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Posts tagged ‘rats’

Surprises – some good and some not so good

Whilst not wanting to seen too mawkish, I have to agree with Forrest Gump who famously declared, “Life is like a box of Chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get”. And so it was this last fortnight. Considering we live a very quiet life deep in the countryside life throws a lot of surprises at us. Some are good, some are not so good. Last week, for example, we faced up to the hospital appointment we were both secretly dreading. A jolly trip to Limerick to see an endocrinologist.

Scream SocksMunch, not the film!

Now, we’ve not had a good relationship with endocrinologists, with the sole exception of a wonderful consultant at James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough. I have been somewhat harsh in my description of them in the past. Jacqui’s experience in Limerick did not help as they kept her waiting for seven hours, didn’t show and accused her of “not bothering to wait”. You can tell what we were expecting by our choice of socks! It was a surprise – and a good one – to encounter our first female endocrinologist. There was another wait of course but it was worth it.

Rhianna listened to us, answered questions and had some good and helpful suggestions. Prime amongst them was to try another version of a drug that Jacqui had struggled with twice before. This version has fewer side effects apparently and if successful can be very, very beneficial. Jacqui agreed to try it and we are a week in now. I cannot stress how much I admire her determination. I’’ not sure I’d be that brave to be honest. The first few days weren’t too bad – a good surprise. Then it went a bit downhill. I say “a bit”. A bit like the run into a ski-jump. The second dose is due today and we are hoping for a good surprise this time.

It’s been quiet on the workmen front with no sign of the pump man, the electrician or our original plumber. Monday’s another public holiday so next week may be quiet also. Fergus did come with his mini-digger and cleared the fence line ready for Bill however. He’s done a sterling job, levelling and redistributing the land and some of the mulch. The worst of the fly-tipped rubble has been buried and he rousted out a nest of rats too. Soon it should be secure along the road, though there will be little mammal gates sited at the tracks across the wood. These should allow wild animals access but keep out strange dogs – and humans.

With Jacqui somewhat incapacitated I’ve been doing most of the shopping. Earlier this week I ran into the nearest town to get a few things, going to the local Spar and the only supermarket near us. I was looking for cake as Jacqui’s not been up to baking. Now, the Irish make splendid cakes. A bit sweet and occasionally overloaded with icing but mainly very acceptable. Lent is over and cakes of all ilks are back in the shops, but so is that Irish “delicacy” Brack. This is a dark brown fruit loaf with the texture of sawdust. It sucks the moisture out of the air when unwrapped. Everyone else seems to love it. In one shop there were six different brands. Everyone in the family makes Brack. Mam’s Brack, Auntie’s Brack, Granny’s Brack, Sister’s friend’s gardener’s hamster’s Brack… Okay, I made up the last one but really….

As Jacqui says, it’s like punishing yourself for having a cake.

Surprisingly easy actually
Working my way up to this one

We’ve had some quiet days and I’ve got some decent writing done. As the weather has turned cold and grey again after some lovely days and glorious sunsets we’ve been indoors. I’ve been roaring through another puzzle, a Breughel painting this time. It looks very complex but is actually one of the easier jigsaws. I think I’m just putting off the moment I have to face what may be my nemesis, a Jackson Pollock. It is a pleasant distraction from much of the daytime TV that can be dire. It was so bad one day the highlight was an animated canary singing a song entitled “Poxy Chores”. This is an advert from the Gas Board to encourage people to test their carbon monoxide alarms but the words have offended some people. Really.

If you’re curious you can find it on Youtube : Thank you, Gas Board, for livening up our days!

So, like a box of chocolates, some surprises both good and not so good. I wonder what life will throw at us next week?
Thank you for reading. If you want to listen to any episodes they are all available on Southside Broadcasting’s podcast site. Go to “Southside Broadcasting podbean”, scroll down on the left to “Tipperary Tales” and there I am. This is the 50th episode (of 12) – I wonder how many more I can write? Hopefully there will be enough good surprises to report and maybe even some writing news soon.

Happy May Day everyone.

Lock down life and unwelcome residents

We were under lock down almost as soon as we arrived and it would have been easy to feel isolated, especially so far out in the countryside.  In fact the wide open spaces proved to keep us rather busy.  A combination of warm weather in March and the (in)famous rain led to an explosion in the garden.  The grass shot up and with it a swathe of dandelions and primroses.  We had no intention of attempting to create a traditional lawn.  Apart from anything else most grass in Ireland grows mixed in with moss.  We used the new strimmer around the primroses, avoided the biggest clumps of dandelions and left it for the bees. 

I say the “new” strimmer as when we arrived we were rather short on garden tools.  As previous owners of a ten foot square yard we had just one trowel.  Derek, the mover, looked at it and said, “Think you’re going to need a bigger spade”.  He was right, of course.  In fact apart from food shopping and the occasional book most of our expenditure has been on tools and garden hardware.  A lot of our DIY tools were left behind by the idiot movers and had to be replaced but we never needed a hedge trimmer.  Or reciprocal tree saw, loppers, lawnmower, heavy duty clippers ….. the list seemed endless.

As did the task ahead as we ventured into the wood to take stock.  It had been sadly neglected over the years.  There were a lot of trees – ash, beech, alder, willow, hawthorn and oak, all jumbled up together.  The brambles had grown in from the boundaries, as far as fifteen feet in places.  The grass of up to five years was packed across the few open spaces and walking was dangerous.  As I tried to get to the back of the plot the whole surface gave way suddenly.  My leg plunged knee deep into the undergrowth leaving me struggling to move – and very thankful there are no snakes in Ireland. 

I looked around, focusing on one tree at a time.  Each one was choked with brambles, ivy and sticky weed (Galium Aparine to a gardener).  The weight of these parasites was pulling down the tree branches and sucking the life from them, as was the anklet of moss around each trunk.  A large number of trees had obviously already succumbed but we decided to wait for summer, to see how many showed signs of life.  We had a conference around the kitchen table.  Each tree would need to be cleared of weeds and ivy, old and new, but this depended on reaching them in the first place, something currently almost impossible.  It was off to the hardware shop again.

We not only had the wood to contend with, we also had the piece of land behind the Majestic.  This had huge piles of tree roots, earth and building rubbish scattered across it, far too heavy for us to move.  I had eyed several mounds with suspicion, wary of tackling them.  As a crime writer my first thought was perhaps there was a body under there.  In fact there was something worse.  Rats.

Having rats in England is a source of shame.  Only dirty (or unlucky, or poor) people have rats.  It is different in Ireland, especially anywhere outside the main cities.  Everyone has rats.  Each year the shops fill up with traps, bait boxes and poisons.  Everyone has a favourite method for catching them.  They prefer the grain to blocks, we were told.  Use peanut butter – they can’t resist it.  Fix the blocks so they have to eat them and not carry them off.  I was talking to the store owner on a visit to the cottages. He nodded and said, “I had three round my bird table.  Waited ‘til they got down and shot them”.  I was impressed.  “Did you use an air rifle?” I asked.  He blinked at me, shaking his head. “Nah, shotgun”.  Now, I hate rats as much as the next person but that doesn’t seem very sporting.

We began to watch our bird feeder and sure enough, early in the evening spotted a rat up at the seed hanger.  I was so incensed I shot out of the back door, seized a metal off-cut and raced across the lawn to the back wall. I was yelling and going the full Maori warrior. The rat heard me and sat up.  He stared for an instant and made a dash for a hole in the wall. 

I don’t know who was more relieved he made it, me or him.