Monday, 30 August 2010

Greatitudes 263-272

Things grew in our garden this year, with surprisingly little intervention on our part after planting. I am going to take this as an analogy for the school year looming. Growth happens, progress is made, and I am not the Creator.

Other things for which to be profoundly grateful and which I want to remember this academic year. We live in a house which is big enough for us and is "perfect" in the words of the suns. We have our daily bread and abundantly more; I am trying not to be obsessed with The Look. We believe we are pilgrims on this earth, and want to pilgrim well. I don't need to be a yummy mummy. 'Twould be better to be a mummy who makes yummy!

The summer has been busy and interesting and rich in ways beyond money and price. When we got back from Kilkenny we had been away more than at home, and this has made the last two weeks of doing absolutely nothing feel very lovely and special and decadent and good. There have been fabulous books to read for me, and guiltless DVD and Wii times for suns. And today we rounded it all off with a trip to Funworks, lunch at Macdos, and even made it to the Loughshore Festival just in time to get seats in the Drum Circle!

Finally, and again just in time, Mattman has revised Maths and Writing- see below!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Friday Cake Bake moves up a gear

Yesterday we ate Strawberry and Verjuice Custard Tart from Elizabeth Hodder's A Book of Old Tarts which has been hilariously delicious reading this week. As you can see we are indeed trying to move up a gear here in the Land of the (sometimes tearful) Strawberries and we ate it on Portstewart Strand.

You will deduce from the emptiness of the Strand that middle-aged women were as alone as any other age-group in the water last night... This is where we come to celebrate summer, but especially to bid it farewell. Bloggisme makes me realise this year how cyclical is life. At exactly this time last year I wrote this melancholy poemette, but am much more positive this time round! What we strawberries will be in the new school year has yet to be revealed,...

... but I do however feel that if we (and our bath) were to move up a gear we would be careering down the stairs like the bath in Jo's book, storytelling to the world!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

When PC comes home from worship meeting with the rector's thoughts on our family moving up a gear in church

and I think I'd rather stay home and clean the bath...

"Mrs Monet Cleans the Lily Pond" by Geraldine Mills

She trawls her net across the green rash of weed,
he watching her from the window in a frenzy
so that he will not lift a brush, a palate knife
until she's done, her dress flounced into her pantaloons
a hat protecting her from the Givergny sun.

In the gather of time, she sees picnics in plein air
with Mrs Renoir, Pisarro though they don't see
eye to eye on dress fabrics or ducks' livers,
Mrs Cezanne a bit too dry for her taste
and yet she has a soft reasoning at the dinner table
when tempers rise, a glass knocked over
spills its red stain upon the white damask
and a voice gravels from beyond.

Her net fills with the smell of rotting.
She dredges newts out of their philanderings,
a silt of caddis world, of wandering snail,
a leech puckers to the cold skin of her calf
until the water ripples out of its surface tension
and all he sees are blooms full and pert as divas.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Greatitudes 251-262

PC and I decided that going to buy pencils, sharpeners and rubbers with the suns did constitute a return to the rut! So in a determination to be positive about routine, I'm remembering to be grateful on Mondays.

Cooking Catherine and Fred. Ten reasons to be grateful for Catherine and Fred! Despite the fact that their family and friends together form a formidable group of the great and the good, they always invite us to celebrations as well! This graciousness is actually an intrinsic part of their living, moving and having their being because they do, as the Quaker saying goes, let their life speak. Their door is always open and we frequently walk through for coffee and comfort, even when ostensibly there for piano lessons with the wonderful Rowan III. The wonderful Peter IV always seems to materialise from nowhere to do trampoline supervision, proving that well-bred teenage boys are perfectly capable of leaving technology behind at a moment's notice. And not to leave out the first borns, Patrick I and Thomas II blow any theory of teenage boys who only grunt out of the ocean.

They are among the most interesting people I have met. Without Catherine's book recommendations I would not have spent one whole night this summer reading, and would never have read Anne Tyler. She is also the woman behind Faredo's. Fred is a minister who writes and communities and knows.

This summer they have been married for twenty-five years. Inspiration!

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Ken and Tina are Tumble Circus. You'll have to take my word for it that we watched them with Kilkenny Castle in the high background with the river Nore on our left. Camera's still in the car and it's dark out there. Spectacular acrobatics with some daringly rude banter!

It's been dark out there since just before nine o'clock tonight. Ominous. Must be time to start sewing name tags on again...

