9 December Tuesday
The charity shop run by the organization of St. Vincent de Paul has been re-branding itself perhaps to make it look more trendy and more like a regular shop. First there was the logo which appeared a few years ago. SVP was written in a connected text with lots of lines through it. The multiple lines were to suggest speed I think. Now the SVP is still on one end of the sign but bigger letters announce the shop name as VINCENT’S. It could be just the usual shortening that seems to happen with each saint’s name. St. Patrick’s Day is just Patrick’s Day. Stephen’s Day is never St. Stephen’s Day. It is just Stephen’s Day, the day after Christmas. Since every single day is attributed a different saint in this still very Catholic country, it is redundant to bother to say the word saint. I do not know if the name VINCENT’S will get a new crowd into the shops or if it will just make the regular crowd feel more glamorous.
8 December Monday
There are always too many jobs to do to prepare for winter. There are the jobs which I know have to be done and there are the jobs which I write down on a list so that I will not forget them. The list gets long and then it gets longer. The more I think to put on the list the more other odd things appear. It is, of course, too late to prepare for winter. Winter is already here. Still there are enough jobs not done that there remains the illusion of preparation.
I should fill some empty bottles and the large plastic containers with water just in case the pipes freeze at some point. It is best to do this before the advent of long-term freezing weather. I should bring in more fire wood. Bringing in firewood is a constant. It is never done. It always needs to be done again. I need to fill the bird feeders and I should lay in a good supply of seeds and food for them. I should gather up all of the terra cotta plant pots and put them under cover so that they don’t get full of water and then freeze which makes them crack. The plants to stay in pots over the winter need to be carried into the book barn. I need to get Simon to help me to carry the big ones but I should empty the windowsills so we have room to put them into positions.
I should ring Martina O’Gorman at the office of public works and ask her again to have someone come and fill the very deep potholes in the boreen. It usually takes three or four phone calls to her before anything happens. This will only be my second call. I need to cut down the raspberry canes although I guess that might wait until February. Most of these jobs are the jobs to be done when there are a few hours with weather that is neither too cold nor blustery nor weather that is too wet. The mornings are too frosty and the afternoons are short. There is a small window of time to get out-of-door things done at this time of year. The days are not long and darkness comes early. Just because the weather is okay and maybe the sun comes out, it is not always the exact right time to drop whatever else is being done in order to do a few hours outside.
Someone told me today that wood ash from the stove must be scattered at the base of the lilacs. I have always dumped ash under rose bushes. Maybe now I will vary the location of my emptying. There will be plenty of ash to go around.
I should do another round of mouse poisoning. I try to put traps in the house but in both book barns I have been resorting to poison. Finding corpses is never pleasant but the squished version of mice in traps gets depressing. Tommie told me that if you have rats you do not have mice. And the reverse is true. If you have mice you probably do not have rats. The lower barn has large shits in one corner so I fear that there might be rat activity there. There is already the smell of a dead something down there. We are filling some gaps where the floor meets the wall with self-expanding polyurethane builder’s foam. The rats might eat through it but if we are lucky they might be annoyed and just give up. One method I have been told is to put broken glass down under a porch or in a similar place where rats are known to congregate. Once a rat cuts his feet on the glass and the smell of blood is in the air, the other rats attack him and kill him. Compared to that kind of death, poison seems almost gentle.
I wanted to direct the growth of some of the fruit trees. Tying a rock or maybe a brick with a rope and tying the rope to a branch over the winter is a way to condition the branch to grow low and to stay low for the future. We should have pruned the apples trees after they fruited. They might have to wait till February now. Figs need to be snapped off their branches, leaving only the tiniest little ones. I should have done that in November but it is not yet so long after November. Even as I write these things here, I know I am not thinking of all of the jobs and even while I write them I know that this is a form of stalling. Lucky for me it is very dark outside now and wildly windy so there is no chance of doing any of these things that I am thinking need to be done. All of my Should Do jobs can be done later.
7 December Sunday
Everyone has spoken of the absence of Cocoa. First one person said something and then someone else said something. We are all sort of asking each other even while we know. We are noting Cocoa’s absence. No one has seen Cocoa for a long while. I keep thinking that I will bump into PJ as I walk out the end of the boreen and just ask about his missing dog. For a while, I thought Cocoa might be in the big shed or just sleeping under a table when I walked up near the house. I expected him to appear. In truth, he has not been interested in me since Em stopped walking up the track with me. Cocoa has always been a traveler. It was not unusual to come across him way down in the village or off on a road in any direction. Sometimes when I have seen him far from home, I stopped and he jumped into the car and I took him home. Sometimes I have just rung PJ to say where I have seen him. Since Cocoa is a spaniel I think he is by nature a dog who likes to follow a scent and the scent he follows often takes him far. Donal is the one who used the word Traveler to describe Cocoa. It is a good description but now we all fear that his traveling has taken him away for good. He has been gone for too many weeks now. No one expects Cocoa to reappear.
6 December Saturday
There is a smudge down the middle of one length of the tar road. It is a green smudge and it appears every year about now. The smudge is made of a very low growing moss. In places it does not look like vegetation but more like a bit of colour which has been wiped onto the surface of the road. The vehicles which travel on the road straddle the middle with their tyres. The center bit does not get touched very often. If two vehicles meet and they each move over to their own side they still do not really spend much time in the middle of the road. The smudge just stays where it is and in this bright eerie light of a grey day, the smudge glows as if it is lit from below.