The fairy princess and the dragon…

There will be a short story time interval from the garden…

Dorothy's Garden(Disclaimer:This is not my garden. This is Dorothy’s garden. One day my garden will grow up and be like Dorothy’s garden… maybe)

Once upon a time there was a little fairy princess called Betty…

Betty didn’t know she was a fairy princess, neither did her family or her friends or any of the people in her town. But she was.

Rain plant(There was rain)

They all thought what she did was just normal, ordinary, nothing special. This is what she did… every night when she fell asleep she made bandages in her dreams and every morning she walked through the town handing the bandages to everyone she met.

Rain Pegs(Rain here too)

Then one day everything changed. A huge angry dragon arrived at the edge of town and started screaming fireballs out through his mouth and down Church Street. Everyone was terrified. Including the fairy princess but she had a job to do so she carried on. It was a little more difficult today as everyone was hiding in their houses so Betty had to push her bandages through letter boxes or leave them in porches. The dragon had made everything very hot and Betty’s clothes and hands and face were getting a little scorched but she kept going and eventually had delivered all the bandages… except one.

Shed Love(No rain here… impressive, right? Yes, there’s still ivy but this is a marathon not a sprint)

Betty knew who this one was for and she was more than a little afraid but she carried on. On to the edge of town where the dragon stood. When he saw Betty coming towards him he hiccuped and the fireballs stopped. Betty held out her last bandage and the dragon took it. Then Betty turned around and walked back through the town towards home. All the townspeople looking out their windows were astonished and started to clap. Betty heard the clapping and joined in (she really didn’t know she was a fairy princess but everyone else in town was starting to suspect…)

Buds(Look! Buds!)

Next morning the dragon was still there and Betty did the same thing she always did, she gave out her bandages and as she approached the dragon he hiccuped again then reached out towards Betty and took his bandage. Betty turned around and walked home clapping along when she heard the townspeople from their houses.

Worm(Can you see the worm? Gardener’s friend)

This went on for weeks. Betty was running out of un-scorched clothes. The townspeople were wondering if they’d every walk down Church Street again when one morning as Betty was handing the bandage to him, the dragon spoke…

Thank you.

Seed Sprout(Sorry it’s a bit fuzzy in the seed maternity ward… one of our seeds has sprouted!)

We are the townspeople and we are beginning to suspect that we have some fairy princesses living among us.

To a fairy princess called Val, thank you, x.

To my fairy princess sister in law, Helen, thank you, x.

To the fairy princesses who take care of my mother in the nursing home, thank you, x.

To the fairy princess guy with the tattoos in the supermarket click and collect in Greystones who keeps us fed, thank you, x.

There’s every likelihood that you are a fairy princess too because I’m beginning to suspect you’ve been one all along, thank you, x.

May you be well, Mairead.

 

Posted in Travel

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

(This is clematis and it is going to look beautiful soon… possibly)

New experiences continue here and we’re like children (nice children, not cranky children…) as we discover different ways to be in the world together. Denis has returned to the fold and we welcomed him with open mouths as he is cooking again. I can hear him chopping while I type – there isn’t a nicer sound.

(You think you’re missing your hairdresser? Sadie is so concerned she needs Denis to reassure her that Eilish isn’t going to stab her)

Our latest endeavor has kind of snuck up on us. Like everyone else I’ve been doing a bit of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for years but now I realise I was only playing at it! HaHa, Ha, I laugh in the face of my previous efforts. Here’s what’s happening…

(You can’t eat yarn…)

Yesterday Eilish came in to measure my head. Oh yes, I’ve forgotten to tell you why but first… she arrives over with her knitting, her needles and yarn in a bag. I thought I recognised the bag… And then I thought I’d wet myself with the laughing. You’ll never guess what the bag was? No don’t try, you won’t guess. It was a Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf bag… (our favourite bread, that we can’t get any more by the way…) Inside you could see the yarn peeping through. Now this is more like it, now we can honestly say we are, REUSING our plastic. Also, every time I look at the bag I remember with affection the bread, oh how we loved you, Tesco Finest Oatmeal and Linseed Loaf, sniff.

