THE JOURNAL

some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Rainfall Radar, etc.

6 August Wednesday

The man who offered to paint the house said “I’d cost you less than the paint”.

5 August Tuesday

I now have a weather app on my phone. It is for the Irish weather and it can be accessed for various things. One is by region and another is a Rainfall Radar. There are other things to check for too, like wind and sea crossings. Everyone can check the things that concern them. There is a special place for Blight. Potatoes are always important here. When growing potatoes there is always a danger of the Blight. Blight can destroy an entire potato crop in no time at all. No one in the middle of the city is going to care about the possibility of Blight, but here it is a big topic of discussion, in season. When there is possibility of Blight, it appears as a place to check on the app. The rest of the time it is not there. Rainfall Radar is listed even when there is no possibility of rain, but Blight is only listed if the threat is present.

4 August Monday

We went to visit Johnnie and Marian. They have a farmyard which is completely decorated. There are many things painted red and blue and white. Some things are painted red and blue. Some things are painted blue and white, and some things are painted red and white. Some things are painted with all three colours. There is some yellow here and there, but red, white and blue are the predominant colours. A gate with wire mesh in between the bars is painted red, with white around the top edge. It stands open against a bright blue wall. There are dozens of bird houses. Some of the birdhouses are for feeding and nesting. Some have become only decorative because they are in places where the rats could get at them so they are not safe for birds anymore. There are planters with red and pink flowers in them. There are lattice work things in various shapes for plants to grow up and there are stable doors painted in several colours, both inside and out. There are tables and chairs everywhere as though at any moment anyone at all might want or need to take a sit down. One table has cups and saucers glued down in position for four people. Just inside one shed was another table with two chairs and a big ashtray. This is for sitting inside when there is rain. It is inside but it is still outside. It is not like going into the house. There is a gazebo which was probably planned for two people to sit in, but two people would be a squeeze. One person could sit there comfortably and again, be out of the rain. John and Marian are brother and sister. I do not know who has the ideas.  We saw John’s big and very well organized workshop in one barn. Maybe it is just his or maybe they work in there together. There is a sound system with eight speakers all piled one on top of the other. I don’t know if they were all hooked up but Tipp FM has never sounded so good..

3 August Sunday

The Cabbage Whites are back. They have been flapping and fluttering over the lavender and the sweet peas for hours and hours. It looks like it is the same group all the time but perhaps some fly away and others take their place. It’s a breezy day, so the whole gathering of butterflies could even be blown away while a new gathering gets blown in. It is impossible to know. The clouds are racing along with the breeze, so in between moments of bright sun, there are moments of overcast greyness. When the grey takes over the whiteness of the Cabbage Whites seems even whiter. It glows. The whiteness of the wings glows while the wings are flapping. On the subject of white, I saw three small puffballs up near the farm yesterday. Their whiteness is another sort of glowing. They are really bright and fresh looking. I decided to wait a day or two before collecting them. I do not know if this is a bad idea or a good idea. Last year I saw a huge puffball in the same vicinity and while I waited for it to get bigger, it disappeared. I am now remembering what a friend who is knowledgeable about mushrooms told me after that. He said You must never wait. He said If you find a puffball or indeed any mushroom, grab it immediately. Here I am again, greedily waiting for my puffballs to get a little bigger. Maybe I should walk up and fetch them right now.

1 August Friday

Today I saw a bar doubling as a bicycle shop. It is normal and traditional to see bars which also function as grocery shops. Mary Halley’s bar in Clogheen used to have a huge smoked ham hanging over the bar. The whole place was two tiny rooms and the bar was not very long. Drinks had to be ordered around the ham. I have not been in there for a long time, but I would guess that there is probably still a ham hanging there. People running bars often double as undertakers, and sometimes as auctioneers or property valuers. There are not so many people to do business in a rural places so it is practical to double up on jobs. This is the first time I have seen a bicycle shop and a bar together, but it makes good sense. There is not so much day time drinking these days, so repairing bikes is a good activity for the quiet times. It keeps someone around just in case someone does want a drink.

31 July Thursday

I went to have my hair cut. The man doing the cutting loves to cook. I have never been there without the postman or a courier arriving with a parcel of new cookbooks for him. He loves cookbooks. He loves to cook and he loves to talk. He talks about what he has cooked recently and he talks about what he is going to cook. Today he told me that he has all the ingredients for tonight’s dinner cut up, prepped and in little containers in the refrigerator ready to go. He makes dinner for between 15 to 18 people every single night. He is feeding a large extended family. I do not know if they all live in one house or in several houses. I do not know how many are children and how many are adults. There is a large vegetable garden down the back. There are chickens and ducks. I know as much as he tells me in the time it takes for my hair to be cut. Last night, he organized those people still sitting around after dinner to help him cut up the vegetables for tonight’s dinner. He likes to get everyone working. And Thursday is his night for working late so he prefers to be ready. He described his newest favourite Sunday supper. He said it was such a hit with the family that they want him to make it every Sunday. He had three chickens which he rubbed with herbs and seasoning and he put butter under the skins. When he had finished with that, he pushed an open can of beer up each chicken’s bottom. The can made the chicken stand up straight. He then put the three chickens into a barbeque. It was a big barbeque, probably like a Weber, with a rounded top. The chickens were able to stand up in there in the dark on their beer cans. As the beer heated up in the cans, it fizzed out like a quiet volcano and the chickens were cooked from the outside in. He was delighted with the end result and so was everyone else. The older woman beside me was the only other person in the salon. Her hair had some gloopy mixture on it. She listened avidly to the whole description of the chickens. When he was done, she asked if she could do the same thing in her oven. He said Well, that wouldn’t really work, would it, as you need the heat to be coming from the bottom and you need to hold all the heat in a confined space to keep the steaming process going. He said you needed exactly what a barbeque could do. She still did not understand why her cooker could not do the same thing. He said she herself had been stewing too long and it was time for her to get her hair rinsed.

29 July Tuesday

We picked up Em in Skeheenarinky. Some flags have been installed along the road side of the meadow. There are about ten so far. They are small flags, not big flags. The road is narrow with grass down the middle. It dead ends just after the kennel. It is so narrow that it is not even easy to turn around. The only people who will see the flags are those come to drop off or collect a dog. Each flag is for a country connected to a dog, or rather to a dog’s owners. Most of the dogs who stay are Irish, but their owners are from various places. People are being invited to give Lukki a flag from their own place of origin. So far he has flags from South Africa, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, England, and Australia along with a few other European ones. I should have looked more carefully to be able to remember all of them. Although not a great fan of the United States, he suggested that I might want to contribute a flag.

11 July Friday

We have a long narrow sack with an elasticized opening at both the top and the bottom. The purpose of the sack was to hold all of the plastic carrier bags which every house acquired after trips to the shops. We shoved bags into the top of the sock-like sack and pulled one out of the bottom whenever we needed one. There are no plastic carrier bags in our lives now. It has been so long since the governement passed the carrier bag tarif. We are all conditioned to carry our cloth shopping bags or baskets. The ladies who invented this kind of storage sack must have been delighted with themselves. No more drawers full of unwieldy plastic. Every time the Irish Countrywomen’s Association had a sale someone would be selling these hand-made sacks. Now no one needs the sacks. I have been waiting and waiting to think up another use for my bag sack. It hangs limp and useless and faded from a coat hook. It is not even attractive. Somehow I cannot quite bring myself to throw it away.

10 July 2014

Rose has a method for serving up a hot toddy. Hot water, lemon, whiskey and sugar are put into a glass. The glass used is a particular glass with vertical ridges and a sort of lip about half way up the glass. The lip extends out from the surface of the glass in a way that allows the glasses to be stacked upon one another. When Rose has filled one glass with the hot drink for medicinal purposes, she sits the glass inside another glass. The person recieiving the drink can hold the glass which is not hot while drinking from the glass which is hot. Another method to solve the hot glass problem is a few sheets of newspaper torn off and wrapped around the glass with a twist where the newspapers join. This serves the same purpose but is not as attractive as a double height glass.

9 July Wednesday

Em walks and walks and walks. She walks as if she is measuring out space. Her steps will take her to a certain point and then she will change direction abruptly. Sometimes there is a bush or a wall or a chair in her path. Sometimes there is nothing in her path. Some instruction panal in her head gives the command to turn left or to trun right or to reverse direction, and she obeys. I have spent a lot of time watching but I can discern no order nor logic to her movements and her decisions. I am watching dementia in control.

8 July Tuesday

A Gas Man is someone who is humorous. To be called a Gas Man is considered a compliment. A funny or an entertaining person may be called a Gas Man, but something funny is not referred to as A Gas. I have never yet heard a woman described as a Gas Woman.

7 July Monday

The government gives grants for houses to be re-thatched. The grant is larger if the house is visible from the road. Houses near roads can be seen by visitors.. The thatched roof is a look the country and the government like to keep going. There are lots of complications to go along with a thatched roof. The belief is that a thatched roof is more prone to fire so the insurance on a thatched house is considerably higher than the insurance for a regular house. If a person buys an old thatched cottage, the person is obliged to keep the roof thatched. Roof repairs cannot be re-done with slates. If the thatched house is a wreck and must be torn down, a new house built on the same location must be thatched. Replacement thatching varies a lot. Sometimes it is done in the old traditional way. Sometimes it is a different sort of thatching and not at all what is traditional here but rather what is traditional somewhere else. The reeds might come from the area around the Shannon, or the reeds might be imported from Poland. The thatchers might be Irish or they might be over from England. Where the thatcher comes from will determine the style of the thatching. A small cottage nearby has just been re-thatched. No one lives in the cottage nor is there a plan for anyone to live in it. It has just been re-thatched and the ground immediately around it has been cleared. It all looks very nice. That seems to be enough.

6 July Sunday

People begin arriving for 11 o’clock Mass as early as 10 ‘clock. Some park way up near the bridge with the car facing in the direction in which they live. They park way up there in the hope that they will not be trapped in tight by other cars which come along later and park out towards the bridge. They park there so they will be ready to leave. The later drivers will park out there just because all of the places nearer have been taken. There are elderly drivers backing into spaces in front of the shop. They too are in Ready Position but they are closer to the church. They find it easier to back into a place before there are other cars to possibly bump into. Some people stay sitting in the car, waiting for others to arrive. Most get out and they go into the shop or they go into the graveyard to visit the dead. By the time they return from the graveyard there are more people arriving. They are able to talk and visit with the living. The older people arrive early. Younger people and families come racing down the hill at the very last minute.

5 July Saturday

The man on the radio said that one hurling team overcame another, rather than saying that one team defeated another.

4 July Friday

She has gone into hospital. She had a week in bed and then the pain got bad. It was so bad that she spoke of it, and she is not one to complain. The ambulance came and took her away on Monday. He said he did not like seeing her go off in the ambulance but he said again that she was not one to complain, so if she complained she must have been very bad. He said they were doing tests. He is old and she is old. He is very worried and he feels useless. He said he did not know what to do for a sick woman. He said “Give me an ailing horse or a sheep or a goat, and I know exactly what to do. I just do not know what to do for a sick woman.”

3 July Thursday

I was down in the book barn sewing book sections. I sensed eyes on me. When there are cows in the near field I sometimes feel I am being watched. It is not unusual to look up and to see two or three cows pressed against the fence and looking in at me. Cows are curious. There were no cows in the field today. When I looked up The Fox was just outside the window. The window is long and low to the ground. From the inside, it is at my waist height, but from the outside it is nearly even with the ground. The window is long. It is just under three metres long and about one metre high. The Fox was almost touching the glass. His breath was making the glass steam up. He looked at me and I looked at him. I did not move and he did not move. Standing so still in such an expanse of glass, made him appear to be less The Fox and more like a photograph of a fox. After a few seconds he raised his left front foot and then he waited a little longer. He turned his head away from my gaze, and he ran down the hill. For a few minutes, I watched the space where he had been standing and then I went back to sewing my books.

2 July Wednesday

These mornings, Em does not get up until 10 or 10.30. She wakes a little bit by opening her eyes to note the tea and breakfast making movement around her. She is aware of us stepping over her stretched out body, but she makes no effort to get out of the way nor to get up. She dozes in between our activity. Since she gets up so late and goes to bed so early, her days are short. She still spends a lot of her time pacing in circles around a chair or around a table. When she attempts to take a corner too quickly she crashes into a leg or a wall and just stands stopped and surprised by her inability to go forward. Sometimes the impact with something just knocks her to the floor. Then she looks around as if lying exactly where she is is exactly where she meant to be.

30 June Monday

It is hot. It is hot for here. It is hot enough for people to use the expression : It Is Hot Enough To Split Stones. This is the expression that comes out every time the heat builds up. It is not really that hot. I think the highest temperature is 23 Celsius or 73 Fahrenheit. That is not terribly hot, but it is nice. It does not get much hotter here, so we are at our optimum of summer heat. Everyone is excused for doing less than usual. This much heat brings the possibility of thunder and lightening. Last Friday the sky went black and there was thunder and a little bit of lightening. People are very frightened about lightening. The talk at the market was all about the fearfulness. I do not understand why it is considered so scary. They do not understand why I find it exhilerating rather than threatening.

28 June Saturday

I went to the market today. It was the first time in almost six weeks. I completely overdid it. I did not drive, but this is only the second time I have left our valley at all. The first time was just to the village and back. This trip had a great many installments. I climbed the stairs at the cafe where we went for breakfast. Stairs are difficult. I had no idea how difficult. Then we walked over to the market and there were ever so many conversations which should have been nice but everything took place while I was standing up. Standing up and talking is more difficult than I realized. It was Jim’s birthday, so we had to sign a card for him. The card was a secret. We were sent behind the table at the stall of the man who sells jellies and jams and chutneys. The card was hidden there. That meant another conversation and that meant more standing. It was a big birthday. Jim was turning 80. There was to be a presentation of the card and a gift for him at 11 o’clock. We were told this by the cheese lady. Everything was discussed, at each stall, in big whispers by everyone. Every discussion was accompanied by quick looks over at Jim to make sure he was at his stall and not near enough to hear the plans being discussed.. We promised to be back in time for the presentation. We rushed over the bridge and went to the supermarket. I walked at my usual speed. The excitement of the birthday plan made everything feel imperative and important and that everything must be done quickly. Everything was important. The supermarket was full of Saturday shoppers and their trolleys and conversations. Music played loudly. I got dizzy with it all. The walk over the bridge was too fast and the shop was too full. Looking for a place to sit down, I found a display made of three old pallets just beyond the check-out counter. There was an olive green rug spread over the pallets and there were various things on the old rug, not really as a proper display, but sort of on display. Things had been put there in clumps as a place for them to put. I found a little empty edge and sat down with my head low to stop myself from fainting. Within minutes an old man came along and grabbed at one of the items on display. It said GRIP N GRAB on the cardboard backing. The thing attached to the cardboard was about a metre long. The man bent the cardboard away from the gadget itself at both top and bottom. He nudged me so that I could observe how it functioned. He said his daughter had bought him one of these things. He threw a packet of cream crackers onto the floor and shouted “Watch this! I’ll pick it up,so!” He did something and picked up the crackers with the claw at the end. I nodded and dropped my head again. He stopped someone walking past and he threw the crackers down again and he did his demonstration again. After the third time, someone came and either took him away or took the GRIP N GRAB away. I did not look up. Simon came and found me and we walked slowly back over the bridge. We did not return to the market for the birthday presentation. We got into the car and went straight home. It was all much too much.

27 June Friday

Michael grew up in Clonmel. He said you could always tell when someone had recieved The American Parcel. They would be walking down the street wearing clothes that no one else was wearing. You would know that the clothing came from one of these parcels sent by well-meaning relatives from America, even if you did not actually know the person. The clothes looked different and they looked new, even if they were not exactly new. If you saw someone in a pair of checked trousers they had to have come from an American Parcel. Checked trousers were a dead give-away. Any time someone walked out in new clothes, he or she would be asked if The American Parcel had arrived. In one way it was a joke and in one way it was just showing that nothing happened without others taking note. If you were in a family who received an American Parcel, you wore the clothes but it did not mean you liked them. Recieiving the clothes was one kind of announcement. Wearing them was another.

26 June Thursday

Tommie came back to report that a second duck has been taken by the fox. He said he was not surprised by this news. After the fox took the first duck, Tommie knew he would be back for the second. He knows that the fox will now be back again for the third and final duck. The fox will not stop until he has had all three of them. He said that a fox always prefers a duck to a chicken. He explained how easy it was for a fox to grab a duck by its neck and to toss the duck over his shoulder while he or she carried the duck back to the woods to feed a family of young foxes. He said it is easier to get hold of the duck and easier to carry the duck. Chickens are okay but the feathers make the journey more difficult. The feathers and the shorter neck combined make the carrying more difficult. A chicken does not stay tossed over the shoulder like a duck does. Tommie ended his telling by saying, “You can believe that if you like, but I know it to be true.”

25 June Wednesday

When Joe’s cows are in the near field, there is often a wild tooting of his tractor horn at 5 o’clock. He races through the field rounding up the cows for their walk to the milking parlour. There are both long drawn out blasts and little pips. It is an exciting sound in the midst of the gathered quiet of an afternoon.. Sometimes he does not toot the horn at all. He just drives around and gets the cows walking in the same direction. I think they respond to the sound of the tractor as much as to the sound of the horn. The horn makes it all more imperative and makes me feel like they are really going somewhere special. This rounding up, with or without the horn tooting, is not an everyday thing. The cows are rotated around different fields eating their fill of one before moving on to another. We enjoy their company for a few days every few weeks when this is their field for eating. Along with their occasional presence comes the thrilling sound of their departures.

24 June Tuesday

The grass roof has gone brown overnight. In spite of day after day of hot sun and no rain, it has remained looking good and fresh and green with lots of purple strife standing tall and bright against the sky. Now the grass is burnt and the blossoms, though still purple, look weak and washed out. The difference from yesterday is shocking. We are promised a band of rain coming in off the Atlantic. I hope it’s arrival will be soon enough to rejuvenate the roof.

22 June Sunday

Yesterday was the longest day. The Summer Solstice. The sun rose at 4.56 and it set at 21.56. At midnight, the sky was still not dark. It was a dark blue but it was still a colour. I lay awake and looked out at the sky wondering if I would fall asleep before the blue disappeared into night black. I thought about the older woman who I had heard complaining so bitterly about these long bright evenings. She said she did not like to Go To Bed in the Brightness. She preferred the winter when it got dark early and she could go to bed early because everyone else went to bed early. It was okay to go to bed early because the darkness made the world quiet. With these long days she felt she had to stay awake simply because it was light. She felt lonely in the long light evenings but she did not feel loneliness with long dark evenings. She was not in the habit of sleeping in the day so why should she begin the habit of sleeping in the light. If she wanted to take a nap in the day she would have to remove her shoes and put them on again. All her life she has put on her shoes in the morning and she has removed them at night when she went to bed. She could not imagine taking off the shoes and putting them back on again in the middle of the day. That would be as disturbing as the long light nights, or maybe it would be more disturbing.

21 June Saturday

Now that the sun has come out and the days are long and dry and hot, we are surprised again and again by the absence of the shade. The big branches were cut off in the autumn. The cutting was years overdue as the main trunk of the tree has long been hollow and dangerous. Had the branches not been cut when they were they surely would have crashed down in the winter winds. The winds were wild. Trees and branches fell down everywhere. So regardless of how the branches came down, we would still be missing the shade as we sit out at the big table this summer.

18 June Wednesday

Simon wanted to make a rubber stamp of a fly. He wanted an image of a fly poised as if it had just landed upon something. His image of the fly was tiny. He wanted a smaller than life-sized fly but he still wanted it to appear real. He talked to someone at a rubber stamp company in Dublin. The man insisted that he himself had a better image of a fly than the image that Simon had sent. He sent his own fly image back by email. It was not a fly which had landed on something, rather it was a scientific diagram of a fly. When Simon phoned and explained that this was a completely different kind of fly and a different kind of portrayal, the man responded by saying “Well, what does it matter? Sure, a fly is a fly.” Simon returned to his original fly for the making of the stamp. When the invoice arrived for the finished stamp, it was described as Bee.

15 June Sunday

I found a wren’s nest over near the fig tree. It was down on the ground and empty, so I guess the wrens were finished with the eggs and the babies and the nest itself. The entire nest had been woven using Emily’s hair. There were a full selection of her long hairs. The black and white and a selection of grey hairs were all mixed together. A few tiny bird feathers were there too.

14 June Saturday

Tommie stopped down for a visit. He commented about the separateness of some neighbours. He asked us if we ever saw them and he asked if we ever spoke with them. He wanted to know if they ever spoke to us in response when we spoke to them. He told us that these people are people known to value their privacy. He announced: “It’s like they have their own language.”

8 June Sunday

At first I thought it was a grand idea for Em and I to take a stroll together. She cannot go very fast and neither can I. I felt we were more evenly matched. By putting her on the lead I thought we could do a slow journey up the track together. What I forgot is how often her back legs give way. I am not able to lift anything. My lifting ban includes her back legs. I cannot lift her hips and hold her up for the few minutes needed until she gets herself stable. All I can do is to stand patiently nearby until she is ready to push herself up and start her slow stagger again.

6 June Friday

It might just be a generational thing. There seem to be so many men with the name Michael. . There are of course a lot of men named John and Patrick, but it seems every other person of a certain age is named Michael. I have been remembering one Michael who was schedualed to have an operation which he did not want to have. I do not know if he did not want the operation because he was terrified, or if he did not want the operation because he felt he knew better than the doctors and he felt he did not need the operation. He evaded surgery for more than a year. Each time he was schedualed to go to hospital he would drink heavily for several days. He would drink so much that he would then be turned away by the hospital for not being in a fit state to be operated upon. Finally they took him into a bed early in order to control his drinking in the days before the surgery. After the operation and after a long recuperation, he was proud to tell anyone who would listen that he had been four hours On The Table. He felt sure that this long time of attention to himself was something unusual and special. It seems not long ago that he was bragging about all this but it must have been longer than I think, as this particular Michael has been dead now for at least seven years. The operation he avoided for so long was not the cause of his death.

5 June Thursday

I cannot hang out the clothes because they are too heavy when they are wet. I cannot carry the basket of wet laundry as far as the line anyway. I am continually surprised by my limitations. I tried to explain this to someone. She said “Oh You mean you can’t do the Pegging Out?” I forget that clothes pins are called clothes pegs and that the act of hanging out a wash is called Pegging Out. I never speak of Pegging Out since I never speak of Clothes Pegs.

2 June Monday

Every part of this recuperating brings me new ways of doing things. I can slip on my rubber shoes but I cannot put on my welly boots. The welly boots demand a degree of pulling and pushing which I am not yet capable of. Anyway, I cannot even do the bending which would be the first part of the boot putting on. The slip-ons are okay. Luckily, they restrict my movement to places with short grass. My little walks out feel adventurous to me but they are still very little walks. Short grass locations are just enough.

29 May Thursday

The bed is built into the walls. There are walls on three sides. The bed is high off the floor. The bottom of the mattress is at the same height as the window sill. I need a step stool to climb in and out of the bed. This bed has become my world. I have read about operations and the recovery time afterward. I have visited people in this state but I had never been in this state myself. I understood that the world gets smaller when one is confined. Now I am living this smaller world. My immediate world is the only world. The window at the end of the bed gives me a view out into the garden. Most of the things I can see are white. There are white lilacs, ox-eye daisies, cow parsley, hawthorn blossom and stitchwort. It is a big year for stitchwort. It is everywhere. The green grasses, leaves and foliage in between things as well as mounds of purple sage set off all the frothy white. The grey of the stone barn is a further backdrop for the shades of white. Later there will be other colours as more blossom appears. For now, white is the colour of this waiting.

19 May Monday

Again: That Man Who Waits Beside His Car While His Sister Walks Her Dog. The man and his sister continue to stop and walk the dog on the same impossible stretch of road. He is parking his car more and more out in the road every day. He barely uses the lay-by area anymore. As he leans against the car smoking and waving to each passing vehicle, he is imposing himself further and further out into the traffic of the road. It is as if he is daring someone to hit him. He salutes enthusiastically at each passing motor. He is impossible not to notice. The sister still pulls the dog up tight on his short lead as soon as she hears a motor approach which means she is pulling quite often on the poor dog’s neck. Her stick looks like it has gotten bigger. It is now a very short but very thick black cudgel. She holds it close over the poor dog’s head all the while that she is choking him with the lead. I cannot bear watching them. They each seem madder than the other. And everyday between 2.30 and 3.30 when I head down to catch the last post, there they are. With so few people out and about, these two are usually the only two I see. I feel I am setting myself up to be annoyed by passing them and their unhappy dog every weekday.

18 May Sunday

Em and I are back to walking up the boreen. We proceed only as far as the gate to Scully’s wood. I am being extra careful not to overdo her energy and leg strength. She often sets off with reluctance, but very quickly she becomes involved in the smells and the possibilities. The cow parsley has been filling up the space of the track at head height. At my head height, not Em’s head height. She can walk in the arched space in either of the two tyre tracks. I am having trouble walking anywhere. Even the lumpy grass in the middle is not a free spot. The cow parsley is so heavy with blossom that it just droops and falls. Today it is also heavy with the remains of the rain. Wherever I walk, I am slapped in the face and flapped around the shoulders. It is a soft and gentle slapping and flapping. It might even be fun if it were not so wet.

17 May Saturday

The last few days have been warm and balmy. We all feel like summer has arrived and we joke about how nice it would be if this would just continue for the next four months. We pretend that it will be like this for four months. Of course, there is no chance of this weather continuing for four months. We already know that the rain and cooler air will return tomorrow. People are worried for the schedualed Ardfinnan Tractor Run. The town has been decorated with bunting since early in the week. There are many events and fund-raising things planned. It is all to raise money for the hospice. The tractors, mostly old but a few new ones too, will drive through the countryside and through selected villages. People have paid money to sponsor the tractors doing their slow procession. Even though there are huge stretches of road with no one to watch them, they will drive slowly through the landscape in a long line. When people do see them, both the tractor drivers and the people on the ground will wave like mad. Since rain is promised there will be fewer people standing outside and waving but the tractors will continue their crawl. The older ones rarely have a roof so those drivers will be wet. We are all worried about the tractors driving in the rain tomorrow but today it is sunny, and lambs and calves are in every field. Blossoms and birds and bees are everywhere. Joe’s blue Teat Trailer with all of the pink nipples is parked outside a gate. Everywhere looks like summer.

16 May Friday

I am enjoying the posters for this upcoming election. There are more and more posters appearing every day. Maybe it just seems like there are more and more appearing every day. The posters are on utility poles and on trees. Some are on fences and gates and sometimes they are on the side of a barn. Some of the candidates affect a glamourous pose in their photograph. Some look dazed and unhappy as they attempt a confidence inspiring expression. One man looks like his shirt is always untucked. This is immediately understood, even from his head and shoulders shot. The faces scattered through the landscape make the countryside feel more populated and active. I do not know these people but I feel like I do when I see the same few faces again and again. I think what I am most enjoying is the imposition of language in the landcape. There is so rarely anything to read as we move around on foot or in cars. Knowing that in a week or ten days all of the signs will be gone and we will be just looking at cows and green things again makes it okay too. For now I am enjoying all of the slogans and the few names which repeat themselves. There are three people on one poster and the slogan across the top is The Cuts and Charges. They have made themselves sound like a music group when all they are doing is protesting various austerity measures and the new water rates.

15 May Thursday

Throughout the winter months and in this time before vegetation and foliage fill in the ditches, dumping places are exposed. There is one particular place which I keep track of. It is a deep dug-out area, just under the ditch and near the road. There are feed bags, and rusted buckets and many rusted things which I cannot identify. There are broken fence posts and old churns, and a fair bit of wire in coils. Sometimes I think this place was simply a dumping spot for the farmer and sometimes I think it was not just a dumping place. I think it doubled as a storage place. If the farmer were out in the fields and a fence needed repair, he probably knew that the wire he needed was right there. Mid-summer, the whole pile of stuff in its pit would be tangled up with brambles and growth but during a great part of the year it could just be considered Things In Storage. The particular farmer whose storage pit I pass and look into is now dead. I doubt anyone else is using the place either for dumping or for storage so in a few more years the brambles will have made it all disappear. The last of the still useable materials will succumb to the weather and the spot will no longer exist as any sort of a place at all.

14 May Wednesday

The Smell of Slurry over the land is terrible. We have closed all of the windows but still the smell seems to just ooze in. It is burning my eyes and my throat. I am glad I had not yet hung the washing out to dry. If it were hanging out it would simply be absorbing all of the slurry smell with its drying. I think it is a good day to go to do some errands in town. It is a good day to be anywhere but here. When I return the smell will be less horrible. It won’t be gone but it will be a little bit better.

13 May Tuesday

Oscar is now the neighbourhood dog. He hangs around most of the day at The White Cottage but even if he is up the hill at his own house, he keeps track of anyone walking the road. When he hears someone coming along, he rushes out from wherever he is and then he walks along with them wherever they are going. If they come back the same route, he will split off on the way back, otherwise he will just go home alone when the walk ends for the people he is with. We all enjoy his company. If the people he sees a have a dog with them, he joins along with their dog. If they are on their own, they are happy to have him. We are all happier to walk with a dog for company. I especially enjoy him since Em can no longer go with me. Dogs pay attention to things in different ways. I feel a dog and I are exploring together. Tonight we sat out in the evening sun even though it was still a bit cold. Being out in the air was the best way to enjoy the light. Oscar arrived and rushed around greeting us and peeing on things and drinking water. We listened for voices. We assumed that he was walking with someone. We sat for a long while after his arrival and no one ever came down the boreen. No one on foot and no one on a horse. After an extended visit, we went inside and Oscar went home. To have Oscar come calling all on his own is a new thing.

12 May Monday

Tommie stopped and spoke to me on the road. He was in his car. I was on foot. He gave some news of a local man. Then he commented on that same man and said how well he looked. He commented that the man looked very young for his age. He was quiet for a minute as he thought about this youthfulness. He concluded by saying “It must be A Lack of Bitterness.”

11 May Sunday

The cows have been using the upper boreen to go in and out to the far fields across the tar road. The grass down the middle is completely gone. At first I thought the grass had been eaten but eating is not possible when they are moving in a group. The track is completely churned up. Both the grass and the lumpy section of earth down the middle are just gone. The lumpy section had been high enough to scrape on the bottom of cars. Now the grass and the earth it was growing on have been trampled into a single muddy evenness. It is messy, but even so, the walking over such a definitively flattened surface is grand.

10 May Saturday

My room is full of dead bumblebees. Well, it is not full, but today I counted seven. Other days I have not counted. I have just noticed the bodies. The dead are all just in front of the door. They must be diving at the glass trying to get out. The impact with the glass either kills them or it stuns them. Either way they end up dead. I let a few of the living out every time I am up there. Some I catch in a jar and toss outside and some just fly right out if I leave the door open. I can’t figure out where they are coming from.

9 May Friday

The fox walked into the yard. He moved slowly. He moved as though he were confident about where he was and where he was going. He stopped and sat near the big table. Then he moved over to drink some water from the low water trough. He wandered here and there sniffing at things and looking at other things. He looked good with his shiny coat and bushy tail. He did not look in the least bit scruffy. There were no clumps of rough old fur. He looked almost as if he had been freshly brushed. He never looked at the house, even though he was very near to it. He must have smelled Em out in the grass. Possibly he has already realized that she is not much of a threat. He wandered around for 15 or 20 minutes and then he continued down the meadow. I watched from the window until he disappeared from my sight.

8 May Thursday

I am waiting for a man to deliver some mulch. I dare not use the telephone because I fear he will either try to ring because he is lost or because he is stuck trying to fit down the boreen in a truck that is too large. That is, of course, assuming that his mobile phone will have any reception wherever he is, which is not very likely. Indeed, if my own mobile worked here, I could be using that instead of avoiding the land line to await his call. Or he might just come down, and dump the very big and heavy bag somewhere where I do not want it and then it will be impossible to move it until it is half emptied. It cannot be moved except with a forklift. Even half empty the bag cannot be moved. . So I have the window open, even though it is cold and miserable. I am trying not to use the telephone. All I can think of are calls I should be making. Today is his delivery day for fuels, fence posts and whatever in the area and I was promised he would be here right after 10. So I am staying off the phone and sitting in the cold. It is now 1.30. Surely by now he has decided to leave it until after lunch?

7 May Wednesday

Twenty-four hours of Nearly Dead Dog and today Em is back. She is not begging to go up the track again but she is walking. She got up off the floor without needing The Morning Hip Lift. I was so happy to see her moving about that I wanted to take her photograph. That made me realize that I have pretty much stopped taking photos of her in recent months. It is not so interesting to take pictures anymore. She looks like herself, but a photograph of herself staring off in the distance would not really portray the vacant staring of an elderly dog. It would just look like Em looking off in a direction. A photo would not show the vacant stare but I would know. Even in a photograph, I would know. This is not a look I want to remember.

6 May Tuesday

So—the new walks with Em have perhaps been a bit too much. Perhaps I should have tried every other day. Or perhaps I should have tried every third day. Every day, one after another, whet her appetite for more and she could not wait to get going in the morning. It was too many days in a row. We now have a dog who can barely stand up. She can barely stand and barely walk and she is collapsing in a heap after just a few steps. Either she is dying or she is just exhausted and needing a few days off. I hope it is only exhaustion. I really, really hope it is only exhaustion.

5 May Monday

Another Bank Holiday. Grey, overcast and cool. I am hoping the sun will come out. I have taken Breda’s advice and have been giving Em some strolls in the boreen.  She suggested that I drive Em up as far as the farm and use the downhill slope to get her to walk back down to the house. It is difficult to get Em in and out of the car these days, so even though it is uphill, I have been putting her on the lead and setting off. By attaching her to myself, she has to come along with me and since she does not resist, I like to think she appreciates having the decision made for her. To begin, we only went to the first gate on the left, the one leading into Joe Keating’s field. Another day, we progressed as far as the gate into Scully’s wood. Today we went all the way to the farm and I think she wanted to Keep Going. It is a slow walk, but that is mostly because she needs to sniff at every single thing. It is so much better and more stimulating than wandering around in circles out in the grass. Since we got home she has been sleeping soundly. Both the stroll and the nap are an improvement on the ceaseless pacing around a random table or a chair.

4 May Sunday

We set off to walk down to the joining of the two rivers but when we got as far as the bee hives, there was a man working on the them. He was wearing the full protective clothing of a beekeeper. He did not say that we could not walk past but he quietly suggested that the bees were stirrred up and that it might be best to come back later. He spoke to us from a distance but he kept his voice very low and calm. He did not want to upset his bees. We turned around. The hives are located along the edge of a field of rapeseed which is now in full bloom. The bright yellow flowers and the bright orange of the strapping material which had held the hives together look wonderful together. Rapeseed is a relatively new crop in this area. People still stop and make photographs of a bright yellow field when they see one. They show the photographs to one another and they admire the colour.They remark at how lovely it is. It is an exciting and welcome change from green green green. So far people only say good things about the fields of rapeseed. Maybe they have not yet noticed how horrible the smell is. To me, it smells like fibreglass resin. In large quantities, it smells toxic and the odour hangs heavy over the land. For now, it is all wonderful. Rapeseed is welcomed as a dependable cash crop which also makes the landscape look pretty.

3 May Saturday

There is a square white plastic bucket with a green lid on the ground just outside the gate at Michael and Biddie’s house. A rock sits on top of the lid. The lid is a clip-on lid. The rock is there just to be on the safe side. I think the container is positioned as a receptacle for the delivery of milk, but I am not sure. It might be for eggs or for anything else. The two words on the bucket are DRY COW. No doubt this bucket held some kind of something for the care of dairy cows. The bucket has been emptied and cleaned and now serves another purpose. Every time I pass, I check to make sure that DRY COW is still in position.

2 May Friday

The hawthorn is in bloom all around. I cannot decide if it is earlier than usual or later than usual. A woman in the village told me that the branches full of frothy white blossom look just exactly like heaven.

1 May Thursday

It was A Big Decision. I needed to buy a new bag of food for Em. I was buying a brand of dried food that was specially recommended for elderly dogs. There are a lot of foods for Seniors, but that usually means any dog over the age of 7. Since she is over 15, I was advised that this particular food was a better choice for her. We tried a three kilo bag of the food and she liked it. Along with her daily tablets, it seemed to help to keep her mobile, alert and bright-eyed. I went back to buy more food and I was faced with the dilemma of buying another 3 kilo bag or a 15 kilo bag. The food is very expensive. I was offered a special price on the larger bag. I stood in the shop and I wondered if it was crazy to buy such a lot of food. I then had to wonder if it was a very negative thing to think that Em might not live long enough to eat a whole 15 kilo bag of the special food. I stood in the aisle of the shop as I went back and forth with these thoughts. I did not want to wish an early demise on my basically quite healthy old dog. I bought the 15 kilo bag. As I was paying, the sales rep from the company who produced the food arrived. He was happy to see me buying his brand as the very first thing he saw when he entered the shop. He raced out to his car and ran back to hand me a ten euro voucher off the purchase of my next 15 kilo bag.

30 April Wednesday

There is a new outdoor table and chair arrangement at McCarra’s. It was made by the men on the FAS scheme. The table is constructed out of two metal bicycle wheels, without their rubber tyres. They are connected with a piece of metal which works like an axle. One wheel is flat on the ground working to stabilise the table and the other one is the table top. A piece of glass has been fitted on the top wheel so that a cup of coffee or a cold drink can sit safely on the flat. There are four seats. The seats are black bicycle seats fitted onto two welded metal structures which have been painted bright red. The idea of the project was to make things with recycled materials. Everything was found and re-used except for the seats. When it came to the placing of the four seats, the men were unhappy to have four different and old seats from four different bicycles. They chipped in together and bought four matching black seats so that the two seating structures look smart and welcoming. We are looking forward to sitting outside with a cup of coffee but we are waiting for the weather to improve.

29 April Tuesday

The young girl was whining to her mother. She did not want to scrape the potatoes for the midday meal. She asked “Can’t we just skip the potatoes and eat something else for the dinner?” Her mother answered,”Of course not! If we do not have potatoes, it will not be dinner. Dinner without potatoes is Just Salad!”

28 April Monday

I am often using the word Doctor when I should be using the word Mister. I always call a dentist Doctor, but a dentist is not a Doctor. A dentist is never a Doctor. A dentist is a Mister. Some Doctors are called Doctor and some are called Mister. The Surgeon is a Mister but the General Practitioner is a Doctor. I am better at using the right form of address than I used to be, but I continue to get it wrong more often that I would like. Some of these people do not mind but some get very upset and they correct me immediately. These people say “I am not a Doctor. I am a Mister.” They correct me so quickly that it is as if they fear someone will overhear them accepting a title which is not rightly theirs to have. I have never really found out definitively who is who and when who is who. And because everyone here is quickly on first name basis, the medical person very often becomes someone with a name rather than a title. In the case of my first GP, the doctor and her husband shared a practice. Since they were both Doctor Carey, it was easier for her to be Doctor Rosaleen and for him to be Doctor John. Now that they have retired and a group of new doctors have taken over their pracice, there are two doctors among them named Kelly. These two Doctor Kellys are not married. In this case to differentiate between them, the woman doctor is now always spoken of as Doctor Maria Kelly and the male doctor is just Doctor Kelly. We call our dentist Daniel.

27 April Sunday

There are 28 beehives just beyond the green barn. They were not there the last time we walked along this farm track. There is bright orange strapping on the sides and tops of the hives. These must have been straps to secure them while they travelled from wherever they were to where they are now. The loosened orange straps make the hives look like gifts which have been recently unwrapped. There is a rope across the area where the hives are stacked. The rope keeps people away the bee hives. The rope threads itself through a piece of slate with two holes in its corners. On the slate are very small white letters which read HONEYBEES WORKING!

26 April Saturday

I was waiting in the car outside the church and just across from the shop. Rain was bucketing down. Simon had gone into the shop to buy the papers. A little red car pulled up in front of me. A woman jumped out of the passenger seat. A billow of smoke came out of the car with her. She ran in a funny way in order to protect her burning cigarette from the rain. She had her hood pulled up but she had no umbrella. She opened the gates to the church and attached them in the open position. Then she ran around the side of the church and did something else. She scurried back to the car and opened the door. Another large cloud of smoke billowed out. There were two young men in the car. They were smoking and she was smoking. Everyone had their hoods up. The car with its inhabitants did a U-turn and went back in the direction which it came from. It all happened really fast. The church was now open for business.

24 April Thursday

When there has been a bank holiday everyone asks the same question of everyone else: “Did You Get Away?” No one says “Did You Go Somewhere?” Or even “What Did You Do?” Getting Away implies escape from normal life. Maybe Getting Away is the expression used because we are living on an island. Nobody Goes Away, they Get Away.

23 April Wednesday

Today, I picked up a coloured leaflet for a sale of hats. The hats were being sold off by Teresa’s Hat Hire in order to make room for New Stock. The hats shown in the photograph as well as Many More were all available for 50 euro each. Potential customers are advised: To ensure a perfect matching hat, please bring your outfit. The world of Hat Hire is a mystery to me. It is not unusual to be driving through the countryside and to be in the middle of nowhere and to see a sign in front of a bungalow offering Hat Hire. And now, here is the chance to buy the very hats which have been rented, borrowed, worn and admired at weddings, christenings, at the races and wherever else women are wearing hats these days. The leaflet made it all look very exciting. In fact, it is just the selling off of well-worn hats.

22 April Tuesday

Over the weekend, PJ and Gavin went up the Mass Path with a chain saw. They cleared the fallen trees which were blocking the way since the winter storms. In some places they just cut a section out of a lying down tree so that those of us who walk the path can walk through the opening. In other places, whole trees were pulled or cut and removed from the path. Where the fallen trees are at head height or higher, they have been left. Those trees make a series of arches. It is a kind of architected space along the track. It is lovely to walk through these places. We no longer have to climb over trees nor crawl underneath other trees. The walk is a fully upright and pleasant walk again. It is still very muddy.

21 April Monday

I am now so accustomed to going out for walks without Em that I no longer feel guilty when I close the door and leave her in the house alone. I do find that as I am walking, I look around for her. Out and about is when I expect to see her off in the distance in front of me or trailing far behind as she sniffs and explores things. Out in the world is when I miss her. Wandering around in the grass near the house is not the same as being off discovering each day together. She wanders in circles and I wander in and around with her. Her own aimlessness makes me walk aimlessly. The more I move about the more she walks so that is good for her elderly legs. Once in the house, she continues to walk but her journey is either around the big table or around a chair. The tight circles around a single chair are the ones that really depress me. She focuses on something and goes around and around and around it. She can continue the same path of circling for a very long time. Her little bell jingling as she walks reminds us that she is not resting but walking and walking and walking.

20 April Sunday

The Abbey Walk is our current favorite walk. We start off at the new graveyard and walk a narrow road to Molough Abbey which was an Augustinian Nunnery dedicated to St.Bridgid. The original nunnery was founded in the 6th century but the present remains date from the 13th century. There is a cloister with the intact frames of two high windows as well as two small domestic buildings. None of this information is available at the Abbey. I went on a walk with an archeaologist and a local historian a few years ago. There were about 40 of us gathered on a wild and rainy Sunday afternoon. We walked up from the village and we were introduced to the history of the Abbey and shown a very small area of orange paint on one wall as well as a carved symbol by the stone mason. We received all of the information while huddled under umbrellas. There were children in prams and elderly people who did not walk up from the village but who met us there. Everyone was eager to be a good audience but everyone was cold and wet and glad when it was over. Now I delight in returning to the Abbey. I am pleased to point out the few things I know about it. Sometimes when out walking, we stop at the buildings and sometimes we do not. We walk down the road and then through fields and down to the place where the River Nire flows into the River Suir. This meeting of the rivers feels like a very special place. Some options on how to make the walk into a circular walk are being explored. But walking back the same way we arrived is just fine.

19 April Saturday

The man who turns wooden bowls was at the market today. He had set up his lathe with the long curved branch held securely on the ground with cement blocks. On his early visits to the market, he wedged it under the back bumper of his automobile, but perhaps the cement blocks work better. He has a foot pedal with which to control the turning. Learning to turn wood and then the making of wooden bowls and plates seems to be a rite of passage for men when they reach retirement age. Some men become very skilled and enjoy using different kinds of wood to make different kinds of containers. Others just make the same thing over and over again. A table full of bowls with handwritten labels announcing each kind of wood is much nicer than a table full of matching bowls all made from the same wood.

18 April Friday

Every Good Friday is different but every Good Friday is the same. There is always a deep silence over the countryside. The silence is deeper thatn usual because there is less activity. Lots of things are closed. Restaurants, bars, banks, schools and post offices are closed but many other places like petrol stations, supermarkets and garden centres are open. Most places can choose whether or not they want to be open. This is the first day of a four day weekend. A long weekend means people need food and things, but it also might mean that they want to go away. Every business can decide but places which serve alcohol cannot decide for themselves. They must close. The laws decreed by the Catholic church are still in place. There is usually a lot of panic buying of alcohol on the Thursday before Good Friday. Just because it is not possible to get a drink on the Friday, people feel an imperative need to have a supply ready just in case. There are two places where it is possible to get a drink on Good Friday. One is a train station. If you have a ticket to travel, you can sit in a station bar all day long.. People used to go and buy the cheapest ticket possible and then sit and drink the day away. The other place is in a hotel bar. Legally it is required that one be resident in the hotel but there were lots of ways that people were able to get around that, like if they knew the bartender or if the waitress was their cousin. Now people feel confident enough to drink at home. In the past, most people did not ever drink anything in the home, except maybe for medicinal purposes. Still, this attitude that one must drink simply because it is against the law to drink is mad. It would be easier to change the law. And yesterday, I learned that it is also a Catholic rule that one cannot eat meat on Good Friday. Butcher shops remain open, and have ignored this for a long time.

17 April Thursday

The woman did not want to go to the event by herself. She did not want to have to arrive alone and she did not want anyone to notice her arriving alone. She wanted to arrive with someone else even if after arriving she would desert the other person immediately. She said she needed someone To Take The Bare Look Off Her.

15 April Tuesday

The phone books arrived again today. Last week, I phoned the Eircom people and asked for new telephone directories. We had not received a new one since 2010. The girl on the phone said they would post them out immediately. They did, and we got them the next day but the books they sent were for the 06 area not for our area which is 05. I phoned again and we were sent out two more books, one with the residential listings as well as a copy of The Golden Pages for businesses. Everything is smaller about these new books. The measurement from top to bottom and from left to right is the same but the thickness is greatly diminished. The text within tthe books is smaller. The paper is the same thin paper as is always used in the directories, but I think there are fewer numbers and names within as so many people have given up having a landline. We need a magnifying glass to read anything at all.. And even though we now have four books rather than the two requested, they still take up less space on the shelf than two of the older ones.

14 April Monday

The Man Who Waits Beside His Car While His Sister Walks Her Dog. The first time I saw this man, I was on the way to the post office in the afternoon. He waved to me as he stood beside his parked car. I waved back. On my return up the road, he was still there so I stopped to ask if he was alright. I thought perhaps his car had broken down and that he was waving to ask for help rather than just being friendly. He said he was fine and that he was only there waiting for The Sister to walk her dog. He was an older man and his sister looked to be about the same age. She was down the road with a sheep dog and a big heavy stick. At the time I thought it an odd place to choose for walking a dog. It is a narrow length of road and it is probably the single stretch where the cars go fast. There is no way to get off and out of the way of a big truck or a tractor. The ditches are high and there is no edge nor sidewalk. But then I thought that maybe the dog just had to get out of the car and that was why they had stopped where they stopped. Now, almost every time I go to the village in the afternoon, I see the man leaning on his car, smoking a cigarette, and waving to whoever passes. The Sister is either walking up the road or down the road toward the bridge. If a car comes along she whacks the dog with her heavy thick stick. The dog is on an extremely short lead so there is no way he could get out in front of a car even if he wanted to. I think she just hits him to let him know who is in charge. There are many quieter roads and plenty of field tracks where this dog could walk with a lot of pleasure. I think the spot is chosen both by and for The Man Who Waits. He has lots of people to salute while he waits and probably every so often someone stops to speak with him. The location is chosen for the man’s convenience and the poor dog gets a walk even if it is a terrible struggle down a busy tar road in between beatings.

13 April Sunday

Shovel Duty is a new part of life. The Elderly Em never goes far from the house anymore so when she poops we try to locate it and pick it up with the long handled shovel. Our walking routes through the grass criss-cross between buildings and it is easy to be stepping in something at any time. The little modules of excrement are firm and not squishy as long as we get them before they are stepped upon. They tend to be in a little line, three or four of them dropped as she moves away from the activity while still doing it. The shovel we use has a rounded surface with a dulled point on the end. It was the one Tom Browne always used for throwing sand and cement into the mixer. Because Tom always used it for that, it became the one which Simon also used for cement mixing. The surface of the shovel is coated and crunchy with old dried concrete. Now it has this new function which is good because the shovel itself is light. Since the handle is long, it is easy to swing and toss the little poops over the fence, over the wall or down the banking. It does have one downside and that is that there is a fingernail shaped hole in the middle of the metal. If the balance is not right, whatever has been picked up might fall through the small hole. I could go and find a less worn out shovel but it has become a challenge to balance everything while getting it out of the way. There has to be a modicum of satisfaction in every job.

12 April Saturday

I gave two empty egg boxes to David the Egg Man at the market. He thanked me four times. He was so grateful to receive them that I felt embarassed that it was only two boxes. I wished it had been a dozen. He said that he has been so short of boxes that he was obliged to order some to be sent down from Belfast. He hated to have to do that. Paying for the boxes annoyed him and he hated having to order a large quantity of them. He fears people got out of the habit of saving their egg cartons over the winter. He hopes that everyone who buys his eggs will remember to bring him their empties now that spring is here. I am not sure what the weather or the season has to do with it but he sounded so very certain that the springtime would make a difference, I feel I must believe him.

10 April Thursday

I took some freshly cooked rhubarb down to Tommie and Margaret. He had told me that he loves rhubarb but he said he never ate it because he did not know how to prepare it. He does not know how to cook anything and Margaret is no longer allowed to cook. Her eyes are too bad. Her hip is bad too. It gives her a lot of pain so even if she could see to cook, she cannot stand up to cook. Not only can she not stand for long but she is also falling down a lot. I took some custard to go along with the rhubarb. Margaret answered the door when I knocked. She opened the door wide and called out “Who Have I?” She could see the shape of a person but she could not tell who the person was.

9 April Wednesday

Alma told me that they do not milk on a Sunday now. The quotas for milk production being what they are means that things have gone so official that farmers cannot milk every day of the week without producing too much milk. Too much milk will get them into trouble with their farm subsidies. I was confused at how the cows cope with eating grass all day in order to produce milk and then not being milked. The cows cannot understand about quotas and subsidies. They just eat grass and make milk. Alma said the cows can get used to anything and that one day without being milked was Not A Bother for them.

8 April Tuesday

When school lets out at the Loreto in the afternoon, the Gashouse Bridge is impassable. It is always a mistake not to think about what time it is before driving that way. The girls in their dark green knee-length pinafores and dark green socks or tights and bright red sweaters are everywhere. They are on the pavements and they are crossing the road. The many pairs of bare white legs look terrible on a cold day. There are buses to collect some of the girls and dozens of cars to collect others. Cars are parked all along both sides of the bridge. Other cars come along and stop right in the middle of the road when the drivers see the girl they are there to collect. None of the cars use an indicator when they pull over nor do they let other drivers know that they are about to stop. They know what they are doing and it is our job to let them do it. At this same hour every school day afternoon the Gashouse Bridge belongs to the Loreto School girls and their parents. For everyone else it is simply a bad route to have taken.

7 April Monday

Wild garlic everywhere. It smells good when I step on it. It smells good when I pick it. It tastes good and it looks good. I always welcome these first bright green leaves as a sign that spring is really here. Later the leaves will go darker and the white star-like flowers will appear. By then spring will be well established.

6 April Sunday

Em is still and always getting stuck under chairs or in amongst the legs of tables. She has been trapped between a wall and a standing lamp, and trapped between a door and the door jamb. Some times she can get herself out of these physically challenging situations but sometimes she just stops struggling and she waits. She waits for someone to come along and release her. Sometimes it is not easy as it is a case of lifting a chair or a stool up and over her but if part of her is straddling a side piece of the furniture it is not possible to lift both the object and the dog without hurting the dog. Her patience and her resigned acceptance of each new entrapment are upsetting for me. I don’t know if they are upsetting for her. This is just her life.

5 April Saturday

For someone to announce that she is Pushed To the Pin of My Collar is another way of saying that she is under great pressure or at the very end of her tether.

4 April Friday

Someone is moving into The Tailor’s Cotttage. It is always called The Tailor’s Cottage even though there has been no tailor in it for as long as I have been here. The tailor’s name was Willie Hurley. When anyone speaks of him, everyone else has something to add. People came from Clonmel and even farther away to have things made by him. His house was surrounded by bushes which were high and overgrown. Just outside his door there was a pile of marmalade jars. They were the two-pound marmalade jars. The heap of jars was higher than his head when he stood at the door. The high bushes and brambles meant that not much light got inside the cottage. The high bushes and brambles also made sure that the local children were terrified of him and his cottage. Willie Hurley knew everything. He listened to the radio all day. He knew everything that was going on everywhere and he could talk about it all. One of his many jobs was to sew uniforms for the guards. His house was piled high with cloth and with clothes. Some clothes were hanging and some were folded into piles. He had an old treadle sewing machine but he also did a lot of his sewing by hand. No one knows how he learned to sew. His own mother could not sew at all. Everyone is agreed that he was trained by someone else.

3 April Thursday

I met the Dulux Man in Cahir this morning. He greeted me enthusiastically. We have not met for maybe half a year. He immediately asked about Em, and then told me that his own sheep dog lived until she was 18. Since Em is only 15, he does not consider her particularly old. He introduced me to his new dog whose name is Cleo. She is a spaniel and was bred for a hunting dog but she was gun-shy. The owners were about to shoot her because a gun-shy gun dog was was useless to them, so the Dulux Man was happy that he saved her from that fate. Everything he tells me is always told in the same breathless and speedy recitation. He leaps from one thing to the next and there is no chance of the conversation being a conversation. It is just a chance for him to talk and for me to listen until I decide that it is time to continue on my way. He told me about a cat who was on television because it was 25 years old and he told me about a Jack Russell who had been thrown out by someone in Cork and then had his back leg ripped off by some other bigger dogs. His eyes filled with tears as he spoke about the poor dog who he has never known. He loves all animals. His tears provided a gap in the telling, so I was able to say my good lucks and move along the pavement.

2 April Wednesday

One bird sits on the top edge of the barn for hours. He or she sits right above the bird house but not on the roof of the bird house. I do not know if he or she is standing guard or just checking out the neighbourhood as a possibility for a future family home. Other birds are staying away. This bird seems to have marked the territory at least provisionally. I feel like an estate agent keeping track of possible new tenants.

1 April Tuesday

Tea time or just after tea time is when the candidates go visiting. That is the time when they have finished with their own daytime jobs and that is the time when they are apt to find people at home. They have to be careful to pitch the time correctly. Interrupting families while they are eating is not always a good idea but leaving it too late when people are settled for their TV viewing is not good either. Rural canvassing also means that they cannot be arriving after dark as it might frighten people and that is not going to win votes. Candidates in towns or villages can do a whole street quickly but visiting in the countryside means a drive from house to house. It might not be possible to hit more than ten or twenty places in an evening. It is easier now that the clocks have changed. Darkness does not come so quickly. Most people running for office in an area like this assume that everyone already knows them. If they are of the parish, and if their families have been of the parish for a long while, it is just a matter of letting people know that they are running for an office. Then there are the candidates whose father or mother or spouse held the office and if that person has died, especially while holding the office, there is an implicit acceptance that the job should of course stay in the family. A right to ascendency only works if everyone already knows that and adheres to it. Introducing oneself to strangers, who might even want to talk policy, is different than just reminding people that you are ready to step into family shoes.

31 March Monday

There is a someone new living in Michael O’Connor’s cottage. There are new shrubs planted and there are flowers in pots on the windowsills. There are five baby goats, as well as cats and ducks. There is a large garden area dug and the frame for a polytunnel has been erected. After several years with the house sitting empty, it is exciting to witness all this activity. There is more happening in a day than ever happened in all the years that Michael lived there and still, the covering has yet to be stretched over the tunnel.

30 March Sunday

We put a bird house up high on the gable end of the barn. It sticks out from the profile of the barn and I am not sure that I like the look of the location. I was thinking maybe we should move it before any birds get settled inside but already the box is inciting busy interest. At dfferent times during the day, the birds come and sit on the roof of the barn and then they hop onto the roof of the bird house and lean over to look inside. There is a lot of in and out and flying back to the tree and and flying back to the house. I do not know if the same birds are coming to look and look and look again or if it is different birds.

28 March Friday

Even with all of her confusion, forgetfulness and stumbling in circles, Em never fails to check the Crumb Jar. The Crumb Jar is not a jar. It is a wide mouthed metal pot which stands on the floor beside the Rayburn. This is a good time of year to check it because any crumbs from making toast on the stovetop end up being swept into the pot. In summer there are no crumbs being added to the pot because the stove is turned off. But just in case, Em checks it several times a day, everyday.

27 March Thursday

Simon is planning a trip to Galway. He looked up the train scheduale. If he gets on a train in Cahir at 8 am and switches trains first at Limerick Junction and then again in Limerick, he will reach Galway at 2.30 in the afternoon. On the return trip he would need to get on a train at ten past nine, do the same two changes in Limerick and at Limerick Junction in order to arrive back in Cahir at 5.30. The trip there would take 6 1/2 hours. The return trip would take 8 1/2 hours. There is no way that the journey can be done in one day by train. Driving takes only about 2 1/4 hours. Is it any wonder few people bother to travel by train?

26 March Wednesday

Traditionally, busy butcher shops have had a woman sitting in a home-made booth. The booth is constructed out of plywood. The woman sits inside the booth either directly across from the counter with the meat or at a right-angle to it. After some meat has been chosen and cut and weighed and wrapped, the customer is given a piece of paper and he or she goes over to the woman in the booth. The person in the booth is never a man and never a girl. The woman takes the paper and tallies up the purchases with a pencil and tells the customer the total. The woman has a drawer where the money is kept. The woman never has a cash register. After paying her, the customer returns to the butcher who has usually watched the whole transaction. Nevertheless, he asks for the piece of rubber stamped paper and then he hands over the wrapped parcel. The butcher never touches the money and the woman never touches the meat. Some shops are now eliminating the woman and the booth. Increasingly, the butcher moves to the end of the counter and takes for the meat himself.

25 March Tuesday

I went to collect my dress from Jurgita. She is the seamstress from Lithuania who was making adjustments for me. When I arrived, my wool dress was on her dummy and standing right in the middle of the shop. An older woman was examining my dress very carefully while Jurgita finished pinning trousers for another customer. The woman asked what I thought of the dress. I said that I liked it. I said that it was my dress which might explain why I liked it. She was interested to know that it was my dress, but she offered no opinion of her own. She circled around the dummy a few times. She asked me where I would wear it. I did not know what she meant by that. I said I would wear it wherever I felt like wearing it. I said it was not a single occasion garment. She said, “Oh, you know what I mean! Now, would you wear it to the races?” Going to the races is a major social event here. There are always photographs in the newspaper of people dressed up for the races. Woman wear elaborate hats and fancy dresses. Even in terrible rain and mud they dress as though it was warm and sunny. I think they mostly dress like that in the hopes of being photographed. My dress did not look in anyway showy enough for the kind of thing I think she was suggesting. I thought about this all the way home. I decided that acknowledging that a dress is one which might be worn to the races implies its specialness, even if it is never worn for that purpose. Of course, I could be wrong.

24 March Monday

Lashing rain all day. Most of the rain is falling sideways. I am not sure if something can fall sideways. Maybe the word fall is what is wrong here. Nonetheless, sideways is how the rain is moving from the sky before it reaches the ground. The rain is sideways and sometimes diagonal and it is drenching and it has not stopped once all day. The daffodils have been beaten down. They are lying flat on the grass. Em has had a spring haircut, which offered a brief distraction from the weather. I stayed and helped to hold her up on the grooming table. Her back legs collapsed frequently. It was a job to get the horrible clumps cut off first and then to wash and dry her and then to start again to cut the rest of the hair. Altogether it took about an hour and a half. Most of the time she looked out the window at the rain and the few passing cars while the cutting was being done. There was no struggle and no wiggling. She is a placid dog even in her decrepit condition. I think for her it was a very big day out. She now looks like a much younger version of herself. And still, the rain falls.

23 March Sunday

Where you live is Home. Where you started from is your Home Place. The Home Place is hugely important. No one here ever gets over not being in their Home Place even if they never go back there for years and years. On returning from anywhere, one is always welcomed home whether where you are returning to is your Home Place or simply Home.

22 March Saturday

Em tends to walk out the back door and take a sharp left through the narrow space between the bench and the table. There is a step down and onto the slate path which she has been hesitant to take recently. It took me a few weeks to understand why she stops at the step and never goes further. Tendrils of honeysuckle were hanging down and blocking her way. They were not dense but they were there. The old Em would have pushed right past them, but now they are enough to stop her in her tracks. Today I got out the clippers and cut the honeysuckle. I made a clear opening for her to pass through. I thought she would be happy. She went out the door, took the left, stepped off the step and fell flat in a heap onto the path. The honeysuckle was just one obstacle. The step was another.

21 March Friday

I went to the hospital yesterday. I was told to PRESENT at the hospital at 8 am. I was not told to Present Myself, nor was I told simply to arrive. PRESENT is the verb used. Now that the things which needed to be done there have been done, I have been told that I will need to see the doctor IN ROOMS. IN ROOMS is where the doctor is when he is not in the hospital. IN ROOMS is the doctor’s office, or consulting rooms.

19 March Wednesday

The radio gives traffic and travel bulletins at various times throughout the day. It is especially thorough during the morning and evening rush hours. In addition to the road reports there are notifications of any flight and ferry delays. It is normal to be told that things are all moving smoothly, not only if there are problems The road bulletins cover the entire country. Information is given both for highways and for the traffic moving through the cities of Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Just now I heard that the movement in Galway is Slow Enough Through the City Centre. Anywhere where a problem or an accident has happened is mentioned no matter how obscure the road or in what part of the country the road is located. Back roads are given the same attention as the big roads. The AA Roadwatch covers the entire country and still, the whole report only takes a few minutes.

18 March Tuesday

I was waiting my turn. There were several other people in the waiting room and there were enormous stacks of magazines piled up on the chairs where no one was sitting. Underneath all of the chairs were plastic bags full of books and magazines and papers. There was very little unfilled space. Over near the doorway, stood a high stool with a torn grey plastic seat and back. Upside down on the seat was a small white plastic laundry basket. It was too small to actually be a laundry basket. It was rectangular and the same sort of shape and made for carrying or holding things. On top of the upside down white basket, there was an open lap top computer. Its back was resting against the back of the seat. The electric cord for the computer hung down and went right across the open doorway. Each time someone entered or exited through the door, the woman in charge cautioned them to be careful of the flex. I sat and waited for someone to trip over the cord. I waited for someone to trip over the cord and pull the lap top off its precarious perch. By the time my turn came and even as I was departing everything stayed standing, including the woman working at the computer. She said standing up was better for her back.

16 March Sunday

Yesterday we walked up the Mass Path for the first time in many months. The large lake which was at the bottom of the meadow has drifted off downstream or sunk into the ground. The entire area.is still wet. The mud is ankle deep. There is a line of dusty dried mud all along the edges to mark the height of where the lake used to be. The leaves and grasses look like they have been sprayed with something grey and toxic, but it is just mud. All the way up the path there are trees down. In some places we could squeeze underneath the trees. Sometimes we had to crawl up and over them. None of it was easy. In a few cases there were branches broken off but mostly it was entire trees pulled out of the soil by their roots. The ground was so wet and the wind has been so fierce that the entire root systems just could not hold on. In some places the trees have fallen away from the path. In a way this seems good because it opens up some light in the tunnel of the path, but it is not really good because it smashed up stone walls as it fell away. There must have been twenty or thirty trees down between the bottom where the stream is and the road at the top. It was hard work to get up through it all. We usually don’t like road walking very much but after all of that tree climbing and mud, it was a relief to be on the firm dry surface.

15 March Saturday

I have been watching Em’s deterioration into old age for so long now. I marvel that I can continually note new levels of her slow-down. She still shows a lot of curiosity about the world around her. Her reactions are just slower. She is able to stand and look out an open door for 4 or 5 minutes before making the decision to walk through it. She rarely walks all through the house any more. Her movements are in a smaller number of places and her sleeping spots are always new and often in places she has never before tried. I do what I can for her comfort and pleasure. It is hard to brush her as her scalp is tender. Strong and vigorous brushing is no good but a gentle bit of stroking with an old soft brush is okay. Her skin shows very pink and delicate through the thinning hair. There are a lot of clumpy bits which I keep hacking off with scissors. She is not so good at cleaning herself these days. We now divide her food into three small meals a day which the vet says is best for elderly digestion. It also provides for a bit of excitement and anticipation. When she and I go out and wander about on the grass she turns left and then she turns right and sometimes she stops abruptly as if she has hit a wall. Sometimes she follows me and sometimes she does not follow me. Sometimes, I leave her outside wandering around on her own and doing her about face turns until I worry that she is so tired that she will fall over. Today Oscar came by for a visit and his wagging tail hit her in the face and knocked her to the ground. That is when I knew it was time to bring her back into the house, even though I do think she enjoyed the excitement of his visit. Getting knocked down once was thrilling. Getting knocked down twice would be too much for one afternoon.

14 March Friday 14-3-14

The entire country is in a bit of a tizzy. Today is the last day of the Cheltenham Races. About half the country left by boat to spend anywhere from four days to a week there. Of course, lots of horses go too. The national news is full of Irish wins, Irish injuries and Irish odds on Irish betting. Then on Saturday the Irish play the French in the final of the Six Nations Rugby Championship in Paris. Hundreds or thousands of people will be flying off to France for that, or else they have already gone. The politicians are away celebrating Patrick’s day in foreign countries under the guise of diplomacy, and hordes of marching bands and majorettes and state troopers are arriving from faraway to demonstrate how Irish they are. They will all be participating in the parades to be held here on Monday. It is a particularly mad time with all of these things happening together.. Mostly, it is good for the airports and hotels and ferries.

13 March Thursday

The starlings are back. Today is the first day we have seen them. They are diving and swooping at the barn roof and its edges. Plans for nests are in the collective mind. Spring is officially here.

11 March Tuesday

Well, Girl! Well, Boy! This is what people in Clonmel say to one another as greetings. The Boy is not really pronounced as Boy it is more like By. Bey or By. I cannot really decide. I would never say it. I would never be able to get it right. Girl is also used to punctuate sentences. When used like that, it has nothing to do with whether the person being spoken to is male or female. It is just a form of friendly address.

