The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: January, 2016

Just After

31 January Sunday

I am just after putting that in the oven.

I am just after getting that up on the screen.

I am just after visiting my grandmother in hospital.

I am still unable to use the word After like this.  And I am not fully able to understand the function of the After in the sentence.  In any of the sentences.

27 January Wednesday

Vans and vehicles with the names and faces of politicians are appearing here and there.  Someone told me that these vehicles cannot be parked for more than two hours in any single location. After two hours the vehicle must be moved.  I am not sure if maybe this is just to give someone else a chance to use the spot, or maybe it is simply to stop one corner becoming the the Fine Gael corner or the Labour corner.  It would be easy to tow a non-functioning something to a spot and just leave it there for days or weeks on end. News and conversations about the upcoming elections are building up.  Posters are not allowed to be posted on trees or poles until thirty days before the actual day of the election.  These shifting vehicles as advertising remind people that even while everything is getting maneuvered into place, it is not really happening yet.

23 January Saturday

The whole thing is made of heavy cardboard.  It had been part of the 2013 Gathering which was an attempt to bring increased tourism to the country.  It seemed to be a popular thing so it was left standing in Cork airport.  The front of the cardboard has a shiny photographic image of a girl in Irish dance costume and beside her a man sits on a stone wall holding a fiddle.  The colours suggest the bright sunlight of a John Hinde postcard. Neither the girl nor the man have heads.  The idea was for people to put their own heads on the neck position and then to have their photograph taken.  The whole thing is not very tall.  Children can easily stand up to be photographed.  Adults have to lean or squat down behind the cardboard. It has obviously been a popular as it is now 2016 and it is still there.   It has been moved all around inside the main hall of the airport.  The area around the necks of both the dancer and the musician are badly frayed.  The exposed grey cardboard looks shabby and distressed. Each time I see it I think it must be nearly time for it to be retired, or at least to be replaced with a new version.

Desperate

photo21 January Thursday

Tomorrow is the last day for the SuperValu in town. It is closing down for good. It has been closing down for several weeks now. Each time I have been in there were fewer and fewer things on the shelves. Then there were fewer and fewer shelves.  The top shelves were removed first and then the bottom shelves were removed.  Soon there were three and then only two shelves along a long row with the remaining products lined up.  There were large areas along the walls which were completely empty and all of the shelves taken away.  The shelves were being sent to another branch of the store in Dublin. We stopped in last Saturday for a few things and the place looked nearly empty and there was still a week to go.  The very few customers walked the aisles looking at the very few products for sale and we all commented to one another what a pity it was that the shop would be closed and that yet another shop in the town center would sit empty. Vegetables were spread out in a way to make them look appealing but there were so few of them that they all looked like leftovers.  Two older women stood in front of a display of two wheelbarrows which had been brought in to take up some of the empty space.  Each barrow was tilted at an angle and there were loose potatoes and some soil in the bottom of each.  Not many potatoes and not a lot of soil. The women were happily remembering themselves bringing in potatoes from the field when they were children.  After a bit of chat they both agreed that their families had never actually owned wheelbarrows and that the potatoes at home were carried in buckets or baskets but still it was nice to see the wheelbarrows in the shop. One man wandered around and around the aisles with his trolley. Each time he met another person he moaned “Oh, it is a sad day indeed.  It is our Last Saturday.”

20 January Wednesday

The rock on the side of the pub has been painted a shiny black.  It is painted with the same enamel paint that is around the window frames and on the door. The rock is big.  It is about the height of my knee off the ground and as wide as it is tall.   It looks like it is growing out of the side of the building.  It might be that it was once part of the foundation.  Or maybe the building had another section built onto it at one time.  That does not really make sense because the road exactly there beside the pub and beside the rock.  Where could more of the building have been? Over the years the rock has been painted a different colour each time the pub has been repainted. This shiny black is very nice.

19 January Tuesday

It was a petrol station and like all petrol stations it now sells lots of things besides petrol.  Displayed outside along the windowsill were bags of potatoes.  There were ten bags all standing at an angle.  The bags were from several different producers but all of the potatoes were the same kind of potatoes. They were all Golden Wonders.  Only the colour of the bag and the name on the bag offered choice.

