Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Unexpected Kindnesses and No Time to Overthink!

 Last evening we were in the new place and I got a text from a dear friend asking me to call him. I did. He said he was going out of town shortly, but had today free, so planned to spend it with us, if we wanted, and we could make a couple of trips back and forth with heavy things (books!) and bulky things. He asked what time we'd get back into Dungloe and when we got off the bus this morning, he was there waiting. We came upstairs, had a cuppa and sandwiches and I was whipping through the apt trying to get stuff into shopping bags, backpacks, etc (books) or bin bags (shawls, ponchos, sweaters, socks, hats, etc). We were grabbing stuff and packing it how we could, getting it downstairs into his car. He'd taken out the two back seats, so there was extra space. And he'd brought a big tub so we could put plants in it--we thought we might have to leave those behind, so that was cool. Then he and I took off for the new place while Bill stayed behind to pack up more stuff. When we got to the flat, our friend brought most of the stuff upstairs and I was emptying bags and placing the bin bags of clothes in the wardrobe. We sat for a few minutes, got back in the car and came back to Dungloe--a journey of 11 miles.

Back upstairs, then up and down loading the car again. Another trip to Bunbeg ensued. By the time we got there it was lashing down rain, but the cafe under our flat was still open for another half hour. Our friend is a big fan of cafes, so we called in and had tea/coffee, and treats. He had a couple of scones and got a Cornish pasty to go and I got a caramel slice--my favourite! It's a shortbread crust topped with a layer of caramel and a layer of chocolate on top! YUM! 

By then the rain had stopped so we unloaded the car again and got everything upstairs. I put most things in the general vicinity of where they were going, but things still have to be put away properly. I am tired, but at some point during the day, I realized that it was probably good that things turned out this way. Had I known ahead of time that he was coming, I would have been awake in bed most of the night mentally planning how to pack, what should be given priority, do I need to go through everything and see if there is something I don't want, what's the best way to fit things in the receptacles that we have and on and on. There was no time for that. We didn't know this was going to happen until last night and we began as soon as we got back, leaving me no opportunity to overthink things. And it was better that way! We are so grateful for his kindness. It saved us a great deal of effort.

Our day started off with another act of kindness in Bunbeg. When we left the flat, it was mizzling. As we stood waiting for the bus, it rained harder and harder. The medical centre is across the street from where the bus picks us up and a guy came out the door and called to us that we should go stand there in the doorway. I called back that the bus would be coming any minute. I was thinking that if we stood over there, the driver wouldn't see us flagging him down. Suddenly, the guy disappeared for a few seconds and came jogging over with a large umbrella. He told us to just leave it in the chemist next door when the bus came. So when the bus pulled up, Bill told the driver he had to run across the street and leave the umbrella. The driver said, 'Ah sure, you're grand.' He sat there waiting for Bill to return and off we went. 

We've had so many happy surprises in less than a week! So grateful for each and every one!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

It's Official!

 We re moving to a new place. We've been looking for a long time, but various factors made it slow going. But we are both thrilled to have signed a lease and gotten the keys to our fabulous new flat yesterday afternoon. Now we are going back and forth between here and the new village to move stuff by bus. Because of this and the required notice period here, we have 3 1/2 weeks to do this, so we will be between here and there during that time. This coming weekend is a bank holiday weekend here and we would not be able to go back and forth anyway, so we decided that we would spend it in the new place. It is superior to the old p-lace on many ways. 

I will have some stories to blog about when we're done and have wifi in Bunbeg. For now, I'll just be popping in and out when I am here for a few hours.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Homeward Bound

 The next morning, we went downstairs and had a really nice breakfast. A while later, as we were leaving, Ann and her husband said that he would drive us up to the village. I told her we really appreciated that, but we were feeling better and I knew that the walk wasn't as long as it had seemed  the day before. It really wasn't far. They reminded us that it was already hot and the walk was uphill most of the way. I told them we're used to walking, but the heat did us in. Don't do well in the heat. We thanked them again and set off. We'd just gotten around that curve when a guy called out from his garden, which was not at street level, but elevated. He came rushing down and said, 'I was wondering if I could offer you a lift somewhere. You looked awful rough when I saw you yesterday.' We repeated what we'd said a few minutes before and chatted for a minute with him. As we started off again, Bill commented once again how friendly everyone was. 

