4 January 2016

I have never lived anywhere else where it is normal to see young men drinking milk from bottles or cartons.  A street corner with four or six lads slugging down milk while laughing and talking is not an unusual sight.

5 January

The woman on the bus spoke in a loud and constant ramble to the man next to her.  No one sitting nearby could fail to hear her. She said that her grandmother had taught her how to tell the weather and she reckoned it would be dry tomorrow even though the weather man had said it would rain.  She said I do not care if it rains because I am going to be at home anyway but my grandmother’s method tells me that it won’t rain.   She said I know how to tell but I won’t tell you because I do not know you. I am just sharing a seat on a crowded bus with you.  It is not like I know you.

6 January

So many fields have been lakes for so long now that it is hard to look at them as anything but lakes. Will the rains never stop?

7 January

Simon and I walked up the Mass Path.  It was the first time in a long time that we could even get through.  The lake at the bottom remains huge.  We went around the edge but even then we were slogging in deep water and mud. The grasses are all flattened down where water has flooded over the top.  Trees and branches are down all the way along the path. We had to crawl under fallen trees on our hands and knees in two places.  Crawling on hands and knees meant we were very wet very early in the walk. We kept going even though there was a torrent of water right down the middle.  There has never been so much water.  The path was a river bed with the river flowing and the whole bottom was sandy.  We could not decide where the sand came from because usually the path is just muddy and rocky and mossy. Suddenly it has become a sandy bottomed river bed and even at the very top up near the orchard at Johnnie’s the bottom is sandy and still there is no logic nor understanding of where this sand has come from.

8 January

I spent some hours down in the barn numbering my new book MY IRONMONGERY.  There are 100 books.  I wrote the numbers with a red Bingo pen.  I had never seen nor used a Bingo pen before.  The thick line was just right. After I wrote my numbers inside, I wrapped each book with paper and then I stuck on a red dot with the same number written on the wrapping. I do not know if Bingo pens come in other colours.  I wonder if everyone at a Bingo Hall brings a Bingo pen with them for an evening of Bingo. Does any old pen work just as well?  I had a lot of time to consider these questions as my work was slow and the barn was cold.  I had to interrupt myself often to go back up to the house to get warm.

9 January

Hi Erica.
Market restarts Sat 16th.
But egg man David O’Donnell started last Saturday.
I will start tomorrow.
Jim and Keith will start in Feb.

10 January

We can hardly believe this bright light.  It seems like ages since we have seen such sun.  No doubt there has been sun here and there in recent weeks but it has been moments not hours.  We are unable to remember it because there was so much grey. Today is that wintery kind of crisp hard bright light.  There is snow on the mountains in all directions. We can see snow even while we walk through green fields. We walked the Long Field facing towards the Knockmealdowns and then we made a loop up and around by road which directed our eyes toward the Comeraghs and we ended by walking toward the Galtees. Everything looks better in the brightness, even though everything is still squelchy underfoot.

The market yesterday was just David and Pat, as promised in Pat’s email.  The two of them set up their stalls in the far corner of the car park.  They were probably trying to stay out of the wind.  David had his eggs and Pat had vegetables and jams and rape seed oil. They were both chilled to the bone. The wind was vicious. David said his hens have been laying like crazy.  He said that last week he had 90 dozen eggs.  Maybe I heard that wrong? 90 dozen is a lot of eggs. 90 dozen is 1080 eggs.  That is a LOT of eggs.  Maybe it was 90 dozen over a two week period.  That is still a lot of eggs.  Anyway, he had so many eggs that he had to give them away. He gave them to a man who raises greyhounds. The man was happy.  All the greyhounds had eggs to eat. I went away wondering how the eggs were served to the dogs.  Were they broken open and dropped into a dish raw, or were they lightly scrambled?  I have no idea how a greyhound eats an egg.

11 January

I am not afraid of mice but they can make me jump.  They move quickly and so suddenly. Tonight I went out to the shed in the dark.  I was wearing my head torch.  I was carrying an enamel cup in order to bring back peas from the freezer.  It is easier to carry the cup to the shed rather than to bring the bag of peas into the house and pour some out and then return to the shed to put the rest of the peas back in the freezer.  Especially if it is raining. Tonight it was not really raining but it was drizzly and it was cold.  And it was very very dark. Just as I was pouring my peas into my cup a mouse rushed along by my feet.  I squealed in surprise and spilled a lot of peas. I left the peas on the floor and returned to the house with my cupful.  If the mice don’t eat them, I can sweep them up in the morning.  They will stay just as frozen on the floor as they were inside the freezer.

12 January

An elderly man came into the barbershop and he told the girl that he wanted A Zero and A Close Shave. A Zero is a number on the scale of haircuts for men.  I think the numbers match settings on the cutting device. The man was very old.  The couple who run the shop are Serbian.  The girl was very nervous to cut the man’s hair because he was so old.  She was even more nervous to shave him. She cut his hair very short with the zero setting and then she gave him a shave with a cut-throat razor. When she was finished he said the shave was not close enough. He insisted that she do it again. She was terrified to cut closer but she did it.  Everyone in the shop, which included the husband and three people, was watching. I was one of the people.  I had never been there before and I was only waiting so I was watching every single thing.  The old man announced that he was going to the Tropics.  He was going to Africa.   He said he was 94 years old and he wanted a short haircut and a close shave because it was going to be very hot where he was going. She asked which country he was going to but he would not say.  He said it was a secret.  After he left she laughed out loud nervously.  She announced to the shop that maybe he was like an elephant and he was going to Africa to die.

13 January

There was a hard frost last night. Everything is white this morning.  The roof of the barn is completely white.  It is good to see the roof all coated with ice because that means it is well-insulated. If it were less well-insulated the heat inside would be making areas of slate look melty and unfrosted.  I suppose the fact that there is not much heat at all in the barn is another reason why the white stays white for so long.

The snowdrops are coming up. Most of them are only in bud now but there are two in full bloom beside Em’s stone. I am happy to see them. I like to think she would have been happy to see them but usually she just walked around them.  Oscar steps on flowers.  He never walks around them. I saw one primrose in flower in the boreen.

14 January

Is He A Good Grubber?  This was the question I overheard the pharmacist ask to find out if someone who was not well was taking his food in a normal and robust way.

15 January

An old man stood in the little entry porch of the shop.  His wool jacket was wet with rain but the rain mostly sat on top of the wool in drops.  The jacket had a lot of grease and lanolin on it, especially down the front where his hands had been wiped again and again.  It shone black with the oiliness of whatever was on it. There was no way water could seep into the wool.  The man did not lift his head.  He was very stooped over and his head looked down at the floor.  Each time someone walked in, he shook his head from left to right and intoned  ‘Desperate Day. A Desperate Day altogether.  Desperate.’  He repeated this in the direction of every single person who entered the shop, even though the rain was merely a drizzle and not at all desperate by local standards.  To each person leaving the shop he said ‘Mind How You Go’ and he nodded his head up and down while he said it. He repeated these two things again and again.  Desperate. Desperate Day. Mind How You Go.  Desperate Day Altogether.  Mind How You Go. Since there are never people going in nor leaving at the same time he did not get confused with his head wagging for one comment and nodding for the other.  Nor did he confuse the two greetings.

