The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: March, 2015

Not a gift.

27 March Friday

Simon took his old tablets to the pharmacist.  The plan was for her to incorporate them together with his new monthly prescription.  When he went in today to collect them, she gave him back the flowered box in which he had delivered them to her.  He said Oh dear, I was hoping to be rid of that box.  I was hoping not to have it back.  She said Everyone here thought you had brought me a present!

26 March Thursday

The wind is wild.  The washing I hung out earlier seems to be gone.  Or some of it is gone.  I decided to wait until the rain stopped before heading out to check it. When I did get outside it did not seem to me that there were as many things on the line as there had been but I could not decide what was missing so I did not know how to miss it. I walked out into the field wearing Welly boots thinking I might see something that looked like clothing or towels in the long wet grass or tangled on a bush. Either whatever flew away flew far away or I just did not hang out as many things as I thought I did.

The reason things are falling onto the ground and blowing away is not only because of the wind.  My clothes pegs have not weathered the winter well.  The plastic ones have suffered from being out of doors over several winters.  They are cracking and breaking and generally falling apart.  The plastic pegs have perished.  The wooden pegs are giving up too.  There are divided opinions about clothes pegs.  People feel strongly about them.  The plastic ones are supposed to be better because they do not leave brown marks on clothes the way a wet wooden peg might do.  But I am fond of the wooden ones. I try not to use them on things like white pillow cases so I always have a mixture of the two kinds.  When I buy wooden pegs I always buy the ones which promise to be Storm Proof.

25 March Wednesday

He kept waking up to the sound of scratching.  It was early early in the morning.  It was just Coming Light.  The extremely manic sounds of the dawn chorus were loud.  The scratching woke him up and as a result of being awake, he lay in his bed and enjoyed the birdsong.  He had no doubt that the scratching sound was mice in the walls and the roof.  He put out mouse traps and a little bit of poison.  He knew it was just a matter of time before the mice were silenced.  A week passed and the scratching continued.  Maybe the scratching got worse.  He was woken up every morning.  Listening to the morning birdsong had been a pleasure but now it was annoying.  He was feeling defeated by the mice.

Jimmie stopped by one day and they talked about things.  The subject of the mice came up.  Jimmie told him that his problem was not mice but crows.  The two men went outside and looked up at the steep pitch of the roof.  Jimmie pointed to the bits of moss growing on the slates and in between the slates.  He said the crows are eating bugs and things that live in the moss.  The scratching he was hearing was their claws trying to gain purchase while slipping and sliding on the roof.  Jimmie told him that unless he cleaned out the moss he wouldn’t get rid of the crows.  Jimmie reminded him that the same thing happened when they were children in their father’s house.

He told me all of this when we met on the road.  I was on foot and he was speaking out his open car window.  He was pleased to have a solution for the scratching sound, but irritated that it had to be his own brother who put him straight.  Both brothers are well into their seventies but they maintain a competitive kind of relationship.  Jimmie was older and he had always known better.  He would always be older and he seemed always to be the one in the know. It was getting late for a change.

24 March Tuesday

On describing a current court trial, the reporter said that  The Victim and the Accused were known to one another.

23  March Monday

Everywhere we look when we drive or walk through the mountains there is gorse in bloom.  The bright yellow flowers are a delight.  Usually in the places where the gorse grows, there is not a lot else growing.  As soon as I say that I can look out the window and see exceptions.  But it does not grow everywhere.  I think it is about acid in the soil.  I always start to describe things which I do not know much about and then I get trapped by not knowing and by not stopping.  The gorse is also called furze which is a word I like and I would like to say furze when I speak of gorse but I always say gorse.  Not many people say furze but some do.  Breda told me that her sister was out of doors near her house and was startled by the the sound of popping.  Lots of popping.  It took her a while to find the source of it.  It was the gorse blossoms popping.  I have never heard this sound. I do not know when it happens.  We see the gorse in bloom from February through to May or June so maybe it is when the flowers are first coming out.  I am longing to hear this.  There must be someone to ask who will know when to be listening to the gorse popping.  There is always someone to ask.  There is always someone who knows.

20 March Friday

I nearly missed it.  I nearly missed the time of the solar eclipse because I was busy trying to find out what time it was supposed to begin.  It was an overcast and drizzly morning.  It had been grey and gloomy since first light.  I tried to use the internet to get the information but it was not working.  I turned on the radio and after a while the announcer began to talk about the eclipse.  He talked about the coming eclipse and then he talked about the actual happening of it.  As I listened, the birds stopped singing and the sky went from grey to a rusty reddish brown. The soft drizzle did not stop for a minute.  The announcer spoke with various people around the country.  He paused for a chat with a postman in County Cork who had stopped his van on a hill to get a good view of the whole thing.  The postman described his bit of blue sky getting dark.  He described the silenced birds.  There was no rain where he stood. The radio announcer asked if there was a big crowd there with him.  He said No, I am here all on my own just outside Bantry.  He added, And if anyone complains about their post being late, I will be telling them that I was forced to stop for electrical problems due to the solar eclipse.

