The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

You Can’t Go Near It For The Weather.

3 December Tuesday

I found the dead mouse. Most of the stench had already evaporated. It was not the burning of the candle that eliminated the smell. It was the drying out of the corpse. I opened a box containing our small concertina After Brancusi. Dozens of enormous bluebottle flies came flying out smashing into my face and collecting all over my head. I rushed the box outside and the remaining flies flew away. The dead mouse was resting in a sorry clump on top of the little volumes. I could see that some of the contents would need to be thrown away. As would the box. Enough bodily fluids had escaped to render some things ruined. After the mouse was removed what could be rescued was rescued. And once free of the distraction of death, I enjoyed looking at my drawing of the bench which was my whole reason for opening the box in the first place.

2 December Monday

I got a text announcing that a short film had been made about Frank’s shop in Grange. The shop has been closed for several years now. Frank became ill, and his son Shay ran it for a while, but then the family decided to just stop completely.  We none of us knew if it might be re-opened at a later date.  We hoped that it would be re-opened. We all miss Frank’s shop. The film about the shop was made by a grandson and there was a showing of it in the Village Hall in October.  Unfortunately, I missed the viewing. I heard later that the Hall was completely packed out with family and friends. It was standing room only.  It was perfect for Frank and his wife to walk the very few steps from their house to the Hall. They were the stars of the evening. Today PJ sent me this link for the film.  I have already watched it four times.

 

1 December Sunday

It was dry enough this morning to spend time plucking figs. It is one of those jobs I have been meaning to do for the whole month of November. It was one of many jobs that we could not do because of the rain.  The excuse everyone repeats is that You Can’t Go Near It For The Weather. The fig leaves had already died and dried and fallen so the fruits were easily visible. The rule is to pick all of the figs except the ones that are the size of the smallest fingernail. The tiny tiny remaining figs will be the first ones to begin their growth in the spring. Because the morning was sharp and cold, I found that I was snapping the figs off rather than plucking them off the branches.

29 November Friday

The woman told the man in the shop to Leave It Into The Bag. Leave is frequently used in place of the word Put.

 

27 November Wednesday

Ned Shine arrived in the yard in his Hedge Cutter. The machine is always called the Hedge Cutter even though the hedges are always called ditches. Ned was cutting the ditches with his Hedge Cutter. He opened the door of the cab so that we could say hello to one another. His sheepdog was in the cab with him. I could not see the dog until the door was open because she was well below the level of the window. She was tucked in beside Ned’s feet. The dog’s face and my face were exactly across from one another.  I was standing on the ground and she was sitting in the cab. She began to lick my face as soon as the door opened. When she was finished licking, I closed the door and Ned continued with his hedge cutting going back up the boreen.

26 November Tuesday

There is a dead mouse in my workroom. I cannot find it but I can smell it. The stench is bad. There are big fat flies looping about. These are the kind of flies that gather around death. It is probably best that I cannot find the corpse. It is too cold to leave the door open to get rid of the smell. I have been burning a scented candle that someone gave to me as a gift. It is the kind of gift that someone else gave to that someone. And that someone saved it until it was time to pass it on to someone else. No one wants this candle. It has a terrible smell all of its own. I liken it to a floral toilet cleaner. Who makes these candles? Who thinks they are a good idea? Who thinks they smell good? I lit the candle and headed out for a walk. Between the smell of the dead mouse and that of the stinky candle, it was impossible to stay in my room.

 

25 November Monday

Everything is wet. It feels like it has been raining forever. Everything that is not wet and underwater is covered with moss. There is a mossy covering all over everything. The moss grows on rocks and hard surfaces. It loves the damp. It is bright green and cheerful but it is wet. Fields are flooded and there are sandbags all over the place. Everything everywhere underfoot is squishy and slippery. I cannot drive through the farmyard without mud and muck splashing all over the car. And I can neither get in nor out of the car without a special kind of push and leap movement. If I forget to do my leap I end up with a thick line of mud across the back of the right leg of my trousers. Everyday someone tells me that I have mud on my trousers. It is always a woman who tells me. It is always someone telling me nicely and quietly because they think that of course I will want to know. They are certain that I do not want to be out and about in town nor anywhere else with a big clump on mud on my trousers. I always say thank you and I act a little surprised to find that I have mud on my leg. I do not tell them that this is an every day event and that it is not just mud but it is mainly cow manure. It is a greenish brown kind of mud and manure mix because the cows are still eating grass and the color of the manure reflects that. The boreen goes right through the farmyard so I have no choice but to drive through the muck. And it does not matter how often I clean the side of the car the splash-up happens again the minute I drive through the yard. Soon the cows will be moved up onto their winter platform and they will not be crossing the road anymore. The ground will freeze so there will be less mud. I hardly dare to hope that this rain will stop.

24 November Sunday

There was a terrible noise of yelping and baying and barking. The hunt was in the valley. I am not a fan of the hunt. I dislike the advantage of the dressed-up people on horseback. The one who has the horn is called The Master. He is constantly bellowing and blowing and shouting to the dogs and to the other riders across the fields. I hate the fox being hounded out of his world and running for his life. At one point the noise of the dogs down by the stream got louder and louder. I could not stand it for another minute. It sounded like they had cornered the fox. I rushed down the path to shout at the dogs and to confuse them with a different command from a different human. I was running downhill as fast as I could on the rough ground wearing rubber boots. The ground was slippery with wet leaves and muddy grass. I nearly collided with the fox who was rushing uphill to escape the dogs. I do not know which of us was more startled. He turned abruptly and rushed back towards the dogs who were baying. They obviously thought they already had him cornered in some place that he had already slipped away from. The fox did not know that I was there to help him. He could not know that I was not trying to hurt him. I felt terrible. I had foiled his escape route and scared him even more. I felt better when I could tell by the dog sounds that they knew the fox had eluded them. He must have veered left and up into Joe’s field. After that the dogs continued their chaotic running in all directions. I chased them out of the yard each time they arrived until they finally disappeared up and into Donal’s fields.

It’s a Tonic.

7 November Thursday

The winds have been fierce. Leaves are blowing down from any tree that still has leaves. They blow into the kitchen each time the door is opened. I swept them up and then I swept them up again and now I have ceased sweeping. There are leaves on the floor. Sometimes there are a lot and sometimes there are not so many because they get kicked and shuffled into the edges and corners of the room. As I make a cup of tea or do any other job, I am happy to crunch around on them. They make a good sound on the stone floor. The leaves outside are soggy and wet and they make no sound at all when I step on them.

