some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Open this Saturday?

4 January 2016 Monday

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 2016 Tuesday

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 Wednesday

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 Thursday

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 Friday

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 Saturday

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 Sunday

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.

A Good Grubber

11 January Monday

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 Tuesday

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.

photo 2

13 January Wednesday

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 Thursday

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 Friday

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 Saturday

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 Sunday

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 Monday

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 Tuesday

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 Wednesday

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 Thursday

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.”

Just After

23 January Saturday

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 Wednesday

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 Sunday

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.

If it was any better it would be wrong

17 March Patrick’s Day

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 Monday

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 Tuesday

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

23 March Wednesday

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 Thursday

My friend 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.

She’s Happy Out

26 March Saturday

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 Easter Sunday

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 Tuesday

Jim 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. Jim’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. Jim is feeling smug. I am not the first person who has been told about Jim’s oil and Jim’s firewood.

30 March Wednesday

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.


31 March Thursday

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.

The First Swallow

1 April Friday

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 Saturday

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.

bike on mat

3 April Sunday

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 Monday

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 Tuesday

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 Wednesday

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 Thursday

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.

Wet Coffee Grounds

8 April Friday

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.

photo 2

9 April Saturday

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 Sunday

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 Monday

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 Tuesday

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.

Not to tell anyone anything

14 April Thursday

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 Friday

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 Saturday

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 Sunday

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 Friday

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.

Just inside the West Gate

23 April Saturday

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 Sunday

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 Monday

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 Tuesday

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 Wednesday

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 Thursday

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 Friday

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.

Dead Jackdaw

30 April Saturday

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 Sunday

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 Monday Bank Holiday

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 Tuesday

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 Thursday

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 Friday

Pascal has six calendars hung up in the kitchen.  He has all six hanging up in a very tiny kitchen which has not much wall space. They are the only things on the walls and Pascal’s wife is not very happy about having so many of them. 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 surely enough for that.  Six calendars do not tell you any more than one tells. Actually there is a seventh one.  Pascal’s wife says the seventh one 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 that 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 boiling 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.

The Teeth in the Shrine

7 May Saturday

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 Sunday

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 Monday

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 Tuesday

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 Wednesday

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 Thursday

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?

photo 2

13 May Friday

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.  Both animals 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 canine pets she has loved.  One includes the teeth of a particular dog.  She then told me that she and her sister are fostering a rescue dog which had been abused.  They took turns having him stay with them. She said he is a small Staffie. Horrific things had been done to him.  His feet are bent up in a forward direction. As a result, he can hardly walk but hobbles about and now seems to 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 to replace Em.  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 her 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.

Dusty Cards

14 May Saturday

I went into the shop in Cahir looking for a newspaper.  The English paper I wanted was not there.  It had not been in the other two other shops either.  Either it was already sold or it had never arrived today. I knew that meant there was not one to be found in the whole town. I stopped to look at the postcard rack on my way out.  When I rotated it a little bit to get a more complete viewing, three large folders fell down.  They were leaning up against the back of the rack. The man at the counter whom I assume is Mr. Sampson because the shop is called Sampsons and I have never seen anyone but himself in there, said that it did not matter. He said everything was always moving and falling in the shop. I chose two cards of a pony named Bridge Boy who was three times adjudged Champion Connemara Stallion.  The information on the card also told me that the Connemara Pony is the only indigenous breed of pony in the country.  He looked completely unreal against a bright blue sky which looked equally unreal. I took the two cards up to the counter and the man who might or might not be Mr. Sampson commented on how dusty they were.  He pulled out a rag and started to wipe them off but then he stopped because they were kind of sticky.  He said he was not any better at cleaning than he is at making displays and if the cards were too dusty for my taste I need not feel obligated to buy them. I told him I have no problem with dust and I purchased both cards.

15 May Sunday

Cleaning The House has taken on a new meaning. We got out an extendable mop thing which I believe is intended for washing windows but which we have never used for washing windows. This is the first time we have used it for anything.  One side of the house was completely splattered with white bird excrement.  The windows and the walls were covered with enormous white splashes. It was not just six or eight splashes.  It was more like sixty.  All of the splashes hit the wall at the same diagonal. It looked like an enormous flock was passing and the wind was blowing and they all let go at the exact same moment.  Actually the splattering splashes did not all appear at the same time. I think they built up over a week.  It just looks like it all happened at once. And since the house is painted this peculiar pinky-purple color, which would perhaps look normal at the seaside but here looks a little strange, the white splashes stood out as very loud.

16 May Monday

Nine Egg Morning.  Eggs have been broken open all along the path. They are pale blue.  Every day there are more. This morning is the first time I have counted while walking.  Nine eggs seems like a lot.  Some are Thrush eggs and some are Blue tits.  Or maybe they are all Blue tits or all Thrushes.  The shades of blue vary from very light almost white to bright almost aqua.  I am not any better at identifying eggs than I am at identifying birds. I am most excited if I find a really large portion of the egg shell unbroken, or broken into two tidy  parts.


17 May Tuesday

Tommie described the new car which Jack had bought. He was impressed and excited about the car.  He was as excited as if the car was his own car. He said it was a great bargain. It said it was old, but it was perfect. He explained its level of perfection by saying that it was A Woman’s Car before Jack got it.

Visiting Dogs

24 May Tuesday

Arriving back from away is always new. The arrival itself and the place itself are completely familiar. The familiarity is both comforting and comfortable. Things are always changing. Things are the same but they are never exactly the same. We got home late afternoon. Simon kept repeating: It is so quiet here. It is so quiet here. It is so quiet here. I though it a bit noisy myself as tractors were racing back and forth up in Joe’s fields getting silage in and some cows were bellowing in another field and the birds, well, the birds were making a racket. But he is right.  It is quiet here.

25 May Wednesday

I had a plastic container full of dog treats. It was labeled Visiting Dogs with thick black marker on brown paper tape.  It had all sorts of things in it.  Some were things that Em never liked and some were things she was unable to eat in her last months. There were sections of pig’s ears and rawhide chews and little straw-like things.  I kept the box around for a long time and whenever I remembered I would offer a treat to a Visiting Dog.   It took me forever to use up this mish-mosh of odd things because I usually just went directly to the big box of biscuits. I kept forgetting the plastic container. After a while I dumped the odd things in with the biscuits and that way whatever I pulled out for a dog is what he or she got offered. I removed the piece of brown tape from the empty container and stuck it up on a shelf.  The tape itself was not a reminder of Em. It was a reminder of life after Em. Now the tape is peeling off.  It is dry and the words Visiting Dogs are less and less visible as it curls up. The tape is peeling off the shelf and soon it will just drop.  I could pull it off and throw it away.  I should pull it off and throw it away.

26 May Thursday

Greg’s rubbery wet suit hung on a curtain rail suspended by two ropes from a tree in the rain.  It was flesh colored because it was turned inside out. The flesh color made it look exposed and very naked. It was sort of a surprise but not really a surprise.  Wet suits are everywhere on this island now.  Everyone can swim in the freezing cold sea or they can go kite surfing all year long because having a wet suit makes it possible. Not long ago it was unusual to see a wet suit anywhere at all.  Today wet suits are sold in supermarkets, which is the most surprising thing.

photo 4

27 May Friday

Cow parsley is everywhere.  It is the time of year when every road and field is lined with it. Everything everywhere has frothy soft edges.  I struggled up the path through much too much of it. I am too short for the cow parsley.  It has grown up high.  It has grown up over my head. The only way I could keep going was to hold my arms up in front of my face.  My elbows were at chin level and my fingers were pointing straight up.  I was looking out through a narrow slit between my forearms which was just enough for me to see what was ahead but not wide enough to allow any of the blossoms and stems to slap me in the face.

When the animals bar my way

28 May Saturday

David the Egg Man made a visit to the market today.  Everyone was happy to see him. It is maybe two months since he gave up the market.  As always, his leather shoes were well polished.  His eyes were bright. He did not look like someone who had just come out of hospital. He did not look like someone who was almost 85 and just out of hospital.  He explained to each person who greeted him that he had found homes for all of the Laying Hens and he had only kept eight back for himself.  He was wondering if he had been a bit hasty as the eight he had kept did not even lay enough eggs for his own use.  Both of his sons stopped in nearly every day still expecting to find eggs to take home for their families.  Neither of them had adjusted to buying eggs in a shop.

29 May Sunday

I was sitting outside with a book and a cup of tea. It is too warm to do much except to enjoy this weather.  I looked up from the page and saw the fox standing a few feet from my chair. It was the young fox, the one with the bright red shiny coat.  He looked at me and I looked at him.  Neither of us moved. If I had stretched out my leg I could have touched him with my foot.   I went back to my book.  He sat down for a few minutes and then he got up and quietly continued off down the field.

30 May Monday

The heat continues. No one can believe it.  It goes on and and and it does not rain and everyone is happy although now they are starting to worry for the crops and if it might be getting too hot.  We cannot walk up the Mass Path because it is so overgrown with the cow parsley and other stuff and the only way to walk through all of that is to wear long trousers and long sleeves and since it is too hot for that much clothing we have to do our walking elsewhere.  We decided to meet and go up along the waterfall and then cross the river and cut back on the ridge, over the side of the mountain and then drop down the fields. It was a large loop and maybe a bit hot and exposed for the time of day. Breda had sort of invented this walk and she was eager to do it again.  This would be her fourth time and each time she was refining and varying the route a little bit.  I had done it with her the other day when it was equally hot so I knew I was foolish to do it again in the sun.

Before we set off we saw Michael Kennedy.  Breda called out to him Hello Michael to get his attention because when we had been out the other day we wanted to ask him about the nearby Holy Well.  He came over and I saw that it was not Michael Kennedy but Breda kept talking to him and using his name and he kept answering.  I was sure it was Jimmy Dunne but I could not say anything because I felt like I would be interrupting.  He went down the narrow path with the four of us.  He showed us that there were actually three wells in that place and he said that they were all considered Holy. He said that all the local babies had been dipped into that water no matter how cold it was nor what time of year.  He told us that the small field just beside was called a chapel even though there had never been a building built on it.  It was just a gathering place for any mass held at the holy well so the field got called The Chapel. We walked back to the starting place with the man who was not Michael.  Then we saw Michael himself walk down from his farmyard and Breda recognized her mistake. It was not Michael she had been talking to but his brother Jimmy.  It was not Jimmy Dunne but Jimmy Kennedy.  Jimmy did not mind being mistaken for Michael.  He did not mind being called Michael.  He had simply answered her questions the best he could.

31 May Tuesday

Tommie was told to drink more water.  He was told that he needs to hydrate himself.  He needs to hydrate himself on a regular basis but especially now that the days are warm and the sun is high.  Tommie was told that hot sweet milky tea is good but it is not the same as water.  He was told to drink water.  He complained about this to everyone he met. He asked me if I drank water myself.  He said he was too old to start drinking water. He said Why would anyone drink water? It Carries no Flavour.

1 June Wednesday

Paudie’s brother died four years ago. He remembers the date exactly but he told me that he himself does not actually need to remember the date. He knows that the anniversary of his brother’s death will be marked by his parents in the same way each year. The Mother will be wearing one of The Brother’s hoodies all day. The Father will walk the dog while wearing The Brother’s favorite track suit. No one will say a word about the clothes being worn. Just seeing them will be enough.

Paudie says that the second year was the worst because that was when they lost telephone contact with The Brother. Up until then they had his same phone number and they rang whenever there was something to tell. They reported births and deaths and marriages and new jobs and funny stories and christenings and just any old thing that they knew The Brother would want to know. Everyone in the family rang him. They rang and they heard The Brother’s voice telling them to leave a message so they always left him a message.  His parents and his cousins and his Nana as well as Paudie himself and The Young Fella.  Even some of The Brother’s friends called to let him know when there was to be a big party or when someone had passed their driving test. Everyone left a message. No one wrote a text.

It was a shock on the day when The Mother rang with some bit of something to tell and to leave on the answer phone and she was informed by a recording that the number was no longer in service.  It took them a while to get through to each other and then to the phone people who said that the money in the mobile phone had run out and there was a limit to how long a telephone could still be considered active if it was not active.  The Mother wept and explained that it was indeed active.  She explained that they spoke with The Brother every day or almost every day and she asked how could they take his voice away.  Well, they did and it was too late to connect that same number again and so they lost the voice of The Brother and Paudie said that was the hardest thing after having already lost him once.

