THE JOURNAL

some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Tag: first primrose

Do You Read Books?

3 January 2021 Sunday

The Leopardstown Races are a big part of the holiday season. Traditionally they take place 26-29 December. This year they happened as usual but without the big crowds in attendance. Of course. Everyone who follows the racing watched it on the television. Siobhan’s mother was busy at Leopardstown from her armchair every day, as always. She sat with her pen and the newspaper and made notes about each race. She knows the background of each horse. All year she keeps track of all the race meetings and of the horses, trainers, jockeys and owners. There is not much about the horses that she does not know. Mrs. Hally is 102.  Siobhan tapes the program because her mother falls asleep frequently. Each race gets replayed and replayed until Mrs. Hally feels certain that she has seen everything.


6 January Wednesday

We took a walk out to Lady’s Abbey. It was cold. I wanted to check on the red chair that had been stored in one of the small rooms at the ruined Abbey.  We were shocked to find the chair laying on the ground outside. Someone, probably kids, had used it to start a fire, or else they had started a small fire with the idea to burn the chair once the fire got going. It was a bad idea. The red seat of the chair did not burn well and they never got enough heat going to burn the back and the legs. All they did was ruin the chair.  Someone had left that chair safely sheltered so that it would be available to sit upon each time they visited the Abbey. A man walking with a crutch appeared as we were leaving. He used his crutch to point to the chair and the failed fire and he said, “Kids! They are trying to have fun but they don’t know how.”

8 January Friday

We walked up behind the house that used to belong to Francie Cooney.  It has just been sold.  The sign is still up. It says SALE AGREED. I had never been up onto the land so we wandered in to take a look. Once there are new people in possession we would not think to go in and look around. That would be intruding.  The land goes back in three sections. I have been passing the house for years. I had no idea there was so much land stretching back from the road. The small house is in the first part and then there is a big open-sided shed with a rounded galvanized roof full of tools and broken machinery and some more land and then there is a third section with two stone buildings and a high wall. The stone wall on the left side of the entire piece of land is about two and a half meters high. Just by being back there and talking quietly we disturbed a fox who was sleeping up in a secret place on the wall. He ran along the length of it and disappeared.

9 January Saturday

Tommie loves fruit. He claims to love all fruit. He is also partial to sweet things: cakes and biscuits and puddings and pies.  But his preferred favorite thing is fresh fruit. I knocked on his door today, took a few steps back and asked him if he likes pineapple. He looked dubious and then we talked a little and I gave him the box with a piece of pineapple cake in it. The box was made of cardboard so Tommie could not see the cake that was inside the box. Looking at the box gave him no clues to its contents. Simon had made the cake from one of the pineapples that has been lined up on the windowsill with pine cones. It was the last of the pineapples that we called our Christmas decoration. The cake was made following a recipe from Mauritius but I did not tell Tommie that. He was a little disturbed about the fact that he did not know if he had ever had a pineapple or if he had ever seen a pineapple. He would have been further disturbed by the word Mauritius. I gave him the box along with a carton of Bird’s Custard.  I told him that the pineapple and the custard go well together. He asked if this thing in the box was a sweet thing or was it something else. He did not say the word pineapple. The word seemed to disturb him.  I explained that it was a cake made with the fruit of the pineapple. Once he knew that it was a sweet, his face relaxed and he looked happy and he said that he looked forward to the eating of it.

11 January Monday

Robins are everywhere. There are many birds of all kinds on the feeders and on the bushes but mostly there are dozens and dozens of robins. For a while I thought I was getting to know one and that she was getting to know me. Now I know that there are too many robins to really focus upon. I cannot recognize one from another. They are all fat and they are all everywhere. I cannot keep the feeders full enough.