4 November Monday

I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. TippFm was playing quietly on the radio. A special announcement cut in and interrupted the programme to say that Gay Byrne had died. There was only one other person in the room. It was an elderly woman. Her left hand shot right into the the air with her finger pointing upward almost before the announcement was finished. It was the gesture of someone raising their hand to speak in a classroom. She called across to the receptionist in her cubicle and said, “Did you hear that? Gay Byrne is dead!” The receptionist had missed the announcement because she was busy. Together they discussed how very good he was for so many years. Was it 35 or was it 37 years? They agreed that he was brilliant, especially on The Controversial Ideas.
A man came out of the doctor’s rooms and the woman told him right away that Gay Byrne had died.
He looked sad, and a little confused and he asked, “Oooohhh. Ah. No. And how old was he now?”
“He was 85. Such a man. Such a man.”
After the man left, the woman still wanted to talk about Gay Byrne. As a broadcaster and announcer on radio and TV and because of the Late Late Show, everyone in the entire country feels that they know Gay Byrne personally. He was a regular part of life for a long time. Many speak of him fondly as Gaybo. A nickname like that makes him into family. The woman was determined to continue to be the bringer of this news but there was no one left to tell except for me. I was seated only two chairs away, but I was reading my book with my head down.  She turned to me and said, “Erica, did you hear that Gay Byrne died?” I was startled to be addressed by my name. But, of course, she already knew my name because when I first arrived into the waiting room, I had gone to the loo and when I came out of the loo, I told the receptionist that someone had peed all over the floor. I said this quietly, but the receptionist answered in a firm and loud voice. She said, “Thank you, Erica!” She said, “I do not want to know but of course I need to know, so thank you, Erica.” She went off to get a mop and I took a seat to await my turn. That is why the old woman knew my name and that is why I got dragged into the conversation about Gay Byrne being dead.

 

2 November Saturday

There is a lot of moss everywhere because there has been so much rain and everything is sodden. I am always pleased to see moss growing and glowing down the center of the tar road. It is not exactly growing. It is a smudge. It acts to remind us all that even though the road is supposed to be wide enough for two vehicles we all drive right down the middle as if it were made for just one. The moss is safe to continue growing down the middle. There is no chance that it will be run over and destroyed by tyres.

 

1 November Friday

Not every bus journey is a good journey. Every so often the bus we board is a terrible old broken-down vehicle and I wonder how and why they ever let that bus out of the depot. Today’s bus was a bad bus. Many of the seats were broken in one way or another. Some of them were leaning backwards nearly horizontal and several were leaning forward so far that no one could possibly sit on the seat. All of the seats were stained. It is difficult, at first glance, to tell if a stain is fresh and wet and sticky, or just a dry discoloring on the old and grubby upholstery. There were no outlets for plugging in and charging phones. All of the tray tables had been broken off. The only good thing was that it was one of the increasingly rare buses with the exuberant running Irish setter on the woven seat covering fabric.

An older man boarded. He shook hands with everyone in the seats all around him before he sat himself down. He pronounced to the bus at large: “It is a fine day. A fine day to travel by bus.”  He added, “It is good to get away for a day. It’s a tonic.” He did not appear to notice that he was reclining well below the level of the windows on his broken seat.

Disembodied Hands

14 October Monday

The announcement is at the entrance to the little park at the Old Bridge. THE FAMILY THAT PRAY TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER is freshly re-painted every year. I love the disembodied hands. The fingers made of concrete get thicker and more stubby looking with each new coat of paint.

The Virgin and her surrounding structure, which is somewhere between a boat and a bathtub, are also repainted regularly. It is the same shade of blue that is used for any painting of grottoes and statues.  I think of it as Virgin Blue. The stones in the stone wall are painted white.  The halo which used to be a glowing blue neon is now just a wire structure. The glass has been broken and It has not been replaced. If I pass by at night the halo is no longer illuminated but since I remember that it used to be lit, my mind keeps the glow going. The wire looks more like a lampshade than it ever did when it was supporting the neon.

12 October Saturday

A lot of rain. A lot of wet. There is mud everywhere. I drove around the corner and slid from one side of the track to the other. I had no control of the vehicle. The mud was in charge. John watched me slide. When I got out of the car, he said, “You Got Taken.”

11 October Friday

The days are getting cooler and Alma’s dog is getting older. The old dog spends most of her day sleeping in the Hot Press. Alma is getting older too so she understands this need for sleep. Alma’s biggest worry is that she will close the door to the Hot Press and forget that Susie is inside.

10 October Thursday

His appointment with the nurse was cancelled due to A Bereavement. He will have to wait God only knows how long for another appointment. Everything stops for A Bereavement and the How Long part is never clear. Grief is not a finite thing. There might be travel to be considered and there may be obligations. No employer can deny how much time can be taken off work for A Bereavement. I think two or three days are considered normal and after that things are up for negotiation.

9 October Wednesday

Alistair visited from Orkney. We walked together up the mass path and stopped to collect horse chestnuts the top. I was filling my pockets with bright shiny conkers and he was collecting the ones barely visible and still in their prickly outer husks. He told me that there are no horse chestnut trees on Orkney. He was gathering a selection of the leathery capsules to show to his grandson who has never seen horse chestnuts. Now I think of Alistair’s grandson every time I pass whatever bounty the tree has dropped since I last walked that way. Today I was bending down and collecting a few more chestnuts when I was thumped from behind and knocked to my knees. It was Jessie the new dog at the Shine’s house. Jessie is another one of those names that people give to dogs but rarely to people. There is always another female dog called Jessie. This Jessie is a St Bernard puppy. At five months old, she is already the size of a small pony and she loves to jump up on people. She has no idea how strong she is. I dread to think how big she will be when she is fully grown.

Evening Is Gone Altogether.

8 October Tuesday

The raspberries continue to ripen so I continue to pick them. There are fewer berries each day so my gathering work is now once a day rather than twice a day. It is better if I pick at the end of the day because the mornings are so wet with dew.  The freezer is full of bagged berries. Raspberry vinegar is quietly fermenting. Instead of two large bowls every day, I bring in one not so large bowl a day.  Everyone we know has received bowls of berries. It has been easy to be generous with such bounty.

7 October Monday

The nights are drawing in. Each day feels shorter than the day before. Today it was not fully light until almost 8 o’clock. The sunset will be at 18.54. If a day is grey and rainy it feels much shorter than a bright day. Conversations are punctuated with a shake of the head and the words, “Ah, Now. The evenings are gone altogether.” Evening is the word for afternoon. Evening is followed by night. If evening is gone altogether then we proceed directly from morning to night. This is all a bit depressing.