2 June Thursday

When the animals bar my way, I turn off the engine and wait.  If I am not in a car but I am walking I hop up on a gate to be out of the way. It is silly to get impatient. Today there was a great waving of arms by the farmer on the road. I was driving so I pulled off a bit to the side and waited. The farmer had a huge smile on his face.  Within minutes I understood his amusement. It was not just the sunny day.  A crowd of very young calves were rushing behind him.  There were about thirty of them. They were sort of high stepping in their eagerness.  One of them would turn its head to look behind him and very soon he had changed direction.  His body had unexpectedly followed his head and he was crashing and bumping into the other calves.  Because one changed direction another one would change direction too. They were all stumbling and bouncing off one another.  It was a thrilling time for them to be themselves. They did not know where they were going and it was obvious that it was the first time they had gone anywhere in a group. They had very thin legs and they were wobbly. As always with very young heifers it is difficult to use the word herd.  Herd suggests a kind of group sense and a comprehension of group movement.  This was just chaotic bumbling exhilaration while running along.  The farmer’s wife came up in the rear flapping her arms up and down and smiling with the same big smile on her face. It was impossible not to smile. The thrill of this small movement from one field to another field in the sunshine was infectious.

a Relic

3 June Friday

Sewing books in the barn on a hot day is tricky.  I need to leave the door open for air but the birds are swooping and dashing around especially the swallows who are nesting in the roof.  They consider the entire area of the barn their own world both inside and out. Once they fly in it is hard to get them out again. It is hard to get them out and they poop on everything in their rush and panic to find an exit which is not glass. Sometimes they knock themselves out flying into the windows. At least then it is easy to pick them up and take them back outdoors. In the past three days I have had three swallows, a starling and a wren in the barn.  Two knocked themselves unconscious and two I captured in a colander. One found the door and flew out by herself.

4 June Saturday

TJ the blacksmith spoke about the apple tarts that his mother made.  There were a lot of children to feed so his mother never made a tart with a top crust. Instead she made her apple tart on a large rectangular baking sheet.  There was a crust on the bottom with sliced apples and sugar and butter spread over the top.  When the children saw that their mother was preparing a tart they tried hard to be helpful by setting the table or doing some small job that she would notice.  They were eagerly competing to be one of the four chosen to receive a corner piece.  The corners were the best and sweetest pieces. The children were convinced that the sugar oozed down into the corners. Unless the baking tray was quite misshapen I do not think that the corners would have more sugar in them than any other portion of the tart, but TJ was so happy remembering the sweet corners that I said nothing. Or perhaps his mother piled extra sugar in the corners just to maintain the excitement.

5 June Sunday

Yesterday TJ installed a hand rail on the side of the barn. We were not allowed to touch it while the paint was wet. Today I have been up and down dozens of times simply enjoying the fact that it is there.


6 June Monday

Andrzej was explaining some of the surgery his sister has been going through.  She had a tumour in one part of her head or neck which had grown quietly inside her ever since she was a child and the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl exploded.  Almost everyone in their part of Poland had been affected as children but only now are the problems manifesting. It took this long for the tumour to grow and become something which anyone could find and identify.  Andrzej was trying to explain the situation of his sister’s neck and her surgery but because his English is not great he often has to resort to peculiar uses of language.  Today he spoke of the doctor who is going to fix The Yoke in the neck of his sister. Yoke is a catch-all kind of word.  It is a word which is used to name something or anything instead of using its proper name.  Yoke is interchangeable with Thing. Yoke is a thoroughly Irish bit of slang. It was fine to hear it coming from Andrzej with his strong Polish accent because I am sure that even if he had known the correct word for the part that was being fixed in his sisters neck we would not have known what it was anyway.  We would not have known the word in English nor in Polish.  It was just fine for him to call it a Yoke and for us to think of it as a Yoke.


7 June Tuesday

John the Post arrived early.  He jumped out of his van in great excitement about the freshly repaired boreen.  He was so happy with the filling in of all of the terrible holes and gashes that he could not say enough.  He already knew who had done the work. The man who had done the work was known to him.  He said we had found the exact right man for the job. We could not possibly have had anyone better unless we had had that same man’s father-in-law who had taught him every single thing he knew about tarmacadam.  John was also thrilled with yesterday’s cutting back of all the drooping cow parsley. The cow parsley and all of the nettles and tall things growing with it had been making the track narrower and narrower almost by the hour. He said he would happily drive up and down our boreen all day long.

8 June Wednesday

The milk trucks are too big for the road.  It does not matter if the milk truck is a DairyGold truck or a Glanbia truck. They charge right down the middle of the road and the middle of the road is the whole road. There is no where to go to get out of their way when they are racing towards you. Even when I am on foot they seem to leave no space. To meet them in a car is terrifying.  Now the roads are full of more big things. Every turn is a confrontation with a tractor pulling some enormous machinery sticking out both behind it and above it.  Sometimes the tractors slow down because they are so high they can see over the ditch and they can tell if a car is coming but most times they just bomb along. Silage, haying, and any kind of harvesting activity that needs doing while the sun is shining is being done right now and it is all being done at top speed.  It is a good time to stay home.

9 June Thursday

I drove into Cahir and saw bright orange cones all along by the church and the playing field. There were about six men in reflective vests directing  a very few cars. No one was allowed to park on either side of the road for quite a distance.  On my way back out of town a man in a reflective vest directed me in to the second left.  I asked why and he shouted The Relic!  A little farther along another man in a reflective vest stopped me.  I asked what was going on.  He was very excited.  He stood very near to my open window and he shouted “We have A Relic of Saint Anthony of Padua here and we have it here all afternoon!  We have it here until 9.30 tonight!”

10 June Friday

We woke to the sound of rain.  It is at least three weeks since we have had any rain at all.  Maybe it has even been longer.  To live in this hot summery world has been wonderful but in the last week there has been increased grumblings about the need for rain. Now that we have rain, new complaints will start.  There will be a lamenting that our summer is over already and really it was not nearly long enough.  Meanwhile it is lovely to watch the world turning greener by the minute. Heavy rain on the roof is a good sound.

Not oats.

11 June Saturday

The two narrow strips where the tyres travel are indeed nicely tarred and patched but the grass down the middle of the boreen is growing like mad.  It is the combination of so much rain followed by hot sun.  The grass scrapes the bottom of the car when we drive up or down.  It is much too wet to mow. If the grass gets much longer we can hope that maybe it will weigh itself down and lie flat.

12 June Sunday

I picked my elderflowers on Wednesday evening in bright sun. It felt a bit early but I wanted sunshine for the picking and we are promised a continuation of rain and overcast weather in the coming week. There were thousands of the creamy flowers to be seen in every direction but it was not easy to find many that were low enough to pick from the ground.  I did a lot of struggling through nettles but finally got my forty or fifty blossoms.  I was aiming for forty but I lost count and I always think that more is better than too few. I made the cordial.  It is a light brew. I am wondering if it will get stronger and maybe a little darker as it ages.  Today I put my labels onto the twelve bottles. The label with my same drawing changes a bit every year.  I am not sure how much I like this label. It is so good it nearly looks like a commercial production.

13 June Monday

photo 3Document9

14 June Tuesday

There is a strange sort of kindness built into life here.  People seem eager to tell you the thing that you want to hear.  They will tell you that you can get a bus connection even if it is not true and if in fact the very bus you want will be leaving three minutes before your own bus arrives. Maybe they tell you this  because they do not want to disappoint you.  There is no thought that you will be disappointed later on when you understand that you missed a bus which you were never going to catch anyway.

Simon went into town early this morning.  He went into town to do a few errands.  He likes to eat breakfast out so he left even earlier than he needed to. The girl in the restaurant gave him a coffee and took his order.  He feared that because he was the first customer of the day he might have a long wait. He did have a long wait. It took twenty minutes for the cook to come out of the kitchen and serve him a big bowl of porridge that was dark and thick and had strawberries stirred into it. He began to eat and realized that what was in the bowl was not porridge.  It was not oats. What he was eating was a kind of bread flour stirred up and served as if it were porridge.  Perhaps the strawberries were added to distract him.  He called the girl over and explained that he had been given a bowl of partially cooked brown bread flour mixed with water and berries. She went into the kitchen and returned saying that the cook had no oatmeal yet as he was waiting for a delivery.  She said that the cook did not want to be the one to disappoint so he made the bread mix hoping that Simon might not notice that it was not oats. She offered something else to replace the lack of porridge. Simon asked for a croissant so she brought him two croissants.  Then she returned to his table with a huge handful of small change.  She apologized and said he must be refunded for his lack of porridge.

15 June Wednesday

Rain. Hail. Thunder. Sun. Rain. Hail. Thunder. Sun. The weather is completely exciting.  We just do not know what will happen next. The order changes but it all keeps happening.

The recipe for the elderflower cordial, as requested

17 June Friday

Joe’s cows eat the grass in the field but no matter how flattened it all is by their tearing, they always leave some tufts and thistles and things.  When they walk off the field to go for milking or just off to a different field, the crows come swarming in looking for worms  and other things that they might want to eat. I think the crows have easier access to these things because the grass is low. All of the recent rain can only make it easier to find the things they seek too.

18 June Saturday

I love to look into the eyes of dogs.  My preferred way to look into the eyes of a dog is to lie down on the floor.  Some dogs are uncomfortable with a human lying beside them.  Even if I am not touching them, some dogs do not feel happy. Some dogs get up, walk away and throw themselves back down onto the ground at a little distance.  Some dogs stay right where they are and they look right back into my eyes.  If the grass is wet or the area muddy I do not lie down with a dog.  In a house that is not my own, I try to pay attention to whose house it is and if it might seem rude to lie down with their dog. It is more often than not a bad idea.  I do like looking at another person’s home from down on the floor, looking up and seeing their world as I think their dog might see it.

20 June Monday.

The Longest Day. Full Moon. Lashing Rain.


20 large elderflower blossoms

(Best gathered in the sunshine, as if they are collected on an overcast day, your cordial may taste like cat pee.  I have never checked to see if this is true but I am not willing to take the chance.)

4 lb. (1.8 kg) sugar

2 ¾ oz. (75g) citric acid

2 lemons

Put the flowers into a large bowl (remove all leaves first)

In a saucepan, bring the sugar and 2 pints (a generous litre) of water to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid over the flowers and stir in the citric acid.   Add grated zest of lemons, then slice the lemons and add them to the bowl too.

Cover and leave for 24 hours.

Strain through double muslin.

Pour into sterilized bottles and make a label.

Store in a cool dark place.

Makes about 1 1/2 litres or 2 ½ pints.

Serve a small amount of the cordial with sparkling or still water, with or without or ice.

The Things We Want To Have

14 July Thursday

Two small boys were in the shop. They were together in the little toy section which is behind the vegetable section.  They were examining the bags of plastic farm animals and the fencing and the various tractors on display. They were looking at all the things that they see in their lives everyday.  In the toy section of the shop everything is the same as it is out of doors but it is all on a smaller scale.  One boy said: Here we have all the things we want to have.

15 July Friday

They say that the recession is over and that employment is picking up all over the country.  John told me that the truth is a different story. He told me that he does not need a bulletin off the radio to tell him how things are.  His voice while he spoke was loud as he got angrier with the telling. He told me that Gerry had a robbery in his workshop last week.  He said the only thing stolen from the workshop was some lengths of copper pipe.  John said copper is easy to resell.  He said that copper gets a good price.  A lot of Gerry’s tools were lying around but none of his tools were stolen. One of the drills was new and another nail gun kind of a thing was not only new but it was German.  John assured me that it was a good brand.  John said it had been Savage Dear to buy. He said he knew that For A Fact.  The tools were not stolen and John said that that tells him more about the lay of the land than any words the politicians are telling.  He said that no one is stealing tools because no one is buying tools.  No one is buying tools because there is no work.  He told me that if there is no work there is no need for tools.  He told me these were the facts. He told me not to waste my own time listening to any news off the radio or on the paper.

16 July Saturday

This might be the best ever year for figs.  The branches are heavy with them.  If the heat continues I think there will be loads.  I check them every day because I know the birds are checking too.

17 July Sunday

The dead bird is gone.  I saw him yesterday from inside the barn.  The long window is waist height for me, but it is on even level with the ground outside.  I was inside and the bird was just outside. We were very close to each other with just the glass between us. I was certain he was dead and not simply stunned from crashing into the glass. He had flies all over him.  He was lying face down so I could not tell what sort of bird he was.  This morning he was gone.  There were no feathers or boney bits to be seen.  Maybe he was indeed only knocked out and he recovered and flew away.  Maybe he was eaten.  I do not think foxes eat things that are already dead. They prefer to make the kill themselves.  Maybe it was a sparrowhawk.

