17 December Thursday
It took three butchers in white coats to unload the little trailer full of hanging meat into the store room. One butcher would lift a carcass, while a second one removed the hook from which it was hanging. He would then take that hook inside and hang it on another rail and the carcass would be hung back up on the same hook. Then that butcher went out and removed the hook from the next carcass which was being lifted by the third butcher. It was a carefully choreographed set of movements. Each of the three knew their part and no one rushed but everyone moved quickly. I watched the whole thing. I lost track of the number of cow bodies which were carried in from the trailer. I think there were nine.
16 December Monday
We went to the cinema. As we were handed our tickets, we were told that there were seat numbers on each ticket, but that we need not pay attention to them. We could just sit anywhere at all. Inside the theatre, the seats were numbered 1-11 and 14-17. The only row with seats 12 and 13 was the very back row. The numbers were big and white and about 3 inches high on each seat back. On the side of the first seat in each row there was a letter. The letter was also big and white. Below the letter there was a smaller letter on a little metal circle. The letter on the piece of metal was not the same as the letter in white. If your seat assignment was B15, I guess you could chose which row B you preferred to sit in. As we sat and watched the other people come in, everyone asked each other what their seat number was and then they said, “Ah, but we don’t have to sit there anyway.” and every single person went to sit somewhere which was not where they had been told to sit.
15 December Sunday
Instead of the afternoon meadow meander, Em and I headed up the old Mass Path. She was excited by the smells and by the new territory. The trees protected us from the bitter wind. Her pace accelerated and she rushed from here to there, pursuing each new odour with enthusiasm. She was so excited she forgot that she was going uphill. By the time we reached the spring, I thought she might be overdoing it so I turned her around and directed her downhill. She set off down as rapidly as she had been going up but with down, the gravity caught up with her. She stumbled and tumbled several times. She fell down and she got up, but she never stopped rushing. Her tail never stopped wagging. She had a wonderful time. It was an exciting trip. We were both tired when we returned home.
14 December Saturday
A neighbour stopped to chat. She was in her car and I was on foot. She spoke of a few different things and then, very gently, she asked me about Em. She had seen me out walking but she had not seen Em for many months. She knew that Em had been getting old and walking neither far nor fast. She was worried that something had happened to her. She asked all of her questions carefully and with kindness. She never used the word death or dead in relation to Em, but I knew that that was exactly what she was asking. I was pleased to be able to reassure her that Em was not dead but just living within a more restricted set of movements.
13 December Friday
Most people do not want to talk about the things that are already there. Things that are known do not need to be discussed because they are recognized and understood. There is no need to bring up the things that everyone knows. Things get forgotten as they happen. Everyday things are just everyday things. Paying attention to gather the detail of those things which are too normal to be thought about is what I enjoy. Sometimes by asking a question I can see that a person enjoys telling me all that he or she knows about that thing. It is often obvious that as the telling is happening there is more to tell than the person thought there would be to tell. Some other times I can ask a question and the person does not want to bother giving me an answer because it just seems too much a waste of time to even begin to speak about the subject. That is when they might think me nosy, while all along I think that I am just observing daily detail.
12 December Thursday
The red hat on the man at the farm is gone. Now there is now only a blue shape. The blue shape is not a man’s jacket. It is not any part of a man. The red hat was not a hat and it was not worn by a man. The absence of the red thing that looked like a hat makes the junction box look much less like a man than it looked before, so now my own confusion can be forgotten. No hat. No man. No more waving at a junction box.
11 December Wednesday
Mary was the first to say it to me. It was my thumbs we were talking about. The arthritis and stiffness is making some jobs very difficult and painful. She said I would have to give up cutting the carrots. I had not said a word about carrots. Since she said that, I have been told the same thing by several people. That is how you know your arthritis is bad. If you cannot cut carrots and if you have no one else around who might cut them for you, that will be the end of carrots on your plate.
10 December Tuesday
Em and I walked up the boreen. She was much slower than usual. I wondered if maybe we should turn around when we reached the farm. Just as I was thinking this, her legs collapsed and she fell to the ground. I went to her side and she looked up at me as if it was quite natural for her to be lying where she was in the middle of the track. I sat down, stroked her and decided to wait until she felt ready to get up. In a few minutes she rolled over so I could scratch her tummy. After twenty minutes, when it was too cold for me to stay sitting on the cold ground, I stood up. She stood up too, and we continued our usual walk up to the tar road. She continued her walk as if it was a completely normal thing to lie down in the middle of the journey.
9 December Monday
Saturday is the day coal is delivered at the shop. At this time of year the delivery is always a big one. Last Saturday there were so many palettes full of bags of coal lined up in front of the shop that there was no where to park. I had never seen so much coal down there. I thought a lot about the high piles I had seen. Today I asked how much coal had been delivered. I was told that 16 palettes were unloaded and there were 40 bags on each palette. That added up to 640 bags with 40 kilos in each bag. To me, that sounded like a huge amount of coal. I was told that they had sold more than half of it already, and since it was only Monday, they were worried about running out before the end of the week. There would be equal loads delivered on every Saturday throughout the winter.
8 December Sunday
I did some errands for an older friend. She is living in one of the houses built for handicapped and elderly people. There is a committee which has overseen the building and caretaking of these small houses. Every town and village now has some of these independent dwellings. The houses are warm and dry and inexpensive to heat. When any of the inhabitants have a problem they can ring up and someone comes to sort things out for them. There is no need for anyone to be climbing up a ladder. My friend was in a good mood. She said that the man who used to be the caretaker was gone. He had taken a job in another village. She was sorry that he was now in position to terrorize another group of vulnerable people but she was delighted that he was no longer able to terrorize her. She said that each time he came to do anything, it cost her twenty euro. If he changed a lightbulb or rang a plumber to repair a drain, or if he just came to inspect the cleanliness of her home, it always cost her twenty euro. Sometimes he came several times in one week. He came even when she had not asked him to come. He came before he went on holiday and he told her that she had to give him twenty euro toward his holiday. She said it was no wonder he was able to Go Foreign so often what with the money he was taking off herself and all of the other Vulnerables. She did not dare to report him because he said he would have her thrown out if she said a word against him. Now the committee sends a person to do a specific job and they instruct her to give the new man ten euro. She feels a great relief at the savings, but I still do not understand why the man being paid by the committee needs to get a tip for every job done.
7 December Saturday
A white haired man drove up and rolled down the window on the passenger side of his car. I was just entering the shop so he shouted to me from the driver’s seat. He told me to send someone out to him. When a girl who worked there came out, he shouted that he wanted some bird nuts. She asked him how many he wanted. He had forgotten to bring his own bucket but he said he needed a bucketfull. He sent her indoors to find out how much the nuts would cost. She came out and gave him the price per kilo. He said he did not remember how many kilos his bucket held and he did not remember how much he usually paid, so he did not know how many kilos to ask for. When I left she was still standing at the open window of his car discussing how best to approximate his normal bucket of bird nuts.
6 December Friday
There was a nice breeze on today. The first person I saw said that it was a good day for the drying. After that several more people said the same thing. Getting ones washing to dry when the days are so short and often so wet is an issue of major consideration. It becomes as important a topic of conversation as any other aspect of the weather.
5 December Thursday
The fish market has been closed for more than a year. Now someone decided to paint the building. Perhaps they are hoping to rent or to sell the premises and they want it all to look fresh. The colour chosen for the paint job is a green. It is not dark green but it is not bright either. The letters that say FISH MARKET are still in position but now they have been painted the same green as the background. When asked why the letters had not been removed, the man doing the painting said, “But sure everyone knows it’s The Fish Market, even if it isn’t anymore, so why would we pretend it’s not?”
4 December Wednesday
Every afternoon, Em and I take a little stroll down into the meadow at about 4.30. It is a short walk just before darkness falls and just before her supper. Some days it is exactly the walk that we used to do before her bedtime. That night walk involved me staying on the mown paths through the meadow while she did some racing around barking into the darkness and with some sniffing at trees. Our current walkabout no longer includes running. She still sniffs at things. Sometimes we go as far as the stream. Today we went past the stream and we scuffed around in the leaves under the big chestnut tree at the edge of Tom Cooney’s wood. She spends a lot of time examining branches and grasses and little paths through the undergrowth where the fox passes. This afternoon time used to be for frisbee throwing in the field. Now it is a sedate exploration for as far and as long as I can keep her off the idea of her supper.
3 December Tuesday
Another mild day. It is crazily mild for this time of year. The nights are cold and the mornings are cold but it is dry. I cannot remember the last time we had rain. When the sun comes out, it is pleasant. I did some of the pre-winter jobs in the garden. I should have done more of them weeks ago but this good weather is a reprieve. It is good to work without a hat even though kneeling in the soil is cold. I started my work too late. I was just getting going when the darkness fell. I tried to keep going in the dusk but it all happened so fast that I had to give up.
2 December Monday
Every day as I walk up by the farm, I see a man in a blue coat wearing a red hat. I wave to the man. The man does not wave back. It has taken me more than a week of waving at this man to realize that it is not a man but instead it is some kind of junction box system on a wooden post. And now, even though I know it is not a man, I still begin to wave each time because it seems polite. I am trying to make myself look the other way so that I can get over this confusion.
1 December Sunday
It was early when I heard the first shots. It took me some time to recognize them as gunshots. I looked out the window and saw The Fox racing up the path. He was about three feet from the house and running really fast. He leapt up the banking and disappeared into Joe’s field. Fearing that he might be being pursued by The Hunt, I went outside. I heard men and dogs down below. A little later, I went out again. There was a man with a gun and two dogs in the near field. He shouted across and reminded me that it was himself who had brought us pheasants last year. He shouted that he would bring us more if he shot anything today. A few hours later he came back with another man and with the dogs crammed into a tiny little trailer behind the car. He gave us two woodcocks and two pheasants. I forgot to ask him but I guess today must be the first day of bird season.
30 November Saturday
Two women were talking together. The one said to the other: ” They’re injecting it with God Himself Only Knows What, so the only way you can be sure is to buy it organic and sure, who can afford that?”
29 November Friday
There is a whole area of trees cut down up near Johnnie Mackin’s. The trees were mostly old and ivy covered. They were on a piece of Donal’s land which also has a couple of small open-sided stone buildings on it. One of the buildings used to be house. Sometimes Donal stores hay in the buildings or he leaves equipment on the land or in the buildings. It is an extra place for him. It is not a place for animals nor for growing things but it is a kind of storage area. Now the entire area within the stone walls is full of fallen trees and branches waiting to be cut up. There are so many trees and branches it will be hard to know where to start working on them. There is no where to stand. The surprise for me is walking up the track and finding a lot of sky and light where there used to be shady darkness.
28 November Thursday
Mike has not been as busy as he used to be. People are putting off doing repairs until they absolutely have to do them. Many people are trying to live with one car instead of two. There are lots of ways that people are economizing. Mike is one of many affected by personal austerity measures. He has occupied himself with other jobs. He cleaned up his whole garage and painted the interior walls so they are now a nice bright white. When the concrete walls end, the space continues up into a big rounded corrugated roof space. This big space is all grey. He did not try to paint up there. There is a lot of ivy growing into the area of the roof, especially along the edge where it connects to the walls. In one corner, a small mezzanine area has been constructed out of nine palettes. I cannot see how it is held in place. I do not understand why it is not drooping at a mad angle. The mezzanine space is full of motor parts and big things which are not needed often. On the floor, there is an MG sports car which Mike has stripped down and is now beginning to rebuild. There is primer on most of it, except for the places where he has begun to paint it candy apple red. When the engine is rebuilt and the car is finished, he will sell it. He has rebuilt and sold several cars since the recession began. He usually does Saabs. This is something different. It keeps him busy during the day when people are not needing his skills to repair their cars, but he is always happy to be interrupted. His frequent trips away are not so much holidays anymore as visits to vintage car fairs to purchase the things he needs to make his current car project perfect.
27 November Wednesday
Em is tripping on things that get left in her path. Shoes are a particular problem. She walks around and around the edges of rooms and sometimes takes a route under a piece of furniture. Her route is very specific and she is able to go around and around a room many times without varying it. If a pair of shoes, a bag or a box is in her path, she will stumble over it. She might stumble or she might fall to the ground in a heap. On her next trip around the room, she will be on the exact same path and so she will again stumble over the object. I try to keep things out of her way but each day the path is a new path.
26 November Tuesday
I took the early bus to Cork. It was dark when I left the house. By the time the bus arrived, the day was starting. It was no longer dark but it was not yet light. As we motored along the valley road, the dawn began to light up the land. The pinkish red glow of the sun lit the mountains first. Mountains and trees and buildings got bathed in warm colour which got brighter and brighter while everything around them was still not fully illuminated. I sat on the left side of the bus looking out and across at the mountains. I was enjoying the silent emptiness of the countryside. As we approached Ballyporeen, the first house in the village came into sight. On the white side of the house, someone had painted in foot high letters with bright red paint. What had been written was TOM O’GORMAN RAPED ME. My pleasure in the pastoral and beautiful winter morning was more than a little shaken. Ballyporeen is a small village. There are only about 300 people living right in the village. There are more in the coutryside around, but not many more. It is a shocking announcement and the big red letters make it more shocking. .Everyone there will of course know who Tom O’Gorman is. Everyone will know everything. If they did not know before, they know it now.
25 November Monday
There are new signs on two sides of The Pure Drop. For years the name was only painted in red on the wall facing into the car park as one approached from the direction of Clonmel.Approaching from any other direction there was nothing to say what the place was. We used to tell people to use The Pure Drop as the place to turn left but then we realized that they would never know it when they saw it. It is easier to say: Take a left at the round-about. There is only one round-about in the village. The bar itself used to be called The Round-About before it was renamed The Pure Drop. A lot of people just continued to call it The Round-About since there was no reason not to. Now some plastic letters have been put on the front and the side. They are not very nice letters, but they do the job.
9 November Saturday
One of my favourite November jobs is removing all of the figs from the fig tree except for those that are the size of my baby fingernail. In theory, those remaining will be part of next years first crop. Plucking every single fig which is not the right size off its branch is a satisfying task. I wish more jobs in the garden could be this pleasurable. We rarely have enough heat here to get a proper two crops of figs but I like continuing with the illusion.
8 November Friday
La Bigoudene has closed after twenty one years of serving crepes and other French food. There is nothing left inside the restaurant. It is dark and empty. The painted sign remains over the window. There are two black and white photographs in the window. They are small photographs and they are the same photograph. Each photo shows the chef owner and his wife. In the photograph, the chef is wearing his high chef hat. One of the photos has handwriting across the bottom thanking clients for their loyalty over so many years. The other photo has no writing on it.
7 November Thursday
I saw one of the new An Post vans today. It is depressing. A man with a parcel under his arm is of flying diagonally across the side of the van. He crosses over a green stripe. I guess as each green van gets older and needs repairs it will not be repaired but instead it will be retired and replaced by one of these new white ones. From here on, I must savour every remaining green van that I see.
6 November Wednesday
Soft boiled eggs are called Guggy Eggs. It might have started as an expression by or for children but adults do not stop calling their eggs Guggy.
5 November Tuesday
Em and I set off every morning with her on the long extendable lead. She does not take advantage of the good length available. Instead she tries to walk in the same rutted tyre track in which I am walking. If I move to the other track, she moves over with me. We are tripping over each other for the early part of the walk. Neither of us want to walk in the rough lumpy and bumpy grass which grows down the middle. Ideally, we should just each walk in our own tyre track. After a little while, there is a smell or a something which she needs to investigate and she moves out of the track that I am in and she stretches her full distance away from me. This is so much more pleasant. By the return trip, when she is no longer on the lead at all, we both wander along and just keep one another in sight. Every second day, she reaches the final corner down the boreen and breaks into a little run. It is not a fast run. Maybe it is more of a skip. I am certain that it is joyful because her tail wags with the excitement of accelerating downhill. I think she is surprised to find that she can do this at all. I do notice that she does not attempt it every day.
