happy Christ mas everyone!

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given...

Breathtaking isn't it? And how big a contrast with the nonsense and noise all around us.

I hope whoever you are, the wonder of the greatest gift reaches your heart this Christmas. The gift was a baby, born in the poverty of a stable. Years later, as a man, he allowed himself to be sacrificed for us, then rose from the dead and now reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords... welcome him, get to know him, and the joy of this season will last all year round.

You can read his story here. Happy Christmas!


My mememememe as requested by Ali, who's going to promise never to do this again to me!!!!!!  (Hear me do ya?)  But in the spirit of the season...  good wils an all that jazz:
8 TV shows I watch (if this is my editor reading this... it's being ghost written by a non-BBC employee on my behalf.  Clue - IT'S WHY I DO RADIO.........)

  1. the News, and uh....
  2. the News on another day and so on.  (In fact, I might "see" the news maybe once or twice a month.)

8 favourite restaurants:

  1. 1608 in Bushmills.
  2. The Bushmills Inn.
  3. Pier 36 in Donaghadee.
  4. Amazing 66 in New York.

8 things that happened to me today:

  1. a friend from work called to visit
  2. we struggled our way through half portions of Christmas dinner in the local greasy spoon at lunchtime... a rehearsal for Thursday
  3. I shopped.  On a Sunday.  Waiting for the lightening... but it was for antibiotics from the pharmacy, so maybe that's ok?
  4. we were so early for the "candles by carol-light" at church, I had time for a little doze before the service started.  Am hoping anyone who noticed assumed I was deep in prayer. 
  5. I started to make fudge at 1145pm.
  6. The fudge took a while so I made cranberry confit to go with the Christmas turkey. 
  7. When the fudge and the confit were ready, I stuffed dates.  I hear you.  Life's too short.
  8. I made the mistake of opening my emails and having a blog wander before bed.  It's now 1.38am.

8 things I look forward to:

  1. bed!
  2. having "the l'il guy" here all day tomorrow
  3. finishing the quilts I'm making for Christmas
  4. (sort of...) going back to work in the middle of January
  5. curling up with a book and a toasty fire
  6. the Good Book club
  7. book and pudding circle
  8. catching up with friends home for Christmas

8 things I wish for:

  1. a clean bill of health for all my friends and family in a season of bugs
  2. Christmas day... with the family all here
  3. Boxing day... with the rest of the family all here
  4. the day after... with nobody all here!
  5. a cure for cancer, and in the meantime, a way to treat it that doesn't feel worse than the disease
  6. a vegetable garden that isn't full of clay and doesn't get blasted by salty sea winds
  7. everyone in the world to have a roof over their head, food in their belly, clean water to drink, and the warmth of friends and family in their lives
  8. for Maddy and all the missing children to be found safe and well and be returned to their loved ones and for the sickos that abducted them to find their dangly bits shrivel up and turn to ash at the stroke of midnight.

8 people I tag:

  1. None - my new year's resolution getting early exercise. 

Yeay.  All done.

...it was a return ticket!

Lol - I think I forgot I had a blog. Cheers Ali and Anon for the reminder.

Yes, I came home from the States... but not until I'd had a blast. A couple of trips to New York (cheers for driving Michael) and a trip to Philadelphia (you too Salim!) and the gaps were filled in with visits to shops, soccer games (YES - ME!) but only because Luke was playing.... and a record three birthdays!

Tata - the great-grandmother was 100 - what a dame! John - the dad was 70, and I was .... uh, old enough to forget my age, and anyway, my birthday was really the day after I got home, but heck, who'd turn down a birthday cake!! And to ice the cake of indulgence, I discovered the joy of silk underwear. No more to be said. Mmmmm.

I'd plans to visit other friends and wander about a bit, but the old energy levels were low when I arrived, so I just decided to stay put... and knit. (Got that scarf finished yet Ebbs?!)

So it's geeky, but I got to visit a little wool nook in Soho (The Purl Bee) having browsed the website loads... if your a wooly type - I recommend it, and the quilting shop they own - it's a handful of shops up the street. If you're in the area, wander down a few yards to "Once Upon a Tart" - their chocolate and pear offering with a glass of fresh lemonade is worth it. "Amazing 66" in Mott Street did the job for lunch in Chinatown - best sesame chicken ever...

Now then, for serious quilters - if you're ever near Kutztown PA- the Wooden Bridge Dry Goods store is well worth a visit. They managed almost singlehandedly to double the weight of my luggage on the way home. I had nothing to do with it - bolts of fabric just jumped into my trolley and unwound themselves round my credit card.

Life will be quieter now in Forks Township now I'm back home. I suspect some of the local stores have noticed the drop in takings. Salim will have less grief and no one to argue back! Jennifer won't have to buy as many teabags. Ebby's fabulous choc chip cookies will last for longer. Coley, Luke and the dog will welcome the end of the endless yackering and Hannah will have one less "pupil" to "teach" when she's playing school. But heck, I miss them. Return match soon?!

Salim, Ebbs, Hannah, Jen, Nicole, Luke.

The Gang on an NY visit: Freezing cold on the eighty-somthingth floor of the Empire State building - minus something and very, very cold.

So, some snaps - not many, as my camera is STILL not back from the repair shop after NINE WEEKS! I am so unamused I can't say.... had the old one with me.

And home to the viral Gallop and Gulp that seems to be sweeping the nation... yeurchhhh, and sympathies to anyone else who caught it - have horrible images of the half of Ireland sitting on the loo with a bucket on their knee....