(Here are our potatoes, can you see anything? No, me neither but soon…)

So back to the knitting and my head measurements… We are getting all our groceries from click and collect so someone else does our shopping (thank you ❤) and I collect it in the car park of the supermarket. It works well for groceries. Not so well for hairbands. My hair is growing and it’s getting in my face and I find myself swearing and flailing my arms all around the place when I realise I’m about to touch my face to get the stray hairs back. So I thought, wouldn’t a hairband be very useful? And there was a hairband on the supermarket website shop, perfect, right? Alas, no. When the delivery came the hairband was in the Not Available list. 😟 Eilish could see more swearing and flailing in her future so she offered to rip some of my crochet squares ( I have sensed for a long time that she didn’t like my crochet…?) and use the yarn to make a hairband. RECYCLING!

(Hairband doing its job, send Eilish your head measurements if you want one we have 6 stamps left and loads of crochet squares… we’ll happily send you one (free, we’re just having fun here) and then you’ll be recycling too…😁)

We were talking about opening up a website shop because she’s already on the second hairband and I only have one head. But then we realised if the shop was successful we’d never have time to go out in the garden… I can probably wear more than one hairband at a time.

(My favourite gardening tool at the moment, fantastic for management of strong emotions… I hear)

I wish I had a story about how we are REDUCE -ing but with all the baking we’ve been doing nothing’s getting reduced except the contents of the bag of flour. That reminds me… Eilish was telling me that during the war years people used to sew flour bags together to make bed sheets. Yes, I did wonder how comfortable paper sheets could be… turns out the flour bags were made of cotton… oh right.

May you be well, Mairead.

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Learned Experiences

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(Our shed-growing daffodils are still going strong)

I realised something today. Although it seems like NOT a lot is happening here, there’s a lot happening here. Only last week I learned how to make a loaf of brown bread that would not break your teeth. As Denis and I get older we become more fond of our teeth so this feels like perfect timing. Up until now I did not think this was possible but kidnapping Eilish has opened up a whole new range of experiences.

It’s harder than you think… one of the projects we intend to master

Did you know you have to feed plants every week? You do! Eilish has a catchy way of remembering, Miracle Grow Every Friday. Yes that’s it, ok, not very catchy and yet I have remembered it. She did steal it from a lady in a garden center and we do have to change it to Miracle Grow Every Tuesday but still… We’ll see if it makes a difference in the garden.

This one does break teeth

There’s an north east wind blowing today. Did you know that? Seemingly, it’s a very cold wind when it blows. I have a weather app on my phone and I can connect with Met Eireann (weather office in Ireland) but Eilish is her own weather app. In the distant past when she lived at home in her own house and I’d ring her for a chat, the first thing she always wanted to know was, what was the weather like with me. And I’d squint out the window or look at my app to tell her. These days, I always know the weather! Ooh that feels like a change in pressure, did you feel it, Do you think it might be going to rain a bit? That’s the kind of thing I find myself saying. One day I’m gong to be a weather app too.

(The knitting)

With the change in the wind and the lowering of temperatures neither of us wanted to go out in the garden today. Probably just as well as we have a few other projects to dip into. The first is knitting. We found a knit-along channel on YouTube called Arne and Carlos. They are two Norwegian guys who have to quarantine in their home for two weeks because they were travelling outside Norway. Norway’s got very precise instruction. Anyways they thought it would be a good idea to organize something to keep them company and to keep other people company too. So they designed a bunch of knitting block patterns. Eilish and I are learning how to knit with two different colours at the same time. I don’t know what it’s called but there’s a lot of counting and Eilish has learned to swear…

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(These might be weeds, we don’t know yet)

I can’t imagine how Denis is going to cope with the changes in the two of us when he gets out of self-isolation tomorrow. Not that he’ll have time to notice… he’s on dinner duty for the rest of his life after this.

May you be well, Mairead.

 

Posted in Travel

The Journey

(Practicing Garden Therapy)

Today is the day we were booked to travel on the ferry from Rosslare to France ❤️ then onto Spain ❤️ on our journey to Portugal ❤️. Right about now I would be writing my first post from the car park of the services area near Gorey. But everything changed and here we all are on a different kind of journey. Together.

(Watching Eilish playing in the shed)

I’m sitting in my garden and I can tell you one thing I didn’t know before, I am very lucky to have a garden. I have been neglecting her but she waited, hibernated even, let herself go a bit with the grief of missing my care. I’m sorry, garden. I’ll do better. I think that’s one of the things this journey is going to be about – gratitude for the things I didn’t know I had.

