31 December Monday
Yesterday was Simon’s birthday, so we drove down to Dungarvan to take a walk by the sea. We didn’t get much of a walk as Emily becomes a maniac when she gets to the sea. We threw the green rubber hedgehog into the waves again and again. She kept leaping and diving and swimming after it, and then barking and barking for more. Eventually she was dizzy from it all and so tired she could hardly run. We had a big audience because most of the other dogs on the beach didn’t want to get wet, so they barked madly to cheer her on. It wasn’t easy to get her back into the car. Simon had a few pints in a favourite pub, and then we went for a truly wonderful lunch at the Tannery. I dropped him off at the bar in the village, and took the exhausted Em home for her supper. She could barely finish her food before limping off to bed. By the time I got down to collect Simon from the bar, he had found Michael who was just down from a days walking in the Knockmealdowns. And Michael’s birthday was to be today, so a few toasts were required. I felt much the way I used to when we would take Simon’s father out for lunch in Derbyshire, and I would drive the two of them from pub to pub. Simon would have a pint. His father would have a half. I would have coffee or a mineral water. Then they would remember another pub that he had not been to for a few years….
29 December Saturday
We drove out to do some errands today and admired several huge Christmas trees installed at road intersections and in little lay-bys by the FAS crews. These trees have been decorated with silver foil covered plastic drinks bottles. Most of the bottles are the 1.5 or the 2 litre sort. They blow around like mad in this wind. A fair number of old CDs add to the sparkley effect. The most decorated house in the area is in Ardfinnan. It has millions of lights, all white, which outline the shape of the house and the bushes and the trees and then make a multitude of other shapes of stars and things. It is a shock to come down the hill from Cahir and to catch sight of this mayhem when usually one only sees the river, and then the mountains off in the distance. At night, one only sees darkness. The Christmas lights get more elaborate every year. This year the house was featured on the television. The man who lives in this well-lit house is blind.
28 December Friday
Outside the shop, an older woman stopped to ask me about Emily, and then continued on, by herself, about dogs in general. I gather her ramble came from the fact that she still isn’t used to the idea that people are giving people names to dogs and she felt more comfortable with a time when all dogs were called Rover, and Whitey, or Blackie, Sandy, Partner or Pal. Dogs were spoken of by two names: their own and the name of their owner. If there were three dogs named Whitey in one area, they’d be known as Whitey Ryan, Whitey O’Dwyer, and Whitey Sweeney….just so you would know which Whitey was being mentioned. I added surnames for our local dogs, just to see how they’d sound. We have Ben O’Keefe, Max Scully, Sam Costigan, Clint Browne, Milo Condon, Susie Hally, Ginger McGrath, Coco Shine, and of course, the late great Sidney O’Byrne-Casey.
17 December Monday
Still no body out of the river. I am not sure whether or not the Hay Bale Method was put into use.
12 December Wednesday
It looks like we have completed the ephemera sets which we started in 2004(!!!) It has been a huge job, not least of all because we started it and then let everything pile up and get more and more confusing. It has taken over the whole barn for many days now as we were determined not to put any of it away until we did it properly and finished it. I am not even sure why I am talking about it as I am so sick of it all that I don’t want to think about it……and now the lists must be made and typed up in the computer. A really mild day. It felt more like early spring than December. Simon helped me to get the last of the daffodils into the ground. He had to use the big metal pole to ram holes into the rocky soil. It is just impossible to dig a hole. They have still not found the body in the river.
11 December Tuesday
Sign seen on the road to Youghal:
10 December Monday
The last few days have been wild and windy with buckets of rain. The inside of the car flooded just because the rain was driven at it in such an unlikely direction. The river is flooded and fields on both sides are under water, and these windy days are on top of a week of much rain. The ground cannot absorb any more. A man fell into the river in Cahir on Saturday night and has not been found yet. There are rescue people stationed on all the bridges with binoculars, looking and looking up and down the river trying to spot the body. Last night we were told that the only way to locate the body at this stage, is to put a bale of hay out into the river with a lit candle stuck into the top of it. The bale will float and float until it is exactly over the body and then it will stop and hover until the body is recovered. This is such a mad idea on so many levels that we can’t even BEGIN to think about it. There seems to be a consensus of opinion that this is indeed a tried and true method….
