Author Archives: Slightly Bemused

From top: Little Slightly’s pet called ‘Cat’; Michael O’Riordan aka ‘Slightly Bemused’

This afternoon.

Slightly Bemused writes:

It really is sad that you are having to close down. I feel like there should have been something I could do to help, but not sure what.

I remember when I was introduced to the ‘sheet‘ I loved the repartee. When I wanted to comment, I did not see actual names and so had to come up with one for myself. I blame Clampers for that as, even in the name, I was slightly amused, and found many posting more so. And so Slightly Bemused was ‘born’ and the name defined how I wanted to see the world, too. And all too often one comment led to another, and I created missives where none were needed. I will miss that.

Little Slightly sends her very best, and her thanks for hosting her pieces. Her name came about when I won a pair of Nick’s vouchers for my favourite song (You To Me Are Everything by The Real Thing), and I mentioned that it always reminds me of my wonderful daughter. A comment, I think from Janet, said something to the effect of ‘best wishes to Little Slightly too’, and so she was anointed into the club.

She sent a picture of her cat, named Cat, to cheer you up. Sleepy and with partial blep (a word I only recently learned). I know dogs are more the site’s thing, but never mind. She cannot send a photo of herself as she just had her wisdom teeth out, and her face is all swollen, and I would not do that to her.

She grew up with cats, although her mother’s never liked me from day one. In bed the first night said cat Whiskers (imaginative names run in her family) snuggled into the crook of my knee above the blanket. When I turned in my sleep, as is often, I was awoken to a howl of protest as I catapulted her off the side and onto the floor. She haughtily ignored me ever after.

I would like to thank you and all the team for allowing me the space to post. It did allow me to deal with my own demons too, although in a different way perhaps. The columns gave me a focus around which my week could revolve.

During that time I learned the wisdom of a message emblazoned on the back of a truck in Malawi: ‘Hospital ceilings are boring. Keep your distance!’ . I had to get far to close to read that, but gently backed off.

Over the past few years I have seen more of my local hospital ceilings than I like, and now appreciate that warning in a different light.

My ramblings were often a form of catharsis, distracting me from my own woes and helping me recover. For that, I thank you all.

In reading one of the comments the other day (I think to Nick’s post) I was caught with an idea,  would it be an idea to make another Broadsheet buke based on contewnt posted over the years? I think you could do a whole one on John Moynes’ Limericks alone, and Harry’s Dublin would surely have a place. Nick’s Friday playlists I imagine would go down well. With careful curating, I imagine including the comments could be an attraction, too. I imagine you may be able to sell a few at least to the regulars. If not a hard copy, perhaps a soft, e-book, sort of thing? An idea to think about perhaps.

All the best, and thanks for all you have done for me.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appeared here every Wednesday.

Pics by Slightly and Little Slighty

Slightly’s garden (above).

Where the wild things are.

Slightly Bemused writes:

Don’t let the early morning mist fool you, nor the gentle sound of the dawn chorus as the birds wake to another day. This is not a scene of bucolic calm, of rural loveliness, of halcyon days. This is a scene of murder and mayhem, of infanticide and the daily shouts of bravado.

Since my tree came down a few months ago I made a deliberate decision to let about half the garden go wild, let whatever grew grow, and leave the stump as a refuge for the solitary bees. In so many ways I did not expect, this has worked better than I thought. The greens are deeper, and the garden full of birds and butterflies. I see this as a refuge for them in a line of houses with no laws and the tennis club replacing the fields of yore on the other side.

Across in front of my compost heap, now due for another spreading, in the later morning a raft of yellow buttercups that were not there last year will open, and the bees will flock. I used not have buttercups in the back, only the front as they migrated across the open lawns of the estate. But from the cut pilings of the grass a few seeds must have survived, and now spread out like a golden wave.

In the taller grass now growing about the fallen tree trunk and seemingly abandoned ivy stem dark purple flowers abound on slender stalks reaching for the sky. And nettles form a halo around the back, as if to protect their more verdant comrades. Much maligned for their stinginess, nettles are really good for the soil. Mine is boggy, and slightly acidic, and they lock much needed nutrients back in. Despite the stinging leaves, birds flock to them at seeding time, but I have yet to see them bloom.