It really was not a long walk--about 20 minutes--and we were soon sitting on a bench near the bus stop with about half an hour to spare. We'd made sure to give ourselves plenty of time because if we missed that bus, the only way home would be by taxi or by taking a couple different buses in a roundabout way that would have taken hours. The bus we were waiting for would take 15-20 minutes, which was preferable in the miserable heat.

At 10:45, we went to stand where the bus would stop. It was due at 10:50, which came and went. Then 10:55 became a memory. 11. 11:05. By now we were getting nervous as we continued to roast in the sun. Finally, at about 11:10, I saw the little Local Link 966 coming. Just to be sure he'd stop, I flagged him down. He opened the door and said he wasn't doing the run that day, but there was another bus behind him and that guy would pick us up. He said he'd call him to let him know we were waiting. And he did. He pulled off the road and got out with his phone. Then he came to us and said the other guy would be there in 8 minutes. So he was. When we reached Dungloe, and we were the only ones disembarking, the driver said, 'I'm going 'round to the shops, you know, if you don't want to get off here.' I thanked him and said we lived just across the street. 'Going back at 2, if you want to go back,' he said. 

And so we were home. It wasn't as hot as it might have been--we'd left windows open, but curtains and shades closed against the sun. It's still uncomfortable and I eagerly await the cooling that is supposed to come next week. And the clouds and rain that will block out the sun.  I am usually a single digit (Celsius) kind of gal, but at this point, even 13 and 15 seem exceedingly appealing. Just a few more days!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Not Melting Continued

 After the nice lady in her garden told us the harbour was right around the curve, we plodded on. If I had any energy left I would have jumped for joy when I rounded the curve and saw the horrible sun sparkling on the water! And there was our B&B! We were still early--it was a last minute booking and she had an appointment of her own that afternoon, so check-in time was a bit later than usual. I walked up to the steps leading to the front door, which was open. I leaned on a post. There was someone inside. 'Hello,' I gasped, 'We have a booking for tonight. We know we can't check in yet, but can we please sit on your bench?' 'Oh no,' the nice woman replied, 'It's OK, I got done earlier than I thought! Come in and sit in here where it's cooler. Did you park around the corner?' I told her we didn't have a car and we'd been walking round the area since 8 in the morning. She was taken aback, sat us down on the couch, brought us water and cans of sparkling lemonade and told us to rest there as long as we wanted and she'd take us to our room when we were ready. The room we'd booked was on the second floor (this would be the third floor in the US), but she had one free on the first floor (US second floor), if we'd prefer that. We took that one. It was a wonderful room with a lovely view. And oh so comfortable!
We asked Ann if she had any phone information about eateries that deliver, because we'd planned to walk back into the village for supper, but would rather not at that point. She was so kind and gave us some possibilities. We opted for a pizza, since we didn't have menus or anything and don't have smartphones to see if any places had websites or menus online. She offered to call the pizza place and order when we were ready. We showered and changed and after a while went back downstairs. She called and had quite a time describing the location, so I was grateful to her for offering to talk to them. We sat out on the porch and enjoyed the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. The pizza came. I'd asked her if we could eat in the dining room, because I didn't want to risk getting grease or something in the room. She set the table for us and everything--we would have just eaten it out of the box so she wouldn't have any clean-up, but she insisted. 

After supper, we took a brief walk round the area.

I liked all the lines from the rope and reflections
We went upstairs and plopped onto the bed, sometimes watching the people swimming in the harbour. The day was at an end. I was happy that I'd managed to stop the nausea and headache that usually accompanies any time spent in heat and sun. And so we rested.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

A Short Excursion in Which I Did Not Melt (But it Was Close!)

