The First Swallow

by ericavanhorn

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.