4 November Monday
Sign on a tree:
Black cat-very friendly
Big green eyes
Missing since last Thursday
2 November Saturday
There was a woman in the sewing shop who was happy to have an audience. She was an older lady and she spoke loudly. The sewing shop is a very small shop and it serves a great number of different kinds of activities like sewing, knitting, quilting, embroidery and needlepoint. If there are four people in the shop, in addition to the woman who runs the shop, the shop is crowded. It is not possible to avoid hearing what is being discussed. The older lady was telling the one with her about a woman she had known when she worked in a hospital for Infirmities of the Mind. She had worked in several of these hospitals over the years and had taught the patients to do various hand crafts. She said that she cannot look at red cotton to this day without remembering the woman who stole the brassieres of the other female inmates. She took them away to embroider. No one ever saw her stealing the brassieres nor did they see her embroidering them. She always embroidered her own name Kath.Reagan in large letters with a full stop between the Kath and the Reagan. The women in the ward were distressed by this especially since most of them only owned one brassiere. If they did eventually get their own brassiere back it would have the name Kath.Reagan embroidered in bright red, and usually right across the front . This caused a lot of upset in a place where people were already often upset.
1 November Friday
Em steps in dishes now. She steps in the dish she is eating from and she steps onto the dish she has just finished eating from. She steps on things and she crashes into things because she now goes straight to wherever she is going. Moving around things is no longer considered. It is a little bit about deteriorating vision but I think it is more about confusion. She has walked into her water bowl and she has tipped over her water bowl many times this week. I have mopped up the water and I have mopped up the water again. I am tired of mopping up water. Today I found a heavy stainless steel pan in the cupboard. It has a weighted bottom. She cannot tip it over. This is the new water bowl. It will not solve the problem of dishes being stepped in and on, nor will it stop dishes from being broken. It will just keep the water in the bowl.
31 October Thursday
Last week someone hit a telephone pole down the road. We could tell that it had been hit by a tractor or a big truck because the break was high up. It was broken right through and the top half of the pole was completely separated from the bottom half. Cables were still attached, but everything was lying in the ditch. No one seemed to do anything about it for many days. Yesterday Jimmy Hyland reported that there were three men out interviewing the broken telephone pole.
30 October Wednesday
For as long as I have been living here, there have always been dogs walking themselves home. They are usually sheep dogs but sometimes they are another kind of dog. They walk carefully along the side of the road. These are not dogs who chase cars nor are they dogs who aggress against people. These are gentle, sociable dogs who have been somewhere and now they are on their way somewhere else. They walk carefully along the edge of the road. They move along with a sense of purpose. Some of them stop if a car or a tractor comes along, but sometimes they just continue on their way. If I see a dog I recognize then I know if he or she is on the way home. If it is a dog I do not know I wonder how far the dog has been and how far it has to go. A few shortcuts across fields can save a lot of walking and allow a dog to cover a great distance.
29 October Tuesday
There is a red and white panal truck up at the farm. The words Mobile Workshop are painted on its sides. The truck is full of tools. Two men from the Mobile Workshop are working on the red tractor. The tractor and its attached red slurry tank have been in the same position since last week. Now it is the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday weekend and the Workshop is back to continue with the job it started on Friday. One of the men is wearing a red fleece. There is a lot of red to be seen. The tractor has a couple of old cushions on its seat and drooping off the seat. Tractors always have old cushions in them. The cushions are discards from a sofa or an armchair. The cushions in the red tractor are not red. They are just old and dirty. There is no colour to note.
28 October Monday
Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Sun.. I walked out in bright sunlight but I hardly got any distance at all before the sky went dark and rain came lashing down. I could see a rainbow off to my right and blue sky off to my left but I was under a cloud and the cloud was dumping a massive amount of water. Em was annoyed because I turned back before we had done our full walk. After this many days of wet weather, it was foolishly optimistic of me to go for even a short walk without a raincoat. It was not even optimistic, it was just foolish.
27 October Sunday
The Church Gate Collection is just that. Someone sets up a small table at the gate which leads into the church. The person or persons setting up for the collection are always there very early. They are in position well in time before the first Mass goers arrive. There is usually a sign to explain what charity or cause the collection is for. Sometimes there is one table but sometimes there is a table and a person on either side of the gate. It is difficult for people to walk in or out of the church on a Sunday morning without giving some money to the collection. I would guess that these collections are very successful
26 October Saturday
There was a well-worn floppy rag doll hung up with a piece of rope in the Cahir Post Office. Underneath the doll, on a piece of card, was written: Found in the Post Box.
25 October Friday
We were down in Rose’s. Several men came in, had quick drinks and then left right away. Their main function for stopping in was to get their numbers for the lottery. They first bought tickets at the shop for the National Lottery. Then they came to the bar to buy numbers for the local lottery. One man finished his pint and went to the door. He called to the man he had left behind at the bar that he was planning on a win this week. He said “When it happens, we’ll all be Drinking off the High Shelf.” The High Shelf is the uppermost shelf of the bar. It holds the more expensive brands of whiskey and brandy. The High Shelf is never for Everyday Drinking. It takes a special occasion for anyone to drink off the High Shelf. It might be a funeral or some other event. It does not happen often. When it does, Rose has to fetch a stepstool in order to safely reach the requested bottle.
24 October Thursday
An Post is currently phasing out their bright green vans. The people in charge say that the green vans are not visible enough in the landscape. The current green is a distinctive shade of green and not one that could ever be confused with grass or ditches.The colour is not loud, but it is by no means camouflaged among all of the surrounding nature. There is a yellow stripe along both sides of the van and four wiggly yellow lines which look like cancellation marks. Soon, all of the An Post vans will be white. There are already dozens or hundreds or thousands of small white vans in every corner of the land. The people in charge promise a decal of a sort of Super Postman on the side of each van, just so that we know it is a post van and not just any other white van. I shall miss the green vans. I doubt that seeing a superman delivering my post will make up for the loss of the lovely green vans.
23 October Wednesday
“It would be that kind of a way”. That is how things get explained when they are not really explained but that there is an assumption that you already know how whatever it is is. To give it emphasis, the speaker might add “You know yourself that it would be that kind of a way.” You Know Yourself is the same as someone somewhere else saying “You Know What I Mean” or just “You Know”.
22 October Tuesday
Knocklofty Bridge is a small hump-backed bridge. It is made of stone. I cannot drive over the bridge without saying Wheee! I do not say Wheee! when I drive over the small bridge into the village. That bridge is not such a steep up and steep down. I do not say Wheee! when I go over any other bridge. Knocklofty Bridge just forces the word out of my mouth and no matter how many times I cross it, I always have to say Wheee! We cross a lot of bridges all the time. We are crossing and re-crossing the River Suir on each or any of the bridges. Once we get into town there are four bridges. It is easy to hear the names but it is not easy to learn which bridge is which. There is The Old Bridge,The Ferry House Bridge, The Gas House Bridge, The Dry Bridge, The Loreto Bridge, St. Thomas Bridge, The Convent Bridge and Presentation Bridge. That makes eight names for four bridges. There are rarely signs for things but there are always names for things. Knocklofty Bridge is the only bridge in or around the townland of Knocklofty so that is one bridge name I can be absolutely certain of.
21 October Monday
Em spends a lot of time standing and staring at things. When I see her outside looking off across the valley for fifteen minutes without moving, I find myself feeling sad. I imagine that she is remembering running over the fields, or that she is maybe recalling a good chase of the fox, or some birds or a frisbee. When I see her back in the house spending the same amount of time and concentration with her face two inches away from the refrigerator, I know that my imagination is the only one experiencing these memories. I have no idea what she might or might not be thinking. Today we walked up to the tar road in the drizzle. I go just as far as the road with her on the lead. Then I unclip it and let her meander back home at her own pace. When she gets to the road, she goes out and steps onto the tar with all four feet. She looks to the left up the road and she looks to the right down the road. Her whole body turns to take in each direction. She gives each direction a long look. There is rarely a car passing so her looking is not about acknowledging activity. There is nothing special to see. Just seeing is something. It is just looking. Everything happens so slowly that I have a lot of time to invent what she might be thinking.
20 October Sunday
The moon was full last night but we could not see it for the rain and clouds. Tonight it is bright and still very full. The sky is clear with masses of small rushing clouds. The light from the moon is like some kind of Morse Code as the clouds cover it and then uncover and re-cover it in rapid siucession.
19 October Saturday
I saw a old man with a dog yesterday. I passed him on the way to the village and then I saw him again on the way back. He was standing near his car while the dog nosed around in some bushes. It was not a safe place to park as he was more on the road than off it.. I stopped on the way back because it had just started to rain. I thought he might be having car trouble. He assured me that all was well and that he was just letting his sister’s dog have a walk out. He then leaned into the car and warned me “It’s gonna get dirty.” He was right about that. The rain has set in and it is drizzly, grey and horrible, with more of the same promised for the next few days.
18 October Friday
Mighty is usually said as a positive thing. A glass of hot whiskey is Mighty for almost everything. That means it is a cure all. It is good. Mighty can be about little things or about big things. Suffering can also be Mighty. Then it is not good, but it is big.
17 October Thursday
For years I have been calling the ways in and away from our house by the name boreen. Now I have been corrected. The way down from the farm is indeed a boreen. It is a narrow unpaved single track with grass growing in the middle of it. The way past the house and up towards Johnnie’s might have been a boreen in the past but it has deteriorated over the years. It is now a disheveled path. Some of the more shaded parts are quite clear for walking but other parts are wildly overgrown and a struggle. One portion is always muddy as there is a spring part way up which causes water to not exactly flow but to be present. During very wet seasons, that section is like walking up a stream bed. Older people call the path The Mass Path, because the people who lived down this way would use it to walk up to go to Mass at the small church at Tullaghmelan. A Mass said inside this church was not recent as there is no roof. The church was burned down by Cromwell and his men. There are gravestones both within the remaining stone walls of the church and around it.. Perhaps people continued to gather there and say Mass long after the fire and without a roof. Maybe that is why the path is still called a Mass Path.
16 October Wednesday
An elderly woman outside the shop was explaining to a little girl about the bumps and white marks on her fingernails. She said, These are Little Calendars on My Body. She promised the girl that she would have calendars of her own, but that she had to grow bigger before they would appear.
15 October Tuesday
Two dead shrews by the kitchen door this morning. I have grown so accustomed to seeing dead shrews. They are always tiny. They are always without visible wounds. They are always lying on their sides. I never know what has caused their death. I used to worry about it every time I found another body. I do not worry about it any more.
14 October Monday
There are always geese to see in Ardfinnan. Usually, the geese are in the river or walking around on the bankings. The playing fields and all of the large grassy area are slippery with goose !@#$%^&*. In the morning the geese are usually seen crossing the road from the house side of the village and heading toward the river. Sometimes the geese go part way across the road and then they just stop in a group and whatever cars might be driving in either direction have to wait until the geese make up their minds to move one way or the other. Going into the village for the early bus is the exact time when the geese are on their way over to the river. It might be me being taken to the bus or me taking Simon or a guest to the bus. If the geese are in the road, we wait. If we are standng and waiting for the bus, we watch the geese crossing and we watch other people waiting for the geese to cross. I have never known where the geese are coming from before they get to the road. They might have a night-time shelter safe from foxes, but there are a lot of geese. Sometimes there look to be thirty or forty of them. It would need to be a big shelter to accomodate that many geese. I want to ask someone where the geese are walking from, but then the bus comes and either I get on it or I drive away and I forget about the geese until the next time.
13 October Sunday
A man died after a long illness. Even though it was sad, everyone knew it was best that he died as it had all gone on for so long and his suffering had been so terrible . One woman was trying to express this when she said, “Sure, it will be an ease to his bones.”
12 October Saturday
At the tool hire place there is a machine on the counter with a big glass globe on the top of it. The globe is full of plastic capsules. Inside each capsule is a small chocolate bar and a one euro coin. Because there is often a long wait while questions and answered are exchanged about some tool and a particular job, there is plenty of time to look at this machine. People almost always drop their two euro coin into the slot while they are waiting their turn. They get a chocolate bar and one euro back. The whole thing is a fund raiser for some worthy cause. There is a note beside the machine asking that the capsules be left on the counter so that they can be used again.
11 October Friday
People in England often send letters or packages to Ireland with an inland stamp. When they do this, it can take several weeks, instead of a few days, for the posted thing to arrive. Sometimes the thing never arrives. When we mention this to people in England, they ask, “Well, can’t the postman just make you pay for the incorrect postage?” That is not as easy as it sounds. Why would the Irish postman be collecting postal shortages for another country? And if they did collect the euro equivalent of the wrong postage, the English would not want our euros anyway. How would this money be returned to the right country and the right postal service? It is certain that people in England would not think of posting something off to France with an inland stamp. France is another country. France is Europe. People here get cross about it as they feel it is arrogant of the English to still consider that they are in charge of things here, or that here is still a part of there.. I do not think that it is such a calculated thought. It is just thoughtless.
10 October Thursday
I met Joe up the track and he asked me if I liked mushrooms. He said this weather was perfect for them. He would not eat them nor would his wife, but he thought we might like them. He led me down into the nearest field. He picked the field mushrooms and dropped them into my dress which I held out to collect them. For someone who did not want to eat them himself, he was very careful to pick only the freshest looking ones. I knew there was some reason why I had put on that dress over my trousers today. It was the perfect receptacle. I felt I was wearing an apron. When I had a full load, I stopped him and walked carefully back down the boreen. Em was annoyed as we had not gone as far on the walk as we usually do. The mushroom lunch was magnificent. Later I saw the cows were out in that very field so I know we were lucky to get them before they all got squished underfoot. Cows do not eat the mushrooms, they only step on them,
9 October Wednesday
Sound Out. Sound Out is an expression of hearty agreement or approval. Sound Out is said when one person says something and his or her listener wants to agree enthusiastically. The emphasis is on the word Sound. It is said a lot here. I have not heard it said elsewhere. Bunny is the first person I ever heard saying Sound Out. He said it often and with feeling. Bunny’s real name was Patrick but he was small as a child so he was given the nickname Bunny. Bunny remained small even as a grown man. He was a small man with a deep voice. When he said Sound Out it sometimes sounded like a growl. I cannot remember how many years it has been since Bunny died. He fell down one winter night while fetching in a cabbage from his vegetable patch. No one found him until the next day. It was his heart. I never hear anyone say Sound Out without thinking of Bunny and since I hear it fairly often, I do not forget Bunny.
8 October Tuesday
I took the bus from Ardfinnan down to Cork this morning. There were very few passengers and it was early so the bus was quiet. We stopped in Clogheen and Ballyporeen and then in Mitchelstown. A lot of people got on in Mitchelstown and the whole sound level changed. Somewhere between Mitchelstown and Fermoy, the young woman beside me got a phone call. She spoke respectfully to someone named Michael. She told him it was her day off and that she was on her way to Cork. She said she was sorry about his situation and if there was no one else available, of course she would turn around and be there to help him. She told him to get back to her. I thought it was an elderly person needing a lift to somewhere important like the hospital. She then made three quick calls to other people discussing Michael and the problem. She was on her way to Cork and it was her day off and she had a hair appointment and then she was meeting some girlfriends for dinner and she had not seen the girls for a long time and she had even made plans to stay over. Michael phoned again and said he needed her to be there by 3.30. She said her hair appointment was at 3.20 so there was no way she could be back by then but then she proceeded to say she would help in any way if she could. The offers to help and the importance of the hairdressing appointment were at odds with one another. I was not trying to eavesdrop, but I could not help but be involved in the ongoing problem. Her voice got louder and louder each time she discussed the situation with anyone who was not Michael. With Michael himself, she remained calm and quiet. After several more phone calls, I realized that Michael was her boss and whoever she had gotten to take her place that day had stood him up so she was needed back at the job. We got to Cork before anything was resolved. I forgot about her and about Michael while I did my errands. When I returned to the station for the 3 o’clock bus to take me back to Ardfinnan, I found myself looking for the young woman amongst the people who were already in the long line. I wondered if she was heading back to help Michael or if she was on her way to the hairdressers by now. I did not think I would recognize her face but I knew I would recognize her trousers. And as for her hair, she was planning on getting a completely New Look done so there was no chance of me recognizing her by her hair. She had announced several times to the people on the phone who were not Michael that she had found the New Look in a magazine and had torn the page out to show to the hairdresser. She had the page in her bag and she had patted the bag each time she mentioned it. A lot of the same people who had ridden down in the morning were on the return bus with me, but she was not among them.
7 October Monday
The autumn raspberries keep ripening. I am able to pick a bowlful every day. This feels like a great luxury. Every year it feels like a luxury. There are still blackberries and apples to collect. Except for a small number of wild damsons the plums are finished.
6 October Sunday
Em has a new bell. This one looks like a small cow bell. It came from a selection which went all the way from tiny to big. The largest was big enough for a cow although I do not think anyone puts a bell on a cow. It sounds much louder than the first foolish bell, but it is not Too Loud. It has already beome a reassuring sound to announce her presence, both in the house and outside. I would not be able to hear it at a huge distance but if I could than we would not be able to live it. This is just right and since she cannot hear it anyway, she does not mind.