6 October Sunday

It has been raining off and on for days. Today was sunny and almost warm. By late afternoon there was no excuse. The grass was dry. We needed to cut it. It was a rapid kind of mowing just so that everything that has grown long does not get out of control. The time available to cut grass gets smaller and smaller as the days get shorter. By the time the morning dew has dried off, it might nearly be dark. Mowing in the dark is a bad idea. Cutting the paths down through the long meadow grass makes everything look sharp and crisp. When the grassy middle of the boreen gets very long and starts to rub against the bottom of the car we know it is well past time to cut it. It does not get cut every time the rest of the grass gets cut. There is not much I like better than the look of the Freshly Mown Middle.

5 October Saturday

Michael has been pestering us for months. He has been inviting us to come and look at his Old Books. He has been promising us that his books are old and that they are valuable and that we will want to come and look at them. He was convinced that the books are valuable simply because they were old. Today was the day. We could no longer escape. He rushed out to his shed and pulled some books from a high shelf. Then he ran upstairs in the house and brought down several more books. A few of the books had covers but the covers were not the covers that had been on the books originally. At some point the books had been roughly torn out of their hard covers. Most of the books had been shoved back into a cover that was not the cover that belonged with the book block. Some of the pages had been used by children as paper for drawing. Some of the pages had been used for lists or for drawn diagrams. Many pages had been nibbled by mice and most were swollen with dampness. There was not one complete book among the 10 or 12 Valuable Volumes. We tried to explain that the books were indeed old but that old is not enough to make a book valuable. Michael became angry with us. The whole time he was talking his cigarette lighter was swinging back and forth. He had it attached to the lapel of his jacket with a safety pin. I could not take my eyes off it. He said that we were frauds and that we did not know anything about books. He said we were of No Use To Him At All.

4 October Friday

We were all waiting with excitement and trepidation for the arrival of Storm Lorenzo. The radio was full of news and warnings and sandbags. We knew that Galway and the west would get a great whacking when the storm came in off the ocean. The coastal areas were mostly under threat. All day Thursday, every conversation turned to Lorenzo. Storm Lorenzo was quickly shortened to Lorenzo. He was a threat but we already knew him. We were on intimate first-name terms with him. Each time the radio was on there was more news about where Lorenzo was, and what route he was taking and whether the warnings were Yellow or Orange. There was preparation in cities, towns and in the countryside, and in the homeless shelters. Battered and Blown were oft-used words. Bingo and Line Dancing and Bridge Clubs were cancelled all over the county. We were told to keep our mobile phones charged up and we were instructed how to call emergency numbers even if the lines and phone towers go down. We were told to have a battery-fed radio with fresh batteries at the ready, as well as candles and torches. Everyone was told to stay home and off the roads and if we did need to be out for any reason at all, we needed to watch out for trees and branches falling or already fallen. We were told that the trees were more dangerous because they were still so heavy. Heavy with what? I asked. The answer was leaves. The trees have not yet lost their leaves so they are heavier with leaves than they will be later when their leaves have fallen. We went to bed with the sound of the gusting wind. We woke up to the sound of gusting wind.
Today we are hearing reports from all over the country. Lorenzo was not as devastating as predicted. There are lots of congratulations at how well prepared we were. The wind continues. The wind is blowing and thrashing and blowing and gusting. It has not stopped once all night and all day.

3 October Thursday

Three Garda had set up a little road block. Every vehicle had to stop. There was no way to continue without stopping. Maybe they were checking to see if people had paid their road tax and if they had up to date insurance. Or maybe it was going to be a breathalyzer test. The laws for Drink Driving have become very strict. The police are checking people at night and they are also checking people in the morning because the medical experts say that it takes 18 hours for alcohol to leave the blood system. People get stopped on their way to work and pulled in for Drink Driving which means it is hard to have a glass of wine with dinner if you know you are going out the next morning. I waited for the two cars in front of me. When I got up to the officer in charge, I said, “Good Morning, Sir. What are you looking for today?” The man leaned right over to my window and said in a hushed voice, “We are looking for Americans but it’s okay. Now we have found one.” He stood up straight and waved me along.

 

2 October Wednesday

I am pleased to announce that Living Locally has been reprinted by Uniformbooks, with financial assistance from A Purse For Books. It presents a distilled selection of the years 2007-2012 from this blog, and is illustrated with my drawings of rusted metal objects. The new blue cover is even brighter and bluer than the original.  I could not be happier.

To order from Coracle:            coracle.ie/living-locally-2/

___________________

From Slow Boat Review by Nick Holton:

Robert Walser quoted in the opening pages of Living Locally:
“What I saw was as small and poor as it was large and significant, as modest as it was charming, as near as it was good, and as delightful as it was warm.”

When I established SlowBoat in it’s current iteration just over a year ago I would explicitly reference each post against one of the six themes that run beneath the surface of the content – boat / silence / seasonality / sense of place (navigating) / savouring / simplicity – however as the year has passed I’ve increasingly seen posts crossing my self-imposed thematic boundaries and touch on several, or all, themes in the one post.
This book review is a case in point. Artist, writer, printer, and bookmaker Erica Van Horn’s Living Locally is a celebration of simplicity, sense of place, savouring and seasonality.
A ‘chronicle of place’, direct, simple, ‘attention to the everyday’, essential, elemental, colloquial, ‘strangeness found in such a concentration of repetition and usage’. I could take a few lessons from Van Horn when writing blog posts! The fact is this selection from her journals of life in rural Ireland is pretty much perfect.The writing is crystalline in its eloquent simplicity. What she achieves with brevity and gentle repetition is a complete picture of a community, it’s roots, it’s people, the weather, the days chores. It’s a wonderful, admirable and quietly seductive piece of writing. And it gets under your skin, in a good way. It’s neither whimsical nor overtly nostalgic, the descriptive narratives are just that. Acutely observed, bittersweet, astute, comic, warm, Van Horn tells simple tales profoundly well.
I found the book as effective an antidote to our gloomy, strife-torn modern world as you’re likely to get.

Everything is Grand.

1 October Tuesday

It is a simple method for making a tall support. One barrel is placed on top of another barrel. Both ends are cut off the top barrel. The bottom barrel might have its bottom cut off or it might be left on to help to keep the shape. The two are held together somehow while they are filled with a cement mix. When the concrete is hard this makes for a tall strong column. The column can be used to hold up a fence or a gate. I am sure it can be used for others things but what it cannot do is to be moved.

30 September Monday

Everything is Grand. An event is Grand. Dinner is Grand. The weather or a day can be Grand. Grand can be a refusal as well as a positive description. If someone is offered a cup of tea and they do not want a cup of tea they will say “No, you’re Grand.” Or “I’m Grand.” Getting the hay in before a rain is Grand. If something is suggested to do or to be done, the answer to imply agreement will be “Grand”. It is a multi-purpose word which gets used every day in a great number of ways. I doubt I will ever get all of the ways.