12 January Tuesday

There is not a lot of variety in the things to see when I go out to walk. At this time of year there is not much animal activity. Most days things are much the way they were the day before.  Most days I never meet another person. I have to take different routes to provide myself with variety especially now that we can only go five kilometers from home for exercise.  Today I got excited when I saw something in the road up ahead of me.  I was looking at it for a long time as I approached. I could not decide what it was.  Finally I got close enough to identify it.  It was a sugar beet. What did I expect it to be? It was not even a whole sugar beet, but only half a sugar beet. The other half must have gone off in the machine that gathered them up in the field. This half might have fallen off a trailer. It gave me something to look at and something to think about. I am still excited about it.

15 January Friday

Tommie did not enjoy the pineapple cake. He was polite about it. He said that since he has never before eaten nor seen a pineapple probably it is too late for him to start. He did not like the pineapple cake but he was very happy to have eaten the entire carton of Bird’s Custard.

16 January Saturday

I went to the Farmer’s Market but it was not fully up and running after the  Christmas break. I was a week early.  Pat was not there, so there was no fish. James was not there so there were no organic vegetables.  Maria was not there so there was no cheese. Those were the things I had come to buy. There were a few other stalls open so I did purchase a few items. I decided I would need to go over to the supermarket to buy more food.

A man in the SuperValu car park shouted to me: DO YOU READ BOOKS? I looked up as he ran over to me, wearing his mask and lugging an enormous shopping bag full of books.  I looked at the books and they were a terrible mess or at least the ones showing at the top of the bag were in a dreadful state.  The covers were bent and curled and stained and torn. I told the man that I had so many of my own books at home that I simply did not have space for anymore.  I directed him to the wire bin just inside the door of the supermarket. The bin is full of books that people leave there and other people scrabble through them and help themselves to whatever they want. The man said he was headed for that bin but he saw me first and he said he thought I might be the kind of person who might want an entire bag of books.

17 January Sunday

Sometimes Saturday night or maybe Sunday night. Going to the sauna once a week is the closest thing to Going Out Somewhere that we have had throughout the last ten months. It is an occasion to look forward to and an occasion to savor. Walking the 80 meters across the yard in the darkness in my dressing gown offers a new challenge. I can no longer just wander along looking up at the stars as I usually do. There are snowdrops coming up everywhere in the grass.  They are not easily visible by the light of the lantern because most are not yet in blossom. There is not very much white to catch the light. Walking in the dark demands careful attention. I do not want to step on them.

18 January Monday

I telephone Tommie once a week and when I do I try to have some news for him. Sometimes there is little to tell. We none of us have much news in these endless lockdowns. He told me that he considers himself a hermit these days. A hermit who has his dinner delivered each day by Eileen Condon. He told me that her portions are mighty.  The dinner is usually too much food so he has enough left over for his tea too. He finds these days of quarantine long and lonely. Today I had some news for him. He was pleased to hear that a man from the council had been down for a look and now some work is promised on our boreen.  I told him that the potholes are worse than they have ever been. Even the postman is shocked by the state of things. It is easy for the council to forget about this road because there is only our one house on it. They forget that they are responsible for it.

19 January Tuesday

I had received the order from Dublin. My habit is to send payment by return post with a check. The last time I made this same order, Esther included an envelope addressed to herself in my handwriting and with an uncancelled stamp on the upper right hand corner. This was the envelope I had used for the time before. Esther did not say anything in her note about the envelope but I accepted it for the small kindness that it was. I put my check into the envelope and I felt smug for getting the chance to use the same stamp twice.  This time an envelope arrived with my order again.  It was completely wrinkled and a little torn and it was addressed to Esther herself again, but not in my handwriting.  It was someone else’s handwriting and someone else’s envelope. Their stamp had not been cancelled either. So I used this envelope already posted by someone else to send my payment to Esther, again for free.

20 January Wednesday

Some undergrowth has been cleared up at Middlequarter. A post with signs for walkers is suddenly visible. It is not a new post nor are the signs new. They were there but they were hidden. I am intrigued with the one pointing to the village announcing: Refreshments Available.

