Sunday, March 22, 2009

A day at the races - and other events

This weekend the sun shone gloriously and it felt warm outside, lovely to be out and about in jeans and a jumper, shedding all the layers of winter (apart from the fat layers - that comes later!). Today was Mother's Day and was pretty much the same as any other Sunday, I guess I like every day to be Mother's Day ideally and am not too keen on manufactured days whose raison d'etre seems to be overly commercial, and to enhance Hallmark and their ilk with cheesy cards. (Oh dear, that sounds curmudgeonly and sour grape-ish on re-reading, but I am really not into all the hype). At the same time I spent time today with my mother in her long-stay care unit - she is almost 94 and has been bed-bound for the past year or more, and has dementia, which is very sad. We shared some chocolates, which is one treat she still enjoys.
I like to relax at the weekends, though this one involved some activity as we were getting the polytunnel started up for the year. My back was stiff and achey from the unaccustomed bending - transplanting strawberry plants in the tunnel even though hubby did all the hard labour - digging in the compost as we emptied the bin last week and raking and tilling the soil to a nice dark fine tilth. We will plant courgettes, tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, peas and beans, and beetroot, and the rhubarb in its outdoor bed is coming along nicely after being under buckets for the past few months.

Ireland won the rugby Grand Slam yesterday for the first time in 61 years by beating Wales in a nail-biting final in Cardiff, and the country went as mad as it only knows how when Ireland win a major international in any sport, with a major homecoming today in Dublin. Then late last night Bernard Dunne became won a World Boxing title in Dublin while Katie Taylor won another boxing match; she is already a world champion. All told it was a good weekend for the Irish in sport, and at local level, our daughter's camogie team, the Lismore Under-14s, won a match this morning against rival neighbours Tallow, I think the final score was 10-9 to 0-0! The Lismore Senior girls from the local Blackwater Community School won the All-Ireland Camogie schools championship during the week, so yes, it was a good week for much needed morale boosting wins!

Between St. Patrick's Day, lovely weather and sporting victories, even the economy got eclipsed and the recession put on the back boiler for the moment, though not for long as the spring of discontent looks set to continue well into April. There is another union-led day of work stoppage/strike action on March 30th and on April 7th there is another hairshirt mini-budget which promises to be anything but (mini). Watch this space for updates!

I went to Dungarvan on Paddy's Day to bring teen daughter and her friend to the parade, which is generally a showcase for local business and clubs, with some marching bands and floats. The political one this year showed a cow(en?) and some dodgy looking politicians with the caption "TDs milking the country"! (TD is MP in Irish). Otherwise the parade doesn't vary from year to year so we went to the cinema to cry at "Marley and Me" - the film that seems to get grown men bawling, can see why!

Back to the races. The annual Point-to-Point races have been an institution in Lismore as long as I can remember, and as I know nothing about horseracing, all I can tell you is that the race is a cross-country circuit on the Castle farm lands. They start and end at roughly the same point (hence the name I guess) and it is a good day out for the racing fraternity from far and wide, and for the locals if the weather is nice. My memories of the point-to-point races are usually associated with freezing sleety sideways driving rain, and Glastonbury-proportioned mud squelching, but not today.

I wandered up to the course at around half past two, and managed to miss all but the last race which was at the ridiculously early time of 3.30pm. I didn't back any nag, as I wouldn't even know how to read the form on the racecard, but enjoyed the ambience and the colour of the jockeys' silks, the bookies' umbrellas, the stalls of toys and trinkets and fun stuff for the kids, and the smell that I always associate with outdoor events like this - the ubiquitous chip van. I couldn't resist joining the long queue for some delicious curry chips from Kearney's van, which shows the strength of my Lenten willpower. Daughter and friends, basking in their camogie victory, were having fun spraying their hair pink and the boys with "fart spray" which was a new one to me seemed to be a hot favourite with both sexes. By the time she got home it had dissipated somewhat but it was straight to the shower nonetheless! In my young days I loved the "amusements" - the Chairoplanes, the Swing-boats and the Dodgems or Bumper cars. They are no longer there, probably a victim of health and safety regulations, which is a pity.
I started the day with a rush of domesticity, and made a batch of mini-bakewell buns, fairy cakes and an apple tart, and found some strawberries in the freezer and made some pots of jam, which made me feel very virtuous (see the photo at the top!) and with enough energy to enjoy the rest of the day - at the races.
Tomorrow is my birthday and as I have already had my big present in advance, with my lovely new camera, it will be a low-key day, which suits me fine as I have the day off and will just enjoy it - with a dental appointment! Oh well, timing is everything!
(NB: I am experiencing some gremlins with posting photos here, as I wanted to add some more but can't move them around - they may have to be in a separate post. Hope this is a one-off !)


Peggy said...

Happy Birthday, Catherine.
For a day off you got through quite a lot and strawberry jam for good measure! I am always saying I would love to go to a point to point like you for the ambience and colour but they are held very early, usually starting before 1.00pm.

Kay said...

A very happy birthday to you, Catherine. It's so lovely to meet you. We've got Ireland on our list of places we want to visit next. My son was there for 3 months and absolutely loved the Irish people. He says they're among the friendliest in the world.

At Home on the Rock... said...

Sounds like a good day. Hope you have a very happy birthday!

Catherine said...

