The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

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.  The inspector calls out a name.  He calls 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 Maher’s car!” I was already nervous because our car is 20 years old. When the the inspector called for me, he jumped right in on the attack. They are eager to get old cars off the road. He 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. No one looked at me as I walked out of the waiting room.

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 wanted 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 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 recognise it. It is always a surprise when I do not recognise 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 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.

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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.

Will I See You Out?

9 July Tuesday

Another batch of elderflower cordial has been bottled. This is the first time I have made several small batches over a few weeks. Ordinarily, I make one big batch. This year it was about gathering the blooms at the right moment and in bright sunshine. The weather was against me and then blossoms were often too high for me to reach. I hope I do not do it this way again. It is just as much work to make a small batch twice as it is to make a big batch once.

8 July Monday

Cars drive too quickly through the village. Tractors and farm machinery always go too fast, especially when they are getting in the silage which is what they are doing now. The days are not long enough for the work that must be done and there is always the possible threat of rain which will ruin the Getting In. The narrow roads are treacherous with speeding equipment. If there are several other vehicles pulled in or a delivery truck parked when one is ready to leave the shop in a car, it is not easy to see around them. This is a problem at any time of the year. It is worse with speeding tractors on the move.  It is nearly impossible to see if something is coming from either direction. A person walking out of the shop or arriving and getting out of their own car will offer to check the road for the person attempting to depart. He or she will say “Will I see you out?” Or “I’ll see you out then.” That means they will stand in the road and look both ways and signal or shout when it is safe to back out. It is the polite thing to do and it is much appreciated. We all do it for one another.

7 July Sunday

I have been picking gooseberries. It feels like I have been picking gooseberries forever. The bushes just keep on producing. Every afternoon I sit on my box and I pick and pick and I pick and then I toss bags full of berries into the freezer. I am in competition with the birds. Often I am picking from one side of a bush while a bird is eating away on the other side of the bush. This is a battle and I am determined to win. I do not mind the birds having a good feed of fruit. I just want to be certain that I get more than they do. The thorns are sharp and painful. It feels like they are ripping me to shreds but at the same time, they never seem to pierce my skin. There is no blood but there is a bit of shouting and cursing as I get stabbed again and again. I think there are some kinds of gooseberries that have no thorns. Maybe these are new breeds. Even if thorn-less gooseberries exist, I am not going to plant any of them.  I already have too many gooseberry bushes. Today I have decided that I am finished with the picking. Whatever remains on the bushes is all for the birds.

6 July Saturday

Maureen got out of the car. She has been instructed to stand still for a moment so that she does not get dizzy by moving too quickly. Her friend stood close by. She was there to give Maureen an arm if needed, just until she got her balance.  Her friend squealed, “OhMyGod! Your glasses are filthy! It looks like you cleaned them with Mashed Potatoes!”

5 July Friday

I see Marie at least once a week. I do not know her well. I do not know her family or where she lives or anything like that. She used to work in the shop and then she trained to work at the Day Care Center. The pay is much better there and she loves working with the children. She is a cheerful person. We always greet one another and she always calls me Sally. I used to correct her and tell her my proper name, but I no longer bother. I just return her greeting and chat about whatever there is to be chatted about.

4 July Thursday

There are a lot of bees around the edge of the roof of the barn. They are just over the door. They have been there for several weeks now. We now try to enter and leave the barn from the opposite direction, but it does not really make much difference because the swarm is still just above and to the left of the door. We cannot ignore them but we can move quickly and quietly past them. It is a pity they did not choose to make a hive on the back side of the barn. They would have had more privacy and we would not be so aware of them. Their noise is loud. It is a little bit scary to go into the barn and a little bit scary to come out, but really I do not think it matters much. They are busy and they seem to pay us no attention at all. Anyone who sees or hears the bees advises us to get a beekeeper to come and take them away. The hive is well tucked up and into the eaves. I do not think anyone could get up and get them out without killing the lot. Since the bee population is in short supply all over the world, we feel it is best if we leave this community to just keep doing exactly what they are doing.

