Writer, Textile Artist, Plantswoman

Category: Newsy bits

Catching up: Better late than never…

Forgive me readers for I have sinned… it’s been a month (and four days) since my last post. I wish I could say that was because I was busier than usual—I wasn’t. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have stories to tell or projects to report on—I did, although some of the newsy bits are sadly out of date or obsolete and there are always projects.

It was just because.

The Sound of Music?

The most recent project was cutting my hair… something that took two of us, a cordless clipper and a pair of (cheap) scissors. I later found out that a close neighbor of mine had trained as a hairdresser and, had I known, I would have happily paid her whatever she asked to do this. I can deal with the emerging COVID gray/grey. It was the frizzy ends and unflattering length of the “coiffure” that was getting me down the last four or five days. I haven’t seen a hairdresser since January—that’s how bad it has gotten.

So with the full length mirror out on the kitchen patio and armed with the cordless clipper Robbie bought on Amazon, I set about trying to tame the sad condition of my COVID hair. I had to call Robbie in to help with the back after I cut it way too short and too far up because, despite the fact that my children believed I had eyes in the back of my head, I simply could not see or control or evaluate what my hands—and the clippers—were doing. So now I have what I like to think is the Julie Andrews/Maria von Trapp haircut from the Sound of Music.

There’s a Mouse in the house

We have a new member of the household—Mouse O’Líní (“líní” is as gaeilge for “lines” like the ones on the top of his head). We brought him home on June 15th, when he could easily fit in the palm of your hand. He has since doubled in size.

He is adorable, small for his age, but fearless in everything he does. Which is why we are very careful not to let him out of the house as he’d get flattened in no time by a hay tractor or milk tanker passing by on the road.

Having a “house” cat is not part of the cat owning culture here. Our garden has a parade of cats that wander freely from the various houses all around us. Most don’t have collars and some might be wilder than others. We shoo them away in the interest of saving the birds Robbie has worked so hard to attract. When Mouse is big enough to go out into the garden at all, he will be sporting a bell on his collar. Until then, he stays in the house with only supervised explorations of the outside world. He won’t stay this small and cute forever so we are enjoying this time to its fullest.

The Garden is a Jungle!

Back in late May, early June, it looked like this was going to be a hot, dry summer. As soon as Uisce/Irish Water (the water services board) declared a hosepipe ban due to water shortages, we started to get rain—every day. Sometimes an inch or so, more often just an annoying drizzle that made it unpleasant to work outside, or go for a walk or do anything. Every once in a while we’d get a burst of sunshine, the temperature would go up into the 70s in the sun and the heat loving plants like corn, tomatoes, and squash, would be grateful.

Over the past week the winter squash has taken over the paths and the courgette (zucchini) has commandeered the corner lot. The potatoes have overtaken where the raspberries are staked and all the herbs in the small kitchen garden have filled out and spread into each other. On the other side of the path the verbena bonariensis are taller than me and the dahlias are putting out new blooms every morning. In the front cottage garden, the tall daisies and crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ I rescued from the back garden in November when we were regrading it are more than happy in their new location. It was a gamble and it really paid off.

Village Life — FISH!

Wonderful things have come to pass in this little village. The Fish Fellas, Danny and Adam, started selling fresh fish from their van every Thursday—right here at the bottom of our garden! They have their own boats in Ballycotton and come here with the freshest fish ever! We generally buy enough for two days and haven’t been disappointed.

Then, a couple of weeks later, another member of the Ballycotton boat family, Vanessa, brought her gourmet fish and chips “airstream” to the village and set up by the river. They sold out of everything the first time and looks like they’ll sell out again tonight. Of course, this is better news for Robbie as I cannot eat anything battered in flour, HOWEVER, they use a different fryer for the chips!! So I have had my first feed of chips in what feels like decades but is really only SIX months! It made my weekend—I actually saved half to have tomorrow reheated in the oven. Irish chips are not like those skinny “french fries” you often get, all precut and frozen. They are freshly cut, thick and floury and taste like real potatoes. I can’t use malt vinegar (that coeliac thing again) but I’ve discovered that mayonnaise is yummy on chips, as is organic ketchup. I’m covered for the rest of the summer.

Village Life — the Big “C”

June was “100 K in 30 days” for Breast Cancer Ireland. I got more than 100k in even though I started a little late and I loved walking with my neighbors and friends, two of which were in treatment at the time. Their determination, cheerfulness and camaraderie was inspiring. Sometimes we were only four or five walking, other times we had 14 or 15 walkers, husbands and children joining in with the late evening sun shining down on us. A highlight was the 10 km walk up into the hills behind Mount Stuart church arranged by the Clashmore Set Dancers. At one point, we were up above the wind turbines. We walked by a freshly harvest timber farm that had turned into a field of foxglove and meadowsweet as far as the eye could see. It was stunning but I don’t know if I could do it again for a while—not at the pace that was set anyway.