21 January Thursday

While out walking I had seen the car driving around slowly. It is always a big thing to note the first new car of the year. Well, it is not a big thing, but it is anyway a thing to be on the look out for the first brand new car with the number of the new year on the license plate.  I saw a red car with the number 21 and then I saw it again about 30 minutes later. It was driving slowly around the area.  No one is allowed to go more than 5 kilometres from home so this car was circling and driving the same roads.  Because of the new and very infectious variant of the virus, the Guards are out in surprising places stopping people on bicycles and in cars and telling them to go home and to stay at home. They are giving people warnings. This morning I saw the red car again down at the shop. There were no other cars parked out front. There was no one around at all, except me, and this car with the 21 plates backed in so that the front of the car was facing outwards. The driver was sitting in his seat waiting to catch the eye of anyone who arrived. As I left I recognized that it was Larry Doocey sitting in the car. He was waiting for people to notice his new motorcar.  I spoke to Tommie in the afternoon and I mentioned Larry and the new automobile. He was not surprised, but he appreciated getting the news. He said. “Ah yes. It is exactly the time for Larry to buy a new car. He has always been A Man for The Changing Up.”

22 January Friday

We were told to expect the road crew from the council today. The plan was that they would bring the digger and scrape out the grass down the middle of the boreen. Then they would return on Monday to fill and fix as much of the road as they could fix.  That was the plan but this morning the digger was not available so now we are promised the same activity for Monday. The idea was that we would be trapped down here all day unable to drive out.  It is nothing new to stay home all day but it is not normal to be warned of the entrapment ahead of time. .

The Hedge School

25 January Monday

No one wants to go to the dentist. This new variant of the virus from England is rampant. Everyone is nervous. I had an appointment with the dental hygienist. I rang up to cancel. The receptionist did not seem surprised. She sounded as though she was waiting for my call. She told me that everyone is cancelling. If a procedure is essential or if it is an emergency, people are willing to go to the dentist. If not, no one wants to go. I heard on the radio that the government is considering employing dentists to take on the job of vaccinating people. At least then they will have something to do.

 

26 January Tuesday

Derek delivered new postcards. They are a gift from An Post. The ones sent out to us during the first lockdown were big and glossy and the pictures on them were not good. This new offering is smaller. Each one is the size of a normal post card and it is on better card stock. It is not glossy. The best thing is that the front side of these new cards has no image on it. It is just white with a green edge. The blank card gives us a chance to write or draw or glue something onto it as we wish. We can post our cards to anyone on the island of Ireland, North or South, for FREE.

27 January Wednesday

The digger arrived at 8.30 on Monday morning. The grass was scraped and removed from the middle of the boreen. There were two men on the job: one with the small digger and the other with a larger machine. He collected the grass and soil and stones and took it all away. We were trapped for the day, as anticipated. In the morning they cleared as far as the gate into Scully’s wood and after returning from their dinner, they did about half way in from the tar road. I think that their plan was to meet in the middle. The men did not come back on Tuesday but they left the digger and three kinds of shovels and scrapers up at the farm, so we knew they would be back.

Today they reappeared and finished the entire road. On both Monday and Wednesday Derek handed our post to the man in the small digger. The digger is small but it is still as wide as the boreen. There was no way for Derek to get by. The man delivered the letters and packets to us himself rather than backing up to allow the post van to drive down and then to drive back up again. I am sad to see the grass gone. The primroses will not be blooming down the middle this spring, but I feel certain that they will return next year. Or the year after that.

28 January Thursday

The butcher was a thin nervous man. I asked for a shoulder of lamb. He quickly directed my attention to a silver tray with three lamb kidneys in one end. The rest of the tray was heaped with tiny tiny pieces of diced lamb shoulder. The pieces were so small I did not know what they might be useful for. The tiny cubes of lamb were too small for stew. They were too small for anything. They looked like pink peppercorns. I wondered if they were a mistake. He suggested that I might prefer the diced lamb shoulder rather than the entire shoulder I had requested. He was disappointed when I thanked him but said no.