 

3 July Wednesday

The barley looks fine in the fields on both sides of the track. It moves constantly and gently with the smallest breeze.

2 July Tuesday

The woman stood in the middle of the road. It is not a busy road. It is a single track road with three houses on it. One of the  houses has been empty for four years. It is an extremely quiet road. The woman stood in the middle of the road watching as two painters were finishing up a bit of detail around her windows. She was admiring her freshly painted house from as far away as she could be which was not really very far at all. I was out for a walk. I do not know this woman except to say hello to. We exchange pleasantries like “It’s a desperate day altogether!” and “A Fine Evening, isn’t it!” But that is as far as we go. That is as far as we have ever gone. She used to have an elderly dog. I spoke to the dog every time I passed the house. He was deaf and blind and did not pay any attention to me.  Today the woman turned to me as if we were in the habit of discussing a great many things. She said, “It is looking well, isn’t it?” It was both a statement and a question. I replied, “Yes, indeed it does look well.” She nodded and said “Yes. I think it is looking well. I am happy how well it is looking.” If I had not seen the painters there I would not have known that the house had been painted because it was exactly the same colour as it was before it was painted.

Any Stick You Could Buy In A Store

1 July Monday

Anthony has a bucket near the doorway of his premises. There is a thick piece of timber on the bucket to make it more comfortable. Anyone waiting to have a tyre repaired is welcome to take a sit-down on the bucket. Or someone who is walking by can take a seat and chat even if they are not having a tyre repaired or replaced. Today, I see that Anthony has added a red cushion.

 

30 June Sunday

I was walking up near Middlequarter and thought to take the path that drops down to the Holy Well. It was a bad idea as everything was heavily overgrown and I was wearing shorts. There were too many nettles to make such a walk pleasant or even possible, so I gave up. I was sorry as I have not been down there for a long time. There is not much to see. I am never certain how and why one little spring gets called a Holy Well and another does not. There are hundreds of Holy Wells around the country. Not all of them are signposted. Some are just known to be where they are by the people who know. Usually the water is believed to have curative powers. Sometimes a particular saint used a well and that made it holy. I must ask around for the story of this well, which does not look like a well at all. It is just a slab of stone with a trickle of water coming out beneath it. And at this time of year it is probably completely choked out with weeds and nettles.

 

29 June Saturday

We had just finished lunch when there was a tiny tap on the door. It was Tommie. He was returning the plate I had taken to him last week. The plate had been full of lemon cake and strawberries. Now it was empty and washed.  I was preparing strawberries to eat with cream just as he knocked so I offered him some. Tommie loves fruit. He loves all fruit but he especially loves summer berries. He refused a cup of tea but said yes to the fruit.  He sat down and we all three ate big bowls of fresh berries. Then we talked. Or Tommie talked. He told us stories of Real Life People. He told about a woman who could tell a lie and he said that whatever she said and whatever way she said it, it looked better than the truth. As he talked he swung his walking stick up above him and around in the air. He was pleased when we complimented him on the stick. It was a length of ash with the bark stripped off. It was not straight but it was strong. He said he preferred this stick to any stick you could buy in a store.

After an hour and a half, Tommie said he should be going. I walked him out to his motorcar. I was surprised to see that the passenger door was open and I was shocked to see Margaret sitting there. I asked him why he had not brought her into the house. He said it was because he had not meant to stay so long. I spoke to Margaret and said that she should have come inside. She said she was fine where she was, just sitting out and listening to the weather. I guess by weather she meant the little breeze. She is mostly blind and she cannot hear a lot, but she perhaps she was able to hear and see enough to enjoy the light wind and the birdsong. Her face looked terrible. It was black and blue and she had a big bandage on her forehead and another one around her forearm. Her fingers and her hand were all black and blue and swollen. She said she had had another fall. She said “This is just the way things are going, Girl. I recover from hitting the ground just in time to fall again.”