There are a lot of things described and made visible on the radio.  Every afternoon, there is a program which follows nesting birds and their eggs and later their hatched chicks.  We can sit in our houses or our cars or our tractors all over the country and listen to someone on the radio describing what they are seeing on a special camera which has been installed in a bird box.  They can see the birds.  We cannot. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people around the country follow these birds over several weeks simply as a result of the power of description.  Listening to the eclipse being seen by someone else was much like listening to someone else watching eggs hatch.


Spring calves


19 March Thursday

The day is bright.  The nights are cold. There is frost on everything each morning but it melts away quickly.  Joe’s cows are in the near field.  The other Joe’s calves are out in the field above.  They have only been out of doors and in the field for a day or two.  First the cows and then the calves.  These are signs of spring.  For a few days the calves were just in the farmyard on their thin legs which did not look strong enough to hold them.  They all had new tags in their ears. The tags look huge in relation to their heads.  Now the calves have been moved into the field and there are two white plastic houses for them to go into if they feel weak or cold, or maybe there is food in the little houses.  Oscar was walking with me and then he ran off and wiggled through the gate.  He ran over to the little houses.  He went right inside.  I was worried that he might frighten the calves.  He is big and black and larger than most of them.  Perhaps they would think he is a mother.   I worried that he might be eating their special calves formula.  Mostly I worried that Joe would see him down in the field among the calves.  Joe has never liked Oscar and each time Oscar walks by with us Joe makes noises to shoo him out of the farmyard and away.  I am not sure that Joe likes any dogs.   If he sees Oscar in his field  surrounded by the calves I do not know what he will do but I fear it will not be nice for Oscar.

18 March Wednesday

People do not seem to be joking so much about who will be the winner.  The whole thing has become serious.  There is a careful, quiet attention to the results of each weekly draw.  I feel I too must keep my attention on the draw. The Jackpot has still not been won.  It has now risen to 11,600 euro.  It is a lot of money. Monday night’s draw had 14 winners of the Match Three Numbers variety.  They each won 20 euro. One person won the Lucky Ticket prize of 20 euro.  And there were six Special St Patrick’s Day Prizes of 50 euro each.

17 March Patrick’s Day

We went down to the village to meet Greg and Breda for a walk in the mountains.  While we waited for them, I studied the display of St.Patrick’s Day stuff which was right inside the door of the shop. It was sited in such a way that it could not be missed. Almost everything was cheap and shiny, and of course, it was green.  Or it was both green and orange.  There were a lot of things on the display stand.   There were flags and hats and banners and bibs and small ribbons with a safety pin. There was so much on the display rack that I wondered how much had been purchased.  I wondered if much of anything had been purchased and now, on the morning of the day, it was nearly too late to sell another thing so it will have to be put away until next year.  Beside the display was a basket of products to be raffled off for Easter.

We left the shop and all evidence of the National Holiday and drove up to The Boulders.  We walked for a while until we reached the river and then we dropped down through a rocky overgrown boreen and eventually back to the village. There was a lot to look at in the bright spring morning.  We saw sheep up on the mountains.  We saw two herons.  There were many birds and buds and some lesser celandine in bloom as we dropped off the moorland and back into farmland. We did not see one other person.

16 March Monday

No one says that they will Knock on the Door.  They say they will Knock the Door. Or that they did Knock the Door.

14 March Saturday

Jim and Keith had very few vegetables on their stall at the market today.  What they did have was big bunches of daffodils for sale.  The daffodils were being sold for the benefit of the Hospice.  There was a big bee in one of the blossoms.  It was a sleepy bee.  It might have been a bumblebee. It was fat enough to be a bumblebee.  The flower was one of those very pale almost-cream-coloured daffodils.  It was barely yellow,  so the bee was very visible.  Keith moved the bucket with that one bunch of flowers to the edge of the table so that the bee could be in the sun. He thought if the sun warmed it, it might wake up and fly off. Every person who walked by stopped and commented on the bee.  Every person stopped and examined the bee quite close up.  It was the first bee I have seen.  I think that it was the first bee that any of us were seeing this year.

13 March Friday

The security van was backed up in front of the shop. I am always a little nervous when I see these vans.  The men who get out with helmets are sometimes wearing bullet-proof vests.  I know it is rare for these vans to be held up but I know that it is not unknown for these vans to be held up.  When they are held up by robbers it is always in some rural village.  This is a rural village.  It would be as good as spot as any to rob the van. I always feel the tiny bit of nervousness and then I just continue with whatever I am there to do.

There were two people in front of me waiting for Helen at the Post Office window.  It is rare to have even one person in front of me.  This is not a busy post office.  It has a lot of regular activity but it does not have lines of waiting people. It is just a small facility in the middle of the shop.