Thanks for the kind birthday wishes folks! I had a nice relaxing day and the batteries are recharged for work again tomorrow!
PEGGY - The races do start early but there are so many on now as the season seems to be getting under way you should make it to one, if you can. They are great fun on a fine day, and great for people watching as the horsey set are all out in the green wellies and cut-glass accents abound, at least in this neck of the woods there are plenty of the old landed gentry and old money, with all the big houses and estates on the River Blackwater there's a tradition going back centuries, and the Land Commission don't seem to have made much impact on the lifestyle, even if their estates are diminished in size. Yes the strawberry jam was a bit of an impulse as I found them ice-crystal encrusted at the back of the freezer, always quick and easy to make, a kitchen essential!

KAY - nice to have you here and please follow if you wish, I like your blog photos and posts, Hawaii is a place on my to see before I die list, after reading Michener as a teenager - and that's probably not the real picture! Did your son travel all over or just stay in one area? Hope you get to fulfil your dream and that you get good weather - it's our one downfall and yet it's what makes the land so green, all that rain!

AT HOME ON THE ROCK - thanks for the birthday wishes, I had a lovely day today as well, hanging about at home and visiting the garden centre with hubby! Spring is in the air and much planting awaits!

FoodFunFarmLife said...

It sounds as though you had a busy, but most enjoyable weekend ! Hope that you had a wonderful birthday, too :)

Irene said...

Happy Birthday, Catherine. I enjoyed reading about your weekend and it seems that you had the same lovely weather as we did. Wasn't it wonderful? Of course, now it is dreary and cold and back to normal.

Catherine said...

Thanks LYNDA! Lovely weekend indeed, and nice birthday too, got Bruce Springsteen's new album from my son and some lovely crystal and silver earrings from my daughter, and of course my new camera which was a bit early! Right now there's a wildlife programme on the great migration between Serengeti and Masai Mara - lovely shots out of Africa. Memories!

IRENE - yes the weather was lovely and now is dull and wet again, we have to "carpe diem" as much as possible in this kind of climate! We started planting in the polytunnel and when I came home today hubby had filled it with seeds, with a bed left for the courgettes and tomatoes when they are ready. I love spring preparation for summer!

The Cherry Tree Farm said...

Happy Birthday (I believe I'm a smidge late now, but sincere nonetheless!)! I hope you had a smashing time. Your horse race sounds so interesting -- and a cross-country one. In Ellensburg (about 3 hours from where we live--and I THINK that's where the race is!) before a very large rodeo they have every year, there is a madcap race down a long, extremely steep hill and through a river. Everyone just goes hell-for-leather and hopes he won't kill himself or his horse (or herself, for that matter!). Much more exciting than a 'round-the-track race, in my opinion. For your race, is it the same kind of racehorse as usual (I know that sounds like a dumb question -- what I mean is, tall, "thin" horses with long legs, or more stocky pony-sort of horses because of the rough terrain)?

I'm sorry to hear about your mom and her dementia. That's so, so hard. Truly the "long goodbye." The friend with whom I'm staying at the moment (we're on vacation--it's on my blog if you're struck with curiosity) is in the same position with her father. She was very much the 'baby' of the family, so in her early 30s, she is dealing with a very confused and child-like parent. Luckily, he's in very good care. I so admire the grace with which people like you & she handle it.

Oh, and what are curry chips, please? Regular chips (I do know they're what I would call french fries) but with curry flavoring, or something wilder?? :) kristin

Catherine said...

KRISTIN : thanks for your kind wishes! Yes, I guess you could say that's what curry chips are, regular french fries smothered in hot curry sauce which no self-respecting Indian or Bangladeshi would consider as such. It is probably a bit like Chicken Tikka Masala or Kedgeree - an English invention that has become associated with India so much that it becomes intrinsically Indian. The curry sauce is so synthetic - comes as a reconstituted powder or you can buy it made up like mustard or mayo. That's not to detract from its appeal which is undeniable in the right context - like this! Cury chips are best enjoyed outdoors at a sporting event, or late at night after a heavy night on the town on the way home, which is their traditional environment. (Unfortunately this drink-link gives them an undeserved bad name as they are really tasty if fresh and hot from the deep fryer!)

As for the races, the horses are regular racehorses, as in Derby Day and steeplechasing and flat racing - the bookies are there and the bets are placed and people love to have a flutter, and it showcases a lot of future champion racehorses. Near Lismore is the village of Conna which is the home of a famous horse (Monty's Pass) that won the Grand National in Aintree in England some years ago, a major race in the calendar of racegoers. Lismore is dotted with stud farms and is very much horsey country. Your race sounds way more exciting! I have never seen a rodeo, except on tv and films.
Yes my mother is like a candle, dimming and flickering in and out of recognition. She was such a great feisty often infuriatingly opinionated woman that it is hard to have this long goodbye as you so eloquently described it. I chat away to her and she sometimes rewards me with a flicker of the old self, makes it worthwhile. We need to treasure parents like children and realise they grow older and move away from us. Sad but true.
Don't want to end on a low note - I laughed so much at your Student Howler and response tonight I am going to post a photo of a howler from nearby here last year! Watch this space.

Jeannette StG said...

Happy Belated Birthday Catherine - for some reason I didn't see all your new posts on my blogroll!(so, I thought you were busy with work LOL) And congrats to Ireland for their rugby victory!!

Catherine said...

Jeannette thanks for your kind wishes, yes the rugby win was great for the national morale, what we need at this time. Another budget looming next week, we will be slaughtered fiscally. We are getting new cuts at work every day, mileage to be reduced, asking for us to go to training courses without mileage payment, and less home visits - our raison d'etre is being totally undermined.
I haven't done much blogging lately as I am too busy, but will catch up soon.