3 December Monday
So we went down to see Tom Browne while he was visiting Veronica in her new council house. It was a wild blustery, lashing rainy afternoon. Veronica had phoned to ask if Simon would take Tom down to the pub in his wheelchair. She was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to push him back up the hill by herself. We drove down there not really convinced that it was the right day for a roll through the village in a wheelchair. By the time we arrived, Veronica had herself decided that the pub wasn’t a good idea in this weather, so she made us coffee and I brought up the subject of Poetic License in order to explain a bit about the book before I showed it to Tom. He said he had once bet on a horse named Poetic License. The odds were high (30 to 1), and he won, so he said that since then he has had a lot of time for Poetic License. We got past that and talked a bit about the embellishment of stories to make a story better, or more exciting, or more real to one’s listeners. Then I showed him my book: SMALL HOUSES The Buildings of Tom Browne. He was thrilled to see his version of our house on the cover, and he was pleased to see the pictures of the other houses. I had imagined myself quietly reading the whole book aloud to him, showing him the photographs along the way, and maybe discussing things a bit as we went. Instead, Veronica grabbed the book and showed him some pictures and cooed and made very excited exclamations about it all, and then tucked the book into his blue plastic bag so that it would be ready to go when he returned to the Cottage Hospital by ambulance. Within seconds of the book going into the bag, she had his tea on the table (spare ribs and cabbage), and he was being encouraged to eat quickly, so that she could clean him up, so that he would be ready when they came to fetch him at 5, because if they waited any longer the crowds would be arriving for Mass in Irishtown and then the ambulance couldn’t get close enough, and he’d either have to wait in the ambulance until Mass was over or get soaked on the way in as he did last time. And they had even forgotton to give him a hat. Needless to say, we were exhausted by it all, and found our way into the pub immediately upon leaving.
1 December Saturday
SMALL HOUSES arrived yesterday! It seems to have taken forever for it to get here from Hong Kong. It travelled by ship (the Mol Promise) to Rotterdam, and then was loaded onto another ship (the Dana Hollandia) which took it to Dublin. Then there was a road journey to Kilkenny. Once it got to Kilkenny, everything stopped. It only takes us 50 minutes to drive there, but it took 6 days for the books to get from there to here. I am delighted to see it and to touch it and to be able to read it again. Now I must take it and show it to Tom Browne.
27 November Tuesday
Opening up three boxes of the Butter Book, which just arrived from Stuart the binder, really livened up a grey and dreary afternoon. The whole table down in the barn glowed with the bright yellow book cloth. We spent a few hours sticking in the frontispiece and numbering and packing them up again, but eventually the cold drove us out. The colour of warmth was not sufficient in itself to keep us warm.
24 November Saturday
We finished stacking the firewood. We had to shuffle some of the older stuff into more accessible places so that we can use it this year. And the new loads were too much for the lean-to, so we had to build a second lean-to up against the regular lean-to. It is all done now, and there is that good (slightly smug) feeling that comes with a good supply of wood, a feeling of being prepared, and sort of wealthy. Simon just turned on the sauna so we can soon go out & sweat our muscles back to normal. Last week, we had to walk out to the sauna in lashing rain and a wild wind, carrying both lanterns and umbrellas. The cold shower was unnecessary as it was easy to just step outside into the rain to cool off. We always have to leave Em inside the house as she brings rubber toys to the door while we are inside and we worry about being trapped inside by a rubber hotdog or her small welly boot.
23 November Friday
I am interested in the naming of bread here. White bread is always spoken of as A Pan of Bread. Or if it is sliced, it is A Sliced Pan of Bread. It might be shortened to just A Pan, or even Half a Pan. Sometimes it is A Sliced Pan. It is not as if one is buying this bread tipped right out of a pan. It might be a loaf (Pan) sitting on the bakery shelf, or it might be A Sliced Pan wrapped in waxed paper. Brown soda bread is called Brown Bread and the mixture is just shaped and put onto a baking tray before cooking. So I guess because it is not made in a pan, and the white yeast bread is, the word Pan is what defines the difference.