16 January

The one hundred year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising has been discussed and planned for and anticipated for ages and ages now.  The whole of 2015 was a build-up to the events taking place this year to commemorate The Rising.  There are references to The Rising everywhere we go.  Jim said something to me today and then he saw my blank face.  I did not understand what he was saying. I did not understand at all.  He said “Sorry sorry— It’s okay.  I was only Rising you!”  Then I was even more confused.  I have gotten so used to The Rising being always and only about 1916 that I forgot about Rising being another word for teasing.

17 January

It is not uncommon to hold a funeral on a Sunday.  We were walking up from Molough when a car stopped.  A man rolled down the window and told us he was looking for the funeral of Betty Something.  We did not recognize the name. We knew of no one named Betty who had just died.  He gave us a second surname.  Maybe the second name was her married name or maybe the first name was her married name and the second one he told us was her maiden name.  Neither of the names meant anything to either of us. She was obviously local or had been from the area originally.  He was looking for the church where the funeral was being held.  He said it was the church at Knocklofty.  We knew there was no church at Knocklofty and we told him that.  Simon suggested Tullameghlan because there is a very small old graveyard there but no church.  The man was pleased.  He said ‘Yes that is the place. That is the name.  How can I get there?’  It was not easy to give directions from where we were standing.  I do not think I could have done it. Simon gave the man careful instructions.  A little while later we had finished our walk and we drove down to buy the newspapers.  We detoured around some tractor activity so we ended up on the Knocklofty road ourselves.  On passing the tiny Church of Ireland there were people were standing outside.  We saw the man who had asked for directions. We had not given him directions to that church which is called Tullameghlan Church because we had forgotten that it is spoken of as Tullameghlan Church or maybe we never knew that because the church is not anywhere near the Tullameghlan graveyard. There is no sign that says Tullameghlan Church. Had he said that Betty was a Protestant we would have known that the funeral must be at that church. It is the only Church of Ireland church in the area.  Since we did not know Betty, we had no way to know that she was a Protestant.

18 January

I just cleared a blue tit off the step in front of my room.  They are flying in wild sweeps all over the place. The weather is confusing so maybe they think it is springtime in between the very cold nights and the rain.  Three times last week I picked up birds who had flown into windows and knocked themselves out.  I picked them up gently and placed each one in a sheltered spot under some leafy boughs or on top of a mossy rock.  When I checked later they were gone. They had simply been stunned by smashing themselves into glass at speed.  The one I gathered up today was dead.  There was no soft heartbeat to be felt, and its neck was bent at an impossible angle.

19 January

It was a petrol station and like all petrol stations it now sells lots of things besides petrol.  Displayed outside along the windowsill were bags of potatoes.  There were ten bags all standing at an angle.  The bags were from several different producers but all of the potatoes were the same kind of potatoes. They were all Golden Wonders.  Only the colour of the bag and the name on the bag offered choice.

20 January

The rock on the side of the pub has been painted a shiny black.  It is painted with the same enamel paint that is around the window frames and on the door. The rock is big.  It is about the height of my knee off the ground and as wide as it is tall.   It looks like it is growing out of the side of the building.  It might be that it was once part of the foundation.  Or maybe the building had another section built onto it at one time.  That does not really make sense because the road exactly there beside the pub and beside the rock.  Where could more of the building have been? Over the years the rock has been painted a different colour each time the pub has been repainted. This shiny black is very nice.

21 January

Tomorrow is the last day for the SuperValu in town. It is closing down for good. It has been closing down for several weeks now. Each time I have been in there were fewer and fewer things on the shelves. Then there were fewer and fewer shelves.  The top shelves were removed first and then the bottom shelves were removed.  Soon there were three and then only two shelves along a long row with the remaining products lined up.  There were large areas along the walls which were completely empty and all of the shelves taken away.  The shelves were being sent to another branch of the store in Dublin. We stopped in last Saturday for a few things and the place looked nearly empty and there was still a week to go.  The very few customers walked the aisles looking at the very few products for sale and we all commented to one another what a pity it was that the shop would be closed and that yet another shop in the town center would sit empty. Vegetables were spread out in a way to make them look appealing but there were so few of them that they all looked like leftovers.  Two older women stood in front of a display of two wheelbarrows which had been brought in to take up some of the empty space.  Each barrow was tilted at an angle and there were loose potatoes and some soil in the bottom of each.  Not many potatoes and not a lot of soil. The women were happily remembering themselves bringing in potatoes from the field when they were children.  After a bit of chat they both agreed that their families had never actually owned wheelbarrows and that the potatoes at home were carried in buckets or baskets but still it was nice to see the wheelbarrows in the shop. One man wandered around and around the aisles with his trolley. Each time he met another person he moaned “Oh, it is a sad day indeed.  It is our Last Saturday.”

23 January

The whole thing is made of heavy cardboard.  It had been part of the 2013 Gathering which was an attempt to bring increased tourism to the country.  It seemed to be a popular thing so it was left standing in Cork airport.  The front of the cardboard has a shiny photographic image of a girl in Irish dance costume and beside her a man sits on a stone wall holding a fiddle.  The colours suggest the bright sunlight of a John Hinde postcard. Neither the girl nor the man have heads.  The idea was for people to put their own heads on the neck position and then to have their photograph taken.  The whole thing is not very tall.  Children can easily stand up to be photographed.  Adults have to lean or squat down behind the cardboard. It has obviously been a popular as it is now 2016 and it is still there.   It has been moved all around inside the main hall of the airport.  The area around the necks of both the dancer and the musician are badly frayed.  The exposed grey cardboard looks shabby and distressed. Each time I see it I think it must be nearly time for it to be retired, or at least to be replaced with a new version.

27 January

Vans and vehicles with the names and faces of politicians are appearing here and there.  Someone told me that these vehicles cannot be parked for more than two hours in any single location. After two hours the vehicle must be moved.  I am not sure if maybe this is just to give someone else a chance to use the spot, or maybe it is simply to stop one corner becoming the the Fine Gael corner or the Labour corner.  It would be easy to tow a non-functioning something to a spot and just leave it there for days or weeks on end. News and conversations about the upcoming elections are building up.  Posters are not allowed to be posted on trees or poles until thirty days before the actual day of the election.  These shifting vehicles as advertising remind people that even while everything is getting maneuvered into place, it is not really happening yet.

31 January

I am just after putting that in the oven.

I am just after getting that up on the screen.

