Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cat And Mouse

The OC was in England this week. Which means, in spite of work, and meetings, he visited with Son, little grandson and the lovely Natalie! All without me. And the world didn't end....But my turn will come!

Meanwhile, back on the Redneck Riviera, we have a situation.....At least The Prince thinks we do.

Possible gadding about by a woman of a certain age, with no husband on hand to supervise her; fears that she will lose the run of herself entirely, thereby disgracing herself and all the members of her family. No worries though. The Prince is working the case and he is skilled in espionage. With the stealth of a cat, he is conducting a surveillance operation....

Since the OC has been operating mainly in the Frozen North, my father-in-law has taken it upon himself to keep an eye on me. He likes to know what I am doing, where I am going, when I am going there, who I am going there with and when I'll be back...In a general sort of a way. Last week though, with the OC further away than ever, The Prince upped the surveillance.

He thinks I need watching. My erratic comings and goings are causing him concern. I am not here every time he calls. Where on earth could I be? What mischief could I be getting into? If I am not at work, or visiting him, or at the grocery store, I should be home, cooking chicken soup, baking, washing windows, doing laundry, pulling weeds, sweeping, or raking leaves, lest, God forbid, a few accumulate in the corners and lend an air of unkemptitude [poetic license!] I should be ironing sheets---who irons sheets? Or vacuuming the garage.....yes, he vacuums his garage! The spiders in my garage would have a collective heart attack if I revved up the vacuum cleaner in there. We have an understanding, the spiders and I. They're welcome in the garage as long as they stay out of the house.

The Prince is eighty nine years old. An old school, dyed-in-the-wool, card carrying male chauvinist.

He considers women inferior to men. We do not know our place. We should hang on his every word and bow to his expertise. Instead we argue with him, disagree with him and don't take his advice...Women in cars are a menace, and he doesn't think we should be trusted to handle money, the shopping gene being so strong in us. And women in politics? They should be at home taking care of their husbands and children!.

He likes things done on a schedule....
dinner at four; pills at six; bed by eight.....

Whereas I am, willy-nilly, all over the map.

It irks him that I am not more regimented......

Sometimes I go grocery shopping in the evening.......Imagine!  I'll sometimes use this as my get-away card when visiting him late in the afternoon. His lip curls and I get a withering look. Obviously I was not brought up right! He keeps his counsel though. As unsatisfactory as I am, he wants me to come visit. He needs someone to listen, anyone, even me, not only to The Threadbare Tales, but to his more recent adventures in medicine.....He is researching the possibility of living forever. Since my long-suffering sister-in-law has scarpered back north.......Tag! I'm it!

I have heard more than I ever wanted to know about the prostate, in general, and his in particular. If I took such a variety of pills and changed my prescription as often as he does, I'd have died of mental confusion, or an overdose, long ago. And if I never hear his opinions of Mr. Obama again it'll be too soon.....though he'll probably regale me with them this afternoon.

He always wants to know exactly when I'll be over.

I don't tell him because I don't know myself, exactly.

And I won't tell him because, if I do, and I'm not there on the dot, he will fuss and fret and work himself into a lather of indignation.

He'll call the house to find out if I've left. If he gets no answer he'll call my cell phone. If that gets him no satisfaction he'll call the Bean, to ask him where his mother is, to tell him he can't find me. Exactly what he expects the Bean to do, sitting in a lecture hall, fifty miles away, is a mystery to all concerned, even, I suspect, to The Prince himself. Like a dog chasing a cat......What will he do if he catches it, faced with all those claws?

He calls on the flimsiest of pretexts. Did I see such and such on television? Do I know how many inches of rain we got last night? He calls to tell me which doctor he's going to harass today. And which doctor he gave a piece of his mind to yesterday! And which lucky medical professional he's going to see next week. If there were anything seriously wrong with him he wouldn't have the energy to be bothering them.

Earlier this week I took the car for some routine maintenance. I wasn't on the road five minutes when my phone rang. It was The Prince. He's sending his lawn guy over to give me an estimate.....

"But I'm not there!"

"When will you be back?"

"I don't know....I'm getting the car worked on.....Can it wait?"

Do we have a date? Is the house on fire??

He doesn't listen. Did I think he would? Silly me!

He tells me I shouldn't be alarmed if I see a strange man wandering around in my garden. It's only Chris, his lawn guy.

"And who asked you to send him over?" I think......but I do not say.......because I'm a good old girl......at least to all outward appearances.

"Well, I'm driving! Gotta go!"