 The other day, we hopped on the bus at 7:30 (ish) in the morning and rode out into an even more rural area than the one in which we live. We got off at Bunbeg.
You see the buildings in the distance--that's most of the village right there.
We had an appointment at 9:30, but we got there at about 8, so we walked down the lane to the beach. It was already way too hot and the sun was beating down. I had prepared myself for an uncomfortable and difficult day because of the heat and sun, so I was trying to maintain a calm attitude. It was to get to around 30C later in the day and all day long people were commenting on how hot it was. Later in the day, people were also expressing some concern for our welfare, because it was clear that we were dragging. One thing that struck us on our short visit was how kind everyone was in various ways. Irish people are pretty friendly in our experience, but this was a whole other level.

We had our appointment, which went well. Then we had several hours until we could head to the B&B for the night. We decided to walk to the grocery store in the next village. Did I mention that it was hot? We'd brought our water bottles, but they were empty. The few takeaways along the road were not open yet, so we couldn't buy anything to drink. When we got to the grocery store, we found the coffee/tea kiosk, but no chilled beverages. We bought a pot of yogurt and a couple bananas and sat outside at a picnic table to eat. We started walking back. It was slow going. I felt woozy for a while and the expected headache and upset stomach began--sun, heat and I do not play well together. I did enjoy the fields of fireweed and these flowers, which were everywhere (I don't know what they are). 
A guy in a van pulled up and offered us a ride, saying we looked tired. We thanked him and said we were OK. We were indeed tired--we'd hardly slept the night before, partly because the appointment was unexpected and only determined the evening before. We are very used to walking everywhere and the walk was not far, but the heat and unrelenting sun really did us both in. We can't handle it anymore. 

Happily, we discovered that a takeaway was open, so I dashed in and, despite my policy of not buying beverages in plastic bottles, I purchased two bottles of diet Coke, which was the best option available. Oh how wonderful that hit of cold carbonation felt as it ran down my throat. I stopped feeling woozy. 

There is a sidewalk all the way along the road to the next village, with benches at regular intervals, so we would walk along and then sit for a while, appreciating the small breezes that would sometimes come from the ocean and waft over us. Then we'd walk on. At one stop, I ate a piece of warm cheese--quite gooey, but it settled my stomach instantly. It always does. 

We got back into town and still had a bit of time to kill. We knew the B&B was at the harbour, which was not where the beach is. The directions were good, but I realized later I'd been thrown off a bit by where the bus stopped. It was supposed to stop at Bunbeg Crossorads and the directions to the B&B were to walk down the road towards the harbour from there. But when we got off the bus, it was in the village. I looked in vain for any crossroad and when we set off, it was in the opposite direction. It's a tiny place, so we figured we just had to walk back through the village to get to the crossroads and then walk a way down the road and there we'd be. But we had not counted on how we felt in the heat. Every few steps felt like a mile. We got to the crossroads and happily turned onto the road, expecting to see water any minute now. We walked and walked and there was plenty of greenery and flowers, but no sign of water. Bill asked someone if we were on the right road. She said we were and our destination was about 10 minutes away. Bill said, 'I can't go on.' I said that was how I felt, but we couldn't just stand there on a road in the middle of nowhere baking in that nasty sun! We dragged ourselves on. And on. And on. There was a woman tending to her front garden. I asked her if we were far from the harbour. She looked at me with concern and said, 'It's just around that curve. Just go around there and you'll see it. You're almost there.' Spirits buoyed, I took another step.

To be continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wednesday Wow :-)

 Walking back from the recycling centre, I noticed these flowers and stopped for a moment to admire them. There is almost nothing I like about summer, but the flowers are an exception.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Slow Cooker Mexican Stuffed Peppers (Vegetarian)

 Aldi had peppers on sale when we did our weekly shop yesterday, so I bought extra to make stuffed peppers. As I was deciding what to put in them, I remembered that I had some leftover salsa and a smidge of tomato concentrate in the fridge that needed to be used, so Mexican it was.