I am just after visiting my grandmother in hospital.

I am still unable to use the word After like this.  And I am not fully able to understand the function of the After in the sentence.  In any of the sentences.

17 March

It was late afternoon when we stopped at the shop on our way to take a walk.  The village held the deep silence of a bank holiday. There was no one around but the shop was open. A table just inside the door had various Patrick’s Day decorations as well as thematic pies and cakes for sale.  Everything was green and orange. The table looked pretty well gone over. I think most everyone who wanted to buy something for the national day had already done so.  A plastic rectangular container was half full of water.  In the morning it must have been full of shamrock for people to pin on to a coat or a lapel. I do not know if the tiny shamrock bunches were being given away or if they were free.  At this end of the day, the remaining greenery was waterlogged and sitting under water in the bottom of the plastic container. It was not even floating.

21 March

I have been up and down from my bed for the last three days. Mostly I have been sleeping.  This cold has completely knocked me out. It is a terrible one.  At one point this morning, I got up and walked through the house. I was only going to the bathroom and fetching more water for myself. There was a lot to see.  Joe’s cows were in the field. Looking out the kitchen door, I saw two pheasants pecking in the gravel.  Through another window, a young fox was up on the table eating stale bread with his head thrown back.  Out the big windows the robins and tits were clustered around eating peanuts from the hanging feeders. Just above them, the white farm cat was sunning herself on the Galtee tower. The birds did not know that the cat was so close and the cat did not know the birds were so close. They were all busy with their own activities.  It all seemed to be going on.  The sun was bright and daffodils are blooming. It is very cold but everything looks like spring. I was pleased to see all of the creatures out and about but I was most happy to crawl back into my bed.

22 March

Ned was well pleased with his work.  He said “If it was any better it would be wrong.”

23 March

A fox walked by the window this morning.  I was standing right there as he strolled along looking left and right.  I was only a few feet from him but he was oblivious. I was inside and he was outside. He was a big fox.  He was much bigger than the young one who was on the table the other day.  This fox was a deep dark red colour and his tail had a dark almost black tip at the end. This fox was big and muscular.  This fox sauntered.

24 March

Marianne will celebrate her birthday on the 26th. Today is the 24th.  There is no way I can get a birthday card to her. Ordinarily something sent today should reach someone elsewhere in the Republic by the next day.  Tomorrow is Good Friday.  The country is closed for business on Good Friday.  The next day is Saturday. We never have postal deliveries on a Saturday. That has nothing to do with Easter.   Then there is Easter Sunday followed by Easter Monday, which is another holiday. If I rush to put a card into the post for Marianne today, she might receive it on Tuesday the 29th, but most likely, what with the holiday and all, it will not arrive in her post box until Wednesday which is the 30th. Wicklow is a two and three-quarter hour drive from here.  In the number of days it would take a card to get to her I could walk there and deliver it in person. I am still struggling with this cold.  I do not feel up to walking to Wicklow.  I do not even feel up to driving to Wicklow.  I do not even feel up to making a card. I think I shall simply make a phone call on the day.

26 March

Empty Saturday.  I have never heard this expression before today. I do not know if it was made up by the man who I heard say it or if it is used every year. Maybe I am the only one who does not know it.  Today seems to be a gap in all of these days involved with Easter. They seem to fill the days of the week, even if not consecutively.  Fat Tuesday. Ash Wednesday. Maundy Thursday. Good Friday.  Easter Sunday.  Easter Monday.  Today is just a day when no religious events happen. I am not sure if the Empty means that it is simply a day without a definition in the Easter rituals.  I am not sure if the Empty is a good thing or if it implies a sense of something lacking.

27 March

I feel depleted by this cold or virus or whatever it is.  Today the sun has been bright. The wind was cold but I decided I would feel better if I took a walk. I decided that I needed a walk in order to start feeling stronger.  By the time I struggled up the Mass Path and crawled under the tree which fell down and clambered over a few big branches which had blown down, I was already pretty tired.  The rocks were slippery with moss.  The walking was hard work. An abundance of wild garlic cheered me up and I picked as many leaves as I could hold in my hand.  By the time I reached the tarmacadam road I was exhausted and feeling dizzy.  That was the moment when I should have turned around and struggled back down the path and over and under the trees and branches and gone home.  But I did not do that.  I continued all the way Around.  By the time Oscar rushed out to meet me, I was considering ringing and asking for a lift home.  I was so very weak.  Oscar walked me the rest of the way.  He stayed close. He licked my hand, the one not holding the leaves. He knew I was not right.  I did not feel better for the fresh air and the walk.  I felt terrible. I arrived home still clutching my handful of wild garlic. I thanked Oscar at the door and I went inside, put my leaves into a pitcher of water, and fell back into bed.  I slept for three straight hours.

29 March

Ted told me that he had cut a fine load of timber for this past winter. He had cut it and he had stacked it and he had it in the right order for use.  He had the oldest and driest wood ready in the easiest position to get at. But this was the winter when the price of oil was way down. It was well down. Ted’s job is delivering oil so he knows exactly when the price is good.  He did not allow his family one single wood fire all winter long. He did not even allow a fire at Christmas. His wife has not forgiven him for that. He kept the oil heat going. He swore that his wood would last to burn another winter but the price of oil would go up and up and it would not be low like this probably ever again. Already he is right. The price of the oil has risen and he still has near enough a full tank at the cheap price. Ted is feeling smug. I am not the first person who has been told about Ted’s oil and Ted’s firewood.

30 March

She is Happy Out.  This is an everyday expression.  It means she is totally Happy.  She is as Happy as can be.  She is completely and utterly Happy. She is Happy Out.

31 March

I walked up the Mass Path and around today.  The trees and branches were still difficult both going over and under. I did more clambering and crawling and squeezing than I would have liked.  Simon came with me and he brought work gloves for the hands and knees part of the crawling. He is not fond of putting his hands into the mud just to go for a walk.  The moss on the rocks was still slippery.  The sun was out and the wind had dropped.  The radio is giving a straight nine days of rain so this sun felt like something we must savour. I felt as good to be walking as I felt awful the other day. We devoured that last batch of wild garlic immediately, I came home with another big bunch today.  My hands smell of the leaves now. Next time I shall carry a little bag so I can fetch a larger supply.

