26 December Stephen’s Day
No one here ever mentions a Saint’s day with the word Saint. They speak of Patrick’s Day and Stephen’s Day. In Newcastle it has become the tradition to have a Vintage Tractor Run for charity on Stephen’s Day. It started with a lot of ancient tractors being pulled out of the barns and cleaned up for the day. Now there is a lot of activity about using the old ones. A few of them get used to drive to and from the pub, on a pretty regular basis. Simon was trapped in the village as the tractors set off, so he watched the whole procession as they drove away, probably to Ardfinnan on one road and back via another road. He had gone down to collect Veronica as she wanted to go and spend the day with Tom Browne and the Ring-a-link bus was not working today. We offered to take her in and to collect her later. It would save her a lot of money in taxi fares. She was especially eager to get in as today there were big races on at Leopardstown and her job was to run down the street to the bookies and to place bets on horses for Tom and another man in a wheelchair. When Simon returned from dropping her off, he met the Tractor Run on its return loop, so he watched the whole thing again. There were a fair number of vintage cars in it and some kind of old tank too. I felt quite envious that he had seen the Run twice and I had missed it completely. When I took a walk around later (without Em!) I found a paper plate with the number 27 written in black marker. There were two little holes above the number. Simon told me these plates were tied with string into the radiator grid in the front of each tractor. I drove into Clonmel to fetch Veronica later. None of their horses came in.
23 December Tuesday
We were very proud at how rigidly we are BOTH sticking to Em’s diet. I went back to the vet for a weigh-in today. We took bets before I left to see where her weight would be. On the 11th, it had been 21.2 kgs. On the 16th, it was 20.6. We were both sure it would be a good drop today, but she had not lost a thing! 20.6 again. I even had Tommie help me and re-weigh her in the hopes that I had done something wrong. Very discouraging, but I guess losing weight with no exercise is twice the effort. That first week the grams just fell off as she was racing around and walking a lot compared to being in kennels. Now she is living under partial house arrest. We still have not erected the fenced in structure inside the house. We have various methods of keeping her quiet and contained in the house, and she is hardly outside at all. I know this is not enough. I guess we are being selfish. The poor dog is so confused and does not understand why everything is different. No ball throwing. No walks. No snacks. I brush her often, but as a treat I think that offers limited appeal. Every night we were making elaborate structures to keep her off the couch at night. She got passed everything we made, so now we have given up. Jumping up, and down off a sofa cannot be good.
John Carney came today and replaced the pump on the heating system. Yesterday the stove man was here and did some electrical replacements but the pump had to be done for the whole system to work again. Five days without heat was enough. We were afraid we would have to wait until after the New Year as most everything closes down here for the Christmas /New Year period.
20 December Saturday
The heat is still not working. Simon keeps thinking he can solve it and the stove people never seem to answer their phone. These days you wonder if that means they have gone out of business. Now we have to wait till Monday even to pursue them. The post arrived today which was a surprise. I forgot that this is the extra Christmas push by An Post to get everyone’s everything everywhere. There will be a delivery on Sunday too.
18 December Thursday
We were off to Kilkenny today so we thought we would take Em in the back of the Volvo, as that was a restricted space and she would stay quietly there and sleep. Also, she enjoys being in towns where she can watch the people and activity from the windows. I think of it as her version of going to the cinema. We don’t have one of those metal grid things that keep animals from moving around the car, so Simon said he would make something. He made a little wooden frame and said there was absolutely no way she could get through that. We left her in the parked car with a bowl of water and her new car bed and the new barricade. About an hour later I returned to drop some shopping into the motor before lunch. Em was sitting in the front seat, behind the steering wheel. She had climbed past Simon’s device without dislodging it, and dropped into the back seat and squeezed though to the front. None of this good for the ligament, I’m sure. We stopped at Pollard’s and asked Kevin to make a little picket fence structure to put into the big room so that we can reduce her movements but still have her in the middle of our lives, as usual. We don’t really want to do it, but we know we must.
17 December Wednesday
Simon went to the bank to change some Yen into Euro. When the woman gave him the rate and the price for the money exchange, he asked if the fee should not be waived as he was over 60. The woman looked up his account details and said he was not registered for GOLDEN YEARS. He said okay, but Look at Me. Can’t you see my age by looking at me? She waived the fee.
Trying to stop Em from moving is giving us a lot to think about. When I took her out last night for her evening rush down the meadow, I had to shout to tell her to stop and not go down. The wild barking and the wagging tail stopped and she looked at me as if I had hit her. All joy evaporated. I stood there and wept as she had her quiet little pee and followed me slowly inside.
16 December Tuesday
We took Em in to the vet for her X-rays this morning at 9 am and picked her up later in the afternoon. Folke took us into a room and showed all of the x-rays and said that her condition is a Cruciate Ligament Tear. He explained that the cruciate is a ligament that crosses over the dog’s equivalent of a knee. We could see the wear on the bones as a result of the ligament not working correctly anymore. There are various options possible but for the moment we need to get her weight down. I had been doing well with this before we left for Japan, but one month at the kennels and hanging around in Alma’s kitchen put loads of weight back on. Fat dogs are more apt to get this ailment and if it is not solved the other leg will go too. The surgeon in Cork who specializes in this won’t even consider operating on a fat dog. So we have three weeks to reduce her volume and hopefully with the help of anti-inflammatory drugs and box-rest, we might not need the surgery. Box-rest is a scarey thing. Folke said she should be kept in a space no bigger than 1 metre 80 square. He said we should then carry her outside and put her on the grass to do her business. Em is far too lady-like for that. The closest to the house she would go is out behind the barn, never in proximity to the house and never in any one else’s sight.
11 December Thursday
I took Em to the Vet in the afternoon. She is still limping and holding her left rear foot off the ground whenever possible. I thought the medicine and the rest at Alma’s might have solved this by now. It is now more than two months of this limp. We must return on Tuesday for x-rays.
10 December Wednesday
We are back from one month in Japan. There is so much that could be said about that that I don’t think I can say anything. Maybe it will come later, but for now we must get over this jet-lag. I feel really ill with it.
6 November Thursday
Already the excitement and joy of the Obama victory is being absorbed into life here and gloomy predictions abound. The national news and our postman are grumbling about how he will woo all of the American businesses back from Ireland, and even more jobs will be lost here. Since the tax incentives are not as good as they were and the labour is not cheap and running costs are crazily expensive, many businesses have been moving out already, and not just the American ones. This is not being commented on. Already Obama is taking the blame, and he has not even taken office yet. In contrast, the small village of Moneygall is very excited. They claim a distant relationship with Obama’s mother. They are anticipating their village becoming a place of pilgimage for old and wealthy Americans who want to pay tribute to their President’s roots. They know that Obama will visit when he comes to Ireland, so they are happy to be put on the map just like Ballyporeen was elevated for attention by Ronald Reagen.
5 November Wednesday
There is just nothing more to say about the Obama victory last night. We have used up all of the words for wonderful. We stayed up until 4.30 in the morning watching and watching and listening to all of the results and discussions. Brian phoned from Chicago and held up his phone so that we could hear the crowds. It wasn’t like being there but it was pretty good. Nothing could be like being there, but I am so happy that this anxious feeling has finally lifted. This is a happy day.
3 November Monday
Teresa rang last night to say that the puppy had been claimed. Dessie, the man who is renting Mary Corbett’s house (The Murder Cottage), came by asking if they had seen the puppy. I knew he had a small dog, and I know what it looked like so I never even considered that this would be his dog. He told Teresa that it was his mother’s dog. What kind of mother has a pit bull as a pet? Then he told her that he had given it to his mother and then she decided that she didn’t want it so she gave it back to him. What kind of son gives his mother a pit bull terrier as a pet?
2 November Sunday
It has been a busy day and it is only lunchtime now. Em and I walked up the boreen and around. We saw Seamus and Teresa outside in their yard. They had a shiney brown puppy with them. It had arrived the night before and they were loathe to put it out onto the road. It was a friendly little fellow, obviously fed and cared for. We thought it might have been frightened by the halloween fireworks and run away from it’s home. Both of their dogs and Em ignored it and the cats were not interested either. Seamus kept moaning that he was hopeless about animals and that he would never be able to turn one away. He didn’t want another dog but how could he refuse. He and I put it onto a lead with a collar borrowed from Sandy, their little dog, and we walked down the road to ask at a few houses. The Lonergans were checking cows in their field and had no idea whose it was but determined that it was a pit bull puppy. My feelings for it changed immediately. We went futher down the road. Kenneth had been up a ladder painting his house a bit before going to mass. He had pulled on his work overalls, but now, on taking them off, he found the top of his suit jacket and his tie and shirt and shoes were all speckled with primrose yellow. His trousers were paint free. He didn’t recognize the dog. Seamus went further along the road to talk to some other people. Teresa had phoned around and they were to be outside waiting for Seamus so they could have a look at the lost dog. Em + I continued on our way home. We jumped into the car as soon as we returned to go down and get the Sunday papers. As I neared the new graveyard at Moloughtown, there were dozens of cars parked on both sides of the road. There was a small sign saying Funeral in Progress, so I slowed down and continued on down the hill. Then I met the entire funeral coming up the hill toward me. The hearse was driving very slowly and everyone was walking along behind it. I didn’t know what to do so I just stopped the car and turned off the motor and sat quietly in the car. The hearse moved over a bit and the people went over to the side of the road and sort of oozed around me. Em sat quietly in the back. The people were quiet. It was all very quiet. Just toward the end of the people, Kathleen O’Keefe separated from the crowd and ran over to my window. She said a bucket had been standing inside the church door to take a collection for the Clogheen Hospice. She had forgotton to take it with her. She asked if I could collect it and take it into the shop for her to pick up later. I said of course, and then I asked whose funeral it was. She said oh, it’s my sister, and dashed back to join the mourners. There was a great long line of motor cars following the people, and the village was full of parked cars too. It was a huge funeral. The collection bucket was right where she said it would be, so I took it to the shop, as requested.