The security man came out of the post office with his special sealed up box with its built-in handle.  Helen dialed a number and told someone that the money had been collected and was on its way.  While she was making her phone call, the security man stopped to look at some stuffed animals on a shelf.  He put his money box down on the floor and he tossed a small bear into the air a few times.  Then he went to the counter up front in the shop and asked something, perhaps he asked the price of the bear.  He returned and put the bear back on the shelf.  He picked up his secure money box from where he had left it standing on the floor and continued walking out to his secure van.

12 March Thursday

The rain has been coming down sideways.  How can I say the rain has been coming down when in fact it has been moving sideways.  The wind is gusting and blowing. The rain is not able to fall straight down.  The rain never stops.  It is not vertical rain.  It is horizontal rain and it is a drenching rain.  It is impossible to go even the shortest distance without being soaked by it. Every activity which involves leaving the house is carefully considered. It is hard to open the back door.  It is easy to postpone going to one of the barns because there is the hope that the rain will let up soon and the day will clear. Other days this week have begun wet and windy and then they have cleared and become glorious blue sky days. This day holds none of that optimism.  It is grey and cold and gruesome. The compost bucket is full but there is no way I am walking out to empty it. The compost can wait.  So far, nothing is important enough to merit the  soaking which simply stepping out the door makes inevitable. Everything can wait.

A List Called Later

11 March Wednesday

I always have A List Called Later.  When I am going away for either a short or a long time I begin the list in the days before I leave.  The list is comprised of the things I have not had time to do before I go.  It has things that have been put on the Long Finger maybe for quite a while.  The list contains things which I want to remind myself not to forget when I get back.  The failure of the List Called Later is that I can avoid looking at it for quite a while after my return so later becomes even later.  Making the list does not guarantee that I will look at it.

10 March Tuesday

There continues to be no winner in the village lottery. The jackpot now stands at 11,450 euro.  At last night’s draw, seven people received 25 euro each for matching three numbers and one person got 20 euro on the Lucky Ticket.  The wait for a winner continues for another week.  The conversations and speculations continue. I must ask someone what is the largest amount this lottery has ever reached before being won. From most of what I hear there has never been a jackpot bigger than this one.

9 March Monday

Joe has been down and scooped up a lot of the manure.  We were not here when he came.  There is not much to be done for the broken and squished daffodils.  The snowdrops were dying back anyway so their wreckage is not such a pity.  The lawn looks crazy.  The grass has been growing already and growing fast, so it is long and the impressions of the cows feet are deep.  The whole area looks madly bumpy.  It is treacherous to walk over the grass as many of the holes are potential ankle-breakers.  The holes are deep and slippery. It would have been worse if the ground had been very wet when the cows arrived.  It is all so rough that I think it will take a long time for it to even out. The idea of running a lawn mower over it all is hard to imagine.  Joe must have looked at the problem of all the holes and decided to pretend it was not there. Nothing has been said about it.  Nothing has been done.  It has never been a smooth croquet playing kind of lawn but now it is a more like a lumpy mattress with a lot of trampled grass and broken daffodil stems.

8 March Sunday

A big white sign with red letters is stuck up in the door of the shop.  It reads NO TRESPASSING.  It seems like an odd thing to have on the door of a shop which you want and need customers to enter.  I commented about the mixed message.  John said that the signs are very popular with farmers.  He said they want that exact sign especially now in lambing season.  He said they forget that they need such a sign until they get out to their fields.  They want to know where to get one so it is good to make the sign both visible and available. Some fields have signs made from odd bits of tin which has been hammered and flattened out and painted with these same words.  Often the signs have been up for so long that the painted words have flaked off and now there is nothing but the piece of flattened metal on a gate.  It is easy to know the intention of the farmer just by seeing the piece of tin.

7 March Saturday

The sun is out.  It is cold and bright.  The lawn looks even more dreadful.  There are no breaks in the fence that we can see. It is easy to see that the invading cows came down from the farm above. The grass in the middle of the track is trampled all the way up and the tyre tracks are churned up with hoof-prints and manure.  As we drove up this morning on our way to the market, Joe was there just opening a gate.  He apologized for Friday’s invasion.  The winds were terrible for the whole day.  The winds are still terrible today.  The gusting wind had closed the gate which he had left open across the track while he was bringing the herd up from a field.  They all took off  and rushed down as far as our house.  Cows get excited to go somewhere new and especially to go in a crowd.  He said he ran after them but that only got them going faster and he could not get in the front of them all to turn them around.  Since it was a downhill run they were able to go faster and faster. By the time he got to our yard they were eating everything they could find, tearing the young grass and rushing around. He offered to come down to scrape up the manure and to try to flatten or fill some of the hundreds of holes.

6 March Friday

The lawn is a mess. Cows have been in and walking about.  I am not sure if they came in from Joe’s field after breaking through the fence or if they came down the boreen from the other Joe’s farm.  No doubt we will be able to figure it out in the daylight.  In this fading light, the churned up grass, the patties of manure and the broken daffodils stems look terrible.  It is best not to look too closely.