The blackbirds in particular like to root around, their golden beaks flashing as they search for delights in the grass. They seem to prefer it longer, as they rarely venture in when I cut, so I will leave it for them for another while. I did see the unusual sight of one scrounging for food, then feeding a larger youngling following behind. It reminded me of parents out with a child at a market, and passing titbits back to their little ones as they roved.

In this area, I hope to plant heathers once I have evened the ground a bit. I thought about gorse, which would also provide cover for the little birds. As the song goes, give joy to the linnet and the bee. But where gorse can grow well, so too can heather, and I am told would better suit the land. maybe half and half. Gorse to the left of me, heather to the right, and on down the middle for the blackberry bush.

The docks, a constant companion and supposed remedy to the sting are, surprisingly, the ones on the noxious plants list and so it is they that need be tamed, not their prickly friends.

Along the fence I hope to plant nice climbers, but trying to choose perennials that will benefit is surprisingly hard. There are many fast growing lovelies that will scent the air, but they die down, and need to be planted anew in the spring. Better loved by the birds and the bees for their sweet nectar and pollen, they wither and pass each winter.

But this scene is disturbed by evidence of nature’s way, too. A few feathers are now all that are left of one of the wood pigeons that would visit, victim to one of the few raptors in this area. Rarely seen, this high flying predator sweeps over a large area, nesting, so far as I can tell, about half a mile away in some taller trees. My garden did not offer great scope for its swoops until the fence came down, allowing a better angle of attack. So now I see more evidence of its depredations. Most of the feathers are now gone, gathered most likely by other avian parents to line their nests for their own young.

A lone eggshell, obviously carried off from its nest and serving as breakfast, lay forlornly in the grass by the fence. Proof, at least, that life still goes on, as nature carries on.

‘My’ robin sometimes greets me as I work, looking for the insects I turn up, and rooting in the soil I disturb, before scooting away to bring bounty to the nestlings. Finally returning, the short span means the nest is near. I hope to put nest boxes up along the fence, but it may be a few years before they are used.

In the meantime, I sip my tea, and enjoy looking out on the misty morning coming awake before me.

Slightly Bemuseds column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

A full moon, known as the “Flower Moon”, rising behind the Temple of Poseidon, before a lunar eclipse in Cape Sounion, near Athens, Greece earlier this week

Slightly Bemused writes:

Maybe my mother was right, and I should have stayed away from gardening. The flowers have not sprouted, and I feel a little lost as to what to do.

Of course, some of them had to be strewn, so maybe the birds got them. I can hope.

I woke up early the other day. Missed the sunrise, but I got the sunset. And missed the whole super flower blood moon due to low skies. But I was able to alert my family, and particularly those in the US got to see it.

I reckon that when they finally get to send another manned mission to the moon they must do it so at some point they are in a lunar eclipse. I mean, seriously, what would the Earth look like from there at that point? From the Moon’s point of view it would be a solar eclipse, so would it be like one from here? Would you get more total darkness without an atmosphere to refract the light? Would you get a better view of the corona? Perhaps more importantly, what about the ‘diamond ring’ blast of light as totality starts to come to a close?

Of course, then would be a later trip during an Earth-based solar eclipse, and from the Moon the Earth falls into the Moon’s shadow. Would it become a ‘blood Earth’? Likely not, as the ‘blood’ effect here is in part from refraction of light around the Moon and through our atmosphere, but who knows for sure? A picture from the Moon would answer all that.

I must admit to being excited by the idea of new manned missions to our close partner in celestial crime. Hopefully less politically fraught than the first ones, the advances we have made offer a huge opportunity. Back then when we first went there we did not know what to expect. Now, we are growing plants in it’s soil.

There is a TV series based on the idea that the Soviet Union landed first on the lunar surface. Interesting from the point of ‘what if?’, with Apollo craft becoming the mainstay of trips up and down. Also the Shuttle, but let’s not worry about why that won’t work. But there was a fun comment when, against a potential move by the Soviets against the US base, what might they use to defend themselves. One guy says ‘use golf clubs? Lord knows there are enough of them up there!’

