Saturday, January 30, 2021

Two Wonderful Things

The 21 days were successful. Now it's up to me to keep on this track of self-care and healthier living. 

I'm still having trouble with these new pain meds. They are making me feel worse if anything. Discombobulated. Not myself. And pain, as we know, is like another person in the room, taking up a huge amount of space, greedy, grasping and sneering.

The first wonderful thing was I was asked to write another article for an on line magazine on women and alcoholism which would be a follow up to a previous article I wrote.

The second was CBC called me - that's the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - to appear on television and speak on radio about food insecurity as it affects seniors so I am working on that at the moment. So many additional issues challenging seniors during Covid. I will provide a link to anyone who wishes when this is up. 

This is all as a result of founding the Support our Seniors Group. I've been on the media many times in the past advocating for all the issues facing the elders of our country (particularly woman) living in poverty -  with so many of us surviving way below the poverty level and just plain struggling, taking poorly paid part time work, eating cheap food, unable to afford dental, eye and hearing care (not covered by our universal health care).

I saw this great line from a comedian friend yesterday:

"Hearing the ancestral bark of the Black Dog."

Those of you with depressive episodes will relate. I did.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Day 21

All is well in my tiny bubble. 

Not being an alarmist here BUT. Will the days of Covid ever end? New strains, fresh outbreaks. Once again proving that as predicted, yeah though many, many years ago, we will all be wiped out by a mutating virus. Invisible. Possibly aliens in this undefeatable form wishing for a new planet to populate. Not too far fetched, truly. 

How come we always think of aliens with sort-of human forms? I've always believed they are invisible to the human eye. Another dimension if you will. More powerful and indestructible than we are. Why not in a virus? So there you go. Not that I'm scared. But hey reality? Surely if you give any kind of half think to the way things are the world economy is going to collapse? In so many ways our lives are unsustainable. The planet is destroyed, the wealth and corruption is in the greediest hands.

Sorry if I'm depressing y'all. But as I said reality check. Nothing us wee peons can do about it except find a safe harbour somewhere and grow potatoes and stockpile dried things. If we want to live in this changed universe. And that's another of the Big Questions.

And I  live in a place now classified as safer than New Zealand. But we have massive food security issues. We are dependent on ferries and all the implications of that. Two days away from starvation as one wag put it. Our tomatoes come from California (4,000 miles away) our grapes from Chile (incalculable distance) just a tiny example from our world travelling food chain of supplies.

No I'm not writing this in fear but in a kind of resignation. A double tin foil hat perched on my head, perhaps. But I can't be alone in thinking all of this.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Day 20

 All is well.

Jessica was here today and the woman is a genius at organizing me and cleaning everything spotless. And at the speed of lightening. She cheers me up. And she's taking my recycling - this building does not have recycling which is a awful and I felt bad about tossing literally everything in the garbage after years and years of automatic sorting.

I had started the new knitting pattern and something didn't feel right, I should always pay attention to that - and sure enough, several more inches in and I realized I had made a massive mathematical miscalculation, so tomorrow I will rip everything out and restart with the proper math. I shared my downfall with Niece who said that when we rip everything out and start again, then we know that now it's going to be right. Wise words.

I watched a few episodes of a really fun Irish series called "Finding Joy".  I love how the dog has its own personality (and voice) and opens and closes each episode.

 From the Archives:

Boat at sunset, 2014 (where I used to live).

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Day 19

All is well with self-care and change.

But a very rough pain day. I will call my doctor tomorrow.

My neighbour next door gave me some strong pills and they did the trick but they are prescription.

I was defeated by the mathematics of a knitting pattern I was designing so left it to percolate on the graph paper.

I wrote a poem about old age.

My friend Lana called  me. She has dementia but she asked me to rescue some memories for her which I did. She marvels at my memory capacity. She asked me was her marriage happy and I told her the truth (it wasn't). I find it easier on her to tell her the truth as she can wax sentimental about fouled relationships. I was delighted she called as her memories of other friends, other places, are shattered.