When the work on the car was finished I went to visit a friend. We decided to go out to eat. It had been a few months, she'd lost her job and we had catching up to do. We stretched it out over dessert and coffee, looking out over the water, yakking away.

It was getting dark as I drove home when my phone rang again. It was The Prince. I didn't answer. I didn't want to be rude, and this harassment was making me feel decidedly rude!

I stopped to pick up the mail. While I was out of the car I heard my phone ringing. Yup. It was him again.

I got to the house and sorted out my bits and bobs; put the mail away, fed the cat and checked the house phone......

Six missed calls! All from the same person......can you guess? I shook my head, put the kettle on, went to the loo. The phone rang again.

And again, five minutes later. This time I answered.

"_____, Is your house on fire?" I get away with this because he's busy talking and he keeps his hearing aid in a lovely little velvet box......for safekeeping.

"I was worried about you."


"You might have crashed."


Pardon my skepticism. He's not worried. He's annoyed that I'm out, possibly enjoying myself! He just doesn't like that I have friends he's not acquainted with and freedom he never allowed his wife. He doesn't like that I'm gallivanting....It's not seemly.

It was dark already.

Where had I been?

"Visiting a friend."

Hmmm...." His turn to be skeptical! He doesn't trust me. He can't understand why the OC doesn't keep me on a tighter leash........

I'm really not such a witch! I do go to see him. I do listen, though I'm somewhat lacking when it comes to heeding. He is so much into controlling everyone and everything, the evil twin in my head enjoys keeping him off balance.

As long as I can come here and vent, with some degree of anonymity, all will be well.

I'm off to drop in on him now, unannounced. I hope he has room on his dance card!

Later: Because I had my little rant here, I was civil and attentive. I even got him talking about interesting stuff: his war-time adventures long ago. And then I went home and settled in for a quiet evening just me and the cat. The spiders kept to our bargain and stayed in the garage.

At a quarter to eight he called again! Allegedly to ask when the Bean would be home. But I know it's all part of his surveillance operation! He had to make sure I had actually gone home after my visit with him! Now he can sleep easy, gathering strength to resume his covert operation tomorrow.

If, in your travels, you see a woman gallivanting, behaving erratically, grocery shopping in the dark, walking laps at the park unaccompanied by a male relative, living an upside down life, please call The Prince's hot line. All leads will be conscientiously investigated. He is committed to solving this case.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Delicious Read.....

It's just as well it wasn't a very long book because, from page one, I could not put it down .

" The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox" carried me back, heedless of dust and dirt, dishes and laundry, unmade beds and unvisited princes, turning page after page after page until it washed me up on the shore of my neglected house, sleep deprived, but completely satisfied!  It reminded me, in a way, of the whole Irish Laundries scandal. Different, but similar in that, in both cases, women or girls who were too spirited, or unconventional, or unwilling to sit quietly with their needlework while their brothers had all the fun, were shunned by society or, as in Esme's case, locked away, so as not to embarrass their families. What a glorious read! On the lookout now for more books by Maggie O'Farrell........If you can find "Esme" read it and tell me what you think.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Presto Chango

Here's the tie:

Here's the little purse I made from it:

You may call me Houdini.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Couch Is For Sitting....

Is'nt it strange the names we give things? Living room, for instance. Makes you wonder what goes on in all the other rooms. And how can you speak of living rooms without speaking of living room furniture.....

Our very first set of living room furniture came to us as a wedding present from the OC's Godfather. He gave some money to my father-in-law to pass along to us to buy the furniture. But the thought of what we might choose, left to our own devices, made The Prince shudder. Obviously it would be a much better idea for him to choose what we should have, since he, unquestionably, had superior taste in such matters.

And so we lived for the first decade of our married life, with a very formal, brocade-covered couch, matching love seat, coordinating chair and the ugliest Scandinavian modern, glass-topped coffee and end tables ever. He had been thwarted on the whole subject of our getting married at all, so this was one small way in which he attempted to continue to control our lives. I was meeker then, a little afraid of him, conscious that I was supposed to be grateful, and happy enough that we wouldn't have to sit on the floor.

A decade or so later, living in California, with a whole continent between us and him, we lost the run of ourselves entirely, ditched the brocade and the glass, and bought a tweedy blue and beige set of couches. On a trip to San Diego we bought a coffee table made from an old hatch cover from The Star Of India. We have it still. To the Prince it looks like a piece of junk, but it is likely the thing that each of our children will want when we die!

