30 December Sunday
Maud and Peter stopped at a supermarket. They were thrilled to find whole pineapples on sale at 25 cent each. At first they thought there must be a mistake but were told that with the holiday week it was important to sell off all fresh produce. They filled their trolley with pineapples. When they got to the till to pay, the young girl there was confused as how to ring up the sale price for the pineapples. She did not want them to be embarassed or confused later when they looked at the receipt so she asked in advance if they would mind if she charged them for thirteen lollipops because that was the only thing she had listed for 25 cent. They are delighted with their receipt and showed it to us. The items purchased are listed here: Avonmore Milk. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop.Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Broccoli. Red Onions.Onions.Peppers.
29 December Saturday
To Pass Out means to overtake in a car. It does not mean collapsing into unconsciousness.
28 December Friday
A woman was telling me about someone who was extremely personable, friendly and open. By way of further describing his manner she said: He’d be as interested in the next person he met as he had been in the previous one.
27 December Thursday
No one drives on the left-hand side of the road. No one drives on the right-hand side of the road. On these tunnel-like roads, we all drive right down the middle. When we meet another vehicle, we adjust to accommodate one another. The roads are narrow and there is no line painted in the middle. This winter, it is damp and unseasonably mild, so what we have is a green smudge of moss down the centre. It is an elusive amount of greenness. It is just a glow on the dark and wet tar.
24 December Monday
I made some notecards for my mother and sent them off to her as a gift. She loves new notecards and she has a large number of boxes of them in her desk. She writes a lot of notes to people and she likes to have the right notecard for the right occasion and for the right person. My mother keeps a list of whom she has sent which card to within each box of notes. She does not want to send the same card to someone twice. I chose flowers from my selection of dried vegetation and glued one blossom onto each heavy folded card. I used my method of the small strips of brown tape to secure the stems. I am a little bit worried that my mother will not really like these cards with the brown tape and that she will feel that they are a little bit rough looking. What I know she will like are the very fine thick envelopes which accompany each card.
23 December Sunday
One day last week, the shop had eight Christmas wreathes stolen from out front. Today, they had six Christmas trees stolen.
22 December Saturday
Another crazily mild day, but this time without the mist and fog. Over the last few weeks, we have been filling water bottles and containers and stockpiling them to be ready for a sudden heavy frost such as we had two years ago. The water from the well was frozen then and we had a difficult ten days living without running water. With the weather we have been having so far there is no chance that we will be losing our water. We may never even need mittens. I will keep the containers full just in case. It feels like a kind of insurance.
21 December Friday
I met Tommie coming around the corner just after the bridge. We were both in our cars. I raised my hand in a salute but he did not return my greeting. He had a look of complete terror on his face. He looked like he did not know if he would get around the corner or not. I do not know exactly how old he is but he has been looking fragile of late. His face has been sinking in upon itself and his skull is prominent. It is hard to think of this frightened Tommie on the corner with the Tommie who used to stop at any time right in the middle of any road. He would turn off his engine and begin a conversation as if there was never a chance of another car coming along and needing that length of road.
20 December Thursday
It has been misty all day. This whole world is covered with a soft damp fog, so we cannot see very far in any direction. It is mild. There is a bright green feathery growth coming out of the dark brown wet and shiny leaves along the path. The brightness of the plant suggests springtime, but it is winter now. It is not spring. There were cobwebs all across the path as I walked through the trees with Em. Some were illuminated by tiny drops of water but most were invisible. As I walked they glued themselves onto my face. If it were night, it would be frightening to have these cobwebs all over my head but in this grey misty daylight, they are not frightening, they are just wet and sticky.
19 December Wednesday
Em is showing her age. Her huge fluffy plume-like tail has gone scrawny and limp. Her neck is thin. She still pushes at the back door to let herself in, but most times she does not have the strength to open it all the way. Sometimes she opens it enough to stick her nose in and sometimes she just makes noises and hopes that we hear her. Since she cannot hear her own scratching, I do not think that she fully believes that we can either.
18 December Tuesday
I stopped at the library to return two books and to take out two more. I still had two at home which I had not yet read. Borrowers are only allowed four books at a time. I asked the librarian if the library would be open over the holiday period. She told me they would be open on 21 December and then on the 28th and the 29th but not again until 2 January. She said no one ever came in over the holiday week so they no longer bothered to stay open. She explained that they did not mind if people were late with their books or even if they took extra books. She said We just let everyone take as many books as they need to get them through the holiday and if they are late returning them, we turn a blind eye. So instead of taking two books, I took four and now I have six here ready to be read. I am prepared.
17 December Monday
I have had five mousetraps set ever since the big massacre. Every morning I check them to see if there have been any victims. It has been several weeks now without a single death so today I removed two traps. Three is plenty as they are in stategic locations. With three rather than five, I still have the daily dilemma of whether to check the traps before or after I eat my breakfast.
13 December Thursday
I stopped up in Grange at Frank’s shop. I do not go to his shop often because I do not go to Grange often. There is not much reason for me to go to Grange as there is only the church and the school and Frank’s shop and there is almost nothing to buy in the shop. When I go in there I walk up and down the two short aisles and I look for something to purchase. I often select greaseprooof paper or bananas or biscuits. Milk. Lemons. There is always something to get but there is not much of anything and the few things that are there are spread out on shelves with a lot of space in between them. Today as I drove by, I stopped and gasped. The windows had been covered with little puffs of cotton wool. Every puff was about two inches from every other puff and the windows and the door glass and the glass above the door were all dotted with this cotton wool snow. It looked fantastic. I ran in and complimented him on the festive quality of it all. I asked him what he had used to stick the cotton wool onto the glass. He said he had made a wallpaper paste solution. I was surprised that it stuck onto the glass. I was amazed that the cotton was not sliding down the glass. We discussed his method for a while. He was very pleased with his results. We stood there together quietly in the nearly empty shop and looked out through the big windows at the empty road, but we were looking out through the idea of snow so it was wonderful. I bought ginger biscuits and cream crackers and a KitKat before I left.
12 December Wednesday
Today has been one of those bleak grey days when we never know what time it is. In the morning it could be afternoon. In the afternoon it could be morning. There is no sunlight promising to break through. There is no sunset. There is nothing but grey and darkness and a soft drizzle throughout most ot the day. There is nothing cheerful and no sense of promise. People are already talking about the upcoming shortest day of the year. They are already consoling themselves with the promise that once that day passes the next days will get longer and then spring will follow soon. On a day like today it feels like it will always be like this and that is a dreary thought.
10 December Monday
There is a new shop within the shop. The small side room which has had multiple functions has been transformed. It is now a Christmas shop. It is full of decorations and wrapping papers and possible gifts. It has displays of candles and picture frames. Most of the items have been in the shop all year long but now they have been gathered together and suddenly the candles look like gifts not just like candles. This room used to hold two photocopy machines and a computer and printer with a chair and coin-accessed internet, as well as a bookcase full of books which people donated and left on the shelves. Other people took books and left money for them in a bucket with a rectangular hole cut in its lid. There was also a table in the room where we could have a cup of coffee or even a lunch from the take-away counter. The table is still there as is the computer. The photocopy machines are now behind the counter in the front of the shop. I have no idea where the books have gone.
9 December Sunday
Paddy McGarry died last week. His nephew phoned to tell us the sad news. He promised to let us know when the funeral would be but he said it would be a while because Paddy died in London and they had to go through official channels to bring the body over to Birr in County Offaly where the family was from and where the funeral would take place. I gave the news to Rose and she told a lot of other people as I knew she would. Today I spoke to Paddy’s wife and she said the service had taken place yesterday. We all missed it because the nephew had forgotten to let us know. Rose was very sad as she had promised to organize a bus to take people up to Birr for the day. All of the seats had been reserved right away even though no one knew what day it would be. They all thought that much of Paddy that they would take the day off whenever it came along. Paddy was a good builder and a good man. He could tell a story well. All week I found myself remembering Paddy stories. I loved the one about him courting a girl when he was young. He had to sit down and speak with her father one Sunday afternoon. He knew it was an important conversation. Every minute that he sat there across from the father and in front of the fire, he was aware that he had big holes in the soles of both of his shoes and that he had grey cardboard stuck inside so that his feet inside would not get wet too fast. He spent the whole visit trying to keep his feet flat on the floor so that the father would see neither his holes nor his cardboard.
8 December Saturday
The Egg Man at the market apologized because he had no large eggs today. He only had medium ones and small ones. He said that his chickens have been unhappy with all of the rain. He said they do not mind the cold so much but they do not like the rain and when they are wet day after day they tend to lay fewer eggs and smaller eggs. He is hoping for a cold snap to get his hens back on form.
7 December Friday
When a child is misbehaving, he or she is said to be Bold. They might be said to be Very Bold. No one says they are being Naughty or Bad. Naughty is just not a word that gets used. Dogs might also be called Bold, as might adults. It is not just a word for children, it is a term for unacceptable behaviour.
5 December Wednesday
A man I do not know looked carefully at Em today and asked about her age. He was impressed to find out that she is one month short of fourteen, and that she looks and moves in such a youthful manner. He said: She’s Good To Go. I hear this expression said a lot and I never know if it means that she is healthy and well able to be going along with me, or if it is good of her to join me.
4 December Tuesday
I like the sky at this time of year. I love the dawn and I love the sunsets when there is a lot of pink and red and orange in the sky. The clouds look beautiful lit up by the colours. It is a bleak time, but if you are out of doors or looking out a window at the right moment, there is colour in the countryside. It is just a pity that the hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset are so very brief.
3 December Monday
I went on-line to sign a national petition this morning. After I signed, I looked at the names which were popping in. Each time a new person signed, their name was recorded and then moved down the list as someone else signed and then someone else after them. There were four names at a time on the screen. I was surprised to see the name of someone I knew come up on the list. Because of this never ending cold, I was still not feeling very well nor very energetic so I sat and watched the names pop up and then disappear as new names came up. I sat and stared at the screen. It was hypnotic. I became obsessed with the names and with the number of people signing and with how many times the goal of how many names were needed changed. The number got bigger and more and more people came on to sign the petition. I checked in and watched the signing off and on all day. I was delighted to see how many people were making themselves heard and I was delighted to see how many of the names I knew. Some of the people I knew well and some only a little bit, but Ireland is a small country. It should not surprise me to find people I know on such a list, but it does.
2 December Sunday
Simon went to the chemist this week. He wanted to buy a bottle of Tonic for me. There is a great belief in Tonic. I do not know exactly what is in a bottle of Tonic. Each chemist makes his or her own and people swear by their own version. The Tonic always comes in a brown glass bottle with a little plastic spoon for measuring out a dose. Three times a day after a meal is the usual amount. The chemist told Simon that pharmacists had now been banned from producing their own Tonic. The chemist was upset. He was disraught. He said that he had made people happy and healthy with his mixture of vitamins and iron and whatever else for years. Now he could not give out a Tonic without a doctor’s prescription. He could not believe he was no longer allowed to serve his own mixture at his own discretion. In spite of this, he made up a bottle full for Simon to give to me. The chemist said that the next time I went to the doctor, even if it was several months from now, I should get a written request for the Tonic and deliver it to him retrospectively. He said that would cover him.
1 December Saturday
I took Em around for the walk this morning. It was the first time I have been Around since we returned from London. I still felt weak with my cold but I went along knowing that since she is slow these days, I can be slow too. It was a nice quiet and exploratory walk. Everything was familiar and everything, as always, was completely new.
30 November Friday
The shop has made a new display just inside the door. The shelves are full of the sorts of things that people might be looking for on Sunday or in the evenings when the hardware shop next door is closed. Some of the items, like motor oils, are things we might need at any time, but many of them are seasonal. The display is full of things like firelighters, manufactured firelogs and bags of sticks. There are several choices of mouse and rat traps as well as a variety of poisons. ENDORAT Rat Killer is a brand I have not seen before. The shelves display de-icer, anti-freeze, reflective arm-bands and belts, batteries, torches, and hot water bottles. It is an impressive selection. I feel like they have thought of everything.
29 November Thursday
I am better but I am not all better. I thought I would be better today. I should be better today. This is a bad cold. I am coughing less and sneezing less and blowing my nose less, but I am still coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose. I am tired of thinking about it and I am tired of living with it and I am tired of talking about it. I was warned by someone who said: I hope you do not have what I had because mine went on and on and on for weeks. I am on my 11th day since the sore throat started and I have had enough.
28 November Wednesday
I walked down the meadow with Em tonight. I have barely been outside all week so she has been taking both her morning walks and her evening walks with Simon. She has only gone as far as the vegetable patch with him each night, but tonight she raced down the path and I went along behind her. The moon was full and the sky was clear and frosty with cold. I was glad to be out in the brightness but I was more glad to get back inside.
23 November Friday
Anything Strange? This is a regular question not unlike being asked What’s Happening? or What’s Up? I never hear it asked anywhere else. Or perhaps it is just that no one asks it of me anywhere else. For a long time I thought my answer should be about something very exotic or special. Now I know that it is just the first part of a conversation of local news. It can be about anything at all.
22 November Thursday
This is my third day with a bad sore throat. I walked as far as the farm with Em which was not enough of a walk for her but it was exhausting for me. Following advice from a friend, I boiled up some carragheen moss and made myself a sort of tea. I left the carragheen in the pan in case I wanted to make a second cup. Even with copious amounts of honey stirred in, it tasted terrible. I would love to say that this seaweed tea tasted of the sea and that it tasted like wonderful minerals and goodness. There is no chance I will be having a second cup, but the compost heap will no doubt benefit from the plethora of minerals.
20 November Tuesday
It is not unusual to stop down at the shop and to see a car parked in front of the church with no one inside the car but with the engine left running. When I see this, I wonder if the driver has dashed into the shop to get something or if the driver has dashed into the church for a quick prayer. I never wait around to find out. Today I was walking into the shop and an old man who was smoking outside said hello. The man then jerked his head toward a car with its engine running in front of the church. He said, That man there is a millionaire. With the price of petrol what it is, that man must be a millionaire to leave his motor running like that.