I'm reading a very funny book called Slow Horses about the Secret Service in the UK. If you've ever worked in a grinding bureaucracy you will relate.

From the Archives - 2008 - Trinity Bay, NL. What an amazing place.


Monday, January 25, 2021

Day 18

 All is well.

A gift of homemade bread from a fellow tenant - I'm on their regular list of donees. I say they, as her husband does the baking and she delivers to a favoured few in the building. 

I was wondering whether there is a magic age for us oldies to be described as "sharp as a tack". Turning 80, 90? And to not be described as such would mean dripping some marbles? It's like the expectation is for a shedding of same marbles as we cross the hurdle of another decade? I've yet to hear an oldie described as thick as a plank. And surely those outnumber the rare "sharp as a tack" crowd? I'll keep my ears peeled for further research on this matter.

Did you all know about green onions? You buy a bunch once a year for a $1 or so and they last for the year when you put them in a glass of water and top it up once in a while. Just keep clipping and fresh new spears appear. I use a scissors.

Especially for my Australian readers: herewith a picture of the snow outside all piled away tidily and that crystal blue sky.

Day 17

All is well.

I found this to be one of the most delightful and funny obituaries I have ever read. So thought to share it with you all. 


Published: January 22, 2021

Margaret Marilyn DeAdder of Moncton, Nova Scotia - Obituary. 

Margaret Marilyn DeAdder, professional clipper of coupons, baker of cookies, terror behind the wheel, champion of the underdog, ruthless card player, and self-described Queen Bitch, died on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. Marilyn, the oldest of four siblings, was born Marilyn Joyce in 1942, to parents Hannah and Edgar Joyce, in New Glasgow. She grew up in a modest home, which still stands on the top of a hill where the Westville Road forks to the Town of Westville in one direction and the old drive-in in the other. Growing up with very little taught her how to turn a dime into a dollar, a skill at which she'd excel her whole life. 

Marilyn loved all children who weren't her own and loved her own children relative to how clean-shaven they were. She excelled at giving the finger, taking no shit and laughing at jokes, preferably in the shade of blue. She did not excel at suffering fools, hiding her disdain, and putting her car in reverse. A voracious reader, she loved true crime, romance novels and the odd political book. Trained as a hairdresser before she was married, she was always doing somebody's hair in her kitchen, so much so her kitchen smelled of baking and perm solution. Marilyn had a busy life, but no matter what she was doing she always made time to run her kids' lives as well. Her lifelong hobbies included painting, quilting, baking, gardening, hiking and arson. Marilyn loved tea and toast. The one thing she loved more than tea and toast was reheated tea and toast. She reheated tea by simply turning on the burner often forgetting about it. She burned many a teapot and caused smoke damage countless times, leaving her kids with the impression that fanning the smoke alarm was a step in brewing tea.

Marilyn liked to volunteer and give back to the community. She was a lifelong volunteer at the Capital Theatre in downtown Moncton, which her sons suspected was her way of seeing all the shows for free. For all of Marilyn's success in life, her crowning achievement occurred in the mid-to-late eighties, when, left with mounting debt, no job, no car, and no driver's license, she turned it all around to the point in the early nineties that she had paid down her house, paid cash for all her cars, and got her three boys through university.

Marilyn is survived by her three ungrateful sons, Michael (Gail), Paul and David (Trudy), whose names she never got completely right, and whose jokes she didn't completely understand. She loved them very much, even though at least one of them would ruin Christmas every year by coming home with facial hair, and never forgot that one disastrous Christmas in which all three sons showed up with beards. Everything she did, she did for her sons.

Marilyn is survived by her three granddaughters, Meaghan (19), Bridget (16) and Madelyn (5). While her sons committed unspeakable crimes against humanity, her granddaughters could do no wrong. While her sons grew up on root vegetables and powdered milk (funneled directly into the bag to hide the fact that it was powdered, fooling nobody), her granddaughters were fed mountains of sugary snacks as far as the eye could see, including her world-famous cookies and cinnamon rolls. Her love for them was unmatched.