I cut off the tops of some bell peppers and as I was chopping those up, I noticed how lovely the colours were there on my cutting board.
They went into a pan that had a bit of oil in it, along with a large chopped onion, one diced courgette (zucchini), and some black beans. I added some granulated garlic, cumin, coriander (powder), dried coriander leaves, oregano, and a sprinkle of chilli powder. When the veggies were just about cooked, I added The salsa, ronsed out the jar and added that water to the pan, along with the tomato concentrate. Then I tossed in some cheese, cut into small cubes. I used vintage cheddar and cheddar with chilli. I gave it a final stir and filled the peppers. I was going to add some corn, but I could tell I had more than enough filling already, so I skipped it. I put a small bit of water in the bottom of my slow cooker crock, filled the peppers, and stood them up in the crock.
I turned the slow cooker to the high setting and let them cook for 3 hours and 45 minutes--it smelled pretty wonderful in here! Then I sliced some cheddar cheese with chilli and cheddar cheese with spring onion and topped the peppers with that. I put the lid back on for  few minutes until the cheese was melted.
These were so good! I don't know why I don't make stuffed peppers more often. They're so versatile and easy to just let them cook away for a few hours.

If you wanted to add meat, easy enough to do--just cook it before you stuff the peppers. If you want to make it vegan, just use vegan 'cheese.'

I'll be thinking about how to fill the next batch 😋

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Determined to Grow


Friday, July 9, 2021

Flowers on Friday

 It's July, so flowers are blooming all over. We have stone planters up and down Main St and there are large beds on either side of the steps leading into the old church where the library is located. I enjoy looing at the flowers, even though I have no idea what the vast majority of them are. So many different colours and patterns! Here are a few that caught my eye when we were out this afternoon.

I hope you find much beauty in your day, too.

Monday, July 5, 2021

June Books: Short Form

 These books of short form work conclude the list of books I read last month.

the sky is all there is by Cathy Drinkwater Better
This was a book of the week from The Haiku Foundation. I enjoyed it!
Here is one I particularly liked:
through barren branches

Winter Deepens by Margaret Chula
This haiga/tanku chapbook is on the Snapfish site, where they have many chapbooks available to read online (link will open in a new window). This chapbook contains poetry written as the poet’s mother was dealing with issues related to old age.

Warm Under the Cat: A Book of Haiku and Senryu by Caroline Giles Banks
This was one of the books of the week received in the Haiku Foundation email. I really enjoyed this collection. Here’s an example I really liked:
His turn to cook
again he can’t find
          the thyme

The Quiet Quarter: Ten Years of Great Irish Writing  edited by Máire Nic Gearailt
I have had this book for 6 or 7 years, I think. I picked it up in a charity shop not long after we arrived in Ireland and I’ve been hauling it around since. I decided it was time to read it and pass it on, so that’s what I did. It’s a collection of short pieces (between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 pages each) that were originally broadcast on a morning show on RTE Lyric FM radio (the show is no longer on). According to the introduction, the station would put out a call for writing on a topic (some examples are travel, Christmas, language) and people would send in their work. Those chosen would read the work and then a piece of music aligned with the theme would be played directly afterwards. I quite liked this book. Some of the pieces were funny, some thought provoking, some profound. Many were life stories of one sort or another. 

Happy reading!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

June Books: Mystery

 As always, there was some mystery in the reading I did last month.