5 October Saturday
I saw John the Ancient Man this morning. When I asked him how he was, he answered “Well, I am Above Ground”. I am certain this is not the first time he has said this to the people he meets, but I wonder if he says it to get a hearty response about what great shape he is in or if it is a bit of a grumble. It was somehow a relief to see him without the enormous umbrella which always seems so cumbersome for him to carry along with him.
4 October Friday
At odd intervals around the country there are signs warning drivers to drive on the left. These signs are no doubt aimed at foreigners from right-hand drive countries who might become confused by the different side of the road. It is not unusual when the signs are near to an airport or a ferryport. It is always a surprise to find one of these signs in the middle of the countryside, far from anything that might suggest something was different about the road than the way it had been two minutes ago. The signs are in three languages: Drive On Left! Conduire a Gauche! Links Fahren! I am consistently surprised by the erratic presence of these signs. Perhaps the element of surprise is exactly what they are aiming for.
3 October Thursday
Em is looking and behaving like a different dog. She is moving as though she is at least one year younger. Maybe the blood circulation pill being given in the morning instead of at night is the reason. It is intended to aid her blood flow to the brain and also to her joints. She rushed out for her walk this morning and even ran a little bit when she was going downhill and toward home. Maybe it was her stay in Skeheenarinky which has enlivened her. Being surrounded by loving friends both old and new is stimulating for everyone.
2 October Wednesday
I have had my Flu Jab. It is not called a shot. It is not called an injection. It is not called a vaccination. It is a always called a Jab. Today it felt like one.
15 September Sunday
When we are out walking together and we meet an older man also out walking, the man will speak to Simon. Sometimes he speaks to us both, but not really to us both. He looks at Simon, and addresses his questions, comments, and statements at Simon. If I ask a question, the answer is given to Simon. The man might be a farmer or he might be something else but now he has the time to walk out in the middle of a day. He might be someone we know or he might just be someone who is walking near to wherever we are walking. Today we met such a man. We talked about the lack of rain and we talked about the Wild Winds. We talked about this wind which has not stopped for twenty hours. We talked about a number of other weather related items but this man never looked at me. I can never decide if this refusing to speak directly to me is sexist or if, instead, it is just an old-fashioned kind of respectfulness. I do not know whether to be annoyed, insulted or just amused.
14 September Saturday
Poor old Em. Her back legs just collapse sometimes and she finds herself sitting down. Her look of surprise is funny, but it is also sad. Increasingly, she does not want to sit down or lie down to do those things which she has always done lying down. She no longer settles down to lick out a yoghurt pot while holding it carefully between her two front paws. Instead she just licks it from a standing position and never cleans it as thoroughly as she used to. A bone was once a great pleasure but now her teeth are maybe not as strong and again, she does not want to lie down to really get involved. It is not possible for her to chew on a bone with complete oblivion from a standing position anyway. Collapsing down and the struggle to push herself back up are factors in every decision.
13 September Friday
John the Post has complained to me yet again that we are not getting enough mail. Some days he has nothing at all for us and he does not need to make the trip down the boreen. I thought that would make him happy as he hates our rough track and the scratching bushes. More than his dislike of the location, he has always depended on us to keep his delivery levels up. Now there are many people paying bills on line and doing any number of things on line. He is glad for the packages that must be delivered but he says it is hard to have relationships with people who are never home and who never get any post. He misses the people part of the job and would like everyone to get more things delivered.
12 September Thursday
Mike has a lot of calendars. They are all hanging on two nails side by side on his office wall at the garage. I always assumed that the calendars underneath were old and that the new ones just got hung up year after year in the same place without removing the old ones. Today I looked underneath at the top few layers of calendars and they were all for this year. Five or six calendars on each nail were for this year. Well underneath those for this year were indeed several for the previous year. Each calendar came from a different oil, tyre, windscreen replacement or motor factors company. When the nails can hold no more, he may replace the lot or maybe he will just hammer in two more nails.
I needed tracing paper. The pad said 50 sheets on the cover, but I was told I could not have 50 sheets. The woman in the shop said that people are often looking for only one sheet of tracing paper, so it is normal to just tear out a sheet and sell them a single sheet. I said I did not want to buy the paper by the sheet. I said I wanted a whole pad. There was not a whole pad available. I wanted 50 sheets but I came home with 11.
10 September Tuesday
There is hay scattered along either side of the road. It has blown off the tractor trailers while it is being driven from a field to a farm. The pieces are small and as they are lining the road on both sides they make a beautiful golden pathway.
9 September Monday
I bought Em a little bell. It is a cat bell so it is not very big nor is it very loud. I hoped a bell might help me to locate her when she wanders. She cannot hear it at all. There is no chance that she will be humiliated by the feeble sound of this little cat bell. This bell is not much help, but for the moment it works as a reminder for me to get something better. The woman at the shop told me that she has two metal tags for her own deaf dog.She has had each tag engraved. One says: If You Find Me I Am Lost. The other gives her own name and phone number. The two tags jingle together to make a locatable sound. Tomorrow I am taking Em to Wruff to Fluff for a haircut. When the big amount of fur around her neck is removed, the sound of this tiny bell might be a little less muffled.
8 September Sunday
Joe’s cows are in the adjoining field. I woke up several times in the night hearing them tearing the grass. I used to think of that sound as the sound of chewing but after watching them, I realized that it is the sound of the cows ripping the grass to get a mouthful. The actual chewing is quiet. Cows have little curiosity about food. They are happy to eat the same thing day after day. Unlike cows, dogs are very curious and they like to try new things.
7 September Saturday
Light Grey Morning. More than just the chill in the air, I feel like autumn has arrived with the change in the colour of the sky. The sky is light grey. There is brightness behind this grey. It is not a heavy oppressive grey, but it is grey nonetheless.. It is grey and it is cold. On a morning like this, I do not put on a pair of wool socks because it is not hot. I put on a pair of wool socks because it is cold. Everyone is shocked by this abrupt change in the weather. Some people are shivering in clothing which is too light. Other people are heavily bundled in layers. The change is our only topic of conversation. We all reassure each other of rumours for the weather to Get Good again next week.
6 September Friday
External stone buildings around the house are all called houses. Barns are not called barns but they are called houses. Sheds might called sheds but they are often also called houses. The houses for animals and the houses for people are all places to live. Or maybe it is because a house is a shelter.
5 September Thursday
There is a small second-hand bookshop in Cahir which was set up to earn money for the projects of the Lion’s Club. It started last Christmas and was largely supplied by a someone who drove a van load of books over from Britain. There were some great finds to discover, and all the books cost a euro. It was a big success in the town where there is no bookshop of any kind. After closing for a while, it re-opened, with new supplies. It continues in a temporary state of sort of permanent. I was in there today and there was a young girl at the small table which serves as a counter. She was staring into space and never moved once all the while I was rummaging through the books. Finally, I asked her wasn’t she eager to read all these books which were all around her. She said “I don’t really read all that much.” I said “Ah, here’s a good chance for you to get started.” She answered “Well, why would I?”
4 September Wednesday
How I miss Em when I go out for a walk on my own. I miss her on the way to anywhere. For so long we have walked together and we have always walked separately even when we were together. The only time my active presence was required was when I was needed to throw the stick into the stream. Once the swim and the stream became too difficult for her, she would turn and look at me, then look at the place to go down to the stream under the fence and look at me again, and then continue on her way. Then she stopped even looking at the place. Now if I walk past the stream I am always on my own. She no longer goes that far. I look at the stream and I think of her. Sometimes, on my walk, I collect a stick as if I might need to throw it. I think of her in many moments along the way. I miss her Alll the Way Around.
3 September Tuesday
It is still summer. Everyday is still summer. The mornings are cooler and the nights are cooler but the sun and blue sky return day after day. The land is dry. Grass is turning brown and plants in pots are struggling if they don’t get watered often. I know we are desperate for rain, but I do not want this warmth to stop. It is a delight not to be complaining about the weather every day. It is a delight not to have to listen to other people complaining about the weather too.
2 September Monday
This afternoon, I went down to the shop to do some photocopying. The photocopy machine used to be in a small room off to the side of the shop. Since that room has now become The Gift Room, the photocopier has been moved to a place behind the counter. When it was located in the small room, we were free to use it ourselves. It was good to be able to enlarge and reduce and do different things as the need arose rather than having to direct someone to do things that we did not always know we needed to do until we needed to do them. Even now, with the new location, I am allowed to go behind the counter to do my copying. It is more awkward to get access to the copier because if the shop is busy both cash registers might be in use. Today, before I could get started, I had to move a large number of empty candy bar boxes, as well as a stack of printed pages, which were all on top of the copier. I put all of that onto the counter and I set my folder full of pages on top of them. I set up a second pile of what I had finished printing onto a box on the floor. As I was getting started, the cigarette machine was being filled. That took up a lot of space and was a distracting activity. Cigarettes are not on view anymore. They are in a closed and locked cupboard. To sell cigarettes, a salesperson punches the brand on a screen off to the side and the package drops out a slot at the bottom of the locked cupboard. At that point they do the exchange of money with the customer. Maybe they take the money first. It seems like a lot of extra steps to do a simple transaction. The doors to the cigarette cupboard were open while it was being filled, so I was closed into my own little narrow space between the counter, the photocopier, and the displays of batteries and cigarette lighters, with a large number of empty cartons. I finally managed to focus my attention and I did all of my reductions and copies. I was only interrupted once by a man who wanted to pay for a carton of milk at my register. I directed him down the counter to the other register.
1 September Sunday
Em no longer gets into her wicker bed to sleep. She does not get into the wicker bed for a nap in the daytime nor does she get into the wicker bed at bedtime. She never gets into the wicker bed. She does not acknowledge that it is an option. She sleeps only on her lambs wool bed which we continue to call the New Bed. She used to sleep curled into a little ball held snugly in place by the sides of the wicker bed. Now she sleeps flat on her side with her legs out straight from her body. She does not get into the wicker bed because she cannot get out of the wicker bed. The struggle is not worth it.
31 August Saturday
We stopped in at Rose’s last night for the first time in ages. We met some friends, heard some news and caught up with things in general. One old man came in and shouted for Mary Ann to give him a drink. Mary Ann was the name of Rose’s late mother. By the time we moved here, Mary Ann was dead. We never knew her. There are a lot of old men, especially those who come down from the mountains, who always call Rose by her mother’s name and they speak of the bar itself as Mary Ann’s. Maybe they remember that Mary Ann is dead and maybe they do not. Maybe they call Rose by her mother’s name as a way of not letting Mary Ann be absent. I keep meaning to ask if the name painted out front was once Mary Ann’s or if it has always been Nugent’s. Rose’s name is not Nugent but maybe it was Nugent before she married. These are the things that everyone who has always been here already knows.
30 August Friday
On Wednesday we ate rabbit cooked with kale, cider and tiny pieces of diced turnip. I usually prefer rabbit prepared with a mustard sauce, but this was a delicious variation. Last night, the leftover rabbit was made into a small pie. It was cooked in a narrow deep dish with a lovely golden crust.. As it was taken out of the oven, something slipped. It was the hands or it was the potholders or it was the dish itself. Whatever it was that slipped, meant that the pie landed upside down and the juices ran in all directions. We rescued a bit which had not fallen out of the pan. Since the pie had been a small pie to begin with, the remains from a mostly spilled pie made for a miniscule portion each. What we did have of the pie was tasty. We thought so and so did Em. She spent twenty minutes licking up every bit of the juices and tonight she will have some of the Floor Pie in her supper dish. This rabbit has provided pleasure all around.
29 August Thursday
When someone is not drinking, he is said to be On The Dry. If he starts drinking again, he can say he is Off The Dry. He cannot be Off The Dry unless he has had a time of being On The Dry. Otherwise he is just a regular person who has a drink.
28 August Wednesday
I like the sound of A Big Dog Drinking.. When Oscar comes down, he always has a long drink of water. He laps and laps and laps the water and it is a noisy thing to hear. Em is smaller and she is lady-like. As she drinks there is the sound of slurping and lapping but it is much quieter. When Sydney was still alive, I used to wake up in the night and I could hear him drinking water from the low water trough way across the yard. He would drink and drink. It was a loud but pleasant sound in the stillness of the night. I knew he was enjoying his water, so it was a comforting sound.
27 August Tuesday
We have eaten the First Fig of the year. It was perfectly ripe and not at all woody. After a summer with this much heat to gently squeeze the figs on the tree each day. If I am careful and attentive, we should be able to eat a few fresh figs daily. The birds will be checking too, so it is a strategic activity. I do not mind sharing as long as I get plenty. I hope to eat enough to make up for last year when it was too cold and wet to even think about figs ripening.
26 August Monday
An elderly man stood near the shop doorway. He watched a woman come out and get into her car, then she got out of her car and went back into the shop and then she came out and then she went in again. I saw all of this as I approached the shop. As I got close to the man, he looked up and spoke. I do not think he was speaking to me. He just had something to say and it was me who was there. He said, “That eejit of a woman, she’s as Scattered as a Spring Shower.”
25 August Sunday
I took some cake and fresh strawberries down to Tommie and Margaret last night. I had not visited since she came home. She was away for nine weeks, first in the hospital in Waterford, and then at the Rehabilitation Unit in Cashel and most recently at the residential home in Clogheen. Her broken hip is mostly healed, but she said she still has some pain. She has a frame for walking and there is a new ramp cast from concrete to help her in and out of the front door. I said you must be delighted to finally home again. She said she was pleased to be home, but that she had had a lovely time. She loved the food and all of the different people to talk to. She loved the nurses and the physiotherapists. She loved the bustle and the activity. She loved meeting people she knew and people who knew people she knew and people who were strangers until they met and became friends. She said that once the bad pain was gone she enjoyed every minute of it. I went away feeling that she was maybe a little disappointed to be back in her own life.
24 August Saturday
There were four or five crafts people selling things at the market today. All of them were new except for the wood turning man who has been coming to the market off and on all year. He sets up his lathe with the foot pedal. The armature for the lathe is a big curved branch. He used to use the weight of the back of his car to counter-balance the pressure needed for the turning. Now he has brought some cement blocks to do that job. People like to watch him turning a piece of wood but I do not think they are buying his bowls. I do not know if the other crafts sold well. Pat at the vegetable stall was glad the crafts people were there. He said, “It is good to have some different things on show, even though people do not have money now. They might not buy the crafts, but you can be sure they need their spuds every week.”
23 August Friday
Em goes outside in the morning and then she comes back in. Sometimes she goes and wanders around on the grass. Sometimes she stands just outside the door looking outwards without moving her head. She just stands. After ten minutes of one activity or the other, she comes back in and she looks at her dish or at the usual place for her dish on the floor. She is no longer trying to trick us into thinking she has not had her breakfast yet. She is no longer trying to get her breakfast twice. These days, she simply does not remember if she has been fed or not.
22 August Thursday
Two women in the shop were discussing an upcoming weekend wedding. The hotel rooms were booked. They had their dresses and their shoes. They had each had their legs waxed. One of them had had her tan done and the other was going in to be done this afternoon. The first woman was a very browny-orange colour. She said she would look better after she showered. She said the tanning was always better after a day or two, so it is best to get done early. They agreed that no one would consider going to a wedding without tanning first. It is all part of Looking Good. You can almost tell who has been to a wedding by the condition of their tan. Unlike the tan, they agreed that doing the nails is best left to the very last minute. I learned all this just while waiting to buy a newspaper.
21 August Wednesday
Most fields have now had their hay cut. The bales have been gathered up, taken away and piled somewhere beneath a sheltering roof. Some fields are still dotted with big round bales awaiting collection. The golden bales sit in the golden stubble looking lovely. Today I saw several fields with large rectangular bales scattered about. These are no longer a common sight. I guess the machines that makes that kind of bale are the older and smaller machines and they are being pushed out of use by the enormous modern balers. These rectangular bales are strangely flat. They are like large cereal boxes lying down.
