gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Sleeping through the Performance

To say I’m devastated would be an understatement.  Last night, while I lay sleeping, the light show of the decade took place in the heavens above our own little coop. And I slept though it.

Those of you who follow my blog will know of my long standing desire to see the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. I even blogged about it in my post “Northern Lights” several years ago. They don’t often appear in their glory above our damp little island, but last night they put on the show of a lifetime.  Greens, purples, Reds, light columns, the full works. The first thing I knew about it was when I looked at everyone else’s Facebook posts and photos this morning. 

I’m so disappointed. But enjoying all the stunning photos nevertheless.  I feel like I didn’t get an invitation to a party that I wasn’t even aware was happening in my own home. Gutted.

In other news however Mr G and I got up close with a true star last week when the wonderful Adele started her 104 date world tour here in our city! We stood with all the young folks right at the very front and were rewarded with being so very close and witnessing her superb voice and wonderful soulful songs in person. 

So instead of the Northern Lights tonight ladies and gentlemen I give you my photos of Adele…. 

    
 

Leave a comment »

And whatever you do, don’t look the ducks directly in the eye

  

It’s not every Saturday you get to enjoy a punt on the River Cherwell and champagne and strawberries in the sunshine at an Oxford college.

The alarm clock exploded at 5am. Both the dog and the hens looked in bleary eyed disbelief that the two legged beings were dressed up and heading for the airport at such an early hour. Believe it or not, Gillyboy number 2 is coming to the end of his second year in college at Oxford, it doesn’t seem that long since I wrote about him leaving home. Proud parents are invited for a second year garden party- how very English! And prior to the party Number 2 treated us to a trip on a punt along the river Cherwell. 

A punt is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow, designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water. Punting refers to boating in a punt. The punter generally propels the punt by pushing against the river bed with a very long pole. A punt differs from a gondola, which is propelled by an oar rather than a pole, is found in Venice and costs romantic souls a small fortune to hire for an hour!

Gillyboy number 2 took charge, bringing a huge punnet of strawberries, Pimms and lemonade, glasses and crisps, and announced several rules, sit still, don’t rock the punt’ watch out for low branches, the most important of which was “never look the ducks directly in the eye. They will board the punt. They will quack until you feed them. Then they will spit out the food and start quacking for more. They will not leave you alone. You have been warned” . So well warned and to be honest feeling a little terrified, I hauled my less-than-flat bottom into the flat bottomed punt, which teetered and rocked quite dramatically as we all boarded and away we sailed or punted or whatever. It’s a lovely way to travel, watching someone else do all the hard work, lying back as the trees cast dappled shadows on the quiet flowing water. 
  
We did come across a lovely flotilla of geese, but were kept relatively duck free until we stopped for our Pimms and strawberries.  

 

As you can see Mr Drake adopted us, chasing away any other ducks who arrived by lowering his head and running hard at them. All this effort was to ensure that Mrs Duck got as many. strawberries as she could gobble down, which stained her beak quite red.  As long as we kept feeding her we ourselves came to no harm. 

In the end when we wanted to get back in the boat, smallest Gillyboy chased them away, in a technique borrowed from his feathered duck friend. So no killer ducks today. We could rest easy.

 

As for me, I enjoyed the punt back down the river, catching a few sun’s rays and admiring my pretty new shoes. 

my new Rocket Dog Daisy sneakers


There are of course other rules for punting – 

  

1 Comment »

Four legs bad, two legs good *

  

For the past month I’ve been hobbling around with the aid of crutches.  Too much exercise, it appears, is just as bad for you as too little. For the medically minded over-running resulted in a stress fracture to my right medial condyle.  For the rest of you, I broke my knee and carried on running and walking (limping) for two weeks before seeking medical attention. (For the record I would like to point out at least I got a Personal Best in the 5 k Parkrun that day. Go me! )

Today I cast off my crutches! And headed straight for the park for a long overdue dog walk. The voice of the knee consultant ringing in my ears. Slowly, slowly. And NO running for at least another four weeks. Boo.

This is not a major injury. It has caused pain, sleeplessness, frustration, disappointment but it will heal. And quickly. I’ve missed out on running events I had planned for this Spring, including a leg of the Belfast Marathon. I spent ten days on a ski holiday confined to the Great Indoors watching DVDs, crocheting and reading until my eyes bled. My mother in law has moved house and I haven’t been able to assist in any way. I missed a great day out climbing a Northern Ireland’s highest peak with a bunch of good people. 

