The light was beautiful this evening when I nipped round to the harbour chippy.  A  sunny September day was giving way to a misty evening, the tide was out and there wasn't a breeze - does the Beaufort scale have minus numbers for super-still weather? 

It's a feast for the senses tonight too - the air tastes and smells tangy.  Salty.  The streetlights near the path to the beach are hazy through the mist and the sound of a fog horn hangs in the air.

This is 'my' little stretch of coastline at its autumnal best. 

Tonight, with windows wide open, I will snuggle under a quilt, ever thankful for family, food, clean water, health, a roof over our head and a safe, secure place to sleep.  

I'll fall asleep surrounded by the scents and sounds and sensations of a cool, misty, night by the sea. 

Enough is all that's needed, yet I have so much more.  I'm grateful.

Ah autumn...

There's a very definite change in the atmosphere.  Farmers busy themselves with essential work while the weather holds and just beyond the fields, the waters of the Irish Sea are a little rougher than of late.

Lamps are switched on earlier in the evenings, the spiders are weaving cobwebs overnight on an industrial scale in my home- they abseil from the ceiling, dangling right in front of my eyes.  I've hand-transported a few bold beasties from the house to outdoors, fully aware that I'm just slowing down their progress as they find their way back in for the night shift. It's still too warm to keep the windows closed.

I spotted this fabulous village sign on a work visit this week.  For years a friend thought it was pronounced Tamla O'Frilly.

Today, the sultry, heavy weather sent me to the hedgerows with my parents for blackberries.  Smaller fruits and less juicy this year I think, but enough.  Maybe we're following on from other pickers or maybe July just wasn't wet enough.  Lots are still red and runty and probably won't get enough rain now to swell then sun to ripen.

Drippy jelly action in the kitchen tonight after book club and in the morning, sweetness added and a few pots of brambly goodness to put away for the dark months.

hooky time again

When the warm sunny days get washed away... it's hooky time!  My new favourite wooly nook - The Textile Studio in Belfast - had the Drops Paris cotton on sale so I bought a bag load - still won't be enough to complete the throw but let's see how it goes!  I fell in love with Julie's rug on this site, but probably shouldn't be doing it in cotton - it's a bit of an experiment but a good chance to play around a bit with colours and patterns.  Open to ideas!

Sunday lunch and no one wanted to cook - it's so humid - so we arranged to meet up at Crawfordsburn Country Park after church - mum, dad and my brother and his family.  We arrived full of good intentions to walk by the beach or through the woods after lunch but it was chucking it down like a monsoon, complete with thunder and lightening.  Junior was the only one to brave it!  The boring adults hogged a table with lots of tea and coffee refills and banter...  Not the worst way to spend a wet afternoon.

not a crochet hook in sight....

We've had wonderful, mellow dawns and dusks to bookend our days over the last week.  On Friday evening, Grace, mum and I headed to the harbour to watch the sun set - and to knit (mum), crochet (me) and swim - a very brave 13 year old!!!

I love the colours in the sky and the last rays of light on mum's face.

Time for a little refurbishment too - one of mum and dad's wedding presents from 1958.  I'm not sure it's Lloyd Loom but it's very similar - an ottoman or blanket box with a wicker base and a lid that has been much sat and stood on.  

One of mum's favourite story is of buying me a nurse's uniform to dress up with when I was about three years old.  She was busy in the kitchen and wondered why things had gone quiet - I was no where to be seen.  Upstairs, she found the ottoman lid open and a wee nurse fast asleep inside on the pile of quilts and blankets.  

Time for a refurb then!  It was interesting to remove the layers of fabrics from previous recoverings right down to the original dark red and gold material.  

A new lid was needed and dad got to work on that while I sprayed the wicker.  
As the paintwork dried, I recovered the newly made lid with a lovely cranberry and grape striped fabric from Laura Ashley.  

I think it looks much fresher now.... except it shows up the matching chair... and the curtains... and the room maybe needs a coat of paint now too - you know how it goes!!  Just the kind of project I love and I'm looking forward to the next bit.  It did however, satisfy the crafty thing for a day or so and I haven't touched the crochet all day - imagine! A whole 24 hours and I haven't played hooky.

It was a happy June!

So when the tidying up got sorted and the place was spickety-span, there was time for fun.  
A few June memories... like a day out on the Causeway Coast with the girlies to celebrate (again!!) Robo's 50th birthday. I think everyone should have a week's worth of fun at least for every special birthday.  May I introduce Maggie, Jenni, Heather, Rosie, Robo et moi.

I got into a total tangle with rolling a skein of yarn into balls, so my ever patient parents took up the challenge - mum has an original neck-toe method when there aren't any willing hands available to hold the skein!

When a small boy breaks the SAME arm twice in 5 weeks, summery diversions are called for.  This was a trip to the local pottery and his outer-space-penguin-on-the-reverse plate has now gone into every day use at home.  For being one-handed, his detail was great and his patience with the three old dolls with him really sweet.