18 July Monday

Silence hangs over the land.  I can hear tractors in a far field, but just barely.  Even from this distance, there is a sort of rushing intensity about the sound because there is the need to get the hay in. To get the silage in. To get the grass cut. Or the barley. Or the corn.  Sunshine brings imperatives.  Being a far off muttering of machinery, the sense of imperative is not my imperative. I scarcely hear these sounds unless I really really focus my attention in that direction. Everything close by is quiet and motionless. There is no reason for me to seek out noise and activity elsewhere, but I like to know that it is there.  There are few birds making any sounds at all.  Bees and flies are barely audible. The heat has silenced everything.

19 July Tuesday

The high temperatures continue.  Half the county is paralyzed by the heat. The other half rushed down to the sea.  They came home disgusted. The coast is completely fogged in and it is not warm.  It is chilly.  In the village, boys are jumping off the hump-back bridge and into the river.  After they come out of the water, they hobble over the rough field and onto the dirt path. They climb over the wall and out onto the road and up the hill that is the bridge to cheer on the next boys and then to do it themselves again. There might be girls down below but there are no girls on the bridge. I do not know if the water is deep enough to be jumped into from that height.  The current is fast. There are a lot of big rocks.  People often drown in this river but usually they drown at night and in winter and mostly after taking drink. Now it is as much summer as it ever is.  The boys are hopping up and down on the hot tar with their bare feet.  They are waiting for their turn.

Possibilities of a Lemon

20 July Wednesday

The lights went out at about ten o’clock last night. The lights went out and everything else went out too.  I used the mobile phone to ring the electricity company.  The first thing the woman wanted to know was where I was calling from.  Then she asked me to tell her the account number off our last electric bill.  I said that I could not look for a bill because there were no lights in the house.  The woman said okay and then she told explained that the power was down in Ardfinnan and it might be back on soon or it might not.  She thought it was something to do with a cow and a pole and a branch, but she was not certain. It was dark so we went to bed.

21 July Thursday

An Post raised the cost of postage today.  It went up in July last year.  It went up in July the year before too. I am not certain about the year before that.  The price of postage never goes down.

22 July Friday

They Have Skin in The Game.  I am guessing that this is a way to say that someone has a lot  invested in a project or a business so he cannot give up.  He cannot give up because he has too much to lose.

24 July Sunday

I made the mistake of rushing down to the village to buy a lemon. I thought I could get there and leave quickly just before everyone came out of Mass.  I was too late. The road was full of people leaving the church and talking to one another. The sun was out and no one was in a hurry. The shop was full of chattering people.  I found the only lemon available and I waited my turn and I bought it.  I left the shop with the lemon in my hand. I passed a man sitting on the ledge. I had passed him on the way in too.  I knew the man and he knew me. He shouted out Oh A Lemon!  You’ll be having a whiskey then!  I said There is more than one thing to do with a lemon and anyway it is kind of early in the day for whiskey, isn’t it? He said Whiskey is the only place I have ever had a lemon and that only when it was A Hot Whiskey. He said, I like A Hot Whiskey with lemon. I was in a rush so I did not stop to discuss the many other possibilities of a lemon. This man is a talented man with the spoons and with a mouth harp but he cannot read nor write and he cannot do numbers.  I decided that what he did not know about lemons was just another thing he did not know  What he did not know did not bother him.

25 July Monday

For walking up the mass path I wore two long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.  The morning was too warm for that much clothing. Everything was overgrown all the way up the path. No one has walked through in quite a while. I should have taken some clippers.  I should have taken a stick to beat some of the vegetation down.  I should have worn gloves. Both the brambles and the nettles got me right through my clothes. I got tangled in the sticky weeds.  It was a struggle from start to finish.  It was not really a walk, it was a battle. When I reached the open road at the top I felt like a survivor. I had many stings and I had ripped flesh. I enjoyed every minute of it.

26 July Tuesday

Peter ordered fresh mackerel. It was served with potatoes and a gooseberry sauce. Three potatoes arrived in a side dish which was placed to his right.  He took the potatoes off the small side dish and put them on his plate.  Then he took the skins off the potatoes. He moved the skins onto another small plate which was to the left of his main plate.  He enjoyed the potatoes so much that he asked the waitress for more.  She was neither surprised nor bothered by his request. She was happy to bring him three more potatoes. He performed the ritual of moving and skinning the potatoes and then moving the skins away again. The potatoes broke up as he removed the skins. He mashed them a bit with his fork. He added plenty of butter. He asked for the salt. I passed the salt and I offered him the pepper mill.  He looked at me in horror.  He said You do not put pepper on potatoes!  I said that I did put pepper on potatoes.  He said NO NO. Salt and butter are the only things to put on potatoes.  I keep thinking I know all there is to know about the Irish and their potatoes but it seems there is always more that I do not know.


27 July Wednesday

I am delighted with my lichen cards.  I have been collecting lichen on every walk up the mass path for years now.  Some days, like Monday when the walking was such hard work, I do not even think of lichen but most days my eye is drawn to the little pieces which get knocked off the branches by birds or wind or time. Every pocket of every jacket has been full of dried up crumbling pieces of lichen.  Sometimes I fill a bowl with the silvery green-ish pieces and enjoy having them in the house with me.  Now I have printed a folding card with a square in which to glue one piece of lichen.  I have been rushing up and down to the barn with my glueing and weighting down of the glued pieces and then the checking to make certain that the card with the weight upon it is not sticking to the lichen and ripping it off.  I glue up five cards at a time. It is slow work because the dried and pressed lichen is so brittle.  I am becoming skilled at judging the delicacy of each piece.  I thought I had an enormous supply saved under pressure but of course the old stuff in my pockets was useless.  Now I return from a walk and carefully place any new samples under a weight to flatten them for a few days. I do not leave any in my pockets.  I am nearly through with what I believed was an enormous cache of lichen.  Actually, it was not so much. Now I must plan walks for the hunting. Picking up scraps of lichen is no longer just a whim.  It is a job.  I have glued about thirty cards so far.

28 July Thursday

Joe’s cows are in the adjoining field.  They are unusually quiet today. There is no jostling or mooing or bellowing. They are standing and eating grass.  Quietly. The morning is sunny and windy and cloudy all at the same time. Clouds are racing across the sky.  At moments all goes dark and overcast and then the clouds keep moving and the day is all over bright again.  The only sounds are the wind in the branches, a far-away chain saw and the tearing of grass.

Quiet but Fruitful

29 July Friday

My Friday afternoon trip to Cork was a mistake. I did not think it through. I should have thought it through.  The Friday before a Bank Holiday.  Who would do that? The city was full of people arriving with suitcases.  The city was full of people departing with suitcases. Backpacks, rolling luggage, duffel bags, everyone was on the move with stuff and everyone else was in a mad shopping frenzy. The Gay Pride Parade Weekend was commencing. Some other festival was also cranking up.  All over the whole country things will be happening.  The August Bank Holiday is a big summer event.  Everything everywhere is planned for that one long weekend.  That is why everyone is on the move to somewhere. I made the trip to do one single thing and to settle my mind about that thing. Once I had done my errand, I walked through the English Market and bought an enormous bag of cherries.  I collected my car and headed home.  The traffic was terrible.  Everyone who had not specially gone to Cork for the weekend was trying to leave Cork. I ate cherries all the way home.  This is not a country where cherries are easily available. When they are available they are crazy expensive and often not very good.  These cherries were perfect. I love cherries. I kept saying to myself that I must stop eating the cherries while I was driving, but I never did.  I just kept eating them. They made the entire wretched journey worthwhile.

30 July Saturday

Laura and Richie have a new puppy. His name is Ted.  He arrived today from the dog shelter.  He is three months old and a mix of a sheep dog and a springer. He does not really have hair.  His black and white coat is a fuzzy surface.  His hair is more like a stuffed animal than like a sheep dog’s hair.  He looks like the sort of toy which might have a zip in the tummy for storing pajamas.  I am smitten.

photo 4

31 July Sunday

I walked the Long Field at the end of the afternoon when there was a gap in the rain. I forgot what I had been told about a recent crow massacre up there.  Two men had been shooting crows.  I do not know why.  I quickly came across dozens of bodies and a lot of feathers.  Some dead crows were visible out in the middle of the yellow stubble of a field.  Most of them were on the dirt track where I was walking.  There were dozens. I could see the place where the two men had sat in long grass off to the right.  The grass was all flattened down. There were cigarette butts in the grass. There was a bad smell off the many corpses. It was more than bad. It was revolting. Some of the carcasses had been torn up while being eaten. In some places there were only wings left or some bits of boney stuff.  It was horrible but it was fascinating.  I could not stop checking each new body as I came upon it. I thought maybe I should turn around and go for a walk elsewhere but then I reached a clump of bushes and rounded a curve and there were no more bodies. I guess the men did not want to leave their shooting positions. I was relieved to be away from death and its thick smell. After a few minutes of walking and breathing fresh air, I came upon one more crow.  He was lying on his back.  He was a good distance from all of the other corpses and he had not been found by predators yet.  He was a dark profile in the grass which grew in the middle of the track. After all the wild carnage, this crow looked peaceful. He looked like he was just sleeping.

1 August Bank Holiday

Tommie told me about a man whose car failed the NCT test last week.  He said the car did not get far enough along the testing procedure for the inspectors to find out if anything was wrong with it. The car just failed because it stunk so badly of dog. The inspectors refused to get inside the car and since they could not test it, they were obliged to fail it. Tommie said he could not say the name of the man whose car had failed, but he was quick to assure me that it was not his own car which had failed because it smelled so bad.  He reminded me that he did not have a dog nor had he had a dog himself for many years now and certainly not since he has owned the car that he is driving today. And anyway he said that he himself had never been a man to take a dog out driving around the countryside.

photo 2

3 August Wednesday

Every field in every direction all over the county is full of bales. There are round bales, and rectangular bales and round bales of silage wrapped up tight in black plastic.  Already the fields are going from yellow to a deep golden colour.  There are some fields that look nearly red in their goldenness. Today I saw a long trailer in the middle of a field.  The trailer was stacked high with square bales. The trailer was no longer attached to a tractor. All of the bales still on the ground in the field were round bales.  It looked like that trailer load of square bales had been driven to that field full of round bales for some purpose but it was hard to imagine what that purpose might be. There were so many round bales in the field it is difficult to know how the trailer load of square bales even got driven into that position. Another field had every bale collected except for one.  That single bale sat all alone in a large expanse of field.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the logic of these activities.

4 August Thursday

When people speak of The Small Paper they mean South Tipp Today.  South Tipp Today is a free weekly paper with lots of advertisements for builders and chimney sweeps and painters and window cleaners.  The advertisements listed by individuals are called the Small Ads. There is always a bit of news and some photographic coverage of local events but mostly the paper is a vehicle for the small ads. People looking for jobs and people looking to hire other people advertise. People offering garden work and applications for building permits are listed.  If people are selling a washing machine, a motorcar or a sofa, they take out a small ad. Agricultural contractors list their services, as do farmers selling hay or animals.  Today I noted a Bull being offered for his reproductive possibilities.  He was described as Quiet But Fruitful.

Old Slates

5 August Friday

I finally finished picking all of the black currants.  The bushes are stripped clean.  I have been picking them off and on in a desultory fashion. Some days it has been too windy and the bushes blew around a lot. Some days it was too hot and some days just too chilly to sit on a box and pick carefully under the leaves.  I filled a bag for the freezer, then I filled a bowl for us to eat. We made them into a thick sauce which was delicious on every single thing we poured it over. We have eaten this sauce on yoghurt, on ice cream, on Fromage Frais, and on porridge. We have eaten it with sour cream and pancakes. Every few days I filled another bag for the freezer.  Then we would make more sauce. This has gone on for weeks.  The supply seemed endless. Every time someone came to visit they looked at the bushes and told me that I must hurry and pick the currants before the birds eat them. The birds are not interested.  I have taken my time. The freezer now has a good supply of black currants in it and we are eating our way thorough yet another batch of the lovely lovely unctuous sauce.

6 August Saturday

For three mornings in a row, I have found a small dead rodent outside the kitchen door.  Each time I have nearly stepped on it.  I am not sure if the dead rodent is a shrew or a little mouse.  Actually I am pretty sure it is a shrew but it is difficult to be certain because in each case the head has been bitten off.