30 October Thursday
Suddenly there is a buzz of excitement about the US election here. I have been sporting my badges and my bumper stickers for a long time now, but there has not been much discussion out and about. During the primaries there was a lot of Pro-Hillary conversation because it was understood that of course she would be a friend of Ireland since her husband had been a friend of Ireland. Even if it that was true, there was no possibility that she might have her own mind about things. The issue of green cards and the recent US clamp-down on illegal residents was the other main thing to be considered about any candidate. Simon has great conversations with the pharmacist who is always on line hearing every Obama speech and knowing every detail of the entire election. He told us this week that Paddy Powers (the bookies) were already paying out on bets for an Obama victory. I am too anxious to be that certain! Three women in the opticiens were all in a state and said if he does not win, then it is a fix. They said it cannot be like the last election otherwise the world cannot respect the USA on any level.
29 October Wednesday
The road is still closed between here and Grange. People are driving all over the place to get small distances. I met the milk truck on a terrifyingly narrow bit of lane up past Tullaghmeelan yesterday. It was supposed to be one week of closure for this work, but it is more than two already. Someone told me they had driven the equivalent of going to Dublin and back twice. And this man doesn’t even drive.
27 October Monday
The big move around is still going on down at the shop. Now there is a huge empty space in the middle as you walk in. I told Martina that they could have a dance in that space. She said it was all ready for THE SEIGE OF VENICE. I had no idea what that could be. She told me that it is a dance done with lots of people at a wedding party, changing partners and making lines. I didn’t really understand it but now I hope to be invited to a wedding where it happens.
21 October Tuesday
The car broke down yesterday. I think it was the accelerator cable. It was a lot of trouble. A very nice man helped me and I eventually managed to get down in to the village at about two miles an hour. I got Veronica and her groceries home, and then John gave me and two big boxes of books a ride home. He even carried them down to the barn for me. He looked at our new very square wood pile and asked if that was wood for fuel or just for decoration. Today the tow truck picked up the car and took it to Mike. I can’t think how many times I have broken down in that car.
18 October Saturday
A beautiful and dry mild day was forecast, so I went down to the shop to buy the papers and some undercoat for the door frame in the kitchen. Jack told me he had sold loads of paint this morning. Everyone is trying to do those last few outside, and open door jobs before the hard weather comes upon us. We got loads done outside. Simon cleaned out his wooden gutters on both the barns and the house, and we planted the sour cherry trees. I put the Sweet Williams into the ground. Simon’s beautiful new long and tall glass piece with the ‘eyelids/eyelets…oeillets des poetes’ sits on the windowsill waiting to somehow be incorporated into the growing Sweet Williams…..I don’t know what he will do with it exactly, but I hope the plants from the old man at the market take. It seems very cold to be planting outside, but the man said now was the time to do it so I did it.
16 October Thursday
The clock has stopped. Again. I don’t know if it is because we failed to wind it or because it has just stopped again. I spoke on the telephone with my mother and I mentioned that it was working. She was pleased. She and dad spent a lot of effort trying to get it into good working order before they gave it to us. Somehow our conversation got onto the dampness. I think I told her that the shoes in our closet had mould on them. She was horrified. I can’t really blame her. I am not too happy about it myself. She tried, in a very diplomatic and tentative way, to suggest that maybe we need a de-humidifier. I told her that we own FOUR de-humidifiers and that I feel my days are marked out by emptying the ones in the book barns and the two in the house….it is too bloody damp in this country. A summer without a summer has made it hopeless for anything to dry out.
15 October Wednesday
The cutting-out of the envelope interior ovals goes on and on and on. Simon attempts to do a batch of one or two hundred a day. I wish I could do them myself, but I need to stand on a small step ladder to get the pressure right, and even then, I am not as efficient with it as he is. I am preparing endless quantities of the envelopes….really sorting through my almost twenty year supply….I am really really tired of cutting off the little cellophane windows and preparing a great big envelope into what becomes a small piece only useful for about two ovals…..still, we are aiming for 3400 pieces for these two shows, so the cutting and sorting and cutting must go on.
14 October Tuesday
Lashing rain. Ceaseless. The Eircom man came down and fixed the phone line which had been knocked down by the tractor when Michael brought us manure. The phone man did not seem to care about the rain. He climbed the banking, went up and over the Galty Tower and into the fields and then went up a ladder. He never wore a rainjacket, nor a hat. He just pushed throught the branches and bushes and his sweater got stuck here and there but he didn’t care and he didn’t bother with the rain. Em and I took off to walk in what I thought was a lull, but it did not last, and we were soaked after our 5 km.
The clock on the mantel piece is still ticking. It started last week by itself and we have been winding it up regularly ever since. It is not A Grandfather Clock, but it was my grandfather’s clock. The tick is very companionable. Last time it started to function, it lasted for about two weeks and then quit. It has been about 7 days now.
13 October Monday
Suddenly everyone seems to be painting their places. The hairdresser’s premises in the village is now a bright bright white. It is startling in its whiteness. Kenneth’s house is being painted yellow. A soft yellow with a lot of white in it, but bright. The little house belonging to the Late Late Shop O’Keefes has also been painted white, but this is a quiet white. And almost immediately, they have new tenants installed.
10 October Friday
I went to visit Tom Browne in the residential home. My timing was poor as I interrupted his favorite television program. He didn’t turn it off, but he lowered the volume and let his eyes flick over it every once and a while as we chatted. This show is about forensic science and it shows police from various departments in the USA. They solve every single crime that comes along, and the solution is always in the attention to tiny, tiny details. Tom Browne watches this program often. He watches the re-runs of it too, which is why he was not bothered about being interrupted today. Among other thing, we talked about the surprise of Bill Cooney’s death. Apparently, Tom Browne was not surprised. He said he had known, for as many years as he’d known Bill Cooney, that Bill Cooney would end his life by his own hand. He was most interested to tell me that he had spent a long time figuring out how Bill could have hung himself in that new, single story bungalow. Bill Cooney was a tall man, so a door would not have worked. Tom Browne thought and thought and he finally figured out that Bill Cooney would have opened the little trap door into the attic space and looped a rope over a beam and down into the house. Tom Browne was pleased with himself. He had never visited the scene of the death, but he managed to solve the question he had about the suicide while sitting in his wheelchair in Clonmel, in between episodes of Forensic Invesigation.
9 October Thursday
Walking around with Em today in a fine drizzle and the promise of more. I bumped into Seamus and Teresa who I haven’t seen for ages. Seamus has a huge scar over his eye where he had a slip in the mud and a fall against the bad gate. I am not sure if it was a piece of the gate or a thorn that ripped through his eyelid and up into his forehead. Teresa found him lying on the ground after hearing him call out her name weakly. It was sort of a bleat. His head was covered in blood. She called some neighbours to help. (It was the same neighbours to whom the murderer ran after his horrible attacks.) They got him to the hospital where the doctor told him that he was within a breadcrumb of losing his eye.
8 October Wednesday
An absolutely beautiful autumn morning, with blue skies and bright sun after a cold and dewy start. We ate lunch at the small table outside the kitchen door. It was so hot that I was happy and comfortable in a sleeveless shirt, and I even needed sunglasses. Every bit of sun like this feels like a bit of the summer we didn’t have. Unfortunately, it did not last for the entire lunch. Just as we started our coffee, the sky clouded over and the rain poured down. It was grand while it lasted. The rest of the afternoon followed that pattern, bouncing from sun to rain to rainbows and more sun.
6 October Monday
The best thing about Clonmel in the autumn is the smell of apples which fills the whole town. The big cider producers Bulmers, or Magners (they go by both names: one for the North and for Britain, and the other for here) have huge production facilities on the outskirts of town but for some reason there are still these long narrow places, with high sides, where apples get dumped and maybe weighed right in the middle of town. The access to these dumping places is down a narrow alley so it can’t be easy for a big truck or a trailer load of apples to be delivered there, much less to be collected and taken away again. My theory is that Bulmers keeps this In Town Delivery Place for the apples just to remind everyone that this is cider country. It is a wonderful smell, but such a pity that the cider they make is so homogenized and un-appley. By the time they are done with it it could be made of anything. The very good part is the smell of the apples on delivery.
2 October Thursday
Working away on putting the covers onto FORTY FUNGI. It is rare for us to do a second edition of something but now here we are doing it for two books at the same time. The other one is Colin’s BLACK BOB, which will have a pale green cover this time instead of the pale blue of the first edition. It is a beautiful colour. FORTY FUNGI is part of the new series of books with wiggly flaps, drawn by me. The first edition was in a case binding. This one is smaller in dimension but feels fatter and very satisfying for the hand. The cover putting on is going well. Just perfect work for a another grey day.
30 September Tuesday
There is a Baby Gloomy Donkey now. I don’t know where the other three adults have gone, but the Baby and Mother stand around together looking as gloomy as ever. How can a baby look so miserable?