I'm in heaven...tra..la

Ok, the title's a lie, I'm really in Pennsylvania, but hey, if you know how much I love drinking tea and visiting quilt shops, you'll get the drift and let me tell you, it's been great since the moment I stepped on the plane!  

Yes I know, I moaned the whole way home from Spain, and grumped most of the flight from Portugal but I had SPACE this time.  Two whole big fat empty seats beside me which meant I could kip whenever I felt so inclined. Yeah!  And to satisfy the geeky bit, I taught myself backgammon on the touch screen do-dah in front of me and got even with the computer, (after about 20 games... I'm a slow learner).

And now, I'm in temporary residence with my friend and her family.  Jen and I have known each other since we were in single digits when she started visiting her grandmother in Northern Ireland, and we've been the best of chums ever since.  I love being here and catching up and enjoying the fun and endless tea with her, her Lebanese husband and four children (20, 15, 13, 5). 

For a news junkie though, (professionally speaking of course) I had a famine through the start of the week so have had to sneaky peek at the web to find out The Results. (Thanks BBC News team - keep it up guys!)  The camp under this roof is somewhat divided (an Irish/Lebanese split) so we don't talk about it ;o)

The perfect Autumn Sunday...

...is a happy mix of 3 year old enthusiasm at Sunday school, a wander round the harbour with the li'l guy on his new trike (not too close to the water and then off to run at the lazier seagulls on the ground), a late roast dinner with a table load of family and friends, warm amaretti pears for desert (yummy) then a rehearsal of nursery rhymes round the piano, all against the background of a warm, sunny autumn day.

Today's most heartwarming moments? The spontaneous "thank you" prayers from the kids this morning and the li'l guy this evening... thank you God for trees, for butterflies, for food and for family. The amusement of a mini haircut... for the 2 year old li'l guy in his mum's arms while granny distracted him with bubbles - I'm thankful I didn't cut his ear off!

Tomorrow's a last minute shop, tree plant and pack. I'm off to the USA early Tuesday morning - interesting day to arrive huh!

Air getting in maybe?

It was raining, so maybe her brain rusted.... or maybe this afternoon's strong winds blew the wit out of her.... but in the space of an hour or so;

"there's only spaghetti... but it's the pasta sort of spaghetti". (Rather than the... what kind?!)

"Are those the cutting kind of scissors?" (yes... I left the "weave-the-fabric-back-together" scissors at home.)

"you're so slow... are you writing an epiphany?" (.....??? you really couldn't fake it could you?)

and the slightly more obscure one; "now, he wasn't a cow or anything... he was a man, but he said he was a fresian and he lived on food he found in bins." (Uh... would that be a freegan? Nearly crashed the car laughing at that one.)

Good news for Northern Ireland

Ok. Indulge me, I'm climbing on the soapbox. . .

Abortion is a hot issue on both sides of the pond, but it's getting hotter closer to home. Britain's "Pro Choice" supporters have been yakking it up that women in Northern Ireland are "second class citizens" because abortion here is illegal, except in exceptional medical circumstances, such as when the mother's health is at risk.

So they're raising their game in the hope of making abortion legal here. I doubt that they ever seriously thought they'd get through the hoops this time, and suspect they're ground stomping to lay a path for the future. The vast majority of people in NI don't want abortion on demand legalised here - but since London still has the final say so on some of our lawmaking, the "pro-choice" "anti-life-ers" figured they could over-rule what the majority think and push for the extension. How democratic. The subject never got aired because the schedules got fiddled and it'll take a while before it's raised again.

Now here's the thing. I don't feel like a second class citizen. If anything, I'm relieved that I live in a country where human life is still valued. I'm sorry, deeply sorry for all the women who find themselves with an unwanted, unplanned pregnancy. Whatever circumstances led to it, you have my sympathy if it's not where you want to be right now in your life. But you know the saying about two wrongs never making a right? Every action has a consequence and in your heart of hearts, you know that you need to do the right thing rather than the apparently easy thing. And don't be fooled, it's not the "quick fix" you want it to be.

So to the Diane Abbots and Evan Harrises of the world.... and the poor misguided souls in the "Alliance for choice" group in NI; you might just pause and reflect for a moment on the FACT that women in Northern Ireland DO have choices.....

  • we can choose to educate our young women to value themselves,
  • we can choose chastity outside of marriage,
  • we can choose not to have unprotected sex,
  • we can choose not to get out of our minds on booze or drugs so we're still capable of making wise decisions,
  • we can choose to get ourselves medically seen to if we don't trust ourselves to make wise decisions,
  • we can choose to remember that actions have consequences!
  • we can choose to give our unwanted children to responsible adults who'll love them and care for them.

Boy do we have choices!

Northern Ireland's had enough slaughter in it's past for us to be sure we don't want it in our future. But here's the thing. The champions of "convenience" are not going to give up easily, so helmets on chums, there's a battle ahead!

Big day for a little person!

Today, we had a birthday in the family. A special birthday because 2 is a very special age to be.

It's when your cousins and grandas and grannys and aunties and uncles all come to visit and home becomes happy bedlam.

It's when a guy gets so many cards and gifts, he just has to cosy up in his new blanket for a few minutes just to take it all in.

It's when you get a "2"cake with Mr Tumble and lots of stars on it because you love stars... and the whole thing has so much sugar you'll fly round the ceiling for a week!