6 November Tuesday
Em is working to keep me in her sight all day long. This means she follows me from room to room and back again. She is exhausted by the following but since she cannot hear me moving around she needs to see me in order to know where I am. I get exhausted too because I am always bumping into her. I change direction more quickly than she does. She sits next to me and presses herself against me. If I am standing she is near to my feet. When I move, I trip over her. When she gets really tired of all of the movement, she collapses somewhere and goes to sleep for a short while. It is both heartbreaking and annoying. When we go out walking, she is fine because she knows the route and she knows her role in the walk. She knows all the places to smell and examine and chase. She only needs me to go along with her. The walk makes for a different kind of fatigue. After a walk, she arrives home, cleans off any mud and muck from her legs and feet, and falls into a heavy sleep. After a walk, I have a good hour of freedom from the following..
5 November Monday
Tyres appear often. Reusing is a form of recycling. If you have a lot of tyres you have to find something to do with them. Some tyres are lined up on the ground at the end of a place to park the car. The tyres are there to stop the cars going too far into a field or onto a lawn. They are something soft to bump into. Tyres hanging by strong ropes against a wall are also practical for car parking. It is more pleasant to bump the front of the car into a tyre than to bump it into a cement wall. A tyre on a rope makes a nice swing.. Farmers use hundreds of tyres to hold down the black plastic with which they cover up on their huge heaps of silage. The black tyres on the black plastic mountains look like polka dots. Sometimes 5 or 8 tyres are piled up on top of one another and cement is poured down the middle. This might become a fence post or just some kind of strong vertical thing whose purpose I do not understand.
4 November Sunday
There have been mice in the kitchen, eating barley and scattering it around. I set traps and I killed ten of them in ten hours. Most of them were babies so I think I destroyed the entire family. The hole around the waste pipe has been filled in. I think that is how they were getting into the house. I was going to fill the hole in with cotton wool and cover it with duct tape. Luckily Peter came by and quickly filled it with cement. He said the cotton wool would have pleased the mice as they would have been happy to use it to line their nest. I am so proud of my mass mouse extermination that I must write it down..
3 November Saturday
We have a new light outside on the corner of the house. It is an old light which came from the old schoolhouse over at Lagganstown. When a new security light was being put up there twelve years ago, this light was going to be thrown away. We brought the fixture home and it has been in the shed ever since. It was designed with two metal brackets to be placed on the corner of a building so that is where it finally is. It has a round green metal shade and a long narrow glass thing to protect the bulb. It is old and heavy. It has ridges in its thick glass. I love the light which spreads out from it. I have gone out into the night just to walk around in the thrown circle of light.
2 November Friday
There is a Double Possessive used here. It is used so much that I think it is never not used. No one will say My Mother when they can say My Own Mother. My Own Car. Your Own House. His Own Cow. Her Own Leg. It makes ownership very specific and not something to be argued about. It makes ownership irrefutable, especially because the word OWN is the word which is emphasized.
1 November 2012 Thursday
There is a cement wall with raised letters which I love to see on the way into town. The letters read THE FAMILY THAT PRAY TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER. Each capital letter is about 9 inches tall. The wall is white. The top of the wall and the letters are bright blue. They are a bright, light blue.. It is the same shade of blue which is always used for religious shrines and holy places all over the countyside. Repainting every few years keeps the blue bright and light. Inside the wall there is a statue of the Virgin Mary with a blue neon halo around her head. The blue of the light is the same as the painted blue.
31 October Wednesday
At this time of year, the hunters appear. They just look like any men out in the fields or forest but they have guns and dogs with them. They walk with their guns broken open over the forearm which is both safe and reassuring. They never wear bright clothing which I find a bit worrying. The cars or trucks with hunters in them usually have a gun on the dashboard and a pile of cartridges on the seat. The cartridges are bright red or yellow. This must be the right sort of shot for shooting birds. I try to wear bright things when I am walking up the boreen. I talk and sing and generally make a lot of noise. I whack at bushes and trees with a big stick. I am alerting any hunters to my presence. I am also alerting any birds.
30 October Tuesday
With Em walking quite slowly these days, I have taking up Cow Counting. When I come up near to a field full of cows, I try to count them quickly. They are always moving around. Sometimes they move because they see me but more especially when they see Em. I count a herd three or four times in quick sucession. I always come up with three or four different numbers. If I ever find myself getting the same count three times in a row, I will be delighted. This is a good method to amuse myself while taking Em’s slowness into consideration. My next problem will be keeping warm while the walking is so slow.
29 October Monday Bank Holiday
The moon is full but the world outside is not bright. Some things have a a bright clarity about them but mostly it is just dark. On some full moon nights I can walk up and down the meadow paths without a torch. Tonight is not one of those nights. Em never seems to care if it is dark or bright. She rushes out with confidence into the night. Do dogs have the same vision in the light as in the dark?
28 October Sunday
We changed the clocks last night. The changing plunges us into a darker darkness. It is always at this time of year that I miss street lights and urban illumination. Walking across from the barn as early as six o’clock is now a walk which requires a torch, and there are many weeks yet before we get to the shortest day.
27 October Saturday
The doctor told me not to worry. She assured me that it was Nothing Sinister. She said we shall wait for the tests but we both can sleep easy because it is Nothing Sinister. The more often she used the expression Nothing Sinister, the more I believed her.
26 October Friday
The county council have sent a digger and a truck to scrape the middle of the boreen. The grass has grown so much over the years that each time it dies back it makes more soil and then more grass grows. The grass itself is not so long but the area it grows on is both high and wide. Cars, espeically ones which are low to the ground, get rubbed and dragged hard along on the bottom as they come down the track. Sometimes it is difficult to find a space to roll the tyres along on either side of the grass. The place to drive has been taken over by the thick grass in the middle. So far the council men have come twice. They scraped up the grass and the soil and filled their truck with it all, and then they drove away to empty the load somewhere. They have come twice at one week intervals and have finished two lengths of maybe a fifty metres each time. They usually come just before lunch, and they do not return after lunch. It will take many weeks for the job to be completed at this rate. What is left behind is a muddy mess. If they keep working at this slow speed, the first cleared areas will be growing grass again before the final lengths are finished.
25 October Thursday
Annie, from over on the other side of Cahir, gave me back my map. I had forgotten that we loaned it to her in the summer. She had some questions about place names so we took her the Ordnance Survey map for her area and pointed out the places she was asking about. It was not a new map and it had been folded and unfolded a great number of times. It was torn and shabby but she did not mind. She was pleased to be able to study the locations on paper so we left the map with her. She is unsteady on her legs and cannot walk much and she is too old to explore the actual places any more, but her eyes are good so she has enjoyed tracking down people and fondly remembered spots with her finger and a magnifying glass. When I visited today, Annie returned the map to me. She had spent a long time making careful repairs with strips of clear sello tape. Every fold has a strip of tape along it on both sides of the page. It is now an enormous unwieldy thing. It will never again fold up small enough to fit into a pocket. She had such a good time repairing it for us that all I could say was thank you.
23 October Tuesday
There are wool gloves in the pockets of my rain jacket all year round. I never take them out. They are there just in case. I do not necessarily wear my rain jacket every day and I certainly do not need gloves every time that I do wear the jacket, but I need gloves often enough that it is best if they stay right there in readiness.
22 October Monday
More and more petrol stations are closing. There are huge gaps between places where one can get fuel. In Ballyporeen, the pumps have been gone for a few years now and planters have been placed on top of where they were. There is no longer a station in Clogheen and now another has closed in Ardfinnan. With the price of fuel going up, it seems unfair that people have to drive long distances to get some fuel just so that they can use most of it up to drive themselves home.
21 October Sunday
We went down to the village to get the papers and to take Em on the little loop walk. Because it is Sunday we had to be careful where we parked as we could find ourselves trapped into a place by everyone arriving and parking at the very last moment and rushing in to the church. Some Sundays there is a mass in the village and some Sundays there is not. On the Sundays when it is not there, it is over in Fourmilewater. I speak of people going to church but they do not go to church, they go to Mass. They go to the activity, not to the place.
20 October Saturday
There is an excitement about bunches of carrots coated with large clumps of garden soil which I do not understand. I never go to the market without hearing someone exclaim about the presence of Big Dirty Carrots. If someone points them out to me, I disappoint them with my lack of enthusiasm. The times when I do come home with these enormous carrots and their falling off quantities of soil, I find the carrots fibrous and unpleasant. To me, they are like carrots I might feed a donkey. They have no sweetness and they have an unpleasant texture. I keep thinking I am missing something when I hear the delight which greets the Big Dirty Carrots. I do not mind a lot of dirt when I peel or scrub carrots, but if I end up with a sinkful of mud and then I have a carrot which I do not want to eat, I fail to see the point.
19 October Friday
I spoke to a woman who was going to send me something in the post. She was going to put it into the post today but then she stopped herself and said, ‘Oh no, I can’t do that. I don’t like things to sit in the post office or in a box all weekend.’ She wanted to wait until Monday to send it. If she sent it on Friday, I would have it on Monday. If she waits until Monday, I have to wait until Tuesday to recieve it. With no post office activity on Saturday, things are slow enough here but an unwillingness to trust things to the post office over the weekend makes the movement of things even slower. This is not the first time this has happened. It happens a lot.
16 October Tuesday
Sometimes a long driveway or entrance to a house is called an Avenue. I do not know how long the drive must be for it to be an avenue and not just a drive. I also do not know if it must be tarred to be called an avenue. I do know that not all entry roads to houses are called avenues, so I do not know if this is an affectation or if the length determines the name.
13 October Saturday
One of the big ash trees near to the barn has been felled. We watched it fall in a perfectly placed drop. It has been on a list of things to get done for a long time now. Today the man with the chain saw came and cut it, along with a few other dead or unwanted trees. With his chain saw and his son, he managed to down them all in a crazily short time. The fallen trees and limbs are in large pieces, piled in several locations. Now everything needs to be cut up into wood-stove sized pieces and stacked. The gap left by the big tree opens up a new vista down the valley and across to the little bell tower of the Church of Ireland in the near distance and the hills beyond in the far distance. Because the new view is seen between two other trees, it is about looking through rather than just looking at. And because the new view is visible from the kitchen window, it is a view through and through again.
11 October Thursday
The debit and credit card machine at the shop has been a problem for a long time. The slightest movement caused it to lose its connection and to cancel any transaction it was in the middle of. Various techniques have been tried to keep it from wiggling loose. The latest solution has been to attach it, with screws, to the exact middle of the display of sweets. The machine has been placed between the Turkish Delight and the Maltesers. This position puts it at eye level for me, but for most people it is in a good position to look down at as they tap in their numbers. I am trying not to be a pest about it, but I do inquire frequently if this new location has caused an increase in the sales of candy.
9 October Tuesday
It is good to walk along and to hear leaves crunching underfoot. Up until now the walking over fallen leaves has been a wet and slippery affair. I could not hear Em walking ahead of me or behind me. With her deafness, she cannot hear the leaves swishing and crackling as she walks, but I like to think that she is enjoying it all as much as I am.
7 October Sunday
It has been a sad year for gathering things to eat from our immediate world. I cannot bring myself to use the word foraging. The garden vegetables were a complete disaster. Things like courgettes, which usually overwhelm us, just rotted and the few that did not rot produced few and tiny courgettes. The apples trees had barely anything on them after the wretched spring and summer. I found few apples between eight trees, and most were disappointing to eat. There were no pears, no plums, no wild damsons, no blotcheens. Sloes are not visible anywhere. Usually there are thousands all through the blackthorn hedges. How can such huge quantities of sloes be absent? Blackberries can be found with careful looking but what I find are rarely worth the effort needed to pick them. It is a bad year for us, but it is even worse for the birds.
5 October 2012 Friday
Today I brought the last of the sweet peas into the house. The blossoms are bright pink. They have the quality of both silk and paper. I want to enjoy them for as long as possible,because after they die I shall have to wait until next year for more. I hope they last for more than a few days.
4 October Thursday
When needing to get rid of an old car which is too old or too undesirable to resell, it is no longer possible to just take it to a dump. A man from a scrapyard used to take cars away for people. Sometimes the people would pay the man to take the car. Sometimes the man would pay the people in order to take the car and use it for parts. Now the car must be taken to a registered car dismantling yard and the destruction of the car must comply with Waste Management Regulations. The owner of the car must get a special form called a Certificate of Destruction. The owners copy of the Certificate of Destruction is green. Another copy goes to the Motor Tax office, but I cannot remember what colour that copy is.
3 October Wednesday
There is a small house in the middle of the village. It has not been lived in for as long as we have been here but it is always very well taken care of. It is regularly repainted with white paint. For a long time the window frames and the door and the iron gate were bright yellow. This summer the house was repainted and now all of these trims have been painted bright red. The one window in the upstairs of the gable end of the cottage was replaced a long time ago with a piece of wood. The window panes and a sheer lace curtain have been painted in place of the absent window. The painting is well done. I admire it often. It is realistic and so natural looking that I wonder how many people realize that they are looking at a painting and not a real window.
1 October 2012 Monday
I was at the doctor’s office today. The practice has recently moved to a new building. There are quite a few doctors sharing the building and there are two different waiting rooms to accommodate the patients. There is one reception desk which seems to take care of everyone. After seeing my doctor I was told to go and wait in the waiting room.while some papers were prepared. I sat in the room with one young woman and her small child. The child was busy watching the fish in the enormous fishtank. It is much nicer to have a fishtank than the noisy television set which was in the waiting room of the old practice. There is an intercom in the room and every so often a name was called for someone to go into a doctors office. When the announcement was over, the intercom returned to the quiet playing of the local radio station. None of the names called were for myself nor the young woman nor her child. Those people must have been in the other waiting room. After a few names were called, we heard the sound of a man moaning. I thought it was something on the radio. Then the moaning became louder. It was a young man, not a child. He might have been in his late teens or maybe he was in his twenties of thirties. He was not an old man. He moaned louder and then he screamed and then he begged for someone to stop. He screamed and he screamed louder. The young woman and I were transfixed by the sounds and we stared right into each others eyes. The sounds were terrifying. Then we heard a voice saying It is alright now, we are nearly done. Stay calm. The man screamed again. Actually the man never stopped screaming. The screams just had different volumes and different intensities. The child turned from the fish tank and then he screamed too. I ran out and told the receptionist that I thought her intercom was broadcasting someones painful procedure. She could hear the screams coming from the open door of the waiting room. She screamed a small scream herself and ran to turn it off.