8 August Monday

He is a practicing solicitor but in this court he was being questioned in regards to a case.  He was in the box as a witness and not as a solicitor. The questions for the defense began with him being asked if his legal practice was located on Church Street.  He answered Yes. He said Yes, my firm has been in the Church Street premises for twenty years now.  Then he was asked if the address was No. 5 Church Street.  There was a long silence.  He said I really do not know.  He said We do not use a number.  He said We do not use a street number. We have no number on our door.  We have no number on our writing paper. We do not use a street number because everyone knows where we are.

9 August Tuesday

Over seven and a half thousand English people have made inquiries about applying for Irish passports since the Brexit vote. Nearly three thousand people from Northern Ireland have done the same.  If a person has an Irish grandparent, the application process is a mere formality.  The application will not be turned down. The government has already run out of passport application forms.

10 August Wednesday

The figs are ripening.  The tree is heavy with fruit but most of it is still very hard. I have picked and brought in three so far.  They are not really ready for eating but they are ready for baking.  I need to get at least eight or maybe ten more before we can make a tart so I bring them into the house to finish the ripening. If I hesitate the birds will tear into them. They have already started.  We are competing. It is an evening job. The honeysuckle in the ditches is really blossoming everywhere at once and the blackberries are starting to ripen. It seems early for the blackberries but I think I say that every year.  Each morning I go out and fill a bowl with raspberries for breakfast which is a good way to start the day. Fig collecting at night, raspberries in the morning.


11 August Thursday

Eventually everyone makes something with slates.  That’s because there are a lot of old slates around.  Most people buy new slates for a new roof.  Old slates have become expensive. They  come in many sizes and different shapes. We have one kind of very thick slate on one side of the barn roof and another smaller rectangle on the other side of the barn.  I think many of the new ones are made in China.  Left-over slates get used in lots of ways around a place.  We have a path made of broken ones which makes a nice sound when it is walked upon. I find them useful to put around the base of a plant to keep the weeds down while the plant gets established.  Some get cemented and used as edging. Some people just throw them away. I never throw any away.  Anyone who has the smallest artistic leanings tries to make slates into something special.  A lot of people paint on them. A slate might end up as a little chalk board with a painted floral edge painted.  Or it might have a pastoral scene painted upon it. Or a cow.  Or the name of a house. The most popular thing is that they get made into frames for pictures or for mirrors.   One woman asked for an angle grinder for her birthday so that she could shape her slates before she painted on them.  Tom Browne made me this mirror fifteen years ago. A nail wedged into a piece of wood was his primary tool, mainly for tapping the rectangular shape out of the center.  He ended up chipping and cleaning off the outer shape with a pair of tin snips. His idea was that it should look like a shamrock.

Clutches of Mist


13 August Saturday

Today was the day for the yearly celebration at the Mass Rock.  I had never attended so I decided that I really should see it for myself.  There was a lot of confusing information about the time but the place was fixed.  A Mass at the Mass Rock could only be held at the Mass Rock. Cars drove up into the Knockmealdowns as far as they could go and then people walked across the mountain for about 25 minutes to get to the Rock.  A few of the people setting off were wearing completely inappropriate shoes.  The day was dry and there was not much mud but little summery sandals did not seem like a good idea.

photo 1tractor1brendan.

John and Brendan Condon had tractors and trailers at the ready. They drove across carrying the elderly and anyone who was in any way unable to walk. They made several trips back and forth. Larry Doocey said he had The Sciatica on him so he could not walk but claimed that they needed him up there for taking the photographs because that is what he does every year. John drove a blue tractor with a blue trailer. Brendan drove a red tractor and pulled a red trailer.  Both of the trailers had been fitted with padded benches which could be lifted in and out as people entered and exited the trailers.  Brendan’s trailer was lined with carpet and he had covered the side rails with pieces of carpet which he secured with blue baling twine. He provided cushions and an umbrella for his passengers. Both bothers had upside-down plastic crates to help people to step down off the trailers. Brendan wore a cowboy hat for the occasion. John wore no hat.

tractor2                                             tractor 4

There were about 80 people at the service. Some people sat across the stream because the hill rose steeply up from there.  They were directly facing the Rock and the priest.  The priest wore a white robe and he held a microphone with an amplifying box at his feet. The amplifier looked like a yellow suitcase. The sound did not carry very well although it was probably better for those sitting across the stream. The steep hillside made it almost like they were on tiered seats.  Everyone else stood or sat along the edge of the escarpment. Some people had their backs to the priest.  It just had to do with what kind of rock could be found to sit upon. A few people sat on small folding stools. There was a little bit of music with both singing  and instruments.  The Mass did not last long and then everyone stood up and talked to one another for a while and then we all headed back across the mountain. By the time everyone had gotten back to their cars and we were leaving, a large bottle of whiskey appeared and several of the fiddles were tuning up again.


15 August Monday

This morning was completely white with fog.  We could see nothing beyond the fence.  A morning like this feels like the beginning of autumn, even though the calendar says August. By late morning the fog had all burned off.  The sky was blue and the sun was warm. After lunch the sun was hot. I lay down on the grass and fell asleep.  When I woke up I felt warm pressure on my back.  Oscar was stretched out beside me snoring heavily.  I never heard him arrive. He does not usually come down to visit unless he is walking along with a person.  He lives a kilometer away.  I got up from my nap and went on with my jobs.  He stayed where he was for another half hour and then he got up, had a drink of water and headed off in the direction of his home. He is an independant dog.

photo 2

16 August Tuesday

We were given some Japanese geta sandals which are very nice but they are not exactly practical for life around here.  We hung them up on the wall in the entry to the sauna where they have been for seven years now.  Tom Browne’s slate mirror is wedged in up over the sauna door.  When I went to photograph it, I noticed that a swallow had made her nest on one of the shoes.  The mother was in the nest and she was agitated with my presence.  This morning both mother and babies are absent when I go to look. The nest is empty.  They might just be out for a flight around the place or they might be gone for good.

17 August Wednesday

I was in the supermarket. Among other things, I bought two long narrow red peppers. The girl at the till got flustered and asked me to wait a minute. She had to void something on the till and start again.  By the time she was finished, she tried to tell me what had happened. It looked like I had bought four Chicken Pot Pies when in fact I had not bought a single Chicken Pot Pie. The Pot Pies were listed and then voided and then listed again and voided again. My till receipt was long and confusing. The girl explained it as best she could because she said she did not want me to get home and think I had paid for a lot of Chicken Pot Pies when in fact I had none at all. She said that it was all because of the red peppers.

18 August Thursday

The radio weather man announced the presence of Clutches of Mist everywhere.

Ditch is the word

19 August Friday

The woman in the dentist waiting room came in and sat down and talked to me as if she knew me so I thought she must indeed know me. I thought that if I knew her I would remember her name or how I knew her within a few minutes of listening to her speak.  She never stopped talking. She did not take a breath. She told me that she had been in to the dentist yesterday and she had to return today to have something finished but she did not mind because she had read something in a magazine right here in the waiting room about a man who was at his daughters wedding and he did not walk the daughter down the aisle even though he could walk perfectly well.  He had both legs and he was fit and fine. She had been thinking about the article all night so she was delighted to come back and see what she thought about it all after thinking about it all night. She was not glad to be back to the dentist but she was glad to have another look at the magazine. She started to show me the photographs of the wedding but she did so really quickly as she was leafing though and she said she thought it such a terrible terrible shame that the father was not walking the daughter down the aisle and she had never in her whole life known such a sad thing. It turned out that the daughter was being walked up the aisle by Prince Charles instead of by her own father and the woman could not reconcile this in her own mind. Being escorted by a prince was of course special but a father is a father and there is no substitution for that.  She was still worrying about it all when I was called to go in.  By then I was certain that I had never met this woman before.

20 August Saturday

Brambles are extending by the minute. They are reaching out for the light and they grab at anything that passes. They scratch hard if they can. Cars and faces and clothing are all under attack. I have walked along the top part of the boreen a few times and clipped the longest branches with my secataurs but the big cutting back of the ditches with machinery cannot be done for at least another week. Officially the ditch is not to be trimmed between 1 March and 1 September. Some people insist it is from 28 February to 1 September. The idea behind this restriction is to allow for birds and animals to safely use the time for nesting. Heavy cutting can disturb them and maybe even destroy nests. By now, I am used to hearing the ditch being called the ditch but sometimes talking about trimming a ditch still surprises me and I wish the word hedge could be used. Hedge is not the word for the bushes that grow along the road. Ditch is the word.

21 August Sunday

The word Lashing is used often.  It is mostly to do with liquid.  Single or double cream can be applied with Lashings.  Rain is regularly described as Lashing.  Lashings of butter are essential for the eating of potatoes, but the butter is not liquid, or at least not till it melts.

23 August Tuesday

Our mobile phones are without signal since last week.  It was the night of the big winds.  I cannot remember which night that was.  When we got in touch with the network people they told us that a mast had fallen down and that it would be repaired quickly.  As soon as we leave this valley our phones function. It is just here that they do not.  Today we rang again.  The person on the line had no proper answer to give us. He tried to sound like he knew what was being done but he ended up bumbling his way through.  He said “It can take the amount of time up to the time it has taken.” We know no more than we knew before.


24 August Wednesday

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Em.  I miss her.

photo 2

25 August Thursday

Competition for the figs is fierce with the local birds. I check them every day.  I compete with the birds. The birds are checking more than once a day.  They have the advantage of eating half a fig while it is still on the branch and then just leaving the it and maybe returning later.  I have the advantage of bringing the just barely squeezable ones inside for final ripening. The raspberries are coming on fast and furiously.  I pick a bowl full every morning and every evening and still I do not seem to get them all. The birds can be grateful for that.

Bags of Sandwiches

26 August Friday

The slugs are out.  They are out and they are in. It might be the cooler evenings.  I am finding slugs on the sink and slugs on the bathroom wall and slugs on the mirror and last night there was one tiny slug on my toothbrush. It is a good idea to close the windows early in the evening to avoid encouraging more slug traffic.

27 August Saturday

The old man walked with a lot of puffing and with a kind of twisting of his upper body up from the torso.  It was hard work for him to cover much distance even walking with a stick.   He carried a paper bag with handles which he plopped down onto Jim and Keith’s table at the market. The bag was full of sweet peas.  He said it was every last sweet pea from his garden because he liked to get them in before a frost so here they were all together in one place.  He told Keith to sell them or to give them away as he had no use for them at all and he did not want them dying anywhere where he could see them.  He did not want to have to cut them down when they were dead.  Keith knew that it was rather early to be worrying about a frost but he said nothing about that. He just said Thank You.  The man turned and left immediately. Keith knew that this was the first year ever that I have failed to plant sweet peas. He knows I love sweet peas and that I have been missing them.  He offered me the entire bag of blossoms.  I suggested that I take a few and leave some for other people.  Keith said that would not work and there would just be a mess.  He was right. When I got home and opened the paper bag there was then a plastic bag full of wads of wet paper towel.  The stems were very short. There were a few long stems but mostly they were cut too short to be of much use to anyone.  I managed to get all the flowers crammed into small jars and glasses of water. I now have ELEVEN containers full of sweet peas. The smell is too much. I shall have to move them all around the house.  I love the smell of sweet peas but this is an entire summer’s worth of sweet smell in one room at one time. As wonderful as it is, it is too much.

28 August Sunday

Nellie knew she did not have the whole story. She did not have the whole story but she was determined that she would have the whole story before long.  She kept muttering “I am looking for More Meat on this Stick.”

29 August Monday

In 2007 permission was granted to build a new runway at Dublin airport.  Nothing happened. Now it is being discussed again. They say building will begin next year and it will be up and running in 2020.  I am confused. I thought the runway had already been built. There was some excitement a few years ago. I thought it was because of a new runway. It must have been something else.  Whatever it was, the airport authorities decided that something needed celebrating. They accompanied the first plane to land, maybe from a new route(?), with several fire engines that raced along beside the plane with sirens screaming and lights flashing. The passengers inside the plane knew nothing of the celebration.  They were terrified.