It's when YOU get first blow at the candles, and start the singing of "for he's a jolly good fellow" and get everyone hip hip hooraying because you're such a happy chappy and you love a party.

It's when there's so much going on, you're happy to share your things with younger cousins!

"What a shame you can't buy
tokens of time, save them up
and lengthen the good days
days you wish would last forever."

("Days" by Brian Moses)

Happy birthday little guy and many, many more "good days".

And the total is.... (drum roll please...)

a staggering, breathtaking £3,500.

For coffee. Oh, and tea.

Isn't that a humdinger! I never honestly believed we'd get anywhere close to that - but heck, we did and listen up people: WE HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE. If you were part of it all, then I hope you feel a wee glow of satisfaction, because you done good!

And I'm also delighted that we have been fruitful too... and seeded the idea. Ali's next where she and the family are growing their own little Call for a Cuppa day in a couple of weeks time. YEAY!

(lol - just looked at Ali's blog.... maybe anyone from across the pond should sit down before checking it out!)

Pics from the "Call for a Cuppa" Day for TEARfund

So the dust settles.....

It took a while to get things back to normal after the mayhem of our "call for a cuppa for Tearfund" day. Can anyone tell me why chatting to people is so exausting?! I wasn't even doing the work for goodness sakes!

At one point the queue for coffee was right to the front door and I don't think I've ever seen so many people in our home in one day - I lost count after about 60 and that was just a couple of hours into the event, so I guess it was maybe double that. We gave up taking photos as it just got too crowded.

Lots of old friends call by, as well as new friends and neighbours - it's a great way to get to know people as well as raise the profile and gather support for a great mission!

Although I'd baked lots,we were so grateful for the gifts of baking others brought - thanks Anne, Eleanor, Robo, Ali, Winnie and Fifi! We needed your contributions!

Hats off also to:

>Leta who singlehandly set up ready for the crowds. Well done mum.
>The Cove Cottage Kitchen team who kept everyone fed and watered throughout the day -Lulu, Lottie, Robo, Fifi and Dillon's chum.
>Charlene for great pancakes, fresh off the griddle and Lewis for keeping her right!
>Carol and Eileen who sold more craft than they ever could have imagined.
>Ali and "Anon"! who managed to jump in from another blog!!!!!!! Now how did they do that?!
>Billy for tidying up as usual! Where does my father get his energy from?
>Gavin for the milk run when we ran out!
>Michael and Heather for the coffee run when we ran out!
>Grace for having the energy to mop the floor after everyone had gone.... ...and >everyone who "called for a cuppa" and helped make it such a brilliant day.

The final total isn't in yet - orders keep coming for crafts and cards since we ran out on Saturday - but as soon as I know, you'll know!

THANK YOU everyone who made it such a great day!

Sat 11th update

Ah, I'm too creamed tonight to relate the craic of the day and upload the pics, but since I know some of you will be logging in to see yourselves - check tomorrow night!

The best news is, you helped us raise over £ 3,000. (Did you hear right?) Yep, OVER THREE THOUSAND POUNDS from coffee and crafts! Wow. Thankyou.

More tomorrow. Zzzzzz

Saturday 11th October

Tearfund time again - the annual "call for a cuppa" day looms and we're getting ready for the crowds to descend.

Thanks to Lottie (front right), Lulu (back right) and Dillon's chum (front left) for posting fliers through ALL the doors in the neighbourhood last night... here they are with their friend Miss McGreggor (back left).

THANK YOU LADIES, hope the malteser buns and fifteens were adequate payment!

So, scores of scones have been baked and hundreds of traybakes made (squares to my transatlantic friends) and we're ready to go.

On Saturday, we'll have a room full of lovely TEARcraft andTEARfund cards to sell and all the friends and neighbours will enjoy a cuppa and a natter and we'll hopefully raise lots of money for a brilliant cause.

If you know where I live... please call (on Sat 11th) between 10.30am and 3pm... it'll be bedlam, but we'd love to see you!

Meme-o to self... no more tagging!

Ali tagged me a while back... so here goes;

Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Easier I think if there's a theme... let's see... misdemeanors and silly stuff?

1) During a great aunt’s funeral in the crematorium. I was playing the organ and as expected, everyone very upset, (by her death, not my music… I think?!) As the coffin platform descended to the depths (and furnace area) I looked up to see, fixed to the wall just past the organ, a fire extinguisher… for? It tickled my chuckle muscle and I’m afraid to say, I lost it.

2) At a church service for a particular “orange” organisation, I played a “disguised” version of an “unacceptable” national anthem on the organ … and no one noticed. Mischievous, but satisfying.

3) I was very impressed with my new stilettos (ok, I was about 16). Dressed to the nines, I chose to wear them to Youth Fellowship for their first outing. No one told me the plan was to walk up Cave Hill in Belfast after church. One of my heels is still there somewhere.

4) We were in my friend's hospital room and she was recounting an earlier visit from a mutual friend who was a junior doctor. She was a little embarrassed when he proceeded to examine her after what she thought was just a social call. “I’m sure you felt like running a mile when he said...” She’d just had a leg amputated. She laughed, bless her. I was mortified.

5) I helped “pour” a jug of ice cubes down a co-presenter’s back during his last programme. Thank goodness it was radio, though he did sound very odd.