It has been a learning experience too. How we take our mobility for granted. Stairs, heavy doors, revolving doors, rickety disabled access lifts, not being able to push a shopping trolley, disabled toilets, getting comfortable in restaurants or on planes, having people tut loudly in Tesco if they get stuck behind you in a crowded aisle. Thank goodness for Internet Grocery shopping. Staff in restaurants and shops have been really helpful I’m pleased to say, offering chairs to sit on while queuing, suggesting alternative ways into buildings, letting us park in disabled spaces, generally making me feel less of a nuisance and more comfortable with my mobility issue. It’s the general public who still have a lot to learn.

Carrying a handbag, or indeed carrying anything is impossible unless it’s a rucksack. Heading downstairs in the morning I learnt to pack my rucksack with all the essentials – glasses, phone, iPad, lip gloss, crochet hooks etc. Also your hands get so very sore pressing down on the crutch handle after a while.  Could they not be made a little softer? And in nicer colours?

As a very active person I’ve had to rest up, sit down, take a break, just stop doing all the things I love. And that’s been really hard. And it’s only been for a very short time. With it being Easter visitors brought an unending supply of Lindt  Chocolate Bunnies (my fav) so lack of exercise and a diet of creamy Swiss chocolate has taken its toll.

On the animal front thankfully hens don’t require regular walking. They haven’t been neglected in any way, nor have they looked reproachfully at me with big puppy dog eyes as I sat day after day with my leg elevated on a footstool wearing slippers not walking shoes.  Fortunately the crutch crisis occurred when Gillyboy number two was home from Uni so he has clocked up a good few miles tethered to a small naughty dog. Thanks P.

 I’ve travelled through airports in a wheelchair. People, cases, bags, trolleys come hurtling towards you at this lower level making you feel very vulnerable. Everything is right in your face. Unless it’s a check in desk or passport control. Then you feel like a very vulnerable tiny person. And how hard it is to make conversation with your helper who is both behind and above you, so much easier face to face. Funnily enough one assistant told me he was a chicken farmer as well as an airport worker.  I told him I had two hens. He told me he had 16,000. How we laughed! All credit and a big thank you to Easyjet and the staff in Belfast International and Geneva Airports. Every assistance to get me and my busted knee checked in, through security, and on and off planes in a cheery manner. Including a fancy coach taking me right to the airport steps when as if by some miracle I rose from the wheelchair and made a cautious hobbling dash up the steps. 

Today as I parked far, far away from the Knee Clinic and struggled on my four legs up the road, carrying my large folder of MRI photos, (and my huge handbag- what was I thinking?)  a car stopped to offer me a lift. Now like all mothers I caution my children from accepting lifts from strangers. In this instance i accepted the offer from a kindly student nurse who helped me into her car and drove me to the door. 

Now that my crutches are gone I’m looking  twice at those on sticks or crutches, in wheel chairs. Looking for ways to help, to make life a little easier. Just like I try to do for everyone.

And enjoying every step!

out walking again!

*apologies to George Orwell pinching a quote from “Animal Farm”

Leave a comment »

Total Eclipse of the Coop

Last Friday morning here in our small damp little island and for just over an hour we all enjoyed a rare an unusual spectacle – the sun shone. Even rarer than that, we had a solar eclipse. It wasn’t a total eclipse, but at 95% it was still spectacular. We were all quietly enjoying a bright sunny morning.  Spring was in the air.

 

my beautiful Mother’s Day daffodils

  

naughty Lucas up on the table catching a few warm rays

  

the Gillybirds busy in the coop loving the brightness

Gradually the moon’s shadow moved over the sun and by 9.30 am the sky was still bright blue, but it was really dark.  The bird’s were singing their twilight song, it was most peculiar. How scarey it must have been for people centuries ago who didn’t know what was going on. It must have really freaked them out. Fortunately by around 10.30 the sky was back to normal and the moon had moved on.

We had all been well warned to not look directly at the sun during this event. Back in 1999 I observed our last eclipse through a pin hole made in a shoe box. For me, eclipse fashion hadn’t moved on much so I once more donned the shoe box on my head and it worked very well.  The youngest Gillyboy was provided with welding goggles in school. They also projected the sun’s image through a colander onto white paper to get multiple images. 

all the best dressed eclipse watchers wear shoe boxes!

