The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: July, 2015

white (rose) bay willow herb

12 July Sunday

There is a large clump of white rose bay willow herb in bloom beside the round topped shed. I had never heard of nor seen the white version.  I am not sure if it is called white rose bay willow herb or just white bay willow herb. Laurie sent me some from Scotland.  She wadded wet paper towels around the roots and loosely wrapped it all in a plastic bag.  It arrived through the post in a padded envelope in only a few days.  It survived the journey well.  The plants have taken a few years to root and to settle.  This year is the best it has ever been.  The white blossom on tall stalks against the stone wall is beautiful.   Today’s watery grey light makes the white look whiter.

11 July Saturday

I met the man who walks down the river every Saturday morning. I do not see him every week but I know that whether I see him or not, he does the exact same walk every Saturday.  He told me that he walks every single day and that where he will walk that day is the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up.  He gave up smoking five years ago and started to walk daily. Now he cannot live without his walking.  Most of his walks are circular walks but on Saturday he walks the road from his house and drops down through the woods and then he walks the river path. He walks into Cahir and does one errand and then he turns around and walks home with his single purchase in a white plastic bag.  He carries the white plastic bag in his pocket.  The walk takes him exactly two hours.  Today I asked him why he does not try using a small back pack so that his hands are free when he does his return journey.  He said that he has a backpack at home but his wife will not let him use it here close to home.  She says that people will think ill of him if he uses a back pack in the local area.  She said that people will think that he has some sort of attitude or that he is trying to get attention.  She only allows him to use the back pack when they go away on holiday.

A Cold Kettle.

 

 

 

 

photo10 July Friday

Simon has been lightly cooking gooseberries with a few elderflower blossoms.  The perfume off this combination is wonderful.  It is more like muscat than like what it is. The blossom is just about gone now.  We are hoping that later in the year we will be able to recreate this taste of summer by using my elderflower cordial in place of the actual blossoms.  There is a good supply of gooseberries stored in the freezer.  I feel wealthy when I see them in there.

9 July Thursday

Margaret noticed that a fox was coming to eat the food that she had placed out for her dog.  She started to put extra food out when her dog was safely inside the house.  She kept a watch and saw the fox arriving and gobbling the food.  She changed the position of the bowl so that it now sits up on her wall.  She no longer has to worry about the dog getting the foxes food.  She is also able to watch the fox easily from inside her house.  She can not go too near to the window as the fox will sense her presence.  She stands back in the room a little ways.  She can look out but the fox can not see her.  Margaret tells everyone about her fox.  She has started to speak of him as her pet fox.  People are discussing this among themselves. The Knocklofty road is a busy road and the bend where Margaret lives is a bit of a blind bend.  People zip around there quickly in their cars. Some people think that it is wonderful that Margaret has this pet fox to feed and to watch and to think about.  Other people think it is an accident waiting to happen.  Either the fox himself will be hit by a car or else a car will swerve to avoid the fox as he jumps up or down from the wall directly into the road and there will be some sort of a crash. They shake their heads and make distressed sounds when they discuss the potential disaster.  There is not one person who does not have an opinion about the feeding of this fox.  I am wondering if this fox is the fox who lives up in Scully’s wood, or if it is a completely other fox who might live down in the quarry.

8 July Wednesday

First I learned the word Perisher.  I learned that I am a Perisher.  Being one who feels the cold and is always taking my sweater on or off, I am pleased with this new word.  I often find myself telling people that I am a Perisher.  I am interested to know if absolutely everyone else knew this word long before I ever even heard it. I mentioned it to someone recently and she said “Ah, you mean to say that you are a Cold Kettle!”  This is another way of saying the same thing, but these are words that belong to a different part of the country.