 

28 June Friday

Sharon moved away at least six months ago because the house she had been renting was being put up for sale. It was Mary Corbett’s cottage. Then it was The Murder Cottage. Dessie lived there next and it was still spoken of as The Murder Cottage. When Sharon moved in, she wanted to change the way people referred to her home. Living in a place where someone was savagely killed carries a tough legacy. She searched out a large flat stone and put some sticky vinyl letters on it. She renamed the place The White Cottage. The letters were quite small. The heavily varnished stone was leaned up against a tree so that it could be seen from the road.  We all tried hard to use the new name but The Murder Cottage remains the shorthand way to identify the place. The house has not sold yet. A man comes along and does some small jobs every few weeks to keep it looking tidy. When Sharon left, I thought maybe she had taken her naming stone with her but today I walked past the house and there it was lying flat on the top of the wall with most of its letters missing.

 

27 June Thursday

The fire station in Lismore is not large. I am not even sure that it is even wide enough to have a fire truck inside. There are two yellow firemen’s helmets hanging outside the station. The original plan must have been for them to be used as hanging baskets.  No one planted any flowers in the helmets this year, so there are just a few dead stalks.

 

26 June Wednesday

It was raining hard. Just as I turned to drive into the boreen I saw a young boy pressed against the stone wall. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was not waterproof. He was dripping wet and his hood was plastered tight to his head with the rain. I recognized him as the son of a neighbour a kilometer or so down the road. I think he is 12, or maybe 13. I stopped to ask if he wanted a lift home. He said no. I saw that he had a hatchet held in his hand. Maybe it was a hatchet or maybe it was an ax. It  was pressed close down along his leg. It might have been that he was trying to hide it from me. Or it might have been that he was trying to keep it from getting wetter. After I got home I mentioned him to Simon. He said the boy had been up and down past the house several times in the rain. Always carrying his hatchet. I have spent the rest of the day wondering if we should be worrying about this lad marching around with a hatchet.

Going to Bed in the Bright

25 June Tuesday

A man in a tractor dumped a big pile of stuff to the side of the storage shed on Mason’s land. It was grey and looked like cement which meant it was probably lime. When his trailer was empty, he climbed down from the cab and put a delivery note bill under a stone. I was walking up the track towards him. He waved and shouted across the field, “If you see your man tell him the bill is right there. But no worry. He’ll find it or he won’t!”

 

24 June Monday

To me, it is a pie. Here it is called a tart: top crust, bottom crust and a layer of fruit in between. I find there is always too much pastry for the skimpy amount of fruit inside. The fresh tart in the shop had a large circle cut out of the top crust. The piece of crust which had been cut out was laid onto the top of the tart, just beside the hole, so that the hole was both absent and present. It was still attached to the tart and had been baked right along with the rest.

23 June Sunday

The cows in the lower meadow began bellowing sometime after midnight. They woke me up. I lay in the dark and listened. I wondered what had set them off. There was moaning and mooing. Screeching. Lowing. Roaring. I do not know what got them going. Hunger? Separation? Distress? Maybe a fox startled one of them.  After about twenty minutes they were quiet again. I went back to sleep.

22 June Saturday

The talk at the Farmers Market this morning was all about the dead goose. By current count, 41 geese live in the river with their nests up on the banking of the castle. They are fed a lot of snacks by tourists and given a more healthy regular diet by locals. They have no reason to leave the area. Last week one of the geese was walking across the car park when he was hit by a car and killed. The car drove away without stopping. The murdered goose was named Bruce. I did not know any of the geese had names. This makes me wonder if perhaps they all have names? Apparently a young girl gave Bruce his name but how did she recognise him in the crowd? They all look very similar to me.

21 June Friday. Solstice. The Longest Day

At this time of year there is not much night. Today is the longest day. The sun rose at 4.56. It will set at 21.56. The elderly woman in the shop complained that these long hours of daylight depress her. She feels that seven hours of darkness is not enough. She finds it a sad and difficult time because she fears Going To Bed in the Bright. She knows that she is not the only one.

