Friday, October 15

The Story of Ballyferris. Cassie

This part of the story seems very apt for the season we are having. Mushrooms and fungi are everywhere. I'm amazed at the size of some of them in the back field. In around the labyrinth are the most beautiful little orangey-red ones. I've looked in my mushroom book in the summer house ,but it's hard to know from so many types exactly what we have. So I just warn the grand children to look but not to touch.
But this story of Cassie is a good one and all the better for the comment I received this week from someone who discovered me and was on the field with her family at the same time as us.


We always seemed to eat well at the caravan. Maybe it was the fresh air, maybe it was the smell of the calor gas stove or was it because after a day roaming the beaches, we were just plain ravenous. One of the new experiences that dad introduced me to, was early morning trips to search for field mushrooms. I learnt that the best place to look for them was around the periphery of old cow pats! I suppose you could say that they were very well manured. The difference in the taste of a freshly picked field mushroom and a lily white button one salvaged from the ravages of some supermarket shelf cannot be described with mere words. I would need you to smell and taste these plump, snowy morsels after they had been gently marinaded in hot butter by mum and arranged on toast also dripping with butter and placed on the caravan table sometime around 8 in the morning, just after the successful search. The best fields to find these jewels of the morning were always at Cassie’s farm.
Cassie was an old woman living alone in her farm up on the right of the Greystone Road looking away from the Hopes' property. As kids we used to climb on the back of the tractor and cling on for dear life as one of the Hope boys drove at breakneck speed up the narrow road to Cassie’s to work in the potato fields gathering the harvest. In my memories this was normally the younger of the two sons, Neil, who allowed us on to the back of the tractor. Can you imagine this happening today? Of course it was a bit dangerous, but in all the years that I did it, I knew of no accidents. That’s not to say that there were none but I never heard of them. Cassie’s farmyard was a lot smaller the Hope’s. but just as exciting for us townies. There is a great family story concerning dad and Cassie. One morning he went alone to collect the mushrooms. He was wandering in one of the fields scanning the ground for some fresh white goodies when a voice cried out to him in a lovely Co. Down accent, “ I think you’ve strayed!” He looked up and noticed an elderly woman approaching him pointing a loaded shotgun in his direction. Being the charmer that he was, he gave a chuckle and agreed. But she was having none of it, and he had to carefully retreat! Alas, that was the last time that we ever gathered mushrooms for our seaside breakfast. Cassie had every right to defend her land. A woman living alone out in the country needed to know how to protect herself. Then again, maybe that’s why she was alone! I’ll never know. Moments like this are there to be savoured in the difficult times that all of us encounter in life.

The painting, "The Quaint Couple"   is by Charles Vincent Lamb. 1893-1964

Wednesday, October 13

A Poem for Thursday.

Suddenly the warmth of last week has left us, and the clear skies have allowed the nights to turn chilly. So Autumn is at last a reality.

Summer House Lament

I lie and watch
 the leaves turn brown.
Then fall and flutter to the ground.
The old grey squirrel
at his toil,
hides chestnuts
in the autumn soil.
Fat pigeons
Flying through the wood
And calling
from the distant roofs.
The last red apples
turn to wine,
And on them bees and wasps still dine.
And birds,
who still sing summer's song
soon the season will be gone.