10 March Monday

Three elderly men and on elderly woman were sitting together at a table. They each had a big mug of milky tea. While everyone was stirring in their sugar, the woman went back up to the counter. She came back and handed out Twix bars to each of them. They all made the same noises of delight and immediately opened the wrappers. They ate their Twix bars in unison. Treats are very often the same treats as they have always been. They are relished for their familiarity. A slice of brack or a scone is always welcome because it is familiar. A treat must not be a threat.

9 March Sunday

The endless rain has stopped. It is still cold. Some days are bright and clear. We have had mornings with a heavy crunchy frost which melts into a warm and lovely afternoon. Some days are grey and dull. Other days the fog sets in and we can see nothing in the distance, neither near nor far. Everyday, rain or clear, the shop still brings out its stand-up metal sign. The sign advertises Anti-Mould Products. Everyone who has not used them yet will still be looking to purchase something for their clean-up of some mildew somewhere in their life. I doubt anyone has escaped it but some of us are slower to clear it up than others.

8 March Saturday

There is a three foot drop from the edge of the flower bed down to the concrete path in front of the barn. I was inside working at the big table and Em was wandering around on the grass. She must have seen me going into the barn, or else she caught sight of me through the glass. I looked up just in time to see her making a straight line towards me. Lucky for both of us there are some stones along the edge of the bedded area. She was trying to raise her legs high enough to step over them. A more nimble Emily would have bounded over the not very large stones. This old Emily couldn’t handle such a lift of the leg. Her struggle gave me a bit of much needed time. I was able to deflect her from her straight line before she fell down the three foot drop to a very hard landing.

7 March Friday

The telephone is working again. We were on the verge of deciding that maybe it was enough to have only the internet phone and mobile phones. We thought we might give up on a landline, but everything in this valley is more difficult than normal. Since nothing works all the time, a landline is a pleasing constant, when it is working. The sun is out. Em is having a better and less bumbly day. The door is still not working right, but spring feels closer.

6 March Thursday

Simon took Em’s wicker bed out to the barn and he used a jigsaw to cut the front down to floor level. He also cut a bit off each side to widen the opening. Em has not used this bed much in recent months as she stumbles when she tries to get into the bed and then she falls when struggling to get out. I think she just decided there were other less complicated places to sleep, so she stopped trying to get in and out of it. Simon thinks this new opening will give her the enclosed cozy bed back. We keep trying to do as much as possible to make her life pleasant. He has glued up the edges so tomorrow, when it is dry we will see if she is interested to get in.

4 March Tuesday

A frequent sight is a dog lying in the space between the road and the place where he or she lives. It might be the end of a driveway, or the wide opening of a farmyard, or the bit of gravel and soil just outside the gate. These country dogs locate themselves between that which is their own territory and the territory which is the outside world. Sometimes the dogs are stretched out and almost on the road. Sometimes they are stretched out as long as their bodies can go and just their front paws are on the tar road. I do not know if they are expanding the sense of their own world or if it is a teasing taunt. They are not interested to chase the odd car or tractor which passes. They are simply watching. I think there is a strong sense that their world is inside and the world beyond is outside that line where the road begins. But maybe their world is everything that they can see.

The phone is still dead.

3 March Monday

The phone is still dead. It has not worked consistently since early December. There are phones out all over the place. It is not just us. Trees have come down and knocked out lines and the soggy ground has caused things to tip and drop and droop. Many trees are down and have been cut away from where they fell. We are lucky that we had the branches of the big ash cut in the autumn. They would never have survived the winter winds. Many people are terrified of trees which is why they do not like them near to their houses. There are people who claim to hate trees. How can you hate trees? After this winter, many people are more fearful than ever. A lot of trees planted are the wrong kind of trees. If the trees planted near houses were not the ones which can grow to be massive, some problems would never arise and the presence of the houses in the land might be softened. A lot of houses end up with a naked look in an over zealous attempt to keep nature under control. The houses sit on their plots surrounded by cement and tar. Nature, like mud, is something to keep at a distance.

2 March Sunday

Walking with Em is improving. We go out into the yard together and wander around. I look at trees and storm damage and the buds. She walks about and stops at odd moments and then turns and turns back again. She does not know where she is going or she does not remember where she is going but she seems to want to keep going. There is much less falling about. Her legs are getting stronger. Once again, I thought she was dying but she seems too busy for that now. I am delighted. Every so often we manage to get down into the meadow. I was worried that she might discover the new lake at the bottom where the stream has flooded. If she got into the water she would not be able to swim and I do not think she would be able to climb out. The rushing water against her weakened legs would be too much. So far there is much to examine in the meadow. The many turns and wrong turns take so much energy she has no chance of getting as far as the water.

28 February Friday

The door still will not open. It will not open nor will it close properly. Each time I bang my body weight against it to open the lower part of the door, I am hurt by the horse chestnuts in the pocket of my raincoat. I have bruises on my hip from the ramming of the horse chestnuts between the door and my hip. Getting in and out is such a job that each time I remind myself to throw the horse chestnuts away, but it is such a pest to get the door closed again, that I forget all about them until the next time. The phone is still dead.

27 February Thursday

There are orange signs everywhere. They are in the ditches, leaning against walls and buildings. They are usually positioned near to a group of sandbags. The signs say ROAD FLOODED in black letters on the bright orange background. At the moment there is not any flooding on the roads. There are long puddles and there is a lot of water but there is not enough to be called flooding. The signs are not being collected and put away as there has been so much flooding already, that the understanding is that there will be more flooding. On a certain level there is only one topic of conversation. On another level, everyone is so weary of this topic that they barely speak at all.

26 February Wednesday

Em is very fragile. She is stumbling and staggering. Most times her legs do not seem strong enough to hold her up. She is forever on the verge of falling over. It is difficult to watch her like this. The smallest thing in her path is enough to knock her off balance. A dead teasel lying on the grass, a shoe on the floor. I am moving things around manically so that I do not have to watch her struggle. When she walks, her legs are unequal in their strength so sometimes she is falling into a circular movement. She is falling into a circle. She is always on the verge of tumbling but the circling and the stronger legs mostly keep her from collapsing. Sometimes they do not and she falls to the ground in a heap. Pushing herself back up to standing is sometimes easy and sometimes very hard work. Twice today I have helped by lifting her back end up and she has immediately begun her wandering again. She is very interested in the smells. Her hearing is bad and her eyes are not good but there is nothing wrong with her sense of smell, even in this soaking and sodden world.

25 February Tuesday

Everything is wet. The world is wet. The kitchen door is nearly impossible to open. Once it is open it is nearly impossible to close.Walls are slimey with moisture and with mildew. The boreen is ripped up worse than ever. The damage has been done simply by the force of rushing water. The house is in pretty good shape. No tree limbs have come down on top of it. The telephone is dead and the mobile phones don’t work very well. There are daffodils coming up and there are snowdrops still in bloom and most trees have buds. Spring is burgeoning, but it is hard to believe anything can be happening in all of this wetness.

24 February Monday 2014

The landing was rough. The wind pushed the plane. The stewardess announced that since it was raining very hard, we would be sure to get wet while going down the steps and walking across the tarmac to the airport. She admonished us all to put up our hoods. If we did not have a hood, she told us to put on our hats. For those with only a hat, she said we would have to keep a hand on the hat or else it would blow away. She made these motherly suggestions first in English and then in Irish and in French. Everyone looked around at one another to see that all of our heads were covered before we even began the move away from our seats.

Plough Teeth

7 August Thursday

She goes into the open closet (or cupboard) (or press) and then half falls out and cannot get herself upright again.  Shoes and boots fall out and tumble at her feet.  Things tumble around her feet and they trip her and then she cannot stand up and so she collapses again.  It is difficult to watch but it it easy to see that it is more difficult to be her than it is to watch her. Almost all of her movements are in some kind of circle.  The back legs are weak and one leg is weaker than the other.  When she is out of doors, her movement is almost always downhill.   The downhill movement is not intentional.  Watching the circling and the pull of gravity is not unlike watching water swirling down the drain in a tub or in a sink.  The direction is inevitable, so it is not worth struggling against it.

8 August Friday

We ate the puffballs last night.  We had kept two and given one away.  Simon cut them into cubes and gently coated them in fine cornmeal.  The cubes were then lightly browned in a skillet and served with a sauce made of fresh sweet peppers. They were delicious.  There were seven of us eating them and when we finished, we all wanted more.  We now have our attention on another puffball growing in the same vicinity.  It is tiny but we will keep checking it every day in the hope that while it gets bigger, some others might grow up around it.

10 August Sunday

The Stonethrowers Rally has held us prisoner all day.  Actually, we have been sort of captive for two days.  All day Saturday there were cars tooling around the area.  Each car had a sticker on the windscreen. The black and white sticker showed a number plus the word RECCE.  The driver and one passenger were studying the route.  I am guessing that they made note of sharp bends, pot-holes, the camber of the road as well as long straight stretches.  Most of the passengers I saw had clipboards or notepads for taking down information. Today no one is allowed on the roads. From 8 am, the roads, though officially public roads, are no longer available to us. Early on Saturday evening, the officials were going around and taping people’s gates shut with red and white striped tapes, so they could not leave or at least they could not open their gates again. Some people sit outside their houses all day on Sunday to watch and cheer on the men in the numbered hot rods.  They sit outside their houses but they do not sit too close to the road.  Some people choose to escape for the entire day.  They leave early in the morning and cannot come home until after 6 o’clock. Animals, especially domestic ones, get upset and have to be locked indoors.  Grazing animals get put into fields as far from the roads as possible.  This is not the first time this has happened.  It seems to return to these roads and our area once every four or five years.  The first time we encountered it, the cars on Saturday were doing SCRUTINY, and now the same activity is called  RECCE.  Otherwise things are the same.  There are emergency numbers to ring if anyone needs to get out while the races are screeching around.    No doubt the bales of hay on difficult corners are all in place.  Some fences and walls will be crashed into.  In the next few days, people will report to one another about whose walls and hedges got smashed. The high pitched roaring of engines and the loud popping of the exhaust are the same.  From here in our valley, the sound is not so horrible but it is horrible enough.

11 August Monday

Peter explained that the rusty metal things I found are called FLAILS.  I have been calling them PLOUGH TEETH.  I like my name better but his name came with an explanation of how they function in a mowing machine. He explained how they are attached in a horizontal position and how they look when they start to be used.  At a certain point when they are getting worn on one side, the flails are taken out and turned around so that the wear can then happen on the opposite edge.  By the time I found my two, both sides had been rounded off.  They were no longer rectangles with a hole at one end.  Although the edges seem quite sharp to me, they are no longer useful for their job.

plough teeth

12 August Tuesday

Em went for a haircut today.  Her long sheep dog hair was matted and filthy in places.  She is not very good at cleaning herself anymore.  It is not even that she is not good at it.  I think she no longer notices that it is something which needs to be done.  I thought I would have to stay to hold her up on the table but Kate was able to maintain her in an upright position with two hanging straps.  Her feet were standing on the table but her own energy and strength were not needed to hold herself up. She was not exactly dangling but it must have been a bit like being on tiptoes. When we returned from an hour of walking, she looked like a different animal.  The area all around her bottom has been shaved right off and her tail is now like that of a lion.  Her tail is a thin rope with a tuft at the end.  The huge plume is gone, but so are the random clumps of old excrement which were wadded up there. Her back legs look very thin and extremely fragile. There is very little muscle left in her hips.  It is sad to see but it is also very useful to see how old she is.  We have become used to her moving with less agility but her eyes and her hair made her look like the same old youthful and cheerfully ready-to-go Em.  Now the patches of pink scalp showing through her short hair and the shaky old dog legs cannot help but remind us that the old Em is gone. That and the perfumed shampoo smell.

A new bench

13 August Wednesday

We have a new wooden bench and a new wooden table outside the kitchen door.  They were made for us by the brother of the the woman at the timber yard.  The bench is wide and comfortable.  We sit there every chance we get.  The old bench has gone down to the burn pile in the meadow.  It is has not been possible to sit on it for a very long time.  It had a narrow seat with a very straight back.  It was originally a church pew.  I loved how it looked but it was never a pleasure to sit upon it.  Simon rebuilt its legs several times just to keep it standing.  In recent years, we put things on it and we put things under it but we rarely sat upon it.  Now we are enjoying this new bench and the new table which is more narrow than the previous table but is just fine for the space it occupies.  The old table has joined the bench down on the burn pile.  Half of its top had rotted and it was unsafe to put any weight at all on the surface.  Everyday I expected it to collapse. One leg was rotten at the bottom and was held up by a brick and some pieces of slate. As with the bench, Simon had repaired this table many times.  He built the table originally and he kept it standing upright for more years than perhaps he should have. It was positioned right up close to the bench so even if we had wanted to sit on the uncomfortable and shaky bench we would not have been able to move the table enough to get into the space to do so. Now that we have finally replaced both of these things we are wondering why we waited so long to do so.

14 August Thursday

I met a farmer I had not seen for months.  We stopped to talk and to discuss the things that had happened since we had last seen one another. We both commented at how close by we can all live but how easy it is to not cross paths.  Just walking a different field or driving a different route can change all kinds of things.  He said “We lose each other in the landscape.”

15 August Friday

Stopping at Rose’s for a quick drink, we talked with another Michael.  He was complaining about how few choices we have for going out to dinner.  We agreed that there were plenty of places for a certain kind of Big Feed dinner with lots of potatoes and piles of vegetables and meat and gravy.  There is always somewhere for Bacon and Cabbage.  For any different kind of eating, or for a more considered quantity of food on the plate, options are limited.  Some places appear but they do not last long.  If we do not test out a new restaurant quickly, there is always a chance that it will be closed by the time we do get around to going there.  In cities, there are lots of places and the pricing is competitive.  Here there are fewer choices and the prices are higher.  This Michael spoke of a restaurant on the coast that we like very much.  He was interested that it exists in an old industrial building.  He liked the look from the outside.  What he did not like was that a woman clapped her hands every time food was ready to be picked up from the kitchen and served.  He did not like the clapping and the echo of the clapping.  Most of all, he did not like the high ceilings and the exposed beams. He did not like the industrial look indoors. He said he did not like paying good money to go and eat in a shed.  His wife did not like eating in a shed either, although she liked the new and shiny details of everything else inside.

16 August Saturday

Some apples are ready to pick and to eat.  The ones called Irish Peach are splendid. Lots of others are getting riper by the day.  Our trees have never been so full of fruit.  The blotcheens are ripening, as are the wild damsons.  We lost a lot of the damsons in the boreen when Ned came down to cut the hedges with his big machine  last week.  We were pleased to have the heavy growth cleared but it is a pity he could not have timed it so that we had picked all of the damsons first.  There are raspberries to pick every day. I pick some in the morning and some in the evening. The Mirabelle plum tree has only one plum on the entire tree.  The figs are ripening but they need a few days of very hot weather. The mornings are cool and the nights are cool and already drawing in , but the growth is going well. It will be a great year for blackberries.

17 August Sunday

The three puffballs which we have been watching and waiting for have been destroyed.  They were kicked by an animal or maybe by a child.  There is nothing to be done about it.   We will continue to watch that spot and maybe some more will begin to grow near by.

18 August Monday

A World War One commemoration is being prepared in the village.  I think the discussions and planning for this have been going on for a long while, but it is only now that we are seeing it taking shape.  A large stone has been placed on a raised plot just at the corner of the car park beside the church.  I don’t know what kind of stone it is or where it came from but it is big. The area around the stone is paved and there is a ramp gently leading up to it. In the last week, someone has carved out a square. The next step is that a plaque with the names of the five local soldiers who died in the war will be placed in the square. At the end of the month, a ceremony is to take place.  The people who are doing the presentation have been rehearsing with Irish songs and Irish poetry of the time.  Everyone has the date marked on their calendars.

Ironmongery

19 August Tuesday

Emily has had a blood test.  She had a section of her front right leg shaved to accommodate the needle. She has had an Ultra Sound. Her tummy was shaved clean for that. Her tail was already shaved except for a white plume of hair at its end. Her back legs and hips and all around her bottom are shaved.  This is all in addition to her haircut of last week. Various other places around her body are worn down.  Most of these places are just a result of age. The overall effect is piebald.  Her various tests showed that she has a compromised liver.  We now have special food and pills for her, as well as a fortnight’s supply of steroids.  I wonder if the steroids will give her back her wasted leg muscles, and help her to stand herself up from a lying down position. I wonder if they will help her hair to look healthy and shiny and fluffy again. They cannot give us back a youthful dog but they can hopefully rejuvenate this old one.

20 August Wednesday

I have been drawing and drawing and re-drawing my rusted objects.  I am collecting the drawings together into a kind of inventory.  I think I am compiling an ironmongery on paper. Up until now, the found pieces have been lined up on the long bench.  Some have been hanging on the wall. Some others are on the ground opposite the bench. One is in position near my door as it has the function of helping to open that door. There are a lot of different pieces and parts. Most of them are variations of the same things.  Since everything I find here is usually agricultural in its initial use, the things are often repeats of the earlier found things.  Now I am attempting to document the same things and the differences of the same things.  It is often tedious as I am constantly feeling that my drawing has become a sort of stuttering.  While I am drawing, I stop because I think that I just drew this exact thing.  And often I did just draw that thing but it was not exactly the same thing which is why I am trying to draw it again.  I dream each night of black ink drawings of the endless variations of the same objects. It is driving me mad.

Emily D. 1999-2014

Emily is dead.  Our wonderful friend died on Sunday 24 August.  For twenty four hours she could do nothing but lie on her side.  She would not or could not roll over onto her other side. She ate some small pieces of chicken and she took a tiny bit of water from a spoon.  She lay in front of a glass window in view of the Galty Mountains. There is no way that her old eyes could see the mountains but it is nice to know that they were there for her.  We were not there.  She was in Skeheenarinky and we were far away. We are heartbroken.  Her death was not a surprise but it was a terrible terrible shock.  It is still a terrible shock. We have been moving around the house and outside always expecting to see her.  We are always hoping to see her. We are not able to move her water dish nor any of her other things.  We are pretending that she will be back soon.

Vocabulary of loss

30 August Saturday

There was a man painting the door of O’Dwyer’s shop.  It was a wooden door which is really just a piece of plywood with hinges.  All day long the door is held open and attached to the wall of the building with a padlock.  It has various notices for events and things for sale pinned on the inside of the door which is actually outside all day long. The man was holding the door open by leaning it against a can while he drew out two vertical panels with a long sign-painters brush.  In the top half of the painted door he had already drawn a large square.  I complimented him on his steady hand.  Drawing out long lines with liquid is not easy. He was proud of his work.  He explained that the two panels at the bottom would be painted as proper wooden door panels while the top section was to be painted to look like glass. I am wondering when I will ever see this door as the shop is open from early in the morning until quite late in the evening.  This outside door is only closed when the shop is closed.  Then the padlock is on the other side, and the notices are hidden inside and protected from the weather.  I will have to go down at night specially to see the finished paint job.  All this makes me realize that I simply do not know when they close the shop.  It is a place that seems to be always open.

31 August Sunday

In Waterford there is a bread roll called a Blaa. Sandwiches are always offered on a Blaa.  I often intend to find out how and why the Blaa got its name and also to find out why it is only a Waterford word.  As far as I know, no where else in the country serves up a Blaa.  The Blaa is not an item for export.  Not knowing and not getting around to asking keeps the mystery going for me.  It also means that I am both surprised and delighted each time I hear the word again.

1 September Monday

I have a new vocabulary.  It is the vocabulary of loss.  There are a lot of words I rarely use in relation to myself.  These are a lot of words which are now in my conversation every day:  Bereft.  Mourn.  Heartbroken.  Devastation.  Vacuum.  Absence. Grief.  Death.  Sorrow.  Pity.  Sorrow.  Consolation.  Sympathy. Remembering.  Forgetting. Commiseration.  Oh dear.  The list goes on and on.  Sometimes these words are only said in my head.  Sometimes they are written. Sometimes they are part of conversations.  Sometimes they are said out loud.  Everywhere I go the news has spread.  One person tells another.  Each time I speak with someone we need to go over Em’s death and we need to find the right words to say everything that needs to be said.  I have spoken with people who still miss their deceased dog after 34 years, or 12 years or 7 years.  One person listed the things that she has saved from her dead dog. She has his hair clippings, his nail clippings, his baby teeth, his collar and his toys.  She has made a sort of shrine so that she will never forget him. He has been dead for 6 years. She swears that she misses him every single day.  Another woman told me that losing her own dog was like having the back wall of the house fall off.  I know exactly how that feels.   For now, I still expect to see Em appear from someplace indoors or someplace outdoors.  I just assume that where she is is just somewhere nearby and that I will see her soon.  There are grubby marks low down on various corners and on the edges of door frames where her body has rubbed as she passed by again and again. These marks suggest her presence not her absence.

2 September Tuesday

The woman in front of me was filling out cards for the weekly GAA lottery.  She had three of the yellow cards lined up on which to write her details.  She was old and her hands were stiff.  She held the pen awkwardly. Her handwriting was slow. She only needed to write her name and phone number. Because the writing was laboured and probably painful, she interrupted herself often to speak. She did not attempt to write and to speak at the same time. She remarked to the woman behind the counter that “It’s Heading Up Nicely.”  Then she announced, in a louder voice, to anyone in hearing distance, that the jackpot had climbed to well over seven thousand euro now.  She said,  “There’s a lot of people waiting on that money.”

3 September Wednesday

I went down into the meadow with the idea of demonstrating how lovely the mown paths were. The bright green short grass paths winding down through the long grasses always suggest promise to me, even though I know exactly where they lead.   Instead of the lush short grass of the winding paths contrasting with the surrounding mixture of late summer burnt and  golden grasses, I was showing off a meadow half devastated by the strimmer, with a scatter of cut grasses over everything.  In some places the paths were barely visible.  I could see the paths because I knew they were there.  I am not sure anyone else could find them visible enough to follow, much less find them interesting.  The apple trees are fuller than they have ever been.  There are masses of apples reaching ripeness on every branch.  Most of the branches are hanging heavily with the weight of all the fruit.  The blotcheens are ripe and ready for eating.  Every single fruit tree is heavily entangled with convolvulus vines.  The vines are just reaching up from the ground and encircling the trunks and the branches and it is all a mess.  I have been leaving the vines because if I start to tug at them I might lose a lot of fruit in the struggle.  Between the messed up paths and the not raked up grass and the trees that look like they are being choked to death, the walk to view the meadow was not my best idea.

4 September Thursday

There was a murder last night.  It happened right underneath the bedroom window.  I woke up to the squealing and screeching of a captured creature.  I could not tell if it was a bird or a rabbit.  It might have been anything at all.  The sounds were terrible.  They were the sounds of fear and desperation.  There was struggle.  The noises were all the voice of whoever was being killed.  It varied as things went from bad to worse.  I could do nothing and I could see nothing.  For less than a minute, I thought of rushing outside with a light but I knew that it was already too late.  The fox had someone already in his mouth and the screams were the last moments of a life.  I lay in the dark and I listened.  I had no choice but to listen.  It was gruesome and noisy, and then it was all completely quiet.

Finishing the walk alone

5 September Friday

The excitement about the new Rose of Tralee seems to be over.  Or it has just been pushed aside while other things take priority in the news. The competition happens every year and even though it seems quite old-fashioned to hold a beauty contest, it gets a lot of young women entering and a lot of people watching it on national television.  The women who enter are all of Irish descent although they can be from anywhere in the world.  There is a Hong Kong Rose, a Dubai Rose, a Melbourne Rose and sometimes even a Japanese Rose.  They come from everywhere.  I do not know how they are chosen from the place where they live.  There must be a preliminary Rose of Tralee competition to see who will represent a particular city or country.  Once the competition arrives in Kerry, there are handsome young men assigned to each Rose.  They accompany herself on whatever activities are done over the week or ten days of the competition.  The escorts are chosen from all over Ireland.  They often appear in tuxedos. The women have to perform different tasks such as discussing their jobs, their education, and answering questions about their dreams and aspirations.  They have to perform some sort of Party Piece like a song, or a dance or playing a musical instrument.  Some recite a poem. I do not think there is anything as sexist as a bathing suit contest but it is understood that the Rose of Tralee must be attractive. I have probably written about the Rose of Tralee competition before but I have not watched it for a long time.  For me, once was enough. This years Rose is from Philadelphia.  After she won the crown she declined a toast as she announced that she is a teetotaller.  Later it was noted that she is gay.  Some people seemed disturbed by this and there was a lot of discussion on the radio and in the papers.  The new Rose was asked why she did not tell anyone beforehand that she was Gay..  She said that no one had asked.   After a little flurry, the whole issue has died down and now the 2014 Rose can just get on doing whatever the Rose of Tralee does for the year of her reign.

7 September Sunday

The raspberries continue to be ripe and ready every day.  Some evenings I collect them before dark so that they will be there for breakfast in the morning. More often I have to step out in the morning in my bathrobe and my wellie boots to get just enough to eat with cereal. I go back out later in the morning to fill up a larger bowl, but I am enjoying the portion control of picking just as many berries as I want to eat.  The leaves and the grass and everything are all drenched on these cool mornings. The days have been hot.  There is so much picking to do.  The blackberries have never been so plentiful although I think that I think this every year.  I keep picking and picking.  Some for the freezer and some for the eating. The blotcheens  are delicious.  We made jam with the wild damsons but somehow we never make anything with the blotcheens.  We just eat them.

8 September Monday

The man was here to do the yearly clean and re-conditioning of the Rayburn stove.  The days are very hot so it is perfect time to have it done.  If we wait too long and the days get cold, then the stove has to be turned off for several hours before the man can do the job.  On a cold day, we kick ourselves for not having the job done in the warm weather.  I came in from town while the man was halfway through the job.  I was running back and forth putting things away and he was running in and out putting things in his truck.  In a matter of minutes we had bumped into one another several times while both trying to go through the narrow doorway between the kitchen and the big room at the same time.  Every time we laughed.   It got funnier as it happened again and again. He said “You know what this is?  This is called The Dancing Point.”

9 September Tuesday

The house is about to be painted.  The old wooden gutters have been taken down. Simon made the gutters himself.  The ones on the house were square in shape and the ones on the book barn were vee-shaped.  They were made of treated wood and they have lasted well, but this is a wet country.  They lasted sixteen years. For the last two years they have been leaking badly in several places. So maybe I should say they lasted fourteen years. The wooden gutters have had their day.  They will be replaced with aluminium gutters as used on farm buildings.  But first the house must be washed with the power washer and then the painting will begin.  After the painting is finished, the new gutters will be put in place.  The week promises to be dry so we will not miss them for a few days.

10 September Wednesday

The nights are drawing in fast.  They are already feeling chilly.  I have decided to walk down into the meadow each night the way I used to walk with Em.  It has been a long time since she gave up on that walk and just preferred her stroll in the upper grass near to the house before bed.  I loved my walk through the meadow with her and now I have decided that I should re-start it sort of as a way to think of her and to have a breath of air at night. Some nights I feel a little bit lonely walking down the path in the dark.  Some nights I feel a little bit nervous.  It is not really fear. I think it is just the feeling of being alone in the dark with no light except that from a torch whose batteries are weak.  Having Em rushing off into the night and barking was never really more than a nominal idea of companionship.  It just meant that we neither started nor finished the walk alone.

11 September Thursday

There is still a lot of haying activity. I get mixed up about what is hay and what is straw and how each crop gets collected and stored.  Silage is baled up into black plastic. Today I saw a big tractor pulling a device behind it.  The device picked up a bale of whatever goes into the silage and the whole thing got wrapped up into black plastic while the bale twirled around on a spindle sort of thing in the middle of the trailer.  When the plastic wrapping was completed, two arms from the machine let the bale roll gently off, sort of catching the bale before dropping it on the ground alongside with the others.  It caught the bale in bent places of its arms just like elbows.  The dropping onto the ground was a gentle rolling off. The stubble which is left in many fields is from straw.  I just learned that the cutting of hay does not leave stubble. Some things are collected into big round bales and some are in big rectangular shapes.  There are also small flat bales from smaller older machines.  I learn these things but I never seem to have complete knowledge of what is keeping everyone so busy in the fields and on the tractors.

12 September Friday

Father Sean Nugent died.  He was local to the area.  He was always spoken of as Father Sean Nugent, never as Father Sean or Father Nugent.  I guess using his family name kept him connected to his people in the area. For some of his years as a priest, he was the priest in the village.  Or I think he was the priest in the village for a time.  Actually, I have no idea how long he was there, but I seem to have gone to a great many funerals where he was  officiating.  I remember him mostly because he often spoke of a man he was burying as AN INOFFENSIVE MAN.  Hearing someone described as Inoffensive always sets me thinking.  I cannot decide if it is a fine and complimentary thing to be described as Inoffensive or if it is tantamount to saying that the person in question was actually quite boring. It might be a way of saying that the person in question did not have a great many good qualities so it is best not to say too much. I will not be attending the funeral of Father Sean Nugent. I did not even know the man. But I cannot help but wonder if he himself will be described as An Inoffensive Man at his own funeral.

It Looks Well

13 September Saturday

People often say that something Looks Well.   They don’t say that it Looks Good or even that it Looks Nice. It Looks Well is a real compliment.

14 September Sunday

The house is all painted.  It is looking good. We step outside often to look at it and to admire it. It took a bit of getting used to the colour.  I don’t know whether to call it dusty pink or raspberry ripple or what.  It looks different at different times of day.  It does look fine and the off-white surrounds on the windows look sharp.  Maybe it actually looks ridiculous and we are only thinking that we like it because we are getting used to it. What I am worrying about is what we are going to do with Em’s house.  We had to move it away from the wall before the work got started.  The roof, which has been falling in for quite a long time completely collapsed.  The floor fell apart as the house was moved.  We found a large cache old bones, remnants of rubber toys and clumped up filthy blankets.  The bones made me weep.  The walls have served as a gallery for a long time. Every photo of another dog and announcements about puppies to be viewed and dog shows were put up on the walls.  There were a few cat pictures on the left side but it was mostly dog things that got stapled up.  Now everything is peeled, faded or torn.  Em had not actually been using her house for a long time.  I think she could not go inside perhaps for fear that she would not even know how to get herself back out.  She was avoiding  places like that. She no longer wanted to sleep in her wicker bed and preferred her sheep’s wool mat to anything that held her in position. Since she never slept outside and only used it during the day, I thought of her house as an office.  Now the fact that we have moved it at all makes it seem crazy to move it back into its old position.  To take it down and throw it onto the burning pile seems so final.  It is all happening a bit faster than I would have liked.

15 September Monday

The postman was in a bit of a tizzy this morning.  He is one of several substitute postmen who have been driving down to us since John is still at home recovering from surgery. Today’s man said it was a terrible day for him as the new Tesco Club Cards were being sent out and that meant that nearly every house was getting a delivery.  He said that there are many houses which he only goes to once a week or not even that often but when the Tesco Club Cards get sent out the whole entire Post Office and all of the delivery men are just rushed off their feet.

16 September Tuesday

I walked out over Joe’s fields this morning.  I wanted to walk up the mass path, but there is no way to get through.  Branches and trees have fallen and there are masses of  brambles blocking the way. It will take some big work before we can walk that route again. The grass in the fields was heavy with dew and my trousers were wet up to the knee before I had gone any distance at all. I could see Joe on his tractor far ahead.  He was rounding up the cows for the slow walk to the milking.  Rather than straggle along behind them, I stayed on the fields and walked through one fenced off area after another.  I think there were eight fields to pass through.  I had to crawl underneath the wire.  It was a wet thing to do.  Walking is a dilemma in these early autumn days.  The ground is heavy with wet in the morning but once the sun burns off the wetness,  it becomes too hot for walking.  So I walked and crawled through the wet grass.  Going under the two kinds of fencing is always a bit of a challenge.  I hate to hit the wire and get an electric shock. There is a string which is used a lot on most of the fenced areas.  I think of it as a new kind of fencing but I think it has been around for a while.  It is not new. The string is white with either blue or yellow interspersed with the white.  I can never be sure if the string is electrified.  To a certain degree the cows get conditioned to understand that the string is on, but I think it is often not on.  They see it and avoid making contact because they have been shocked by it before.  Like the cows I choose not to make contact with it.  In a few of the fields there was evidence of recent grass eating. Since the cows had been eating away,  there was a lot of manure. in the remaining grass.  Each time I crawled or rolled under a fence I had to check where I was going in order to make sure I did not land in manure.  The fresh stuff is slippery and messy but the day old stuff has a crust over the top of it.  It means crunching through the older stuff and then landing in the wet and slimy stuff which has been kept wet by being protected.  None of it smells but it is messy. By the time I reached the gate and climbed over it onto the road, I was soaking wet.  I had avoided all of the manure, except for a bit on my boots.  I felt a real sense of accomplishment and it was still early morning.

Wool buying

17 September Wednesday

There is a new sign announcing Wool Buying Every Thursday at the Co-op. The Wool Buying on Thursday is not a new thing, but the sign is new.

18 September Thursday

I just learned that Oliver Hackett is dead.  His death was not recent. He died back in March.  He had been unwell for a while.  I was surprised that I missed the news of his death.  The imperative of death makes such things big news when they happen, and immediately after that they are simply Already Known Facts.  I had not even noticed that his grocery shop was closed and that the doors to his big shed where locked up tight.  He sold firewood and coal and canisters of propane gas out of the big shed.   I just did not pay attention as I passed by in the car.  I did not pay attention for many months.  There were several years when Oliver was trying to sell his entire business with his house attached.  He had it listed on the internet.  I am not sure how long he was trying to sell it, but after he died I guess neither his daughter nor his son wanted to take over the whole operation.  Oliver often had a tetchy manner.  Once he was delivering several loads of firewood to us and he said something about me being English.  I said that I was not English.  I told him that Simon is English but that I am not. He took offense and acted as though I had been lying to him for years. For a long while, he refused to speak to me at all when we met.  If I entered his shop he made a snorting sound and ignored me.  I do not think that he was angry because I was an American.  He was angry because he had been so certain about who I was and he did not like to find himself wrong.

19 September Friday

It is not a wise thing to offer someone A Ride.  Offering A Ride is a salacious invitation. Offering or asking for A Ride in a public situation is bound to cause some sniggers, especially if the one doing the offering is a woman.  It is best to offer or to request A Lift.  That way there is no danger of a sexual implication.

20 September Saturday

Last night we had our first rainfall in weeks. It was a good soaking rain.  It was probably not enough rain to make the farmers happy, but nonetheless, it was welcome rain.  I took the walk through the woods and along the river in Cahir.  It was no longer raining but there was a bit of drizzle in the breeze or just blowing off the trees. I met John, the Ancient Man, and we stood together in the dampness and spoke for a while.  He had his umbrella but he did not put it up.  I had a hood on my jacket but I did not put that up either.  It was not really wet.  He asked me about Emily and I told him that she had died.  He was very sorry to hear it.  He spoke about how he still looks behind him for his Ancient Dog who died two years ago.  He still looks for her and he still feels surprised not to see her struggling long behind him. I know exactly how he feels.

I told him that he was looking well and he told me that he had Gone to 90 since we last spoke. He said his sister had Gone to 92 and that she has started riding herself out in a wheelchair.  He is disgusted with her.  He is still walking his 5 miles every day but he said that he is walking more and more slowly, so it takes him a lot longer than it did even a few months ago.  Most of his day is now taken up with his morning walk. He does not want to shorten his route but he might have to consider it come winter. He asked me if I had heard the news about the Irish woman who had won 87 million euro on the lottery last night.  No one knows who she is or what part of the country she is in. He is hoping that he might come across her on his walk today.  He asked me if by chance she was me.

21 September Sunday

Today I was told that each of us dies twice.  The man who told me this said that You die once when the breath goes out of you.  You die again the very last time that someone says your name out loud.

24 September Wednesday

We drove to Thurles to take the train to Dublin.  Once we were on the platform, we saw that there was an earlier train and that the earlier one was an Express. There would be no stops until Dublin. We decided to get on that one instead of the one we had planned for.  After a few minutes, an announcement came on and we were told that the Express was running 12 minutes late.  We did not mind.  it meant that we would still be in Dublin sooner than we had planned.  We were looking forward to tea and toast in the dining car.

As we boarded the Express there was another announcement saying that there would be an unschedualed stop at Port Laoise.  The train was packed.  Every seat was full and there was not much standing room.  Just about everyone on the train was going to The National Ploughing Competition.  The Ploughing is in Port Laoise this year.  Almost all of the people who had boarded at Cork where the train originated were going to The Ploughing.  There was no tea and toast in the Dining Car for us.  There was no Dining Car.  No doubt all those farmers and their families who were going to The Ploughing had eaten their breakfast hours ago, well before leaving home and probably before they had even done their farm chores.

At Port Laoise, the cars emptied out. We looked out the windows as the platform filled up. There were many buses outside the station waiting to take everyone on to The Ploughing.  The few of us who were left on the train looked around and smiled at one another.  Suddenly there was so much space. None of us needed more than one seat for the rest of our journey to Dublin, but there was so much space after everyone got off that we felt fortunate.

25 September Thursday

Nonnie went to visit another woman who had recently lost her husband.  The death had happened some months ago and far away.  Nonnie went to pay her respects now that the woman had returned here.  She asked if the husband had been buried close to their family home.  The woman said that he had not been buried but cremated instead.  She said she still had the ashes and had not yet decided where to put them. Nonnie gasped and dropped her head down hard on the table.  She banged her head a few times and she moaned.  She lifted up her head and said Oh How could you cremate That Beautiful Body? Then she banged her head down again.

Rubber sparrowhawk

26 September Friday

I am always surprised when I find myself standing on Mitchell Street in Clonmel and suddenly it is full of people all rushing from one direction.  It happened this morning. Mitchell Street is not a very wide street nor is it a busy street. It is not open to motor traffic so it tends to be a quiet street.  To see ten or twenty people arriving quickly from the same direction is startling.  Fifteen or twenty people is enough to fill the area. The side street is Abbey Street where there is a church about halfway down on the left.  The people gushing up and onto Mitchel Street are coming from a mid-morning Mass.  To a person they appear to be in a rush. They are each coming from the same place and now they are each going somewhere else.  Since the opposite direction only takes them to the river, they are all moving away in the same direction and they do not move slowly. Once they get to Mitchel Street some go left and some go right and very quickly the sense of  group movement is over.  Everyone who was in the crowd coming from Mass are now just people walking out in the town.

28 September Sunday

The raspberries are slowing down.  We have day after day of hot sun.  These raspberry canes usually keep producing well into October.  I cannot understand why they are slowing up now when the weather is on their side. They did begin their season much earlier than usual so perhaps they have just worn themselves out. The productive season might be exactly as long as it has always been but if it started earlier it may need to end earlier.

The blackberries make up for the diminishing raspberries.  I cannot pick enough of them.  Today I picked for less than an hour in sun.  I started up at the tar road and walked back down here while picking.  I only picked on the left side of the boreen where the morning sun was warming both the berries and the bushes.  I had a field full of frisky young heifers following me on the right side.  They rushed and jostled each other to watch me over the ditch and kept changing position to go along with me as far as they could.  We finally got to the narrow end of their field.  I continued on without them so they took off racing one another back into the open space.   I came home with enough to provide a big bowl of berries to eat and two big bags full to drop into the freezer. The house has been stained by blackberry eating birds flying over.  It is a mistake to wear a white shirt while picking blackberries.

29 September Monday

There has been a big sparrow hawk on a long bouncy stick in a field up past Flemingstown.  The bird must be made of rubber or plastic.  It looks very realistic and it is never not moving. It swoops and dives and looks a lot like a real bird with its wings outstretched in flight.  The movement of the bird keeps it moving.  I do not know what the stick is made of but it is strong enough to keep the bird bouncing and diving.  The first few times I saw the bird I did not realize that it was attached to anything.  I thought it was a real sparrow hawk and I nearly went off the road with excitement.  As crow-scaring devices go, I have never seen anything better.  Now it is gone.  I shall look forward to seeing it reappear in another field, but I may have to wait till next year.

30 September Tuesday

Every so often my phone takes a little film by mistake, instead of taking the still photograph I was trying to take.  Those little films get deleted as they are never anything worth keeping.  The only time I ever made a film on purpose was while walking up the path with Em about a year ago.  She was already walking slowly enough so that I could follow her. I think of that kind of walk as her Stately Pace.  Not so very long ago her racing and rushing up and down would have been impossible to keep up with.  I kept the film.  Now I am glad I did.  Simon put it up on YouTube for me.  It is a short quiet walk with Em. There is only the swishing through the grasses and a bit of birdsong.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwKSh1MOPiY

1 October Wednesday

Today is the first day of mandatory water charges in the country.  There used to be charges for water but some years ago they were eliminated.  Now charges are being put into place as part of the ongoing Austerity Measures by the government.  Many people, or maybe most people, do not remember a time when they had to pay for water.  A great many people feel aggrieved.  This is a country with a reputation for being very wet and having lots of rain.  People feel they should not have to pay for such a plentiful resource as water.  The trouble is that there are systems to run and pipes to repair.  The nation has been bankrupted and has had to be bailed out by the EU.  Even though things are a lot better than they were a few years ago, there is still an enormous debt.  Businesses have gone under.  People have emigrated.  Homes have been lost because people can no longer pay their mortgages.  Jobs are still hard to find and people have taken huge cuts in their wages and pensions.  People do not have the money to pay yet another charge, but the government does not have the money either.  People have not finished feeling outraged and abused about the new property tax.  Now the water charge has been dropped upon them.

In the last weeks, there have been lots of discussions on the radio about how to lower the water consumption in a household.  People were advised to use showers at schools and clubs and places of employment as much as possible.  There were a lot of suggestions about using water in other places rather than using ones own water. Water butts in gardens were advised.  People were told to put a rock in the toilet tank and to flush less frequently.  They were told to repair any leaky taps. In the last four days, people were advised to use the last days of free water to wash their cars and water their gardens and do lots of jobs that they might usually put on the Long Finger.  As well as cars, things like curtains, patios, pets and  garden furniture could be washed with impunity in the final days before the charges. The implication was that one might never again be able to afford to wash these things.

Today the radio is full of people who are busy running in and out of their houses trying to read the water meters each time a toilet is flushed.  They are taking photographs of the meter and its red numbers with their smart phones.  They are discussing the charge per litre and the information that they can and cannot get from the water board about the water charges.

We do not have to pay water charges because we have our own well.  We have always been careful with our water.  We know that our well is deep, but there is always the vague fear that even so the water in the well might someday run out.  Being careful is a good idea for everyone, as well as for the environment.  Maybe after the initial shock of this new charge, the people who are now upset will realize that being careful is a good idea. When the government put in a tax on plastic bags in shops about fifteen years ago, they thought that everyone would be too idle to carry their own shopping bags.  The government assumed they would make a lot of money to put towards environmental projects.  Instead everyone quickly became conditioned to carry their own bags and the government has not done well with making the money it expected.  People might quickly embrace this water tax as a challenge in the same way.

Gone Down With The Weather

2 October Thursday

I had a cup of tea in the kitchen of a friend this morning.  Her table is directly in front of a large window. It is pleasant to look out this window.  The view and the light across the hills and fields changes all the time.  It is a pleasure to sit there.  Everyone who passes directly in front of the house, in a car or on foot, is also visible.  We watched a man in a red fleece walking rapidly down the hill. He had a dog running along with him.  My friend asked me who the man was. I did not know his name but I described where I thought he was living.  I really thought I recognized the dog more than the man. A few hours later I was back at home and I heard shouting.  I looked across the valley and I saw a man with a red fleece up on the hill which used to be part of Johnnie Mackin’s land.  It is such a steep hill that it seems as though it is at a right angle to the meadow below it. Anyone walking on the hill looks like they are balancing impossibly sideways in space. The man was shouting at a dog who was far behind him. From where I was standing I thought maybe it was the same man but I could not be certain that it was the same dog. At the end of the afternoon I was driving back up from the village and I saw a man in a red fleece in the distance.  I felt confused.  This might have been the same man and the same dog.  It might have been the same man two of the times and a different man one of the times.  I thought the dog I saw in the morning was black.  Then I thought I saw a yellow-ish dog.  Then I thought I saw a black dog again.  If there was someone around who regularly wore a red fleece I would know exactly who it was.  But no one would be walking all day long.  Ordinarily I do not see too many different people out walking.  This makes me feel I should know anyone and everyone that I do see out walking.  Maybe these were three different men and three different dogs. Maybe it was a coincidence that today they were all three wearing red fleeces.

3 October Friday

An older man leaned over a pram in which a small child was sitting.  The child was probably about two. The man made some little cooing noises at the child.  Then he stood up straight and asked the mother ” Now was that one the baby once?”

4 October Saturday

David had no eggs left.  We were not very late arriving at the market.  It was only ten o’clock, but he was already out of eggs.  He had his table set up and he had his dark red umbrella in position as normal, but he was just standing and chatting with people who came to buy his eggs.  He was happy to collect the empty egg boxes which we brought for him.  He explained again and again that his hens have Gone Down with the Weather.  He reported that with the cold mornings and the cold nights and the early darkness the hens go off to sleep sooner and that means they are laying fewer eggs. He said they might just get accustomed to the early darkness and then return to their usual production.  But he said that for the moment it is A Tragedy.  He said this is exactly the moment when everyone is making their Christmas Cakes.  This is when they need eggs.  He said there could not be a worse moment for his hens to have Gone Down with the Weather.

5 October Sunday

There are a huge number of spiders around.  There are a huge number of spiders in this house.  I thought it was just me because I am not so fond of dusting in corners.  Now I read in the paper that there are a remarkably large number of spiders everywhere.  It is a combination of the very mild weather we have been having and the fact that this is the mating season for spiders.  I know so little about spiders that I do not know if they are laying eggs which will be waiting to hatch until next spring or if these new spiders will all be born right away.  They must be arriving later otherwise we would have spiders crawling up the walls and in corners of the room all winter.  I hope this is not the case.  I do not relish a house full of spiders all winter long.

6 October Monday

Breda’s father Jim slipped on some oil and broke his hip.  He was operated upon down at the hospital in Waterford.  I understand that he is already walking again, carefully and with the help of a frame.  He is 85 years old and has always been a very robust and active man.  He has seemed more youthful because of his terrific attitude and energy.  He has a reputation as a great dancer. Now I am told that he will need to Soften His Cough.  I did not understand the expression but the more I think about it, it is making better sense.  It is just a way of explaining the slowing down and accepting of being a little bit older and a little bit more careful.  To Soften His Cough means that he will need to accept change.

7 October Tuesday

The shops in the Market Place in Clonmel are all being painted.  I do not know if they are owned by one person but suddenly almost all of them appear to be getting a fresh coat of paint.  All of the shops being painted are unoccupied. Each of the empty ones has a sign in the window advertising that it is For Rent or To Lease or To Let.  The signs vary in the shops. The street is a narrow pedestrian street. Today I counted five places which are still active while twelve of them are empty. The new and fresh colours on the shop fronts does cheer things up a bit but mostly it is very dreary to walk along there.  I tend to walk a different route just so that I do not have to view all of the vacant buildings.  It used to look toothy to see a few empty shops in between those which were open.  Now that there are so many more empties than fulls, it is just sad.

In Residence

9 October Thursday

I needed to clean out the car before taking it in for inspection.  I use the excuse of the NCT test as a reason to give it a thorough interior cleaning once a year.  This level of cleaning is not expected. It is my own requirement.  The outside of the car is more important especially the inner wells around the tires.  The wheel wells of this car always have a good three inches of caked in mud and soil just from our daily driving up and down the boreen.  If we were to take the car in with all that mud they would refuse to do the test.  We would have to pay for the refused test and then we would have to re-book it, return mud-less and pay again.

I had been to the dump, so I was unloading the various re-cycling containers.  I thought it a good idea to do the dump run before the cleaning.  I had both the back and the front doors open.  A big yellow Labrador arrived as I was making trips back and forth to the shed.  He followed me around for a while and then he jumped up into the back of the car.  He sniffed around inside and then he moved up and sat on the passenger seat.  He looked out the windscreen.  I have never seen this dog before.  I expected to see someone walking down the track.  I expected to see someone who would call this dog by name and who would continue on their walk and take the dog along.  He was not a young dog.  He was an older dog with that heaviness that Labs often have.  He was older but not elderly.  He was sprightly enough to leap up into the back of the car without taking a running jump.  I know most dogs in the area.  It is unusual to see a dog I do not know. If I do not know a dog by name I at least know him by sight. I usually know the people he is connected with and it is unusual not to know where a dog lives.

I talked to the dog while I cleared stuff from the car and did a bit of window cleaning.  I decided that perhaps he could smell Em in the motor.  I was finding a lot of her long hair in clumps as I worked.  He did not do anything except sit in the passenger seat.  Sometimes he looked at me but mostly he just looked out the window.  When I started the vacuum cleaner he jumped out and by the time I turned it off again, he was gone.  I did not even see which way he went, but I am sure I will see him again.

10 October Friday

The trees are still laden with apples.  The very warm weather and the craziness of the whole growing season all the way back to last spring means that the different varieties have all ripened at abnormal times. I do not understand it at all.  We are a bit overwhelmed.  I have boxes of apples picked and stored in different places.  The mice have found some.  A lot of them are not as great for eating as they usually are.  We have started to make applesauce with a combination of different varieties.  We have started to make applesauce to defeat the mice.  The applesauce is delicious.  I have frozen some and I have taken bowls full to different people. I saw Tommie and I asked him how Margaret was.  I asked him if they liked applesauce.  He said that she liked it and that he loved. it.  I told him I would bring some down later.  He said “If I know you are coming, I will be In Residence.”

11 October Saturday

Hay and straw has been baled up and stacked for the winter.  Every single barn and shed everywhere has enormous piles right up to the ceiling.  The sheds are  open on one side so that there is air to circulate around the bales.  Some bales are still outside.  There is a big stack on the Cooney’s corner on concrete slabs so it is off the ground but it is still out of doors.  It looks like a building.  It is six bales high and seven bales long by five bales wide.  The bales on the front of this bale building look like structural columns as they are the cylindrical rather than the rectangular bales.  As a building it is domestic in scale.  It is a golden house in the end of afternoon sunlight.

12 October Sunday

Simon and I took a working walk up the Mass Path. He carried a big saw and a small saw.  I carried a small saw and clippers.  We worked at clearing away a dead tree which fell and has been blocking the way.  A few weeks ago the lower level was cleared of nettles and brambles and thin branches but this fallen tree has made further passage up the hill impossible.  If we had had a chain saw it would have been a really quick job.  With hand saws, it was slow and complicated.  We were tangled up with brambles and branches.  I worked away at one big branch which came down hard on my head.  We both ended up bleeding and slightly beaten.  We did get the tree cut and moved but then as we went up towards Johnnie Mackin’s there were more sections all closed in with brambles and vegetation and hanging tendrils of thorns.  At that point we gave up and decided to continue the struggle tomorrow.

DSC00623

 

13 October Monday

Every morning starts with a dense fog.  Today the postman came down and said there has been an accident on Knocklofty Bridge.  The road has been closed and all movements are being made difficult by detours and by further fog.  We cannot see over the valley.  We cannot see past the fence into the field. Everything is wet with heavy dew.  The heavy fog holds everything in silence.  I went out to pick my breakfast raspberries today wearing the high rubber boots. My sleeves got soaked immediately just from the water on the leaves.  By lunchtime everyday, the fog burns off and each afternoon is hot and bright. Mornings are for hats and waterproofs and the afternoons are tee-shirt weather. There is a manic feeling that every single job which needs doing before winter comes must be done in these four or five bright hours.  No matter what else needs to be done the dry sunlight hours are for out of door jobs.

That kind of a way

15 October Wednesday

The bridge into the village is an ongoing worry.  It is an old hump-backed stone bridge.  Every so often someone announces that it is about to collapse.  Someone always says the bridge will cave in any day now.  Ten years ago some work was done underneath it and the report then was that collapse was imminent.  We all feel worried for a while each time this discussion comes up.  Then we forget about it as we drive or walk over it every day.  When the bridge collapses there will be a great many of us who will not be able to get to the village without a very long detour.  As the fears build up people discuss the idea of a temporary bridge or of a little boat to take people over the river.  Discussions about how we will deal with the collapse of the bridge can keep a lot of people talking for a long time.  It is never a matter of IF the bridge collapses. It is always WHEN. I am back in a worrying phase about the bridge.  I really do not want to be the one driving over it when it decides to let go. I look forward to forgetting the scary rumours once again.

16 October Thursday

I like being out on the road.  I like the possibility of seeing who I might meet.  I am not necessarily wanting to meet anyone, but there is something nice in knowing that if I walk out and if I do meet someone that someone will be someone I know.  As with the man in the red fleece last week, an exception is possible, but it is rare.

Today I met Sean while walking.  He is still recovering from his treatments and he has been walking out most days to build up his strength. After months and months, he is looking well and getting stronger.  We walked together.  When we got down near the road we call Neddins, we heard the sound of toenails clicking and hitting the road.  Oscar rushed out to greet us and was excited to see two of us.  He  licked and leaped and pranced around and then we all three continued with walking.  We reached my turn to go down the boreen and home.  Sean was continuing to the cross at the top of the hill.  We stood in the sun while we said goodbye.  Oscar looked back and forth at each of us.  He was torn and he rushed first to me and then to Sean and then to me again. He did not know who to go with.  He did not know who would give him the best walk.  Finally he decided on Sean who would definitely give him the longer distance.  I was glad to watch the decision making process.  Oscar is loyal and loves us all.  I like to watch him share his love.

17 October Friday

You Know That Kind of A Way.  This is said in lieu of You Know What I Mean. It is said often and it seems a way of not expressing what one means very well and just hoping that the listener knows enough about what is being discussed.

19 October Sunday

We took the X51 from Galway.  It was fast and it traveled on the new motorway, so it was a smooth journey.  There was an old man sitting in the front seat behind the driver.  He fell into a deep sleep as soon as the bus started.  He slept the full hour and a half .  He woke up as we pulled into Limerick station and he was the first one off the bus.

We went into the station café for tea and toast while we waited for our connection.  The old man came in soon after us.  He ordered a piece of apple pie.  The counter lady poured cream over it.  He took the pie to a table and ate it fast.  He ate one bite right after the other without stopping.  He finished the pie and left his plate on the table.  The man then went up to the counter and ordered a big slice of layer cake.  The counter lady held up the jug of cream and he nodded.  She poured a lot of cream onto his cake.  He came over to our table and asked if he could join us.  He sat down and began to eat his cake with the same undivided attention with which he had eaten his pie.

He had a short sleeved tee shirt and he had no bag with him.  It did not seem that he was going far.  The weather was too cold for a tee shirt and no jacket.  He sat down with us when there were a lot of empty tables so I knew he wanted to talk.  He asked if we lived in Limerick.  I said no and I asked him if he lived in Limerick.  He said no.  He said he lived in Galway. He had just come over on the bus for a slice of cake but the pie looked good, so he had a piece of pie first and now he was having cake which is what he came for.  He told us that he was retired and that he used to be a farmer.  I asked if he missed the farming and he said no.  He said he did not miss the farming but he did miss his wife.  She had been a teacher and she died two years ago in December. He said the hardest thing was losing your life partner.  Losing your partner and living in retirement had a way of making life empty.

He said he enjoyed his travel card.  Every person in the country over the age of 65 has this card.  The card allows them to travel on buses and trains for free.  They can take someone along with them too.  Two people can travel for free. He enjoys the freedom of his card but he would like it better if his wife could travel with him.  Today he had ridden for an hour and a half to get to Limerick.  He ate pie and cake and soon he would be on the bus back to Galway.  That would be another hour and a half.  Riding the buses was a way for him to pass the time.

We said goodbye and went out to wait for our connecting bus.  We watched as he came out of the station and climbed back on board the X51.

21 October Tuesday

I thought we would be blown away last night.  The promises and threats for the encroaching hurricane announced that the entire country was in Yellow Alert. I gathered up a few things that I thought might go flying around outside.  As I was coming up from the barn I cut off a single rose bud which was just about to blossom.  I knew I would prefer to watch it open up indoors rather than have it beaten to death by wind and rain.  I also picked the very last sweet peas of the year.  I woke up off and on all through the night.  The noise of the wind was mighty but there was no rain.  This morning I expected to see branches down and lots of chaos but there was very little damage.  Leaves and small branches were scattered about but the big promised storm seemed to miss us.  It missed us or maybe it got weak before it got as far as here.  The mountains protected us.  I could not help but feel a little disappointed after so many dire warnings and the excitement of the radio announcers.  If there had been terrible devastation I would no doubt feel ashamed.  The day dawned bright and mild and breezy.  The hedge cutting man and his machine made more trouble than the storm.  There were stones out of the wall all the way down the boreen from where he bumped into it.  Some of them were too big for me to lift so I had to leave those for Simon.  Clearing them away made plenty of work.  We did not really need the mess of a hurricane.

& Again, The Man Who Waits By His Car While His Sister Walks the Dog.

22 October Wednesday

There was a diagonal stripe on the road.  It was several feet wide and was made up of purple and black and bluish marks.  I looked at it and I looked at it again and I thought about it as I walked by and over it yesterday.  I could not figure out what caused this colour nor its odd angle and width.  I thought about it again today as I walked by.  I think I passed over this stripe of splotchy colour three times before realizing that it is made up of bird droppings.  The birds sit on the electricity cables crossing the road overhead.  They sit on the cable and they excrete all of the blackberries they have been eating.  A simple solution to my question but it took three days for me to get to the answer.

23 October Thursday

My old hat is not even my hat.  It is Simon’s hat, but it is so old and faded and beaten that he never wears it. It has a bite out of it on the brim. Some visiting dog did that.  This is a hat from far away.  It is made of felt.  It is called a Crusher because it is made to crush up and stick into your pocket if you are out wearing it and then decide that you do not need it. These hats used to come in two colours.  Maybe they still do. One was a day-glo orange.  The orange is preferred by hunters when they are out deer hunting.  The hat makes sure the hunter can be seen. This hat which I now think of as my hat was once a forest green.  It has faded and it is pretty much not a colour.  It is just dirty looking. This hat has become my preferred walking hat.  If it rains when I am out the hat will keep the wet out for a while. Not forever, but for a good while.  It also has a bit of warmth. Each time I wear it, people comment on it. They are not commenting because they like it.  I think they are commenting because it is a sort of surprising thing to be out in the world wearing.  If I were an old farmer it would be okay but I am a woman and not a farmer and it is not really okay.  People who comment on it are always a little bit embarrassed for me. I am not embarrassed.  I like my hat.  I like that it reappears every year just now as the weather changes.

24 October Friday

She is very ill and will need some chemotherapy or some radiotherapy or maybe both kinds of therapy.  She has also signed herself up as being willing for some medical trials because she knows there is not much hope for her anyway because her illness is very advanced.  She feels she might as well be useful as research.  Maybe it will help someone else.  Her niece is furious with her and says she has no right to be a human test tube so she has turned off her phone most of the time as she does not need or want the niece shouting at her. Because her phone is so often turned off, it is not easy to phone her and we have to wait until she turns it on again. She was glad to hear good things said about the radiotherapy being done in the hospital in Clonmel as that is where she will have to go because Waterford is just too far and she will need to be in and out a lot and often.  Her Home Help has been the best person to advise and reassure her about the hospital and their competence.  She always speaks of her Home Help as My Home Help.  She never says a name so I do not know the Home Help’s name.  Her Home Help has told her to eat lots of garlic and local honey as these things are especially good for fighting cancer.  She does not like garlic so she thinks she will double up on the amount of honey she eats.  I think it is very late for these solutions but when she is on the telephone she speaks a lot and very quickly so I do not have a chance to tell her anything she does not want to hear anyway.

25 October Saturday

I can hear winter rodents in the walls.  They are either in the walls or under the floor.  Sometimes they are noisy and working or just generally scrabbling about.  Every year we think there is no way for a mouse to get in.  Every year the mice find a way in.

27 October Bank Holiday Monday

Twice in the last week I have seen the siblings.  He stands leaning against the front of his car and waves aggressively at each car that passes.  Not many cars pass so he puts a lot of energy into the wave. Perhaps I should call it enthusiasm rather than aggression. He takes a step out into the narrow road just on the off chance that as a driver you might not see him.  This means that not only do you see him but you have trouble not hitting him.  The sister is not far down the road.  The dog cannot escape these mad people.  He is held tight on the lead.  She allows him about a foot of length on the lead and he has the big black cudgel held inches over his head each time a car comes along.  There is no chance that he can forget anything.  His life looks like hell. The sister stops and holds the beating stick over the dog’s head and watches each car as it passes.  The brother smokes his cigarette without using any hands and he waves manically.  On the trip down to the village I felt so annoyed that I did not salute and I did not even turn my head.  On the return trip, he stepped out into the road even more dangerously than usual.  I nodded.  I did not salute.  Seeing them twice in one week makes me cross.  Wondering why they choose this busy patch of road for a dog walk is one question Why I let them annoy me so much is another.

Knocklofty Bridge

28 October Tuesday

Veronica went for hospital tests after fasting overnight.  She had to wait all day long for the tests to be completed.  At 5.30 she was given what she called a Fairy’s Cup of Tea and a Fairy Scone.  She said she felt like she was being fed in a doll’s house.  She had never seen such a tiny scone.  She had never seen such a tiny cup.  She was still grumbling about this miserable scone two days later.  She said It was so small it wouldn’t fill the holes in your teeth.

29 October Wednesday

I love my head torch.  I love the way that I can angle it to project higher or lower on its elastic strap.  I love the perfect circle of light as I move out into the darkness. I can pick apples off the last producing tree even when the night is pitch black and moonless.  I have two hands free to do whatever I want to do.  I thought about getting a head torch years and years ago.  I wish I had not waited so long.  I would have loved this perfect circle of white light to have been part of my evening walks with Em.

30 October Thursday

I need to chose my days carefully.  A windy day is a bad time to empty the ashes from the wood stove.  I have never found a better method than to scrape the ashes from the top part of the stove so that they fall through the grating into the bottom pan.  Then I ease out the flat pan with its little handle and I walk carefully and very slowly to the back door.  There are three rooms to walk through and at any moment a draft or trip of the foot could send ashes flying all over the place.  I used to try to empty the ashes into a bucket placed just beside the stove, but that seems to spread them a lot.  It makes a mess.  A gentle easing out and slow walking is my preferred method.  It is always tricky to open the kitchen door.  I like it if someone else is around to open the door for me.  Otherwise I have to put the tray down carefully, open the door and then proceed outside with the same slow steps.  I always take the ashes to dump at the foot of a rose bush.  I was told years ago that wood ash is good for roses.  I do not know if it is true.  I do not know if my climbing rose benefits from the copious amount of wood ash it receives.  It is convenient that the rose is located in a straight line from the kitchen door and that it is far enough away for the ash not to blow back.  So far my slow walking method has never failed.

31 October Friday

When I drive over Knocklofty Bridge in the direction of Clonmel, the first thing I see once over the bridge is a sign saying You are Entering County Waterford.

When I drive over Knocklofty Bridge in the direction of Ardfinnan, and away from Clonmel, the first thing I see once over the bridge is a sign saying You are Entering County Tipperary.

The River Suir is the border between the two counties.  I am unsure who claims ownership and responsibility for the bridge.

2 November Sunday

I am so pleased that we are able to walk up the Mass Path again.  Every day I enjoy it.  There is still a lot of ducking under branches and fallen trees, but it is now passable.  Most of the brambles and nettles are dying back.  The remaining apples have fallen and the small yellow crab apples and the larger russets are all over the path in two different places.  They make the walking treacherous and a bit exciting.  They offer a surface not unlike spilled ball bearings.  Stones covered with slippery moss make other obstacles.  Over all I find the hazards to be an important part of the climb.

3 November Monday

Thinking about which county Knocklofty Bridge is officially located in sent me to look for the postcard Coracle produced a few years ago.  It is a reproduction of a painting done in 1940 by Johnnie Mackin.   Johnnie’s abandoned house is just up the Mass Path.  I walk through his land most days.  I pick apples and pears from his orchard.

Johnnie had a big reputation locally as an inventor.  Most of the things he invented had already been invented but that did not bother him.  Once he invented a gun.  When he went to see how it would shoot, the gun backfired and the bullet lodged into his head.  The bullet did not kill him.  He spent 6 months in bed being cared for by his mother and his sister.  He would not go to the hospital. He died decades later at the age of 88 with the bullet still embedded in his head.   While he was recovering from his gunshot wound, he taught himself to paint.  Many of his pictures were of religious subjects but sometimes he painted the local and non-religious world.  The paintings were done with house paint so they have not lasted well.  We thought we should reproduce the painting before it self-destroyed.

The text on the back reads:  One of the first service buses crossing the River Suir on the border of Tipperary and Waterford.  The donkey and trap carry the artist’s mother and their dog and flour brought from Clonmel, as well as a bottle of Guinness for Jimeneen English, standing by the water pump opposite his lime-kiln.

knocklofty592

It still does not answer the question of which county claims Knocklofty Bridge, but it is nice to show this card.

The Short Baldy Irishman

4 November Tuesday

I just finished sewing up a book with red thread.  I tossed the little leftover pieces of cotton onto the compost heap.  Some of the pieces will blow away.  Every year in the spring I see nests being built using the tiny bits of thread which we have used for our most recent book-making.  If this red lasts the winter there will be bright additions to many nests.  I can recall different books when I look at spring nests.

5 November Wednesday

Maud told me of a woman who passes by her house in Cork several times a day.  The woman never passes without rubbing the number thirteen on the door.  She said it is her lucky number and she dares not pass the house without making contact with what she considers Her Number.  It is the number she uses for any lottery or raffle that she enters.  She sticks with the same number knowing that it will come good eventually.  I cannot not remember if their number is made of brass.  If it is, all of the daily rubbing by this hopeful woman will be keeping it nice and shiny.

6 November Thursday

Various dogs come to visit.  Each one runs around sniffing and peeing and examining things.  I have been thinking that each dog is arriving and discovering the residual smells of Emily.  I should probably accept that Em’s odours are now long gone.  None of her canine friends are savouring her memory.  What each visiting dog is smelling is the signs left by the last visiting dog.  Thor and Molly, Walker, Oscar and Ruby. Each dog delights in the scent of another dog.

7 November Friday

Today was a fine day for the dump run.  We transport our stuff to the dump about once a month.  No one would ever drive down here to collect it.  There are so many things to gather together from the lean-to and the house and from the different barns.  There is cardboard and paper, and the clear plastic bags with clean and dry recyclables.  I put a lot of the newsprint aside for the dog sanctuary but the shiny magazines and other paper are no good to them.  There is the black bag with horrible things.  There are food tins and empty jars and bottles for separate recycling bins.  There are plastic water bottles.  By doing all of the things separately we do not have to pay to put a lot of things into the clear bags.  It is a time-consuming job.  It is largely a matter of consolidating. It is nearly enough to call in the Army Corps of Engineers.  No matter how recently we have been to the dump, the load always fills the entire car. At least on a clear, dry and not cold day it is not a terrible job.  It is just a job. Arriving at the recycling depot is better in good weather too.  The man in charge was marveling about this still fine weather we are having.  He said it is so mild that he had a butterfly in his sitting room.  He did not want to put it outside because he knew the night chill would kill it.  There are still a remarkable number of spiders around too. The thing that really excited him as a sign of the unseasonable weather was that there was A Fly in His Kitchen.  He repeated this three times, with delight.