26 September Friday
I think the National Ploughing Championships are finally over. They were held in Cuffesgrange this year and the traffic was extraordinary. The road from Clonmel to Kilkenny was a huge mess all week. That is about 50 kilometers of backed up traffic. People were caught in five hour delays. All movement around Clonmel was a mess, so Kilkenny must have been even worse. I have never been to the Ploughing Championships but they are obviously very popular. Loads of people drive over from Kerry, and Cork and other parts west, and north. There are exhibitions of livestock and machinery, as well as about 300 kinds of competitions. I gather they do plowing with horses, and without horses, and with tractors, and all different age groups compete for titles. The television and radio were full of reports and the people I talked to who actually went said the biggest issue this year was the dust. The ground was so dry that everyone was choking with the dust. After this summer of nearly endless rain, it’s incredible that dust even exists here, much less that it is a topic of both conversation and discomfort.
23 September Tuesday
We just learned that Bill Cooney is dead. He hung himself in his house on Thursday and he was found on Friday. The removal took place on Sunday and he was buried on Monday. It all seems very sad, both the suddenness of it all, and the taking of his own life. He always seemed such a cheerful man. He drank way too much. Perhaps that got him depressed. He was from up the Nire. I think maybe there was a wife, and some sons too, but he had been living on his own in the village for a few years now. He came up to get a door from us one day. It was a door that we got when the butcher shop was being re-done. They were throwing out the door and we thought it might fit our shed, but it didn’t. When Bill Cooney mentioned that he needed a door for his garden shed, we offered him this door and he happily took it away. While he was here, he looked carefully at everything we were growing. He loved gardening. After that visit, he would often leave old books about gardening in the bar for me to borrow. When I was finished with them, I would give them back to Rose and eventually he would collect them and then leave me another. He gave me one to keep. It is called HARDY FRUIT GROWING, and it belonged to his mother. It was often hard to understand him, because of the drink and because of his lack of teeth. I liked the fact that we communicated with these books about growing things. Bill Cooney loved to dance. He would jump in his car with a friend and head off to a dance in Durrow which is probably and hour and half drive from here. He should never have driven that far. He should never have driven anywhere, as I think he was never not drinking, and he never drank just a little. He liked to dance so much that if there was music, sometimes he danced around the bar with a sweeping broom. Bill Cooney was tall and thin, and very graceful. In the shock of hearing of his death, we were stunned to find out that he was only 65. I just assumed he must be in his late seventies. He wrote a note before he hung himself. It ended with the words “And God bless you all”. The priest read the note out loud at the funeral and ended his talk by saying,”And God bless you too, Bill Cooney.”
20 September Saturday
There are loads of blackberries this year. I am told that might mean that it is going to be a very cold and long winter. I am picking as many as I can. Some go into the freezer and some go into apple and blackberry pies and some we just eat by the bowl fulls. I try to pick some every day, and I am finding several places which replenish themselves rapidly and regularly. So many of the great bunches that I see are just too high for me. I am too short. The nettles and the thorns make the reaching and stretching very tricky. It is amazing that after such a wet and gray and cold summer, we can have such plenty. The plums and the apples really suffered. My washing on the line often suffers too as all of the birds join us in eating the blackberries.
12 September Friday
Another bit of snack reduction for Em has been the cutting up of the Pig’s Ear. She likes a bit of chewing at lunch time, but her earpieces have been getting smaller. For a while I used the garden shears to cut them into two pieces. Now I am trying to cut them into three or even four pieces. It is not easy and sometimes I can’t cut them at all. They are horrible tough things. Whenever we are in Cork, Em knows exactly where we are when we turn onto a street with a pet shop. There are three pet shops which she knows and which we cannot pass without her dragging us in. She knows where the Pig’s Ears are stored in each place. She likes to sit in front of the cages with gerbils and hamsters and birds and to watch for a while. I always feel this is a fair trade for her having to spend the day on a lead and in the car.
11 September Thursday
Em has been told to lose 3 kilos. Actually, we have been told that Em needs to lose 3 kilos. Her ideal weight would be 17 kilos. It is not easy to imagine her that much thinner. The vet seemed to think that the reduction of snacks would be enough to force the weight loss. Dinner could stay the same. Snacks are the issue. Snacks are the problem. There are no longer two morning biscuits. There is one morning biscuit broken into two pieces. There are no longer two evening biscuits. The evening biscuit is broken into two pieces. The dog can count but so far she doesn’t seem to notice the smaller quantity. Luckily she is already out of the habit of going to the bar. Many years ago, Rose used to slide a digestive biscuit under the little door in the bar. Em loved this and considered it complete magic. She would lie down close to the crack under the door and watch for hours just waiting for another biscuit to whiz out. Sometimes two or three would appear in one evening. And Bunny used to reach into his bag to bring out something leftover from his lunch, usually a cookie or a KitKat, and he would feed it to her very slowly, crooning softly to her all the while. We put a stop to all of those sweet treats a long time ago, well before Bunny died. Em still keeps an eye on that crack under the door even though nothing has come out of there for many years now. If anyone in the vicinity opens a bag of crisps, she is beside them immediately and she rests her head gently on their thigh to encourage them to feed her. Yes, it is good that she rarely goes to the bar these days. Besides her other exercise I am trying to take her out onto the platform for some regular chasing and fetching. I am not a very strong thrower so I find throwing downhill makes the ball or toy go further. She then has to run both downhill to fetch it and uphill to bring it back for more. The current throwing favorite is a bright pink hedgehog with its face chewed off. It is kind of clunky and not as easy to throw as a ball. Twelve or fifteen good long downhill fetches and she is ready for a rest. So am I. It gets boring. For some reason, I insist on shouting On your mark, get set, GO! every time I throw.
24 August Sunday
Em & I thrashed our way up the boreen to Johnny Mackin’s to check on the apples in the orchard. I had to walk most of the way with my hands straight up in the air just to get through the nettles and the blackberries. Everything is so overgrown. I wore full waterproofs as protection against stings and thorns as much as against the rain. Foolishly, I forgot to wear my waterproof trousers outside of my rubber boots. By wearing the trousers tucked into the boots, all the water off the wet vegetation rushed right down and into my boots. My socks were soaked before I was halfway there. The nettles in the orchard were over my head and the few apples on the trees were not ripe yet. No sun. There will be a good crop of plums in a few days, if I can get to them before the birds do. I continued on to the churchyard to make a photograph of the little carved head. It represents either an abbott or a bishop. I love his very small carved ears. Several years ago, we had a plaster cast made of it. We have had lots of interesting conversations about it recently with various visitors. I have been encouraged to be in touch with the people at the County Museum and with those doing an archeological survey of the area. Part of me feels that this little head is a secret just to be enjoyed by those of us who know it is there. I don’t want it to be removed and put in a museum. I don’t want it to be stolen either, nor do I want it to crash to the ground. Dick, who is from the Conservation Department of Clare County Council, told us it was probably 12-14th century, and that the mortar holding it in place was very poor. I think that has been what finally pushed me to make some phone calls on the head’s behalf.
23 August Saturday
The newspaper and radio are proclaiming that this is the wettest summer in Ireland since records began being kept about such things. On one day, Dublin boasted more rain falling in one hour than usually falls in the entire month of August. I am not sure if we are supposed to feel cheered about all this. A record is a record after all. I am wearing wool socks as I write. This will go down in my personal history as the summer that never arrived. There are lots of promises, predictions, and hopes for September’s weather. It is being called Indian Summer. In New England, Indian Summer comes later, in October, after the first chill of autumn has set in. Then you are given back a bit of summer. I don’t think you can have an Indian Summer if you never had a summer at all.
19 August Thursday
As I finally insert the finished SHORT-CUTS concertinas into their little archival cellophane envelopes, I wonder yet again why we seem to keep making things which we feel need to be put into these envelopes. Environmentally, it is wasteful and probably unnecessary. Of course, it is all unnecessary. If we made a version to float away on the internet that would be that. We can’t do that. We need to make things that we can touch and that can be touched by others as they read and look at them. Perhaps the plastic envelopes have to do with my life in this dripping valley.
At 2.45, the sun came out. At 3 o’clock, the sun felt hot. I left the lower barn and lay down on the bench just outside the door. The bench was as dry as if it had not been raining off and on all day. At 3.20, the clouds covered the sun and I went back inside to work. At 3.45, the rain was so loud on the roof of the barn that I had to turn the radio up louder. I am really sick of this.
18 August Thursday
Dead mouse in the wine cupboard. A good chunk of hair and flesh was stuck to the bottle I pulled out. It is not a fresh corpse. There is no smell at all. Still, I wonder what sort of job I can promise in exchange for Simon cleaning it up.
15 August Friday
Rose’s was so empty yesterday that she went off to take her dog for a walk and left us there in the bar. A man came in with a sticker that said CANCELLED in red letters. He put it diagonally over the poster for the Vintage Rally. No need to explain further. Soggy field.
13 August Wednesday
Ever since Sally was here, I have been looking for ants. I can’t remember how the subject came up. We spoke about ants as an integral and normal part of summer. It was then that I realized that I have never seen an ant at Ballybeg. I am not sure if this is true for all of Ireland, or maybe just here? I don’t really remember many ants in England either. Do I remember any ants in England? Not just many but any? Ants are not really something that I think about much, except when they are being a bother. That image of a long line of ants trailing into a kitchen or out of a pile of sand exists as a cartoon image for me, even though I know it used to be real. I remember the ants in NH coming in and taking over the food in the dog’s dinner bowl. Ants are no longer part of my life. No flying ants. No black ants. No soldier ants. No red burning biting ants. No ants.
