Don’t Act the Maggot

by ericavanhorn

23 November Monday

The good news is that I now have a robin friend who hops along close to me as I perform small outdoor jobs. Wherever I go out of doors she appears and follows me. The days are bitter and frosty and short so most jobs get done in small spurts. I am stacking another load of firewood, and plucking off the big figs left on the bush while leaving only the tiny fingernail-sized ones. Moving the clay pots into the shed to avoid them cracking with frost and moving plants into the house or the book barn to help them to survive the winter. This new robin has no name yet but if she sticks around and becomes the robin who recognizes me and who I expect to see every day, I will of course name her. It is companionable to have a small presence to chat to in the cold. She tips her head to the left each time I speak.

24 November Tuesday

Tommie has lost track of how long it has been since he last visited Margaret in the care home in Cappoquin. He thinks he was forbidden to visit even before we went into this lockdown but he claims he is mixed up with the time. He knows that there is no chance that Margaret will remember when they last met so if he cannot remember then it probably does not matter anyway. He told me that when he last saw her she was in good form and that she was Thumping Away on Her Crate. He said he could not hear the racket through the glass dividing wall. Her Crate is what he calls her walking frame.

25 November Wednesday

The day was sunny and frosty. There was only one car parked in front of the shop. An elderly woman sat in the passenger seat. She waved to me with enthusiasm and mouthed greetings through the tightly closed window. I went into the shop and when I came out again the car was still there but the woman was gone. I looked up just in time to see her scurrying out from the churchyard leaning heavily on her stick and coming across the road as fast as she could move which was not very fast. She was out of breath when she reached the car and she asked me not to tell a soul that I had seen her. Her husband was still inside in the shop. She said there would be a massacre if he learned that she had stepped out of the car, especially as she was wearing neither a hat nor a mask. She had just popped into the churchyard to say hello to her parents in their grave. She felt certain that they would be feeling the cold.

26 November Thursday

The Community Alert text message warned that a white Nissan van was ‘calling to farmers’ yards looking for hay.’ The identifying number of the van was given and any sightings were to be reported to the Cahir Garda Station. The problem was not that someone was needing hay for their animals. The implication was that Looking for Hay was a pretext for people looking for things to steal.

27 November Friday

Not many cows are still grazing in the fields. Some herds are already under cover for the winter. Whenever I see any cows out in the grass, I call out “Hello Cows! It’s me!”

29 November Sunday

The morning is white. There is nothing to see beyond the book barn. The fields are gone. Joe’s cows are gone. The hills beyond are gone. There are no hills. Thick fog makes everything into an absence.

1 December Tuesday

Today is the first day that things are open again. We have completed our Six Week National Level 5 Lockdown. Almost everything is re-opening today: shops selling non-essential goods, libraries, churches, hairdressers and barbers are all open. Restaurants and cafés will be allowed to open in a few more days. Wet Bars will not be allowed to open. Everything is being staggered to try and keep group movement under control. We are still required to stay within our own county. Announcers on the radio are warning people not to be careless and not to congregate in groups indoors. I heard several voices instructing people: Don’t Act The Maggot. To Act The Maggot is to behave in a foolish way. It is to play at being dumb, usually to garner attention. I have never heard this slang expression used in official terms but today I have heard it again and again. Because everyone knows the expression, we know that we are being told to behave.

2 December Wednesday

I was nearing the top bit of the mass path where it is almost a road or it would be a road if anyone could drive on it. It is wide enough for a single vehicle but it is overgrown with grass and weeds and bushes on both sides are impinging. I saw Buddy up ahead. He was squatting and relieving his bowels. He looked at me with surprise but he did not bark. He finished what he was doing and then he jumped up and over the wall into his yard. Once there he began to bark furiously. His barking made Jessie come running and she ran ahead of him to bark louder and to jump up on me when I reached the tar road.  Buddy stayed in the background and let her do the job of protecting the property.

4 December Friday

There was a bloody bird carcass on a mossy rock. The bones of the body were still attached to the wing. I must have interrupted the fox because when I walked back that way an hour later, all evidence of the bird was gone. There was nothing left except the mossy rock.

7 December Monday

The fog was bad. Again. Thick and white and impenetrable. Driving to Waterford was terrifying but I needed to go to the hospital for a test.  I had no choice. I had a valid medical reason to cross the county line and I was driving in dense fog. It was a big day for me. I was halted by a Garda. I thought I was being stopped to justify my destination, but instead it was because there had been a collision. It looked bad. I had to wait a little while for the emergency services to arrive. I was the only car waiting so I was asked to put on my flashers to warn anyone who might drive up behind me. As I sat waiting for permission to drive onward, I watched two Garda unfolding a newspaper and attempting to cover the license plate of the mangled car. They had some tape but it was not the right kind of tape for the wet and cold weather. The newspaper kept falling off. They tried tucking it in around and behind the number plate, but nothing was working very well. The paper got wet and fell off. The Garda who had stopped me told me that they were trying to cover the plate so that if someone saw the car and perhaps knew the people who had been in it, they would not recognise the vehicle and be upset.