The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: October, 2015

Jeep

31 October Saturday

HIs nickname is Bapty.  I am desperate to know what Bapty is short for.  I may have to ask Bapty himself what his name is shortened from.  I do not feel familiar enough to make such a query.

30 October Friday

This morning the world beyond our fence had disappeared, again.  I went down to the village and all of the mountains were gone.  The Galtees were gone.  The Knockmealdowns were gone and the Comeraghs were gone. Three mountain ranges completely disappeared in the mist.  It was a mist more than fog.  It was a wet mist.  It was almost rain but it was not rain.  It was just soaking wet air which could not be seen through.  Tommie shook his head as he told me “We are nearly lost in the wet.”

29 October Thursday

I walked into a shop at half ten this morning.  The door was wide open but the place was dark.  A boy of twelve was inside. All of the children are off school this week so I guess this boy was spending his day watching the shop.  He told me that the electricity had gone off. It was not off everywhere on the street but it had gone off in this shop.  I asked if his mother was there.  He said she would not be back until two.  I said “So she’s gone and left you here in the dark?”  He answered “Yes. But it’s okay. There is no fear in me.”

28 October Wednesday

Kieran called out that he had put the box into the back of my Jeep.  I do not think of the motor I drive as a Jeep, but everyone else calls it a Jeep.  Any vehicle which is a little higher off the ground than a normal car is called a Jeep.  A People Carrier.  A Range Rover. An SUV.  A four-wheel drive.  There are a lot of names for these kinds of utilitarian vehicles.  Some of them are really working motors and some look like they are working motors when really they are just a version of a station wagon.  There are a lot of different brands and models of high up and off the ground vehicles.  There are many variations.  No matter. They are all called Jeep.

27 October Tuesday

This autumn is very yellow and very golden.  The wood road is lined with yellow leaves on the trees and yellow leaves along the edges of the road.  It looks and feels like there is special lighting in place.

Six drops are hard.

26 October Monday Bank Holiday

I walked up the boreen in a hard drizzle without much vision.  I pretended that the rain was giving everything soft edges.  Everything was fuzzy but it was fine.  I could see the path because I know it so well.  I could see the path because the yellow leaves on the ground have made everything look bright. The crabapples were a bit deadly to walk through. It was like walking on ball-bearings. The fallen trees across the path looked more like graceful arches with my impaired vision and I liked the little nod of my head which was needed to pass underneath them.  Anyone taller would need to duck but for me it is a nod.  The nod is an acknowledging that the trees have re-defined the path. I did not see any people.  Oscar joined me for the second half of the walk.  I did not need to see any more than I saw.

25 October Sunday

I have been struggling with my vision.  I am not allowed to wear my contact lenses. It has been a trying week. My ancient glasses are barely okay for distance but they are hopeless for anything close-up.  I have been wearing them for days now.  Yesterday I got an emergency pair of prescription glasses for close-up.  Taking one pair off and putting the other pair on has been a constant juggling act. That ended late afternoon when I sat down to put in my drops.  I stood up after I was finished and I stepped on the distance glasses.  They are completely broken. Now I can see up close but I cannot see anything in the distance. I will not be able to drive. I am not sure what I will be able to do.

24 October Saturday

David the Egg Man sold all of his eggs right away.  Once again his hens are suffering from the longer dark nights so they are not laying much.  He began to pack up his tiny table to put it into his motor and head home early.  His table was taken away from him and put into the exact center of the market.  A birthday cake was put on the table and he was given a card and a song.  Everyone was offered cake and everyone said Happy Birthday or Many Happy Returns.  David stood eating his cake and explaining again and again that he had been just about to go home because he had run out of eggs.  He was delighted to be the center of attention and everyone was delighted to help him to celebrate turning 84.

23 October Friday

Six drops are hard.  Six drops are a lot harder than four drops.  Four drops was easy.  Morning.  Lunchtime. Six o’clock. Bedtime.  Six drops spread through the day needs more attention and more remembering. I dot the back of my hand with a marker pen.  By bedtime I should have five dots. I have the shadow of yesterday’s drop dots on my hand too. It does not matter at what time I do them.  I just have to put drops into my eye six times during a day.  The last one never gets marked.  There is no reason for me to take a marking pen to bed with me.

22 October Thursday

I went back to the Medical Eye Doctor.  A woman in the waiting room spoke about the weather.  She said it was a lovely day.  She said it was unseasonably warm for the time of year.  She said the SuperValu in town was having a Gala Opening on Friday. I did not want to talk and she seemed to run out of things to say after these three things. She did not seem to mind that I was not responsive.  I held my book two inches from my face.  It was the only way for me to read but it was very dark with my book held so close. When another woman came in the first woman said the same three things and then she went silent again. It was more like a recitation than making conversation.