29 September Saturday
Already I need a torch when I walk out into the night with Em. I need a torch and I need a sweater. Soon I will need a jacket, then a scarf and then a hat, and then boots. The early darkness and the need for a torch are the first signs heralding the onset of winter.
28 September Friday
As always when we have been away, Em returns from her stay at the farm with a large number of clumpy bits in her hair. Somtimes these clumps are just tangled hair, but more often they are the gathering of hair around something horrible. I think the main culprit is cat !@#$%^&*. There are always cats in the barns, and the cats and dogs are all happy to leap and play in the hay. Sometimes a few days back here with a lot of rolling in the grass and swimming in the stream is all it takes for Em to return to her usual sweet smell. Sometimes I have to get out scissors and I need to cut out the wadgey bits. The cutting and brushing can go on for days before I get everything smelly out of her hair. This is one of those times.
26 September Wednesday
The National Ploughing Championship is back. This year it is in Wexford. Every year it moves to a different location around the country. Every year the radio and the news are full of stories from The Ploughing. Every year people are discussing whether or not they will go to The Ploughing, and who they know who might be participating. I suppose in Dublin and Limerick and Galway, no one mentions The Ploughing, but in these rural parts it is a highpoint of the year. Besides the competitions for different kinds of ploughing, there are lots of things on show. There are exhibitions of Farm Machinery, and Bio Energy and Business Plans for Farmers and Animal Husbandry. There are competitions for Livestock Breeds, Sheep Shearing and Sheep Dog Trials. There are lots more things but since I have never been to The Ploughing, I only hear about some of the activities. There is a lot of food both on sale and being given away. There are samples to taste and ideas about production and marketing. This year the people of Flahavans, who produce oats, are making and giving out bowls of porridge from early in the morning all day long. The reports say that this is the coldest year ever for The Ploughing. It is unseasonably cold, so everyone is bundled up. People are happy to wait in long lines for a hot bowl of porridge.
10 September 2012 Monday
A drizzly soft and grey day. It has not been unpleasant but no one is ready to give up on the warm and balmy days we have been enjoying. No one wants to believe that this is the end of the sunshine. No one wants to believe that this is the end of the summer we never had but since we had a little we are willing to forgive the rest. We are almost ready to believe that we had a summer.
7 September 2012 Friday
A week of glorious sunshine. Everyone is cheerful. It is the weather we have waited for all summer. The evenings are cool and the mornings are wet with dew and chilly, but the days are beautiful. It does not matter if the jobs we do are indoor jobs or outdoor jobs. With the doors open and the windows open there is easy movement between buildings and between actions. Em settles herself somewhere in between so that she can keep track of where we go in and where we go out of, but she herself does not have to move. She just opens her eyes occasionally to make sure that we are not too far away.
3 September 2012 Monday
We drove up from the sea in east Cork. It was such a beautiful day that we thought we would drive through Tallow and Lismore and then over the mountains before dropping down and over into our valley. As we neared Tallow we were directed to a detour by uniformed Garda. Then we came to another detour and then another detour. At the last place, there were people getting out of their cars and walking over the bridge into Tallow. A big Horse Fair was taking place. The Garda were trying not to let people drive into the town. Most of the participants of the horse fair were members of the travelling community and the Garda were trying to keep them from bringing their weapons into the town. There are always a lot of fights at the horse fairs. If someone gets into a fight they will at least not have their scythes and pitchforks to use in attacking someone else. They might have a knife but it is not easy to walk into a town with a heavy stick or another large and unwieldy weapon in your arms without looking like you are anticipating a fight. Leaving the cars means leaving the weapons. When we finally got around all of the traffic and arrived down in the village here, we pulled up behind a car. It was just a regular car. It was not a big car. A woman and a child got out of the passenger side of the car. A man got out of the drivers side. In the back seat there was a small pony. The pony was in the car horizontally. His head and nose were against one window and his tail and his bottom were against the other window. His feet were on the floor. He was not on the seat. He filled the width of the back seat exactly with his body length. We assume the people bought him at the Horse Fair.
1 September 2012 Saturday
For years and years, I have always been pressing flowers. I have never done anything with the flowers after they were pressed except to enjoy finding them much later in books. Lately, I have been carefully removing the well-dried flowers and leaves and glueing them down on card and using very thin strips of brown paper tape to ensure their safe position on the card. I am so pleased with my results that I am pressing more and more kinds of vegetation. I wonder if what I am pressing now will disappear for years and years or if I will continue to glue and tape. I think the very thin strips of bown tape are a huge part of what I love about this activity.
31 August 2012 Friday
My berry picking has become an evening activity. I try to go out and pick some berries just before the light starts to drop. I can gather both a good bowl of raspberries and a good bowl of blackberries in a very short time. By collecting them at dusk, I am guaranteed berries for breakfast. I think that a lot of the birds are gone. I do not know if they have headed south already but they do seem to be gone. The raspberries are safe from atttackers. It is nice to know that everyday there will be freshly ripened berries. It is nice to know that the freshly ripened berries are waiting for my arrival.
28 August 2012 Tuesday
Selling raffle tickets or selling sponsorship for some kind of walk or run or tractor ride or any other charity event used to be easy. A piece of paper could be left in the shop and it would be signed and filled up in no time. Now it is difficult to expect people to put money out for any of these events. The piece of paper left in the shop might remain unfilled for days and days. It is difficult to ask people directly to contribute because they feel awkward having to refuse. It is considered bad manners to put people on the spot. There are a lot of people pretending that things are okay when they are not okay. If you ask someone to sponsor a charity run, they cannot refuse even if they are in very dire financial circumstances. They have been put in the position of looking churlish if they refuse. So when someone sneaks up to you, very near to your parked motor car, and asks you to sponsor a person doing a walk for a charity, you know that they have carefully considered if it is okay for you to be someone to ask. You know that they have considered your situation as best they can in order not to offend.
25 August Saturday
The Ancient Man was looking behind a big tree as I approached from a distance. As I got nearer, he went behind a second tree. Then he walked a bit and went behind a third tree. His Ancient Dog sat still in the middle of the path. His Ancient Dog is always pleased for an excuse to sit down. I said hello and he said hello. I asked if he was looking for something or someone behind the trees. He said that he had tired of carrying his big multi-coloured umbrella. He has been carrying it all summer. Almost every day he has needed to use it at least once. Since it was not raining and the sky was clear this morning, he hid the umbrella behind a large tree to collect on his return along the path. Now he had forgotten which tree it was hidden behind.
24 August Friday
There was a small notice in the paper from a man in a nearby village. The notice was in a little box with a black line around it. Underneath the man’s name and the name of his village, it said that he hereby apologised unreservedly and sincerely to the people he has caused anguish to, with his actions of circulating ‘comments’ on a certain day this summer. He said that the comments were complete falsehoods without foundation or truth and he regrets the distress and hurt that he has caused to these people and their families.
23 August Thursday
There is such a lot of fear about mint in the garden. No one wants to plant mint because they are told that it will send out runners and take over the whole place. Everyone believes this. Mint gets planted in pots. That way it cannot invade. I am not worried about my mint taking over my world. I put some in over at the corner of the round topped tool shed. Every summer it grows into a fine big bush. Yes, the mint has spread but when we pass nearby with the mower we can just mow over anything that seems excessive. It is a little difficult to get to the hose and the outdoor tap now without walking through the copious mint growth. This is a nice thing. I look forward to using the hose so that I can breathe the minty air. Unfortunately, this summer it has been too wet to need the hose. I have to make a special detour to rustle the bushes and get a good whiff of mint.
22 August Wednesday
The blackberries are ripening. I can pick some here and there as I walk. I can pick a hand full but I cannot pick a bowl full. As with all growth this summer it is amazing that the berries have not rotted before they had a chance to ripen.
21 August Tuesday
Clonmel is a great going home for lunch town. If you are on the road at one o’clock it can be very shocking to witness all of the traffic. People jump into their motors and race home even if they live ten miles away. By the time they get home there is not too much time left because they have to eat and then rush back to their jobs. There is usually a mother or a wife waiting with the dinner, but even so it seems a very rushed way to take a break. The traffic around two o’clock when they are all coming back is equally frenetic.
18 August Saturday
A sunny day. After so much wet and grey it does not feel like summer but it feels good. Everyone is cheerful. We can speak of nothing else.
17 August Friday
We nearly lost Em today. We went to do the gentle loop walk just outside the village. Em rushed off ahead as she usually does. She always wants to get into whatever water is available. I was about to start a search for a stick to throw for her, when I remembered how fast the water has been rushing down from the mountains. Everywhere is swollen and everywhere is flooded and all rivers and streams are overflowing. I ran to get to her before she got to the stream. I got near just in time to see her grabbed by the fast moving current and flipped over onto her back and carried away. Simon ran downstream to where there was an opening in the undergrowth. He hoped that if she was swept along he would get there in time to grab her as she went by. I waded into the stream and found her a little way down. She was caught in some bushes. She was struggling to keep her head above water. The water was up to my waist. It was hard for me to stay standing. I got one hand onto a thin branch and one hand onto her collar. I pulled and stretched and pulled some more and finally I got her near to me. Eventually we got to a place in the banking where I was able to push her up and out of the water. I had a lot of trouble getting myself up and out. By the time we got home I think the shock of it all hit me. She is fine. I am fine. I have burst into tears several times just looking at her and thinking how close we came to losing her. Someone told me that I had Need of a Glass of Brandy. I did not have one but probably I should have.
16 August Thursday
As I passed the washing line, I stopped to pick up the clothespegs which had blown out of their container. They were scattered in all directions through the long wet grass. I was surprised to see how far they had been thrown. The winds have been vicious. The grass is long because it is too wet to cut. The grass cannot be cut because it is never dry enough. The longer it gets and the wetter it gets the more impossible a job it becomes. We do not even think about cutting the grass anymore. It has been raining for days. It has been raining for weeks. It has been raining for months. Early on, they said it was the worst summer in living memory. Then they said it was the worst summer since 1867. Now they say that this is the worst summer ever. They are right. My raincoat has lost its ability to keep out the wet.
15 August Wednesday
This morning Em and I walked up the boreen. There was water rushing down toward us. Suddenly we were walking up a river bed. It was not a river but it was like a river. There was water rushing down so we slipped on rocks and squelched in mud and just generally had to struggle all the way up. The vegetation was also a struggle as so much has fallen and been blown over. A lot of big branches are broken. We crawled and squeezed through a lot of tight places. We took turns getting caught on brambles. When we got to the top and walked out onto the road, I looked at Em and she looked at me. We had had a wonderful time.
14 August Tuesday
When a shop or a restaurant or even a country is very expensive, it is said to be A Savage Dear Place. An expensive object is the same: A Savage Dear Car. A Savage Dear Clock.
23 July Monday
The countryside is full of haying activity. Even though the weather has been much less than ideal, the haying has been happening. After all the dire warnings and the weeks of rain and no sun, the hay has still grown and now the the hay is being cut. No one calls it haying. They say they are On the Silage. Some fields are cut already. They sit all stubbly and golden with big round bales of hay scattered around waiting to be collected. Some fields have smaller square bales. Everywhere there are tractors and baling machines and big trailers full of baled up hay being pulled along the roads. As always, the summer roads are dangerously full of this activity. Today I drove behind a big trailer piled high with round bales. The road was narrow, so the bales were scraping against trees and bushes all along the way. The trees rubbed at the load so that there were little bits of hay flying off. As I drove along in the sunshine, the small bright yellow pieces of hay surrounded me in a private little summer blizzard.
22 July Sunday
Em is in terrific health again. She seems to be getting younger and younger. After months of worrying that I was living with an elderly, slow and deaf dog, she is in better health than ever. She has learned to live with her deafness. I no longer believe it is complete deafness. When we walk she turns her head to look over her shoulder to keep track of where I am. Sometimes she looks over the right shoulder and sometimes she looks over her left shoulder. I do the exact same thing if I am the one in the front. We keep an eye on each other.
21 July Saturday
I was told about a man named Handmade Condon. He was famous in the area for making fine shoes. When I mentioned him to two people here, they started to argue about him. One of them was convinced that he made clothes and the other was certain that he made shoes. I was mostly interested in him for his name.
20 July Friday
On these summer nights the sky is still very bright at ten or ten thirty at night. When someone goes to bed at an early hour, it is said they are Going to Bed in the Brightness.
18 July Wednesday
We needed some boxes. We needed strong boxes. We wanted the boxes to be of equal dimensions to make for a consistent shipment. We did not have any such boxes and we did not really have the time to order any. What we did have was a bunch of 10 kilo FedEx boxes which were the perfect size. We did not want the boxes to say FedEx because we were not planning to ship by FedEx. There are enough difficulties with shippers these days. We did not want the boxes moved somewhere and then not all the way if the people shipping thought that FedEx would finish the job. Since it would never have never been the job of FedEx, they would not further the journey of the boxes so there was a good chance all of the boxes would go no where. I offered to paint the boxes. It was a silly job but it was a pleasant job. I spread the boxes out on the big table outside. I painted each box with a coat of white emulsion paint. The white took to the coated cardboard very nicely. It covered all of the FedEx information and everything else. The soft dryness of the paint looked very nice on the heavy cardboard. The white was chalky. The boxes looked very fine in white. When the boxes were dry, I folded them up and put them back into the barn ready to be packed up. Later some things changed about the idea of this shipment. It was decided that FedEx would indeed be contracted to move the boxes. As a result we packed everything up in the normal boxes which FedEx supply. We now have eight very beautifully painted white boxes.
