The Season of New Beginnings

It's happening - the seasonal fizz that September brings.  I wander past shop displays of pens and notebooks and long to be back teaching - the season of new beginnings.  Although, a confession.  I did give in and bought a packet of sharpies - I tried to resist for months, literally.  But when they were reduced... I've had to colour code my notes this week just to sort of try them all out.  (What is the point of a yellow pen?)

A family highlight was mum's birthday - the annual end-of-summer-birthday bash at our home.  All the cousins, aunts and uncles gather and as we've several August birthdays - so a cake to suit everyone was required.  It was fun to do.

Outdoors, it's been a long, damp, too-cool August and despite the craving for a little more heat and even some sunshine, I'm glad to see Autumn approach so things can get back to 'normal'.

The tomato plants aren't exactly heavy with fruit, and most of it will never ripen now.  The apple trees did their best and we have a reasonable amount of fruit, but not enough.  Even the "Lord's Larder" - my normal foraging lanes - have a few scant blackberries and lots of wee green, runty berries which would need a heatwave and a miracle if they're to feed the birds never mind my empty jam jars.

My pioneering inner self is nervous about a lack of home made produce in the store cupboard - I may just have to buy jam this winter.  Ye gads, a shocking state of affairs - especially when the met men are warning of a cold winter in the pattern of recent el nino years.  How will we survive without jam?I also have such an urge to chop wood - pointless when we've a gas Aga and central heating... but it's taking real restraint.  Almost certainly the outcome of a Laura Ingalls Wilder addiction as a child.

Happenstance? Coincidence?

I love when paths 'accidentally' collide.  It's happened twice in the last few days...

Late home, I wanted to watch this week's BBC "Who do you think you are"programme about Derek Jacobi.  A cousin had recommend it as his family background (and mine) traces back to the French Huguenots who sought refuge in the British Isles.

I watched the first few minutes - up until he arrived at a pie and mash shop in London his family had frequented when he was a child - M Manze.  Tiredness kicked in so I paused the programme at this point and headed to bed and a few pages of a new book ("Jam and Roses").  I turned the page and started to read... the main characters were heading to their favourite pie and mash shop - M Manze.

It might be well known in that part of London - I'd never heard of it before but what are the odds of it being mentioned twice in about 10 minutes?

This afternoon, I was listening to the news coverage of one of Van Morrison's 70th birthday concerts in Belfast today.  The interviewee was hoping the song about Van's old home "On Hyndford Street" would feature in the second concert.  They started to play the song and the phone rang....

You can see it coming can't you...  I took the call - a change of address someone wanted to pass on to my father.  And the new address was..... yes, you got it - Hyndford Street.  Seriously, what are the odds!

Does this ever happen to you?

Colour coordinated weekend

Things have been blue and white here over the last few days - the bride wanted the colour and pattern of the blue invites and her ivory lace dress to be reflected in the cake.  I really enjoyed making and decorating her cake and my lovely mum enjoyed helping to deliver it.

A friend's new son arrived a few days early and a blanket was called for - finished just in time and spot on for a wee boy - with Northern Ireland having had the coldest July weather in 20 years, the cosy warmth was needed!

I thoroughly enjoyed all the baking, decorating and crochet.  It was an intensely creative end to the working week and it all left me feeling relaxed- just as well as I'd an early start back to work for a Radio 4 broadcast on Sunday morning.  The service was from the Corrymeela community on Northern Ireland's beautifully, misty coastline... more grey and white than blue and white though - a very misty, damp morning.

A wee bit of hooky, new baby cuddles and being part of someone's special day - and a programme that went smoothly. Perfect.  What makes you happy?

Choc mint aero scored....

... 2 out of 10 - and my heart sank.  The lil' guy making the ice cream was quite clear, however that scoring 1 would have been 'excellent'.  We missed the mark this time 'because it just wasn't green enough'.  We were experimenting with the number of drops required of green colouring and the peppermint extract - the chopped mint aero bar was preferred over the choc chips as being much nicer.

No images of the final result once it was scooped into bowls - it disappeared too quickly and was totally yummy.

Choc mint aero ice - cream - just what Sunday evenings are made for.

Dress rehearsal for spring

It was as excited as a child on Christmas eve; spring was coming, how could it stay in the bed?!  Yes, it was still dark but in the first few days of January, up it shot to bring beauty to the tiny patch of border.  It's the same every year; the first of a small clump of daffodils showing up in the dead of winter, without fail.  There is hope... just wait... brighter days are coming.

An icy wind from the sea was a deterrent - I couldn't match the daffodil's enthusiasm by nipping into a warm house for a proper camera - so this was snapped quickly by phone - on the 6th of January.

Today, other spring bulbs have caught up.  Snowdrops and crocuses don't do well here for some reason, but the dwarf irises peep up for a few inches in a raised stone trough near the later-to-appear daffs.  Tiny bursts of blueness that make me happy!

No Man's Land (The Green Fields of France)

... and in this case, the green fields of Ulster's County Armagh, which is where I was yesterday.

I was deep in the heart of the Armagh countryside because I had arranged to meet a gentleman who's uncle may - or may not - have been the 'young Willie McBride' of Eric Bogle's very moving song.  I wanted a clearer copy of his photograph to use on the screen during the performance.

I got to thinking about this lad and his friends.  Just teenagers when they left home and hearth, and went to fight - and die - for king and country in the misery of the trenches.

Many of the Ulstermen died in the Battle of the Somme - over 60,000 British Casualties on July 1, 1916 - the first day of the battle.

I can't comprehend that number.  It's at least 10 thousand more than a full stadium at an international rugby match in Dublin for sure.

By November, the British, German and French casualties numbered over a million.  Horrific.  And that was just one battle.

If you don't know the song - there's a nice version by Liam Clancy here.  There's also a good one here in English and German - but I prefer Clancy's version.

Delayed start to the year...

So it's been a delayed start to 2015 in blogland - though the malaise seems to have been fairly common.  January just seemed to be so busy - and the end of last year was much too busy.

I've been happily hooking - the multi stripe blanket that Jules featured here - I love the randomness of the stitches (it's a kind of 'do-your-own-thing' pattern.  Colourwise, I basically picked a mishmash of Drops Paris Cotton and got stuck in.  At first, I was sorry I'd gone with cotton - it didn't seem to have the warm draped thing I'd hoped for, but now things are steaming on and it's growing, the drape actually pleases me.  Hope to have it finished for autumn.

I snapped the yarns on my phone to help me remember the colours I wanted to pick up at the shop, but noticed they're very similar to the colours used in the dome mosaic of Clonard Monastery in Belfast!  I was there a few weeks ago with the choir and orchestra doing a performance of our World War 1 commemorative event as part of the Four Corners Festival.

Despite having grown up in Belfast just a few miles from the monastery, I'd never been in it.  The building is quite fascinating and historically of interest too as the place where the IRA were first coaxed into peace talks - the beginning of the end of what we call "the troubles".