Marilyn is survived by her sisters, Melda and Linda, and her brother, Lloyd, who still owes her $600* (*inside family joke - sorry, Lloyd). Marilyn is also survived by an incredible number of close friends, who cannot be named for fear of missing somebody.

Marilyn, ever the penny-pincher, decided to leave this world on the day Moncton went into red-alert, her sons believe, to avoid paying for a funeral. But, on the other hand, she always said that she didn't want a funeral, she wanted an Irish wake. She didn't want everybody moping around, she wanted a party. Marilyn will get her Celebration of Life when COVID-19 is over. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you do something nice for somebody else unexpectedly, and without explanation. We love you, mom, a bushel and a peck. A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Day 16

 All is well.

Though I feel I should be doing more.

Which is always the way I feel, and I need to embrace "enough" every day.

It's enough for now to be self-caring with food and staying in the moment and knowing at my core that over extending myself is not on. Which includes energy thrown at others. Until I find my feet I just need to be vigilant and more aware.

I have often wondered why many of us choose to wear such uncomfortable clothes. Like made of nylon and polyester and push up bras with wires and really tight sweaty underwear and being told to avoid pantilines as if they're a crime against humanity. And high heels, when you sit back and look at that torture device. I mean men don't teeter around on them do they? They are dangerous. I've seen the long term effects on women's feet which are horrific but still many women still  encase themselves in spanx holding in stomachs and hardly breathing while tottering around on stilettoes. I've often thought it would be great to have a denim wedding, for instance. Everybody in their most comfortable jeans and sweats. I suppose a trillion dollar industry would collapse overnight.

I was reading about old age being a corridor with all these doors leading to different activities/places/events in our lives and we wind up with most of the doors closed forever. Only a few left. I found it quite profound. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Day 15

 All is well. I kicked another addiction along this route too. Diet pop(soda). I had this thing for diet lemonade. The sparkling kind. It was down to Daughter hauling in 12 large bottles at a time here. I took a serious look at this. I was always afraid of running out of the stuff. First sign of trouble. 

I didn't mention this before, but I'm fairly impressed with this. Kicking these habits to the curb is beneficial to me. I feel it in my body and my outlook. I'm the one who never bought cigarettes by the pack. I always had 3 cartons on the go, one in the office, one in my home, one in car. I never ran out. And that was kicked 33 years ago now. Stockpiler, that's me.

Not bragging at all. I don't take it for granted. Slippage can happen.

I was looking at these little guys on my windowsill today. Little memories of trips to beaches and up north.

I just finished this book. It's about an 85 year old protagonist. A really good, fairly light read.

I also binge watched the series "Mum". A delight from start to finish.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Day 14

 A "bad turn" this morning where I felt very discombobulated followed by a silent migraine. I've had those things for years, flashing lights, but no pain. I feel very fortunate. The pain would slay me.

Grandgirl texted to make sure I had stocked up enough food as she had been reading about the storm here.

Talk of role reversal.

Visitor of the day was young interesting electrician outside of the usual grumpy non-communicative maintenance workers. He installed a new fire alarm and then sorted out a baffling long non-working socket which wasn't working but it was actually controlled by a distant switch on the wall to light the lamps on the side tables. Very impressive. Never did have one of those.

The threatening sky was a glowering gray this morning and now over 12 hours later, it's still coming down, though the wind has been fierce beating it on the walls and trees outside. Snow plow has been around at least 6 times. 

No pictures today, it is late and all is well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Day 13

 I had some fresh cod for dinner. It was magnificent. It had been a long time. It was paid for too by a friend who gave me a gift card. 

I prepared for the storm with food for about two weeks ordered on line and delivered to my trunk today.

My books were ready at the library and my stash teeters charmingly.

I was tempted to cafe-sit but thought better of it. Not that I would fall on the goodies on offer, but my trip with three pickups outdoors was enough. Enough has always been a strange word to me. More is my mantra. And I was feeling good which is a danger signal. So I came directly home. 