29 September Sunday

They call the mannequin Mandy. She is propped up near the potatoes when there are any potatoes growing. Otherwise she just stands or leans around somewhere outside. Robert had some duct tape wrapped around her private parts “Just for The Decency” he said, because her old clothes had worn out or blown to bits or somehow fell off when they moved to the new house. Brendan came up on his tractor to break up the soil with a rotavater. He was shocked by Mandy’s near nudity so he halted his work and drove all the way back to his own house and went upstairs and found some of the clothes left in the press by his mother. His mother has been dead now for at least ten years. He chose an outfit for Mandy and drove back up to Robert’s house on his tractor. Driving from Robert’s to Brendan’s house and back again is a slow enough journey on the tractor. It took Brendan most of the morning. He dressed the mannequin carefully and stood her up beside the ditch. He then finished the job he’d been hired for which was the tilling of the soil.

28 September Saturday

I meet the Dulux Man every Saturday. Every Saturday he asks me if I have found a new dog yet. Every Saturday I tell him I have not found a new dog. I tell him that I am not really looking. Or I say that I am not actively looking to find a new dog but if the right dog happened along I would not be averse to the idea. His current dog is a spaniel and she is perpetually eager to go. She is always tugging at the leash which helps to keep conversations with the Dulux Man brief. He tells me that he takes the dog out four or five times a day so sometimes people say to him that they have not seen him out walking that day but he says that his walking times are always changing and the dog does not mind so neither does he. He never speaks of the dog by a name. The dog is just She. The Dulux Man spends a while at the market talking to the people who are there every week. He talks to those who are customers and those who are vendors. He does not buy anything himself. He just talks. He always wears one of those fishing vests with many pockets. In the summer, he wears a sleeveless T-shirt underneath the vest and when the temperature drops he puts on a long sleeved shirt. It is only September but he has already moved into his long-sleeved mode. I do not know his name so I still call him the Dulux Man in my head. He does not know my name but he does not care. He remembers my dog and dogs are what interest him. One Saturday he told me that his mother was originally from Cahir but she moved over to England when she was young and that is where she lived and that is where he lived too somewhere near Lancaster until he came over here and he has been here since. These are the things I know about him. It is rare that we speak of anything except dogs.

27 September Friday

So far the cows have not arrived in the yard. They now appear to be held at a close distance by a thin string. It is that kind of white string stretched taut between metal posts. The string has a little thin bit of wire with an electric charge in it and I think the cows have learned not to touch it. Sometimes I do not believe there really is a charge in the string. I think the cows just believe there is a charge when they recognize the white string so they stay well away from it.

26 September Thursday

I have received a Jury Summons. I really do not want to sit on a jury again. It was 2016 when I did so before. The older man who was on trail was defending himself although he knew little or nothing of the legal process. He attended proceedings wearing the jacket, waistcoat and trousers from three different tweed suits. He did not wear a tie but his white shirt was clean and buttoned right up to the top. The case was confusing as it involved the accusation of himself entering a solicitors office and throwing a large quantity of used motor oil along the receptionist’s counter and onto the carpet. He made a terrible mess and then he raced out of town on a red bicycle followed by a female Garda on her own bicycle who stood up in court as a witness. After a prolonged flapping of papers, the accused announced to the court that he had never owned a red bicycle. Things in the courtroom progressed very slowly. After several days of this kind of slow procedure, the man changed his plea to Guilty and we. the jury, were sent home. I never understood why he was angry at the solicitor nor why he chose to throw oil around as a way to vent his anger.

25 September Wednesday

What a week for weather. Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Rain. It is hard to do much out of doors. I am keeping a close eye on the cows in Joe’s field. They are not in the near field but they are in the field just beside the near field. They are very close. If they come back tonight after milking and move into the near field as is their normal way, they will barely be contained. The fence is rotten. The ground is wet and the wood is wet and the fence is old and now it is rotten. It is not rotting. It has rotted. In the last few months, we have propped up bits of the fence and nailed lengths of wood along the horizontal parts but now our temporary fixes are not enough. The posts are rotting from the ground up. We know that Joe is aware of the problem. He will get around to repairing the fence when he has a chance. I just hope he doesn’t forget and let the cows into the near field because if they are in that field they will be here in our yard in a matter of minutes. With everything so wet and so squishy their heavy feet will make a terrible mess.

24 September Tuesday

A sparrow hawk sits on a utility pole between here and Old Grange. He has been on the same pole every day for a week. He sits very very still and moves his head slowly from left to right, right to left and left to right again. The movement is so slight he could be almost asleep. When he sees the prey he wants he swoops off from his pole and he moves fast.  He is gone in a flash.

23 September Monday

The car situation is not as dire as feared. Mike says he can repair what is wrong next week and if we pass the re-test we can put off looking for a new car. Or else we can take our time looking for the right second-hand car. At least we need not leap into a decision.

Hard to Put Down The Time

22 September Sunday

I walked into St. John’s, the Protestant Cathedral in Cashel, because the door was open. I had never been inside before. The door is usually locked when I am in the area. They were about to begin a special Harvest service. I did not stay for the service but I admired the apples and vegetables placed here and there as decoration.

21 September Saturday

Everyone sits together in a very small waiting room as their cars are tested.  Everyone listens when one of the inspectors come out with the result of each car.  It is impossible not to listen, or at least to overhear.  An inspector calls out a name.  He shouts out the name of the car owner on the certificate even though that might not be the name of the person who has brought the car in for the test.  “Now—Kitty O’Gorman’s car!” I was already nervous because our car is 22 years old. When the inspector called for me, he jumped right in on the attack. The NCT are eager to get old cars off the road. This man was especially harsh about the small bit of paint that Mike sprayed up along a brake pipe to cover what he said was a tiny area of rust. The man pronounced, “You cannot just cover over something like that!” He said it three times. His voice got louder each time. He was angry to think I was trying to trick him. The car failed the test. Usually with A Fail, everyone in the room looks on with commiseration and a slight feeling of fear that the same thing might happen to them. In this case, since the inspector was shouting at me, everyone in the chairs in the small waiting room kept their heads down. No one looked at me as I left.

20 September Friday

I sat on a cement wall in the hot sun at the petrol station while a young boy power-sprayed manure and mud from the tyre wells and the bottom of the car. The car is scheduled for the NCT vehicle inspection test on Saturday. If manure falls on the heads of the inspection men they will not be happy. They might well fail the car for that. We are living below the farm line. We cannot drive in or out the boreen without going through the yard. The cows cross that way often so there is always a build-up of muck. It is much worse in wet weather than in dry weather. Lucky for me it has been a dry week. When the boy finished spraying there were huge clumps of mud and manure all over the ground underneath the car. He assumed I must be a farmer myself. He said, “With that much muck, I would have thought you would be off up The Ploughing with all the others.”