12 August Tuesday
Still folding the SHORT-CUTS, although my sections are all finished and I am waiting for Simon to do the last two folds before we flatten them under weights and put them into their little envelopes. He is terrible about finishing things like this. I insist that we finish an entire edition of something in one period of time. I hate to come back six months or a year later and to try to get back to that exact fold for that exact paper, or to hunt out that same thread. It is like having a stutter to just keep starting again. For me, it is a waste of brain power. I guess more people do this than not these days. If you make a small number of things and you print them off your computer, and especially if you don’t number them, you can come back and print and fold and sew another ten, twenty, or fifty at any moment for the next ten years. This is the ideal of Print on Demand, especially on a small home-made scale. If I think about it for a while, it is the ideal solution for us. Since we are not printing on the computer, that part is not an option. We could pile our printed things up and fold and sew slowly over time, but new projects are always coming along. Many years ago, we pulled out a very long well wrapped parcel of Lassus’ Les Pins. It was at least twelve years since the first lot had been produced and no one had ever finished the production. I spent one day trying to learn and perfect the complex folded concertina, and then I gave up. We threw the parcel, carefully re-wrapped, away. As upsetting as I found the waste, it was less upsetting than finishing someone else’s unfinished work from all those years before. I will push Simon to finish this small concertina soon. (As I write this, there is hail beating on the roof.)
11 August Monday
The weather is still abysmal. If you leave a car for even a few minutes it is important to wind up the windows. The downpours start and stop so quickly and with so little warning. The forecast for the week is rain. Cloud and rain. Sun and rain. Cloud and cloud. Tonight there is a 24 hour deluge promised. Can’t wait.
10 August Sunday
A day of Stonethrower Rally entrapment. We could hear the Rally cars going round and round. They use some kind of special fuel that makes their exhaust pop like fireworks. We walked across Joe’s field for as far as we could go and when we got to a road where they were zooming past we turned and continued a meandering kind of perimeter walk. Overall it wasn’t too noisy in our valley. We are very protected down here, but next year I may make a point of being somewhere else for the day.
9 August Saturday
Em and I went round for a walk and forgot about the Stonethrower men and their day of Scrutiny. I should go back and read what I wrote about them last August, but I am so annoyed with their return that I don’t want to remember how exciting I found it all last year. There are all sorts of red and white plastic tapes and arrows, first yellow arrows, and then red ones, to anticipate a corner. Some corners get a big white sign with big black letters saying BALE. This is to remind whoever is on bale duty to leave one, two or four big bales of hay (wrapped in black plastic) there in case someone misses the corner and crashes. I gather this happens a lot. A lot of fences and walls get smashed into. The cars seem to lose control sometimes even when they are going straight. When I went down to the shop in the village just before 7 this evening, I was amazed at how many cars where there. Everyone was at Mass. The church must have been packed. Since lots of people are to be trapped at home from 8 am tomorrow, there is no possibility of anyone getting to Mass. I assume the new priest must have been doing the service so that would be a big draw too.
8 August Friday
There is a new priest in the village. He was in the bar tonight, talking to everyone and admiring the picture of Paddy on the wall. Brendan did a very fine imitation of Paddy singing “Do What You Do Do Well” for him. Rose got out a photo album and started to show all sorts of pictures to illustrate the local history. I would not have known he was a priest. He was wearing a green and white striped shirt and jeans and drinking pints of lager. I thought he was someone’s relative who was in a great mood as he was visiting from Dublin or somewhere.
7 August Thursday
Simon went down to the pub tonight. He had a chat about wind turbines with the brother of the murdered girl. We never remember this brother’s name. We all remember Eddie’s name. It was Eddie who was stabbed nine times, and who no one thought would live. Now Eddie is back and alive and everyone treats him with great respect. Everyone asks Eddie how he is doing, and everyone tries not to stare at the huge wound around his neck. Anyway, Simon had a chat with one of Eddie’s brothers and came back with news of the Stonethrower’s Rally. It is back again this Sunday. How did I get the idea that it only happened in this area once every ten years? For some reason the men who went around to inform people about it missed us. Our boreen looks so rough and uninhabited, they must have thought no one was down here. We are invisible, especially to people with new cars.
6 August Wednesday
I drove to Kilkenny in the rain and got there just in time to catch the train to Dublin. The whole station was full of people waiting to go. No one wanted to wait outside in the rain. When the train pulled in the cars were lettered A, B, E, D, E. My ticket said C, so I decided the first E was probably doubling as a C. I got in and asked a woman if this was C. She said it didn’t matter, and that I should just sit down. I looked for my seat which was number C32. There was an elderly man sitting in my seat so I moved along to another seat. Another woman told me that the seat numbers don’t matter, and that we can just sit anywhere. The conductor came to punch our tickets. I asked him if it was okay for me to take a later train. I was booked for the 15.05 return. He said fine. I said, It’s okay then? He said if you have a ticket you can get on any train. It doesn’t matter. The whole train smelled like bacon. Everyone was talking at top speed and top volume. It was impossible to read or to sleep. Nothing matters.
2 August Saturday
The white flowers of the McGrath’s field of potatoes are beautiful. It is an enormous field (maybe two acres, maybe five, maybe ten?) and the blossoms are so plentiful and luscious that it looks like a flower garden, rather than a vegetable crop.
1 August Friday
I was warned that it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway. I placed a huge pot of sweet peas over near the fence and I put some fine strings up to help them to start to climb and tumble over the fence. (Actually it was linen bookbinding thread which was all I could find in a hurry because my garden twine had disapppeared) It all looked lovely for about a week. Joe’s cows spent a few days in that field and ate everything. I now have some very short plants left in the pot. I don’t know if they will ever recover. The cows have eaten the linen thread too.
31 July Thursday
It is a big effort not to mention the weather. It is imperative to get my mind onto something else. I spent some time in the barn making the first folds of SHORT-CUTS. It has been a long time coming into being. It was my mother who first asked me about TWITTEN and about SNICKET. She remembered those two words, from Hastings, and from Yorkshire, and she wondered if there were other words like that, meaning the same thing and equally local. I only knew a few, mostly from Derbyshire (like JENNEL and JITTY and GINNEL). I started to ask friends around Britain. They all seemed to know at least a few words. Many of the words overlapped and were used in different, and quite widely separated places. I spent a lot of time trying to make an orderly explanation of where which words appeared. It got really confusing, so eventually a list of the words felt sufficient: A collection of local terms for the short-cuts and ways through towns. In America, I think they would all be called alleys, but these ways are different and were never wide enough for cars. They are very much for people on foot and for a quiet and more direct way to move through a place. Simon came along and helped me to finally resolve the list and what we have made is now a little concertina of the wonderful words. I have no doubt there are more, but this is as many as I collected over this few years. I simply had to stop somewhere.
30 July Wednesday
Two nights (and a lot of daylight hours) of solid lashing rain. The ground is sodden and the puddles are enormous. Breda and I managed a rapid walk around without even needing our rainjackets this morning. We met Pa and Peggy at the entrance to one of their fields. Immediately the conversation went to a discussion of the rain and to the huge number of SHALLYKABUKIES seen. They all exclaimed and commented as to how they were seeing vast numbers of Shallykabukies and in places where they had never before seen a Shallykabuky. I had no idea what they were speaking about. I had to interrupt to ask. Shallykabukies are the little snails with yellowy striped shells, which I had noticed were quite plentiful after rain, but I never knew they had a special name. It must be a word from the Irish, so I will have to find out. No doubt my phonetic spelling leaves a bit to be desired. Even misspelled, it is a grand word.
29 July Tuesday
We have had a small brown wren inside for most of the day. We chased her around for a trying to catch her gently to put her back outside. Wherever she was, she would swoop and rush and suddenly be on the other side of the room. We closed doors to keep her contained but she was able to whiz throught the smallest cracks. Each time we thought she was gone, she would reappear rushing out of a cupboard, or down from a high shelf. We ran around for quite a while and finally we gave up. Every window and door was open and ready for her departure, but she didn’t want to go. Simon named her Nuala Quirke, which is his most recent favorite Irish name. When we mention Nuala Quirke, Em rushes out the door barking with excitement.
24 July Thursday
We were down in the pub at the end of the afternoon. The whole family of the murdered girl was there. We had heard that the trial had ended that day and that The Murderer had been sentenced to life for the murder of the girl and to 15 additional years for the stabbing of her brother. The trial had only begun a few days before and The Murderer had begun by pleading Not Guilty. The police had 100 witnesses lined up for various degrees of observations, witnessing and charactor assessments. One friend told us that she was number 79, and didn’t know when or if she might be called to go down to Cork. The very next day, the murderer changed his plea to Guilty for the murder. The next day after that, today, he pleaded Guilty to the stabbing assault and the whole case ended immediately with his sentencing. The entire family was in the court, but then there they all were in the bar waiting for the 6 o’clock news as if it would be news to them. There was a lot of rushing in and out of the toilets and from the outside smoking areas, and finally everyone was gathered along the bar (several people deep). The news of the trail and the sentencing came on. The whole bar was completely silent. There was no cheering nor any cursing. I was worried that the whole lot would go wild. I was wishing that we were not there. Instead, the whole family just moved outside as a group, and they all lit cigarettes. The father joined them a few minutes later. He had missed the whole thing as he was in the toilets.
21 July Monday
We just learned that this part of Tipperary is called Iffa and Offa West on some old maps. Great words. They sound completely made up. We must find out more.
