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".