20 August Tuesday
For a long time now, I have been trying to pin down the difference between a Cup of Tea and the meal called Tea. I find it confusing, which is perhaps why I have never tried to explain it. If we ask someone for Tea, I think sometimes they arrive expecting the supper kind of Tea. As I understand it, inviting someone to Tea means that Dinner has been eaten at midday. Then Tea would be a light supper. More often, Tea, these days, is understood as a time. After Tea or Before Tea are acceptable and easily understood times of the day. We never do the supper kind of Tea. Nor do we have our Dinner at lunch time. We have lunch and later we have dinner. We never eat A Meal called Tea. I try to remember to say A Cup of Tea, meaning just that: A Cup of Tea as a day-time drink, accompanied with a piece of cake or some biscuits. If someone arrives expecting a supper and all you give them is a few cups of tea and biscuits, they will no doubt leave your home feeling disgruntled and maybe a bit cheated. They will also be hungry.
19 August Monday
Emily no longer even pretends to go down the meadow before she goes to bed. The distance she walks from the house is a much shorter distance. Tonight I took her around the house. She was confused about where I was going so she followed me. We left from the back door and we returned to the back door. This might be the new night walk, which is not much of a walk, but it is better than no walk at all. I may have to let her into the house and then walk down the meadow by myself. I miss taking that evening stroll even if she does not.
18 August Sunday
It was a very small museum. There were no hours listed on the board outside, and when we tried the door, it was locked. There were lights on inside. It was well after lunchtime. I looked into one of the windows. Directly across from me was a long horizontal frame surrounding a black and white photograph of a forehead. The frame was about one metre long. There were no eyes visible in the photograph. There was enough hair so that I knew I was looking at the forehead of a woman. Eventually, the door was opened by a young man who was still eating his lunch even though it was 2.30. We took turns going into the museum while one of us stayed out in the sunshine with Em. The forehead belonged to a woman named Maude Delap. She had been a famous naturalist, largely self-taught, who studied and drew all kinds of marine life. She was particularly interested in plankton and jellyfish. There were copies of her drawings to be seen underneath a hand written sign which read: Copies of Maude Delap’s Sketches from her Note Book. There was no mention of the photograph of the forehead, neither who had taken the photograph nor whose head it was. It was obviously the forehead of Maude Delap. I asked the young man at the desk why there was a photograph of her forehead and only her forehead.. He said he had often wondered about this himself. He thought perhaps it was because she was so very smart and this was the closest someone could get to making a picture of her brain.
16 August Friday
Em and I walked as far as the road this morning. It is not easy for me to walk so slowly. I find it hard to even think about much when I stroll, while a good walking pace is great for thinking. Now I carry my secataurs. As I meander, I can clip at the eternally encroaching thorny blackberry and wild rose. They are always growing. They are always reaching out into the light and open space. They are already filling in the boreen which felt so open and light for a few weeks. So until there are blackberries to collect on the walk, I will do some cutting every day while Em does her smelling and investigating. We are both multi-tasking.
15 August Thursday
A grey and dreary morning which has turned into a grey and dreary day. Every so often it rains for a bit but never for long nor very hard. The grey light has made the one red rose in the garden look extremely red and extremely bright. I do not know what this rose is called. I do not know how I came to have it. It is not a tall bush. It has multiple blossoms on each stem and they are repeat flowering. I am not especially fond of it. I just have it. Or rather, it is just here. All summer long, I have bright red roses. The very bright red amidst all of my quiet purples, whites and lavenders makes it look like a real life version of a John Hinde postcard of Ireland. Each Hinde card has a bright red focal point. A sweater. A door. A wagon. Something red which was not really red but was painted red in the studio to make the photograph more exciting. This rose is playing the same role in my flower bed. And today in the bleak greyness, that is not a bad thing.
14 August Wednesday
It is increasingly difficult to learn about the ways of this parish. So many older people are dying. Some are taken off to hospitals or residential homes. Some stay in their homes but they no longer drive so unless you already know them you will never have a chance to get to know them. I met one lady in the shop today. I had not seen her for a long time. She has aged a lot since we last spoke, but she is still out and about. I was pleased to see her. This woman has an endless supply of safe comments. She seems to have one for every situation and for every single thing you might say. Sometimes speaking with her does not feel like a conversation so much as a challenge for her to use each and every one of her Automatic Expressions. She asked me about my dog who she used to enjoy seeing. When I explained Em’s deafness and general aging, she sort of cooed and said “Oh, The Poor Old Misfortunate”. As we went our separate ways, I said ‘See you soon!.’ She responded with the ever-ready “God Willing!” which never fails to frighten me a little.
13 August Tuesday
I lost my reading glasses somewhere between here and County Kerry. I cannot remember exactly when I last had them. After looking everywhere in the house where we stayed and in the car and in various bags and pockets, I traced our journey backwards. I phoned the restaurant where we ate lunch. It was well beyond Killarney. They phoned back and said that no glasses had been turned in. Then I phoned a small place where we had a cup of coffee before reaching Killarney. It took a while to remember the town and to remember the name of the cafe. The man said he would have a look on his Lost and Found Shelf and ring me back. I assumed I would never hear another thing. He did ring back in half an hour. He was delighted. He said “Ah, you mean the giraffe’s neck!” I said “I beg your pardon?”. He said “Yes! Your glasses are red and black and they look like the neck of a giraffe”. I said “No, my glasses are black, all black”. He said “It’s a pity that. These giraffe ones are a lovely fine specimen of eyewear”.
6 August Tuesday
I am thrilled with Em’s improvement but I cannot help but keep noticing all of the things which she does not or can not do any longer. She does not push the kitchen door open. She might push it open, but just a little bit open. She does not have the strength for it. If she manages a little opening, she runs her nose up and down the crack until we notice it and let her in. She does not even scratch at the door. Because she can no longer hear herself scratching, she probably thinks we cannot hear it either. If a door is closed she just sits and waits. She also spends a lot of time being oblivious to what is happening around her. Wherever things are happening, she looks the other way. I wonder if she realizes that she can no longer do some things or if she is relieved to not have to be bothered anymore.
5 August Monday
There are a lot of old and broken gates. Sometimes they just rust and pieces of a gate fall off. Sometimes they are rammed into again and again by cows and tractors and other machinery and they get bent out of shape and then some pieces fall off. The gate on the way into Scully’s wood has one of its horizontal bars missing. . It is just a gate leaning against a tree and a post. It is not hinged to anything and it is not a gate which can be locked or securely closed. If anyone wants to go in, you need only lift the gate off the ground enough to push your way in, and then, once in, you just lean it back against the side. The gate has been repaired recently. It has been repaired carefully. It took careful work and attention to fix it. There is a barbed wire grid woven into the space where the bar is missing. The grid makes eight tight and almost evenly spaced squares in the place which was once just two long narrow horizontal spaces. It is not a place where animals are going in nor going out. Maybe the barbed wire repair is holding the whole gate together in a way I do not quite understand. This attention to the gap in the gate is more than a little excessive but it is very well done. It is a considered job.
4 August Sunday
Yesterday, an old man at the market gathered an audience around him. He did not do it intentionally. He was walking toward Jim and Keith’s vegetable stall when Jim called out to him to ask how his tomatoes were this year. The old man walked closer. He was using a stick for balance, so his progress was not fast. He wore voluminous trousers held up with blue braces. His shirt was white and ironed and he was wearing a tie. When he got over to the stall, the man began to talk about his astonishing tomato bush. It had started from a little potted plant. He recounted that he had bought it for a few pence. The small plant had been replanted into a big bucket which he filled halfway with FarmYard. All of his tomato plants were doing well this year, but this one had become an enormous bush and was covered with hundreds of small tomatoes. They were not yet ripe so he was waiting for some sun to finish them off. Several people had stopped to listen to him discussing his tomatoes. Each time a new person stopped, Jim included them in the conversation by announcing that the man was growing his tomatoes Out of Doors. We have all tried to grow tomatoes out of doors here. Most people give up. If they do not have a polytunnel or a greenhouse or a good glassed-in porch, it is too difficult to grow tomatoes out of doors. The weather is unpredictable and it is depressing to work hard at plants that always let you down. Each time a new person joined the little circle around the old man, the murmuring about his tomatoes being grown out of doors increased. Everyone was full of respect and maybe envy. Each time a new person joined the little circle, the man began his story again at the beginning telling about the little plant which only cost him a few pence. I was fascinated by the term FarmYard which he re-used each time he explained his methods. He never said manure nor even well-rotted farmyard manure. He called it Farm Yard and we all knew just what he meant.
3 August Saturday
I walked with Em along the River Path. Our progress was slow but steady and I was happy to have her on her new extendable lead. I did not have to worry about losing her nor about her wandering away while I was not paying attention. We both had a more relaxed time as a result. A woman marching along at speed while swinging her arms stopped abruptly and asked me what sort of a dog my dog was. I am often asked this question. As always, I said that Em’s mother was a sheepdog. I said we did not know who her father was. The woman exclaimed “Well, I’d say he was good looking!” and she continued on her way.
1 August Thursday
Breda’s grandmother lived until she was 98. She was a positive person. No matter what sort of misfortune happened to anyone, her response was always the same. It did not matter if a cup of coffee had been spilled or a leg had been broken. Her comment remained constant. Time and again, she repeated “It’s a small thing compared to the North”.
31 July Wednesday
I walked up the boreen as far as the farm with Em. That was enough. I put her into the house on our return and took off up the rough track for my own walk. I start missing walking for myself because, increasingly, I try to accomodate her slowed pace. I knew that if I did not leave immediately, I would let something get in my way and maybe never get around to taking my own walk. The sky was grey and heavy but I did not wear any rain gear. I felt certain that I could walk quickly and get home before it began to rain. I did not consider the heavy downpours which had fallen during the night. Before I got a third of the way up the path, I was thoroughly soaked by the wet leaves and the wet trees and the dripping off every kind of vegetation which I had to push my way through.. I kept going thinking that I probably could not get any wetter. By the time I came out of the wooded track and onto the road, the rain had begun. It was falling hard. If I walked or if I stood under an ocassional tree or if I scrunched up my shoulders and scurried along, it did not make any difference. I just kept getting wetter. Even when the brain accepts the inevitability of getting drenched, it is difficult to walk at a normal pace.
30 July Tuesday
Em is better. She is much, much better. She is getting more sleep because we are continuing to barricade her into the kitchen at night. She does not seem to mind. All these years, she has had the free reign of the house and has struggled against any closed door. Now she paces around her newly restricted space for a short while and then she settles and sleeps for a straight twelve hours. She might be better, but she is no younger.
29 July Monday
The antibiotics are workiing and I am relieved to see Em looking and being better. I am less tearful as I watch her bumbling about. Today I was picking up her wooly bed in order to give it a shake outside. I noticed a mass of little scratch marks on the wall. There is a rubbed surface of liming wax on that wall made of wood.. Em has a habit of rolling on her back and tossing herself back and forth when she wants to feel good. Now I see that her back toenails have been lightly scratching through the wax over the years. The places where the wax has been scratched off allow the wood grain to be seen more clearly. The little marks have made a delicate drawing on the wall.
27 July Saturday
Tractors are racing up and down the roads with huge upright trailers full of the grass cut for silage. They arrive up at the farm and empty their load quickly while another tractor is waiting just outside the gate to go in and empty its own load. They rush up and down the road and go into fields where the cutting machine never stops. It just keeps cutting and spraying its cut stuff into the trailer of the next tractor which drives along exactly beside it. Everything happens at top speed. It is an amazing bit of choreography. It is The Silage Dance. I say this every year. This season all of the tractors are the same colour. They are all new and they are all bright blue. Their trailers are bright blue too. I could not tell how many tractors were racing up and down. I knew there were at least three, but since they are always in movement I could not get a sense of numbers. I drove through the farm yard at midday and there were five matching tractors and trailers all parked around outside. Their large size and their proximate parking made the area feel very urban. I felt like I was moving between tall buildings. There were no people on the ground nor in the tractors. The drivers were in the kitchen being served a big farm workers dinner.
26 July Friday
I cannot stop worrying about Em. I cannot stop thinking of the inevitablity of lfe here without her. I know this will happen, but I had placed it into a far future not the immediate future. I took her to the new vet today. I have reassurance but I do not feel reassured. She is pacing and pacing in circles and in zig zags throughout the house. We do not know if it is pain or age or maybe dementia causing the pacing. It is a normal thing for old dogs. It is not a normal thing for my dog. I am unable to think about anything else.
25 July Thursday
New cars this year were given the number 131 on their number plates so that no one would have any bad luck which the number 13 might bestow upon them. Now there are newer new cars which have the number 132 on the plates. This new number allows people to be able to show off that their car is newer than a 131. I guess it is incentive for those sorts of people for whom it matters, because not so many cars are being sold these days. Any marketing trick is possibly a good trick.
24 July Wednesday
Em is spending a lot of time going to places she never used to go to. It is as if she is trying to remember these places even as she is forgetting them. We find her staring into corners. Every day we find her sleeping somewhere new with her head underneath a piece of furniture or under the bathtub. Sometimes she walks behind a chair or a door and then she cannot get herself out from behind that thing. Because she is spending time in odd places, I find I am spending time in odd places too. It is a way to be together with her.
23 July Tuesday
At night, when we go out to walk down the meadow together, it is still bright and light so I do not need a torch. I can easily see Em as she comes down the steep path behind me, and then she stops. She waits and watches me go all the way down and through the birch trees at the bottom. Then she watches as I continue up the path on the far side. When she sees that I am on the final stretch, she turns and walks back up the same short way she has come and she meets me at the back door. Does she think that I do not know that she has not walked the whole way around or is it enough for her to know that I have done it. Maybe she thinks that is enough for us both.
22 July Monday
There are so many signs of age. If she did not look so youthful, perhaps I would not feel so disturbed by it all. Increasingly, I walk into the kitchen and find Em staring hard and for a long time at the hinge side of the door, not realizing that it is the wrong side of the door.
29 June Saturday
Em disappeared in the Long Field. I think the horror of it all is still too close for me to properly describe it. She was there, walking along behind me, and then she was not there. I looked and shouted and clapped my hands and she was no where to be seen. I could see for miles in all directions. The barley was high enough to hide her. And her deafness made it all harder, of course. When she is in trouble she never barks or makes a noise herself. She just waits. She is a very quiet dog. It took several hours and lots of wading through dikes and phone calls and a search party and finally she was found slowly walking in a deep dike which had gotten deeper the farther she walked. It went lower and the parellel track rose higher. Breda’s dog, Molly, found her. She was about eight feet below the level of the dirt track when Molly located her. I was still hunting for her way back where I had last seen her which was about a kilometer and a half away.
28 June Friday
The library has a sign up inviting people to take a photograph of their library books on holiday. There is a photo of a book on a beach and another of a book on a bench in the railway station in Prague. This invitation appears every summer and every summer I am surprised all over again, because I always think it is irresponsible to take library books to faraway places. From the number of photos which get gathered together from widely varied locations, I gather I am alone in thinking like this.
27 June Thursday
As we returned from walking to the farm and collecting the post, Em started to walk slowly but it was a different slowly than the kind that suggests that she cannot keep up the pace. This was an intentional slowness. She dawdled well behind me and then looked to see if I was noticing. This was not old dog behaviour. There was something else going on. This was dog with an agenda. I continued walking but looked back again and again until I noticed that she had picked up something. I went back to see what it was. It was a cow’s horn and it was in Em’s mouth. They must have been de-horning up in the yard and somehow one had gotten out onto the road. Em dropped it but as soon as I turned away, she picked it up again. I walked along and she dropped it again and then slowly moved toward me. I moved away and she sloped back to the horn. We went back and forth like this until I took it from her and made her walk in front of me. I dropped the horn back on the road knowing that it would still be of interest on her next trip. I had a good look at it myself before letting it go.
26 June Wednesday
There is a lot of brown dead vegetation on the edges of the road and and in front of farm gates at this time of year. The seasonal spraying of industrial strength weed killer makes for a horrible look. We are happy not to have any of it at all down our track. The postman is not so happy though. The growth on both sides of the boreen is rampant. Everything grew in a mad rush because it all waited for so long for some warm weather to let any growth begin. Now all kinds of things are out at the same time even if they aren’t usually out at the same time. What John doesn’t like is the oily nature of the blossoms and the clutching weeds and how they stick all over his van and his mirrors. What I don’t like is the whacking of the car on both sides by bushes and blossoms and how the car fills up with insects if a window is open. They just get thrown in as the bushes bang and scrape against the sides. In the last few days, I have found that I could barely walk up and down anymore. If I tried to walk in the tyre tracks I had to fight the bushes off and away from my face and if I tried to walk down the middle, the uneven high grass and clumpiness made me stagger and flail from side to side. It is still a few weeks before the big hedge cutting will begin. To placate John, we moved the plastic post box up to the farm for a while so that he does not have to drive down. For myself, I decided to attempt mowing out some of the central area of grass. It is a long way up to the farm with a heavy old lawnmower and I knew it would take two or three runs to get the entire width done. I thought I might do a bit today and the rest of it tomorrow. In a burst of energy, I managed to do it all this afternoon. My arms are still shaking and my shoulders are tired but I am ever so proud of my work.