I watched the hens closely to see if they would head off to bed due to the failing light, but they just carried on scratching and pecking as is their usual morning routine. Not fazed by the solar event at all. 

  

  If you want to check when an eclipse will be coming your way this NASA solar eclipse calendar is really helpful.Looks like Antarctica is the place to go if you want to make it a regular experience. 

Local BBC coverage has some great photos too. 

I didn’t capture any images worth sharing. Social media was a busy place to be on Friday morning and it was fun to watch the event as others were witnessing it (or not, if it was cloudy where they were).

I wonder what we will at be like when the solar eclipse next comes to these shores in 11 years time. Older and hopefully wiser. 

Gillyboy number 3 celebrates his 17th birthday today. Next time he will be 29! 

And my dear friend CC told me, in 11 years time she won’t even be as old as I am now.  That’s friends for you😛🌒

Leave a comment »

Out with the Old and In with the New

It’s January. A new year, a fresh start. And yet, like the two-faced god Janus, a time to look back as well as forward.
Mr G, smallest Gillyboy and I spent a few days of what we call twixtmas in Portugal helping grandma start to pack up her beautiful home to move back to our damp and grey little island. Not an easy task for anyone to box up a lifetime of memories, embracing them in bubble wrap, hugging them with cardboard; deciding what to keep, what to pass on, what to discard.
We did take time to holiday in this most beautiful of holiday destinations too. How we loved the sunshine and a chance to recharge our solar batteries for the start of the New Year. There’s nothing I love more than the freedom of kicking off my shoes and walking along the shore.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a5e/35330741/files/2015/01/img_0549-0.jpg
On New Years Eve I had a chance to reflect on 2014 as the waves lapped at my feet. Last year here at The Coop there were big celebrations, excellent holidays, good times with old friends and family, as well as the challenges, worries, troubles, illness and losses that make life, well, real life. Looking back it was good to recall all those who walked alongside us, giving encouragement, support, even just by being there.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a5e/35330741/files/2015/01/img_0546.jpg
Looking ahead at a bright and shiny new year, there are many things to look forward to- planned holidays, significant anniversary and birthdays. There are challenges and issues that will need to be addressed; potholes, sinking sand, big waves that we cannot foresee standing here at the start of the year.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a5e/35330741/files/2015/01/img_0548.jpg
What footprints will we make through the year? What shores will we find ourselves on? Will life be calm or stormy?
Like grandma, we all have a new start this New Year. We may not be moving house or changing country, but we are all moving on. New jobs, new struggles, new babies, new challenges, new friends, new interests, new attitudes, new beginnings. We hope to make wise choices in what baggage from the past to carry with us and what to leave behind. The lessons of 2014 giving us courage to meet head on all that is to come in 2015.
2015. A new chapter. Maybe even for some a whole new book. It’s life.
Let’s Live it to the Max.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a5e/35330741/files/2015/01/img_0539.jpg