20 November Tuesday
This has been the second morning in a row that we have seen a heron out in the field. It seems to just be walking around, not looking at the ground nor up in the air. I am not sure if this is normal heron behaviour. It is interesting to watch it at such close proximity and for such a long time (15-20 minutes). I picked what MUST be the last of the sweet peas this afternoon. It seems amazing that there can be any left at all as we have had several hard frosts. These last few are a beautiful deep purple, but they have absolutely no smell. That must be the result of the cold. And we fetched one good load of firewood from Oliver Hackett today. He is recovering from broken ribs and a punctured lung, so he stayed quietly inside while we loaded up our trailer. We will go back for another load tomorrow.
17 November Saturday
Simon startled me this morning by announcing that we need to get a gun. It took me a few minutes before I could even ask why. He is convinced that with the world’s economies falling apart and the world itself ready to follow, we will need to start shooting rabbits so that we can eat them. I should have known his rationale for owning a gun would be about food. As much as I would like to get rid of the rabbits, I would rather we work a little harder on the vegetable garden.
16 November Friday
The little house has been cleared out, both inside and out. The cellophane flower wrappers are gone, as is the motorcycle, the washing on the line, the teddy bears, the blue towel. We understand it is up for rent.
14 November Wednesday
The (accused) murderer was up in court yesterday and remanded in custody, but also charged with several counts of driving without insurance and without road tax, so he is in jail for 5 months for that. I guess that is a way for them to keep him inside. He has had 36 various charges against him in recent years.
12 November Monday
The car has been removed from the little house. The motorcycle is still there but seems to be in pieces. I talked to a neighbour and heard a lot of quite horrific details….most of which I wish I had not heard. Apparently 40,000 euro was found in the house, which does support the drug dealing theories. The Garda Drug Squad was down from Dublin during the three days while the road was closed off.
11 November Sunday
We went down to the village for John O’Donnell’s removal at 7 o’clock. It was very cold and dark but the street outside his house was full of people standing quietly and talking. He had been in the house all night and various people had taken turns sitting with him. In the afternoon , people came to view the body and to pay their respects. As new people arrived in the evening, they went up the drive to the house. When they came down again, they joined the waiting crowd. After about an hour, the coffin was bought down the hill by six men. They stopped in front of John’s shop and business for three minutes. There was not a sound to be heard for those three minutes. Then the men continued towards the church. When they got to the bridge they stopped again and there was a change of some of the men carrying the coffin. I think someone was too short and it was making the walking difficult. Everyone walked slowly and quietly into the church. We each had a hot whiskey in the pub before we returned home.
9 November Friday
The murder cottage looks very bleak. There are cellophane cones still tied to the hedge outside. The messages on cards are still visible, but the flowers, which were inside the cellophane, have died. The teddy bears are still lined up in one of the windows. Just seeing them reminds one of how very young the dead girl was. The car and motorcycle are still in the yard. Everything seems to be in a sort of limbo since we left.
8 November Thursday
We are back from Holland. It feels like it has been a very long trip. We made our exhibition at Boekie Woekie and had a very nice celebration there, and then continued to Eindhoven to install CERTAIN TREES in the library of the Van Abbe Museum. The installation was harder and longer than we anticipated but it all looks very fine. The hard work was worthwhile. The library is such beautiful space. It is all so generously conducive to looking at books. Can a space be sympathetic? It is already difficult to remember the busy streets and the rushing crowds of Amsterdam’s Central Station. We are surrounded by the green green fields of Tipperary again and everything is very quiet. Everything smells terrible though. Joe just finished spreading slurry on the fields. It burns the back of the throat. And Emily returned from the farm in Mullinahone, smelling of old and horrible cat !@#$%^&*, and some new. It was awful to have her in the house last night. Today we had to give her a bath which set her barking in mad hysterical circles.
25 October Thursday
A very hard frost on the ground and the roofs last night. The morning was really cold. Last night, when Em and I went down through the meadow for her evening outing, we didn’t even need the torch because the almost full moon was so bright. This cold reminds me that we need to get a few loads of firewood in. Oliver Hackett who sells us our wood has fallen off a ladder and is in hospital. It sounds quite serious. Everything seems serious of late.
