gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

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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Blogging 101 – Pinsperation

Today for my Blogging 101 course our assignment was to write about how visiting a neighbouring blog yesterday inspired us.
Please jump to my card making blog Angill Cards to see how I got on!

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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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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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Loved Long Ago

You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Sorting through the shelf of tatty old romantic paperbacks so favoured by the old lady a faded envelope fluttered to the dusty floor.
Taking a mug of tea and sneaking a fag to the back door, she sat in the sunshine, absentmindedly scratching the cat’s ear.
Delicately removing the paper worn thin with age, it had clearly been read many times. It spoke of love and longing. Of a decision to part company. That the world was not ready for their love.
It was signed Joan.
She wondered if she had really known her grandmother at all.

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This blog post is fiction written as part of the Writing 101 course.

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Songs about a bird, a wall and a cross

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.

My whole life is full of music. Our house is bursting with musical instruments of all shapes and sizes,melodies, rhythms, singing, scales. I have to check trouser pockets for stray plectrums before doing the laundry. When I go walking or running my steps are to the beat of personalised playlists on my Spotify account. My diary revolves around music lessons for both myself and my boys. A real treat is to a live concert whether classical or contemporary musicians. My children laugh at me because I frequently burst into song and they equally are astounded by my recollection of song lyrics from days of yore when Madonna ruled the charts and Sony Walkmans were The Thing. There are many childhood memories of musical shows my father sang in and countless repetitions of “a dog called Bingo” and “London’s burning” on the 114 mile car journey to visit granny. And on granny’s stereogram – Mantovani, or James Last LPs.
It’s hard to pick just three songs. But I am constantly reminding my family of the three pieces of music I would like to be played at my funeral service. Allow me to be open and honest with all of you out there in blog land, these are my choices, this is my life, my life choices, my faith, and someday my own funeral I am writing about here.
the Lark Ascending by Vaugh Williams
This is the most exquisite piece of music. Lyrical, melancholy, uplifting, soaring like the bird it was written about. When this comes on the radio I have to stay listening to the very last note, despite it being nearly 15 minutes long. I have never heard this played live however this may be a good thing as I would probably be a sobbing wreck by the end. You may not be aware that Vaughan Williams was inspired to write this music by a poem by George Meredith. How fabulous that a piece of writing led to the creation of such wonderful music. Choose your words carefully my fellow bloggers, you never know what you in turn may inspire.
Wonderwall by Oasis
I was too busy having babies to get into the whole Britpop 90’s thing but I loooove this song. I probably prefer the Ryan Adams cover of this song. I can’t really explain what the appeal is. I certainly am no fan of Oasis, and the lyrics are the usual tale of a guy appealing to his love, reminding her that he loves her more than anyone else ever could, that he is as much there for her as she is for him even when life’s journey is full of twists and turns. It has to be the guitar chords, an acoustic sound full of suspended and unresolved mostly minor chords.
in Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend
This is the most fantastic modern Christian hymn which takes the singer through the entire foundation of their faith in God. I particularly love the version where the words are echoed by the drama of the music, quietness describing Jesus in the tomb then quite literally bursting with sound at the resurrection.

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In the final verse acknowledges that Christ has been with us from the start of our lives to the very end, through the journey of our days, through life’s twists and turns, ups and downs.
My soul like a lark ascending. God with me to the very end of my life, my Wonderwall.

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How Did I Get Here?

For Blogging 101 class the challenge on Day 2 Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

Finally the path curves away from the sea, out of the off shore wind which buffeted my body with sea spray and sand for the past 9 km. The kindly marshall wrapped up in his high viz jacket cheers me on. Not far to go now! I start climbing the long steep hill, fired up with the thought of crossing the finish line, passing women struggling to move at faster than walking pace.
It’s damp underfoot, the grass is slippery , my legs are tired, but it’s a good tired. I’m know they will keep going to the end. The rain has stopped now, though it’s still cold and grey for a so called summer’s evening at the end of May.
My playlist shuffles to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, one of my favourites. Unbelievably I find the breath to start singing. I am happy. I am running.
I am passing other Lycra clad women of all shapes, ages and sizes. Some like myself have red boiled faces, ratty pony tails – the running mongrels; others look like they have just come from the salon, cool, sleek pedigree greyhounds with washboard stomachs.
One thing in common, we all started, and are almost at the end.
At the crest of the hill the finish line comes into view. An unimpressive inflatable black arch.
Just a few more strides. It’s squishy, from the sweat and tears of those who finished before me I wonder?
If this was a movie there would be a swelling orchestral theme, but here there is the bass thump from a poor PA system. In the movie of my life a smiling official would place an enormous medal round my neck and present me with a bouquet and champagne.
Instead I am handed a banana. I see the proud faces of husband, son, friend, dog. To be here, on this night, at this place, in this moment is reward enough. I’m smiling. I’m sweating. I hurt. But it feels good.
I’m there. I’ve done it. I cross the line. Past my self doubt. Past my shin splints. Way beyond my self conscious child bearing body. Leaving my inner voices laughing at my efforts far, far behind.
9 weeks from zero to 10km.

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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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