The Dancing Place

by ericavanhorn

12 March Sunday

Two black bulls are in Joe’s front field. They were standing around there like cut out silhouettes in January before I went away and they are still there. As if they have never been anywhere except there.

13 March Monday

On inquiring in the shop if they had any brown shoe polish, the woman and I began a conversation about the reduced availability of shoe polish and about the general lack of shoe polishing done by anyone these days. We agreed that the disappearance of shoe polishing activity probably is largely to do with people wearing sneakers or trainers, soft shoes that never needed polishing. She apologized for her own lack of shoe polish to sell to me and then she suggested, in a whisper, that I might try using Spray Furniture Polish. She said that she has used this method herself in the past and assured me that it works well. Still in a hushed voice, she said, “If I were to see you out and about with well polished boots, I would be the last person to question whether the shine came from shoe polish or furniture polish. The question would never cross my mind.”

14 March Tuesday

When Liam Harper needs an updated reading of our electricity consumption, he sends me a text and requests it. This happens several times a year. He used to leave a telephone message on the land line. Some weeks ago he sent a text and I told him that I was out of the country and that I would send the reading along as soon as I got home. He sent back a message saying Lovely! Enjoy! With little glasses of champagne scattered about. Back at home, I sent him the current reading: 81668. Smart Meters have been installed in local homes recently but we do not have one yet because we were not here when the men were going around doing the installations. For at least twenty-three years, we have reported our readings to Liam Harper, either by telephone or by text. I would not know Liam Harper if I met him on the road but I feel we have a certain amiable friendship. I asked Liam if the installation of a Smart Meter would spell the end of our regular chats. He texted back No More Reading with the Smart Meters! So, this current reading was our last. He added that he was delighted that we had a great holiday.

15 March Wednesday

There are daffodils everywhere. Daffodils. Narcissus. Crocus. Hyacinths. Forsythia. It is cold and often wet but it looks like spring, even when it does not feel like spring.  Primroses are blooming on the way up the boreen. And the wild garlic has arrived.

16 March Thursday

Ned arrived with a supply of fuel. I opened the window to pull in the extension lead and I plugged it in to the wall socket. Ned brings heating fuel on a small truck with a generator. The generator needs to be plugged into an electricity source in order to function. It is not possible for a normal size oil truck to come down the boreen so we always need to wait until Ned can come and then we must always be at home so that we can plug in the generator for him. We do the same ritual every time. He told me that he needed the ladder, so I went to the lean-to and dragged three ladders out and onto the grass. They were kind of tangled into each other and there were lengths of timber on top of them, so it was a struggle.  I could not pull only one out. I had to pull all three at the same time. The step ladder was too short. I took him one of the taller ladders, and he climbed up the banking to the oil tank where he cut away brambles with clippers before he started to fill. When he was finished, I unplugged the generator and handed the plug back out the window to him. Then we had tea and discussed the world. And we discussed Simon’s uncanny ability to measure volume. Before we ring Ned, Simon goes outside with a stick and he climbs up the banking and makes a measurement of the contents of the green plastic tank. There are no markings on the stick, nor on the tank. This time he did not even use a stick. Instead he just tapped the tank and listened to the fullness. Or the emptiness. When he arrives at the number of litres he thinks we need, he asks Ned to bring that amount. Today it was 750 litres. So far his estimate has never been wrong. Ned swears he has never known anything like it for accuracy. Before he left, Ned shouted to me that he had put the ladder away. When I went outside later, I saw that he had done so. Sort of. He threw the ladder down onto the grass with the other two, leaving them all for me to put away. It was even more difficult shoving them back into the lean-to than it had been to get them out.

19 March Sunday

I waited at Flemingstown Cross for the cows to pass. Flemingstown is not a town. It is just a name for a short area of road and land. It is a townland. There is no sign for Flemingstown. It is just a place with no specific edges, and we all know the name of it, which is how we are able to tell someone where we are or where something else is. There were two white tapes stretched across the road, one blocking my direction and another blocking the cul de sac to my right. The white tapes were tied onto bushes and even though they had no real physical strength or authority they were enough to let the cows know that they had to take a right, or my left, down Flemingstown. The cows plodded along single file to where they were being directed by this lack of choice. The boy on the quad bike following the cows looked very young. He dismounted to untie the white tapes and free the road again for traffic. I recognized that the cows belonged to Tomás O’Dwyer but I knew this boy was not a son of Tomás. He has five daughters.

20 March Monday

I walked down the street from Mike’s garage after leaving the car to be checked out. There is a gate in a break of the stone wall that leads into a field and often there is a small horse eating in the field. Maybe it is a pony. Today the horse was at the gate looking in the opposite direction from me as I approached on the sidewalk. I called out a cheerful Hello Horse! and he turned his head around and bit me on the shoulder. It was not a hard bite and it did not go through my coat. But it hurt and  it surprised me. I think it surprised the horse too. When I walked back the same way a few hours later, I had cleaned the horse saliva off my coat and I thought I might make a photograph of The Biter. He was no longer at the gate. I could not see him anywhere far down the muddy field.

21 March Tuesday

A elderly man stood in the center of the door to the shop.  Each time someone approached him to go in, or to come out of the shop, he made moves first left and then right and then left again.  He blocked the way in a kind of false confusion, threw out his arms and jiggled his hips back and forth. Each time, he announced with glee, “This is The Dancing Place!” I have heard this expression used before. It is used to define a busy doorway where people bump into one another as they try to go past one another or around one another. The idea of it being a Dancing Place is about the unintentional movement of two people together trying to move around one another. it suggests a dance. The man was reveling in the chaos of making a normally efficient doorway into a party. He was having a wonderful time.

22 March Wednesday

The top blew off one of the nut feeders. It blew off and it blew away. I cannot find it anywhere. I have now secured an oyster shell on the top of the feeder with the help of an elastic band. I may never find the original top but that is no longer a worry. This one is working well.