 The only couch we had when I was growing up in was in the "sitting room." If you were posh, you called it the parlor, a word that sent us into fits of giggles. We were not that posh. The sitting room windows faced north and it was frigid in there. My mother didn't have a freezer but that didn't matter---- she had the sitting room, which was just as good. Bigger even. The door was kept shut all the time, except for Christmas and Easter, and any time relatives from far away came to visit. Back then, fifty miles qualified as far away.

 I think the reason it was called the sitting room might have been because the people for whom it was opened, aired and warmed, were the kind of people who could be depended upon to actually sit. There was very little danger  for instance, that my grandmother, or my aunts,  would suddenly take it into their heads to start jumping on the couch.....or that my uncles would suddenly get the urge to wrestle and roll around on the floor. Definitely not a room where horseplay was encouraged.

When we did use it, my mother lit the fire and it became downright cozy in there! The couch faced the fireplace and there were two comfortable chairs on either side. There was a lovely  glow from the lamps on the bookcases, and the  water colours on the walls lent a genteel touch. My mother had made fitted slipcovers for the couch and chairs. The fabric was off-white and linen-y, with an old fashioned flower design. I thought they were beautiful, and that it was a shameful waste that we couldn't live so elegantly all the time. Though I might have thought differently if I'd been paying the heating bills.

Since they were not subjected to daily wear and tear, those couches looked as good the day I left home as they did when I was a little girl.

Not so our couches now. The blue grew old and tattered, helped along by five energetic children, a variety of dogs, and one snooty cat with very sharp claws. It was replaced in North Dakota by an over sized, tan set which we have loved, not wisely perhaps, but very well. Unlike the Prince, we actually live in the room we call the living room. If those couches could talk it would set tongues wagging! Small people have bounced on them;  larger people have snored on them; young men have slept off varying degrees of inebriation on them; there has been a certain amount of canoodling on them; people who would never dream of snoring find them comfortable for sitting and stitching; a certain cat thinks they belong exclusively to him. The same cat is not above sharpening his weapons on the sides, and so the couches, while comfortable and endearingly familiar, are showing their age. "Shabby" would not be an exaggeration. They have traveled with us to Europe and back; trundled in moving vans from North Dakota to Minnesota and finally, to Florida, sometimes called God's Waiting Room.

 Their wait is over.

The couch god in the sky is calling them home.

Even though there is no longer a continent between us, I will not be asking The Prince to go couch shopping with me. He still thinks we are not to be trusted; still thinks he would choose better. But I am no longer the meek, pliable little innocent of forty years ago. I think I know the kind of furniture that will fit our "living," our  bouncing, even our "sitting."  And I'm certain I know what I do not like, at least as far as couches go.

 If he is very good, I might invite him over to sit on the new couch when it comes, just as long as he promises not to deliver a lecture on what he would have bought, had he been consulted. Sniff.

 And, just to be on the safe side, I'll tell him there's to be no bouncing.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


In the recent sewing room excavations, my shovel turned up some interesting blocks........

So I played around with them and made this......

It will find its way, eventually, to my 9 year old grand daughter as it has scraps in it from the quilt I made for her when she was born.

It all started in early January when I needed a small gift for a friend's birthday.  Digging around in my patterns, I found instructions for a little purse made from two 8 1/2" blocks. It didn't take long to make and was a big hit.

A project started and finished in less than a day? Like catnip to El Gato! So I made another, for the un-
blogger over the water. Batiks, but I forgot to take a picture. Schade. The Girlfriend saw it and oohed and ahhed, and before I could bite my tongue, I was making a third!

This week I made a fifth, for another friend's birthday.....

  Boys and girls, do we know how to spell addiction?

Sunday, February 05, 2012


Rathcoffey House by DavidSoanes
Rathcoffey House, a photo by DavidSoanes on Flickr.

As I made coffee on Sunday morning I was vaguely aware of an itch on the index finger of my right hand. As my head cleared and I became more fully awake, the why of it came to me......the nettles!

Saturday had been a beautiful day and I wandered around in the garden, pulling weeds here and there. By the front door I bent  to pull one weed, then drew my hand back in alarm, thinking it looked an awful lot like the nettles back home when we were young, just more compact.

Couldn't be, I thought. Too small, and besides, I've never seen nettles growing in Florida before. So I pulled it up and instantly felt the sting! I was right! It was a nettle. Wish I'd gone with my hunch!

Just like that, I was back at home, walking along the river bank with The Blister. She had humoured me by bringing me out the country to a part of the River Shannon our parents used to take us to for Sunday walks. I had never been back as an adult and  was delighted to see that it was as lovely a place in real time as it was  in my memory. We walked  for a while under the trees along the riverbank path, but off in the distance my eyes were drawn to the ruin of an old manor house standing alone on a slight rise, boarded up windows staring out disconsolately at the heedless world, in which it no longer played the vital role it must once.have had. 