16 July Monday
Em and I walked up through the overgrown and very wet boreen today. I had to wear waterproof trousers even though it was not raining. Everything is so wet. The sky is grey and heavy and it carried the promise of more rain, even though it was not raining for the moment..We struggled all the way up. There was no part of the walking which was not a struggle. I took my secauters and did some clipping on the way but the next time I go up there I need to carry a saw. There is a lot to do to clear the path for upright walking. When we came out of the undergrowth and onto the clear track, I saw that Em’s back was covered with slugs. There were big slugs and small slugs. They were all grey. They were riding along on her wet back just because they had been knocked off the wet vegetation. I wiped them all off her back. I do not know if I was carrying slug passengers on my back and on my head too. I did not even think of that until now.
15 July Sunday
An AUCTIONEER is a person who sells land and buildings . Increasingly, tthe title Auctioneer is being replaced by Estate Agent. Estate Agent sounds more modern. Perhaps that is because the word Estate suggests glamour and the big old country homes which were thought of as estates. It is not meant to conjure up vast tracks of shoddily built homes which are called Housing Estates. Maybe the use of the word estate for these communities is also an attempt to make them feel nicer than they are. I like the word Auctioneer. I feel like an Auctioneer might be selling anything. He might be selling cows or farm equipment or houses or quarries. He is ready and able to sell whatever needs to be sold. I like to think of him with a good strong voice and a gavel to strike loudly upon the table when a sale has been made.
14 July Saturday
I have located two puffballs up near the farm. They are beautiful and white and every day they get a bit bigger. One of them is already quite large. They are not in an easy place to reach. I know that no one else wants to get them nor to eat them. I know that they are safe. I know that I can wait a bit longer before figuring out how to get at them.
13 July Friday
A woman I met today told me that she has run out of the jobs for rainy days. She said on these kinds of days it is often good to clean out the airing cupboard or to do some ironing or to finish some kind of job which you have put on The Long Finger. She said there are usually so many of those jobs that you know there is no hope of ever finishing them. Now she has finished all of those kinds of jobs and the low pressure and grey skies just do not inspire her to think about any other jobs that might need to be done. I know exactly how she feels.
12 July Thursday
We walked again on the river walk up at Glenshelane, which means Glen of the Fairies. Glenshelane is between Cappoquin and Mount Mellary. Mount Mellary is a big old monastary. There are only about 29 monks there now and most of them are very old. There used to be hundreds of monks there. No one wants to be a monk these days. The grounds are huge and well kept. The church is huge. It is all a surprise to find this manicured place up in the mountains. The grounds include a working farm but it is not the monks who do that work. I have never been inside the church but sometimes we stop and go into the coffee shop after our walk. Most times we are lucky. We have never arrived at the same time as a busload of people. The river walk is not on the grounds of Mount Mellary. It is a few miles further down the road. The place where we park is near a grotto. The grotto has a Virgin in the rocks who was once seen to be weeping. The people who believe in the tears of the Virgin come to get holy water and to pray. I am not sure if the water comes from a stream or a well. There is a little spot just below the Virgin where people dip in and get the water. This is the spot where the water is not simply water. This is the spot where the water is Holy Water. There are small plastic bottles available for filling with holy water. Some days we have witnessed elderly ladies in the car park emptying huge bags of large plastic bottles from their cars. The entire back seat of the car might be full of plastic bottles. These are two litre water bottles and two litre minerals bottles which have been washed out first. Minerals are all those drinks like Coke and orange and 7-up. All sweet fizzy drinks are called minerals. These bigger bottles get left for filling too. I guess if you need a lot of holy help you can take the filled-up big bottles home and make your tea and brush your teeth and do absolutely everything with such large quantities of holy water. The people who are lighting candles and leaving messages for the Virgin and getting holy water are not the people who are walking down along the river and in the woods. We all just use the same place to park.
11 July Wednesday
We were down in Cork today. I saw a man with a shopping trolley on wheels. His trolley had been full of sand which he had emptied out onto a red rug. He shaped the sand into the form of a dog lying on its side. His sand dog was about the size of a labrador. It was not a small dog. He scraped away the sand which was not part of the dog. It was all very neat. He made a little raised area of sand in front of the sleeping sand dog and he used little letter forms to spell out the name Sandy for his dog.
10 July Tuesday
I have been waiting and waiting for a sunny day to collect the elderflower blossoms for my cordial. I think I have been waiting for more than three weeks. There have been too many grey and overcast and rainy and dismal days. I am trying not to write about every one of these dreary days. There have been too many days when I felt it was not a good idea to collect the blossoms. Every bit of advice has always stressed that one should not collect blossoms on an overcast day. There have been a lot of days when it has been impossible to collect the blossoms. I have kept my supplies of sugar and lemons ready. I have had my bottles ready. I have watched as the trees have displayed fewer and fewer blossoms. Most trees no longer have any blossoms. Today I put away the bottles and the recipe and the ingredients. Today I decided not to make any cordial this year. This is a small decision but it feels like an important decision. Every day is full of small decisions. Some small decisions feel large, because once they are made there is sense of letting go and going forward. Now that I know that I have not got a new supply of elderflower cordial, I will be extra careful with what I have left of last years supply. I have my drawings of the blossoms which I usually use for my labels on the bottles. I love the drawings, so this year I am printing a card instead of making labels with them..
9 July Monday
The Bedside Locker is a small table unit with one drawer in it. The Bedside Locker is sometimes just called a Locker. It is always beside a bed. It has a surface, a drawer and a little door with storage space. There might be one or two shelves inside the little cupboard space. This is what is beside the bed in a hospital. It is also what is beside the bed at home. I do not know if The Bedside Locker has a lock. I do not know if it is ever lockable. I do not know if locking is the issue. I do not know why it cannot be called a bedside table. Here it is The Bedside Locker.
8 July Sunday
For years, we always spoke of the road which sweeps along beside the river into Clonmel as the River Road. We knew exactly which road we were speaking about when we spoke of the River Road. It took us a very long time to notice that no one else called it the River Road. People understood what we were saying and they knew which road we were describing, so no one corrected us, but no one else called it the River Road. It is the Wood Road. The road has the River Suir running beside it on the left hand side all the way into town. The road has woods rising uphill beside it on the right hand side all the way into town. It could as easily be called the River Road instead of the Wood Road, but it is the Wood Road and not the River Road. We have had to adapt.
7 July Saturday
One of the apple trees has Woolie Aphids. I am delighted with the name but less delighted with the infestation. It looks like the tree has globs of cotton wool stuck here and there over its branches. The white stuff is very sticky to the touch. I must go and scrub it all off with warm, soapy water using a rough brush. The second step will be to rub the areas with methylated spirits. I hope this will be enough to solve the problem. The Worcester Pearmain is the only tree infected so I hope I am quick enough to halt the spread of these very sticky Woolie Aphids.
5 July Thursday
There is an upsurge in the fashion for people to make bars in their garden sheds. Some people build a shed just for the purpose of it being a bar. This has been happening around here for quite a long time. It is not a new fashion but maybe the newer versions are just more plentiful. They are perhaps more glamorous too. A homemade bar is called a Shebeen. We were told of one recently where the woman did not like to go to the pub and the man did not like to drink in the home. They built a Shebeen in the yard out of old pallets. The man figured out a way to take the pallets apart with a minimum of trouble. On the inside of the Shebeen he installed narrow shelves. They lined the shelves with bottles and cans. They put in an old wood stove for warmth. They used candles and lanterns for light. Neighbours came by in the evening for a few drinks if they saw the lights were on inside. People dropped by on their tractors. Everyone liked it because they could smoke without going outside, which they can longer do in a regular bar. People liked it because it was a cheaper way to drink. This Shebeen was a popular spot for about a year and then it burned down. A new Shebeen was built to replace it but now the roof has fallen in. The man has very bad arthritis so he cannot drink anymore. Any incentive to repair the Shebeen is gone. I do not know if another one has started up to replace what the neighbourhood has lost.
4 July Wednesday
Another grey and damp and cool day. I am feeling dreadfully discouraged with this non-summery summer weather. I know it is not just horrible here but I am not feeling very generous about other people and their problems with the weather. I am not interested in the weather of other places. My weather is enough to be thinking about. I walked outside when the postman arrived this morning. I walked outside and I said Hello John. I said What I am doing in this country? He handed me the post and he put his arm on my shoulder. He pointed out across the valley and he said Look at that colour! That is why you are here.
3 July Tuesday
Most metal farm gates are constructed as traditional six-bar gates. The spaces in the bottom two sections of the gate are smaller than the top three sections. This slightly smaller space is just enough to guarantee that small sheep or young calves are not able to squeeze through and away. Even at her slimmest, Em is also unable to squeeze through them.
2 July 2012 Monday
The grass roof has loads of blossoms on it. This damp weather suits it. The corn flowers are the most beautiful. Their shade of blue glows against the permanently grey sky.
1 July 2012 Sunday
When a new septic tank is being installed, it is traditional to put the blood of a pig into the tank to ensure that the tank works correctly. If there is not a pig being slaughtered nearby, it is normal to go to a slaughter house to fetch a small amount of blood. It is worth the trip to have a trouble free septic tank.
30 June Saturday
A visiting dog always takes over the sheep’s wool bed which we call The New Bed. It is not a New Bed any longer but it is newer than the old bed so the name New Bed continues. I have never seen a visiting dog crawl into the other bed which is a wicker basket with old blankets in it. I have never seen a visiting dog express any interest at all in the old bed. Large dogs and small dogs, every single dog who has visited has settled itself onto the New Bed and gone straight to sleep. Em has never challenged a dog sleeping on this bed. She lets it happen but she does not appear pleased. She wanders around and usually flops on a rug somewhere nearby. Eventually the visiting dog will leave so she knows the New Bed will once again be Her Bed.
28 June Thursday
We set off to take a walk down The Long Field. We left our car in Peggy’s yard so that it would not be blocking any tractors or trucks moving down the narrow lane. While we chatted to Peggy before we set off, Emily disappeared. We all three raced around in and out of sheds and barns and down little passageways in the farmyard. We got Peggy’s old dog Podge barking at our rushing about kind of activity. He did not know what we were up to, so he just barked to let us know that he was there. It is hard to call or whistle for a deaf dog. We had to see Em before we could catch her attention. We had to catch her attention before we could catch her. Eventually we checked the house for a second time. As we went toward the kitchen, Em came racing out with her body pressed as close to the side wall as she could make it. A huge cat was sitting up on a chair near the door. It hissed and whacked at Em as she passed. The twenty minutes of our rushing about search time had been twenty minutes of imprisonment by a cat for Em.
27 June Wednesday
There is a fair bit of repetition with names around here. It is easy to say a name and for someone to think you are speaking of one person when in fact you are speaking of someone else. We have both Joe and Joe farming on either side of us. Then there are the various fields owned by the Keatings and the Keatings and the Keatings. There is Michael and his son Michael, as well as Breda and Breda and Breda. Then there are PJ and PJ and TJ and DJ. I am only referencing the immediate area. This use of the same names continues all over the place. People do not get too confused. Context is everything. Mostly we all keep track of who is who.
26 June Tuesday
He was trying to explain to us how the old house in its dilapidation and neglect had been frightening to all of them as children. He said it was a scary house. He said again and again that it was a scary house. He did not have the words to explain exactly why it was a scary house. Finally he said, It was the kind of house that was full of Cats and Jam Jars and Vines. He said the Whole Entire Place was frightening.
25 June Monday
The English say Mum. Americans say Mom. Here it is Mam, or Mammy. It is also Ma and Da. Once adult, a formality creeps in. I first heard one young man speak of The Mother and The Father when discussing his parents. It sounded nearly biblical. Now I note that this same formality pops up often in local conversation. It was not just a characteristic of one family. It is most odd when heard on an answer phone, for example: The Mother and I are not available at this time.
23 June Saturday
The blacksmith has wide double gates in front of his workyard. On the gates he has large letters cut out of steel. They are beautifully made capital letters. They are simple and straight and even. They are welded onto the top edges of the gates. O.FLYNNS is on one gate. IRON.WORKS is on the other gate. All of the letters are capital letters but the S of O’Flynns and the S at the end of Ironworks are larger capital letters than the other capital letters. After the O there is a full stop which is a tidy small square. It is easier to have made a full stop than an apostrophe and the meaning of the full stop is understood. More confusing is the full stop between IRON and WORKS.
22 June Friday
The longest day was a sorry joke. The sky was so dark that even the chickens went to bed earlier than usual.
5 June Tuesday
The fish shop down on the quay has been owned and run by John Wall for many years. Now it has a new name and a new owner. I knew John Wall would not be lasting much longer when he stopped displaying his fish in his glass cases. He left it in boxes in the cool store room. The guessing game for customers about which fish he had and how fresh it looked meant that he did not feel too concerned to do much work towards selling fish any more. No one could see the fish. He knew what he had. He expected his customers to have the same knowledge. If you asked what he had, he would ask what you wanted. It was getting difficult to buy any fish at all from him. The new owners have a sign painted over the window which reads No Bones No Skin No Fear.
4 June Monday
Dirt is not called Dirt. Dirt is called Clay. Soil is another word for dirt, but soil is also called clay. Dirt implies filth. Dirt is synonomous with excrement. It is not a good thing to say that you have been Digging in the Dirt.. Clay is a common natural material which comes from the earth. Clay is used to make things like bricks and pots and plates and other ceramic things. There are lots of degrees of fineness in kinds of clay throughout the world. Around here, clay is what you dig in order to plant your vegetables.
3 June Sunday
It has been raining steadily since 5 o’clock yesterday. For most of the night, the rain was so heavy and so loud that it woke me up again and again. One of the wheelbarrows is completely full of water. That is how much rain has fallen. The other wheelbarrows have holes. They are empty. Em and I walked out this morning as usual. I wore full waterproof clothing. She took her usual swim and did not acknowledge the rain in any way at all. The birds do not seem to mind either. They are all singing and flying and swooping. I feel like I am the only one who is bothered by it. After so many days of summery mild weather I must have convinced myself that it was all going to continue like that. I was willing myself not to remember this.