8 November Saturday

Being in a doctor’s waiting room with nothing to read is my idea of hell.  There are always some people staring off into space.  Some fiddle with their phones.  Sometimes there is a noisy television set or else people just look at each other.  Today a woman was telling her daughter not to touch the magazines as they hold the germs of all the sick people who have come through the waiting room. Not everyone has something contagious when they go to the doctor but that did not seem to occur to her.  She did not call the magazines magazines.  She called the magazines Books. She said the only thing more disgusting than the books at a doctors office were the books from a public library.

9 November Sunday

The Village Lotto Jackpot is now 9050 euros.  Everyone was excited when it reached  7000.  Now the anticipation of a winner is even higher  Everyone comments on the amount and then adds that it would be a grand thing to win the lottery just before Christmas. They are excited for someone to win it but at the same time they are also excited by the idea of it getting as high as 10,000 before someone wins.  There is a lot of discussion.

10 November Monday

There are several words which are consistently said with a Y at the end.  One is Roundy.  Roundy might be used when someone is speaking of a pair of Roundy Eyeglasses.  They would not say Round nor Rounded.  They would not say Circular nor Oval-Shaped.  They would always speak of Roundy which maybe makes things sound more Round.  Another of these words is Baldy.  No one speaks of a Bald-Headed Man nor of a Bald Man nor a Bald Head.  I was reminded of this today when someone described himself by saying: “I’m the short Baldy Irishman with glasses and a white beard”  just so that those who did not yet know him would be able to recognize him easily.

The Bed Push

3 December Wednesday

The Village Lottery has still not been won.  The jackpot is now up to 9650 euro. Every week it creeps up a bit. People are only buying tickets for one euro a chance and some of the money has to go to the GAA organization which does the organizing.  I do not know how the funds get divided.  Maybe it is half and half.   Every week a few people win the Lucky Numbers.  That keeps the excitement building.  It keeps everyone involved.  A Lucky Number might be 10 or 25 or even 75 euro depending how many people have to share it.  As it gets closer to Christmas and the jackpot gets bigger, more and more people are buying their tickets and hoping to win.

4 December Thursday

The stream down below flooded during the recent heavy rains.  The water in the stream came up and over the crossing area. The vegetation is all lying down flat and some plants have been pulled right out of the ground by their roots.  The exposed parts of the nettles, wild irises and long grasses are all pale and sickly green, unlike the dark and bright green of their higher parts.  The pale whitish green bits are the places which were not exposed.  Maybe they were underground. There is not a plant still standing upright. The two pallets which we were using as a bridge to cross over the swampy places have been thrown a few metres away by the power of the rushing water.  Now there is no chance to not go through swampy bits.  Everywhere is a swampy bit. Everywhere is wet and both the water and the mud are deep.  The only way to cross if we want to walk up the Mass Path is to sink in deep and get wet.  How wet we get depends on the height of our boots.  All of the plants are stretched out from left to right which makes the whole area look like it has been combed with a huge toothy comb.

5 December Friday

There is a Bed Push schedualed for Saturday. People are planning to push a bed along the road from Goatenbridge to Ardfinnan. Or maybe it is from Ardfinnan to Goatenbridge.  I assume the people pushing the bed will take turns.  I do not think one person will be doing all of the pushing.  I wonder if the bed will be fully made with sheets and blankets and pillows or if it just be a bare mattress on a frame. I trust the bed will be on wheels. The Bed Push is in memory of a young boy who died a few months ago.  He had had heart problems since birth.  Last spring he had an operation. Everyone was pleased to learn that the operation was successful.  Sadly something was not right and a few months later the boy died.  He was only about 12.  So now there is to be this Bed Push in his memory.  Hanging beside the small poster there is a form. People are invited to write their names and to pledge some money. I do not understand what the money is for nor how this boy’s memory will be helped by pushing a bed for 8 kilometers.  Maybe there are large medical bills and the fundraising is to help the family with the expenses.  Maybe the fundraising is for the hospital where he spent time. Maybe it is the boys birthday and it is a way to ensure that he is not forgotten. I spoke to several people and no one seemed to know what was going on. We all agreed that the death of such a young boy was a tragedy.  We were also in agreement in our hope that it will not rain on the Bed Push. We noted that things are slow enough along that windy road what with tractors and farm vehicles.  Getting behind a bed being pushed by people will slow things down to a crawl. The road from Ardfinnan to Goatenbridge is a road to avoid tomorrow.

Vincent’s

6 December Saturday

There is a smudge down the middle of one length of the tar road.  It is a green smudge and it appears every year about now.  The smudge is made of a very low growing moss.  In places it does not look like vegetation but more like a bit of colour which has been wiped onto the surface of the road.  The vehicles which travel on the road straddle the middle with their tyres.  The center bit does not get touched very often.  If two vehicles meet and they each move over to their own side they still do not really spend much time in the middle of the road.  The smudge just stays where it is and in this bright eerie light of a grey day, the smudge glows as if it is lit from below.

7 December Sunday

Everyone has spoken of the absence of Cocoa.  First one person said something and then someone else said something.  We are all sort of asking each other even while we know.  We are noting Cocoa’s absence. No one has seen Cocoa for a long while.  I keep thinking that I will bump into PJ as I walk out the end of the boreen and just ask about his missing dog.  For a while, I thought Cocoa might be in the big shed or just sleeping under a table when I walked up near the house. I expected him to appear. In truth, he has not been interested in me since Em stopped walking up the track with me.  Cocoa has always been a traveler.  It was not unusual to come across him way down in the village or off on a road in any direction.  Sometimes when I have seen him far from home,  I stopped and he jumped into the car and I took him home.  Sometimes I have just rung PJ to say where I have seen him.  Since Cocoa is a spaniel I think he is by nature a dog who likes to follow a scent and the scent he follows often takes him far.  Donal is the one who used the word Traveler to describe Cocoa.  It is a good description but now we all fear that his traveling has taken him away for good.  He has been gone for too many weeks now.  No one expects Cocoa to reappear.

8 December Monday

There are always too many jobs to do to prepare for winter.  There are the jobs which I know have to be done and there are the jobs which I write down on a list so that I will not forget them.  The list gets long and then it gets longer.  The more I think to put on the list the more other odd things appear.  It is, of course, too late to prepare for winter.  Winter is already here.  Still there are enough jobs not done that there remains the illusion of preparation.

I should fill some empty bottles and the large plastic containers with water just in case the pipes freeze at some point.  It is best to do this before the advent of long-term freezing weather.  I should bring in more fire wood.  Bringing in firewood is a constant.  It is never done.  It always needs to be done again.  I need to fill the bird feeders and I should lay in a good supply of seeds and food for them.  I should gather up all of the terra cotta plant pots and put them under cover so that they don’t get full of water and then freeze which makes them crack.  The plants to stay in pots over the winter need to be carried into the book barn.  I need to get Simon to help me to carry the big ones but I should empty the windowsills so we have room to put them into positions.

I should ring Martina O’Gorman at the office of public works and ask her again to have someone come and fill the very deep potholes in the boreen.  It usually takes three or four phone calls to her before anything happens.  This will only be my second call.  I need to cut down the raspberry canes although I guess that might wait until February.  Most of these jobs are the jobs to be done when there are a few hours with weather that is neither too cold nor blustery nor weather that is too wet.  The mornings are too frosty and the afternoons are short.  There is a small window of time to get out-of-door things done at this time of year.  The days are not long and darkness comes early.  Just because the weather is okay and maybe the sun comes out, it is not always the exact right time to drop whatever else is being done in order to do a few hours outside.

Someone told me today that wood ash from the stove must be scattered at the base of the lilacs.  I have always dumped ash under rose bushes.  Maybe now I will vary the location of my emptying. There will be plenty of ash to go around.

I should do another round of mouse poisoning.  I try to put traps in the house but in both book barns I have been resorting to poison.  Finding corpses is never pleasant but the squished version of mice in traps gets depressing.  Tommie told me that if you have rats you do not have mice.  And the reverse is true.  If you have mice you probably do not have rats.  The lower barn has large shits in one corner so I fear that there might be rat activity there.  There is already the smell of a dead something down there.  We are filling some gaps where the floor meets the wall with self-expanding polyurethane builder’s foam.  The rats might eat through it but if we are lucky they might be annoyed and just give up. One method I have been told is to put broken glass down under a porch or in a similar place where rats are known to congregate.  Once a rat cuts his feet on the glass and the smell of blood is in the air, the other rats attack him and kill him.  Compared to that kind of death, poison  seems almost gentle.

I wanted to direct the growth of some of the fruit trees.  Tying a rock or maybe a brick with a rope and tying the rope to a branch over the winter is a way to condition the branch to grow low and to stay low for the future.  We should have pruned the apples trees after they fruited.  They might have to wait till February now.  Figs need to be snapped off their branches, leaving only the tiniest little ones.  I should have done that in November but it is not yet so long after November.  Even as I write these things here, I know I am not thinking of all of the jobs and even while I write them I know that this is a form of stalling.  Lucky for me it is very dark outside now and wildly windy so there is no chance of doing any of these things that I am thinking need to be done.  All of my Should Do jobs can be done later.

9 December Tuesday

The charity shop run by the organization of St. Vincent de Paul has been re-branding itself perhaps to make it look more trendy and more like a regular shop.  First there was the logo which appeared a few years ago.  SVP was written in a connected text with lots of lines through it. The multiple lines were to suggest speed I think.  Now the SVP is still on one end of the sign but bigger letters announce the shop name as VINCENT’S. It could be just the usual shortening that seems to happen with each saint’s name.  St. Patrick’s Day is just Patrick’s Day.  Stephen’s Day is never St. Stephen’s Day.  It is just Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas. Since every single day is attributed a different saint in this still very Catholic country, it is redundant to bother to say the word saint. I do not know if the name VINCENT’S will get a new crowd into the shops or if it will just make the regular crowd feel more glamorous.

The Pouring of Tea

10 December Wednesday

I spoke with an older woman who told me that she hates buttons.  I thought that her dislike of buttons was a result of her age. I thought possibly she had arthritis or some other stiffness in her fingers.  I thought that her extreme dislike of buttons might come from an inability to do and un-do buttons.  I asked her as diplomatically as I could if perhaps this was the reason for her strong dislike of buttons.  She assured me that neither age nor pain had anything to do with it.  She said that as a child she had no opinion one way or the other but as an adult she has always hated buttons.  She said she has hated buttons for as long as she can remember.

11 December Thursday

There is a line-up of cows eating in Joe’s field every other day when I pass.  The field slopes down and away from the track.  The area closest to where I walk is covered with short stubble and the earth has been all mushed up by the feet of the cows.  Each time the single line of cows is there they are farther down the hill and farther down the field.  The cows are eating some kind of leafy dark green vegetation.  I call it The Kale Eating of The Cows but really I do not know what it is they are eating. The fence wire which stops them from moving all the way down the hill keeps them in their line and keeps them from eating too far into the field.  Since I do not see them in this field every day, I do not know if the eating of this leafy crop is rich and therefore they get enough iron or whatever by eating it every other day.  Or maybe they are there every day and I just miss seeing them.  From where I am walking all I see is a lot of cows from behind, one beside another, with their heads down. The chomping cows go lower and lower down hill as the area of stubble gets larger. The stubble and the messed up earth which they leave behind  show how much they enjoy this eating.  They leave nothing green in their wake.

12 December Friday

I watched four men at a nearby table.  They had an ordinary metal pot of tea to be shared out among them.  I was seeing something that I had seen many times before.  One man lifted the pot and offered tea with a word or a little nod of the head to each person before he poured it.  If there had been a woman present at the table, she would have done the pouring but since there was not a woman the men did it for themselves with the same formality and politeness.  It never matters if they are workmen with heavy muddy boots or if they are men in tidy suits.  The pouring and the drinking of tea is a gentle sharing between Irish men.  There is ritual and there is a kind of reverence for the ritual.  This pouring of tea and the drinking of tea together is not like tea shared anywhere else.

Deep mud

29 December Monday

The field has been planted with some kind of winter crop.  It looks like grass and has not yet grown much.  There is no height to it.  It is just grass growing in long even rows maybe for no other reason than to keep the topsoil from blowing away.  Or maybe it is a grassy crop which will rejuvenate the soil for spring planting.  I was not very interested in the crop even as I wondered about it. I was interested to see a black and white form lying exactly in the center of the field.  Even at a long distance I could tell that what I was seeing was not a reclining cow or calf.  I was looking at a dog and I was pretty sure it was a sheepdog.  I called out a Whoo-hooooo! kind of noise and the dog looked up.  He looked up and then he looked all around and then he stood up.  It was indeed a sheepdog and after identifying where the sound came from he quickly picked up whatever it was he had been chewing.  From where I was walking, I had not been able to see that he was chewing on anything.  He had been chewing on the long leg of some tall animal.  I would guess it was a deer leg.  He picked up the leg by one end and half dragged and half carried it off down a banking and into some long grass. All the time that he was running he was looking behind to be certain that I was not coming after him. He did not want to share his bone and he did not want anyone to take it away from him.  I did not want to follow him and I did not want his bone. I was just happy to see a sheepdog, and ever so happy to see a sheepdog with a secret.

30 December Tuesday

People who have just passed their driving test are now required by law to have a large white sticker with a big red letter N on their car.  The N stands for NOVICE.  I think this law has been in effect for a year or so now.  A Novice driver must keep the sticker visible on whatever car he or she is driving for two years. I assume the sticker can be peeled off and put onto another vehicle.  I do not know if it matters if the sticker is on the front of the car or on the back of the car.  Today I saw a young woman with the big red N on the windscreen of her very small car.  The white square sticker was so big that she had her head bent at an impossible angle trying to see around the sticker. For the first time, I felt that the N might be more of a danger than a help.

31 December Wednesday

The jackpot in the village lottery has still not been won.  No one managed to secure the big prize before Christmas. Now the jackpot has gone up to 10,100 euro.  The last draw had eleven people sharing the Bonus Numbers with each person winning 20 euro.  One person won the Lucky Number.  That was also a 20 euro pay-out. The prize continues to grow and now the speculation is who will win it and get to pay off all their holiday debts in one fell swoop.

1 January 2015  New Year’s Day

The whole day was wet and grey and windy.  Sometimes the grey of the sky was very bright.  It almost looked like the sun might break through, but it never happened.  The rain was not all day rain and we managed a walk around the boreen without getting drenched.  We just got sort of misted by the on and off again drizzle. During the entire circuit, we did not see one person, nor one dog nor one motor vehicle.  There was a deep, damp silence over everything.  I did not feel much enthusiasm about taking a walk but I knew that if the youthful Em were still here with us, there would be no question about whether or not we took a walk.  The only question would have been when we would walk and, indeed, would the walk happen soon enough to satisfy her impatience.  Rain and cold were not her problems so she had no patience with excuses.  Heading off reluctantly today made me think of her. I quickly decided that it was wonderful to be outside and that the bit of rain was not a problem for me either.  It was not a very beautiful day to begin the year, but it was quiet.

2 January 2015 Friday

Today we took the longer walk over Joe’s fields.  The cow track was full of deep mud and muck.  There was no where to walk but right through the mud, as the fields are all flooded and sodden at that low point. I was sinking ankle deep in the mud and hoping that it would not go over the tops of my boots.  I was sort of wishing that I had worn my Welly boots even though I dislike walking any distance in them. This was the one day I absolutely should have worn them.  The only way to walk through the morass was to keep looking down and to be constantly on the look out for a less deep area of mud or for a bit of raised grassy banking to step up and out of the wet for a few metres. Each time I looked up I was blinded by the bright sun which was still low in the morning sky.  If I looked down I could only see mud and if I looked up I could see nothing.  The wind was sharp and cold.

Later I went down to the village and I met a man who had just returned from his own walk.  He told me that tomorrow will be desperate and wet beyond all belief so it is the right thing to be out on a walk today. This man and I were the only ones thinking and talking of walking.  The village was all in a flurry. One of the McCarra family was getting married at 3 o’clock.  There were men in suits and women in sparkly fancy dresses and high heels.  Kieran was wearing a suit and tie  as he carefully loaded a sack of coal into an old woman’s car.  There were several women rushing in and out of The Hair Den.  One woman drove up and jumped out of her car and ran inside.  She was wearing a hairdressers big black cape, with a small towel tucked in around her neck.  Her hair was all up in curlers.  She had driven home to do something and now she was back to have her hair finished.

To Soften His Cough

3 January Saturday

Last year discussion began about the possibility of a Community Alert for this area.  In a district with such a spread-out population, it is not always easy for people to know what is going on. If something bad or unfortunate happens, some people might not know for days or weeks or even ever if they do not bump into someone who remembers to tell them.  Frank’s shop is in the center of Grange and there is also a school and the church there.  For a long time, I thought Grange was a town land, and not even a village, but now I know it is a village.   It covers a huge area geographically with small winding roads through farmland, but it is easy to go for a long time without ever going into the center of Grange.  For those who do not frequent the shop or the church or the school or visit someone in the graveyard, there is no reason to be there at all.  It is a bit of a stretch to even call the center the center.

There were numerous meetings about setting up the Community Alert but there seemed to be a lot of snags and a lot of disagreement about how to proceed.  I did not even know such meetings had been happening until six or seven months into the discussions.  At some point I was told by a neighbour that the alert system had finally commenced.  All of us who had signed up were promised texts about any local problems.

I was in the middle of London in November when my first text arrived.  This is what it read:

Alert re small blue/grey car trailer, full load of briquettes stolen from area 9th or 10th/11/14 Report any sightings to Cahir Garda Station

On getting the text, I looked around me at the noise and activity of Tottenham Court Road. It was hard to even think about the trailer load of briquettes but somehow I still sort of felt I should be on the look-out. I felt like I wanted to help.

Today I received my second ever Text Alert.  Today’s message reads:

Alert – diesel stolen recently from the area, please be alert for any suspicious vehicles and report same to Gardai

I have not heard if the Alert system is being helpful to catch any criminals.  Two alerts in two months suggest that we are not living in a high crime area.

4 January Sunday

Simon had a small cylinder of Kilkenny limestone cut for Emily.  It is not polished.  It has simply been sanded.  It is a soft grey colour.  When wet it is dark and shiny.  It has her name and the years of her life carved into the top.  He placed it in the grass over near the fence and just close to the fig tree.  The location is sort of facing out into the sloping field where she played afternoon games with the frisbee.  It is not a big stone.  It is about 275 cm.  It is small and low, and it is placed so that you have to walk to it.  It is not something to be viewed from a distance.  We planted snowdrops in the grass around it.  They should be coming up soon.  There are also some little grape hyacinths which will come later in the spring.  Small and delicate blossoms seemed like the right thing.

Simon goes to the stone and speaks to Em often.  He goes and speaks with her before he leaves to go away on a trip and sometimes just in the middle of a day. I do not have the same relationship with the stone.  It is a lovely thing and I am glad it is there.  I talk to Em at any moment all day long when I am anywhere at all.  I can miss her and think of her anywhere and everywhere.  Most days, I feel that she is with me wherever I go in the same way that she always was. When I look around I am always sorry not to see her.

5 January Monday

Mattie Hayes owned a shop on the Cashel Road.  It was a sort of general store with food and hardware and everything.  Out back there was coal, and bags of turf and piles of sand and gravel and bags of cement and any number of useful things.  It was possible to go there with a car trailer and to shovel as much sand as you needed into your trailer.  I don’t know how Mattie charged for it, but it never cost very much to get a load of sand, especially because you had to do the shoveling work yourself.   I am not sure when Mattie Hayes closed down, but it has been a while.  Now the same premises contain a grocery shop called CostCutter.  There are no more rolls of fencing wire or things piled high on palettes out back. The only remnant of Mattie Hayes is on the gable end of the building.  The gable still has an H, for Hayes, in a circle, painted yellow and blue in the Tipperary colours.

6 January Tuesday

Breda corrected me about the expression To Soften His Cough.  I thought that it was was a way to say that someone, especially someone elderly, needed to slow down. I misunderstood the expression.  It is more like a form of reprimand.  She gave me two examples:  If a young man was in the habit of driving fast and recklessly and then he had a crash, it might be said that the crash would certainly make him Soften His Cough.  He would have to adjust his behaviour.  As with a wild young man whose partner had a child.  The change in life circumstances would require him to Soften His Cough.

Image0339

Black Cat. Black Kitten.

7 January Wednesday

I spoke to Peggy and wished her a Happy New Year.  She was cross because Robert and Geraldine have not started building their new house yet.  They have had planning permission for some months already.  She feels that there should be nothing stopping them.  She thinks the house should have been started by now. She thinks that the house should be finished by now.  Their house, when it is built, will be right on the opposite corner to her.  Actually it will be up in a field sort of high above the corner.  To listen to her speak it sounds like the house will barely be off the edge of the road.  At the moment there is a long-derelict house and a lot of tangly growth right on that corner.  Peggy is often fearful at night because she is certain that there are people hiding in the bushes waiting to see if she is going out or coming home in the dark.  She is frightened of turning off her outside lights. She believes that having new neighbours will prove a deterrent to any bad people hiding in the bushes.  She is eager to feel less alone in her home.

8 January Thursday

The opportunity for women to go to a clinic and get artificially inseminated is openly available in ways which never could have been imagined not so many years ago.  The possibility and the option and the costs are all freely discussed.  It is not called AI as it is when farmers speak of Artificially Inseminating cows. No one speaks of the AI Man coming down on Friday or of going to meet the AI Man.  It is all in more delicate terms, even though it is the same thing.  I do not know the language of these fertility clinics but I am interested to learn that the majority of sperm being used in Ireland comes from Denmark.  The sperm comes from Danish men.  It is an interesting situation.  If a huge number of women seek to be artificially inseminated over a long time, the entire look of the Irish people could change.  Perhaps this will become a race of tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed people.

9 January Friday

A sign has been put up near the river in Cahir. It is right beside the place where the The Foreign Nationals gather to drink beer.  The men have been standing and drinking and smoking in this spot for five or ten years now.  There are two large bin bags attached to the side of the wall. On both  Saturday and Sunday mornings the blue bags are completely full to the tops with beer cans and bottles.  Perhaps they are also filled on other days.  There are never any bottles or cans on the ground. The drinkers are tidy.  There used to be a mess on the ground but since the two bags have been provided it seems a very organized system.  There is never one bag, but always two. Now the new sign proclaims that this area is an Alcohol-Free Zone. The round sign says that a fine of 1905 euro will be imposed on anyone breaking the rule.  1905 is a strangely large and strangely odd number for this fine.  And even while the sign has been put in place, so have two fresh empty bags.

10 January Saturday

Today’s walk was down to the Abbey and then down as far as the final gate.  The fields on both sides of the track have been plowed up and turned over.  The earth is churned up in deep dark brown chunks.  We did not go all the way to the river. The wind was blowing sharp and cold. From the gate back to the Abbey and then to the graveyard at the top is a long continuously uphill walk.  It is not a steep uphill walk but it is always climbing, both gently and not so gently in places.   The wind was against us all the way.  I was pushed by the gusts.  I had a hard struggle walking in a straight line.  I had a hard struggle walking at all.  By the time I reached the car I was tired.  I felt a bit beaten up.

11 January Sunday

We are still saying Happy New Year to everyone we meet.  If we have seen the person since the new year began and we have already said Happy New Year once, we do not need to say it again.  Each person responds by saying And Many Happy Returns.  Most of us get a little confused as to whether we have said Happy New Year to every single person or not.  It is better to repeat ourselves and to say it again rather than to fail to say it at all.  Some people accompany every Happy New Year with a handshake. Today we were out for a walk when a car slowed and stopped. It was Donal and Breda and they wanted to say Happy New Year.  Donal turned off the motor.  No one came along so we talked for a while in the middle of the road.  After ten minutes or so, Peter and Breda came walking around the corner.  They started Happy New Years all around. Since Peter and Breda began by shaking hands with us and with Donal and Breda who were still in the car, we all had to begin  again and shake hands all around.  We shook hands through the car windows and we shook hands outside. Breda and Breda and Peter and Donal and Simon and myself.  We laughed as we shook hands and said Happy New Year again and again.

I reach a point each January when I wonder how much longer it is essential to continue saying Happy New Year.  I always want to make note of the time when we stop saying it and when we stop hearing it being said.  But every year it is suddenly no longer part of our daily greetings and I do not know exactly when it stopped.

12 January Monday

The expression used most frequently is  The Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Tree.  Another version is You Didn’t Pick That Up Off the Road.  Both things mean that someone is demonstrating a characteristic which is familial.  It might be that you are doing, saying or otherwise behaving like your father. Or maybe you are like your mother.  Maybe you are doing something that everyone in your family does.  Now I have learned a new expression, which means the exact same thing:  Black Cat. Black Kitten.

Rolling a rock down the road

13 January Tuesday

The Jackpot in the village GAA Club Weekly Lotto has still not been won.  There were a few weeks after Christmas when there was no weekly draw, but now things are back on schedule. The Monday night draw had 9 winners of three Match Numbers with each of the 9 people winning 20 euro each.  The Lucky Number for one person was also 20 euro.  The Jackpot is now 10,250 euro.  Everyone continues waiting and watching to see who will win it.  People who never usually buy tickets are now buying tickets.  It is too large a sum of money not to be interesting.

14 January Wednesday

There was a little covering of snow this morning.  Looking across the yard I could see that the barn roof was completely white.  Not a slate could be seen. The ground was covered with snow and anyplace where the grass was not too long was all white.  Tall grass remained visible and uncovered so I could tell the snow was not a big snow without looking much further.   The fields and the hills in the distance looked lovely.  Everything looked lovely and it all looked completely different.  It is so rare to look out and not to see bright green fields that it looked like we were somewhere else.  Here did not look like the same place. Being here while being elsewhere did not last for very long but it was nice while it did.

The birds have been eating from their feeders like maniacs.  Some days I fill the feeders and they are empty again in just a few hours.  The cold and the storms must make them hungrier than usual or else the hours available for getting food are just shorter due to the bad weather.  To provide more food for them, I have started spreading some out on the table.  At first I was nervous that a table covered with seeds would attract rats but instead I see 12 or 15 birds on the table eating away.  Not a rat in sight. Every so often a pair of magpies come along.  They scare all the small brown birds away.  I think the pickings are not filling enough for them so they do not stay long and very soon the small tits and finches are back. Today the food was completely eaten off the table before all the snow had melted.

The lower barn is full of the sound of chirping birds.  It sounds the way it usually sounds in the spring.  There are a lot of young birds up in the roof.  It is not normal for there to be babies and nesting at this time of year. Everything is a bit off.  I hope the parents are finding enough to feed the infants as they are promising that the cold will now get much worse. It is really cold down there already.  It is cold outside and it is cold inside.  We have been packing and organizing books all week and we have to keep making trips back up to the house just to get properly warm.  We wear hats and scarves and sweaters all the time but still it is cold.  Sometimes the noise of all the birds makes it hard to even hear the radio while we are working.

15 January Thursday

Rocks fall out of the walls and the ditches of the boreen.  They fall out and into the track and then it is not possible to drive without hitting them.  The space for driving is barely wide enough already.  There is no room to go around anything.  Sometimes the rocks get dislodged because of the rain and the softening of the earth. Other times it is the foxes and pheasants and cats and badgers who traverse up and down along the edges of the boreen in and out of the woods and fields who loosen the stones. Today I found a huge stone in the middle of the track. It was far too big for me to lift.  I pushed it and rolled it and kicked it downhill for a long way.  There was no where to get it out of the way.  The banking and the ditches on either side all went up. Eventually I got to a place where I could roll it off and into some undergrowth.  It was hard work. Oscar was walking with me and he was impatient with my slow progress with the big stone.  I was enjoying the struggle.  He jumped up and down with excitement when I finally finished with the rock and started to walk normally again.

16 January Friday

After several days of wild winds and storms, today the sky is blue and bright.  The Galtees and the Knockmealdowns have snow on them. It is still bitterly cold and there are sticks and branches down everywhere but I have not seen any fallen trees.  Most parts of the country have had it much worse than we have had it here.  I took Molly for a walk and found that I was babbling away to her the entire time.  Children and dogs give freedom to talk any amount of nonsense.  Or maybe it is not always nonsense but it is just the freedom to talk out loud. I really enjoyed my conversations with her. Walking with another person is nice but a dog is something else.

Blessed

17 January Saturday

Most Friday nights the fish and chip man sets himself up across from the bar.  He has a very long van which he drives into position in the afternoon.  He parks it right in front of Shirley’s house.  If she were at home she would not even be able to see the street because the van is that big and he parks it that close to her front. Luckily it does not matter anyway, because she is in France and her house is for sale.   After positioning the van, he drives off in his car and returns at about 5.30 to get things set up. He spends a lot of time going in and out of the bar.  He comes in to get a pint of lager for his fish batter.  Sometimes he comes in to borrow a bit of kitchen equipment from Rose.  I never see many people going to his van to get fish and chips but if he is inside the bar he can keep an eye on possible customers by just looking out the window. When he was first locating himself in the village he used to bring in free chips so that everyone could taste his wares. He still does that at the end of the evening when he has left-over chips but when the customers have stopped coming. In the summer months he is rarely around because he sites himself at seaside locations or at the fairs around the country. He comes back for the dark and winter months and he must get enough customers as he returns week after week.  Everyone knows him even if they do not know him by name.

18 January Sunday

Both pockets of my jacket are full of dry pieces of lichen.  Each time I walk up the path I see lots of lichen and I cannot pass without picking it up.  Lots of the pieces are still attached to sticks and branches that have fallen into the path.  I love the silvery green colour of it.  Some days when I come home I remember to remove the days collection from my pocket and I put it into a bowl.  Most times I forget.  That is why my pockets are full of dry pieces of lichen.

19 January Monday

I rushed down to the post to get some parcels there in time for the pick-up deadline.  I thought I had timed it exactly right to get there before the pick-up time at 3.45.  As I got out of the car I saw the postman loading up his van.  I felt cheated as I knew it was not even 3.30 yet.  I called out to him and said “Is that the afternoon collection?  Are you early today or am I late?”  He said  “No, no, you are grand.  This is a sack of coal.  I am just getting it in now to save time on my way home.”

20 January Tuesday

Three young men were standing on the street talking.  Maybe they were not even young men.  Maybe they were boys.  Anyway, they were young.  They looked very rough.  They looked like they hoped that they looked tough.  They all wore similar clothes.  They had hooded sweat shirts and baggy track suit bottoms.  They were all skinny and two of them had tattoos visible on their necks.  They were all smoking cigarettes.  I was standing near them as I waited to cross the street.  I heard them discussing something in loud voices.  Every bit of their conversation was full of swearing and cussing.  One of them punctuated a sentence by saying “Well, I know I am Blessed that way.”   One of the others answered by saying “Yes, I know.  I am Blessed in that kind of a way myself.”  It is not unusual to hear people speaking of being Blessed.  It is usually older people who say it.  When these boys said it I know they meant that they were fortunate or just lucky. As many times as I hear someone speaking of being Blessed, I am still surprised by it.

22 January Thursday

I have a new text message from the Community Alert system.  It instructs us all to be on the look out for a Silver Opel Vectra.  It describes a tell-tale dent on the driver’s side and says the car is using two different sets of number plates.  One number is a Cork registration and one is a Dublin registration.  We are to alert the Gardai if we see the car.  They end the message with this warning: The Occupants May Engage in Crime.

Cotton

23 January Friday

I went to have my hair cut.  The Waiting Until It Is Your Turn couch at the hairdressers’ was covered with boxes and bags and Christmas decorations.  The woman in charge directed one of the girls to clear the couch so that I could sit down.  The girl moved most of the stuff to the floor. Just as I was about to sit, another girl came flying out from the back and jumped up onto the couch.  She stood there in her heavy boots wrestling with the last of the lights and the tinsel in the window.  She was oblivious to anything except the job she was doing. Lucky for me, my turn in the cutting chair came quickly.

24 January Saturday

The more seed I put out for the wild birds, the more the birds come.  I keep finding new places to put the seed.  I continually seek the safe places where I do not think the rats will go. I know that rats can go anywhere.  I know they can and will go anywhere but still I try to find good feeding spots. And, so far,  the birds are happy with every single place.  I cannot stop putting seeds in the places where I already placed the seed because now the birds expect to find it there, so the number of deposit places gets more and more.  The amount of wild birdseed I need every week grows and grows.  Tommie was scornful.  He told me that it is a bad idea to begin feeding birds because they will never stop eating.  He said you can feed them as much as you want and you will never get anything back.  He said if you are going to feed animals you should only do so if you are going to get something in return.

27 January Tuesday

Thread is not called thread.  Thread is cotton.

31 January Saturday

Michael was pleased with himself.  He stepped into the bar.  He came in with something to tell.  He had seen the advertisements for the special silver paper with adhesive backing.  He had noticed the advertisements for years now.  The advertisements were always in the back of the shiny magazine that came with the newspaper on Sunday. The silver paper was expensive but it promised to save money.  Even more important, it promised to save heat.  The silver paper came in a package of six sheets. The advertisement claimed that by sticking the sheets on the wall directly behind a radiator, the heat would reflect back into the room.  Michael said he had always wanted to try this silver paper but he always felt it to be Savage Dear.  He felt it too dear to take a chance on.  Last week, he came across a whole roll of the paper in a shop.  The roll was not expensive and it promised to do the exact same thing as the stuff in the magazine.

He had to buy it.

He bought the roll and he took it home.  He cut pieces to fit behind several radiators.  He and his wife were quickly impressed with the results.  He claimed that the spare room had never been so warm.  His bargain roll provided so much silver paper that he began to stick it up in other places.  He cut pieces to size and put the paper all around the window surrounds, first in the spare room and then in other places.  The problem he then had was that there was a lot of silver to be seen.   His wife said that maybe he should slow down until they decided if they wanted to live with shiny silver window surrounds. She was not certain that the heat would reflect into the room anyway if there was no radiator in front of the silver paper.  His next step was to paint the window surround with white paint.  He said that the heat difference was maybe not so good with the silver painted over but at least they were no longer overwhelmed by silver.  And his wife did say maybe he should have used a ruler to make the pieces straight when he cut them.  But he said the white paint kind of made everything look more even and anyway they were probably warmer than they had been.  When he was further quizzed by other people in the bar, he said Sure, but who sits and looks at the window all day?

Jackpot

11 February Wednesday

The jackpot continues to grow larger every week.  The jackpot continues to not be won every week.  The jackpot now rests at 10,850 euro.  Conversation continues about the who and the when of the win.

A List Called Later

6 March Friday

The lawn is a mess. Cows have been in and walking about.  I am not sure if they came in from Joe’s field after breaking through the fence or if they came down the boreen from the other Joe’s farm.  No doubt we will be able to figure it out in the daylight.  In this fading light, the churned up grass, the patties of manure and the broken daffodils stems look terrible.  It is best not to look too closely.

7 March Saturday

The sun is out.  It is cold and bright.  The lawn looks even more dreadful.  There are no breaks in the fence that we can see. It is easy to see that the invading cows came down from the farm above. The grass in the middle of the track is trampled all the way up and the tyre tracks are churned up with hoof-prints and manure.  As we drove up this morning on our way to the market, Joe was there just opening a gate.  He apologized for Friday’s invasion.  The winds were terrible for the whole day.  The winds are still terrible today.  The gusting wind had closed the gate which he had left open across the track while he was bringing the herd up from a field.  They all took off  and rushed down as far as our house.  Cows get excited to go somewhere new and especially to go in a crowd.  He said he ran after them but that only got them going faster and he could not get in the front of them all to turn them around.  Since it was a downhill run they were able to go faster and faster. By the time he got to our yard they were eating everything they could find, tearing the young grass and rushing around. He offered to come down to scrape up the manure and to try to flatten or fill some of the hundreds of holes.

8 March Sunday

A big white sign with red letters is stuck up in the door of the shop.  It reads NO TRESPASSING.  It seems like an odd thing to have on the door of a shop which you want and need customers to enter.  I commented about the mixed message.  John said that the signs are very popular with farmers.  He said they want that exact sign especially now in lambing season.  He said they forget that they need such a sign until they get out to their fields.  They want to know where to get one so it is good to make the sign both visible and available. Some fields have signs made from odd bits of tin which has been hammered and flattened out and painted with these same words.  Often the signs have been up for so long that the painted words have flaked off and now there is nothing but the piece of flattened metal on a gate.  It is easy to know the intention of the farmer just by seeing the piece of tin.

9 March Monday

Joe has been down and scooped up a lot of the manure.  We were not here when he came.  There is not much to be done for the broken and squished daffodils.  The snowdrops were dying back anyway so their wreckage is not such a pity.  The lawn looks crazy.  The grass has been growing already and growing fast, so it is long and the impressions of the cows feet are deep.  The whole area looks madly bumpy.  It is treacherous to walk over the grass as many of the holes are potential ankle-breakers.  The holes are deep and slippery. It would have been worse if the ground had been very wet when the cows arrived.  It is all so rough that I think it will take a long time for it to even out. The idea of running a lawn mower over it all is hard to imagine.  Joe must have looked at the problem of all the holes and decided to pretend it was not there. Nothing has been said about it.  Nothing has been done.  It has never been a smooth croquet playing kind of lawn but now it is a more like a lumpy mattress with a lot of trampled grass and broken daffodil stems.

10 March Tuesday

There continues to be no winner in the village lottery. The jackpot now stands at 11,450 euro.  At last night’s draw, seven people received 25 euro each for matching three numbers and one person got 20 euro on the Lucky Ticket.  The wait for a winner continues for another week.  The conversations and speculations continue. I must ask someone what is the largest amount this lottery has ever reached before being won. From most of what I hear there has never been a jackpot bigger than this one.

11 March Wednesday

I always have A List Called Later.  When I am going away for either a short or a long time I begin the list in the days before I leave.  The list is comprised of the things I have not had time to do before I go.  It has things that have been put on the Long Finger maybe for quite a while.  The list contains things which I want to remind myself not to forget when I get back.  The failure of the List Called Later is that I can avoid looking at it for quite a while after my return so later becomes even later.  Making the list does not guarantee that I will look at it.

Spring calves

12 March Thursday

The rain has been coming down sideways.  How can I say the rain has been coming down when in fact it has been moving sideways.  The wind is gusting and blowing. The rain is not able to fall straight down.  The rain never stops.  It is not vertical rain.  It is horizontal rain and it is a drenching rain.  It is impossible to go even the shortest distance without being soaked by it. Every activity which involves leaving the house is carefully considered. It is hard to open the back door.  It is easy to postpone going to one of the barns because there is the hope that the rain will let up soon and the day will clear. Other days this week have begun wet and windy and then they have cleared and become glorious blue sky days. This day holds none of that optimism.  It is grey and cold and gruesome. The compost bucket is full but there is no way I am walking out to empty it. The compost can wait.  So far, nothing is important enough to merit the  soaking which simply stepping out the door makes inevitable. Everything can wait.

13 March Friday

The security van was backed up in front of the shop. I am always a little nervous when I see these vans.  The men who get out with helmets are sometimes wearing bullet-proof vests.  I know it is rare for these vans to be held up but I know that it is not unknown for these vans to be held up.  When they are held up by robbers it is always in some rural village.  This is a rural village.  It would be as good as spot as any to rob the van. I always feel the tiny bit of nervousness and then I just continue with whatever I am there to do.

There were two people in front of me waiting for Helen at the Post Office window.  It is rare to have even one person in front of me.  This is not a busy post office.  It has a lot of regular activity but it does not have lines of waiting people. It is just a small facility in the middle of the shop.

The security man came out of the post office with his special sealed up box with its built-in handle.  Helen dialed a number and told someone that the money had been collected and was on its way.  While she was making her phone call, the security man stopped to look at some stuffed animals on a shelf.  He put his money box down on the floor and he tossed a small bear into the air a few times.  Then he went to the counter up front in the shop and asked something, perhaps he asked the price of the bear.  He returned and put the bear back on the shelf.  He picked up his secure money box from where he had left it standing on the floor and continued walking out to his secure van.

14 March Saturday

Jim and Keith had very few vegetables on their stall at the market today.  What they did have was big bunches of daffodils for sale.  The daffodils were being sold for the benefit of the Hospice.  There was a big bee in one of the blossoms.  It was a sleepy bee.  It might have been a bumblebee. It was fat enough to be a bumblebee.  The flower was one of those very pale almost-cream-coloured daffodils.  It was barely yellow,  so the bee was very visible.  Keith moved the bucket with that one bunch of flowers to the edge of the table so that the bee could be in the sun. He thought if the sun warmed it, it might wake up and fly off. Every person who walked by stopped and commented on the bee.  Every person stopped and examined the bee quite close up.  It was the first bee I have seen.  I think that it was the first bee that any of us were seeing this year.

16 March Monday

No one says that they will Knock on the Door.  They say they will Knock the Door. Or that they did Knock the Door.

17 March Patrick’s Day

We went down to the village to meet Greg and Breda for a walk in the mountains.  While we waited for them, I studied the display of St.Patrick’s Day stuff which was right inside the door of the shop. It was sited in such a way that it could not be missed. Almost everything was cheap and shiny, and of course, it was green.  Or it was both green and orange.  There were a lot of things on the display stand.   There were flags and hats and banners and bibs and small ribbons with a safety pin. There was so much on the display rack that I wondered how much had been purchased.  I wondered if much of anything had been purchased and now, on the morning of the day, it was nearly too late to sell another thing so it will have to be put away until next year.  Beside the display was a basket of products to be raffled off for Easter.

We left the shop and all evidence of the National Holiday and drove up to The Boulders.  We walked for a while until we reached the river and then we dropped down through a rocky overgrown boreen and eventually back to the village. There was a lot to look at in the bright spring morning.  We saw sheep up on the mountains.  We saw two herons.  There were many birds and buds and some lesser celandine in bloom as we dropped off the moorland and back into farmland. We did not see one other person.

18 March Wednesday

People do not seem to be joking so much about who will be the winner.  The whole thing has become serious.  There is a careful, quiet attention to the results of each weekly draw.  I feel I too must keep my attention on the draw. The Jackpot has still not been won.  It has now risen to 11,600 euro.  It is a lot of money. Monday night’s draw had 14 winners of the Match Three Numbers variety.  They each won 20 euro. One person won the Lucky Ticket prize of 20 euro.  And there were six Special St Patrick’s Day Prizes of 50 euro each.

photo

19 March Thursday

The day is bright.  The nights are cold. There is frost on everything each morning but it melts away quickly.  Joe’s cows are in the near field.  The other Joe’s calves are out in the field above.  They have only been out of doors and in the field for a day or two.  First the cows and then the calves.  These are signs of spring.  For a few days the calves were just in the farmyard on their thin legs which did not look strong enough to hold them.  They all had new tags in their ears. The tags look huge in relation to their heads.  Now the calves have been moved into the field and there are two white plastic houses for them to go into if they feel weak or cold, or maybe there is food in the little houses.  Oscar was walking with me and then he ran off and wiggled through the gate.  He ran over to the little houses.  He went right inside.  I was worried that he might frighten the calves.  He is big and black and larger than most of them.  Perhaps they would think he is a mother.   I worried that he might be eating their special calves formula.  Mostly I worried that Joe would see him down in the field among the calves.  Joe has never liked Oscar and each time Oscar walks by with us Joe makes noises to shoo him out of the farmyard and away.  I am not sure that Joe likes any dogs.   If he sees Oscar in his field  surrounded by the calves I do not know what he will do but I fear it will not be nice for Oscar.

Not a gift.

20 March Friday

I nearly missed it.  I nearly missed the time of the solar eclipse because I was busy trying to find out what time it was supposed to begin.  It was an overcast and drizzly morning.  It had been grey and gloomy since first light.  I tried to use the internet to get the information but it was not working.  I turned on the radio and after a while the announcer began to talk about the eclipse.  He talked about the coming eclipse and then he talked about the actual happening of it.  As I listened, the birds stopped singing and the sky went from grey to a rusty reddish brown. The soft drizzle did not stop for a minute.  The announcer spoke with various people around the country.  He paused for a chat with a postman in County Cork who had stopped his van on a hill to get a good view of the whole thing.  The postman described his bit of blue sky getting dark.  He described the silenced birds.  There was no rain where he stood. The radio announcer asked if there was a big crowd there with him.  He said No, I am here all on my own just outside Bantry.  He added, And if anyone complains about their post being late, I will be telling them that I was forced to stop for electrical problems due to the solar eclipse.

There are a lot of things described and made visible on the radio.  Every afternoon, there is a program which follows nesting birds and their eggs and later their hatched chicks.  We can sit in our houses or our cars or our tractors all over the country and listen to someone on the radio describing what they are seeing on a special camera which has been installed in a bird box.  They can see the birds.  We cannot. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people around the country follow these birds over several weeks simply as a result of the power of description.  Listening to the eclipse being seen by someone else was much like listening to someone else watching eggs hatch.

23 March Monday

Everywhere we look when we drive or walk through the mountains there is gorse in bloom.  The bright yellow flowers are a delight.  Usually in the places where the gorse grows, there is not a lot else growing.  As soon as I say that I can look out the window and see exceptions.  But it does not grow everywhere.  I think it is about acid in the soil.  I always start to describe things which I do not know much about and then I get trapped by not knowing and by not stopping.  The gorse is also called furze which is a word I like and I would like to say furze when I speak of gorse but I always say gorse.  Not many people say furze but some do.  Breda told me that her sister was out of doors near her house and was startled by the the sound of popping.  Lots of popping.  It took her a while to find the source of it.  It was the gorse blossoms popping.  I have never heard this sound. I do not know when it happens.  We see the gorse in bloom from February through to May or June so maybe it is when the flowers are first coming out.  I am longing to hear this.  There must be someone to ask who will know when to be listening to the gorse popping.  There is always someone to ask.  There is always someone who knows.

24 March Tuesday

On describing a current court trial, the reporter said that  The Victim and the Accused were known to one another.

25 March Wednesday

He kept waking up to the sound of scratching.  It was early early in the morning.  It was just Coming Light.  The extremely manic sounds of the dawn chorus were loud.  The scratching woke him up and as a result of being awake, he lay in his bed and enjoyed the birdsong.  He had no doubt that the scratching sound was mice in the walls and the roof.  He put out mouse traps and a little bit of poison.  He knew it was just a matter of time before the mice were silenced.  A week passed and the scratching continued.  Maybe the scratching got worse.  He was woken up every morning.  Listening to the morning birdsong had been a pleasure but now it was annoying.  He was feeling defeated by the mice.

Jimmie stopped by one day and they talked about things.  The subject of the mice came up.  Jimmie told him that his problem was not mice but crows.  The two men went outside and looked up at the steep pitch of the roof.  Jimmie pointed to the bits of moss growing on the slates and in between the slates.  He said the crows are eating bugs and things that live in the moss.  The scratching he was hearing was their claws trying to gain purchase while slipping and sliding on the roof.  Jimmie told him that unless he cleaned out the moss he wouldn’t get rid of the crows.  Jimmie reminded him that the same thing happened when they were children in their father’s house.

He told me all of this when we met on the road.  I was on foot and he was speaking out his open car window.  He was pleased to have a solution for the scratching sound, but irritated that it had to be his own brother who put him straight.  Both brothers are well into their seventies but they maintain a competitive kind of relationship.  Jimmie was older and he had always known better.  He would always be older and he seemed always to be the one in the know. It was getting late for a change.

26 March Thursday

The wind is wild.  The washing I hung out earlier seems to be gone.  Or some of it is gone.  I decided to wait until the rain stopped before heading out to check it. When I did get outside it did not seem to me that there were as many things on the line as there had been but I could not decide what was missing so I did not know how to miss it. I walked out into the field wearing Welly boots thinking I might see something that looked like clothing or towels in the long wet grass or tangled on a bush. Either whatever flew away flew far away or I just did not hang out as many things as I thought I did.

The reason things are falling onto the ground and blowing away is not only because of the wind.  My clothes pegs have not weathered the winter well.  The plastic ones have suffered from being out of doors over several winters.  They are cracking and breaking and generally falling apart.  The plastic pegs have perished.  The wooden pegs are giving up too.  There are divided opinions about clothes pegs.  People feel strongly about them.  The plastic ones are supposed to be better because they do not leave brown marks on clothes the way a wet wooden peg might do.  But I am fond of the wooden ones. I try not to use them on things like white pillow cases so I always have a mixture of the two kinds.  When I buy wooden pegs I always buy the ones which promise to be Storm Proof.

27 March Friday

Simon took his old tablets to the pharmacist.  The plan was for her to incorporate them together with his new monthly prescription.  When he went in today to collect them, she gave him back the flowered box in which he had delivered them to her.  He said Oh dear, I was hoping to be rid of that box.  I was hoping not to have it back.  She said Everyone here thought you had brought me a present!

Wind. More wind.

28 March Saturday

There are fewer primroses in the boreen than usual. Each time I walk down I wonder and worry about it.  At first I assumed that most of them had not blossomed yet, which is still partly true.  There are a lot of leaves which have no flowers blooming yet, so there will be more.  I thought that the final heavy cut back of the ditches in the autumn might have had an effect but that does not account for the many primroses which grow low down on the side of the banking and which were never touched by the cutting blades.

Fewer primroses but masses and masses of wild garlic.  Johnnie Mackin’s orchard is a thick blanket of leaves of garlic.  Every so often some daffodils appear but mainly there is not much else to see but wild garlic surrounding every apple tree and stretching as far as I can see.  I detour into the orchard daily and walk around sort of dragging my feet just to make myself dizzy with the smell.  Simon has gone a bit crazy with making varieties of pesto with the young leaves.  His latest version uses buttermilk.  His latest version of everything uses buttermilk.  So far everything he does with the wild garlic is delicious.

Fewer primroses, loads of garlic and an unusual number of pheasants in the fields and the woods and on the road.  This morning two unknown dogs spent a busy hour in the garden sniffing and exploring.  One was a big Alsatian and the other a black dog of indeterminate breed.  I do not know them by name but I recognize them as local.

29 March Sunday

Shift is a word used when people talk about a Snog.  It took me ages to  know what a Snog was.  A Snog is what the English call kissing and cuddling.  Neither a Shift nor a Snog is  actually having sex.  It is the anticipation and the pleasurable playing around with face and lips and body.   It is what we would call Making Out, or Necking, or Parking (if there was a car involved).  Shifting or Making the Shift is I guess just about the same in meaning. I cannot really find the connection between the word and the activity but probably I am missing something.

30 March Monday

We are being beaten hounded buffeted tormented and lashed by loud and wild winds.  Day after day the winds do not stop. The sound is in my ears all day and all night.  Even when we think we are not hearing it, we are hearing it.  I suppose many people live in their hermetically sealed houses and do not notice it as much as we do.  We have lots of drafts.  We have doors which do not fit tight.  Sometimes I envy those people their snug houses. I would like a bathroom that was less cold.  I would love a bathroom which was less cold. Most of the time I like knowing that the weather is part of my every day life.  Weather is never not part of my life. The moment I write this I am reminded that I just returned from the barn where I had to give up working with paper because my hands were too cold.  I could not carry the paper up from the barn to finish the job in the house because it was too windy and too wet to even try.

31 March Tuesday

The young calves are moaning and bellowing up above in the field.  Their voices join together in a booming chorus.  As soon as one gets started, they all join in.  I think they are shocked and thrilled by how much noise they can produce from their small bodies.  Joe has several blue teat feeders hooked onto the sides of the gate.  The formula to fatten them up is poured in twice a day, I think.  The calves jostle and shove one another to get themselves a rubber teat and a good sucking spot.  There are always one or two calves who stand quietly off to one side.  Maybe they are waiting for something better to come along.

1 April Wednesday

The jackpot continues to grow.  It is now 11,900 euro.  This week’s draw included 4 winners of the Match 3 numbers and the usual one Lucky Number,  Since Easter is coming there were 6 special Easter prizes of 5o euro each.  And 6 other people won Easter eggs. I do not think anyone would be thrilled with an Easter egg when they were aiming to win 11, 750 euro.  Still, there is always next week.

Dung on offer.

2 April Thursday

Along the road at the end of a drive or directly in front of each house there are three bright orange plastic barricade things.  Each one is about one metre by one and half metres and standing on two black moulded plastic feet.  The three barricades support one another and stand as a triangle shape over the place where the water pipes go from the mains system into that property.  It took me a while to figure out what the barricades were for.  Any house which has a well has none of the barricades in place.  The bright orange is a shock to see as we move along the roads.  It is so garish in contrast to the early spring greens and the greys of stone walls.  The plastic things have been appearing over the last week or two.  An white flat bed truck dropped them at each spot and set them up in their little triangles. Now some of the barricades are no longer standing and they are lying flat in a pile on the side of the road.  On investigation, I see that each house has a newly concreted place with a metal square for the new water meter system.  The new meter is hidden below the metal square. In some places the new meter is in a grassy verge so there is no concrete. When the meter has been installed, the plastic things are laid to one side.  The same white truck which drove around putting the barricades up is now going along and collecting the plastic things.

There has been a lot of noise and protest about the new water charges.  Many people still feel outraged about being asked to pay for water in such a wet country.  More people feel angry about this new tax on top of so many other new taxes.  Every weekend there are Anti-Water Charge marches in Dublin and sometimes also in various towns and cities around the country.  There is a lot of anger.  It is less noticeable around here.  Seeing the orange barricades going up and then slowly seeing them be removed is encouraging conversation about the tax but the conversation is still a quiet conversation.  It is harder to gather people together to make a mass opinion on anything when we are all so widely spread apart.

3 April Good Friday

Good Friday is not as massive an event as it used to be only a few years ago.  Bars and restaurants are still forbidden to serve alcohol.  As a result they are all closed.  Shops and supermarkets are not allowed to sell drink either.  The only way to purchase a drink is to have a ticket to travel.  One can sit in the bar of a train station or at the airport and drink.  Some people buy a ticket for the next nearest station and then sit and drink for the day just because they can. Not so long ago the pub would be packed with people on the Thursday night before Good Friday with everyone trying in a manic way to drink two days worth of alcohol just so they would not miss anything.  Mostly people do not care these days.  It is no longer unusual to have alcohol at home.  If people want a drink on Good Friday they are free to have one in the privacy of their home.  Most people are not concerned with what the church and its lingering hold over the government decree.  And the entire country is not shut down any more.  Many shops are open and the big stores all have sales.  It is easy to not even notice that it is Good Friday except for the deep quiet over the countryside.

4 April Saturday

One woman was reassuring another.  Sure, she said, we all have more liver than we need.

5 April Easter Sunday

I love the daffodils which appear in unexpected places. Sometimes they are on the side of the road in a little group, or far off at the edge of a field not anywhere near a house.  Sometimes they are up on top of a stone wall.  These have never been planted in the place where they are growing.  Maybe some soil got dumped or something got moved and the bulbs just got carried along to a new spot.  The daffodils had to have traveled to their new location by some human act.  They are a variation on the sort of volunteers which plant themselves by being blown to a new spot.  Daffodil bulbs are too heavy to blow anywhere.

6 April Easter Monday

It is too hot to do anything outside.  A heat haze sits over the valley. I am torn between thinking I should be doing a thousand jobs in the garden and thinking it is better to just sit down and savour this unexpected warmth.  Marian told me that she has not seen the inside of her house for three days now.  Everyone jokes that we better enjoy this stretch of heat as it might be all the summer that we get. I prefer not to believe that.

7 April Tuesday

DO NOT JUDGE A BOOK BY IT’S COVER! is a new sign in the library.  Below the sign there is a table with about twenty books on it.  Each book is wrapped in newspaper and there is a piece of pale blue or bright green paper taped on its front with the words: CHOOSE ME! or PICK ME! or READ ME!  Under the big letters is a clue to the subject matter of the book.  One clue was Bio-fiction/Scandal and another was Humour/Tourettes.  I am wondering if after you decide to take a book on the strength of these  clues you are then allowed to change your mind when you go to check it out.  The book will need to be unwrapped so that the librarian can stamp the due date.  Not knowing what you got till you get home would prolong the mystery but would probably not be practical.

8 April Wednesday

IMG_0471 There is yet another group of new-born calves in Joe’s concrete holding place beside the barn. They are struggling to get their legs working correctly.  They look surprised about everything. Skittish is the word to describe them.  The calves who were born a few weeks ago are still down in the lower field and they are getting stronger, more confident and more boisterous by the day. This is one of the teat feeders which is being used to provide both sets of calves with their fattening up formula.  It can be hung as high or as low on the gate as is needed.

Below is a home-made feeder which belongs to the other Joe.  I call it the Teat Trailer.  I do not know what Joe calls it.  It can feed a real crowd, but the height does not look optional. The rubber teats are replaceable and appear to be available in various colours.

IMG_1888

9 April Thursday

We walked up along the hill by Flemingstown early this morning.  The heat was already building up.  The ground was dry.  There was no mud anywhere, even in the very low bits of the fields where we usually sink ankle-deep.  Once we were out on the road, Michael came along in his car.  He did not say hello.  He just asked straight off if we might be in need of a load of dung.

The things we need.

10 April Friday

I am disturbed about the absence of the dog on the bus.  The look of the national bus service, Bus Eireann has changed over the years. The actual buses get more modern, but the basic bus colour combination is always red and white, with the words Bus Eireann written in green.  Sometimes the bus colour is more red. When the buses became less rounded and more square and modern they also became more white with less red.  Whatever colour was predominant there has always been a running dog on each side and on the front of the bus.  The dog was a drawn picture of a red and orange Irish setter. It was not a photograph of a dog.  The new express buses are nearly completely red and the dog is no where to be seen. I hope this is not the norm and just some aberration for the express service.

11 April Saturday

It has been one of those days.  Just as I was about to leave the house there was a downpour.  The downpour was heavy and included about ten minutes of hail.  It stopped as abruptly as it started.  I walked out in bright sun with a large rainbow off on my right.  The sun stayed strong while I climbed the Mass Path.  As I reached the tar road, a wind began to gust and everything went dark.  I zipped up my jacket, put up my hood and kept walking.  It did not rain.  On reaching the corner the sun came out again and the wind dropped.  My hood went down again. Things remained blustery but bright.  Oscar heard my whistle and joined me.  We walked together until we were stopped by cows crossing the track.  They were moving from one field across to another field. As we waited the sky went dark again and rain poured down.  I hunched in my coat. Oscar squeezed in close to me.  There were no trees nearby to shelter behind or under.  We just made ourselves small and we waited.  By the time the cows were in their new field the rain stopped again.  I walked the last bit down the boreen with my jacket open and my hood down. Oscar ran ahead of me.  Once we arrived here we wandered around together. He sniffed at things and I examined things like the new buds on trees. It was so lovely that I did not want to go inside and Oscar did not want to home.

13 April Monday

Michael Keating died yesterday morning.  He had eaten his breakfast and he was getting ready to go to Mass and he just died.  It was very sudden.  Everyone is stunned. The wake was held today from 3-8 at his son Joe’s house just down the road from his own home.  We walked over the fields at about 5 o’clock to pay our respects.  It was the usual time for the cows to head up for their milking so they were already on their way to the barn.  We drove them along ahead of us as we walked.

Joe had been out in the morning and put down a few loads of gravel at the entrance to the field nearest to his house.  Cars were being directed into the field to park in order to get them off the narrow road.  A metre wide piece of plywood was laid down over the cattle grid in the driveway so that no one would twist an ankle walking over it. People were arriving and leaving all the time.  The field never had fewer than fifteen cars in it.  I think we were the only ones to arrive on foot.  There was a constant stream of new arrivals.  Three men wearing reflective vests directed the traffic in and out of the field.  There was another man out at the Knocklofty road directing people down to the house. Michael lived in this area  for his entire life.  He knew everyone and everyone knew him. One man, standing in the road, announced that Michael had been universally liked and respected. He repeated the word Universally several times.

We went into the house and spoke with Biddy and the family in the darkened room where Michael was laid out.  There were some photographs of him on the mantel.  There was also a photo of his daughter Mary who died two years ago.  Then we sat down and had a cup of tea.  The biggest tea pot I have ever seen was being carried about.  The tea pot seemed to provide endless cups of tea.  It had to be carried with two hands. Someone said that it was borrowed from the village hall.  I think maybe there were two of these gigantic pots making the rounds. Everyone had a cup of tea and everyone talked quietly.  Everyone said that Mary’s death had broken Michael’s heart and that he had never been the same since.

When we left the house, the evening was still bright and more people were arriving.  As we walked home on the road, we met many other people on their way to the house.  A few stopped to ask us if they were going the right way for Joe’s house.  Others stopped to speak of the sad and sudden death of Michael.  Some people were on their way to the wake and some people were on their way from the wake. Not one car passed us without stopping.  It took longer than usual to walk home. The wake was supposed to end at 8, but people kept arriving until 10 o’clock.  I understand that big lights were put up in the field to help people find their way to and from their cars.  The funeral is tomorrow at noon. There will be masses of people there too.

15 April Wednesday

The boreen is a mess.  It is more like a dried up river bed than a road. After a year of ringing the council to try to get some repairs done, we received a form inviting us to apply for a road repair scheme.  Today a man came down.  He was an engineer.  He never got out of his car. He talked to us through the open window.  He said that he has seven people applying for the allotted amount of grant money.  One of the other roads needing repair is a mile long and it has 14 houses on it.  There are only two houses on our road.  He said our road is too narrow for the machinery anyway.  He said that our road is not really a road. The whole time he was talking he gestured with his hands.  He had PEANUT BUTTER written in capital letters across his left palm in blue ink.  I could not stop looking at it.  I wanted to mention the peanut butter, but I kept to the subject of the road which of course will not be done this year.

16 April Thursday

Someone won the jackpot.  The total was 12,050 euro.  The winner was someone over in Ballinamult.  John told me that it was a fine thing that it had been won.  He said that after all these months now everyone in the village can stop dreaming about being the Biggest Winner Ever.

17 April Friday

Every day things are moved outside to be on display in the space between the food shop and the hardware shop.  At the end of the day everything gets put away again. Without exception, it is all useful stuff.  I watched this morning as a wheelbarrow, and various things on wheels were all moved out.  There were bags of kindling, small bags of coal, peat briquettes, 40 kg bags of coal and a big sack of timber blocks, 75 litre bags of multi-purpose compost, a display of gas canisters and a sign advertising key cutting.  The sign was not on wheels.  And now, since the weather has been so good, the bicycle table and the four seats made from red bicycle seats are out too. The arrival of this outdoor seating is a real sign of spring.

Stitchwort

18 April Saturday

I have stopped feeding the birds.  I have stopped filling the bird feeders.  I ran out of nuts the other day.  The wild bird seed had already run out a few weeks ago. I have been asking other people if they are still feeding the birds.  One person told me that she feeds the birds all year long because she likes to have them outside her windows all the time.  Another person told me that he has stopped ever since he saw the birds feasting off a bush full of berries.  One woman told me that it is time for them to learn to fend for themselves.  She said if she continues to feed them they will only get lazy and then they will not know how to take care of themselves and their young.  I stopped feeding the birds only because I ran out of nuts and the shop had no more when I went to refill my bucket.

I have stopped feeding the birds their special bird nuts but I continue to take scraps of bread and crumbs outside.  Rather than throw crumbs and bread into the grass, I put them onto one of the wooden tables.  I also put bread and crumbs along the top of a stone wall.  Sometimes the table  and the wall are covered with snacking birds before I even get into the house again.  I cannot see the top of the wall from the house but I can see the table. Today I found myself wondering once again if the birds are eating the things as quickly as it seems to be disappearing.  I wondered out loud if it was a rat or if the birds were indeed eating everything.  I am certain if a rat were dining on the table there would be recognizable droppings and since I have seen no droppings I can believe it is not rats. I watched some birds pecking at the table and then I went off and did some other things.  I came past the window a little later and saw a fox standing on the table eating bread.  A magpie stood on a nearby chair observing the fox, or maybe waiting for a turn at the crumbs.  The fox threw back his head and chewed with his mouth open and his head rolling from side to side.  He stood on the table and ate with gusto. He ate just the way Em used to eat when something was a treat and she wanted to make it last.

20 April Monday

I have not heard the man with the strong Dutch accent who reads the weather on the radio for a while.  I cannot remember when I last heard him.  He is often absent for long periods of time.  Sometimes he is gone for so long that I think he must have found another job, but then he comes back again.  Maybe this time he has indeed found another job.

22 April Wednesday

I waited behind a man at the Motor Factors store.  He was buying some part for a piece of farm equipment.  On the back of the man’s T-shirt were the words:  If she’s not blue she won’t do.  The words were printed in blue letters.   It was taking a while to identify what was needed.  Both the man behind the counter and the customer looked in catalogues and made phone calls to identify and locate the correct part. I had a lot of time to study the words on the back of the man’s shirt.  I could not decide if the message was sexist or what it was.  The more I looked at it the more I did not understand it. When the man finally turned around to leave, I saw that there was a blue tractor on the front of his shirt.  The blue and the she were both a brand of tractor.

23 April Thursday

There are several grubby places which remind me of Em.  They are low down on corners.  One is on the way out of the bathroom.  Another is on the edge of the wood box.  Maybe she used these spots to give herself a nice rub in passing.  Or maybe they only mark the spots where she was rushing and cut the corners a little tight.  The grubby places are exactly at the height of her body.  I have been unwilling to clean away the marks.  I like being reminded of her movements.

24 April Friday

The fish and chip man spends more and more of every Friday night inside the pub.  Every so often, he steps out for a cigarette.  While he is outside, he checks on his fryer and his van. Maybe his customers are a late crowd.  He comes back week after week. I rarely see anyone buying fish and chips.

25 April Saturday

We went into the Convent of Mercy to view the items to be auctioned.  The advertisement announced an Auction of Antique and High Class Furniture, etc.  A great many of the people wandering around on the ground floor were there just for a chance to look around inside the large building. We were among the curious. One man who was snapping photographs in the chapel announced that he was only there for the memories.

The furniture on show was a disturbing conglomeration of utilitarian stuff.  Some of it was old but a lot of it was just second-hand.  I am not sure that much was of real antique worth.  There were a lot of religious paintings and objects, church kneelers available in groups of three, four or six, an altar and innumerable boxes of assorted china, glassware, and cutlery.  There were many many tables and many many chairs. Everything was brown.  People were marking things on their blue cards in advance of the auction.  There were twelve rooms and corridors jammed full of things.  The objects were marked on the card by the room in which they were displayed as well as by a number.  Number one was a crucifix in the Kitchen.  The last number was 488 and denoted 6 plastic deck chairs in the Green Room.

I liked a wooden kitchen chair which had been attached to a little platform. (No.321 in the Dining Room).  The platform had two big wooden wheels on each side and a small wheel at the back.  The whole thing had been covered with dark brown paint.  The all over brown made it into a wheelchair instead of just a chair on a wheeled platform.