(We are collecting sticks… I’ll explain another day)

Another thing about this journey is that there’s three of us. Denis, whom I’m usually living with in close confines, has been self-isolating for the past ten days, we talk on the phone now. I suppose I should add him to the list of things I’m grateful for. I didn’t realise how much I have got used to his presence. I am finding it surprisingly easy to be annoyed by his absence which I find surprisingly easy to turn into annoyance with him but he’s taking it well. I’m obviously not trying hard enough.

(Aren’t they lovely?)

Eilish is here too, Denis’ Mom (Denis and his five brothers all call their Mam, Mom – might be a Cork thing.) Eleven days ago we gave her an ultimatum and bundled her into the car to come live with us. Right about now I sense she’s ready to bolt. I’m really grateful she’s here though because she’s a huge distraction. You know, like Netflix?

(The description said they were ground cover and seemingly that means less weeds?)

When I’m not watching her we’ve been navigating a way to be two strong women sharing one house… politely. (Politely because Eilish doesn’t use swear words, I love them! I have found a way to make her laugh when I’m swearing though, I love to make her laugh.) She has a very different way of looking at things and she definitely thinks there’s one right way to do stuff. I don’t think there’s one right way… and I know I’m right…

(That’s wild garlic. Liam, one of Eilish’s sons, gave it to me last year and it survived!)

We are very alike in many ways, we like crafting and more recently gardening and Denis, we like Denis, mostly. We are also very different. She likes crafts to be exactly like the pattern intended, I don’t like following the pattern. I think weeds are just flowers planted in the wrong place and she thinks that’s crazy talk. I bet when she reads this she’ll say, Now, don’t mind me, Mairead but maybe just take a few more pictures of the garden and say less?

(Look! Ivy grows in our shed!)

It was my Dad’s birthday yesterday, he’d have been 99. I was thinking of him and the time of the petrol crisis (that was when we thought not having petrol was the worst thing that could happen to us.) He had a petrol station during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and the petrol crisis was a highpoint for him. He realised that how he behaved then would underscore the rest of his business life. So he was kind. He rationed the petrol so there would be enough for everyone. Even if you weren’t a customer, even if he didn’t know you or would never see you again. Thirty years later people from different parts of Ireland were dropping in to thank him and remind him of how he helped them when they most needed it.

He reminds me that my behaviour now will underscore the rest of my life. I’m negotiating my way through this and it’s not in every moment but most of the time, I try to be kind.

May you be well, Mairead.

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Back in Ireland

(Passing gates, grass, hedges and ploughed fields on our way home…)

We did indeed have calm seas with just a bit of waving motion which I don’t like so I went back to bed until it passed.

When we finally arrived at home trick or treat was in full swing. It was pitch dark, children and adults were wandering on and off the paths. Fireworks were exploding and it took a bit of effort to negotiate the reversing of Ruby into her spot. The freezer had defrosted itself while we were away so that needed attention. Everything else was fine.

Now it’s the next morning and time to write a to do list, hug the washing machine and get the groceries. Oh and empty Ruby, we couldn’t face that in the dark last night.

I do have another project in mind and as you know, from past experience, I have to tell you about it in order to do it but I’m not ready yet… instead I’ll write to you in a week and bring you up to date.

For now: Thank you for reading. To those who emailed or texted or commented or bought my book I really, really appreciate the time and effort and expense you expended.

Thank you for joining us as we wandered this autumn around France in Ruby. Mairead and Denis.

(There we are in Greystones)

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Nice Calm Seas…

(That’s the door of the church)

We are (hopefully) on calm seas somewhere near the south-west coast of England if you are reading this on Thursday morning. There’s hardly a puff of wind and it’s very cosy onboard… but that’s tomorrow. Today, we are in Cherbourg in the camping car parking where we started six weeks ago. Remember? We had to empty the vinegar water from the fresh water tank. No such jobs today, instead we are waiting to board the ferry at 9pm.

(The back of the church)

On route from Bayeux this morning we stopped in Sainte Mère Église. It’s a town made famous by the old black and white movie called The Longest Day. The movie tells a story from 1944. You might remember yesterday I said Bayeux was the first town to be liberated by the allies? Well, Sainte Mère Église was the first village.

(Can you see the replica paratrooper hanging up there?)

It was late at night June 5th 1944, 14,000 paratroopers were dropped out of planes over the area. They were part of the D-Day invasion. By sunrise the German troops had left or were dead and an America flag was flying from the town hall. One of the paratroopers that night was John Steele. He was a bit unfortunate, his parachute got stuck on the church steeple as he floated into the square. He had a knife to cut himself down but he dropped it so the best he could do was play dead while the fighting was going on all around him. He was 32 years old at the time. Eventually one of the German soldiers holding the church cut the straps of his parachute and dragged him up onto a tiny balcony.