2 June Saturday
The Polish woman in town who is doing repairs and alterations for clothing is the only one who is busy. She is very good at what she does. Everyone is taking clothes to be shortened or adjusted. Everyone is taking care with what they have as there is no money to buy new things. The clothing shops are devoid of customers. Even with the great reductions in price being offered, no one is buying anything. The seamstress told me that she was up until 4 in the morning trying to catch up with all the work.
1 June 2012 Friday
I have been carrying my phone with the camera in it all day. It fits easily into my pocket and it allows me to be ready at any moment to get a photo of the crow. I stood on top of the big table outside for twenty minutes. I stood very still and I waited for the crow to return to his preferred doorway in the barn. Em sat on the ground and looked up at me standing on the table. She was wondering why I was where I was. The crow did not come back while I waited. A real birdwatcher could probably stand quietly for much longer then this while waiting for a bird to appear. I am not a birdwatcher and this is not a special bird. It is just a crow. I do not really need a photograph of it. I am pleased to wake up hearing it knocking on the glass each morning. I know who is knocking. I know which door he is knocking at. I know what he looks like. I do not really need a photograph of this crow.
31 May Thursday
Yesterday I heard a knocking noise. I heard this knocking noise again and again. Each time I heard the noise I went to the kitchen door because each time I heard it I was sure someone was knocking on the door. There was never anyone at the door. I looked around outside thinking someone might be knocking on a different door. It took me most of the day to find the source of the knocking. It was a crow who was on the top step at the door to the upstairs room of the barn. He has been tucking himself into the doorway and tapping on the glass. I do not know if it is his reflection that he is tapping at or if he just enjoys the sound he is making. He is a handsome crow with a grey head and neck. Today I have been trying to get a photograph of him at the doorway, tucked in and tapping. Each time I hear the knocking noise, I rush outside with my camera. Each time the crow hears me coming, he flies away. Between yesterday and today this knocking noise is keeping me busy.
29 May Tuesday
A child or any person who is making a lot of noise and calling attention to herself or himself is called a NOTICE BOX. It is not a positive thing to be called a Notice Box. Calling attention to oneself is a way of standing out in the crowd. A lot of traditional socialisation here is about blending in and being like everyone else. A Notice Box is not a good thing to be.
28 May Monday
The growth of everything has gone mad with this heat. Now with a bit of rain at night, it is even more rampant. The boreen gets narrower as the cow parsley grows and grows. Driving through it means the car is rubbed and fluffed on both sides. The postman is annoyed by it all. I have to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts as I walk up the path toward Johnnie’s. I walk with my hands up and over my head. Somedays I feel that I am plunging through water. It is like water because I am surrounded by it and I am moving through it, but it is not at all like water. Somedays I pretend I am being marched along at gunpoint. With my arms up and over my head I do not have a good sense of balance. My feet trip and slip on stones which I cannot see. I would not be able to see them even if my arms were not up in the air because the vegetation is so thick. With my arms in the air I do not find my usual center. The slipping is wilder and less containable. The slipping feels awkward and dangerous. I use my upper arms to shield my face from nettles and brambles. Em is invisible down in the lower level of all the vegetation. As she gets closer to me, I see flashes of her black and white colouring just appearing and disappearing in among the dense greenery. When we finally get out and onto the more open path, we are both very wet and we are covered with bits of blossoms and leaves and sticky stems.
26 May Saturday
People here are still going off to Turkey to get Dental Work done. It is called Dental Tourism. Even with the price of travel and paying to stay somewhere it is cheaper than having the same work done here. I do not think as many people are travelling to get their teeth worked on as there were a few years ago. With the New Austerity I think people are just letting dental work which needs to be done wait. They are not doing it here and they are not doing it elsewhere. Usually, on these trips, several members of one family are getting things done and several others go with them to make it into a holiday. They have regular places where they stay and regular dentists who they visit. Someone told me about his trip a few weeks ago. His wife and daughter had major dental work done over six days. He did not have anything done himself. He had a lot of time with his grandchildren. I asked if he enjoyed the Turkish food. He said No No. He said he would never eat it. He had never tried it. He said they did cook a good steak and that is what he ate every day.
25 May Friday
It is a confusing one because one cannot live here without awareness of another, official, language, but because it is not spoken often nor everywhere it is easy for it to become a floating hovering kind of absence rather than a real presence. And this I say even as we live outside a village which is a little pocket of Irish speaking. I am aware of the damage, or irreverence, of the changes and inconsiderate translations made over many years. So the language exists, battered and ghost-like. As I live here and I listen, I try to pick out the meanings of words which I know I have never before encountered. It is slow and interesting. Wrong pronounciation is a diffferent thing.
24 May Thursday
Glorious heat and sunshine. It feels and it looks like we are living in another country. It is too hot to do anything except to enjoy the fact that it is too hot to do anything.
22 May Tuesday
BRUSCAR is the word printed or painted on litter bins. I never hear anyone use this word. I have never heard anyone say Pick up that Bruscar. Or Put that Bruscar in the bin. I have never heard this word said out loud. We know what it means because it is on a litter bin and we know what the bin is for. I assume it means Litter but maybe it means Litter Bin. That is how much I do not know even while I know.
19 May Saturday
The cat is still out on the road. I should have gone and moved the body with a spade when it was freshly dead. Now it has been run over again and again. It is getting more ragged and stretched and less cat-like. What was white is now grey. What it looks like now is no longer The Cat.
18 May Friday
Early this morning, the walk around was full of flowers. It is still wet and cold and mostly horrible but the blossoms are out regardless. I saw primroses, greater stitchwort, wild parsley and harebells. I saw red campion, and dandelions and wild garlic and vetch. I saw harebells, apple blossom, lords and ladies, and forget-me-nots. There are lilacs blooming in some places but not on our own trees yet. I am trying to name what I see and I am trying to remember the names. I was taking great pleasure in all of the vegetation but even my pleasure could not distract from the knowledge that we were approaching the dead cat on the road. I did not want to look but Em could not pass without investigation. I saw more than I wanted to see.
17 May Thursday
The farm cat was hit by a car out on the corner of the tar road just before we turn into the boreen. I feel sad about it. It was a mostly white cat with a few black markings. I have no idea if the cat was a male or a female. I doubt the cat had a name. I just thought of it as The Cat. The Cat travelled widely. It used to come down here most days. Sometimes it sat up on the platform in the sun cleaning itself. We could watch it while sitting inside at the big table. The birds would be eating from their feeders while The Cat sat just over their heads. They were all oblivious of one another and they were all safe. I saw The Cat way up in Johnnie’s orchard and at any number of locations up and down the track. The area around the farm was its headquarters. If we caught sight of The Cat while walking, Em would take off after it, but The Cat was quick and disappeared into the ditch before Em ever got close. As usual, it seems that I cannot go out without seeing dead shrews or dead mice scattered in my path. All of these little rodents have the top half of their bodies chewed off. I do not know what other creature is eating only half of these rodents. Such displays of violent death do not bother me much, but the death of the farm cat has made me sad. I shall miss the surprise of its unexpected arrivals and departures.
15 May Tuesday
Trading In is not the expression used for replacing an old car with a newer car. This is called Changing Up.
14 May Monday
Mickey The Boxer stopped his car and said good morning. He had a trailer attached on the back of his car. There was nothing in the trailer except a spade. He usually just nods or salutes as he passes. He never stops to speak to me. Today he commended me for walking out in all weathers. He said the sunshine today was much nicer for me than the rain and cold of the recent weeks. He said “You are looking well on it.” I thanked him and said something else. He then said he was getting very deaf. He said he was seventy-seven. I think he was telling me this because he did not hear or understand what I had said in reponse to his comments. So I said “Seventy-seven? Well, you are looking well on it.” He thanked me and drove along down the road with his trailer.
13 May Sunday
No one ever parks directly in front of the church. On a Sunday, when Mass is on and there are cars parked all through the village and all the way to the bridge, there is always a gap in front of the church. On weekdays, when people stop to do errands and to run in and out of the post office or the shop, no one parks directly in front of the church. People will use the space where no one parks as a place to back in and turn their car around. I do not know if this Not Parking is some kind of sign of respect or if no one does it because no one else does it. I do not know if this is the norm in front of every church or if it is just this village and this church.
12 May Saturday
I heard two men at the market complaining about a shop where the man in charge was not to be trusted. They no longer went to his shop unless they absolutely had no choice, but they continued to grumble about his untrustworthiness. The one man said “If you bought a paper from him, there’d be a page missing.” The other man agreed.
10 May Thursday
Living down a narrow track means that every arrival and every departure is full of anticipation. When driving there is always the chance of meeting another vehicle. The only solution to a meeting is that someone has to back up for a distance. The vehicle closest to one end or the other is the one who is obligated to do the backing. It is an understanding based on politeness. Meeting cows in the track calls for another sort of behaviour. Cows do not back up. A horse can be turned around by its rider. A person walking can squeeze himself or herself into the hedgerow. A fox sighting is always accompanied with a rushing feeling of excitement. The fox will be off and into the woods or the field before many seconds pass. The response of the fox is the same for a motor car or for a person on foot. The fox never lingers.
9 May Wednesday
Returning to this valley after a few days in London is full of a sense of less. There is little to read in my immediate out of door world here. There are no signs advertising shops, directions or streets. There is nothing that tells me when to stop or when to go. There are few words and no images to catch and distract attention. There is no language to clutter up my thoughts as I walk. There are plenty of shades of green. In this cold and very slowly burgeoning springtime there are plenty of blossoms and leaves to observe. That is a kind of reading but it is not reading with words and letters. The reading of language as a part of my surrounding environment does not exist. The single sign on the corner of our walk has even disappeared in the last few weeks. It was one of the old cast iron signs and it counted the distance to Clonmel in miles. It had not yet been replaced by an aluminium sign with the distance in kilometres. If it had just fallen down, it would be in the vegetation underneath where it had been on its pole. I looked in the grass below, and it is not there. It has been stolen and is probably on its way to decorate some Irish pub somewhere far from here.
5 May Saturday
I went down to the village to get the papers and there were dozens of motor cars arriving at the same time. There was a funeral about to begin. Eleven o’clock is when funerals always begin. The church is right across from the shop so it is impossible not to be caught up in the activity, even if that is not why you yourself are there. While in the shop, I asked who had died. The deceased was an older man called Free Hackett. I had never heard of him. This is not unusual as I know I shall never know all of the people around here. I think you have to be born here to even have a chance of knowing everyone and all of their interconnections. I have never heard the name Free. I could not imagine what Free might be short for. Upon asking, I was told that his name was short for Geoffrey (or Jeffrey).
4 May Friday
The weather is still unseasonably cold. The rain is off and on. The winds are bitter. I keep saying that I am not going to talk about it anymore but it is hard not to.
3 May Thursday
I have been loaned a book about the history of the Creamery in Ireland. I am not particularly interested in this history, but since the person loaning me the book was so enthusiastic, I felt I should read it. On page 24, there was a caption for a photograph of “Molly O’Brien of Ballyorgan, County Limerick hand milking in the 1950s.” and in smaller letters underneath, it was written ” This is not the Molly O’Brien mentioned in the text.” I was intrigued by the double presence of Molly O’Brien and proceeded to rush along with my reading just so that I could find the other Molly O’Brien in the text. As a result, I ended up reading the entire book very quickly. One of the final chapters recorded folklore and superstitions about butter and milk which I would have been sorry to have missed. Thanks to Molly O’Brien, I did not miss it.
2 May Wednesday
SOUTH TIPP TODAY is the local free newspaper. It comes out on Wednesday. It carries advertisements for services and products. It also has news, articles and notices for building planning permissions around the area. There is a large section of people remembering the anniversary of the deaths of loved ones For many people this is the only newspaper that they read. It is rarely called by its name. It is just known as The Small Paper.
1 May Tuesday
Sunday was horrible and cold and windy and grey. Yesterday was horrible and cold and wet and grey. Today is horrible and cold and wet and grey. The light is devastating. It is heavy and dull and it sucks the life out of everything. Em and I walked around, as usual. We were soaked in a very short time. I wore full waterproof gear but with this kind of lashing downpour, the rain gets in eventually. I am told that today is the first day of summer. I believe this in the same way that I believe that the first of February is the first day of spring. I do not understand the calendar here. I sort of think it is based on Hope.
30 April Monday
An older woman who looks youthful might be called A Fresh Woman. It could be said of her that she is Fresh Enough.
29 April Sunday
I throw a stick down into the stream for Em every time we pass. I have thrown a huge number of sticks into this stream over the years.. I have only one place where I can stand so that she can see me doing the throwing. With her deafness she needs to See the throw to know that it is happening. I still shout On your mark! Get set! Go! each time, but that is for me, not really for her. It is getting difficult because there is a branch that blocks my throwing area. If I hit the branch the stick might get lodged into the branch. Or the stick might bounce off the branch and drop straight down and land on top of Em. I need to get the throw right to pass over or under the branch and to land in the water. What I really need to do is to take a saw and cut this branch back. This is something I think of every day but I never take the saw nor wear the Wellington boots which I would need to stand in the stream to do the cutting. A new development of the stick ritual is that when Em comes up the banking and flattens herself out to crawl under the fence, she sometimes gets her stick stuck. If she cannot get her stick through the opening with ease, she goes back down the banking and she drops the stick into the water. Then she pounces on the stick and carries it back up the banking and under the fence.
28 April Saturday
I am not very good about offering tea. The ritual here dictates that you offer tea and the person being offered the tea says No. Then you wait a little longer and you offer again. Again, the person being offered the tea says No. The third time tea is offered the person being offered the tea says Yes. This goes for anything being offered, not just tea. I get annoyed with having to play this game. I tend to believe people when they say No. Sometimes I just announce that I only make the offer once so they should say Yes if they do indeed want it. If people know me, they understand that they can say Yes immediately. The people who I do not know very well are the ones for whom I sometimes feel I should play the game. Even children are conditioned to participate in this ritual. It is a form of politeness. People can go away very hurt or very hungry if they are not given the correct number of times to say No before saying Yes.
