The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

We Have Enough Rain Got.

16 January Tuesday

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

15 January Monday

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

13 January Saturday

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

12 January Friday

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

11 January Thursday

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

10 January Wednesday

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

9 January Tuesday

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

8 January Monday

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

7 January Sunday

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

6 January Saturday

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


A Crest of Moss

4 January Thursday

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

3 January Wednesday

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

2 January Tuesday

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

1 January 2018 Monday

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

31 December Sunday

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

30 December Saturday

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

The Irish Harp

29 December Friday


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


27 December Wednesday

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


26 December Tuesday

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


24 December Sunday

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

23 December Saturday

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

22 December Friday

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

21 December Thursday

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

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

Clean Food.

19 December Tuesday

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

18 December Monday

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

17 December Sunday

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

16 December Saturday

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

15 December Friday

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

The Fermoy Pencil

13 December Wednesday

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

12 December Tuesday

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

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

11 December Monday

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

10 December Sunday

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

8 December Friday

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

6 December Wednesday

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

A Sparrow On Galtymore

4 December Monday

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

3 December Sunday

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

2 December Saturday

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

1 December Friday

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

30 November Thursday

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

28 November Tuesday

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

Campbell’s Tea

27 November Monday

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

26 November Sunday

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

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

25 November Saturday

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

Tuesday 1 slug
Wednesday 1 slug
Thursday 2 slugs
Friday 0

24 November Friday

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

23 November Thursday

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

22 November Wednesday

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


7 November Tuesday

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

6 November Monday

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

5 November Sunday

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

4 November Saturday

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

3 November Friday

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

2 November Thursday

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

1 November Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

Fetching the Mail

30 October Bank Holiday

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

29 October Sunday

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

28 October Saturday

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

27 October Friday

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

26 October Thursday

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

25 October Wednesday

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

24 October Tuesday

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

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

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

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

Hand Cut Gate

11 October Wednesday

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

10 October Tuesday

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

9 October Monday

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

8 October Sunday

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

7 October Saturday

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

6 October Friday

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

5 October Thursday

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

4 October Wednesday

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

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

3 October Tuesday

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

2 October Monday

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

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

1 October Sunday

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

30 September Saturday

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