(Can you see the America flag?)

We’re in Sainte Mère Èglise because we need a boost of electricity, the grey days are causing havoc with our solar production. So while Denis got to work at the supermarket plugged into an hour of power for €2, I walked into the old village. It was buzzing. Villages in France are rarely buzzing on a Wednesday morning but this isn’t France.

(That’s a Roman road marker (that little cross on top was added later) the Romans did battle here too)

Well no, it is… but it’s also a tiny bit of America. Everywhere you go you hear American accents, you see American flags. This village is a kind of showcase of how great America was. They were the heroes, everyone was grateful to them. They saved the day. It must be lovely. It is lovely. But it’s also sad. Mainly because you can still imagine what happened here, what happened all over France, all over Europe during the Second World War and the First World War. What’s happening still, in war. You’d think we’d learn, we humans, I mean.

You’d think we’d be doing things differently now. Mairead.

(Here’s Sainte Mère Église)

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Here’s the story with the Bayeux Tapestry…

(This is where you will see the Bayeux Tapestry)

We’re in Bayeux, an absolutely beautiful town and home to the Bayeux Tapestry. A 70 meter long, 58 panel, linen craft piece housed in the dark in a big house in Bayeux. You cannot take pictures of the tapestry… but fortunately they have replicas and photos they took themselves so I have something to show you.

(This will give you some idea of the length of the Bayeux Tapestry, it goes round the corner in the distance and as long again on the other side)

First, a few things you need to know about the Tapestry – it’s not tapestry. No, it’s embroidery. Tapestry is weaving threads. Embroidery is sewing stitches on fabric and I love sewing and embroidery. I mean I love doing it, I love the simple stitches coming together to decorate a piece of fabric. I’m reticent to admit this but… I don’t love the Bayeux Tapestry… I do appreciate all the work and I LOVE that it’s a story (oh yes I forgot to tell you – it’s a story) but it’s mainly horses and soldiers and the colours are verging on dull. Sorry, Bayeux, I love colourful and hearts.

(Here’s the basic ingredients – linen fabric with design drawn on and thread for the stitches)

Leaving aside my crafting preferences it is well worth a visit. They don’t exactly known who made it or where it was made (possibly England) but it was definitely handmade and definitely not long after 1066. Because it tells the story of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It used to be displayed in the cathedral of Bayeux for two weeks every year in order to tell the story of local history. As most people at the time were illiterate, the Bayeux Tapestry was like a picture book story.

So here’s the story…

(Like I said, horses and soldiers)

In 1064 King Edward the Confessor (king of England) sent Harold the Severe to visit his cousin William (he was at this point called William the Bastard…) in Normandy. He wanted Harold to pass on a message that William was his choice for king after he himself (Edward) died. Harold passed on the message and even fought a few battles with William while he was in Normandy. Then he went home but before he did he made a solemn oath to William to support him when he became king of England.

(This bit is Mont St Michel, do you see a green hill with some arches on top?)

Then Edward the Confessor died. Harold, who seemed like such a nice guy until then, decided he wanted to be king and reneged on his promise. He was crowned king of England. Word got back to France and to William in Normandy. He was, as you can imagine, furious. What about the solemn pact? William could not stand idly by. He waited for good winds in the right direction and set off from St. Valery to the coast of England with a huge fleet of boats and soldiers.

(More horses and soldiers fighting)

Harold the Severe heard the news from way up in Yorkshire, 400 miles away. At the time he was fighting off a different enemy but when he won that battle he raced down to Hastings (near the south coast) to sort out William. It took 58 panels to tell the story and the ending was not good for Harold. He was killed with an arrow through the eye. Willian was the new king of England and they changed his name to William the Conquerer (fortunately). I think he was also king of Normandy.(Here’s a lovely silver brooch all the way from County Wicklow! It was in the museum area to explain some of the brooches seen on the soldier’s clothing)

Anyway, there’s a postscript to this story. Nearly 900 years later, Bayeux was the first town freed in 1944 by the Allies and there’s a huge British graveyard here. On the Bayeux Memorial across the road from the graveyard there’s an inscription in Latin: Nos A Gulielmo Victi Victoris Patriam Liberavimus. It means, We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.

Forgiving and Remembering. Mairead.

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