Most days our walks would bring us in a 4 k figure eight leading up the hill and down to the river Lickey, back to the grotto, down the river walk to Raheen Quay and back. One evening, I walked out on my own, earbuds tuned to a book on Audible, up the village and out the back road to Dungarvan. I’d never walked that way before and I was surprised at how peaceful it was and how walking on one’s own can be centering. In the last weeks of the challenge, one of my neighbors undergoing breast cancer treatment got the word that she was clear and her elation was beautiful to see.

Sadly, a few weeks later, she discovered that, while she no longer had any evidence of breast cancer, there was cancer in her liver and it was quite advanced. She died shortly after. We were devastated—it seemed that everyone from the village and beyond stood for a mile on both sides of the road in a “guard of honor” on Monday as the funeral cortege passed by. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

So, while June was full of sun and walking and gardening, July has been tougher so far. My hope is that the rest of the month will lighten up a bit and bring us some long evenings sitting by the pond in the gloaming—tine, fíon, cairde agus scéalta—with the chiminea burning, the wine flowing, friends appropriately spaced, with stories and laughter lifting our spirits. It’s how it should be.

Netflix — Where did my show go??

The Great British Bake Off - WikipediaLike many of us stressed out on COVID news, I retreat to two particular shows to soothe my nerves. Gardeners’ World and reruns of the original GBBO.

I’m not interested in reality programming as a rule. I don’t care about bachelors or bachelorettes or amateur singers or nasty judges or dancing priests or any of the other weird and unreal/surreal “reality” refuse that’s on offer. The ONLY exception for me is the original, The Great British Bake Off (renamed, for whatever licensing reason between the BBC and PBS, as the Great British Baking Show)—the one with Mel and Sue, sweet Mary Berry and severe and exacting Paul Hollywood. Why?

Because I learned something new and interesting about baking and cooking in every single program. Even though I am coeliac and cannot eat 90% of what is baked on the show!

I think that’s what draws me to Gardeners’ World as well. I’ve been hooked on gardening shows ever since our move to the U.S. in the ’70s when our local PBS station, WGBH, produced and aired Crockett’s Victory Garden. With four small children, my television viewing then was an accompaniment to folding baskets and baskets of clothes. On Sundays, I could sit for hours watching Masterpiece Theater and Mystery! 

When we are under stress (and raising four children is pretty stressful—and rewarding) change is not a welcome thing. I was devastated when Jim Crockett died and was replaced by Bob Thompson. It took me YEARS to feel the same way about Victory Garden, although I remained a faithful viewer. When ‘GBH dropped Mystery! my Sunday evenings were destroyed, my TV viewing life in ruins. I felt betrayed. Apparently, I am a creature of habit—or I am an incredibly loyal and devoted fan of quality programming. I prefer to believe the latter.

In looking back over the programs that punctuated my life I find the following stand out:

  • The original Star Trek and most of its offspring, especially Next Generation. (I’m sorry, Netflix, Picard is just another shoot’em up action flick entirely missing the intelligence, sophisticated allegory and empathy of STNG.)
  • Anything written by Aaron Sorkin, especially The West Wing (a civics lesson in every episode) and The Newsroom.
  • And a host of PBS programs: NatureThis Old House, anything with Bill Moyers, especially The Power of Myth, and Bill Moyers’ Journal.

So… why this sudden examination of television programming? We don’t even HAVE a television right now. We can find whatever we want to view on our computers or iPads. Up until last night. Here is the transcript of my “chat” with Netflix:

Me
Two nights ago, I was watching The Great British Bake Off… last night it disappeared from My List and I am no longer able to see it…WHY? Things are bad enough without losing programs I find soothing — the other Bake Off spin offs and wannabes are simply not the same — they are inane.
Netflix Chat Person
Hi there! Thanks for waiting. My name is XXXX!. Let me help you with your query. Let’s start with the email address on file and your name?
Me
Let me check… I believe it is *****************
Me
Name is Roxanne O’Connell
Netflix Chat Person
Okay just be online while i locate your account and check it for you.
Netflix Chat Person
All right so i checked and it seems that the show is no longer available in Netflix
Me
So… not your fault, I get that. I offer a friendly user experience tip for you — this will save customers hours of time trying to figure out why things go missing — Give us an EMAIL or a NOTICE on our account that lets us KNOW what’s happened. I spent an hour trying to find out what happened and I was pretty pissed off with Netflix as a result. And I’m a shareholder! Something like “Netflix license for this program has expired and we can no longer offer it.” We are stressed enough in lock-down without things we rely on arbitrarily disappearing. Thanks — I’ll have to find some other way to see the rest of the program.
Netflix Chat Person
I apologize for the inconvenience caused

I think what blew me away was the word “inconvenience” — that falls WAY short of how I feel about it. I guess, I’m beginning to crack under the COVID pressure. I had better get out into the garden.

