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  • Writer's pictureLizzy Shannon

A Yankee at Robin Hill

My brother, Steve, and my sister-in-law, Moya, flew over from Scotland to spend the first five days with me whilst Dad was in hospital. We had a very relaxing and enjoyable time, catching up on years of news. We hardly had a chance last time because Dad was just home from hospital and…er, rather demanding. I arranged a visiting schedule for the hospital and made sure all Dad’s girlfriends didn’t show up on the same day. (Can you believe him? And he’s eighty!) He had his left knee replaced this time, and it seems much easier as the ankle did not swell the way it did before. I brought him some decent painkillers from the USA so his discomfort is much less, too.

Until today things went along smoothly. Or as smoothly as things can at Robin Hill. Again I am reminded of being in the army. There is a SCHEDULE and it must be adhered to at all costs. <sigh> I’m such a slap-dash sort of person I find this wearing. But up I get at eight to let out the dogs, pick up the newspaper that's spread all over the kitchen floor, (in case the dogs had an accident during the night). Then I make them their breakfast: Shreddies and milk. Yes, those miniature shredded wheat things made for humans! Dad has a glass of grapefruit juice, a shredded wheat drowned in milk and four teaspoons of sugar, and microwaved for forty seconds. No more, no less. Then he has two pieces of wheaten toast with butter and marmalade, and three-quarters of a cup of coffee. There is no deviation from this! At least it’s easy to make. I have a coffee and some horrible oatmeal. I hate it but I'm on yet another diet.

Then it’s time to go into the village and buy the newspaper. Every morning I intend to walk but it’s been FREEZING here so I’ve cheated and driven down.

Back to Robin Hill to deliver the paper to Dad, then I take the dogs over to Murlough Bay reserve for their daily walk. When I was here last year there were two large-horned, long-haired goats. Now there is an entire pen of goats of varying colors and breeds, and a herd of black cattle roaming free. We all get along quite well as long as we walk carefully past each other and make no sudden moves. I always greet the cattle with a cheery “Mornin’!” and I haven’t eaten red meat since I got here. I mean, how can I do that and look them in their beautiful brown eyes?

Disaster struck when Dad’s computer crashed.  None of us wanted to be the one to tell Dad about it.  (In our forties and still intimidated!)  Moya found a Man in the yellow pages in a neighboring village, who claimed, “No fix, no fee.” He came out, took the laptop away and delivered it in perfect working order the day Dad got out of hospital. Within five minutes Dad got his hands on it and it crashed again. He was doing something with a disk, so God knows what he did to it. We called the Man and I had to drive it out to him.

It’s been so odd being out of internet contact. In one way it was pleasant not having to worry about it, but then I began to feel very isolated and in a sort of limbo. I didn’t feel the need to share much in this blog as things have been rather quiet and uneventful. Today, however, that changed! It started when Frances, the girl who comes in to clean, finished up her job and left. Dad was asleep on the couch so she didn’t bother him. But he was annoyed because he had wanted to talk to her about some alternative arrangements for when I left in a couple of weeks. Then the Man phoned to let me know the computer was ready for pickup. I asked him if he’d like to talk to Dad directly to explain things. “No,” he said promptly, “I’d rather not.”  He'd had enough of Dad, and he'd only talked to him once on the phone!

So, I got in the car and drove all the way to Killyleigh, a beautiful fishing village to get the laptop.  The Man invited me in and I heard the entire story of how he hurt his back over the weekend and how much pain he was in. I made the right sympathetic noises and asked him if he was going to see the doctor. “No, don’t like doctors,” he replied. Then he went into the Irish Manic Monologue about banks and state of the country today. My head was reeling by the time I got out of there. The little boy there took it all in stride – his dad must have these monologues with his customers quite frequently. Steve originally paid a hundred and five pounds sterling – this time it cost Dad a hundred and ten.  The Man won’t take checks, as he’s ‘between banks at the moment’. Ahem! He told me he’d worked especially hard on Dad’s laptop and added, “I saw your eyes when you asked me about it when you left it off, and I knew it was you gettin’ all the shit.”

I brought it back and without so much as a thank you from Dad he plugged it in and began fiddling. I made lunch and got ready to take the dogs out. Just as I was lacing up my hiking boots a strange man appeared at the open back door.  In America I don’t know of ANY stranger who would unlatch a private back gate and walk all the way round to the back door of a house like that unless they meant mischief! But do you know who he was?  The window cleaner who I thought had been breaking in my bedroom window last time I was here! Except I didn’t recognize him immediately. He wanted a ‘wee brush because he was working on something next door’. I couldn't find any wee brush, so I walked back to the lounge to ask Dad where I might find one. “What brush?” he demanded. “What man? What are you talking about?” He looked at the floor where my hiking boots had trailed in some dried mud. “What’s all that bloody mess on the floor?”

“I’ll sweep it up,” I assured him. Meanwhile the man, who I still didn’t know was the window cleaner had come into the house and was helping himself to stuff under the sink. I gave up and left with the dogs.  This place is insane. Every time I come here I feel like the proverbial Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.


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