I'm thrilled I'm 13 days in. Thanks for all the support coming my way.

Day 12


All is well, though I am incredibly cranky. There's a huge storm forecast for Thursday so I have to plough outwards tomorrow and stock up on the essentials to get me through. I placed the grocery order for curbside pickup and was thrilled to see more books ready at the library for me to pickup. I have loads of books now which always makes me feel secure, more than food does.

It takes 21 days to change a habit. I remember learning this when I quite smoking. 21 days, they said, and physical cravings diminish, that's a promise. And they were right. Psychological takes a bit longer. I remember still looking for a cigarette when phones rang a year later. And I couldn't sit down and chat after dinner for a while but had to go out for a walk. So 9 more days and cravings for sugary sweeties and little pastries and choccie bickies and ice cream won't be as intense and I won't be so restless.

I was pondering on self-service which technically is no service. Like how we clean up after ourselves in cafes, and pump our own gas, and use the bank machines, and are encouraged to perform our own checkouts at supermarkets. Social interaction pared back to zero in such cases. Corporations yielding higher and higher profits. Unpaid labour for the rest of us. And I wonder where it all ends. Does it end? I am lucky that all my medications get delivered and my groceries are selected and loaded into my car. I never take such things for granted.

But as I say, all is well, and I feel even "weller" having written this and realizing how truly lucky I am. And I only blasted off one politician today. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Day 11

 I hope I'm not a crashing bore with these posts. But I have to say they are keeping me honest in my "clean" eating. 

And with the hot tea bolstering me and some smashing old series on BritBox and a brilliant new book and the spot of knitting I'm doing okay today. And you know why? Well,  partially anyway. I reached out to a dear friend who's not doing so hot and he can't get further treatment because of Covid being rampant in his area. And he's normally a cheerful man, positive and balanced and now he's wretched with bowel and breathing issues. And what can one do? I'm not a thoughts and prayers person, just assured him I was holding him in light and love and I've had a candle going all day to remind me.

And others are not doing so well either. Maybe it's in the moon or something. We've all had it up to here.

End of day was some refreshing news in that a niece had a baby boy a few hours ago. Why do we say baby girl and baby boy anyway? It's not like we can give birth to an adult or a teenager. 

And this was sent by Grandgirl in this new craze of sea shanties on TikTok.

But it's brilliant and I've played it, oh, maybe 10 times today.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Day 10

 Not much happening here. I didn't get out of my pjs today. And it took every bit of willpower to wash the dishes.

However I was in contact with both family and some friends which passed the day well, and also Daughter who had her studio going, she's gone mad into art which is wonderful.

Our Zoom Fam Jam went well. Because of Covid much exploration has been done into ancestors by a few members so that always has us enthralled as we tie in Irish history dates with the family events happening in those times. 

I knitted away part of the day on a new project. And enjoyed my new mug which has both my spirit animal along with knitting on it. I use it just for tea. Change has seen me embrace tea to keep the munchies monkey off my back.

There was a heavy fog clinging to the hills and lake outside this morning. My crocuses winced.

I wish I could say that mentally I'm doing well but I'm not. A kind of lethargy spiced with a sense of will-this-shyte ever end. I'm talking the pandemic of course. this combined with winter here and the realization I'll soon be celebrating the first annual anniversary of my self-imposed lockdown.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Day 9

So far so good.

I'm truly feeling it in my readings, BP and sugars super normal.

I was pondering today on groceries, how there seemed to be very little to actually "shop" for when I was growing up.

Below is an old photo of where the pub was at the end of the road I lived on. Around the corner to the left was the butcher shop, and across from it on the right was the local shop. 


It has changed greatly.

Everything was delivered.

Milk first thing in the morning.

Along with the newspaper

Bread some time in the afternoon. 

Mum usually walked down to the butchers (pushing a stroller) for the meat of the day which was always wrapped in newspaper and twine.

Dad grew a lot of our veggies but the small grocery store carried the basics of potatoes and onions.

