It’s hard to describe the busy nature of life with three little people to look after. After a long day at school I arrived home just after the lovely Sharon; also just home from a long day at school. We hit the ground running; the dinner needed made, the little man’s homework needed to be supervised, the little lady demanded that I listened to the debrief of her nursery school day, and the littlest man simply demanded my attention with duplo. The lovely Sharon and I juggled these tasks with no time to ask each other how our days had been. As if to demonstrate how our priorities and perspective on life has shifted; it was only about half an hour later that the lovely Sharon remembered to mention, “Oh, yeah, I forgot to say that our school was on fire today. We were evacuated and the fire brigade had to put it out.” At that point somebody screamed. It might have been a duplo block that wouldn’t fit, a spelling written back to front, or someone needing to go to the toilet. I can’t recall the details, but that was the end of the small talk.
September 12, 2016
March 18, 2016
The lovely Sharon took the little people out and about, and I spent the whole day in the bathroom; the smell was awful. It all began with an ominous leak on the floor. Over the space of just a couple of days a small puddle had escalated into a plumbing problem. It should have all been relatively straightforward; I purchased a few new washers and settled into the bathroom with a selection of spanners, wrenches, and towels. A few hours later I was perplexed and close to throwing the towel….onto the wet bathroom floor. Then it dawned on me; whoever had drilled the holes in the toilet bowl had bad eyesight, or just didn’t care. Once I realised this I tried a little creative thinking (and grinder to ensure a certain metal bracket actually fitted). The whole toilet and flush was working perfectly and not dripping. Job done.
A few weeks later a little drip appeared. Then the drip increased until we had to introduce the flush bucket. The flush bucket is a simple plumbing solution involving a bucket filled and kept in the bath, which is then used to flush the toilet. It was a temporary measure while I waited for the opportunity to tackle the problem properly.
It only took a few days before the worst happened. It was so sudden and unexpected that it shocked me. We were at a children’s party, everyone was having fun and there was no context at all to the lovely Sharon’s comment. She turned to me and said, “Do we need to get a plumber?” In hindsight I genuinely think she was trying to be helpful. I was gutted. My quiet inner voice held back from saying that I thought she looked big in that dress, even though she didn’t. Instead I remained stoic and shrugged and said that I thought I should have another look at it first.
On Saint Patrick’s day I was off work and everyone else was at school. I stepped out into the cool spring air and let my eyes rest on Slemish, the very mountain the Saint Patrick shepherded on. Then, I went back into the cottage and ripped the toilet apart. I put it all back together with generous amounts of silicone sealant and it hasn’t leaked yet.
February 13, 2016
No time for this, no time for that. Time spent, time valued. Time flies, then it is time for change; time for spring. It’s fair to say that the three little ones are my time now. Time playing lego, time feeding, time talking and answering questions. Time holding hands and learning to walk.
I took a little time out to order up some raspberry plants with the intention of investing some time in summer and autumn raspberries. Ideally they should be planted, according to the literature, in November. There was a day that I set aside for just such a task. Then I was sick on that day and the window passed. The raspberry canes have been stored in damp soil in the greenhouse and I intend to plant them out soon. Yet things happen. Fences get blown down in storms, chicken coop roofs get blown off and scattered around the garden. These things need mended and fixed.
The first signs of spring are here and this is inspiring me to make time for growth. The snowdrops are out and the daffodils are beginning to flower. One hive of bees is all that has survived from last year. Their stores are desperately low. They seem to be breaking their winter huddle every so often to feed on the fondant I left them. If they hang on then the willow and dandelion will be out soon. Hang on.
It’s at times like these that I turn to Monty. I’m re-watching Monty Don’s Fork to Fork and getting inspired. No; I’m getting reminded that summer does actually happen if we choose to believe that it will. So, I will plant out those raspberries. I will turn over the soil, and I will get those potatoes ready for chitting. I will make time for these things. Why?… The littlest man may be only learning to walk now, but in time, I hope he will be walking through the garden eating all the raspberries with his brother and sister, and me only half-heartedly complaining that they are spending more time eating than picking.