So what was the longest golf drive ever? Probably not the one on the Moon. Alan Shepard tried several times, missing the ball on his first few tries. The constraints of his suit meant that the classic view of a clean swing could not pertain, and in his own book he reckons he was lucky to even hit the ball, holding it one-handed and unable to see it as he swung. I think they reckoned it went about 40 yards, which is not so impressive as first reported.

I do remember though that one pundit reckoned that, assuming all else is equal but a good golfer could stand and play without a suit, he might hit the ball for about 3 miles. One heck of a shot! The same pundit, whose name I sadly do not recall, also looked at the odds of the classical ‘hit it all the way round’ shot. The idea is that you hit a shot, and in the Moon’s low gravity it goes the whole way around the satellite and hits you in the back of the head. Not likely, he said. While theoretically possible to hit the ball hard enough to make an orbit, the initial thunk would raise it to an altitude higher than the driver’s head (several hundred metres, if I recall right), and to gain one full orbit would likely not align with where the ‘take off point’ was, much as Yuri Gagarin’s flight did not, though that was somewhat controlled.

I still think the best drive was Jack O’Neill’s when he tried through the wormhole and was interrupted. “Right in the middle of my backswing!”

So for curiosity’s sake, should they try with another sport, next time we send people up there? How far could you puck a sliotar, for example? That could be some long puck indeed! Who knows, but if they manage, will the GAA allow a new Lunar team to join the League?

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters


Slightly Bemused writes:

It has been a week of anniversaries, some sad, some not so.

A year ago last week I had to go to hospital, and on entering A&E had an incident. Best place to have it, you could say. Right in front of some of the best people in the country to deal with it. And deal with it they did. To wit: I am still here, and as far as I can tell still in the fullness of my faculties.

I may have forgotten, but they did not. They followed up, and despite the attack on their systems they did not forget me. This culminated in me having a brain MRI (yes, apparently I do have one) and an EEG (to prove it works). Down the list as priority patients were dealt with first, this saga ended in February.

So last Friday I got a call out of the blue. Apparently, despite many physical head injuries over the years, my brain has no traumas, and seems to be ticking along just fine, according the electrics thingy. So all my eccentricities are my own, it seems.

Strangely, after receiving this very assuring news I ended up in a strange funk. I did not know whether to feel happy, sad, despondent, or whatever. I stared at the wall for a short while before other parts of me reminded me food was needed, But what food.

Before the funk I had bought two pieces of steak and, separately, cream. Along with my other staples. I had plenty to eat, but what? For tonight of the funk, what could pick me up out of it? So I went to that great sage and oracle of all things food Little Slightly.

“Hi sweetheart. I have to admit to feeling a little down, despite the earlier news. And it is horrible outside (though nothing like what you had earlier). Trying to decide on food for the evening. Steak and bratkartoffeln, or pasta cheese. both unhealthy. Any advice would be gratefully accepted 🙂 Love, Dad”

Her answer was one word:


Not even an exclamation mark, a statement of profound decision. There can be no other!

So steak it was. With bratkartoffeln, and it was lovely.

Of course, time being what it is, I had the pasta cheese the next day. Maybe not mac and cheese, but I liked it, and the second steak on Sunday in a lovely pepper sauce.

The best mac and cheese I ever had was with my aunt and cousins, and I still think of it to this day! But a lovely Swiss lady taught me how to make a cheap and cheerful version when stuck. A small bit of cream, a few triangles of cheese (Laughing Cow was her go-to) and sprinkle in the shreddings of your personal taste version – cheddar, blue, whatever. It works, and I am convinced that is what she did for fondue that time.

In many places I have been the best food is the simplest. I do not need any stars for my food. As My Mum used say, an empty plate is the best applause.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

He planted his seeds.

Now, where are the flowers?

Slightly Bemused writes

Well, the flowers have not sprouted yet. Not in any way surprising, I only planted them on Saturday.