1 April

It was an early appointment.  I had to be at the surgeon’s for 8.30.  It meant leaving the house with enough time to allow for a 50 minute drive. Because it was so early, I did not bother about the Ten Minute Tractor Time which I usually plan for to accommodate the normal thing of coming up behind a tractor on a road and being able to do nothing but drive slowly behind it until either it turns off or until I can pass it.  I did not know where exactly I was going, so I did allow a little extra time for getting around and finding the unknown street.  Simon came with me as I was told I could not drive after the eye procedure.  He set the street address into his phone so it should have been simple.  What we did not know and we could not know was that the city of Kilkenny had changed the name of the street.  It was no good having Abbeybridge punched into the phone because the name of the street had been changed to Friar’s Bridge.  I was wandering around in what was supposedly the area looking for a street which no longer existed.   I was also looking for someone to ask but because it was early there was no one out and nothing was open. I found an elderly man who knew the neighbourhood and knew about the change of name. He told me that he is always out early because he got into the habit when he had a dog. The dog is dead six years now but he still favours an early walk. He walked me very slowly to the narrow street and pointed out the new name.  When I got into the surgery, I showed my letter with the wrong street name on the letterhead.  The receptionist said I was lucky indeed to have found that man.

2 April

David the Egg Man at the market is packing it in.  He is 84. He has decided to give up his hens which means giving up the market and egg selling.  Today was his last day.  There was a sign on the egg table offering Laying Hens for Sale.  He has a lot of hens.  He has so many hens that he was fussing recently about how many fewer eggs he seemed to be getting.  It took him a few days or maybe a week to realize that there had been a break in his fencing and a fox had been in and out several times over a week.  The fox had eaten 40 hens. If David did not even notice the absence of 40 hens, he must have a lot of hens. It is a sorry thing to lose another stall at the market.  Each time we lose someone we do not seem to get a replacement. We still have no cheese seller. I spent years calling the Cheese Lady Kathleen. It was not until her very last day that she told me that her name was not Kathleen but Katherine. She said she did not mind at all that I had been calling her by the wrong name all along but since she was leaving she thought it a good time to set me straight.

3 April

The house is connected to the shop and the only way to know what is house and what is shop is that the colour of the walls and the window surrounds changes. This morning there was a push bike in a corner near to the division between house and shop.  The bicycle was standing on a little rug.  It was the kind of small rubber backed rug which is often right inside the door of a shop so that people will not slip on a wet floor.  The rug has rubber backing but some kind of man-made fibre top to collect mud and dirt and water. The bicycle was standing on exactly that sort of little rug.  It was not locked nor was it attached to anything.  After looking for a few minutes, I decided that the whole thing was inadvertent.  The rug was there for some unknown purpose and someone came along and placed their bike right on it.  The rug defined a place and as a result the bike, by being positioned on the rug, was in a place and not just leaning up against the building.

4 April

Today we have a break in the nine days of promised rain. Everything looks fluorescent in this very welcome and brilliant sunlight. The grass gives off an eerie glow and the daffodils seem unnaturally yellow.  Nothing looks natural. Everything looks a little bit creepy. There is one gate in a low place which has a row of the brightest yellow across its opening. Each time I spot it from a distance I am convinced this yellow is the best  of daffodil displays and each time I get closer I see that it is not daffodils. It is a row of  bright yellow plastic bags which were filled with plaster but are now filled with sand.  They are blocking the gate from rushing flooding water.  The bright glow from within is exactly like the glow of the daffodils.

5 April

The presentation started well. A woman sat right in the front row with an empty seat beside her. Her telephone rang and she answered it. I assumed that she would say quietly that she could not talk right now.  I was wrong. She settled into a conversation and her voice was not at all quiet.  Then she jumped up and walked to the back of the room and out the door, talking loudly all the way.  I tried to keep reading. I raised my voice a little. It was not easy to speak above her but I did not know what else to do. She returned a few minutes later still talking but no longer on the telephone. Now she was talking with the friend who had just been on the phone. They chatted as they walked up the central aisle. They sat down together in the front row and then the first woman said to her friend Hey, Now we have to shut up.

6 April

Every single day is a wild and windy day. Everyday, there is rain and there is sun and today there was sleet and there was hail.  There are rainbows every time the sun comes out.  Every rainbow is a pleasure but on a day like today after a while it is just another rainbow and we know that it will be followed by more rain and maybe more sleet. The threat of what comes next sort of takes the element of excitement out of a rainbow. Something has to be good in the midst of such bitter cold. We managed a short walk. While sheltering from a heavy burst of hail, I spied a bunch of lichen on the ground.  I picked up as much as I could. Usually I find one small bit or a branch with a tiny piece stuck on it.  The scrabbling of birds on branches might have loosened all this lichen or maybe it was just the wind.  I filled two pockets with it.  By the time I was done with my gathering the hail had stopped and we set off again.

7 April

This is the time of year for the return of the swallows. Everyone is on the alert to see The First Swallow.  There are discussions as to where and when a swallow has been seen.  Breda saw one the other day.  This is the first sighting I have heard of.   She saw a swallow on the 3rd. She checked her calendar and saw that last year she saw The First Swallow on the 8th.  She is delighted with herself. She is delighted with the swallow.  I have yet to see a swallow myself. I am so bad at recognizing birds that I will probably see one and not be certain of it.  It will be best for me if I am with someone else who can be trusted to know.  There is always the first something to see. The first snowdrop, the first primrose, the first daffodil or bluebell or crocus or apple blossom. There is always a first something to anticipate and to celebrate but nothing excites quite so much as The First Swallow.

8 April

Dead pigeon in the road down near the stream.  It had been freshly hit by a car not killed by a fox. There were a lot of feathers spread around.  There would not be so much bird left if a fox had killed it. There was that little bit of something bright red which is always near to a dead bird.  It is a wiggly bit of an organ. I do not know which one.  I decided that it is the spleen. I do not even know if birds have spleens.  I do not know what any spleen looks like. Whatever it is the fox rarely eats this organ. Dogs sniff it and leave it. I imagine it is bitter and not pleasant which is why it is always left. When the death is recent and the red thing has not had time to be run over or otherwise further destroyed or dirtied, the red is so bright it looks artificial.  It is what I always look for when I see a freshly dead bird.