7 July Monday
It is four weeks of rain, grey skies and generally unsettled weather. I am in a foul mood. It is hard to keep thinking that this is allright. There are droughts and heatwaves in other places. I am wearing wool socks and sweaters. There are wet dishcloths and wet walking gear hanging everywhere. Nothing is drying. I refuse to turn on the heat, but the endless damp is making me crazy. What are we doing here? Last year was like this and we thought it was a freak. To have it again is just too much. This will be the second year in a row that summer clothes are not an option. Most of the vegetables in the garden have rotted, but ironically I have my best crop of salads leaves ever. That should cheer me up, but I feel rather determined not to cheer up. I went down to the shop for the post and for a few errands. I complained to, and with, everyone I saw down there. The postmistress outdid me. I asked her if she was cycling down in these deluges (yes), and I also asked how her driving lessons were going. I asked if she had managed to BEAT THE UNACCOMPANIED DRIVER DEADLINE. (This is how the papers were headlining it.) This was the wrong question to ask. She exploded, and went off into a rant about the injustice of it all, and how in the world was she to learn to drive if she couldn’t drive on the roads by herself, etc etc etc. I interrupted her to say that that is normal, and that in most countries, it is illegal for people to drive alone without a full license, and in many countries being accompanied by a licensed driver is not even enough, but you have to have a fully trained driving instructor with you. She didn’t listen to any of that and continued raging. For a short time, I forgot my own wretchedness. Then I went outside and it was pissing down and I wondered yet again what in the world I am doing here.
4 July Friday
The good news is that Em has lost more weight. Not quite another kilo, but she has dropped from 21.20 to 20.50. When we arrived at the vets’ she raced to stand on the scales. We used to have to drag her there. Not so good news is the Ear Mites. She has been shaking her head in a quick manner which causes a flapping and snapping of her ears. The snapping noise was so loud that it would wake us up in the night. The vet said she has an infestation of mites and the right ear is badly infected. We are doing daily clean outs and we will go back next week. The really scarey thing is the lump on her leg. The vet is worried about it so I am even more worried. When we return for the Mite inspection, the vet will check the lump again and then she may have to do a biopsy.
2 July Wednesday
The rain is just LASHING down. Just now the sky has gone dark and the wind is wild, but sometimes the sun keeps shining as the rain comes down. The fennel has been beaten to death. We have a few hours here and there without rain, but then it comes again. There were twelve straight hours of rain on Sunday night. Everything is looking greener than ever. There is a completely unreal glow on this world. As I dash up and down to my room, I try to keep remembering to empty the water from the top of the postbox. We have a large plastic box with a snap-on lid for the post. There is a big rock inside it to keep it from blowing around and another rock on the top to keep the lid from being lifted off. After a good rain, the raised sides of the lid turn it into a big flat water dish for Em.
29 June Sunday
We spent the afternoon in the printing shed. Simon is working on a small print of Jonathan’s cigar cutter. When we visited Corn Close, he saw it sitting on the desk. He made a little rubbing of it with a soft pencil and then put it back where Jonathan had left it. Now two printing blocks have been made. I was drafted for the first printing which Simon did in light blue, and then we lightly coated the area with silver thermography powder. My job was to hold the printed and powdered paper close to a very bright halogen light which I had turned away from my face. It was still very bright and very hot. I have special goggles of dark glass over clear glass. The dark part can be flipped up. To see if the powder had beaded up yet, I moved each page into the bright sunlight. Doing one page at a time, it was slow work but it was very satisfying. The brown cover folder has a bit of thermography on it too, but that went a lot faster. The printing shed is tiny. It is perfect for one person and maybe for another to move pages or to do what I was doing. When Emily insists on lying in the middle of the space it becomes an impossibly small place.
28 June Saturday
There was a squeaking noise near the tool shed. I walked over and looked around but I could not see anything. A few hours later I heard it again and looked more carefully. Feathers were sticking out a crack of the old corrugated metal front. The feathers were moving around to accompany the squeaking. It didn’t sound like any bird noise but the feathers were definitely bird feathers. I fetched Simon who took a crowbar to the edge of the cladding. The trapped bird flew out and away. It was a young Bluetit. We now have a curl in the front of the shed. It will take some hammer whacks to get the metal to lie flat again.
23 June Monday
There is a woman trapped in her car which is underneath a tractor or some kind of very big farm machine. The postman just came and told me that. They were going in opposite directions. The accident is down by Liam Boyle’s house on the Knocklofty road. That’s all he knew. We can barely think of anything else.
22 June Sunday
Torrential rains started on Friday night and continued all night and all day on Saturday and all Saturday night. If we had been somewhere else we would have been in trouble but somehow the water all finds a place to go. The light today is weak, not bright, almost as if it is a bit watery still. SOME ALTERNATIVES TO FLOCK is finished and wrapped and boxed. We spent a few hours sorting through boxes to find out which books were out of print, or almost out of print. I am painting my birthdates, again and again.
21 June Saturday
I found out why the young calves are drinking from these various feeding machines, and why they are separated from their mothers. I thought the separation was to make them strong and brave, and independant. The real reason is that both of these Joes are running dairy farms. The last thing they want is for a mother cow’s milk production to go down the throat of a baby calf. Instead, the calves are fed on some kind of formula to fatten them up and to get them growing good strong teeth, so that they can start eating grass. (Do cows have teetch when they are born?) If the formula is potentially more fattening than regular milk, I really must stop Em from drinking it. She doesn’t need any more fat. Now that her hair is shorn, it is very difficult to believe that she lost a kilo. I must be more rigorous with her diet.
18 June Wednesday
Tom Smoke is dead. He was trapped in a burning apartment. He was from the Nire and he had a house and some land out there. He sold off some land and went to live in town for a bit of excitement. At first it was some woman that he followed there, but then I think he stayed for the company and for the variety of town. He lost his license at one point, and spent some weeks in Limerick Jail. He came out raving about how great the food was and that it was served right to you three times a day.
Tom Smoke called every woman Mary. It was alright if your name really was Mary, but if not, you had no choice. One whose name really is Mary is known as Mary the Halfway, because she runs the bar called The Halfway House. It is sort of equidistant between Clonmel and Dungarvan. Tom Smoke went in there one day all bloody and Mary the Halfway asked him what had happened. He said he had fallen down. She said “Ah well, Our Lord had three falls before he died. There’s no shame in it.” Tom Smoke answered, “Yeah but Our Lord didn’t fall off a Honda 50.”
Another time he ran into some Garda in Limerick who stopped him because they recognized him. They asked his name and where he lived. When he told them, they asked why he was 45 miles from home. He said he was meeting a girl. The Garda said, “What? All the way over here? 45 miles from home? Aren’t there any girls where you live?” Tom Smoke said “If you lived where I do you’d be over here too.”
Tom Smoke’s name came from cadging cigarettes years ago. He did not want to buy a whole pack because he didn’t want to smoke them in the morning. He would get a smoke off someone in the bar and then buy them a drink in payment.
After the funeral, there was a whole evening down at The Hidden Inn with people telling one Tom Smoke story after another. He had great long sideburns which flared out at the bottom, and long thin hair. He had a look like no one else in this decade, and a way of living in this time as if it was another time too.
17 June Tuesday
There are a lot of new young calves around. I must ask why they are taken from their mothers so soon. One Joe has a red tank which can be pulled behind his truck or the tractor. It has bright pink rubber teats all around it, at just the right height for the baby calves to suck. The other Joe has a blue plastic container which hangs on the side of a gate. This too is at the right height for the calves. He has a smaller number of calves and they push to drink from the single row of teats. In their excitement, there is usually a lot of milk spilled on the ground. Em sneaks her head under the gate to steal the spilled milk. When she does this, the young ones back up and stare at her. I don’t know if the staring is with disbelief or just with interest.
15 June Sunday
The first haying of the season is finished. It has been several days, and late into the bright nights, with the sound of the big machines circling and circling through all of the fields around us. As soon as one farmer’s fields were done, another’s fields would be started. The various machines, tractors and picker-upper things and baling machines follow each other around fast and as if they are choreographed. When it all stops, in every direction, there is a grand silence over everything. And for now everywhere looks manicured. Some of the fields are chewed down to lawn-like evenness by the cows and others by the haying. Both walking through and viewing from afar, we wonder where the rough edges have gone. It is the disheveled quality that we miss.
12 June Thursday
As suddenly as it was everywhere, the cow parsley is now gone. The blossoms are gone, just leaving their skeletal structure. Now the hedgerows are fulls of wild honeysuckle. Some kinds are pink and yellow and some are white and yellow. It is all so heavily perfumed that while walking the very narrow and overgrown boreen, I feel dizzy with the smell. The elderflowers have just blossomed too. Their creamy white flowers are so big and so bright, it is as though the landscape is covered with polka dots. I am all ready to make my yearly supply of Elderflower Cordial. I have my bottles and my lemons and my labels (the same label I have been using for years, but this year Simon scanned the drawing and printed it with a green tone. It is lovely.). The recipe is out on the table. I am waiting for a bit of bright sun. I am told that if the flowers are picked on an overcast day, the cordial will taste of cat pee. I am willing to wait for the sun to reappear.
11 June Wednesday
Em has been in a nervous state for the past two days. Joe’s cows are in the field adjoining our land. Whenever they are there, she becomes very protective of her world. She dashes across to the fence and rushes at the nearest cow or group of cows. After they scatter, she lies down in the grass on their side of the fence. Before her haircut she was very visible in the high grass as her hair floated around her like a fluffy bunch of blossom. With her newly shorn self, she disappears a bit. That is partly because the grass is so long, but partly because all of the big white fluffy bits are cut off, and from a distance she reads as more black. Her whole point seems to be to lie very very flat and still, presumbably so that the cows won’t know she is there or at least they will forget, and then they will try to come closer and then she can leap up and scare them away. All of this has to be done while she is still rushing back and forth to keep track of us as we go between the barns and the house. It is hard work for her to keep track of everything and everyone. Last night she collapsed into her bed at 8.00, while we could still hear the cows munching loudly outside. The bad aspect of this cow duty is that sometimes she lets the cows come right over to her, and then they lick her. We have never been able to understand why she lets this happen when most of the time she is so agressive towards them. The smell of cow saliva is not very nice but she wears the odour with great pride.