But without further ado the winners of the cafes of Kilkenny competition! Tricky to mark, folks! Dore's Nostalgia cafe is where we go in the evenings to get cereal for the boys and Irish coffees for us! The Design Centre was where we had non-tea leaves in pots and lovely bread. The cafe over Kilkenny Book Centre is actually called Pennefeather's and we love the little alcove seat over the stairs where this year I had carrot cake with my Earl Grey. And Nicholas Mosse is where you can sit in the huge windows and drink from Nicholas Mosse cups, pour from Nicholas Mosse jugs and eat from Nicholas Mosse plates.

In short- 1d, 2a, 3c, 4b. And the "loquacious loo" was in the Design Centre. That was nice!

So. Catherine and Fred got the cafes completely right and I will be dropping notes into them soon- I know they didn't leave comments but you'll be hearing all about them tomorrow, so I beg forgiveness! Crafting Catherine also got them all right, as did Queen Niqi who guessed the Design Centre's voice as well. The other winner of the voice was Simone, and you got Dore's right too- well done all!

Another well done to Angela who didn't get the voice but did get Dore's Irish Coffee, and to Elizabethd and Pom Pom. Pom Pom got the voice!

I will be writing lovely cards for all of you tomorrow, and putting a little extra thing in as well. Thank you for playing with us here at fraise lachrymose- we like you very much!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The Music Strand

Carrickfergus is fifteen minutes down the road from our little suburb. I drove there a while ago to meet a colleague for coffee. We had coffee. I drove home. On the way HOME I realised with some disgust that I was listening to Jolly Phonics/Veggie Tales/Children's Carols (which we listen to all year round). I switched off the CD player. Only when I got home did it strike me that I must have been listening to Jolly Phonics/Veggie Tales/Children's Carols all the way TO Carrickfergus in the first place.

I mention this to illustrate my complete and utter disinterest in, talent for, knowledge of music.

It was obviously Prince Charming who went to hear Fidil (pleasingly pronounced vigil) last week, but I thought that I could mention them here at fraise lachrymose since we've all been listening to them non-stop ever since. The difference being that this time I don't turn off the CD player!

PC says that if you squeeze through Cleere's bar, you come to a tiny room at the back where they in turn squeeze in as many seats as possible, and then a few more. Which is a shame because if there had been some room he might have been tempted to get up and move!

Aidan O'Donnell has recently won Young Musician of the Year in Ireland, and you can hear them below. My favourite so far is The Hunt of the Hound and the Hare. I love the story, you see! It's like Danse Macabre and Peter and the Wolf. The music's lovely, but I still need a good story!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Literary Strand

St Canice's Cathedral is old and grey. It has that air of being on the edge of crumbling, which makes you wonder, before you notice the solid wood carvings on the entrance door of anglican nature or proceed inside to see the Mother's Union display, if this isn't a little church of Ireland church that was long ago made to be grand. And when you sit down on your narrow pew with its anciently faded velvet, you never want to leave! It might be the pretty lengths of pink ribbon that fasten "seat" numbers at your back. It might be the brightness that defies the gathering dusk and sails through the stained glass that has white-now-off-white background panes. It will certainly be the unhewn stones that build the walls, without any need of the slick fine arches that pepper the sides.

Last year I booked to hear Colm Toibin and Peter Murphy. They were dazzling. The setting was too. But once they took the stage your mind was on nothing else. Toibin was the outgoing curator of the literary strand and his introduction was already erudite, yet then came Brooklyn, then came John the Revelator, then came the authors discussing their themes between them, and only finally did the questions come and the answers too, and it was good.

Hugo Hamilton writes from a perspective that is one of my favourite themes in contemporary novels- immigration. His style is journalistic, you can hear him below, and the insightfulness of his prose comes laterally. The bemusement of Vid, the narrator in Hand in the Fire, is the vehicle for the telling of Concannon Family's tale and colours then the illustration of Irish society. Hamilton seemed jolly, and pleased to be there in St Canice's, which pleased me as I was so charmed!

With no further ado the formidable John Banville presided. Reading not at all from The Infirmities but from a work in progress. Oh we all felt very imporatant. He criticised the lighting and the flowers. And he read a scene- you can hear it below. And his prose was mighty. The style with which that man can write filled that place with the authority of an accomplished and established figure. But he was not jolly, and evidently not pleased to be there. He was contrary, and I think he despised us all!