I feel like that little kid in the story who planted his flower seed, and went out every day to dig it up and see how it was growing. Not well, is the simple answer. But I shall leave mine be and hopefully in a few weeks I will have new growth. I will let the grass grow, too. I read recently that people are being asked not to mow their lawns for May, and give the flowers a chance to grow back.

If my flowers do sprout, they shall be in good company of dandelions and daisies galore, as well as some lovely little purple lads I do not know. Somebody here once mentioned an app for identifying flowers. Helped me name my triffid as a yucca. If it grows back this year I must remember to put in canes so it is not once more at the mercy of wind and rain, and may stay upright for a while.

Then it is raking out the last of the brambles offcuts, and spreading out the compost heap. I do seem to have a number of potato and tomato plants growing, from the trimmings of old veggies. I must take care of them, and see how they fare. And maybe try a few.

But enough about the garden, now I must face a hateful task – washing the windows. I do try to do them every couple of weeks, but I want to get in a little early now. The birds have nested, and soon the little chicks will be fledging. I like the glass to get a nice patina so the little things don’t get confused and fly into it.

Nor, indeed, attempt to fight their reflections. I will save that for the Angry Birds app.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.


The sun has got its hat on.

To the garden!

Slightly Bemused writes:

The sun is shining, and I am looking out on my garden with something akin to a glint in my eye.

Yesterday I bought in Lidl a couple of packets of seeds of native Irish summer plants, with the intent after cutting my grass of spilling a few in the edges and centre. Hopefully, in a month or so, a new carpet of delight will arise and tempt the bees and butterflies. If not them, certainly for my eyes.

That is, if I can avoid the various little birds currently scavenging through the grass and moss. They must be doing well, as they keep coming back. I saw for the first time a bird picking a worm from the ground the other day. Something you read about, but rarely see. I guess a nest was delighting itself on this Spring bounty that day.

For now, no worms, but I am slowly reclaiming my garden from the mess a few storms left earlier in the year. I am looking to clear one fence (well, the only one remaining) and plant some nice climbing plants for the Autumn and future. I am not sure yet what to plant on this south facing area, so if anyone has any ideas, I welcome them in the comments. For now, I will aim for meadow plants and hopefully fields of buzzing glory.

The end fence faces west, and is somewhat shaded by the remaining boughs of the tree. I am thinking of putting in a barrier hedge of some form, but my preferred option of a Beech row would not work – one side would not get enough light, and that makes them woody. I thought of trees, indeed potentially Lelandia, but they grow fast and full, and need a lot of maintenance. But the birds do love them.

Border plants ranked to bloom throughout the year could be nice. My cousin did a bloom clock, with plants to bloom in separate months of the year, and giving lovely lush greens in the winter months. I may try for that.

I thought of planting veggies, but to be honest, I know myself. They need tending, and I do not have that kind of commitment. I toyed with the idea of planting as the original American peoples did, mixing squash, maize and beans. My problem is I do not like squash, love beans, and prefer to pop my corn. Probably not the best for garden growing, so.

My front porch gets really warm, though, so a pot of tomatoes might be in order in this mini glasshouse. I still have time, so should be OK. My Mum used grow them with peas, one apparently locking the nitrogen in the soil, the other lapping it up. Both benefiting from tomato food supplements.

As for the tree that fell, in light of recent proclamations from the Green On High, I shall be trying to cut it up and season it for fueling the house this winter. No sod of turf is it, but a log on the fire can still be a joy to watch.

In the meantime, I am cutting parts of it to make bee and butterfly hotels to hide amid the foliage of the future climbing flowers. A refuge for them amongst the flowers.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

‘My diaries, at least for now, do help in taking me back,’ writes Slightly

A Spring clean then.

Leave the diaries.

Slightly Bemused writes:

How often do you like to wash your cutlery? Once it’s dirty? Once a day? How about twice a day?

Note to self: do not leave eggs for breakfast unattended while emptying the clean knives and forks out of the dishwasher into the drawer, then close it!