10 June Tuesday
I forgot to mention the other thing I saw in Cahir yesterday. THE WAREHOUSE OF WONDERFUL ART has re-opened. It is only a summer thing, probably because the windows are missing throughout the building. I think it was once a grain store. It sits on the opposite end of the bridge from the Cahir Castle. At Christmas, there are usually Christmas trees sold from there. Each window has a plank of wood covering about a third of its opening. There is no glass. For the summer, a painting is displayed on each plank, in each window, four stories high. I think that is about 16 windows (or maybe its 20?). That’s at least 16 paintings one can view from the road while driving past, or from the pavement across the road if one is walking.
9 June Monday
I went to the Super-Valu in Cahir today. It was very busy so I had to go to the far end of the car park. I had forgotton about the plaster Madonna who stands at the corner of the car park, to the left of the bottle banks. She is just off the tarmac, raised up on a pedestal, where the hedges meet. Maybe I had forgotton about her because the bushes had grown over her for a while. Someone has just done a very careful job of trimming the hedges up to and around her. She has her own little green aura.
7 June Saturday
We are scoring, folding, glueing and pressing and packing SOME ALTERNATIVES TO FLOCK, John Bevis’ new book of poetry. It is a nice job to return to as an escape from the garden or from other things. The finishing work does seem to be going on for a long time. Perhaps because we are only doing an hour here and there? It is lovely to work with the doors open, the birds so noisy and busy, and the dog snoring.
4 June Wednesday
Em had her yearly haircut today. As always she was excited to get to the vets and to find the cat in his bed under the shelf. The whole place is full of smells and excitement. She rushes to be everywhere at once. We cut through the back rooms to Debbie’s Grooming Shed, and all her enthusiasm disappeared. She tried to take a quick right for an escape. She hates the shower and the shampoo and she hates sitting there getting clipped, but once she is captured, she accepts defeat and sits quietly. She now looks ridiculous. She has gone from being a huge fluffy sheep dog, to being some sort of sleek terrier kind of dog with huge pointed ears and a rat’s tail. The beautiful plume is gone. Last year I thought she looked like a fat seal. This year she is a less fat seal.
3 June Tuesday
We have been back for a week, but I just have not been able to write yet. Going away makes for such a pile up of THINGS TO DO. There are the things which were left and now need to be dealt with. There are the lists made en route. There are thank you notes to write and messages to return. There is the garden. Best not talk about that. The garden seems to be a mess. I gather there was a cold east wind and a fair bit of rain while we were gone. A rabbit, or the slugs, decimated quite a lot of the small things which I planted out in a rush before we left. Maybe they were still too small? It was so cold that the grass did not grow.
We had wonderful weather for our walk in Yorkshire, and for the extended trip to revisit Corn Close in Dentdale . We were in a tiny band of good weather, while most of Britain was in torrents of rain. We ended our first days’ walking, which took us over Sutton Bank and onward, with a terrific evening of dinner and drinks at Shandy Hall. We explored the gardens before dinner and the house and its collection after dinner. Since Laurence Sterne was born in Clonmel, the walk became a pilgrimage (of sorts) for Simon and I. Before we left, we tried to find something to take from Clonmel to Patrick at the museum. Sadly, the best thing we could find was a stick of Clonmel rock with an image of the West Gate (out of Irishtown) on its label. The gate has a poorly carved likeness of Sterne on it. This is not visible on the rock’s label, but we know it is there. Now that I am back, I have given myself the job of finding out as much as I can about Sterne’s presence in Clonmel. I will make a list of everything I can find out. Before we left I went to the library to get a copy of TRISTAM SHANDY. There is only one copy of it in the library, and it is not for circulation. Reference only.
13 May Tuesday
When we take our stuff to Legaun for recycling, we are required to have a label on each bag. The bags are clear plastic and contain clean and dry plastic and paper. For two years we have taken the bags of paper and plastic, along with other stuff for recycling, and we have taken our pale blue self-adhesive labels every time. We have never once been asked to put labels on the bags. The labels are wrinkly now. They have been through the laundry in various pockets a few times. We are always ready to use them, but we never need do. I think they will wear out before we are ever required to use them.
12 May Monday
The cow parsley is out. The grassy sides of the roads are getting that frothy look that only cow parsley can give them. As more and more blossoms appear, it becomes truly luxurious. The boreen is so narow that the drive down to the house becomes a natural car wash on a damp day, or a dewy morning. As I walk, I like to pick a large piece of cow parsley and wave it about in time with my stride. This morning I was making large horizontal figure eights as I walked at a fast pace down the hill. While I walked and lashed my cow parsley through the air, I sang a whishing kind of chant. Maybe I shouldn’t call it singing. It is FWEE HAH, FWEE HAH, FWEE FWEE FWEE HAH. I seem to be able to chant this forever, and I can speed it up or slow it down. It is the same tuneless chant that appears in my mouth every year when the cow parsley appears. I was a bit surprised to find myself being watched over the hedge by a local farmer this morning. I did not say hello for fear of having to explain myself. I just waved my cow parsley at him and kept walking & chanting & lashing….
10 May Saturday
There is a new tenant in Mary Corbett’s cottage. (The Murder House. The House That Nobody Will Ever Live In Again. The House That They Will Have To Tear Down.) This new tenant is outside puttering about all the time. He seems to be a real do it yourself kind of find it and fix it man. His car has a droopy bumper, so he poked two holes in it and laced some string through the holes. The strings are attached to something under the bonnet of his car. When the bonnet is closed the strings are tightened and the bumper no longer drags on the ground. I am interested each time I pass to see what he is doing or what he has done. Em is interested because he has a puppy.
8 May Thursday
We were having some trouble with the broadband again, so after trying this and that, Simon called the company in Clonmel. It seems the whole complany has been sold and the new owners and their office are now based in Waterford. While trying to find out the name for the new company, Simon was told that: “It was bought by the guy who owned it.”
7 May Wednesday
Sign in the cafe in Cahir where there is a juicer and a price list for smoothies and juices but the counter is pushed up against the wall and the fruits and vegetables on display are either fake or disturbingly old:
ORANGE JUICE freshly squeezed orange juice
APPLE JUICE freshly squeezed apple juice
CARROT JUICE freshly squeezed pineapple juice
5 May Monday
The little hut is still in the high field. It is still a surprise every time I see it. A lot of things are a surprise in that field as it’s ground level is about 2.5 metres above ours. it is not uncommon to be sitting down in the house and to feel like you are being watched. A cow or calf looking over the fence can look right into the window, and they often do. I asked Joe about the little hut. It is there to provide shade and shelter for some of his sick calves. They are in that field as a form of quarantine as they have some kind of lung infection. The ones who have recovered are in an adjoining field. They leap and play and have shiney coats. The sick group look pretty miserable and they lie down a lot.
30 April Wednesday
I spoke to Kenneth while walking with Em. We chatted about this and that. I said I had not seen the Gloomy Donkeys for a while and asked where they were. As they move from field to field, every once and a while they end up back in their owners own fields. He told me that these are not just any old Gloomy Donkeys, but that they are very special French Donkeys which their owner breeds to sell. He says each donkey sells for 2000 euro. He told me that the man also has a Llama. I feel depressed by both of these pieces of news.
29 April Tuesday
A booklet came in the post today. It is titled PREPARING FOR MAJOR EMERGENCIES An Introduction, and it comes from the Office of Emergency Planning. It covers Animal Diseases, Fire, Flooding, Nuclear Incidents, Pandemic Influenza, Hazardous Chemical Spills, Explosions and Suspicious Packages, as well as Accidents at Sea. There are tips for planning ahead, first aid, and useful telephone numbers. The fat shiney booklet is printed in both Irish and English. If I were doing an update on GIFTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT, this would have to be included. I guess I will put it into the cupboard with the post-nuclear fall-out Potassium Iodate tablets, and hope that we never need any of it.
28 April Monday
Em has lost a kilo. I am very pleased with this as I have been working hard to feed her less. Everyday I grate a fresh carrot to go with her dinner. She will not eat a carrot whole, but loves it when it is grated. Sometimes I do an apple too. The vet said the raw vegetables and fruit are good fibre for her and that she can have as much as she wants. The amount she gets is limited to my boredom factor. Some of these big fat carrots take a lot of grating and my arm gets tired. A few times I have stopped paying attention and sliced a good whack of skin off my knuckles. I rarely do the grating without thinking of my mother. She hates grating and she hates graters. For many years she has kept an old and very dull grater in the back of a low cupboard. The grater is stored in a clear plastic bag with a twisty tie holding it shut. Since it is so difficult to get out, she never gets it out. Since it is so old and dull, it is very very hard work to grate anything. She is terrified that she will grate her fingers and knuckles while using it. It is much more likely that she will hurt herself on an old dull grater than on a new and sharp one. She will not believe this and continues to not grate anything. All of the knives in her kitchen are quite dull too.
27 April Sunday
Joe has put a little metal hut in the upper field. It is open on one side and I think it holds some form of feed for the young cows in the field. It was in another field further up the boreen, and now he has moved it down here. I had just become accustomed to seeing it there as I walked or drove along. For several weeks, it was a surprise each time I saw it. Now it is a surprise again as I can see it from our table inside the house. It is a little bit reminiscent of Ulrich Ruckreim’s shed in Clonegal as it is made of grey corrugated metal and a rust coloured metal structure. Of course, his building was really taking after this kind of farm building, but it is now working in the opposite way for me.