9 April

There is not much to like about Limerick Bus and Train Station.  The old tobacco kiosk is about the only thing to look forward to. Usually I only see it from the bus on arrival or departure.  Today I walked out and took a photograph.  It is a busy spot with a lot of car movement.  A park spreads out green and lush behind the kiosk.  The opposite side of the street is full of boarded up buildings and trash and broken down fencing.  It is a grim neighbourhood. This little kiosk and its park are the only pleasant things to look at.  I had to return to the station quickly because it was cold and windy. The rain came in gusts. Starbucks has taken over the café at the station.  We were a bit shocked to see this.  We never go into a Starbucks anywhere.  There is always somewhere else to go. But there is only the one café at the station.  There has always been only one café at the station.  Everyone goes in to sit down because it is the only place to sit and not be frozen.  The station waiting area is high-ceilinged and drafty and cold. There are birds swooping and pooping all the time.  There is a little news stand and there are a few rows of seats.  Basically the waiting area is outdoors.  Even on a warm day it is cold in the waiting area. Everyone goes into the café where there is a tall fireplace and chimney breast.  The fireplace is not lit.  I have never seen a fire in there but everyone wants to sit nearest to the fireplace as if it has heat to offer.  It is the idea of heat which makes them cluster close.  There are big armchairs near the fireplace as there always have been. The café is much the same as it always was before Starbucks took over.  The walls have been painted black and the armchairs are newer and less torn up.  There are fancy lights and there are a lot of pricey coffee related products on sale. Everything costs more than it did before.  Still, it is the only place to sit while waiting for a bus or train.  A lot of people are just there for the waiting. They are neither eating nor drinking. They are just sitting and they are waiting. It is not a lot warmer than the big waiting area but it has two doors which close so it is a little warmer.  And there are no birds. There was a bin full of packages of wet coffee grounds. These three kilo packets were being offered free for people to put in their gardens.  The lad loading up the bin said he used to work for the council doing landscape work. He said snails hate coffee grounds so that alone is a good reason to share them around outside.  He liked the recycling and he liked the way it reduced the café’s waste. He spent a long time making the display look nice. He was proud of his display. He was proud that the system was working. He said people loved to take the bags home with them but he did not think many people got on a bus or train carrying a bag of the wet coffee grounds.  He assumed that the majority of people who took them must live nearby.

10 April

It has been lashing with rain for a solid 24 hours.  I have tried various things to ignore it. There is rain pouring in through the bathroom ceiling.  There is rain dripping off the edge of one velux window. There is rain coming through a crack over the window in the book barn. We have spent a lot of time moving things out of the way and putting towels and newspapers down.  We have spent a lot of time moving the wet newspapers and putting down more newspapers. We have spent a lot of time checking other places which might be leaking and which sometimes leak but so far are not leaking.  The wind is particularly wild and I think water is blowing in directions and crannies where it would never usually go. We have put on loud music to cover the sound of the wind and the rain. We have kept a fire going in the stove all day just to be rid of the sense of every single thing being damp. I cannot wait until this day is over.  I do not know why I think tomorrow will be any better.

11 April

One of the side effects of all this rain is that the top of the plastic box which we use as our post box fills with water. It makes a rectangular lake of water about 2 inches deep. Today I went to lift the lid off the box to check for post. My scarf dipped into the little lake and immediately soaked up water.  Capillary action.  My scarf sucked up water so fast that it was already wet six inches up from the bottom by the time I got back into the house.

12 April

Irish language news comes on the radio at half past the hour.  The news is read in Irish but as soon as it switches to sport everything goes back to English.

13 April Wednesday

There are the kind of daffodils which get planted out to bloom early. These are the ones which cheer people up after the long winter. The early-flowering daffodils are a great sign. The early-flowering daffodils are a sign of hope. The early daffodils are what most people plant. Then there are the late-flowering daffodils that keep the blooming going for a long time. There are also the sort of mid-season bulbs which again keep a display going. Most people are always eager for the earliest possible blooms so they put in the early-flowering bulbs and then they are always meaning to put in more to keep the blooming staggered and going for many weeks. Most people mean to put in more bulbs but by the time the autumn comes they forget that they meant to put more in and anyway in November they feel certain there will be plenty of daffodils in the spring.  in November, daffodils are not the main thing in anyone’s mind. This is what Marie explained to me in a big rush.  I have put more punctuation in than she said. She barely took a breath in the entire time she was speaking. I simply could not write what she said the way she said it.

14 April

I have been called up for Jury Duty.  I had the letter some weeks ago but now the time is nearly here. I told this to the hairdresser while I was having my hair cut. I asked him if he had ever been on a jury.  He said he was called up once, but he got out of it.  He had his doctor write him a note. He said if he gets called again he will get out of it again. I told him I believed in the jury system as a way for everyone to get a fair trial. I said I was not very eager to do it but since I believed in it I guess I should be willing to do it.   I asked him why he would not to do it. He said he knows everyone in the town and he is related to most of them.  And on top of that, he works with the public everyday.   He whispered, “I am in a position to Overhear Things.”

15 April

Geraldine had been away for a few years. When she returned she was no longer as chubby as she once was. The Parish Priest saw her and declared “You are nearly not yourself! You look like a Rasher!”

16 April

There was a bunch of keys left on the counter near where we were paying for our breakfast. I picked them up and handed them to the girl at the register.  She said, “Oh, they must belong to the couple who just went up stairs.” She threw the keys onto our tray. She said, “You’re going upstairs yourselves.  You take them.”

17 April

The boreen is a terrible mess.  The winter has been long and there has been so much rain. Huge holes have been gouged out by rushing water. Water poured off the fields and onto the track. Water poured downhill from wherever was above to wherever was lower.  Water poured out of the sky. There are deep holes and there are shallow holes. Some are long cracks and some are enormous and deep like sheep dips. It is not unusual for all four wheels of the car to be in holes at the same time. There are more than enough holes for there to be one for each tyre at any given stretch of the road. It is nearly impossible to swerve a little and avoid the ruts and the ripped out places as we drive in or out. This might well be the worst it has ever been. It is a new low in terms of road damage.

22 April

I reported to Jury Duty on Monday.  I did not want to be chosen but I was indeed chosen and put onto a jury.   Several people were eliminated because they knew a witness. Eventually we had a complete jury all sworn in. Four men and eight women.  I was the only one who asked to be sworn in without the Bible. I was the only person without an Irish name.  The judge sent us into a room to choose a Foreman.  A Garda accompanied us to the room which had a long table and twelve chairs.  No one volunteered for the job of Foreman.  There were twelve spiral bound pads of paper and a plastic box of red pencils on the table. Most of the pencils were not very sharp. We folded little pieces of paper and wrote numbers. Someone emptied the box of pencils and we put the numbers into the box and a woman picked a number.  The woman who was that number in the order around the table shrieked and said she just could not do it. Another number was picked and the young man whose number that was said he would do it as someone had to do it.   We rang our bell which was behind the door and the Garda came to fetch us and lead us back into the courtroom.  The judge assured us that the case would be finished by Thursday afternoon at the latest.  We were instructed about the case and the charges and told not to tell anyone anything. Then we were sent home and told to return in the morning.  We were told that we must enter and exit the courthouse by way of a back gate.  A buzzer was present to let us in and to let us out.  We were also told that lunch would be provided each day.

I met an older woman in the car park who recognized me from the jury selection. She had been there in the initial group but she had not been chosen. She was deeply disappointed.  She said she was envious that I had been chosen. We talked for a few minutes and then she wished me luck.  As she turned away she said, And You, you are not even Irish. I was not sure if that was simply an observation on her part or if she felt that someone born in the country should have priority in these situations.  I decided not to ask what she meant.