27 April Friday
The butcher in Ardfinnan has a refrigerated storage place across the street from his shop. It is next door to the hairdresser which is called Curl Up and Dye. The storage place is a small free-standing building made of cement blocks. The door is open all day long. There are carcasses hanging in there which can be seen from the road. There might be a freezer compartment in there too. The building is not large. It is just a room. The two butchers are in and out and crossing the road all day long. Sometimes they have to wait for a car or the bus to go by as they stand with a side of beef or lamb hanging over their shoulder.
25 April Wednesday
More cold and rain and wind. This does not even look like a day with the respite of intermittant sun. It is grey. It is wretched. It is dreary. It is April. We should not be surprised by this weather but we are. It is not the rain that surprises us. It is not even the hail that surprises us. It is the endless cold that keeps surprising us.
24 April Tuesday
I talked to a man who had bought 3 acres and an old crumbling house during the boom years. Last week he was offered the surrounding 28 acres of farmland for the same price as he paid for the original three acres and the house.
23 April Monday
Whenever I throw out old bread for the birds, Em is very careful to keep track of where it is thrown. Last night I had a few slices of old bread which I took with me as we left for our night walk down the meadow. I waited until she had run off ahead of me and then I scattered the bread off and into the long grass while I walked down the path. There is no way that she could have seen me throwing the bread. This morning we set off for our walk and she went right into the long grass and started to eat the bits of bread. She could only have located it by smell.
22 April Sunday
When we pay for something in a shop, the total is often just rounded up. Or actually it is rounded down to the nearest euro. I like this. It feels very generous and unfussy. If the person paying is short a few cents, the cashier just says “Oh, that’s okay.” and rounds it off. They might say “Well, what have you got there?” and they will look at our change and say “That is close enough, so.” If the total come to 16.49 euro, we may end up paying 16.35. We may end up paying 0nly 16.00. They would even prefer to take less money than for someone to have to break a bill. This does not happen in the bigger stores and supermarkets but it is normal in smaller shops. Today we noticed that even the Tax Office participates in this relaxed manner with money. On their forms it says DO NOT ENTER CENTS. If a tax bill comes to 2378.57 euro, it must be rounded off to 2378.00 euro. They do not want to be bothered by the cents.
19 April Thursday
The Month’s Mind is a special Mass which takes place one month after a funeral. It is a time for the family to gather together again to honour the deceased. It is also an opportunity for someone who might have missed the original service to come and pay their respects. I am not sure if this is written with an apostrophe. Is it The Month’s Mind or The Months’ Mind or just The Months Mind?
18 April Wednesday
For some years, it appeared that all of the women in Ireland were blondes. It was very fashionable to have blonde hair. Now, with the New Austerity, a lot women have stopped colouring their hair. It is fashionable to be careful with ones money. It is now fashionable to return to one’s Natural Shade.
17 April Tuesday
Tuesday morning is when the Circuit Court sits in Clonmel. I never think about the court being in session unless I try to park in the area of the courthouse. Today I found a parking spot on the quay. I walked up the street and saw the Garda unloading a prison van. The young men being led out of the van were all young and skinny and they all looked like each other. There were lots of Garda around. Some were attached to the prisoners with handcuffs and some were not attached but were keeping an eye on the prisoners. Some were keeping their eyes on the crowd. A group of people were gathered on some high steps across from the Courthouse. Some of them shouted out to the prisoners. Some of them shouted at the Garda. As the prisoners were led into the courthouse, the people on the steps ran down and rushed across the street in order to get seats inside. There was a lot of chaos and there was a lot of noise. I decided to walk along a different street.
16 April Monday
John was very sad when I saw him today. He had been caring for a dog for a friend. The dog mourned while her owner was away for a fortnight. The dog waited all day every day at the end of the track for her owner. She had to be carried down to the house each night as she would not come when called. She wanted to stay and wait for the return of her man. She would not eat her supper and she would not eat her breakfast. She never ate a thing for the whole fortnight. She drank some water but she refused all food. When the man returned at the end of his time away, the dog was overjoyed. That night, she ate her supper with enthusiasm. Her supper was the same sized supper as she was always given but her stomach could not hold it after two weeks of eating nothing.. She ate happily but her stomach could not hold that much food. Later that night, she died.
15 April Sunday
We removed Em’s lampshade collar and had a lovely walk up in the woods along the Glenshelane River. Em swam and ran and rushed around. The sunny day, the companionship of another dog and the excitement of a new place made five days with her head in a plastic nimbus into something that never happened.
14 April Saturday
When a shop is selling free range eggs, there is usually a snapshot of a field full of chickens beside the egg display. The photographs are never very big and they are often out of focus. The photograph is just there to reassure us that the chickens are free to run around out of doors. The photograph lets us know that the chickens are not cooped up all day and all night. We have to believe that the chickens in the photographs are the same ones who laid our eggs.
13 April Friday
I took Em around on the usual boreen walk this morning. She was eager to go. Even though she bumped into a lot of stones and branches and things on the way up the path, she was pleased to just be going. She developed a very particular way of dragging the plastic collar along through the long grass in order to get a good lick of water. I did not let her down and into the stream for her swim, but she was not too bothered about that. Any walk at all was at least something more interesting than thinking about what she had on her head.
11 April Wednesday
The woman stood on the pavement telling another woman that she knew what was going on. The woman kept saying more and more things to try to explain that she was not someone to be easily fooled. Her voice got louder and louder. The last thing I heard her shout was: I didn’t come down in the last shower.
10 April Tuesday
I took Em to the vet and now she has antibiotics and cream and a plastic collar around her neck to keep her from licking and scratching her tummy. The collar looks like an upside-down lampshade. She is annoyed and unhappy with this arrangement. I am to leave it on her for at least five days. She cannot lie down in her bed and she keeps bumping into door frames with the edges of her apparatus. We go back and forth between feeling sorry for her and trying not to laugh because she looks so foolish. It is bad enough that she is deaf and now the vet tells me that she is half blind. Bumbling around with this collar is an indignity too far.
9 April Easter Bank Holiday Monday
We have spent the last two days re-organizing the stone tool shed. Peter built a fine new wooden front and put a new door on it while we were away. We had taken down shelves and moved all the stuff before we left. Now we have had to put shelves up again and sort everything out. It is a huge and dirty job. We have been getting rid of a lot of stuff. There will be at least two trips to the dump. There is a fair amount of burning to do and I think we might do a day selling at the car boot sale too. As pleased as we are with the new door, we feel a bit worried as we know that the swifts will be desperate to get back in when they return. Three or more years of nesting in that building has made it their summer home. Now there is no place for them to enter. We are both glad and sad.
8 April Easter Sunday
I drove down to the shop to get the papers when everyone was inside the church for Easter Mass. There were cars parked all along the road as far as the bridge. They were parked far down in the other directions too. There were a huge number of cars. Maybe there were one hundred cars. Maybe there were not quite that many. There was complete silence which was odd as the cars made the village look so busy. I double parked right in the middle of the road. There was no chance of anyone needing to pass. They were all at Mass. As always, there were a small group of men who stood at the door of the church. They were all cleaned up and wearing their tidy Sunday pullover sweaters. These men did not go inside the church. They stood just outside and smoked quietly. There is always a small group like this outside the church. There is always a small group like this outside every church. I do not know if it is always the same men but it is always men and they never go inside. I suppose they are there when everyone else comes out and everyone can assume that they have just exited themselves. Maybe being at the door is enough. Being seen to be present is important.
7 April Saturday
I have been trying different kinds of creams on Em’s tummy. It is raw and sore and she licks at it all the time. Swimming seems to soothe it for a while. Walking through the long wet grass is also helpful.
5 April Thursday
I went down to the Post office to post a parcel of books to Seattle. I rushed to get there in time for the 3.45 collection. I always aim to get there for the pick up time. After I got home I realized how silly I was. There is no chance that my parcel will be boarded onto a plane today. There is no chance that my parcel will be boarded onto a plane tomorrow. It will probably not even get to Dublin. Tomorrow is Good Friday. The country squeals to a halt. It is not just bars and restaurants that are closed. The banks and the post offices are closed too. Most places are closed. Saturday is never a day when any post is moving in or out or around the country anyway. Sunday is Easter Sunday. And Monday is Easter Monday. Easter Monday is another Bank Holiday. There is no chance that my parcel of books will leave the country until at least Tuesday.
3 April Tuesday
Simon is able to put a shoe on his foot again. He is not able to tie the shoe yet, but the swelling has gone down and this is good. He has a huge dislike of slippers, so he has mostly been hopping around on his crutches with just a sock on the bad foot. He is the sort of person who puts on a pair of shoes in the morning and does not take them off again until he goes to bed. Myself, I seem to be changing shoes all day long. There are walking boots and Wellington boots and the short rubber shoes for going out to the clothesline and going to town shoes and, of course, there are slippers. And there are all kinds of variations even within the categories. Living in the country demands varied and specific footwear.
2 April Monday
Someone dumped a big black bag of rubbish beside the road. Very quickly the bag was ripped open, probably by animals. Or maybe it broke open when it was thrown from a moving car. The rubbish was a particularly horrible combination of domestic stuff. It has been blown and dragged all up and down the road. I have walked past it all several times and each time I tell myself that I should carry a plastic bag with me so that I can pick it up. I never remember the mess until I see it again. I mentioned this to Breda today after Em and I had walked up to her house. I asked if she had a bag to give me for the return trip. She decided to come along with me which was much better than just giving me a bag.. We each took a large white bag and we had thin rubber gloves and the two dogs with us. We picked up everything along the way even before we got to the very nasty stuff. There were used diapers and quite a number of things which we did not care to identify. We met Joe at a gate. He was waiting for his brother to join him. Together, using two vehicles, they were going to move a group of young and frisky calves quite a distance down the road to another field. They needed to use two vehicles so that any oncoming cars would not crash into the animals. They also needed the animals to not run too far too fast. He warned us that this would be happening and that the road would be very full of the excited calves. We thanked him and we walked further along collecting our wretched rubbish as we went. When Michael came along, we looked up and saw that the calves were really racing and jumping all over the road behind his small car. They were completely excited to be out of their field and going somewhere. They were excited to be going anywhere. It was not exactly a stampede but it was a pretty chaotic rushing and jostling. Breda dropped her bag and ran to get Molly who is very skittish about things like cows. I picked up her dropped bag and stood at the side of the road. The calves stopped and started trying to back away from me. This caused them to be crashed into by the ones rushing up behing them. I do not know if they were disturbed by me or if they were disturbed by the two big white bags. I jumped up onto a gate and dropped the two big bags behind the gate. I shouted and gestured at the calves to get going. Finally they did that. Joe came along in his truck with a few stragglers just in front of him. After they were all gone, Breda returned with Molly. She asked where Em had gone. Em was standing in the water down in the stream looking up and waiting for me to throw her a stick. The stream is below the level of the road. She had missed all of the excitement with the running calves. She just expects everything to continue as usual.
1 April Sunday
The tulips I bought at yesterday’s market are a beautiful deep reddish purple. I was so pleased to see them and to bring them home that I did not notice their leaflessness. Someone had carefully cut every single leaf off every single tulip.Where there should be several wide floppy leaves on each stem there were only tiny green triangles. The flowers looked completely naked and foolish in the vase. I could not make them look right even though the colour indoors was even more lovely than it had been out of doors. This morning I went outside and gathered some long leaves from the spent daffodils in the grass. I cut a few wide tall leaves from the wild irises down by the stream. The combination of these added to the blossoms does not look right but it distracts from the lack of real tulip leaves.
31 March Saturday
I went down to the shop this morning and I returned with three newspapers, some milk and a pair of crutches. I borrowed the crutches for Simon. He has been hobbling around with a stick for a few days. He has been unable to put his right foot down onto the ground at all. His hobbling has been a bit wild and unbalanced and even though I have tried to move things out of his way, it is all a bit dangerous. It is nice that we can get crutches at the shop. We always joke that we can always get anything we need at McCarra’s shop. It is that kind of a shop. The crutches have taken this to a new level. I mentioned the crutch loan to someone later and I was told that hospitals here are only allowed to use crutches once as if they give them to a second patient they might get sued for providing used and faulty goods. I am shocked by the wastefulness of this. No wonder the health authority is in financial trouble. I was told that the once used crutches are collected by charities who send them off to Africa.
27 March Tuesday
I am not really fond of forsythia. I like it as a word but I am not so fond of it as a tree, shrub or flower. It always makes it’s way into the house at this time of year simply because it is in bloom and it is bright. Today there are a few small sprigs of forsythia in a little jar on the table. The jar sits beside a wooden platter holding four yellow pears. The combination of these things together could not look more beautiful.
10 March Saturday
We are packing books for Norwich. We seem to be packing endless numbers of books. Some are easily gathered from the cupboards. A great many need to be fetched from the upper barn. We make a list of what is needed and then every once and a while I run up there to collect whatever is on the list. It has been raining off and on so I time my trips for the sunny dry moments. Em waits outside the book barn and when I go up to the other barn, she follows me and settles herself down outside the door of that building. When I come out again, she is surprised by my reappearance. She gets to her feet and follows me back to the book barn. After a few of these trips back and forth, she is weary of the job and weary of the lack of undisturbed sleep. Feeling guilty about the many disturbances, I finally take her to the house. I leave her indoors to enjoy a proper nap.
It is not just books being collected and packed. There are cards and there are things in frames and there are things not in frames. Everything has to be gathered together and listed and then packed in different kinds of categories. We have the books and objects which will be displayed in glass cases. Some things which we would like to take, we cannot take because they are too big to fit inside the glass vitrines. Some things will go on the walls. Then there are the books which will be on the reading tables.. These are the books which will be handled and read. There are other books which will make up a small reference section. These books will also be available for reading. The piles get bigger and bigger. We do not want to pack them until we are certain that we have not forgotten anything.
Another category is The Books for Henry. Every once and a while, one of us will ask Do you think Henry would like this? Or Is this right for Henry? We speak of Henry with great familiarity. We speak his name warmly as if we know him and his preferences well. We each have a sense of what he does and does not like. Sometimes we disagree and one of us will say No, that is silly. Of course, Henry does not want that! Neither of us have ever met Henry. Henry has a bookshop in Norwich. His shop is called The Book Hive. He has agreed to sell some of our books during the time of our exhibition PRINTED IN NORFOLK. We are trying to choose the right books for him and his shop. We look forward to meeting Henry. We hope that our choices are right.