24 October Wednesday
Spent several hours organizing and numbering the prints A FEW CUPS and putting them into their beautiful boxes. We used the glorious sunny afternoon as an excuse to go take a walk in the Knockmealdowns. It was so peaceful and quiet up in the mountains. Hard to think of the violence from up there. The brother is out of Intensive Care and has been told about his sister. He remembers nothing, which is perhaps best.
21 October Sunday
A beautiful sunny blue sky day. The girl was buried yesterday. Her brother is still in Intensive Care. More and more details. The story is more horrific the more we know. The village is in shock, as the two victims grew up there. The family is all there. This kind of thing is unimaginable for such a small and close community. The Garda finished their work and opened the road on Friday night. It is difficult to pass the house.
20 October Friday
More news of the murder. Everyone speaks in hushed voices about nothing else. The young girl (20) was killed by her boyfriend (30), who then stabbed her brother(23) and ran to the neighbors to wash his hands. No one really knows exactly what happened. This is roughly how it is reported. There is a lot of speculation and a lot of theory. The brother is in Intensive Care in Cork.
17 October Wednesday
Back from a week in London and the Small Publishers Fair and loads of visits and conversations and art. The weather was wonderful but the tension of the city seemed very high, as though people were mostly ready to explode for any old reason. As we drove back from Shannon we heard news on the radio of a murder in Grange and as we got closer we realized it had happened in the little house just to the right outside our boreen. It was at Mary Corbett’s old house. Once we got near, we were stopped by the Garda who had closed off the road for forensic testing. People in white suits and special booties were all around and we had to turn around and take a longer route home. It is difficult to believe this. Already London is miles and miles away…
7 October Sunday
This is the third morning of complete fog. The world beyond our fence does not exist. There is no view. There is an eerie quality to the light. A deep silence goes with it. Even the dogs up the hill sound like they are somewhere else.
3 October Wednesday
I am still picking blackberries. They seem to be going on and on forever this year. There is a lot of variation from bush to bush. Someone told me there can be thirteen varieties growing all in near proximity to one another. Or was it thirty? Once they are all mixed up in my bag or my bowl, they are just blackberries. Around here, people seem very suspect of blackberries. They are all convinced that the berries are full of maggots and that the maggots will make them sick. It is nearly impossible to convince anyone otherwise, and as a result I never see anyone picking them. One bit of advice I was given is to soak the berries in hot water with plenty of salt in it before eating them. No wonder no one eats blackberries, and no wonder no one likes them.
1 October Monday
Em + I went up the boreen to pick some apples from Johnnie Mackin’s orchard. The trees are heavy with fruit and the orchard is really overgrown. Every tree has two different kinds of apples growing on it as Johnnie used to do a lot of grafting. There were so many nettles around the trees that I was stung nearly to death right through my trousers and my long sleeved shirt. I just went up there to fetch the apples as a break from sewing up the Envelope Interior Little Critics, but after picking the apples and getting stung, my hands were tingling too much to return to the sewing.
28 September Friday
We are just back from a week in Berlin. The great contrast was in starting the morning by moving through the busy city en route to the airport, and ending up by sitting down in Nugent’s bar in the evening. We really went down to the village just to pick up a few things like milk but decided to pop into the bar since we were there. The big excitement was that someone had finally won the local lottery. The jackpot had been going up week after week, and when we left, more and more people were buying tickets and so the amount got bigger and bigger. Johnny Griffin won the jackpot of 8400 euro. Johnny Griffin is a local farmer and he is already famous for his luck. Two years ago he was trapped up in his haybarn, under some hay or with his leg stuck or something. He spent a few days up in the hay unable to get out and with no one around to notice his absence. Finally, somebody stopped by the farm to see him. Johnny’s dog pestered the visitor by running back and forth and back and forth between the barn and the visitor, until Johnny was discovered and rescued. And now he has won the big jackpot! No one in the bar was interested in where we had been.