Just as we were leaving, it began to rain, so we stayed to watch the beginning of the auction.  Everyone was telling everyone else that the convent has been purchased by a group of Egyptian Coptics.  Several of these men were there in the auction room, wearing long black robes and long black cardigans and black head coverings with brightly coloured floral embroidery.  I wondered why a group of Egyptian Coptics have chosen Cahir for their new home.  The auctioneer began the proceedings by instructing everyone on the procedures for bidding, paying for and collecting items after the auction.  He announced that throughout the proceedings the Seventh Commandment was in effect.

26 April Sunday

The stitchwort has turned all of the ditches into masses of tiny bright white flowers.  I never know if what I am seeing is the Greater Stitchwort or the Lesser Stitchwort.  I do not mind which it is.  The distance is full of white flowering blackthorn and there are various fruit trees with white blossom. The wild garlic is in flower too so that means lots of exploding star white flowers amongst dark green leaves. Lots of white flowers and lots of bright sky.  It all looks like spring even though today is a bit colder than I would like.

Spring stick

27 April Monday

Yesterday I was happily obsessed about spring and all of the white blossom visible in every direction.  I was not too happy with the hard cold of the day, but at least it was sunny.  Today is wretched.  There is wind and rain and grey sky with only small moments of sun.  There has even been hail. The hailstones were the size of bonbons.  This morning the postman told me that it was snowing in Donegal.  Now the lunchtime radio announces snow in Wicklow.  Winter seems to be getting closer.

28 April Tuesday

A text arrived from the library telling me that the two books I requested were ready for collection.  They were on hold for me to get at my convenience. I had not requested any books.  I am no longer surprised by these messages.  When I receive one it means that the librarian herself has decided that I should read a certain book.  Sometimes the book is one of her own books and she just thinks I must read it.  Sometimes it is one to be checked out from the library.  The librarian is a voracious reader and cannot help but share her finds with other readers.  Most of her recommendations are good.  If I read one that I do not like she is always disappointed.  I hate to disappoint her.   I love rushing in to town to get whichever book is her next offering.

29 April Wednesday

I spent a cold hour in the blacksmith’s shed.  The door was open and the concrete floor and all of the piled up metal made the cold feel even colder.  He had been grinding and sanding flat some of the rusty objects from my collection.  We are going to try printing some of them but they were too rough in their found states.  I can draw them when they are rough but to use them as printing blocks demands a better surface. He had the pieces laid out on a piece of wood. As he showed me the sanded pieces, he identified each one by its function.  Several of the pieces were ones I had been certain that I knew the function of.  I was completely wrong about every single one of them.  We also had a conversation about horseshoes and he showed me his collection.  The shed seemed to be in chaos but he was easily able to put his hand on anything he needed.  It was his stuff and he knew where everything was.  I picked up a broken thing with a curved end and he said I could have it.  He said that he and I were probably the only two people in Tipperary who would be interested in it anyway.

30 April Thursday

We drove up the New Line to The Boulders with Breda, Siobhan and Molly.  It was cold but clear and crisp as we walked across the hills.  When we dropped down to the the river,  Simon left us and continued alone down the rough track towards the village.  We walked up and down and around.  We were able to see a long way in every direction. As we returned to the road and the van, an old man in a bright orange vehicle stopped.  It was a tiny little pick-up truck with a very small bed behind a tiny cab.  He called it My Kubota which was the name printed on the side. It had no road registration at all.  It was sort of like a dune buggy truck.  He had a sheep dog in the front seat beside him and a dead lamb in the back.  The back was small enough that the young lamb just about filled it up.  It had not much more space than a wheelbarrow back there.  The man was dressed like old farmers are always dressed.  The old man was dressed the way all of the old farmers used to be dressed.  He was not wearing a fleece nor a T-shirt nor jeans.  He wore a woolen suit jacket over a pull-over sweater with a white checked button down collar.  Nothing was very clean but everything was tidy.  He was wearing his working clothes.  He had been out on the mountains checking his sheep.  He asked a lot of questions because he needed to know who we were and where we lived.  Where we lived would help to explain who we were.  Once he knew that Breda lived next door to Jimmie and Esther, he was pleased.  He explained that the dog in the seat beside him was the brother of Rex.  He himself had given Rex to Jimmie as a pup.  A tractor came along and we all had to move off the road so we did not get much further in the game of questions.

1 May Friday

Walking up the Mass Path is different every day.  New growth is appearing quickly.  Each day there are more things to note.  There are fallen trees and branches which were not down even a few days ago.    Some I can step over and some I must slip underneath.  Some of the big ones which fell in the autumn are easy to walk under without me bending at all and now they are getting covered with vines and leaves.  They are becoming arches. Everything is adjusting itself.  There are violets in places where I have never seen violets before.  Up near Johnnie’s orchard there are branches of an apples tree blocking the path. Their buds are still tightly closed and they are bright pinky red.  I like them best now just before they open.  Because the branches are across my path, I come upon the buds at eye level.  There is no way not to look at them before I duck down low to go underneath them. There are lots of plants in early stages. There are bluebells, ferns and Alpine Milk Vetch as well as bright moss and all of the other things that I cannot or will not name here.  The orchard itself is a solid blanket of wild garlic with thousands of white flowers in blossom.  Each time I walk up the path, I think that it is perhaps time to carry my clippers with me just so that I can clear the path of the things that grab onto me.  Today I found a good stick and beat my way through some of the brambles.  After the ease of moving through winter vegetation, a stick is suddenly once again both useful and necessary.  After I am free of the bushy stuff, I am happy to march the whole way home with my stick.  I beat at the air and I wave it around. I salute the odd passing car or tractor with my stick.  Sometimes I give it to Oscar when we meet but usually I find him another one as I am always reluctant to give up a good stick.

We walked out from The Boulders.

2 May Saturday

I was told that a sure method for defeating weeds was to throw shells onto a path.  Any sort of shell will do the job: mussels, oysters, scallops, cockles.  The shells break down when pulverized and the weeds will not grow, probably because of the salt or calcium and whatever else shells are made of.   I love the idea of a shell path.  I love the sound of crunching shells.   Today, after shucking some oysters, I took the shells out onto the gravel of the car park area.  Even while doing it, I knew it was a ridiculous effort.  The weeds are so dense this spring that in some places,  it is difficult to see the gravel.  I lined the shells up in a spot where I knew they were going to be rolled over and well crushed by the car tyres.  I have been doing this for years.  It has never stopped a weed. At this point, we could dump a ton of oyster shells out there and I do not think we would defeat one weed.  I looked out and saw the fox arrive about ten minutes after I came inside.  He quickly flipped the shells over and licked out the taste of the oysters.  When he was finished, he left the shells scattered about and walked off into the field.

4 May Monday Bank Holiday

An announcement on the radio about failing to pay your TV license ends with the warning that as well as a fine, you risk having your name listed in your local paper.

5 May Tuesday

Clearing weeds off the patio always seems mad.  The patio is not a patio.  We just call it a patio.  The patio is the remains of an old milking shed.  The concrete floor has grooves in a diagonal pattern to allow for run off.  The places where the concrete meets other areas of concrete are not tight.  Weeds and daisies and all sorts of things grow up from the cracks.  I am torn because I love the daisies when they are all in bloom, but when they are all in bloom there is no way to walk on the patio without marching through all of the plant life.  Increasingly there is no way to walk through the patio at all.  The good part is that the ugly concrete is disappearing.  The plants are taking over the whole patio.  The bad part is that on a wet day it means that our trousers get soaked.

6 May Wednesday

For a couple of years there used to be two kids in the SuperQuinn car park in town.  In the middle of a school day there would always be the same two kids.  There was a boy and a girl.  The girl was about twelve and the boy a little younger.  They would pace all around the car park constantly watching for people returning to their cars. One of them would politely offer to return your shopping trolley for you.  It costs a euro to get a shopping trolley and the only way to get your euro back is to return the trolley to the correct place.  The kids must have thought we were all stupid.  Today, I found myself wondering when I last saw them.  SuperQuinn was taken over by SuperValu more than a year ago.  It must be a good while before that since they were last doing their rounds.

7 May Thursday

We walked out from The Boulders.  There has been a lot of rain lately but this morning was bright.  Everything was squishy underfoot.  The Boulders are large stones beside the narrow tar road about two kilometres up the New Line.  There is a little bit of blue paint on a few of the stones.  We call this spot The Boulders.  The Boulders is just the place to pull off the road and park in order to walk in the Knockmealdowns, in one direction toward the Mass Rock and in the other direction down toward the river.  There is just enough space for one car to pull in at The Boulders.  As we walked we were closely followed by twenty or thirty sheep who must have hoped we were the farmer bringing them something to eat.  After we left the river, we went through a gate and left the sheep to their free wandering. We dropped down through grass roads for about an hour.  We met Michael who was on his way home for his dinner.  We told him that we had heard a cuckoo for the first time this year.  He had heard it too. We reported on the heron which we see every time we are up there.  He spoke of some unknown birds being From Foreign.  He just meant that they were not normal birds for these parts.  After arriving down in the village, I drove Breda back up to The Boulders to get her van.  A tiny lamb tumbled out of the undergrowth and right onto the road.  I nearly ran over it.  Another one had his head stuck out of the vegetation.  I turned in at the next farm and knocked on the kitchen door.  A woman shouted for me to come in.  She was setting the table for dinner. A big table. Six or seven places were being set.  Four cars and a tractor were parked out front.  I explained about the escaping lambs and she asked questions about the location of the breakthrough.  I described the spot and told her which side of the road it was on.  She nodded and said she would ring Johnnie whose sheep are in that field.  Her kitchen was full with the smell of potatoes and cabbage. Today’s walk was both quiet and eventful. We felt fortunate that it did not rain.

Stand clear. Luggage doors operate.

8 May Friday

A cardboard box had been cut open and flattened out on the ground.  On top of the cardboard there was a brown rubber backed door mat.  and the whole thing was topped by an orange rubber traffic cone.  I thought it was all covering up a hole in the tarmac, but instead it was covering up a spill.  Someone had dropped a bucket of paint.  Sky blue paint oozed out from the edges of the cardboard.  The apparatus and the traffic cone were in place to protect customers to the shop from stepping out of their car and right into the pigment.  After three days the cardboard and the carpet have been removed.  What remains is a sky blue shaped mess with orange cones on either side of it. I assume that the cones are still there because if the paint was oil based, it might still be wet.

9 May Saturday

As I walked toward the entrance of the market, I saw a man walking away from the market.  He had four leeks in his left hand.  He had nothing else.  He carried neither a bag nor a basket.  I could hardly believe that he came to the market just to purchase four leeks.  I have been thinking about him all day.

10 May Sunday

It is crazy weather.  The sun is out most of the time.  The rain is lashing down most of the time.  The sun does not disappear behind clouds.  The rain just falls hard and then not so hard and then just a little.  The rain continues without cease.  The birds keep singing.  Sometimes the noise of the rain on the roof of the big room is so loud that it is difficult to hear myself think.  But beyond the sound of the heavy rain the bird song breaks through.  The wind is gusting and blowing all the time.  The wind never stops either.  Nothing stops.  Rain. Sun. Birds. Wind.  Nothing stops so nothing else stops.

11 May Monday

I am obsessed with the recorded announcement: STAND CLEAR. LUGGAGE DOORS OPERATE.  It repeats again and again for the entire time that the luggage doors are open.  The doors swing upward from the side of the bus whenever there is a stop and when someone needs to get something out or to put something in under the bus. Underneath is the storage place for baby prams, suitcases and other cumbersome packages.  Each time I listen carefully to the announcement.  There is something wrong with the sentence.  I feel certain it should say LUGGAGE DOORS OPERATING or LUGGAGE DOORS ARE OPERATING. I listen hard to try to hear if I am missing a syllable or a word.  I have listened so hard and so carefully so many times that I now find myself saying the words along with the announcement. I repeat the words at exactly the same speed as the recording.  It is more intoning than speaking the words.  If they are repeated ten times I chant them ten times.  I harbour a fantasy of everyone on the bus repeating the words along with me and along with the announcement.  It would be a quiet kind of joining in.  When the announcement stops and the doors return to their closed position, everyone will continue reading or texting or sleeping and not one of us will refer to the chanting which we did together.  The next time the door opens we will all do it again. And again.  All the way to Cork or Dublin or wherever the bus is going.

15 May Friday

I went to catch the 3.45 post.  The village was full of cars.  I parked at the bottom of the bridge and walked in. I thought the cars were lined up for a funeral but I knew that funerals are always always at 11 in the morning.  This was not the right time of day for a funeral.  People were standing in front of the church and across the street in front of the shop and facing the church.  Everyone was talking but there was not much sound.  It was quiet with the waiting.  I nodded and spoke to people as I went along and into the shop.  The entire side of the street in front of the church was blocked off with striped plastic tapes.  I went into the shop and posted my parcels.  By the time I had done that, the lights were turned off, the shades were pulled down and the door was shut.  Kieran pulled the grating halfway down.  I was trapped in the shop.  I did my photocopying in the dim light.  The three of us talked in low voices even though we were inside the shop and we could have spoken in normal voices.  The man who died was 85 or 86 and had been poorly for 14 years.  For the last 8 years he had been badly taken with Alzheimer’s.  He had a large family.  I did not know the man and I do not think I know his family.  I might know some of them by sight but this was not the time to find out.  He had six or seven daughters and one son and they all had children and then there were some great-grandchildren too. The reason that the funeral had to be so late in the day was because they were waiting for the sister of the deceased.  She was 84 herself and had to take several planes to get here from the western provinces of Canada.

When the hearse arrived all of the striped tapes were quickly removed and the family was able to park all along in front of the church.  We watched from a small unshaded area of the window.   Dozens and dozens of floral wreathes and bouquets were taken out of the back of the hearse.  Each one was handed to a young girl.  There were lots of little girls in bright outfits.  In no time they were each holding flowers.  When the coffin was carried into the church, the girls and their flowers followed close behind and then the rest of the family went in and then other people filed in.  Not everyone went into the church. There are always some men who stand outside and smoke and speak among themselves while the service goes on inside. Other people simply take their leave after the coffin has been carried into the church.  That was when I slipped out and under the grating and headed back to my car.  In the thirty minutes or so that I had been in the shop, another 8 cars had pulled in and parked behind me. Cars were parked right up the side of the narrow bridge.

Decided

17 May Sunday

We have eaten Lumpers!  Up until now my only experience with a Lumper was in reports of the famine.  It was one of the potatoes which suffered badly from blight. Because there were so many Lumpers planted at the time of the famine, they contributed to massive crop failure.  I understood Lumpers to have a bad reputation.  I have never seen a Lumper for sale in a shop nor at a market, so I was surprised when Simon arrived home with a bag of them.  He was excited.  My heart sank.  I feared that we were stuck with yet another bag of floury potatoes which would not behave properly. I feared that we would complain and moan through this bag of potatoes.  The Lumpers were ugly.  They obviously earned their name because of their bumpy and not beautiful appearance.  To our surprise, the Lumpers are lovely to eat.  They are a delicious potato with a great texture. They are not at all floury.  We cooked them in several different ways and each time the eating was pleasurable.  These Lumpers came from Antrim.  I wonder if we will be able to find them again or if their presence here was a freak.  If no one but us likes them, the shop where they came from might be tempted to say No when next offered a load of Lumpers.

18 May Monday

Jo Hyland locks and unlocks the church and keeps track of the cleaning.  I do not know if she does the cleaning herself, but I think she does.  She is also the bell-ringer.  She pulls the thick ropes to ring the bells for Mass and for funerals.  She is a very small woman. She is described as being Low to the Ground. I just learned that she is 93 years old.  She will let her daughter or someone else unlock or lock the church if she is unwell or if the weather is wretched, but she will not allow anyone else to ring the bells.

20 May Wednesday

Late afternoon sun.  Suddenly at 5.30 it is a beautiful day.  It is almost enough to make me forget the rain and hail and the broken heating system.  It is almost enough to make me forget how unpleasant it is to even be thinking about a heating system at the end of May.  We have had Thor staying for a few days.  It has been so nice to have a dog in the house again.  He is quite deaf so he follows us around because he needs to know where we are.  I find myself looking for him if I do not see him often.  I do not know who is following whom.  I took him out walking. We met Oscar.  Male dogs do not always get along very well but both Thor and Oscar are agreeable animals. They quickly fell into step together.  As a result of their exploring and sniffing, I made the walk much longer.  Thor would look back every so often to check if I was with them.  I could shout out a direction to Oscar and I could be certain that Thor would follow.  It is not possible to shout directions to a deaf dog but hand signals do work.  Oscar became the guide dog.  A guide dog for a dog. We all had a great walk yesterday.  We had another great walk today.  Thor is very small and Oscar is very big but somehow they managed to find a pace to satisfy them both. I was worried about Thor struggling through the cow parsley and the long grasses but he was so determined to keep up that no obstacle slowed him down.  It is so much better to walk with a dog.  Everything is better with a dog.

21 May Thursday

Tomorrow is voting day for the referendum on Same-Sex Marriage.  Both radio and television have been full of discussions and arguments.  The newspapers have been teaming with articles and essays. There are posters up on trees.  Polls report daily on the swings of the Yes, the No and the Undecided.  It has seemed clear that the Yes vote is way out ahead but I think no one dares to feel certain.  The rural vote is less positive than the urban vote. And now we are dropping into this day of silence from the media before voting begins.  The referendum is a huge thing in this old-fashioned but strangely progressive country.  It is a huge thing, period.

Rainsunrainwindsunrainsunwindcloudrainsun

26 May Tuesday

The driving entrance to some houses is called an Avenue.  I think an Avenue usually has a tarred surface.  If not tarred, it is at least a hard surface.  An Avenue is not a dirt track with grass in the middle. An Avenue simply by its name suggests something a little bit finer and a bit wider.  An Avenue implies something grand.  I never hear an Avenue called a drive nor a driveway.  Nor is a boreen an Avenue. A boreen is too rough.

Our own boreen has become a tunnel.  It is horribly bumpy underneath and it is wildly overgrown on the sides and the top.  The cow parsley has come into its largest and most frothy and effusive mode.  The cow parsley is meeting itself at the top and making a canopy under which we drive and walk.  It is a fluffy tunnel. The blossoms touch the car on both sides and on the roof as though they are some kind of car wash.  An Avenue would never have anything at all touching a vehicle as it drove along.

27 May Wednesday

The posters have all been taken down.  The feeling of exhilaration and celebration after the successful YES vote has all settled now.  For the weeks and days before the referendum the topic was never far from our lives.  Directly after the results no one spoke of anything else. People flew from as far away as New Zealand and Australia just to be able to vote.  It was the Yes voters who traveled.  I do not think the No people were as committed.  There were many stories being told.  People were both thrilled and proud to have voted for equality. Now it seems that it is time to move on and to talk about other things.

29 May Friday

I followed a car pulling a horse box for about 20 kilometres.  On the back of the trailer there was a blue net sack with hay in it.  The sack bounced and twirled as the car and the horse box moved along.  Sometimes the wind caught the hay and made it spin even more than the bumping along on the back of the trailer already made it do.  I could not help but worry if the horse inside the box had some hay to eat during his journey or if his supply was what I was watching bouncing and blowing away in small bits all along the road.

30 May Saturday

It was cold at the market this morning, but it was dry.  I spoke with the woman who sells knitted things.  A few weeks ago she made a tea cosy that looked like the front of a Volkswagon camper van.  She was very pleased with it. Everyone admired it. Since then she has made two more versions of the camper van.  She says she is trying to get the windscreen wipers right. I like the early version where the wipers are made up of several little stitches but she is working on a longer loop which does look more like an actual wiper.   She has three camper vans and a beehive and little Aran sweaters with buttons up the front, as well as some other styles of tea cosies.  They are lined up on two levels on her table.  They look wonderful as a group.  She rarely sells one.  She says that she makes tea in a mug with a teabag herself.  Maybe no one is using tea cosies these days.  She said she won’t make another camper van until she sells one of the ones she has already knitted.

It has been trying to rain since 11 this morning.  The weather report promised that it would rain all evening and into the night.  Evening is anytime after lunch so we knew the afternoon would be a wet one.  After returning from the market, I stalled on going out to do anything.  Simon rushed outside to do some jobs immediately before lunch.   I stalled and stalled.  It was cold and windy as well as threatening rain.  Just changing into my grubby garden clothes was something I put off.  A few minutes ago I walked down to the book barn and a steady soft drizzle was coming down.  I finally have my excuse not to go and work outside. Now I can settle to something inside.  It is a real relief.  We are so weary of this cold and gloom and sun and rain and no sun and the never-ending chill over everything.  It is not so many hours before the month of June begins and it is not very nice.

31 May Sunday

We walked to the Abbey and down toward the river.  Wild wind sun rain wind sun cloud rain sun rainbow rain sun kind of weather continued during the whole walk.  The barley is thigh-high on both sides of the track.  At the bottom gate we spoke with four Frenchmen in full fishing gear.  They were getting ready to cross through the field full of calves to the riverbank.  They were surprised to see us.  We were surprised to see them.  We never see another person down there except maybe the farmer who owns the fields. They had extremely long fishing rods which flapped about in the wind.  They knew the rain was coming again. They spoke no English. We discussed the weather in French and then we all continued with what we were doing.  We all knew we would get drenched.  I had to change my trousers when I got home.

The Fox & The Fox.

1 June Monday

The rusty metal things which the blacksmith scraped and prepped were all mounted on wooden blocks by Simon.  Sadly, not one of them is a success for printing.  Each piece looks fine on its little block.  To the naked eye they look flat and smooth, but as soon as we tried to print them the defects and the unevenness were all too evident.  After work on the Adana failed, I tried hand-rolling them with ink and doing individual prints by rubbing on the back of a sheet of paper.  That was a failure too.  They might have been interesting in any of these methods even with all of the defects.  They might have looked fantastic with all of the unevenness and bumps but instead they just looked messy and kind of ugly.  We are disappointed.  So far we have not found a new solution.

2 June Tuesday

It used to be normal that if a person was at home, the door of the house was open. It was mostly the kitchen door that was left open but it could be another door.  It was a way of letting passing people know that there was someone there.  It was also a way of letting air into the house. It is not such a common thing now for lots of reasons.  Most people do not want to let all of their heat out.  Nor do they want passing people coming in.  It is not such a friendly world and not everyone who passes is someone that one knows. Most people are off at jobs so there is no one at home in the daytime anyway.

Today I went to the Breast Check Mobile Unit.  Every two years we women are sent an appointment for an X-ray.  The Breast Check Unit is a long trailer which is driven to the grounds of the hospital and parked there for a few months.  The truck part of the trailer drives away, then metal steps are put in place and the unit is open for business. Everything needed is inside. The big machines, the curtained changing rooms, waiting benches and a desk.  Everything is attached to floor and walls, so that when the unit is moved somewhere else nothing will be disturbed.  When I arrived this morning the door was closed.  The keys were hanging in the lock.  I opened the door and walked in.  Two women were there putting on their uniform tops.  They were not fully dressed yet.  One of them snapped at me and said that they were not open yet.  I said that the door was unlocked.  She said “Unlocked yes. But Not Open.  When we are open, the door will be open.”  I went back outside to wait for the door to open.

3 June Wednesday

It is still colder than it should be for this time of year.  The greyness is the depressing. Walking across Joe’s field, I saw The Fox outlined against the flat colour of the sky.  He was very close to me.  I stopped and he stopped and we looked at each other.  After a few minutes he moved off slowly up towards his woods and I continued over the hill.  When I mentioned this casual meeting with the fox to a neighbour she immediately wanted to know if it was Her Fox.  She has been worried about a fox loitering near her ducks and geese.  She described the fox to me.  She said Her Fox had a light coloured tip at the end of his tail.  I do not think Her Fox is the same as The Fox.  I always call the fox The Fox. I never call him mine.  Yesterday there were two foxes walking up the boreen just beside the house.  When they saw movement through the window one ran off in one direction and one turned and went back the way it had come.  I shall still call each individual fox The Fox, but I am happy to see that there is more than one.

4 June Thursday

I learned a new word today. Perisher.  I am a Perisher.  I am someone who feels the cold.  I spent all day today pulling my sweater on and off.  It is not only the unseasonable strange weather, it is me.  It is normal to hear someone say that they are Perished With The Cold.  The word Perisher is a new to me.  Now I have this word so even if it does go from sun to cold and cloudy several times an hour, I can enjoy my new word.  Everyone else can wear T-shirts but as a Perisher I will always keep something warm near.

5 June Friday

I am sitting upstairs in the cafe looking out at the ducks and the river and the castle.  I have the newspaper.  I have a coffee and a scone.  I have five new books purchased for one euro each from the Lion’s Club fund-raising bookshop.  I am waiting while Mike gives the car a service.  Another customer arrived with a problem before I did so he needs to take care of that car first.  I will have a longer wait.  The bookshop and the post office were my first stops.  Now I am here.

I am taking a closer look at the books I bought.  Two women sat across from one another at the little table in the bookshop.  There was a tablecloth and a small money box on the table.  One woman sat behind the table and the other sat across from her blocking all movement on that side of the shop. They each had large cups of tea. They never stopped talking for one second.  They went on and on in minute detail about anything and everything.   Actually one woman talked and the other just repeated things back to her like an echo. Everything was imperative. I was the only customer.  It was difficult to focus on the books in such a small space with so much talking. I do know quite a bit more than I want or need to know about the woman who was doing the talking.

There is one other table occupied up in this part of the cafe. It has been lovely and quiet while I have been sitting here.  The silence was just interrupted by a woman at the other table.  She made a phone call to a man named Frank.  She cancelled her twelve o’clock appointment for getting a tattoo.  She told him she was chickening out.

6 June Saturday

I was pleased to meet John as I walked through the woods on the river path in Cahir this morning.  He is walking a bit slower but he still has a steady pace. He continues to do his five mile walk but since March he is no longer doing it every day.  He said I am still walking five miles but it is taking longer and longer.  He now walks five days a week. He is feeling bad about not doing the full week but he said that he is feeling tired.  He is nearly 92.  He told me that he will never see 91 again and that indeed he does not feel certain that he will make it to 92.  Two weeks ago he traveled to Istanbul with his daughter.   He liked the architecture very much but he did not like the food.  He said everyone there had a new car. There was not an old car to be seen.  He would have liked to have seen a bit more of the traditional building methods but it was too difficult to go out into the countryside.  He said he was glad to have gone but he was more glad to get home and to have some normal food.  He was glad to return to his walking schedule.

8 June Monday

A baby fox came to the kitchen door this morning.  The door was wide open. He was just walking into the house when I  appeared.  We were both startled.  He was gone almost before I had a chance to register his presence.

Good-looking to talk to

9 June Tuesday

Flower boxes are now in position on the long sweeping corner out of Ardfinnan.   There are thirteen of them.  They are freshly coated with red gloss paint.  The arrival of these boxes along the low concrete wall on the edge of a potato field is a sign of summer.  I think they are attached to the fence so that they won’t topple into the road.  Each box is about three meters from the next box.  The boxes are densely planted with petunias, geraniums and something white which I cannot quite identify while driving.  I will be better able to name the flowers as they grow a bit bigger. It is not a place where I would ever be walking.  I do not think it is a corner where anyone would be walking.  These flowers are for viewing as one passes in a moving car.  They are also for viewing from the four of or five houses across the road.  I think they are mostly there for viewing by the Tidy Towns Competition Committee who will be around later in the year. As a village,  Ardfinnan is very competitive in the world of Tidy Towns.  It took me three times going by in the car before I was able to be certain that there are thirteen boxes.

10 June Wednesday

The man on the radio said that the livestock population of this country is larger than the human population.  I think that the human population rests at about 3.8 million.  I wish he had given a number for the livestock.

11 June Thursday

There is a big machine doing this particular job.  All of the farm machines are big now.  It is silly to comment about one of them being big.  Driving on these narrow lanes is getting more and more dangerous especially when everyone is getting the hay and the silage in. The machines are as big as the road.  More and more often the huge machinery coming at us will be preceded by a car or a truck with lights flashing.  We see the lights and we slow and we salute but still sometimes there is no where to go.  Pulling off the road is not always easy as there is no where to go except into some bushes but the bushes won’t let us in even if we wanted to drive into them.  A few days of good weather means nothing stops. The weather has been good.

The big machine I am currently most interested in lays out long strips of plastic.  After this machine has been in it, a field looks like corduroy.  There are brown mounded rows of earth and then there are long parallel strips of plastic which look white or silver depending on the light.  This method was first used for carrots but now it is used for corn and maybe for other things too.  The plastic heats up the earth underneath it and the seeds germinate faster and the plants grow faster.  This machine unrolls strips of plastic which work as incubation. As the plant grows, the plastic, which I think is biodegradable, breaks down to let the plant through.  Maybe there are little slits in the plastic to let the plant grow up.  I do not what happens as the plant grows more.  Maybe the plastic breaks down in the sun and the weather. Maybe the plastic gets ploughed back into the soil. I need to find out more about the corduroy method.

12 June Friday

A car was left with the motor running right in the center of the completely empty car park at the graveyard.  It is a very small car park so being right in the middle of it meant movement was pretty well blocked by this car.  The driver of the car was down in the graveyard visiting with someone who is buried there.  I mentioned this to a friend.  I said I found it odd.  She said it is a normal thing to stop on a daily basis to to visit your mother or whoever is buried just so that you can say whatever it is you need to say.  She said that just because someone is dead you do not need to stop talking to them.  I agreed that that is fine and I agreed that it was not unusual,  but what I wondered is wasn’t it strange to leave your motor running.  She could not agree that it was strange.  She said, Well, sure aren’t we are all in a rush this days?

13 June Saturday

I overheard one man saying to another  “She is very good-looking to talk to.”

Bottling

27 June Saturday

Everything looks dry.  The grass roof on the book barn is completely brown and dead looking.  Fields are full of bales of hay scattered around or piled up. Other fields have black wrapped plastic bales full of silage lined up or clumped in a group. The freshly cut fields are all golden.  The fields full of things like barley, and potatoes and corn are still growing.  They remain green but still there is an overall look of dryness over everything.   The boreen is lined with long meadow grasses.  There are very few scratchy things.  It is just grass. The cow parsley is either completely gone or it is just a skeleton plant now.  The grasses have never been so long in the boreen.  It is necessary to close the car windows on both sides to prevent the grasses slapping us in the face as we drive down.  It is better than the brambles and the wild roses which have grabbed at me in other years.  They tear and scratch at the skin whether I am walking or driving. I should enjoy the softness of these grasses fluffing against my face.

28 June Sunday

We went to Veronica’s funeral today.  She died on Thursday.  She had been ill for a long time but her death still took a lot of people by surprise.  The funeral was at the church in Fourmilewater which was where her husband Tom was buried five years ago.  Tom’s funeral took place on a bitterly cold winter day.  That day the priest rushed both the service and the burial because snow was falling heavily and everyone was eager to get going before the roads got too slippery.  That day the altar girls wore winter coats over their robes and so did the priest.  In contrast, today was a glorious sunny day.  The church was full.  The community really turned out.  The funeral mass took place at the same time as the usual morning mass so I do not know if everyone was there for Veronica or if they would have been there anyway.  People were wearing sleeveless dresses and light summer shirts.  I think she would have enjoyed the light and bright clothing of the crowd. The priest kept calling her A Gentle Woman.  I think that must be the female equivalent of An Inoffensive Man.   A dead man is often described as An Inoffensive Man.  I am always unsure if this is a compliment or an insult.  I wonder if being described as A Gentle Woman is a similar way to say something without saying much. When the coffin was led outside to the grave, everyone followed.  Some people walked right down the hill and into the adjoining cemetery.  Other people lined up along the concrete wall between the church and the cemetery.  Some people leaned against the wall and others stood right up on the top of it. There was a lot of quiet conversation and even some giggling as we waited for the burial.  People exchanged little anecdotes about Veronica. Everyone who had ever met her knew that she was a great talker.   The consensus seemed to be that she was well able to talk for all of Waterford. The view out across the hills was south east towards the foothills of the Comeraghs.  The hills looked stunning in the bright sun. It looked like the entire congregation stayed for the burial.

29 June Monday

Mary’s mother wanted to know some things about us.  She wanted to know how it was for Mary to work with us.  She wanted to know more about who we were than simply being two names.  Mary told her a few things that she hoped would help her mother to form a picture.  She told her mother that we had walked to Dublin a few years ago. She told her mother that we walked to Dublin because that was our idea of fun.  She explained that it took us ten days to get from our house to Dublin.  Mary’s mother asked “Do they not have a car then?”

1 July Wednesday

As of today, the cost of postage has gone up. It went up last year at the beginning of July too. I do not know if it also went up the previous year.  An International letter stamp, which is for anywhere outside of Ireland, was 1 euro yesterday.  Today it is 1 euro 5 cent.  The domestic, or National, stamps have gone from 68 cent to 70 cent.  There are two ways to buy stamps.  If the postmistress sells them to me directly, she prints the stamps out from her computer and each stamp has a different picture on it.  If I buy a book of stamps the pictures will be the same for all ten stamps. The new National stamp has the head of a handsome red fox.  The International stamp has the head of an otter.  I would prefer to be using the fox but unfortunately the majority of what we post is going out of the country.

2 July Thursday

We had the big table all lined with books and cards.  Every pile of publications had a little piece of paper on it with the year.  The earliest year was 1964.  We had twenty five years spread out.  We could not fit everything on the table up to the present day. That will involve a second laying out.  This was the first installment of sorting.  The three of us were organizing, placing, re-positioning and listing the books and cards for several hours.  For the entire time we were working the door to the barn was wide open.  We needed the air.  The upstairs door was open too.  We had a nice little cross breeze keeping us from being too hot.  Suddenly a big gust of wind blew in.  Every little piece of paper with the dates written on it blew off the table.  I had jiggled the piles around at one point to make them fit the table better.  Sadly, that meant the piles were no longer in chronological order.  Getting the piles re-identified was frustrating   It all took far longer than we would have liked.

3 July Friday

I went out last night in the early evening sun to pick elderflowers for making cordial.  I was really tired and it was really hot, but I had to do it.  The blossoms are starting to go over.  I knew if I did not gather them then, I might just miss them for this year. They looked so plentiful and big and round and creamy in the distance but getting up close to them was not easy.  It was still hot but I put on long trousers and long sleeves and welly boots and took a basket and some scissors.  Not one of the easy to reach trees had any useful blossoms left anywhere low enough for me to reach.  I walked up the boreen and then I walked down again. I went out into the fields and all around the edges of Scully’s wood.  Wherever I could see good blossoms I had a struggle to get close.  Most of the trees had deep swathes of tall nettles growing right in front of them.  In some places there was two metres of nettle between me and the tree.  The top of the nettles was as high as my face and wading through the dense growth was hard. My face and neck and hands were thoroughly stung.  Not one of the several paths made by the fox to go in and out of the wood from the field was of any use to me.  It took me a ridiculously long time to collect my forty blossoms.  But I did it.  The cordial is made and is now it is infusing for 24 hours.  Later I will no doubt be glad that I did this, but when I finished last night I was only annoyed with the whole process.

photo

4 July Saturday

I finished bottling my cordial just minutes before the rain came lashing down.  Everyone has been wanting this rain.  The gentle rain of last night was perfect for sleeping, but everyone at the market today agreed that such a gentle rain was tantamount to useless for gardens and crops. This loud beating rain is bound to cheer everyone up as long as it continues for more than a few hours.

Four Bianconi horse-driven carriages traveled from Clonmel to Cahir this morning in a re-creation of their historic journeys.  People were lined up waiting for them.  They were expected at 11 am and they arrived at 11.45.  One man told me that that was spot-on for Irish timing.  One side of the usual market area was cordoned off so that the horses and carriages could be on display there when they arrived.  It meant that David the egg man, Pat with his vegetables and the English man who sells potted plants all had to relocate for the day.  One man walked into the market and exclaimed “You’re all to one side like the town of Fermoy!”  It was good to hear the expression.  I had only heard it once before many years ago when Rose said it to someone who was walking with an exaggerated  limp in order to get sympathy.

A Cold Kettle.

5 July Sunday

A sign on a tree is advertising A SILAGE EXTRAVAGANZA — Family Day. I have no idea what a Silage Extravaganza might entail, but I assume the farmers will be cheerful to be celebrating.

6 July Monday

It was all day wet today.  The rain varied between lashing and just coming down.  It was never a mere drizzle and it was never warm.  It is July and it is chilly and wet and hateful.  I spoke to Marianne who was pleased that it was raining because she felt she now had an excuse to stay inside and watch the afternoon match at Wimbledon.  She was delighted with her change of plan until she remembered that their television does not work properly in the rain. The screen shows nothing but static when it rains which is not very good for tennis.  I set off for a walk at one point because I felt I just had to move.  If Em were still alive, I would of course be going for a walk.  She was not bothered about the rain.  If we all stopped everything in this country every time it rained no one would ever get a thing done. I dressed in full waterproofs and headed off and up the Mass path.  I did not get any further than the stream.  Branches have fallen and brambles have thickened and there was no way I could push my way through.  I got down on my knees to crawl but even that did not work.  I was trapped.  The growth was dense and clawing at me.  Everything was dripping.  The only way through will be with a saw and some secautars. That was not a job to do in the rain and that was not a job to do when what I wanted was a walk. I went the other way, up the boreen and out onto the road and once I met Oscar, we were both happy to march along in the gusty rain.  I wondered if maybe walking with a dog was even more of what I needed than simply walking.

7 July Tuesday

We do not have mosquitoes.  Summer guests are always surprised and even a little confused that we have no biting bugs of any sort. We have no screens on our windows.  The only reason we ever close our windows in summer is if it gets too cold, or maybe if the rain is being blown in a particular direction.  I can feel smug about the lack of biting insects but I am less self-satisfied when I think about the slugs.  This has been a bad week for slugs.  There is always a slug in the bathroom at night.  I have taken to closing the window tightly quite early in the evening.  I have put the plug into the bathtub.  Now I am thinking that maybe I have not been keeping the night slugs out. I am not stopping a slug who might have oozed up the wall and in through the window.  I fear that they are already inside and that during the day they are simply staying out of sight under the tub or somewhere dark.  At night they come out and travel around. A few nights ago, I picked up my glasses and touched a slug that was draped around the bow.  I dropped the glasses with a little shriek.  I am lucky that they did not break on the stone floor.  I am not afraid of slugs but I find them horrible to touch.  I do not wish to be surprised by the feel of a slug.  The next night I found a medium-sized slug stretched out on the side of the sink as though it were sunbathing.  It had a little curve in the body which suggested more than just sleeping.  I threw that one out the window.  Last night I found another slug curled around my toothbrush.  It was not on the bristles.  It was down where my hand holds the toothbrush, but that does not mean it had not already crawled over the bristles. I used to dread stepping on a slug in my bare feet in the night.  Now I feel I am under attack.

8 July Wednesday

First I learned the word Perisher.  I learned that I am a Perisher.  Being one who feels the cold and is always taking my sweater on or off, I am pleased with this new word.  I often find myself telling people that I am a Perisher.  I am interested to know if absolutely everyone else knew this word long before I ever even heard it. I mentioned it to someone recently and she said “Ah, you mean to say that you are a Cold Kettle!”  This is another way of saying the same thing, but these are words that belong to a different part of the country.

9 July Thursday

Margaret noticed that a fox was coming to eat the food that she had placed out for her dog.  She started to put extra food out when her dog was safely inside the house.  She kept a watch and saw the fox arriving and gobbling the food.  She changed the position of the bowl so that it now sits up on her wall.  She no longer has to worry about the dog getting the foxes food.  She is also able to watch the fox easily from inside her house.  She can not go too near to the window as the fox will sense her presence.  She stands back in the room a little ways.  She can look out but the fox can not see her.  Margaret tells everyone about her fox.  She has started to speak of him as her pet fox.  People are discussing this among themselves. The Knocklofty road is a busy road and the bend where Margaret lives is a bit of a blind bend.  People zip around there quickly in their cars. Some people think that it is wonderful that Margaret has this pet fox to feed and to watch and to think about.  Other people think it is an accident waiting to happen.  Either the fox himself will be hit by a car or else a car will swerve to avoid the fox as he jumps up or down from the wall directly into the road and there will be some sort of a crash. They shake their heads and make distressed sounds when they discuss the potential disaster.  There is not one person who does not have an opinion about the feeding of this fox.  I am wondering if this fox is the fox who lives up in Scully’s wood, or if it is a completely other fox who might live down in the quarry.

photo

10 July Friday

Simon has been lightly cooking gooseberries with a few elderflower blossoms.  The perfume off this combination is wonderful.  It is more like muscat than like what it is. The blossom is just about gone now.  We are hoping that later in the year we will be able to recreate this taste of summer by using my elderflower cordial in place of the actual blossoms.  There is a good supply of gooseberries stored in the freezer.  I feel wealthy when I see them in there.

white (rose) bay willow herb

11 July Saturday

I met the man who walks down the river every Saturday morning. I do not see him every week but I know that whether I see him or not, he does the exact same walk every Saturday.  He told me that he walks every single day and that where he will walk that day is the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up.  He gave up smoking five years ago and started to walk daily. Now he cannot live without his walking.  Most of his walks are circular walks but on Saturday he walks the road from his house and drops down through the woods and then he walks the river path. He walks into Cahir and does one errand and then he turns around and walks home with his single purchase in a white plastic bag.  He carries the white plastic bag in his pocket.  The walk takes him exactly two hours.  Today I asked him why he does not try using a small back pack so that his hands are free when he does his return journey.  He said that he has a backpack at home but his wife will not let him use it here close to home.  She says that people will think ill of him if he uses a back pack in the local area.  She said that people will think that he has some sort of attitude or that he is trying to get attention.  She only allows him to use the back pack when they go away on holiday.

12 July Sunday

There is a large clump of white rose bay willow herb in bloom beside the round topped shed. I had never heard of nor seen the white version.  I am not sure if it is called white rose bay willow herb or just white bay willow herb. Laurie sent me some from Scotland.  She wadded wet paper towels around the roots and loosely wrapped it all in a plastic bag.  It arrived through the post in a padded envelope in only a few days.  It survived the journey well.  The plants have taken a few years to root and to settle.  This year is the best it has ever been.  The white blossom on tall stalks against the stone wall is beautiful.   Today’s watery grey light makes the white look whiter.

Shredded wood

30 July Thursday

There is a stack of plastic wrapped bales of silage in the field. It is not unusual to see plastic wrapped bales piled up, especially not at this time of year when everyone is rushing to cut and prepare their silage for winter. What is unusual is that these bales are not wrapped in the normal black plastic.  These bales are wrapped in bright pink plastic.  Bright pink is not a colour that we come across very often in our landscape.  I did a double-take when I saw these.  I nearly drove off the road.  Later I was told that the Co-op is selling this pink plastic and each time it is purchased by a farmer a percentage of the cost goes toward supporting research and treatment for breast cancer.

31 July Friday

A Fun Dog Show is schedualed for August.  There are five classes listed for Pure Bred Dogs and nine classes for Fun. One of the Fun classes is for Rescue Dogs in Best Condition.  I have been wondering about this.  Are these dogs who were rescued and are now in good shape, or are these dogs who have led a life of rescuing others and who are still in good condition despite all of their work?

1 August Saturday

A coach load of tourists from Israel arrived at the market.  They were there to see the castle and the cottage and since the farmer’s market was on they looked around. Many of them took photographs.  It is not easy for tourists on buses to buy things at the market as they are usually eating in restaurants and hotels and many of the market goods are in need cooking or preparation.  Things like eggs and fish and broccoli are not going to be very interesting for them.  They can buy apples or berries and maybe individual cookies or cakes.  Wooden egg cups tend to be popular as they are small and not perishable. Today one Israeli tourist bought fresh garlic from Jim and Keith.  Pretty soon another one came and bought some garlic.  Then another.  At least half of the busload of tourists bought Jim’s garlic.  More people might have bought the garlic but he ran out before they could do so.  It seemed an odd souvenir.

3 August Monday Bank Holiday

There was torrential rain last night.  It started at about five o’clock and continued all night long.  I woke up several times and heard it coming down hard.  By morning it had stopped and the sky was not clear but there was a bit of brightness in it.  We took a walk over Joe’s fields.  The long grass was wet and the grass which had been eaten down short by the cows was wet.  When we got to the dirt track the mud was deep.  The mud sucked at our boots as we walked up the hill.  There was the regular after rain mud and then there was mud which had been churned up by the cows walking through it. There was mud which was a slippery mix of fresh manure and rain and mud.  Then there were puddles which were full of muddy water and other puddles which were full of a mixture of rain water and cow pee. The different kinds of puddles were distinctive by the type of liquid in them.  The track is long so there was plenty of time to consider all of this mud.  When we reached the farmyard and went out of the gate and onto the road, we scuffed along in the grass to clean our boots.  We always walk in this same stretch of grass to clean our boots after a particularly mucky walk up the track.  Walking backwards, then forwards and a bit sideways through the long grass is the method for cleaning up.

4 August Tuesday

Everything is closed.  Well, not everything, but a lot of things.  The framer is gone for his two week holiday.  The tool hire place and the lawn-mower repair place are both closed.  The wood yard is closed.  The electrical supply place is closed.  Most workmen take this time off as even if they were trying to do a job no one else would be open for them to purchase materials.  It is the same two weeks each summer and every year it takes us by surprise.

5 August Wednesday

The raspberries are coming ripe.  They seem a bit early but I am not complaining.  They are delicious.  The black currants need picking.  Mostly we have very little growing this year.  A lot of apples are ripening on all but one of the trees but plums are not doing well. Maybe the plums will come later.  Even the sweet peas are fewer than normal. The figs are plentiful on the tree, but I wonder if there will be enough heat for them to ripen. The weather is so un-summery and grey and cool it is hard to know if the plants know to continue or if they are just skipping the season.

6 August Thursday

Joe has an open platform system for wintering his cows.  The cows stand on this big concrete platform which has  lots of drainage.  There is no roof over the cows all winter.  This worries me.  Joe assures me that the cows do not mind.  They are most concerned that their feet are not wet. It is bad for cows to have ice forming in their hooves.  It is bad for cows to have wet feet all day and all night.  The drainage in the platform keeps their feet dry.  Once, or maybe twice a year, an enormous load of wood shavings gets delivered.  It is dumped in the yard.  The pile is bigger than a large lorry.  It is not really shavings, it is more like long thin shredded pieces of wood.  Joe cleans all of the old wood stuff off the platform and then spreads the new shredded wood so that the surface will be ready when the cows are no longer able to be out in the fields all day. He has been doing this work over the last few days.  I love it when the pile of shredded wood arrives.  It smells good.  Then I enjoy seeing it disappearing one load at a time.  Winter seems a long time away but I guess it is wise to be ready.

Every night there are slugs.

7 August Friday

I spoke to a young man who regretted that he had never been inside a pub where people were smoking.  He was too young.  The smoking ban had already been in place well before he started going to any pub.  He had heard of the strong smell of old cigarette smoke mixed with the smell of fresh cigarettes and pipes and cigars.  He had heard stories about yellowed paintwork and nearly brown ceilings after years of smoke held inside in bars with closed doors and closed windows.   He was proud that the ban on cigarette smoking in public places was one of the first such national bans. But he sort of felt like he had missed something.

9 August Sunday

I strolled down the meadow path this evening.  Earlier in the day Simon finished making a new bench which he made with a long piece of Douglas fir.  He had been saving the wood for a long time waiting until he knew just what to do with it.   The new bench was just the right thing.  I sat on the new bench and looked at the pink clouds.  It was a beautiful evening.  I admired my new vantage point. I had never sat in just this spot.  I knew right away that I would enjoy sitting exactly here in the future.  I thought about Em and about how often I had stood down there in the dark just waiting for her to finish barking and to come back and join me. I thought about sitting on the bench in the darkness later in the year.  It might be a bit lonely to just sit there unable to see a thing if the sitting were not also waiting.  Tonight the cows were all in the adjoining field.  I could not see them through the bushes, but I could hear them pulling and tearing grass. It was a companionable kind of quiet.

10 August Monday

John the Post is not well.  He had surgery last year.  I thought he was getting stronger but he is now off work again.  When I last saw him a few weeks ago, he did not look good.  He was in a lot of pain.  For now we get our post delivered by Mick or Tom or Lee.  If Lee is on, the delivery is very early in the morning. He arrives so early that we rarely even see him.  If Mick or Tom are on, there is a chance we will receive some news about John.

11 August Tuesday

Mary arrived this morning.  She and Simon had just started working on their separate computers.  I was half-way listening to them discussing plans for the day and halfway listening to a lot of noisy bellowing from the cows in the field.  I looked out the kitchen window and saw two cows in the yard.  I rushed out and Mary rushed out behind me.  We chased the cows down the meadow and they jumped over the banking back into the field the way they had come in.  They had broken through the last section of the fence.  Maybe they wanted to get at the apples.    Just as we were congratulating ourselves, we discovered five more cows running up towards Johnnie Mackin’s.  Or they had been running up towards Johnnie Mackin’s but now they were coming back.  They saw us and turned around again.  Simon was guarding the place where the cows were trying to come back in from the field.  Each time he turned his back a cow jumped the banking.   Mary followed the ones up the boreen and managed to drive three of them back down and over to Simon.  Joe was on holiday but I got through to his brother Michael who was just having a cup of tea.  He came rushing down with Tommie, the young man who is taking care of Joe’s herd while he is away.  It was all exciting and chaotic.  They both had short lengths of stiff black rubber hose to wave at the cows.  We had sticks.  Two of the cows who were being pursued up the mass path by Mary crashed over another banking and off into Paul’s field.  Tommie went after them and drove them across the high field toward Paul’s farm yard and eventually to the road.  Except for those two,  the rest of the cows are back on their own side of the fence.  Every single one of them is lying down and they are all silent.  The broken fence is  blocked off with one of Simon’s old wooden gutters.  He has been wanting to find a use for those gutters.

12 August Wednesday

Every night there are slugs in the bathroom.  I never find them anywhere else in the house. That is not to say that they are not anywhere else.  I just do not see them anywhere else.  I throw at least two out the window each evening.  In the morning, I try to remember to pick up the pieces of tissue off the ground outside.  Maybe the same two or three slugs just creep back up the wall and into the window every day.  Even on the nights when I do not see any slugs, I know they have been there.  I see their wiggly trails all over the steamed up mirror in the morning.

Rubber bands on the path

13 August Thursday

Three of us took a walk in Killballyboy woods.  Sometimes the path we were on was narrow and sometimes it widened.  We walked side by side or single file or two together and one alone.  Our positions were changing constantly.  The track was not rough so we did not have to look down all the time but still it was important to scan the area ahead for roots or stones or holes as we walked.  Early on I noticed a rubber band on the ground.  It was a nice fat rubber band and it looked new.  I like rubber bands.  I noted that it was a good one.  Minutes later I saw several more rubber bands.  These were also thick and also new. To see one or even two rubber bands out in the woods is not noteworthy.  Walkers might have them on their their lunch bags, or they might be used to hold something onto a pack.  They might have been on someone’s wrist or in a pocket.  Very quickly, I realized that the number of rubber bands which I was seeing was not a normal amount of rubber bands to be finding on a forest path.

Later, I learned that this wooded area, which has been completely invaded by rhododendrons, is a popular spot for people who export the leaves.  Each bunch of leaves on thin branches is held together with a rubber band.  These are then shipped to Holland where the Dutch like them.  I do not know what the Dutch do with these bunches of rhododendron leaves.  Maybe they arrange them as greenery with various kinds of flowers.  The industrial scale cutting and gathering of these leaves is not legal in the forest. The people doing the exporting hire Romanian workers who work deep in the forest well out of sight of the paths.  The workers then gather somewhere discreetly at the end of the day to load the gathered leafy bunches into trucks.  It is hard to imagine how many bunches of rhododendron leaves it takes to fill a lorry.  The rubber bands are the only sign that the pickers have been there.

14 August Friday

Everywhere feels quiet.  The land is quiet.  There is little birdsong to be heard.  It is so quiet that it nearly feels worrying.  Someone told me that the silence of the birds is because they are moulting.  I do not understand the logic of this but it is something to think about.

15 August Saturday

There was another escape of cows.  There are always cows escaping.  This lot got out of their field, went down the Long Field,  then took a left onto the Ardfinnan road and took a right down the hill and into the village.  One of the cows bit a chunk of hay out of the Two Bale High Man who is standing at the corner near the bridge advertising a fun event.  After the cows crossed the bridge into the village, they spread out in all directions.  Local estimates claim that there were 80 cows.  It was 2 in the morning when they were discovered.  I do not know how long they were there before someone noticed them. Most interesting was how anyone figured out where they had come from.  Who would miss their cows at 2 am?  And these cows had made a journey of 4.5 kilometres from the farm where they lived.

16 August Sunday

The announcer on the radio spoke about how a player in today’s match had made a long reach.  He said He was Stretched Out Long, As Though It Were Morning and He Was Still On The Bed.

18 August Tuesday

I saw another bunch of the bright pink silage bales in a field today.  They were piled, placed and shaped together to look like a tractor and trailer.

19 August Wednesday

We woke up to rain.  It was heavy beating rain. We had been warned that this rain was coming and that it would continue for a few days this week.  The wet air felt different.  It felt like summer might be over.  I was sad.  Then I decided to cheer up and to believe the forecast that promised better weather for Friday and the weekend. The postman promised that They are Giving Good for the Weekend.  This is an often used expression and one can always choose to believe it, or not.

Andrzej arrived to do some heavy outdoor work.  The early lashing rain had changed into a soaking drizzle but it was still much too wet for him to even consider doing anything.  Then we understood that he had made the trip specially to bring us a big plastic container full of fileted mackerel which he caught in the sea last night.  He said it was only a few hours since he caught it and that we must eat it fresh for lunch. We were delighted and he drove off happy with his gift-giving.  I worried that he might meet Mary in the boreen forcing one of them into a difficult backing up.   Fortunately, she was late.  She came in announcing that she had brought lunch today for us all.  She brought bread and a rhubarb tart and mackerel.  Lucky for us that her mackerel is smoked so we are spared eating a mountain of fresh fish for lunch.

My favorite honey label

20 August Thursday

I bought a Half Sliced Pan.  Or a Half Pan Sliced.  I can never remember which way to speak about this bread.  It is sliced bread available as a small or half loaf.  I do not like this bread and I do not buy it often but some days and in some shops it is the only bread to buy.  The reason I mention it is that when I opened the package to take out a slice of bread the first thing I saw was a piece of cardboard in the shape of a piece of bread.  It had rounded bottom corners and the top was rounded.  The cardboard had one shiny side and one rough side.  The cardboard was white and the bread was brown. The cardboard was not heavy.  It was like shirt cardboard.  It was not strong enough to protect the bread if something heavy fell on top of it. There were not two pieces of card, one at each end.   I have no idea what function the shaped bit of card had for the half loaf of bread.

21 August Friday

Patsy Tom sat up on a high stool in Rose’s.   He sat at the same stool in the corner where he always sits.  He announced that he had been speaking with a man who told him that you cannot have a road without two ditches. As the hedges bordering each road are called ditches, we are used to seeing them on the sides of just about every road we traverse.  I could not understand what the issue was.  Instead, this was an opener for what became a long and heated conversation.  Everyone within earshot had an opinion about this man’s statement.  I left before anything was resolved.

22 August Saturday

Blackberries are ripening by the day.  It does not matter if the days have been hot or if there has been a lot of rain.  Every time I walk up and down the boreen or anywhere at all, I see hundreds of berries.  I stop to eat as I walk.  Sometimes I take a container and I pick the berries to bring home.  Sometimes I am just noting a location that offers easy picking and loads of berries so that I can return.

23 August Sunday

Em died a year ago today.  I still miss her. I miss her everyday.  I miss her in funny places and at odd moments.  I mostly miss her when I am out on a walk.  I miss her when I am out on a walk with another dog who is not her. I miss the sound of her soft snoring and the sound of her feet tapping through the house in the night.  I miss the lapping sound of her tongue in her water bowl. I would not say I am mourning.  I am just noting her absence.  Her sounds were part of the house sounds. Her bed is still in place. Her lead is still on the floor of the car.  Her water bowls, both indoors and outdoors, get re-filled regularly.  Visiting dogs use them. There does not seem to be any reason to move these things since they are getting used regularly. People ask weekly if we have thought about getting a new dog.  We have thought about getting a new dog but we have done nothing about getting a new dog.

25 August Tuesday

We have been given an Eircode.  There was a letter in the post which assigned us this seven digit number.  The letter tells us that we do not have to use this code when writing our address.  The letter is written in a pleasant tone.  It implies that it is understood that most people do not like change therefore no one is being asked to change.   The letter has a tear-out card at the top which we are instructed to carry in our wallets.  If we do not actually need to use the Eircode, I am not sure why it would be useful for us to carry the number around with us.  One of the benefits is supposedly for ordering things on the internet.  For years we have had to write a bunch of zeros or a random number whenever we were asked for a postal code. Now we can give this number.  Already we are hearing stories that it is no good to put the number into a GPS or any other kind of system.  I thought perhaps it would make deliveries by couriers easier as there are so few road signs in the countryside and there is such bad phone coverage and there is never a person to ask for help with directions when out driving.  The Eircode has not yet been set up to be used by any computer or satellite system.  So far, it is no more useful than not having a number.

26 August Wednesday

Mick is disturbed by the sugar spoon. He knows that he always has four heaped teaspoons of sugar in his tea.  The spoon in my sugar bowl is made of cherry wood.  It was carved by a friend.  I like having it in the sugar bowl so that we can see it everyday. Mick is confused because the bowl of my spoon is bigger than the teaspoon he would ordinarily use.  He wants to have one spoon to portion out his sugar and then he wants to stir his tea with the same spoon.  The teaspoon is the measure. Since my spoon is not the teaspoon he has lost his measure.  He does not enjoy adapting.  I usually try to put out a regular teaspoon when he is here but today I forgot.  He is too polite to say anything about the incorrect kind of spoon but his discomfort is obvious.

27 August Thursday

I went down to the shop and did a few errands.  I was a bit early so I sat in the car and read the newspaper.  Then I got out of the car and I leaned against it.  I looked around and I watched people coming and going.  The village is a busy place in the morning.  There were delivery men unloading things from trucks and vans. One would finish and leave and then another would arrive.  People went into the food shop and the post office.  Other people went into the hardware shop.  Some people went in and out of both places.  People stood and talked with one another outside the shop or with one person already in their car and the other outside talking through an open window.  Everyone had things to do.  I recognized everyone I saw.  Some people I knew by name and some people I only knew by sight.  Or maybe I did not recognize them but I knew their vehicle.

Tommie came down the road slowly.  Tommie always drives slowly.  He pulled up to the curb.  He did not pull up very close to the curb but it was close enough.  His car was not exactly blocking the road but it was making the thoroughfare into a single lane road rather than a place where two vehicles can pass each other.  He got out of the car and left the door open while he came over to say hello. We spoke a little about things in general.  We spoke about the weather and about his wife Margaret, who is not well, and about all the farmers getting their hay and silage in.  I told him that I was waiting to meet someone.  I said that I was waiting to meet a man so that I could lead him with my car to our house.  I said it was easier to do this than it is to give directions.  I told Tommie that I did not know the man I was waiting to meet.  I did not know if he was old or he was young.  I did not know what kind of a car he would be driving.  I did not know one single thing about what he would look like.  I said that so far I had recognized everyone I had seen so I knew that not one of those people was the man I was waiting for.  Tommie reassured me.  I was not at all worried, but he felt I needed reassurance.  He said You will know right away when you see the person you are waiting for even if you have never seen him before.

photo 3

28 August Friday

It used to be easy to buy nice honey wherever we went while traveling. It was lovely to return home with honey from somewhere else.  Honey made by bees eating different things tastes very different.  I like to bring honey as a gift and I like to eat honey.  I like noticing the difference of honey made by bees eating lavender or heather or apple blossom. I have almost stopped looking for honey when I am away from here.  I read a lot about the dangerous disappearance of bees in the world.  Bees are dying everywhere. So far we are still surrounded by lots of bees and lots of honey, but not everyone is.  Those who have it are less apt to be selling what little they have.

Blue knot

29 August Saturday

Potatoes which fall apart when they are cooked will always fall apart when they are cooked.  These terrible potatoes cannot be trusted for making potato salad.   Potato salad made of cooked floury potatoes becomes a kind of cold mashed potato mush with some salad-ish seasoning.  Today I saw pots of it in the deli section of a shop.  It was labelled Smooth Potato Salad.  It is a shocking thing to receive this when anticipating potato salad.

30 August Sunday

I listened to Jimmie. He was giving out to anyone who would listen.  He said he had been on his way to Limerick.  He said he was not actually going to Limerick, he was going to a place well beyond Limerick.  He decided before he got to where he was going that it was always the same.  He said The more you go West you realize you should be going East.

31 August Monday

We have had no internet since Saturday.  Our signal comes off the roof of Michael Hickey’s house.  As always when there is a signal problem, we telephoned Michael. He told us that his own service is just fine.  We had to wait until today when the office in Waterford was open.  They sent up two Polish men with ladders and binoculars.  The men did things inside the house and they did things outside the house. We cut down a tree two weeks ago to clear the Line of Sight which makes the internet signal possible. For a while we had a signal, but then we did not. The tree could have stayed where it was. The men decided to hook up the signal box from one side of the chimney.  That did not work.  One man waved a receiving box in the air on the end of a long stick while the other kept an eye on his computer, and shouted back and forth in Polish.  Finally they found a spot one and a half metres above the flat kitchen roof. They put up the box on a bracket and a pipe.  It looks pretty awful.  We are trying to convince ourselves that it is not so bad.  We are trying to remind ourselves that we want the internet and that for now this is the only way we can have it down in this valley.  We are trying to convince ourselves that we will learn to love this box on a pole.   It looks like we are living in a submarine.

1 September Tuesday

The opticians has a sign saying that they open at 8.45.  Their website also says they open at 8.45.  When questioned about this, they said No, they actually open at 9.40.  They do not see any reason to change the listed information as everyone knows that they open at 9.40.

2 September Wednesday

The house on the hill opposite has been under construction all summer. We are increasingly aware of it.  The scaffolding has now been removed.  A red van has been parked in front for a few days now.  The van looks tiny from here but the red draws my eye.  The gap left by the tree which we removed for the internet signal makes the house more visible.  It was easier to ignore it before.  The house is big.  It is too big. It is annoyingly symmetrical.  It is at least three kilometres away as the crow flies and eight kilometres by road. I fear this house will be the kind of house which wants to show itself off.  It will be the kind of house which shines lights on itself at night so that any people passing will not be able to miss it. It is on a road with almost no traffic.  The blinds will be pulled down so the people inside will not be disturbed by the lights but for us far across the valley we will be constantly reminded of this house. I hope I am wrong about this.

photo 3

3 September Thursday

Breda, Molly and I walked in the mountains this morning.  The sky was grey and heavy looking but we felt sure that it would not rain. It is always a pleasure to be in such a high and empty place with only a ten minute drive from home. The heather is in bloom.  From a distance it shows itself as a smudge of colour across the hills. Up close it is brilliant and reads as many different shades of pink and rose and purple. The sheep scattered around are all looking wretched.  They have been shorn.  Their skin looks scruffy and baggy.  The red or blue paint markings look more like bruises and wounds because of the lack of hair. The mountains are all commonage which means more than one farmer can feed sheep up there.  There are no fences.  The coloured markings are all that distinguish the sheep of one farmer from the sheep of another farmer. The sheep meander about in groups. They run away at the slightest provocation or sometimes for no reason at all. Many of them were interested in Molly but she is too well-behaved to chase them.  At times I think they set off running just to see if she will give chase.

We walked past a tree with a knot of blue rope hanging from a branch.  There was a piece of white plastic hanging beside the rope.  I did not pay much attention to either thing.  Breda told me that they had been put there to mark the way for the recent mass at the Mass Rock. I have never been to the yearly mass up there since I do not go to any mass ever except for the occasional Funeral Mass. Now I wish I had gone to this mass.  We saw tracks from a tractor. Breda told me the tractor pulled a trailer load of people up to the Mass Rock. The people were all standing up in the trailer.  There were no seats and anyway there was no room to sit.  The passengers were all people who would not walk or could not walk up to the rock. Most of the people in the trailer were older people. Maybe some mothers with small children were in the trailer too. Everyone was packed in upright and the number of bodies held up the rest of the bodies. Other people walked up from wherever they were able to park to get near to the Rock.  The little single track road was completely blocked by cars. The rope knot and the plastic were tied onto the branch just in case people lost their way on route through the boggy undergrowth.

Desirable parking positions

4 September Friday

I do not go to Dublin often.  I never want to go to Dublin.  I never have an urge to rush up to Dublin simply because I have not been there for a while.  I know Dublin is there but somehow I do not need it. It is not that I do not like cities.  I love cities and there are cities I look forward to visiting and re-visiting.  Dublin is not one of them.  For most people the capital city is the place to go because it is full of pleasures. I always feel disappointed after a trip to Dublin.

As a result of my foot-dragging relationship with this city, I have missed something I really wanted to do there.  Back in January, Donal told me about two short films which could be seen at the An Post Museum in the General Post Office.  One was of a postman in Donegal doing his rounds.  The other film was watching somebody sorting the post in the Athlone center. I put a reminder up on my wall.  I looked at it often. I have been to Dublin a few times but it was never the right time.  It was either a busy day for errands, or just passing through on the way to a plane or a ferry, or it was a Sunday.  For various reasons, I failed to get to the GPO during opening hours.

I finally got there this week. I finally made it a priority on my list of things to do. Unfortunately the museum has been closed.  It will not be re-opened until next year and then it will no longer be a museum but an Interpretive Center. The reason for the renovation and the re-naming is because of the anniversary of the 1916 Uprising.  Perhaps the museum will be exactly the same when it re-opens.  I will not know if it is the same.  The woman at the nearby Philatelic Counter could not tell me if the films will be included in the new Interpretive Center.  She was not even vaguely interested. Her job was selling stamps to collectors.  And because the museum had been closed she was required to sell a few of their souvenirs because her counter was nearest to the closed door.  I bought four postcards.  She was not happy with her added workload.

5 September Saturday

The big cow flap down near the stream has stayed in an unusually liquid state for a long time.  It was deposited by a cow during the break out or break in through the meadow.  That must be several weeks ago now.  Normally manure forms a crust over the top.  The underneath stuff remains wet and mushy but the top crust forms and then slowly the whole thing dries from the top down.  This manure has looked the same for all the time it has been there.  I think maybe the top crust has not formed because it is well shaded by the chestnut tree and other bushes.  I think there is not one bit of sun all day long in that spot.  I will continue to hop over it each time I walk the path but I will be glad when it has broken down into mud.

6 September Sunday

Heading to the village to get the papers this morning, I thought I was early enough to miss the crowd arriving for mass.   A short wait behind Tomas’ cows on the road meant that I arrived exactly at the time as many others were arriving.  The desirable parking positions in front of the shop were already filled.  Every single car had backed in so that they could easily drive out after mass. This is a way for the people in the cars to stay sitting in their seats so that they can watch everyone else arriving.  They can stay in their cars right up until the last minute. This is especially good on a wet day. People were walking toward the church from all directions.  It was a lovely morning so people stopped as they met one another and they chatted on the pavement. There was no reason why people could not talk while they walked but every single person stopped walking to talk.  Some cars halted to let out an older person and then the car went off to park.  No one parks directly in front of the church. That is one space always left open. A lot of men have the habit of dropping their wife off and then they go to find a parking spot. This way they arrive separately.  They do not go into the church together.  They just meet up again when it is all over. The men were all tidy in their new sweaters and most of the women wore cardigans. It was a lovely morning but still there was a chill in it.

