Bottling

by ericavanhorn

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.

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