11 September Tuesday
I can’t believe how long its been since I have written here. Ever since the sun came out, the days have been different. Yesterday there was a big party for Paddy in the pub. Well, it was not actually for Paddy as he died last summer, but it was a party in his spirit, and there were raffles and prizes to raise money for a headstone for his grave, or for a plaque to celebrate his music….or both. As soon as the party idea was mooted, the hunt was on for the bikinis. Seven years ago for Paddy’s 70th birthday, Simon + I got into the idea of decorations in a big way and spent an entire day making dozens of Yellow Polka-Dot Bikinis out of paper, and paint and ribbons. The party back then was a surprise for Paddy, so we had to scoot into the bar in the afternoon and hang what looked like washing lines and the many many bikini bottoms and tops with clothes pegs all around the place. It was amazing to see the bar so festive + bright and the favourite song was sung again and again that night. I always thought the bikinis just got ripped down afterwards. I did spot a few at Christmas that year, tucked into various wreathes and decorations. So we were surprised to hear last week that Rose had rescued several lines of them. She spent a week trying to find them in her house. Yesterday we were there again, at 5 o’clock, draping the last two lines of bikinis, and carefully pushing the cups back into bra-like shape after being mooshed in a bag for so long. Simon made a large photo blow-up of Paddy singing with his hand cupped and his nails tapping on the table as he always did. The party went on and on, with singing and laughter until 2 am when Rose threw everyone out. About 20 people were still outside singing at 4 am.
21 August Tuesday
Three boxes of the Butter Book arrived at the shop and Simon raced down to collect them. We have to get our deliveries down there as the various courier services can never find our boreen, or if they do they get angry because it is so narrow and so overgrown. The bigger problem is that their mobile phones have little or no reception around here, so they can never even phone to ask how to find us. The McCarras are happy to receive things for us at the shop, as well as for other people from up the mountain.
We rolled the boxes down to the barn in the wheelbarrow. I try to keep one of the three wheelbarrows empty and tipped upright so that it will be dry and clean for transporting things like books, but there are never enough wheelbarrows and they always seem to be full, and of late, full of something wet…The book looks wonderful! It is called A LITTLE BIT OF BUTTER, and it is yellow, very yellow, with green blocking on the cover. We have produced it for Peter Foynes at the Cork Butter Museum. The prints from the old butter wrappers look grand. The whole thing looks grand. We can’t wait for Peter to see it….but a little bit of handwork and tipping in before it is ready……
20 August Monday
On with the sewing of GIFTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT. I was in the book barn, with the door open and Em lying just inside, when the fox went racing past…just inches from the door! I was running before I was even certain what I’d seen. Em was way ahead of me barking like mad down throught the meadow. I just managed to see the fox disappear into the trees. I have no idea why we ran, or why I ran. Em was never going to catch a fox and I have no desire or interest to catch one, nor for her to catch one. We usually only see the fox going through the field, never so close to us or the buildings. And we always speak of The Fox. And The Fox is always HE. This spring we saw a baby (cub?) in the boreen. It was as startled as we were, with a very large head on its very small body. Its presence suggests a fox father and a fox mother, and now a fox family. I would guess that it was the baby, now an adolescent, who ran by the barn and got us all excited.
15 August Wednesday
Rain Sun Rain Sun Rain Rain Rain…. Will this never stop? A lot of folding and sewing work in the barn. I finished sewing Harry Gilonis’s PEURON/PEARS, and Simon printed the cover for it in a very fugitive pink, almost like an embossing more than a colour, but a colour still… The cover for GIFTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT was printed too. Several pages for that folded, but a lot of hand work to be done yet….labels to be stuck in, rubber stamping, tipping in….an extremely labour intensive job this one. It keeps us out of the rain.