 

29 January Friday

Walking up Bahernaugh in bitterly cold sunshine, I decided to continue as far as the old hedge school. The road is now impassable by car, and it was rough uphill walking. The old man who used to live up there died last year. He was in a care home for a year before that. There are plenty of sheep in his fields. I think they belong to his cousin Michael.  The house and the sheds are closed up and looking sad, but the little sign is still on the blocked up window identifying the one building as a school.

30 January Saturday

The Garda are everywhere. They continue to surprise. They are fining people for going too far from where they live. We are still in lockdown. The end date of this lockdown was scheduled for today but that date has changed. It is now tentatively planned for 5 March.  That may or may not be the date when we are allowed more freedom. We can only go 5 kilometers from home for exercise. If we go any further than that we must have an essential reason:  food or medicine or a medical appointment. There is nothing open so there is nowhere else to go anyway. People no longer get warnings. We are now being fined for going too far from home.  Five cyclists in fancy lycra gear were given fines. Five men. Five fines. It was obvious they were on a long cycle ride as a group. No one dresses up like that to go only five kilometers.  One man was fined for having a passenger in his car who was not someone he lived with and who had no reason to be in the car with him. The radio is full of news of these fines. It is making us all stay closer to home, which is of course the whole point.

 

31 January Sunday

We think about being somewhere else, but of course we cannot go anywhere. This is a recurring theme.  We prepare food from different cultures and we listen to music from far away. We watch films and we read books in order to transport ourselves.  We want to travel, but we recoil at the idea of boarding a crowded plane, train or bus to go anywhere at all. A seat on a bus is not a place where anyone wants to be these days, even if the bus seat is one of the newly upholstered ones on BusEireann.  The running red setters are so cheerful. They suggest great speed and momentum and joy.

No.  A seat on the bus is not a place where anyone wants to be these days. As an healthy option, my book BY BUS, written pre-pandemic, when we were able to roam freely on buses, is now published by UGLY DUCKLING PRESSE in Brooklyn, NY. This book offers the reader multiple journeys by bus, without the need to wear a mask.  It is now available to order with a pre-publication discount:

By Bus

The Third Floor

1 February Monday

The Irish calendar decrees that today is first day of spring. It does not feel like the first day of spring. It feels like February. Every year I feel certain that the first of February is not remotely the first day of spring. Breda and I walked in the mountains and we sat down to eat our sandwiches in the cold and wind. We did not linger. She pointed out the kind of reeds used for the making of the St. Brigid’s crosses. It is a tradition to gather the reeds and make the crosses today, but we did not collect reeds as we had no intention of making the crosses.  It was too cold to do anything but to keep walking. Back down here, at home, we have masses of snowdrops and crocuses and even some daffodils are starting to show. Perhaps spring is closer than I think.

2 February Tuesday

When I listen to the radio or while I am waiting in the shop, I hear people moaning and despairing about how greatly they are suffering because they cannot go to visit their mother who lives in Wexford or Fethard or Waterford. There is a lots of weeping and wailing because people have not seen their mother in three weeks or two months. Anyone whose mother is more than five kilometers away feels hard done by. A lot of families got together in the summer in one of the few parts of last year when we were not in lockdown and many more people got together over Christmas. Too many people got together at Christmas. That is why the virus took off and that is why we are in Level Five lock-down now.

Today is my mothers birthday. She is 95 and there is a big blizzard kicking off in New Hampshire, so she is trapped at home alone. She tells me that she has heat and food and plenty to read, so she is not unhappy. And she has the telephone. I have not seen my mother since October 2019. I try not to mention this when people are moaning. All distances are too far right now.

5 February Friday

I was pulled over at a Garda checkpoint in Poulacapple on the way to Kilkenny. I reached over to the passenger seat to get my letter from the doctor’s office validating my journey as Essential Inter-County Travel. The Garda did not look close enough to read the letter, he simply nodded to acknowledge the piece of paper. He said that to his own eyes I had the appearance of an honest woman, so he waved me along.