9 March Friday
The milk truck is a big hazard on the road. It is as wide as the road and when we are driving, we have to move to the side or sometimes we even have to back up to let the tanker go first. Since it is so big we can usually see it from a distance and that makes getting out of the way a bit easier. Even before she lost her hearing, I always reached for Em and held her collar when the milk truck came along. The drivers are moving too fast and the vehicle is too large for an abrupt stop. A dog in the way would most likely just be run over. Today I had both Em and Oscar to keep squeezed onto the road side as the shiny tanker with a young driver went by. There was the usual older man in the cab and he waved. The young driver did not wave. He looked nervous. He was obviously new. He was being directed around and learning the route. There is one truck from Glanbia and another truck from Dairygold. Some farmers have their milk collected by one creamery and some have their milk collected by the other creamery. I think that not very ago everyone in an area sold their milk through the same local creamery. Now there is competition and the farmers choose to sell according to the best price. The trucks collect from each farm every other day, but because there are two different companies collecting it seems like there is a milk truck on the road every day. I feel fortunate when I meet only one milk truck a week.
8 March Thursday
A small dead shrew on the track. I was examining the wild garlic lining the boreen when I saw it. It was laying on its back with its little feet up in the air. Its mouth was open and pink inside. Once again, there seemd to be no wounds. I wonder if these baby shrews die of fright. When I got home, there were parts of a dead goldfinch on the path to the house. The bird had been selectively eaten. One leg remained and some tiny organs were spread about, as well as a lot of feathers and fluff. The head was missing.
7 March Wednesday
They say that we are getting fifteen more minutes of light every week. It feels like more than that. I love the hopefulness of it.
6 March Tuesday
Another very icey morning. As soon as the daylight comes the grass is wet. I do not think we can call it dew when it has been so cold but it is not really melted ice either. I met PJ up the top and we spoke of the cold and the wet. He said he had been Agitating over at Donal’s early this morning. He was surprised by how wet he got just walking over the field. I was surprised by the word Agitating.. I could not imagine what he was up to. I asked what he meant by Agitating. He said he had been stirring up the slurry in the tank so that when they were ready to do the spreading later today, the slurry would have a good consistency. Getting it ready in advance was called Agitating.
5 March Monday
I am the self-appointed keeper of Johnnie Mackin’s house. The house is empty and it is falling apart more and more every year. There is very little glass left in any of the windows. Some of the wooden window frames are completely gone. The front door is made of two doors of equal size which open in the middle. I can tell when people have been in and wandering around the place because they always leave the door on the right side open. I walk past the house everyday with Em. I push through the brambles and go to close the door whenever I see it open.. She rarely joins me. She sits on the track and waits. I secure the two parts with a piece of metal rod which has two loops of metal at either end. I hook the loop of one end through one handle. The other end of the metal stays in its position on the other door handle. The windows in each of the doors are broken. There is a large hole in the bottom of the left hand door. It might be that it was kicked in or it might be that the wood of the door has just rotted. Animals, people and birds all have easy access to the interior of Johnnie’s house. I do not know why it is so important to me that the front door be closed. It feels respectful. I will continue to close it for as long as the door itself remains intact.
3 March Saturday
The beautiful mild days have gone and it is cold. It is really cold. The mornings are frosty. The roof on the barn has been white with frost and the nights are very sharp and bitter. It does feel more like the weather we should be having. I bought daffodils again at the market so I did not have to pick my own. I prefer the ones that are growing in the grass to stay where they are. At least that way it looks like spring outdoors even if it does not feel like spring.
2 March Friday
We have a new form to fill out at the post office. Any package or any envelope that is too fat to fit through the postmistress’s little slot guide has to have this new sticker on it. It is green and white and it is called an Aviation Security Declaration. It must be used for all packages going to any destination in the European Union. It requires a detailed description of the contents of the parcel, and the sender’s name and address and signature. The signature follows a line which states: I certify that this item does not contain any dangerous or prohibited goods. Anyone who wanted to send something dangerous through the post would not hesitate to lie on this little form. I am sending books. I am always sending books. Everything leaves this island on an airplane so everything needs this form filled out and declared and signed. I am weary of filling it out this form already and it has only been required for two weeks so far.
1 March Thursday
Some days Coco is waiting for us at the end of the drive. Some days Coco is gently bouncing on the trampoline. Somedays Coco is stretched out full length on the top of the picnic table. Today, Coco was sitting on a planter. There are two of these planters, one on each side of the front door. They are cast out of concrete and there is nothing growing in either of them. I assume there is soil in the pot otherwise Coco’s bottom would have been drooping down into the empty cavity. The planters are shaped like urns, with a wide bottom and a wide top and a narrow connecting bit in the middle. They are about three feet high. When we stopped to admire Coco in his pose on the planter, he turned his head slowly to one side. Then he turned it back the opposite way. He was enjoying his elevated posture and he seemed to enjoy us admiring him.
29 February Wednesday
Everyday there is more growth to notice. I am seeing wild garlic, primroses, daffodils, celandine, crocus and even blossom on a few trees. There are lots of other things along the boreen. They are the things that I always mean to look up when I get home but then I never do. The herbs are coming up too. Chives and parsley and sorrel are all well advanced. Yesterday we made a fresh pesto with the new growth from the tarragon and some garlic and walnuts. The young tarragon tasted fantastic. Tulips are starting to show too. I think the first green of the leaves pushing out of the ground looks a lot like a part of a dinosaur. I think this every year. It is a prehistoric kind of shape. On the way down the meadow, right before the steep slippery corner, there is a cluster of tulip leaves showing among the rough grass. I emptied some large plant pots there last fall. I was trying to fill a hole which was a dangerous hole at that location beside the path. I knew I would fall into it at some point. The tulip bulbs must have been in one of the pots. I do not know what colour they will be but I am looking forward to their blooming.
27 February Monday
The Repossession Report. For quite a few weeks or maybe months The Repossession Report was a regular part of the late afternoon news program on a Monday. There were discussions about how many thousands of homes were being repossessed and often court cases were cited. People came to beg the court for leniency and for extended time for repaying their mortgages. Some weeks there would be several women trying to gain time to hold onto their family homes. The banks were blamed often but just as often the people who took out the mortgages had taken on too much. The banks and the people were all guilty for falling into the belief that things would keep going up and up. Property prices were insane. People believed that they had to buy or they would be left behind. Renting has been very much frowned upon, at least here in the country. People who rent are considered irresponsible. I have never understood exactly why. That kind of attitude made people feel a huge pressure to buy a place of their own. Now there are people whose home has been repossessed by the bank but they stay on in that house and rent it from the bank because they are afraid for anyone to know they have lost their home. The shame is completely oppressive. I have not heard a Repossession Report on the radio for a few months. Perhaps they have changed the time for the report or maybe they stopped doing it altogether. It was certainly a depressing portrait of these times. It was a kind of radio voyeurism which made everyone feel bad.
26 February Sunday
People go to Mass not Church. No one speaks of going to Church. They go to Mass. They go to the activity not the place. I do find myself writing about religion a lot. I guess it is because there is one religion which has such a large place in the lives of the people here that it is hard to avoid. Everyone takes so many aspects of it for granted. This religion is just the way life is. Daily life and religion are not separable. I am always outside of it so there is a lot to observe and since I do not really want to know enough about it to ask anyone for answers, I just ask and answer my own questions.
25 February Saturday
Kathleen is The Cheese Lady at the market. Today she had a bucket of green olives on her stand. She said she did not like olives and she did not know anything about olives so she felt she could not recommend them. The cheese maker who supplies her with cheese for the market has had some trouble getting paid by one of his customers in the North. Suddenly he is being paid in olives. He is not very happy about this. He is a maker of lovely goat and sheep cheeses and he proudly sells his own and other peoples’ cheeses at several markets.. He does not want to sell olives. Now he has so many olives that he has to sell them to try to recoup his money. That means Kathleen has to try to sell them too. Her lack of enthusiasm is not very encouraging. I did not see anyone buying the olives.
24 February Friday
It is disturbing when we hear about house robberies in the area. It is especially disturbing when the house burgled is that of an eldery person who hardly ever goes anywhere at all. This suggests that the robber had been keeping an eye on that house and on the old person’s movements. As this just happened in the vicinity, everyone is telling each other to on the alert for any strange vehicles. Or to be on the look-out for motorcars driven by strangers. Sighting unknown cars or vans is a more difficult thing than it used to be. Cars and people are moving around the entire country all the time. Not very long ago, almost all the cars around here had TS on their license plates. This stands for Tipperary South. I felt pleased with myself when I realized that I could identify the county of any car that I saw by its letters. Each county has its own letters and some are more obvious than others. Many are the first and last letter of the name, but there are plenty of exceptions. Waterford city is W. The county of Waterford is WD. Westmeath is WH, while Wexford is WX, and Wicklow is WW. I like the double letters WW and I like the KK for Kilkenny. It used to be that people bought and sold their cars in the same area. And people stayed living in one area usually for their entire lives. Now people are moving around the country to where there are jobs. They may still speak of their Home Place but they can live anywhere. Cars are sold all over the place. Cars are sold from any place to any place. So even if we do not see many cars around here from as far away as Roscommon (RN), Donegal (DL) or Offaly (OY) it does not mean that we won’t. There are a great many cars driving around here with letters other than TS. It is getting harder to identify a car as that of a non-local. Even if we do not know a person by name, we learn to recognize the person driving each vehicle and get to know which vehicle is a regular part of our landscape, whatever its county affiliation.
23 February Thursday
The High Stool is a seat at the bar. When someone is headed to the pub for a drink, he’ll say I’m For The High Stool.
22 February Wednesday
Em is in great shape. She is running and walking and being a happy dog. Besides our morning walk, and whatever the weather, we go out every afternoon for Games in the Field. She usually chooses the frisbee.. She takes four or five long runs down the field to fetch and then she calls it a day and she walks right past me. She takes the frisbee to her house. This means she has had enough and the games are over. She used to go on and on and on for hours. It is a relief to have her worn out so quickly. She seems to have come to terms with her deafness and instead of slowing her down and making her old, it is now just one thing about her. She has taken to hurling herself against the backdoor. She may be deaf, but she is strong. And it is still too cold to come into the kitchen only to find the door wide open after she has let herself in.
21 February Tuesday
There has been a lot on the radio this week about adopted people looking for their birth mothers and also about the mothers, who gave up their babies, now looking for their offspring. Society here was very unforgiving about children born out of wedlock, so there was a lot of shame. Even today some mothers will not acknowledge their given away children. In a discussion between one mother and her newly re-united son, the mother noted a characteristic of his which she claimed was not his at all, but a typical trait of her entire family. To make her point, she said You Didn’t Lick That Off the Ground.
20 February Monday
Our freezer is out in the shed. We have always had it out there. It is not the most convenient place for it. It is not convenient at all but we are used to it. It is not so good when it is deeply cold or when it is raining. It is a pest to have to put on a coat and hat and maybe mittens and rubber boots too, just to go and take a look in the freezer. It is not so good when it is dark either. The light for the inside of the shed is at the far end of the room. The freezer is at the far end of the room too. It would be pleasant if the light switch were just inside the door. Since it is not, we try to keep a path clear so that it is never too difficult to walk through the shed. If I go outside and it is not dark enough to need a torch out doors but it is already dark inside the shed, it can be a precarious walk to the far end of the space. I have to trust that the path is clear. If I do go out with a torch, I have to turn on the light anyway once I get to the freezer as I cannot look through the freezer and hold the torch at the same time. I just do not have enough hands. If there is ever a quick need to see about whether or not this or that is in the freezer, it is very easy to avoid going out to check. And we rarely use ice cubes in drinks. It is just too far to go for them.
19 February Sunday
It is very cold this morning. The bright sunlight makes it look like it will be mild but the air and the wind are sharp and cold. Em and I walked around at about 10.30. We did not see one car. We did not see one tractor nor one person. We did see one dog and that was Oscar who greeted us and walked along for a few minutes before running back to his own house. It was a Sunday morning kind of quiet. I do not know if people were all still in bed or if they were at Mass. We stopped to admire Joe’s new door on the narrow side barn. The new door is on a runner instead of on hinges. It is wide and square in shape. When the men began to break down the stone work of the old opening a while ago, Joe told me that he had decided to replace it because the cows were afraid of the old doorway. They were afraid because the opening was both narrow and low. He said he could not blame them as he had bumped his own head plenty of times if he forgot to duck when entering. Em has always liked to sneak into that door and she has often come out chewing something. For her there was no problem about the size of the door. The outside of this new sliding door is covered with shiny aluminum. I hope the cows will not be disturbed by the glare off the new metal.
18 February Saturday
I was down in the book barn. Em was lying just outside the door. She likes to be there as she can keep an eye on me through the glass door and she can keep an eye on the rest of her world at the same time. I heard a thud on the glass which meant that a bird had flown into it. This happens often. The birds dash around at speed and glass is a confusing material. I went to take a look. There was a bluetit on the ground right beside Em’s head. I watched from inside the barn. The bird was alive and shaking. Em looked at the bird carefully. Then she stood up and sniffed at the bird. The bird could not move because it was either wounded or badly dazed. Em sniffed and walked around the bird and then she threw herself back down onto the ground.a few feet away. I would like to think that she moved away from the bird out of respect and consideration for a creature in pain. Instead I think she was afraid of it. I went outside and I moved the bird into a sheltered spot near the flowering currant bush. When I came out later, Em was back in her usual place and the bird had flown away.
17 February Friday
Ten past seven in Cahir. The town is quiet. Once again, I am in the car waiting for Simon to buy his newspaper and a coffee from the one shop which is open. Today he is catching a train to Limerick Junction. From there he will catch another train to Galway. Once again, I see the window cleaner working his way up toward me. His is the only movement in the street. The last time I saw this early morning window cleaning activity it was completely dark on a bitterly cold winter morning. Today, it is not yet light. It is not dark, but it is still more dark than light. The window cleaner is moving from shop to shop with his bucket and his rags and his squeegee. Once again, I wonder about the thoroughness of his cleaning before the day is even properly light.