My SOS to Dyson

Sometimes when you read back an email, you discover double meanings that aren’t too far from the truth… I had to compose this email because Dyson’s Chat and Phone are not being covered at the moment. I don’t really expect that their email is either, but who knows…

—————

Dear Dyson,

My Stick Dyson first complained of an obstruction a few weeks ago… and, when none could be found, decided to just stop working. (I suspect COVID-19 but my husband says a virus cannot survive in a vacuum…) Sorry for the decidedly noir humor but sometimes that’s all that keeps us sane these days.

So here I am with loads of time to keep my house and studio spic and span and my stick vac is down. Thankfully, I have a bigger corded vacuum but it’s a pain to lug out EVERYDAY into TWO different buildings, which is what we’re looking at right now when keeping things clean feels so urgent.

It appears, from your Troubleshooting page, that I need a new Main Body and cyclone.

How do I get one and how much will it cost?

———-

A mere 2 hours later… I get this:

Good afternoon Roxanne,

Thank you for your email, and for providing us with those details.

I have been able to register the machine on an account for you and have ordered a replacement main body unit to be delivered to you free of charge under the machine’s 2 year guarantee. The part will be delivered to you in the next 5 working days.

Once it has arrived and is fitted, if any issue persists please let us know and we will be able to investigate further for you.

Kind regards,
Ben
Owner Support
Dyson UK

This is why I LOVE Dyson!

What to do with all your sh*t (stuff)

So… I take a quick trip to Ireland to take care of some family stuff and I come back to a basement with an inch of standing water. The sump pump float got stuck and the “snow” storm that actually turned into driving rain flowed into anything and everything that was on the basement floor — french drains notwithstanding.

ServPro came by with lots of powerful fans and dehumidifiers and, after a few days, I had a dry basement again. I also had a lot of soggy cardboard boxes and other stuff that had managed to migrate to the floor whenever anyone moved the boxes on the shelves around looking for something. This is a situation that nobody “sees”… its just something that slowly accumulates as years go by. A long list of “I’ll call and get that recycled (old fridge)”… “I’ll shred all that old box of papers and put it out with the paper recycling”… “I’ll bring those chairs to the consignment shop”… you know the pattern.

So, this post is for ME—to keep all those phone numbers in a handy place—and for my friends who might find themselves moving or dealing with the same catastrophe. Things or people to know:

ServPro Washington County — very responsive. They put a project manager on it, help with insurance (I recommend you get it for pump failures and other non-flood plain water disasters), and provided me with a collapsible dumpster to throw things away. They would do that for me too but at extra cost and they suggested it was something I could do to save money. Which brings me to…

The Bull Bag — A wonderful invention! It’s a reinforced eco-friendly reusable container that folds up and can be stored until you do another big clean up job. You can buy one for about $40.00. Disposal fees from $170-$300.

Berger Recycling — Pawtucket, RI. One of the big issues I have is about 40 years worth of paper… in boxes (tax stuff), filing cabinets, etc. To go through and determine what should be shredded and what could just be dumped could take weeks, if not months. Berger Recycling will take the paper you need shredded for $7 a box (banker’s box or 13 gallon kitchen bags) and shred it for you. They are in Pawtucket and are open Mon-Fri 8-5 and Saturdays 8-12. They could also pick it up but it will cost $100/hr for the truck (return trip time). Best to bring it to them.

Have a bunch of paperback books you thought you might pass on to someone but now they smell kind of musty and the cheap glue means pages are falling out? Berger will take them and recycle them FOR NOTHING!! Just bring those paperbacks (no hardbacks) and drop them off.

National Grid Fridge Recycle Program — One of the things that didn’t necessarily get damaged, but is annoying all the same, is the old fridge that was in the kitchen when we moved here … in 2004. At some point it got moved to the basement but there was a really low ceiling so getting it back out the bulkhead was problematic. With the help of my daughter’s partner, we got it moved to where (if we remove the freezer door) we can get it out. It still works if we plug it in… and that’s important because, if it works, National Grid will arrange to have it collected at no cost and will even pay you $50!

Green Tech Assets — Cumberland, RI. We have some other electronics that could be recycled — old printers and stuff… VCRs, speakers that don’t work, boxes of video cassettes. They take all of that. Old computers or drives? They destroy them so your data is secure. If you drop it off, there’s no cost! Open Mon-Thu 8-4:30 and Friday 8-4. (Pam)

So… all this research has been a pretty handy way to avoid actually going down to the basement and getting started 🙂 But I do feel better about not having a lot of this end up in a landfill.

In recovery!

Please be patient while I reassemble my website after being hacked by some sleaze bags in some other part of the world. The number of hours it takes to recover from that is staggering. But I will not give up. Moving to the WordPress platform from plain old HTML is the first step.

Links to follow.

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