Thursday, 18 January 2018

What ... no pictures of the dog?

How strange is this.  All day ... not a single picture of the dog.

Oh yes, we had a walk.  A cold, wet walk in the forest.  I even had the camera with me.  But the thick gloves were so cosy.  This is the 'left' sock ... as soon as the dog saw me putting them on he became over-excited.  So now, I can't just roam around in certain socks in the house ... these particular ones mean 'we are going out'.  And to Dougal ... that is interpreted as NOW!

It was good to get back and light a big fire!  But now the room is too hot and I'm sitting at almost ten o'clock at night in a tee shirt!

Lunch was also very acceptable.  Yesterday a friend made French Toast and put a picture on Facebook ... so that gave me an idea for today's meal here.  A tasty and ancient treat.  Served warm with a dusting of sugar ...

Day off gave me the opportunity to spend the afternoon reading ... an American friend (through photography) recommended this book ... and it is gripping!  I'm enjoying something completely different. 

So ... an early-ish night as I've to be up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, for tomorrow's Prayer Breakfast.  Why couldn't we organise a Prayer Lunch?!  Anyhow, it is the launch of the 4Corners Festival Programme ... you'll hear a lot more about that during the first ten days of February. 

If you are impatient and want to catch a glimpse of the varied items ... then ... just look here:   

This year's theme:"Now.  Here.  This."

I know that the book will have to be left downstairs or there will be the temptation to read 'just one more chapter'!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

A bit more ...

Yes, there was another snowfall during the night.  That meant that a visit to Lisburn which had been arranged had to be cancelled.  It wasn't a day for the car at all.  So once again the trusty boots proved to be the most efficient and safest way to travel.

The thaw began mid morning but not until I'd made the obligatory snowman!  Two big snowballs really with raisins for his coat buttons.  I couldn't find a hat for him.

By afternoon it was a case of 'sno-more.   Dougal had a little root around in the mush, but that was the end of the snowman!

Earlier he had a ball in the park ... appears to love the snow!

And so he was left at home while I walked down to church.  The footpaths around where we live were very icy ... but at the church there was nothing at all!  A different world from the white magic land just a mile further away.

I treated myself to a very nice Thai meal in the local 'street food' cafe.  Everything is served in paper dishes with disposable chop sticks.  The special this week is Sweet and Sour Salmon.  Delicious!  Quite a bite to it!  The rice to accompany it was coconut rice.  Again, very tasty. 

Now, it is raining.  Very heavy rain.  This means that the snow will have vanished by morning and the extra heavy coat and climbing boots can be given a rest.

As always, the dog is ready to go just the moment he thinks I am on the way out.  I guess this is a sad face because all I did was check the post box!  There's always tomorrow ... and maybe even the good camera for a change.  The phone can make you very lazy!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018


The weather people did warn us ... and the snow came.  A light dusting at first, more slush than snow.

It certainly wasn't inviting or dry enough to make a snowman. 

Dougal seemed to be happy to watch it.

But, when the boots came out he was eager to get going.  It probably wasn't the most sensible thing to go walking on the slippery pavements, but we managed!

It was rather nice to get back indoors and have a fire!

That was a snow-day ... a no-day ... feel for those who had to be on the roads.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

One week later and the tulips are still going strong!

This was the picture last Sunday ...

Now, the heads have all perked up and opened a little.  The tulips still have those lovely rainbow colours that I so admired eight days ago.  Underneath is a little late Christmas gift ... but the message of Peace is still as relevant now as it is on the nativity itself.  To the other side lie a pair of earrings.  It seems that, no matter where you look in this house, you'll find earrings!

These are tiny matryoshka [матрёшка] dolls bought in the Belfast Christmas market some time ago.  

According to one source: 

In 1890, the first Matryoshka doll was designed and painted by Sergey Malyutin and carved from wood by Vasily Zvyozdochkin. Malyutin and Zvyozdochkin were both Russian folk artists living under the patronage of the wealthy industrialist Savva Mamontov on the renowned Abramtsevo estate. Located north of Moscow, the Abramtsevo colony has continued to be a famous center for Slavic culture and folk art since the nineteenth century. Matryoshka dolls received global exposure in 1900 after Mamontov’s wife presented them at the Exposition Universelle world's fair in Paris where they won the bronze metal.

The concept of nesting is much older and was known in China and nesting boxes date from as far back as 1000 AD.  

Typically a set of dolls is seven ... but in my 'real' set there are only six!  I'd love to know how old they are ... they came from an auction twenty five years ago.  

The outer one has faded considerably.  I once saw a set in Greenwich with 30+ dolls ... but didn't have the money to buy it!  Pity.  

Just for the sake of completeness ... there is a set of owls here too.  But just five of them ... and I don't think there's any significant history, judging by the sticker on the bottom!