Today the two brothers from Skibbereen who won silver medals at the Olympics flew home. The pilot invited them up into the cockpit for the landing in Dublin. He told them”It’s All Going To Be Massive, Lads!”  As the plane landed it was blasted with water cannons. That was the celebration. The airport itself was full of busloads of people who had been driven 4 1/2 hours up from Cork for the welcome.  The whole rowing club and loads of other people were there.  There was cheering and singing and applauding. Then everyone got back on the buses to head back to Skibbereen. The return would take them 4 1/2 hours again but they had bags of sandwiches on board and a huge party waiting when they arrived.

photo 3

30 August Tuesday

Campbell’s Perfect Tea. The name says it all. It is a delicious tea which never tastes bitter and and it comes in a round tin which is yellow and short and fat.  I do not think anyone throws away a Campbell’s tin.  After the tea is used up, the tin can be used for pencils and pens, or nails or string or biscuits or any number of things. The lid fits tight. I have tins in the book barn and older, slightly rusty ones in the shed.  They are always useful. The tin can be used to hold a different brand of tea, or even tea bags. I have two tins in the kitchen. I always have two tins in the kitchen.  One sits on top of the other.   One is full of loose tea and one is full of coffee beans. When people ask if I prefer Lyons tea or Barry’s tea they never include Campbell’s in the question.  The question is an either or kind of question. I am not sure if that is only around here.  Maybe Campbell’s is more popular in other parts of the country.  I am noticing that it is more and more difficult to find and buy a tin of Campbell’s Perfect Tea than it used to be.

31 August Wednesday

The blackberries are slowing me down. There are so many coming ripe that even a short walk demands a lot of time for sampling and nibbling.  There are so many different varieties growing side by side.  I have not even started to walk with a bag or a container yet.  I just eat as I go.

1 September Thursday

The shoe shop had a special tiered round table with shoes on display. The shoes were displayed sitting on copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The volumes were used and a bit grubby.  They were not really old like antique old, they were just handled copies. I wonder if homes still have shelved sets of encyclopedias.  The woman in the shop told an admiring customer that it was her Back to School Display.

Loose Lichen Letting Go


2 September Friday

The word Fáilte is omnipresent.  It is in every single bit of advertising for the country and its tourism. The official expression is Céad Míle Fáilte which translates as A Hundred Thousand Welcomes.  Fáilte by itself is widely used too.  It is on doormats and flowerpots and little signs. Recently I saw a postbox with NO FÁILTE in small white vinyl letters.  I had to stop in order to look at it more closely because I thought that maybe some other letters had peeled off and the NO was not really NO but part of a bigger word.  But in this case No means No.  The man who lives inside the closed gate and up the steep drive is not very sociable. There is a long drive, many mature trees and heavy undergrowth which ensures that his house is not visible from the road. On a good day this man might be called morose. On other days he would be called A Very Private Person. I have not set eyes on him for years.  I am not sure I would recognize him.  He was never very friendly then and it seems he is even less interested in people now. The always closed gate would be enough to let people know that he welcomes no one but announcing NO FÁILTE like this means he really really really does not want visitors. A KEEP OUT sign would do the job. It might even be a little less harsh.

3 September Saturday

I continue to collect and dry and glue up my pieces of lichen.  Some days it is difficult to find any pieces at all. Some days I find a lot. I was certain that after last night’s wind and wild rain that the ground would be strewn with copious clumps of lichen in the undergrowth. I took a little bag ready to fill it with huge pickings. I  imagined the birds scrabbling away on the branches, trying to hold on tight to stop themselves from being blown away.  I imagined their feet loosening lots of lichen.  I imagined Masses of Loose Lichen Letting Go. As I walked up the path I got very excited about how much I would find.  If the winds and the birds did loosen lichen last night, the winds blew it far from the branches where it had been living.  I failed to find a single bit in the entire length of wooded area where I was expecting such bounty.  I put the little bag into my pocket and just went on with my walk.

4 September Sunday

The first Sunday in September is the traditional day for the All-Ireland Hurling Final.  This year the two teams playing were Kilkenny and Tipperary. They have been meeting each other in the finals for many years. The competition between the two counties is fierce. Everything everywhere is decorated with the respective team colours.  Bunting and flags, hats and shirts, cars and buildings. I think maybe the two teams have met for the finals six times in the last nine years.  Kilkenny has won six times. Some other counties have won in that time too but Tipperary has not won for nine years.  There was a deep silence everywhere in the county as people were either up in Dublin or in their homes watching the match.  Tipperary won.  There is wild joy among the fans. The Liam McCarthy Cup is the prize and now the cup will be traveling around the county for a year. It will go to schools and to shops and to small villages and to every sort of event.  It will be touched and rubbed and kissed.  Many many people will have their photograph taken with The Liam McCarthy. But first there will be a huge parade and welcoming party for the team on Monday night up in Thurles.  Everyone who went to the match will be there and everyone who did not get to go to the match will be there. It will be the middle of the week before things get back to normal in Tipperary.


5 September Monday

The bread man delivers bread from a small truck. He does not carry cakes or biscuits or anything else. He only delivers bread. Some of the loaves are sliced and wrapped in waxed paper.  Some of the loaves are just sitting on the floor or on a metal shelf.  The bread delivery man has a large wooden tray which he loads up with whatever bread the shop has requested.  He carries it across the street and into the shop. If it is raining there is no protection for the unwrapped bread.  Lucky for the bread, it is a short walk across the street.

6 September Tuesday

The girl was trying to be helpful.  When I asked if the eye drops were okay for people wearing contact lenses she said “Oh I am sure they are.”  She said “I am after using them myself and they are wonderful for dry eyes.”  I asked her if she wore contact lenses.  She said “No, but I wear glasses.”

Two week ago I was in a shop and I tried on a pair of shoes which were a kind of reddish brown leather.  The shoes did not fit.  The woman serving me went to the back room to see if there was another pair in the correct size.  She came back with an armful of boxes.  She could not find my size in that shoe style so instead she pulled out every pair of red shoes that she could find. She too was trying to be helpful.

7 September Wednesday

Breda and I walked in the mountains. The sky was white with moisture and with fog. We were sure it would rain so we wore full waterproofs but it never rained.  It just looked wet and it felt wet. We could not see any distance at all.  The mountains and the hills and the horizon completely disappeared. All we saw were lots of ghost-like sheep appearing and then disappearing in the whiteness.  Many had red paint on their backs but there were some with both red and blue markings. For the few minutes before the sheep disappeared in the mist, the colours looked really bright in the otherwise whited-out world. All was quiet and white and damp.

8 September Thursday

Nellie was speaking of a man.  She said he was Old and Short and Timid. She said that was enough.  She said that said it all.

Not a Bother.

7 October Friday

The girl in the supermarket had no place on the till to ring up the onions from France.  She suggested that perhaps I would prefer local onions?  I told her that I always have the local onions and that these French onions would be nice for a change.  I said that if I waited until the next time I was in the shop the French onions might be gone so today I wanted to buy French onions because they were there and available for the buying. The girl was flustered.  Then she asked if it was okay if she charged them as bread.  She said that it would appear on my receipt as if I had bought bread when really I would have bought onions. She worried that I might mind. She worried that I might be confused when I got home. We finally agreed that I understood fully that there would be no onions listed on the till receipt but that did not mean I had not bought onions. The girl was reassured that it would not worry me at all.

8 October Saturday

The morning fog is white and thick.  I could not see beyond the fence when I woke up.  I could not see the fence.  As the morning went on and the sun slowly burned off the fog, things appeared. Fence. Field. Cows.  I was surprised to see Joe’s cows in the near field.  They had been so quiet and invisible that I had no idea they were out there. I still cannot see the hills yet but I suppose they will appear in the next hour or so.

9 October Sunday

The walk up the path is clearing.  Much of the vegetation is dying back so there is less of a thorny grab on clothes and skin as I walk.  One tree which fell across the path has dropped lower.  Now I need to bend deeply from the waist to get under it where as a month ago I could just bend my head a bit.  Crab apples are falling off the trees and that part of the track is deadly.  The small hard apples fall on this same length of path every year but I never get any better at walking over them. It is like walking uphill on ball bearings.

10 October Monday

Dilly has taken to announcing each job that comes along as one that she can do or one that she cannot do.  She prefaces each observation with either the sentence:  This is something I Can do. or This is something I Cannot do.  She is not complaining.  She is simply maintaining a running commentary on herself as she gets older. If she is asked how she is getting on, she always answers: Not a Bother. Not a Bother.

11 October Tuesday

I heard voices.  I went outside and saw three men and a long narrow truck.  It was an odd looking vehicle. They were from the council and repairing holes in the road.  I was pleased to see them. They commented on how narrow the boreen was and how their truck had been scraped on both sides by brambles and branches.  They had been nervous as they drove down that they might be unable to find a place to turn around. They were worried about having to back the truck all the way up to the farm. I was happy to see them and happy to know the new holes were getting filled. They were happy to see space to turn the truck.  I said I was surprised that they were here at all as I had been told again and again by the council that the trucks that did the sort of repairs we needed doing were all too big to drive down the boreen.  This excuse has been given to me for several years now.  The men said that this truck is a new truck. It is only a few weeks old.  They said their job now is to go around to all of the impossible small roads with this new long narrow vehicle to repair places which have not been repaired for years and years. They are proud of the new truck and they were pleased to have me appreciating it.  They kept pointing out features so that I could continue admiring the truck for longer.

12 October Wednesday

Mornings are wet with dew and heavy mist.  Leaving the washing out on the line over night guarantees that it will be wetter in the morning than it was at the end of the previous afternoon.  I am not averse to leaving the washing hanging for a few days.  Margaret says that if it gets wet again it is just a second rinse. Or a third rinse.  The problem arises when one Joe or the other Joe is spreading slurry.  Then the washing takes on the smell of the decomposing excrement sprayed over near fields.  The slurry does not have to touch the clothes or even come anywhere close to them. The strong smell permeates everything.  If I bring wet clothes into the house they carry the stench with them.  Once a nearby field has been sprayed with slurry it is best to leave everything out on the washing line for a few more days.

All Milk to Cheese

13 October Thursday

More and more women are using the large clicking stove lighters for lighting a cigarette.  It is startling to see a woman whip this long thing out of her purse and light her cigarette with a flourish of huge flame before shoving it back in the bag.  These lighters are at least ten times bigger than a normal lighter.  I have not seen any men using these things to light their cigarettes but that may just be because they are too big to carry easily in a pocket.  And no one anywhere seems to use matches anymore.

14 October Friday

Mick often prefaces what he says by saying “Now, I am not going to lie to you.” I can never decide if this is a way to ensure the veracity of what he is saying or if maybe when he does not say this he might actually be lying.  I think I have come to believe that it means he is very serious about the thing he is telling and therefore it is important that one believes him.

15 October Saturday

I recognized the man.  He was discussing lead flashing with someone who worked in the store. He wanted to fold the flashing into a join between two roof sections to ensure that there was no way for rain water to leak in. The man who worked in the store was telling him again and again that this was not the best solution.  I recognized the man but I could not place why I recognized him.  I could not locate him.  I thought if I listened to his voice I might remember.  That is why I learned so much about the roofing job he needed to do. I walked up and down the aisle where he was talking.  I thought if I could get a good look at his face I might be reminded of who he was or why he seemed so familiar.  At a certain moment something clicked.  I remembered Toss and Walt.  I did not know if this man was Toss or if this man was Walt. Whoever he was, he was an older version of himself.

It was 1997 when I last saw him.  We had a desperate need for windows to be installed in the house.  The old wooden frames were rotten.  Sometimes a pane of glass just fell into the house.  Sometimes a pane of glass fell out and onto the ground outside.  The frames were rotten and rotting and the soft old wood was just giving up.  We spoke with several people about installing new windows.  When we finally decided on a solution, the man who did the measuring and the estimating told us that the windows would be made rapidly.  He said that Toss and Walt would arrive in two weeks to do the installation. We were pleased with the speed.  Living without glass was draughty and living with pieces of wood in place of missing glass was gloomy.  Anyway, winter was coming. The house needed to be secured from the weather.

Toss is one of those names that evolved out of Thomas. There are a lot of men named Thomas.  Some become Tom or Tommy or Tommie. Some remain Thomas. Some use the Irish Tomás. I think Toss as a short version comes from Thos. as written on gravestones, in bibles and in the phone directory. It is just another shortening.  And Toss said is more literal than Thos. I had never met a man called Toss.

Toss and Walt arrived with half of the windows and began installing.  They worked over a few days. They returned with the rest of the windows and finished the job.  They were quiet and efficient and they were funny when I made them cups of tea.  Everything in the house was in chaos with all of the building work.  I kept moving piles of stuff and pieces of furniture out of the way of the windows when Toss and Walt were heading for those windows.  They needed space to work from both inside and outside. As workmen go they were easy to have around.