The next day we spent a lot of time in our room. We had tea-making facilities and a water cooler.  There was one loo for men and one for women. The smokers could step outside the door for a cigarette. We were called into the courtroom and then after a little while and a few questions to witnesses we would be asked to retire.  We spent more time in our room than in the courtroom.  At lunch time we were invited to choose between chicken and lamb. Four lamb, seven chicken and one vegetarian.  Our Garda had to swear on the Bible to take care of us and not to let us discuss the case with anyone. When lunch was ready, we were led across the street.

Lunch was upstairs in a building which is a learning centre for people with special needs.  There is a coffee shop on the street level run by the students.  I went there once and it seemed to serve a lot of cakes and things made with jello. We were led up a flight of stairs and deep into the back of the building.  We went into a room where two long tables had been pushed together to make a large square table.  Twelve places were laid on the oilcloth cover.  We sat down and one lady served us all from a big hot stainless steel tray thing on wheels.  The Garda had his own table and sat by himself and ate by himself.  There was an enormous amount of food and two kinds of potatoes and three kinds of vegetables which kept being replenished on big platters.  We ate and ate.  Then we had huge slabs of cake and coffee and tea and when we were finished we were led out and back across the street and in through the back gate.  This everyday food for the jury was as plentiful as though we were working hard out on the land.

We spent a lot of time getting to know one another and discussing the case and mostly discussing how little we knew. Each morning we all had theories about the things we did know. The accused was defending himself and never seemed to have more than one question for each witness. It was frustrating to spend so much time not in the courtroom. It was frustrating that the things happening in there were not things that we were being told .

By the time the defendant changed his plea from Not Guilty to Guilty and the judge dismissed us for the last time, we were exhausted from several days of so much waiting and hanging around.  We were exhausted from the limbo of it all.  We all shook hands and said good-bye.  Most of us will never see one another again.  We came from all over the county. There was one man from way up in Nenagh.  We might bump into one another somewhere but we might not. I do not know if the order for us not to tell anyone about the case is still in effect or if we are now free to tell whatever we want to tell about it.

23 April

Breda and I took buckets and gloves and a spade and walked up the path to Johnnie’s orchard. Trees and branches are still blocking the path. We had a bit of a wiggle getting underneath the biggest tree with our equipment. Each time I crawl underneath that tree I promise myself that I will return with a saw. Breda wanted to dig up some wild garlic to replant near her riding ring. The dogs trampled what she had put in before closer to the house. I bring some garlic down to plant every year.  It is now coming up all over the place and multiplying.  I do not really need to transplant more but it is a thing I do in the spring so I shall continue to do it.  I have put it under the apple trees and under the birch trees and under a willow and near the water butt by the barn and near the sauna and on the primrose wall and near the flowering currants.  Soon it will look like Johnnie’s orchard which is completely carpeted with wild garlic.  The white flowers are not in bloom yet up there but when they are the carpet will be complete.  It is beautiful with the leaves covering every inch of ground.  We filled our buckets and dragged them to the end where the track meets the tar road.  We walked back down and drove up to fetch our supplies and then drove straight up into the mountains with the whole van smelling of garlic.  We walked in the late sun and silence surrounded by bright yellow gorse and a few sheep. We drove home in a cloud of garlic.

24 April

Calves are in the field which is elevated above the track where I walk.  These are the calves who have just hit their teen-age years.  They are strong and feisty and they are always in a hurry. As I walk up the track, one calf runs over to see what I am doing.  Then they all rush to the side of the wall and they rush along beside me.  There is a lot of jostling to get closest to whatever might be happening. They do not want to miss anything. There is a place at the end of that field where wooden fencing comes together in a tight corner. It is the very last point at which the crowd can accompany me.  The only brown calf takes up position in that corner.  He does not rush with the others in the crowd. I guess I should call it a herd not a crowd but they make such a thing of pushing and jockeying for position I think of these calves as an unruly crowd not a herd. The brown one moves his head back and forth and back and forth.  Left to right and left to right as if he is saying no. No. No. No. I think probably he is just using the fence corner as a scratching place for his neck. The other calves ignore him and he ignores them and he ignores me.  He just keeps turning his head from left to right without a pause.

25 April

The Wood Road has had two traffic lights moving along its length for two or three weeks now. The lights change the two-lane road into a one-lane road for a distance. I keep meaning not to use that road but I keep forgetting.  Each time the wait is as long as fifteen minutes. Each time I sit there with four or five other vehicles while we wait for the light to change and let us continue.  The radio is dead in the jeep so fifteen minutes is a long and quiet wait. The men and their digger are gouging, scraping and clearing out clay and undergrowth all along the edge of the road.  They are clearing a distance of a meter off the tarmac wherever they can. They are stopped going any further by stone walls or the ditch. The stuff that they dig out gets poured into a lorry and then taken and dumped somewhere down the road.  When the truck returns the digging and scraping begins again.  It is slow work.  The Wood Road is about four kilometers from Knocklofty Bridge to the Dungarvan Road turn-off.  At this rate, the work could go on for months.

26 April

Johnnie Mackin was a man who knew how to do everything.  He is known locally as a man who could do anything. He knew how to do most things and he taught himself to do the things that he did not know how to do but that he wanted to know how to do. He invented a fair number of things that had already been invented. He invented a gun, and a record player, and he taught himself to paint and he built beehives out of cement. At some point he taught himself to carve letters into stone.  He made a tombstone for his mother and he made one for his sister.  He made one for himself too.  I am a little confused about this.  I think he must have made two for himself.  Anyway, he is the only dead person in the graveyard at Grange who has one tombstone at his head and one at his feet.

27 April

The shop just inside the West Gate heading into Irish Town surprised me today. It has been brightly painted and it is now THE HOUSE OF LOURDES.  Or it was The House of Lourdes and now it is ready to be something else. There is a sign in the window offering the place To Let. I do not walk down that way often when I am in Clonmel so I do not know how long The House of Lourdes has been The House of Lourdes. The last I remember there was a Polish food shop in that building.  Many years before that there was a shop which sold clothes and boots and equipment for hill climbers and for fishermen. I think there were a few other businesses in between but I cannot remember what they were.

28 April

I have only been in the house for a matter of minutes.  I took old bread out to the table. Today is another cold and windy day.  We are promised sleet and hail and even thunder by afternoon. Each day is long and bright with interludes of precipitation.  Each day is cold. Except for occasional moments of bright sun, it is not warm. Spring is simply refusing to settle this year.  I broke the bread into crumbs and small pieces.  I wondered who would come for the bread. Would the fox arrive to eat it? Or would the birds get there first? I have only been in the house for a few minutes.  As I look out the young fox is already standing on the table eating the bread in yet another sudden downpour.