6) Inappropriate emotion? Another colleague confessed to falling into his mother’s grave at her funeral. I’d already heard. So had just about everyone in work. I really did my best to make my tear filled eyes look like sympathy but when the giggles hit… (It was one of many “accidents” including locking himself inside his house and losing the keys – twice, then there was the time he stabbed himself with a letter opener…. )

7) While on holiday in France with a group of friends including one irritatingly passionate vegetarian, I had an irristible urge to stir the veggie pot with a very meaty spoon. The meal was declared “the tastiest ever” by said vegetarian. I’m a nicer person now. I think.

8) At college, I called a fellow student and claimed to be from the student health centre. I told him his urine sample wasn’t adequate for the raft of tests required and requested he supply a larger quantity – maybe a litre or so. Later, we waited in the health centre to snigger when he arrived with his piddle-pot. (He wasn’t ill, just the routine health checks at the start of a university course.)

Now tell us something about you; Charlene, Laura, Bree and... heck, I don't think I know eight bloggers who haven't already done it!

The Wedding Album

Thought for those dedicated followers of fashion, you might like to look here to see what everyone looked like fifty years ago. For those reading locally, the wedding was in McCracken Memorial Presbyterian in Belfast (Mum's maiden name was McCracken) and the reception was in Cranethorpe House which became what we know as the Park Avenue Hotel.

We had mum's wedding dress on a manequin at the 50th anniversary party - with the head-dress propped on my never-used wig stand. It didn't work! Whatever way the polystyrene head was fixed on, it looked as if it was hovering above the body - a bit sureal, like some thing from Dr Who! That said, the dress is still lovely.

Back in action....

...having been "missing" for a while. Isn't it lovely to be missed?! Thanks Bree, Ali, Laura and "Anon" - touched by your thoughts/concern! I'm grand thanks - just gone into a "came-over-all-excited" phase. Might be that I have hair again (sort of) or that I got to the end of the radio therapy "cooking" or even that it's the start of my favouritest season in the year. Maybe just a combination of all three.

I've been busyish too... York, Spain and Portugal putting friction burns on the passport and the plastic... but most importantly, we had a golden wedding anniversary to celebrate in the family. My parents (mug shots here) were married on 13th September 1958 in Belfast.

Family and friends came together in the lovely Clarendon Building, Belfast to mark the occasion and it was wonderful; to the twinkling harp music on a sunny day (yes there was one specially ordered) we chatted, laughed, remembered, ate, sang and told our stories - some of them captured in the "Quilt of Golden Moments" which was presented along with a book recalling the memories with photos. You can see the quilt if you click on the flickr badge to the right of the web page - for those not sure of flickr, once in the "badge", the pics are probably best viewed by clicking on the little screen logo to the right (just under where it says "55 items") then if you're really interested, on the top of the page, click on the "info on" bit to find out about the stories. It's been such a rewarding project to work on and Billy and Leta are just so moved by all the memories and the love stitched into it.

Then as a family, we headed to Portugal for a very special holiday; a golden wedding, a couple of fortieth birthdays and an end of breast cancer treatment. Just what the doc ordered all round!

puddles right up to our muddles!

What a day this has been. The camera was in action, so the snaps will help to illustrate!

Soggy me in Donaghadee!

It's like being back in monsoon season - except this is Northern Ireland and it's supposed to be the height of the summer. 62mm of rain fell in twelve hours (about 2 1/2" for your non metric types). But did it put a dampner on the plans for today? Nope. Charlene's blog will fill you in on some bits and I'll fill you in on the others!

The churches in Donaghadee started their "festival of hope" today with a family fun day... uh... should that have been "family fairly flooded day"... but still fun-ish!

Mum, our long-time friend Maurice, Charlene, Philip and the girls!

Prettified princesses - though how could you improve on perfection!

Now the rain it just kept a coming... seeping everywhere... and as the afternoon wore on, there was rising damp from the ground up in both trouser legs, so there was nothing for it but home.... crafts and baking. Thank goodness Grace was having a sleepover!

Robo popped in, so Grace showed her how to make foil-foam stickers...

... with great results! Glad I brought the kit back from London.

But clearly it was all too much for Robo....you need to be young to have stamina!

...and Grace IS young, so it was baking next! Scones and pancakes...

Fantastic results from a pretty smart 7 year old!

So now everyone's in bed except me; the kitchen's tidied, the house is quiet, the rain is beating against the window and there's such a homely smell of just-baked bread. It's lovely having children about the place, even if they're only "on loan" - thanks Charlene and Philip. Though it takes the shine off it all a little bit to know that there are a lot of folk hovering near sandbags around the country, hoping their homes won't flood... or that the water damage won't look so bad in the light of day. Tonight, I'm grateful for so many things - including a dry home.

And today was all about....

... cancelled trains... rain.... radiotherapy.... new shoes for 22 month old lil' person.. a play in the park... and the suckiest apple juice from a big-boy glass....

then at tea time.... Sasha's 18th birthday tea at Pier 36.... with daft dads.... lovely aunt Elaine... brill brothers and Cake Head Ted (where was that hat when my hair fell out!?) and of course, a very happy, very glamorous birthday babe. After all you guys have been through over the last year, this was a lovely evening and I was really glad to share it with you - thanks!

Ali's "died and gone to heaven" pudding

Just read Ali's blog and here's the recipe for the chocolate cheesecake.... (originally from another friend called Ali with a few Wils tweaks en route). HEALTH WARNING: this is seriously yummy, and seriously rich - a little goes a very, very long way. Also, I'm not great on quantities - I work more by instinct!