25 April Friday
The moon must be full-ish as it seems very bright when I walk through the meadow at night with Em. Each night, while she barks and chases, I have taken to peeling the shiny brown bark off the the birch trees down at the bottom. The freshly exposed areas of white bark really glow in the soft darkness. And the apple trees are all beginning to bud and blossom. Of the newly planted trees, Bloody Butcher has the healthiest looking and the most blossom.
24 April Thursday
Two skinny teenaged boys came into the bar. They asked Rose to change their two euro coin into two one euro coins. They asked if she would open the pool room for them. She went to fetch the key and while they waited, they read the results of the LOTTO from Fourmilewater. No one had won the jackpot, but there were five people who had won thirty euro each. The last two names had Scotland written beside them, instead of Newcastle, Goatenbridge, Ballymac, or somewhere else local. The more pimply of the two lads shrieked “SCOTLAND???!” The man nearest to them at the bar turned his head slightly and said, “Yes, Scotland. They came over to play the LOTTO.”
21 April Monday
The primroses are blooming all down the boreen. As we walked down in the morning, we noted how many there are and how lovely they are this year. We comment on how many there are and how lovely they are every year.
19 April Saturday
The starlings are back. They are building their nests in the book barn. Every year, they make a mess carrying their sticks and bits of grass in and under the roof. Some years we have put bits of chicken wire into the gaps to try to stop them, but it never works. It is nice to listen to the babies making noise up in the rafters as we sit and sew our books. It has become one of the sounds of spring.
13 April Sunday
A dead cow in Joe’s farm yard. It has that legs up in the air but at an impossible angle look. The look of a cow that was dragged into that spot by man or machine. No cow dies with their legs like that. Em and I both examined it, she at much closer range than I. I hope it is gone tomorrow.
12 April Saturday
Em seems particularly skittish around the cows in Joe’s fields. As we go up the track which cuts through she makes a huge circuit around to the left to avoid them. They have a lot of new young blood in the herd and they all rush over to the fence to see her. I think it is the black and white colouration which excites them. Today she got all the way up next to Healy’s stone wall. She couldn’t go over it and some of the cows had run up the track to get closer to her. She was trapped and I had some very frisky cows to convince to go back down to join the others. As soon as there was a gap, she raced out of her wall space and ran up the track. Even with the mad jostling of these teenaged cows, it all seems so calm here after the streets of London. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that these other places exist, even when I am so recently returned from exactly there.
10 April Thursday
I was driving up from Cork on Tuesday. It was the return trip from the airport, after the London installation of CERTAIN TREES at the V & A. Simon had alerted me to the fact that the Volvo was about to reach 300,000 miles, but I couldn’t get as enthused about it as he seemed to be. As I drove and the digit nine kept appearing in more and more places on the odometer, I did find myself getting excited for the car. I was approaching Fermoy, when Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance came on the radio. I turned it up loud. The music reached it’s crescendo just as the 299,999 rolled over to 300,00. I doubt anyone will believe that it happened exactly like that, but it did. It was a marvelous moment. All I could do was toot the horn a few times and keep driving. It is a pity that Simon had to miss it.
25 March Tuesday
The wind is still really cold and cutting. It is impossible to be outside without a hat and gloves. Even though it looks like spring with the light and the long days and the growth and buds and flowers every where, it feels colder than it did in January. On one hand I feel like I should be working outside getting the garden ready, but in reality, we are back to the hunched shoulders running between buildings and getting trapped inside by lashings of hail and sleet. Most of the country is still on extended Easter Holidays, so there is a deep quiet over everything. The mouse is still dead in the airing cupboard. It still stinks.
23 March Easter Sunday Complete with Miracle!
Simon came rushing round the corner with the news that the clematis has buds. I didn’t kill it! This is good news. I think it will still be a pretty scrawny display this year, but at least I can walk around that side of the house again.
22 March Saturday
There is a dead mouse in the airing cupboard. I can’t see it but I can smell it. I am avoiding the search as I don’t really want to find the rotting carcass. I am hoping the heat will make it dry out faster, and the rotting smell will go away sooner. As I came out of my studio this afternoon, there was a small dead bird on the step. It was one of those little naked bird corpses. Too young to even have any feathers or fuzz. I haven’t seen a nest just above the door, but there must be one.. I had to move that body right away as I couldn’t bear the idea of coming quickly out the door and stepping right on it.
21 March Good Friday
Every bar in the country is closed today. This and Christmas are the only two days of the year when, by law, no alcohol may be be sold or consumed. Some people drink a lot on the Thursday night to compensate for a day they will miss. Many stock up to be able to have a drink at home. There are still a lot of people around here who never ever drink in their own home so the pub is a necessary outlet. Rose is glad to have a day off and usually sleeps late. Most restaurants close. Actually just about everything closes, banks, post offices, schools, and just about every business that feels like it. It is the beginning of a four day weekend.
20 March Thursday The Vernal Equinox
I think the moon is full tonight. It looks like the moon is full tonight. Em went to take a drink from the little low water butt from which she likes to drink, and she jumped away in surprise because the reflection was so bright.
19 March Wednesday
Back from New Hampshire, New Haven and New York and there is probably too much to say about any of it so I shall say nothing. Well, almost nothing: the eleven foot high pile of plowed up snow in my parents yard was just too big not to mention. We rode on the bus back from Shannon and the Irish landscape was so very green that it came as a bit of a surprise in the early morning light. The concrete houses are always a shock after New England’s wooden houses, and the ever increasing number of trampolines with net cages around them (so that the children can’t jump off and break their limbs) really disturbed me from the height of the bus.
3 March Monday
Big fat snowflakes flying around in different directions and resting for a short time on the grass in between the daffodils. The hills across the valley have turned all white several times but then it all disappears again. Basically, I would call this a sunny day, but the snow confuses things….
29 February Friday Leap Year Day
I am avoiding walking around the side of the house where the clematis vine is. A few weeks ago I gave it a severe pruning. I was very positive about it when I did it, remembering some article that said it was okay to cut to knee height, if the plant was really woody and out of control. Later I felt that maybe I waited too long between reading the article and performing my massacre. I am now taking the long route around the house in the opposite direction each time I go to the compost heap. I am giving the plant time to sprout something green and hopeful before I look again.
27 February Wednesday
A beautiful, mild day here. I kept thinking I should go outside to do some work, but instead I kept finding myself up and down to the barn and that was really pleasant. Not hunching the shoulders and rushing to get back indoors again is a newly discoverd pleasure after the long winter days.
26 February Tuesday
The issue of drivers with only a Provisional License seems to be out of the news for a minute. The government passed a decree saying that the old system of people driving nearly forever with their Provisional License was finally to end. 30 June is the end of any leniency, but the change has been in process for several months now. Outrage has evaporated. For many years, it has been possible to get a Provisional License and then to just drive. Legally, the idea was that one could drive with a licensed driver in the car for two years. After that one would go for a Driving Test. On failing the Driving Test (which almost everyone did: it is almost unheard of to pass it the first time), one simply drove away. Alone. The next step was to apply for a second Provisional License. This allowed the driver to drive alone for two years, without a licensed driver in the car, and to get covered by an insurance company. The insurance company was not bothered if not a single lesson had ever been taken. After another failing of the test, one could get a third Provisional License. In theory, after failing the test for a third time, one was not supposed to get another Provisional License. For women, it was easy to then change their name to their married name (if they were married) and to have another 6 years of Provisional Driving without passing a test. At last count, there were approximately 420,000 people driving around with only a Provisional License. If that is the statistic, I have no doubt that there are a lot more, maybe even double that. The new law says that once one gets a 2nd Provisonal License, one must take and PASS the test within 8 months. A Provisional License holder can ONLY drive with a licensed driver in the car. I wonder if any of this is really being done, or if it is just on paper. It looks like a fine effort to clear the road of unofficial drivers. A lot of older people just gave up their cars rather than to have to take a test which they feel sure they will fail. I am also curious to find out if the insurance companies are still granting full coverage to Provisional Drivers who drive alone, especially since that was never legal in the first place…..
24 February Sunday
Another hunt came through today. How I hate them. Some of the dogs were running through the yard and Em barked like mad at them but they just ignored her as they were so set on their course. She was distressed to find herself so completely ignored. The dogs and the people all have such arrogance. It ruined a great afternoon. Well, it didn’t ruin it completely. They did go away and eventually we forgot they had been here. The winter sun going down was beautiful and pink.
23 February Saturday
Some swans flew low and loudly past in a v-formation. I assumed they were geese but Simon insisted they were swans. We reckon they were of to join the crowd of swans in Ardfinnan. They made an amazing sound, not as much like honking as geese, but very loud and echoing through the valley well before and after they were here. Liam Boyle came down with two other men in a car. They were counting badgers. Or accounting for badgers? Liam lost a few cows to TB so he is worried about the possible rise in badger life. This year, we have seen less badger activity than ever. I haven’t even seen a dead one. Liam Boyle is the man from whom we got the slates for one side of our barn’s roof. He let us take them off a falling down building on his land. He would not accept money, so we made him a cake. Whenever he comes down, he nods at the roof, and says “Roofs holding up okay”.
22 February Friday
Before I came here, I had never heard the name Pa except for someone who was a father. Here is is a normal name. Mostly it is short for Pascal, but also for Patrick.