Granny often brought in a "fowl" (turkey or chicken) and fresh eggs and "country butter" from her small holding. Carrying it on the bus where one of us children would meet her at the bus terminal.

All this information about meetings and Granny coming would be put on a plain postcard by Granny posted on the previous evening and arriving in our post the following morning. Two posts a day then. I wish we had saved all those postcards now, as Daughter is a postcardist. I was in my late teens before we got a phone.

There was none of this "stocking up". Our larder was  very slender. Mum baked a few times a week, Irish soda bread, the odd fancy pastry or cake (anyone remember the infamous "Victoria Sponge Cake"?)

If we were feeling particularly festive Mum would send one of us down to the grocery shop to pick up a shilling brick of ice cream along with the free wafers which would be carved up between all 8 of us.

We had two "accounts" in Cork City. One at Cash's for clothing where a discount was offered on all purchases "on account" and the bill was mailed to the house once a month. And the other at a place called Macroom Dairies where Christmas toys would be put away and paid for weekly. No interest ever charged in these two places.

What do you remember about your childhood shopping experiences, if any?

Friday, January 15, 2021

Day 8

All is kinda well.

Lots of snow overnight, I'm glad I cancelled my appointments. Snow never bothered me until I had that bad ice fall in 2015 and that changed everything. 

Here is a picture of the girls with the snow as a backdrop.

Slept a lot today but ate well and exercised nil. No energy.

Sometimes life is a bit of a trudge. But motto is "do the next right thing".  And that helped my day along.

A good book helps. John Boyne's latest.

And a riveting new documentary on the Night Stalker in LA.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Day 7

 A bit of a rough day today as a massive snowstorm is predicted for tomorrow and I had planned to grocery shop along with two medical appointments and library drop off and pick up after a day of rest.

I was reminded of Robbie Burns' famous poem: "The best laid plans of mice and men......."

So I staggered out to do the curbside pickup, really tired to begin with, thinking I didn't have that much but it turned out to be a lot when I added it all up as I include so much fruit and veggies in it now and they are awkward and well LARGE.

I called both clinics to say I wasn't risking my life on unpredictable roads and their snowplows so cancelled the tomorrow stuff. Another day.

Huge attack of the munchies as I drove home, realizing that I loved to stop at cafes and pick up a snack along with the Americano and just sit at a masked distance from others and well people watch. I knew it was a no-go as the flesh is almighty weak and I would fall on a pastry or scone. So I didn't. A masked wonder was right into my bread she saw poking out of my cart when I got to the entrance of my building. I was grouchy but my mask covered up my snarl. I may wear one both permanently. I would never invade another's groceries and comment, but that's me, pandemic or no pandemic. Boundaries all the way. Yeah, I get sprouted bread, and had to give her tips on how to separate the slices, exhausted as I was. Now she thinks we're bonded over bread. Shyte.

What a lovely surprise with the mail though. Plural. A gift of a book just published by a friend, I've already read two of the stories and they are brilliant. And another book by Irene Kelly about her life in one of those infamous Mother and Baby Homes that are all over the papers these days. And a gorgeous handmade postcard from Daughter who extolled on the back of it how we have nearly 54 years travelling together, across oceans and continents. Very moving.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Day 6

So far so good - ain't hot tea the best tho? Kills the cravings. Already my BP is down a bit and so's my blood sugar. And my outlook is so much better.

The girls are cheerful today smiling out at the semi-sunny day. Yet no snow. We threw it elsewhere around the planet.

If anyone can tell me what this baby is I'd be delighted. Daughter bought it for me. I've never seen anything like it.

Elsewhere, Bell Aliant kept me on the phone a whole hour today as I tried to sort out what they've done to my internet service which has deteriorated in the last few weeks not allowing much of an upload which prevents me from participating in Zoom meetings. Nothing was resolved. Every time I get on the phone with them I feel they are BSing me. And they get quite confrontational insisting it is somehow my fault, and referring to a non-existent contract specifying low upload speed. Yeah, sure, I signed up for dismal service. So finally they agreed to a technician - physically - coming here this afternoon to "fix" it. I know what they've done, the baron thieves, they are completely over-subscribed and the pandemic and working at home has throttled the system. And I do track where my service is coming from which varies across townships around the province. Highly unstable.