So yeah. I managed to crack a raw egg into my cutlery drawer over all that I had just cleaned and put away, plus more besides. Happening at far too early as I prepared to leave for an interview after my morning vittles, I somehow managed to get sloppy yolky goodness over my clean shirt. Cue another thing for the wash.

I did discover that my little baby dishwasher Geoff can in fact take all of my cutlery at once, along with my dirty breakfast dishes. The tray does not fit, and so gets rinsed by hand, but at least I know all in that drawer is now clean. And I did not get the job, but breakfast was smashing….

All of that aside, I have been making a concerted effort at the annual Spring cleaning. For someone who lives alone I always wonder at the buildup of dust and dirt, especially into places I do not frequent. My storage room, for example, gathers dust at a surprising pace even when I am not there.

It makes me wonder at houses that are not occupied. When I moved in here it had not had a person inside for a couple of years. Cleaning was easier, with my accumulated stuff not yet out of storage. But there was a different smell to the house, more stale and dusty. A friend said it is our movement keeps the air circulating, else it goes stale.

We are a little like those forest elephants in West Africa, who in their trampling and browsing actually make the forest grow better. The paths they cut through the trees allow the air and birds and insects in, and removing the smaller plants lets the big trees grow more solid and makes way for new growth.

I am taking the opportunity to divest myself of many old items I do not expect to need again, and pruning back unused items. The amount of times I have come across similar things so far, obviously bought over the years forgetting I had them, astonishes me. I found three separate identical utility tools, all still in their original packaging, aside from the one in my tool box. Onward to the local charity shop with them, so.

This also includes old paperwork, with which I need to be more careful. Many no longer of interest but with personal information (like, do I really need my very first electricity bill?) they will need to be gone through and put for shredding. I came across textbooks from college, and even some from secondary school, that are no longer current, and certainly shall not be needed by me. The local amenity centre offers shredding for such tomes, so off they will go.

I remember when my parents were getting ready to move out of the family homestead to a smaller and better appointed house a couple of towns away, nearer the hospital, they had a somewhat similar pruning. Part of this ended up with the Centra earthenware set going to Little Slightly’s mother, and other trinkets going elsewhere.

But what interested me were the boxes of my Dad’s notes from college. Carefully arranged and with perfectly written pages, they chronicled his years in Cork university gaining his qualifications. He chuckled when he saw them, carefully packed into boxes each one labelled for a year, or a course or subject, he commented that he had not looked at any since he packed them, many years before I was born. But he was conflicted about dumping them as they represented so much of his life.

I feel somewhat the same way with some of my items (although not ESB bills, honestly) but in the years before feng shui and the like took hold here there was a feeling that things should be kept for future generations. After all, we read about historians being delighted at reading the shopping lists of manors and demenses of centuries ago, as they gave insight to the lives of the times. Somehow, though, I think they will be less than interested in my phone records and homework books.

But certain ones will remain. My diaries, at least for now, do help in taking me back. My mother gave me the trick of using a standard annual appointments diary, day per page, to just record the highlights of the day. Sometimes in bullet points, they act as an aide memoire. Alongside my work diaries, they help keep people and places alive in my memory. Some entries, though, still baffle me, so I wonder what my great grandkids will think, if ever they read them.

In the meantime I will keep making like a forest elephant, trampling through the undergrowth of my house, acting as a ventilation for the new memories to come, but still allowing the precious ones to remain.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

‘Normally the shelves are full and 2 or 3 boxes deep of tomatoes,’ writes Slightly

Fewer tomatoes.

Something serious?

Or just a hiccup?

Slightly Bemused writes:

Late last night I felt a little peckish, so I decided to make a sandwich. Something in me was crying out for pizza, but I held that back. Pizza keeps me awake for some reason. And it usually involves a film, and a beverage.

I am a fan of thin-crust pizzas, and love to eat the main part of the pizza, enjoying the mix of flavours and the fun of chasing my food before it flops off the side of the slice. Eaten all the way to the crust, I never understood those who folded the triangle in on itself. Doing that puts the base between your tongue and the toppings, blocking the luxurious explosion of culinary satisfaction. Then set the curved crust aside, and on to the next slice.