A few months later I developed several rolls of film. I had an old Minolta camera.  I used it to try to keep a rough record of how some parts of the house looked before we did work. Eventually I wanted to be able to compare how it all ended up. I kept the camera around all the time to remind myself to keep documenting our progress. Instead I got so used to seeing the camera lying around that I rarely picked it up.

When I brought the batch of photographs home, I found a picture of Toss or Walt.  One day while doing the window installation, Toss had picked up the camera and taken a photograph of Walt or Walt had taken a photograph of Toss.  I was more than a little surprised to find a photograph of one of these two men in among my snapshots. The man in the photograph was not smiling but he was looking straight into the camera.

The man I recognized in the store was Toss or maybe he was Walt.  I did not need to stick around any longer because now I knew who he was. I did not need to wait to find out how he resolved his roof problem. I did not need to say hello.  I very much doubted that he would remember me and anyway it did not matter one bit if he did.  I remember him whether I want to or not because I have a photograph of him.


16 October Sunday

Maud sent me the photo of a sign from the Dairygold Plant in Mitchelstown.  Big shiny stainless steel Dairygold tanker trucks drive around the countryside filling up with milk.  The trucks are big.  They are too big and they go too fast on these narrow roads. They terrorize everyone.  If you are walking or if you are driving, you know that the Dairygold trucks will not make space for anyone.  The Glanbia trucks are just as big and just as scary. Lucky for us they only come around a few times a week.  At least they do not come every day. The milk at each farm gets stored in coolers awaiting pick up.  When a tank is full, the truck heads to the Mitchelstown co-operative plant.  The ALL MILK TO CHEESE sign must be directing drivers to deliver milk to that part of the plant which turns it into processed cheese.

17 October Monday

The woman was from Dingle and she was just visiting the area. She stopped at the craft shop and bought a walking stick made of ash.  The word ASH was carved in capital letters into the wood up near the top. The woman walked down the street with her new stick and turned to enter the Lazy Bean for a cup of coffee. A man sitting outside yelled across to her.  He shouted: “Where did you get that stick?”  She said she bought it.  He said, “Well I made it!  I am the man who makes those sticks.”  She was pleased to meet him and he was pleased that she had bought one of his sticks. She was so pleased with the whole thing that after she drank her coffee she went back to the craft shop to tell the lady there that she had met the very man who made her stick.

18 October Tuesday

Fruit continues to grow.  The raspberries look good but most of them are soggy from the wetness of the night and the morning.  To gather a few freshly ripened ones at the end of a warm afternoon is okay.  The blackberries are the same. The bushes along every field and every bit of road are heavy with berries but the berries are wet and many are inedible. They squish between my fingers when I try to pick them. It is a deceptive time.  Some apples are still on the trees.  It is time to drag a ladder down into the meadow to collect the last of them.  There are figs too, which keep growing but they will never be ready to eat or to bake. The rose hips were unused this year. They just sit on the bushes looking lovely and bright. They too are soggy. The birds are happy to have them. Roses and sedums and daisies and poppies keep flowering.  Everything looks good and in today’s bright sunlight, it looks like full summer plenty.

20 October Thursday

Pat was delighted to eat the marrow out of the bone and to eat the beef around the bone and when she was finished, she asked if she could take her bone home.  She said she had made a similar bone into a necklace when she was at school. The other girls made fun of her. They said her necklace looked like a soggy cardboard loo roll on a string. Now she is not bothered what people think. In all she took six bones away in a plastic bag.  They were each one and a half or two inches long. Fitted together they had been the entire shin bone of a small cow. Pat took them home and put them in a basin of water.  After a few days she will put them into salty water. I do not know how long it will take for her bones to be ready to be made into a necklace.  She loves the sound the bones make when they collide.  She calls it a kind of klick-klack. When the necklace is finished, we will hear her coming.

A Real Dote.

21 October Friday

In my vocabulary, dote has always been a verb. Someone who is doting upon another person lavishes them with love and uncritical attention.  The person doing the doting usually choses not to see any fault whatsoever in the object of their affection. The one doting can dote with infinite adoration upon their treasured person.  Around here, the word Dote is more commonly used as a noun.  A cute person is A Dote.  Someone sweet and adorable is called A Dote.  Or they might be called A Real Dote.  A Dote can be a grown person or a child, or it can just as easily be a dog.

24 October Monday

It is one of those mornings where it might remain grey and white and shadowless all day but it might burst out and become a bright sunny afternoon which means it will be nearly impossible to stay indoors even while almost of the things to be done are all needing doing indoors. How the days weather evolves affects everything.  It is an issue for today and for every recent day. With the shorter hours of light and the colder mornings, it is difficult not to be seduced by these unseasonably mild afternoons. Suddenly emptying the compost or picking apples or even loading up for a trip to the dump are all pleasant chores.  Moving old branches or cutting back the willow herb, whatever the job, everything is pleasant.  Chores are still chores but it is 24 October and if the morning clears it may again be good to be outside doing one thing while looking around at everything and anything else that might need doing.  Tommie told me that people in the town go out for drives on a good day as they do not want to be inside and they have no outside to be out in unless they are out for a drive, but then they are not really outside because they are inside a motorcar.  He said they are not outside anyway. They are only out of the house.

25 October Tuesday

It is now common knowledge. Everyone repeats it. Everyone repeats it as if it has always been a fact but I do not know if it was always such an irrefutable fact.  Everyone says that it is imperative to eat honey which has been produced as near to your own home as is possible. It is important if one is ill with cancer or with a cold, or recovering from surgery.  It is important to eat local honey as one is aging.  It might have indeed always been true but I do not think every single person knew it and repeated it and believed it. Mrs. Hally is one person who does not subscribe to this theory. For as many years as anyone can remember she has been eating Manuka Honey from New Zealand at 40 euro for a small jar.  She eats it daily.  I do not know how much Maunuka Honey she eats.  It might be a tablespoon full or it might be more than that. Mrs. Hally is 98 years old.  She is known to be A Fresh Woman. Especially for her age.  She looks well.  Each week, the pharmacist asks her for the secret of her glowing skin. The pharmacist wants to know whether it is the Manuka Honey or the Lancôme Face Cream which keeps Mrs. Hally looking so fresh.

26 October Wednesday

Last October we were presented with The Rounding Off.  The government decided that the costs involved in producing 1 and 2 cent coins exceeded their value. It was decided that prices and change would henceforth be rounded to the nearest 5 cent. There would still be some 1 and 2 cent coins floating around and people could still use them.  They could still request their proper change not rounded off to the nearest 5 cent.  Most people were happy to see the end of the small coins. This summer the cost of a postage stamp for an inland letter went up to 72 cent.  This price presents an ongoing dilemma at the post office counter.  The post mistress cannot charge 75 cent for a 72 cent stamp.  Giving change which no one wants or simply giving away the 72 cent stamp for 70 cent makes the raising of the price completely redundant.  I am most bothered by the use of the word cent in the singular. I would be happier for it to be plural, when it is anything other than 1 cent.

27 October Thursday

There is a new book.  The cover of the book is taped up in the window of the shop along with a telephone number to ring if we want to buy a copy. The title of the book is The Rabbit Industry in Ireland.  I did not have my glasses with me so I could not read the short descriptive text about it but I shall be sure to take my glasses with me the next time I go to the shop. There are plenty of rabbits here but I never knew they were abundant enough to constitute an industry.

Taking the Bloods

28 October Friday

Simon had a morning appointment with the nurse to Take His Bloods. It is usually not possible to Take Bloods on a Friday because of the weekend.  He offered to deliver his own blood to the hospital so they said okay and had him come in at 9 am.  While the nurse was labeling his tube and putting it into a bag, she asked if he would mind also taking the bloods of the Lithuanian woman who had been in just before him.  The woman had to rush off to her job and anyway she did not have a car so she was not able to take her own blood up to the hospital. Simon was hungry.  He had been fasting since the night before.  He asked the nurse if he had time to have some breakfast before going to the hospital.  She said No Problem. She told him to just be sure to deliver the bloods to the lab before midday.  At the hospital he was directed to walk down several long corridors to drop his own blood and the blood of the Lithuanian woman into a hatch cut into some hard plastic.


29 October Saturday

Dilly is insisting that the little shrubs on her banking get cut back almost to the wood.  Some of them she wants pulled or dug right out of the ground.  She is adamant that these things get done before the winter comes on.  She cannot do these jobs herself as she keeps telling anyone who will listen but even if she is not Able For It herself she wants it done her own way. She cannot bear for two plants to be touching one another.  Dilly likes to see a lot of nice cleared and clean weed free soil in between each plant. She cannot cut these plants back and she cannot dig them up and out of the ground and she certainly cannot bend down to pull the weeds and rake the soil clean, but she is determined that all of these things be done. She is instructing John to do all of these jobs and she insists he do the jobs her way.  He is grumbling about her demands but he is allowed no say in the matter. She says The Bare Look is the only way to give a plant the attention it deserves.


30 October Sunday

There are lots of brown crunchy leaves underfoot and there is no mud.  Every walk up the track is noisy with the leaves underfoot.  As soon as I write this, I am reminded that there are stretches with lots of yellow not yet crunchy leaves too so the contrast between walking noise and walking silence is great.  I was walking the Long Field today and saw some garish orange pellet stuff spilled onto the soil.  At first I thought it must be some kind of poison. Then I decided it might be seed.  Some farmers have planted winter wheat so the fresh new green shoots give a sense of springtime in this peculiar autumn. We have had day after day of mild, bright days with no rain.  Birds are singing like crazy.  The birds are behaving like it is spring. None of them seem to be flying south. The cows are out in their fields all day. Nothing feels right or normal. Nothing feels like it is almost November. Last night we changed the clocks so as of today darkness will fall earlier. The weather may or may not change.

31 October Monday

Taking Care of Your Own is the term used for the duty towards anyone who is elderly or sick.  It is one thing to give care if someone is your own blood relation but if the ailing person is only related by marriage it is something altogether different.  Responsibility apppears to have limits.


1 November Tuesday

Condon’s, the undertakers in Cahir, have repainted their premises.  The front of the building is now glossy black with enamel paint.  The windows have been edged with bright red. On a sunny day like today the shine off the black paint is blinding.


2 November Wednesday

Yesterday I saw two vehicles with small dog trailers parked down by Cooney’s wood.  Later I heard gunshots.  November 1st marks the start of shooting season for pheasants and woodcock and wood pigeons. If I had heard the gunshots earlier I might have been startled but the little trailers that the dogs get transported around in gave me the warning.  There are never more than one or two hunters who wander around these woods but it is a good idea to start wearing reflective vests when we walk out just so we do not get shot. At about nine o’clock last night I heard a thumping at the kitchen door.  I looked out and there was Oscar pushing and turning to make himself comfortable as close up to the door as possible.  He had knocked down the walking sticks in the corner so he was having an awkward time getting settled with sticks all over the place. It is unprecedented for Oscar to come down here at night and especially to come down without a person.  I tried to send him home but he ignored me. I rang June and she was puzzled too.  She was puzzled but she was fearful to drive down our boreen at night so I offered to take him home.  Oscar is a big black Labrador.  With age, he has gotten fat.  He could not jump up and into the jeep so I had to ask Simon to help me to hoist him up and in.  I drove the mile up to Oscar’s house with his head jutting out between the seats and resting on my shoulder.  He was happy to be home and jumped out easily.  He did not return again last night but I still do not know why he arrived in the first place. I wonder if the days shooting disturbed him.

Always Home

22 November Tuesday

I was tired coming off the plane.  I was tired and I was not yet awake.  It was 5.30 in the morning.  One line of passengers waiting to go through passport control was long. That line was long and disheveled and there were a lot of cranky children in it. I was glad that my passport allowed me to pass quickly through the other line.  The EU line was short.  The man at the high desk looked down and asked me how I was.  I told him I was tired.  I said I am tired or maybe I am just sleepy because I have not really woken up yet.  His voice dropped and it became very soft.  He said ‘It’s Okay. Everything is Fine. You are Home now.’

Home is a big thing here. Home is a place and Home is an idea. At Cork Airport there is a little fireplace with a gas fire burning and a little one-person sized bench just after you come through passport control.  It would be easy to smack your shins against the stone bench because it is so suddenly there in front of you.  The fire in the fireplace serves as the symbol of a being welcomed home.  There is Home and there is Home Place.  There is a lot about both Home and Home Place which makes me feel a little confused. As someone from somewhere else, I think I shall never fully understand it. But no matter what else it is, a fire is essential to the idea of Home.  Shannon Airport does not have a fireplace nor a little bench, but the soft dropping of the man’s voice and the kindness in his welcome made me pleased to be home.