We also had a visit to a friend who's a Guide Dog puppy walker - she was 'puppy sitting' 3 bundles of fun for a few hours when we called in.  Meet Zara, Felix and Cecil.  (Oh yes, and mum, Fiona and Sam.)

ssshhhh.... hear it?

It's peace and quiet.

The house looks like a bomb has hit it thanks to a couple of weeks of  ".... just leave it, I'll sort it... no really... just walk away and I'll see to it....".  I think I now know how parents feel when all the kids go to camp all at once.  Except here, it's the parents who've gone.

I have such plans.

In between...

  • decluttering the entire house
  • power-hosing all the paths
  • painting all the fences
  • replanting the garden and tubs
  • filling the freezer with meals to feed us for months
  • entertaining every night
  • paint that bedroom
  • source the fabric and make new curtains

... I plan to eat without consultation as to what others fancy, lose at least 20 pounds, have a daily walk for miles on the beach and have a three hour quiet time every day.  Oh yes, and order the book for book club and have it read by the time the folks are back.

It's only a week... but a girl can dream huh?

Now, where to start... maybe a cup of tea and a list.

Oh man, what a week.

It's been 'one of those weeks'.

Monday tea time and a phone call summoned this worried aunt to the children's hospital.  The li'l guy (my 7 year old nephew) took a tumble on the trampoline - or to be totally accurate, some of his friends took a tumble and landed in a heap - he just happened to be at the bottom of the pile.

In theatre, he had an op to pin his arm just above the elbow and is out of action now for a wee while but being very brave.

Over the week, I've been reminded of the power of ice cream to deliver smiles.  I've also learnt that despite an abundance of technology, boys banned from football (temporarily) and tree climbing (similarly) can be diverted with a mad game of ludo.  Who knew!

On Tuesday night, I accompanied my father to a concert - his birthday gift.  The Seekers (anyone old enough to remember?) were on a 50th anniversary tour and since their music is part of the soundtrack of my childhood I was looking forward to it just as much as he was.  The concert was superb - much, much better than I'd hoped for.  Remember The Carnival is Over?    Or Georgy Girl?  Or Morningtown Ride?  We're still smiling and humming - and lovely to have 'dad time'.

Friday night and it was dad's turn to be up front.  He's having chemo treatment at the moment and energy levels are low, BUT he still managed to sing with his choir at their annual concert.  So very proud of him!

On Saturday afternoon, it was 'mum time' - her treat to take us to the Belfast Opera House to see Cinderella - the Rogers and Hamerstein musical.  It was performed by an excellent amateur group - Belfast Operatic Company - joined for each performance by two white rats and the tiniest wee white pony.  A very polished performance all round, completed with a lovely meal in a local restaurant.  Mum is on the right of the picture with her cousin in the stripy top beside her.

I'm so thankful for much this week - for having parents still around who love to enjoy life to the full; for the skills of the medical team at the Royal Victoria Children's Hospital and for an NHS that hasn't been completely stripped of resources and can still excel at doing what it does best when it gets the chance.  

As I sat with my nephew waiting for him to go to theatre, I couldn't help but reflect on the difference between his treatment and the children at our project in Uganda:  

He had a vehicle to get him to the nearest A&E, an ambulance to transfer him to the children's hospital, a surgical team to do the needful and pain medication throughout.  

In our unit, children reach us months after an accident, after village bone setters have done their best - often making bad situations worse.  The journey is long, painful and often the injury beyond resetting and long drawn out intervention is required to save the limb.

We have so much to be thankful for, and such a responsibility to share our blessings.

The Art of Celebration.

The Art of Celebration - the new album by these lovely people - the Rend Collective who hail from Bangor, Co Down (about 2 miles away from where I live).  

I love the title of the album - I've heard them describe the 'art' element as something that's both playful and something that has to be worked at.  It's all about joy - and that's a gift.

Tonight, I'm heading up to Belfast where we're recording their concert for a radio broadcast later in the year and we'll record a quick interview with them.  I've worked with them before and they're the real McCoy - joy-filled, lovely, happy, real people.  No celebrity nonsense going on here.  If you didn't catch them on Graham Norton's Radio 2 show and you like a slightly folky, slightly rocky, slightly whacky sound… have a listen to some of their sound here.  

Looking forward to this gig!

I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers...

How lovely is this?  I'd been looking at some poetry online - was trying to remember the author of 'gather ye rosebuds while ye may…' 
and came across another verse written by the same 17th century poet - Robert Herrick.  

It almost sums up the photos I took on the visit to a friend today - a beautiful, sunny  afternoon when Northern Ireland was looking it's best. 
(They were taken near Minnowburn and Edenderry if you know south Belfast.)