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths
I have read a few of the books in the author’s Ruth Galloway series and enjoyed them, so when she was a guest on a recent episode of the Shedunnit podcast, talking about this book (not in the series), I listened and was intrigued by the plot. Peggy, an elderly woman who was a ‘murder consultant,’ is found dead in her chair by the window by her carer one afternoon. She was 90 and had a heart condition, so no one but the carer, Natalka, and Peggy’s friend Edwin are suspicious. These two enlist the help of Benedict, a former monk who owns a coffee shack, where people can get the best coffee in the area. They band together to investigate and Natalka, an immigrant to England from Ukraine, contacts the police. She talks to DS Harbinder Kaur, a lesbian Sikh detective who lives in the spare room of her parents’ house. As things unfold, and it becomes clear that there is something suspicious about Peggy’s death, the crew of investigators, both professional and amateur try to find out what happened. How are the mystery writers that Peggy provided plots to involved? How are they all connected? What does an obscure, out-of-print Golden Age author have to do with the whole thing? How are the personal histories of some residents of the Seaview facility where Peggy and Edwin were neighbours impacting what is going on?

I quite enjoyed this book. In the podcast, the author said she meant this as a stand-alone novel, but the characters won’t go away, so there may well be more books coming. If there are, I’ll seek them out.

Death of a Gossip by MC Beaton (audiobook read by David Monteith)
I was in the mood for a cozy, so went to the e-audiobook section of the library website and clicked around. I found this one available—the first in the series of the author’s Hamish Macbeth series—so I borrowed it. I think I might have read one of the books over a decade ago and I listened to the Christmas novel at the end of last year, but that was the extent of my familiarity with the series. It was a good book which was funny at times. I don’t feel the need to seek out a bunch more of them, but I would borrow more if the mood struck.

In this book, we are introduced to Loughdubh (pronounced lock-doo), where Hamish Macbeth is the village constable with no great ambition to move up in the hierarchy. He first appears in the hotel where a new group of people is assembling for coffee—all pupils in a fishing school run by a local couple. Hamish always comes for coffee. Unfortunately, he has many more occasions to be with some or all of this group as there are tensions among them, mostly caused by Lady Jane Winter, a nasty woman who seems to know an awful lot about things people would prefer to keep hidden. Her barbs, thrown out randomly in the middle of conversations, and the way she deliberately humiliates some of them, do not endear her to the others, all of whom end up wishing she was dead. It goes without saying that when these wishes come true, no one mourns. Some bigwig cops are called in and they have no respect for Hamish, telling him to keep to village matters and leave the big case to them. In what is a surprise to no one, Hamish investigates and solves the crime while the big shots are still flailing around.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

June Books: Fiction

Alongside the nonfiction I read last month, there was fiction, too. Two were surprises that I sumbled across and one was a smaller book I've been dragging around for a few years. 

 Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan
This novel begins in 1973, when Moll, a 20-year-old woman living with her parents in rural Ireland, gets on the bus early one morning and disappears. She is an only child and her parents are scared and bewildered, hoping and praying to hear from her. As time goes on and they hear nothing, they drag themselves through their days until one day, 5 years later, Moll walks back through the gate and back into their lives. At first she doesn’t say much of anything about why she left, where she went, and why she returned, but soon, people and recent history catch up with her, her parents, and the people in the village. 

This was a great book! It won the an Post Irish Book Award for Fiction last year. I’ve read a couple of Donal Ryan’s previous books and loved them, too, so when I saw this in the e-book section of the library website, I borrowed it. I’m glad I did.

Children of Men by PD James
This dystopian novel begins in January 2021 with a diary entry by Dr Theo Faron, an Oxford don, who wants to keep a record of what is going on in the UK as the population is declining, as it is all over the world, from mass infertility. He also wants to note that he’d read a news article about the fact that the last living human being to be born on earth had died in a pub brawl. Theo happens to be the cousin of the Warden, who now rules the UK, along with his council. Theo used to be a sort of advisor to the council, but had left by the time the novel opens. He finds himself involved with a group of resisters called The Five Fishes who do not like the authoritarian turn things have taken as society crumbles. The last generation to be born is called Omegas and they are spoiled, have a sense of entitlement, and are left to form violent mobs that attack and kill people in ritualistic sorts of ways.