Ignoring the dilapidated No Trespassing sign, we climbed over a barbed wire fence, veering away from the river and across the field towards the house.

"You're going to get us both in trouble," the Blister said as I peered through a gap in one of the boards. I'm not sure what I was hoping to see.  Ghostly "genthry" sitting around the table? Coweb-encrusted antiques standing around, waiting for their long-dead owners to return? There certainly was no shortage of cobwebs, but only vague shapes were discernible in the gloom, and my imagination could have persuaded me they were anything I wanted them to be. 

Disappointed that we couldn't get a better look inside, we circled the square mass of the house. There was no way in, and my interest in finding one was making the Blister very uneasy. My family tell me I romanticize Ireland. They tell me the Ireland I remember is gone. But it's there in my head. It's there in old manor houses like this one. And every time they knock one down and pave it over, and build another housing development, they rip a page out of the area's history, bury the lives and stories of generations who lived there under the concrete. This kind of thinking makes the Blister slightly impatient with me. Soppy Yankified thinking. But I used to think like this when I still lived there. How many times, on drives around the country, did I go into a sulk because my mother wouldn't stop to let me traipse across the fields to have a closer look at some old ruined castle or falling down stately home? Piles of rocks, she called them. I'm glad that some, at least, of these "relics of auld dacency" have been restored to new life as Manor House Hotels.........

We continued walking away from the river. We passed the walls of the kitchen gardens, surprisingly intact. I know, just from living with The Bean, from whom I absorb such information through my pores, even when my ears are not listening, that the walls surrounding such gardens probably provided little micro-climates where vegetables, fruits and herbs that would not normally grow in Ireland could be pampered and coaxed along, protected from the elements, so that The Five Percent could enjoy fresh and delicious produce, while the rest of the populace existed on spuds.

We found ourselves walking down an overgrown driveway. We walked and walked, deep in conversation, laughing for sure, because she always makes me laugh and see things from a quirky angle..............And suddenly, looming up before us was the gate to the estate. And on the other side of the gate a narrow country road, overhung with trees. We could find our way back to the car on the riverbank by walking along this road.....surely?

But first we had to get to the other side of the gate. Easier said than done.

First of all, the gate was an old iron, Gothic-looking affair, at least six feet tall, with pointed metal spikes all along the top. Neither of us felt inclined to climb over it and risk impaling ourselves on those spikes! Secondly, a very high, mossy stone wall stretched away on either side of the intimidating gate. Thirdly and not least in importance, the gate was padlocked, and the lock looked pretty rusty. But, most intimidating of all was the lush crop of eye-high nettles growing thickly in front of, and barring access to, the gate!

We were overcome with mirth at the improbability of our situation. But the Blister is a woman of action. She looked around for a stick with which to beat down the nettles, which brought on more gales of laughter, possibly tinged at this stage with just a hint of hysteria. There were no decent sticks on offer. The twigs that were, were  totally ineffectual, like jousting with noodles....

While we were alternately beating nettles and gasping with laughter, thinking only cows in neighbouring fields could hear us, we heard, between our gasps, the unmistakable murmur of human conversation. Hushing our noise, we stood on tiptoe and saw two heads bobbing along on the other side of the wall. We would be in full view when they reached the gate. It was pointless to duck or try to hide. So there we were, two middle aged women, trapped behind a wall of nettles, behind an iron gate, looking sheepish, when a man and his wife hove into view. . We couldn't just stand there, tapping our toes until they passed, before resuming our assault on the nettles.. We owed some kind of explanation, no matter how lame, to these two startled locals, out for their evening stroll. Reassured that we were somewhat normal and not a pair of looney bin escapees, they tried to be helpful, though obviously amused by our predicament. The man was carrying an umbrella, a prudent move on any walk in Ireland as one never can tell when the heavens will open. Against our protestations, he urged us to take the umbrella to assist in the battle. We assured them we would be fine now that we had such a stout weapon. They bid us good luck and good evening and continued on their walk. It's a well known fact that an Irishman can spin a good yarn out of the flimsiest of materials. We took comfort in knowing that, though he'd lost an umbrella, our benefactor gained the makings of a great story for the next time he stopped in at the local pub.

We did eventually beat enough of the nettles into submission to be able to reach the wall and climb over it, back into our humdrum, middle aged lives, unstung.