 With the exception of the birds, I was obviously in the vibe for the verse I'd find later - and since he mentions cakes, I've added two that I did for a bride last week - not often wedding cake gets a mention in poetry!!!
"I sing of brooks, of blossoms, birds and bowers,
of April, May, of June and July flowers.
I sing of May-poles, hock-carts, wassails, wakes,
of bridegrooms, brides, and of their bridal cakes."

In the pink

It seems large chunks of Northern Ireland have gone pink this week in anticipation of the Giro d'Italia cycle race.  (Is that tautology at work?  Does everyone else in the world know what the Giro is?)  

Anyway, on my way home yesterday from the little lump of God's own country that is the beautiful Causeway Coast, there were pink decor bikes at the entrance to every village and town - and all along the wayside people were enjoying the joke.  Wish I'd had a proper camera with me - pink tractors, pushchairs etc.  

Shop windows had gone for all pink merchandise, but taking the biscuit really was the wag of a farmer who'd pinked half his flock of sheep.  I stopped to snap a pic with the phone's camera, so it's not great quality - but by the time I'd moved off, three other cars had stopped.  I can only imagine it's a plan to pre-dye the yarn for the biker's woolie jumpers.  Bella bella!  Not a baaaad idea really.

All is not lost....

We have leaves.  It shouldn't be a surprise but it is.  A few months ago, my very enthusiastic dad bought a new shear-like clipper tool and got carried away with my beloved apple tree.  I was devastated.  I tried my best to swallow the lump in my throat and blink away the tears of disappointment.  He thinks the tree is getting too big for the tiny garden.  He may be right, but to my mind, it was the wrong time of year and the wrong way to do it.  I tried to joke about him turning the tree into a climbing frame for my 7 year old nephew but it hurt.

With the help of a double pollinator (a graft with two varieties) in a pot nearby, 'my' Bramley seedling produces the finest cooking apples in the world.  The windfalls don't go to waste - my father turns them into the most beautiful apple jelly.  So although it's 'my' tree - it's his too.

My mother loves to harvest the fully grown apples and produces crumbles, apple tarts and bags of stewed apples that are frozen and just when you think you'll die for the want of a sweet autumnal pudding long after the leaves and fruit have gone, she'll set one on the table.  So I guess that makes it her tree too.

We have one child in the family - my brother's son.  He has inherited his grandmother's tree-climbing gene and his aunt's love of baking too. In years to come, his memories may well include harvesting apples at granny and granda's.  In his mind's eye, he'll almost certainly hold a view of our garden from the top of the brambly branches.  It's his tree too then.

Today, I've noticed the bare branches have little green leaves in unlikely places, long, long after they should have been there.  Small, new reminders that no matter how bad things seem, there's is hope.  I needed to see these leaves.  I needed the sign, not because I long for apple tart and windfall jelly but because my dad is sick.  Every few weeks, I sit beside him in the hospital as a toxic cocktail drips into his vein.

He's a quiet man, the uncomplaining type, a teacher to his very core and a woodworker.  He's spent his life pointing young people in the right direction, in school, in Boys' Brigade, in Bible Class, in a Government run project for young offenders.  And now, unbeknown to him, when he over-enthusiastically clipped away at 'our' tree, he was setting a lesson in place for me.  It's a resurrection thing and I'm glad for the lesson that no matter how broken and hopeless things seem, there is always hope.  Maybe this year, we get by and cling to that hope.  Next year there'll be fruit... and all will be well with the world again.

Until then... I need to remember what it was like last year.

At last, my very own wee painting job...

I'm a convert.  I've admired many repainting projects on other sites, so was excited to be doing one at last. This old wooden "Sunday school" chair came from a church in Belfast and with a couple of coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint, it's be re-born into a lovely clean, fresh little chair for a child.  Can't bear to part with it though.... 

happy memories

Today, I've spent a lot  of time saving old slides onto the computer.  It's one of those jobs I put off as long as possible but when I do start into it, I love the memories the images bring.  

The memories are great - work trips in this current box - and on some visits, members of my family flew out for a holiday when I'd finished working.  They weren't all pleasant trips; South Sudan, Uganda in the mid 80s and Kosovo come to mind.  One sobering thought is how many horrible things I've witnessed around the world.  I've presented the images and told the stories, but years on, I'm feeling challenged to reflect on what I've seen and make more sense of it.

Another - slightly more trivial thing leaps out in every slide I'm in too - I'm much lighter in the pics than now and remember having so much more energy.  Ok, we're talking quite a few years ago.... but it's a good boot in the backside to take things in hand a little!
So... a few of my favourite shots; The Taj Mahal, Kenya, Nepal, Nepal again - my favourite day ever when we flew over a real life relief map, Owen Falls in Uganda - the source of the Nile - and a little boy called Moses, after an interview with a Korean man who had a "cure" for HIV, and filming in the Himalayas.  Sighs with pleasure.