Wednesday 20 September 2017

Flying the Flag(s)

Deefer at 11
Happy Birthday, then Deefer, this blog's eponymous dog. She made it to 11 along with her sister, Ellie-Bezz back home in Kent. Sadly, her brother (Archie) did not make it and had to be put down back in February (bone cancer) but we send our condolences as well as our good wishes to Deef's Mother, Mollie who is still with us. Another year, perhaps, everybody?

The very last of the 2016 pork bits get cleared out of the freezer for
use as raw ribs (Doggie Birthday Cake) and then a Medieval meat
feast for us coated in peanut sauce. Finger licking good.
That was Sunday 17th but ask anyone here what that date was all about and they will swoop on by Deef's celebration without so much as a sideways glance, and land firmly on one answer, "The All Ireland". This the GAA Irish-rules football final played at 'National' stadium Croke Park (you Brits think 'Wembley'), this year between Mayo and Dublin again for, I think, the 3rd year running.

This 'Dub' always puts out a good display, all be it the "wrong"
One of the first cultural things a Brit notices on moving here is the huge keenness for flying flags; be it the National tri-colour, or more commonly your sports team colours or county colours. Perhaps a quick 'Heath Warning' here for those who don't know me and need telling that I was born without the 'sport' genes in my DNA - I was always rubbish at football and had no interest in it despite working all by life with hundreds of soccer-mad warehouse-men forever teasing each other over the triumphs and crashes of Chelsea, The 'Ammers, Man-U, Liverpool and Spurs. I have brought this appalling ignorance with me and am only very slowly learning how to chat 'knowledgeably' about "The Rossies", Mayo and the Dubs. If I have gone wrong here, please do feel free to comment.

If you don't have a flag pole then a wheel
barrow be-decked with red and green shirts
and watering cans will do. This guy even
managed a turf-stack topped with a Rossies
So a month or so back we were driving through a sea of 'primrose' and blue as our team, Roscommon (Go the Rossies!) battled their way through the Provincial stages of the competition to end up Champions of Connaught. I think this is a league type competition where everyone plays everyone else within Connaught (Rossies, Mayo, Galway, Sligo etc), so 'we' may have beaten Mayo back then, but maybe not; it might have been a 'play off' thing.

Someone hung a Mayo shirt on the new
Memorial stone. One of the Guards named
here was a former Mayo GAA star.
Either way, I felt quite cheated when I learned that winning Connaught did not automatically get us a place in the All Ireland semis. Each Province enters 2 teams, with a 'back door' route for one of the teams so suddenly Mayo were back in it and, because the final 8 is a random draw, we were picked against them and they knocked us out. I know. Unreasonable!

Bobtail brings her 4 new babies off the nest.
Ah well, all the yellow and blue Rossie flags came down and most of the local support switched to Mayo being the nearest county to us still 'in it' (green and red). The die-hard 'Dubs' of course would not be seen dead with green and red flags outside their houses and created some impressive showings of the dark and pale blue colours of the Capital. Pubs tend to try to stay neutral, so will often fly both flags AND an Irish Tri-Colour just for the look of it. Many people also fly those little side-roof-gutter flags on their cars. It all makes for a lovely, happy, party atmosphere and very pretty countryside.

Onion harvest. Small bulbs but very pretty.
Ah well. The day came and went and history will record that Dublin won again, this time by just one point in the last seconds of a very tense exciting match, breaking all the local hearts again. Maybe next year, lads. Liz (a Dub, obviously) just sent me a very restrained, jokey text saying "Tanks Be". A few days on I see most of the flags are down now, though that Dub with all the flags at the far end of Lough Glynn village still has his out in celebration. The trophy they are all chasing is called the Sam Maguire Cup, or "Sam" for short. I am always amused by the Dub's adopted slogan, "Dubs for Sam, Mayo for sandwiches!" But enough of the All Ireland. Enough, I say!

Bullace plums and sloes
So, what have we been up to when not glued to the telly watching sport (Yeah, right!). One nice task was to tour the local hedgerows picking nature's bounty - black berries, sloes and just down the lane from here a couple of trees of the small wild blue-black plums we are fairly sure are known as 'bullace'. They are ripe, soft and sweet like greengages. They are not, as someone suggested, 'damsons'. We KNOW damsons and we have a tree in or orchard and these are not they.

She made a very dark sticky puddle! Bullace 'cheese'. 
The sloes have not yet had the necessary first frost but we have picked them anyway and they will get a night or two in our freezer before being converted into sloe gin. The bullace plums got a whole new treatment - being used for 'cheese' and also for 'leather'. I'd heard of the former but not the latter. 'Cheese' in this sense is a clear, very firm, super-concentrated jelly. It is intensely flavoured and you cut the set slab into small rectangles which then get sliced at the table to have with your cheese-board. Nom nometty nom!

Our James Grieves apples and blackberries from local hedges
The 'leather' is a fun confection mainly for the kids. You smear smaller amounts of the hot (cheese) jelly onto grease-proof paper as thin as (you guessed it) leather. When the smear is set you peel the paper off the back and cut the thin jelly into strips so that the kids (or adults of course) can eat them like liquorice shoe-laces. The blackberries and apples became a rather lovely tart. It's all very 'mellow fruitfulness' round here at the moment.

A very sleepy bumble bee on Sedum spectabile
I think that'll do us for this one. Good Luck now.
Mum looks a bit weary about the eyes. 4 kids under a week old.

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