The base is the usual mix of crushed digestive biscuits, melted butter and if I'm not using chocolate digestives, then I add a couple of teaspoons of drinking chocolate powder. Any normal size of round tin/dish for cheesecake will do - an 8" tin will make a deepish pudding, so I use a slightly bigger tin for a shallower pud - this is one really rich boyo and a little is enough!

So, the filling:
  1. 200g tub of cream cheese (using Phili lite might reduce the decibels on your screaming arteries?)
  2. 50g icing sugar
  3. couple of bars of Green & Black's chocolate (about 200-225g?). I like the one with the orange and spice flavouring - the orig recipe says Galaxy, but hey - chocolate of choice.
  4. 250ml tub of double cream
  5. family bag of Maltesers - slightly smashed!

Melt the chocolate and while it's cooling slightly, mix the cream chese and icing sugar in another bowl.

Add the double cream to the melted chocolate then add this mixture to the cream cheese mix.

Stir in the maltesers and pour the whole whoopla over the biscuit crumb base.

Chill it in the fridge until about half an hour before serving.

I think it's really good served with a strawberry and raspberry mix as the fruit cuts the heck out of the sweetness - I usually blitz the raspberries (though sometimes I add a little sugar syrup if they're really tart), then seive the seeds out and pour the lovely fresh sauce over the strawbs.

Mega calories and always goes down with chocolate lovers. (And therefore not so bad for me as I only do chocolate in teeny quantities just to be polite!)


Success at last!

So the tidying got sorted-ish and the daily trips to get nuked at radiotherapy started all over again on Monday. I've no idea why it's so tiring, but it is - I'm pretty flaked.

But hey! Success! I finished a book. A whole book. Ok, I've done it before, even post chemo, but this was a Book Circle book and of late, I just never seem to get to the end of book club books. And here's the joke. I was the only person in the group who actually finished "Labyrinth" by Kate Moss. (Understandable really - reads like it was written by a committee - the medieval French bits were ok, but the rest was tedious.)

Best of all perhaps was that Ali brought her bodhran and we had a session - qwere craic! (For non-locals - that's a little singsong with various instruments including Ali's Irish drum and it was all rather jolly good fun!)

Maybe the Book Circle and Pudding Club should be renamed the Music and Pudding Club?!

and this is Sunday...so far.

Anyone got a spare bed in this neighbourhood? I've done it again. Ok, I should have done the "Sunday thing" and curled up with a book or gone for a walk, but I didn't. Instead, I confined myself to quarters this afternoon on account of a somewhat overheated (radiotherapied) mammary.... (too much info?!)... and decided to do a wardrobe clearout. And yes. I've done it again. You know the enthusiastic emptying... followed by the "I'll just give it a wipe down..." followed by the ".... now I'm wiped out... need a cuppa.." and that's as far as I got. So it's all still emptied... and sitting on top of the bed... the floor... the chair.... the stool... the steps.... and I'm clean out of puff, enthusiasm and it's time to go to church anyhow... so, anyone got a spare room? (Or a spare maid?)

so this was Saturday

And how was your Saturday? Mine was spent cleaning the rental house for a French family who arrived from Sligo three hours later than planned - so there was time to nip out for coffee - twice!

Entertainment came courtesy of my (very kind volunteer) co-scrubber today (Robo) who's terrified of wasps... and this isn't just wasp season... Bushmills was clearly hosting the all-Ireland wasp convention today. Robo couldn't cope. She went nuts and did a totem dance round the table, over to the loos and back towards the counter (much to the amusement of other diners) when a teeny one (wasp, not diner) flew past our table in the Copper Kettle at lunchtime.

Then on the way home, Robo leapt wide eyed and screaming from the car outside the Mace ATM and went running towards the bin (3 new wasps waiting for her there).

And finally, she made a scene IN the car when taking our leave of the French mum who wondered if it was "un mawnster wosp"? Honestly, if it wasn't for the sweaty palms and the clear sense of terror, you'd pay good money to watch her in action. (Anyone got tips on keeping the buzzers at bay?)

More entertainment back in Bangor - "Mamma Mia" (again). Most amusing moment? Meryl Streep doing the star jumps on a bed (and she's what... 50 something?) while a neighbour further up our row (same age bracket) is climbing stiffly over the back of the chair to the aisle because of a locked knee..... sore... but a nice touch of reality!

Getting back into the swing of things.

So it's over. The Chemotherapy is done and dusted, and the radio therapy starts on Thursday. The end is in sight praise the Lord, and best of all, my wee baldy nut (head) doesn't glow in the dark anymore... there's a bit of fuzzy stuff all over it! Yeah! So, with slightly more strength and energy, I've been celebrating... in London for starters.

Keeping a promise made a very long time ago - over a year to be precise. So, my cousin's son Lewis (my "nephew") and I headed to the big smoke after a year's hard work in school for him. It was as gentle a little trip as is possible in a big city. We;
  • went to the King Tutenkhamen exhibiton (disappointing)
  • saw the "Mummies" 3D film (seriously attractive specs)
  • stayed with friends Julie and Simon and ordered Indian food for tea (eyes light up)
  • watched the most amazing foxes in the garden (great entertainment for an hour after breakfast)
  • travelled from Greenwich to the Tower pier by boat (why is the w silent?)
  • went to the Tower of London (they let us leave again)
  • saw the crown jewels (nice and sparkly)
  • ate ice cream to cool us down (hot and sunny while Belfast had muggy and pouring)
  • went to a toy shop. Hamleys. (Wow! Brilliant! Amazing! Do we have to leave?)
Oh to be 11 years old again. ;o)
(Next time Lewis, bring your passport. You're an excellent travelling companion and I really enjoyed our trip!)