7 July Tuesday

We do not have mosquitoes.  Summer guests are always surprised and even a little confused that we have no biting bugs of any sort. We have no screens on our windows.  The only reason we ever close our windows in summer is if it gets too cold, or maybe if the rain is being blown in a particular direction.  I can feel smug about the lack of biting insects but I am less self-satisfied when I think about the slugs.  This has been a bad week for slugs.  There is always a slug in the bathroom at night.  I have taken to closing the window tightly quite early in the evening.  I have put the plug into the bathtub.  Now I am thinking that maybe I have not been keeping the night slugs out. I am not stopping a slug who might have oozed up the wall and in through the window.  I fear that they are already inside and that during the day they are simply staying out of sight under the tub or somewhere dark.  At night they come out and travel around. A few nights ago, I picked up my glasses and touched a slug that was draped around the bow.  I dropped the glasses with a little shriek.  I am lucky that they did not break on the stone floor.  I am not afraid of slugs but I find them horrible to touch.  I do not wish to be surprised by the feel of a slug.  The next night I found a medium-sized slug stretched out on the side of the sink as though it were sunbathing.  It had a little curve in the body which suggested more than just sleeping.  I threw that one out the window.  Last night I found another slug curled around my toothbrush.  It was not on the bristles.  It was down where my hand holds the toothbrush, but that does not mean it had not already crawled over the bristles. I used to dread stepping on a slug in my bare feet in the night.  Now I feel I am under attack.

6 July Monday

It was all day wet today.  The rain varied between lashing and just coming down.  It was never a mere drizzle and it was never warm.  It is July and it is chilly and wet and hateful.  I spoke to Marianne who was pleased that it was raining because she felt she now had an excuse to stay inside and watch the afternoon match at Wimbledon.  She was delighted with her change of plan until she remembered that their television does not work properly in the rain. The screen shows nothing but static when it rains which is not very good for tennis.  I set off for a walk at one point because I felt I just had to move.  If Em were still alive, I would of course be going for a walk.  She was not bothered about the rain.  If we all stopped everything in this country every time it rained no one would ever get a thing done. I dressed in full waterproofs and headed off and up the Mass path.  I did not get any further than the stream.  Branches have fallen and brambles have thickened and there was no way I could push my way through.  I got down on my knees to crawl but even that did not work.  I was trapped.  The growth was dense and clawing at me.  Everything was dripping.  The only way through will be with a saw and some secautars. That was not a job to do in the rain and that was not a job to do when what I wanted was a walk. I went the other way, up the boreen and out onto the road and once I met Oscar, we were both happy to march along in the gusty rain.  I wondered if maybe walking with a dog was even more of what I needed than simply walking.

5 July Sunday

A sign on a tree is advertising A SILAGE EXTRAVAGANZA — Family Day. I have no idea what a Silage Extravaganza might entail, but I assume the farmers will be cheerful to be celebrating.

Bottling

photo

4 July Saturday

I finished bottling my cordial just minutes before the rain came lashing down.  Everyone has been wanting this rain.  The gentle rain of last night was perfect for sleeping, but everyone at the market today agreed that such a gentle rain was tantamount to useless for gardens and crops. This loud beating rain is bound to cheer everyone up as long as it continues for more than a few hours.

Four Bianconi horse-driven carriages traveled from Clonmel to Cahir this morning in a re-creation of their historic journeys.  People were lined up waiting for them.  They were expected at 11 am and they arrived at 11.45.  One man told me that that was spot-on for Irish timing.  One side of the usual market area was cordoned off so that the horses and carriages could be on display there when they arrived.  It meant that David the egg man, Pat with his vegetables and the English man who sells potted plants all had to relocate for the day.  One man walked into the market and exclaimed “You’re all to one side like the town of Fermoy!”  It was good to hear the expression.  I had only heard it once before many years ago when Rose said it to someone who was walking with an exaggerated  limp in order to get sympathy.

3 July Friday

I went out last night in the early evening sun to pick elderflowers for making cordial.  I was really tired and it was really hot, but I had to do it.  The blossoms are starting to go over.  I knew if I did not gather them then, I might just miss them for this year. They looked so plentiful and big and round and creamy in the distance but getting up close to them was not easy.  It was still hot but I put on long trousers and long sleeves and welly boots and took a basket and some scissors.  Not one of the easy to reach trees had any useful blossoms left anywhere low enough for me to reach.  I walked up the boreen and then I walked down again. I went out into the fields and all around the edges of Scully’s wood.  Wherever I could see good blossoms I had a struggle to get close.  Most of the trees had deep swathes of tall nettles growing right in front of them.  In some places there was two metres of nettle between me and the tree.  The top of the nettles was as high as my face and wading through the dense growth was hard. My face and neck and hands were thoroughly stung.  Not one of the several paths made by the fox to go in and out of the wood from the field was of any use to me.  It took me a ridiculously long time to collect my forty blossoms.  But I did it.  The cordial is made and is now it is infusing for 24 hours.  Later I will no doubt be glad that I did this, but when I finished last night I was only annoyed with the whole process.