18 January Monday

I just cleared a blue tit off the step in front of my room.  They are flying in wild sweeps all over the place. The weather is confusing so maybe they think it is springtime in between the very cold nights and the rain.  Three times last week I picked up birds who had flown into windows and knocked themselves out.  I picked them up gently and placed each one in a sheltered spot under some leafy boughs or on top of a mossy rock.  When I checked later they were gone. They had simply been stunned by smashing themselves into glass at speed.  The one I gathered up today was dead.  There was no soft heartbeat to be felt, and its neck was bent at an impossible angle.

17 January Sunday

It is not uncommon to hold a funeral on a Sunday.  We were walking up from Molough when a car stopped.  A man rolled down the window and told us he was looking for the funeral of Betty Something.  We did not recognize the name. We knew of no one named Betty who had just died.  He gave us a second surname.  Maybe the second name was her married name or maybe the first name was her married name and the second one he told us was her maiden name.  Neither of the names meant anything to either of us. She was obviously local or had been from the area originally.  He was looking for the church where the funeral was being held.  He said it was the church at Knocklofty.  We knew there was no church at Knocklofty and we told him that.  Simon suggested Tullameghlan because there is a very small old graveyard there but no church.  The man was pleased.  He said ‘Yes that is the place. That is the name.  How can I get there?’  It was not easy to give directions from where we were standing.  I do not think I could have done it. Simon gave the man careful instructions.  A little while later we had finished our walk and we drove down to buy the newspapers.  We detoured around some tractor activity so we ended up on the Knocklofty road ourselves.  On passing the tiny Church of Ireland there were people were standing outside.  We saw the man who had asked for directions. We had not given him directions to that church which is called Tullameghlan Church because we had forgotten that it is spoken of as Tullameghlan Church or maybe we never knew that because the church is not anywhere near the Tullameghlan graveyard. There is no sign that says Tullameghlan Church. Had he said that Betty was a Protestant we would have known that the funeral must be at that church. It is the only Church of Ireland church in the area.  Since we did not know Betty, we had no way to know that she was a Protestant.

16 January Saturday

The one hundred year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising has been discussed and planned for and anticipated for ages and ages now.  The whole of 2015 was a build-up to the events taking place this year to commemorate The Rising.  There are references to The Rising everywhere we go.  Jim said something to me today and then he saw my blank face.  I did not understand what he was saying. I did not understand at all.  He said “Sorry sorry— It’s okay.  I was only Rising you!”  Then I was even more confused.  I have gotten so used to The Rising being always and only about 1916 that I forgot about Rising being another word for teasing.

15 January Friday

An old man stood in the little entry porch of the shop.  His wool jacket was wet with rain but the rain mostly sat on top of the wool in drops.  The jacket had a lot of grease and lanolin on it, especially down the front where his hands had been wiped again and again.  It shone black with the oiliness of whatever was on it. There was no way water could seep into the wool.  The man did not lift his head.  He was very stooped over and his head looked down at the floor.  Each time someone walked in, he shook his head from left to right and intoned  ‘Desperate Day. A Desperate Day altogether.  Desperate.’  He repeated this in the direction of every single person who entered the shop, even though the rain was merely a drizzle and not at all desperate by local standards.  To each person leaving the shop he said ‘Mind How You Go’ and he nodded his head up and down while he said it. He repeated these two things again and again.  Desperate. Desperate Day. Mind How You Go.  Desperate Day Altogether.  Mind How You Go. Since there are never people going in nor leaving at the same time he did not get confused with his head wagging for one comment and nodding for the other.  Nor did he confuse the two greetings.

A Good Grubber

14 January Thursday

Is He A Good Grubber?  This was the question I overheard the pharmacist ask to find out if someone who was not well was taking his food in a normal and robust way.

 

photo 2

13 January Wednesday

There was a hard frost last night. Everything is white this morning.  The roof of the barn is completely white.  It is good to see the roof all coated with ice because that means it is well-insulated. If it were less well-insulated the heat inside would be making areas of slate look melty and unfrosted.  I suppose the fact that there is not much heat at all in the barn is another reason why the white stays white for so long.

The snowdrops are coming up. Most of them are only in bud now but there are two in full bloom beside Em’s stone. I am happy to see them. I like to think she would have been happy to see them but usually she just walked around them.  Oscar steps on flowers.  He never walks around them. I saw one primrose in flower in the boreen.