19 September Thursday

Willie has an answer for everything. Today he said, “Sure, why say it is Bad when you can say it is Not Good.”

18 September Wednesday

The National Ploughing Championships are being held up in County Carlow. The yearly three day event moves around the country. It is always held in a location where there is plenty of land for the various ploughing competitions and farm equipment demonstrations plus all of the other activities around the business of farming. It is unusually good weather for it this year. No rain and no cold, just day after day of glorious sunshine. People are flocking to attend. I know a lot about The Ploughing without ever attending. In that way, it is much like the All-Ireland Match. I find out more than I ever want to know without trying. It does not matter if I am interested because it is part of the background. Everyone discusses who is going to The Ploughing and who has gone to The Ploughing. The radio is full of interviews and songs and various special interest items all being broadcast Direct from the Ploughing. This morning I heard about two brothers just back from Minnesota where they won silver medals for some particular form of ploughing. They were looking forward to competing back here at home. It is important for politicians to attend The Ploughing and to be seen among their constituents. The build-up in the weeks before The Ploughing are always full of radio excitement and there was much advice about preparation. I heard a lot about Hoof Polishing. I am not sure why the hooves of a cow need to be polished, but it is subject about which there are strong opinions.

17 September Tuesday

The man was waiting his turn. When he got to the desk he told the librarian he wanted to get a library card. She asked if he had ever had one in this library before. He said No. She asked if he had ever held a library card at another library anywhere in the country and he said No. She raised her voice and demanded, “Well, and why not?”

 

16 September Monday

An Post has new vans. A few years ago they changed all the delivery vans from green to white with a flying postman stretched diagonally across the side of each van. No one liked the white vans.  We all liked the green vans. Now they have changed them again – this time to a terrible plasticky kind of green. They are ugly.  The new vans are a bit longer and they are a hybrid vehicle which is a good thing.  Derek told us that there is a new man in charge at An Post. He said that the man used to work in television so he knows a lot about telling people what they should like. None of the postmen are happy with the new vans. The new boss is phasing out all deliveries by bicycle too. This is causing a quiet uproar.

15 September Sunday

A dog appeared in the yard. It was old and yellow. I think it was some kind of a Lab but I did not recognize it. It is always a surprise when I do not recognize a dog. I walked outside to greet it and then I heard voices over in Joe’s field. A young man popped his head around and asked if he could cross over the land as he could not easily get through the top gate due to the brambles and thorns. I said yes but told him to be careful of the fence as it is about to fall down and the stile looks sturdy but it is not. He hopped over the fence and four more dogs came rushing through as did a young blonde girl. Maybe she was his sister. None of the dogs were hunting dogs. They were just mixed breeds out for a chaotic walk. I commented on the number of dogs and he said he usually has more with him than the five but today he was traveling light just out on the hunt for some deer. He had a shot gun which startled me. I forgot that it was the beginning of the hunting season. For the next few hours I heard him up on Keating’s hill with a loud horn. It was the kind of horn they use for fox-hunting. He and his dogs and his sister, if it was his sister, criss-crossed back and forth through the woods and the bushes for a long time. I never heard a gun shot but he blew the hunting horn again and again.

14 September Saturday

We produced a shopping bag to commemorate our dear friend Joan who died this summer. She loved the Farmer’s Market and she loved this poem by William Carlos Williams, so we thought this a fine way to remember her.

 

13 September Friday

There are long tendrils with thorns dangling down from branches in the path. They grab at clothing and hair and skin. Walking up there is a bit tricky especially when I reach the place where the crab apples are all over the path. They make the walking deadly. It is like walking uphill over ball-bearings, but if I try to duck out of the way of the clingy tendrils I am certain to spin out of control on the apples. All it takes is a branch to fall and the entire architecture of the path is changed again.

12 September Thursday

Sharon’s dog was run over and killed. She used to have four dogs and this was the last of the family group. She is heartbroken. She explained her sense of loss by saying, “I am finding it very hard to put down the time.” I was not sure what she meant by that but now I know that she simply does not know what to do with herself.

Destroyer Foam

10 September Tuesday

We are winning the Wasp Wars. There seem to be fewer insects going in and out of the slate opening in the roof. We will continue  the attack until they are gone.

8 September Sunday

The guitar group from the Men’s Shed was playing at the market yesterday. 6 or 8 older men with guitars, and one man in a chair with a tambourine and a saxophone which he did not attempt to play at the same time. The men at the Men’s Shed were given guitar lessons a few years ago. Since then they have formed a band. They arrive and perform at the Saturday market a few times a year. Mostly they all sing together as they strum but at one moment a man named Bobby was introduced and he stood his guitar on its stand and sang out: Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue? The whole band crooned along as background.  Within minutes everyone in the market was singing along as they did their shopping. The stallholders and the customers were all singing with Bobby. He had that kind of voice.  It was difficult to keep our attention on the problem of solving our wasp problem because the singing was louder than any advice we were being given.

7 September Saturday

It was not a good way to wake up. We thought that there were wasps on the outside of the window. Then we realized that they were on the inside of the glass. And we realized that there were a lot of them. We quickly closed the window to stop more from flying into the bedroom. That was a mistake. The wasps were not coming in from outside, they were dropping down one at a time from a tiny hole up in the ceiling light fixture. At short intervals, each wasp squeezed itself out and then hesitated before flying toward the window and the light. The room was full of confused wasps trying to get from where they had been to somewhere else. The noise was loud. Simon began by gently pushing them out the window with a section of newspaper. Then we began to swat at them. Then we got a fly swatter and started to kill aggressively. The vacuum cleaner was next. Alive or dead they got sucked in. We could not keep up with the number dropping down from the ceiling.

The morning was spent getting advice. Everyone has a wasp story. Apparently this year has been a terrible year for wasps. We have had one nest in the roof of the book barn but we have just learned to live with that crowd. We learned that the wasps are all hungry and they are angry and this is the end of their season so they have an air of desperation. I am not sure exactly why they are angry. Kieren told me about a destroyer foam which he says works the best of anything he has ever known and anything he has ever had to sell but he cannot keep it in stock. He sells out of it as soon as he gets it. It is not just the wasps who are desperate. People are desperate too. Wasps are making life hell for everyone. Jim at the market told us that Pat came to his house and rid him of the wasp nest that was in his shed. He did it with a tin of petrol placed in with the nest. We went over to discuss this method with Pat at his vegetable stand. He said he used a long pole to put an open tin into position and by the time the petrol had evaporated the wasps were dead from the fumes. The Co-op had a stock of Destroyer Foam and the woman there was eager to tell us how well it worked.