20 June Thursday

A young man boarded the bus with us at the airport. He was carrying a large bouquet of flowers. It was a showy and extravagant bouquet in a white cellophane paper. The paper was like an enormous upside-down white skirt. I do not know where he bought such a bouquet. I do not think there are flowers on sale anywhere at the airport. I think this man must have bought the bouquet somewhere else. He must have arrived at the airport with the flowers but it was apparently not to give the flowers to someone just off a plane from somewhere because he had no one with him. He just had the flowers. Now he was boarding the bus and taking the flowers somewhere else. The entire bus smelled of his bouquet. It was a bit much. There were enormous lilies and something else with a strong smell. The man wedged his bouquet high up into a crack between the two seats in front of him so that he could enjoy the journey and have his hands free while the flowers were safe from any crushing and damage.

Before leaving Dublin we made a stop at the bus station. Two people heavily laden with plastic carrier bags stuffed full of things got on the bus. A terrible smell arrived with them. Suddenly the flower fumes that had seemed overwhelming during the journey from the airport to the station seemed not so bad. There would be at least two hours between leaving the Bus Aras and the first stop. No one would be able to get off the bus. This was a daunting prospect. I wondered if I would be able to stand it. A older woman leaned across the aisle towards me and she sort of cooed: “Oh the Poor Poor Misfortunates.” Then she sighed heavily and went back to her book.

Traffic was bad and the bus was slow. The two hour journey took three hours. I was sitting near the front of the bus. The bouquet was propped up in its position of safety in the center of the bus. The Poor Misfortunates sat all the way in the back of the bus. I suppose I was lucky in a way. From where I sat, the smells cancelled each other out and I was far enough away to able to forget about them, at least for some of the time.

It is Nice to be Nice.


12 June Wednesday

I went into town to get a new tax disc for the car. The old one expired at the end of May. We have until the end of June to get a new one. A one month grace period. I was feeling a little bit confused. Maybe this is the old way and things have changed while I failed to notice that they had changed. I felt certain that the one month grace period somehow does not apply any longer and that instead of me being a few weeks early to get my new disc, I am actually a few weeks late. I asked the woman at the counter if this was still the system. She said Yes, of course. I asked her why we are allowed an entire month after the date of expiration. Shouldn’t the tax expiring mean that the tax has expired? Why do we get a whole month extra to sort ourselves out? She explained that everyone is always so very busy with things to do and deadlines and life in general, so why should the motor tax office put more pressure on people? Then she added, “And, anyway, it is nice to be nice.”

11 June Tuesday

A starling is caught in the blind of an old empty house in Irishtown. It must have gone down the chimney and got itself caught in the blind trying to escape out the window and now it is dead. There is not a thing to be done. It is too late for anything to be done. I look at it every time I pass. I try not to look but then I do. It has been hanging there for a long while now. It does not seem to get any more decomposed. It just hangs there. Dead.

 

10 June Monday

The tiny calves are together in one field, without their mothers. They have two little white plastic houses to go into to get out of the rain. Or to get their food which might be in there to keep it dry, or to keep it from being blown around. These are the reasons that I thought they have the little houses. Today under a steady soft, but persistent, drizzle, I saw all of the calves huddled in a tight group in a far corner of their field. They were moaning and bellowing together in voices louder than their small bodies seem able for. And they were all wet. So much for my theories about shelter.

9 June Sunday

Elderflowers are everywhere. Except when they are not. They look like they are everywhere. The cream colored blossoms are polka-dotted all over the landscape. Everywhere in every direction, there are elderflowers. Their omnipresence is deceptive. The big floppy flowers are all high up on the trees. Today we had a few hours of bright sun in the midst of all the rain and the grey darkness and cold days. When we do get some sun, it is watery sunlight. It is not strong hot sun. I decided I must gather the flowers and make at least one batch of elderflower cordial. The weather forecast is promising ten straight days of rain and no sun. And this on top of all of the cold and sunless days we have already had. I decided I had to use today’s sunlight to get the blossoms while I could. Popular wisdom says that blossoms picked in overcast light will make a cordial that smells like cat pee. I did not want to risk that. I went out with clippers and a basket to collect 20 or 25 blossoms, which is not very many. It was really hard to even get that small amount. Everything was high up and way out of my reach. I eventually got my flowers and made my single batch. It was far too difficult. I can only hope the rains move off and I will have a second chance to make more.

