Thursday, 27 August 2015

Rain ... and more rain ...

Who'd let a little bit of rain stop a doggie walk?  Certainly not the friends of Assisi who braved the elements at Crawfordsburn last night to raise some money ... £13,501.60 to be precise!  It began as a dry evening but by the time dozens and dozens of dogs (with owners) had arrived the rain started.  The above photograph shows some of the walkers on the home stretch.
There were refreshments as we began the evening ... and Dougal was very well behaved throughout.  He is very good in crowds and with other dogs.  One of his new friends is a small red setter ... a beautiful young dog.
Indeed, rain didn't prevent this morning's walk either ... though it did stop for a little while when we were wandering around the park.

We are so blessed to have such beauty right beside us.
 It has been hard on the roses ... rain marked and flattened ... although from a distance the rose gardens still have colour.

 Dougal as usual spent some time looking for squirrels and rolling around on the grass.  He is such a pleasure to take out and much admired. However, today there were not many other people in the park ... I didn't see anyone except the gardeners!

Meanwhile his training continues in the back garden ... the new addition is a set of hurdles!  One day he'll jump without the incentive of a treat ... but not yet!

And thinking of treats ... the doughnut peaches are back!  It is a short season ... but they are just gorgeous.  Beautiful to look at and even better to eat!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

It's a dog's life!

There's a lot of sleeping to be done when you're a dog!
 The designated chair works well for the post night nap ... the morning routine ... up-out-walk-eat-sleep!  Simplicity itself. The only variation is a change of position from "comfortable" to "evenmorecomfortable"!
His chair gets the early morning sun which seems to suit him well.
In between the sleeps ... there's time to watch the neighbours!  On one side that happens through the privet.
Dougal likes to make sure that the cars get out safely and the children are happy.
And then, on the other side ... he uses the half-landing as a vantage point.  From there he can see the postal delivery as well as anything that passes along either of our driveways.
If the sun happens to be shining this is his mid-morning sunbathing spot.  He is totally phototropic.  Later in the day you'll find him moving around the breakfast room following the sunny patch!
So, that's the complicated life of the rectory dog!

Take each day as it comes.
Rest when you can.
Enjoy the sun's warmth.
And eat whatever you're given!  (His new favourite meal is Chinese sweet and sour chicken!)

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Should be doing something else ...

But, to clear my head ... a few minutes to reflect on a very special day.
 My goddaughter was one year old ... what a blessing she is, and, at the end of a year when she had much illness, it was good to pause, give thanks to God and welcome her (and her big brother) into the fellowship of the local church here in Belfast.  It is the church of her ancestors.
After the service in Saint Nicholas' we all enjoyed the birthday party over in the parish halls.
Cake, sandwiches, wee buns and jelly!  Time to enjoy each other's company.

If that wasn't enough excitement for one day ... this evening was spent with other friends saying "Goodbye" to one of our group who is heading back home to the US tomorrow.
Great food in a lovely restaurant ... Blu ... so now I'm ready for bed ... really ready for bed!
I began with a duo of soup ... one parsnip and pear with a spicy note and the other was roast vegetables and umpteen other ingredients.  Both amazing flavours and little pillow shaped fresh rolls to accompany it. 
 Then we all enjoyed the lemon sole parcels ... stuffed with spinach, roast pepper and ... lots of other things too.  Very, very tasty.
 We are sorry to say farewell to Siera ... it has been good getting to know her.  Bon Voyage.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Soaked twice !

Thursday, day off ... so a trip to Kilkeel.
It was a pleasant morning so off I set before seven o'clock ... traffic was already building up and the radio mentioned tail backs on the motorway. That didn't bother me!  I was heading for the seaside.
There were a few clouds in Newcastle but nothing to worry about. So. No coat. No umbrella. Short sleeves.  And with no one else on the beach Dougal was happily running free.
And guess what!  It rained when I was about a mile away towards Murlough!
The mist came down, the rain started ... but since I was soaked already we just wandered along the deserted sand.

Then, on to Kilkeel and a bit of gardening and wandering around the garden as well as some painting.  The white gloss in my hair is evidence!
It is a lovely time of year with the hydrangea in full bloom ...

 The major job was the greenhouse!  Every time recently that I've been at the house it was either too wet or too cold  (or both) ... so ... the time had come to do a major job.
If the first soaking was on the beach ... the second came when I was washing down the greenhouse ... water everywhere!

 The "before" and "after" shots show the dramatic change ... the Escallonia pruned right back so that you can see the door!  This is a South American shrub that does exceedingly well in our climate!
Inside pictures from before and after indicate a major job ...

It had gone completely wild ... with three different weeds all claiming squatters' rights.
And the vine ... well ... it was just rambling away in a wild and untamed way.
I have no doubt that as soon as my back is turned the weeds will try to assert some kind of independence again.  There is just a vague chance that I'll try to keep on top of them.
It would be good to try to introduce tomatoes again next year if I can find some way to water them in my absence.
There was one small casualty in the pruning war ... a branch with a cluster of grapes got broken off ... it makes a nice picture but I wouldn't give much for the chances of the grapes ripening.
Such a day demanded the odd, strong, coffee ...
In between the pruning and weeding there was also the laundry ... it's been years since the shelves were painted ... so ... wielding a gloss white brush ... I attacked!
All is looking well again ... not that the dog cared one little bit.  If he wasn't sunbathing then he could be found curled up with his toys!
It is quite amusing to see him check on me from time to time and then, satisfied that I'm gainfully employed he trots off to the basket.
He is so accustomed to the camera now that he just sits and poses ... though there was one moment when the look he gave suggested that maybe there are times when he wishes it were otherwise!  "Oh, not again" is how I interpret the rolled-eye look that I got when we stopped at the Twelve Arches ...
You can't blame him, can you?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Another week ... so much happening ...

Some of what happens surrounds the dog, of course!
For example: last Saturday was an Open Day at Assisi ... so he had to get spruced up to return for a visit.  Was he popular?  The star of the show!
He had his portrait taken ...
... and that now has pride of place on the mantelpiece!  Since he's so accustomed to the camera it was no trouble at all to have him pose.
The Open Day was well supported and Assisi raised over five and a half thousand pounds with the various stalls, teas, burgers and portraits.  What a wonderful place it is and how dedicated the staff and the volunteers.
The dog certainly uses up a lot of camera space ...
 He loves to be out in the sunshine ...
... and the evening walk is a fixed point in every day ... around now he'll begin to ask for the lead and off he trots around the block or into the park depending on how much time is available.
 Mornings begin in the garden ... a bit of jumping though hoops, a bit of chasing after the squirrel if it hasn't had the sense to vanish before the dog appears ...
 ... and then he's quite happy just to sit waiting and watching ...
Today he was given a new idea ... bake his own scones!
Just as soon as there's an apron the right size for him we'll get to work adding the liquids, rolling out the dough and cooking the finished "paws" ... the handy cutter is included in the box.  This should be fun!
Meanwhile I dine more lavishly on fresh rhubarb from the garden ... with custard that you could use to make bricks!
It was, perhaps, just a bit solid ... but there wasn't enough milk in the house!  It tasted fine.
Right ... got to go ... Dougal wants his evening constitutional!