Before the doctor could get down to any other business he wanted to put a pin in his map. The pin was the important thing. An enormous map was pasted on the wall over his desk. It was a world map. He wanted to know where I was from originally. With my guidance he stuck a little round blue pin into the map as close to what we could consider New Hampshire as was possible. A tiny bit north of Boston was the best we could do. He did not have a national map for his Irish patients. This mapping activity was only for those of us from far-flung locations. Most of the pins were white and some were blue but I do not know if they marked any difference or if he just ran out of white ones and so he moved on to a box of blue.

8 February Monday

The Third Floor is spoken of with all seriousness. The Third Floor is where Covid-19 patients are taken at the hospital. The entire floor has been given over to the care of people who are ill with the virus. If someone tells you that a person is On The Third Floor you do not need to ask what the problem is. You do not even need to use the word hospital. The Third Floor says it all.

9 February Tuesday

The good thing about growing bamboo is that I have a regular source of strong and flexible sticks. I made a flag for Mrs. Hally’s 103rd birthday. The flag was on a piece of card and it stood tall on its bamboo pole. I thought it could be stuck into a plant pot on the porch outside so that it could be seen from where Mrs. Hally sits in her chair looking out over the marsh. I knocked several times before Siobhan came to the door. She said in a whisper that the priest was there in the house and that he was just now saying a Birthday Blessing for her mother. I was interrupting the Blessing. The Bishop has instructed priests not to go into peoples houses during the Covid lock-down but this priest is a good friend of Mrs Hally and the family. He knew how very much a Birthday Blessing would mean to her. He was willing to defy orders from the Bishop. Apparently most people in the village would not have knocked at the door. They would have known that the priest was there when they saw his car outside, but because he had just bought a new car, he was maybe not quite as visible as he would usually be. New or old, I would never recognize the priest’s motorcar from any other motorcar.

10 February Wednesday

We walked up on one of the steep forestry roads above Goatenbridge. There was water streaming down the side of the track and the running water was full of frog spawn. Another sign of spring.

12 February Friday

There is always another word or expression to note. I think I have been hearing this one for a long time but I just did not fully register it. To Make a Hames of something is to screw it up due to clumsiness or ineptitude or simply by being less careful than you should be. I made a Hames of it or She’s after making a Hames of it. Like an athlete dropping the ball: He made a Hames of that pass.

15 February Monday

I drove to the village and found it full of cars. Cars were parking everywhere. People were hopping out and putting on their masks and walking rapidly toward the church but they were not going too near to the church. Nor were they going inside. There was a funeral about to begin. Funerals always take place at eleven o’clock in the morning. Only ten people can attend a funeral mass inside the church in this Level Five Lock-down. The ten person limit was not enough to allow all of the dead man’s family to attend the service. The people outside the church were family and friends and neighbours. They were lining up along the road before the hearse arrived in order to pay their respects. I think they were also there because it was somewhere to go. There was a good amount of waving and calling out to each other across the way. The sun was out and the wind was sharp. People were zipped into their jackets and masked up and hatted but they were happy to be out of their houses and most of all they were happy to see other people because even a sad event provides a chance to be less alone.

16 February Tuesday

The day was grey and wickedly cold. I dropped my little box of blueberries on the floor of the shop. They went everywhere. They rolled under shelves and off in every direction. I laughed as I crawled around on my knees to collect the berries. The girl who worked in the shop laughed. There were two other two customers in the shop. They laughed. There was a lot of laughter. We needed the laughter.

17 February Wednesday

The first leaves of wild garlic are pushing up. They are too small to eat yet, but it won’t be long.

18 February Thursday

There is plenty of rain and plenty of mud. The road crew has not returned to do any more work of the boreen. They were so quick and eager to start at 8.30 on a Monday morning. That was nearly four weeks ago. The track is now one long running mess of mud. Derek tells me that they will be filling the potholes one shovel full at a time.

21 February Sunday

After days and days of torrential rain and flooding and more torrential rain and more flooding, the sun has come out today. The roads are once again passable. We are no longer trapped by water.  Fields are appearing in places that looked like lakes. We have had no internet for most of the last few weeks. We get a small signal for two or three hours each day. This problem might be weather related, but it might not. What it is is annoying.