April 7, 2015
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Wheelbarrows of compost need to be shovelled from one area to another. The soft fruits need mulched. The apple/pear/plum trees need manured. The strawberry bed needs weeded and fed. It is the springing time and things must be done to prepare for the summer. If we are to reap the rewards of a harvest we must put in the work now. Over the years we have often missed opportunities. We didn’t start our peas or beans in time. We didn’t sow the tomato seeds properly, with warmth to germinate them. We didn’t mulch the raspberries/blackcurrants/gooseberries. To be fair, a few years ago I didn’t know what mulching was. Now I watch Gardener’s World.
Can I feel less old if I watch Gardener’s World on iPlayer and flick through everything that isn’t Monty Don. I’m not interested at all when the colourful flowers are on display, or when it is explaining the benefits of winter colours. I want to know the tips and tricks that I need to apply right now. I have five hungry mouths to feed (including my own) and I need to know that raspberry roots are shallow, that apples must not be pruned every year, and that I need to put buckets on my rhubarb to ensure sweet stalks in two or three weeks time. Monty will tell me all these things.
So far this springing time:
- Three bags of potatoes have been planted (one bag still to go).
- Tomato seeds have been sown and are sitting on a sunny window ledge indoors.
- Onions have been planted.
- Peas and beans have been sown in trays in the greenhouse.
- Some of the raspberries have been mulched.
- Some of the apple trees have been fed.
- Wheelbarrows of compost have been shuffled about the garden.
So much has been ticked off the mental list. This is the joy of Spring. Things to do, things to be done. I could list all the things that need to be done but I’m not really sure what they are. Playing in the garden with the little people lets me notice more. Watching Monty reveals even more. It all sounds so busy. And it is. And it isn’t. It does feel like a balancing act at times. At other times I find myself with a minute or two to stand and ponder, then spy a bucket out of the corner of my eye; a bucket full of rotted collections from the guttering (collected on one of the finer days of winter). Then another bucket filled with rotted down weeds the lovely Sharon collected, before she forgot about it as she ran after one of the little people, then decided it was time to go inside. These buckets added to the growing heap of matter piling up on the main vegetable patch. This was a bonus to the main thought when I spied the buckets. The now empty buckets were turned upside down on the shooting rhubarb and weighed down with bricks from the other corners of the garden. It didn’t feel like something that needed to be done; it felt like something that would make a fine rhubarb tart in a few weeks time; something Monty would want me to do.
February 6, 2015
Over half way on the long commute from the country to the town I got the call, “Come back. I don’t want to be on my own.” When a pregnant woman commands, you obey by reflex. I spun the car around and rushed back. Past experience (the little man) has taught me that these things can happen very slowly and rushing is futile. Then another past experience(the little lady) has taught me not to drag my feet and dither, these things can happen fast and catch you out. Experience has taught me nothing.
Back at the cottage the lovely Sharon was convinced that things had begun and a new soul would arrive any time between soon to several days…….
We went for a walk. It was a slow walk near shops, supermarkets, civilisation and the closeness of hospital care. We walked and talked and waited. Later we picked up the little people and headed back home to try and pretend everything was normal.
In the morning nothing happened and we pretended again. The usual Saturday pancakes, the usual Saturday lunch. We went walking again, this time beside the river to try and let it wash away our worry. I remember the water was high and chaotic: a torrent in full force after weeks of building volume saturating everything around it. I remember it that it felt like my anxiety. It didn’t sit with me like a metaphor. Too real. Too raw.
After the walk I dropped the lovely Sharon off at the hospital and drove off with the little people leaving her alone. That was difficult.
Granny and Granda arrived to look after the little people and I returned to the hospital to join the waiting. We waited and waited until I had to leave the ward. They gave me a blanket to sleep in the waiting room. The room was full of light and noise, and cold. Outside in the night was dark and much colder. I choose my down sleeping bag in the frozen car, until the lovely Sharon’s fancy motion detector car alarm threw me out and back to the waiting room. Another expectant father slept beside me with his portable radio and his snoring. I few hours later I fell asleep for a half hour until my phone rang: the pain had begun.