21 October Wednesday

Next week the country is getting rid of little coins.  It has been costing more to produce the small coins than they are worth. One and two cent coins will no longer be made and they will no longer be used.  When we pay for something the price will be rounded up to the nearest five cents.  Or it will be rounded down to the nearest five cents. Eighty-seven will be rounded to eighty-five.  Eighty-eight will be rounded to ninety. Everyone seems pleased with this development.  I find it a little sad but no doubt I will get used to it and forget that it was ever different.

20 October Tuesday

I went to get my eye looked at yesterday. The specialist had a sign outside which announced her as a Medical Eye Doctor.  Her office was huge.  There were several different chairs in there as well as various stools on wheels and a bed.  There were many many different kinds of machines. There were many kinds of charts and posters about eyes and diagramming eyes. I had never seen so much eye-related paraphernalia.  I was in there for a long time so I had a lot of time to look around.  The doctor did lots of tests and when she was nearly done she asked if I had arrived by car.  I said that I had, so she asked where I lived.  She said that I should not be driving at all but since there were never more than a few tractors on that road, she would send me on my way without worry.

19 October Monday

I have been moaning. I have been moaning a lot.  The cows up in Joe’s field are moaning and I have become obsessed with trying to make the same sound.  I started to think of it as lowing but now I am convinced it is just a moaning.  I moan when I am outside and I moan when I am walking.  I moan in the house.  It is a deep in the throat kind of sound. It is a drawn out kind of sound. I think I am sounding pretty good.  I am now trying to get a cow to respond to my moan. I do not know what their moan means so I do not know if answering is even an issue.

Just the right wood

18 October Sunday

Simon’s  wooden gutters were taken down last year when the house got painted.  Slowly they have been getting re-used.  The treated Douglas Fir will last maybe forever, so it has been good for the wood to find new functions. It has been used to make new table tops on two outdoor tables and it has made a new bench just outside the sauna.  The props for the lean-to have been strengthened and replaced.  The broken fence where the cows broke through down below has been repaired with the gutter wood.  There is still more of the wood.  We are looking around not in any kind of a hurry but knowing that there will be another job needing to be done and knowing that this wood will be just the right wood when the time comes.

17 October Saturday

Every one of these sunny afternoons is full of activity.  Cows are out in fields which have already been cut or chewed short.  Hundreds or maybe thousands of crows are gathered on a freshly ploughed up field.  I think they are eating worms. They lift and they land in huge crowds.  They are too many for me to call them a flock. Young heifers rush along beside the stonewall.  The field where they are grazing is just above the level of my head as I walk.  They race along in a group jostling and trying to get as close to me as they can. They push each other as they follow and look over the wall to make sure that I am still down below but just beside them. They seem to just want to be going somewhere and they want to be going in a big excitable group.  Wherever I am going is just somewhere to be going.

16 October Friday

A Garda was buried yesterday.  He was shot and killed while trying to calm a domestic dispute.  The country is in shock.  The media keep reporting details of the attack and details of the funeral.  They list the objects which were lined up on his coffin. Alongside a family portrait were the things that he loved to enjoy in his relaxing time.  They included a shirt from his local hurling club, the remote control for the television, a can of coke, a chocolate bar and a bag of Hunky Dory crisps.

15 October Thursday

I sat in the small narrow room where everyone sits while waiting for their car to be inspected.  Some people were waiting for their turn.  Some people had their cars in the inspection bay already.  Some were just there to keep other people company. There are ten seats in the room, eight along one wall and two at the end.  The seats are close together.  There are three doors as well as a little counter space. It is a cramped room. I read a book while I waited.  All of the other nine seats were taken and two people were standing.  Every single person in the room was talking.  The room was loud and cheerful with the noise.  People talked to the person next to them and they called down the line to others.  They spoke with people they knew and they spoke to the people they did not know.  My book was the wrong sort of book to be reading in such cacophony.  I struggled to keep my focus.  I was just about to give up on reading altogether when the older man in the next seat nudged me and said “So, have you nothing to say for yourself then?”

14 October Wednesday

Another foggy morning.  Every morning is foggy.  It is no longer a surprise to not be able to see beyond the fence in the morning.  Every morning is the same.  Today there was bright sun.  It was bright and it got very high in the sky before it was able to burn off the fog. Through the white emptiness around us, we could hear cars on the Dungarvan Road.  It is rare to hear cars from such a distance.  The sound might have been from the Knocklofty Road.  The sound of cars on any road is not something we normally hear.  It might be the wet surface of the road but I think it is just the strangeness of the fog. It muffles and it amplifies at the same time.