The novel moves between a first person narrative, through Theo’s diary entries, and a third person narrative that moves the story along. 

I found this book in a charity shop about 4 years ago, I think, and since it was a regular size paperback, it kept getting stuck into spots where it would fit and I forgot about it. When I came across it again, I decided it was time to read it and pass it on. I liked it, so I’m glad I found it again, even though aspects of the ending were fairly predictable. I had heard somewhere that a film based on the novel had been made, so I looked that up after I’d read the book. Reading the description of the film, I could see that it was only very loosely based on the book and the entire storyline and character development was quite different.

The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
This is a novel inspired by a historical event. In 1900, a group of lighthouse keepers disappeared without a trace from their lighthouse in the waters off the Hebrides.. In this novel, it’s 1972 and when a relief boat lands on the rock at a lighthouse to relieve one of the keepers and bring supplies, they find the lighthouse empty with the door locked from the inside. 

The novel moves back and forth in time between 1972 and 1992, when a writer of novels decides he wants to find out what happened and starts to investigate. He contacts the partners of the men who disappeared, although not all are willing to talk to him. The narrative switches between perspectives, with each partner given voice in various chapters set in 1992. They remember what was going on at the time of the disappearance and before. Some of the tensions from that time remain and the woman have not spoken to one another in a long time. In between those chapters, the reader goes back to 1972, where a sense of the keepers’ experiences and what led up to that moment are revealed.

There are some weird aspects to what happens to them—a slightly supernatural element, or maybe just strange tricks of the mind playing out in a small space out on a rock in the sea, where three people are on top of each other all the time. 

I found this book on a display shelf at the library when I went in to pick up some other books. It was a great read!

Friday, July 2, 2021

June Books: Nonfiction 2

 The other two nonfiction books I read last month are quite different from the first two, and also excellent.

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
This book is a follow-up to the book The Salt Path, in which the author and her husband lose their house because a friend ripped them off. A week later, the husband is diagnosed with a terminal brain illness. As they are being evicted from their home, they suddenly decide that, since they've nowhere else to go, they might as well walk the 630-mile South West Coast Trail (UK). That was an incredible book, which I highly recommend. When I recently discovered that she'd written this book, describing what happened next, I wasted no time in clicking over to the library and requesting a copy. It got here within a week. I read it, then Bill read it. Like the one that came before, this is also a fabulous book. You can read this one without reading the previous one, but they're both so good, why not read both?

The Saffron Road: A Journey with Buddha’s Daughters by Christine Toomey
I came across this book when looking for something else on the library website. It's a wonderful book, but some of the brutality described by the author both in terms of what she witnessed as a journalist and what some of the Buddhist women told her about was difficult to read.

Here's to another month of great reading!

Thursday, July 1, 2021

June Books: Nonfiction

 Another month comes to an end. As usual, the month contained a bunch of excellent reading. I read some wonderful nonfiction, all of which was fascinating. 

Harvest: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects by Edward Posnett

Excellent and thought-provoking book.

How to Be Animal: A New History of What it Means to Be Human by Melanie Challenger
The author argues that people have forgotten that we're animals and subject to the same sorts of biological issues and responses as other animals. She looks at the repercussions of this from various angles and draws on research from anthropology, archaeology, psychology and psychiatry. At one point she looks into research on how people predictably react when they sense a threat--becoming more conservative and retreating further into their group. She comments that those in power know what the responses will be and exploit that. No arguing with that! She talked about how we have speciated culture, which I find interesting. Now that we are the only human species, instead of interacting with human species different from ourselves, we are one species, but we differentiate and separate on cultural terms. She does not mention the fact that race, while a social and cultural construct and reality, has no basis in biology. It’s something humans have made up, not something that is real in a physical sense--something that I think is important to her thesis. It was a great book. She makes some important arguments in the book. 

New month, new reading! Yay!