And why on earth doesn't blogger have spellcheck anymore? Another "improvement"?

You'd think I was a long stream of misery after this post, but no, I'm quite happy. Another day in the life of......

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Day 5

All is well....

The girls are doing well. All 5 of them. Miraculous little creatures.

I read an inspiring essay this morning about writing down every little bit of our days - had coffee, phoned friend, cut toenails type of thing - just to marvel at how much is in our days. For in the small we see the beauty. There shouldn't be a word like mundane in our vocabularies. Nothing is mundane.

I'm enjoying the discipline of blogging once a day, much to my surprise. It keeps me honest. I climbed the Everest of laundry today (massive hike to laundry room) and felt good, though exhausted, afterwards.

My internet speed is so bad I was having massive trouble with Zoom meetings. Bell boosted the service but now it's worse. I find stuff like this exhausting. A rinse repeat cycle calling Bell. I believe they are completely oversubscribed here and the system is stretched to capacity. Reports I hear about competing providers don't impress me and Fibre Optic is not available for my building (seniors? dimwits, what would they want with fibre optic?)

I bring you a picture I acquired in a small artisan gallery in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago. It reminds me so much of the colourful houses here in St.John's and the houses in one of my favourite places, Kinsale, Co. Cork. I love the whimsical cow. In case your're curious, underneath is a hanging bowl for plant cuttings.

Houses in St. John's

Houses in Kinsale

Monday, January 11, 2021

Day 4

....And all going well.


I find this fascinating in a family:

Brothers talk to brothers differently than they do to their sisters, (less emotionally).

Sisters talk to sisters differently than they do to brothers (more emotionally).

And brothers when engaging with sisters and vice versa talk differently (tap into their own emotions).

Why is that I wonder? I do think men miss out on so much of their inner lives.

I'm not talking all men as I have both men friends and male cousins who are very open with their emotions and our conversations are rich as a result of this.

Old Chestnuts:
(1)If one grows one's hair long it saps all the strength from one's body. Is there any truth to this?

(2)My father would say "Cop yourself on" if you were heading in a downward direction. I like it. I put it on my mini-blackboard as a monthly message but I added FFS for good measure. It keeps me mindful of staying on track.

So my iris turned out to be crocus and she had another two sisters this morning.

I just love these cheeky tiny things. I'm like a mother hen.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Day 3

So far so good.

Hot herbal tea can avert any snack desire or inappropriate ingestion of between meals sneaking of food, no matter how "healthy".

I've added some steps to my daily mild stretching. Nothing excessive.

I've added another support zoom meeting to my schedule, one a cousin attends - and it's in France.

I'm tracking my glorious wee irises, aka, "the girls". They cheer me immeasurably. Who needs a vast garden when the small can be made so important?

I've taken at least 1/3 off my usual plate load. A smaller plate helps.

I've gone back to a long abandoned routine I had for the late night cravings: a piece of fruit and a small bit of protein. No carbs.

I watched the Fran Lebowitz doc on Netflix. I've read her over the years but she is still fresh and interesting and observant in her 70s. Sharp and incisive. I recommend.

Enough from me.

Saturday, January 09, 2021


This has to be one of the more serious challenges in life, right?

I believe we have to run slamming into the wall of ourselves before we shake our heads, metaphorically concussed,and have one blinding flash of a moment when we realize: I have to change.

And how painful is changing?

I can only speak for myself of course. Even though I hear about others' moments of enlightenment. I'm not a believer in self help tomes whatsoever. We are all on our own unique journeys but I do believe that listening to others can light a little spark in ourselves.

I am self-destructive by nature. I've had the therapy, I've crossed the Rubicon a few times, I've been part of support teams for yonks.I can't say it's a constant battle not to fall into the pit of multiple addictions again, but ageing (bless it!) is quite a benefit to people like me. I also hang (now virtually) with some long time recovered addicts.