13 October Tuesday

What brand of tea do you drink? This might be the question asked the very first time a cup of tea is drunk together.  Or it might not come up for a while. People are divided between being drinkers of Barry’s tea and being drinkers of Lyons tea. If you are one you rarely cross over.  If your family are all Barry’s drinkers you will be a Barry’s drinker too.  If your family have always been Lyons drinkers you will continue to be a Lyons drinker. The transition from loose tea in a pot to tea bags is not a much commented upon issue since almost everyone goes for the ease of tea bags these days.  Which tea you drink is always important.

12 October Monday

Each time I walk up the mass path and around is a chance to collect a few more horse chestnuts.  I pick up at least one at the bottom near the stream and at least one at the top near Maisie’s old house.  Sometimes I collect four or five in each place but one is my minimum.  I think of it as a kind of toll.  There is a bowl by the back door.  I put my chestnuts into the bowl before I enter the house.  The bowl is filling up.  Soon I will need a bigger bowl.  No one but me knows that I am paying into the bowl with each circuit of the boreen.

11 October Sunday

Trying to remember when a death had occurred, I asked Tommie.  I said “Wasn’t it nearly a year and a half ago?”  He thought for a moment and said “No, it was last May twelve months.” However I think about it Last May Twelve Months is exactly eighteen months ago.  Tommie just said the same thing in a different way.

10 October Saturday

A side plate is placed to the left of one’s dinner plate at the table.  The side plate is for potato skins.  Each person peels their own potatoes leaving the skins on the side plate.  Some men do not peel their own potatoes but wait for it to be done for them by their wife or mother.  The skinned potatoes are then ready to be eaten with butter and gravy.  No one seems interested that the skin is where the fiber and the vitamins are.  No one seems interested that the skins taste good.

Washing the sugar bowl

photo 1

9 October Friday

There are apple blossoms on three of our apple trees.  All three of the trees have apples ripening on their branches.  The same branches have both blossom and fruit.  I feel confused looking at them. I feel disturbed looking at them. What will these trees be doing in the spring if they are in blossom in October?

8 October Thursday

Jeri is making capes for his ducks.  He has a few capes left over from last year but he now has more ducks than he had last year so he needs more capes. The ducks are white and the capes are black.  Each cape has a ruffle at the neck and a bit of red edging on the top of the ruffle.  The capes are held onto each duck with a little piece of velcro at the neck fastening.  The ducks wear these capes for the evening of Jeri’s Halloween Scary Garden.  They make little swooping flights from here to there.  The whooshing of their wings and their capes both thrills and frightens the visiting children.  The children race about with torches in the darkness screaming and finding sweets.  Jeri’s ducks usually go to bed quite early but they  stay up later than usual on Halloween.  They seem to enjoy both their capes and the company.

7 October Wednesday

When the sugar bowl is empty or almost empty there is the feeling that you should wash it.  There are always some clumpy bits of sugar at the bottom of the bowl.  Someone has always dipped a wet spoon into the sugar bowl.  There is sugar stuck to sugar and there is sugar stuck to the side of the sugar bowl.  It might always be like this but it is more noticeable when the bowl is nearly empty. So the normal thing is to wash your sugar bowl so that you can start fresh with a clump-free offering of sugar.  It is a known fact that if you wash your sugar bowl you will have visitors.

6 October Tuesday

A mean person is a stingy person.  A mean person is tight.  A mean person would not give you the steam off his porridge.

5 October Monday

I should know better than to drive down to the village anytime after five o’clock.  There are bound to be cows on the road.  There are three farms to pass.  Sometimes everyone is moving their animals so I have to wait for first one herd and then another and then a third.  They will be being driven back from some fields to the barn for milking.  After that they will be on their way to another field.  Some of the cattle are just being moved from field to field.  It is a foolish time of day to be on the road.  When the animals bar my way I have nothing to do but to turn off the engine and to wait while they amble towards me or away from me.  Sometimes they jostle the car as they pass.  It is a good idea to fold in the side mirror so that the weight of a cow swaying by does not snap it off.  There is no way to hurry the movement of the group.  Today as I waited I watched a cow jumping up on a gate in an attempt to get into a field where there was a bull. I have never seen a cow jumping at a gate to get out of a field so it is even more peculiar to see one jumping to get into a field.