2 February Saturday
Simon came back from the bar in confusion. The discussion there this evening was that yesterday 1 February had been the official beginning of spring. He said, but this is still winter, isn’t it? And they all said no, the first of February and the snowdrops mean it is spring. Spring is February, March and April. Summer is May, June, and July. (We don’t know where this leaves August.) Now the complaints are beginning about how it is very cold for spring….
1 February Friday
The evening walk has become another ritual for Em. Usually between 8 and 9 o’clock, we go out for the Last Walk. It is not really a proper walk. I just walk through the meadow, down one path and circling back up the other. She goes racing off in several directions, barking like mad. The darker it is, the more excited she gets. Actually she gets excited before we leave the house. At this time of year, I put on my boots, and a coat and scarf and hat. As soon as the boots go on, she rushes to finish whatever dry bits are left from her dinner. I think she scatters some onto the floor earlier just so that she can have this last minute frenzy. It is imperative that she eat them all before we go out. By the time I pick up the torch, she is hysterical. I give it the first few turns to wind up the battery, and the barking starts. The rest is a wild rush into the night. Tonight was a little different as there was some snow left from the mornings fall. It was wedged in the long grass, not a proper covering, just clumpy snow. For my New Hampshire feet, it is nearly snow. For my New Hampshire ears, it is snow. It’s in the tufts of this Tipperary grass, and I am wearing rubber Wellington boots. They are good for rain and mud, but hopeles for snow and ice. I walk down the steep bit of the field with a lot of careful tiny steps. I have slipped and fallen on a surprise bit of mud here more than once. This little bit of snow is hard, and icey. I am glad that my feet know exactly how to move through it. I feel very happy and somehow nostalgic about this small presence of snow. I wish there was a bit more. I stand for a while at the bottom of the meadow with my torch turned off. Em has gone off up the boreen. I hear her barking, and I can tell she is at least halfway up. The sky is clear and full of stars. I am alone. I am quite happy to move my feet back and forth, just crunching the snow and looking at the stars. I wish I knew more than three constellations.
31 January Thursday
We are interested in the change of shoes. This used to a country of dusty shoes. Now, of course, more people are wearing trainers. And everyone has more than one pair of shoes. Houses are surrounded by gravel, or cement, or tarmacadam. Most people never get anywhere near to soil or mud. There is no dust to gather on your shoes unless you are working as a plasterer or doing something with cement. No more lace-up leather shoes with a healthy coating of dust.
27 January Sunday
Not only did the local priest get moved over to Ballyduff, but now there is no Mass on a Sunday morning in the village. People are very distressed. They can either go to Mass on Saturday night, or they can go over to Mass on Sunday morning in the next village, which is called Fourmilewater. It is only possible to go there if you have a car, or if someone gives you a ride. For us, the issue of Sunday morning and Mass is only about getting the newspapers. If we wait too long to go down there, the whole shop is full of people and conversation and it can take ages to get out of there, and the cars are everywhere, and there is a lot of mayhem. We usually try to go early, before the crowd, or at least when they are all inside the church. If we wait too long, until they have all come out of church and gone home again, all of the newspapers will be gone. Timing is still important, as there is no shop in Fourmilewater.
23 January Wednesday
We went to the Indian restaurant in Clonmel last night. It is upsatirs, off the street level, and it is now called ZAM-ZAM. Before Christmas, it was called THE RED ONION. Two years before that it was something offering “Mediterranean” food. Before that it was JAVID’S, and many many years ago it was MARIE’S, serving sort of Irish heavy home food. Ever since it has been JAVID’S, it has had the same tables, chairs, placemats, dishes, and glasses, no matter whose restaurant it was. Javid himself ran it at first, and then he rented it out to the Mediteranean types, and then to THE RED ONION. Emir was the young man running that. He was Pakistani, and very politically aware and smart, and he had a great wine list. The food was good, and we always had good conversations with him because it was never very busy. Emir and his partners opened a second resaurant in Kildare, and then decided that Kildare was enough, or better, so now Javid is back running his own restaurant. The food is not quite as good, but the wine list is the same. Emir took the pictures down from the walls when he left, but otherwise it is just about the same, and the discussions are still very interesting.
14 January Monday
The gloomy donkeys are back. There are four of them and they seem to move from field to field in the neighbourhood and then they disappear for a while. They always look miserable and they make a mournful baying sound. I always understood that one donkey alone was a bad idea as it would be lonely, but that in pairs they were happy. These four never look happy. They never romp nor move quickly or lightly. They seem to show no interest in dogs or people who stop and look or speak to them. Horses rush over to a fence to see what might happen and cows can get excited and rush around. These four are gloomy. They were in the meadow beside the murder cottage at the time of the murder. I would like to say that that’s what made them so gloomy but I would be lying. They were already like that.
13 January Sunday
I finished my small book RECENTLY READ, and since it is in the press overnight I cannot look at it and think about what it is and if I like it and if it is right. I can of course think about it, but I would rather be able to see it. It is not much more than a copy of a list of books which I have read. It is a list of books as I read them, but only those read in bed, and only those I remembered to write down. This list is in an old notebook which my grandmother gave me. The paper in the notebook is very dry and crumbly. I think I chose this notebook because I am not sure that it matters if I keep a list of what I am reading, but for as long as the paper lasts, I will have this record. That might be long enough.
12 January Saturday
Since I wrote about the rain, it has not stopped and the Suir, the Nore and the Blackwater have all flooded. Places where there were fields are now lakes. Roads are also part of these lakes. Cars try to drive through the lakes and they die in the middle of the lakes. It is all a mess. In the moments when the rain lets up, everything is glowingly green. That’s when it is easy to forget how awful it is underfoot. I was supposed to go to Fermoy on Friday, but the bridge was closed, and most other routes into the town were impassable. If all of this rain were snow we would be in very very deep snow right now. The Irish have a lot of different words for rain, but around here the only word for this kind of rain is Desperate.
9 January Wednesday
Fantastic, lashing, unending and pouring rain and wild wild winds. None of it has stopped since last evening. Large portions of the country are without electricity. We have water gushing down the boreen. The water is the width of the boreen and it moves as if it is a river. I doubt the sage plant which is in its direct path can survive this much water.
A bit in the newspaper about Father Condon, the local priest, leaving to take up his new post as Parish Priest in Ballyduff Upper in Waterford. There was a going-away party for him where the people of Newcastle “presented him with a wad of notes on behalf of the Parishoners….”
8 January Tuesday
Em and I walked up the boreen again this morning because I had to look for my grey hat. When we walked up there yesterday through the mud of the old Mass path, I must have dropped the hat out of my pocket. I realized that it was gone when we reached the road at the top, but I wanted to keep going and not go back the way we’d come. We were only half way up there today when I saw my hat dangling from a pricker bush. The thorns had pulled it out of my pocket. It was wet but mud-free. There are a lot of primroses in bloom up there….way too early. I finished the walk thinking of Jackson Mac Low’s piece IS THAT WOOL HAT MY HAT? This wool hat is, yes, my wool hat and I am happy to have it back.
6 January Sunday
Just heard that the village of Ballyman call their hurling team the Tallyban. THE BALLYMAN TALLYBAN. And I thought the quick and crazy names always came out of Dublin! They have a way up there of giving everything a nickname. There was a recent announcement that the Natural History Museum was to be closed for four years for repairs. The man on the radio gave it’s local name as THE DEAD ZOO. There’s a sentimental statue of a nymph in a fountain which is called THE FLOOSIE IN THE JACUZZI, and the digital clock which was placed in the river to count down seconds to the millenium was quickly dubbed TIME IN THE SLIME. I wish I could remember more right now, but I must make a fire and get some heat into this room.
4 January Friday
A fantastic walk in the mountains with Greg and Breda yesterday. it was bitterly, bitterly cold with a wicked east wind but the walk wove in and out of sheltered and not sheltered places, and we were moving fast all the time. We came through a seam in the Knockmealdowns and dropped down to Baylough, ending up in Killballyboy Woods. We just made it back to the car before the darkness fell. Today, we are hobbling about with shockingly stiff muscles. The climbing was tough but not that tough. I think the stiffness must be more the result of so much exertion in such cold wind.
1 JANUARY 2008 TUESDAY
The first day of a new year! I have been thinking about the stone walls of Waterford all day. I don’t know if they are particular to all of Waterford, but they are certainly visible in the area around the Nire Valley. The dry stone walls there all seem to be made with flattish stones which are lined vertically, rather than horizontally. We saw just one as we were driving up from the sea on Sunday. I want to go over to the Nire and look at more now. I must find out if it is a characteristic of the kind of stone available there, or if it was a method arrived at for some other reason. I had not seen one for a long time, and I forgot how very beautiful they are.
The bloody Hunt came through this afternoon. Without any warning as usual. It is like an invasion having the horses racing up and down the boreen and through the fields and the dogs running everywhere but rarely in the same direction and the fool with the horn blowing it and orders being shouted to the dogs who are not listening. Most times the dogs are well behind the horses anyway. I take some pleasure in knowing that they will never catch our very smart foxes, but I always get into a complete rage and I shout at the people on horses. I only shout if we have not been warned that they are coming. I really hate the whole thing, and I can’t get a thing done while they are racing up and down and trying to cordon off Scully’s wood so the fox can’t escape. I don’t want to be part of their audience. People position themselves along roads and on hills thoughout the countryside to watch the rushing and the chaos. They sit on top of cars and on fences to follow the action as closely as they can. I don’t want to be part of the crowd cheering them on, especially as there is no crowd down here. I become the ONLY ONE watching them. (Simon is good at ignoring the whole thing) but I cannot NOT watch when I am surrounded.