12 August Tuesday
Em went for a haircut today. Her long sheep dog hair was matted and filthy in places. She is not very good at cleaning herself anymore. It is not even that she is not good at it. I think she no longer notices that it is something which needs to be done. I thought I would have to stay to hold her up on the table but Kate was able to maintain her in an upright position with two hanging straps. Her feet were standing on the table but her own energy and strength were not needed to hold herself up. She was not exactly dangling but it must have been a bit like being on tiptoes. When we returned from an hour of walking, she looked like a different animal. The area all around her bottom has been shaved right off and her tail is now like that of a lion. Her tail is a thin rope with a tuft at the end. The huge plume is gone, but so are the random clumps of old excrement which were wadded up there. Her back legs look very thin and extremely fragile. There is very little muscle left in her hips. It is sad to see but it is also very useful to see how old she is. We have become used to her moving with less agility but her eyes and her hair made her look like the same old youthful and cheerfully ready-to-go Em. Now the patches of pink scalp showing through her short hair and the shaky old dog legs cannot help but remind us that the old Em is gone. That and the perfumed shampoo smell.
11 August Monday
Peter explained that the rusty metal things I found are called FLAILS. I have been calling them PLOUGH TEETH. I like my name better but his name came with an explanation of how they function in a mowing machine. He explained how they are attached in a horizontal position and how they look when they start to be used. At a certain point when they are getting worn on one side, the flails are taken out and turned around so that the wear can then happen on the opposite edge. By the time I found my two, both sides had been rounded off. They were no longer rectangles with a hole at one end. Although the edges seem quite sharp to me, they are no longer useful for their job.
10 August Sunday
The Stonethrowers Rally has held us prisoner all day. Actually, we have been sort of captive for two days. All day Saturday there were cars tooling around the area. Each car had a sticker on the windscreen. The black and white sticker showed a number plus the word RECCE. The driver and one passenger were studying the route. I am guessing that they made note of sharp bends, pot-holes, the camber of the road as well as long straight stretches. Most of the passengers I saw had clipboards or notepads for taking down information. Today no one is allowed on the roads. From 8 am, the roads, though officially public roads, are no longer available to us. Early on Saturday evening, the officials were going around and taping people’s gates shut with red and white striped tapes, so they could not leave or at least they could not open their gates again. Some people sit outside their houses all day on Sunday to watch and cheer on the men in the numbered hot rods. They sit outside their houses but they do not sit too close to the road. Some people choose to escape for the entire day. They leave early in the morning and cannot come home until after 6 o’clock. Animals, especially domestic ones, get upset and have to be locked indoors. Grazing animals get put into fields as far from the roads as possible. This is not the first time this has happened. It seems to return to these roads and our area once every four or five years. The first time we encountered it, the cars on Saturday were doing SCRUTINY, and now the same activity is called RECCE. Otherwise things are the same. There are emergency numbers to ring if anyone needs to get out while the races are screeching around. No doubt the bales of hay on difficult corners are all in place. Some fences and walls will be crashed into. In the next few days, people will report to one another about whose walls and hedges got smashed. The high pitched roaring of engines and the loud popping of the exhaust are the same. From here in our valley, the sound is not so horrible but it is horrible enough.
8 August Friday
We ate the puffballs last night. We had kept two and given one away. Simon cut them into cubes and gently coated them in fine cornmeal. The cubes were then lightly browned in a skillet and served with a sauce made of fresh sweet peppers. They were delicious. There were seven of us eating them and when we finished, we all wanted more. We now have our attention on another puffball growing in the same vicinity. It is tiny but we will keep checking it every day in the hope that while it gets bigger, some others might grow up around it.
7 August Thursday
She goes into the open closet (or cupboard) (or press) and then half falls out and cannot get herself upright again. Shoes and boots fall out and tumble at her feet. Things tumble around her feet and they trip her and then she cannot stand up and so she collapses again. It is difficult to watch but it it easy to see that it is more difficult to be her than it is to watch her. Almost all of her movements are in some kind of circle. The back legs are weak and one leg is weaker than the other. When she is out of doors, her movement is almost always downhill. The downhill movement is not intentional. Watching the circling and the pull of gravity is not unlike watching water swirling down the drain in a tub or in a sink. The direction is inevitable, so it is not worth struggling against it.