But other habits creep back in. Poor daily living management. Especially during the pandemic where normal checks and measures are not in place. Add winter to this, a solitary life, and I had unconsciously sunk pretty low.

My "wall" was Daughter calling me yesterday with a list of phone numbers. She had been concerned about me on Saturday when we were together. I had no energy, was close to fainting a few times and was basically shrugging all this off as "normal" for me. My new normal. Slithering in under the door. I remembered a friend who was so sick and couldn't move anywhere, calmly sliding an office chair under her butt and navigating through her home on the chair, stopping every few spins for breath. For a couple of weeks. The new normal until a friend dropped in and called an ambulance and she nearly died in ICU. Mini-strokes and pneumonia.

The numbers Daughter gave me (after an intensive government search and communications) were for an occupational health assessment and a social worker.

It takes me a while to process change. I know I have to. But after her call, I had one of those blinding moments. This sedentary life, Covid or not, is killing me. And incidentally stressing Daughter out who sees me far more clearly than I see myself.

How will I turn it around, if ever? (Rhetorical question).

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas)

Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas) (Posted originally on January 6th, 2009)
The following is a copy of a column I wrote several years ago. I realize that not many of you may have heard of this beautiful old Irish tradition and surely it deserves an annual audience. I have also performed it as a spoken piece. And hosted my own Nollaig na mBans and so has my sister and daughter.

"Little Christmas" - or "Women's Christmas" as my mother used to call it - always fell on January 6 and was a tradition unto itself. Maybe it was just a peculiarity of the time and place in which I grew up - Cork, Ireland in the fifties and sixties in the last century. (And I don't think I ever thought I would write "last century" with such cheerful abandon!)

I was remembering Women's Christmas and wondering whatever happened to it and if anyone in Ireland is carrying on its charm and wonder anymore, or are we all swept up permanently in the Big Day, December 25 itself. I've talked to some Ukrainian friends here and they celebrate their traditional Christmas on that day - Twelfth Night as it is known in England - but I believe that Women's Christmas was unique to a time and place in Ireland now gone forever. But I hope not.

The day of the Women's Christmas women were supposed to take it completely easy after all the hustle, bustle and hard work of the prior months, with the men now taking care of them and cooking and cleaning all day. I can assure you that this never happened in my house as, like many men of his era, my father didn't know one end of a broom from the other and boiling a kettle was the peak of his culinary skill.

However, my mother was the eldest female of her family so consequently her sisters, sisters-in-law, aunts and mother came around on that day and a smaller, daintier version of the Christmas meal was served. On the menu were: a bird (usually a fine roast chicken), a smaller lighter plum pudding and a lovely cake, usually dressed up in the fanciest of pink wrappers with silver sprinkles everywhere on the pink and white icing. The most delicate of my mother's tea sets was brought out, my own favourite, the lavender and pale green set. I would love to hold one of these little saucers up to the light and put my hand behind it, as it was so fragile you would see all your fingers through it.

Gifts were exchanged, usually the most feminine of presents, perfume or talc, bottles of Harvey's Bristol Cream were lined up on the sideboard and the fun would begin. I was encouraged by the grandmothers and great-aunts to always give my mother a little gift on that day for the woman that she was and I did, from a very early age. I would buy something small in Woolworth's on Patrick Street, a little comb or my personal favourite, those fiercely aromatic bath cubes, which were a whole three pence each. I would wrap it up in layers and layers of newspaper and it was always exclaimed over with the phrase, "Well now, I can hardly wait to use this"!

The coal fire would be stacked up high and already lit in the front room before anyone arrived, with Bord na Mona briquettes piled on the fender around it, and any male showing his face would be banished to some other spot in the house.

I remember the women gabbing all day and in the heel of the evening getting into the stories and songs of which I never, ever tired. My female cousins and I would sense the privilege of being included in all of this, there was a respect in us and never did we exemplify more the ideal of children being seen and not heard than on that day. Unasked, we poured the drinks and ran outside to boil another kettle to make a fresh pot or brought in the sandwiches and the fairy cakes and the chocolates and exotic biscuits in the later part of the day.