 

Relief Milker

24 February Wednesday

The internet man visited and he told us that another man would be coming to check out our location for reception and to install the service. We expected the man on a Saturday but he arrived today because the weather was good. He told us that he is a farmer in Cork. Before becoming a farmer, he had been in the army. That was where he trained in orienteering. He claimed that he is a Good Man To Read The Land. He used powerful binoculars to locate and determine that our house is not in a direct line with the nearest mast. He said that was not a problem and that he would be able to bounce a signal off the house of a man named P.J.O’Neill across the valley. He got things set up quickly with a small dish. With his knowledge of land, he does this installation of Line of Sight broadband for the internet company as a second job. Right now is his busy time on the farm because all of his cows are calving. We were lucky to get him between the calves and between the downpours. He left his wife in charge of the birthing today. He said she is well able for it, but the rain and wind are a different and less predictable thing altogether. Suddenly we have really fast broadband. We have a three week trial period, but already, after a few hours, this is faster than anything we have ever experienced here. We knew our internet was bad but we did not realize how truly dreadful it was until now, when it has come good.

26 February Friday

We walked up past Lady’s Abbey. I detoured in to look into the roofless area of the old Abbey and to check for the red chair. Someone had tried to set it on fire a few months ago and I wondered if since then the whole chair had been removed or if it had been completely burned. I was surprised to find neither thing had occurred. The chair was back in the small room exactly where it had been before someone tried to burn it.

 

28 Sunday

There are loads of daffodils everywhere. And crocuses. And wild garlic. I saw the first primrose today.

1 March Monday

We woke to a thick white cold fog over our world. I went down to the book barn to look for something and found there was no electricity in one end of the barn. We thought a fuse had tripped but finally we decided it was probably mice who had chewed up some wires under the floorboards. We tried different experiments and we went up and down with extension leads and then I had to fix a cardboard box that collapsed when I leaned too heavily on it and I was sweeping up mouse poison that was scattered all around but had not been eaten. I was rushing because it was cold and because suddenly there were so many things to take care of. I went back and forth between the two barns and the house.  Simon was making multiple trips too. The postman arrived at about 10 or maybe it was 10.30. I had been so busy that it was not until I was standing and talking to him outside that I realized that I was still wearing my pyjamas and my dressing gown with rubber boots, a big scarf and a wool hat. He did not seem to notice.

2 March Tuesday

The mornings remain icy. The grass was white with frost, as was the roof of the barn. The field was white. I looked out the window as I waited for the kettle to boil. The fox was moving slowly uphill. He turned and looked in my direction. It would be nice to think that he saw me at the same time that I saw him but really he was just looking around.

3 March Wednesday

The Donegal Postman is the man who most reliably predicts the weather. Word is already out that he is promising that April and May will be fine.

4 March Thursday

On the good days there are already cows out in fields. It is lovely to see them again. I did not realize how much I missed seeing cows on the land. As always, they have been under cover all winter long. Today I had to pull over in the car to wait while the McGrath’s cows walked up the road from a far field to their milking barn. I was happy to wait.

5 March Friday

Throughout this pandemic we have read about people ordering Take Away food. We have heard reports of people living on nothing but Take Away food. Food delivered to the door has not been an option for us. There are few restaurants and they are all closed anyway. And no one wants to deliver anything down our dirt track. We read about a restaurant in Tramore that has been delivering fine food all over the country. We decided to see if there was any chance we might receive their offerings. A restaurant in Dublin or Cork would not consider delivering to these parts, but we hoped that Tramore, which is only 43 kilometres away, might do so. It has been a year since we ate any food besides that which we have prepared for ourselves. The Beach House said delivery was no problem so, as directed, we ordered on Thursday the 25th for delivery on the following Friday. Today.