So much pain. Nobody can ever know someone else’s pain. We can pretend to sympathise and empathise but it is nothing and futile. I can’t begin to understand as I have never experienced it.
I cried when I heard his first cry. His was a reflex of breath and a gasp at the air, a grasp at the life around him. Mine was a reflex of my anxiety and joy bursting in an uncontrollable way. It caught me by surprise but was glad to feel it. I cut the cord and the cutting merged old memories with new ones.
Two days later we were all home and we were a family again; a bigger one. I honestly can’t remember what we did for those few days at home. I guess we reminded ourselves how to look after a tiny baby. We didn’t venture very far as it felt like our whole world was there at home with the little people and the new, littlest, man.
August 25, 2014
I threw my suit and a roll of duck tape in the back of my brother in law’s car, then we drove off in search of his new bees. It must have been half five when we found the beekeeper and his bees, “Sure you’re too early. The girls will not be in for the night yet.” A short stroll through a narrow wooden gate confirmed that the ‘girls’ had no intentions of resting yet. As we squeezed back through the gate in the hedge the beekeeper told us he was showing his grandson the bees last week. “After we went through the gate I old him to close the gate to keep the bees in.” His mischievous chuckling revealed this man’s character and we knew we were in for some stories.
The beekeeper dragged three old high backed chairs in front of the kitchen range and we settled in to wait for the bees to think about flying home for the evening. Around us sat food buckets filled with freshly harvested honey and a neat tower of empty supers; boxes filled with the honeycomb that was just emptied of honey. A big kettle of water perched continuously ready for tea on the range and we settled down for some stories. “My father gave me my first hive at the age of seven.” This meant that this man was a beekeeper of more than eighty years experience. Yet, with all this experience he admitted more than once that he was still learning. He shared many stories as we waited for the evening to cool down. My brother in law says I interrogated him with questions. I couldn’t help myself; as he was keen to share, I was keen to learn. I noted that some of his advice contradicted itself from time to time. Maybe some of it he was certain as fact long ago but recently the bees changed his mind. They say if you ask two beekeepers the same question you’ll get three different answers. On the topic of hive inspections, he was convinced that it set the bees back a bit and wasn’t good at all. I feel the same but do know of an alternative to prevent a swarm without a weekly inspection. I pushed him further. For the last five years he has settled on a technique that he feels is the right one. He says that March is the toughest month for the bees, and if they make it through in good shape he takes out a couple of frames of bees, including the queen, and makes up a nucleus hive in April. This nucleus if taken to another site at least three miles away and looked after with feeding. Then the original hive is left to raise a new queen with little risk of swarming.
After the passing of an unknown amount of time we decided get the bees. We took a drive to one of his sites down winding roads and past the run-down stones of old farms. We found the first hive hidden in an old farm yard beside forlorn looking tractor machinery. The hive was carefully sealed up, covered with an old bedsheet, then strapped down in the back of the car.
On the way back to the beekeeper’s cottage the stories kept coming. Beekeeping, histories of old farm cottages, and the local history of the Six Mile Valley. Driving around with bees brought back a story. He told us not to worry if a few bees get out into the car while on the move as he believed they would not sting in such a predicament. Once long ago, several hundred bees got out when he failed to seal the hive properly. He kept driving with them all flying around the inside of the car. Turning a corner he found a police checkpoint ahead of him and a policeman with his hand held high. As he slowed down he saw the look on the policeman’s face quickly change and his arm suddenly wave him on franticly.
We arrived back at the beekeeper’s cottage to carefully seal up and wrap the second hive. This time the back seats went down to accommodate the second hive. We said our thanks, paid him for the hives* and listened to a few more stories before heading back home. As we drove back we fell silent for a moment when some of the quiet buzzing in the back got louder and a single bee flew up beside us in the front seats. We looked at the bee, we looked at each other, we laughed.
*The wisdom was free.
August 19, 2013
Lovely blog post by romancing the bees