Don’t worry, I do not abandon my crusts, and a number of people trying to nab them have felt the sharp slap of my hand. Because this is where the beverage comes into its own. I like to sit back, watching the evolving plot of the film while nibbling on the crunchy crusts and sipping at something to wash them down.

As a result, I was never a real fan of stuffed crust pizzas, with cheese inside the rim of the world of dining excellence. Not that I do not like them, but they are not crunchy, and do not lend themselves to nibbling in quite the same way. Besides, they give me hiccups.

Hiccups are funny things, and sometimes hard to stop. I do have a method, but always chuckle at my own gullibility remembering when my older brother would tell me to drink a glass of water upside down. Now, you are supposed to sort of lie back (a chair is a better option than balance-challenged me trying a headstand) and sip the water so it goes up your body.

There are pictures showing this. But it is no help when you have a brother who shows you said illustration upside down. And I end up trying to figure out how to turn my full glass of water upside down and then sip it, and wonder at my now wet chest and embarrassing trousers.

But it did usually cure the hiccups, I will say that.

For me, the one that works best is the deep breath and sip air option. Basically, this is where you breathe out as much as you can, then after a pause (likely interspersed with a hiccup or two) slowly take a deep but not full breath. Then, holding that, take small gentle ‘sips’ of air. If you hiccup, hold for a moment, and continue the sips. When you can no longer hold it, breathe out fully and deeply, but not rapidly. In my experience, I have only ever had to do two cycles, and I am now fit to meet the world without whooping my speech.

Sandwiches, thankfully, are less challenging in the diaphragm gymnastics stakes. And tonight’s was a simple affair: fresh sliced bread, filled with a slice of ham, a bit of cheese, and some tomato. Classic.

And here I had to chuckle. I went shopping yesterday (hence the fresh bread) and noted that there are few tomatoes on the shelves. As I already had some, I was not worried, but I was curious as usually in my supermarket the whole line of the aisle is just filled with various varieties of the little red lovelies. Some with green bits attached, some tasteless but enticingly red, and occasionally the wonderful giants that are beef tomatoes, one slice of which would be a sandwich maker’s dream.

But the shelves are barren, with a few forlorn looking slightly green cherry tomatoes huddling up to the one or two larger loose vine tomatoes, as if for comfort from their distant cousins. What is this?

Never mind hoarding your toilet paper, think maybe on the staples of food.

It seems that a few things have happened together. An unexpected cold snap across the Mediterranean lands has meant their crops, of many types, are not yet properly ripe. Rising fuel cost for transport has led to suppliers holding off sending what they have until they can consolidate loads. The need to transit through what is now a ‘third party country’ has added complications.

What interested me was the fact that Morocco has banned sales of the little scarlet tykes. Drought has caused a reduction in the crop, and the country is seeking to protect its home market prices so locals can afford them. Laudable. Similar is happening with other countries across the Sahel and Maghreb and beyond, with Egypt restricting exports of lentils, and Argentina restricting soy beans.

But this may give a chance for the Irish producers to shine. With the harvest coming soon, hopefully we will see locally grown tomatoes and other produce in the stalls. And with it, hopefully better prices for the producers.

What amuses me about this is that when I was looking up why no love apples, I first found out on a particular culinary page devoted to ‘fine cuisine’. The amount of comments lamenting the lack, and wondering how their precious meals will survive without every known item of food to hand is beyond farcical. How will they manage when they can only get local foodstuffs as nature decides they are ready. How can they make a hearty Marrakesh Bestilla at the wrong time of year?

That many of these exotic dishes developed, like our own, around what was available at what times seems to be missed. It is the joy of fresh new foods at differing times of year that excites and satiates the palate. Having them available 24/7/365 robs them of the very vibrancy they offer. Make them less worth the wait.

So as I use my favourite knife to slice my rare tomato I wonder what I will do with my last remaining couple before the next crop rolls in. Fried with eggs and rashers? Cut for a kebab skewer, with seasonal meats and onion? Or chopped for a nice salsa, with a little latin music to wash it down?

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

Heat up the griddle.