Back at home we had plenty of wasps still alive inside the vacuum cleaner. We also had them all over the duvet and in drawers and on pieces of clothing and in shoes. Some were dead and some were alive. We also had a few more stragglers coming down through the ceiling light. Simon filled the little holes and then he glued the light onto the ceiling with a long length of timber pressing it up and tight for a few hours so that no more wasps would be able to squeeze through. It took us a while to locate the place outside between the slates where the wasps were going in and out. It was on the opposite side of the house.

We had been instructed to use the destroying foam just before darkness or at dawn, while the wasps were inside and sleeping. There was a sudden moment when the night went from dusk to very dark. We were not paying attention so we kind of missed our slot. We decided that it was too dark to go up a ladder especially not knowing if a swarm of wasps might come rushing out at the person with the can of spray. The first raid was planned for early morning.

6 September Friday

The big black bull has returned.  He is back in Joe’s front field. He was here for a few weeks and then he was gone and now he is back again. He is curious about me whenever I walk by.  He comes over the the fence and watches as I pass. I like to think that he recognizes me, but I think he is not really interested in me.  He is just bored being in that big field all alone all day long.

5 September Thursday

Gavin is back after three months in Boston. Many Irish college students do this. It is a part of a system called a J2 Visa. The students have permission to work for three months in the USA. They need to get the job beforehand, from a list which the J2 organization has ready. They live crammed into apartments that are too small for the many occupants. They have a wonderful time. Some of the students come home with the money they have earned. Some of them spend everything they earn and return for their last year of university completely broke. Gavin worked for a moving company all summer and he traveled all around both with the job and with his friends. He went out of the city into Massachusetts and to New Hampshire, Cape Cod, Maine and all the way to Washington DC. When I asked how he liked it, he was full of the excitement and the heat and the many differences. He commented that he was surprised that he never saw a single cow for the entire time he was in America. I was surprised that he found this notable enough to mention.

4 September Wednesday

The raspberries continue to ripen rapidly. I pick them twice a day. I am happy to share them. I am frequently told that I should be making jam. I do not want to make jam. I do not want to do anything with the raspberries. I just want to eat them. I freeze some to eat later. I usually keep one bowlful for us and take another bowlful to someone else. Each time I give the raspberries to anyone they comment that it is late in the year for raspberries. I explain that it is my Autumn Bliss breed but still they behave as though it is not right to be having raspberries at this time of the year. I offered some to Shirley when she was here re-painting a text on the gable end for Simon. She was thrilled. She said she loves raspberries. She announced, “Call me a pleb if you like but I just hate strawberries. I cannot be bothered with them. Of course I eat them out of a tin like everyone else but I would never touch a fresh one.”

3 September Tuesday

I am sitting up in my room. The stench of slurry spread across Joe’s fields is making my eyes water. I hate to close the door on a sunny day but this morning I have no choice.

2 September Monday

Paddy is a farmer. He has been farming all his life. He is 80. He is a big advocate for taking exercise. Two years ago he could not bend down to tie his shoes because he was so stiff. His daughter signed him up for a class in water aerobics. He likes the class and has been attending weekly ever since. He is proud that he is now both fit and flexible. He is proud of his body. Thursday last he was trapped in his tractor. He could not open either door to get out. He was trapped and locked in. He had no reception on his phone. He swung the back window open and crawled up and out over the seat. He is quick to tell everyone he meets that he could not have done that two years ago. Back then he would have had to wait the day out until someone came to find him and rescue him and that would have been if he was lucky. He might have had to wait two days for anyone to notice that he was missing.

1 September Sunday

The Lumpy Fields are special. The land is fertile land but it is rough. Disheveled is the way to describe it. It has been a while since I have walked there because the cows use the fields a lot in the summer months. Now I have Jessie and Molly to walk every day and that is where we go. There are many rabbits. Every field is bordered by hundreds of holes. The dogs go mad and run fast to smell everything and to investigate. They are finding their news in the fields.

Patients Walking

27 August Tuesday

The clock in the room of the dental hygienist remains crammed behind the radiator. It has been in this position for twelve years. A few years ago the room was painted. At some time after the paint was dry, the clock was replaced in the same position behind the radiator. Each time I arrive for a cleaning, I feel I should have brought a nail and a hammer.  I could hang the clock on the wall.  I only remember this plan when I am already reclining on the chair. The door into the room has a rectangle cut into it. Or out of it. This hole has also been there for a long time. The hygienist herself wishes that a window would be installed in the cut-out hole. She wishes the hole would be finished off in a tidy fashion.  My theory is that the hole remains a hole because it allows some air into an otherwise airless room.

26 August Monday

Wild damsons are ripening in the boreen but they are too high to reach.  I do not think even a ladder can get me up high enough to pick them.  Wild honeysuckle and blackberries are everywhere in the ditches. My raspberries are ripening by the minute.  I am already picking them twice a day just to keep up with the quantity. Today was the first day that a morning mist was down over everything. I could not see over the fields. I got wet from the dew while picking our breakfast berries. It felt autumnal and it is not even the end of August. I need to go and check up on the apples in Johnnie Mackin’s orchard as we have no apples on our own trees. The good news is that the mass path is passable again. It is not clear but it is no longer a tangle and a struggle.

25 August Sunday

Tommie was away in hospital for three weeks but now he is home again. He is glad to be back at home. He says that he is still weak. He is happiest when he is sitting down or lying down. He says that he is not feeling Too Mighty. Margaret went to stay with her sister while he was in hospital. She is not able to stay alone. Usually she does not go much of anywhere at all, so being at her sister’s was a holiday for her. In a normal week she goes to Mass and she goes to have her hair done. These are her two trips out. Sometimes she goes out driving in the car with Tommie but that is not going anywhere. It is just going. The hairdresser has now retired but she continues to do Margaret and three other women who have been her customers for a long time. These women are now invited to go directly to the hairdresser’s house. Tommie is proud that Margaret is one of these chosen few.

24 August Saturday

Kathleen gave me news of her grandsons. One of them is 16 and he has a summer job. He has been up every morning at 6 am to milk 250 cows.  She says that he is loving every day of it.

22 August Thursday

Derek the Post said he had seen John at a funeral. John was our former postman. He is now retired. He has been ill for a long time but he was fit enough to attend a co-workers funeral. Derek said John was not looking good but at least he was there. Derek said it was a great funeral. He said they gave their fellow postman a grand send-off.  He said, “Give me a funeral over a wedding any day. At least you can have fun at a funeral.”