1 Comment »

Keeping Christmas Traditions

Red cabbage on our table is one of the changes that have occurred in my house at Christmas since we married 24 years ago.
Every family has its own traditions for this special time of year. Family traditions are all part of the build up to Christmas Day. Christmas traditions are important. Children need to feel they belong and shared memories help reinforce that and helps them to develop their own sense of identity says psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, an expert in play and parenting and Director of The Good Toy Guide. She acknowledges however that when two people come together to form their own family, they both bring with them their own traditions that might not be compatible with each other.
Mr Gs family had stockings for gifts, we always had pillow cases! We always got a shiny red apple and a mandarin orange as well as other treats in our pillow cases.
Some trees have white lights, others prefer coloured.
We had a Gene Autry Christmas LP that was always playing as we decorated the tree. A few years ago my brother found it on the Internet and I still play it, though I do prefer Michael Bublė!
Our family put up their tree really early in December, Mr Gs waited to the very last minute! We now love to put the tree up early, but once Boxing Day is over I can’t wait to take it all down again.
Though I do prefer a real tree, they have got so expensive that we invested in a really good fake tree, and I burn lots of tree scented candles and rejoice that come July I won’t still be vacuuming pine needles from the carpets.
Some homes must be seen from space they have so many outdoor lights and decorations. This year we have no outdoor lights, must to Mr Gs disappointment, and as a compromise to our boys delight I have put the coloured lights on the tree, with my one remaining working set of white LEDs.
On the Festive table we always had a jar of pickled onions and a jar of those yellow-green mixed pickles. And my dad’s awesome brandy butter.
On Mr Gs family table they had bread sauce, red cabbage, sprouts with bacon and hazel nuts, brandy cream.
Over the years we have combined all that we loved from our two families at Christmas, and added some traditions of our own that we hope our boys will take with them when they have homes of their own.
My mother faithfully stocks to recipes she has used for many years for the Christmas pudding, the brandy butter, the Christmas cake, the stuffing for the turkey. Yes, always has to be Turkey.
I roasted a goose one year and was very disappointed with the results. It was very expensive, and gave very little meat in return. I do find Turkey meat boring and tasteless. But am overruled every year when I suggest any alternatives!
The one thing I do adore is Turkey broth made with the bones.
Although Mr G and I are celebrating our 24th Christmas our own family traditions are still evolving. And as the Gillyboys get older, change is in the air as we no longer have that frenzy of excitement and anticipation of a visit from the red suited gentleman.
A chilled glass of prosecco goes nicely with the Queen’s Speech and some canapés before serving the main course I’ve found, now that we are not inserting batteries into noisy toys and hiding the contents of selection boxes lest some child spoils their appetite.
It’s all very civilised.
A few years ago I made Nigella Lawson’s chocolate Christmas cake. It had prunes in it. It was vile.
This is now the third year I have used Paul Hollywood’s White Christmas cake recipe. Mr G is very partial to Christmas cake and we may well cut into it in the next few days. He hates marzipan. I love it. I compromise with a very thin layer under the delicious pure white icing. However much he insists though I will not leave out the cherries in the cake batter. No way. I am the only one in our house who eats cherries, but part of my Christmas tradition is eating the cherries all the others leave on the side of their plates! Yum.
Christmas cards are becoming much less of a thing. Just as well as I have lost my Christmas card address book faithfully kept up to date since about 2002. Never Mind. There is alway the Internet for keeping in touch quickly and less expensively than posting a card. But I do miss cards for adding further festive decor to our home.
This year though I’m thinking- it’s less about giving presents, more about being present.
Less about wrapping the gifts, more wrapping those we love in a hug.
Less about shopping for food, more about donating food to those whose cupboards are bare.
Less about seeing the Christmas lights, more about being the Light.
In these dark times, when daily there is news of terrible evil across the globe, let’s choose to be present, to show love, to reach out, to be the Light.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/a5e/35330741/files/2014/12/img_0445.jpg
I’ve just realised you can spot me in this photo of our hall decorations!

Leave a comment »

An Evening with Paul Hollywood

IMG_0321.JPG
Last night my dear friend CC and I spent two hours with Paul Hollywood – you know-the one with the piercing blue eyes and silver grey beard from Great British Bake Off that isn’t Mary Berry.
It was £32 per ticket. If Mr H had got his way with us we would have spent a shed load more on his recipe book, aprons, tea towels, calendars, t shirts, fridge magnets…
Fortunately I only had my bus money home, and CC kindly bought and shared a minute bottle of white wine which we had to drink in the foyer before the show even started.
Others were not so restrained. At the interval and the end of the show there was a bit of a scrum and a scramble round the merchandise table.
It was a cooking show. However to take home the recipes you had to buy the programme. Oh wait. We spent all CCs cash on a thimble full of wine. So no recipes then. Oops.
Sure we could always buy his new book. Did he mention he had a new book out? Yes. About every sixty seconds.