25 June Tuesday
A man at the vegetable counter turned to the woman nearest him and asked “What does celery look like?” Before the woman could answer, he said “Is it one of those long yokes?” She replied helpfully “Yes, it is one of those long yokes. It is green. Let me see if I can find some for you.”
24 June Monday
I know most of the dogs around here. Many of them I know by name but even the ones I do not know by name, I know by sight. I know where most dogs live and I know who owns them. There are not that many dogs and there are not that many houses. Everyone is accounted for. As I was feeding Em tonight, I looked out the door and saw a medium-sized black dog come racing down the boreen, around the side of my studio, across the lawn and down the path into the meadow. I ran out and tried to see where it went after running through the meadow but it was already gone by the time I got there. The dog ran really fast. It ran as if it was being chased or as if it was chasing something. The dog only had three legs but that did not seem to slow it down. I waited around a bit expecting to see someone coming down the track after the dog. No one ever came and the dog never came back up the meadow to return to wherever it came from. In the excitement of anticipating and finally getting her dinner, Em missed the whole thing. I have been unable to stop wondering and worrying about this Unknown and Definitely Not Local Three Legged Dog all evening.
23 June Sunday
Today has been muggy and overcast. Em and I walked as far as the farm. She is very slow. It is no longer the limp, so much as the age. Some days she sets off with great glee and gusto. Some days she plods. She no longer looks shocked when I make the signs for turning back. She did manage the entire river walk on Saturday but I think these longer walks now have to be the exception rather than the norm. She is simply Not Able for It.
22 June Saturday
There is a tiny truck with a two-sided sign on the back of it. It is the same little tent-like sort of sign arrangement which we otherwise only see when there is an election in process. These signs advertise the Farmer’s Market in Cahir. Throughout the morning the little truck moves around the town. It is first parked in a highly visible spot up on the square. Every now and then, someone goes and drives it around the town for a few minutes, then reparks it in a different visible location. This happens each Saturday morning between the hours of 9 and 1 o’clock while the market is open. It is a fun to see the little tent in yet another new surprise spot.
21 June Friday
While I was still in bed this morning, I looked across the yard . There was bright sun falling on the daisies a few metres in front of the barn, but the barn itself was situated under dark cloud. There was no light on the barn. The stone of the walls looked as heavy and grey as the slates of the roof. Walls and roof looked to be all of the same colour which is never the way they usually look. There was no reflection of light on any of it. There was no reflection of light in any of it either. I looked and looked and tried to understand the heavy deadly darkness in contrast to the brightness so close by. By the time I was up and moving around the cloud cover had moved and the garden and the buildings had returned to normal with light, shadow, and brightness all shared.
20 June Thursday
Soft drinks of the sweet and fizzy sort are all called Minerals.
19 June Wednesday
I keep adding more nuts to the feeders because the man on the radio tells us that with the confusion in weather and plant growth this year, the birds have not had the right things in the normal quantity and order for eating. I would usually have stopped feeding them by now. The two feeders were full this morning and already they are nearly empty. It is hard to sit at the table and to look out the window as there are just so many birds rushing to eat . They gather around and wait sitting on the old church chandelier and on the wooden sides of the tower. There are dozens of bird waiting their turn to eat, while each feeder has four or five actively eating at any given minute. It is chaos out there.
18 June Tuesday
Glorious sun and warmth today. Just when I feel defeated and cheated by the chill and grey gloom of this year, along comes a day like today which helps me to forget the horrible ones. This is the kind of day which is difficult to scheduale. It is always hard to scheduale oneself with discipline when the weather is so inconsistent. I feel I absolutely must do some work outside today simply because I can. It has not been possible and now it is possible. Does that mean I give up some other activity? I just finished packing up parcels of books down in the lower barn. The books needed to be packed. The orders needed to go out. The orders needed to be taken down to the post by 3.30, if they were to go out today. It was not so bad to do such a job with the door open and Em wandering in and out. Swallows flew in and out. I went in and out too, fetching books and addresses and a cup of coffee. The packing up of books is not as interesting as planning, writing, drawing, printing and even folding books but it is all part of the life we have here. Something will not get done today. I fear it is the things which are my own projects. I put myself last too often. Balance is always hard to find. Today I shall not resent the time spent in the sun and in the garden. There has been too little sun to chance missing a bit of it.
17 June Monday
I stopped to say hello to an elderly friend. She was pleased to have a visitor and she greeted me with the offer of tea or coffee. Before I could choose, she took back her offer of coffee. She said she had indeed had a jar of coffee, but she kept it for so long that it went all green.
16 June Sunday
There is a new business down in the village. It is in the small space which was used as an insurance office for a few years. The people there always fed a cat outside on the footpath. When they closed up and left the premises, they left the dish outside. They left the cat too. The cat has since found various people to feed it in the neighbourhood. For a year or so the space was turned into a little museum. A priest who lived nearby left his books about the area but I am not sure exactly who he left them to. They were put on display, along with other books which were just books that he had without any particular subject joining them. There was discussion about building a larger collection of local stuff. The space was far too small for much of anything to be acquired. I do not know where the books are now. The sign over the door still announces the space as a museum but as of today, the place is for dog grooming. A flyer has been printed up to advertise this new business. On it are different prices listed for five sizes of dog starting from Tiny and going to Giant, with a reduced rate for puppies. The flyer locates the premises with the phrase: Where the museum used to be.
15 June Saturday
No more activity in Scully’s wood. All of the busy woodcutting and thinning work has ceased. The wood which looked so bright and full of light with its undergrowth cut away has now gone dark and gloomy again. The leaves up top have grown and made a solid, dense ceiling. No light can get through and we no longer want to go and walk there. Even Em stops at the gate and shows no interest to enter.
14 June Friday
Blustery rain and wind on and off all day. Sometimes the sun comes out and it is bright even while the rain continues to lash down. There are cows in Joe’s field just above us. There are the cows of the other Joe in the field immediately over our fence. There are more cows below in the river meadow. Those belong to Paul. All of the cows are noisy today. It is rare to have three different herds in such proximity all at the same time. They seem to set each other off. If one cow starts to bellow and moan, the others join in. The conversation bounces from field to field. I call it a conversation but I do not know if they are actually communicating with one another or if they are just enjoying the sound of their own voices. Sometimes I hear them over the sound of the beating rain. Sometimes the rain stops, and the wind drops and then the cows take over with their racket. It is a noisy day here.
13 June Thursday
I took Em all the way around today. I have just been walking up and down as far as the farm with her this week. That has been enough. Sometimes we have ventured all the way out to the road. Today I thought to try the whole circuit because she was not limping and she seemed eager to be on her way. We struggled up the overgrown path. I can barely call it a path anymore. It is worse than ever. Kathleen was with us. She and I are both short. Nature has taken over and it is taller than us. The cow parsley is still there as is wild angelica and alexander and nettles and more nettles and honeysuckle and grass and everything is all tangled together and even when they are growing separately, the plants joined together to stop us or at least to slow us down as we struggled to push through. I could barely see Kathleen and I did not see Em at all until we came out onto the the tar road. We were all three covered in tiny white dots from various blossom and we were wet. It felt good to be free of the struggle. It felt good to see ourselves covered in confetti. When we got to the stream, Em dashed down for her stick and her swim. I was pleased. Everything was returning to normal. When she started to climb up the steep banking, she slid back down and fell into the stream. She tried three times to climb up and after the third fall she began to walk around in the water as though that were exactly where she wanted to be. I climbed over the fence and went down to her. I stood in the stream and pushed her gently up the steep incline. Her front legs were fine but the back ones did not have enough strength in them to get her up. Just when I think she is fine and back to normal, I am reminded that she is an old dog and that she cannot do absolutely everything in every walk every day.
12 June Wednesday
Here and there around the countryside there are signs which read STAMP OUT CRIME. Sometimes the signs are hand-drawn and painted. Occasionally they are more commercially produced. Along with the words, there is always a picture of a single big lace-up boot. The boot is doing the stamping out.
11 June Tuesday
I was thinking of a short and not very hilly walk as a variation for Em and the little Loop walk in the village came to mind. For a few minutes, I forgot that the walk no longer exists.We had it for less than a year. It provided a gentle two kilometre circuit along a fast moving stream which poured down from the mountains. Some of the trees had little wooden signs with their Irish names on them. None of the trees were special trees. They were just the trees that were already there. The path had been made with an agreement between a landowner, the county council and with some European money. Small bridges had been built to cross the water at five or six locations. There were little gates here and there to stop livestock from escaping if any happened to be around. It was a lovely walk. It was used by people of all ages. One day the entrances to the path were found to be blocked up with big branches and bushes. There was a lot of speculation. No one knew exactly who to go to to find anything out. We looked over a gate from the road and saw all of the bridges had been ripped out and piled up together on the edge of a field. Such destruction was the work of men with heavy duty machines. We were shocked. Everyone was shocked and everyone was sad. Everything we know about all of this is rumour. It was widely discussed. We understand that the man who owned the land wanted to build some houses. He had made some kind of pact with the council that if he allowed this path to be made on the edges of his land, he would then recieve permission to build his developement. Maybe this was before the building boom ended. Anyway, his project was eventually refused permission, so he tore out the bridges and closed the path in vindictive anger. To this day, we do not know the exact truth of any of it. We cannot even protest to the man because he does not live around here. He neither knows nor cares that everyone in the whole village is mad at him.
10 June Monday
There is an exhibition of photographs along the hallways at the airport. It consists of 250 photographs of people who live on this island. Each picture is a shot of the head, not unlike a large passport photo. A few of the people are famous people like politicians or actors. Theirs are the faces we expect to see in media situations. The rest are just people who live here. This display might not be as effective somewhere else but because this is a small country, everyone expects to see someone they know. The unsurprising thing is that we all do see someone we know.
9 June Sunday
A huge funeral today. A fifteen year old was buried. One young friend told us that sometimes he thinks it would be better to have been brought up in a city. He explained that in a city he would only have his own circle of friends but in a small rural community everyone knows everyone and because you know everyone you know not only the person who has died but you know their siblings and their parents and their uncles and aunts and cousins and neighbours and you probably know their grandparents and the neighbours of the grandparents who live three townlands away. The lines of connection go on and on. Everyone feels the grief even through a long stretched out thread. Because the connection is there, the pain is there and you have to feel that and to share it together with the entire community. He said he is glad that he lives here but he feels so sorry to have to participate in this great sadness. On a day like today he feels it is all just too much.
8 June Saturday
I walked through the wood in Cahir. It is what Em and I do on a Saturday morning on the way to the market. She was slow and walking with a bit of a limp. I do not know if it was an injury limp or an old age and maybe a bit arthritic kind of limp. She was slow so I slowed to match her pace. We came upon a man who was digging around under a tree with a penknife. He had two small boys with him. The boys were delighted to see Em coming along slowly in the distance. They anticipated her arrival with squeals of both fear and excitement. I asked the man what he was digging for. He said he was looking for Pig Nuts. He showed me the plant which grows above ground. The pig nuts are attached to the roots of the plant. He had found one but it was small and he was sorry not to have a better tool. We talked a bit about foraging. He wanted to learn about the gathering of fungi but could not find anyone locally who would take him out and teach him. He knew one woman but she would not share her knowledge as she feared that someone might take home the wrong sort of mushroom and get sick and then she would be blamed and probably sued. We commiserated for a few minutes about the litiginous nature of the country. As we talked, he scraped his single pig nut clean and cut off a piece to give me. We each had a bit and discussed the taste which we tried to believe tasted like a hazelnut but really it did not have much taste at all. We decided that it was perhaps old or maybe young and not fully ripe. I think a mass of them together might be more tasty. I left him to his digging and the boys kissed Em goodbye. Later I wondered if I was foolish to have sampled an unknown nut from a complete stranger who did not know what he was doing any more than I did.
7 June Friday
The heat is extraordinary. It is difficult to do anything more than to just enjoy it. All of the windows and doors are open. It is good to be outside where it is hot and sultry. It is equally good to be inside with the cross breezes and cool shade. It is good to simply feel weather in such an enjoyable way. A swift flew into the house and started swooping and dashing around. It bumped into a few windows. The last bump must have stunned it because it dropped down onto Em’s new bed and just sat there. Em was lying nearby, just beside her bed. She looked at the swift but she did not seem to be very interested in its arrival nor in its presence on her bed. She had come indoors because it was too hot for her outside. I had come indoors because I wanted a glass of water. I don’t know why the swift had come in. I picked up the bird. It was too dazed to struggle. I took it outside and put it on the table. Within a few minutes it was racing off and away down over the meadow.
21 May Tuesday
If someone is sleeping they are said to be Above in the Bed. It does not matter if the house is a single storey house or a two storey house. I think the above of Above in the Bed is just a description of being in another place and of sleeping in that place.
19 May Sunday
I walked up the path with Em. We went as far as the tar road and then we turned back. I wanted her to have a shorter walk today and I also wanted to collect some apple blossom from Johnnie’s orchard. I made sure that she saw me as I turned off into the tall grass of the orchard. I signaled with my hands and I trusted that I had caught her eye. I saw her walk towards me so I turned and got busy cutting a few branches. When I looked again, she was no where in sight. It was easy for her to be gone because the grass was so high and where there was not tall grass there was cow parsley. The cow parsley is already taller than I am. I shouted and whistled and clapped but none of my sounds caused a movement in the vegetation. She is too deaf to hear much but sometimes the sharpness of a clap works. Today nothing worked. I walked out and into the big field but I could not see the movement of any tall grass which would have suggested where she was walking. I stood clutching my armful of apple blossom and wondered which way to go to look for her. Would she have continued back up the track and gone out onto the road and done the usual walk around? Was she still in the orchard or in one of the fields around Johnnie’s house? Had she turned to go back down the track toward home? I wandered around in the high growth for a while and then I decided to head down the track toward home. About a third of the way, I came upon her in a dense clump of cow parsley. She was sitting very still and turning her head slowly from left to right, probably trying as hard to locate me as I was trying hard to locate her.
18 May Saturday
Oscar has had an operation on a growth on his back. After the surgery, the wound became infected so he was put on antibiotics. He had one of those lampshade collars but he ripped it off the first day. The wound kept getting infected. He is now on his third dose of antibiotics and the vet suggested he be kept indoors and wearing a child’s T-shirt to protect his wound. We were missing him each time we were out walking and we wondered where he could be. He is not an indoor dog but his people are now keeping him inside for The Healing. I am longing to see how this huge black dog looks in his little T-shirt.
17 May Friday
At first I thought it was just a few elderly people. I thought it was a problem with hearing. Now I know that it is not only old people. I cannot explain exactly who does do it and who does not do it. I want to stop them but I feel it would be impolite. I do not know if they realize that they are doing it. It is a response in conversation which takes the form of a repeating of each thing the first person says. Sometimes my own sentence will be returned to me as a question, or sometimes it is just plain repeating, which I think implies agreement. The repeating gives the thing which has been said emphasis. The repeating takes the form of an overlapping. It does not start as my own sentence ends but it starts a bit in the middle of what I am saying. It is a little bit like an echo but it is more annoying. I sometimes imagine a whole family sitting around the supper table, all restating what each other says. I do not know how anyone can be listening and repeating at the same time and without ever pausing.
16 May Thursday
There are two welly boots on the side of the road. One of them has been there for more than two years. It appeared at about the time the woodcutters were finishing their work in Cooney’s wood. The toe of the boot was ripped off which rendered the whole thing useless. That boot lay on its side for months and months. One day another boot was there beside it. The second boot was the same size as the first boot but it is a different brand. The second boot was ripped at the top and was all green. The first boot was green with a yellow sole and treads. The two boots have been lying side by side on the verge and slowly the spring vegetation has grown around them for a second year. I no longer know exactly where they are but I know they are there. I will forget completely about both boots but I know that they will reappear when everything dies down again for the winter.
15 May Wednesday
Em was standing beside the table looking hopeful. She placed herself nearby on the off chance that something edible might fall or be dropped. She looked back and forth at each of us. Suddenly, without any more movement than the turn of her head, all four legs let go and she crashed to the floor in a heap. She was surprised and we were surprised. A few hours later it happened again. It is difficult to know if this is just age or if it is something more sinister. I am trying to keep an eye out to see if it happens again.
