Friday, 30 January 2015

Unwelcome Visitors

Thanks for the 'present' you fly-tippers
No more foxy visits, but lately we have been subject to visits by two other species, namely Rattus norvegicus and good aul' Homo sapiens. The humans were that low-life sub-species, the fly tippers, who generously donated us a series of dustbin liners of mainly bottles, hoyed into the hedge in the layby almost opposite us. In theory the county has, I am told, a 'Litter Warden' who you are supposed to phone and he comes out, checks for 'evidence' (addressed envelopes, I presume) in order to bring the offenders to account and then, presumably has the council operatives come and clear up your mess.

Call me a cynic, but I couldn't see any of that really happening here, in the snow, in anything like rapid time and there was not too big a pile - half a dozen bags. I thought the pre-existence of rubbish might just make other folk think it was OK to dump here, so we tidied it all up ourselves (and, of course, found no addressed envelopes). We donned the "murderer gloves" (actually blue nutrile milking gloves!) and went to work filling the wheel barrow. The glass is in the local bottle bank and the rest went into our wheelie bin which was due to be emptied that night anyway (goodbye shameful fox corpses).

I was annoyed by the effront but I feel more let down in a delusion which I should not have brought along with me anyway. I had always thought the Irish were a more careful nation than we Brits (just me stereotyping mainly), more caring of their children, more concerned about issues like South African apartheid, keener to keep their country clean and the environment more pure. In general they have lived up well to most of my stereotypes, but on litter, pollution and environmental damage this was just a delusion. The Irish are as careless about chucking food wrappers and beer cans out of their cars, and of fly-tipping as are my countrymen. Don't worry, though, you litter-bugs. I am that loony who goes out with his hi-viz jacket, bin-bag and rubbish-grabber and cleans up the local hedges. I pay the honest sub to Barna Waste so that we can get wheelie bins emptied each week. I'll clear it up for you. Don't mention it.

Classic rat damage to stored Sarpo Mira spuds - chewing
marks, shredded potato bits, spuds wet with urine and
'wet cigarette end' poo.
The rat-visitor found our crate of stored spuds. As is normally the way of these things, though, we only found him, and then the damage, when he succumbed to the ace ratting skills of our handsome  and fluffy cat, Blue. Blue normally kills them and then leaves them for us, very dead and partly dismembered or disembowelled to tread in, in the dark. He and his late brother, Rolo, were a real find, the perfect farm cats. They were big and strong, athletic and powerful, patient and magnificent hunting machines (Blue still is, of course). They have kept our rat and mouse population at very happy low levels and have only made a few 'mistakes' - a wren or two, a swallow, a chaffinch.

Blue 'hunts' a soap packet. 
They came from a house near the Silverwoods and, if memory serves, there is some 'feral' in their DNA. Either the Mum or the Grand-mother was, I think, dumped in a box by one of the porta-cabin classrooms at the girls' school and there was a bit of "Mummy.... Pleeeeeeease can we keep this kitten we found?" What ever the truth, these two boys had definitely landed on their great big paw-pads, good hunting country with plenty (originally) of rat and mouse targets to go at. Rolo, sadly, also had a propensity for crossing the lane and came off worse eventually in a drive-by hit and run, but his bro is still here doing Sterling service.

The beautiful county of Sligo (picture blagged off the net)
But it's not all doom and gloom. We went adventuring today, a shopping mission to Sligo. Sligo is another beautiful county which we have on our doorstep (an hour's drive at most) but which we have shamefully neglected since moving here. We went to Sligo town early on (2012) when we needed to get the cars registered as Irish, but we didn't really see the place even then - the route to the registration centre skirts the town and diverts off to Carraroe and into a business park, just warehouses and car show rooms. On one of the runs we found some scenery by mistake when we were diverted off the big roads but we have never been back properly.

In 2015 we resolve to correct this omission and we may today just have found the perfect incentive, a magnificent and well stocked housewares shop, the sort of place where Liz (when she's not in favourite UK stationery outlet 'Staples') thinks she has died and gone to Heaven. Our mission today was straighforward, a food mixer for the baking (and also sausage grinding, maybe) but the shop, and the whole of Sligo Retail Park was a revelation. We had thought we needed to go to Galway or Dublin for such shops and such choice.

Naan bread - we are ready for the next visit.
The scenery en route did us proud, too with the higher bits of the lovely Ox Mountains being white with the recent snow. We were in and out today, though, in a bit of a hurry (possibly a hurry to get the new 'toy' home, unpacked and loaded with cake ingredients) so we didn't go a-wandering. We are determined to return, though and find some scenery to take the guests to which is closer than the current "must see" territory of Connemara. Connemara is gorgeous but there is an hour-plus drive to get to anywhere worth looking at which is better than beef country and dry stone walls. Driving up through Balla-D, Gurteen and Ballymote, you can start seeing good lumpy mountains half an hour from here.

More Sligo (another blagged image)
We have the imminent excitement of some more visitors. More on this soon, but these, we know, like a good curry, so we are going to crack open the faithful Madhur Jaffrey book. I am the chief Naan-bread maker in this house, so I have been playing in advance - we can make the bread ahead of the day by only part cooking it. It gets frozen or refrigerated in a rather blond state and takes on its full colour when heated up for the meal on the day. I love bread making and I thoroughly enjoy the kneading stage, which I find very therapeutic. The fancy-dan new food mixer has a dough-hook, of course, but I will be hanging onto my Naan bread by hand and let Liz try out the new technology on some of her workaday white bread.

Space saving in the kitchen - a nice recipe book stand
from the Steak Lady. Thanks, SL!
With all this new 'stuff' turning up, our tiny kitchen (8 foot square) is starting to look a bit crowded and we wryly look at the occasional Lottery ticket and wonder whether Lady Luck might just give us the money for a big, game-changing, extension of the kitchen. We can see it now - bash out that wall, push the kitchen out along the 'pottery' with a glass roof down from the main house to the Tígín, the 'A Team' all back together flinging joists around and whacking bits with the 14 pound sledge..... ahh sigh. We don't do the Lotto that often, mind, so it might be a while and today, when Liz checked the 'winnings' from a €4 punt she made on Wednesday, we found we'd 'won' €1. Ah Well.

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