I remember the hoots of laughter as my aunts dipped their ladyfinger biscuits into their sherries, letting us have a small sample of the incredible taste. This was the one day in the year that I could get a sense of how the older women in my family were when they were young girls themselves. Full of fun and music and stories. I learned about their old boyfriends and who courted them, how one of my uncles had dated all four sisters before settling on my aunt. How wild he was and how she tamed him.

I'd learn of the sad miscarriages and the stillbirths, the neighbours who went peculiar from the change or the drink, the priests who got spoiled in Africa and became pagan; or who had the failing, the old great grandaunt who took on fierce odd after her son married. I didn't know what a lot of it meant then but I stored it all away to ponder on in later years.

They would dredge up old musical numbers from their single days and sing a few bars while one or two got up and showed off their dancing legs. Sweet Afton cigarettes were lit and my grandmother would puff on her dudeen and we all could hardly see each other for the clouds of smoke.

Stories were told and they would get caught up on all the doings they might have missed in their conversations all year, obscure marriages and births, sometimes in Australia or other far flung and exotic outposts of the Irish Diaspora. But most of all I remember the peals of laughter which resounded throughout the house all day and evening.

A moment would come in the midst of all the hilarity when the time for a spot of prayer came. Out of the big black handbags that never left their sides would come the rosaries. These would be threaded through their fingers and all the heads would bow in unison. I never knew the prayer and haven't heard it since but it was to St Brigid, the women's saint of Ireland, and it involved her taking all the troubles of the year before and parking them somewhere in heaven and thus they were never to be seen again. This was followed by a minute of silence (while St Brigid did what she was asked, I have no doubt), then a fervent "Thanks be to God and all His saints" and a reverent kiss on the cross of the various rosaries which were all tucked away carefully into the handbags again. Then the glasses of sherry or the cups of tea were refilled and the whooping and carrying on would begin afresh, the bothers and griefs of the past year now permanently banished and forever.

And I wish this for all of you out there - both at home and abroad.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Slowing Down

The biggest overall challenge I've had in old age is slowing down. I adhere to the Spoons Theory for a while and then fall off by tackling too much in one day. What I mean by "too much" is one over the one alloted social engagement or two very short walks into stores or restaurants, say with Daughter.

I know this wandering about sounds outrageous in Covid Times but we're had no cases for the last 5 days and everyone is masked and tables are distanced and stores all look different with arrows and wide aisles and everyone following protocols. I know. Extraordinary. Hats off to everyone and particularly our Minister of Health, our Chief Medical Officer and our premier who all happen to be doctors. And whose modus operandi is "An Abundance of Caution," and the nautical term "Hold Fast, Newfoundland." with multiple media appearances and special little chats with children ("Yes, Santa Claus has been vaccinated.")

I tackled too much when Daughter was in here on Saturday. It would sound measly to my 60 year old ears but nowadays, I feel quite pathetically elderly when I have to be mobilised. I recognize my Covid weight isn't helping. But many of us resort to soothing "treats" during this stressful times. And I hold my hand up. And tips to avoid such indulgences would be welcome.

Today is Monday and I am going out later on with George in hand and a grocery order pickup. I had arranged this for Saturday when Daughter was here but the brain has also slowed down and I had forgotten to complete my order by pushing "confirm", another hiccup of old age. There are a few. And I feel inordinately ashamed when my glitches confuse and bother me.

I throw all this stuff out here as I am quite nervous about sharing all these wee failings of mine with anyone close to me. As is the case with most elders. These dangerous and lethal old age homes may await us if we display any kind of incompetence at all. So I am cautious of concentrating on tasks at hand. As I have left burners on and walked away from lit candles. My busy brain needs to offload more files.

Meanwhile I go back to the Spoon Theory and plan my week out more carefully. Life shouldn't be a trudge and a chore even if one's physical energy is severely limited as mine is.