29 April

Another packet of greeting cards has arrived from the Mouth and Foot Painters of Ireland.  Usually I receive these cards before Christmas.  I never really like them and I never want them but I always end up paying for those which have been sent.  It feels churlish to send them back.  This new group of six cards and envelopes arrived as a Spring Pack.  A hand-written letter by Steven Chambers (Mouth Painter) explains the seasonal selection. Of course, it is not a hand-written letter.  It is a mouth-written letter. There are pictures on the back of the letter of the various painters, all Mouth Painters. No Foot Painters. I think Foot Painters are more rare. Each person is described by how they came to have no hands or arms.  I see the term limb deficient for the first time. Some of the painters are described as having other hobbies besides painting.  One woman with no arms is also a keen ballet dancer.  Steven himself paints in watercolors but what he really likes is fishing. I know I will not send these cards back. I know I will send the money instead.

30 April

I had already decided that the last full bucket of nuts was the final bucket of nuts.  The cold and the bitterness is supposed to end.  They keep telling us that this cold cannot go on. The birds do not stop eating and eating.  As often as I fill the feeders they are empty again. This morning I felt mean when I looked out at the nearly empty feeders and all the birds waiting to get a turn.  I took the bucket down to the shop and filled it half-full. I decided that half-full was still a lot of feeding. It is a big bucket.  This time it really would be my last bucket of the year.  I was waiting to have it weighed.  There was no one in the shop except a man with a long white beard standing around.  He was waiting to be served too. While we waited I told him of my dilemma about not wanting to buy more bird nuts but buying more bird nuts anyway. We both waited and looked around. I saw a lovely soft brush with a wooden handle.  It was all by itself, not in any kind of group with other brushes. There were three sections of brush on the flat wood. Each one was complete in itself so it was three brushes on one handle. I picked it up.  I loved it and I wanted it but I did not need it. The man with the long beard saw me looking at it and he told me that it was a distemper brush. Then he told me how his mother and his grandmother used goose feathers for the same job because they were strong and long.  He said everyone had a theory and a method for applying distemper to their walls. When John came in and asked which of us was first the man with the long white beard pointed to me and said She’s in a hurry. She has birds needing feeding in this desperate cold.

1 May

I am sorry to learn that John has died. I thought of him as The Ancient Man for a long time before I knew his name. He died two weeks ago.  He had a fall and broke his pelvis and after a while they brought him back from hospital but he only lasted three weeks at home.  Anyone who walked the river path spoke with John over the years. He knew everyone and everyone knew him.  John walked with his old dog Sally and then he walked without her when she died some years ago. He said he could not start again with a young dog. All of his dogs had  been called Sally and at the age of 92 he forgot how many Sallys he had had. John walked five miles a day every day until last year when he reduced his walking to five days a week instead of seven days a week. Even with all that walking John looked much older than 92. He walked very very slowly and he stopped often for a lot of conversations. I knew quite a bit about John just from meeting once a week over the years, but I did not know his last name.  I did not know where he lived and I did not know his family. I would not even know that he had died if I had not met Dora, who also walks with her dog on the path.

2 May

I have been in and out and back and forth and in the barn sewing books and packing parcels all day long all the time dressed in my garden gear.  I have carried my grubby gloves in my pockets at all times. At one point I passed near the washing line, admired the flapping laundry and I thought that today was a perfect drying day and then I thought I must get to work out here in the sunshine and by the time I came out of my room a few minutes later, the rain was lashing down and it was cold and bitter and horrible.  Again.  In between attempts and downpours I have done a lot of other things but now at 5.30 I have changed out of my Welly boots and my wet soil encrusted trousers and I am no longer going to try to do anything out of doors, even if it stays perfectly sunny until 9 pm as it probably will do.  I am giving up.

3 May

One day last week we drove up and walked in the mountains at five o’clock. It was too cold to stay long but the late light was beautiful. We lasted about forty minutes before the wind defeated us. We stopped in at Rose’s for a quick drink on the way home.  The bar smelled terrible.  We immediately started looking at the floor as it smelled like something rotten from a farmyard had come in on the bottom of someone’s boots.  We couldn’t see anything on the floor so we figured it must be on someone’s trousers. There were only four or five people in there. Perhaps someone was spreading slurry all day and had stopped for a drink before going home to change. We drank up quickly and did not stay for another.  Today I talked to Peter.  He had just come up from Rose’s. She had asked him to stop in before the bar was open and before the fire was lit to check out the smoking of her chimney and her woodstove. She did not mention a bad smell. What he found in the chimney was a dead jackdaw. The jackdaw was squished into the chimney in a nearly impossible position.  Peter could not figure how the bird could have squeezed herself in and out of the very small available space as many times as would have been needed to build a nest and then to sit on the nest and lay the eggs.  He said the nest was made of all kinds of stuff: beer mats and cigarette ends and string and rags as well as the usual plant stuff. The jackdaw was sitting on eight eggs. The eight eggs were stuck to the body of the dead jackdaw and the whole mess was now in a skip outside the bar for anyone to see. Quite a few people had been out to have a look.

5 May

I have never folded up an Irish flag. I have never watched anyone else fold up an Irish flag.  There are more flags around than usual which I think is a result of the 1916 Rising anniversary commemorations. Pat told me that the people of Ireland have recently taken back their flag. She said that the IRA had sort of co-opted the flag for many years so people did not want to fly it and to perhaps be misunderstood.  Flying the flag in all sorts of places and on private property has never been a habit. I was surprised to see there was not even a flag in the courtroom when I was there on jury duty.  Now there are more flags and people are okay about flying them.  This morning I overheard a conversation about folding the flag.  A man was telling a small boy that one must always fold the flag so that the orange does not touch the green. I gather the green can touch the white and the orange can touch the white, but the green and the orange cannot touch each other.  There must be a particular fold that makes all this happen. I do not know if this was the man’s own rule about flag folding or if it is fact.

6 May

Pascal has six calendars hung up in the kitchen.  He has six different calendars up in a very tiny kitchen with not much wall space. The calendars are the only things on the walls and Pascal’s wife is not very happy about having so many calendars. She agrees that it is a fine thing to have a calendar on the wall because you need to know the day and sometimes you need to know about a day a week from now, but one calendar is enough for that.  Six calendars do not tell you any more than one calendar can tell. Actually there is a seventh calendar and the seventh calendar is the most annoying one because it is right over the taps.  It is the kind with a bright red number and each day the number gets pulled off and the days date is exposed.  Pascal loves to pull yesterday’s number off each morning before he even drinks his tea.  He reprimands her for splashing water on the pages.  The whole year of little pages is swollen and looks much bigger and longer than a year really is.  She tells Pascal to put the little calendar somewhere else where it will not get wet but every year this is where he puts it.  They squabble about it week after week.  She pointed this out to me right away before she Wet The Tea in the pot. Wetting the Tea is how she describes the pouring of hot water over the leaves to make a pot of tea. This morning is not the first time I have been told about their soggy year. It will not be the last time I am told about their soggy year.