21 August Wednesday

The black and white farm cat spends a lot of time looking at the wall. It is waiting for shrews or rats or mice or whatever rodent is living in the spaces between the stones. The cat can wait for hours without moving. The grass in the center of the boreen is high. Sometimes this same cat sits in the tall grass exactly in the middle and it refuses to move even when confronted with a car. It snarls and hisses at the motorcar as if there is a chance it can win. Today it tucked itself down flat as if that might make itself invisible. It almost worked. I think I could have driven over the cat without doing damage to it when it was tucked down low and tight to the ground like that but I am a bit nervous to try it. This is not a likeable cat but still, I do not want to kill it.

19 August Monday

The town did not really get going until 10. I had been dropped off at 8.45. It was hard to find anything open. It was difficult to find even a cup of coffee. The few people around looked happy, but dazed. There was a lot of broken glass on the pavements. The shopkeepers sweeping up the glass were all in buoyant moods. The smell of beer and urine was everywhere. The door of a phone booth was held open with an entire case of empty Bulmer’s cider bottles. As the town woke up and more people appeared on the streets, everyone was discussing where they had been for yesterday’s match. Tipperary won. Many people watched from here and many went up to Dublin. It is important to mark where one was on such a momentous occasion. The overpricing of tickets is still being commented upon.

Now the primary topic of conversation is no longer rain. It is The Win. Now the question is:

“Will ye go to Thurles tonight?”

“Will ye be driving up for the welcoming parade?”

“It will be mobbed of course it will” is what everyone says, but each person declares that of course they cannot miss it.

There is so much ritual. Today I learned about the hospital visits with the Liam MacCarthy Cup. The winning team made visits to the two childrens’ hospitals in Dublin. This is apparently a yearly ritual for every winning team of the All-Ireland. It happens like clockwork the day after the match. The entire team goes in and shows the Liam McCarthy to the ailing children. There is a lot of posing of team members with children in their pyjamas and with the Liam MacCarthy. It does not matter if the children are from Tipperary nor if the children even like the game of hurling. This is the first time I have heard of this visit.

The radio is full of cancellations. Bingo and many other things all over will be cancelled as the whole county will be rushing to Thurles for the big victory parade and party at the stadium. I will be glad when I do not need to pay any more attention to all of this. There will always be more detail. I will never know enough to know all of it.

Endless Rain

18 August Sunday

Before the sun sets today, there will be a new owner of the Liam MacCarthy Cup. It is the big day for the All-Ireland hurling final. The counties of Tipperary and Kilkenny are in a frenzy. Many thousands of fans will be traveling to Dublin for the match at Croke Park. Everyone else will be watching the game in bars or at home. The build-up and excitement has been immense. People are all sporting the Tipp colours of gold and royal blue. The colours are more and more wide-spread every day. Shirts and flags and pennants and caps and dangling car fresheners in the shape of shirts and the funny little lengths of braided wool that appear before every big match. I am fascinated by these braids. I imagine the lengths of yarn being carefully braided by grandmothers and mothers to be hung on car mirrors, antennas and handbags. Any bit of decoration is good as long as it shows the Tipp colours. The Kilkenny colours are yellow and black. These are neighbouring counties with a long and fierce rivalry. A small stone bridge on the border has been painted so that one side is blue and gold and other side is black and yellow.  Every interaction has people discussing whether or not they will be attending the match in person. Nobody has asked me where, or even if, I will be watching the match. Once the match is won, The Liam MacCarthy becomes the important and cherished thing. The word Cup is dropped. And it is never called a trophy.  The Liam MacCarthy will be held high on the top of the bus in the parade for the team when they come home from Dublin. The Liam MacCarthy will travel up and down the county for a year and it will appear in hundreds of photographs. It will be taken to schools and sports centers and old peoples homes and any number of places where groups are gathered. It seems that every single person wants to be photographed with The Liam MacCarthy.

16 August Friday

There was a bright dry spell after lunch. I spent two hours scraping moss and some horrible slimy stuff off the concrete area outside my workroom. There were brown globs of the stuff all over the place. At first I thought they were excrement, maybe from the fox. On closer examination, I saw that they were kind of translucent and more sepia than brown in colour. If I saw these globs on a beach I would assume they were some kind of seaweed. Stepping on them was dangerous. Moss is slippery enough but these globs were extremely slippery. These globs were deadly. I do not know what to call them. Globs is as good a word as any. I filled an entire wheelbarrow with moss and globs and a few opportunistic weeds that were growing out of the cement and between the stones. By the time I finished, it began to rain. Again.

15 August Thursday

Acting the Maggot is a way of saying that someone is messing. A person who is a messer would Act the Maggot without a second thought. Most farmers are happy for us to walk through their land but they would not be happy if we were to be Acting the Maggot. Acting the Maggot might just be some rowdy and foolish behaviour or it might be reckless and destructive. There is a certain amount of disrespect involved with such bad behaviour. It might be a lot of disrespect or it might be a little.

14 August Wednesday

I have filled another huge bowl with more black currants. They just keep coming. And now the raspberries are ripening. That means more picking in an everyday kind of way. Apples and plums are barely visible. After the heavily laden branches of last year, it is a shock to see how few apples there are on any of the trees. There is one tree that is having normal growth and production but most of the trees are leafy and lush with no apples at all. As always, I have been keeping a careful eye on the figs. It has been disappointing to see how few there are. This morning I walked up the stone steps to go into the small mezzanine room and I could barely get in the door. The fig branches and leaves had taken over the top of the steps and all of the branches up there were full of fruit. Once inside the room the thick foliage took over the entrance. It was a battle to get in and a battle to get out. One side of the tree is devoid of figs and the other side is full of figs. Now I must pay regular attention so that the birds do not get more than me.

12 August Monday

The rain is sort of endless. It is endless but erratic. There are moments of blazing sunshine and blue skies but every day there is rain. It is not cold rain. But it is rain. The days are warm and often muggy and the rain is a constant. Sometimes it falls straight out of the sky in an enormous heavy downpour and then it stops abruptly. The sky clears and it is bright and then it buckets down again. Sometimes it is an off and on again drizzle that never ceases but it never really stops anything from happening. A man walked out of the shop this morning and he pointed up at the sky. He announced, “He is very cross That Man Up There. The only way to please Him is to go to Mass five times a day but I’ll not be doing that! I carry an umbrella wherever I go.” I was the only person around. Even so, I am not certain that he was talking to me.

11 August Sunday

When I first discovered the Distemper Brush, I loved it. I wanted to buy it but I did not need it. I just wanted it. I took a photograph of it on the painted cement floor of the hardware shop. I kept thinking about it. Eventually I just had to buy the brush, so I bought it and brought it home. I hung it on the wall where I admire it daily. I sent photographs to Laurie and she made a beautiful drawing of the brush for my book Too Raucous for a Chorus. I have kept an eye on the section of the hardware shop where the brush was hung. It was the only one in stock when I bought it and to this day it has not been replaced. Maybe there is not much demand for painting with distemper these days. Now I have made a postcard of the brush so I can share it more widely. I am loving the postcard nearly as much as the brush itself.

