Just When you Thought it was Safe to go back into the Veg Patch…

October 18, 2010

You thought we were done with the monster parsnips, didn’t you?

Well, the truth is I could see that there was a parsnip lurking in there that looked as though it was going to be a biggie. I’ve been sort of avoiding it until I felt capable of dealing with it, but today the thought of spicy parsnip soup for lunch beckoned and I decided tackling it during daylight hours might be the safest way.


I tried it with the fork and despite getting a good way in, it didn’t seem to be budging at all. So I dug it out gradually, the way you might a fence post and finally worked it free.

That’s 1.3 kg of parsnip right there, that is. I think we’ll be having it for lunch for a while…


And Home

October 17, 2010

I’ve decided I could get a bit used to Stena Line Plus. Not so much on the HSS going out, but coming back this afternoon we were on a proper ferry rather than a floating shopping mall and the Stena Plus lounge not only had chairs that weren’t bolted to the floor but it had its own private deck out the back. When lunch came to be served the steward very kindly brought my soup out to me so that we could eat in the sunshine with the shores of Belfast Lough sliding past us, watching the gannets knifing into the water after lunch of their own.

‘Amazing to be doing this in October’ he said as he set the bowl down and indeed it was, although that was of course the sunny Irish side of the Irish sea. Several nautical miles later we backed into Stranraer in weather that was almost comically grim and drove home through the murk. Ah well. It gives us an excuse to light the stove, after all.

There’s a Time for…

October 16, 2010

… sitting down at the computer and banging out a couple of hundred carefully crafted words about the glories of the autumn countryside …

… and there’s a time for just sitting down under a tree.

(although neither picture really does justice to the tree)


We Interrupt this Intermission

October 13, 2010

… to announce to any London-based readers that I’ll be appearing at the Inside Out Festival on Monday 25th October at Birkbeck. There’ll be readings and discussion from a panel of talented writers* so it will be well worth five of your English pounds. If you’ve a book of mine you want signed (and if you haven’t, why not?) that would be the perfect opportunity to do it.

Be there or be elsewhere, obviously.

*and me

Bisy backson

October 12, 2010

Apologies for the radio silence – we’re on another one of those Irish sunshine breaks

Which is working out surprisingly well, sunshine wise.

Although this is, you know, Irish sunshine.

I’ll be back shortly with more tales of veg, knitting, gardening and bike rides. Especially the bike rides for there is a cafe round the corner here that serves Mars Bar brownies and I expect that when our week is up there will be rather more of us to love…

To the Bicycle Gods: a Clarification

October 8, 2010

It has come to our attention that a recent post from our client might possibly have been interpreted as implying that she wanted more practice in fixing flat tyres. Our client would like to make it absolutely clear that she did not, in fact, want any more practice and that therefore yesterday’s puncture was entirely redundant. She would also like to make it clear that she can now change a bicycle inner tube All By Herself so that even if she might have benefited from some practice in the past she would not now and that therefore she would appreciate it if the aforementioned Gods and their accomplices, including but not limited to the hedgecutters, would stop scattering Bastard Big Thorns in the road.

We hope that this clarifies the matter

Messrs Sue, Grabbitt and Runne.

Starry, Starry Night

October 7, 2010

Cycling back from the village choir last night there was no moon and no clouds and – to be completely frank – not much light from my bike lights either (I really must get that sorted out).

But it didn’t matter because a) I was having a hard time keeping my eyes on the road because of the glorious spread of stars above me and b) every time I looked up to marvel at them my glasses steamed up and I couldn’t see a damn thing anyway.

Fortunately I know that road like the back of my hand and I got home safely – try explaining ‘crashed bike while stargazing’ in the emergency room – and then went out and looked at them properly on my own two feet.

One Good Turn

October 6, 2010

Coming back from Notso Bigtown yesterday, stocking up after our Irish trip, we found the neighbour’s kitten was sitting outside his front door unable to get back in. I don’t know how it got out or even if it was meant to be out but it was looking fairly miserable, especially when it started bucketing down with rain. Besides, its got the sort of road sense that had it crouching behind the back wheel of our car when the other half got in to drive off, so I thought it would be a good idea if we temporarily catnapped it until the neighbour got home, purely as a neighbourly act and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it’s rather desperately cute and playful although somewhat too prone to sitting on my computer keyboard when I’m trying to work.