Inspiring stuff

So here's the story: a church that meets in a theatre in the USA stores it's stuff in a trailer during the rest of the week. The trailer was stolen and the folks at the church put signs up to catch the thief's attention. They also put this video on their website, in the hope that whoever took their stuff might see it. I've no idea whether they ever heard from the thief or got any of their stuff back, but for creatively getting the right message across, I take my hat off to them. This is inspiring - and not, I fear, how many of our churches have - or would - react in similar circumstances.

Introducing Tommy the Tomato

I say tomaahto, you say tomayto... let's call it Tommy instead.

He's been amusing us for the last ten minutes. (We're easily amused.)

Tommy grew an appendage in the fridge overnight – at least no one claims to have noticed before and he's already been washed… so we took the bad look off him by giving him eyes and a smile.

Otherwise, the poor chap might have had a very red face…..


A first - I've been tagged by Dana. Once I found out what that actually meant, I stopped running. (Well, playing tag used to mean that when I was at school!) So here goes:

I love the smell of… the kitchen when mum’s making soup, just bathed toddlers, freshly dug soil… and Jeyes fluid.
People would say that I… make good cakes… I hope!
I don’t understand why…when I need to remember how a gizmo works, I still look at the blank wall where Ali’s husband once “drew” the explanation with his finger.
When I wake up in the morning… I “rehearse” the bits of the day I know about.
I lost my willpower to… resist turkish delight once I figured Aslan would sort it all out in the end.
Life is… worth living deliberately and out loud.
My past made me… fat. (Well have you ever tried saying “no” to an Irish granny or mummy with a tea pot and plate of food?!)
I get annoyed when I… see the vulnerable getting treated badly by selfish people.
Parties are not a good time to… throw up.
Dogs are… wonderful, when they live in someone else’s house and drop hairs over their rugs and chew their furniture and lift their getting-to-room-temperature eggs from the baking bowl and carry them every so carefully in their lovely-soft-Irish-setter-mouths to the front door for you to step on when you get back home. Huh.
Cats are… annoying furballs up there with wasps on the “why on earth did God create them” list.
Tomorrow is… uh, the day after today? Is this a trick question?
I have a low tolerance for…political waffle and media luvvies.
I’m totally terrified of… big crowds because when something goes wrong, the dynamic shifts and the whole thing is unpredictable.
I wonder why I thought my life would be…boring once I reached 30.
Never in my life have I… bought a lottery ticket, kissed a dog (I’ve seen where they lick), understood why anyone finds football interesting, wanted to follow anyone but Jesus, kissed the frog and found the prince.
High school was… a confusing American term until I realised it meant post-primary educational type place, in which case it was an irritating blip on my educational radar for seven years and not even slightly as enjoyable as primary school which was a five star blast.
When I’m nervous… I will probably wonder what the sensation is and may need someone to explain it to me.
One time at a family gathering… I discovered my normally quiet father and uncle had a past I didn’t know about. They sang (rebel) songs (normally enjoyed by a different community) – and knew all the words. Impressive!
Take my advice… only when your back is really up against the wall and you’re seriously stuck for what to do next.
I’m almost always…surrounded by people.
I’m addicted to… my family, Jesus, sewing projects (including the big fat secret one at the moment!)
I want someone to… suggest places I should visit on my round the world trip at the end of the year!

Go for it Laura and Ali - you're tagged.

and it just continues....

... with yet another sunny day. Is this our summer? Silly question - it's perfect exam weather as always - and when the official holidays start in July, we'll have rain everyday!

Mum, the lil' guy (19 months) and I spent the afternoon on the beach just splashing in the rockpools and jumping over the waves and poking for pretty stones and shells - all of which got chucked back into the water so we could say "plop". Long live innocence!

It does make me wish kids had more time to explore. I used to teach and it was as much about managing the classroom as it was about learning time. I've always had a feeling we squash enthusiasm for learning out of children instead of encouraging it. Home education has a lot going for it!

Good Weekend.. and a warning to R.

It's been one of those weekends - lots of catching up with family and friends, probably too much food and plenty of sunshine. Just perfect after a weekend fighting off a chest infection with yet more antibiotics.

On Saturday, visitors arrived for the week at my rental. With a little help from super-sleuth me, they have tracked down the mum's family, some of whom she hasn't seen in almost half a century. She's in her 80s and they've planned a big reunion for over the weekend and she was so excited when I met them at the airport. Hope it all went well!

Back at the ranch, my aunt, cousin and her family arrived for a beach session - and wee BBQ which was great fun. Her two little girls are such a hoot - especially the 7 year old's photography skills! She managed to make me look more gormless than usual.

Minutes after they left, another friend arrived with dinner prepared - bless the giver of the new cookery book with the "must try" recipe! Three of us settled into a lovely meal and a video (including the bra incident) from a trip to France ten years ago. We laughed sooo much. Great memories and great medicine.

Sunday was a no-church day; although the chest infection has almost cleared, I'm wary of large crowds bearing secret bugs! I caught up with my friend home from Nairobi for the weekend. It was a lovely meal with him and his folks, but I'd have like a little more time to hear more about the work he's involved with in Somalia. Things aren't looking good in the region and it's the same all over - while all the trouble contines, it's the poorest and most vulnerable who suffer.