After lunch this afternoon we received notification that our package had been damaged and that the recipients had refused delivery. We knew we had never been called nor had anyone arrived here, so there was no way we could have refused delivery. After various phone calls and emails with the owner of the restaurant we all recognized that the problem was with the courier service. All deliveries are in chaos over the entire country. Mike told me he waited three weeks for an automobile part to arrive from Ringaskiddy. We were refunded and we are now promised delivery of a free meal on the 19th of March. We will be invited to choose from the menu next Thursday. Peter the owner was very upset that our food had not been arrived. He said they have delivered things as far away as Donegal and Galway with no problems so Tipperary should offer no difficulty. It takes less than a hour drive to Tramore but since we are still unable to travel more than five kilometres from home, it might as well be the moon. It is hard to imagine people living in a city waiting nearly four weeks for a takeaway supper. We are not unhappy to wait. We hear nothing but good things about this splendid food.

6 March Saturday

The birds cannot get enough to eat. I am constantly filling the feeders. There is never enough for them to eat. Some days I chop up an apple and leave it on their table. Other days I leave crumbs or some oat flakes. Whatever I put out disappears immediately.  Whatever I put out is never enough.

7 Sunday

A Relief Milker is a someone who goes and helps out on a farm on either an occasional basis or on a regular day or for part of a week. He does the milking and whatever other jobs need doing. A lot of young men move around the country side helping out on farms. Sometimes it is older men but mostly it is the younger ones. Today I saw a fellow getting into his car down in the village. His services were advertised in the dried mud on his door:

G.BYRNE

RELIEF MILKER

AND ALL ROUNDER

 

8 Monday

Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Rain. Sun. Wind. Rain. Every day is a wild thrashing of in and out weather. We live within the weather. The sunny moments can be hot but the rain can quickly turn to sleet. The wind has been so loud it is difficult to keep the sound of its roaring out of our ears even from inside the house.

9 Tuesday

The little notification from the national network is always visible on the upper right hand corner of the television screen. It reads STAY AT HOME. We will know that things are normal again when this message is no longer visible.

 

10 March Wednesday

The jewellery shop in Cahir is not open. By law, the shop is not allowed to open. It is not an essential business. I needed a battery for my watch and the jeweller told me to ring him when I was in front of the shop and he would step outside and give me the correct battery. His shop was not open but it was open.

11 Thursday

Breda and Siobhan and I walked down the field track at Molough. We knew we were taking a chance. Rain and gusty winds arrive without notice and every downpour is a heavy downpour. We wore full waterproofs and we took our chances. Torrential rains came down twice. And each time there was a one of the two big sheds available to step into. One was echoing and nearly empty as most of the winter hay has been removed. The other shed at the bottom of the track had large pieces of machinery, none of which we were certain about the function of, but it was pleasant  to look at them and to discuss their possible functions while we waited for the rain to clear again.

12 March Friday

We have had 10 weeks of lockdown since Christmas. The new possible deadline is early April but no one believes that we will actually be released then. The vaccine is rolling out slowly because the supplies are not arriving into the country. Everyone is weary of all of this.

I heard two men talking with the distance of a pick-up truck between them. They were wearing masks and they each had a big woolly hat pulled down low. Their conversation was loud. They were both shouting to compensate for the muffling by their face masks. It was a continuation of the on-going discussion between people of who lets their wife or their husband or their partner cut their hair. One of the men said that he had finally agreed to let his wife cut his hair but he would not be letting her loose to cut the grass.

13 March Saturday

I return home from my walks with my pockets full of lichen. I might fill one pocket or I might fill two pockets. I do not need this lichen but I love the silvery look of it on the ground. I am obsessed with lichen. I love spying it among the other vegetation and I love collecting it. When I arrive home with two pockets full I feel wealthy. I fill bowls with the lichen and I leave it on a windowsill to dry out. When that bowlful gets dusty, I throw it out as there is always more to collect. Now I am coming home with my pockets full of wild garlic. There is so much of it popping up every day. It is more useful and of course more delicious than the lichen and it is beautiful, but maybe not as quite as beautiful.