Anyway it came in and had a good nose round, the way any neighbour would the minute they get the chance to have a look next door, and I gave it a saucer of water, and the other half – who doesn’t approve of cats on principle – unbent sufficiently to fashion a rather creepy disembodied hand cat toy out of a glove on a piece of string. And we were just beginning to wonder when exactly the neighbour was planning on coming home when there was an abrupt scuffling sound and we went into the kitchen to find the kitty briskly dispatching a mouse.

You know, the Londoner in me is always a little reticent about getting too cosy with the neighbours. Friendly chats in passing, the loan of a cup of sugar or a pint of milk, or the occasional invitation to pop round for a drink or a meal are all very well, but you don’t want to be stuck with the sort of neighbour who’s always watching your every move, inviting themselves in, never leaving, always there. Unless, of course, that neighbour is a cat who catches mice. That neighbour is definitely welcome to drop round any time.

I might have to revisit the name of my blog though.

I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper and Keep him Company*

October 5, 2010

One of the side effects of living in South West Scotland is that we become the only people in the world who consider a weekend in October in Ireland to be a reasonable sunshine break. I apologise for my unannounced silence, but we headed off early on Friday morning to Wicklow to attend a wedding in a lighthouse and I hadn’t quite got my act together and left a couple of posts to keep you going in my absence (this is nothing to do with entertaining you lot, you realise, and all to do with keeping my stats up). We left home in sheeting sideways rain and arrived in Ireland to bright sunshine which persisted for the whole weekend with the exception of the actual day of the wedding. This was, to my cousin’s horror, a goretex wedding complete with a bracing walk around the headland after the ceremony and the guests came in a mixture of finery and sensible rainwear. I’m pleased to report that the jacket performed brilliantly although as I hadn’t brought waterproof trousers – and don’t laugh, some members of my family come prepared for absolutely everything – the rest of me still got pretty soaked.

We stayed an extra day to do a bit of sightseeing in Dublin and meet Belgian Waffle for a meal in the evening. If you believe the UK papers, Ireland is an economic basket case whose only remaining function in the world order is to make us feel a bit better about ourselves (while the population of Ireland seemed to be glued to the Ryder cup all weekend – not for the golf so much as for the spectacle of somewhere with even more rain than they get. I imagine the offices of the Welsh Tourist Board are rather glum today while Bord Fáilte rub their hands with glee) but nobody seems to have told the Dubliners this and the only visible sign of the downturn there was a rather disturbing number of rough sleepers and beggars among the massed shoppers and revellers in the streets.

We stumbled across the Smithfield Horse Fair – as the other half put it, basically hoodies doing doughnuts, but on horseback instead of in hot hatches. I feel that part of me ought to have been horrified at the whole thing but in the October sunshine it felt like mostly harmless fun and something real (‘a little bit too authentic’ as Ms Waffle put it) in a world of tarted up ‘heritage’, especially when you come across it unexpectedly. After that we just wandered, sat in a couple of pubs (Irish ones, where three old men in caps say ‘howareya’ as you come in and goodbye as you leave, rather than ‘Irish’ ones which are have signs with leprechauns on them announcing that they offer ‘craic’) and stockpiled vitamin D for the winter. I wanted a go on a Dublin Bike but in the end the other half and common sense prevailed. It’s much easier to navigate yourself around a city you don’t know well on two feet rather than two wheels especially as Dublin traffic takes no prisoners and even on foot we found we’d rather lost our city legs. Also my cousin’s description of gormless tourists on Dublin Bikes – who have added to the safety of Dublin’s streets because they can be relied upon to do absolutely anything unexpected anywhere, keeping drivers on their toes – rather haunted me. Once more I fail as a bike blogger…

The meal was great fun and if you want to know how it went I can’t add anything to what Belgian Waffle has written as she’s captured it so accurately herself. I did fail the true Irish test of being able to immediately discover that one of my Dublin relatives’ next-door neighbour’s aunt’s piano teacher was best friends with her mother’s butcher’s sister but that’s probably only because we didn’t delve too deeply into the matter. Given enough time I’m sure such a connection can and will be drawn.

Getting back – via ferry and three trains – went unexpectedly smoothly. We pulled into Lockerbie on time where, the conductor announced, ‘you won’t be surprised to hear that it is raining.’ And, indeed, we weren’t.

*In the interest of strict accuracy I should say that in fact I really don’t because a) lighthouses while very beautiful and romantic, by their nature tend to be in rather bleak and windy locations and b) I’m already married to the other half. Although were he to become a lighthouse keeper I would go and keep him company, obviously. Just so that’s clear.


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