16 February Thursday
In recent years the banks have closed branches all over the country. They have closed many banks in both towns and villages. In place of the banks they have installed cash machines. An ATM machine is good for some things but it can not provide all services. It has been difficult for people in rural places. Now the banks are removing the ATM machines too. In some places, especially in the west, a person might have to drive ten or fifteen miles to get to a machine to withdraw some cash. This is particularly difficult for people who have no car. The reason for the removal of the cash machines is that so many of them are getting robbed. The robbers come in the night with a JCB and they smash the wall and take the whole machine away with them. First they steal a car and then they steal a JCB anad then they steal the ATM. It is a big operation and it demands a fair bit of research and planning. It must be worthwhile because it has been happening quite frequently in these difficult times. I have not heard of any of the cash machine thieves being caught yet.
15 February Wednesday
It is nice to be returning after some weeks away. At this time of year the returning makes everything look new. It makes the ordinary environment feel like an exciting place. Everything I see is something I know very well, but everything looks just a little changed. The light at the end of the day lasts longer. The light is brighter. It is springlike. The green of the fields is bright and lush. All growth looks like new growth. I look forward to seeing the cows back out on the land. They must be impatient themselves after their winter under cover. I should think it won’t be long now.
21 January 2012 Saturday
Yesterday I took a wheelbarrow down to the stream to collect all of the rubbish that has appeared during the winter months. There were empty plastic drinks bottles and food packets probably left upstream by the wood cutters last year. It has taken this long for the current and the weather to bring everything down this far. There were some plastic bags leftover from farming stuff and bits of old rubber hoses and tubing and many things I cannot name. There has been a lot of damage to the culverts which carry the water under the path. Big branches and trees have been carried downstream and the force of them hitting the banking has caused a lot of destruction. My picking up of the trash is a not really making much of an improvement but at least I do not have to look at human detritus everyday when I pass. It will just be nature’s mess. I waded around happily in my high rubber boots. Em was delighted that we were walking about in the water together.
20 January 2012 Friday
Every Friday morning there is an old fellow who is brought to the shop to get his messages. Sometimes I do not see him for weeks and weeks as I do not always go to the shop at the same time. He always goes at the same time and he always goes on a Friday. He is brought down from the mountain by motorcar. The man who drives him goes around to the passenger door and he helps the old man out. Then the old man holds onto his cloth bag and the driver holds onto the opposite end of the cloth bag. The old man is bent nearly in half and his face is looking down at the ground. He is not able to see anything in a forward direction because his neck is so deeply bent. In addition, he must be at least partially blind. The driver leads the old man into the shop very very slowly with the help of the bag. He comes on a Friday because Friday is the day he picks up his check from the Post Office. Once he cashes his check, he can get his food and things for the week. Someone in the shop rushes about to collect everything for him. I have never noticed if he has a list or if they just know what he always has or if they go and ask him what he needs and wants. The old man sits at a table in the little side room with his head and his body still heavily bent. He sits very still. He wears a woolen suit jacket, with a sweater underneath, a flat wool cap and heavy wool trousers and black leather boots. His outfit is always the same and it is always very dirty. His face is very black with soil and soot. When his supplies are all gathered together and put into the bag, the man who drove him down carries the bag. The old man holds onto the back of the drivers jacket and together they walk slowly out of the shop.
19 January 2012 Thursday
There is a feeling of panic because the weather is so springlike. It is mild, yes, but in between there are harsh cold winds. The nights are cold and the mornings are cold but the days are mostly mild. Should I be pruning the fruit trees? Buds are forming and it could make more problems if they are not done in time. I need to prune the roses and the clematis and the honeysuckle. I already did the raspberries. It is a confusing time. I keep saying it. Everyone keeps saying it. Yesterday was so mild we could have eaten our lunch outside except for the fact that slurry was being spread over the fields on all sides of us. The smell permeates everything. It would ruin whatever we were eating..
The council has gone around cutting big gashes into the verges. The gashes are always on the downhill slant sides of the tar road. They are about every ten metres apart. They are made by a digger just gouging out the weeds, grass and soil and making a deep rough trench so that when the rain comes the water will have some place for running off. It is all an ugly mess but there is no doubt that the vegetation will re-grow very quickly, and the gashes will become rough verges again soon. We will forget the very existance of these gashes.
18 January 2012 Wednesday
He is Like the Head Cut Off His Father. This is what I was told today when I commented on a young baby boy. I said he looked a lot like his dad. This was a much stronger way of saying the same thing.
17 January 2012 Tuesday
The stile up by Maisie’s old house is suddenly visible after having disappeared into a brambly undergrowth for a long time. Some of the ditch has been cleared up there and the stone steps can be seen again. I had forgotten all about those steps. No one has used them for a great many years. Even before Maisie died I do not think anyone else used them. When she was well into her eighties, she used to cross the narrow road and go over the stile and into the field for a walk. Sometimes she took the dogs with her. Sometimes she went on her own. As she got older, the steps became too much. They are very steep steps. The unevenness of the field made for difficult walking. In her later years, she just crossed over the road and then she crossed back home again.
Thinking of Maisie reminds me of a story which Breda told me. I had mentioned how I sometimes get mixed up by the two Shine brothers. She said I am not the only one to get confused. Some years ago, Maisie congratulated Ned on the birth of a daughter. He replied that he had had No Hand, Act or Part in it and in fact the child had been born to his brother PJ.
16 January 2012 Monday
The weather continues with its crazy mildness. More and more spring plants are appearing. The snowdrops are up and the Lenten Rose is in bloom. Daffodils are in flower in some places. Here they are just pushing out of the ground. The boreen is alive with fresh growth and many shades of green. There is also a lot of mud. Between the mud and the unusually large number of rocks heavily coated with moss, it makes for very dangerous walking. Any number of buds are visible on trees. The birds sing in the early morning as though it were normal for a morning in January. Everyday is like a spring day and every day we all exchange worried words about what might follow this. We are fearful of trusting it, even while we enjoy it. None of it feels right. The light is bright and spring-like and the days feel longer than usual because it is so mild. Some days I need a hat and gloves to walk out but most days it is just fine if I forget them.
15 January 2012 Sunday
One cannot pay for a horse on a Sunday. I do not know if this is considered bad luck for the horse, or for the new owner or maybe for the person selling the horse. It is just a fact.
14 January 2012 Saturday
Today we were able to drive the motor down here again. The concrete at the farm has set and the pile of stones blocking our way has been removed. While the car was parked up there all week, I enjoyed checking in the back as Em and I returned from our walk. John would leave our post in a neat pile inside it each morning. It was as though our car became the largest postbox ever. It was pleasing to collect the post and to carry it home but it was more work to carry groceries and things from town all the way down. Yesterday Simon phoned me on his way home. I walked up to meet him at the farm. If I had not been here, he would have had to make two trips: half a kilometer up and half a kilometer down and then up and down again. Together we carried the bags down. Em came along for the walk. It has also been difficult to come down in the dark if there was something to carry. Carrying a torch and a few bags and avoiding holes and puddles in the track was hard work. All winter, I have been longing for a head torch. I never remember to put it on a shopping list. I think of it when I am out in the dark walking or when trying to pick things out of the vegetable garden. A head torch would improve my night life.
13 January 2012 Friday
On our walk around today, I was asked if I had seen a particular cat. The man who asked me was just feeding the cat for someone else. It was not his own. He said that the cat was a fat cat because it had had a pampered life. He was worried because this cat had not returned to eat any dinner for a few days. He was worried because he said it was not the kind of cat who could go out and find its own food. He was worried because he said a fox will easily get a cat, especially if it is lying down.
12 January 2012 Thursday
I have a new address book and I have been very slow to start using it. I have been so slow that I cannot even call the new book new anymore. I need to sit down and copy the details of individuals from the old book into the new one. I need to just do it one letter at a time so that it is not a big chore. Each time I begin, I find myself confronted with the name of someone who has died. As long as they are there in my book, I am reminded of them on a regular basis. It is a nice thing to be reminded of a friend who is no longer alive. It is totally unnecessary to copy these details into my new book. But if I do not copy the name and the details into my address book, then I no longer come across these absent friends by chance. It is this side-effect of negating of people which keeps me from completing my task.
11 January 2012 Wednesday
The digging up at the farm has started again. We cannot drive up or down the boreen because the way is blocked with the drain digging and the piles of stones and with the men and equipment. It has been a few days already and today they are pouring a concrete slab. Now we need to wait a few more days until the concrete is safely set. We walk up and down to get to the car when we want to go anywhere. The mud is thick in parts of the track and the working area is a mess too. Yesterday I went to the dental hygenist. When I stood up to leave at the end of the session, the whole area of the reclining chair where my feet had been was covered with mud. Most of it was dry but some of it was not. It was a mess. I had not realized that I was carrying so much muck on my feet. I guess we should walk up to the car wearing boots and change into our shoes when we get there.
10 January 2012 Tuesday
Many shops are closed and closing all over the place. It is not a surprise to note yet another absence. One lady said that the town looks very Toothy. It took me a moment to realize that she was suggesting the spaces missing between teeth. It is not a surprise to see the empty shops, but it is sometimes quite sad. It is interesting to see new things opening in this climate of austerity. Each opening arrives with a sense of great optimismn. Today we tried a new Indian restaurant which opened upstairs in the place which has been four or five different Indian restaurants over the years. Each one fails, mostly because the first floor location is impossible. The very young couple who are running the present manifestation are sweet. They welcomed us and served us with great care and attention. We really wanted it to be a good place but the food was not very good. We were the only customers, which we would not mind at all, if the food was good. They smiled a lot as we left. We smiled a lot as we thanked them but we will not go back again.
The consolidation of several shops into one premises is another new aspect of the Austerity. The health food shop now has a wine shop in its back room. The wine shop used to be up around the corner. And the next door shop has been broken through and it is the now a version of the shop which used to be called Home Thoughts-From Abroad. I always found this a strange name. They sold organic paints and lovely cotton fabrics and things for the house. I do not know if they have the same name now, but they have many of the same things. Now these three shops can trade in one place and I assume everyones rent is lower and they can even share staff. I understand that the wine man is only in there two days a week. The rest of the time, the health food shop handles any wine transactions.
9 January 2012 Monday
We are still saying Happy New Year to everyone we meet along the way in a day. I never really know how long this goes on. I think it is approximately two weeks. If one has not said Happy New Year to everyone one meets by then, there is an understanding that it has been said even if it has not been said.
8 January 2012 Sunday
I have some plants in pots inside in the book barn. I put some in there every winter so that they will not freeze. I went to water them today. The white enamel pot which I used last year has a hole in the bottom. All of my enamel pitchers and jugs have holes in them. I keep all them because I love them not because they are useful. I have been using an empty wine bottle which is not a good method. I submerge the bottle in the water of the big water butt by the barn. Because the opening is small, I have to hold the bottle under water for quite a while before it fills up. With my hand in the water up to the wrist, my hand gets very cold and then I have to dry both my hand and the dripping bottle with an old rag so that I don’t carry drips all through the barn on the way to the plant pots. It takes five or six fillings of the bottle to water everything. I keep thinking that the water in the butt will freeze soon and then I shall have to find a different method anyway. So far the lousy method gets repeated and repeated and the way this mild winter is going, I may never bother with a better system.
7 January 2012 Saturday
The Farmers Market will re-open on the 14th of January. Just by chance we were in Cahir early today and we drove into the castle car park as usual. Looking down the way we saw one small table with a dark red umbrella beside a parked vehicle. It was the Egg Man. I went over to ask him why he was there since there was no market today. He got out of the vehicle where he was sitting to be out of the cold wind. As always on a market day, he was wearing his sturdy leather shoes. They were well polished. A few months ago I would have called them brogues but now I have learned that brogues have patterns of small holes punched into the leather. Not all leather lace up shoes are brogues. The Egg Man said he might as well be there as his chickens keep laying. He said his chickens do not know that there is a holiday. They do not know what day it is ever. They lay eggs so he has eggs so he has to sell eggs. One man had been by first thing and he had bought one and a half dozen. A woman had bought two dozen. He said he would not have any trouble selling the rest. I bought six eggs and wished him A Happy New Year.
6 January 2012 Friday
Today is Twelth Night. It is the Ephipany. It is Little Christmas. It is Women’s Christmas. It is the end of all of the festivities of the holiday season. It is the night when women go out in groups without any men and without any children. They have a party or a dinner to celebrate the end of all the feeding that they have done over the last few weeks. It is also the day when the tree and the decorations traditionally come down. The cards can be put away or thrown away. The lights and the wreathes come down. Increasingly people seem to leave their outdoor Christmas lights up. They leave the lights up for the rest of the year. They just do not turn them on any more.
3 January 2012 Tuesday
Everything is the same with a deaf dog. Everything Must Be The Same with a deaf dog. The thing she craves is routine. As long as all things are done the same way and in the same order she is happy and confident because then she knows what is happening. Anything different is a threat. I still shout On Your Mark. Get Set. Go! when I throw the stick into the stream or when I throw the frisbee. She is not hearing my words but she is in position and I am in position and she is carefully watching my arm and my movements. No wonder we did not recognize her deafness for such a long time.
1 January 2012 Sunday
I was late getting my bird feeding stations set up this winter but because it is so mild I did not feel guilty. There seemed to be plenty for the birds to eat in the surrounding bushes and fields. Once I got the food out and about the birdsong tripled in volume. Today I spent some time re-filling the containers and stringing up some fat balls. I dislike the little nets and I dislike trying to thread string through them and tying them tight. I am always trying to find a fool-proof method so that they will not break out and fall to the ground. I hate the idea of encouraging the farm rats down for a snack. I tied a few balls onto a lilac bush which I had not used before. I continued on my way with my tying and hanging and filling and when I returned to that part of the yard, Em was under the lilac chewing on a fat ball. She was so happy to have it. Luckily I came round before she had eaten more than half of it. The last thing this dog needs is more fat.