1 October Wednesday
Today is the first day of mandatory water charges in the country. There used to be charges for water but some years ago they were eliminated. Now charges are being put into place as part of the ongoing Austerity Measures by the government. Many people, or maybe most people, do not remember a time when they had to pay for water. A great many people feel aggrieved. This is a country with a reputation for being very wet and having lots of rain. People feel they should not have to pay for such a plentiful resource as water. The trouble is that there are systems to run and pipes to repair. The nation has been bankrupted and has had to be bailed out by the EU. Even though things are a lot better than they were a few years ago, there is still an enormous debt. Businesses have gone under. People have emigrated. Homes have been lost because people can no longer pay their mortgages. Jobs are still hard to find and people have taken huge cuts in their wages and pensions. People do not have the money to pay yet another charge, but the government does not have the money either. People have not finished feeling outraged and abused about the new property tax. Now the water charge has been dropped upon them.
In the last weeks, there have been lots of discussions on the radio about how to lower the water consumption in a household. People were advised to use showers at schools and clubs and places of employment as much as possible. There were a lot of suggestions about using water in other places rather than using ones own water. Water butts in gardens were advised. People were told to put a rock in the toilet tank and to flush less frequently. They were told to repair any leaky taps. In the last four days, people were advised to use the last days of free water to wash their cars and water their gardens and do lots of jobs that they might usually put on the Long Finger. As well as cars, things like curtains, patios, pets and garden furniture could be washed with impunity in the final days before the charges. The implication was that one might never again be able to afford to wash these things.
Today the radio is full of people who are busy running in and out of their houses trying to read the water meters each time a toilet is flushed. They are taking photographs of the meter and its red numbers with their smart phones. They are discussing the charge per litre and the information that they can and cannot get from the water board about the water charges.
We do not have to pay water charges because we have our own well. We have always been careful with our water. We know that our well is deep, but there is always the vague fear that even so the water in the well might someday run out. Being careful is a good idea for everyone, as well as for the environment. Maybe after the initial shock of this new charge, the people who are now upset will realize that being careful is a good idea. When the government put in a tax on plastic bags in shops about fifteen years ago, they thought that everyone would be too idle to carry their own shopping bags. The government assumed they would make a lot of money to put towards environmental projects. Instead everyone quickly became conditioned to carry their own bags and the government has not done well with making the money it expected. People might quickly embrace this water tax as a challenge in the same way.
30 September Tuesday
Every so often my phone takes a little film by mistake, instead of taking the still photograph I was trying to take. Those little films get deleted as they are never anything worth keeping. The only time I ever made a film on purpose was while walking up the path with Em about a year ago. She was already walking slowly enough so that I could follow her. I think of that kind of walk as her Stately Pace. Not so very long ago her racing and rushing up and down would have been impossible to keep up with. I kept the film. Now I am glad I did. Simon put it up on YouTube for me. It is a short quiet walk with Em. There is only the swishing through the grasses and a bit of birdsong.
29 September Monday
There has been a big sparrow hawk on a long bouncy stick in a field up past Flemingstown. The bird must be made of rubber or plastic. It looks very realistic and it is never not moving. It swoops and dives and looks a lot like a real bird with its wings outstretched in flight. The movement of the bird keeps it moving. I do not know what the stick is made of but it is strong enough to keep the bird bouncing and diving. The first few times I saw the bird I did not realize that it was attached to anything. I thought it was a real sparrow hawk and I nearly went off the road with excitement. As crow-scaring devices go, I have never seen anything better. Now it is gone. I shall look forward to seeing it reappear in another field, but I may have to wait till next year.
28 September Sunday
The raspberries are slowing down. We have day after day of hot sun. These raspberry canes usually keep producing well into October. I cannot understand why they are slowing up now when the weather is on their side. They did begin their season much earlier than usual so perhaps they have just worn themselves out. The productive season might be exactly as long as it has always been but if it started earlier it may need to end earlier.
The blackberries make up for the diminishing raspberries. I cannot pick enough of them. Today I picked for less than an hour in sun. I started up at the tar road and walked back down here while picking. I only picked on the left side of the boreen where the morning sun was warming both the berries and the bushes. I had a field full of frisky young heifers following me on the right side. They rushed and jostled each other to watch me over the ditch and kept changing position to go along with me as far as they could. We finally got to the narrow end of their field. I continued on without them so they took off racing one another back into the open space. I came home with enough to provide a big bowl of berries to eat and two big bags full to drop into the freezer. The house has been stained by blackberry eating birds flying over. It is a mistake to wear a white shirt while picking blackberries.
26 September Friday
I am always surprised when I find myself standing on Mitchell Street in Clonmel and suddenly it is full of people all rushing from one direction. It happened this morning. Mitchell Street is not a very wide street nor is it a busy street. It is not open to motor traffic so it tends to be a quiet street. To see ten or twenty people arriving quickly from the same direction is startling. Fifteen or twenty people is enough to fill the area. The side street is Abbey Street where there is a church about halfway down on the left. The people gushing up and onto Mitchel Street are coming from a mid-morning Mass. To a person they appear to be in a rush. They are each coming from the same place and now they are each going somewhere else. Since the opposite direction only takes them to the river, they are all moving away in the same direction and they do not move slowly. Once they get to Mitchel Street some go left and some go right and very quickly the sense of group movement is over. Everyone who was in the crowd coming from Mass are now just people walking out in the town.