24 November Thursday

I was wide awake in the night.  I finally got out of bed and went out into the big room. I was too tired to do anything.  I did not want to read nor to watch television. I did not want to turn on the computer.  I made a cup of tea and found a deck of cards. I played solitaire.  I was really cold even with pyjamas, a bathrobe, a shawl and a pair of heavy socks inside my slippers.  I did not want to turn on the heat.   I thought about Jack London’s story To Build A Fire.  People dying of the cold usually fall asleep before they freeze to death. I wanted to fall asleep.  I thought about other Jack London stories. I continued playing solitaire. I kept score with myself on a piece of paper, buying the deck for each game with an imaginary 52 euro.  I lost hundreds of euro. I did not care about the winning or the losing. I enjoyed shuffling the cards.  I am good at shuffling cards. The deck was old and soft and did not really shuffle as sharply and snappily as I would have liked.  I made another cup of tea. It was chamomile tea but it failed to make me sleepy.  I started to get tired of playing solitaire. I wondered what I might do next. I needed to engage myself but slightly bore myself at the same time. After two or three hours, I heard a cow bellowing up the hill.  It was the only sound I had heard except for my cards on the table.  The cow sounded like it was up the steep hill on one of Johnnie’s fields. It was too dark to look out a window. The cow moaned and gasped.  It is hard to describe the noise. Maybe it was more like a sort of honking.  After about twenty minutes, the cow stopped.  I listened for her to start up again.  When she did not, I went back to my cards.  Eventually boredom and the cold sent me back to bed.

26 November Saturday

This is the third day in a row of deep impenetrable white fog. On Thursday the heavy fog was burned away by sun in the middle of the afternoon.  On Friday and today there has been no sun.  There has been no burning off.  Just a deep cold silence all wrapped in whiteness. We cannot see any distance at all.  We drive with headlights which do not make what is up ahead any more visible. The headlights are mostly so we might be seen by another car.  It feels best to just stay home but even while here we cannot even see across to the barn.

27 November Sunday

Each time I step out the back door I see a mouse.  It has been three or five times now.  I am not sure if it is the same mouse each time or a different mouse.  I am not sure where exactly the mouse I see is going but I am fairly certain it is hoping to come inside for the winter.

28 November Monday

The bright light across the fields has been disturbing.  It is an odd kind of light. It is a different kind of bright.  There are house lights in the far distance but they are nothing like this raw harsh light.  At first I thought this light was a light in someone’s farmyard.  I could not tell from this distance whose farmyard it might be.  I thought the light itself might even always be there but that I was only noticing it now maybe because leaves had fallen off the trees between here and wherever it is. Maybe I am only seeing it because it has been freshly exposed.   In a straight line – as the crow flies – the light is probably two kilometres away.  It is some kind of terrible bright halogen bulb. It is bright white.  From here we cannot see any of the area it illuminates.  We only see the small stabbing glow.  After only a few nights of seeing this light I was already depressed. I felt sad that I might be seeing this ugly light every single night from now on.

Last night we suddenly figured out that the light was down on the Dungarvon road. It was standing on a dangerous corner where a road crew are now working.  We had noted the work the other day. When finished, the road in that spot will be straight or at least it will be straighter.  Darkness falls early so this light might help the workmen at the end of their work day.  It warns the drivers who all travel too fast on that stretch.  The workers go home at the end of the day, but the light stays on all night. It is now a comfort to know that when the road work is eventually finished, and the corner is straightened, the light will be removed.  Our thick dark night will return.

A Post Box Named Stanley


29 November Tuesday

I brought in the remaining little chilies off the plant.  I am amazed at how many were left and that they did not seem to suffer in that hard crunchy cold last week.  They are hot and delicious.

30 November Wednesday

Everyone exclaims—-The cows are still out!  It has been so unseasonably mild and now it is cold.  For a while it was frosty and freezing, but it continues dry so it is fine for the cows to be out in the fields and not shut up in their winter barns. There is not much grass for them to eat. The fields are all bright green to look at but still there is not much grass for the cows to eat. They mostly get fed on nuts or on hay delivered to their fields by the farmers. The thing being remarked upon again and again is that it is December and the cows are still out.

1 December Thursday

I made a cake.  It is not often that I bake. We had friends coming for tea. We have a lot of apples stored but they are starting to go soft, so I made a Dutch Apple Cake.  We have three kinds of ovens but they are all complicated. None are any good for baking.  My cake took hours to make as I had many many interruptions. As well as several phone calls, Ned came to deliver heating oil.  He cannot deliver oil unless we are at home because he needs to plug the generator on the back of his truck  into our electricity mains. We have to pull an extension lead in through a window to plug it in. Normal oil trucks are too big to drive down the boreen. This system with the electric generator allows us to get oil.  Since someone has to be here whenever Ned comes, he always has a cup of tea and we have a discussion of the world at large.  Today he kept repeating: We have to stop voting for what we are voting for.  After Ned left but before my cake could be finished and lunch could be eaten, the gas bottle ran out.  That meant unhooking it and loading it into the car and taking it to the village to get a replacement bottle.  I had to wait for awhile outside Teddie O’Keefe’s because there was a big lorry blocking the road.  I tried to fill the car with petrol while I was in the village but Seamus had run out of petrol in his pump.  He has one pump for petrol, one for diesel and one for agricultural diesel.  He was waiting for the man to arrive to refill the petrol one. The road on the way home was busy with tractors.  One tractor hit my side mirror because it was so big and it was going so fast and the road was just not wide enough. There were other interruptions both before Ned arrived and after I got the new gas bottle but the cake was finally baked.  It was delicious, but I do not feel I shall be baking again soon.


2 December Friday

Another post box has been retired. The plastic has perished with the weather and with the weight of the stone that I kept inside the box to keep it from blowing away and from the second stone on the top.   Lifting the lid without removing the stone means that the sides of the lid are always getting strained, so then the lid cracks and then I tape up the cracks and then it cracks some more and then finally it is time to give up on that box because one day we go out to get the post and the box has three inches of water in the bottom of it and the post might be floating in the water. If we are lucky the envelopes are resting on the stone and the stone is not yet fully submerged.  Simon got annoyed with the broken box full of water and he went off looking for a new post box. The boxes that we have been using are large storage boxes which people fill and then store under their bed or in the attic or the shed. We receive a lot of awkward parcels so a small postbox is not an option. Simon came home with a fancy toolbox which cost far too much.  He put a weight in the bottom which now takes up half of the not very copious space inside the box.  John the Post is not impressed with the new box.  Neither am I.  I have no doubt this box will be stolen someday soon.  It might even be put into a workman’s van by mistake. The old postbox just looked like plastic box with a rock on top sitting outside near a bush. This one looks like it could be full of expensive tools.  Simon is the only one who likes it.  He is delighted with himself.  He thinks of it as A Post Box Named Stanley.

3 December Saturday

When I went down for bottled gas on Thursday I met Tommie Hally in front of the shop. He had walked from his house using a stick. He had just arrived as I was ready to leave. He does not normally walk with a stick. He does not normally walk to the shop either.  I think driving is becoming difficult for him. I admired his sturdy stick.  He said it was made of elm and that was why it was not very straight. He told me that he is not fond of the kind of walking sticks that can be purchased. He prefers this one because he made it for himself some years ago knowing that it was something he might need one day. He was prepared to settle in for a chat.  Indeed that was why he had walked to the shop. He was planning to have a few conversations along the way. We spoke for a few minutes. He reported that Margaret is not at all well. She cannot see and her hip has never stopped being a problem since her fall a few years ago.  He is having a difficult time taking care of her and she will not allow anyone from the outside to come in to help.  I was freezing and he should have been freezing too. It was too cold to be standing and talking outdoors. I told him that I had to go home with the gas bottle so that I could finish making my cake.  I told him I would bring him some of the cake later.  Tommie loves apples and he loves cake.  Today I delivered some slices of cake along with a pot of cream.  He was delighted to have the cake. He did not know that it was not the same cake that I had promised to bring.  We ate all of that first cake before I delivered any.  Simon made a second cake. It was not the same kind of cake but it did have apples in it. Tommie said they would eat it tonight when they returned from 6.30 Mass.


5 December Monday

We pass the little bungalow all the time.  It was flooded inside a few years ago. The damage was extreme because no one was living there at the time. The pipes froze in the cold of winter.  They burst when they thawed and they just kept pumping out water. There was no one there to notice. The bungalow has sat empty ever since. A few months ago some men began to tear it down.   Then work stopped and the place was left standing without doors or windows or roof. After another month or so the bungalow is being worked upon again.  A new house is being built onto the walls and the foundation of what was left.  It is a peculiar looking operation. The house is not any bigger on the ground but it is a little bit taller.  I do not know if the additional height is enough to provide a second floor.

Little Cups and Saucers

6 December Tuesday

A totally gloomy day all day.  The light never changed. At any moment, it might have been dawn or it might have been dusk.  The sky was heavy and grey.  The sky stayed heavy and grey.  Sometimes it rained a little and sometimes it did not rain. In the early afternoon, I took a walk up the boreen and around.  I felt I could not wait any later to walk as it might not be any better later and there was a good chance it might be worse. It was difficult to focus on anything because of the uncertain quality of the light.  It made me feel like there was something wrong with my eyes.  It started to drizzle as I left the house and it kept drizzling all the way around.  It was never proper rain. It was soft. It did not feel like rain. When I reached home I was soaking wet.

7 December Wednesday

The days continue mild.  Ever since the recent spate of frosty frozen bitter days, I feel I have had my warning.  I am now saving and filling water bottles.  Water pipes are not buried very deeply here.  A week of freezing temperatures mean that the outdoor water pipes might well freeze.  Each winter I fill water bottles Just In Case.  Sometimes we never need the bottles of water but sometimes we do and then we are glad to have them.  I fill each bottle as we empty one.  We buy bottled water for drinking.  We do not buy bottled water as a fashion choice. I would prefer not to buy bottled water.  We buy it in big five litre containers.  We use our well water for cooking and making tea and for everything else but for drinking a glass of water we drink bottled water.  We need to have the well tested again.  We probably need to have the well cleaned again. Last time we were told the e coli content of our water was a bit high. We were advised not to drink the water. So as well as filling water bottles to guard against the possibility of frozen pipes I must also buy extra bottles of drinking water to have on hand.  I am not doing too well. I have only 25 litres, three large bottles, stored so far.


8 December Thursday

It is slippery and dangerous walking over the last of the apples falling off Johnnie’s trees and onto the path. The apples which fall on that side sort of roll into the gully which is the path.  Or the path is a gully and it is where we walk. Every day I tell myself I should use a walking stick for walking through the rolling apples and the slimy mud but every day I forget to take one along with me.  Rats or mice are eating out the flesh of the apples and leaving the tough skins spread around like delicate little cups and saucers.  I slipped and  landed hard on my hands and knees today which gave me a good chance to examine the tidy nibbling and the fragile remains. I am hoping the rats hurry up and eat the rest of the apple flesh or at least that everything rots down into moosh before I take another tumble.

9 December Friday

This is the message received on Text Alert today:

Please be mindful of Elderly Friends and Neighbours who today may be receiving double Christmas payments from the Post Office and report any Suspicious Activity.

The elderly and any other people on benefits receive extra money to help them get through the holiday period.  It helps them to purchase special things as well.  To announce it like this might be a good thing or a bad thing.  Everyone knows the extra payments are made and in rural areas there are no banks.  People can only take their money home and hide it.  Any robber would know this and any robber will know there are just so many places that cash can be hidden. I am sure the Garda mean this alert as a good thing but it seems like it might be a bad thing.

10 December Saturday

The barber poles were not made of plastic nor of glass. They were not rounded.  They were not lit from within.  These barber poles were simply painted red and white stripes on two inch by four inch planks. They were planks not poles.  There was one nailed flat onto the wall just beside the door so that it was visible head on and especially from across the road.  On the other side of the door there was another board mounted on its narrow side.  I guess that one was to attract passing trade.  There was a third one which was about one and a half inches by one and half inches square right over the door. It was long and it sort of stuck out at a bit of an angle.  The word barber was not visible anywhere but the red and white stripes did the full job of advertising.