12 August Sunday The Stonethrowers Rally
We got up, had a quick breakfast, rang the shop to ask them to hold the Sunday papers for us and we struggled up the very overgrown boreen to be ready for the beginning of the rally. We were a bit early as the first cars were not being started until 9.47. There was a big group of people gathered up at the Shines, friends and family who had arrived at 8.30 prepared to be trapped for the day. We all drank strong tea and talked about the Rally. Most people were eating from a tray of very white triangular sandwiches. I was still trying to find out why it was called the Stonethrowers Rally. I thought it was to do with an old game which I believe entailed throwing stones down a road. I think it is still played in Kerry. This was not why this is called the Stonethrowers Rally. Instead, I was told that the first time there was a motor rally through the narrow roads of Tipperary, the locals came out and threw stones at the cars because they didn’t know what was happening. The symbol of the rally is a man with a blackened eye. Once the cars started coming, we stood well back from the road, as apparently they miss and often screech over the lawns, and into embankments. The cars came fast, one after another, as they were released from the starting point every thirty seconds. There was a loud and terrible popping noise from their exhaust. Simon and I left after a bit and walked over some fields to get to a different vantage point. And later, after coffee at home, we walked to another very dangerous turn to watch the third rounds. By this point I was quite sure that I hated it all, and Em and I were both frightened by the noise and the terrifying corner. If a driver had lost control there, we would have been killed. I decided to leave, but Simon, who had wanted nothing to do with it at the beginning, had become a huge fan and didn’t want to leave. The squealing and whining of the many motors was a 360 degree sound in our little valley. There was a shocking and a beautiful silence which descended when they finally stopped.
11 August Saturday
On the way to Clonmel this morning, we saw dozens of cars coming towards us, each with two men inside, and a black and white number on the windscreen. We puzzled about it a bit, and then forgot it until we were driving down the narrow lanes on the way home. We stopped and spoke to some neighbours outside one house. They were talking to a man named Shane who is a Marshall for the Stonethrower’s Rally. He explained to us that the big rally was on for Sunday, organized by the Tipperary Motor Club and apparently taking place here every ten years. Our roads were to be closed and completely inaccessible from 8.30 am until 3.30 in the afternoon. Shane called down to our house later in the afternoon with a full colour catalogue listing all 200 + drivers, and their navigators, and their kind of car. He also gave us a list of instructions and phone numbers for emergency evacuation during the race. The drivers we saw this morning were doing SCRUTINY: driving the roads with attention to learn the curves and the dangers. I guess the navigator makes notes to remind the driver along the way tomorrow. We are getting sucked into the event even though we have less than no interest in car racing. I love the word Scrutiny. I love that they are out “doing Scrutiny.” I have used the word Scrutiny more today than I have ever used it in my life.
9 August Thursday
A sign noted:
5 August Sunday
We had ten solid hours of heavy heavy rain last night. It never let up for a moment. The morning has been soft and drizzly. Walking down the boreen with Em, we were shocked to find blackberries ready to pick and ready to eat. It doesn’t seem possible that there has been enough sun for them to have had time to ripen. And they are several weeks early, maybe even a month early…..The ditches (hedges) are full of wild honeysuckle with the blackberries tucked in between. The smell of it all is amazingly sweet. And still the deep mud squelches underfoot….
23 July Monday
Another call from the Stationmaster at Waterford Station. We have not spoken for some weeks now. He said, “Hello Erica, I understand you’ve been ringing me again.” I said ” Oh really? Did I? and what did I say?”. We both laughed and he expressed his regret that it had not been him who answered the phone this time. Some months ago, a woman called to complain about the road being closed at the level crossing for an excessively long time, just in the morning while she needed to drive to work. Of course, that was exactly when the train needed to go by too. The Stationmaster assured her that the road was not closed for a minute longer than was necessary. The second time, she left her name and number. When he rang back, he got me. He knew immediately that he had a different woman on the line, as my voice was a dead giveaway. I was obviously not the woman with the strong Tipperary accent. I didn’t even know what level crossing was being discussed. The same woman phones and complains on a regular basis (he marvels that she doesn’t try to find an alternative route for driving to work) and she always claims to be me. So he always rings to tell me when I have called…
20 July Friday
More gloom and rain and gray and heavy skies. I keep trying to not have the weather be my main topic but it is increasingly difficult to ignore. Anything in the garden that has not been eaten by slugs is being eaten by the rabbits. I am sure I have said this before….but it is unbelievable that this many weeks can pass in summer with so little growth. One single mangetout has ripened, while the other plants just rotted from the base up. Marianne goes out at night with a sort of miner’s torch strapped onto her head to kill slugs. She is very energetic and ruthless about it and feels sure that her massacres scare away lots of others. I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe I am just too distracted by the fact that rabbits are very fond of coriander.