7 May

The Emigrants Rest is painted in large letters on the the side of the building. The building is not attached to any other buildings and it is on a corner which forces a turn in the road.  The Emigrant’s Rest is the name of a bar.   The sign is visible while driving into town. If one is driving out of town on the same road the painted sign over the door on the front of the bar is Bernie Mac’s.  If a person is looking for Bernie Mac’s on the way into town that person will never find the place. If a person is driving out of town and looking for The Emigrants Rest that too will not be found. It is as if two different places exist in the same building. I cannot help but wonder if some of the customers go for a night out at Bernie Mac’s while others go to The Emigrants Rest.

8 May

Last week I went to Bob Fitzgerald’s.  It was just after nine o’clock. The outside shutters were still down. The door of the shop was open but there were no wheelbarrows or ladders or sacks of grass seed out on the pavement.  I was not sure if they were ready for business.  It was dark inside but the shop was full of tradesmen getting stuff for the day’s work.  There was a feeling of imperative and rushing in the place. That is why there was so little light.  Everyone was too busy to finish opening the shop.  They were too busy to open the shutters and they were too busy to turn on the lights.  I bought myself a pair of knee pads in the gloom. The knee pads are made of some heavy foam.  They are made for roofers and people who do jobs on their knees.  I felt very pleased with myself.  I wore my new knee pads around the house all day yesterday. The pads attached around the back of my legs with elastic straps and velcro. It rained all day so I did not even consider working outside for one minute but I wore the new knee pads just because I was so proud to own them. I only took them off when I went for a walk at the end of the afternoon.  I could not pull my waterproof trousers on over the new knee pads.

Today I strapped on the new knee pads and I went outside.  The morning was bright and sunny but that did not last. The rest of the day was overcast and balmy.  Even though it was grey, it was warm and after yesterday’s non-stop downpour, I can call today a fine day.  I worked away at this and that.  Clearing the scutch grass and the creeping buttercup from beds and edges is a thankless and never-ending job.  My new knee pads were a disaster.  They just kept slipping down my legs each time I walked.  I decided that they must be made for grown men.  I decided they must be made for grown men with thick legs.  I wondered about how to fix them. I wondered if perhaps I could make the elastic shorter.  I wondered if they were slipping down because my trousers were sort of slipping down.  I  wondered if I should just put the knee pads into the shed and pretend I never I bought them.  I adjusted them every so often and then they were great but they always slipped away again. I was disappointed and I was very very quiet about them. I had been so happy anticipating how good they were going to be. Late afternoon, I went indoors to make a cup of tea.  I waited for the kettle to boil and I looked down.  I realized that I had been wearing the knee pads upside down, all day yesterday and all day today. I turned them around, re-attached the velcro and suddenly I had the knee pads I had been dreaming of.  I went back outside for a few more hours just to enjoy how well they worked.

9 May

I drove down to the village just before noon.  Cars were parked everywhere.  Even as I crossed the bridge I could tell it was a funeral. Funerals are always held at eleven am.  This funeral had just finished.  Some people were disappearing around the corner on foot as they followed the hearse down the road to the graveyard.  I could not park. I could not stop because there was no where to stop without being in the way of  someone. The bread man had arrived to deliver bread to the shop. He parked in the only available spot which was directly in front of the church and which the hearse had just vacated. He was trying to unload his bread. There were people standing everywhere talking to one another. They were on the pavements and in the middle of the road. The day was warm and everyone was happy to be out and seeing one another for some conversation. No one looked sad.  Some cars were trying to pull out and some were trying to turn around. I could barely get through the cars and the people. I would not have driven to the village if I had known there was a funeral but I did not know there was a funeral, and I did not know the woman who had died even after I was told her name and where she lived.

10 May

I was having a cup of coffee and reading after lunch when I heard crunching on the gravel. Then I heard tearing and snuffling.  I looked out the window and saw a young cow on the lawn. It was one of the frisky teenagers. I ran outside.  There were five more young ones with the first one. They ran when they saw me running.  Simon rushed out too.  We both shouted and waved sticks. The heifers ran around behind the barn in a tight group. Then they were stuck because behind the barn was a dead end. They clumped together and could not figure out how to escape. The stone wall, the fence and the building had them trapped. It is not easy to get cows to change direction if you are in a position behind them. I climbed the fence into the field to encourage them from the side while Simon hid behind a bush.  When they saw there was no longer anyone behind them, they rushed out from their entrapment to escape my noise and waving arms and waving stick.  Simon stopped them from running down into the meadow with his flapping arms and flapping stick.  We got them onto the boreen and chased them off in the direction of the farm.  They did not go very far before they were distracted by edible young green things around them. I got into the car and drove up the track slowly with them scurrying and bumping each other along in front of me. It was lucky for us that they were young and not too heavy. The damage to the soft wet lawn was not too bad.  It would have been much much worse if they had been full-grown adults.  My coffee was cold by the time I got back.

11 May

Johnnie Mackin’s orchard is looking fine. The trees are full with apple and plum blossom. The ground is completely covered with the long leaves of wild garlic and the garlic flowers are all in bloom so there is a twinkling of the white star-like blossoms against the dark green.  And in between and around the edges there are masses of stitchwort.  More white flowers. It is a world of white polka dots on a green backdrop. It looks planned. Oscar wading through it all is so very big and black.  He is like a cut-out shape of dog amidst the green and white. He makes it all look greener and brighter and whiter.

12 May

I am curious about the Unemployed Workers Party.   I am not really curious enough to look it up nor to even ask anyone about it. I mostly just wonder if when a member gets a job does he or she have to leave the party?

13 May

Sharon was outside.  She was outside wearing a fluffy pink bathrobe. Her two small dogs were on leads.  She never lets them run free because she knows they will take a scent and be off to who knows where.  The leads were the long kind which stretch as far as the dog wants to go.  They were all tangled around her legs. She commented that I must be missing Em whenever I am out walking.  She told me how she still misses dogs from her past even thought she now has these two.  She told me that she has a small shrine on the wall in the house, one for each of the dogs she has loved.  One includes the teeth of that dog.  She then told me that she and her sister are fostering a small dog which had been abused.  They took turns having the dog stay with them. She said the dog is a small Staffie. Horrific things had been done to this dog.  Its feet are bent up in a forward direction. As a result, the dog can hardly walk but he does hobble about and seems to now be in less pain and he is putting on weight and the terrible burns probably from cigarettes are healing.  She kept telling me more and more details about the abuse. I did not want to hear it but how could I not listen and anyway she barely took a breath in the telling.  It took me quite a while to realize that she was suggesting that I might want this dog to take the place of Em. I said that I was not ready for a new dog.  I said that I really did not think I could own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier no matter how desperately it needed a home.  I did not say that a dog who cannot walk is hardly the dog for me. I had said enough to refuse the kind offer. Oscar was waiting and we rushed off up the road together. I was happy to be with a dog who could run and jump with pleasure.  I have been thinking about the teeth in the shrine ever since.