28 April Sunday
We set off in a soft drizzle. It is mild but not as spring-like as it was a few days ago. The rain was a soaking kind of rain, or maybe it was just soaking because we had so many stops. We were passed by seven cars which is an unusual amount of traffic. I think they were all returning from Mass. Each car stopped and the people within the cars commented about Em. Some people thought we had a new dog. Others just had a good laugh. Some were shocked at how pointy her ears are. Some thought her exposed face made her look like a terrier. Others commented upon her very fluffy tail. Each time we stopped for these conversations we stood in the drizzle while the people talking sat dry inside their cars. Joe was by his gate when we passed. He too had a laugh at Em and thought she looked very youthful. He said “Sure, doesn’t everyone who gets a haircut look younger.” We were wet through by the time we got home.
27 April Saturday
I met John while walking on the river path in Cahir. I had not seen him since the day he spoke of his fear of The Reaper. I was glad to see him after so long, and I decided not to bring up the topic of The Reaper and his own narrow escape. He was full of the news of the grass cutting at Shannon Airport. Ordinarily the three thousand acres of grass around the landing strips are only cut every 2 or 3 years. This is a kind of protection for various nesting birds. This year the grass has been cut out of sequence because there are so very many farmers desperate for food for their animals. A lot of hay and feed is being imported from Britain. Farmers are having a dreadful time between the cold and the wet. Nothing is growing. I do not know how they decide who gets a portion of the Shannon grass. Maybe it is divided up between some farmers in the immediate area. Everyone feels glad that something is being done to help.
25 April Thursday
Someone has robbed a chemists. There are bright blue cardboard packages of Durex condoms all along the road. The packages are empty and all splayed open. They have been thrown out the window of a moving car. The still folded-up directions for use are scattered all along the verge too. The first time I spotted them we counted fourteen packets over a distance of a kilometer and a half. On the next walk, I counted 22. Now the vegetation is growing so quickly that all of the packets are disappearing into the foliage.
24 April Wednesday
I took Em to be groomed this afternoon. Her clumpy hair had just become impossible and I could no longer brush her. The hacked out areas were looking worse and worse. Debbie took a quick feel of her and said This is hopeless. She said that the daily swim was making the tightness of the clumps worse. No shampoo was going to release all that hair, so we agreed that Em would get the Big Trim. She has not had this extreme cutting done for about four years. I returned after an hour to find a new dog. Debbie left some hair on the face and head and the big plume of the tail, but all the rest of Em’s big fluffy coat is gone. I cannot look at her without laughing. She looks naked and vulnerable. She looks both extremely young and very frail at the same time. Debbie said she had a hard time standing for the time taken to trim her. Her legs kept collapsing. That is the old age.
23 April Tuesday
We walked down The Long Field in warm sunlight. The elusive spring has finally arrived. The fields on both sides of the straight track are large. These fields used to be many fields which have been brought together over years. It is unusual to find big fields unbroken by ditches or dykes around here. Most fields are in odd shapes and sizes which have evolved and been integrated through varied ownership and use over time. Something is growing on both sides of the track. It looked like dark green grass but probably it was barley or wheat or maybe hay. I have no idea what it is, but I was pleased to see it all looking healthy. Right down the middle of the track was a solid mass of dandelions. The center of the track was bright yellow, and that was what we followed all the way down and all the way back up again. Later, I saw that our own boreen has plenty of bright yellow dandelions too. The sun seems to be making things grow by the minute. There are thousands of pale yellow primroses on both sides and well up the bankings. The Lesser Celandine displays another bright yellow, and the wild garlic a deep green. There are little vetches growing in between lots of everything. At the end of the afternoon we sat with friends in four chairs looking out over the fields and listening to the stillness. As we sat quietly, I heard my first bee of the year.
22 April Monday
In the past few days, I have been told by three different people that they have seen the swallows. Each person announcing this did it with great glee and joy in their voice. I felt left out. I was looking and looking but there were no swallows here yet. Today I spied a pair swooping and rushing around the lower barn. I am thrilled to welcome them back.
21 April Sunday
There is a big black plastic bag tied on the end of a string. The string is tied onto a branch and the bag is often flopping down in the boreen as I drive or walk along. I hate this bag. I think it holds a connecting device for stretching across the boreen when the cows come down that way. Or maybe it is just more string wound up in there. Whatever it is, it has no weight, which is why it blows around. I can drive right over it without harm to my tyres or to itself but I hate the ugliness of it. Sometimes I try to tangle it behind the bushes but it always blows back out. I spend a lot of energy disliking this black plastic sack but I have yet to find a solution to it. I hate to even give it this much attention to write about it.
20 April Saturday
I asked Tommie if he had been to the funeral. He said No, It was too far away for him to drive these days and anyway he did not know the way.
19 April Friday
The SALUTE. The Salute is a small part of everyday life. It is a small part of everyday life but it is an important part. On driving up and down the same roads day after day, we all see the same people and the same vehicles. It is imperative that we acknowledge one another. It is also important as a thank you if someone pulls over to let you pass or if you have pulled over to let someone in a tractor or a big machine pass in a tight situation. The salute from someone driving is often just the index finger raised up from the steering wheel. It might be four fingers raised up from the steering wheel, with the thumb and the palm staying on the wheel. One man always points his index finger, with his whole fist in the air. I used to think his finger pointing at me from his clenched fist was like a gun, but then I realized that if he had been making a gun sort of sign his thumb would have been raised. This directed finger is just his way of saying hello. Very few people wave their entire hand, but it does happen. A quick nod or shake of the head is another form of salute. This nod is not a full nod, it is a very quick move, more like a nervous tic. Not everyone can pull off this quick nod. Sometimes when I am alone I practice it but it is not easy. If I am walking I raise my hand to every car which passes. Sometimes I do not even look up, but I never fail to wave. If I salute every single time I pass someone then I cannot be guilty of Failing to Salute, which is considered rude. There are not that many cars nor people to pass at any time so it is not a big thing. Not doing it is a big thing.
18 April Thursday
More winds. I cannot stop writing about the winds because I cannot stop hearing the winds. The winds are worse than the rain. The rain stops often and for long periods but the winds just go on and on. This morning we saw that our heavy wooden bench had been tipped over by the wind. It usually takes two of us to move this bench. The bench had not only been knocked over but it had been moved several feet from where it stood. Slates are off a roof up the road. Not just one slate or two has been blown off, but 20 or thirty. A whole section of the roof has been laid bare. The birdfeeders in sheltered places have stayed hanging, but I had to take some of them inside after they were blown down. No matter how strong the gusts the birds just hold on tight and eat and eat while they are swaying around. I had to stop the car and drag a heavy tree limb off the road just so that I could drive down the boreen and home.
17 April Wednesday
Em and I headed up the path. There appeared to be a good break in the rain so I thought we could get up and right down again without getting wet. By the time we got to the top she was going at a good pace so I decided we might as well continue all the way around. She did well and kept up a slow but steady speed all the way. The rain started and became a downpour. We both got thoroughly soaked. Her soaking was only half a result of her swim. The top of her was rain wet and the underside was swimming wet. I should have put on my waterproof trousers, even to go out for a short walk. My wet clothes and her grubby wet towels are now all hanging to dry. Again.
16 April Tuesday
As we came along the road, I saw the old man with his pushbike standing and looking out over a ditch. By the time we reached him, he started to speak while he was still facing out and across the fields. He was not looking at me but he was talking to me. He announced that everyone swallows at least four spiders in their lifetime. The swallowing of the spiders happens at night when our mouths fall open. The spiders just walk into our mouths and then we swallow them. I must have looked startled when he turned to face me. He said, “No need to worry. You have probably already swallowed your four.”
15 April Monday
The winds continue to be wild and gusty. We go to sleep with the sound of the wind and we wake up with the sound of the wind. I walk out in the wind except for sometimes when the wind is just too strong and I cannot walk against it. When it is that bad, I just have to give up and return home. Today I found many limbs and branches down as we walked. Some were blocking the way. Em and I could walk over or under most of them. Some I pushed out of the way. There were a few very big branches down which were as big around as I am. That is not so big but a branch that size could easily knock me down. It could flatten Em and pin her to the ground. Because these branches are already broken and have fallen and landed, I do not feel nervous about them. I wonder if I should be worrying about the others which have not fallen yet. Maybe walking out in this ceaseless wind is not such a great idea.
14 April Sunday
A friend has been visiting. He came regularly to this country as a child with his parents who were born here. His father used to tell them how things were when he himself was a child. He was always pointing out how different it all was from England even though England was not very far away. One thing the father used to do was to send him and his brothers around a grocery shop to find the tinned dog food. It became a thing they all looked for whenever they went into a shop. The father said “You will never find the tinned dog food because they don’t feed their dogs here. Table scraps is all they’ll be getting”. The country has changed. The treatment of dogs has changed. But our friend still looks for the dog food whenever he enters a shop.
11 April Thursday
The trees in Scully’s wood are being thinned. Every seventh tree is being removed. From down here, there is the sound of a chain saw in the distance, but it is not as loud as I thought it might be. It is just a reminder of activity in the district. As the cutting progresses, the road being cut through the wood gets longer. The wood is 16 acres and the acres are spread over a long distance. The wooded area is narrow and stretched out. By the time the work of clearing is finished, there will be a rough track that cuts right across to Flemingstown. I look forward to walking through the wood on this secret shortcut. The road won’t be ready for a long time. This work will take many months. It is one man and a chainsaw cutting every seventh tree. When a trailer load of felled trees is ready, it is driven out and up the boreen. The tractor pulling the trailer is like a tractor drawn by a child. It is very small, and all of its angles are squared. There is no roundness to this tractor. There are no windows in this tractor. Well, maybe there is a windscreen. It is tiny and it is bright red. I love seeing this tractor but I prefer not to meet it head on in the boreen while driving. There will be a lot of backing up in our lives for as long as this work continues.
10 April Wednesday
The radio announcers here always speak of the time as Almost. They do not say it is 10.29. They say The time is coming up to 10.29. Or It is Almost 29 after 10. They might say Nearly instead. It is Nearly 29 past the hour.
9 April Tuesday
I had to go to Dalton’s garage to get my tyres checked and aligned. I had not been there for a long time. I was glad to see that the log cabin was still there, although it had been changed a lot and now it was more like a regular waiting area.. The first time I went to have something done on the car, I was directed to go and sit in the cabin. It was a version of an Log Cabin built with rounded wood, and trying hard to look like a cabin in the American West. There was a heavy wooden door. Inside the cabin, there were comfortable old chairs, a gas fire, a table full of magazines and a television set. It was cosy and bright and once I turned off the television set, it was quiet. Through a little window, I could look out and see the work being done on my own car and on another car which was up on the lift. I could not hear the sounds of the men working, nor could I hear their radio. I read my book and felt sleepy with the heat. My waiting seemed to go on for a very long time. I finally looked out the window and saw that nothing was up on the lifts, and there was no one around. I went out into the work area and found the woman in charge. She said “Ohmygod we forgot all about you in there!” They were just closing up for the day. When I saw that the new version of the waiting room is a more open place, I figured that perhaps I was not the only person who had been forgotten when they were tucked away out of sight in the Log Cabin.
8 April Monday
Every county in this country is a bit obsessed by their own GAA colours. The GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association and they oversee the hurling matches for young boys and girls right up to the adult games. I am not particularly interested in all of the activity but it is very hard to live here and to not be aware of the coulours and the games and the loyalties. Here in Tipperary the colours are gold and blue. It is really a bright yellow, rather than any colour I would call gold, and a royal blue. The colours appear everywhere at the time of big matches but they are present all the time in smaller quantities. There is always another something that can be bought or sold with ones own county colours on it. My latest observation is the car air fresheners, which people hang from their rear-view mirrors. They are in the shape of little hurling shirts. The colours here are of course the Tipp colours. On the bottom of the shirt it says New Car Scent.
7 April Sunday
The daffodils started to push up so very early this year. Then the cold came and they all stopped growing. Now the cold continues with a few intermittent bright and sunny days. Some daffodils blossom and then they collapse with the cold or get beaten down with the wind. Then some more blossom and it all happens again. There has never been the large showing of flowers all together. The weather has not let anything happen as normal.
6 April Saturday
Em and I set off up the boreen together. I lifted her over the fallen tree and then we each climbed the muddy path at our own pace. When I got to the top, I had a long wait for her arrival. She was doing a version of Stately Pace but it was difficult for her to maintain an evenness of stride as she went through the mud. I watched her and decided she was just too slow to do the entire walk around today. We have been going Around every other day and taking her for shorter strolls in the fields or just up and down to the farm on the other day. She is still eager for a few throws of the frisbee in the afternoon but a long walk and swim every day is just too much. So today I thought we would go and have a little poke about in the graveyard at Tullaghmelan before we went back the way we had come. I walked along the road and she followed at a distance. When I got to the graveyard, I went up over the stile and in. I am accustomed to her knowing where I am going and always keeping track of me. I did not bother to notice if she had seen where I turned. A little while later, I returned to the stile and looked out onto the road, Em was sniffing around at the bottom of the stone steps. She stopped sniffing and took off at a good speed down the road. I shouted to her. She did not hear me, of course. She is deaf. I whistled and I clapped my hands. Sometimes the sharp sound of clapping hands makes her take note. Nothing worked. She was trotting rapidly away, rushing to find me. I ran behind trying to catch up with her as she rounded the corner. I kept hoping she would turn around, but she was really on the move. Eventually, I caught up with her. She was startled to see me come from behind. We returned to the graveyard together and walked around looking at carvings and stones and the old roofless church. By the time we left and headed back down the boreen I do not think she felt like we were turning around and just walking the same route home. We had been somewhere with new smells and now we were heading home. It ended up being a lovely but very muddy outing for us both.
5 April Friday
I went down to the old bit of ground near the stream where I had found the pieces of green wall from Maisie’s kitchen. I took gloves and a few tools for digging. I stood in the middle of the area trying to decide where exactly I had been when I had worked on my collection point for the green pieces. The woodcutters had used the area for a long stretch of work and storage. There was a lot of scraping and moving and piling up done there. It felt silly to be trying to return, but after a few failed attempts I found the remnants of my area. I greeted the pieces with great pleasure. When Maisie died, she was gone. When her house was torn down, she was gone again. Or she was more gone. When the rubble got moved down to this spot, and I found the green parts of her kitchen, it was as if I found her again. Then the woodcutters took that away. Now the green pieces are back, more worn, more faded and some completely chipped off so that there is no colour left. It is not really like Maisie is back but there is a funny connnection. It is like a conversation which continues.
4 April Thursday
Simon went to the chiropodist. The person he usually goes to was away so he went to a new place. The woman there greeted him and immediately apologized because her pneumatic chair was not working. It would not go up and down. He said he would look at it for her. He managed to repair whatever was wrong with it. She was delighted. When he was ready to leave, she was horrified to realize that she had failed to put his socks on the radiator as she usually does. She said the problem chair had so distracted her that now he had to suffer with cold socks. She felt that she had really let him down. She apologized again and again for having been so remiss.
3 April Wednesday
The oil man, whose name is Ned, came today. Just before Christmas, he arrived to take our old trailer away. He has been busy working on it, so he told us all of the things he had done since he drove away with it attached to the back of his car. He told us about the drive on back roads all the way home with two flat tyres on the trailer. It was about 30 kms. He had his daughter with him. She had just returned from London for the holidays so he said the extremely long ride gave them time to talk and catch up with one another. He has since put in a new floor, new lights and wiring and repainted the outside and the inside with both primer and outer coats of paint. He had to put on new tyres and new wheels. He drank two cups of tea and was proud to tell us that we simply would not recognize the old trailer now.
2 April Tuesday
Cursing From A Height. I have heard this expression used but never really thought about what it meant. I just thought it must mean that the person cursing was very very angry, sort of like the cursing had built up until it just had to come out. This may be partly true, but today I learn that the expression comes from an old Druidic practice of climbing up to a high place so that the curses fall down with more force on top of the person or persons who are being cursed. The added height gives the curses added invective.