18 July Wednesday
During the months of June and July 2002, a packet containing six Potassium Iodate tablets BP 85 was delivered to households throughout the country as part of the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents. Our tablets expired in 2005. There has never been any further mention of these tablets, nor of a potential disaster. I couldn’t remember when they had first been sent out and started to phone some of the numbers on the package. No one could remember, but to a person everyone assured me that the pills were still okay until 2009. I very much doubt that these pills would save anyones life, but I appreciated all of the eager reassurances I received. It took two days to get the information that they had indeed been sent in 2002. I don’t really like the kind of research that I have gotton myself into for this new book, but somehow I am stuck with my own need to see it through.
16 July Monday
We keep hearing things on the radio and reading in the English papers about the way the English are dealing with their new smoking ban. I don’t remember hearing so much about the Scottish situation in dealing with it. We have so thoroughly accepted and grown accustomed to it here in Ireland, it is just normal. I can’t even remember how many years it has been since it began. The really big discussions all took place before the ban went into effect. Once it was law, everyone found a way to deal with it and the non-smokers kind of forgot that it was an issue, except when someone came down from the mountains or something and really hadn’t had to acknowledge it yet.
One Michael came into the pub shortly after the ban was on, and slapped his pack of cigarettes onto the counter. Rose took them away and said he could have them when he left. He cursed roundly, and then went out to his car to get a cigar, which he had “In Storage”. Rose bolted the door after him. After smoking the cigar halfway, he wailed and shouted that he was perished out there, and that she had to let him in as it was no way to treat a 75 year old respected customer. Later that night, another Michael came in, had 2 pints, and then went outside and smoked 10 cigarettes in a row.
15 July Sunday
Stefan Kurten and Jutta Haeckel just left….heading off to Kerry for fishing and walking and resting. It was good to have them and good to have a chance to catch up with Stefan. We figured it had been 5 years since he last visited. He and Werner stopped coming to Tipperary because they couldn’t catch any fish here. They could practice their fly casting out in the field, and they could go out early in the morning, and they could talk to any number of people about the best places and the best bait, and flies and whatever fishermen talk about, but the Suir and the Nore were just fished out. I understand it is much better now, but he was taking no chances and had no intention of getting out his gear until they got to Kerry. We were up in Dublin on Thursday for the opening of his show of paintings at the RHA. The exhibition had originated at the Museum Haus Esters in Krefeld. I gather it was larger in that venue but still, it was a fine number of paintings, and grand to see them all together. Being here gave him an interim chance to come down from all the work and stress of getting the show up, and by the time he left he was very energized in anticipation of the fish waiting to be caught.
10 July Tuesday
We just realized that we still haven’t finished the folding, numbering and packing up of FRENCH PASTRY. They have been on the big table covered with loose sheets of paper, and since we couldn’t actually see them we just kept working around them. Everything has to be covered with paper as birds fly in and it often takes them quite a while to get out again. I hate to have them shitting on the finished (or unfinished) books but I love to have the air in the building. Simon gave it a few hours work, but I just couldn’t stop with my pattern painting. I am trying to do some versions of the collaged envelope interior pieces, at a smaller scale and with paint. Each time I decide it is just a wretched waste of time, I get completely excited by another kind of stripe making and then I can’t stop. I have four different ones going at the same time, as I have to move between them to wait for the paint to dry. Today I have been wearing an old sweater that my mother knit for me, and the very raggedy sleeves kept dragging across and messing up my wet paint. Finally I changed the sweater, but I couldn’t decide if I was more annoyed at the raggedy sleeve, or at the fact that I am wearing a sweater, over two shirts, in July.
