Arrive & Jive

by ericavanhorn

29 November Wednesday

The Aer Lingus flight from Boston was full of shoppers.  People might have gone over to celebrate Thanksgiving with family but it was obvious that the larger lure was for the long weekend of Black Friday shopping.  Every single person who boarded the plane was wearing new clothes.  Everyone was wearing new clothes and they were looking carefully at everyone else to see what they were wearing. New boots. New shoes. New trousers, belts and jackets.  New hats. The Must-Have item was  apparently a hooded sweatshirt. Two thirds of the passengers wore a brand new hooded sweatshirt. The passengers eyed one another, checking out purchases, as well as commenting and comparing places and prices.  There was a fair bit of bragging and oneupmanship. It was a hugely competitive atmosphere. And that was all before we sat down and fastened our seatbelts.

On arrival at Shannon at 5 am, the luggage carousel was full of enormous outsized suitcases.  The suitcases were so heavy that men had trouble dragging them off the carousel and pulling them up onto their trolleys. Some couples had four huge heavy cases between them, plus their carry-on bags. There was no doubt that the cases were full up with their shopping bounty. In comparison, our small lightweight cases looked like something made for dolls.

Shannon Airport is surrounded by its car parks. There is a short term car park and a long term car park.  Even at the furthest distance from the terminal building it is never more than a six minute walk to one’s car. For this trip, we decided to try the on-line car park because we thought it would be a cheaper option for the number of days away. When I am on my own I usually take the bus. After eating toast and drinking tea in the single restaurant in the terminal, I left Simon and walked out to the on-line car park.  Perhaps there is a courtesy bus that travels between this car park and the terminal but it was not visible when we parked, at about noon on the way into the airport for our outgoing flight, nor was it visible, if it does indeed exist, at that early hour.  I walked a kilometre to get to the car in the dark, seeing not a single person nor a  single vehicle. I was not surprised by the lack of bus service, the lack of outdoor lighting nor by the emptiness of the area. I was just glad that it was not raining. This is not an early morning kind of country.

1 December Friday

The same man who arrived a few weeks ago as the messenger from The Master of the Ardfinnan Hunt came again today. He told me that The Hunt will be around on Saturday. He said that they will be in the area, but that this time they will be without the horses.  It is difficult to imagine how this might work.  The dozens of beagles and other assorted dogs will run and rush around in their excited and frenzied pack but I cannot imagine how the men will be able to keep up with them on foot. The dogs are trained to come to the sound of the horn. I always dread the arrival of The Hunt but this time I am kind of curious as to how it will work.  I am wondering if the men will be wearing their snug fitting hunt jackets, jodphurs, high boots and their little helmets, or will they be in jeans and fleeces and wellie boots? I think that there is less chance than ever that they will catch the fox.

2 December Saturday

I took Tommie some of the small German stollen cakes that he loves.  It is only at this time of year that I can buy them. I try to take them to him as often as I can. The marzipan inside the stollen reminds him of Knocklofty House. He enjoys an excuse to talk about Knocklofty House. He was remembering the IRA kidnapping of Lord and Lady Donoughmore from the Big House in 1974. He said that there was no harm to anyone out of it all and that there was never even a ransom demand.  He told me that the couple were dropped off in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, still in their pyjamas after five days, and they had to be driven back home to Tipperary.  Lady Donoughmore had claimed that it was a wonderfully exciting adventure and she recounted the story about it for years.  Tommie said that she was a fine and spirited woman and that she smoked cigarettes.  He said that was the done thing at the time.

3 December Sunday

Once again the threat of the arrival of The Hunt came to nothing.  I heard the dogs in the distance up the hill in the direction of Donal Keating’s fields, but we saw nothing.

4 December Monday

Croan is going to bring us some firewood. He is our new source of timber.  He was not certain about exactly where we live so he asked me to text him our Eircode. When we were first assigned an Eircode, in 2015, the government was very polite about the new post code system.  Every house and every business was given its own seven letters and numbers.  We were assigned the code but we were told in the most agreeable way possible that we did not have to use it at all if we did not want to use it. So no one used it. It appeared that there was no reason to use it.  Slowly the Eircode has become essential.  Couriers as well as the post office, require it to locate addresses and increasingly the Eircode is typed into a phone or a GPS system to locate any business or home. We are less apt to find people driving around the roads in desperation looking for a person to ask about another person so that they can deliver something. The Eircode gets everyone to wherever they need to go. And now we are using it to get a double load of firewood delivered.

5 December Tuesday

Róisín paints Brown Furniture. It is what she does for a living. She goes to car boot sales and second hand shops and she buys up the old dark furniture that she says no one wants anymore. Sometimes the furniture is heavy and cumbersome, but sometimes it is just cheap lightweight stuff that has been heavily varnished to make it look sturdy and imposing. She tells anyone who will listen that no one wants Brown Furniture any more. She says it sucks the air out of a room. She is scornful when she speaks of Brown Furniture. Sometimes she strips the varnish off a piece and sometimes she merely sands it a bit, before she paints it in light pastel tones.

6 December Wednesday

It is raining hard. It has been raining hard all day.  The downpour is torrential.  There are rivers of water running down the road. There is news of flooding. We wanted peas with our supper.  The peas were in the freezer. The freezer is out in the shed.  I put on my rubber boots and a raincoat and a hat. I walked outside with a flashlight and an enamel cup.  The cup was for the peas.  I could fill the cup in the shed while standing beside the open freezer and that way I would not have to make two trips to the shed and back. If I did not take a cup with me I would have to bring the bag of frozen peas into the house and then walk back out again to return the bag to the freezer. Saving one round trip was an imperative considering the deluge.

8 December Friday

Pascal is the retired Garda who drives around the area delivering medicines and prescriptions for O’Brien’s pharmacy.  He delivers to people who cannot get out or to those who do not drive.  Everyone knows him and everyone trusts him. He knows everyone and if he does not know them, he knows how to find them. He is also always willing to do other errands if people need things.

11 December Monday

Every year the post office offers a free national stamp with every ten stamps purchased. This year there is a special booklet of twenty stamps with two free stamps in it.  In addition to the free stamp, there is also a free Christmas card with every ten stamps purchased. These are small gifts from the government.