signed book she gave dad for Christmas?
how can I forget? No treats for days for me
Mind you, I was in the dog house – literally – when I bit dad for trying to kiss mum and he had to get a tetanus shot.
how could you do that? I love dad so much. He throws the ball for me for hours
Chasing a ball is so dull. What’s the point? I’ve never understood it. Best thing to do is lie in the sun waiting for the postman. He loves a surprise!
and squirrels.
Yes! Squirrels!!!
lets go and chase some now. Come on! You know you want to!

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Monday Morning Mayhem

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Enjoying the last official day of Summer 2014 Naughty Lucas got carried away off lead jumping through tall grass and splashing across a large stagnant pond.
A quick wash in the sink has left my laundry room in serious need of a wipe down and a trail of mucky paws across the kitchen floor.
Happy Monday!

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Losing Something of Myself -Part 1

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.
This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

We moved house with a thirteen month old son and a three week old baby boy. It was all hands on deck. Cleaning, painting, carpet laying, curtain hanging.
It was a good thing we were young and had grandparents close by armed with mops, drills, paintbrushes, and were willing to spend their tea breaks nursing fractious babies.
Furniture was delivered and allocated to rooms.
Clothes and shoes sorted into drawers and wardrobes.
Food into cupboards.
There were still plenty of boxes. Boxes and boxes. And more boxes.
How could two adults and two squirming infants own or need so much stuff?
After filling the aptly named box room, the spare room, the cloakroom and spending evenings with a colicky babe strapped to my chest sorting though the boxes I gave up and shoved some random boxes out in the coal shed.
Not checking the value of what was inside.
Not knowing that it would be many months before life would settle down and I would remember those boxes.
Not realising that with the advent of central heating, the coal shed had not been used for many years and was very damp and prone to leaking.
Not appreciating that what was being slowly destroyed by rain and mildew was in fact of some personal value to me, and me alone.

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Blogging 101

For the next few weeks I am taking part in a blogging 101 course hosted by the Daily Post.
Today is Day One.
Allow me to introduce myself…on this blog I refer to myself as Mrs Gillybirds, a play on my actual name, and the fact that I am an urban hen keeper.
I live in Ireland, with my husband, Mr Gillybirds, my four sons, the Gillyboys, two dogs – Mr Buttons and Naughty Lucas, and my three hens – Apollo, Darling and Colonel Saunders.
The Daily Post suggests I address you, the unsuspecting first time reader, on the matter of the following questions
Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
What topics do you think you’ll write about?
Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

Those of you who have been with me from the beginning know that I have actually been blogging since April 2012. The hen keeping was a completely new interest and blogging seemed to be a good forum, as I could not only keep a diary of my efforts, and also seek on line free guidance and encouragement from more experienced chicken keepers.
Apart from that, I can be a bit of a show-off and love an audience.
Keeping a hand written diary in a beautiful moleskin book would never get “likes” on social media. It would just get chewed by Naughty Lucas.
My blogging topics started out primarily about the Hens, or the Gillybirds as I refer to them, but this blog has morphed into a more random account of our family, dogs, my heros, my new found compulsion to run, holidays, cooking, lack of eggs being laid, and life in 2014.
My other keen interests are crochet and card making, and I have blogs specifically geared towards them – Crocheticipation and Angillcards. Also in 2012 Mr Gillybirds cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats and I kept a blog of his epic journey to keep his poor worried mother up-to date with his progress.
Through all three blogs I enjoy responses from family and friends near and far, hen keepers, crocheters, card makers, crafters, anyone who stumbles upon my ramblings by accident. I have made genuine friends through my blogging.
We live busy lives and if someone gets a laugh, learns something new, is challenged to try something different, finds a new recipe or book to read, brill!
Thanks for taking the time to stay on my page. I’m honoured. Of all my followers, the crocheters are by far the most responsive. Thanks ladies!
Blogging over these past years has been a wonderful way of sitting down, taking stock, cataloguing highs and lows, good days and bad, all the changes that occur as part of life in all it’s richness and fullness. Of course, it’s very easy to self edit and paint a rosy picture (or not) and I have to bear in mind that Grandma and Grandpa Gillybirds are keen blog readers and some of our crazy family stuff is best left unwritten
Having a small soft voice in the blogosphere, writing hopefully wholesome, happy things (most of the time), bringing positivity when there is so much darkness, sadness and destruction online, on TV, beyond my front door. I’m not Pollyanna, nor am I the Great Oracle.
To misquote Julia Roberts in “Notting Hill”….I’m just a girl, writing in a blog, asking you to read me