8 June Saturday
I went to the vet’s office to collect some bubble wrap. They are happy to save the bubble for me as it is a kind of recycling. It is a slow job for me to go through it all and remove the tape from the bunched up bits, but it is free. I try to remind myself that the time I spend untangling and folding up the bubble wrap is cheaper than the money we would spend to buy brand new rolls of it. They seem to have less bubble these days. Maybe the vaccines and the liquids for the cows and horses are being shipped in plastic instead of glass containers. Or maybe there is another reason. Anyway I need to stop in more frequently than I used to and I get less per trip than I used to.

As I waited for the young girl on duty to stuff my bubble into a bin liner, I met a 3 1/2 year old mixed breed Whippet. I fell in love immediately. I have been vaguely looking for a new dog. I have mentioned here and there that I am ready for a new dog. I have mentioned here and there that I am no longer happy to live without a dog. I have mentioned that when I see the dog that is to be my dog, I will know immediately. Seeing this dog gave me that feeling. Unfortunately, this dog was happily owned and loved by the two people with her. But now I have a whole new breed of dog to be looking at and for. I did not know I wanted a Whippet, but now I do.

7 June Friday

The bee hives from the bee man in Burncourt are back on the tops of Mike’s wrecked cars in his work yard. These hives are different from the ones that the same man brought last year. One is covered with tar paper. Another looks like a picnic cooler painted yellow. The third one is just a wooden box with a red top. The bee man is looking to attract a new swarm. None of the boxes have attracted any bees yet. I think this weather is too cold for bees.

Wet Rain.

 

6 June Thursday

All week, every single time I look out the window or walk out the door I see a rabbit. There is never not a rabbit in my line of vision. Simon has been adamant when he assures me that there is only one rabbit and that I am always seeing the same rabbit. Tonight I walked across from the barn and I saw three rabbits in a little group quietly eating grass together. Another one was hopping over near the white lilac.  I should know better than to believe Simon.  Rabbits often look alike. And rabbits are known to multiply. Pretending that there is only one is silly.

5 June Wednesday

A motorcar had turned in at the end of the lane. There was a tractor and another big machine cutting and collecting silage in the adjoining field. Jobs like cutting silage get contracted out. I recognized neither the machinery nor the men. They machines both rushed over to the corner of the field when the car arrived. A woman and a small boy got out of the car. The woman stretched up on tip-toes to pass a couple of plastic containers over the stone wall to the young man. He climbed down from his tractor to meet her. Then she handed a flask and two big plastic bottles of some fizzy drink over to him. He put one container and one bottle up and into his tractor. He walked over and handed one of each of the things up to the man in the other machine. Then the woman lifted the little boy over the wall. The man reached and lifted the boy the rest of the way over and into the field. The boy was about 6. I am guessing his age from his size. Maybe he was younger. Maybe he was older. I did not know the woman, nor the man, nor the other man who never left his machine.  I had never seen the little boy. I was only out for a walk by myself. The man, who might have been a brother or the father or an uncle swung the boy up into the tractor and then he climbed up himself. The little boy stood high on the seat beside the man and he waved wildly with both hands at the woman and at me.  He was delighted to be in the tractor in the midst of the important work of bringing in the silage. He wanted to be seen to be high up in the tractor. The woman and I stood and waved at the boy as the machines turned away from us and started back into the work of cutting grass and circling round and round the field. We waved until the boy stopped waving and directed his attention to the job being done.