7 September Monday

I was on the road returning home.  A car came around the far corner just as a small rabbit ran out and ran diagonally across the road.  The other car accelerated and aimed at the rabbit.  He was racing toward the rabbit and he was racing toward me.  The rabbit jumped into the bushes just at the last minute.  The rabbit escaped. The driver swerved at the last minute and did not smash into me.  He passed me with a big smile and a wave.  If he had been a young man I would have thought he was a creep.  But he was an older man with white hair and a round cheerful face.  I still thought badly of him, but my disgust was mixed with shock.

8 September Tuesday

SuperValu is having a French Food & Wine Sale. There is a large handwritten sign outside the shop.  Beside the sign is a mannequin dressed up to appear French.  It is wearing black trousers and a black and white horizontally striped shirt.  I think the striped shirt is supposed to look like a Breton shirt.  It looks more like a shirt worn by a gondolier in Venice.  The very white arms and feet of the mannequin are visible but it has no head.  A black beret rests on the neck, nearly hiding a jaunty red neckerchief.

Five men named John

9 September Wednesday

Someone is camping near the edge of the road as we drive through Marlfield. A brown and orange tent is set up just outside the big field on a small mown corner of grass. The tent is tidy and self-contained.  I have been noticing it for two or three weeks.  Today the man who lives in the tent was sitting on a lawn chair in the drizzle with a large umbrella.  He was facing out toward the hill.  Last week I saw him in the chair under the umbrella but that day he was facing the road.  When the man is not sitting in the chair the chair is put away inside the tent. There is not any of the stuff of camping visible.  There is neither a fire place nor a cooking stove. Nor is there a lot of passing traffic to watch.  There are no cattle in the field right now either.  The field was part of a big plan to turn the area around Marlfield House into a fancy golf course a few years ago.  The project ran out of money before it was finished.  Now all of the fields around the big house are back to being used for grazing cattle and for growing hay. It is an odd place to set up camp.  It is an empty and slightly lonely spot but it is not a very private spot.

10 September Thursday

The elderly lady at The Cross keeps an eye on the road.  I rarely see her.  I do not think she goes out often.  I saw her at the ceremony to install a commemorative stone for five local men named John who all fought and died in WWI. She was sitting in the front of the two short rows of chairs which had been set up for older people.  She was pleased to greet me.  She commented immediately that since we now drove only one car rather than two, it was easier for her to keep track of our movements.  I next saw her at her brother-in-law’s funeral.  She asked me why I do not wave to her as I pass the house.  She said that most people salute or sound their horn as they pass.  Now I wave each time I pass the house.  I do not know which window is the room where she sits.  Simon and I have decided that her room is the end room on the front of the house so I slow down and wave directly at that window no matter which direction I am coming from.  If it is late, we sometimes say to each other that she must have gone to bed so we need not wave.  We cannot see anyone through the window so I have no idea if she is waving back or if she is sitting there at all.  There is a fair chance that I am be waving at the wrong window. I just do not want to be reprimanded again.

IMG_3540

12 September Saturday

There is stuff to collect. Apples have been disappointing.  I thought it was just our own trees, but I understand there are problems all around, even over at the Apple Farm.  Some varieties just fell off the trees early and unripe.  Others have ripened but lack flavour and texture. Our figs are doing remarkably well considering this is not really a fig-growing climate. I have to squeeze and test them at the end of the afternoon as the wasps are all over them in the daytime and birds get them in the early morning.  I do not like to compete with the wasps.  I gather most of the figs a little unripe and let them ripen inside the house.  The blotcheens are coming ripe but they are not plentiful.  Most plums have had a bad year.  The wild damsons sort of shriveled on the branches before they ripened. I marked three different puffballs with sticks in the ground and kept checking them every day.  They have shriveled up into nothing.  Raspberries and blackberries are rampant. I pick masses of them daily. And the Cavolo Nero, which is a glorious shade of green, just goes on and on.

13 September Sunday

Lambert’s garage has four floral displays on show.  The plants are each hanging out of a tyre.  The tyres have been painted different colours.  At intervals across the building the tyres are white, red, yellow and blue.  The paint does not work too well on the yellow one, but the idea is there.

Cluain Meala

14 September Monday

It poured with rain all night and all day.  Larry Doocey arrived in his red tractor and trailer bringing us a load of pebbles.  He was not bothered by the rain except that he had to take a different route to get here. He told us that he drove over to Silver Sands on the windy hilly road to Cahir but he drove back to us on the flatter route through Grange. He needed to compensate for the 6 ton of stone in his trailer and he needed to compensate for the slippery wet roads while towing such a weight. His journey was slow.  He was ready for a cup of tea when he got here. He had several cups of tea while he talked.  We all ate biscuits too.  We had always assumed that he was a native of Newcastle but he told us that he had moved down from Ballinamult to live in the village.  He said he did not miss it up there.  He said “There’s nothing exciting to me about a mountain.”

15 September Tuesday

The man who is camping beside the road in Marlfield is not camping for a holiday.  He is living in a tent because he has been evicted from his home in the village.  I am not sure why he was evicted.  His presence beside the road is a protest. As soon as I mentioned him, people have been telling me things about him.  His name is Tommy.  He has been living in the tent all summer but at first the tent was inside the gate and near to the boundary wall of the big house.  That is why I never noticed it.  Someone advised him to move out into this new and more prominent location so that people like me will wonder about him and wonder why he is there.  He is waiting to be re-housed by the council. The area around the tent is spotless.  I still wonder where and how he eats.  If he were to make a mess around the tent, I suppose he could be removed as a public nuisance.  He is so tidy that he is almost not there.  Maybe someone is feeding him at their house. There is neither a restaurant nor a shop in Marlfield.  Tommy has a long way to go to get anything at all, and he would have to go wherever he goes on foot. I do not see  a car or a bicycle near his tent.  As far as I can see there is only the aluminum lawn chair and his umbrella for equipment.

16 September Wednesday

I walked out into the darkness before bed. The sky was clear.  It is unusual for the sky to be so clear and perfectly cloudless.  There were millions of stars.  The large constellations were all easily visible and zillions of little tiny far away stars were visible too.  The sky was bright with stars but it was extremely dark on the ground.  I could not see my own hand.  I lay down on the bench in the meadow and looked at the stars until I got cold and I had to come in.

17 September Thursday

The fields are all full of stubble.  They have changed in the last week from golden stubble to just light brown stubble.  There is no longer a glow off the fields neither from a distance nor close up.  There are still a lot of hay in bales spread around and waiting for pick-up.  Some of the hay is in big round bales and some is in the big square bales.  Sometimes, in small fields, there are very compact rectangular bales which are leaned up against one another to let some air move through in between them.  There are also the black plastic bales from the second cutting of silage.  I keep thinking that we should be at the end of the season of dangerous driving and ferocious roaring farm machinery rushing up and down the roads.  There is always another enormous machine roaring toward me whether I am on foot or in the car.  The driver is always on the phone with his head bent sideways to keep the phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder.  The drivers are often smoking and drinking minerals from two litre plastic bottles and mostly they look very young. Mostly they look too young to be driving.

19 September Saturday

I passed a field with about fourteen cattle in it. Each one had a wide white stripe around its middle.  The rest of the animal was black. The hair was very fluffy.  It was almost more like sheep’s wool than the usual cow hair.  These are obviously some special breed.  Maybe they are not special at all but they are new for around here.  Maybe they are not new for around here but they are new for me. They were so odd to see that I had to turn around and go back to look at them again. One of these heifers alone looked odd but in a group they were difficult to read.

photo

20 September Sunday

Today I am going to The Honey Show in Clonmel.   Clonmel, which is Cluain Meala in Irish, means Honey Vale.  I am not sure if the Honey Show is located in Clonmel because of this name or if Clonmel is simply a convenient and central location.  The Honey Show is organized each year by the South Tipperary Beekeepers Association.  It is a two day event.  I do not know exactly what happens at the Honey Show.  I assume that there are competitions for wax and honey and mead and other things.  Maybe there are discussions and presentations on all kinds of topics.  I cannot really say what the topics are as I have not been there yet.  No doubt one topic will be hives.  Every year I mark the show on my calendar and every year I miss it.  The paying public is allowed in to The Honey Show between 2 and 4 o’clock on the Sunday afternoon.  It is a narrow window.

Poison

21 September Monday

The Honey Fair was much as I expected.  It was a grand event and it was a disappointment.  The room it was held in was not large.  There were four rows of things on display with three aisles for walking up and down and looking.  The aisles were not wide but there were not too many people there anyway, so it was not difficult to walk up and down.  The day was wet and windy which kept people away.  The All-Ireland Final kept a lot of other people away.  I am not certain that there would have been much overlap in the  audiences.

In one corner of the room there were some women pouring tea and serving big platters of sandwiches and cakes.  Nothing they were serving had anything to do with honey.  There were tiered displays of honey in jars all up one side of the centre aisle and there were large flat cakes of wax, as well as candles and little decorative objects made of wax. There were bars of wax which had come out of moulds so that they had the words Bees Wax on them.    All of the different categories had names of the winners noted on pieces of paper on the tables.  All of the displays had signs saying Do Not Touch The Displays.  There were bottles of mead and there was a long row of trophies along the edge of the stage at the far end of the room. One trophy was in the shape of a bee hive.

The judges were wearing long white lab coats with STBA (South Tipperary Beekeepers Association) logos at the pocket.  Five of the judges were men and one was a woman. They walked about talking to people and pointing at things.  Their white coats made them stand out and kept them looking very official.  There were photographs of bees and beekeepers and of beehives out in fields.  There were some live bees crawling around in a honeycomb safely behind glass.  I had looked forward to seeing a lot of kinds and shapes of bee hives but there was only one hive on display and it looked flimsy and cheap.  It did not look like it would last long in this wet climate.  Still there was plenty to look at. Everything in the entire hall was presented with equal importance.

One category was honey cakes. There were many honey cakes on display for the competition.  All of the honey cakes were round and all of the honey cakes were the same size.  The color of the cakes varied from bright golden to deep brown.  There were also honey cakes for sale.  The tea ladies were not serving honey cakes.  We bought one, which we ate with a cup of tea when we got home. It was very dry.

22 September Tuesday

We have decided to stop buying potatoes.  We have decided to stop buying potatoes and to stop preparing potatoes.  If we are served potatoes elsewhere we will eat them but we are tired of buying potatoes because we are tired of being disappointed by potatoes. I heard on the radio that the government is thinking to offer an incentive for people to eat more potatoes.  I do not know why other people are eating fewer potatoes, but for myself I am just weary of floury, dusty, fall-apart in the water potatoes and I am tired of hard-as-rock salad potatoes.  The struggle does not seem worth the eating.

23 September Wednesday

Thor was collected on Sunday on the way to the Honey Show.  He has come to stay for a week.  It is good to have a dog in the house again.  It is good to have a dog to walk with.  He is quite demanding about heading off first thing in the morning.  He has met the local dogs and he enjoys the rushing and sniffing which they all do together.  Each dog must sniff and pee and examine everything that the other dog has sniffed and peed upon. There is nothing new about this but since everything is new and exciting for the dogs, I find it is new and exciting for me too.  Being with a dog is a reliable source of pleasure. Most days I go for several walks with Thor. He knows our routes now.  He loves the Mass Path with the smell of foxes and pheasants.  He just looks around to make sure that I am still with him when he is rushing off ahead. For an elderly deaf dog he has a lot of energy.

24 September Thursday

The tent is gone.  I am not certain if this means that Tommy has been been re-housed.  It might just mean that the recent nights of terrible torrential downpours were too much for him in his tent.  I hope that he is warm and snug in a new home of his own in the village.  There is nothing to show that anyone was ever there at all except for a slightly pale rectangle of flattened grass where his tent was.

25 September Friday

Joe has put up new signs at each of his gates.  The signs are white with printed black letters reading LANDS PRESERVED AND POISONED.  Preserved means that the lands are off-limits for any kind of hunting. I never really understand what poisoned means in this context.  I think there is law which says if poison is laid down on farm land it has to be a certain distance from a road so that dogs will not be killed by it. I do not know what kind of poison is being laid nor who the intended victims are.   Usually there is just a hand written sign which gets made with whatever is available around the place.  Joe’s signs are all new, all clear and easy to read and all very official looking. What they are not is friendly.

photo 1

26 September Saturday

Every Saturday morning Simon eats a bowl of porridge in the cafe in Cahir.  Some mornings I join him for the porridge and some mornings I do not.   The porridge is so slow to arrive that it makes me cross.  I prefer to breakfast at home and have a walk down the river instead.  Since the porridge is so painfully slow to arrive, he is usually not finished by the time I get there.  I have a coffee. Every Saturday we see a couple who come in and always sit at the exact same table.  They arrive with photocopied crossword puzzles.  They work quietly and intensely on their crossword puzzles and then they switch pieces of paper.  There is very little conversation. They eat and drink but they never stop working on their puzzles.

Nor the sky over him

27 September Sunday

Jim announced that he is glad that the haying season is over so that he can stop Consulting the Glass. Consulting the Glass is often discussed as an essential activity before doing out of door jobs during hay and silage season. It is done at night and it is done in the morning.  I am pretty sure that what he calls the glass is a barometer.

28 September Monday

I went to visit Pam in the Knockmealdowns.  She lives in a castle which is full of home-made solutions.  When she was a young woman, her husband was in the British army.  They moved frequently around India and the Far East as his assignments changed.  She said that is how she learned to make do and to furnish a home with things that did not need to last forever.  She said her curtains were never hemmed up with proper sewing.  They were always pinned so that when she got to a new home she could just unpin them and then pin them again to fit the next set of windows. The castle is full of these solutions even though she has lived there for a great many years.  She pointed to a large pouffe or hassock in the middle of a room.  It was covered with chintz and made a nice wide low seat or footstool.  She giggled when she explained that underneath the chintz was a tractor tyre. The pelmets around the top edge of most rooms are made with plywood.  They are quite roughly cut and then painted a bright red or whatever the colour the room is. They sort of blend in.  One staircase was rotten so they had a new one cast from concrete.  That too is painted red.  Pam likes red.  At the age of 90 she finds it a cheerful colour.

29 September Tuesday

There was a radio announcement from the horse races. I think it was from Leopardstown but maybe it was somewhere else.  The man said “We have a change to the Going.  The Going is now soft.”  He seemed very pleased.

Thor went back to his own home yesterday.  We miss him.  The house seems empty and a little bit lonely.

30 September Wednesday

Mornings are cold and a little foggy and wet.  When the fog burns off we have hot summer days. We have hot summer days every day. We have summer days which are better than most of the days we had in the actual months of summer. Everyone is enjoying the weather but they are all making noises about how it cannot last.  There is an ominous tone. We are promised or threatened that we will pay for this good weather.

The barn has been emptied out.  We moved things to the sauna and to the print shed and to the upstairs room.  The barn is clear and clean and it looks like a new place.  The man who came to put down some carpet for us said that what we had planned will not work.  We thanked him for his time and we thanked him for his honesty.  I did not really want so much carpet down there anyway.  I did not want the wide boards covered up.  I do want a workshop where the cold does not come up through our legs while we work. Already we have found a more flexible solution. We feel like we have had a lucky escape.

1 October Thursday

Thick fog this morning.  We could not see beyond the fence until after eleven o’clock.  The grass was wet with heavy dew.  Even while wearing short rubber boots my socks got soaked, and my hands were frozen as I picked the morning raspberries.  The leaves were wet and it was hard not to get soaked all over just from reaching in among the canes.  It is time to start collecting our fruit for morning the night before.  The postman arrived down the boreen while I was picking berries.  He had his headlights on but he said they were not much help in the fog.  He was not surprised to see me picking raspberries in my dressing gown.  He said the first days of back to school waiting for the bus are over.  The children now go out and wait by themselves.  The mothers in their fluffy robes and slippers are no longer standing with the youngest children by the edge of the road making sure that they get on the bus okay.

2 October Friday

We have not missed potatoes on our plates.  I guess it has only been about a week.  Oddly, there is a large potato plant growing in the compost heap.  Strange to see it when we did not plant any potatoes this year and we do not care if any are growing.   I shall have to pull it out and see what kind of volunteers are growing there.  I am not averse to eating whatever is growing.  I am only against the buying of potatoes for now. Several people are shocked with our decision not to purchase or cook potatoes.  Some people are disgusted.  One man said “Sure all the meat in the world wouldn’t fill you unless you had a potato.”

3 October Saturday

Two women at the market were discussing someone who had returned after being away for a very long while.  They both agreed that this man had changed beyond all recognition.  To emphasize how different he was now from how he had been before, the older lady said, “I would not know him nor the sky over him.” The other woman said that she felt the same.

Washing the sugar bowl

4 October Sunday

Yesterday we visited the newly built extension to the SuperValu in Cahir.  It is not altogether complete but it is being shopped in as if it is complete.  A lot of areas are empty where the shelves have not been moved into them yet.  Other areas are crowded because there is such a large chaotic incomplete movement of boxes and products and shelving.  Every single person in the shop looked confused.  Nothing was where it used to be and some things were not anywhere to be seen at all. There was a man painting the outside doorways with bright red paint.  Another man was sweeping up the area just outside the doors.  His sweeping was sending great clouds of dust into the air.  The man painting the doors did not take any notice of the dust flying and floating and landing on his fresh paintwork.

5 October Monday

I should know better than to drive down to the village anytime after five o’clock.  There are bound to be cows on the road.  There are three farms to pass.  Sometimes everyone is moving their animals so I have to wait for first one herd and then another and then a third.  They will be being driven back from some fields to the barn for milking.  After that they will be on their way to another field.  Some of the cattle are just being moved from field to field.  It is a foolish time of day to be on the road.  When the animals bar my way I have nothing to do but to turn off the engine and to wait while they amble towards me or away from me.  Sometimes they jostle the car as they pass.  It is a good idea to fold in the side mirror so that the weight of a cow swaying by does not snap it off.  There is no way to hurry the movement of the group.  Today as I waited I watched a cow jumping up on a gate in an attempt to get into a field where there was a bull. I have never seen a cow jumping at a gate to get out of a field so it is even more peculiar to see one jumping to get into a field.

6 October Tuesday

A mean person is a stingy person.  A mean person is tight.  A mean person would not give you the steam off his porridge.

7 October Wednesday

When the sugar bowl is empty or almost empty there is the feeling that you should wash it.  There are always some clumpy bits of sugar at the bottom of the bowl.  Someone has always dipped a wet spoon into the sugar bowl.  There is sugar stuck to sugar and there is sugar stuck to the side of the sugar bowl.  It might always be like this but it is more noticeable when the bowl is nearly empty. So the normal thing is to wash your sugar bowl so that you can start fresh with a clump-free offering of sugar.  It is a known fact that if you wash your sugar bowl you will have visitors.

8 October Thursday

Jeri is making capes for his ducks.  He has a few capes left over from last year but he now has more ducks than he had last year so he needs more capes. The ducks are white and the capes are black.  Each cape has a ruffle at the neck and a bit of red edging on the top of the ruffle.  The capes are held onto each duck with a little piece of velcro at the neck fastening.  The ducks wear these capes for the evening of Jeri’s Halloween Scary Garden.  They make little swooping flights from here to there.  The whooshing of their wings and their capes both thrills and frightens the visiting children.  The children race about with torches in the darkness screaming and finding sweets.  Jeri’s ducks usually go to bed quite early but they  stay up later than usual on Halloween.  They seem to enjoy both their capes and the company.

photo 1

9 October Friday

There are apple blossoms on three of our apple trees.  All three of the trees have apples ripening on their branches.  The same branches have both blossom and fruit.  I feel confused looking at them. I feel disturbed looking at them. What will these trees be doing in the spring if they are in blossom in October?

Just the right wood

10 October Saturday

A side plate is placed to the left of one’s dinner plate at the table.  The side plate is for potato skins.  Each person peels their own potatoes leaving the skins on the side plate.  Some men do not peel their own potatoes but wait for it to be done for them by their wife or mother.  The skinned potatoes are then ready to be eaten with butter and gravy.  No one seems interested that the skin is where the fiber and the vitamins are.  No one seems interested that the skins taste good.

11 October Sunday

Trying to remember when a death had occurred, I asked Tommie.  I said “Wasn’t it nearly a year and a half ago?”  He thought for a moment and said “No, it was last May twelve months.” However I think about it Last May Twelve Months is exactly eighteen months ago.  Tommie just said the same thing in a different way.

12 October Monday

Each time I walk up the mass path and around is a chance to collect a few more horse chestnuts.  I pick up at least one at the bottom near the stream and at least one at the top near Maisie’s old house.  Sometimes I collect four or five in each place but one is my minimum.  I think of it as a kind of toll.  There is a bowl by the back door.  I put my chestnuts into the bowl before I enter the house.  The bowl is filling up.  Soon I will need a bigger bowl.  No one but me knows that I am paying into the bowl with each circuit of the boreen.

13 October Tuesday

What brand of tea do you drink? This might be the question asked the very first time a cup of tea is drunk together.  Or it might not come up for a while. People are divided between being drinkers of Barry’s tea and being drinkers of Lyons tea. If you are one you rarely cross over.  If your family are all Barry’s drinkers you will be a Barry’s drinker too.  If your family have always been Lyons drinkers you will continue to be a Lyons drinker. The transition from loose tea in a pot to tea bags is not a much commented upon issue since almost everyone goes for the ease of tea bags these days.  Which tea you drink is always important.

14 October Wednesday

Another foggy morning.  Every morning is foggy.  It is no longer a surprise to not be able to see beyond the fence in the morning.  Every morning is the same.  Today there was bright sun.  It was bright and it got very high in the sky before it was able to burn off the fog. Through the white emptiness around us, we could hear cars on the Dungarvan Road.  It is rare to hear cars from such a distance.  The sound might have been from the Knocklofty Road.  The sound of cars on any road is not something we normally hear.  It might be the wet surface of the road but I think it is just the strangeness of the fog. It muffles and it amplifies at the same time.

15 October Thursday

I sat in the small narrow room where everyone sits while waiting for their car to be inspected.  Some people were waiting for their turn.  Some people had their cars in the inspection bay already.  Some were just there to keep other people company. There are ten seats in the room, eight along one wall and two at the end.  The seats are close together.  There are three doors as well as a little counter space. It is a cramped room. I read a book while I waited.  All of the other nine seats were taken and two people were standing.  Every single person in the room was talking.  The room was loud and cheerful with the noise.  People talked to the person next to them and they called down the line to others.  They spoke with people they knew and they spoke to the people they did not know.  My book was the wrong sort of book to be reading in such cacophony.  I struggled to keep my focus.  I was just about to give up on reading altogether when the older man in the next seat nudged me and said “So, have you nothing to say for yourself then?”

16 October Friday

A Garda was buried yesterday.  He was shot and killed while trying to calm a domestic dispute.  The country is in shock.  The media keep reporting details of the attack and details of the funeral.  They list the objects which were lined up on his coffin. Alongside a family portrait were the things that he loved to enjoy in his relaxing time.  They included a shirt from his local hurling club, the remote control for the television, a can of coke, a chocolate bar and a bag of Hunky Dory crisps.

17 October Saturday

Every one of these sunny afternoons is full of activity.  Cows are out in fields which have already been cut or chewed short.  Hundreds or maybe thousands of crows are gathered on a freshly ploughed up field.  I think they are eating worms. They lift and they land in huge crowds.  They are too many for me to call them a flock. Young heifers rush along beside the stonewall.  The field where they are grazing is just above the level of my head as I walk.  They race along in a group jostling and trying to get as close to me as they can. They push each other as they follow and look over the wall to make sure that I am still down below but just beside them. They seem to just want to be going somewhere and they want to be going in a big excitable group.  Wherever I am going is just somewhere to be going.

18 October Sunday

Simon’s  wooden gutters were taken down last year when the house got painted.  Slowly they have been getting re-used.  The treated Douglas Fir will last maybe forever, so it has been good for the wood to find new functions. It has been used to make new table tops on two outdoor tables and it has made a new bench just outside the sauna.  The props for the lean-to have been strengthened and replaced.  The broken fence where the cows broke through down below has been repaired with the gutter wood.  There is still more of the wood.  We are looking around not in any kind of a hurry but knowing that there will be another job needing to be done and knowing that this wood will be just the right wood when the time comes.

Six drops are hard.

19 October Monday

I have been moaning. I have been moaning a lot.  The cows up in Joe’s field are moaning and I have become obsessed with trying to make the same sound.  I started to think of it as lowing but now I am convinced it is just a moaning.  I moan when I am outside and I moan when I am walking.  I moan in the house.  It is a deep in the throat kind of sound. It is a drawn out kind of sound. I think I am sounding pretty good.  I am now trying to get a cow to respond to my moan. I do not know what their moan means so I do not know if answering is even an issue.

20 October Tuesday

I went to get my eye looked at yesterday. The specialist had a sign outside which announced her as a Medical Eye Doctor.  Her office was huge.  There were several different chairs in there as well as various stools on wheels and a bed.  There were many many different kinds of machines. There were many kinds of charts and posters about eyes and diagramming eyes. I had never seen so much eye-related paraphernalia.  I was in there for a long time so I had a lot of time to look around.  The doctor did lots of tests and when she was nearly done she asked if I had arrived by car.  I said that I had, so she asked where I lived.  She said that I should not be driving at all but since there were never more than a few tractors on that road, she would send me on my way without worry.

21 October Wednesday

Next week the country is getting rid of little coins.  It has been costing more to produce the small coins than they are worth. One and two cent coins will no longer be made and they will no longer be used.  When we pay for something the price will be rounded up to the nearest five cents.  Or it will be rounded down to the nearest five cents. Eighty-seven will be rounded to eighty-five.  Eighty-eight will be rounded to ninety. Everyone seems pleased with this development.  I find it a little sad but no doubt I will get used to it and forget that it was ever different.

22 October Thursday

I went back to the Medical Eye Doctor.  A woman in the waiting room spoke about the weather.  She said it was a lovely day.  She said it was unseasonably warm for the time of year.  She said the SuperValu in town was having a Gala Opening on Friday. I did not want to talk and she seemed to run out of things to say after these three things. She did not seem to mind that I was not responsive.  I held my book two inches from my face.  It was the only way for me to read but it was very dark with my book held so close. When another woman came in the first woman said the same three things and then she went silent again. It was more like a recitation than making conversation.

23 October Friday

Six drops are hard.  Six drops are a lot harder than four drops.  Four drops was easy.  Morning.  Lunchtime. Six o’clock. Bedtime.  Six drops spread through the day needs more attention and more remembering. I dot the back of my hand with a marker pen.  By bedtime I should have five dots. I have the shadow of yesterday’s drop dots on my hand too. It does not matter at what time I do them.  I just have to put drops into my eye six times during a day.  The last one never gets marked.  There is no reason for me to take a marking pen to bed with me.

24 October Saturday

David the Egg Man sold all of his eggs right away.  Once again his hens are suffering from the longer dark nights so they are not laying much.  He began to pack up his tiny table to put it into his motor and head home early.  His table was taken away from him and put into the exact center of the market.  A birthday cake was put on the table and he was given a card and a song.  Everyone was offered cake and everyone said Happy Birthday or Many Happy Returns.  David stood eating his cake and explaining again and again that he had been just about to go home because he had run out of eggs.  He was delighted to be the center of attention and everyone was delighted to help him to celebrate turning 84.

25 October Sunday

I have been struggling with my vision.  I am not allowed to wear my contact lenses. It has been a trying week. My ancient glasses are barely okay for distance but they are hopeless for anything close-up.  I have been wearing them for days now.  Yesterday I got an emergency pair of prescription glasses for close-up.  Taking one pair off and putting the other pair on has been a constant juggling act. That ended late afternoon when I sat down to put in my drops.  I stood up after I was finished and I stepped on the distance glasses.  They are completely broken. Now I can see up close but I cannot see anything in the distance. I will not be able to drive. I am not sure what I will be able to do.

26 October Monday Bank Holiday

I walked up the boreen in a hard drizzle without much vision.  I pretended that the rain was giving everything soft edges.  Everything was fuzzy but it was fine.  I could see the path because I know it so well.  I could see the path because the yellow leaves on the ground have made everything look bright. The crabapples were a bit deadly to walk through. It was like walking on ball-bearings. The fallen trees across the path looked more like graceful arches with my impaired vision and I liked the little nod of my head which was needed to pass underneath them.  Anyone taller would need to duck but for me it is a nod.  The nod is an acknowledging that the trees have re-defined the path. I did not see any people.  Oscar joined me for the second half of the walk.  I did not need to see any more than I saw.

Jeep

27 October Tuesday

This autumn is very yellow and very golden.  The wood road is lined with yellow leaves on the trees and yellow leaves along the edges of the road.  It looks and feels like there is special lighting in place.

28 October Wednesday

Kieran called out that he had put the box into the back of my Jeep.  I do not think of the motor I drive as a Jeep, but everyone else calls it a Jeep.  Any vehicle which is a little higher off the ground than a normal car is called a Jeep.  A People Carrier.  A Range Rover. An SUV.  A four-wheel drive.  There are a lot of names for these kinds of utilitarian vehicles.  Some of them are really working motors and some look like they are working motors when really they are just a version of a station wagon.  There are a lot of different brands and models of high up and off the ground vehicles.  There are many variations.  No matter. They are all called Jeep.

29 October Thursday

I walked into a shop at half ten this morning.  The door was wide open but the place was dark.  A boy of twelve was inside. All of the children are off school this week so I guess this boy was spending his day watching the shop.  He told me that the electricity had gone off. It was not off everywhere on the street but it had gone off in this shop.  I asked if his mother was there.  He said she would not be back until two.  I said “So she’s gone and left you here in the dark?”  He answered “Yes. But it’s okay. There is no fear in me.”

30 October Friday

This morning the world beyond our fence had disappeared, again.  I went down to the village and all of the mountains were gone.  The Galtees were gone.  The Knockmealdowns were gone and the Comeraghs were gone. Three mountain ranges completely disappeared in the mist.  It was a mist more than fog.  It was a wet mist.  It was almost rain but it was not rain.  It was just soaking wet air which could not be seen through.  Tommie shook his head as he told me “We are nearly lost in the wet.”

31 October Saturday

HIs nickname is Bapty.  I am desperate to know what Bapty is short for.  I may have to ask Bapty himself what his name is shortened from.  I do not feel familiar enough to make such a query.

Not Kevin

1 November Sunday

Not very long ago the naming of dogs was simple.  It was all names like Whitey and Blacky and Pal. Increasingly the names for dogs are the names of people but they are not the same names that people here would name their children.  It is fine to call a dog Max or Oscar or Bruno or Zeke.  These are not the names of any people that anyone knows.  There are people names for dogs and then there are people names for people.  There is no one calling their dog Michael or Paddy or Seamus.  No one would call their dog Kevin because they no doubt know a Kevin and they would not want that Kevin to come to their house and take offense that the dog has his own name.

2 November Monday

Margaret was out walking.  She was delighted with the warm bright day.  It was almost hot.   Her delight was over-shadowed by her feelings of depression about the early nightfall. She said she feels a terrible pressure to get jobs done before the dark.  There are jobs to be done before the dark and then there are the jobs to be put off and done after the darkness falls.  She complained that the darkness comes so early and there is so much dark that she cannot get enough jobs done in the light and then when it is dark she does not want to do the jobs that she would have done in the light.  She said she spends a lot of the day saying that she will wait and do that job after dark or this job after dark but then she leaves too many things to be done.  Or maybe it is not true that she leaves too many jobs it is just that the days are shorter and shorter.  Really she just cannot stand it.  She decided to take a walk out today because the sun was shining and she knew that a walk was a thing she would not and could not do after the darkness fell.

IMG_2334

3 November Tuesday

Numbers have been sprayed onto the road with white paint.  100.  200.  300.  I am not sure why.  There might have been a race.  There might have been some digging to be done.  The numbers probably represent metres but I have not paid enough attention to the distance between them to know if that is the case.  They are far enough apart that I can forget about them and be reminded and then I can forget again.  They are not near to any buildings nor any gates. I have been waiting for their meaning to be revealed to me. I have been waiting but I have not done one single thing to find out what the numbers mean.  It is not pressing. They are no longer freshly painted.  The numbers appeared sometime in the spring. 200 is still clearly visible.  100 is faded and I can no longer locate 300.

The Last Apples of Tullaghmeelan

23 November Monday

Everyone was wearing new shoes.  A lot of the shoes did not look comfortable. Most of the shoes did not look comfortable.  The newness of the shoes was evident. Everyone was wearing new coats.  There were new scarves, new sweaters, new trousers and new hats. There were lots of new suitcases and every suitcase was loaded and heavy. One woman wore a bright orange coat and had a matching bright orange handbag and a small bright orange suitcase.  She wrestled two enormous bright orange suitcases off the luggage round-about.  It was a plane load of shoppers. They had flown off on Wednesday and caught their return flight on Sunday for a marathon of manic shopping in America.  Flights are cheap in November. What was saved in airfare was spent on shopping.  The entire journey was full of loud and boisterous discussion about who had shopped where and who had bought what.  The women, and it was mostly women, talked to the people they were traveling with and they talked to everyone else. There was a strong air of competition. When the duty-free cart rolled along, everyone did a little bit more shopping.  The frenzy and the excitement of so many new purchases was dampened as everyone walked out into the bleakness of Shannon Airport at 5.30 in the morning.  There was no one to admire all of the new stuff.  It was damp and dark outside and the terminal was devoid of people.

24 November Tuesday

I walked up the boreen noting the many branches blown down by recent winds.  There were a few new wiggly turns through narrow places where the places were not narrow before.  A length of the path up beside Johnnie’s orchard was full of large yellow apples.  They turned the path into the deadliest apple walk ever.  They have fallen into a sort of gully and the gully is the path. Or the path is a gully.  There was no where to put my feet down except on the apples as the undergrowth was thick on either side.  It was a matter of walking on the apples or turning around. I examined the apples which were some kind of mix from Johnnie’s  experiments with grafting.  These had a bit of russet mixed with whatever they were.  The majority of the apples were freshly fallen. They were not yet squashed or rotted or eaten by animals or insects. The taste was not great for eating but I knew they would be good for cooking. I picked up three apples and then I had to make a decision.  The apples were big and there was no way I could carry more than four using my coat pockets.  I could either walk back down and fetch a bag from home or I could continue on my walk and come back tomorrow.  The light was dropping by the minute.  I chose the walk hoping the apples would still be good for the gathering tomorrow.

25 November Wednesday

I went up and gathered The Last Apples of Tullaghmeelan.  I took a large backpack and a big bag.  I filled the bag and left it in the path.  I walked through the orchard thinking that there might be some other drops off other trees but there was not one entire apple left anywhere on the trees nor in the tall grass. There were some chewed and mushy ones, but not even many of those. I went back and filled the backpack and topped up my bag from the ones on the path.  There were still many left on the ground when my bag were full. I walked back down the path slowly.  I could hardly move with the weight. The backpack was far too big, far too full and far too heavy. I had to stop and rest five or six times. I have gone from feeling smug and pleased with myself for getting all of this free and unexpected bounty to a slight sinking feeling as I realize that I am now stuck with the job of doing something with it.

26 November Thursday

I asked for ten stamps.  The post mistress offered me the yearly Christmas bonus book of stamps.  For the price of 25 stamps I could receive 26 stamps. This extra stamp is our annual gift from the government.  I never refuse it.

27 November Friday

Today we are promised an end to this crazy balmy spring like weather.  I walked out early to miss the rain.  We are promised rain and wind and maybe even snow in high places. We are promised the low temperatures which are normal for this time of year. Knowing it is November while marveling at the small buds appearing on trees which have not even lost all of their leaves yet is unsettling. As I write, the winds are gusting.  The rain has begun. I have had to drop the latch on the top part of the kitchen door as it keeps blowing itself open.

Firelighters

28 November Saturday

Are You Feeling Alright in Yourself?  This is another way of asking How Are You?

29 November Sunday

Fiona told me that there used to be a Pet Mass each year.  People could bring their dogs and cats and even their birds in cages into the church and the priest would say a special group blessing for the animals. It was a day when the church would be full and every single person there would have a pet with them.  She told me that the animals were always well behaved and that everyone looked forward to that particular Sunday.  She could not remember when this special Mass stopped.

30 November Monday

Non-alcoholic beer is not sold before 10.30 in the morning because regular beer is not sold before 10.30 in the morning. They both come up as beer on the till even though one is not an alcoholic drink.  It is still called beer. There is no logic in this but it is not possible to challenge it.

1 December Tuesday

Yesterday Liam Harper phoned and asked for the electricity reading.  Simon was standing nearby so he went up on the step stool and shouted out the numbers to me.  I then repeated the numbers to Liam Harper. I guess I was sort of shouting because Simon was shouting so Liam shouted back to me.   He shouted thank you and then we shouted good bye.  Today he phoned back because he was worried.  He said our reading had gone up really fast in just 24 hours.  He was worried that something was wrong or why would we be going through so much power? We had no answer and neither did he so he said he would keep his eye on it.  Today Simon spoke in a normal voice so Liam did too.  There was no shouting.

2 December Wednesday

Will I put your name in the pot?  is the question, or I’ll put your name in the pot as a statement.  Both function as a way to know that one is being included and expected at the supper table.

3 December Thursday

The rain is lashing down.  It has been raining all night. The rain has pounded down without even a small break.  This rain is a steady beating rain.  There is no wind and there is no changing of direction.  It just rains, hard and without cease. There is a leak in the bathroom where we need to fix the flashing on the roof.  We have known about the need for this repair since last winter.  We have known about the need for this repair since the last installment of relentless rain. This is not the weather for climbing up on a roof to do it but it is certainly the weather for being reminded that it needs doing.

I drove to the village.  There are huge flooded sections of road everywhere. The grass that grows down the middle of the boreen is underwater. The river is overflowing in all directions.  There are lakes in the middle of fields. There are swans swimming in the lakes.  The entire landscape has changed. There is no place for the water to go. It is bucketing down from the sky too fast and too hard. When I returned from the shop, I thought to go for a walk just to be out in the weather rather than just continuing as a prisoner of it.  It was all so awful I kind of wanted to be outside with it.  I dressed in full waterproofs and got as far as the stream.  The stream had overflowed and there was now a large deep lake which I could not wade through.  I came back home and made a cup of tea. Probably it was a bad idea to go for a walk anyway.

4 December Friday

The woman ahead of me in the shop was old.  She was old and she was distressed.  The woman wanted to buy some firelighters.  She wanted to buy firelighters and she wanted to buy the kind of firelighters that are individually wrapped in paper.  She knew that they were a bit more expensive but she did not mind.  She explained that if she bought the unwrapped kind, she was then required to break off a piece from the big slab of firelighters and she always ended up dropping bits onto the floor while breaking off a piece that was too large.  If she broke off a piece that was too large, she then had to break it again. Her hands were swollen and stiff with arthritis. There was a good chance that she would end up with two pieces which were both too small rather than one the right size and one small one.  She wanted to buy the wrapped firelighters because with those she was able to start her fire without needing to go and wash her hands after touching the smelly firelighters.  She hated how the smell lingered on her hands for hours even after the washing.  She wanted to buy the wrapped firelighters and there was only one box on the shelf which had wrapped firelighters in it.  The box had been opened and some of the contents had been taken out.  The girl at the till offered to count what was left in the opened box and to then charge the woman only for the number remaining in the box.  The woman was frustrated with the effort of explaining and frustrated with the opened box. She became querulous. She was prepared to buy a box of wrapped firelighters which she needed and wanted.  She did not want to buy a partially full box of firelighters as then she would need to come back soon and buy another box.  She felt like she was being tricked and this made her angry.  I felt sorry for the woman.  I felt sorry for the girl behind the counter.  I left before the issue was resolved and now I find myself worrying about it.

6 December Sunday

Thursday was a terrible day and then Friday was fine.  The world was very squelchy underfoot but it was clear and even sunny for a while.  Friday night the winds started up again. Saturday was terrible.  The wind was fierce and the rain lashed and beat down for a straight 36 hours.  We were promised a months worth of rain in that 36 hours.  All of the places that were badly flooded on Thursday are now even more flooded. Flooded fields have joined with other flooded fields and the new lakes are enormous.  The landscape looks like it belongs somewhere else. We did not lose our power but a lot of people did.  After having the loud noise of wind in our ears all day and all night, today’s silence over the land is spooky.

Rain. More rain.

7 December Monday

More rain. More wind. More reports of disaster in all directions. The lakes around the village are getting bigger.  The lakes around the village look normal.  They look like they have always been there. The swans swimming around in the lakes look like they have always been there too.  Nothing is as it should be.  The day is mild and strange.  Roses are blooming. The blackcurrant bushes are sprouting buds.  Trees which should have lost all of their leaves by now are still covered with leaves. The grass is growing.  There are lots of flying and biting insects. December is rarely a month for insects.  The weather is the only topic of conversation.

8 December Tuesday

I walked into the hardware bit of the shop and asked Kieran a question. The fellow wearing a wooly hat much like Kieran’s wooly hat looked up at me said “I am Kieran but I fear I am not the Kieran you are looking for.” He was right.  He was the wrong Kieran.  He was only a customer like myself and his name happened to be Kieran. It took a while to get anything done while down there  today. The things I needed to buy were behind some plastic coal bunkers and some signs and a bunch of leaning Christmas trees.  There was a lot of lifting and moving around of things before anything could be reached and moved and carried into the back of my motor.  One of John’s daughters was behind the till. I think she is only 12 or maybe 11.  I asked why she was not in school today.  She said there was no school because there was some kind of religious thing going on. Outside there were a lot of cars arriving and turning and parking in lumbering kinds of ways.  None of the movements was fluid nor easy. Any vehicles passing up or down the road had to wait.  People were going in and out of the church. Most of them seemed to be elderly. I could not tell if they were settling in for a Mass or if they were just popping in and popping out. As I was leaving someone told me that today was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I do not try to keep up with church activities but I was surprised to learn that this one was important enough for the schools to be closed for the day.

9 December Wednesday

I am certain it would be different to live in a house where we did not hear the rain.  We could live in a house which was well sound-proofed from above and we would not be aware of this endless beating down of rain. In most of the house the sound of the rain only comes in through an open window but in the big room, the sound is present all day.  When it rains all day long the rain is in our ears all day long. To go outside means the rain is on us and all around us but somehow it is quieter than being indoors with this desperate noise.

10 December Thursday

Oscar walked home with me as usual. He flushed seven pheasants just near the entrance to Scully’s wood. It was not a proper flushing. I think that would imply intent.  Oscar did not really know what he was doing.  He just walked close to where the pheasants were and they all fled. The woody clattering sound as they rushed up and into the air en masse startled us both. They were such a crowd.  They made such a racket as they lifted.  Oscar did not know where to go or what to do.  He stared at the place they had come out of and then dashed into the undergrowth as if perhaps there were more in there.

11 December Friday

On Friday nights bread is delivered to the bar.  Usually the two women who make it and deliver it arrive at about 5.  Tonight it was nearly 5.30 before several of the regular customers started to ask one another where the bread was and if it was coming tonight.  Finally somebody said that they thought that Carmel had a new job and that she did not get out of work until 6 so tonight the bread would arrive sometime after 6 o’clock.  This news made all the bread buyers relax and most of them opted for another drink as they waited.  Once the bread arrived, there was a feeling of calm in the bar.  One man left right away as soon as he received his loaf.  Otherwise the big dark loaves of soda bread wrapped in cling film sat on tables and on the counter right beside pint glasses. Each person seems to keep their loaf near.

12 December Saturday

We walked up the path, around and back down the boreen. We wore rubber boots as the bottom was flooded again. The little bridge made of a wooden pallet has been swept away by the rushing water. There has been astonishing force in the rushing water from the not very large stream overflowing.  The water was deep.  We walked very very slowly through the water so that it did not spill into our boots.  Moving in our boots was a sideways movement rather than an up and down movement. The mass path was full of mud.  Everything was slippery. Many things have died back but the ivy and the ferns and the Hart’s Tongue are rampant and lush.  I have never seen so much Hart’s Tongue.  I like it as a name and I like it as a plant and I like that it is taking over the path this year.

13 December Sunday

We walked in the mountains.  It was soggy underfoot but we were ready for the wet.  We were fully expecting rain but we went anyway.  And instead it was  wonderful to be out for a few hours without being rained upon. In some places, there were torrents of water running down off the tops.  The streams we crossed were full and fast moving. Breda has named this walk The Cottage Walk as we begin and end near an old cottage.  She likes giving each walk and each place a name. Anyone who walks with her is quick to take up the use of the name so that we all know exactly where we are talking about.  We used to go in the same vicinity for The Mass Rock Walk, but now we are hooked on The Cottage Walk.  Even though we start this walk quite high up, there is still a good climb in it and as usual we did not see a single human.  Even the sheep were absent today.

14 December Monday

Rain. More rain.  Rain all night.  Rain running down the wall in the bathroom again.  Water is rushing down the the boreen like a stream. Wind. Rain. It is desperate, this rain day after day.  The fields which have become lakes get bigger and bigger. The greyness never lifts.  There is barely any reason to get out of bed.  But I am out of bed and there are endless things to do.  All of them are connected to rain.

The Elements

15 December Tuesday

I sat in the waiting room with two extremely old people and one older man and a youngish man.  The five of us filled all of the chairs.  The older man was looking out the window and he commented on the big building across the road.  He asked the room at large if the nuns were still there and if the convent was going strong.  No one answered him, so I did.  I told him that the few remaining nuns had gone off to a convent in Carrick-on-Suir or to residential homes and that the building and land had been sold.  I told him an auction had been held and that the building had been bought by an order of Egyptian Coptics.  He listened carefully. He said nothing but he listened. The two very old people said nothing.  They were both badly bent over with some spinal deterioration but I could tell they were listening too. The younger man had drops in his eyes and had been told by the doctor to keep his head well back. When I finished telling all I knew about the former convent, the first man asked, “So, are you here on holiday then?”

16 December Wednesday

I could not get into the village yesterday.  The road beyond the bridge was completely flooded but that was not the reason.  There were cars parked all along that bit of road.  They were parked in the knee deep water. When I got close enough to see the church I could see that the road in front of the church was blocked by a hearse with a coffin being unloaded and dozens of umbrellas and lots of flowers.  A man in a reflective vest was signaling for me to turn and go away or to stop and just get out of my car.  He did not know if I wanted to attend the funeral or not. There was no traffic moving through the village.  I returned an hour later and there were still many cars.  The service had ended but the burial had been right there in the churchyard and now everyone was walking up to the hall for refreshments.  Cars were still parked everywhere. The cars were parked and they were double parked. I did not know the elderly woman who had been buried.  Pat said that the reason there was such a crowd was because she was being laid to rest in a fitting way by A Lifetime of Family and Neighbours.

17 December Thursday

She had to wait for her friend.  It was raining hard and she was in a town she did not know at all.  She said she needed to Put Down an Hour which was another way of saying that she needed to kill some time.

18 December Friday

Nora is outraged that those people in Paris think that they have the power to control the Elements.  She said there is no kind of agreement they can sign that will stop the rain and the flooding.  She said, “They can sign what they like but not one cow in the whole of Ireland will ever eat a single blade of grass off a field that has been flooded.  It is a known fact. But sure how would people in Paris know a thing like that?”

19 December Saturday

I locked Simon into the printing shed.  I did not plan on locking him in. It just happened.  It’s been another wild and blustery day. He was inside setting type for a small job and I went to ask him something before I left for the post office.  He had the bolt closed from the inside and he let me in when I shouted.  When I left I slid the other bolt from the outside. It was so windy that the door would not stay closed unless it was fastened from one side or the other. I went to the village and did my posting and bought the papers and dropped things off at one house and then at another house.  I refused cups of tea and kept moving as I felt rushed. The incessant noisy wind made everything out in the world seem imperative and slightly crazed.

Simon was not in the house when I returned.  Nor was he in the book barn.  I went to the print shed.  I saw his head through the small window.  Then I saw the closed bolt on the outside of the door.  I knew right away what had happened. He did not say a word.  The situation was grim. There is not much light in the shed nor is there any heat.  On a day as gloomy as today there would have been barely light enough to print.  But, of course, he could not print anyway because the things he wanted to print were down in the book barn.  He had the type set and the platen inked and ready but he was locked in.

The printing shed is about 6 x 10 feet and there is very little floor space inside.  There is a tall unit full of drawers of type, a big cast-iron folding machine, a counter with shelves underneath, another homemade set of shelves and a wooden unit holding the small press and more type and print furniture drawers. When we cleaned out the book barn early in the autumn, we filled the print shed with big boxes of old cardboard and paper, all for a big bonfire which we never got around to lighting.

With all of the things that are always there and then all the boxes of things to burn, there was barely enough room to stand and print. There was no room to sit. Simon spent a lot of time thinking about breaking the door down but he spent an equal amount of time thinking about having to replace the door himself.  He just did not feel like doing that. He spent a lot of time thinking about why he did not have a phone with him. He waited. He stood up and he waited. It was lucky for Simon that I was gone for less than two hours.  It was lucky for him that the day was windy but not cold.  I fear he has not yet had enough distance on the whole event to see either of these two things as lucky.

20 December Sunday

There is a green smudge down the center of the road. It’s there every winter.  Dampness makes a little low moss grow down the raised middle of the road.  Car tyres straddle the smudge because we all drive the narrow road as if the road was only ever meant to be a single lane. I love the smudge. I love how it glows from afar.  I enjoy the smudge as I am walking along.  It has one kind of brightness from a distance and another kind of brightness when I am just upon it.  The smudge cheers up the greyest of days.

Deemed Essential

22 December Tuesday

I stopped by to see Bea.  Her motor was parked very close to the house. There was an extension lead out the open window of the car and in through a window of the house. Bea came to the door and explained that she had taken the car to the car wash but she left the back windows open during the washing.  She now has a heater going in the back seat to dry it all out.  The heater was plugged in inside the house.  She explained the situation by saying that of course the car had to be washed before Christmas.  It is one of many things which are deemed essential to do before Christmas.

It is essential to have one’s hair cut before Christmas.  It is essential to go to the hygenist and have one’s teeth cleaned before Christmas.  It is essential to have the windows of the house washed, both inside and out, before Christmas.  It is essential to go to and tidy around the graves of family members before Christmas because other family members might be visiting from far away and they will of course make a visit to the graves and so the graves must be looking good. The people who live in the area are sort of responsible for the upkeep of the graves or at least they are the people who will be blamed if the graves are found to be in disarray.  Now I learn that going to the chiropodist and getting toenails clipped and any hard skin scraped off the feet is yet another job which must be done in anticipation of Christmas.

I would not have remembered this list nor its newest addition if Bea had not washed her car and left the windows open.

23 December Wednesday

The remains of one dead bird near the compost heap. Feathers are scattered in a tidy circle from a central point.  There is nothing left, not even any blood.  Small white feathers are in the center and longer grey feathers make a secondary circle. It was a pigeon.

24 December Thursday

The brother and sister have been spotted again.  I have not seen them for months and months. Someone told me they had seen them but I had not seen them myself. They are no longer parking on the road into the village.  The brother always stood leaning against his car in the tiny lay-by, smoking and saluting anyone who passed.  His sister walked on the narrow stretch of road with her dog on about two inches of lead all the while holding a huge fat stick just above his head ready to whack him if he made a wrong move.  It made me crazy to see them. I assumed the terrible choice of a place for walking a dog was just because the brother needed to be able to watch a bit of traffic while he waited for his sister. I thought that was why the location was chosen.  Now the brother is parking way up the mountain on the New Line.  He parks near The Boulders which is just about the only place to pull off. The sister walks along the road with the dog still held close to her body and still with the dreadful heavy cudgel hovering over his head. This spot cannot be chosen for waving at passers by.  It could easily be an hour between passing vehicles up there. I still wonder why the sister does not take the dog to walk on the mountain instead of on the hard road. Today the brother was not outside smoking and waving.  He was sitting inside the car smoking with the windows rolled up tight.  That might just be because of today’s soaking drizzle.

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.
Pat.

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.

Desperate

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.

photo

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.


photo

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.

photo

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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

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.

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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.

mirror

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

MassSign

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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24 August Wednesday

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

photo-1

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.

hay3

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.

condons2

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.

photo-3

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

photo

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.

photo-4

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.

photo-2

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.

apples

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.

gate-loops

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.”

photo-3

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.

photo-3

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.

photo-1

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.

Drab Brown Birds

25 December Sunday

We set off to walk up in the Knockmealdowns. On the way, we saw heavy cloud cover settling over the mountains and felt some light drizzle. The walk plan quickly changed.  It became a different walk.  The new walk took us along a side of one hill. Every walk has a name. We call this walk The Des Dillon as it starts on the road out of the village and it passes his cottage before the rough track gets rougher and before it becomes a rocky muddy riverbed. We met one farmer who was off up the hill to tend to his animals.  He shook Simon’s hand and wished him a Happy Christmas.  I received a salute, from a distance.

bull

26 December Monday

A bull has been in Joe’s front field for a few weeks now.  Twice in the time that he has been there I have seen people standing beside their parked vehicles out on the road looking at the bull. I assume they are admiring him.   As bulls go I do not think he is the biggest I have ever seen but he is large and black and strong and he does command attention. I have no idea how to judge a bull.  I just look at him.  I say hello whenever I pass if he is near enough to the track to hear me. He seems interested and he seems to respond to my voice.  I do not think it is me.  I think any voice would cause his head to turn.  In the last few days, he has mostly been in a narrow little finger of the field which seemed silly as it was the smallest place he could be.  He is sort of crammed into the space.  There does not look like enough space for him to turn around.  His face is coated in mud. Then I realized that his attention is directed across at the cows in the lower field. He is either longing for the company of the cows or he is longing for some kale. This little space is probably the only spot from which he can view the herd.

The cows are in what I call their winter Cow Kale Field. They eat the specially planted kale in a long line as they eat their way downhill. They eat together one cow beside another in a long line. There is nothing to see but the backs of the cows. Their bottoms and their legs and their tails. It will take many days maybe weeks for them to reach the bottom of the field. It is a big field. It is four or six acres. Joe once told me how big it is but I have forgotten. Each day Joe moves the little white string and the metal posts. The string stops the cows. I have never really known if this white string has a little electric charge in it or if it just looks like wire which might be electrified and that is enough to convince the cows to go no further. I do not know if a visual deterrent is enough. I do not know how visually alert cows are. However it works, I marvel that a herd of cows can be stopped by one fragile string when the other side of the string is full of things they want to eat and the side they are on holds nothing but trampled mud and stalks. Each day they eat the allotted amount of kale and then they wander off to find some grass in the next field.  The bull is watching closely from across the track. There is a stone wall and a ditch and a strong fence between him and the kale eating cows.  I do not think a white string would be sufficient to stop him if he wanted to get out.

27 December Tuesday

Twice now I have walked up the Mass Path and past the house of the Killer Dog. Twice he has not rushed out onto the road. He is no longer on the loose. I have been nervous about taking that route.  Each time he is not out I feel better but I wonder if I shall ever be completely relaxed about that stretch of road again.

28 December Wednesday

She studied the card carefully.  Her eyes are poor so she held it right up close to her face. The card had a bright red cardinal on it.  The cardinal looked extra bright against a background of snow. She looked carefully at the card and she kept repeating that the cardinal looked like a lovely bird.  She might have been sad but instead she sounded angry. She said It is a pity we have no cardinals here.  We have nothing but drab brown birds. 

29 December Thursday

The seasonal closing of the world goes on and on. Some places are open sometimes.  Today and tomorrow the post office is open. The post men are delivering the post.  After Friday the post office will stop again until next Wednesday.  I went to the shop and the postman was parked out front. He was standing near his van and handing out letters to people in front of the shop.  If someone stepped toward their car, he shouted Don’t Go!  I have something for you!   It was not our postman John. A different man does the village route. I do not know his name. Since it was not our postman I felt a little left out. I knew I would not be shouted at and summoned over.

31 December Saturday

There was a wedding in the village.  There is always a wedding at this time of year. Actually there are often quite a few weddings because there are a lot of people home From Away.  The McCarra family have gathered together from London and South Africa and California and Australia, as well as from other parts of Ireland. It is a good idea for them to do all of the celebrating that might need doing while they are Home since they have come from so far away.  There is no question that these same sons and daughters and babies will travel back in a few months when the weather might be better simply for a wedding.

The idea of Home is always at the forefront of everything. Christmas is the most important time for Home. Everyone must go Home for Christmas.  We spoke with Rob and Geraldine about their plans.  They were going to Waterford.  Geraldine was going to stay at her mother’s house with the twins.  Rob was going to stay with his parents.  On Christmas morning he would join her and the boys at her mothers house and then he would return and have his Christmas dinner with his parents.  He would stay on with his parents for several days.  She was planning to remain with her mother for at least a week, maybe longer.  Going Home from Newcastle to Waterford is not the same as returning from somewhere like Australia. It is only a 50 minute drive away.  Going Home is the thing.

shophours

1 January 2017

We have been saying Happy New Year to people since the day after Christmas. We shall continue to say Happy New Year for at least two more weeks. Every year I feel it goes on and on and every year I am determined to note the day when everyone stops saying it. It is probably not a single day but still I would like to recognize when we stop saying it.  Saying Happy New Year is a politeness, like The Salute.  It is polite to say it and rude not to say it so it is best to keep on saying it until you have said it to every single person you meet. The light is getter brighter and longer each day. Saying Happy New Year several times each day is a cheerful thing.

Ear Tag

eartag2

3 January Tuesday

I have had a plastic ear tag in my jacket pocket for a few years now.  I cannot remember when I picked it up.  I cannot remember exactly where I picked it up.  I think it must have been while walking up Joe’s track toward his barns.  That is where the cows walk so one of them must have lost it.  I know that I dug it out of the mud because the bright yellow plastic caught my eye.  It showed up so vividly against the mud and muck.  At the time of finding it, I thought maybe I should tell Joe that I had found it and I should see if it was important for him to have it back.  Then I must have forgotten about it because there are always other things to think about on a walk.  Each time my hand located the tag in my pocket I probably had the same thought but I never had the thought when I was speaking with Joe.  Now I think it has been a very long time.  The cow who had that number and that tag might not even be around any more.  The cows each have two of these ear tags. One for each ear. There is a bit that goes through a hole in the ear and clips into the back part of the tag. The two parts of my tag are very tight. I cannot separate them so I think this tag must have torn a part of the cow’s ear in order to have ended up in the mud.  Farmers must get allotted numbers or maybe they apply for numbers when a calf is born.   Each calf gets a number and then they can be kept track of.  It is a form of registration.  I assume that any movement of a cow can be traced back to this number and this tag.  If each cow has two ear tags, one can be lost and the animal can still be identified. I love my ear tag. I love finding it in my pocket again and again.  A few months ago, I considered sending it to my friend who was recovering from heart surgery. I knew she would love it as much as I do.  Selfishly, I just did not want to let it go.

4 January Wednesday

The winter sun was low but very bright as it came through the window.  I thought the bathroom light had been left on.

5 January Thursday

We all enjoy spotting the Whooping Swans in various fields at this time of year. They arrive in enormous numbers with a big group wing flapping noise.  I do not go searching for them but I enjoy their surprise appearances. They choose a field and return to that field day after day. Each year they choose different fields. At various times of the day they move to a different field where they were the day before at that same time.  We heard one farmer complaining that they were eating everything in sight. This year Breda has become obsessed with the Whooping Swans.  She is keeping track of their stopping places all around the area.  She has been getting up in the dark and going to one particular field to be there when they arrive. She loves the silvery quality of their bellies as they settle down out of the darkness.  This morning someone she knows but not someone she knows very well came along while she was standing beside a gate before dawn waiting for the field to fill up with birds. I saw her in the afternoon and she was still feeling embarrassed at having had to explain herself.

wreath2

6 January Friday. Little Christmas. Epiphany.

Traditionally, Little Christmas is the final day of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Traditionally, this is the day when the women of Ireland go out together for drinks or dinner or tea, and the men stay at home and take care of all the things which the women usually, traditionally, do.  Traditionally, this is a well deserved respite from the whole holiday palaver of endless food and feeding and family and washing up and taking care of every little thing.  The day has evolved and is now called Women’s Little Christmas.  One day does not seem like much, as rewards go.  Little Christmas is also the day when the decorations and the tree, if you have one, and the cards and the wreaths and all manner of decorations get put away or thrown away.  The last day of Christmas is the last day of Christmas and after today things are schedualed to return to normal.  As well as clearing out the decorations, it is the time for clearing out the refrigerator and eating up all of your last scraps of holiday food.  If the scraps have already been taken care of, then it is the day to eat something completely different from what has been eaten over the holiday. I guess that is where the going out to a restaurant comes in.  I am not sure how the women get to accomplish all this clearing and cleaning and then still consider it a day off.   Traditionally, the idea is to put Christmas and all it entails behind you.

Since we barely celebrate, I have not got much to get rid of as far as seasonal stuff goes.  I was pleased to notice an old evergreen wreath from three years ago hanging on the outside wall of the sauna.  I moved it to a nail on the front of the round-topped shed and I felt it looked fine.  It is dead and brown.  The needles are falling off.  But from a distance it looks like a cheerful wreath.  I may leave it where it is for another week.  Then I will return it to where it was.  Maybe it will still have some needles left for next year.

Snowdrops. Sheep.

tea-cosy

7 January Saturday

It is not everyday someone brings you a tea cosy. It is a very special day indeed when someone brings you a tea cosy.  I have never had anyone arrive with a tea cosy.  Niamh not only brought the tea cosy but she knit it herself. This tea cosy is the first tea cosy I have ever owned. I am especially pleased with the little turn-up at the bottom.  The tea in the pot stays warmer and I am sure it tastes better.

9 January Monday

The woman is a strange and timid woman.  If she sees us walking towards her she sometimes tries to change direction with her two dogs.  One of her dogs is a Jack Russell and the other is a sheep dog. She holds them tight on their leads and never lets them run loose even in the big open fields.  I think she is shy.  She is skittish. I see her often. We are not strangers. If I say good morning or hello she rarely responds.  She looks at the ground.  This woman is not old.  But she acts and moves like an old woman.  Today we were walking up the track approaching the big shed.  The shed is made of corrugated metal.  The shed is huge and high.  It is maybe three stories high.  It has three closed sides. One long side is open to the weather.  The shed is stacked to the top with bales of hay. As we approached we could hear the dogs barking like mad.  Even with all of the hay which might have muffled the sound, the metal walls and ceiling amplified the noise.  The metal made the wild barking much louder and much wilder.  As we reached the open side of the shed we saw the woman crouched down low far back between the hay bales.  She was squeezed into a narrow space with the two dogs held close to her.  They were barking like crazy. She was looking down and holding tight on the leads. We did not say hello. We just walked past as though we had not noticed her and her dogs. I think that is what she wanted.

10 January Tuesday

Few is the word used to define a quantity.  It there are a crowd of people or animals or things they will be described as A Good Few.  Or A Fair Few.  No one ever says A Lot when they could say A Fair Few. And if someone sneaks something by without anyone seeing or knowing about it the comment will be “….and few would be any the wiser.”

11 January Wednesday

Oscar joins us if we walk the road near his house. He hears our voices or our footfalls and he comes rushing down his drive and out around the corner.  He walks along the short length of road until we get to the turnoff for the boreen.  Most times he continues with us and walks all the way to the house. Lately, he has taken to turning around and  returning to his house when we leave the road.  It might be that he is getting old or it might be that he is just getting lazy. He is a bit fat in that way that labradors often get fat. When he walks in the road Oscar does not pay much attention to the cars.  He does not chase them but he does little to move out of their way. Today a car slowed right to stop while I attempted to convince Oscar to move out of the way. The motorist opened his window and shouted at me to get my dog under control.  I told him that this was not my dog.  He went on for a while about hitting a dog and the damage it might do to his car.  I told him that this was not my dog.  He said money was tight enough in January without replacing car parts.  I told him that this was not my dog.  He sputtered on a bit longer about this and that and then he apologized.  He said “I failed to wish you a Happy New Year.  That was rude of me.” I answered, “And Many Happy Returns.”  He rolled up his window and drove away. I have never seen this man before.

sheep

12 January Thursday

Snowdrops have been pushing up daily.  In the last few days they have been appearing all over the place. They seem to be everywhere and many are in places where I do not remember snowdrops.  They have multiplied and they are  forming a blanket over the lawn and through the beds.  Not one snowdrop has blossomed yet.  They are just getting themselves ready. It has been a gloomy and bitterly cold day. A little rain has fallen.  The sun has been out and bright but only for brief moments. The wind has been strong and noisy all day. Some snow blew around for a short time but it was never enough to settle on anything. An all weather day.  On a day like today, the snowdrops make me feel hopeful.  I have made each trip up and down to the barn as quickly as possible.  As I leave the house or go back down to the barn I rush across the wet grass with my shoulders hunched and a wool hat pulled down low.  I took off for another rapid journey after lunch and stopped short when I saw sheep in the grass between me and the barn.  The sheep were surprised to see me. I was surprised to see them. I counted six.  They ran to get under the fence into Joe’s field to distance themselves from me.  Joe does not keep any sheep.  Neither does the other Joe. I made inquiries by phone.  They are not sheep belonging to Donal.  Donal no longer keeps sheep.  Maybe they belong to Paul.  I went to the village with the post and bumped into Tommie.  I told him about the sheep and he was as confused as I was.  He knows for a fact that all the farmers with fields around us are cattle farmers.  He immediately asked what colour faces the sheep had. I told him that there were two with black faces, and two with white faces. I told him I had not really paid attention and I did not know what colour the other two were.  He was disgusted with my lack of attention to detail. The two with black faces had horns.  I was pleased to be able to tell him that. Tommie was certain that whoever owned those sheep would come looking for them once he knew they were missing.  When I got back home the sheep were still in Joe’s field.  They had moved far up the hill near to Scully’s wood. They were almost out of sight.  They had not returned to this side of the fence. I inspected my snowdrops and was glad to see that the sheep had neither eaten them nor trampled them too much. If it had been cows there would have been a terrible mess but even fat sheep are quite light on their feet.

Leper’s Squint

14 January Saturday

Jessie is a lucky dog.  She was rescued by Mick who met a man who was about to move to London.  The man had the dog with him and Mick admired the dog.  The man said “She is Giddy and Lively but she’d swim the English Channel for you.”  The man found it annoying that the dog would jump into any water even if that water was in a bucket.  She simply could not stay out of water.  He also found it annoying that she was supposed to be a gun dog but she was skittish around guns. When Mick asked if the man was taking his dog along to London with him the man said he was not. He said that if she had not been so skittish he might have sold her. The man said he was just that minute taking her over to a local farm and the farmer was going to shoot her.  He said it was too expensive to go to the vet to have her put down. Mick offered to take the dog even though he had no room for her himself.  He delivered her to the animal sanctuary and she was given a foster home for one week.  She has never left that home.  Not only is she Giddy and Lively and A Water Loving Dog, but she is a Lucky Dog.