6 July Friday
Liam Harper telephoned. Liam Harper is the meter reader for the ESB. He telephones every once and a while, probably four times a year, to ask for a reading off our electricity meter. I have to fetch a chair to climb up and read the numbers and sometimes I have to get a torch too. He always jokes with me and tells me to be careful not to fall off the chair. It is always the same joke. I am sure he has never come here in person, even at the beginning. I have no idea what he looks like but I imagine a very large man sitting in his armchair in front of the TV with a cigarette and a big mug of tea, and a jumble of papers. On the telephone, Liam Harper sounds like a very big and very jolly man. He is probably slim and sitting at an organized desk, not smoking.
5 July Wednesday
I was trapped in the barn by a huge downpour, so I managed to finish the round cornering on my wind screen bookmarks. I made these for Sarah Bodman’s ongoing Book Mark Project out of UWE (University of the West of England). I believe this is her fourth series. She has a number of artists make an edition of 100 bookmarks for her and then these are distributed in various venues (mostly bookstores and libraries, I think). I ended up making a lot more than 100 because i had such a problem getting my rain right. My final edition, which I sent to her, has quite round drops of rain…it could even be snow or hail. The ones I have left are much more irregular….no doubt this is Irish rain at its most desperate. Simon and I decided to print them all with the windscreen wipers because I was unsure which I thought were best and really I loved them all. With this many proofs, I have bookmarks to last me forever…. The rounded corners on two sides really turn the bookmark into the windscreen. I am happy to sit one beside me as I read and then to look up and see it raining on my little windscreen and outside the house windows too.
Rain is definitely becoming too large a thing in my life.
Here is a picture of one of the markers:
3 July Tuesday
We still haven’t had a complete day without rain. We still haven’t identified the blue flower on the grass roof. We still haven’t completed FRENCH PASTRY. But we have completed our bathroom. We now have a sink for the first time in nine years. We have become so accustomed to using the bathtub for brushing our teeth that it is a shock not to. John Carney, our plumber friend from Clonmel, and Simon designed a towel rail which is also a radiator. John built it out of welded copper pipes, and hooked it up to the radiator entrance and exit pipes. It looks like a huge and rather wide ladder. We love it. In the winter, we will have warm places to hang the towels, but for now, it is just good to have places to hang towels. A little more painting, and carpentery, and we can stop this bathroom work….
2 July Monday
Simon sort of bullied me into starting this journal, and I resisted like mad, and then decided it was a good idea and that it would be easy to write a little bit each day, no matter how brief or inconsequential. Already a week has passed since my last entry, so I am not doing too well. And the rain is still driving us all mad. We have had wild and blustery mostly dry days for the last two days, but rain is still the main topic of conversation and rain still rules all of our activities. If I am down in the book barn doing something quick, and torrential rains start, I look around for something else to do until the rain stops. Sometimes an hour or so passes and lots of jobs get done before escape is possible. All of this makes for a kind of erratic approach to any activity, as constant interruption causes a constant need for re-directed energy. If we didn’t have our work spread out between four buildings it might be easier. Also, if our work wasn’t always and mostly about paper, it might be easier too. Wet paper is a pest. Clothes and skin and hair dry eventually but wet paper is a pest….
June 26th 2007
We are still glueing and folding the small publication of FRENCH PASTRY by Cralan Kelder. It seems like it is taking forever to finish it, but that’s probably something we can blame, like everything else, on the weather. Today is overcast and dull, but at least it is dry…There have been ten (or more?) days of torrential rain. The ground is soaked. The snails have eaten just about everything except the things that have rotted from never having a chance to dry out. And every time I look out a window I see rabbits hopping about dreamily. Someone told me that they don’t eat the vegetables and flowers, as they are quite happy with grass. I want to believe this. As for grass, the grass roof on the book shed is looking fantastic after all this rain…..it was so dry before that we feared it would never recover. There are loads of a beautiful blue flower up there. It’s not one I have seen before, or at least I don’t recognize it from down here. We can’t decide what it is and I think we will need to set up a ladder to go up and get a closer look.
Motor Car Owners
Tom Browne told me about the dances held in the village halls when he was young. he said the girls were always on the look-out for the men with wrinkles in the back of their jackets. The wrinkles meant that a man had arrived by motor car. Those who had traveled on foot or by bicycle were considered second best.
words and images ©Erica Van Horn 2007 – 2014