And I wished so much that I had read both books before the event. I'm falling into the habit of buying the books when we arrive in town. But I so wanted to ask both of them if they felt Hand and Infirmities were linked by the eye they both cast on the internal workings of family, if Vid the Observer is like Banville's mischievous gods. I strongly wanted to know if Banville's descent into bawdiness was a conscious path after The Sea. But I didn't, despite the fact that the questions asked were actually so poor that I despised us all too!

Thankfully St Canice's didn't seem to care. She welcomed Hamilton and Banville alike. And when I could finally bear to leave her, I still had the imprint of light that had filled me up during the long minutes of standing staring before they started to usher in the next event.

(Competition winners coming soon- still time to enter!)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Competition: Cafes of Kilkenny

To mark the opening of Kilkenny Week here at fraise lachrymose a little quiz. Just match four cafes...

4 the four lovely snacks that we had there. A bit worrying when your suns can describe with as much passion as you their favourite watering holes in and around the town!


bcdThere will be a little card for every winner and a bonus prize for anyone who can say which cafe has a lavatory where a mysterious voice from the wall will tell you that your accent is melodious! (Immediate family of fraise lachrymose need not apply!)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

High Culture

fraise lachrymose is moved and flattered and actually quite challenged by recent references to high culture. Thank you, GretchenJoanna and Pom Pom.

However, honour must prevail. The seat of High Culture in Belfast is open to all at Blue Lamp Disco.

Little Queenie would not like me to tell you who she is or what she does, but I can't resist telling you that it has been my very great privilege to have worked with this woman!

Thursday, 5 August 2010


I wanted to do a book heavy post on summer reading today, but I've been too busy being a lady who lunches, after she coffees, and before she takes children to stories and crafts at the library, feeds everyone pizza and then goes on to family branches to discuss the pater familias and his impending 70th birthday, BUT

I did manage to deliver Crafting Catherine's giveaway on our way over the hill. I now feel like a real bloggiste! That said it's Kilkenny time again, so we're heading down there next week after a brief chilly dip at the North Coast over the weekend, so another holiday break from the Land of the Tearful Strawberries!

I have a ticket for John Banville at the Cathedral, PC will listening to music in a bar, and there will be acrobats for the suns. This is possibly one of the best times in my year!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Greatitudes 233-250

Could I really not have been grateful since May? And it's not even Multitude Monday anymore here! Hmm. Today started brilliantly and felt like the first day of the rest of our lives, since PC started his new job this morning. He is one clever and very wonderful husband. And Bean Craftin' friends gave me a sophisticated tea contraption for my birthday with muchly delicious strawberry leaves.

Mattman has undergone his next rite of passage and the Tooth Fairy visited us for the first time! And both suns are now Junior Elks at Sports Camp with tee-shirts to wit, and I have all week free while they play basketball until 3pm. (Enabling me to discover that fun is most gorgeously available for butterfly fans!) All between the cooking of PC's potatoes that have been awaiting our return- some of which were even lauded by the fabulous French Perrin family who came for dinner last Friday night.

Lovely holidays. Much eating of crepes, drinking of cidre doux, swimming, reading, French brushing up on, and even experiencing the unbelievable atmosphere of Paris when the Tour de France comes to town. We have tee-shirts for that too! And the boys really did love seeing the Van Goghs in Orsay- so thanks to Dr Who! And yes, Elizabethd, we did get to the Sunday morning market- straight after culte!

But it's all thanks in faith to the Grower of teeth and potatoes and Provider of friends and daily bread and Lover of my soul. Smile, magsmcc, you know in whose hands you are held, even in lahrymose moments!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Strawberry cream tea giveaway

When the August rains settle in over the grey suburbs of Belfast there is little motivation for anything other than gallons of tea with cake.

Dashing young women with fabulous raincoats did however sport strawberries through the drizzle...

...and giveaway strawberries blossomed between showers! I hope you can find your names in the poorly photographed blur.

Poppy's playhouse was the venue for the draw, complete with curtains. (Note to self: ironing really must become a personal development priority.) And I am so very glad that Saint K was willing to be the impartial puller-outer of winning strawberry from the can as unbelievably the giveaway will be making its (less than a mile) way to Crafting Catherine! Please don't all cry, "Fix!" at once!

Happy one year of bloggism, fraise lachrymose- and thanks so most humbly to those of you who have looked over the wall of the strawberry patch and even smiled your encouragement thus far North! It has been a wonderful phenomenon! Like Northern Lights. Now that would be a good title for a blog?

Happy St Patrick's Day!

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