Saturday, 13 January 2018


There's a fire, and then, there's this fire!  I'm roasted.  Though Dougal doesn't appear to have a problem.

The day began in a cooler place ... the local playing fields.  The teams were warming up for a game in the breaking dawn with a damp mist swirling around.  I kept the dog well away from them just in case he thought the footballs were for his amusement.

Then, back home, to try to bring some order to the tangled tresses ... the new brush, as well as looking great, really does appear to work!

And so, off to join two friends for breakfast ... a treat we do every so often!  and much enjoyed ... fresh fruit (and yoghurt) followed by a full "Knife and Fork" fry!

Breakfast can take three hours once the "Ladies who Lunch" get going ... and it was almost lunch time when we went our separate ways.

So, under the steady gaze of the dog, I'm now sitting at the desk, catching up with some emails and generally being roasted by the huge fire.  It is burning very well this evening and throwing out heat like a worker's brazier.  It has become too warm for the dog who has retreated to the hall.  I'm tempted to follow him!

Friday, 12 January 2018


Quite a busy sort of day ... and only one picture.  I can't believe that today was a one (bad) photograph day!

Here it is.  A very poor grainy one taken with iPad in evening light.  

I've discovered that the treats lodge firmly behind some of the uprights in this dog dish and it gives a little bit of a challenge to Dougal in order to release them.  For a few minutes I can eat in peace without the ever watchful eye following forkful after forkful.  

It wasn't exactly worth the bother to look at the blog for today!  But I guess the creativity spark just isn't present this evening.  

Thursday, 11 January 2018


Thursday wasn't so misty ... and a quick walk helped to clear the head.

The range of smells must be quite intoxicating for the dog.

So, with some reluctance he posed for a picture or two, always alert to what was happening around!

There's nothing quite like a ramble in the forest, even if the day is a bit dull.  Going in the afternoon meant that we encountered a whole new range of people and dogs ... many, many dogs!  All friendly - unlike the one we met in the Parish Hall grounds ... he wasn't at all pleasant.  A growling and snapping bulldog sort of dog.  Dougal was not at all impressed.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Tuesday (vanished) so here is Wednesday!

Well ... somehow the day ran away with me and I was in bed before remembering the blog ... too bad!
Then, this morning, a city shrouded in mist.  Actually, I think most of the country woke up to challenging driving conditions.  And what happens ... many people fail to use lights, and pedestrians wander around without any HiVis jackets or armbands.  Folly.

It is beautiful, in a mysterious kind of way ... 

And so ... a literary reference today:

“LONDON. Michaelmas Term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill-temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if the day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest. 

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds. 

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look. 

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.” 

― Charles DickensBleak House

Monday, 8 January 2018

A day off

Today was a bright crisp morning. Since I’m not able to take off my usual day this week it seemed like a good idea to head for the Mournes. And enjoy the great outdooors.
 Catkins in Belvoir Forest near the frozen path.
The path through the oak wood is usually too wet for comfort but today with everywhere frozen solid it was easily accessible.

The hour in Belvoir was the prelude.

Castlewellan Forest was the main event. I have an annual pass which makes it possible to go into any of the forests as often as I like without further payment.

This standing stone is along the path on the north east shore of Castlewellan Lake. It has (possibly later) carvings of a cross, IHS, SOC and 1675 on it. It is thought to have been found in the lake around 1900 and erected here below the Castle.

Dougal headed for the lake.  It must have been awfully cold as he didn’t stay in the water for very long.

Chasing seagulls is a favourite occupation ... so these poor birds didn't stand a chance of a quiet meander along the path.

And finally to Kilkeel to a warm fire and a turkey dinner.

I’d say a most relaxing g day away from the desk and all the other bits and pieces.  The dog is snoring loudly beside me. He must have walked miles.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Another day almost gone ... and it both started and ended with very low temperatures.  The patterns made by frost are so beautiful.

That was on the windscreen of the car ... and the temperature gauge registered the lowest figure that I've seen this year.  It took a while to warm up ... but church was very cosy when I got there.  We've discovered that a few hours of heat on a Saturday night makes a big difference when the Sunday morning heating comes on.  Not good for the oil levels ... but certainly more comfortable for the people in the pews.

The rest of the day has been quite leisurely.  A good fire, a comfortable chair and a bit of reading and dozing.  All under the fresh spring tulips ... imported!  The flowers here are scarcely above ground yet.

Yesterday I decided to dye some rather tired pale blue towels ... they've been hanging frozen on the line overnight ... and are still there.  Maybe if temperatures rose above zero and there were a slight breeze they'd dry a little.

 And now, just before bedtime, the dog has a drink of Pawsecco!   I don't think he is particularly fond of it ... but he made a valiant effort to drink some.

As for me ... just coffee!