To Soften His Cough

by ericavanhorn

3 January Saturday

Last year discussion began about the possibility of a Community Alert for this area.  In a district with such a spread-out population, it is not always easy for people to know what is going on. If something bad or unfortunate happens, some people might not know for days or weeks or even ever if they do not bump into someone who remembers to tell them.  Frank’s shop is in the center of Grange and there is also a school and the church there.  For a long time, I thought Grange was a town land, and not even a village, but now I know it is a village.   It covers a huge area geographically with small winding roads through farmland, but it is easy to go for a long time without ever going into the center of Grange.  For those who do not frequent the shop or the church or the school or visit someone in the graveyard, there is no reason to be there at all.  It is a bit of a stretch to even call the center the center.

There were numerous meetings about setting up the Community Alert but there seemed to be a lot of snags and a lot of disagreement about how to proceed.  I did not even know such meetings had been happening until six or seven months into the discussions.  At some point I was told by a neighbour that the alert system had finally commenced.  All of us who had signed up were promised texts about any local problems.

I was in the middle of London in November when my first text arrived.  This is what it read:

Alert re small blue/grey car trailer, full load of briquettes stolen from area 9th or 10th/11/14 Report any sightings to Cahir Garda Station

On getting the text, I looked around me at the noise and activity of Tottenham Court Road. It was hard to even think about the trailer load of briquettes but somehow I still sort of felt I should be on the look-out. I felt like I wanted to help.

Today I received my second ever Text Alert.  Today’s message reads:

Alert – diesel stolen recently from the area, please be alert for any suspicious vehicles and report same to Gardai

I have not heard if the Alert system is being helpful to catch any criminals.  Two alerts in two months suggest that we are not living in a high crime area.

4 January Sunday

Simon had a small cylinder of Kilkenny limestone cut for Emily.  It is not polished.  It has simply been sanded.  It is a soft grey colour.  When wet it is dark and shiny.  It has her name and the years of her life carved into the top.  He placed it in the grass over near the fence and just close to the fig tree.  The location is sort of facing out into the sloping field where she played afternoon games with the frisbee.  It is not a big stone.  It is about 275 cm.  It is small and low, and it is placed so that you have to walk to it.  It is not something to be viewed from a distance.  We planted snowdrops in the grass around it.  They should be coming up soon.  There are also some little grape hyacinths which will come later in the spring.  Small and delicate blossoms seemed like the right thing.

Simon goes to the stone and speaks to Em often.  He goes and speaks with her before he leaves to go away on a trip and sometimes just in the middle of a day. I do not have the same relationship with the stone.  It is a lovely thing and I am glad it is there.  I talk to Em at any moment all day long when I am anywhere at all.  I can miss her and think of her anywhere and everywhere.  Most days, I feel that she is with me wherever I go in the same way that she always was. When I look around I am always sorry not to see her.

5 January Monday

Mattie Hayes owned a shop on the Cashel Road.  It was a sort of general store with food and hardware and everything.  Out back there was coal, and bags of turf and piles of sand and gravel and bags of cement and any number of useful things.  It was possible to go there with a car trailer and to shovel as much sand as you needed into your trailer.  I don’t know how Mattie charged for it, but it never cost very much to get a load of sand, especially because you had to do the shoveling work yourself.   I am not sure when Mattie Hayes closed down, but it has been a while.  Now the same premises contain a grocery shop called CostCutter.  There are no more rolls of fencing wire or things piled high on palettes out back. The only remnant of Mattie Hayes is on the gable end of the building.  The gable still has an H, for Hayes, in a circle, painted yellow and blue in the Tipperary colours.

6 January Tuesday

Breda corrected me about the expression To Soften His Cough.  I thought that it was was a way to say that someone, especially someone elderly, needed to slow down. I misunderstood the expression.  It is more like a form of reprimand.  She gave me two examples:  If a young man was in the habit of driving fast and recklessly and then he had a crash, it might be said that the crash would certainly make him Soften His Cough.  He would have to adjust his behaviour.  As with a wild young man whose partner had a child.  The change in life circumstances would require him to Soften His Cough.