2 July Thursday

We had the big table all lined with books and cards.  Every pile of publications had a little piece of paper on it with the year.  The earliest year was 1964.  We had twenty five years spread out.  We could not fit everything on the table up to the present day. That will involve a second laying out.  This was the first installment of sorting.  The three of us were organizing, placing, re-positioning and listing the books and cards for several hours.  For the entire time we were working the door to the barn was wide open.  We needed the air.  The upstairs door was open too.  We had a nice little cross breeze keeping us from being too hot.  Suddenly a big gust of wind blew in.  Every little piece of paper with the dates written on it blew off the table.  I had jiggled the piles around at one point to make them fit the table better.  Sadly, that meant the piles were no longer in chronological order.  Getting the piles re-identified was frustrating   It all took far longer than we would have liked.

1 July Wednesday

As of today, the cost of postage has gone up. It went up last year at the beginning of July too. I do not know if it also went up the previous year.  An International letter stamp, which is for anywhere outside of Ireland, was 1 euro yesterday.  Today it is 1 euro 5 cent.  The domestic, or National, stamps have gone from 68 cent to 70 cent.  There are two ways to buy stamps.  If the postmistress sells them to me directly, she prints the stamps out from her computer and each stamp has a different picture on it.  If I buy a book of stamps the pictures will be the same for all ten stamps. The new National stamp has the head of a handsome red fox.  The International stamp has the head of an otter.  I would prefer to be using the fox but unfortunately the majority of what we post is going out of the country.

29 June Monday

Mary’s mother wanted to know some things about us.  She wanted to know how it was for Mary to work with us.  She wanted to know more about who we were than simply being two names.  Mary told her a few things that she hoped would help her mother to form a picture.  She told her mother that we had walked to Dublin a few years ago. She told her mother that we walked to Dublin because that was our idea of fun.  She explained that it took us ten days to get from our house to Dublin.  Mary’s mother asked “Do they not have a car then?”

28 June Sunday

We went to Veronica’s funeral today.  She died on Thursday.  She had been ill for a long time but her death still took a lot of people by surprise.  The funeral was at the church in Fourmilewater which was where her husband Tom was buried five years ago.  Tom’s funeral took place on a bitterly cold winter day.  That day the priest rushed both the service and the burial because snow was falling heavily and everyone was eager to get going before the roads got too slippery.  That day the altar girls wore winter coats over their robes and so did the priest.  In contrast, today was a glorious sunny day.  The church was full.  The community really turned out.  The funeral mass took place at the same time as the usual morning mass so I do not know if everyone was there for Veronica or if they would have been there anyway.  People were wearing sleeveless dresses and light summer shirts.  I think she would have enjoyed the light and bright clothing of the crowd. The priest kept calling her A Gentle Woman.  I think that must be the female equivalent of An Inoffensive Man.   A dead man is often described as An Inoffensive Man.  I am always unsure if this is a compliment or an insult.  I wonder if being described as A Gentle Woman is a similar way to say something without saying much. When the coffin was led outside to the grave, everyone followed.  Some people walked right down the hill and into the adjoining cemetery.  Other people lined up along the concrete wall between the church and the cemetery.  Some people leaned against the wall and others stood right up on the top of it. There was a lot of quiet conversation and even some giggling as we waited for the burial.  People exchanged little anecdotes about Veronica. Everyone who had ever met her knew that she was a great talker.   The consensus seemed to be that she was well able to talk for all of Waterford. The view out across the hills was south east towards the foothills of the Comeraghs.  The hills looked stunning in the bright sun. It looked like the entire congregation stayed for the burial.

27 June Saturday

Everything looks dry.  The grass roof on the book barn is completely brown and dead looking.  Fields are full of bales of hay scattered around or piled up. Other fields have black wrapped plastic bales full of silage lined up or clumped in a group. The freshly cut fields are all golden.  The fields full of things like barley, and potatoes and corn are still growing.  They remain green but still there is an overall look of dryness over everything.   The boreen is lined with long meadow grasses.  There are very few scratchy things.  It is just grass. The cow parsley is either completely gone or it is just a skeleton plant now.  The grasses have never been so long in the boreen.  It is necessary to close the car windows on both sides to prevent the grasses slapping us in the face as we drive down.  It is better than the brambles and the wild roses which have grabbed at me in other years.  They tear and scratch at the skin whether I am walking or driving. I should enjoy the softness of these grasses fluffing against my face.