15 January Sunday

We went off walking in the late morning because Simon had cut his thumb and it kept bleeding on the pages he was folding.  We thought if he walked he would not be using his thumb and it would be better. Which it was.  We went over to Goatenbridge and walked through the forestry where the mosses were bright and glowing green.  Eventually we circled back along the road which was lovely because we were tucked right under the mountains. from inside the forest we could not see the mountains but from the road the mountains were completely present. There were many fields and houses to look at along the road and even a little bridge I had never looked at closely. You do see more on foot.  We walked and walked for much longer than we had planned to walk. It was a beautiful cold day. The sun was bright all the time.  We met several people that we knew and so we exchanged Happy New Year greetings.  One of the people wanted to talk and talk and talk.  He wanted to talk our ears off so he did.

16 January Monday

Snowdrops are fully in blossom now.  They are everywhere.  There are even more than I thought there were when they were first appearing in bud.  Em’s little stone has a lovely cluster of snowdrops all around it. The sheep did not destroy them.  I never heard any more about those sheep after they disappeared up over the hill.  Either the man who owned the sheep came looking for them and led them off home or else enough people spoke of them around the area and eventually the sheep which were missing and which maybe had not even been noticed as missing were claimed and recovered.  Maybe they just found their own way home, eating as they went.  No one seemed worried so there was no need for me to worry.

17 January Tuesday

Our address remains a problem for a lot of people.  The Dutch post office continues to be outraged about it.  They have refused to deliver things to us as there are no numbers in the address.  We have always made up codes for them and also for the Germans, as well as for any internet ordering.  The made up numbers amuse John the Post. Most times we write our address one word per line. My mother says it looks like a shopping list. Often I have to explain it to people from away.

Ballybeg is the townland.  A townland suggests a small area of land which is locally recognizable. A narrow stream at the bottom of the meadow is the beg. Bally, from the Irish for little town, is the immediate settled area. In this case it is just our one house.  Further down the fields and on the exact same stream there is another townland of Ballybeg, but that is in the village of Newcastle.  Ballybeg is an extremely common name in Ireland.  There are hundreds of Ballybegs. Or if not hundreds, there are at least dozens. The playwright Brian Friel set his plays in a fictional place called Ballybeg.  Ballybeg is so much a work of his fiction now that sometimes people are surprised that we really live in an actual Ballybeg. I am not sure if a townland and a parish are the same thing.  Maybe I should not be beginning this description of place without some research.

Grange is the village.  Grange is another common name. There are lots of Granges. The village center has Frank’s shop, a church, a graveyard, and an elementary school.  After that there are miles of farmland in all dirctions.  We are at one far end of Grange.  We are nearly Newcastle.  If we were to be more specific we could say we are just  below Knockeen or up from Ballynamuddagh or down from Tullameghlan.  These are three other surrounding townlands. There is no sign anywhere with these names on them. Townlands are not identified by signposts. People just know townlands because that is how we all know where we are.

Clonmel is the biggest town nearby. It might be the largest town in the county. I am not certain about that.  It is not a city because it does not have a cathedral.  It has a population of about 16,000.  Laurence Sterne was born there.  The word Clonmel means Meadow of Honey and it is indeed a very fertile area, known especially for apples and a healthy bee population.  It is about 8-10 miles from us, depending how you go.

Tipperary is the county. Tipperary is the largest county in Ireland.  On our license plates we used to have TS or TN to denote Tipperary North or Tipperary South. Now the newer cars just have a T.  Our bit of the county borders closely onto County Waterford.  There is a town with the name Tipperary too.  Any address there would read Tipperary Tipperary.  Sort of like a stutter.

Ireland should be written as the Republic of Ireland, or Eire, to differentiate from Northern Ireland which is still legally part of the United Kingdom.  We live in a separate and free republic which is not ruled by a monarchy.

So, from the bottom up, everything gets more specific and closer to our exact location. To aid in locating places we were assigned post codes last year.  The government was so tentative when they sent out our new codes to us that they told us we did not have to use them if we did not want to.  I am not sure what good they are if no one uses them.

19 January Thursday

There is one traffic light in Ardfinnan.  It was installed last year.  The stone bridge over the river is a worry.  It cannot take the weight anymore.  If the bridge is closed, life is not possible. There is only the one bridge. Many people in each direction will be cut off from one another and from the places where they need to go.  The traffic light now allows a single line of cars and trucks and tractors over the bridge.  The wait is not long.  There are never more than five or six vehicles waiting at any one time.  The short wait takes a lot of stress off the bridge.  If the bridge collapses no one knows how long it will be needed to build a replacement. No one wants to think about a future without the bridge.

Greg was waiting at the traffic light in Ardfinnan today when a swan crashed into the bridge and tumbled  onto the road. He got out of his car and carried the swan across the bridge and down to the green. He lowered it into the water.  It swam away.  He felt that it swam away happily.  No one else crossing the bridge showed the slightest bit of interest. They were not interested in the swan nor were they interested in him. He said when he picked up the swan it’s heart was pounding.  He said that the nearer he and the swan got to the water the more calm the swan’s heartbeat became. Greg felt himself getting calmer too.

22 January Sunday

All of the plants in their large heavy flower pots were carried into the barn for the winter.  I cut the plants back and tried to give each one sufficient window space to get light through the winter months.  I watered the plants over several weeks before I had to accept that not a single one of the plants was alive.  The early heavy frosts killed everything well before I got around to moving them inside. I can still walk out and into the garden and find fresh leaves of mint, thyme, sage and rosemary.  No amount of frost affects their growth in the ground all through the winter. I am now avoiding the job of carrying all of the heavy pots back outside but I will have to do it.  It is depressing to be working at the big table surrounded by dead plants.

24 January Tuesday

Three narrow slits in the front of the Augustinian Abbey down at Molough were purposely included in the building so that lepers could watch a mass without entering the church and infecting everyone else with leprosy. I am not sure how much could be heard through the slits.  These slits were called Leper’s Squints.  I assume the word squint was because anyone looking through could only use one eye.

Lumpy Fields

8 March Wednesday

Dawn lives downhill from a dairy farm. She rents her house from the farmer. Water in the house is at the mercy of the farmer and the needs of his cows.  The water supply for the house and the water supply for the cows both come from the same well. During morning and evening milking times there is no water in Dawn’s house because the farmer must wash the milking parlour and flush out the milking equipment. The farmer calls this Cow Time. His cows have priority over his tenants.  If his cows are grazing in one of the fields which is lower than the house, water gets pumped down to them for drinking.  Then there is not enough pressure for it to go back uphill to the rented house. Keeping water stored in 5 litre bottles is an all year round job at Dawn’s house.  The filled-up bottles of water are kept in the shed so that there is always water even when there is no water.

9 March Thursday

Breda and I walked over the small unevenly shaped fields behind Jimmie and Esther’s farm.  They no longer keep cows themselves so they rent out the fields to another farmer. He grazes his cows there in the months of good weather. In the winter Breda is free to walk out with the dogs with no worry about electric fences or climbing over gates or meeting cows or bulls. There are a lot of fields. I lost track of how many there were.  Some of them are deep with wet. They are boggy after all the rain.  None of the fields are large.  They are not the kind of fields where the ditches have been torn out to make large expanses easy for big modern equipment to get in and move around. There is no ploughing nor planting in these fields.  Perhaps they are fertilized a bit with a small tractor just to make sure that the grass keeps growing.  Cattle move from field to field to eat and eat all the grass until they eat everything and then they get moved to another field. These fields are never flattened by heavy equipment rolling over them so they are uneven with cow hoof prints and the pushing up of gnarly tree roots. Walking though these lumpy fields in the sunshine was a pleasure even while it was hard work. There were no cows. We saw a buzzard, a fox, and a pheasant.

10 March Friday

The path up to Johnnie’s has been cleared.  There are no longer horizontal trees to duck underneath.  There are no more fallen branches to crawl under.  The brambles are trimmed way back. There is still a muddy uphill climb over slippery mossy rocks, but now I can stretch my arms straight out from side to side before I touch anything.  It is now a big airy tunnel rather than a narrow tunnel.  It will get overgrown again soon but for now it feels like a whole new place to walk.

11 March Saturday

I bought the first rhubarb of the year from Keith and Jim at the Farmers Market. I was looking forward to preparing it and eating it.  I poked through the ginger in the supermarket.  There were only a few scruffy pieces and they were shriveled. I was picking through to find the best one I could find.  The young man whose father ran the supermarket for many years saw me.  He has taken over the running of the market from his father and he is eager to be helpful.  He loves his work. He showed me that there were some packages of organic ginger.  The organic ginger looked fresh and firm but it was expensive and there was an awful lot of it in one packet. I told him that I only wanted one piece today.  I told him that I just wanted some ginger to cook with the first rhubarb. I said I would keep sorting through the loose bits.  He came over to help me in the looking. We found a few small pieces which met my approval.  He put them into a little bag and then he threw in a few more.  He said, Now put those right into your pocket.  There will be no charge.  This is between me and yourself. 

12 March Sunday

The moon is full.  It popped up and sat right on the edge of the hill for a long time before it rose any higher. Now it is full and bright and high in the sky.  Tonight will never be all the way dark.

13 March Monday

There are daffodils in bud and daffodils in blossom. Daffodils are everywhere. There is the promise of more daffodils to come even while enjoying the early ones. Gorse. Forsythia. Lesser Celandine. Primroses are beginning to bloom down the boreen.  Every blossom is a yellow blossom. Things are burgeoning.  Nests are being built.  The mornings are noisy with birdsong.

There can only be one Front.

14 March Tuesday

It has been four years now since her father died. She was mad at him when he died and she remains mad. She goes to his grave nearly every day to tell him how angry she is. She also tells him how much she misses him and she tells him how much work there is for her to do all because he is not there to do it. Her mother died last year. She is not angry with her mother. She saves all her rage for the father.

15 March Wednesday

One bit of Joe’s field hovers high above the ditch. A cow standing up there makes the height confusing. It is not like the cow is merely looking over the ditch with its head visible.

16 March Thursday

Taking To The Bed is what people do when they are poorly. They might be feeling sad and depressed or they might be ill with a cold or a flu.  When someone is said to be Taking To The Bed, it is best not to ask too many questions.

17 March Friday

An elderly dog lives just down the road from Frank’s shop. The dog is deaf and his eyes are not good. He makes a visit to Frank’s shop every morning. A white line is painted on the road. It starts just at the point where the old dog lives.   The line goes right down the middle of the road. Not many of these roads have a painted line. The old dog is fortunate that there is a line because with his poor eyes, he needs the line to get to the shop. He walks right along the white line with his head down keeping his full attention on it. The white line takes him to the shop and the white line takes him home again. When he gets to the shop he wanders around outside for a little while. He smells things and he pees on things. Then he sits down on the step. When Frank sees the dog he comes out and gives him a piece of yesterday’s cake or a bun. After the snack, the old dog takes a nap and when he wakes up he goes to the center of the road and walks along the white line until he arrives back home. We all know this dog and his scheduale. He cannot hear a car coming up behind him so it is up to us to be aware and to be careful if we are driving that bit of road mid-morning.

18 March Saturday

There is a particular way for houses to be built of concrete blocks and then for the front of the house to be clad in stone so that from head on it looks as if it is a stone cottage. It is easy to see that the building is not completely made of stone as the sides remain concrete walls. No one seems bothered that the building has two different finishes. The stone clad front is an attempt for the house to look fancier and better presented to the world. And as Mick declared when admiring a newly built house, “There can only be one Front.

19 March Sunday

Breda and I walked the lumpy fields again today. We love these fields. We were discussing the fields and how they join up. We know that each one must have a name because how else would anyone be able to say where they were going or where they were putting the cows if they could not put a name to the place. One of the fields has a clash in it. A clash is a kind of saucer-like indent in the land. It looks like it could be full of water but it is not. That is the easiest field for us to give a name to. One is shaped kind of like a corner piece. We decided to attempt a Field Count but we were talking as we were walking and we kept losing our count. We think that we ended up with nine but there are several fields we did not even walk into so we still do not have a total. And anyway I think we might have lost count somewhere between eight and nine.

20 March Monday

The walls that contained the compost heap have been collapsing for a long time. Instead of another make-do repair, the bin has now been completely rebuilt by Andrzej. He built it in the way that he decided it should be built and not at all the way it had been before. The only thing about it is that is the same is that the structure has been built with the re-used wood of a pallet. The pallet he found to use was a painted pallet. It was bright blue. Suddenly the compost bin is colourful and exciting. And it has a hinged cover.

Inside in the water

21 March Tuesday

There are two Oscars to meet on each walk up the path and around. The first Oscar is a young sheepdog with chestnut brown coloring. He is always desperate with desire for a tummy rub. He rushes out from the yard running low to the ground. He has rolled over and is waiting for a rub well before I reach him. After that first rub he stands up and hops about with pleasure. He hops with all four feet off the ground at the same time. Then he rolls over for more. If there is more than one person on a walk, we have to do a minimum of two good tummy rubs each before we can continue on our way. The second Oscar is the older dog. He is a big black Labrador. He rushes out from any number of locations, all in close proximity to his house. He greets anyone passing on foot with enthusiasm but he does not seek any rubbing, scratching, patting or touching. This Oscar has little interest in affection. Just being together is enough for him. He wants a person to walk with. I am always happy to have him walk me home. And since he is getting a bit fat in his older age he needs as many walks as he can find walkers to go along with in a day. Living where he lives he is often without any walk at all as there are few people passing by.

23 March Thursday

We woke up to snow yesterday. About 4 inches of fat heavy wet snow. It looked beautiful and it covered everything thickly. It was a complete freak.  We have entire winters, year after year after year, with no snow at all. Now, in late March, we get this lovely surprise snowfall. I am certain not everyone felt it was lovely. It could not be called a storm. It was a quiet gentle falling and all the time that the snow was falling the birds continued to sing as if it were another spring morning. The snow stopped by mid-morning and in the afternoon a soft rain began. By nightfall most of the snow had been washed away. Today the daffodils are popping back up again as if they had not been completely flattened to the ground by the weight of the snow. A very few of them have had their stems bent and their blossoms are hanging down. The bent daffodils will not recover but most of the others have shown amazing resilience. They are up and blowing in the breeze as if there had never been snow on top of them. The hills and the mountains remain white.

24 March Friday

I stepped out of the barn to feel the warm sun. It is hard to believe that we had snow on the ground just two days ago. There is a sharp wind but in any sheltered spot the sun is hot. I sat down on the bench just outside the door and turned my face up to the sun. I lasted about three minutes in this pleasant position. Sticks and straw and leaves and little puffs of insulation material fell down onto my face and my shoulders. The starlings have been nest building in their normal spot up under the eaves. The ground is covered with the mess of construction. I was foolish to choose that bench for sitting.

25 March Saturday

Two baby jackdaws fell down the chimney. They were young. They had no feathers yet. They were naked except for a tiny bit of fluff. No one was near the chimney when they fell. Gavin found them because he and another lad were in and out of the bar painting the loos. It was early in the day and there was no one else around. He showed the birds to Rose. The babies were still alive so she put them into an open cardboard box with an old tea towel. The Inspection Woman made a surprise visit. She came in shortly after the birds got settled into their box. Rose quickly put the box out in the small room that people walk through to go to the outdoor smoking area. She assumed the Inspection Woman would not go that far. The woman was busy looking everywhere for any breaches in Health and Safety. She reprimanded Rose for having an old and barely visible sticker for Silk Cut cigarettes on the underneath of the hinged bar hatch. No one ever sees the Silk Cut sticker except when Rose opens the hatch to go in or out from behind the bar to clear a table. The sticker has been coated over with varnish and old smoke for years and years now. It is barely visible. It is impossible to see where the sticker ends and where the wood it is stuck onto begins. The Inspection woman said that the sticker violates a law about openly advertising cigarettes. She made notes about a few other things and then she walked out the back door to go out to the smoking area. She squealed when she saw the two little jackdaws in the box. She asked no questions. She just said Get Them Out of Here! in a loud and imperative voice. She continued on with her examination. The birds were not mentioned again and Rose wonders if they will be noted in the letter with its inevitable list which the woman will be sending out later in the week.

26 March Sunday

Inside is another word which gets regularly used with undue emphasis. When Inside is used along with In, I think it just says the same thing twice.  I cannot get used to this doubling up of prepositions: Margaret is inside in the hospital. Teddy is inside in the shed. Gussie is inside in Clonmel. The dog is inside in the water. A dog can be in the water. But I do not understand a dog being inside the water.  And inside in the water is a step towards complete confusion.

Since God Was A Child

28 March Tuesday

The well cleared path which was so wide open is already closing in again. There are two fallen trees. One pretty much blocks anyone getting past it. I made it through this morning but with difficulty. I was only able to do it because I crawled underneath on my hands and knees. This tree needs a small saw and about thirty minutes of work to clear a walking way through it. The other place is not really a fallen tree. It is just ivy covered branches which toppled because of the weight of the ivy tugging on the dead wood. It only blocks a portion of the path. A narrow space around the right of the the ivy clump allows enough room to pass. Cow parsley and the Alexanders are growing fast.  They seem to be getting taller by the minute. I think they will be waist high within a week.

29 March Wednesday

This house is difficult for me. It has always been too big. It is not a large house but I am small. Many things are out of reach. I spend a lot of time unable to get to things. I can only turn on the light over the kitchen counter by using a long wooden spoon to press the on/off switch up on the plug socket. A short wooden spoon will not do the job. There is a second light above the stove. To turn that one on I have to get out the step stool and climb up on the counter. Once on the counter I balance on one knee while I plug the light into its socket. I have to do the same thing in order to turn it off. It is a precarious bit of balancing. I keep meaning to find an easier solution or at least to find a different light.

31 March Friday

The cows had been milked and they were on the way to a field somewhere further down the road. I waited as they ambled along. I did not see anyone driving them from behind so I kept the car rolling slowly. If any of the cows stopped or turned too far left or right, the proximity of my vehicle convinced them to keep walking. After a few minutes someone appeared on a quad bike. He slipped in front of me and zig-zagged along the road. The lad was young. He was wearing a bright red wooly hat pulled down low on his head and he was standing up on the quad as he held the handlebar in one hand and he texted onto his phone with the other hand. Every so often he shouted to a cow who wandered to the ditch on the roadside. He whooshed back and forth from left to right with the quad and he texted and he shouted and he never stopped doing any of these things. The cows did not stop either or if they stopped it was not for long. They did not walk any faster but they did not go slower either. After a while they all turned left into a field and I continued on my way alone.

2 April Sunday

We were having a cup of tea together. Pam asked each of us what was our favourite kind of potato crisps. She was happy to agree with everyone’s choice. She said she loves every kind of crisp that has ever been made. She especially likes the ones with chili flavouring. What she really likes is to eat crisps in bed when the lights are out. She loves the sound of crunching in the dark and she loves the salt on her lips. I asked if she did not worry about scratchy crumbs in her bed later in the night. She said she has been eating crisps in bed for longer than she can remember. She rarely drops one in the bedclothes. She said that at 93 years of age, she feels certain that she has perfected her method.

3 April Monday

A soft boiled egg is called a Guggy Egg. The word Guggy means the yolk of the egg will be runny.  The man in the barber shop talked about making Shepherd’s Pie and serving it with a poached egg on the top. He said that when the egg and the pie are cut into the Gugginess comes running down into the pie. He said that this is a wonderful thing. He announced firmly that anyone who eats Shepherd’s Pie this way will never again eat Shepherd’s Pie without a Guggy Egg on top of it.

7 April Friday

When someone says something has been the way it is “Since God was a Child” you can be sure that there is no chance of it changing now.

Wild Garlic

8 April Saturday

Things are dry. There has been no rain. Or there has been a bit of rain here and there but it is never a soaking rain. It has not been the kind of rain to water the crops. The dirt tracks across Joe’s fields are dry. There is mud up the path even though no where else is wet. A little spring half way up the hill feeds into the mass path so it is always muddy and mossy. Walking up makes me look down. I have to keep track of the slippery stones and the squishy muddy places. I have to watch where I put my feet. At this time of year it is good to be looking down anyway because there are so many new things to see. Each day new plants come up. There are primroses, wild garlic, violets lots of violets, several kinds of ferns, wild irises and many broken birds eggs. The eggs are open and the small birds are gone. I want to gather up the different shades of blue halves but unlike lichen or horse chestnuts, I know the shells will smash in my pocket before I get home. Instead I scoop up big handfuls of wild garlic on each trip. The white blossoms are starting to open so a handful of garlic leaves now looks more than ever like a lovely bouquet. If I meet someone out on the road, I am asked what it is.   I explain and describe its many pleasurable uses. No one looks enthused or interested. Without exception, I offer them the wild garlic. When I offer my handful to anyone, they accept it but I do not think they want it. A mistrust of food found free in nature is ongoing. People are accepting it to be polite to me. They might not even put it into water when they get home. They probably drop it on the side of the road as soon as I am out of sight.

9 April Sunday

More and more often I find Old Oscar lying across the road. When he hears or sees a car or a tractor he gets up slowly and carefully.  He is older than Young Oscar but he is not an old dog.  He is not stiff and slow.  He can run as well as any dog. He gets up slowly to show that he does not like being interrupted.  He wants others to wait. His deliberate careful movements give me time to think about his way of being in charge.

10 April Monday

There is a curtain at the kitchen door. During the day it is pulled over to the left side. It is tied out of the way with a wrinkled blue ribbon which I always intend to replace but I never do. At night I close the curtain because the stable door is a homemade door. It was once a regular door but Simon cut it in half and made it into a double opening door. It is draughty. That is not the fault of the top and bottom parts of the door fitting. They are pretty snug. The sides are a little less tight fitting than is normal. In the winter and on any cold windy day there is a breeze coming through the cracks. The full length curtain pulled across the door at night keeps a lot of wind out. Perhaps it keeps the heat in. I made the curtain. It has long loops of fabric sewn onto the top edge. The idea of the loops was that they be generous so they would be easy to slide across the wooden dowel which I used as a curtain rod.   But it is not easy to slide the fabric across the wood. Maybe metal would have been better. It might have been more slippery. I have to use both hands to tug the curtain open in the morning. I have to use both hands while I stand on tip-toes. Sometimes it is just too hard to get the loops sliding across and I am not able to stretch myself tall. I think rubbing a waxy candle along the wood might make for easier sliding. I think of it and I always mean to do it later. It is quicker to drag out the little two step ladder. The curtain was supposed to be a simple thing. Instead it takes two hands and a big stretch. Tip-toes. Step ladder. Open in the morning and close at night. Some people have doors that fit tight and do not let in the wind. But I do not.  This is where I live.  I live here and nothing is easy.

11 April Tuesday

Jer informed me that it is common knowledge that a pregnant woman never enters a graveyard. It may be common knowledge but it is new to me. Even if a woman’s own father has died she will not enter the graveyard for his burial. She will be at the funeral but not at the burial. It is something to do with not letting Death and Life touch. But a tiny baby can be taken into a graveyard for a burial with no worries. Once there, the baby will have a tiny clump of the soil for the burial plot put on him or her, just above the heart and underneath the bib. For a baby this is good protection.

12 April Wednesday

Michael was rung by the hospital. A woman informed him that he was still on the waiting list for an electro-cardiogram. He was asked if he was happy to still be on the waiting list. He said he was happy to wait. He then spent two days fussing about the phone call and the question. Of course he would rather not be waiting. Of course he would rather the electro-cardiogram be done and over with. He worried out loud and he worried by himself. Finally he rang back and he spoke to the same woman. He said, “Maybe I did not really understand your question.” He said, “If I am not happy to be on the waiting list, what is the alternative?” She said, “There isn’t one.”

13 April Thursday

It cannot be very long since the first swallow arrived but I cannot remember seeing it.  Already the swallows seem to be back with such a lot of busy swooping that I cannot remember them not being here. Some people mark the first swallow on their calendar so that they can check this years arrival with last years arrival and maybe with the last four or five years of arrivals but even though I do not usually mark the day I do tend to remember the first one I saw in a year.

14 April Friday

Today is Good Friday. There have been all the usual discussions on the radio, in the papers and over the counter. It seems certain that this will be the last year when the Good Friday Alcohol Ban is in effect. After ninety years, the government is passing something soon and apparently without much resistance to say that none of it matters any more. Bars and restaurants and shops will be able to sell and to serve alcohol. People are already bemoaning the passing of this outdated law and it has not yet come up for a vote. For years the Thursday night before Good Friday has seen packed pubs and shops selling loads of drink. The idea seemed to be that if people were told they could not drink they would do everyhting they could to make sure that they did drink. A bit of it was about defying authority and a bit was about the joy of the forbidden. It was well known that people could drink in hotel bars if they were registered guests or if they knew the bartender. And with a ticket to travel the bars in railway stations or airports were another possible drinking place. I just learned that the Dublin Dog Show, formerly held over Easter weekend, was another place where drink was served but only to people who had dogs in the competitions. It became the norm to borrow a dog for the day if you did not own one and to take it along with you just to have a place to sit and drink. Boring and a bit confusing for the dogs. Normal access to alcohol will make the country a little bit more like everywhere else but no doubt the stories of outwitting the ban will continue for a good many years. Poor Rose.  Christmas Day and Good Friday have been the only two days of the year when she could sleep late.

15 April Saturday

She is a very shaky elderly woman.  I do not know her name but she comes to the market every Saturday. She has been getting more fragile in the last few years.  Today Jim mentioned the lack of rain and she launched into a long tirade about the problems of the dry land. She quickly worked herself into a rage.  The grass was not growing and the cows were not making enough milk and once their bodies got into the habit of making less milk they would not easily return to making the amount of milk that their bodies should be making.  The variations of this problem went on for twenty minutes and then she stopped talking abruptly and she walked away.

There is some sort of big Easter family event being set up for Easter Sunday and Monday. Right at the edge of the farmers market there are suddenly toilets set up for the public. Two for women and two for men.  Each cubicle has a little sink included. They will not be there by next week.

17 April Monday

It is still dry.  Nights are cold and mornings are chilly.  Some days get warm but mostly the wind keeps things from warming up. I walked through Joe’s fields carefully trying to step around the lumpy mashed down hoofprints of the cows and in between the cow pats.  Under the fence and through another field. Under another fence and through another field.  I went through four fields and then got onto the dirt track which is just for tractors and cows.  It is rocky. Between the hoof indents and the stone it is all rough walking. The only place where it was wet was right down in the hollow where there is no where else for water to go. I think the water and mud there just came from a leaky water pipe leading to a drinking tough. Everywhere things look green and lush. Nothing looks dry but all conversations keep coming back to the lack of rain.

Rainlessness

19 April Wednesday

I took a short cut down a street in Clonmel.  At the corner a plastic sleeve folder was wired to the hedge.  Inside the sleeve was a sign which read WALL GREASED DO NOT SIT.  The wall beneath the hedge was about as high as my thigh.  It had been daubed with globs of some kind of grease.  Maybe it was axle grease. It was not dry. It would probably never be dry.  It will make a terrible mess of a person’s clothes if someone sits down on it. There is a school across the street.  Perhaps the resident of that house is weary of school children sitting on the wall.  But what about an elderly person who might need a rest on the way home from the shops? Both the wall and the hedge and the grease continued right around the corner where there was a second sign, exactly the same as the first one.

20 April Thursday

As always, it is slippery and wet going up the Mass Path. It is the only place that is wet. I was walking carefully through the mud when I was pushed hard from behind.  I knew I was alone so the hefty nudge startled me. It was the big yellow labrador who appears every few weeks. He wanted to walk in front of me not behind me. I have no idea who he is nor where he lives. We walked together as far as the tar road and then he turned and went off into a field. I have not seen him since.

21 April Friday

The man on the radio was giving advice about calling in to visit elderly people just as a way to make certain that they are all right and that they know someone is keeping track of them. He said that this is important in the country where houses are far apart but it is important in the city too where the neighbours are not who they used to be and the person still living there might not know anyone around any more even if once they knew everyone on the street. He said that calling in did not have to mean going in. He kept repeating that there is no need to go into the house. Just a brief hello and A Standing Up Tall on the step was enough.  He said, “You don’t have to go and live in the house.”

22 April Saturday

There is a squished thing in the road.  It has been there for months now.  Maybe it has been there for a year.  It was the kind of long narrow tube that is used for squeezing silicon or adhesive or bitumin or some other building stuff. The tube gets fitted into a sort of gun and then whatever is inside gets squeezed out through the nozzle.  From the first time I noticed it flattened on the tarmacadam it was already too late to know what it had held.  It had been run over several times and the printed information which described its contents was already faded to an all over grey. There was nothing to identify what had been inside.  The nozzle is unbroken. Whatever it was that was inside was tough stuff. It has survived in its flattened condition for a long time with tractors and lorries and cars rolling over it. It has not broken down at all. It is well stuck to the road.  In the midst of my spring time walking and my noting of each new kind of flower as it arrives, I check to see that the squished tube is still in place. Speedwell. Vetch. Apple Blossom. Bluebells. Garlic flowers. Primroses. Stitchwort. Cow Parsley. Flattened tube.

23 April Sunday

The field across the meadow is very steep.  It is so steep and so straight up and down that when Paul’s cows are walking along the top edge of the field in a long drawn out single line, they look like they could tumble off the field. The field looks like it is vertical and flat.

24 April Monday

It rained for six minutes today.  A tentative little drizzle that barely started before it stopped again.  Everyone speaks of the lack of rain. It is an endless topic of discussion.  The fields seem to be growing with barley and corn and various crops but nothing is growing as quickly as it should be growing. The cows are eating grass faster than it is coming up. Most days are cool, overcast and grey.  It looks like it should rain. It feels like it should rain. We wish it would rain or we wish the sun would come out.

Cuckoo

25 April Tuesday

I stopped in the middle of the shop as I tried to remember what I had had on my list because I had left my list at home.  A woman came near to me and then she stopped.  I guess she was waiting for me to move but I just stood still.  After a few seconds she asked “Can I cross you?” I was confused so I said yes.  She passed in front of me and around the corner to continue with her shopping.

26 April Wednesday

There was the shape of a car in the field near Moloughstown.  Was it a ghost limestone dust car or maybe a tarpaulin-covered car in the field?  Was the shape formed in the back of a tipper truck and dumped?  Was it strange nitrogen granules for the next crop of oil-seed rape to be grown later in that place?  A few days later, I walked past that field and the ghostly car shape was gone.  No trace of the grey dust remained.  I have no idea what it was.

27 April Thursday

Michael corrected me.  He said that we live BEHIND the O’Byrnes not BELOW the O’Byrnes.  We have always said BELOW because we are down the hill from the O’Byrnes. We speak of them as being ABOVE at the farm, so if they are Above we are Below. He said that they are closer to the road so they are in Front and therefore we are Behind.

28 April Friday

I have a fair number of photographs of things made with tyres. Mostly the uses are utilitarian like holding down a huge sheet of black plastic on a slurry heap, or stopping vehicles bumping into a cement wall but there are a lot of floral and planting arrangements in tyres. Usually the tyres are painted.  Each spring they get a fresh coat of paint before being replanted. Two swans made out of tyres have been in place in front of Mr. Bumbles in town for several years.  They never seem to get repainted and the painted surface looks no worse for it.  A reddish beak is painted onto the white tyre.  In the body of the swan is planted a brown spiky plant. They are safely behind a little fence so that no one can steal them. This year a box of pansies has been placed between the two swans.

29 April Saturday

Already it is sad not to see young Oscar at his house.  He has moved to Goatenbridge with his people. They had only been renting the house up the track for a year and have now decided to buy a house and to settle in the area.  After years of working on water projects in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, they now feel the need to stay in one place for the children and their schooling. The toys and the trampoline are gone.  I shall miss Oscar and his rolling over for tummy rubs. I miss him already.

30 April Sunday

Last night there was wild gusting wind and lashing rain all night long.  The blustery noise was so erratic and demanding that I had to close the window which is something I rarely do. Each time I relaxed into sleep another huge crashing gust would sort of whack into the house. This morning things were blown all around the place.  Nothing was where it had been left and the few garments which had been hanging on the washing line were either wrapped tightly around the line or lying wet and bedraggled on the grass. A few things had flown out into Joe’s field.  The rain was welcome and this morning the land is saturated. Everything glows green and bright with the big amount of water.

1 May Bank Holiday

The month of May arrives with a lot of superstitions. I think there might be more for May than for any other month but maybe I only hear more. The weather is better and people are more willing to slow down for a chat.  I am not sure if the superstitions are all pisogues. I know that a pisogue is a local superstition, but I am not certain that all superstitions are pisogues.  One thing I have learned is that it is imperative to walk out in the dew on a morning in May. It does not matter which morning. Any morning is fine as long as it falls within the month. If you do not do this you will have bad luck and if you do do it you will have good luck. Another superstition is that you must hear the Cuckoo during the month of May.  If you do not hear the Cuckoo, you will die. The minute the person saying this is finished saying it, he or she quickly reassures the listener by saying that of course you will die at some point anyway so maybe not necessarily in May, and maybe not this May, but still it is best if you do hear the Cuckoo during the month. Kathleen told me that you should not dust the house in May.

2 May Tuesday

The sun has arrived after the big rain and after so many days or weeks of grey heavy skies. Already I cannot remember anything but this brightness.  It is clear. Everything looks cheerful. The sun did not set until nine last night. When the days are grey it is hard to know when it is going down. Now the days just get longer and longer and longer. Plants are growing by the minute.  The path is more and more overgrown.  Some of the cow parsley is already up and over my head.  The stickyback climbing stuff is on everything and acts like a trap I must struggle though in the overgrown places. I just learned that it is called Robin-Run-The-Hedge.  A much nicer name than Sticky Back.  The nettles are all tangled up with the stickiness. A sting from the youngest of the nettles is the worst.  This morning I got stung in the face while swatting a bunch of cow parsley. This sting will be with me all day.

Last bluebells. High banking. Knockmealdowns.

8 May Monday

John the Post has been in hospital. We have been worried about him.  We are glad to hear that he is back at home now but he is not yet ready to return to work. A new substitute postman came this morning.  We know the three other postmen who have been substitutes but this was a new man. He brought a package to the door and he said that it was registered and that it must be signed for.  He asked Simon if he was Simon.  Simon said yes, so the postman said Okay. Good. I will sign your name for you. He signed Simon’s name for him with a signature that looked nothing like Simon’s signature while Simon stood there and watched him do it.

9 May Tuesday

The man in the waiting room pulled his chair out from the row of seats which were lined up against the wall. He sat himself right in the middle of the waiting room beside the elderly woman he had rolled into the room in a wheelchair. There was no room for her chair to go against a wall so he moved himself out to be next to her. He spoke in a loud and clear voice so that she could hear him. He spoke almost without taking a breath. She nodded sometimes but mostly she just listened or perhaps she did not listen. Her head was bent down well into her chest.  It was impossible to know if she was paying attention.  He never stopped talking. None of us could read whatever we had been reading because his central spot and his loud delivery took over the room. He told her about a group coupon project on the internet and about a three bedroom holiday house she could rent in Sligo for two nights for a song. He asked her about some family photographs and he told her she could get them framed. He said he had seen some nice wooden frames in Aldi’s. They were real wood not just some plastic that looked like wood and he said there was a good dark wood available or some nice light wood too and if she were to decide to frame the photographs he would go and get the frames she needed. He said he had gone there to buy a picnic basket but once in the store he decided that he did not need a picnic basket. He decided that all he really needed was two lunch boxes. He said A picnic is a different thing today. He said You no longer need to replicate the dinner table at home.  He said, Indeed you can just buy a box of salad and call it a picnic.

10 May Wednesday

The cows were in Joe’s field all night. I could hear them tearing grass and moaning softly from my bed.  I did not hear the tractor coming this morning to lead them away. They were just gone when I woke up.  I thought they might return after milking but they must have gone to graze another field. All day dozens of crows have been swarming over the ground. The very dry earth is completely churned up from where the cows moved about all day yesterday.  The crows are taking advantage of the disturbed soil to feast on worms.

11 May Thursday

I am fond of the place names made of three complete words squished together with no spaces in between the words. No doubt they are a form of translation from the Irish, but when I look them up I can never tell if the translation is literal or if it is something else altogether. There is one place with the name Twomilebridge and another called Two Mile Bridge. I do not know why one is crammed together into one word while the other is three separate words. Twopothouse. Fourmilewater. Fivemiletown. Sixmilebridge. Ninemilehouse.

We used to drive through Watergrasshill as we traveled home from Cork. After the motorway was built, we no longer drove through it. Watergrasshill is now just an exit. Watergrasshill is a village I have no reason to visit. It is not a special place. It is just a place. I love the name Watergrasshill. It feels more and more utopian with each visit I do not make. It has become a place to hope for, never a place to visit.

12 May Friday

Two women were discussing a man.  I did not know the women and I did not know the man they were speaking about. One of the women said, “He’s been single for a while now so he has. There is no reason for it, as he’s good enough to look at.”

The Coptic Pope

14 May Sunday

I was surprised to realize that my cow book (I Always Have An Audience For My Work) is now out of print. The Butter Museum had had  ten copies of it.  I wrote to ask Peter if he had any copies left. He said “I think I still have some copies of the cow book.  I was reluctant to sell them as they are so wonderful.” Since the purpose of him having the books was to sell the books, I am not sure what was accomplished by them being too wonderful to sell.

15 May Monday

The path is completely closed in with cow parsley. It is impossible to see the path.  There is just the sense of knowing where it goes and where it usually goes so I walk and assume I am in the right places but sometimes I am not and I stagger and stumble into the tangle. This morning I fell down and startled a pheasant who was running from me in the undergrowth and I think he thought I could not see him and indeed I would not have seen him except that I dropped down to his level. Not only is the undergrowth thick but it is wet. Today I got soaked and slapped with all of the blossoms and branches.  I wore full waterproofs for the rainy drizzle which was falling and against the rainy drizzle which had already fallen. I ended up soaked anyway because my rain jacket is old and now un-waterproof and because the water off the plants went down my neck and the water went through the hole in my boots. I could have been wetter when I reached home but not much wetter.

18 May Thursday

A sanctuary up in Kildare rescued the chickens. They had been resident in a battery farm. After 18 months the chickens are no longer considered reliable as good egg layers. The next step for them is death and a future in a goujon or curry or some other fast food. There was an announcement on Facebook saying that a truckload of the rescued chickens were being driven down to Clonmel. People were waiting in a car park for the truck. Some people took a lot of the chickens. Some took a few. I met four of the confused birds this morning. They were walking about tentatively. They kept returning to the darkness of their new house which is made of stone. I think so much space both indoors and out and all of the new and never before tasted  greenery to eat makes them nervous. They looked terrible. The bone structure of their wings was completely exposed. The bones should have been covered with feathers. There is no chance that these chickens can fly as they are now. I wonder if the feathers will grow back after exposure to sunlight and space and fresh green things to eat. Even the red of their wattles was a pale unhealthy looking pink.

19 May Friday

Every car is covered with bird droppings. Every house is covered with bird droppings. Windows are covered. Outside tables and outside chairs are covered with bird droppings. There are long huge white splashes. There are lashings of excrement. The excrement is thick as well as white.  Where it is on the windows it is not possible to see through it, which can make driving difficult. It is a seasonal problem but every year it is a surprise.  We had hoped the rain would clean it off or at least in a few places but I fear it is hardened on and really will need scrubbing.

20 May Saturday

The Coptic Pope was to arrive in Cahir today at 1.15. It was planned that he was to perform a Mass and do other pope-like things for the order of Egyptian Coptics who now reside in the former Catholic school and convent. As early as 10 am, there were two Garda and one man in a reflective vest directing any cars away from the convent which I am not certain the Egyptian Coptics still call the convent but everyone else calls the convent because that is what the building has always been and that is what the building has always been called. Apparently there had been a threat on the life of the Coptic Pope recently which explained the police presence. We left town before he arrived and I have not heard of any trouble so I guess it all went well. I sort of wish I had stayed to see what he looked like and what the congregation who greeted him was like.  It is difficult to imagine how and why this Egyptian order ended up in County Tipperary.  John Joe said they first came here because they got jobs in the slaughterhouse.

21 May Sunday

Do not sweep around a chair with an unmarried woman sitting in it.  If you do, she will never marry.  She should move before you start sweeping.

22 May Monday

There is a fine straight line marked into a field where cows have been grazing. They stick their heads under the fence and reach out as far as they can to get at every single bit of fresh long grass that they can.  The resulting line is always a surprise. It is as straight and even as if it has been drawn. From afar it looks like there might be a different crop being grown in one field exactly beside another.  It is all grass and it is all the same grass but one batch has been eaten as low as the cows can get it before the herd are moved to another field.

23 May Tuesday

The young man was shouting over the road at someone who was walking away from him. He cursed and swore. His language got more and more obscene the further the first man went from him. A woman who came out of the shop in the middle of his rant announced. “Now there’s a lad who wants manners put on him.”

A Small Hospital

24 May Wednesday

Dellie told me her method for rescuing the birds that careen into windows at speed and knock themselves out. She keeps a large pot of mint growing near to the house. She does not keep the mint in a pot to stop the mint from growing rampantly all over her garden. She thinks of her pot of mint as a small hospital. If a bird is found unconscious, it gets rested right in the middle of the pot so that it is surrounded by mint. She is certain that the smell works to revive and give strength to the stunned bird. She says it is a rare day when the bird is still laid out among the mint when she returns for a look. If a bird has not moved the bird is dead. She says the mint always revives those who can be revived.

Dellie is short for Adele. The sounds are in there. It is a nickname which is understandable. Dellie has a friend named Betty. Betty is short for Gwendolyn. That makes less sense .

25 May Thursday

I was admiring the copious number of enormous three-leaf clovers growing in the middle of the track as I walked the Long Field. I had to remind myself that the hugeness of the clover leaves and of the purple and white flowers is not natural.  The large size is a result of nitrogen sprayed on the fields.  There are so many bad things that are easy to forget.  It is never possible to forget the terrible weed killer that the farmers spray along verges and the edges of fields and in front of gates.  The weed killer turns things a horrible brown. It then goes to gold and then to gold red and then to dead brown.  We have to look at the aftereffects of this poison for a long time, so we never forget it and we never like it.

26 May Friday

First thing this morning the nurse took my bloods and then she printed out some labels from her computer. When the printing was finished the machine made a little pinging noise. She said “Ah, how perfect to hear that! It is exactly the note that has been giving me trouble in choir practice. With it repeating on my printer,  I’ll be after singing all day.”

27 May Saturday

The rain was torrential and wild. All night it lashed down. It rained from all directions. We were reminded yet again about the leak in the bathroom.  Roads were flooded as we drove to Cahir. The farmers market looked bedraggled. There were hardly any customers and only six  stalls.  The few sellers were all squeezed up against the wall trying to be out of the wind and trying to keep their wares dry or at least to keep things from blowing away. They were brave to be there at all. By afternoon the sun came out. Everywhere the fields turned a garish unreal kind of bright green.  This was the rain we had waited for. Everything was soggy and squishy underfoot but everything was glowing.

29 May Monday

Sign on tree:

PHOTOS OF

BIRDS OF PREY

5 EUROS EACH

Schooling Your Features

1 June Thursday

When you are required to speak with someone with whom you would prefer not to be speaking but you are making an effort, that is the time when you are in the mode of Schooling Your Features. Schooling Your Features is something that everyone does sometimes. This just a new way to say it.

2 June Friday

I saw Tommie twice this week.  We had a chat in the hardware shop. He sat himself on a big bucket of paint while we talked.  He told me he cannot be away from the house for long as Margaret cannot be left alone. He says the indoor life does not suit him.  He said I am better in Open Spaces.  Catherine joined us for a few minutes.  She was pleased to see Tommie relaxing in conversation on the paint bucket. She reminded him of how he had once rescued her when she was a little girl.  She had been trapped underneath a pony named Tom.  They both laughed about Tommie rescuing her from Tom.  He was happy to be the hero of her story. Yesterday I delivered some fresh scones for him and Margaret. Tommie answered the door looking fragile and old.  His clothes are disheveled.  He is thinner than I have ever known him to be.  I think he is digging out old work clothes from years ago.  His belt is pulled tight but the trousers are still too large at the waist. Everything hangs off him. I have been worrying about Margaret who cannot see and can barely stand. Now it seems that Tommie himself is suffering.  Both physically and mentally there is a kind of visible defeat.  It is hard to be the one looking after someone else.  It is hard being the one who has to keep going no matter what.

7 June Wednesday

The bees are walking.  I am not certain what kind of bees these bees are.  They are not bumblebees and they are not wasps. They are not yellow jackets. They are furry and more brown than yellow. They appear every day in the heat up in the corners in the ceiling of the high room.  I do not know if they are coming in or if they have a nest somewhere up there in the roof and they just crawl out into the room because of the heat.  Either way it is too high for me to try to find out.  They buzz around and smash into the windows.  Sometimes they go right out the windows but mostly they seem to be walking.  They come down to the floor and they waddle around.  I am nervous to walk without shoes.  The bees make no buzzing noises when they are walking. They just scurry along like some kind of beetle.  It is a quick walk for something that small. They could fly much faster.

28 June Wednesday

The word EVENING can still mix me up.  Breda texted today to ask if I wanted to go for a walk this evening. I said yes and I looked forward to an evening walk.  I imagined a quiet walk in the hour or so before sunset.  The sun does not begin to go down until ten o’clock so I did not expect the walk to be mid-afternoon.  The word evening to me still means the time between afternoon and night.  Around here the word evening is anytime after lunch. I should know this by now.

29 June Thursday

The Yield sign at the corner gets more and more battered but it never gets replaced. There should be a stop sign there not just a vague suggestion to look out three metres before the crossing road. I say the words Géill Slí out loud when I pass it but never when anyone else is with me.  I do not know how to say the words correctly in Irish even though I have been told many times.

I Call It Lunch.

1 July Saturday

Ferns are flapping all along the boreen. As the seasons go along sometimes it is the cow parsley that takes over and sometimes it is long grass and later it will be blackberries and honeysuckle. I have never seen so many ferns. The boreen is wildly overgrown and it looks like nothing but ferns are growing. I can walk down the grass in the middle without anything touching me but if I walk in either of the tyre tracks the ferns are flapping and slapping my face all the way. They are soft.  It is not unpleasant to be flapped at by ferns. I think of ferns as something growing more in damp and shady places. It has been hot and rain-less for ages now. The heavy high arching of the ferns is making its own shade

2 July Sunday

I call it lunch but everyone else calls it dinner. She goes to the garden centre for her dinner most days. It is a popular destination as they do a big roast with two kinds of potatoes and loads of vegetables and gravy and thick slices of buttered bread. There is plenty of parking available. Everyone says that the garden centre dinner is Value For Money. She goes there because lots of other older people go there. She is looking for a man. Her husband died three or four or maybe five years ago and after all her training as a nurse she would rather have someone to live with and to take care of than to live alone and worry about things. When she goes to the garden centre for her dinner, she always dresses up tidy and she wears her wig. She looks perky as she sits and eats and she smiles as she looks around at everyone else eating their own roast dinner. Her theory is that if you have someone at home to cook a good dinner for you then you do not need to come out to the garden centre to eat. She assumes that most of the men eating are either single or widowed. She does not count the two priests who are there most days. She is convinced that at least one of the men who is eating his dinner would rather not be living alone. She just has to locate that one man.

3 July Monday

For the first time in fifteen years I have not made elderflower cordial. I feel I have let myself down. It was a combination of not being in the right location when the flowers were in bloom and falling down and smashing my hand. After 3 weeks of what I thought was healing, today I spent 6 hours in the hospital getting x-rays. It turns out that my hand has healed but it has healed incorrectly and it might be that the fracture now needs to be broken so it can heal properly. I will not know anything for certain until next week when I attend a Fracture Clinic. I am not looking forward to a return to the hospital even as an Outpatient. The corridors are full of beds with people in them looking miserable and eating their dinner on trays while their families cluster around them with carrier bags full of useful thing which there is no place to put down and everyone is in the way because the corridors were never meant to have loads of beds in them much less guests so there is a constant clogging up of any and all movement. Everything is on wheels but that does not help as there is no room to maneuver. It has been a depressing day. And the birds have eaten every gooseberry off all four of my bushes.

4 July Tuesday

The days have been warm and sometimes hot. The days have been warm but the sky has sat heavily upon us. The sky has been oppressive and white or the sky has been gloomy and grey. The sun rarely breaks through until eight or nine at night. We waver between hoping for rain and hoping for blue sky. All conversations return to these two possibilities. I spoke to a man in a shop doorway. I did not know the man but as I was leaving I asked, “Is the sun going to break through today?” He took a big breath in and he said “I am going to tell you Yes.”

5 July Wednesday

I had never visited the barracks. Kickham Barracks are named after the poet Charles Kickham. Five years ago the Army people moved out and over to Limerick. The barracks have been mostly empty since. The area inside is visible through a fence on one side. A sign on the gate advertised a temporary café serving food for the duration of the festival. We went in and walked around. The buildings were low and white and small and cheaply built. Three of the shabby white buildings had large white letters painted in a window: HEALTH CARE. ANIMAL CARE. CANTEEN. The buildings were all locked up tight. There were no more signs for food, nor for the festival nor for anything else except a threat about parking within the grounds. There was no bunting, no colour, nothing to suggest a week long celebration. It was a bleak walkabout on a hot day. We left and went elsewhere to find something to eat.

6 July Thursday

The small sign advertising HONEY FOR SALE is wrapped up with a black plastic bag and tape. A stone is in the middle to keep the plastic from blowing off. The sign has been there for years. It has two sides and is visible from both directions on the road at Kilnabutler near Cahir. If we forgot to buy honey on the way we were always reminded to get some on the return trip. We often read in the newspapers and hear on the radio about the destruction of the bee population by pesticides and big business. The covering up of this one sign brings the scary news a little closer. We note it as there is less and less honey to be found.

7 July Friday

I never know if hanging up a dead crow is meant to be a warning to other crows or if it is just a proud show-off moment for the killer of the crow.

A Fine Big Lump of a Lad.

8 July Saturday

There is a muddy little nest just beside the door into my work room. I cannot enter without getting dive-bombed and I get dive-bombed as I exit. I am surprised every time. The swallow, or maybe a sparrow, is never in the nest but she appears the minute I go near. She moves fast. I duck to avoid getting hit. Maybe this is preparation for more babies.

9 July Sunday

The shop installed an ice cream machine. It is popular. Whenever the temperature goes up no one enters the shop without buying a cone. It is that white kind of swirly ice cream that comes out of a nozzle in the machine. It is not scooped ice cream. There is no choice of flavours. There is just ice cream and it is white and in a cone. I understand there are milk shakes available too but I rarely see them. Today I saw two elderly men in their parked car outside the shop giving their cones full and careful attention. It was a muggy hot afternoon. There was not a breeze nor any movement in the air. The men might have been speaking to one another while they licked their ice cream but there was no way to know as they had their windows rolled up tight.

10 July Monday

Two women were discussing the son of a neighbour. They had nothing but admiration for the fellow. They spoke of his good manners and his hard work and his prospects. One woman said “Ah yes. He is A Fine Big Lump of a Lad.”

11 July Tuesday

We walked over Joe’s fields this morning. We arrived up at the farm just as the cows were leaving the milking parlour to start their walk back down into the fields. They stopped dead and watched us until we were well out of the way and then they set off down the track. Our timing was perfect but it was perfect only by chance. More cows, another herd, are in the lower meadow. They have been moaning and bellowing for two days. These are Anthony’s cows. I think one cow makes a noise and then the others join in. I wish I knew if it were pleasure or annoyance or need which makes the moaning commence. It is the kind of question I always intend to ask a farmer but then I forget.

12 July Wednesday

At 9 o’clock this morning the Fracture Clinic was teeming with people. Each person took a number and waited for the next step. In between things I sat beside an older lady who asked what had happened to me. She admired my flesh-coloured splint, and I admired her own navy blue splint. She said she had been wearing a blue blouse the first day she came in so she thought perhaps they had tried to match it for her. She asked where I lived. She was thrilled when I said Grange but disappointed to realize that we lived at opposite ends of Grange. She is nearly in Cahir and I am nearly Newcastle. She said we might as well be from different counties. She said Grange is nothing but one huge farmland full of fields. She said that we all get Lost in the Landscape. She was sad that there was nowhere in the village to meet anyone except the church or the school or the graveyard. I said “Well, there is Frank’s shop.” She agreed. And she was quiet. She said “ There is not much to buy in Frank’s shop. I can buy bread and a paper in Frank’s shop but it is scarcely worth driving in that direction as I can get those things anywhere, and other things besides.” I left the clinic with a spare flesh-coloured splint and an appointment to return after four more weeks of wearing it. The lady from Grange had left before me. She waved from the stonewall where she was sitting to wait for her lift home. She had been told that she need not wear her splint any longer.

13 July Thursday

From a distance there is a blue haze on the grass roof of the shed. The tall blue flowers growing there are not cornflowers. That was my first thought but this is not a flower I recognize. It is not easy to get close enough to see it and with my hand in this splint I cannot safely climb a ladder. Now Rachel tells me that she believes it to be Vipers Bugloss which usually grows at the edges of dry fields. It is not native to Ireland. A dry roof is probably quite similar to a dry field, only smaller.

Aut Even

27 July Thursday

Oscar is appearing irregularly these days. He is getting old and no doubt believing that he can keep track of the world as well from his hilltop yard as he can from his sleeping spot in the middle of the road in front of Sharon’s house. Perhaps his hearing is deteriorating. For years it has been impossible to walk the road without him racing out from wherever he was. If I whistled or if I did not whistle he always knew I was passing. He knew when anyone at all was passing. The sound of quiet walking conversation or even the sound of footsteps was enough to let him know.

28 July Friday

The figs are coming along. We need some long hot days. We need a week of hot days to bring the figs to ripeness. There are so many things not doing well this year. Tommie calls it Things Not Coming Good. I hope the figs are not another disappointment. Today I picked all the black currants. It is a job which was not difficult even with the splint on my arm. It is not difficult but it is slow. It is a slow job even without a splint. I thought it might take me an hour but I spent more than three hours clearing the bushes of every single berry. Then I spent another hour clearing the leaves and stems from my containers. The currants are now bagged up and in the freezer. I forgot to count how many bags I had. It seemed like a lot. Simon is making a black currant pandowdy.

29 July Saturday

Tom told me that it is considered very unlucky to meet a woman with red hair on the road early in the morning. I asked if it was different to meet a woman with red hair on the road in the middle of the day. Was the luck different then? He did not answer me. He pretended not to hear my question.

30 July Sunday

Aut Even means Beautiful Place in Irish. It is the name of a hospital in Kilkenny. I must go there for my cataract operation on Monday. One eye at a time. First the Right eye. Four weeks later they will do the Left eye. Breda assured me that I will be the youngest person in the waiting room. She said everyone else will be in their eighties. Yesterday at the Farmers Market, Jim, who is in his eighties, told me that when he had his own eyes done last year, the waiting room was full of nuns. There were nuns of all ages. Or all ages from about sixty upwards. He was the only man. He was the only person who was not a nun. Jim asked the doctor about the large number of nuns. He joked that perhaps they were getting a group rate. The doctor said they were all bussed in from a convent. He avoided the question of the group rate.

It Would Put The Heart Across You.

2 August Wednesday

I never see slugs in the morning. I get used to not seeing them. I certainly do not look for them. The slugs are back. It is good weather for slugs. I should not say the slugs are back. The slugs are never really gone. They disappear in the day and they reappear in darkness. We just get accustomed to not seeing them. This kind of weather that is not too hot and not too cold is ideal for slugs. They enjoy damp evenings. I should remember to close the bathroom window. There are no screens on the windows. The few insects that come in neither bite nor sting. The slugs enter through the open window or maybe they ooze up through the drain hole in the tub or the sink. They might just spend the day sleeping somewhere in a dark place like under the sink waiting for dusk. This evening there was one lying across my little plastic containers of contact lenses. The slug was about two inches long and the usual drab brown colour. The lenses on the shelf are only for my left eye. The right eye has been done. It was done on Monday where I was the youngest person present and there was not a nun to be seen.  I am now seeing the world with bright colours and a stunning clarity. Black things now appear to have a lot of blue in them. Some greys appear violet. I do not know if this is the actual colour of these things or if the colour will settle down and go back to what I believed it was before the surgery. Have I been seeing colour wrong all along or am I seeing it incorrectly now? The colour of the slug is the same as it has always been. I shall never need a contact lens for the right eye again. But as long as I need these lenses for the left eye I would prefer not to have a slug recline upon them. It is a worse thing to find a slug stretched out on my toothbrush bristles. Once I see one in the bathroom I know they could be anywhere at all so it does not matter where they are when I see them as I know that they have already been oozing over anywhere and everywhere as and when they like.

3 August Thursday

Fergal came to collect some boxes. He asked where our dog was. He told us his own dog had died last month. He is still mourning. The dog was an Alsatian. He had had it for twelve years. He misses it every day. He has two other dogs but he does not love them the way he loved the Alsatian. The other two dogs are Rottweilers. He claims they are sweet and gentle. He saw that he was not going to convince me about the sweetness of any Rottweiler. He said he lives on a housing estate outside Dublin. He said every house in the neighbourhood has been robbed but his own house has never been robbed. He said his dogs terrify everyone. He said that just hearing them bark Would Put The Heart Across You.

4 August Saturday

The nest by the door into my workroom now has baby swallows in it. The mother gets angry when I attempt to enter the room. I have given up. Anything I need to do in there can be done another day or next week. I have decided to just wait until all five children have left home. None of them are even flying yet. They just sit in the nest and wait for their mother to return.

5 August Saturday

Cate’s mother suffers from bad arthritis. She is 91. Terrible pain in her knees makes it difficult for her to walk. Cate had heard about a cure. She offered to try it on her mother. Her mother was willing to give it a go. She was ready to try anything to stop the pain. Before bed, Cate wrapped her mother’s knees in leaves of cabbage. Then she wrapped cling film around the cabbage so it stayed nice and firm around the knees. She did not want the cabbage to come loose in the night in her mother‘s bed. In the morning she went upstairs and found her mother still in bed. Cate was looking forward to news of the miracle cure. Instead her mother had had the worst night ever and had barely slept a wink because of the excruciating pain in her legs. I have no plan to recommend this cure to anyone but I did need to ask if the cabbage was cooked or raw. Cate said it was raw.

6 August Sunday

The clock in Cahir has not worked for a while. It is at least three years since I looked up at it expecting to see the correct time. Now the clock is gone. It might have been absent for a long while already. I got out of the habit of looking up to see the time because it was always wrong no matter what the clock showed. It might have been a year since the clock was removed. There is some black plastic tacked into the space where the clock was. I shall now try to keep an eye on that space to notice when the clock is returned.

7 August Bank Holiday

An elderly robin has become a friend. He stays nearby whenever we are outside. Mostly he sits on the back of the chair where one of us is sitting. Then he moves to sit with the other one of us. He hops along the tabletop. His head and wing feathers and his red breast are scruffy looking. That is how we know he is not young. His scruffiness is what makes him distinctive. It does not matter which table we are sitting at or whether we are drinking tea or coffee. He seems to like the companionship. Or maybe it is the sound of our voices.

Michael

8 August Tuesday

We walked over Joe’s fields today. The track was slippery with mud and muck. I found two fine round things to draw but they were too muddy to carry home. One was a wheel made of wire with spokes and the other was a wheel made of wire with spokes that had been run over and mashed into a more useless shape. I felt a bit bad about my new boots getting so muddy and coated with green manure. The old boots had been Letting in Wet for so long that I had to stop wearing them. I had to stop pretending that they were fine when they so obviously were not all right. Even on a dry day I was coming home with wet feet. I spent a good part of the walk dragging my feet sideways in the long grass trying to wipe the muck off the sides of my new boots.

9 August Wednesday

The robin has a name now. He is Michael. He joins us by the back door and he sits with us at the large table over by the fence. Wherever we are out of doors, Michael appears and is committed to Staying Near. He sat on a branch while I picked raspberries. He came into the kitchen and rested on the windowsill while we were preparing food and cleaning up. He jumps when there are sudden movements or loud noises but he seems to enjoy quiet words or nonsense syllables babbled softly in his direction. We are not getting too much done because we are constantly popping in and out or looking out a window to see where Michael is. We crumbled up crackers on the table for him. There is water for him to drink. He came with me as I went all around the tree and up the stone steps squeezing figs to test them for ripeness. He appears to pay careful attention to every single thing that is done out of doors.

10 August Thursday

No one speaks of Bathing Suits or Bathing Costumes. The garment that a person wears to go swimming is called Togs. A person puts on their Togs. When someone is changing clothes before going swimming, that person is said to be Togging Up.

11 August Friday

Michael was late arriving this morning. Every day he has been waiting on the table outside the kitchen before we are even up. He was doing the morning waiting for a long while before we realized that it was the same bird out waiting out there every morning. Today there was no sign of him until noon. We were worried about his leg. We are still worried about his leg. One leg is now at a wonky angle. The displacing of the leg happened some time yesterday. A bigger fatter stronger robin had been rushing onto the table and chasing Michael away each time he was there. That was when we realized that Michael is not an old bird as we first thought. He is a very young bird. The older robin who was pushing him out of the way had seniority. At the end of the afternoon we saw that Michael’s left leg was sticking out at a right angle. He kept falling over while trying to eat crumbs. We think he flew at a window and knocked himself down onto the ground. But we wonder if the older fat robin chased him and frightened him and forced him into the window or the wall of the house. It must be the impact with the ground that damaged his leg. We were happy to see him back today but we are worried about the leg. We are worried and we have no idea what to do about it.

Eight figs are not enough.

15 August Tuesday

Michael is here to greet us. Michael is here to greet us whenever we return to the house. It does not matter if we are coming back from ten minutes away or from three days away. He arrives and hovers close and comes indoors and generally lets us know that he is glad to be nearby. I have now been told that it is normal for young robins to adopt people. I thought we were special and that Michael was special. I still think he is special. It is just that it is not such an unusual thing to have him want to be with us. I do not mind that. Michael flies away when the other robin comes to frighten him but nothing we do frightens him. He has graduated to sitting on Simon’s shoulder now. He has not sat upon me yet but he is happy to sit very close to me.

16 August Wednesday

It was a wet morning so I did not mind putting on a rain jacket to walk up the path. I figured it would keep the foliage drips off me. It would protect me from the blackberries, wild roses, nettles and anything else. Most days have been too warm to walk while wearing a waterproof coat and long trousers. I felt happy to be heading up the Mass Path. I wanted to see how things were doing after the heavy growth of summer. My feelings of pleasure were quickly dampened. I had water down my neck and thorns pulling at me from all directions. They ripped at my coat and they ripped my skin. They ripped through my trousers. When I reached the path outside Johnnie’s orchard I found myself completely trapped by the nettles and brambles both the ones hanging down and the ones climbing up. I was really stuck. I could not move forward and I could not move backward. I could not even fall down. I wiggled and wriggled and I wondered how long I might need to wait before someone came along. I could tell that no one had been up or down the path for weeks and weeks. I feared I might have to wait for weeks and weeks trapped and held in position by thorns, unable even to reach into my pocket for my phone. Eventually I escaped. I staggered the last bit of the path out and onto the road feeling wet and hot and beaten up and not very happy.

17 August Thursday

The baby swallows have begun to fly. They are racing in and out of the nest and lining up along the edge of the grass roof. I no longer have to worry about the mother protecting her brood. I thought it was safe to go into my room again. Instead I now I have five adolescents racing and rushing. The wind is wild today so it is hard to even sense which direction they will dive from next. I was only inside the door for a few minutes when all five of them rushed in and began to swoop around me. There was no chance I could catch them so I just sat down and waited until they flew out again.  My next job will be to get a shovel and brush to clear the large pile of crunchy excrement from the bottom of the door and from the floor directly under their nest. It seems foolish to do it until I am certain that they are no longer returning to the nest.  I have already cleaned the handle so that I can go in and out without grabbing a handful of crunch.

18 August Friday

Eight figs are not enough. I continue picking any that are squeezable. I cannot wait for full ripeness because if I wait for a fig to fully ripen the birds eat it before I can pick it. If I pluck one On The Squeeze and bring it indoors to ripen I can usually collect enough for a tart. I had eight but Simon told me he really needed a minimum of twelve. Yesterday I threw one out. This morning I found three more had rotted. They were covered with hairy mold. Worrying that we might never have even one fig tart this year, I went to check the bush and came back with seven. Now I have thirteen and there are three others that might be ready by the end of the afternoon if the heat continues.

Michael sat on a low leaf while I collected the figs. His leg looks much better. He still favours it, but it no longer sticks out at that terrible angle. He sat on leaves or on large stones while I picked raspberries. He has no interest in eating fruit. Maybe robins do not eat fruit or maybe he is just too young to know that he might love it.

19 August Saturday

As I approached the place where the road starts to climb again, Oscar came rushing out to greet me. We both hopped and danced around for a few minutes. I was delighted to see him. He was delighted to see me. I had been told that he was so old and so fat and so awkward in himself that he was spending all of his days lying prone in front of his own house. He was no longer hanging around at Sharon’s nor was he sleeping in the center of the road in order not to miss anyone on foot. He looks terrible. There are huge clumps of fur coming out all over him. The clumps are nothing more than the result of the seasonal moult but for some reason they are all reddish in colour. He is normally an all black dog so I do not know why the hair he is losing is red. His tail is now red too. I feared he might be too idle to walk with me but he came all the way down the boreen to the house. He gasped with heavy raspy breathing all the way. Maybe he has a lung infection or maybe it is just his extra weight. When we got here, I tried to brush him to get some of the clumps off and out but he was not interested to stay still for that kind of thing. He just drank some water and took off for home.

20 August Sunday

Rain is running down the wall in the bathroom again. We were promised a bit of a hit from Hurricane Gert. Gert has been driving her way across the Atlantic. It has been raining all day. I am not sure if this rain is Gert or if this is just rain. I have gotten into the habit of keeping the towels well over to the right hand side of the copper pipe towel rack. If I let them hang towards the left they get soaked when the rain comes in. I keep towels on the right all the time now even if it is not raining. Newspapers get spread across the floor only when the rain is falling hard. Because the floor is made of rough Killenaule stone, it is a very uneven floor. Once water hits the floor it goes off in several directions. Someday the mystery of exactly where this leak is will be solved. I hope it gets solved before we need to move from newspapers to buckets.