10 August Saturday

It was disappointing not to see The Crosswords from Clogheen this morning. I wanted to ask them if the Sheep Racing had taken place as scheduled last week in spite the heavy rain. I was ready with a lot of questions about how they get the sheep to line up and how they get them to go in the same direction and how they get them to keep going in the same direction. I wondered if perhaps there was a sheepdog in the back urging them forward or at least not allowing them to change direction. I wondered what sort of marking or numbering they used to keep track of each sheep contestant. I have spent a lot of time thinking about it all. I am sorry that I did not drive over in the lashing rain just on the off chance that the race took place. It might not have happened but it might have. Either way, I am sorry to have missed it.

8 August Thursday

There is always another dead bird. This is the first time that I have picked up a bird with a plate. This bird smashed into a window. When I found it, it was still warm but it was dead. The plate has been useful as I moved it around to keep it out of the sun. It is time to toss it over the hedge but I keep looking at it. I wish I knew what it was.

7 August Wednesday

Marian bemoaned that the summer is Flying By. She said, “That’s what happens when June doesn’t fall good.” She said, “Summer never works if you don’t have a June.”

Sheep Racing at 7 o’clock.

5 August Bank Holiday Monday

People often substitute the word Ye in place of the word You. They use it in conversation and they use it in text messages.  To my ear it sounds almost biblical. (Are ye back yet?) I love hearing it and I love reading it but I cannot use it myself   I cannot incorporate it into my speech.  It would sound false in my mouth.

4 August Sunday

I knew there would be rain. I  believed the forecast. The forecast was for The Odd Passing Shower. The forecast promised that the showers would hold off until the afternoon. I walked up and around Knockperry. As usual, I wondered about the carved head installed in someones wall. I always intend to ask someone somewhere about its history. I always forget.  I got two thirds of the way around before the skies opened. I had no rain jacket and there was no shelter up there so I just kept walking. I got soaked through. Not one part of me was dry. There is a small encampment of travellers just before the road drops down. Actually it is just one caravan and one horse trailer and a bunch of stuff scattered around. Two dogs huddled underneath the caravan and watched me walking by in the pouring rain.  I had been told that there was Sheep Racing scheduled for 7 o’clock in Clogheen. I was eager to see how anyone could convince sheep to race against one another, much less run in the same direction, but the rain was so heavy that I never got to Clogheen to find out.

3 August Saturday

Maurice told me that the word Áras means large building. It suggests a residential building. An abode. A dwelling. Maybe a castle. He said that the central Bus Station in Dublin which is called Bus Áras is not literally translated as Bus Station but should instead  be The Bus Castle.

2 August Friday

The room where the wake was being held was not large. There were family members in chairs along two of the walls. The deceased was laid out in a coffin against the wall at the far end of the room. We filed in behind others in the single line and we shook hands with each member of the family. We repeated our condolences and we said “I am sorry for your loss” over and over again. When a person reached the coffin, he or she stopped and crossed themselves. I did not cross myself. I just continued to the next group of family members.  As always, the room was hushed and the lighting was subdued. When we first arrived and before we had been able to enter the room with the family and the dead man we had to wait in a small line. It was not a long line, but first we were out on the pavement in the sunshine and then we stood in a little entry hall. As we were waiting to take our turn an elderly man came out and he shook the hands of each one of us who were waiting to go in. He said, and then repeated again and again, “I will have to die myself to ever be this popular.”

1 August Thursday

I miss walking up the mass path. It is thick with all of the growth of summer. It is not possible to walk with shorts and short sleeves without being attacked by the nettles and the brambles. Even with long trousers and long sleeves the tangle is winning. I am missing out on a lot of installments of growth and animal movement and bird activity. I do not even know all that I am missing. It will not be long before I am able to move through it all again without too much of a struggle. It will be like no time has passed.

 

31 July Wednesday

Picking black currants and picking more black currants. The picking does not end. The currants are fat and delicious but I am beginning to wish there were not so many of them.

 

30 July Tuesday

We took the ferry from Liverpool. It was a new way for us to return from England. The boat was mostly freight. There were only a few cars on boat. We were the very last car to board because we drove round and round the area looking for the dock which was not signposted in any way. Everyone had begun to eat when we got upstairs from the vehicle deck. It was 8 o’clock. Our food was included as part of the fare price. We all ate our hearty suppers as the boat prepared to leave and within half an hour of announcing that food was being served, the Phillipino kitchen staff started clearing it all away. Everything was completely gone before we even left the enormous harbour of Liverpool. Most of the truck drivers knew this so they took two helpings of the steamed pudding with loads of custard in case they missed their chance. There were no more than fifteen tables spread between two rooms. Since everyone was eating at the same time it was easy to see that there were not many people on board. In the room where we ate there was a large round table with a few smaller tables close by around the edges. Everyone who sat at the round table was a lorry driver from Northern Ireland. Maybe they all knew each other from earlier crossings. Maybe they did not know each other from earlier crossings. I think the brotherhood of truck drivers means that they did know each other simply by their job. They were all in the same club. They discussed the tiny utilitarian cabins which we had all been assigned. They commented on the narrow little bunks. Several of the men remembered ferries where they had been required to bring their own sheets and pillows along with them. There was a nostalgia about this, either for the time or for where those those journeys had taken them. This ferry did not seem to be of this time, but the drivers were remembering even less modern journeys. We listened to the men discuss their travels. They had all been away to different places and now they were all going home. Being at the center of the room placed both them and their exchanges on stage. The lights started dimming. By 9 o’clock we were all encouraged to head down to our teeny cabins to sleep.

At 5 am, there was a loudspeaker announcement regarding the serving of breakfast. Then a person walked down the corridor tapping twice on each door with a key or some metallic object to make sure we were awake. We heard our own two taps and we heard the tapping continuing down the hallway. We climbed back up the steep ladder-like staircase, where everyone ate porridge and tea and toast. The Northern Irish drivers sat at their round table. No one had had much sleep so it was quieter than it had been the night before. Each of the truckers sat with two or three extra cups of tea at their place. The extras were to carry down to their lorries. We were all down on the vehicle deck by 5.30. The freight drivers lined up their cups on their dashboards. The boat decanted us into Dublin Harbour at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning. Driving through the city has never been so easy.

And we were back at home in Ballybeg before 9, even after a stop in Cahir to buy milk and a few staples.