Sunday evening, mum, S and I took a little toddle to R's house in The Avenue, with the waves so close, you feel you could step off the balcony onto them. He's still got the "for sale" sign up, but we're hopeful he won't move.

There's something very precious about having so many long-time friends living a few steps away. It's like we've almost re-created the kind of communities our parents grew up in.

Let me give you an example; half a dozen houses away in The Hollow, live M&W. They grew up in the same church fellowship our family did in Belfast and then ministered in Brazil for 40 years. We go way back. Their daughter and her family live in The Lane - a two minute walk away. In between is S whom I've known for well over a decade - we were both in the choir at my previous church. R's sister HJ and her family live in The View - a minute in the other direction. HJ and her husband M were at college with me way back in the early 80s. Quite a few of the homes in between all these ones I've mentioned are owned by members of the church we attend now in Bangor, Co Down. Add the beauty of the coastline on one side of us and the countryside on the other and you can see why it all feels so special.

It's so wonderful to have such really good friends right on the doorstep. A real blessing and one I'm so thankful for. If any of them are reading this, you should know that you're all really special to me and anyone who moves will be stalked and eventually placed on a hit-man's list. I have connections and a really useful contacts book after years of working in journalism in NI. (You listening R? Now go plant those vegetables and make like you're staying around.)

Hello there whoever you are.

The Feedjit traffic info do-dah intrigues me. It flags up that you've been here... but who are you? You live in Texas or Winnipeg or Newtownards, Aberdeen, London, Belfast or one of a host of other places not in my address book and I'm curious.

If you've hovered here for even a few minutes, you know something about me, but all I have on you is that you came via a server in a place I've probably never been to! Care to say hello so I even have a name for you? It'd be nice to know you dropped by. More neighbourly or something even though by the time I smile over the screen at you, you'll have headed on elsewhere.

Taking me seriously?

... so minutes later, I get a text from a friend in Kenya. ".... will be home Thursday lunctime for a long weekend..... have had a real longing just to see spring even for a couple of days..."

From Nairobi to Northern Ireland just for a few days. Now that's called getting your priorities right. Way to go Indi! Would like to say it's in response to my last blog, but so what. Just means I was right - spring this year is lovely.

Time to visit?

I feel the need today to say if you've never been to Northern Ireland before, then it's time you came to visit. This last weekend would have been a good time to come... the sun was sparkling on the waves and it smelled like spring, with a salty sea breeze. The hawthorn hedges are full of white blossom, the gorse is golden and smells of vanilla and the purple flowers (campanula?) in the stone planter beside the front door are chasing up the white walls. Just heavenly.

chemo and curtsies.

So it's chemo-eve again and mentally, I'm at the "after tomorrow there's just one more to endure" stage. Pychologically it helps - I think. Though I try not to. Think that is. About the chemo. I'm told I have "anticipatory nausea". It means my mind now expects to be sick (there's a surprise - my memory works!) therefore I am sick.

Now, why does this not bother me? Part of me is secretly dismayed that I haven't cracked the "mind over matter" thing, but part of me is secretly pleased that my brain is doing what it's meant to do. A bit of me clearly isn't fooled by the presence of anti-emetics etc and knows what's going on - ok, may be an over-active immagination, but hey, it's nice to have some part of me active for a change!

I had nice diversion tonight anyway - the Good Book Club met as we've been doing, every Monday at M's. No study, but loads of chat. A friend has moved house as her minister husband has started in a new church and we just wanted to catch up and remind her that when the traybakes and endless phone calls get more than she can bear on top of a day's workload at the hospital, we're here to mop up the tears, paint her toenails, laugh and do whatever girly stuff is necessary to help her keep going. Oh yes, and we'll pray. Big time. It's such a diverse wee group... and I love them to bits - though they keep me in tears of laughter sometimes.

Take S for example. (SJ to her aunt and R to most of us - don't ask.) She needs to practice her curtsy as she sort of bumps into royalty now and again... almost literally in this particular case. Good story - she was introducing the heir apparent and his surprising deep-voiced wifey (the future queen? there's a debate!) Anyway, the wifey spoke, the depth of her voice surprised S who then got her foot stuck in the carpet whilst mid curtsy. Unable to free the toe from the carpet pile, she hobbled along the line with one knee permanently bent, like some half human-half hobbit thing, trying to introduce her team. It's all on camera. Like the time in France, in the swimming pool... with the bra.. but that's for another time. Name your price for my silence S!

Prompted by Ali's 56.

Ali's reminder of the September 1992 bomb at the Forensic buildings in Belfast takes me back. (Diary of a reformed workaholic.) We'd moved into a brand new house that very day - like her, a mere 150 yards from the vehicle that exploded with the biggest bomb in Northern Ireland's history - an estimated 2000 lbs.

Picture the scene: There were three of us in the house; dad, standing on a step ladder, facing a window the size of the wall as he fitted a curtain pole above it; mum, standing in front of the stove joking about trying not to blow us all up - I'd persuaded her (against her better judgement) to have a half gas stove - and me, standing with my back to dad, getting the curtains ready to hang.

No one else seemed to know we'd moved in, so we weren't evacuated. We didn't know there was a security alert. All the windows were open and the heating on to "warm the house up" and help the plaster dry out.