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Kissing You, a song that makes me cry

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I don’t consider myself to be an easy person to cry. But certain situations can render me an emotional wreck in a matter of seconds.

At airports when families, lovers, friends are reunited. That intensity of joy. I may not know these people, or their stories, but my eyes fill in response to their meeting.
Watching One Born Every Minute on TV. Every birth. Every single baby born. I’m crying like the proverbial baby.
An early scene in the “a time Traveller’s Wife”- a favourite novel by Audrey Niffeneger when Claire meets Henry for the first time. The poignancy of their encounter touched me deeply.
What is it at these times that causes a lachrymal response? Why do I have to reach for the tissues as a wave of something very intense hits me where it really hurts?
Do I cry at airports because I remember all the sad partings and happy reunions in my own life?
Do I wail when babies are born recalling the births of my own children?
Does the first meeting of Claire and Henry remind me of seeing my husband for the very first time, looking at him and thinking what a very special person he was, only a few seconds into our meeting?
Who knows.

What I do know is that there are many pieces of music that move my soul, a real favourite is “Kissing You” by Des’ree. This slow ballad was written for Baz Luhrmann’s movie of the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, starring a very young Leo Di Caprio and Claire Danes.
The song lilts through the ballroom scene where they first meet. You can actually see Des’ree herself singing the song in this scene at the home of the Capulets.
Des’ree has a very beautiful voice, her emotions seem very genuine. There is something very intimate and intense in her tone, in the way the music is scored with just piano and strings in a minor key.
Yet a quick perusal of the lyrics, written by the artist herself and Timothy Atack, are no Shakespeare!

Pride can stand
A thousand Trials
The strong will never fall
But watching stars without You
My soul cried
Heaving heart is full of pain
Oh, oh, the aching

‘Cos I’m kissing you, oh
I’m kissing you

Touch me deep
Pure and true
Gift to me forever

‘Cos I’m kissing you, oh
I’m kissing you

Yeah hey
Yeah

Where are you now?
Where are you now?

‘Cos I’m kissing you
I’m kissing you, ohh

And yet, it gets me every time.
What wonderful power music has over us, to cause a physical and emotional reaction to a collection of sounds and silences!

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Today’s post is prompted by The a Daily Post “Moved to Tears”

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Cocktail Hour

If I told you the hens have been drinking pink cocktails you would probably imagine something like this

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Whereas in reality it is more like this

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Not a high heel or false eyelash in sight.
And they aren’t necking it straight from the bottle, it is diluted in their water! The Gillybirds are classy girls.
Egg production is very low. For now the coop move is being blamed, but every morning there are quite a few feathers floating free, so moulting is happening too, which would also lead to poor laying.
So, as Grandma Gillybirds would say, the girls are getting a good tonic drink to perk them up.
The Poultry Drink contains “a selection of 5 minerals in a high energy sugar syrup base to support all round condition and health in Poultry”
The minerals are “iron, phosphorus,potassium, manganese and copper -this product is particularly of benefit to recovering birds” it turns the water a very pretty pink colour, with no need for a cherry or a paper umbrella. And they seem to like it.
They are also still enjoying the giant cabbage. I feel it may well put them off cabbage for life. I’m not sure I would like to eat cabbage every day for 5 days either.
The weather is fabulous. A real Indian Summer. The trees are turning. There is a nip in the air in the mornings. The Gillybirds are tucked up in bed by 8.30pm.
On Monday Mr G and I will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary.
An excuse for a few cocktails!

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Mr and Mrs Gillybirds- the Love Birds

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