Prepare to whisk.

Slightly Bemused writes:

There are few luxuries I allow myself religiously, and pancakes on Pancake Tuesday are some of them. Now, being the father of a daughter brought up in the US, we have the usual discussion every year as to the best form of pancakes: American or Irish. The Stateside variety tends to be sweeter with thicker batter, and provide smaller but thicker pancakes. Not dissimilar to what I would have enjoyed as griddle cakes as a youngster, although those have baking soda.

The Irish style I have heard referred to as crepes, but I personally would disagree. In my experience, crepes are lighter still, and thinner, whereas our pancakes are a little thicker and fluffier, at least the way I make them. I used be able to flip them, but I am not sure if it is a loss of dexterity, or the fear of messing up, but that is a skill that has passed me by since.

I once shared an apartment with an Austrian, and he was really upset at how I made pancakes. They were a staple for a Sunday morning breakfast, and there is a technique, I gathered, to doing them right. For one thing, he made up the batter the night before, and then after sealing the container tight, placed it in the fridge for the night. He told me that the meeting of the frigid liquid onto the hot platter made all the difference. I will say he did make good pancakes.

Little Slightly’s mother once made a repast of crepes for dinner for us. Power was out, and all we had was my emergency camping gas stove. She cooked the chicken and veggies, prepared the sauce, and then the crepes, rolled around a stuffing of the chicken and served with a drizzle of the sauce. Delicious, and by necessity, a candlelit dinner for two.

Then of course there is boxty, that wonderful potato based pancake. A dish I thoroughly enjoyed since my youngest memories, I did enjoy the variations that became popular, with various accompaniments and, unlike those of my youth, fillings. I was more successful making boxty than I was potato cakes, and for some reason never could get my head around making potato farls, for all that all of them are more or less the same.

When I was growing up, boxty was the pancake for the opposite end of the year, made with the remnants of the colcannon made up for Oíche Shamhna. My mother would serve it with a fried egg on top, and sausages to the side. A veritable feast, occasionally enjoyed again these days.

Which brings up the question of how to top your pancakes. My daughter is adamant it should be syrup, and has commented that the maple syrup back home was better than that we could get here. Butter was an option too, but she has her own personal discussion as to whether or not to put the butter first, then the syrup, or vice versa.

I felt good in a way about that yesterday as I was in the local supermarket. I noticed a lone bottle of maple syrup on the top shelf, and ‘hah’ed out loud. A lady beside me, of slightly shorter stature looked at me from down the aisle, where she was scanning the various honeys, Nutellas, jams and such. So I pointed and said ‘Given the time, I am surprised there is any maple syrup left!’ To which her face lit up and she asked where. So I pointed. It was this treat she was looking for. Oddly placed away from other similar sauces and spreads, that may be why one survived to be scooped up by the lady. And off she went to the little robot tills to bring a little joy to her wains.

Last night, I found out that my Little one and her Floppy also differ. She likes her pancakes stacked in the classical presentation on menus so the butter and syrup drips down the outside, and she can top off as she gets closer to the plate. Floppy prefers them spread out around the plate, and the syrup, or occasionally, jam, spread out over them all equally. From previous visits to her, she had all the relevant restaurants classified by quality of pancakes, and french toast.

Yesterday, my local radio station touched on the issue, and had a chef on giving advice on all sorts of options from ice cream and strawberries (vanilla, we were assured was best for this version), through berries and honey, and other ice creams with syrups. Salty caramel flavour was suggested topped off by butterscotch sauce,

I am more of a traditionalist, and go down the sugar and lemon juice route. Lately, I have been adding butter, and sometimes substituting honey for the sugar. But it is that wonderful mix of sweet and tart that I love, all rolled up in fluffy pancakey loveliness.

Now, in recent years I have had less and less time to prepare up the batter properly, so this year, as in some previous ones, I decided to go for convenience and got one of those premade bottles, just add water or milk. Naturally, I got the ‘add milk’ variety, and found out once more that 2 minutes of shaking vigorously to ensure a good, smooth batter, takes longer than it seems. I wonder if this is where they got the idea for that exercise unit where you shake it and a weight moves back and forth inside, officially toning arm and wrist muscles. If this is true, can I have more pancakes, please?