21 August Monday

I saw Kevin this morning. He has had a messy swallow’s nest on his roof. He had been grumbling about the droppings and the mess. He came out one morning and found two dead baby swallows that had fallen down the drainpipe. There were two more on the ground. They were still alive so he brought them into the house and placed them in a shoe box with a pair of old socks for padding. He tried to feed them something but they were so tiny they would not eat. He rang his daughter for advice. His daughter rang the woman at the animal sanctuary over in the Nire Valley. The woman rang him back herself. She asked Kevin if he had been out for a drive recently. He said he had indeed been out in the car just the day before. She told him to go to the front of his car and scrap off the dead insects and to swish them around in his hand until he made them into a little paste. He did as she told him to. He collected the bugs and made the paste and tried to feed it to the baby swallows. They ate a little bit. The woman arrived and collected the box and took it away with her. She said if the birds survived she would return them to Kevin and then they would be ready and able to fly off to Africa with the rest of their flock. Since she has never returned with the birds, Kevin believes that the birds will never get to Africa. He said Sure, they only got as far as the Nire.

Fire Depot

22 August Tuesday

The Fire Depot in Clogheen occupies a tiny building. The building is attached to a house on each side. There is no chance that even the smallest fire engine could fit inside the depot. When I see it I wonder what is kept inside. Maybe it is full of shovels and buckets and ladders which can be collected in any old vehicle on the way to a fire. Perhaps there is a hose and a small water tank which can be hooked up with a trailer hitch too.

23 August Wednesday

This is not a country for figs. I remind myself of this again and again. I am always hopeful that the summer will be so hot that the figs will be juicy and wonderful to eat in the hand. This will never happen. After all the squeezing and waiting and throwing away of moldy figs I finally got the right amount for a tart. There was extra fig juice to pour over it. The tart was perfect. I have now begun collecting for another one. And all this while the raspberries keep coming and the blackberries are ripening by the minute and the ditches are full of honeysuckle. Sadly we have not one apple on any of the trees. The few that appeared have been attacked by birds and have fallen to the ground. It is a shock to have eight leafy trees all devoid of apples. The late frost in the spring is what we are blaming but when I see that other people have heavily laden trees I feel extreme Apple Envy. I wonder if there is something other than the frost to blame.

24 August Thursday

There is a lot of talk about Lollipop Ladies. School is starting next week. No one speaks of Lollipop Ladies in the summer. Now young children must be trained to pay attention to what the Lollipop Lady tells them. For me, the person who stood at the crosswalks to stop the cars and let the children go from one side to the other side safely was called a Crossing Guard. It was ages before I understood what a Lollipop Lady was. A Lollipop Lady has a long stick with a round sign on the top of it. The sign says STOP. When the Lollipop Lady walks into the road and holds up her sign the cars must stop and then the children can cross. The round sign on the thin stick looks like a lollipop so that is where the name comes from. There are Lollipop Men as well as Lollipop Ladies.

25 August Friday

Way back when Mick the electrician installed sockets in this house he was eager to install more then we thought we needed. He said “Better To Be Looking At Them Than Looking For Them”. He said this again and again and again. I was reminded of Mick and his words this week. Peter Ryan said he did some work at a house. The work he was doing was not electrical work. He saw there were 38 sockets installed in the bedroom of the house. He said “I do not care what people get up to in their bedrooms but no matter what way you think on it, 38 sockets are a lot of sockets.”

26 August Saturday

This morning Michael is sitting on the table while he eats his crumbs. He sits on the table the way a mother bird sits on her nest. His left leg has gone off into the same uncomfortable looking angle it was at a week ago. We thought it was fully healed. Now it looks like a bit of wire hanging off his body. It does not look like a leg. It is worrying. When he stands on the dish taking sips of water, he can hardly stop himself from falling into the water. Balancing on one leg is no treat. Luckily flying is no problem for him. I use a piece of Kilkenny limestone to gently smash his biscuits into small pieces. He does not fly away when I mash. He stays close waiting until I stop so that he can begin eating.

27 August Sunday

Today is the last day that I need a contact lens. After forty five years of using them it is odd to know that I will not need to buy them, put them in, or take them out ever again. Monday is my second eye operation. I went to see Mr. O’Reilly this week. He was pleased with the first eye. He said it is perfect. He was not so pleased with me. He said that I fought him during the surgery. The local anesthetic did not relax me enough. The day after the first eye was done he said I would have a choice, but this week he said I have no choice. He wants me to have the general anesthetic for this second eye. I asked him about the change in colours and he said that was normal. I wanted to know more about how my two eyes will function together. I wanted to know if the blacks and greys would still be full of blues and lavenders or if everything would settle down. I wanted to know why the road in front of me looked grey and the road in the rear view mirror looked lavender. I guess these sorts of questions are no longer interesting to him. He knows how things go. He looks very young but still, he has been doing these operations for a long time. None of it is new and exciting for him. Mr.O’Reilly told me that I ask too many questions.

Frank’s Shop

30 August Wednesday

As I drove to Kilkenny a sign appeared several times on trees and posts. It was not until the return trip from the hospital when I was not allowed to drive that I realized that HAM SANDWICH was not an announcement for something to eat. The big black letters had a date printed small below it. That was when I realized that HAM SANDWICH was the name of a band.

31 September Thursday

Michael was being badly bullied by some bigger fatter robins this morning. He walked into the kitchen so I fed him some cracker crumbs on the floor. He ate in his sitting down position in peace and quiet.

1 September Friday

My eyes are seeing colours in the new way all the time now. Most greys have a lot of lavender in them. I was afraid two eyes done would return me to the old colour range but blues and lavenders are now more prevalent than blacks and greys. Sometimes I need to ask someone else how a colour looks to them. I cannot close first one eye and then the other to test by myself anymore. The world looks a lot more lively. This morning the entire valley disappeared in a thick white fog but even the white fog had a nice bright tone on it. By the time the sun cleared it away I sort of missed the look of the world ending at the fence.

2 September Saturday

Last Saturday we had a stall at the market. We sold our books and cards. Jim brought a table and a canopy kind of cover for us. It did not rain so we did not need the cover but it was nice to have it just in case. Catherine loaned me the postcard rack from the shop. She said I could take it if I took all of the cards out and then put them all back in when I returned the rack. I asked what would she do if someone needed a postcard while they are all shoved into a box. She snorted and said “No one is after buying postcards anymore.”

The stallholders at the Farmers Market try to offer some things to interest the busloads of visitors who arrive every Saturday morning. Sometimes as many as five buses arrive. The tourists might be from somewhere else in Ireland or from England or they might be from France or Germany or Israel. They could be from anywhere. Once there was a load from China. They come to see Cahir Castle and the Swiss Cottage and the tiny John Nash church. It is always nice if lots of ducks are in the river. The visitors love the ducks. The trouble with busloads of tourists is that they are driven from place to place and that usually involves a lot of eating stops and a big breakfast. They have no need to buy plants or raw fish or vegetables. Stella makes some small single portion rectangular cakes with them in mind as well as scones, which are popular. Traveling types might purchase apples, berries or a jar of jam. They might buy a wooden egg cup or a bowl or a tea cosy.

Pat likes to have different tables now and again just to vary what the market offers. I was convinced that the visitors would be delighted to see some of our cards on offer. We filled up the rack with a fine selection. The rack held about 24 cards. We tried to bring things mostly of local interest or of Irish interest. Catherine was right. Not much of anyone wants to buy postcards anymore. A busload from Dresden spent a long time looking at every single card but they did not buy any. They did not look at the books. We did sell some things and we had a lovely morning. We came home with gifts of a cauliflower and green beans.

When I returned the postcard rack to the shop Catherine said someone had been looking for a postcard that morning for the first time in months and no one knew where the boxful off the rack had been put.

Today, customers of the regular sort, not the visiting sort, asked us why we were not there with our books again. They are asking when we will return. This week we were just customers but maybe we shall borrow the table and the canopy and the postcard rack and do it all again sometime before winter comes.

3 September Sunday

Michael sits on my knee. He sits on Simon’s shoulder. He has not sat upon my shoulder and he has not sat upon Simon’s knee. Today he sat on Maud’s foot. He is completely happy to be near us and on us. Sudden movements frighten him but mostly he appears to like the sound of voices and the presence of people. He made a diving attack on some other robins who showed up and started to eat some of his crumbs so I am less worried about him being able to survive than I was. His leg is bent but it does not stop him from flying. It does not dangle from his body in such a useless way.

4 September Monday

The physiotherapist was happy with my hand. She sent me home with more exercise instructions and a piece of rubber. It is three months since my fall and fracture. I feel I am healed. She said it will be a few more months before I regain full strength. She said there was no need to see her again but even so there is a good chance that I will see her again as she lives just up on the road in Grange near to where the old dog walks the middle line every day to go to Franks’s shop. We spoke of the old dog and we spoke of Frank and his recent surgery. Now that we know who each of us are and we would recognize one another we probably will indeed see each other often. There is a good chance we saw one another before but since we did not know each other then we did not know that we lived sort of nearby.

5 September Tuesday

Frank’s shop is closing. Today is the final day. Frank is in hospital.  He is in intensive care. He had surgery last week. If the shop is closing it is all very serious. The shop is Frank’s shop. The family lives in the house connected to the shop but I have never seen Frank’s wife working there. I never saw Frank’s wife at all. Or if I did see her I did not know who she was. His son worked in the shop sometimes. Last time I saw the son in there I asked for a lemon. The son asked why would I be wanting a lemon. I bought milk just so that I would be buying something since I had gone there for a lemon but there were no lemons to buy and I felt I could not leave without buying something. The shop has been a center for local news and for couriers dropping off parcels for people who live down long hard to find lanes as well as a place for basic groceries and newspapers. It is the only shop in the village. There is the shop and the church and the school and the community hall. That is the entire village center. Frank used to have a post office counter in the shop but that got taken away a few years ago. Now there is only a post box outside. There are also two pumps, one for petrol and one for diesel. I am sad about the village without the shop. I am worried about the old dog who walks there every day for his treat. I am worried for Frank’s family. I am worried for Frank. We are all worried for Frank.

Never not in my ears

6 September Wednesday

I am taking Jessie and Molly out for a walk every afternoon. We have been walking in the same field each day. Today is the eighth day. It is a walk I do not have a name for yet. We walk through a gate and up a track to get to the field and then through another gate before we get to the field. We go all around the perimeter and the rejoin the track near the second gate. On one side there is a small house which has been empty for as long as I have been here. The doors and windows are broken in. Most of the house is covered with green growth: brambles and bushes and trees. We can see this building from the road at certain vantage points. I wish I knew whose house it once was. The field is owned by a man named Murphy but the house might have nothing to do with him. The hay or wheat has been cut so we are not walking on a crop. The remaining stubble makes a clacking kind of sound when we step on it. When both dogs are close to me we sound like an cartoon orchestra but mostly the dogs are rushing around at high speed and I am clicking and clacking through the stubble alone. I am trying to find the right word to describe this crunching hollow noise. I am trying to find a word for the noise and I am trying to find a name for the walk.

7 September Thursday

The two-sided sign at Kilnabutler which was wrapped in black plastic all summer has been unwrapped. The honey is ready.

8 September Friday

The winds are wild and gusty. We are being buffeted about. The sound of the wind is never not in my ears. It is always in my ears. I hear it when I am inside the house and I hear it when I am outside the house. I hear it while I sleep and while I eat. I hear it while I am thinking of other things. I am worried about Michael. I have not seen him all day. I hope he is tucked away somewhere safe and out of the wind. I think he spends a lot of time under the rosemary bush. I hope he has plenty to eat.

9 September Saturday

Billy the Wood came and delivered several loads of firewood today. We had far too many phone calls back and forth to get this delivery arranged. It seemed to be unusually complicated to get a time organized. When I had to ring him, I thought maybe it was his wife answering the phone. Even as I say this, I do not even know if Billy has a wife. I do not know anything about Billy. Billy’s voice does not really sound like a woman’s voice but it does not sound like a man’s voice. It does not sound like any other voice I know. It is a strange and most particular voice. I find it just as strange when he is standing in front of me as I do when I am on the phone and I do not know if I am speaking to a man or a woman. The wood that Billy brought is half ash and half birch. I was wondering whether to cover the pile with a big tarpaulin but the rain started lashing down before I decided. This wood has been wet before so I cannot worry about it being wet again. And anyway, any kind of a cover would have been difficult to hold down in the wind. I would have needed a lot of big pieces of the wood on top to hold it down and then all the wood piled on top would all get wet anyway.

10 September Sunday

The woman walked into the waiting room and waved to the receptionist. She shouted “It’s Myself!” as she plopped down into the chair nearest to the door.

11 September Monday

The wind never stops. It never stops. It is exciting and it is completely annoying. I cannot remember how long it has been. It seems like it has been windy forever. I feel we could be blown away. We might end up in another country or at least another county. The sun has come out and in between glorious bright sunshine there are small amounts of rain. The rain falls while the sun shines. Every few minutes the day is different. Some robins have appeared around the table. They are here to eat crumbs but none of the robins are Michael. I am looking carefully at their markings and their legs which are all strong and straight. I am looking for the crooked tail feather. I am worried. I thought maybe all the robins had gone away but that is not the case. I wonder if Michael has been chased away by bigger birds or if he has been blown away by the wind or if he has been the victim of a bigger creature. Some of the robins are here. Where is Michael?

A Right to Strong Suction.

13 September Wednesday

I am hoping that Michael has found a new place to call his own. I do not know if the other robins chased him away. There are two robins who still stop at the table regularly. They both have fat bodies and strong straight legs. They are not Michael. I was worried about him in the wild winds but the winds have stopped now. I thought he might be sheltering but if that was the case he should be back. I have spent time in the places he used to go with me. I have picked raspberries and talked to him as if he was nearby. I hoped that if he was hiding my voice might encourage him to come out. I have done some weeding. I have sat on the kitchen bench and I have drunk tea out at the big table always hoping and hoping he might appear. I have been hoping his curiosity would make him come along to see what I was doing.   One day I sat on the bench in the rain under an umbrella just in case he felt the rain provided a safe time to come out of hiding. Most birds are not out in the rain. I hope wherever he is that he is happy. He might not remember our voices and our treats. The brain of a robin might not hold onto a past. Maybe the present is enough. I still look outside for him many times each day. I hope he is not dead.

14 September Thursday

Evening is a constant challenge. I tend to think of evening as the soft time before full darkness. It is the time before night. Evening is the few hours between afternoon and night. Around here, if a man tells you he will deliver something in the Evening, he means he will be with you any time after dinner. That means you can expect him any time after your lunch, which is his dinner. The time after dinner can extend right up until night. Evening is then Evening. Sometimes it is possible to pin a person down to a specific time, but mostly you just have to wait.

15 September Friday

I entered the room. I heard a thud. I looked up. There was an owl looking straight at me. He was pressed up against the outside of the window. I was just inside. We were very close to one another. His right wing was spread out in a flying position and the left one was down beside his body. He must have flown into the glass because of the light. We stared at each other without moving for several seconds. Then he stepped backwards off the window ledge and into the darkness.

16 September Saturday

Mary was at the market this morning. She does not look well. She too has had her cataracts done recently but she is not happy. She says that her vision is all wrong. She looked like she might cry at any moment. She studied my eyes carefully to try to see how they are. She did the same thing to Jim who had his done last year. I am not sure what she was hoping to see. She also had a knee replaced in the spring. I think she is more than a little exasperated about getting old. She is annoyed with various body parts that have always worked properly and are now demanding endless attention. On top of all that, she is angry at the European Union. They are discussing, or maybe they have already passed into law, something about the power and the energy consumption of vacuum cleaners. Mary is outraged that Those People in Europe feel they can intrude on this aspect of her life. She complained to everyone she saw. She asked again and again, “Whatever are you to do if you feel you have A Right to Strong Suction?”

17 September Sunday

It has been there for a while now. Maybe it is already four or even five months. For a while I assumed it was a temporary solution. I thought it would just be there until something more permanent could be found. Now I realize that the waste bin is going nowhere. It is tied to the front gate with rope. It rests against the inside of the gate at an angle. It is silver and the kind of bin with a pedal on the bottom. It is made so that a person can step on the pedal and open the bin. There is no need to touch the top flap to open it. But a foot pedal is no help for the postman. I doubt he could reach down inside the gate and push it with his hand with enough pressure to open the top. Even if he could reach in and press the pedal, I fear the opening of the top would slap him in the face. And anyway, now a flood gate apparatus has been put across the front of the gate so it will be even harder to lean in and reach the pedal. No doubt the postman just opens the bin with his fingers. And anything he places inside will stay good and dry even on a desperate rainy day when no one goes out of doors to check the post anyway.

Two Fox Morning

19 September Tuesday

A Nominated Neighbour Scheme is being introduced. From what I understand, older people living on their own will receive a card to hold up in a window to tell a visitor that they are not recognized and therefore they should go to the Nominated Neighbour whose name and address are displayed on the card. The neighbour will then check the callers identity and maybe even return with the caller to the persons house after having been satisfied that they are genuine. Of course, this all depends on the Nominated Neighbour being at home when a stranger calls. It also depends on the stranger not being a complete lunatic.

20 September Wednesday

They promised rain for today and said it would be Turning Persistent For a Time. Once the rain started, it rained without stopping for the entire day and into the night. Persistent seems a polite word for this kind of downpour.

21 September Thursday

It was Jim who said it to another man. He said it with a great laugh. Everyone laughed so I smiled along though I did not really understand it. I have thought and thought about this expression but I still do not understand it. He said “You’re lovely up front like the back of an old dresser.”

22 September Friday

The raspberries keep ripening. The blackberries keep ripening. I pick them. We eat them. I give them away. I freeze them. I feel like I am constantly picking berries. We gathered all the wild damsons and made an enormous quantity of thick sauce. It is a beautiful colour and it tastes wonderful. We will be able to dig it out of the freezer for months and months. There is a lot of it. There are rose hips and elderberries and sloes.  I am not even dealing with them. Andrzej and I went up to Johnnie’s orchard on Monday. We took four buckets with us. We returned with one bucket only partly full. Thwarted optimism. My apple trees are not the only ones that have suffered a dreadful year. It does not make me feel any better to see so few apples elsewhere.

23 September Saturday

A Two Fox Morning and it is still early. Several have been through the yard. The first was the old scruffy looking fox climbing uphill and moving slowly. It is hard to assign this fox a colour. He is messy and sort of brown and dirty and his tail is half cut off. It looks like his tail was caught in something and cut with a straight line down the middle. This tail does not come to a point anymore. This tail ends with a straight line. I have never seen a tail cut like that. I have never seen any fox with his tail cut. The second fox moved quickly and gracefully almost like a dancer dashing quickly from place to place without any sense of rushing. The second fox was beautiful and red with a perfect white tip on its bushy tail.

Hand Cut Gate

30 September Saturday

I have a new feeling about the slugs in the bathroom. Even if the window has been closed for hours I walk in at night and I know they are there. I turn on the light and I enter the room and I stand very quietly in the doorway. My eyes search around from floor to ceiling. I don’t move. Only my eyes move. I do not know if slugs can hear anyway. I know they are there even when I cannot see them and I am determined to let them know that I know. Sometimes I see one on the side of the sink or in the tub. Sometimes I do not see any but I know they have been there by their tracks all over the mirrors and the windows. I hate that they are hiding in the underneath dark places. Once I leave and turn off the light I forget all about them but I do not like to be surprised by even the smallest of slugs.

1 October Sunday

Yesterday we went to a celebration gathering for Pam up in the mountains at an old hotel. We had never been to this hotel before. It smelled badly of mildew and damp and there was a lot of wallpaper peeling off the walls. In some places the paper had been stuck down with bits of sello tape and sometimes staples had been used. Many friends and family were there and there were a few speeches and stories all about Pam and her long life. It was a cheerful event. Small triangular sandwiches were served with the crusts cut off. This was the kind of food Pam liked to serve and to eat herself. She loved having tea. It is a pity no crisps were served as everyone who knew Pam knew how she loved crisps although since her preferred place to eat them was in bed maybe it is just as well they were not on offer. As we drove back down the mountains and over the Vee the sheep were everywhere on the road.  It made for a slower drive but not an unpleasant one.

2 October Monday

Everyone has things left for them at one shop or the other. McCarra’s shop and O’Dwyer’s shop are both helpful about taking things in for people. There are too many people who live up the mountains or down terrible roads like our own. The couriers cannot be seeking us out all day long as there is often no phone service and anyway we all end up stopping in at the shop eventually and then we can pick up whatever was left for us. The trouble is that the person who is looking for the parcel is rarely the one who put it wherever it is now.

Maud left something for us at the shop last week. Now we have come to collect it. No one knows exactly what size the parcel is and since they do not know what it looks like it is harder to find it. The area behind the counter and up on the shelf is cluttered with things dropped off by neighbours and friends and couriers. Everything gets put somewhere but that somewhere is not always evident. The thing might be behind the counter or it might be in the hardware shop or if it is large it might be in the shed or it might be behind the post office counter. Things are always found eventually but the finding is rarely fast.

3 October Tuesday

I arrived on the street in front of the clinic. There was a woman standing in front of the door. She shouted at me, “The Eye Man, is it? He is right in there but you’ll have to wait. He has a following, so he does.” She moved out of the way to allow me to enter the building. It was my final check up after the cataract surgery. The waiting room was full. There were two seats taken for each appointment. There were a lot of elderly people waiting and each of them had a younger person with them. I was the youngest person of both sorts and I was the only person on my own. The woman beside me spoke in a loud voice to the man next to her. She said, “So you’ve been here before?” He answered, “I must have been.”

4 October Wednesday

I sat in the log cabin at Daltons’ while my head lamps were adjusted. I was impressed that there is now a huge plate glass picture window in the cabin. No other customers are going to be left sitting there for hours while everyone goes home or out to lunch. I could see out into the work area and anyone in the work area could look in and see me sitting there on the plastic couch. I had already washed the car and filled the tires and cleaned out the inside and Mike had given the whole thing a look over. All this had involved two days of preparation. The lights were the last thing to do as the smallest bump in the road could set them off kilter. The man was not sure he had fixed them properly so he would not charge me for his time. He told me to come back after the test and if I had not passed because of the lights he would not charge me anything but if I passed I could give him ten euro.

I went to the NCT office and sat inside with the other people waiting for their test results. There were eight of us. There were three large windows so that we could watch the testing area and keep track of our own car. The new theory is that no one repairs their car before the test. They just wait to be told which parts failed and then they go and get that thing fixed. Variations on this were being discussed endlessly as we all waited. The rumour is that the authorities want to get old cars off the road so they are trying to find more things wrong with older vehicles. My vehicle is old. It is 19 years old. I had no doubt something would be found to be wrong. I was right. I failed the test but not because of the lights. I went back to the man and paid him ten euro and then went to Mike to discuss what needs to be done to pass. It is the rear suspension and the steering linkage. He says it is not a problem and that it will be simple to sort. But not today.

5 October Thursday

I heard Johnny announce  that he was shocked by the whole thing.  He said “I Nearly Fell Out of My Stand Up!”

6 October Friday

Breda and her sisters are trying to keep track of Jim who is 91 or maybe 92. He is living in the house he has always lived in. He is not driving any more so they take turns ferrying him to doctor’s appointments and out for his shopping. They have a sort of rota as to who visits him when just so they can keep track of him. They were taking it in turns to bring him a cooked dinner until one of the sisters decided it was better for him to prepare his own food. It kept him active and gave him some engagement both with his shopping choices and the preparation of the food. Breda stopped by yesterday and saw Jim standing by the gate.   The neighbour’s horse was just over on the other side of the gate. She assumed that Jim was talking to the horse but what he was doing was peeling a carrot over the gate so that the peelings dropped onto the ground. He said the horse could eat them if she wanted. He had two more carrots in his back pockets. The one on the left side had been peeled already. The one on the right side was still waiting to be peeled.

7 October Saturday

There are still sweet peas to bring into the house. They are perfect to look at but they are devoid of smell. The cooler nights must have chilled them into this state.

8 October Sunday

The woman who died is not a woman I know. Nor do I know her family. They all moved away years ago and she herself has been in a home for twelve years now. Two women were discussing her. They were fondly remembering that her specialty had been pricing the cakes for the Bake Sale.

9 October Monday

I still go out most mornings to pick raspberries for breakfast. Every day I think that today will be the last day. There are fewer berries and some of them are just too ripe and too wet. The ones that are a deep dark beautiful red do not taste much like raspberries. Instead, they taste like fruit water. I pick the ones that are lighter in colour and almost a bit unripe. I go out to pick wearing my dressing gown over my pajamas and my Wellington boots. If I got dressed in my clothes for the day before I went out to pick raspberries, I would get so wet that I would need to change maybe even before I ate breakfast. That is just how wet the leaves are. And this is why I am often greeting the postman standing outside in my dressing gown with my partially filled bowl of berries. He does not seem to notice nor to mind my appearance. He is happy to accept a handful of raspberries before continuing on his way.

10 October Tuesday

I received a text from the library informing me that the book I had requested was now on reserve for me. It will be held for 7 days. I have no recollection of requesting a book. Once again this book offers me the pleasure of complete surprise. Once again, Marie, the head librarian, has decided that this is a book I should read. It might be a library book or it might be her own book. Either way she is certain that it is a book I need to read. It is a book I shall want to read. I have no doubt that this is the best possible service any library can offer a reader.

11 October Wednesday

No one wants to turn on their heat yet. We all speak about it. It is almost a competition. It is only the 11th of October. It becomes a game to put it off for as long as possible. If anyone does turn on the heat they probably won’t admit it. The first of November is the ideal. Already the nights are chilly and the mornings are damp and cold. When the sun is out it is easy to forget about the cold and about the clothes not drying and the extra sweater. A fire in the wood stove is welcome enough at night. But when the day is cold and windy and wet the house can feel just miserable. Today is wild and windy but bright and sunny. We are not thinking about heat.

Fetching the Mail

24 October Tuesday

There were two Americans behind us on the bus. They were in their mid-sixties. A man and a woman. I think they were in their mid-sixties. I did not look closely because to do so I would have had to turn right around to stare directly at them. They were with two more Americans, also a man and a woman. The second couple were sitting in the seat across the aisle. I think these two were a little older. Maybe they were in their late sixties. Maybe they were the same age. They all had southern accents but I could not decide exactly from which part of the south. They spoke quietly. The two behind us discussed what to capture on their camera from the moving bus. The woman was beside the window and she had a proper camera rather than just a camera phone. We passed a field of sheep. The man said, “Get the sheep. Get the sheep. Get the sheep.” She snapped and snapped. He said, “Get the sheep. Keep shooting.” He was not bossy with his orders. He was just excited. There were only about twelve sheep in the field and the bus was moving pretty fast. The sheep were widely spread out so maybe she had enough time to photograph each one, but I do not think so. A little later, he said, “Get the tree.” She did. Then they discussed the tree.

Sometimes the four people spoke together. At one point, the woman across the aisle asked how long they had stayed in one place. They all agreed it had been six nights in one place and three nights in the next place. They joked about the woman updating her diary. Except for this interchange, each couple mostly just discussed things quietly between themselves.

I was not eavesdropping intentionally but I was exhausted from the long overnight flight and I was too tired to read and too tired to even fall asleep. The gentle excitement of photography from the moving bus was just enough to keep my interest. As the bus rolled down the hill into Cahir, the woman behind me was rapidly snapping the river and the weir and a heron which all looked beautiful in the sunlight. The couple on the other side of the bus were both taking pictures of Cahir Castle. We stood up to get our things together in anticipation of getting off the bus. Neither couple turned to look out the opposite side of the bus. The ones looking at the castle did not see the river and the ones looking at the river did not see the castle. Neither couple called over to the other couple to point out what there was to be seen out the other side of the bus.

I have been thinking of these people since I got home, and as I have drifted in and out of jet lag. I am hoping that at the end of each day of their travels they switch cameras and look at what was available to be seen out the other side of the bus. That way they can have a more complete picture of where they have been.

25 October Wednesday

We missed the hurricane. It was the biggest natural disaster in years and years. We missed all of the problems and the dangers and the excitement. I felt a little left out to be far away. I still feel like that. Our own house was fine. We did not lose any slates and we did not find much damage except for branches and one plum tree that was blown down. And of course, the leak in the roof has let in more water, but that could have happened with any normal rain storm. It did not need a hurricane. We have been getting reports from everyone we speak to. Some people lost electricity for a week or ten days while their neighbours next door did not. In many cases the neighbours with electricity have filled their freezer with the food from the freezer of people who lost their electricity. Tom Cooney’s galvanized roof flew off his hay barn and landed two fields away. It could easily have cut off someone’s head. PJ and Fiona felt it landed too near to their house. They were fearful that it might take off again in a fresh gust of wind. Tom Cooney told me that he is waiting for the insurance company to assess the damage but he knows he will have to pay at least part of the repair himself. He said they are backed up to their teeth with claims. He is in despair as he feels the entire world to be in a perilous state. He said his roof is just a small thing. The Mass Path is impassable. Trees and branches are down. I could not walk far enough to find out if the problem continues all the way up the path or if it is just the first hundred metres past the stream.

26 October Thursday

There are many freshly cut trees everywhere. Big and sturdy stone walls have been knocked down by falling trees. Branches have been thrown into enormous piles to be dealt with later. The bright look of sawdust and exposed timber stands out from all of the gloomy grey light. Other trees that fell where they stood have huge ripped apart trunks. In some places it is difficult to remember how things looked before the storm.

27 October Friday

The new modem is coming today. I do not understand it all but Simon spent a lot of the day yesterday talking to Winnie Hickey. Our internet has come from a system of bouncing connections all down the country. The last bounce before the bounce to us was off the roof of Winnie and Michael Hickey. This system has worked well for years. We could always phone the Hickeys if anything was malfunctioning with our internet. So that is what Simon did today. First he talked to the internet company, then he spoke to Winnie and then he went back to several different people at the company. No one gave him the same answers, Winnie assured him that no matter what they said the problem was nothing to do with the hurricane. She said that was their easy excuse but she said things had gone wrong a few days before the hurricane. We would have believed the man if she had not told us otherwise. The guy was trying to pretend it was the hurricane but then suddenly he said a tree grew up in the way. Simon said it was not possible for a tree to grow that fast and exactly in a position to be blocking the connection especially not at this time of year. The guy on the phone was waffling. He sort of implied without saying directly that they had sold off part of the company and the people who bought it could not be bothered with our small area of bouncing connections. Winnie is already signed up for a new service. She recommended that Simon do the same. That is why he ordered this modem which is to arrive today. I am confused by all of it.

28 October Saturday

Pat Looby loaned me a copy of WASTING TIME ON THE INTERNET by Kenneth Goldsmith. It has been sitting around for a month or more. Now that there is no internet here and spending time on the internet is not even vaguely a possibility, I think it might be as good a time as any to read this book. The promised modem arrived but now the mast from which it receives its signal in Ardfinnan is down. So we remain without the internet. We are without our mobile phones too. We are reduced to using the landline and the dictionary. I have become accustomed to using my phone for everything. I check the weather with my phone. I am out of the habit of listening to the radio for this information and I no longer remember when to tune in in order to catch a weather forecast. Small things have become big things.

29 October Sunday

Maud had the whole day to herself. She told me that Peter had gone off to Chase a Churn. He drove to Gorey which is more than a three hour drive. He said it was worth it because it is not easy to find a butter churn with its top still intact. He would not be home till late. Maud was pleased to have the time to putter around and to just do what came into her head rather than doing things that needed to be done or demanded to be done. She told me that she had bought a lovely bunch of organic celery in the market. It had lots of leafy foliage and a glorious smell but she knew there was nothing at all to eat from it. The stalks were too thin to be worth anything. I wondered why she had bought it. She hung the celery in her window with a piece of pink twine. The sight of the celery hanging there pleased her enormously and she was glad to have had the time to do something like this with her afternoon. I forgot to ask if the celery was hung with the leafy part up or the leafy part down.

30 October Bank Holiday

Fetching the Mail has taken on a whole new meaning. We drive three miles down to McCarra’s shop and sit in the tiny room which used to be the Christmas Room and then was the All Year Round Gift Room. Later it returned to being a place to eat or to use the internet and the photocopier but lately it has a bunch of chairs and a few tables and a lot of merchandise which is piled up and waiting to be shelved somewhere else in the shop. We use the signal to take in the mail and to send out some mail. Our mobile phones do not work in the shop but they do work outside the shop. At home nothing works yet. We make two Fetch the Mail trips to the shop each day.

Gallybandy

1 November Wednesday

Being in the SuperValu in Cahir on this Wednesday morning felt like a mistake. The whole store was full of boxes being unpacked and goods
being shelved as well as lots and lots of elderly people. Almost everyone was on a frame or a stick or being pushed in a wheel chair. Every aisle was a traffic jam. There was a lot of laughter as people struggled to get around the boxes and to get to the products. The whole place was full of delight at so much chaos. By the time I reached the check-out counter there were two people in front of me waiting while one lady placed her goods on the counter. She apologized to us all for being so slow. The elderly man behind her told her to take her time and indeed to take as long as she needed. When she was finally finished paying and loading her shopping and thanking us all, she rolled her trolley away. The man who had been behind her was tall. He stood beside the counter with all of his things still in his trolley. He announced, “I will put my purchases on the counter when I am ready.“ The check-out girl waited a few minutes and then she said, “So, now then, are you ready?” He said, “I am. Indeed I am.”

As he banged his items onto the counter he shouted out what each thingwas. He appeared to be buying two of everything:
“Two Bags of Apples!
Two bottles of Dettol!
Two tins of baked beans!
Two packages of Kitchen Towels with two rolls in each package!
Two bags of Golden Wonder potatoes!”

Everyone watched him as he emptied his cart. It would not have mattered if I had been in the other line as every single person in both check out lines stopped what they were doing to watch him and to listen and to look at what he was buying. He said “Maybe I have two wives and I am shopping for them both!”

He announced that he came for The Shopping every Wednesday morning and that he always arrived by helicopter. He said it was the best way to travel when the roads Go Muddy and the trees are falling every which way. The man had only one tooth in the top front of his mouth and very few along the bottom but he had a good loud voice.

By the time I left the store he had loaded all of his groceries into his car. He did not have a helicopter. He had small old car with agricultural plates. It was thirty years old and the shine had gone off the paint. It was a dull orangey red. It had not been shiny for a long, long time. He had both front doors of the car open and he was parked in the place reserved for Mothers and Babies. He was standing near the front of the car shouting to each person who left the store. He asked who might be needing a lift home in his helicopter.

2 November Thursday

John Dowling gave me a box. The box was held closed by a big thick rubber band. I marveled at the strength and the width and the large size of it. I could not have been happier with this gift. The box itself became irrelevant. As did its contents. John told me that a rubber band this size is called a Gallabandy. This is a new word for me. A Gallabandy is a big fat strong rubber band which is produced, of course, for the normal functions. Locally, a Gallabandy is valued for being exactly the sort of rubber band needed to make a slingshot.

3 November Friday

I was in the hairdressers. People were discussing their plans for the weekend. One woman said she was going to go up to Eason’s to buy herself a good book. Someone a few chairs along screamed, “You mean to READ?!!??”

4 November Saturday

We were just beginning to prepare supper when the gas ran out. The supper was fresh hake from the market. It needed to be cooked quickly,
in a hot pan. After considering a few options, Simon unhooked the gas canister from outside and put into the back of the motor. I drove to the shop to get a replacement. It was only about seven thirty but it was fully dark. I was worried that there might not be anyone there to lift the heavy full canister up and into the car. I knew it would be much too heavy for me. Luckily Kieren appeared just as I arrived and he loaded it for me. I had not wanted to go to the shop but the moon was big and full and the night was still so I was happy to be out driving through the dark with not another car in sight. There are times when the complete lack of any lights on the road is wonderful. Some full moons light all of the land and turn the world blue and bright but this full moon was just a circle of light. Nothing else was illuminated. Everywhere else was very very dark.

5 November Sunday

We all comment about the weather. We comment on the weather all the time. Today is bitter and cold and windy. But it is dry. That is the positive in every weather conversation. If it is not raining, it means that life is good and therefore we can only complain so much. We have been told to expect more of this cold. It has been unseasonably mild for so long now that the cold is a shock and a surprise. Tommie grumbled about it. Really what he grumbled about is that there is not one thing that any of us can do about it. He said, “We have no say at all in the weather. They put it inside into the radio and then it is after coming out and into our houses. We are just the ones who get it.”

6 November Monday

There are two and sometimes three men working on the humpback bridge into the village. They are pointing and scraping at cement and stone and doing things underneath that we cannot see as we drive or walk past. We hope that this work will help the bridge to last for many
more years. There is a small container dropped in place by the bridge. It is called a Welfare Pod. One door on the long side has a crossed
knife and fork. That is the little kitchen and eating room. The short side of the Pod has another door and that is a loo. The kitchen and the loo are both only entered from the outside. There is a discrete separation between the two activities.

7 November Tuesday

When walking a path where no one else has walked for a while I feel that I am jostling the settled nature. Or that is the word I use for
it. I am jostling the landscape. I am jostling the land to help it remember feet going along it. Stepping down on upright grass and pushing through weeds begins the path-making all over again. The path feels fresh and new even when it is not exactly new and not exactly fresh. It is not making a path. It is just re-claiming where it was and reminding it and me that it is the same place only different. Jostling the memory of the land.

Campbell’s Tea

22 November Wednesday

I was stopped going through the security line at Cork Airport. The security woman took me and my bag aside. Before opening it, she said “You are carrying coffee in a tin?” I said “No, I have tea. I have two tins of Campbell’s Tea.” I had been a little worried that the security people might consider the metal tins to be potential weapons. I babbled a bit and said that I liked to take Campbell’s tea as a gift because I love the big yellow tins and because people love to receive them. I forgot that I was in Cork. The woman was not worried about the metal and the possibility of it being bent or shaped into a knife or a weapon once I was on the plane. She did not care about the tins. She was disgusted that I was not taking Barry’s tea as a gift. Barry’s tea is the only tea to buy or to drink if you live in Cork. Barry’s tea is a Cork product. It is a Cork institution. The Barry Family are from Cork. They still live in Cork. They donate generously to all things Cork. Barry’s tea is synonymous with Cork. I worried that she was going to confiscate my Campbell’s Tea. She made me wait around a bit. She let me and the tea go, but she did not want to.

23 November Thursday

Young people do not go to High School. They go to Secondary School. I was surprised to see a musical event listed to take place at the CBS
High School. The CBS is the Christian Brothers School. The ground floor of the school is for Primary School boys and upstairs is the
Secondary School, for the older boys. It is called the High School because it is upstairs. It is higher off the ground. The man who explained this to me said that he himself left school early. He told me that he never got Up the Stairs.

24 November Friday

I turned the corner in the boreen and surprised the fox. He surprised me too. He turned his head and saw me just exactly as I saw him. I was close enough that I could have touched him with an outstretched arm. He leapt high across the track and into the woods without missing a beat.

25 November Saturday

Yesterday morning was cold and frosty. There was a thick covering of snow on the Galtee Mountains. They looked like the Alps. The
Knockmealdowns and the Comeraghs were less heavily coated. They were only sprinkled with snow. We had no snow down here. It was all in the distance. The good thing about the snow and the cold was that I thought there might be fewer slugs alive and crawling around in the
bathroom. The unnaturally mild weather has meant that they have not died off or gone into hibernation or whatever they do in the winter.
Every evening I have been finding at least one stretched out on the sink or the tub or the shelf and every time I throw him or her out the
window. There was no slug to toss out last night. I hope that means the end of them until next year.

Tuesday 1 slug
Wednesday 1 slug
Thursday 2 slugs
Friday 0

26 November Sunday

Simon found a pumpkin in the ditch. We had walked down the Long Field in cold windy sunlight. He chose to return by walking around by the road. I walked back up the way we had come. I wanted to look again at the metal things on the rock in the low place where rocks and rubble have been dumped to keep them off the fields and all in one place.This rock depositary has been used for a long time. Years. Most of the rocks are probably parts of the stone walls that separated many small fields before the Long Field became one enormous field. There are
plenty of furze bushes and brambles growing around the piled up stones. It is a place to aim for on the walk. I always think of it as
about halfway but it is not really halfway. And of course it depends from which end of the field you begin your walk. There are eight metal
things on the rock. They have been there for at least two months. Each one has two big bolts in it. I guess they were taken off a piece
of machinery during the harvest and replaced with new parts. Or maybe they are waiting for collection and will be used again. It might be
that the farmer knows exactly where he left them. Lined up together on the rock in the sun they looked like a little flotilla of boats.

Back to the pumpkin. Simon was walking up the road just after the fork. There are no houses nearby. He saw a pumpkin in the ditch. And
of course the ditch was not a down ditch as most people know a ditch but a Tipperary ditch meaning a section of hedgerow. Someone had
thrown the pumpkin there, maybe from a moving car. It was resting deep and snugly within the tangled brambles and hawthorn branches. It was not visible to anyone in a car or a tractor, but it was visible to a walker. He scrabbled in the ditch and rescued it. It was not broken nor were there any gashes from the thorns. Simon was not able to walk too far with the pumpkin in his arms so he waited under a tree until I
drove down that way. I was wondering why it was taking him so long to get up the hill. Now we have a pumpkin sitting outside waiting to be
cooked and made into a pie or a cake or eaten as a vegetable.

27 November Monday

Going to the village to post a few parcels before the afternoon pick up became a long trip. There was work being done between the
graveyard and the bridge. It was big work with lots of men and lots of trucks. Yesterday there was one truck and a few men there with two at each end. They had STOP & GO signs that they turned around every few minutes. Today I had to wait about 15 minutes for a little white
van with flashing lights to arrive. This was the Convoy Vehicle. He arrived and turned around and then led myself and two other cars down
the road where one other car was waiting to come up. Then the Convoy Vehicle turned around to lead that car back up. I had to wait to
travel in The Convoy as I went back home too. There was no other way to go unless I drove all around by way of Ardfinnan and that would
have been stupid. It seemed to me that the two men with their two signs and their mobile telephones did the job just as well, and faster.

A Sparrow On Galtymore

28 November Tuesday

We walked up the small road past Tommie’s and met Michael at Middlequarter.  He thought we were walking toward the waterfall and he warned us that it was wickedly muddy and slippery up there right now.  We knew that to be true so we said we would wait for another day to do that walk.  He told us that Rose’s mother MaryAnn swore that the waterfall was a Tried and Proven cure for alcoholics. If any man went and stood up under the rushing water at The Gash he would be cured of his drinking addiction.  She used to tell this to anyone who would listen as she stood behind the bar serving drinks. After a bit of laughing, Michael said goodbye.  He was on his way to the stream just below to rinse off his Wellington boots.  He had been with his cows and he had muck and hay and mud coated almost to the top of the boots. He said he did not want to sit into his car with all of that still on his boots.

30 November Thursday

The pumpkin rescued from the ditch was too old to be edible. One side started to rot so I cut it open. The flesh had gone all spongy. I think it had been frozen and thawed one time too many.  I scraped out the seeds and dried them in the oven with a bit of oil.  They are delicious. The pumpkin is in the compost heap.

1 December Friday

We spent a lot of the morning looking for an apple corer.  We knew we did not own one.  We were looking for something that might work the same way.  I texted Breda.  She did not have one. I texted Siobhan.  She did not have one but she met us for a walk and brought a potato peeler thing which she thought might do the job.  We bumped into Biddy at the graveyard. She did not have one either but she remembered that she used to have one.  She could not recall the last time she even needed an apple corer. There was not a corer for sale at the shop.  Kieren found a short piece of pipe with a sharp end in the hardware shop. The pipe had been part of some shelving unit.  We decided that might do the job.  It was the best solution so far and in the end it worked beautifully.

2 December Saturday

I went down to the post office yesterday afternoon to catch the last post before Monday.  There were cars everywhere. It was the wrong time of day for a funeral. Funerals are always at 11 am.  This was a wedding and everyone was just leaving the church after the service as I arrived.  There were cars parked everywhere all the way up to the bridge and there were people all over.  The men were all wearing suits and ties and looking smart.  The women and girls were all completely underdressed. Everyone seemed to be dressed for a wedding in the middle of summer. There were lots of spaghetti strapped dresses and bare legs with fake tan and high heeled sandals.  It was a bright and sunny day but the temperature was 2 degrees.  It was nearly freezing and in my many layers and my wool hat I was still feeling the cold. These women must have been nearly dead.  I saw a few hats but they were summery wedding hats not wooly cold weather hats. I saw one little white furry cape that covered someone’s shoulders and came halfway down her upper arms.  The shop was full of people laughing and talking and getting warm. They were getting cash and cigarettes and talking about what a lovely ceremony it had been. The wedding was for David John and his girlfriend.  I do not know her.  I do not even know her name.  They have been together for maybe seven years and they have two children.  People save up for years to have a wedding.  They are more apt to buy a house than to have a wedding. That is the current order of things.  DJ is Rose’s son. She had opened the bar for an hour before the wedding and it was going to be open for two hours after the service. That is why people were in the shop getting some cash.  People like to drink before a wedding and they like to drink after a wedding.  Two buses were going to come after the two hours to collect everyone and take them down to Dungarvan for the party and the Afters. Later in the night, or in the early morning, the buses would make a few trips to bring everyone home again and deliver them all to their houses.

3 December Sunday

I saw Mary at the market yesterday. She is the Mary I usually see at the Farmers Market. I do not think I have ever seen her anywhere else. She is the Mary who loves Edvard Grieg.  She has traveled to Norway to sit on Grieg’s bench. She and Anne baked cakes and pies and scones for the market for at least six years.  They also took baking orders for special occasions. They had a little mobile stall from which they sold their wares.  The stall was small and high off the ground. It meant that they were standing way up above their customers. The cakes were at the level of the top of my head. I could never see what was available.  I had to ask. Mary’s pear and almond tart was a great favourite.  Anne’s husband arrived early each Saturday morning and got the stall backed in and level and secure and then he went home and came back later with Anne and her baked goods. The two women retired a few years ago. Anne and Mary stopped selling at the market and I have never seen Anne again.  Mary comes to the market every week.  She swears she has never baked another thing from that day to this.  When I saw her today she looked a bit lost.  Maybe a bit naked.  Then I realized that she was wearing no glasses.  She too had her cataracts done this year and she has had a bad time since then with infections.  I asked how her eyes are now and she said they are terrific.  She told me they are so good that she can see A Sparrow On Top Of Galtymore.

4 December Monday

Simon and I spent an hour or so with clippers and saws trying to work our way up the mass path. We had not gotten too far when we reached a fallen tree.  It was too big for our little saws.  It needed a chain saw and since we did not have a chain saw, we back-tracked and went through Cooney’s wood where tree felling has been going on for weeks and weeks now.  We struggled up a steep banking, got into the field and walked along the side parallel to the path. A small fox run at the top of the hill allowed us to slip back down onto the path.  We were both scratched and bleeding from the pushing and cutting through brambles and branches.  We had thick clods of mud encasing both the top and the bottom of our boots from the field. The very sticky soil made walking hard. The soil is called Clay. No one calls it dirt.  Dirt implies excrement.  Clay is what fills the fields. The way it clumped around our boots made our feet heavy and awkward. We staggered down the road with clay falling off at intervals.  At the fold in the land near Ballynamudagh, Oscar came rushing out to greet us and he walked with us all the home. With sunset at about quarter past four we just made it before dark.

The Fermoy Pencil

6 December Wednesday

Em hated closed doors.  A closed door inside the house was a personal insult.  She moved through the house at intervals checking in rooms where she thought something might be happening.  The bathroom was on her route.  After years of slipping in and out and rubbing her side along the edge of the door frame, she left a grubby smudge at dog body height.  She has been dead now for three years but the smudge remained.  Even though it looked like dirt on paintwork to anyone else, it was a sign of Em for me.  Now the smudge has been cleaned away.  Another sign of her absence.

8 December Friday

Wild lashing rain with a bit of sun at rare intervals but really it is the kind of day to get soaked no matter what you do or how long you spend out of doors. Ned came down to fill the oil tank. We have to be at home when he comes.  The generator needed to fill the tank must be plugged in to the house currant through an open window.  A normal sized oil lorry will not fit down the boreen.  Ned was soaked through when the job was done.  He was happy to sit down with hot tea and biscuits.  He spoke about one man giving another man the hard time he deserved for abusing public trust. He said that The one man Lacerated the other man.  I had never heard Lacerate used like this. Ned said, “He gave the fellow a Real Laceration.”

10 December Sunday

Our Green Cone is a green plastic cone which is wider at the bottom that it is at the top. It is made so that we can throw bones and fish skin and any amount of horrible stuff which would not be appropriate in the compost heap.  No rodents can dig down and get at anything because of the basket-like container at the bottom of the cone.  The container is dug into the ground. We still use the regular compost heap for vegetable matter. The green cone gets the horrible things.  If I go out to the cone at night I use the head torch so I can have two hands free for opening the top and tipping something inside. Last night my entire bowl, complete with fish skins and bones, slid into the cone.  I closed the top and went back into the house.  It was cold and dark and the contents of the cone smelled. My arm is not long enough to reach down into the cone even if I wanted to. I considered the bowl gone forever.  It was a heart shaped sponge-ware bowl which had been a gift.  Today Simon went out and rescued the bowl with the help of a long spade.

11 December Monday

Dilly is not the only one who ends her sentences with the words PLEASE GOD. Many people use these sentence endings.  If I say “I shall see you on Wednesday” Dilly always adds the words  “Please God”. Sometimes she says “God Willing”. Both endings embrace the assumption and a certain acceptance that the future is not something that is in your own hands.

12 December Tuesday

A damp struggle up the path today. It was not really a walk.  It was a only a struggle. The really huge tree that was blocking all movement up or down has finally been cut and moved by Andrzej with a chain saw.  Unfortunately, he ran out of both time and light to do any more clearing because that one tree took so long. There are still other trees in various angles of collapse.  We straddled our way over one large one which was covered with ivy and very wet. I think it is the ivy that pulls some of these trees down. It strangles and weakens them. Most of the others just involved crawling underneath or a squeezing around. There are plenty of brambles tugging at our hats and skin. Still, after so many weeks or maybe two months, of not being able to walk that route it was a pleasure to be back up there again.  I saw two pheasants and the fox.

Once we were out on the road, we saw Tom Cooney overseeing the moving of hay bales into his new shed. Tom Cooney always wears a big black hat with a large brim so even at a distance it is easy to know that it is himself. His hat is not exactly a cowboy hat, though maybe it is a cowboy hat.  It has a distinctive look.  Not one other person around here wears a hat like that.  Tom Cooney drives a big black Land Rover and he has two large black dogs who go everywhere with him. Mostly they stay inside the vehicle while he is checking on things. If he lets them out to run around he cannot keep his attention on the job being done as he would need to keep all his attention on the dogs. The new shed is much bigger than the old shed. And now he has two sheds where before he only had one. The roof supports off the old shed have been removed. The old galvanized round top has been replaced with a flat roof. The metal was all deformed and bent after the roof blew off in the hurricane. I am glad I photographed it before it was replaced. Seeing the new roof makes it is hard to even remember what the old one looked like.

13 December Wednesday

Ever since the new motorway bypass was built we have had little reason to drive through Fermoy.  As a town it is a little too far away to be useful for everyday things and not special enough for a visit on its own. Today we made a detour into town to take a photograph of the Fermoy Pencil.  The pencil is located on the road leading out of town. It was a good moment for a photo as the pencil had been recently painted.  It looked bright and clean and crisp and the graphite point was perfectly sharp.  The pencil was originally erected as a sign post for the Faber-Castell company just down the road.  The factory opened in 1954.  They made any number of different writing implements. I do not know if the big pencil was erected right away. No doubt it has been replaced a few times.  Kids carve their names in the wood of the pencil at least as high as they can reach. They never get up to the top. The pencil is about two and a half meters high.  Whenever the column is repainted the words and names get filled in and the pencil once again becomes a smooth, new writing utensil. The Fermoy branch of the Faber-Castell factory closed in the early 90’s but people love the Columbus which is the name of this style of pencil.  Tom Martin & Co. took over the distribution of the Columbus throughout the country. I assume the company is responsible for maintaining the pencil itself. I love the Fermoy Pencil.

Clean Food.

15 December Friday

The sun was out. It was cold but bright. I walked over Joe’s fields. The ground was wet and squishy.  It was not cold enough to be frozen. I stumbled a bit in and out of the deep hoof marks left by the cows in the mud. Cows always churn up mud and when it gets really cold the hoof holes freeze. Because we had the deep cold and now we have this strange mild weather the hoof holes are deep but soft.  It is a different kind of treacherousness than the frozen kind. Later I spent part of the road walk detouring into any long grass to wipe mud and muck off my boots.  As I neared the turn into our boreen, I heard a siren.  It is rare to hear a siren. I stopped to figure out where it was coming from and where it was going. I could hear that it was up on the Ardfinnan to Knocklofty road but I could not decide if it was going towards Ardfinnan or away from Ardfinnan. When I saw a Garda car speeding up the road towards me with lights flashing and the siren going, I waited to watch it pass. It was the only car I had seen all day. The car stopped beside me and the siren was turned off. The Garda opened his window and asked if I had seen a car crash.  I said No.  He asked if this was the Knocklofty to Newcastle road.  I said No. I said, “This is the Grange to Newcastle road.” I told him to take the left at the top of the hill and to drive a short distance, about a kilometer, which is the entire length of that road, until he reached a T-junction.  I said, “That will be the Knocklofty – Newcastle road. The car crash you are looking for could be either down hill to the left toward Knocklofty or down hill to the right toward Newcastle.” He looked a little confused about what to do when he got to that decision-making moment. He thanked me, turned on his siren and set off again, at speed.

16 December Saturday

The little chicks are growing up at the Farmers Market.  Each week they arrive in a cloth lined box that sits on the end of the table at the egg stand.  There are four of them. This week they are four weeks old. They are fuzzy. Everyone who sees them smiles.  I think this is the third egg seller we have had since David retired.  One of them was charging so much for his eggs that people started to boycott his stand and there was a lot of grumbling among the customers. I had never before heard grumbling at the market.  People said “Can you imagine paying that much for a dozen eggs!  And they are not even organic!” as if they always bought organic when mostly they never bought organic.  It did not take many Saturdays before that egg man stopped coming to the market.  These new egg sellers have a huge stack of boxes out on their long table.  The baby chicks are at one end, the eggs are in the middle and at the far end of the table are jars of chicken broth. David had a tiny round garden table and he only ever had two or three boxes of six eggs out at any one time.  As he sold them he would bring a few more cartons out from the back of his car.

17 December Sunday

I took a cake and a card down to Tommie and Margaret.  Tommie was alone and he looked exhausted.  He told me that Margaret fell outside the house on a tiny bit of ice yesterday and broke her leg. The ambulance arrived within half an hour which Tommie thought was good timing but he said it was a very long half hour for Margaret.  She had to wait on the cold ground as he dared not move her. She is now in Waterford awaiting surgery.  He slept very badly last night with the worry. This morning he went over to Grange for Mass as he could not deal with going in the village as usual.  He would need to be answering questions from everyone and he had no answers to give.  I knew he was not able for the drive to Waterford so I asked if he needed a lift.  He said, “Not to worry.”  He said that Some of His Own will be driving him.

18 December Monday

For as long as we have lived here, we have been run off the road by  enormous shiny milk tankers. It is a regular thing. Some of the tankers are from Glanbia and some are DairyGold. They rush around the countryside several times a week collecting the milk from farms. We are lucky they do not collect every day. Both kinds of these tankers go too fast. They are dangerous if we are walking and they are dangerous if we are driving.  Maybe it is more dangerous to be driving because they take up the entire road and they never slow down for anyone. I never thought the word GLANBIA was anything more than a company name.  Today Breda told me that it is the Irish word for CLEAN FOOD. Knowing this translation does not make the milk trucks any less dangerous.  If anything, it is disconcerting to imagine being run over by Clean Food.

19 December Tuesday

A box of birthday candles in the shop has been opened and 3 candles have been removed.  Or maybe 4 candles have been removed.  The box held 24 candles when it was new. Near the top of the box the price sticker has been amended to read 21 only.  At the bottom someone has drawn a zero over the 4 of 24, so there are either 20 or 21 candles in the box now. I do not know if the price on the packet takes the smaller number of candles into consideration.

The Irish Harp

21 December Thursday

The pressure is on. People stop one another to ask if everything is done. These are the Pre-Christmas things to be done. It is not only the things like the tree and decorations and the wreath for the door and the gifts and the turkey. It is all the other things which demand attention before the day. It is all the things to do before the Great Christmas Shut Down. Even though things do not shut down as completely as they once did, people act like the stores and the banks and the Post Office will never open again, and there will never be enough in the house to get through the ten days of the Shut Down. There are so many things which MUST be done before the holiday. I always feel like people are adding completely unnecessary things to the Must Do list just to increase the sense of panic. Every year I try to take note of all of the Important Things and every year I learn about some more things. A list might be the best way for me to keep track of the demands, even though I shall not be doing these things myself.  I shall no doubt forget some things:

  1. The graves of the deceased must be cleaned and either fresh flowers or an evergreen remembrance wreath should be placed on  the grave. This is especially important for the recently deceased.
  2.  The dog, if you have a dog, must be washed and groomed at the dog groomer.
  3.  The car must be washed.
  4.  The car should be filled to the top with petrol or diesel before Christmas Day.
  5.  A haircut is essential.
  6.  A supply of coal or turf must be bought and ready.
  7.  The firewood supply must be stacked and ready.
  8.  Teeth must be cleaned by the dental hygienist.
  9.  The windows of the house must be washed inside and out.

22 December Friday

The weather is all wrong. It is unseasonably mild after a period of deep hard cold. There are daffodils pushing up from the ground. Some are already showing three inches of green. Lilacs and currant bushes have buds. The apple trees have buds and one even has a few blossoms. Roses are showing new growth. None of this is right. There are two snowdrops in bloom. They are also early but at least they are only a few weeks early. They are not as early as everything else. I heard on the radio that a daffodil grower down in Wexford has multiple fields of daffodils in full bloom. He is deeply upset. There is no market for daffodils in December. He said he is a ruined man.

23 December Saturday

There was a piece in the news about some youths wrecking a church. They went in and smashed things up. The church was in an isolated spot out west somewhere. No one heard them or saw them. They broke every window and most of the benches. They set a few things on fire. They did not appear to have stolen anything. They just destroyed the place. People have been discussing it.  Jimmie was very saddened by it. He did not like the disrespect nor the irreverence. He despaired about the waste. He shook his head again and again. In a quiet voice, he said, “It is the problem for kids today. They are trying to have fun but they do not know how.”

24 December Sunday

Every year Anthony makes a Christmas tree from tyres. Anthony runs the motor factors and tyre place in the village. Everyone with a car or a truck or a tractor goes to Anthony for new tyres and for repairs to flat tyres. He is as happy to fix a wheelbarrow tyre as he is to do a bicycle tyre. He has a lot of old tyres. Every year his tyre tree is a little bit different from the year before. The tree is built on top on some pallets and held on with a big yellow strap. It might even be the same tree each year with just slightly different treatment. This year he layered green leaves between each tyre. Every year the tree appears as a surprise.

26 December Tuesday

We walked up Middlequarter and along the old track which is more like a riverbed than a path. It would have been wise for me to take a walking stick. The rocks were slippery with moss and wet leaves.  We managed to do most of the walk before the rain started up again. The path is lined with holly on both sides.  The sharp edges of the holly scratched at us as moved through them. When we dropped down to the place where the narrow path becomes a farm track we passed Des Dillon’s cottage. As always, I admired his green gate.

27 December Wednesday

There is a lot of moss everywhere. I am not sure if it is because of the mild weather or if it is in spite of the mild weather. The luminous green glows and makes us pay attention to things which we might miss.

29 December Friday

THE IRISH HARP IS NOT CONSTRUCTED BUT CARVED OUT OF A SINGLE TREE LIKE A CANOE.

In 1993, we made a letterpress concertina of this statement for our Coracle residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. In 1998, we laminated some of the leftover pages of text that had never been folded. We put grommets and strings on them. We called them Tree Ties. Today I spent some time down by the stream pulling pieces of ivy off the tree so that I could expose the Tree Tie a bit. I do not remember how long it has been attached to that tree. It is in pretty good shape.

A Crest of Moss

30 December Saturday

There was another big wedding in the village yesterday.  Weddings often get scheduled near to Christmas when people have the time off so that families do not have to make a repeat trip to come home for the event. Once again, there were loads of summer frocks, bare legs, fake tans and strappy high-heeled sandals. Once again, it was far too cold for such flimsy clothing.  I knew that Treasa was going to be dancing later at the wedding party. It was her cousin getting married. She would be doing Irish dancing along with some others.  When she told me about it, I was reminded to ask her about Dancing on a Barrel.  I had been meaning to ask for ages.  Treasa came to fill in at the Post Office when Helen, the post mistress, went into hospital.  She took on the job for three months after finishing university, but she has now been there for a year, or more. She has played on a Gaelic football team, performed in a play and done Irish dancing professionally, all while working at the Post Office. She does not intend to be staying there forever. Earlier in the year she auditioned to represent Tipperary in the Rose of Tralee competition, but she did not win. She was disappointed as she felt she had done a grand job.  She had Danced on a Barrel for three minutes. The image of dancing on a barrel stayed in my head.  I could barely think about it as it seemed so dangerous. She explained that the barrel works as a percussion instrument.  The sound of  tapping shoes is amplified. She said that in the competition she got her heel stuck once on the edge of the barrel, but luckily she did not fall. She also said that sometimes the barrel is cut so that the top is only a few inches off the floor instead of being full barrel height off the floor.  There would be no dancing on the barrel at her cousins wedding.

31 December Sunday

In the autumn, the McCarras built a long narrow outdoor/indoor porch place on the side of the shop. There is a bench along one wall and some chairs and tables. It is a place for cyclists and walkers to go in and sit down for a rest and a drink and maybe something to eat. This is a popular spot with the cyclists.  Laurence told me that Nicolas Roche stopped by recently. Everyone in cycling knows Nicolas Roche.  Long distance cyclists often stop in the village before climbing up into the Knockmealdowns. The porch room is light and it provides a sitting place out of the rain or wind. Suddenly today there is a big round clock in there too. Catherine said the clock was a problem as it was just too bold for anywhere else so this is where it will stay for now.

1 January 2018 Monday

We met Peter and Rachel at 10 this morning for a walk to Molough Abbey and down into the valley to where the rivers Suir and the Nire meet.  It seemed a fine way to start the year. Simon mentioned that Edmund Spenser wrote about the rivers of Ireland in The Faerie Queene. Everything was familiar to us because we walk there often but in showing things to others, everything became new.  Each time I visit the Abbey, I seem to focus on different features. I like to point out the two places for the bells, one of which would ring the time in Rome while the other would ring the local time.  The two dogs, Milo and Betty, were not much interested in facts. They ran a lot and they sniffed a lot.  I have never had much fondness for tiny dogs.  And I have never known a dog named Betty. But I have become fond of Betty. Holding her in my arms is like holding a cat.  She weighs very little.  I have known heavier cats. I am not sure what kind of dog she is. She is light brown and disheveled looking. I think she is some kind of terrier. After seeing the end of the year newspapers full of memorable photographs of the year, with lots of attention given to the horrific and widespread destruction of Hurricane Ophelia, I felt like there should be a photo of brave little Betty.  She walked into a branch or a fallen thing the day after the storm and injured her eye.  She had to have the eye removed. The vet sewed up the place where it had been.  Being a one-eyed dog does not stop her from keeping up with Milo, nor does it dampen her enthusiasm for exploring.

2 January Tuesday

Rain was promised for the entire day and night.  I rushed out for a quick walk around the mass path, the road, the boreen and home.  I managed to do it all just before the deluge began.  As I raced along the road at speed trying to beat the rain, I did enjoy the smudge of bright green moss down the center of the road.  It is that place where the tyres never touch because we all drive down the middle of the road. Since I returned there has not been one minute since eleven o’clock this morning without rain lashing and wind roaring.  Fields were already flooded before this rain began. Roads were awash with big puddles. The water across the roads is bigger than puddles. It is lake-like.  The mud on the path and in the boreen has been deep and squishy all week. There will be more flooding. I do sometimes wonder why I live here.

3 January Wednesday

Simon went to the dentist. He had a wiggly tooth. The tooth was right in the middle on his bottom row of teeth.  It was making him feel nervous to bite. Daniel, the dentist, looked at it and told him that the tooth was barely holding on. He said it could fall out any minute.  He said it would be a pity to take it out or to let it fall out as it would leave an unsightly gap.  Daniel suggested that he attach the tooth to the strong tooth beside it in order to hold it in place.  So that is what he did. The top of Simon’s tooth is now cemented to the top front and the top back of the neighbouring tooth.  A space remains between the two teeth lower down to allow for little flossing brushes to slip in and out.  Everything has been thought of.

4 January Thursday

We walked around in wild, wild winds.  The wind has been blowing ferociously since last night. It feels like the wind has been blowing forever. We are not getting the heavy damage that they are getting in the west of the country. One tree fell down and across the road right near the corner where Tom Cooney has been stacking his timber from the cleared forest. An electrical or maybe a telephone wire was drooping too. As we passed, we hoped our own electricity had not gone.  Someone with a chain saw had already moved the tree off the road. The wind is a drying wind. It is drying the sodden land.  A little rain has fallen but mostly it is just wind endless wind noisy wind which is in our ears.  It is impossible to get away from the sound of the wind.  Along the way I found three blue tits. They were all dead. Three dead blue tits. Each of them was lying on his or her back with legs in the air. They did not have any visible wounds. I guess they were caught by the wind and blown along until they were smashed into something and died.  I moved each one to a sheltered spot on a rock or under a branch so they would not get stepped upon.

We Have Enough Rain Got.

6 January Saturday

Billy had heard about the new flights flying from Cork to the USA. The flights are cheap. The price of the flights are almost half of what they usually are. He liked the idea of maybe going on such a flight but he was nervous. He had been told that a lot of people on the plane take their own lunch because the airline charges so much for food. He likes the idea of the cheap flight but he is disturbed about the idea of taking his own lunch. He said he would not want to be the only one. He worried because he would not want people to think that he was Skint. He said if he knew that everyone else was doing it, it would be alright then.

7 January Sunday

Snow on the Galtees.  Green fields. Sunshine. Cold but dry.

8 January Monday

Simon is still discussing his tooth gluing repair. He is delighted with it and with his new ability to bite things. He has already located another tooth which he thinks might be a candidate to be attached to the one beside it. He discusses the repair job with anyone who shows the slightest interest. He is happy to add the fact that in addition to the cementing job, Daniel also gave him a full cleaning of his teeth. And then he was only charged fifty euro for everything. While speaking about his repair work, he never mentions that Daniel uses old souvenir tea towels around the neck of his patients. He has been going there long enough that he now considers a tea towel bib as normal dental practice.

9 January Tuesday

Donal sent me his CD. It is called Dead Air. It was a strange time for it to arrive. Our ancient CD player continues to act up and the one in the car does too. The car engine itself is also acting up. I hear an unsettling droning sound when I drive uphill. Mike, my regular mechanic, is in the hospital. I spoke to him on the phone but he will not be out and working again for a long while. I went down to Noel O’Keeffe in the village. His mechanic Noel Hackett and I drove up into the mountains. We both listened to the droning sound of the car as we climbed. I had not seen this Noel for a long time so we chatted about a lot of things as we drove along. He told me about his family. We noted new houses along the way and he told me who was living in them or who planned to live in them once there was enough money to finish building. I had not been up that particular road in a year or more.  I was distracted thinking about the number of new houses while all the time Noel continued paying attention to the droning. He had me listen to understand that the car made the same noise going downhill as it had been making going uphill. That helped him to recognize the problem. In between the strange moaning of the car and the distortions of the CD players, I eventually listened to Dead Air on my lap top. I cannot really say what I think of it except that everything kind of fits together.