We'd made great progress with box emptying and my brother had taken the dog back to our temporary home as her kennel hadn't been moved to the new home. It was time for a cuppa. Cue mum - "I hope this stove doesn't blow up on me".

She turned the gas on, hit the "ignite" button, the room went dark, the rumble started, the windows shattered, and by the end of the roar I thought the gas stove had lived up to her expectations and I'd be repacking my stuff to move back overseas at dawn.

It took a while to work out that everyone was still alive and intact. Dad had been blown across the room and winded as he slammed into the wall. Despite facing all that glass during the blast, he didn't have a scratch on him. A miracle? Absolutely, especially when we realised next morning that half the engine casing of the bomb carrying vehicle had landed just six feet from where he'd had been standing.

Windows (including newly made curtains - grrr) were sucked out (why was dad blown away from the windows?), frames buckled, the roof lifted and mercifully resettled in the same place, glass splintered all over the garden - not, thankfully, on the brand new carpets. Nerves were shattered, many homes destroyed - but not one person lost their life. A neighbour, attending his first choir practice in our church, (100 yards away and directly in the line of fire,) still claims it took just one line of him singing to bring the house down - literally. I love Belfast humour.

In the darkness, we debated where the back door was. We couldn't quite remember so I headed to the front door and tripped on the (forgotten) steps in the hall - much needed laughter all round. We hadn't been in the house in the dark before.

Friends rallied - including Ali's now husband - helping to make temporary repairs and trying to keep the rain out until morning.

Looking back, it was a grim final act to our experiences of Northern Ireland's "Troubles". On the way, we'd had a close relation murdered by a coward hiding in a hedge; we'd had to move rather quickly - with local "encouragement" - from a previous home (we were the wrong religion apparently), we'd had a car blown up - it was parked beside a car bomb, and as a child, nights too numerous to count were spent trying to sleep on other people's sofas while the army dismantled some nutter's lunchbox full of explosives yards from our front door.

For all those years, the other cheek got turned so often, we were practically rotating. Sometimes, I'd like to shout that in reality, when I look back, it's been a struggle to forgive, particularly when the "coward in the hedge" is still happily wandering about enjoying the sunshine.

I was chatting with a friend recently about the benefits or otherwise of a South African style truth commission in Northern Ireland. To be really honest, I'm not sure I want to hear the gunman's version of the truth - I'd rather he had a first hand practical lesson in justice, then I might listen.

Reasons to be thankful...today

So it took a while to get to this... but in no particular order and off the cuff;

  1. for the computer working again!
  2. for my brother and sis-in-law moving in for a weekend's chillin out
  3. for being reminded that God is faithful and never lets go or gives up on me
  4. for all the flowers and cards that arrived this week to encourage me
  5. for another chemo week being over and the climb up the hill starting again
  6. kind nurses who persevere in the unending hunt for veins
  7. for my family, who are the best example of servanthood I'm ever likely to see this side of heaven
  8. for a little tiny boy who smiles and laughs with/at his mad aunt almost always on cue
  9. for my parents getting a rest in Tennerife
  10. for the painter/plasterer/glass fitter/floor fitter all adjusting schedules
  11. for M&S offering more than cheese wires to wear when a girl craves big knickers on "there, there, there" days
  12. for pear pickin' porky lollies
  13. for Ali's great pudding at the book club
  14. for Robo's chauffeuring and cleaning skills and general good humour when I'm grumpy
  15. for Roger's magical mystery tours cheering me up on the way to the hospital
  16. for the girls in the "Good Book" club and their big fat appetite for more of the Word
  17. for whoever invented hot fruit parcels with rosewater and honey yoghurt - this year's winner in the "best-desert-I've-ever-eaten" award!

Reasons to be thankful?

Never mind the list of 100 things, what would feature on your list of "things to be thankful for" today?

I'll post mine later.

The alternative to a wig on bad (no hair) days?

I was stared at this week. Really stared at. "It's because I've no hair isn't it?" She nodded. "Do you think it's a bit funny looking?" She shook her head. "You know it will grow again soon don't you?" Another shake. She's five years old and has great fluffy blond "springs" - curls to you and me. She also hasn't seen me since I started the billiard ball with stubble look and clearly, she was troubled by it. She's in good company. "You're not seriously going to do without a wig are you?" My mother. And she's not alone either: "Have they given you a wig yet?" (I am literate enough to read between the lines of another relation's words.)
So I got the wig - I didn't have much choice.
Cheery-Cheery, the ever happy head of wigs at the McDermott (cancer) Unit insisted and I hadn't the energy that day to argue. I'm not sure what to do with it though. It's hot, hairy (no surprise there) and looks ridiculous. A fellow-sufferer confided that hers blew off in the local High St recently and while she laughed, a passer by nearly had a heart attack. So in the interests of public health, I won't be wearing it but I can't think of a use for it. Dressing up box for little'uns or boot sale or fire it off to ebay's folicle club if such a thing exists? What does a gal do with an unappreciated wig and polystyrene head, wig oil and shampoo or whatever gloop I bought with it? Any suggestions?
Here's the thing: when it's cold I wear a bandana thingy. When it's warm, I go topless (so to speak). Frankly, I don't care and it really hasn't bothered me for even 10 seconds. It's quick, easy to dry (!) and I don't have to look at it. Way I see it, I'm sick, I have a vile toxic cocktail of chemotherapy every three weeks, my hair fell out quickly, it'll probably grow again, but for now, this is me, get used to it!
(Suggestions welcome as to suitable use of said clump of fake hair!)