4 October Sunday

Yesterday we visited the newly built extension to the SuperValu in Cahir.  It is not altogether complete but it is being shopped in as if it is complete.  A lot of areas are empty where the shelves have not been moved into them yet.  Other areas are crowded because there is such a large chaotic incomplete movement of boxes and products and shelving.  Every single person in the shop looked confused.  Nothing was where it used to be and some things were not anywhere to be seen at all. There was a man painting the outside doorways with bright red paint.  Another man was sweeping up the area just outside the doors.  His sweeping was sending great clouds of dust into the air.  The man painting the doors did not take any notice of the dust flying and floating and landing on his fresh paintwork.

Nor the sky over him

3 October Saturday

Two women at the market were discussing someone who had returned after being away for a very long while.  They both agreed that this man had changed beyond all recognition.  To emphasize how different he was now from how he had been before, the older lady said, “I would not know him nor the sky over him.” The other woman said that she felt the same.

2 October Friday

We have not missed potatoes on our plates.  I guess it has only been about a week.  Oddly, there is a large potato plant growing in the compost heap.  Strange to see it when we did not plant any potatoes this year and we do not care if any are growing.   I shall have to pull it out and see what kind of volunteers are growing there.  I am not averse to eating whatever is growing.  I am only against the buying of potatoes for now. Several people are shocked with our decision not to purchase or cook potatoes.  Some people are disgusted.  One man said “Sure all the meat in the world wouldn’t fill you unless you had a potato.”

1 October Thursday

Thick fog this morning.  We could not see beyond the fence until after eleven o’clock.  The grass was wet with heavy dew.  Even while wearing short rubber boots my socks got soaked, and my hands were frozen as I picked the morning raspberries.  The leaves were wet and it was hard not to get soaked all over just from reaching in among the canes.  It is time to start collecting our fruit for morning the night before.  The postman arrived down the boreen while I was picking berries.  He had his headlights on but he said they were not much help in the fog.  He was not surprised to see me picking raspberries in my dressing gown.  He said the first days of back to school waiting for the bus are over.  The children now go out and wait by themselves.  The mothers in their fluffy robes and slippers are no longer standing with the youngest children by the edge of the road making sure that they get on the bus okay.

30 September Wednesday

Mornings are cold and a little foggy and wet.  When the fog burns off we have hot summer days. We have hot summer days every day. We have summer days which are better than most of the days we had in the actual months of summer. Everyone is enjoying the weather but they are all making noises about how it cannot last.  There is an ominous tone. We are promised or threatened that we will pay for this good weather.

The barn has been emptied out.  We moved things to the sauna and to the print shed and to the upstairs room.  The barn is clear and clean and it looks like a new place.  The man who came to put down some carpet for us said that what we had planned will not work.  We thanked him for his time and we thanked him for his honesty.  I did not really want so much carpet down there anyway.  I did not want the wide boards covered up.  I do want a workshop where the cold does not come up through our legs while we work. Already we have found a more flexible solution. We feel like we have had a lucky escape.

29 September Tuesday

There was a radio announcement from the horse races. I think it was from Leopardstown but maybe it was somewhere else.  The man said “We have a change to the Going.  The Going is now soft.”  He seemed very pleased.

Thor went back to his own home yesterday.  We miss him.  The house seems empty and a little bit lonely.

28 September Monday

I went to visit Pam in the Knockmealdowns.  She lives in a castle which is full of home-made solutions.  When she was a young woman, her husband was in the British army.  They moved frequently around India and the Far East as his assignments changed.  She said that is how she learned to make do and to furnish a home with things that did not need to last forever.  She said her curtains were never hemmed up with proper sewing.  They were always pinned so that when she got to a new home she could just unpin them and then pin them again to fit the next set of windows. The castle is full of these solutions even though she has lived there for a great many years.  She pointed to a large pouffe or hassock in the middle of a room.  It was covered with chintz and made a nice wide low seat or footstool.  She giggled when she explained that underneath the chintz was a tractor tyre. The pelmets around the top edge of most rooms are made with plywood.  They are quite roughly cut and then painted a bright red or whatever the colour the room is. They sort of blend in.  One staircase was rotten so they had a new one cast from concrete.  That too is painted red.  Pam likes red.  At the age of 90 she finds it a cheerful colour.

27 September Sunday

Jim announced that he is glad that the haying season is over so that he can stop Consulting the Glass. Consulting the Glass is often discussed as an essential activity before doing out of door jobs during hay and silage season. It is done at night and it is done in the morning.  I am pretty sure that what he calls the glass is a barometer.