10 January Wednesday

There were 12 square red buckets spread about in the field. It seemed a lot of buckets for not very many sheep. The sheep wandered back and forth eating out of different buckets but I am sure that whatever was in the red buckets was all the same kind of food. There was one green bucket. That was probably the same too.

11 January Thursday

Marian was telling me about a woman. She felt certain that I must know her too. She could not remember the woman’s name so she did a fair job describing her, even telling me the road where the woman lived. She said,“You would know her by sight sure you would.” She said, “You can’t miss her. She looks like an Uncooked Pastry.” Now each time I go to the village I am looking for this woman. There cannot be more than one who fits this description.

12 January Friday

There is a regular robin at the outdoor table. Actually there are several regular robins. None of the robins are Michael. I know I shall never see my Michael again but I enjoy imagining that I might. I am surprised at how different each robin looks from every other robin. I do wonder and ask the robins if one of them might be a brother or sister or aunt of Michael. I do not expect an answer but I ask anyway. I keep the feeders full and some crumbs out on the table. There are so many Michaels. It is one of those names which is used again and again and again. Not for robins but for people. I wonder why I even chose the name Michael for my robin when there are already so many Michaels. I could easily write a story with every single person in it named Michael. Every person would be a different Michael but they would all be Michael. I saw one Michael this morning who said he was pleased that the day was starting dry. He said, “We have enough rain got.” I have been thinking about his phrasing all day.

13 January Saturday

We see the people every Saturday when we go for breakfast in Cahir. We have gotten to know them in a particular kind of a way. We always sit in the upstairs and so do they. They come in and have coffee and breakfast and they do a crossword puzzle.  The woman told us that it is the same one that used to be in a newspaper to buy but now they can get it for free in the Farmer’s Weekly. They bring a duplicate copy and they each start the puzzle at the same time. It is a Saturday morning competition. She said that he usually wins but she says she is better on certain kinds of clues. Over the months we have learned where they live and we know that she is not local but comes from Carlow. And we know some others things about them. And they know things about us.  We always chat and say morning things to one another. We do not know their names. Between ourselves we call them The Crosswords. We do not know how they speak of us. I am not sure that they know that we always have porridge. This morning Simon went into the men’s toilets. He saw the Crossword Man standing by the sink speaking to someone on his mobile phone about one of the clues. The man winked at Simon and put his finger to his lips. Every week we learn more about The Crosswords. The secret of the Crossword Cheat has taken things to a whole new level.

15 January Monday

Margaret had been at Ardkeen in Waterford since the 17th of December, but the doctors said they could not operate on her leg until after Christmas. And then they wanted to do the surgery in Cork and not in Waterford. Tommie has been distraught. He had hoped she would be taken care of immediately in Waterford and then sent up to Clogheen for recovery. He was hoping she was going to be brought nearer to home, not further away. By the time she went to Cork and had her operation and skin grafts, several more weeks passed. Tommie has been impatient for her to be closer to home so that he can go to visit her without asking someone to drive him. He spoke of going to Cork on the bus with his Senior Bus Pass but really, he was a bit nervous about doing that. Today Margaret has finally been moved to St Theresa’s in Clogheen.  She will stay there for as long as it takes her to heal.  Tommie will be able to drive himself to visit her every day.  After an entire month of depending upon others, he is nearly overcome with relief.

16 January Tuesday

A glove in the mud.  A glove in the mud is a welcome distraction from just mud. I am obsessed by the marks on the glove.  They look like they have been painted by hand with paint and a paintbrush. They look far more expressive than the usual marks on work gloves. They appear to be more than just grips to ensure that tools and blocks and bricks do not slip while work is being done. And again, the seemingly hand-painted glove is a good distraction from the endless mud.

The Pump Is Gone on the Central Heating.

15 March Thursday

I had looked ahead at the weather report. I knew there was a lot of rain falling. I knew that copious amounts had fallen throughout the night. Even with this knowledge I was not ready for the reality of so much rain. It is easy to forget how much rain can fall in Ireland if one is away from it for a short time. As we neared the area close to home, all of the roads were flooded. There was water rushing off the fields as though they were always fast running rivers and they were never fields. The gashes that the council digs out of the sides of any road in preparation for exactly this kind of thing were all full and overflowing. The dikes along the road were also deep and fast running.

Peter was driving us from the airport. He was shocked and worried about his car. He was worried about so much deep rushing water. We were not worried as we have seen it so often before. We knew that it could be much much worse than what we were seeing. At one point I got out of the car and walked through a large lake of water which covered the road in order to let him know how deep it was before he drove through it. It looked deeper than it was. I was glad that it did not come up past the top of my boots. My boots are only ankle boots and they are made of leather. It is not really a good idea to wade through water in leather boots. If I had not done it, he would not have dared drive any further, so there was not much choice.

He told us how he and Maud had returned from a winter holiday in the south of France where they had suffered badly from the dry air. He said the aridity day after day hurt their lungs. He said that it was just Too Dry. When they stepped off their plane in Cork, they were glad to be back in the dampness. He said they felt the moisture wrapping itself around them and then they knew they were home. Immediately, their lungs and their bodies felt better.

I listened as he spoke.  I knew that no matter how long I live in this country, I will never feel good about being damp. I was even more certain about this as I surveyed the rain water pouring down our bathroom wall and into the cupboard in the big room and in the little passageway. I have become very efficient at mopping up water with towels and newspapers. I am good at drying things out over as many days as it takes. I know that I will never fully belong here unless I learn to accept all this dampness. That will never happen.

17 March Saturday

The market was quiet today. There were only eight stalls. The weather did not help. It was cold and sleety and horrible. The big field behind the castle was completely covered with water. If you did not know that it was usually a field, you would believe that it was always a lake. There were few customers. The good news is that Maria, who makes the pates and terrines and wild garlic pesto is now selling cheese. She had five kinds of cheese on one end of her table. They were all Irish cheeses I had not seen before. One was a smoked cheese and one was a hard sheep cheese and the other three were made of cows milk. We have not had a cheese seller at the market since Katherine left to enjoy her retirement and to play more golf. That must be at least four years ago. Maybe five. We bought three kinds of cheese.

Keith was selling long stemmed daffodils. The stems were 24 inches (62 cm long). I measured them when I got home. I have never seen such tall daffodils. He said he grew them in the poly-tunnel. That explains the height. Our own daffodils get knocked down by the wind. Today they are lying flat under yesterday’s surprise snow, but I know they will stand back up again as the few inches of snow melts. They will never grow as tall as Keith’s daffodils. Our daffodils fight the weather so they will always be stunted.

The Apple Farm had Elstars on offer which made me happy. I know they keep the apples in a cooler over the winter, but still, I marvel that last autumn’s apples can taste so sharp and sweet and crunchy in March. Pat had homemade butter from Tinnock Farms in Wexford along with plenty of fresh fish. We complained together about how buttermilk is being mixed in with a lot of commercial butter these days. It is a way to lower production costs. It makes the butter do funny things in a pan. The new egg woman, who is Australian, had two goats in a pen beside her table. They were young goats rescued from an elderly neighbour who could no longer care for them. Their names are Jim and Debbie. I hope they return next Saturday.

20 March Tuesday

After the torrential rain. After the snow. This morning, I spent half an hour outside on the bench. I sat with my back against the wall feeling sun on my face. With coffee. Out of the wind, the sun was hot and lovely. The first primroses are showing in the boreen. It has been a week of high contrasts. Big holes out on the tar roads remain treacherous. The road drops away in chunks. The tar and everything supporting the tar just drops down to somewhere deep. The holes are big and flat, when they are full of water. If they are filled with water there is no way to know if the hole is an extremely deep hole or a shallow puddle. If there is a really large hole, big enough for one or more car tyres to drop into, we might call it a pot hole but more often it is spoken of as a sheep dip.

21 March Wednesday

The pump is gone on the central heating. We think it is the pump. We hope it is the pump. It might be something more. We are lucky it is not too cold today. No snow. No sleet. No rain. No wind.  We have kept the wood stove going all day. Sadly, that heat does not reach everywhere. Niall, the plumber, cannot come until tomorrow evening. That means anytime after dinner (lunch) and before about six o’clock. All we can do is wait.

Water Dog under the Woodpile

22 March Thursday

I admired his fancy designer spectacles. I could see they were new. Since I had never seen him wearing any glasses at all before this, I asked if he had always worn them. In fact, he said he had never worn glasses, but he had been instructed to wear them twenty years ago. He said it was hard enough being gay in school. He said that wearing glasses would have finished him off. I asked what wearing the new glasses did for his vision. He claimed that the world was a new place. When I suggested that poor vision was a liability in his line of work, he looked at me in the mirror and we both fell about  laughing. He said that every head of hair he cuts now is a brand new head of hair even if it is a head of hair he has been working on every week for the last fifteen years.

23 March Friday

Simon shouted for me to come outside. He said he’d seen the biggest stoat ever and it was under our wood pile. The stoat stuck his head out and looked at us both and then it went back in. It looked too big to be a stoat. We did not know what it was. It went in and out, and around the back, and in and out again, and it studied us without fear and with a lot of interest. It had a nice face. I took a few photographs as it took off and ran across the grass. When it ran it moved low along the ground with large elongated flexing and bouncing movements, sort of like a hare. It was black and sleek and long. A little later we were down at the shop. I asked the blonde woman behind the counter if she knew her animals. She said she did. She looked and said that she did not know what it was but that it was Not a stoat. She called Marian over and Marian said it looked like a stoat but it was too big for a stoat. My phone was being passed around. I thought it looked like a mink but I did not know if minks were native. Marie had a look and said it is more mink than stoat. There were six people discussing the animal now with each other and with Simon and I. My phone kept being grabbed and the photos studied and enlarged as everyone tried to solve it. Someone suggested a pine marten but others put that idea down scornfully. It was too sleek and too thin to be a pine marten. Without exception everyone disliked the pine marten as a possibility and as an animal. John Condon walked into the shop and Marie said “Here’s the man to sort this!” Someone handed my phone to John. He recoiled from it and said he did not have his glasses. The photos were enlarged yet again and shown to him. We all said what we thought it was or was not. Everyone was talking at the same time. John looked at the phone with care and shouted, “It’s a Water Dog!” There was a group sigh of agreement. Of course, a water dog! I had no idea what a water dog was. They all agreed it needed water nearby and Simon mentioned the stream at the bottom of our meadow. John made a flexing movement with his body and his back. He said, “It moves like this.” He imitated the movement exactly right. I looked up water dog when I got home and found all kinds of dogs, mostly Portuguese, which were called Water Dogs but not one of them looked like our animal. Eventually I found a picture of what we had seen and it was indeed a mink.

24 March Saturday

The path is wet and there is water running down it and there are lots of rocks covered with moss. The winter has been long and wet.  The moss is everywhere. But the big branches and the brambles are cut back. It is easy to walk without getting entangled or ducking down low, as long as I look carefully at the mud and the slippery stones.  Up near the top the mud dries up and there is so much wild garlic growing along the way that garlic is the only smell. I cannot smell the mud nor any of the other young green things.  The entire length of the path smells like garlic.

25 March Sunday

The older woman was shorter than me and she was badly bent over. She asked me to lift a box of porridge oats down from a high shelf. She said, “I don’t like To Put In On You but I cannot reach that high.” I did not know the expression but I understood the need for help. I mentioned it to Breda and she defined it exactly in the way I had understood it. To Put In On Someone is to impose upon them. There is always another way to say the exact things that I think I already know.

26 March Monday

Niall came to look at the heating system. With a bit of fiddling, he was able to get it all working again. The pump was not gone after all. We were relieved. We feared we might be needing a new stove and the amount of money to be spent would be huge. The hardship of a few days without heat are already forgotten in our relief. Then Ned Coady came down with his plug-in generator to fill the fuel tank. As we drank tea together afterwards he joked that Simon was off his mark. Usually Simon calls the oil company and asks for 720 litres or 680 litres or whatever amount is needed. He is always spot-on with his order. He has no gauge on the tank. He only uses a long piece of wood that he sticks into the tank and from that he makes his estimate of the volume required. He climbs up a ladder and stands on the edge of the wall beside the tank to make his calculation. It is a joke with Ned and a joke with the men at the yard and and a joke with Simon and himself that Simon is always correct. He never orders more fuel than can be fit into the tank.  The tank fills to within a few centimetres with the amount he orders. The men at the yard cannot figure out how he does it. Today’s estimate was a bit off. He had ordered 650 litres and the fuel filled the tank about 250 centimetres below the top. Ned was not going to let this be forgotten. He was not interested in our days without heat and the almost broken heating system. He acted like he had won a wager. He was still chuckling when he left the house.

27 March Tuesday

Sean arrived to collect his daughter to go and visit the mother in hospital, but he was thirty minutes early. She was not home yet.  He went next door to chat with Greg just To Put Down The Time .

Wine in the Teapot

28 March Wednesday

Peter Ryan was on the roof both in the rain and not in the rain. He was spraying water from the hose into the place where the roof meets the other part of the roof. I ran in and out of the house while Simon checked on the walls in three leaking locations. Simon shouted to me and then I shouted up to Peter. We were waiting for the water to drip and to leak and to puddle into the places where we have learned to expect leaking and puddling. Peter was on the roof for more than an hour. It might have been two hours. The ladder fell down twice. The sun came out and there was a huge rainbow visible over the foot hills. Then it rained again. The rain did not fall for long nor heavily. It just rained and stopped and rained again. Finally the probable leak was found and understood. The water was running UP the galvanized metal in and underneath the roof join. It must have been a combination of rain and wind over time and maybe there is an old nail hole or several old nail holes that rusted and made an opening for the rain to enter. There is a big section of the ceiling ripped out and plaster skim everywhere in the kitchen and in the bathroom. The plan is that this will all be repaired on Friday.

29 March Thursday

It is a tight time of year. Tight is the expression being used and used often. A few weeks ago the cows were out in the fields. Now a lot of them are back in the barns and under cover. The animals are building up in the sheds. The winter feed is running low. Some of the farmers let the animals out for the day and then bring them back inside at night. Nothing is growing anyway. The cows are in a field to eat grass but there is not much grass growing. There is not much to be eaten. Everyone is tired of the cold and of the long long winter which just refuses to go away. The light has changed but the temperatures remain low. This morning I saw a few sheep wandering around in a big field nibbling and pulling at last seasons stubble. There was not much there for them to eat. Tight. It is a tight time of year.

30 March Good Friday

For the first time in 91 years it is legal to serve and to buy alcohol on Good Friday. The law was changed in January. Restaurants and bars now have the option to open or not to open. They can choose to respect the old ways or they can get on with the new. We stopped in at Rose’s last night. The Thursday before Good Friday was traditionally a wildly busy night with everyone who wanted to drink trying hard to drink enough for two nights in the one night. This year, early evening on Thursday was just early evening on Thursday. Most people have outgrown the manic behaviour that demanded that one had to drink just because one was not allowed to drink. Someone said that it used to be normal for restaurants to serve wine in a teapot just to get around the law. I had not heard that before. I wish I had seen it. I suppose the wine would have been poured from the teapot into a teacup. All very hard to think about. Of course, today people drink at home without a worry or fear of judgement anyway. Brendan seemed to be the only one who had a problem with the relaxing of the old law. He was reprimanding Rose and insisting that she should not open and that she should not be serving drink on Good Friday. John muttered, “No fear, Brendan will be the first one in the door when she opens. And he will be the last one out.”

31 March Saturday

Debbie and Jim, the goats, were back at the market.  This time they were secured both by generous ropes and within a small fenced area.  There was no chance that Jim could escape this week. A large group of people walked through the market coming off the river path into the car park and then they  loaded themselves onto four waiting buses. They were walking in twos and threes and they were all wearing walking boots and most carried walking poles.  The line of people seemed to be endless.  I asked one of the bus drivers what was going on.  He said they were the Active Knockmealdown Group. He said there were about 300 people in total and that they were going to Cashel by bus and then returning to Cahir on foot  via the St. Declan’s Way. I do not know if that meant they were finished with the entire walk then or if they would be continuing the walk all the way to Ardmore on another day. Or maybe they had already come from Ardmore. The driver did not know. Most of the people walked in a straight line through the market as if they did not notice it was there. A few stopped and filled their pockets with cheese or cakes or apples. There were two tiny lambs in a hay-filled pen. They were exactly to the right of the walking line of people but not one person looked down to notice them. No one looked at Debbie and Jim either.

1 April Sunday

The ceiling has been repaired and the roof was all sealed up in the appropriate places.  Everything has been cleaned and put away. The rain started mid-afternoon and it has been coming down off and on since.  I am discouraged to see the bathroom ceiling leaking in its usual way as if all of that analysis, discussion, diagnosis and work had not been done. I am not looking forward to telling Peter that everything that was done has solved nothing.

Warble Fly Eradication

2 April Monday

Sister Carmel went to along to celebrate the birthday of another nun who was extremely old. She lamented that it was a pity that there were not many close family members present. She said, “First Cousins are very rare when you are at the age of 100.”

3 April Tuesday

Simon bought a pair of boots. He had seen them in the window of the shop. They were on sale. He walked in and he asked to try them on. The man in the shop was a very serious white haired man. He was staidly dressed in a well fitting suit, a white shirt and a tie. The man spoke highly of the brand of boots. He said they were extremely well made and he pointed out the fine leather and various features. Simon felt happy with the fit, so he bought the boots and he came home. Later he tried on the boots just to walk around in the house and get comfortable with them. The boots did not feel right. They did not feel as good as they had felt inside in the shop. He took them off and looked carefully at the boots. He saw that one boot was size 42 and one boot was size 43. He called the shop and spoke to the man who had sold him the boots. The man burst out laughing. He laughed long and hard and when he could finally speak again, he gasped while he said, “Oh dear! It is not the first time I have done this!” He told Simon to come in and make the exchange for the correct size. When Simon returned for the exchange, the man got the giggles again. He said “Now let us hope I am not after sending you home with the opposite pair of wrong ones.”

4 April Wednesday

The rain is not stopping. The farmers are getting more and more worried. They are running out of fodder for the cattle. The Tipperary farmers cannot help out the farmers in the midlands and in the west as they usually do in a crisis. They cannot help because they need help themselves.
We all need help. All of the repairing of our roof and our leaks has become something much worse than it was before. There is water flowing through the fuse box and down the wall in the kitchen. I have moved every single thing off the coat hooks and off the little racks down below. There was a row of seven small framed things above the coat hooks. The frames are soaked and the things in them are soaked. I enjoyed studying the wet things as I tried to dry them and to save them. It is easy to stop looking at things when they become familiar. Moving a thing from one place to another makes it new again. Which is nice. The warble fly certificate and a small envelope addressed to Kattie and Willie is among the things that I am drying out. The seven frames are lined up underneath a radiator.
Kattie’s name was not Kattie. Her name was Kathleen or maybe Katherine but everyone called her Kattie. Probably Kattie was a pet name which began when she was a child and it just stuck. Maybe the family thought of her as a little kitten kind of person. Kittie. Kattie. Maybe indeed it was supposed to be Kattie but there is an ongoing problem here with the pronunciation of TH. TH often sounds like TT. When I first came here, if I mentioned Kattie, I would automatically adjust it to say Kathie. If I said Kathie someone would always correct me. The correction would be gentle because I am From Away and because of course I never actually knew Kattie. Kattie English lived in what is now our house with her brother Willie English. At one time, there were two older siblings, Frederick and Elisabeth, living here too. Frederick and Elisabeth died years before Willie and Kattie. But they all died well before we came here. Increasingly the people who knew Kattie and Willie themselves are dying or have already died. There are few people now who would notice if I called Kattie Kathie. Even so my correction of her name to be what I think it should be rather than what everyone knew it to be is a little bit arrogant. If I speak of Kattie at all I should use the name that she was known by, not the name I think it started from.

5 April Thursday

Two women were in the baking section of the market. They both had several kinds of flour, ground almonds and other cake making things in their baskets. One of them mentioned the fact that the Protestants are very competitive about their cakes. It was a known fact. The other woman felt no need to question or to disagree. It was just a truth and everyone knew it. The one woman said, “Sure they only make us feel bad.”

6 April Friday

Last night there was an AMBER warning for weather. I was not sure what that meant but the non-stop torrential, lashing rain and the wild gusting winds might be the most wretched rain I have ever experienced.  I have been in a lot of rain. I am sure that I have been in worse rain but this felt bad enough. Now I have spent all morning moving more things out the way way of fresh drips and and puddles. Nothing can be done to solve the leaking in this weather. We can only wait. It is good that the floors are made of stone. The ceilings are another matter. It is good that we read a lot of newspapers. It is not good that I delivered nine big bundles to the dog sanctuary last week. I am going through the remaining supply of paper for soaking up the water fast. I hope the rain stops before I run out.  I have every straight edged container I own snicked up tight against walls wherever there is a leak.  It is time to stop talking about this. I cannot stop living with it but I can stop pretending that my descriptions will help in any way.

Stuck in Inchicore.

22 April Sunday

The cows are in the upper field. They are looking into our windows which means they are looking down and into our windows and watching us from an elevated position. It is not often that cows are in that field and when they are they are not always so interested in what we are doing. This group seem determined to catch our attention. They seem determined to want us to look back at them. This group is very interested in us. There might be one or there might be two or three or four and then they run off and away together and then two more come. I am always facing them from my seat at the table. I wave. I smile. I nod. I have no idea if any of this registers with them. We cannot eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without attracting an audience.

23 April Monday

A blue security van arrived while we waited at the station in Cork. The man driving it made a careful backing up to the door on the side of the station. It took him two or three tries to get into the exact right position. When he finished he was perfectly in line with the door so I assumed he would rush out of his van, do some efficient moves and take money in containers into or out of the station and then quickly drive away again. He got out of the van and took two small silver suitcases out of the special door. He also removed two pouches which he put under his arm. He walked around the van towards the station and then he met a man he knew. He put the two cases down on the back bumper of the van. It was a flat bumper and it easily held the two silver suitcases. The two men shook hands and then they both lit cigarettes. As they talked a third man came along. They all shook hands again and then they moved about ten steps away from the van until they were standing in the sunshine. The sun was warm on an otherwise cold day. It was warm in the sun and very cold in the shade. The driver kept the two pouches under his arm while he talked for about 20 minutes. He had his back to the van and the suitcases. The silver suitcases seemed to be forgotten. Two small boys came along. They each picked up a suitcase. One of the men saw the boys and nudged the driver. He turned his head and said, “Go away, Lads and leave my cases where they are.” The boys put the suitcases back on to the bumper and they wandered off. The driver stood in the sun for another 10 minutes and then he said good-bye to the two men. He went into the station with the pouches and the silver suitcases. He came out with some different things and he drove away. None of his activity seemed as imperative as getting the vehicle in an exact straight line with the door.

24 April Tuesday

Celly Ryan was the name on the small van. It was a private bus service. The driver was standing near the van with the door open. He was waiting for his passengers to return. I think the vehicle could seat 6 or maybe 8 people. I wish I had stopped to ask the man what Celly was short for. Celestine? Celeste? I cannot think of a man’s name that might be shortened to Celly, but I am trying.

25 April Wednesday

The swallows nest in the corner by my door is still in position from last year. The birds left and the nest remains. I have gotten used to it being there. I do not really see it anymore. But now there are birds everywhere. They are all flying around with bits of sticks and moss in their beaks. Nest building activity is manic even though the weather is colder than it should be. The weather is horrible. I think I should remove the nest from the wall before anyone decides to use it again. I do not know if swallows use a nest for a second time. Nor if other birds move into any old nest just for the convenience of not having to build their own. It was interesting to have the mother and the chicks in the corner for a while, but then I had to give up my room. I was driven away by the mother trying to protect her young. I would rather not go through all that again. By the time everyone had learned to fly there was crunchy excrement all over the door and the door handle and the step. I thought I could just pull the nest off today in passing but I think I will need a chisel. It is tightly welded to the wall with mud and bird spit. And since it is now raining and the rain is lashing sideways, I shall do it later.

28 April Saturday

Leaving Dublin on the bus with a man shouting into his phone. No one could read or sleep. No one could not listen.

“The bitch yeah you heard about it? Yeah she had her head out the window. She loved doing that she did but we went through a skinny bit of the alley backing down and her head hit a pole. Yeah yeah dead right away. Not even a bark. Hey who is this anyway? Paddy? Paddy Dorman? Who the hell gave you my number? Who do you think you are ringing me? Paddy Gorman or Paddy Dorman? Oh you’re that Paddy. Oh Sorry Paddy I thought you were the other Paddy. You know him yourself. He’s a a nuisance that one. 
We’re stuck in Inchicore. I’m on the bus and we’re stuck in Inchicore. We’re going off to Tipp to see The Wife’s mother. She’s down there already with The Mother. I’m with the The Son. On the bus yeah. She’s not well. Yeah I’ve got the grapes for the gift. Yeah Paddy we’re on the bus but we’re only in Inchicore. We’re going nowhere Paddy. We paid to go to Tipp but we haven’t got far. I’m in the bus now. Yeah we got on at BusAras. That’s where it starts but at this rate we won’t get to Tipp till Tuesday. You know yourself Paddy. Once you’re on the bus it’s like a trap . You can’t get off. You’ve got to go where you paid to go. It was 28 euro for the both of us Paddy. That’s what we paid and we’re only in Inchicore so in that kind of a way it’s an expensive trip but if we ever get to Tipp we’ll feel sure we’ve had our value for the money we will. We’ll feel glad Paddy to be somewhere else.”

30 April Monday

I dropped some carrots on the floor. They snapped into pieces. Carrots are usually a bit bouncy. I think of carrots as rubbery rather than brittle. The floor in the kitchen is a stone floor. Most things break when they hit a stone floor. But it seemed odd to have carrots snap into clean halves like these did. I grated a few of the carrots for a salad at lunch. They were watery and completely without taste. I wish I could remember where I got these carrots because I do not want to buy them again.

1 May Tuesday

This May Day is gloomy and cold and rainy. It is a desperate day. I walked up the path and I was reminded that it is still wild garlic season. Every stage of wild garlic season is a pleasure. First there are the little shoots coming up and the bright fresh green colour is full of promise. Then the leaves push all the way up and they are a shiny darker green. That is when I think both the smell and the taste are the strongest and the best. Then the buds appear and the leaves lose a bit of their shininess. Slowly, the star-like flowers start appearing like little explosions. The leaves look duller but the flowers make it all look exciting. It tastes and smells good at every stage. I like walking up the boreen and stepping on it and smashing some down with my boots just so that I can walk in a cloud of the smell. There is nothing that is not good about the wild garlic season.

Repeal the Eighth

3 April Thursday

We climbed the stile and walked over Joe’s fields. From a distance, they looked green and grassy and inviting. It had not rained for a few days but the ground was all churned up from the cows being in those fields in recent weeks. The holes were big. It would have been easy to break an ankle. Some of the holes were just empty. Some of the holes are just firm mud mashed down in the shape of a heavy hoof. Some are full of pee. At first I thought the wet holes were just muddy water but the cow urine mixed with mud and rainwater makes a different colour. It was not easy to walk across the fields. We lurched from lump to lump and hole to hole. It made for a clumsy and rollicking kind of walking. Simon took a stick. I would have been wise to take a stick too. When we reached the last hill up the track to the farm, the ground underfoot got worse. The dirt track was covered in manure. It was slippery and deep and it was hard to get footing. Luckily the distance was not great and the cows were not yet starting to walk down while we walked up. Joe had 10 new troughs piled up in his yard. They are cast from concrete and will soon be distributed out in the fields for drinking water. They are the newest thing. I have been seeing them appearing in the fields of other farmers. I guess this is a new development from the big black plastic ones which have been used for years.

5 April Saturday

Stella told me that the usual place for a safe is inside in the Hot Press. If a person is going to install a safe in their house for important things like papers and money and jewellery, the place where they always put the safe is in the floor of the Hot Press. The Hot Press is the airing cupboard. It is the place where the hot water tank is located. Most people have some shelves built into the Hot Press. If you have shelves in the Hot Press you can put sheets and towels and clothing in there when they come in from the washing line. Things can be put inside the Hot Press until they are thoroughly dry or maybe until they are ironed. The sheets and towels may never go any further. The Hot Press often becomes the permanent storage place for these things. The trouble is that the burglars know that if a household has installed a safe anywhere, then the Hot Press is the place to find it. If a burglar locates the Hot Press, he will locate the safe. Stella said of course not every house has a safe but a burglar won’t know that until all of the clean and dry folded towels and sheets have been pulled out and thrown onto the floor and probably stepped upon. Stella said this is almost the worst thing about having your house broken into. She said the things that get damaged in the looking and looting are the real pity. The things that are gone are just gone. She said that it is a sad job to wash a bunch of sheets and towels all over again just because someone stepped on them.

7 April Bank Holiday Monday

There is blossom everywhere. Stitchwort. Forget-me-not. Primrose. Hawthorn. Gorse. Bluebell. It seemed like spring would never come but now that it is here, it is everywhere.

9 April Wednesday

I took fresh rhubarb and custard down to Tommie and Margaret. It was not stewed rhubarb. The pieces were still firm and they were gently cooked with a bit of molasses. Tommie was in hospital for 6 days. He has been back home for a week now. Yesterday he had his stitches removed. He was disturbed that he had thought there were eleven stitches but the doctor told him there were actually twelve stitches. He said they were small and his eyes are not so good but still he did not like to have it wrong. He was upset to have learned that Ian had sold the house. The house was on what had been Tommie’s land where his old house had been. The new house was not his house and the land was not his land anymore, but he had been up and down feeding the cats for years and years whenever he was asked to do it and a lot of times when no one asked but he worried anyway about the cats starving. It was still his place even though it was not his place anymore. He has had an emotional tie for too long to not be considered in any changes. He said that he felt Aggrieved that he had not even been told that the house was sold. He was Aggrieved about the miscount of his stitches. He was Aggrieved about no one telling him about the new residents in the house. He was also Aggrieved that he was not allowed to drive for another 6 weeks. Once he started to say the word Aggrieved he could not say it often enough. He was glad to see the rhubarb. Tommie loves rhubarb. He was glad for the distraction.

10 April Thursday

Treasa was sort of singing today but it was not singing with words it was singing a tune with some syllables. She said she was only Lilting. Lilting being just that: singing without words but singing a tune nonetheless. Maybe this is a normal expression. Maybe it is just a word I have not heard used quite like this. Maybe it is just herself that calls it that.

11 April Friday

I am wearing my Repeal the Eighth badge wherever I go. I wear it out walking in the fields when there is no one to see except the birds and the cows. I wear it to the shop and the post office and to anywhere I go. I wear it to town and I wear it to the market. I wear it up the boreen and down the boreen. Actually we have five or six different badges.  We both make sure we never leave the house without one. Most people never say a word about it either way.  Most people never say a word but I see that their eyes notice the badge.  My position is registered.  The Eighth Amendment is being discussed everywhere on the radio, TV and in the papers but in the country, people are reluctant to speak about it out loud.

The Dog on the White Line.

13 April Sunday

I have some tiny plastic tubes with one open end. They come with the little flossing brushes. They are for protecting the little brushes. If I go somewhere I can slide the brushes into the the tubes and then they will not get bent in transit. I rarely put the brushes into the tubes at home. I just line up the different sized brushes on the shelf. This morning I picked up one of the tubes which looked different than the other two or three. There was something in it. I banged it on the side of the sink. A little tiny slug had worked its way into the tube and could not reverse out. It was stuck. Most of the slug came out. Part of what I think was the head remained inside. I was busily trying to flush it out with water for several minutes before I questioned why I was doing it.  I did not want to re-use the tube that the slug had been in. I threw it away.
Even with the erratic weather and the cold nights, I could tell that winter was finally over. Things in the bathroom are sort of protected by the cold weather but nothing is ever completely safe. Once the slugs have made their way back in there is nothing that they won’t ooze and creep over on their way to somewhere else. Nothing is safe. On the whole I would rather not know where they have been.

14 April Monday

A few good days of sun or even just one good day of sun and all of the summer clothes come out. Even if the next day is cold and wet and howling with wind, the summer clothes do not disappear. Or they do not disappear completely. This morning was warm. It was almost hot. But by afternoon it was raining and cold. The only people I saw in the shop were wearing rain jackets over heavy fleeces and sweaters. But they were wearing sandals with bare feet. Two women were admiring the brand new sandals worn by one of them. The one not wearing the new sandals said, “I know they would fit me. I know they would look well on me.” They laughed together and the one who was wearing the sandals looked pleased to be the one with the desirable new footwear. As the other one turned to leave the shop, she shouted, “I hope they’ll cut into you, so. Then you’ll have to give them to me!”

15 April Tuesday

It is more than ten years since someone started to paint the house in Irishtown. Maybe it is more than twelve years. It might even be longer ago than that. For as long as I can remember the house has had just this amount of blue paint on it. Someone started in the upper left corner and continued as far as the paint went and then they took a break and no one ever returned to finish the job. Painting this kind of pebble-dashed surface uses up a lot of paint. It demands a lot more paint than a regular wall. Maybe the person who began the painting thought he had enough paint for the whole house. Maybe he was not able to get the exact same colour mixed again. The person who began painting has not returned to finish it. Nor has anyone else. Now the house is empty. It is boarded up. Somehow there is still a freshness to the blue paint. It looks like the paint job might be completed any day now.

16 April Wednesday

The old dog was outside the community hall. I was pleased to see him. He looked healthy and bright-eyed although he could certainly use a good brushing. His hair is coming out in huge clumps. He is scruffy.  He greeted each car as it drove up and he greeted each person as they got out of their car or as they left the hall.  He was not aggressive nor was he begging. He was just interested. He is the same old dog who used to come up to visit Frank at the shop every morning.  Frank would give him cake or some other treat that had reached its sell-by date or had just gone stale. Then the dog would sleep for a while. He always walked home in the middle of the road right along the white line until he reached his house.  Since Frank has been ill and the shop has been closed, maybe the dog has decided that evenings are a more sociable time for visiting the shop even if it is not open. Or maybe he comes in the morning and also in the evening. The section of the road with the white line is not a long stretch of road but it is long enough that anyone who drives it regularly knows that the dog on the white line has priority.

The New Immersion.

17 May Thursday

They are back.  The season is on for the Sticky Back weeds. Sticky Back.  Sticky Jack. Cleavers. Sticky Willy. Robin-run-the-hedge. They are everywhere.  They run up anything that is growing. They tangle in and out between anything that is growing.  Because they are covered with things that make them stick to whatever they touch there is not much need to worry about what or where they go. They stick onto animals and clothes as well as plants.  These weeds are so fast growing and so busy that they look like they are strangling anything they touch.  In fact the growth is more like a fishing net that is thrown over things.  One good grab and the whole clump comes away in the hand.  Of course a good pull does not remove the roots.  The plant just breaks off at the bottom.  I do not really care.  If they are pulled away from things they do not seem to grow back immediately. They will return next year no matter what.  It is a seasonal thing and the season does not last long.  While it is happening the Sticky Backs are everywhere.  I love pulling them off things.  If I am passing in a car I get the urge to just stop and get out to pull the big clumps off the ditches. Sometimes I do it.  When I am walking, I keep slowing down and pulling and slowing down and pulling.  I can grab an armful without even coming to a full stop. Of course there is the good chance that I might grab a stinging nettle or a thorny bramble. Sadly, I do that often.  Stings and stabs do not stop me from this obsessive pulling.  It is the most satisfying kind of weeding work ever.  I seem to have the urge to pull it all down from everywhere in the world which is, of course, not even vaguely possible.

18 May Friday

We have had a week without hot water. Niall the plumber came today. He apologized.  He kept promising to come each day but then each day he never arrived. He said he had been Dead Busy.  He said it’s always the same with the work: Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. He said it three times and then he went to work. He installed a new immersion unit. He showed us the old one. It was covered with lime. This is a terrible area for lime in the water. It coats and cakes onto everything and eventually destroys machinery. He was smitten with the date notations I have made on the wall each time we have had to replace the heater.  He was surprised with how long the previous unit had lasted.  He said he hoped that this new one would last as long as the old one. As he left he instructed us to be sure to mark today’s date up on the wall.

19 May Saturday

A tree fell down in Joe’s field.  We have not had great winds. We have not even had heavy rain. It looks completely wrong to see this tree lying down. The tree is on a low bit of the field. It is often squishy and muddy down there.  All I can think of is that the roots got wet and wetter and stayed wet and finally rotted. I have never lived anywhere where trees fall down so frequently. The mass path is blocked by fallen trees several times a year. Sometimes I think it is to do with the kind of trees. Maybe these trees have shallow roots. Most of the time I think it is to do with just too much water.

20 May Sunday

The bench in Ardfinnan gets repainted in the spring. First it was blue and then it was red and now it is blue again. There is not a lot of room to sit as the home-made corner structure does not allow for a lot of knee room.  Two people can happily sit and chat but anymore than that will feel a bit squished.

Fisherman’s Friend

31 May Thursday

The cows are bellowing in the fields in two directions so it is a little bit like several radios on, but it is not exactly stereo. It is always just a few beats off. Anthony Keating’s cows are up in the very steep pasture which used to be Johnnie Mackin’s field. Or maybe they are Donal Keating’s cows not Anthony Keating’s cows. I keep an eye on any cows when they are there because the field is too straight up and down to be fully believable. I fear they will fall off and roll right down if they put a foot wrong. Joe Keating’s cows are in the near field and Joe Casey’s cows are in the field directly above the house. We cannot see Joe Casey’s cows but we can hear them. They are extremely close but the ditch has grown up so it is like while they are the nearest, they are also invisible. There is a bull or a cow who is moaning and bellowing up there. It is making the cows over on Mackin’s field bellow back. Sometimes Joe Keating’s herd joins in. It is a loud and all day kind of noise. It is rare to have cows in all three of these fields at the same time. Usually if a herd is in one field there are no cows in any of the other fields immediately around us. I like to think that all the noise has to do with various kinds of greetings and a shared delight in this glorious weather as well as the proximity. Between all the cows and all the Keatings and the two Joes it is a distracting kind of day with nothing but birdsong to interrupt all the bellowing.

2 June Saturday

They are still working on the new public toilets in Cahir. It has been months now. There was a lot of digging and pipe laying which went on for ages. And that was after the toilets had already been closed for a year or so. The little temporary toilets are still down in the car park which is convenient for the stall owners at the market. It means they do not have so far to go if they need to use the loo. The new toilets are the talk of the town. They are modern and shiny and sort of glamorous in a crazy way. The castle is in sight, just down the hill on the other side of the river. Cahir is a heritage town. It was once a stagecoach stop and it is full of traditional  buildings. Suddenly there is this silvery grey pointed thing popping up in between other things and right near the bus stop. There are four doors which I assume means four toilets. Today a man was putting some coin machines into the walls. It will cost 40 cents to use a toilet. Some people think this is an outrageous price. Some people think this is a bargain. No one can decide what all the space at the top of the pointy building is for. It is being widely discussed. People worry that it seems like a lot of material and space for not much function. There is more discussion about the shape of the building that there is about the 40 cent charge.

3 June Sunday

A sparrow hawk smashed into the window and lay stunned on the ground just long enough for me to get a quick photograph of him through the glass. After a five minutes he was up and away again .

4 June Monday

Tommie was happy to get the cake. He is always happy to get cake. He told us that he is in a lot of pain. He woke up twice in the night to take more pain killers. He said he never wakes up in the night not for anything. He knows the pain is bad if it is waking him up. Margaret would know what to tell him to do because she used to be a nurse. She knows things. He cannot ask Margaret for advice now because she cannot hear and she cannot see and she sits in her chair all the day and mostly she sleeps. He does not want to go to the doctor because he does not want to be sent back to the hospital. I offered to take him to the doctor or even to the out of office CareDoc facility. He said no to everything. His excuse is that today is a Bank Holiday so he cannot go to the doctor anyway until tomorrow at the earliest. He promised that he will go to the doctors if he is still in pain in the morning. He has started to drive again even though he is not supposed to be driving yet. He will drive himself over to the doctors office. He said he could walk but he would rather drive.  He tested Simon’s stick which is a hill walking stick with a bit of spring in it.  He liked the bounce. He has a sturdy stick which he finds good for The Balance. He said that A Good Stick Gives Him Courage.

5 June Tuesday

Andrzej has been repairing the strimmer again and again. Simon has been fiddling with it for years too. The strimmer is now twenty years old. It is a heavy-duty model which is perfect for the rough stuff up and down the boreen. It is also a physically heavy machine. Andrzej says it is the best he has ever used  and he likes to keep it going. His last repairs were finally not enough. The three of us went through every container we could find in any of the barns and the house and the workshop. We could not find a cap to replace the gas cap which finally cracked off. The gas cap was kind of the final straw. Andrzej stuck an old and too big sort of cap on it and then wound some plastic sheeting and a rubber band in order to be able to finish the job he was doing. The gas was still leaking and the engine was making a grinding noise. After that we took the strimmer to O’Brien’s to repair. The younger O’Brien found a new cap to fit. He was pleased that it was even  orange to match the machine even though he knew that of course the colour did not matter.  He did various other tuning things. He said the engine is great and strong and that the machine should last for another twenty years. He was full of admiration for the repair that Andrzej had done by taping on the metal top from a tin of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges to repair the carburetor. The O’Brien said, “I could not have done it any better myself, so I just made it a better shape.”

Sheep on a Lump

9 June Saturday

Jim and Keith had some beautiful fat Egyptian garlics on their stand today. The garlics themselves are lovely and plump but the way that the green tops are woven together is what is really lovely. Every single person who sees the garlics reaches out to touch them and to comment upon them. The garlics are grown locally by one of the members of the Egyptian Coptic church which is located in what used to be a Catholic convent. The nuns lived there for years and they ran a school for girls. The nuns have mostly died off. Now the convent is the home for an order of Coptic monks. The garlics are grown by the monks or maybe by just one monk who brings them to the market and gives them to Jim and Keith to sell. I think he just gives them the garlics and he does not even ask for any money in return. Perhaps he has so many garlics that he just wants to share them. They are bigger than most garlic we ever get around here. The bulbs are more purple and they are milder. Every single person comments on the garlics and some people buy them saying that they never buy garlic but they feel that they need to buy this garlic. All of this enthusiasm annoys Keith. Sometimes he announces that Jim grows garlic too. It is like he is defending Jim’s garlic even though it is not really the same thing. Jim’s garlics taste good but they never look like a gift. They never appear with such presentation. They arrive in a jumble in a box and we buy them and we eat them and we enjoy them. The Egyptian garlic gets a lot of attention which is not solely about the eating.

10 June Sunday

Day after day of sun and heat. It feels like we are living somewhere else. It is impossible to walk up the mass path as it is too hot to wear long trousers and long sleeves and there are too many nettles and brambles along the way to grab and rip at any unprotected skin. Walking must be done in other directions. And it has been dry for so long now that it is not just the farmers who are wishing for rain. The haying is getting done which is good but lawns are brown and the grass is not growing which is not good. I cannot believe that I am hoping for rain. The leaks in the roof have not been fixed yet although we do have a plan ready for the fixing.  Why do I want to battle with rain running down the walls when I can have day after day of sun?  The hedgerows are full of the cow parsley skeletons, the sticky weed is dying back and the wild honeysuckle is blooming.

11 June Monday

I overheard the woman in the shop saying that Shay had been Off Dagging. She said it again and again. She said that Shay had been Dagging Again. I feel I know a lot of local vocabulary and that even if I do not know exactly what a word means I usually know enough to be able to unearth its meaning. I think that context is enough for clues. I think that if I focus on the context I am certain to arrive at the correct definition. Knowing that Shay was Dagging Again just left me in quiet confusion. I had no idea what Dagging was nor where to begin in knowing what it was describing. I did not even know who the Shay that the woman was talking about was, so the fact that Shay was Off Dagging Again was an impossible thing to solve all by myself. I could not ask the woman because that would suggest that I had been eavesdropping which of course I was doing but I was not eavesdropping in a nosy kind of way. I was just standing behind the woman as I waited in the shop and she was talking loudly and for a long time. How could I not listen and how could I not pay attention? I could not leave the shop until she stopped talking and moved from the counter. I could only hope that the mystery of Shay and his Dagging would get solved before she left. I could not interrupt and ask what Dagging meant. Later I asked Breda for an explanation. She told me that Dagging was the same as Mitching. As a word, Mitching left me just as confused as Dagging. Eventually I learned that it was all about not going to school when one was supposed to be attending school. The English called it Skiving. We called it Playing Hooky or Skipping School. At least with Skipping School, the word School was included and that gave a major clue. Skipping attached to the word school made it obvious, at least to me. Dagging and Mitching and Skiving sound dangerous and exotic in comparison.

12 June Tuesday

Rhododendrons are in bloom all the way up into the mountains. They are late this year but they are as beautiful as ever. I am glad we remembered to drive up to see them. It is easy to wait a little while and then suddenly it is too late. The blossom do not last long. Shades of pink and lavender and purple line roads and paths. The sides of the hills glow with the soft colours. The rhododendrons in the Knockmealdowns are a much maligned pest. They have invaded and grown like weeds spreading everywhere and choking out a lot of other more indigenous plants. People speak in despair about these enormous invasive shrubs or trees. Some of them really are trees. They are big enough to be trees. Sheep farmers curse them. But for two weeks every year the rhododendrons are adored. Festivals are organized to go walking among the rhododendrons and millions of photographs are taken. When the two weeks are over we can return to worrying about how they are running rampant and taking over all of the other vegetation. And I shall not have to struggle with spelling the word rhododendron for another year.


13 June Wednesday

The roses on the side of the grass-roofed shed are better and more plentiful than they have ever been. We have never had so many in bloom all at the same time. The smell makes me dizzy when I walk past to my room. This is Kattie English’s Albertine rose. It is the only plant remaining from her life here, so I feel it is important to take good care of it and to keep it healthy. It is barely possible to cut these roses and to bring them into the house. They last a few hours and make a thick perfume in a room, and then they droop and die. They are best enjoyed where they grow.

15 June Friday

The Irish flag down in the village near to the bottle bank looks like it is blowing in the breeze.  It looks like it is blowing in the breeze all the time.  Yesterday was a wildly gusty day and the edge of the flag got caught on a branch.  Now the wind is no longer blowing but the flag is still in blowing position.

The Postman’s Party

16 June Saturday

On entering Cahir for the Farmers Market the road is often full of parked cars. Every Saturday there is some kind of game being played by the children in the sports field. The cars of the parents are parked all along on both sides of the road. With cars parked along both sides the road becomes a single lane road. Some Saturdays there is also a funeral at the church. The church is across from the playing fields. Once the car park is full the cars spill out onto the road for a long way in either direction. One can tell how big a funeral is by the number of cars. If the road is really blocked up we know that the family was well-known in town and maybe related to a lot of people. Today there was a huge event following the death of a woman named Mary. I know very little about this Mary, but I know a little. She was the receptionist at the Surgery. The eye doctor and her husband both have their practices in a bungalow on the edge of town. There are two doors to enter the two surgeries and inside in the centre is one desk. Mary took care of the patients who entered in the left hand door for Dr John and his practice as a General Practitioner. She also took care of the patients who entered from the right hand door for Dr. Bernie who is an Eye Specialist. She was completely efficient and she never forgot anyone’s name. She had an exuberance which made you feel that no one had a more fun or happy job. Between endless phone calls and the patients coming in and going out of the two doors she made everyone feel that they were lucky to be there and that she was lucky too. Mary was in her early fifties. She was walking down a road on Wednesday with her niece, or maybe it was a nephew, who was on a bicycle. The road is a very long and very straight stretch of road. It used to a be the busy main road on the way to Mitchellstown and Cork, but since the motorway was built, it is an extremely quiet road. Anyone going in either direction on the road can see for a mile up the road. There is a wide space along the road for people to walk safely or for tractors and slow moving vehicles. Mary was hit by a car. No doubt it was the only car on the road. Whenever I am on that road I am always the only car on the road. The road is never busy. The car hit Mary but it did not hit the child. Mary was killed. The community is shocked. The funeral this morning was packed. Death in a small community affects so many people. Even if one does not know the family there is always a connection no matter how small. We all feel a need to show our shock and sadness. The word tragedy is used again and again.

17 June Sunday

I took fresh strawberries to Tommie and Margaret. As I stood at the door I looked down and saw a white envelope from Lourdes addressed to Tommie and Mgt. Hally in blue biro. On top of the envelope was a small bottle of Holy Water. I picked the two things up off the ground just as Tommie opened the door. I handed him the Holy Water and the envelope with one hand and the strawberries with the other. It was a confusing moment. He was thrilled with the strawberries and he was thrilled by the Holy Water. He barely knew which to deal with first. He whispered “Oh, They went to Lourdes and now they are back.” I do not know who the They were, the people who had gone to Lourdes and so kindly brought back the Holy Water. I was pleased to see how happy he was about the gifts. I was interested in Mgt. as an abbreviation for Margaret.

18 June Monday

Forty large elderflower blossoms took no time to collect. The countryside is covered with the creamy blossoms. Sometimes they all look easily available but in fact they are too high and way to get near to them is surrounded by nettles. Today was easy. I needed twenty blossoms for a batch of cordial and I planned to make two batches. Forty blossoms plus a few extra. I cut off all the leaves and most of the thick stems. The mixture is now out on the table in a covered pan. It needs to sit and steep for twenty fours hours. Tomorrow I shall bottle it.

19 June Tuesday

There were four little girls standing outside the stone wall. I was just walking along the road. I did not recognize any of the girls. Three of them were holding hands and singing sweetly over the wall to a cluster of wobbly young calves. The calves looked interested and excited to have this performance. Probably they were confused. The one girl who was not singing shushed me with her finger on her lips. She told me that we must be very quiet because baby calves prefer music to talking.

20 June Wednesday

The Elderflower Cordial has been strained and decanted into bottles. Twelve and a half bottles is this years supply. The bottles have been labelled. Simon thought he was doing me a great favour by cutting out the labels and gluing them onto the bottles. Labelling the bottles is my favourite part of the making. I felt a bit disappointed but I did not tell him that. I just said thank you.

21 June The Solstice

I took the car to Mike for some work. He told me that we are promised a heat wave today. People are ready for it or at least some people are ready for it. Some people are wearing shorts and t-shirts while others are wearing wind-proof jackets all zipped-up. I saw one woman wearing an enormous white fur hat with sparkly things sewn into it. She looked hot but she also looked very proud of her hat. Mike told me that the heat wave will begin at half two. He said it will be over by tea time. This was his joke.

Mike has bee hives on the top of four wrecked cars in his yard. The cars have one, two or three hives on their roofs. Each hive has a bit of metal something from a car to weight the tops down. All of the hives are homemade and they are painted in different colours. My favourite is the pale yellow one. An 83-year old friend brought the hives and a few queens over from Burncourt to attract fresh workers to his community of bees. The man has already taken two hives away and there are lots of bees swarming around the remaining hives. The four cars are all Saabs. Mike loves Saabs. They are his preferred car to work on. He is saving these old cars for parts. When there is not much work, he rebuilds old Saabs and makes them good and then he sells them and rebuilds another. Right now he needs a piece out of one of the Saabs but he thinks he will have to wait till the bees have been taken away. Mike has learned a lot about bees because the bee-keeping friend tells him things and then people like me come along and ask a lot of questions and he is able to pass on the new knowledge. He said that most bees in America are African bees and that they are very aggressive. The strains here came from other places and they are more relaxed. I believe him, but I still prefer not to go too close.

22 June Friday

We went to John the Post’s retirement party. John has not been well for several years now. We kept hoping that he would get better and that he would return to work. He has not been able to drive because of his neck and his throat and his head, so he waited and waited thinking that the various treatments would allow him to begin driving again. Now he has accepted that  the various treatments are not going to get him back behind the wheel, so he has officially retired. The little group around John was all postmen. A few of them had themselves retired in the last few years. Others were still working. They were all wearing cotton short-sleeved shirts of a particular summery type. They almost looked like they were wearing an official off-duty uniform. The bar was covered with dark wood inside and it was very quiet and cool. We were the only people, except for John’s sister, who were not postmen. There were no postwomen. No doubt some other people arrived after we left. I enjoyed talking with the postmen. Tom was there.  He had been John’s substitute for a while but now he has his own route. He is now up and down in the Nire Valley, in the Comeraghs and almost all the way to Dungarvan. His route covers an enormous area. Most of the postman do not want this winding, climbing, difficult route, especially in winter. Tom is happy to do it and happy too because his grandfather used to do the exact same route but on a bicycle. He knows delivering the post in his van is easy in comparison. Besides the difficult driving, the other postmen do not like this route because there are so many people on it who are related to each other. Tom said that there are a tremendous number of Ryans in the Nire and several are brothers who do not speak to one another so if the simple mistake is made that the wrong letter gets delivered to the wrong Ryan all hell breaks loose. Another postman told us about a different postman who did that route for a while. The man only used four tyres a year while all of the other postmen used at least twelve tyres a year. This postman only did about 20,000 miles a year on his van while everyone else did 60 or 70,000. The man was eventually called in for some questioning by the administration. The man had figured out a system to make his work life easier. He would go to the creamery and wait around while the farmers came to drop in their milk or to pick up supplies. He would hand-deliver the post to whoever arrived and then he would ask people to drop things off at their neighbours on their way home. He also went to any and all funerals in the area and did his deliveries by hand from outside the church, after giving his condolences to the bereaved.

23 June Saturday

The heat is extraordinary. They are giving more heat and higher and higher temperatures for the coming week.  The temperatures are bigger than any we can usually expect.  Haying is being done everywhere. Haying is the only thing being done with a sense of frenzy.  Except for the sounds of those machines, the countryside is quiet. Even the birds seem to be resting somewhere in the shade.

One plastic barrel cut in half makes a fine feeding place. The barrels used like this are always bright blue. I do not know what came in the barrels originally, but I love them in the fields for as long as they last. The cows bump into them in their eagerness to eat and eventually the plastic cracks and the whole thing falls to the ground.

24 June Sunday

I found an envelope on the road. It is printed bright yellow and white and is for the Building Fund of the two churches of Newcastle and Fourmilewater. They are two separate churches but they are joined as a parish. If there is a mass at one of the churches on a Sunday there will not be a mass at the other. I think there is only one priest between them. I do not know which building is being worked on. Maybe it is both. The date 31 March 2019 suggests that there is no rush to turn in one’s envelope.

In the Low Countries by Stuart Mills

26 June Tuesday

Yesterday at about seven o’clock, I went up to a gun range in the Knockmealdowns. I have never before been to a gun range. I have never fired a gun. I have no interest in guns. Breda and Greg had rounded up a group of walkers complete with boots and walking poles and backpacks to walk some of the trails and over the river while a photographer took some pictures. I was there out of sheer nosiness, as were several of the other friends. I filled my backpack with bubble wrap. There was no need to carry anything useful or important. It was just an evening stroll. Tommie O’Donnell runs the gun range on part of his eighty acres. He also has sheep and fields of hay. Maybe he has cows too. There are some good walking trails that climb through the forests. He is happy to have walkers going through his land to get access to the mountains beyond. He has set up a bar and function room so that people can have parties with music and dancing. There is plenty of parking. I assume no one would be shooting when the walkers are about but I do not really know. The shooting areas are very carefully divided up and off in special areas. We were shown the target shooting places and some hides as well as a dug-out which hid men like de Valera and Collins during the uprising. We stood around on some slippery stones in the middle of the river pretending to study a map while the photographer took photos. The map was a map of Wicklow but the photographer was not close enough to be able to see that. The photographer told us that he was not a professional anyway. He was only a hobbyist photographer. In his real life, he is a paramedic and he trains other people to be paramedics. He was helping Tommie with the photographs as he is a member of the gun club himself.  He enjoys coming out to do target practice with one of his several guns. The photos were for a brochure which is being made to publicize the whole place.  We were served tea in the function room before we left as if we had just had a real walk and had worked up real thirsts.

27 June Wednesday

A Community Alert text came through saying that someone had broken into the Grange National School over the weekend. The Garda were asking for anyone with information about the break-in to be in touch with them. The vandal or vandals used a big thick black marking pen to draw large pictures of bulls with enormous erect penises. There has been a lot of discussion about the break-in and the vandalism. Mostly people feel sad and disgusted by the damage to the windows and the general lack of respect. But within the discussions there are people who are impressed and maybe a bit proud of the careful and anatomically correct drawings. This is an agricultural community. People feel it would somehow be much worse if the kids with the markers did not even know the difference between a bull and a cow.

28 June Thursday

A victualler is a butcher. I love this word. It is specific and mysterious and old-fashioned all at the same time. I never get used to seeing it. I never hear anyone saying it out loud but some butcher shops have the name carved in stone on the front of the shop.

29 June Friday

There is an active and busy wren’s nest right beside the kitchen door. It is well camouflaged with moss and built right into the ivy. It would be invisible if there was not such a lot of rushing and zooming in and out. I am spending a lot of time watching, but all the time that I am watching, I try not to look like I am watching. I am being watched at least as much as I am watching.

30 June Saturday

As we were leaving Dungarvan, I saw a boat in someone’s front yard.  It was not a big yard so the boat was, by necessity, close to the house.  It was raised up high and surrounded by scaffolding.  It did not look like anyone had been working on it for quite a long time. Both the scaffolding and the boat were rusting. I could not help but be reminded of this wonderful poem (written in the early sixties, I think) by our late friend Stuart Mills:

In the Low Countries

 

They are building a ship

in a field

much bigger than I should have thought

sensible.

When it is finished

there will never be enough of them

to carry it to the sea

and already it is turning

rusty.

Put a Smile On It.

18 July Wednesday

We boarded the ferry and walked up from the car deck on level 5 to level 7 where there were seats and tables and toilets and the shop and food, etc. The first thing we saw as we came out of the stairwell was an elderly lady sitting exactly opposite the door. She had fluffy white hair and a round pink face. I could not see her face completely because she was holding a book right up in front and close to her eyes. The name of the book was TIBET IS MY COUNTRY. The woman was reading with complete concentration.  She was not paying any attention at all to the people arriving out of the stairs and off the lift with bags and books and pillows brought from their cars for the four hour journey across the Irish Sea. She was oblivious to all of the people and the bustle. She looked like she had been sitting there all day which she could not have been because the boarding had not been going on for too long. I think she must have gotten off the lift and sat on the bench in exactly that position so that she would not have far to go when it was time to disembark. Perhaps the people she was traveling with placed her exactly there for that very reason. We wandered off and found our own place to read and sleep and pass the journey. When the announcement came for the car drivers and passengers to return to the car deck and to their cars we saw her again. She was in exactly the same spot and the book was still held up close to her face. Another woman who was waiting to go down the stairs said in a kindly voice: “It must be a savage good book? You have scarcely looked away since you got on board.” The reading woman said “Yes. It is a fine book. I am obliged to return it to the library tomorrow morning but I will never finish it in time if I am forced to stop and speak with strangers.”

20 July Friday

The dry weather continues. The land is bleached out. There is a lack of green everywhere. There is a sense of desperation. There is no grass growing so the cows who should be eating off the fields are eating nuts and feeds that they would usually be eating in the winter. There is worry about what they will be eating in the winter. Everyone likes the warm days but there are all kinds of conversations constructed around the idea of rainfall at night. Many people favour the time between 12 and 6. Or between 2 and 6. Or between 3 and 5. Everyone has a theory for the time they think a nightly rain will do the most good for the land and the least disruption for the summery weather. Everyone has a theory about how very good it would be for everyone and how it would solve the problems of drought but still leave us living in this holiday climate. Farmers and gardeners and cows are all suffering from the heat. Such heat is nearly unheard of. They are saying that it has been fifty days now. I have heard fifty days repeated several times. Surely it should be fifty-two days now. Or fifty-three.

21 July Saturday

The three children often play their instruments and some music at the Farmer’s Market. They are all about twelve. There is a box on the ground for people to toss in money.  The money is being collected for the hospice. The girl and one of the boys nod and smile at people as they play their tunes and they nod when people throw coins into the box. The other boy sits straight and plays his banjo with skill but he never acknowledges the audience or anyone at all. His face is serious and sort of miserable. Glum. I thought perhaps I was maybe the only one who noticed it. Today the mother of the banjo playing boy was despairing.  She was at the Apple Farm stand. She said “How I wish he would smile. The very least he could do is Put A Smile On It, but he just cannot.”

22 July Sunday

People look for the ways to describe the damage being done by the ongoing drought. It is a variation of grumbling. Our little concrete water trough is empty. It was made by Johnnie Mackin and rolled down the Mass Path from his house to ours. Nigel Browne rolled it down the hill through the mud and over rocks and branches and holes.  He offered to do it but later he wished that he had not offered as it was a difficult job to get it from there to here. He rolled it three-quarters of a kilometer.  It has been sitting where it is for at least twenty years.  It is empty for the first time in all those years.  The trough is not deep. The whole thing only comes up to below my knee but it has always been full of water. Rain water collects in it. Dogs drink out of it. Sometimes I use it to water nearby plants. Now it is empty. It is devoid of water. The bright green moss around the top edge has turned to brown. There was an inch of scummy muck in the bottom of the trough but already that is drying out and getting crunchy. It is as good a time as any to clean out the drying muck.

23 July Monday

Pa is not Dad. Pa is never Dad. Pa is short for the name Pascal. It is never used by a child as a name for a father.

24 July Tuesday

Yesterday Peter Ryan came to remove the side of the roof where the leak has been confusing us for two years. He removed all the slates. He said the roofing felt was so old that it was like lace. There was scarcely anything to it but anyway he left the felt on for overnight just so that we were not completely exposed to the sky. At 9.30 we got an unexpected heavy burst of rain. Rain poured into the kitchen. It was not so bad in the bathroom and not too bad in the big room. We still had all the water catching devices in place there. The kitchen leak was the worst. By the time we went to bed it had mostly stopped. Lucky for us it was not the proper all night rain which everyone has been longing for. In the morning, the floor was soaked and the newspapers were sodden. The buckets were full. Peter sent me to Clogheen to get the lead flashing from Corbett’s Hardware Shop. Then I was sent to the dump with the load of old roofing felt. He cannot put that in Joe Keating’s rubble hole, wherever that is. Peter will return with Joe’s tractor when the work is all done to scoop all the remaining roof rubble and old slates off the flat roof. In between my errands I have made endless cups of strong tea as well as lunch for Peter and Mark. There is not much time in a day in between my jobs. The heat is exhausting.

25 July Wednesday

The work goes on. Yesterday I found a strange curl of something on the floor. It looked like an enormous toenail. That is not possible. There is no animal with such a large toenail around here. Today a knot of wood fell to the floor. It appears that the toenail was a bit of bark from around the knot. Lots of things are falling from the ceiling. This will not stop until the banging and tapping and activity stops. Most of the time the radio inside the work van is on and loud so that Peter and Mark can hear it above the noise. With windows and doors all flung open we cannot escape. Indoors and out the noise of the work is everywhere.

Fodder Shortage

27 July Friday

The yearly National Tidy Towns competition is underway. Some places get really busy with their floral displays and presentations. Some towns just ignore the whole thing. This year is proving tough for everyone because it is so hot. Everything is dry. Things like hanging baskets need a designated person with water standing beside them nearly all day long. As a village, Ardfinnan always takes its place in the competition quite seriously. There is a painted boat at a jaunty angle full of flowers on the green. Lambert’s garage has their usual painted tyres mounted on the wall with flowers tumbling out of them.

I am not sure if the painted cart is a new addition or just one I might have missed in recent years. In addition to the floral arrangements the cart has two milk churns, one inside with the foliage and one on the ground beside it. Both of the milk churns are chained to the cart and the one placed inside is full with a cement block and some  rubble just to make sure that the display position stays fixed.

29 July Sunday

I drive past three farms on the way to the village. Only one has the flattened sheep dog. He is at the last farm on the way down. He is at the first farm on the way back. He lies on the road as flat as he can make himself. He sticks out quite far into the single lane road. He is black and white. He thinks he is making himself invisible but he is completely visible on the grey road. He waits until the car is almost beside him and then he rushes out as if he is going to bite the tyres. He never does more than a quick dash and then he gets back in ready position to await his next victim on wheels. He does not want to bite a tyre. He does not want to catch a motorcar. I always slow for him and his almost attack. It is a game we play together. There is so little traffic on the road he does much more anticipating than dashing.

30 July Monday

It seemed an auspicious way to begin the week. I trapped one of the enormous house spiders in the bathtub. It might have been a Cardinal Spider. Or just a Giant House Spider. I took it outside and a long way from the house. I am certain these spiders come back and crawling up the drain pipe and back in the tub. The spiders are everywhere especially at this time of year. The spiders make lots of cobwebs and the cobwebs get full of sticky dust and I feel the house is always in the process of being taken over. I never see so many spiders nor webs nor so much dust in other houses.

3 August Friday

Replacing the roof was one thing. Clearing up after two years of leaks was another. Every time a new place flowed with rainwater, we gathered things into boxes or piles and pushed them somewhere just to get them out of the way quickly. Every time a solution came along we assumed it was the final one and that the dripping walls would end. The leaks moved along the seam between the fold where the two roofs joined together. The bathroom leak was a constant and always in the exact same section of wall. Except for the one time when it took over the ceiling and then the water came in everywhere. The kitchen leaks were in several places and they moved back and forth.The most worrying leak was the one that made its way through the fuse box and continued straight down to the floor. The kitchen ceiling flooded too. Both ceilings have big stains which are yet to be fixed. One part of the ceiling was ripped open and closed up again. That place is a large raw plaster area waiting for paint. It has been easy to condition myself not to look up.

In the big room, the three meter long shelves above the cupboard and the six shelves inside the cupboard, also three meters long, will no longer be soaked in the next rain. We cleaned and oiled the shelves.  We cleaned and coated the wall behind them with stain-covering paint. I was amazed at how black even the very bottom shelves were. Water damage is pervasive. The pans and plastic containers and newspapers and towels catching the rain water were never enough. After cleaning and painting, I began collecting the bags and boxes of stuff which had been spread around the house and down into the barn. Things just kept appearing. Books had been lined up on the floor and piled up on other parts of the floor. The trouble with it all was that the books had been rushed away from pouring water. They had not been examined. They had been moved in a state of panic and with great speed. Many cookbooks were completely destroyed. The pages were rippled with moisture and sometimes stuck together. Things had been moved and then they were moved again. There was no sorting.

With this dry weather, I moved chairs and rugs out doors while I struggled to regain order. Flashlights which had been on the shelves inside the cupboard and then moved out of the way were useless. The batteries and innards were full of rust. Some were still wet inside. They are good for nothing. Several old dog collars belonging to Emily had been saved. Why I do not know. They are now mouldy, but how can I throw them away? A dog whistle on a white string that never worked anyway but that someone gav