IMG_0322.PNG
On the way to the theatre CC casually mentioned that Paul brings people up from the audience to assist him with the baking. Well, dear reader, my blood ran cold. On a previous night out with CC I ended up on stage as a magician’s assistant for the fabulous David Meade. (There are photos to prove it.) So the thought of donning a PH apron and massaging his dough made me feel quite faint. We were sitting in the balcony so I thought we were probably a safe enough distance not to be chosen.
With a nod to Christmas PH demonstrated four recipes. Chocolate roulade, baked brie, mince pies and Stilton, walnut and pear bread.
They looked easy to prepare, and smelt delicious even from where we were sitting. I’m not giving you the recipes. You’ll have to buy the book.
The audience, mostly ladies, were salivating. We were encourage to tweet and instagram (ask your grandchildren) live directly to PH himself on stage. He read out the ones he was able to. It was a family show after all.
At one point Paul accidentally dusted his immaculate black shirt with flour. “Get your shirt off” come a shout from somewhere behind us. I rolled my eyes. This was a baking show, not the Chippendales. But PH gives as good as it gets when it comes to banter from the adoring ladies in the audience. He strode about the stage wagging his rolling pin and those blue eyes looking menacing. The heat wasn’t just from the ovens.
Audience members also had an opportunity to ask baking related questions directly. The giggling ladies brought on stage managed their tasks well. And got to keep their PH aprons as a reward. The winner of the bread dough shaping competition even got a signed copy of…well, you guessed it, his latest book.
Paul spent most of the night telling us anecdotes about his side kick, the fabulous Mary Berry- or Maz Bez- as he calls her. And he encouraged more entries from our fair land for the next series of Great British Bake Off. Provided we didn’t throw our baking in the bin, referring to our local bake off contestant Ian who “lost the bap” as we say in these parts, and chucked his melted Baked Alaska into the trash.
When the bread was baked, Paul cut it into chunks and threw it into the crowd. There was an undignified scramble for a taste in the front five rows.
Us ladies sitting upstairs even got to sample the baked brie. This for me was the highlight of the evening. Made by PH himself. Even eating it with our bare hands off a paper plate it was delicious. Brie cheese, with Parma ham and cranberry sauce wrapped in pastry and baked for 20 minutes. Yum. It would have gone very well with the toothful of crisp white wine we had imbibed in the foyer before the show.
It was all great fun. Not perhaps the amazing baking demonstration I had been anticipating, but an interesting study of how Mrs Joe Public behaves when face to face with a TV baker oozing with charm just like his baked brie.
CC and I are booked for an evening with Michael McIntyre in Nov 2015. I wonder if he will have a book out too?

IMG_0324.PNG
Mr Paul Hollywood. To misquote Meghan Trainor for me “it’s all about the bake”.

Leave a comment »

The Secret of Long Life

Sadly this week in Ireland our oldest resident passed away. Luke Dolan,a farmer from Strokestown Co Roscommon died aged 108. Asked the secret of Long Life (his sister lived to be 106) he said it was eating a boiled egg every day and a spoonful of sugar in his tea.

IMG_0308.PNG
When I think of the long long life Luke had – born in 1906- how the world has so completely changed – it’s mind blowing!
What’s also interesting that the title of Ireland’s oldest living resident now passes on to Michael Lambert, aged 107, whom lives only 20 miles away from Mr Dolan’s farm! I wonder if he eats an egg a day too?

IMG_0309.PNG

Leave a comment »

Writing 101- My Fears, with apologies to Dr Seuss

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

IMG_0216.PNG

Lucas and I, we go for a walk
In the park daily
Just him and me
And we like to talk,
About the things that we see.
One day we chanced upon
Balloons in a tree
A bunch of balloons
So pretty to see
Red, blue and yellow,
Purple and green
Such shiny balloons
Had never been seen.
I do not like them!
I really feel sick!
Said I to young Lucas
I’m globophobic!
There’s nothing to worry
You silly old thing!
It’s a bunch of balloons
All tied up with string.
But they go with a bang!
And they burst with a pop!
All this sudden noise
Could make my heart stop!
My Dear Mrs Gilly
Mrs Gilly my Dear
There’s no need to worry
There’s nothing to fear
It’s only a pop
It’s only a bang
It’s not like a bell that goes with a clang
Or a gun with a bullet that goes with a crack
Or a firework that screeches
Or thunder that booms
They are wonderful, colourful latex balloons
I think that you’ll find
There’s no need to swoon.
But if I walk past them
They’ll surely explode!
How can I walk past them?
Let’s find a new road.
Stop it! Please stop it!
Don’t be so scared!
Those bright coloured orbs
Mean that someone has cared
A birthday, a party,
A hullabaloo
Those bright shiny orbs
Bring happiness too.
Remember the movie,
The film called Up?
A boy, an old man,
A talking pup?
A house that took off
Half way to the moon?
A house and not one
But a million balloons!
So here’s what we’ll do
You silly wee miss
We’ll let them down gently
They will sigh with a hiss.
So we carried on walking,
Just him and me
To the end of our walk
When it was time for our tea.
And after we walked we rested our legs
And dined on our dinner
Of green ham and eggs.

IMG_0217.PNG

My sincerest apologies to all lovers of poetry and Dr Seuss!
This post is part of the Writing 101 challenge by the Daily Post

Leave a comment »

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.

IMG_0214.PNG
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.

IMG_0218.PNG

Leave a comment »