Thursday, 31 December 2015

The Floods...and Noah

I've just returned from a few days in Northern Ireland and managed to travel without too much disruption apart from a hour and half delay caused by the plane's steering breaking down just as we were taxi-ing away from the terminal.  That'll teach us not to choose Fly(may)be.  We (daughter Kate and I, abandoning family-phobic husband and dog) spent a few days with NI sister in Dromore looking out over the mist-covered Mourne mountains which you can see from her house and rarely venturing outside.  But in the midst of all the wind and rain there was one morning of calm winter sunshine on Sunday and sister, brother-in-law and I went for a very pleasant walk around the lake in Hillsborough and then to the pub for a hot port, a popular drink in NI which you can rarely get in English pubs. Meanwhile the turkey was cooking nicely - there were 10 of us for dinner that day as youngest sister and her family were there too.  I was in charge of stuffing following my dad's recipe for sausagemeat stuffing and basic parsley-based one.  I just about matched Granda's standard, according to nephew Callum.  Kate and I enjoyed this meal much more than Christmas day when we had an overpriced four course meal in a rather posh restaurant which was a bit too formal for her and full of older people. Then there was more present opening and board game playing.  'Taboo', which I bought for older nieces and nephews, was good fun.

All the footage of the floods in the news recently reminded me of the time we were flooded in Ballyronan 30 years ago.  It was the summer of 1985 and I'd brought the boyfriend who is now my husband to visit the family for the first time.  We were in bed (in separate rooms of course) and I couldn't sleep because of the noise of thunderstorm and the rain which had been lashing down for hours. We'd been flooded before - the sheugh (NI for open drain) was prone to overflowing. So I went downstairs to check and stepped into three inches of water at the bottom of the stairs.  I woke the rest of the household and we spent the next few hours with brushes sweeping the water out ot the front door.  It had collected in the backyard, which is enclosed by outbuildings and a high wall, and had reached up to the windowsill, coming in through the back kitchen door, down the step and then out the front of the house.  So we kept sweeping for the next few hours, while my father went outside with a hammer and chisel and attempted to make a hole in the wall to release some of the water.  Meanwhile my mother stayed in bed, weeping and unable to face the prospect of the mess she'd be clearing up. Another worry was that my youngest sister's new kitten was missing.

All was well in the end: our efforts meant the water never got too deep so most of the furniture could be dried out and there was only one carpet to replace.  My enduring memory is of the layer of slimy mud which covered everything.  And the kitten was found safe and well, on top of one of the old cupboards in the outhouse. We helped clear up and the rain stopped: the next day was glorious and I took Paul to visit the Giant's Causeway.

Miffy the kitten with a very young Paul in 1985.

Me at the Giant's Causeway, the day after the flood

With all the rain in NI in the last week I was concerned that the house would flood again, even though the drains have now been fixed.  It's not empty any more - my cousin's daughter, her husband and new baby are living there.  We visited Ballyronan on Monday and went down to the lough, where the water was very high and had flooded the playground. It seems there was one day that water had been running down the lane like a river, but not, so far, into the house. It is good to see the house being lived in and it was cosy with the Rayburn going again.  And lovely to see the new baby, the first little boy in the house since my dad was born - we were all girls.  And his name is...Noah. Let's hope this little Noah doesn't have a flood to deal with.

Ballyronan Marina, December 28th 2015

Thursday, 24 December 2015

So here it is..Merry Christmas

Card designed by niece Hannah

Merry Christmas readers, if any of you are still out there after my long absence.  No excuses really - just got out of the blogging habit.  But resolving to return more regularly in the new year, writing at least a weekly post.  And now, for the record, what I've been doing while not blogging.

more this year as I'm covering my colleague's maternity leave. Most of November disappeared in a blur of marking and preparation. I'm doing more A level English Lit. and I've been teaching poems from the Forward Anthology 'Poems of the Decade' 2002-2011. This has been a challenge but an enjoyable one.  I'll share some of my favourites on here soon.

a visit from Alfrink college in Holland which I've blogged about before.  My lovely friend Anette and four students stayed three days last week with me and other families, telling students at our school about their annual Model United Nations conference.  They impressed everyone at school with their ability to discuss complex global issues in near flawless English. They enjoyed the experience too: I cooked them a welcome meal and introduced them to Christmas pudding and mince pies, and they enjoyed exploring the Christmas market and shops in Chester, which is currently all twinkly with lights.  Their favourite shop? Waterstones book shop, Really good role models for our students,

Catching up with family and going to the theatre...
Brighton sister and brother in law came to stay overnight a couple of weeks ago and we had a night out in Liverpool, Husband and brother in law on a nostalgic trip to see Deaf School, a band they loved when they were in sixth form, many years ago.  Sister and I weren't keen on this and searched for an alternative, choosing a play at the Everyman, 'The Haunting of Hill House'.  Really excellent production. Scary though - highly recommended if you are in the area.

Then another visit to the theatre on Sunday with Manchester sister, daughter Kate and my niece, who celebrated her 10th birthday last week.  For her birthday we bought tickets for Hetty Feather at The Lowry.  This is an adaptation of a Jacqueline Wilson novel, one of my daughter's favourites when she was at that stage.  It was brilliant, Inventive staging, versatile actors - at one point they became convincing circus horses, humour, music, acrobatics and serious issues dealt with in a way which is appropriate for the audience.  Saying that, my niece found some scenes a little upsetting so it's probably not suitable for younger children. My daughter loved it and was very glad to have the excuse of taking her cousin so she could go herself without looking uncool.

And now, suddenly, it's Christmas Eve.  We're at home on the day and then more family visiting as we're travelling to Northern Ireland on Boxing Day.

Two more cards from nephews,  Dominic and Nathan.