4 June Tuesday

Today has been all day Wet Rain. People might think that all rain is wet.  There are different kinds of rain. There is Soft Rain. Rain can be Desperate. It can be Lashing. I do not think there are as many words for rain here as some northern places have for snow but there are a lot of ways to explain and describe rain. I doubt I have heard all of them yet. Wet Rain is a particular sort of soaking rain. It is the kind of rain which means you will get wet no matter how you dress or how you move.  A Wet Rain will drench any person out in it. This is a certainty. The daisies are drooping down with this all day rain. They are drooping and dripping. They are lying down flat with the excessive water so they are tangling into each other and sometimes tripping us when we try to move through them. We get wet simply by walking out to check to see if the post has arrived or going down to the the book barn to do a job. It is much too wet to go out to trim these flopping daisies out of the way.  We have the choice of changing our trousers with abnormal frequency, or else we just stay in the house.

3 June Monday

Morning. How are you? Are you well? This quickly spoken greeting comes out like one long word with little space for breathing or differentiation. The you is pronounced as ye. MorningHowareyeAreyewell?

2 June Sunday

There is a big black bull in Joe’s front field. I call it the front field. Probably Joe does not call this field the front field. It is the first field as I enter the boreen from the road. It is the field on my right. When there is a bull in residence, the bull is always in this field. I do not think that Joe owns a bull. I think that he rents or leases a bull for a month or for a few weeks for breeding. The bull arrives from another farm in order to inseminate cows. I do not think they say inseminate. I hear it said that the bull is here to Cover the Cows. This is not the same bull as in recent years. The previous bull was brown and white. This bull is black. He is so black that he looks like a silhouette against the green pasture. He is so black and so big that it is almost hard to see him. He is like an absence cut out of the field.

31 May Friday

I could not sleep last night. It was the jet lag. Coming from west to east is often a problem. Reading had not worked and listening to the radio had not worked. I finally got out of bed. I played solitaire for a while. This usually tires me. I get bored and sort of hypnotised by the cards and then I get sleepy. I did not become sleepy. I just kept playing. I worked on a crossword puzzle from yesterday’s newspaper. I read yesterday’s newspaper. After three hours I finally went back to bed. I did not sleep. The room was getting lighter and lighter. The birds were making an enormous noise outside. I should call it the dawn chorus but it sounded too noisy for a chorus. It was cacophony. I got up again. It was about four o’clock. I made a cup of tea and I went outside. It was too chilly to sit down so I walked around and looked at things. There was plenty of light to see everything that had been growing in my absence. The ox-eye daisies were rampant. They are the wild flowers that just take over everything at this time of year. It was really getting light but it was not bright. It was only a little after four in the morning. I could see the white blossom of the daisies and the pink roses against the grey stone of the book barn. There was plenty of light to see colours and to see details. It was subdued light but it was light. Joe’s cows were not in the near field but they were just a little further along in the second field across. They were all standing around along the rounding of the hill pulling grass and eating. I wondered why they were not sleeping. I wondered if cows sleep. My thoughts kept returning to sleep. There were more cows down in Donal’s field. That is the field I call the Low Meadow but Jim Trehy told me that a field like that is known as the Bottoms. I try to think of it as the Bottoms but as often as I remind myself of it, this name does not come naturally to me. It is still the low meadow and this morning it was full of Donal’s cows. I could see them clearly. Their black and white hides showed bright against the green. I walked down the orchard meadow and through the apple trees and I considered getting out a rake to gather up some of the long grass which had been cut down around the trees. I was wearing my dressing gown over my pajamas and a shawl around my shoulders. I was wearing low rubber boots. It did not seem the best outfit for raking and anyway I was too tired to DO anything. The only thing I wanted to do was to sleep and since I could not do that I was happy to look at all of the variations of white blossoms against all of the green and to watch a rabbit hopping and to listen to the birds singing and screaming. I finished one cup of tea as I walked so I went  inside to make another. It was 5.15 and there was no chance that I was going to get any sleep.