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William Butler Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I don’t know in what season Yeats wrote this, but I suspect it must have been in the Autumn, for there is something special about  the quality of the light at this time of year. Whenever I contemplate this view of the Guesthouse and Tea Room I remember with some remorse the way I used to tease my father about the conservatory he built at the front of the house. It was totally impracticable, uncomfortable, leaky and badly designed, its only virtue being that it was cheap. Visually it was a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a rather lovely house. That all said, whenever the sun came out my parents would clamber into it and stretch themselves out on equally hideous folding chairs.  Daddy, I would say, the first thing that goes after you and Mammy are buried, is that conservatory.  And that’s more or less what happened.

On more mundane topics, Patricia and I were pondering the legislation regarding the labelling of our ready meals, which as they say, are going down well. It’s a pain in the head having to list all the ingredients and we have been puzzled to see some ready meals from other outlets with no ingredients listed. Apparently if the meals are made on the premises from which they are sold, you are under no legal obligation to list the ingredients. Initially we thought – jolly good. Then we thought – we’re rather proud of our ingredients and have nothing to hide. And that’s why we will continue to put the ingredients on the labels.

Particularly on Saturdays we tend to get significant numbers of cyclists visiting the Tea Room. We approve of cyclists and as Doyle Lonnegan might have said, this sort of thing has got to be encouraged. To this end we have signed up to the Pedal Perks scheme which is organised by Sustrans – anybody who  arrives at the Tea Room on a bike will get 10% off their bill. (production of a cycle helmet at the checkout is insufficient evidence.)

Thank you all who expressed concern about Molly. At one point Jennifer had texted me to the effect that Molly’s cell count was up to 28%. I was appalled, assuming that anything less than 100% meant she was still ill. Jennifer assured me that a cell count of 100% would involve her blood solidifying. She is in fact almost totally better.

See you soon.



12 September 2017

Molly, who is not in the picture, has not been well. She was off her food and very lethargic. Jennifer took her in for tests and soon asked was there any possibility that Molly could have been eating onions. Raw potatoes and raw peas, certainly, but initially I couldn’t remember any onions. Then I remembered the onion soup left over from the tea room which had been providing a rich and tasty gravy for the dogs’ evening meal for the previous few days. Apparently onions can play havoc with a dog’s blood and lead to severe anaemia. Who knew? (Apparently, almost everyone bar me and Patricia).

Anyway, the reason I mention this, apart from the general edification of my readers, is that when I decided earlier today to go on a mushroom hunt, Molly insisted on coming with me and Gem. She was so excited at the prospect of the walk that she entirely forgot how easily she becomes tired. Against my better judgement, I let her come.

The only healthy looking fungi we saw were some rather lethal looking purple ones. The numerous penny buns had all been destroyed by, I assume slugs. One group of them was right by the entrance to a fox’s lair from which Gem had just startled the fox. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that foxes like penny buns as much as I do. Seeing a fox in the middle of the day is an unusual treat, so I was gladdened by the sight of a buzzard hovering stationary above me as I took this photograph – our breeding ewes and in the lower part of the field some fattening cattle, which have become lost against the background. Beyond that again the Six Mile Water Valley and the Ballyboley Hills.

More than a quarter of a century ago, I was on a similar walk with Matthew, who was then about three years old. As we contemplated the view from slightly further up the hill than this, I said it was time to go home and make the tea:

I’m tarred Daddy, he said,  I’m tarred.

I’ll carry you Matt. And when we got home, I too was tired.

Similarly, as I looked down at Molly, she looked up at me and said – I’m tarred Daddy, I’m tarred.

I’ll carry you Molly – but not all  the way. Because I’m tired too.

See you soon.


05 September 2017

For reasons I have never fully understood, I am secretary of the Straid Village and District Community Group. The Group was formed almost a year ago, initially to try and take advantage of funding to tidy up and improve the village.  We have put together a nice plan, and are awaiting the result of our application for funds, which will probably take another few months. Back in early Spring, the committee became concerned that after two public meetings, at both of which strong feelings were aired, we still hadn’t achieved anything as a group, apart from a ‘litter pick’ around the local roads. Fears were raised that the people of the village would become cynical about the value of having a community group. It was suggested that we should have a ‘Fun Day’ to keep the community spirit alive and optimistic. I have to say, I was appalled at this idea, as I was very much aware of the amount of work in the organization of such an event. Mercifully the rest of the committee did all the work, and the Fun Day took place very successfully on Saturday.
The issues that Straid faces are much the same as villages everywhere . They say there are four things that keep a village community alive: a school (every village school feels threatened), a pub (we don’t have one), a church (declining numbers so I’m told), and a shop (now closed). This all despite the construction of two new housing developments since we moved here in 1990. Hopefully the success of our Fun Day, will lead to more community based activity and the strengthening our community spirit. (I’m pretty sure we’ll be having another ‘Fun Day’ this time next year.)
It’s Organic September ad we’re starting off with some strong special offers – note particularly that if you buy any three Suma Soups, the fourth one comes free – be amazed!

See you soon.



15 AUGUST 2017

If you went down the farm walk today, you might have had a big surprise. Hein, Jennifer, Patricia and I moved these young ladies across the road and up the hill to pastures new this afternoon. Even to my untutored eye they are a particularly handsome group of young ewes. These are a completely different group to those featured in last week’s email. I asked Jennifer to explain what’s in store for this group :

These are our replacement ewes.

Come October the main sheep flock will once again be brought in and each ewe checked over.  Those with unresolvable problems involving feet, teats or poor body condition will be culled and the flock will diminish in size.  To take their place, we have picked the cream of the crop from our homebred lambs born in March and they will meet a ram once fully grown next year.  We make improvements to our management routine regularly and I must say we're particularly proud of this bunch!

See you soon.