11 December Sunday

Mardhea is the spelling.

I think.

It is pronounced Mah-re-Ah.

I think.

Someone might say Mardhea, I was watering the flowers.  What they mean is AS IF I was watering the flowers.  To preface an action with the word Mardhea means to say that you are doing one thing in order to find out something or to be on the watch for something happening or something which might have happened.  You are not really watering the flowers because they need watering.  You are watering the flowers so that you can keep an eye on the activity next door or down the road. It is basically a way to admit to being nosy. I do not think I can incorporate this expression into my daily conversation, because few Irish words sit easily in my mouth, but I am quite pleased to know what it means. I am glad to be able to listen for it.  When I next hear it said I will know that it is a kind of code and I will feel included.

Brown Coins

12 December Monday

Annie told me that she was going to be an artist when she got older. She said her mother was certain that she would be a very good artist. Annie said, “She says she knows that I will be a good artist because I am easily distracted and because I like to glue pom-poms onto pencils.”


13 December Tuesday

No one wants the Brown Coins.  Stella said that her house had been burgled. The robbers had come in and made a mess. They did not take much. They ripped into the airing press in hopes of finding a hidden safe.  They threw a lot of things around. They found the jar of small coins.  The jar was full of the 1 cent, 2 cent and 5 cent coins that no one uses anymore.  The coins are made of some sort of alloy.  Maybe it is copper and nickel. They do not look especially brown but they are spoken of as the Brown Coins.  No one wants the Brown Coins.  Children do not stoop to pick them up in the street.  Most of us save the Brown Coins in jars and eventually we cash them in somewhere. The Brown Coins may not be used much as currency but they cannot be refused. The robbers could have left the Brown Coins sitting in their jar.  They could have ignored them. Instead, they took the jar of Brown Coins and scattered them around the house in disgust.

15 December Thursday

There is now a bus service called the AirCoach which goes back and forth between Cork to Dublin Airport. It only makes a few stops so it is efficient and fast. Each place where the AirCoach stops is well marked with an orange sign.  The sign now tells us where we have always been stopping on the regular bus but we did not know the name of the place.  It was always just The Bus Stop, which was outside a particular bar or a shop in a particular town or village.  When the Bus Eireann bus stopped today in Mitchelstown I noticed the AirCoach sign said it was Mitchelstown New Square. I never knew the big square was called New Square.  Thursday is market day in Mitchelstown.  The square which I now know to call New Square was busy and full of stalls and people. Unusually, a huge crowd was waiting to board our bus. There were at least thirty people.  Everyone who was already on the bus got very excited.  They discussed amongst themselves that this was the most people they had ever seen boarding the bus in Mitchelstown.  Everyone worried that they might not all fit onto our bus.  The driver worried out loud that it was all taking too long to get them loaded. Some did not have the right money and others had awkward bundles or baby buggies.  He feared he might be late for his arrival in Cork.

16 December Friday

Up Yourself is an insult.  To be told that you are Up Yourself is a kind of a warning. To describe a person as being Up Himself is to imply that he is taking on airs and graces. It suggests that someone is stepping outside of their place.  Or the place that others think that person should stay in.  The man in Cahir who was not allowed to carry a small back pack when he was out walking was told by his wife that if he went about wearing a pack on his back people would think he was Up Himself.  It was okay for him to carry a back pack when on holiday because then the people who saw him would not be the people who usually saw him.  Anyone who saw him while he was on holiday would not be anyone who might know what place he was supposed to be kept in.

17 December Saturday

It was cold.  The morning had been white with frost. The hard cold lasted all day.  I stopped in Ballyporeen where there was some kind of Christmas party or maybe a wedding and a lot of people rushing around in fancy clothing.  People were in and out of the nearby pub. The church was close by.  I could not tell where they were going as everyone seemed to be on the move all the time.  The young women and some of the not so young women were all dressed in skimpy dresses.  Many of the dresses were sparkly. There seems to be an agreed upon behavior that women take off their coats before going indoors to an event like a night in a pub or a disco or a wedding.  I do not know if it is because a coat might ruin the look of a fancy outfit or if the women fear that things will get so exciting and out of control that they might forget their coat later. Coats get left in the car. These women and girls all had bare legs and little high-heeled strappy sandals to go with their flimsy dresses. They all had fake tans to make their legs look glamourous rather than white and goose-pimply.  As I walked out of the shop an old man in a tweed suit and a heavy jumper and wearing a wool cap pulled down low on his head stood in the doorway watching the chaos in the street and shaking his head .  He said “Just look at them. They’ve Nothing On Them, and it’s Gone Freezing Out and their legs are All Orange.”

18 December Sunday

Three hunters were out in the Long Field today.  They were all three dressed in camouflaged clothing and they had four dogs with them.  The Long Field is long and it is also wide. It is a result of many walls and ditches being broken down over the years.  We call it the Long Field but really it is two fields. Over time all the fields were combined to make two enormous fields with a rough track separating them. There is one place kind of in the center where the land dips before it climbs up again. There is a large outcrop of rocks and stones and growth in the dip.  More stones and rocks get dumped there as the farmer finds them in his ploughing.   The edges of the fields on both sides of the track are a long way from the middle. The three camouflaged men were walking up the dirt track.  There was not much chance that there would be any birds anywhere nearby for them to startle much less to shoot. Just as we began our walk downwards they veered off to the left around the rocky place and they headed for the edges in the hopes  of flushing some pheasants.  The area of fields is so large we were able to walk without ever getting near to them, nor them to us.

19 December Monday

Another grey and gloomy morning.  The grey sky is heavy.  I cannot animate myself.  I should not complain.  The weather continues to be unseasonably mild.  Some days are bright and crisp. Some are drizzly and wet and grey.  Day after day the temperatures are higher than normal. It is cold but it does not feel one little bit like December. Today the birds are all over the feeders.  They are lining up and waiting for their turn to eat nuts.  Most days they have been racing around without much interest in stopping to sample whatever is on offer in the feeders. There has been no desperation in the bird population yet.

Holly Not Holly

20 December Tuesday

Early afternoon broke through bright and sunny.  The whole day looked different. It was suddenly cheerful.  I walked up the mass path to enjoy it.  Sometimes it is gloomy walking through the wooded path. I like all of the mossy rocks and fern and the secret quality of the shaded rocky trail.  I even like the dangerous rotting rolling apples.  Little rays of sunshine through the trees are a bonus. There were views across Cooney’s fields where a fox has broken through  making his path.  I knew that arriving into full sunshine up on the road would be a fine thing. And it was. It was a fine thing.  I pretended that I actually could feel heat from the sun but really it was the heat of my up hill exertion.  It remained a cold day.

Before I got very far along the road an enormous dog came rushing out of Carbuncle’s yard and lunged at me.  It was a scary dog.  It was big and it was scary and it was barking and growling and baring its teeth at me.  It was either a Bull Mastiff or a Rottweiler.  I know very little about these dogs.  Carbuncle always has two large guard dogs inside the fenced in area behind his house.  When he built his house the land he bought was advertised as having panoramic views. It was true. The aspect across to the Knockmealdowns was spectacular.  It turns out he neither needed nor wanted a panoramic view as he quickly built high fences and filled his yard with cars.  Smashed up cars are piled high.  Some cars are not smashed but they are not visible over the fence. These get worked upon, repaired and sold. He keeps two dogs in the fenced in area all the time. They prowl around and bark when someone walks by the house.  They are protecting the good cars and the smashed cars and all of the tools and machinery which I assume must be in there. One is a big Alsatian and the other must be this monster on the road.  I do not know how he escaped.  I do not think he was supposed to be out. I tried to speak sweetly to the dog.  I used a gentle voice and I said nice things quietly.  I told him he was a good dog even though I was certain he was not a good dog.  I was terrified.  After several attempts at stepping along the road I gave up and turned around.  I walked slowly away from the snarling dog. I went back down the muddy path looking behind me every few steps.  I feared he might rush after me.  I had no doubt that he could tear me to shreds. There was no one around.  No one would hear if he tore me to shreds.  No one would know.

I was still shaking when I arrived home. I went over the fence and made a perimeter walk through some of Joe’s fields. I needed to calm myself and I still wanted to be outside in the sun. I tried to remember when was the last time I had met a dog that scared me.  Most of the dogs I see daily are walking free with or without a person. They are friendly gentle dogs.  They are simply going about their business.  They are as happy to see me as I am to see them and if the dog I see is a stranger I can always speak kindly and the dog will respond with a wagging tail.  I am shaken by this aggressive dog in my day.  I am nervous about my next walk up the path.  I am never happy for dogs to be locked up but I am really frightened by this dog being out on the roam.


21 December Wednesday. Winter Solstice.

Today is the shortest day.  Today is the day which brings with it the promise of longer days. I kept meaning to go for a walk and I kept putting it off as I found other things to do. In the back of my mind was the apprehension about the big dog.  I worried that he might be out again. I rang PJ Shine who is the neighbour up there.  He said the dog should not be out.  He was surprised and not happy to hear the dog was loose but he felt it was probably not too serious. He told me not to worry myself.  PJ only passes by in the safety of his tractor so he did not feel particularly threatened.  Then I saw the other PJ who said he had walked up by there the day before I did. He said he had been shocked to see the dog in the front yard.  It was barking and snarling but it did not come out on the road.  He felt unnerved by the dog.  I decided to go down and walk the Abbey walk. I decided to do the Abbey walk to avoid any chance of meeting the dog.   I parked at the cemetery and noticed that I had left it all a bit late. The light was really dropping.  I walked as far as the ruins of the Abbey and then I told myself I would just walk to the farm gate.  Then I said I would walk the track to the first barn.  Then I walked on to the lower gate. But the time I got there the sun had dropped behind the mountains and it was dusk.  I walked up hill with the light dropping by the minute. There were no lights anywhere.  No street lights of course. No house lights. No houses.  I walked the last part with a sense that the road was there. I could kind of see it but it was more about feeling it.  I was not afraid. There was nothing to be afraid of.  The dog was far away and on another road. There was nothing else to be afraid of.  By the time I reached my car at the top it was fully dark. If anyone had asked I could have answered There is No Fear in Me.

22 December Thursday

I bought the bunches of holly from the man at the market last Saturday even though I knew the bunches of holly were not holly.  He knew that I knew so neither of us used the word holly. We just made our little transaction.  He was selling the bunches of greenery strapped together with black tape as a bit of something extra and seasonal along with the wooden bowls and egg cups which he usually has for sale. I knew the holly was not holly but I was pleased to see red berries in such abundance.  I can step into the woods and cut loads of holly but there are never any berries on any of the holly I have ever found.  Maybe it is the particular breed that grows here.  I brought the holly which was not holly home and left it on the table outside the kitchen while I decided what to do with it.  In the day or two of lying around the birds have eaten every one of the red berries. If the holly I purchased had been real holly the birds would not have touched those berries and if they had eaten them they would be dead.   So now I have some shiny green leaves which are not holly leaves waiting to be used in some kind of seasonal way.  I have no red berries. I should have just gone out and cut some real holly and tied little red ribbons on to it which is what I usually do.


23 December Friday

The Farmers Market took place today instead of on Saturday because they thought people would not want to come out on Christmas Eve. It was too windy for the market. A sign had been put up near to the entry with the single word TODAY.  It was early when we arrived but TODAY had already been destroyed by the wind. The threatened storm named Barbara was encroaching. Very few tent stalls were in place.  Stella was selling her bread and cakes out of the back of the car.  Jim was packing up and leaving. He had only a few turnips to sell anyway and he had no patience with the wind.  He was worried and he wanted to go home. Everyone was sort of frantic. They wanted to get their food stuffs and go.  The girl from the Apple Farm was happy. She was in the back of a horse trailer with her apples and juices and vinegars and ciders.  She was out of the wind. Her feet were warm for the first time in weeks and weeks of market days. The rain was coming from several directions at once.  Everyone spoke of Barabara as if she was someone they knew.  There was the very real worry that we all might lose power. We had a quick coffee before heading home. Someone had wrapped fairy lights all around the railing on the stairs at the cafe. It was not possible to walk up or down the stairs without grabbing onto wires and lights.  Electrocution by Fairy Lights seemed a very real possibility.  It added to the manic feeling of the day.

24 December Saturday

I am avoiding the Mass Path. I am worried about the killer dog. I do not like having him control my movements. I do not like this fearfulness. John told me that I am Planking It.  I think Planking It is a way of saying that one is very nervous. Or maybe it means one is terrified.