Black Cat. Black Kitten.
12 January Monday
The expression used most frequently is The Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Tree. Another version is You Didn’t Pick That Up Off the Road. Both things mean that someone is demonstrating a characteristic which is familial. It might be that you are doing, saying or otherwise behaving like your father. Or maybe you are like your mother. Maybe you are doing something that everyone in your family does. Now I have learned a new expression, which means the exact same thing: Black Cat. Black Kitten.
11 January Sunday
We are still saying Happy New Year to everyone we meet. If we have seen the person since the new year began and we have already said Happy New Year once, we do not need to say it again. Each person responds by saying And Many Happy Returns. Most of us get a little confused as to whether we have said Happy New Year to every single person or not. It is better to repeat ourselves and to say it again rather than to fail to say it at all. Some people accompany every Happy New Year with a handshake. Today we were out for a walk when a car slowed and stopped. It was Donal and Breda and they wanted to say Happy New Year. Donal turned off the motor. No one came along so we talked for a while in the middle of the road. After ten minutes or so, Peter and Breda came walking around the corner. They started Happy New Years all around. Since Peter and Breda began by shaking hands with us and with Donal and Breda who were still in the car, we all had to begin again and shake hands all around. We shook hands through the car windows and we shook hands outside. Breda and Breda and Peter and Donal and Simon and myself. We laughed as we shook hands and said Happy New Year again and again.
I reach a point each January when I wonder how much longer it is essential to continue saying Happy New Year. I always want to make note of the time when we stop saying it and when we stop hearing it being said. But every year it is suddenly no longer part of our daily greetings and I do not know exactly when it stopped.
10 January Saturday
Today’s walk was down to the Abbey and then down as far as the final gate. The fields on both sides of the track have been plowed up and turned over. The earth is churned up in deep dark brown chunks. We did not go all the way to the river. The wind was blowing sharp and cold. From the gate back to the Abbey and then to the graveyard at the top is a long continuously uphill walk. It is not a steep uphill walk but it is always climbing, both gently and not so gently in places. The wind was against us all the way. I was pushed by the gusts. I had a hard struggle walking in a straight line. I had a hard struggle walking at all. By the time I reached the car I was tired. I felt a bit beaten up.
9 January Friday
A sign has been put up near the river in Cahir. It is right beside the place where the The Foreign Nationals gather to drink beer. The men have been standing and drinking and smoking in this spot for five or ten years now. There are two large bin bags attached to the side of the wall. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings the blue bags are completely full to the tops with beer cans and bottles. Perhaps they are also filled on other days. There are never any bottles or cans on the ground. The drinkers are tidy. There used to be a mess on the ground but since the two bags have been provided it seems a very organized system. There is never one bag, but always two. Now the new sign proclaims that this area is an Alcohol-Free Zone. The round sign says that a fine of 1905 euro will be imposed on anyone breaking the rule. 1905 is a strangely large and strangely odd number for this fine. And even while the sign has been put in place, so have two fresh empty bags.
8 January Thursday
The opportunity for women to go to a clinic and get artificially inseminated is openly available in ways which never could have been imagined not so many years ago. The possibility and the option and the costs are all freely discussed. It is not called AI as it is when farmers speak of Artificially Inseminating cows. No one speaks of the AI Man coming down on Friday or of going to meet the AI Man. It is all in more delicate terms, even though it is the same thing. I do not know the language of these fertility clinics but I am interested to learn that the majority of sperm being used in Ireland comes from Denmark. The sperm comes from Danish men. It is an interesting situation. If a huge number of women seek to be artificially inseminated over a long time, the entire look of the Irish people could change. Perhaps this will become a race of tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed people.
7 January Wednesday
I spoke to Peggy and wished her a Happy New Year. She was cross because Robert and Geraldine have not started building their new house yet. They have had planning permission for some months already. She feels that there should be nothing stopping them. She thinks the house should have been started by now. She thinks that the house should be finished by now. Their house, when it is built, will be right on the opposite corner to her. Actually it will be up in a field sort of high above the corner. To listen to her speak it sounds like the house will barely be off the edge of the road. At the moment there is a long-derelict house and a lot of tangly growth right on that corner. Peggy is often fearful at night because she is certain that there are people hiding in the bushes waiting to see if she is going out or coming home in the dark. She is frightened of turning off her outside lights. She believes that having new neighbours will prove a deterrent to any bad people hiding in the bushes. She is eager to feel less alone in her home.