But I live alone, when my Little one is not visiting. So here I am with a bottle of pancake batter to make seven large pancakes. Being no longer able to flip, I used my small frying pan – just 5 inches and great for frying sausages and a single egg (separately, of necessity). I think I got eleven pancakes, not much more around than the American style loved by Little Slightly, but thin and, later, slightly crispy at the edges. Note to self: don’t ignore the cooking pancake while munching on the last one.

My dinner was a feast of sweetness wrapped in fluffy, crispy edged loveliness. I tried all my regular combinations, and even tried one with a bit of ice cream. Very tasty, but messy as the frozen dessert melted on the warm round pancake even as I rolled it up. No strawberries, though.

So as I studiously ignored how much sugar I just ate, and metaphorically clapped myself on the back for my inadvertent good deed in the supermarket, I think I must plan for the boxty, for when Little Slightly comes visiting again.

And think of what I will give up for Lent. I have never been successful at that, with one exception. The first year I was ‘allowed’, at 7 years old, I gave up sugar in tea. To this day I still have it unsweetened, unless I am ill, or it is served in a particular way where I cannot avoid it.

For now, though, I need to figure out how to give up these calories, and off for another cuppa!

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday

Pic: Shutterstock


A victim of Storm Eunice in Slightly’s back garden

A little late today.

Owing to some gardening ‘issues’.

Slightly Bemused writes:

So this morning, as the sun rose fresh and clear, and I sipped my tea and watched the shadows recede towards my back fence, I realised that I have a bunch of work to do.

This has become a bit of a ritual over the past few weeks as my strength returns and I get ready for the summer. Up with the dawn, and plan my course of action, gazing over my gibbous garden, sipping cups of tea and plotting my, er, plot!

I am worried for my little birds in my garden. I had the brambles cut back late last year, and this past week of stormy weather has caused one of the trunks of my tree to fall over. It was dead anyway, but was home to a few different species of little birds that nest in the hollows of a tree bole.

My old shed is clearly leaning over, and I am afraid if I open the door the roof may just cave in. Never mind, it was on the list for demolition this year anyway, and potential replacement with a more robust model.

In the meantime, I shall be gathering in the cut brambles, and the remains of the tree, into a skip and off to the composting dump. My hope is to totally change the back end of the garden, and look to plant more native species that will hopefully provide nectar for the bees and butterflies. And I will get a proper bird bath.

I have an old tarp outside on the grass, and one side has a shallow pool of rainwater gathered. It has become the bathing place for many birds. I do occasionally head out and empty it, and refill it afresh, in case different birds accidentally infect others. But a proper bird bath would be better.

A Butterfly and Bee hotel is hopefully going up, along with some bird boxes. I have seen some interesting ones on sites that show you how to make them, so they are not as artificial looking as many you can buy, and certainly not plastic.

I am debating a herb garden. I have many seed ‘pellets’ that were given out by a certain small supermarket chain a few years back. I am not sure if I cook enough to make using living plants worth while, but I am happy to share with my neighbours.

The good thing about this, as the longer evenings eke out, is my doctor wants me to be more active, and start losing weight. They do say, also, that gardening is therapeutic. So gathering in the spiky remains of the brambles (which will surely be accompanied by some very therapeutic vocalisations of my feelings – my therapist once said it was important to express such feelings), clearing out the old compost heap that did more for the nettles than anything else, and finally getting the garden in order, should be helpful in meeting medically advised goals. Although I hope the garden loses more weight than I do.

And when that is done, I must plan where to put a place where I can get out my telescope again. I have seen a nice, simple design for a rotating cover, with a curved back and half roof, allowing full elevation of the scope, and turnable to see north or south. Maybe a plan for later in the year.

In the meantime, as I finish my cup of tea after lunch I realise that my outdoor work is done for the day. The rain has started, and it will be dark before it is due to stop. So at least I know what my morning will bring.

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Werdnesday.

Pic by Slightly