1 April Monday Bank Holiday
Over years, farm cats just keep breeding with each other. Breeding and inter-breeding means the gene pool gets completely corrupted due to the absence of new blood. These cats and their families are not taken care of. They don’t get shots or regular food or organized shelter. There is the milk of the cows put out in dishes, if it is a dairy farm, and maybe a bit of something else if it is another sort of farm. Mostly these cats just have the job of keeping down the mice and the rats. They get to eat what they kill. They sleep where they chose. Every so often it is considered a good idea to bring in a new cat or kitten from across the valley or even from another town. If the animal survives its ride, usually in an old bucket, and if it survives its welcome by the established cat population, the new blood will freshen up the gene pool of the community of outdoor working cats. Tommie and I took three kittens from Flemingstown to a farm in Mullinahone eighteen months ago. We had a cup of tea after releasing the young cats and then we drove home. It has been a long time now, but he still asks regularly how the cats are doing in their new home.
31 March Sunday Easter
Em walks and runs like a dog. Of course she walks like a dog. She is a dog. She walks fast or she walks slowly. She runs and chases and twirls. She has a lower and longer walk which she uses when she is on a lead and in a town. Her town walk is lady-like and dignified. Now she has added an elderly walk. She doesn’t do it all the time, but when she does, it can only be called A Stately Pace. When she is doing Stately Pace, nothing can change her speed or her direction. It is all as if it has been rehearsed and the script cannot be varied. Stately Pace is appearing with increasingly frequency.
30 March Saturday
The tree at the bottom by the stream is still blocking the way, but we have cleared some of the branches. The tree is heavily covered with ivy. Maybe the ivy choked it and weakened it enough so that the rain and the wind were just the last straw. It is possible to step over the tree to make the walk. Em cannot get underneath nor can she climb over the fallen tree, so each walk is begun with a lifting and dropping operation to get her going up the path. She no longer even snuffles around in an attempt to squeeze herself under. She just waits to be picked up. We must take a saw and do a big cutting and clearing job down there, but it is easy to put everything off in this cold.
29 March Friday
I went down to the shop just before lunch. I was not even sure it would be open as today is Good Friday and a great deal of the world here is shut. It was open. An old man was waiting beside his small red car for Kevin to load a bag of coal in for him. He squinted at me and said “I’ve seen you already today”. I said “Yes, you have”. He asked “Where was it then, that I saw you?” I said, “You were turning right and I was just above on the road by Mary Corbett’s, with my dog.” He said, “Ah yes.” He went back to overseeing his coal loading. I have never known this man’s name. I usually see him on his old and heavy push bike, right down near where I saw him today. He lives somewhere along the road we call Neddins. Sometimes he is in the red car which has AGI plates. That means the car is registered with some kind of agricultural restrictions. The restrictions mean that he cannot go too far from home in that car. When he is on the bike he is sometimes riding it but often he just pushes it. He stops and looks out over the ditches and if he is standing when I pass, he often tells me something he might be thinking about. He speaks in a series of pronouncements. It is never a conversation. The last time we met he told me that the English like to wash their automobiles on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon. He said “It is just a thing that they do when they have nothing else to do”.
28 March Thursday
I saw Oscar with his owner today. I commented on how we have enjoyed having him walk along with us some day and how very good he is about going back home as soon as he is told to go. I said he was wonderfully obedient. She nodded and said, Yes, he is Biddable.
27 March Wednesday
The shop looks like it has been there for a great many years. The wooden front is beautifully made with fine wooden divisions between old curved pieces of glass. The sign is painted with golden letters. D.W. PARKE is the name over the shop, and on one side of the name there is a diagonal word, also in gold, which says CHEMIST and on the other side another diagonal says OPTICIAN. The shop has been closed for a few years but even when it was open it did not look like it was open. To enter was always a bit of an adventure because it was so dark within. A bell rang on the door to signal the arrival of a customer. There was very little floor space in the shop as there were a great many glass fronted cases full of boxes and bottles. Most of the packages on show were empty. Because they were empty they often were lying on their sides because there was nothing inside to hold them up straight. Even within their case, the packages were dusty and mostly faded. A few items seemed to be actually there in their packaging. To buy anything it was necessary to ask the man at the counter. If he was not there when you first arrived, he came out of a back room when the bell sounded. I assume that the man was D.W.Parke himself, but maybe he was the son, or grandson, of D.W.Parke. He always wore a white shirt, a tie and a dark suit jacket. The shirt was not really white but it had once been white. It was old white and the white of something that has been washed a great many times but it was never going to be bright white again. It was white enough that it implied a formality in his dress. On going up to the counter and asking for something, like indigestion tablets, the man who I think of as D.W. Parke, would nod silently and reach into a drawer behind the counter. He would bring out an item, wait for your own nod of acceptance and then proceed to wrap the box in brown paper with tiny pieces of cello tape to keep it tidy. Since the shop has been closed, the display packages in the windows just get more faded. Otherwise everything looks exactly the same. Recently the large glass window on the right hand side of the front was smashed in. Instead of boarding it up, the solution for keeping people out has been to stretch a few lines of barbed wire across the inside of the broken window. It has been a few months already and so far, the method seems to be working as a deterrent.
26 March Tuesday
This wretched cold and this wretched east wind! None of it shows any sign of ending and none of it makes us happy. I am trying not to talk about it all the time but there is nothing else we can speak about until we get the weather out of the way. I went to buy more peanuts for the birds. They are eating like mad. This cold makes them hungry. This cold makes us all hungry. I left my plastic bucket in the shop to be weighed and filled. I went around and did my other shopping and came home without the bucket of peanuts. I did not remember it for two days. When I went back to fetch it, I remarked to John that I simply cannot remember anything these days. He laughed and said, “You are lucky if you’re only just Starting to forget things!” I said “No, it has been going on for quite a while, but lately it seems to be getting worse”. He said, “It is probably no worse, but now you’re just more public about it.”
25 March Monday
The moon is almost full, but I cannot see it. As Em and I went out and down the meadow tonight, the sky was completely starless. Low cloud covered everything but somehow it was quite light. I turned off my torch and was able to walk the path without a problem. I could easily see things that were light in colour. The white bits of Em’s fur showed well. Her white feet and their movement were visible. Her fluffy moving tail was visible. The first primroses which are blooming at the base of a birch tree glowed, as did the bark of the birch tree itself. I could see a white label on a one of the plum trees. It was an eerie walk tonight with just a few things highlighted in an otherwise dark evening.
23 March Saturday
An entire months rain fell yesterday. The world is sodden. Again. Em and I tried to walk up the boreen but a tree has fallen down and is blocking our way. I am not sure if the wind knocked it down or if the wet ground just let go of the roots. We had to take a different walk.
22 March Friday
The rain and the bitter cold are just terrible. Two women were trying to collect for the annual Daffodil Day for the Irish Cancer Society. They were both squeezed in under the small awning at the cash machine in Cahir. Each time someone came along to use the machine they had to move out into the rain to let the person get at the machine with a modicum of privacy. The people who used the machine were the only ones who gave them any money. No one else was around.
21 March Thursday
I went to collect Em in Skeheenarinky. Rain was coming down in all directions. It was the kind of rain that comes at you as though a bucket had been tossed randomly. Sometimes the bucketfull hits you and sometimes it misses. Regardless, you are going to get wet. I was told that I had to wait at the gate, because I had arrived earlier than expected. For the safety of dogs or the safety of people or for the safety of both, Lukki always has people wait outside the gate. I got back into the car to stay dry. Em was in the Infra-Red Room. I had no idea what that meant. When eventually she came out she looked very happy and very dry. I asked what the Infra-Red Room was about. He has hooked up a special light, just the same kind that you can buy at the Co-op for hatching chickens. He has put wire over the light to make it safe in case a dog goes toward the electrics. The dogs like to go in and lie down in the warmth. He claims it is very good for the bones of old dogs. He said Em loves to spend hours stretched out, tummy up, in there. He told me she is five years younger than she was when we brought her in to stay. I do not know if that is the result of the Infra-Red Light.
4 March Monday
There is a new sort of petrol station. We were directed to one by friends. If we had not been told, we would never have considered stopping. As we drove in, we saw that the station was boarded up, empty and closed. There were large pieces of plywood nailed up over what used to be plate glass windows. There was no one around. Two petrol pumps on the forecourt were fitted with credit card machines. To get fuel, one punches in an amount and then gets charged accordingly. The pump then allows that much fuel to be put into the car. I know card pumps have been available for a long time but this seems to be different. There is no one there. There never will be anyone there. The fuel is available 24 hours a day but even in the middle of a bright afternoon, it feels like a dodgey deal is being transacted. The first station like this that we saw was in Wicklow. Now we have seen another in Wexford. They both look completely deserted. There is no litter bin, no air, no water. There is nothing. There are just the pumps and a sign overhead which reads GREAT GAS.
1 March 2013 Friday
The old priest has been dead for several years. A sign on the gate at the drive leading down to his house read BEWARE OF THE BULL. As far as I know there was never a bull within the gates. I always chuckled to myself about the warning. The old priest is dead and someone else is living down in his old house. It might be his relatives or it might be someone else altogether. The gates now have an electronic opening device on them. The sign is still there. Priest or no priest, one is still warned: BEWARE OF THE BULL.
28 February Thursday
Oscar joined us at the corner and set off ahead in the position of leader. He was suddenly distracted by a smell and had to follow it. He squeezed through the third section of the six bar gate with difficulty and ran in circles to smell whatever it was he needed to smell in Joe’s field. By the time he was ready to come back out onto the road, I was even with the gate. He tried to sqeeze back through and just could not make himself fit. He stood at the gate and nudged it in a suggestive way for me to open and let him out of the field. The gate had a chain and a shiny new padlock on it. A gate with such a serious lock is unusual. There was no way I could let him out. I tried to encourage him back through the same section of gate he had entered but he was simply not able for it. I was looking around for an alternative exit for him when he ran at the stone wall and leapt over it with no problem at all. It was so easy for him, I wondered why he had even bothered to squeeze through the gate in the first place.
27 February Wednesday
I went to a hardware shop in town and asked about a kind of catching latch for the cupboard door. The man showed me several sorts which were not what I needed. He told me to check back with him if I was unable to find what I wanted. He said “I’m going to get some more of those as soon as I find someone to sell them to me”.
26 February Tuesday
We were nearing the house of Susie and Shep. The gate is normally closed and they bark madly as we pass. Today the gate was open and they were standing out in the road. They do not bark when they are out in the open. They were quiet as they watched Em who was way up the road. When she raised her head and saw them, she turned and looked behind her. She was looking for a way not to proceed past them. I called and signalled for her to come along. She dropped down into the deep trench which was dug by the county council workers to allow for water run-off. There is no water in the trench now, but there is grass growing around and in it. Em flattened herself and tried to walk low and invisibly down the trench on the opposite side of the road. Susie and Shep watched her all along her way. She was not invisible at all. They wagged their tails but they never moved towards her. They stood by their gate. She came out of the trench and took the wide swing away from their gate and then continued down the road as though nothing had happened. Actually, nothing had happened.
25 February Monday
As a gift for opening a new bank acount we were given a green First-Aid box. Back at home, I looked in the box to see what was included inside. I saw that the box of plasters had been opened and several of them had been removed. A roll of gauze had been opened, as had a tube of antiseptic ointment. The ointment had been squeezed out of the tube and the cover was not replaced, nor was it anywhere visible in the box. Sometime later when I was in the bank again, I mentioned this to the woman who had given us the box. She said, Oh Dear, someone must have cut themselves!
24 February Sunday
Em’s daily dip in the stream has become a more formed and longer swim. I always threw the stick from the left side of the wall just because that was the only place where I could see her and the stream, but I had the problem of branches in my way. My stick fell fairly close to where she was standing and waiting. A few walks with Simon showed me that he throws the stick from the center of the wall. His position means he can see her and he can throw right down the middle of the stream. His throw means she must swim to get her stick and she must turn and swim back a good distance. This is much better than the little wade about and swim my throw was providing. Now I too stand at the center of the wall to throw but I cannot see her down below and waiting. I just throw and hope that she is looking in the right direction to see the stick heading downstream. Sometimes she misses the whole action and I have to go and find another stick while she waits in the water.
23 February Saturday
I am sad to see that the sign pointing to Grange has disappeared. It was there yesterday. This morning it is gone. It is not on the ground below where it was on the pole. I had a thorough look in the grass and in the ditch. It is not anywhere in the immediate vicinity. Like all of the old signs it has no doubt been stolen and is now en route to an Irish bar somewhere far away, or at least in Dublin. The sign was one of the old cast-iron ones where the black letters of both the Irish and English Place Names were raised off the surface. The number 2 was raised off the surface too. The 2 denoted the correct distance in miles even though the word miles was not present on the sign. On all of the old signs, distances of less than a mile were signified with fractions. A second and newer sign pointing in the opposite direction, towards Newcastle, remains on the post. This sign is made of aluminium and the letters and figures are printed, rather than painted. Again, they are black letters on a white background. The distance on this sign is in kilometres which is announced with a km after the figures 1.5. The distance is incorrect. It should read 4.5 km. A lot of the older people are unhappy with the change from miles to kilometres anyway. If things are going to change then they should be changed so that they are right. Otherwise everyone sort of wonders if maybe things were fine the way they were.
22 February Friday
There are lots of viney lengths of brambles hanging down in the boreen on the way up to Johnnie’s. They are young brambles so the thorns and prickly bits on them are present but they are not very large.. The long tendrils hang off stronger branches. Some of them are five feet long. They are long enough that they wave in the wind looking for things to catch onto. What they mostly catch onto is my hat. Every day my hat gets taken off me two or three times on the walk uphill.
21 February Thursday
The first time a neighbour’s child asked if she could rub my dog, I did not understand what she was asking and so I said “No, of course you cannot rob my dog. If you took her I would not have her and I would miss her terribly”. The child looked confused. She tentatively reached out her hand to touch Em. That is when I realized that she meant RUB not ROB. Luckily, she did not seem to understand a word of what I had said so she still just wanted a rub. I use the word PAT for stroking a dog not RUB. Now I hear people speak of giving a dog a rub often and I know what they mean but it is not a word or use of a word that I can incorporate in my own vocabulary. It just never sounds right for my ear.
15 February Friday
We do not always get post delivered on a Friday. If the postman does come down, the weekend’s weather is predicted for us. Sometimes he says “They’re Giving Good For the Weekend”. Today he was gloomy when he announced “They’re Giving Bad For the Weekend”. The sun is out and it is cold. It is these terrible winds that make it bad.
13 February Wednesday
We have had some lovely spring-like days but still things are wetter than anyone would like. There is rain at night and rain at intervals through most days. The ground is wet. The ground is very wet. Mud is everywhere. The farmers are discouraged. The cumulative wetness of the last year has diminished the soil. They are saying that There is No Life in The Ground. This is said often and always with a shaking of the head which implies both sadness and helplessness.
12 February Tuesday
A group of dieters was photographed in the newspaper. Their cumulative weight loss was 74 pounds so they were photographed standing behind a table with 74 shiny packages of butter piled in front of them to illustrate the weight they had lost . Things here are metric so packages of butter are sold in weights of 454 grams which is just about the equivalence of a pound. Even so, the group weight loss was still recorded in pounds and not in kilos so it is all a bit confusing. Regardless of the various issues of conversion they all looked happy, though some looked thinner than others.
11 February Monday
A man was discussing the terrible pressure that people were being put under in a particular situation. His way to describe it was to say that things were so difficult that they were being Put to The Pin Of Their Collar.
10 February Sunday
Today was the Annual Book Fair in Fethard. The fair is called Tipperariana, but book dealers come from all over Ireland to participate. There are antiquarean books, and newly published local books and old maps, posters, and postcards as well as heaps and heaps of second-hand books being sold by dealers and fund-raising groups. Some people have just been clearing out their house. There are a fair number of specialists. Irish subject matter is the most plentiful, but there are people selling agricultural books, and those dealing with trains, bees, crafts, architecture and music. We went and sold books there for a few years but no one was very interested in our productions. This year there were at least thirty stalls, or maybe more. The fair takes place in the Fethard Ballroom which I believe doubles as an occasional sports hall, or at least it used to, because all of the light fixtures have little cages around them to protect from balls being wildly thrown and breaking the bulbs. The ballroom holds dances every Saturday night and they are very popular, particularly with older people. At the dances there is always live music. For the duration of the book fair there is a piano player playing a medley of things from Chopin to Satie to the Teddy’s Bear’s Picnic. I do not know if the piano player is the same person who plays for the dances. There was not any dance music played. With the music playing and the hundreds of conversations going on all at the same time, the book fair is a noisy event. The background of the stage was painted some years ago and still looks very fresh and bright. From the floor to about five feet up, there is a painted field of wheat. The wheat is larger than life and it looks tremendous from out on the floor of the ballroom. The piano player looked good sitting in among the wheat.
