December 25, 2011
Maggie couldn’t wait to go camping. Tom couldn’t wait for the ice-cream half way there. Mum and Dad couldn’t wait till the end of the day. At the half-way dairy everyone sat on a bench, and Mum’s and Maggie’s hair stuck to their ice-creams melting in the heat.
“Quick, lick the other side,” Mum kept telling Tom. Maggie gathered nuggets of hokey pokey into her cheek for later. Dad ate his ice-cream with his teeth and it was gone in no time.
There was still a lot of driving after that. The hot wind rocked the car and the road went straight ahead … Forever thought Maggie. At a crossroad in the wide brown plains a sign on a red post said Red Post Junction. At the next crossroads a sign said Mouse Point. Maggie read it out for Tom and thought there should at least be a picture of a mouse to look at.
The road got fed up with the straight and narrow and started to wind just a little bit, as well as climbing. Dad felt that in the gearbox. Everyone felt it in their ears. The brown plains became brown hills.
“When will we get there? asked Tom, not for the first time.
“Not long now Darling,” said Mum. Maggie felt hopeful. This was the first time Mum had said “Not long now” instead of “A wee while yet.”
“Mummy, I want to go to the toilet.” That was to be expected on a long journey.
“Malcolm, we’ll have to stop.” Mum sounded anxious. Dad sighed.
“I’ll stop at the
. There’s a toilet there. Why didn’t you go at the ice-cream shop Tom?” Fairy Forest
“He did Dad, he did.” Maggie had taken Tom herself. But Dad wasn’t really mad; this was a good excuse to visit the
. The wind was cold up here. They were in the mountains now. Mum made them put their jerseys on and when everyone - not just Tom - had been, Dad led an expedition into the forest. Fairy Forest
December 15, 2011
Usually it takes me thirty minutes to drive to Oxford,
but on the wing it took thirty hours.
A grounding place this English town for me,
and a stepping stone to others.
St Giles Christmas Fair, Oxford
Within the spire of St Mary's of All Angels, Oxford
Boarding the Eurostar, St Pancras Station, London
The Eiffel Tower from the Tuileries Gardens, Paris
Florist, Rue St Roch, Paris
Parc de Monceau, Paris
Everywhere, from the Place de la Madeleine...
to the Champs Elysees, there is a sense of Christmas spirit.
View from the Jardins des Tuileries
along the Champs Elysees
And above the Seine
Deciding not to join the queue for the Louvre,
because Northern Ireland beckoned.
The river Dun at Cushendun, County Antrim
The Wishing Chair at...
The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim
And now I have wicked bronchitis and am done with sight-seeing in cold and dramatic places while I try to recover.
December 4, 2011
Hera left home just as Bobbie James began to flower in the cabbage tree outside her bedroom: white and yellow old-world blooms threading through creamy plumes of ti-kauka - a perfect marriage. One night only, did she stand on the veranda breathing in their perfume before leaving them to the mercy of the Nor’wester. That demon wind with its hot consuming breath would sweep through the garden sometime before Christmas; the cabbage trees only rattled their tough and bladed leaves in collusion, but all the lush perennial foliage, the early blooms and abundant old roses, would be beaten down and stripped to straw by mid-summer. This year Hera wouldn’t be there to revive them. She had planned no special schemes, no colour harmonies nor textural depths for the summer ahead. Instead she’d pruned and weeded and mulched, and left the garden uncomplicated for the benefit of the incoming tenants.