9 February Saturday
I met John (The Ancient Man) again this morning on the river path. I have been thinking and thinking about him saying that he walks five miles a day every day except on the odd days when he has to go off somewhere. He is old and he is slow and I wonder if he is really walking that far. I have been trying to figure out how I could find out. Today I asked him when he sets off for his walk. He answered “20 past 9. I always leave at 20 past 9.” So then I asked when he arrives home. He said “Sometimes it is 11.15 but some days it is closer to 12. My return depends on how many conversations I have along the way.” I guess he could indeed be walking 5 miles as his pace is consistent even though it is not fast. He would have no trouble at all maintaining 3 miles per hour. Today he was worried because he said The Reaper was out looking for people his age. Two local people had died this week and he did not want to be the third but he knows these things always happen in threes. He said he knows he is being selfish but he will be relieved when he hears the news of someone else’s death.
8 February Friday
The license plates for 2013 cars seem to printed as 131-TS-230 instead of 13-TS-230. Is this just because the number 13 is so often considered unlucky? If so, I guess next year we will be back to 14-TS-230.
6 February Wednesday
We saw the fox today. We were just approaching the place where Em always squeezes under the fence to go down to the stream when the fox squeezed out from under the fence a little farther along. Em hesitated. The fox hesitated. The fox was too close for Em’s taste. She enjoys a chase but she prefers the outcome to be well out of her control. The fox took off by running a few feet up the road and then ducking under the fence and back into the woods. Em continued down into the water and got on with her daily swim and stick-fetching.
5 February Tuesday
There was snow on the ground when we woke up today. There was snow on the roof of the barn too. Fat wet flakes were falling. By the time Em and I were ready to go out for our walk, the flurries had stopped and the grass and fields were green again. The boreen was as wet and muddy and messy as ever. When we got out of the trees and up onto the road near Maisie’s old house the sight of both the Galtees and the Knockmealdowns was breathtaking. All of the mountains were covered with snow and their contours looked completely different in the bright sunshine. I walked along our normal route and pretended that I was in Switzerland.
4 February Monday
There is one house on the road out of Ardfinnan which never looks like anyone is at home. The house is a drab light brown colour with a pebble-dashed front. It is a single story bungalow sitting at the very back of its acre of land, as far from the road as possible. Next to the road is a low wall made of blocks cemented together. Just inside the wall there is a vegetable garden. It is quite a nice large patch for vegetables. I have never seen anyone working in this garden. I am just glad to see the garden. It has made me realize that there is rarely a vegetable garden in sight from any road. People keep their front yards looking devoid of activity. There may be some plants for landscaping but there are never plants for cultivation and eating. A vegetable garden seems to have no place in the look of rural homes. If vegetable gardens exist at all, they are out back and out of sight. I am very pleased to see this one garden right out front and visible in its prime position. I am now on the look-out for more vegetables not being grown in secret.
3 February Sunday
Em is always in the way. When we are out walking, she is fine and she rushes along with all of her regular examinations and activities. When we come back into the house, she becomes a nervous wreck. She follows me everywhere from room to room and each time I get up and move she has to get up and move too. She is always underfoot because she does not want to miss anything. If I leave a room quickly, she follows along and enters through a door moving her head slowly from left to right and back again until she locates where I am. Not being able to hear me means she must see me. Sometimes this attention to my presence means that she must be pressing up against me. I don’t like to get angry at her. It is so sad. I hate myself for getting impatient but I hate tripping over her too. It would be nice if she would just curl up and take a nap for a little while instead of trying to be the sheepdog and keeping track of every single movement all day long.
2 February Saturday
The men who wait in cars are a big part of any Friday and Saturday morning in town. The women go into the supermarkets and the shops. The women might even go to the hairdressers. The men have driven the women into town for the shopping. The men sit in their cars and read the newspaper. If the weather is fine, the men might stand outside and read their newspaper on the bonnet of the car. They might stand and chat and smoke with other men who are waiting in and near their own cars,. These men never go too far from their cars. They are sort of On Duty. Their job is to be there when the wife or children return with bags of stuff. They are there to open the boot and to wait for the next arrival of things or people. This is not an activity of younger men. It is only older men who wait in the cars. They have always done this. They have always parked in pretty much the same car park in the same part of town. I should think there are many older men who have never once set foot in a supermarket. Their place is in the car. They wait and when everything is done, they drive the car and ferry herself home.
1 February Friday
As usual, everyone speaks of today as the First Day of Spring. As usual, it does not feel one bit like spring. It feels like February.
31 January Thursday
We have had more of the wild winds that we have had every day this week. I wake up with the sound of wind and I go to sleep with the sound of wind. The sound of the wind is driving me crazy. Last night, in addition to the winds, which changed direction every few minutes, we had beating rains which also changed direction often. First one side of the house would be pelted with rain and then another side would be pelted. Being inside the house is like being under siege.On top of all this, around midnight, we had an hour and a half of thunder and lightening. I don’t think it is normal to have thunder and lightening in January. We all know that weather and normal weather patterns are changing and that mad things are happening everywhere. After last night, I am more certain than ever that the weather is changing. I am certain that mad things are happening.
30 January Wednesday
MOTOR FACTORS is the name for a shop which sells is parts and accessories for cars and trucks and motorcycles. I don’t think an individual item is called a Motor Factor. I never see the word without it being plural.
29 January Tuesday
I said Good Morning to Kathleen. She responded by saying Yes, A Good Morning is any morning that’s dry.
27 January Sunday
Every September the South Tipperary Beekeepers Association organizes the Clonmel Honey Show. Beekeepers come from all over. They display their honey. Prizes are awarded and methods are discussed. It is especially fitting that the Honey Show is held in Clonmel as the word Clonmel comes from the Irish CLUAIN MEALA which means Meadow of Honey. I have always meant to attend the show and every year I forget to keep track of when it is held. This year I have marked my calendar. I am not sure of the exact dates yet, but I know it will be a weekend and that it will be toward the end of the month. The event is open only to beekeepers except on the Sunday afternoon when they allow the public in for two hours.
26 January Saturday
The use of the word AFTER is curious. People say it frequently, but when they say it, it is not in relation to Before and After or Now and Then. It is a more like a perfect continous tense. A sentence might be: I’m after giving it a chance. or: He’s after leaving his job. I hear it used and I understand it but I am unable to use it that way myself.
25 January Friday
I took Margaret and Tommie a plate with some slices of chocolate cake. Margaret stood in the doorway and looked eagerly at the cake, but I was not sure that she actually remembered me. Both her vision and her memory have gone very bad. We chatted a little bit. I admired her hand-knit sweater. She told me that she has twelve cardigans and nine pull-overs, all knitted by herself. She said that they are good ones and that they will last forever. She said that since she cannot see well enough to knit anymore all she can do is wear them.
24 January Thursday
Someone who was going on and on and annoying everyone with herself going on and on was said to be so annoying that She’d Put Hair on an Egg.
23 January Wednesday
I drove out today to go to the post office. Just before I got out to the tar road, I was stopped by large pieces of the slurry machine in my path. There was a curved pipe and the metal connecting bits that should have held it onto the rest of the machine. I had to stop because there was not enough room to pass around it. I knew it was part of the slurry machine because it was all covered with slurry. It was all covered with slurry and it sat in a large puddle of slurry. I debated with myself as to what I should do. Backing up all the way down the track as far as the farm was one option. A difficult option. Getting out and moving it was another option. I didn’t have any gloves so I thought about kicking it out of the way. It looked heavy for kicking. I did not really want my shoes to get covered with slurry, which was an inevitable result. The inside of the car would then be slurry smelling and mucky at least where my feet had to go to use the pedals. I wondered if I would get to the post office before the post was collected for the day. Before I made up my mind as to what to do, the tractor drove up behind me. The slurry tank was attached to the back of the tractor. The man who was doing the spreading got out and came around my car. We talked for a minute or two. He was wearing heavy gloves. He picked up the mucky piece of equipment, and squeezed himself up tight against the ditch while I drove past him and away. Yesterday, I met the same man and the same tractor and the tank at almost the same point in the boreen. I was on foot then and I had both Em and Oscar walking with me. We went back out to the road and waited to let him pass. Em was annoyed that she had to vary her movements. She stared at the tractor in disbelief. When we got past the farm and were walking down the boreen toward home, a cow walked up the middle towards us. Oscar ran away in fear, taking a big detour. Em looked at the cow as if confused at what he was doing in her path. I shooed the cow up and into the farmyard and we continued walking. I can walk and drive up and down for weeks at a time without meeting one person, vehicle or animal. This much traffic activity is unprecedented.
20 January Sunday
When I was walking in Cahir yesterday, I saw John. Before I knew his name, I called him The Ancient Man. He was always walking along the river path with his Ancient Dog. The dog was a spaniel named Sally. Sally died a few months ago and John is sad to have lost her, but he continues his daily walks. He walks five miles every day whatever the weather. He walks slowly but with a steady pace. John is 88. Sally was only 11 but she had been in poor health for a long time. She often sat down and waited on the path for him to turn around and collect her on the return trip. She was just too tired to go all the way. He told me that he had a dog before Sally who was also called Sally but she was a different sort of dog. Now his daughter has got a new dog. The new dog is also called Sally. The new Sally is a puppy and John thinks that she is too energetic to walk with him. He says that the new Sally will be ready to walk with him in about ten years
19 January Saturday
There is water everywhere. There are lakes where there used to be fields. There are rivers in new places. The real river is swollen to three times its normal width. The river path in Cahir has only two feet left before it will be covered by water. The field behind the castle is a lake and there are swans swimming around as if they have always been swimming there. As we drove along on return from the market there were new landscapes to be seen in every direction. It is a super-saturated landscape. As we drove along and remarked about the water and the flooding and the damage, Em rode along in the back of the car and chewed off both ends of the smoked eel.
18 January Friday
We have snowdrops but no snow.
16 January Wednesday
The men from the county council have been digging trenches and cutting channels into the sides of the roads. The diggers make gashes and gouges off the side of the road to lead the water into the dykes. They do this every year. Every aspect of it is a mess but if they did not do it, it would be a worse mess. It is necessary to give the rain water plenty of ways to drain off the roads, because the water runs off the fields and into the roads and then it has to go somewhere. The trenches have been dug along the foot of the ditches. They are parallel to the road and parallel to the ditch. The trenches make dykes which are quickly filled with the rushing water at the base of the ditch. It all sounds confusing. Ditches should be full of water not growing as hedges. I use the words but I do not get used to them.
14 January Monday
Em goes less far from the house now but because she is older I think she feels that it is far, or even farther than what she used to do. Sometimes I look out a window and she is standing near the door and just staring off in one direction. It is a blank kind of staring. It is just standing. Sometimes it is like she is staring off toward the fields and sometimes she is staring toward a wall which is only a few inches from her face.
11 January Friday
A headline in The Nationalist today reads SOUTH TIPPERARY ROADS SO BAD THAT EVEN PRIEST WON’T VISIT HOMES. That kind of says it all. The roads do seem worse than ever. It is probably because it has been raining all year. Potholes are so big and deep that tyres and car axles are easily damaged. People joke that what we once called pot holes are now Sheep Dips. The roads are falling away and people feel that nobody cares, so we all talk about it all the time.
10 January Thursday
I went to PAWS, the dog rescue place, to walk dogs today. A core group fund and run the place with help from volunteers. It was my first visit. I think there were about seventy dogs in residence with most of them in large kennels each sharing with another dog. There were outside runs for each pair of dogs, accessed by a slip door from the indoor space. Overspill dogs and some of the smaller ones were in cramped cages along a narrow corrider inside the building. The noise was unbelievably deafening while in there. The minute one dog barked they all joined in. Some did twirls and flips and some just jumped up to get closer to people. The three of us managed to walk twelve dogs. In one way, it seemed generous to give each dog a 25 minute walk, but at the same time, we barely made a dent in all that needed to be done. My second dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was far too big and strong for me. He pulled me hard down the track and several times I almost fell when he took off abruptedly. My final dog was a greyhound. I had never been close to a greyhound before. I loved this dog. He was both gentle and handsome. Of all the dogs there, I think more than half of them were greyhounds. They are popular dogs in Ireland for the coursing. People breed them and train them for chasing hares at race meetings. Great winning greyhounds have had statues built to them. Great winning greyhounds are venerated. Old greyhounds or greyhounds who no longer win are often shot and their bodies are thrown into holes. Some are just let go out in the world to fend for themselves. Before they are disposed of in one horrible way or another, the owners sometimes cut off their ears because each running greyhound has a tattoo inside the ear which allows him to be traced. Without the ear marking, an owner can rest assured that he need not be responsible anymore. Many of the dogs we saw had one ear bloody or scabbed over from where it had been cut. I was pleased to learn that many of the greyhounds get sent to Italy because the Italians adore them and find them gentle and loyal pets. I love to think of these dogs leaving the barking mayhem of PAWS, and the damp cold of homelessness, and arriving in a new life full of love and warmth and maybe some lying around under olive trees.
9 January Wednesday
We woke up to find the world outside our windows white and cold. It is not snow, just icy frost and thick white fog. The fog never cleared all day, so the sun never managed to come through and melt the frost. The sun sat in the sky like a bright circle but it was not bright enough. Everything has stayed white and frozen so the the world feels extra quiet and extremely far away. When Em and I walked out, we reached a point on our circuit where everything was clear. The fog is just being held in the pockets and hollows of land. We walked out of the white fog and then as we returned home, we walked back into it.
8 January Tuesday
If someone is joking or teasing or being teased, they say Go Away! or Go Away with You! They say it to make sure that you know they do not believe what you are saying. This Go Away does not sound like Go Away, it sounds like Gooowheigh. It comes out a little bit breathless and quite drawn out. Maybe I have not found the right syllables to explain it. There is a phonetic vernacular to which I listen and listen but I think I often miss. It took me a long time before I even understood what was being said and even now I cannot explain it right.
7 January Monday
Slurry was being spread in the field first thing this morning. The smell was horrible. We heard the tractor stop and then saw a young man in overalls and wellingtons pacing up and down the field and talking into his phone. He did a lot of walking which was probably due to the lousy signal out here. We couldn’t tell who it was from a distance but somehow wwe felt sure it wasn’t Joe. After about forty minutes, another tractor appeared and the two men hooked it up to the first one. The second tractor attempted to pull both the first tractor and the bright red slurry tank out of the thick mud at the bottom of the field. It took a long time but finally they did it. The slurry tank never returned today so we have been spared the stench for a while. Em and I went down to investigate the deep tyre tracks and the mess from the churned up mud.
6 January Sunday. Epiphany. Little Christmas.
Daffodils are pushing out of the ground. In some spots they are as much as two inches out of the ground. Snowdrops are up and in blossom and my Lenten Rose is in glorious full flower. Once again, it is hard to know what season it is with so many mixed messages between the mild weather and the calendar telling me that it is early January. I still have tulip bulbs which I never got around to planting. I must bury them quickly and hope that it is not already too late.
4 January Friday
There was a dead baby shrew on the second step going down to the lower barn this morning. Once again, I noticed no visible injuries. There was no blood and there was no part of the body missing. I am consistently confused as to why young shrews die like this. I feel sure they must have weak hearts and die of fright, or maybe excitement.
3 January Thursday
I have heard four people today speaking of Two Thirteen. I have occasionally heard someone say Two Three, Two Eleven or Two Twelve, but I always thought those were mistakes. Sometimes I thought I just must have heard it wrong. Now it sounds like it is becoming a normal way to state the date.
1 January 2013 Tuesday
It was a perfect blue sky day up in the Knockmealdowns and walking with friends was a fine way to begin the New Year. We ate smoked trout sandwiches as we sat lined up on a griff which looked like a bench. The mud and peat and unevenesss of the ground made for difficult walking. It was the kind of walking where you need to watch every step. Even with two walking poles it demanded constant vigilence. We knew the walk would be too exhausting for Em, so we left her at home, but we kept looking around and expecting to see her anyway. We felt sad that she was not with us.. Molly ran enough for two dogs. She is young and madly energetic. She spent her first 2 1/2 years in a tiny cage producing puppies in wretched conditions on a puppy farm. She is still relishing her rescue and the wonderful life she now has. The five of us stopped in Rose’s on the way back for drinks and cups of tea. We say Happy New Year to everyone we see and they all say Happy New Year or Many Happy Returns back. Today is the first day. We know this exact conversational exchange will continue for at least three more weeks.