12 January Tuesday

An elderly man came into the barbershop and he told the girl that he wanted A Zero and A Close Shave. A Zero is a number on the scale of haircuts for men.  I think the numbers match settings on the cutting device. The man was very old.  The couple who run the shop are Serbian.  The girl was very nervous to cut the man’s hair because he was so old.  She was even more nervous to shave him. She cut his hair very short with the zero setting and then she gave him a shave with a cut-throat razor.  When she was finished he said the shave was not close enough. He insisted that she do it again. She was terrified to cut closer but she did it.  Everyone in the shop, which included the husband and three people, was watching. I was one of the people.  I had never been there before and I was only waiting so I was watching every single thing.  The old man announced that he was going to the Tropics.  He was going to Africa.   He said he was 94 years old and he wanted a short haircut and a close shave because it was going to be very hot where he was going. She asked which country he was going to but he would not say.  He said it was a secret.  After he left she laughed out loud nervously.  She announced to the shop that maybe he was like an elephant and he was going to Africa to die.

11 January Monday

I am not afraid of mice but they can make me jump.  They move quickly and so suddenly. Tonight I went out to the shed in the dark.  I was wearing my head torch.  I was carrying an enamel cup in order to bring back peas from the freezer.  It is easier to carry the cup to the shed rather than to bring the bag of peas into the house and pour some out and then return to the shed to put the rest of the peas back in the freezer.  Especially if it is raining. Tonight it was not really raining but it was drizzly and it was cold.  And it was very very dark. Just as I was pouring my peas into my cup a mouse rushed along by my feet.  I squealed in surprise and spilled a lot of peas. I left the peas on the floor and returned to the house with my cupful.  If the mice don’t eat them, I can sweep them up in the morning.  They will stay just as frozen on the floor as they were inside the freezer.

Open this Saturday?

10 January Sunday

We can hardly believe this bright light.  It seems like ages since we have seen such sun.  No doubt there has been sun here and there in recent weeks but it has been moments not hours.  We are unable to remember it because there was so much grey. Today is that wintery kind of crisp hard bright light.  There is snow on the mountains in all directions. We can see snow even while we walk through green fields. We walked the Long Field facing towards the Knockmealdowns and then we made a loop up and around by road which directed our eyes toward the Comeraghs and we ended by walking toward the Galtees. Everything looks better in the brightness, even though everything is still squelchy underfoot.

The market yesterday was just David and Pat, as promised in Pat’s email.  The two of them set up their stalls in the far corner of the car park.  They were probably trying to stay out of the wind.  David had his eggs and Pat had vegetables and jams and rape seed oil. They were both chilled to the bone. The wind was vicious. David said his hens have been laying like crazy.  He said that last week he had 90 dozen eggs.  Maybe I heard that wrong? 90 dozen is a lot of eggs. 90 dozen is 1080 eggs.  That is a LOT of eggs.  Maybe it was 90 dozen over a two week period.  That is still a lot of eggs.  Anyway, he had so many eggs that he had to give them away. He gave them to a man who raises greyhounds. The man was happy.  All the greyhounds had eggs to eat. I went away wondering how the eggs were served to the dogs.  Were they broken open and dropped into a dish raw, or were they lightly scrambled?  I have no idea how a greyhound eats an egg.

9 January Saturday

Hi Erica.
Market restarts Sat 16th.
But egg man David O’Donnell started last Saturday.
I will start tomorrow.
Jim and Keith will start in Feb.
Pat.

8 January Friday

I spent some hours down in the barn numbering my new book MY IRONMONGERY.  There are 100 books.  I wrote the numbers with a red Bingo pen.  I had never seen nor used a Bingo pen before.  The thick line was just right. After I wrote my numbers inside, I wrapped each book with paper and then I stuck on a red dot with the same number written on the wrapping. I do not know if Bingo pens come in other colours.  I wonder if everyone at a Bingo Hall brings a Bingo pen with them for an evening of Bingo. Does any old pen work just as well?  I had a lot of time to consider these questions as my work was slow and the barn was cold.  I had to interrupt myself often to go back up to the house to get warm.

7 January Thursday

Simon and I walked up the Mass Path.  It was the first time in a long time that we could even get through.  The lake at the bottom remains huge.  We went around the edge but even then we were slogging in deep water and mud. The grasses are all flattened down where water has flooded over the top.  Trees and branches are down all the way along the path. We had to crawl under fallen trees on our hands and knees in two places.  Crawling on hands and knees meant we were very wet very early in the walk. We kept going even though there was a torrent of water right down the middle.  There has never been so much water.  The path was a river bed with the river flowing and the whole bottom was sandy.  We could not decide where the sand came from because usually the path is just muddy and rocky and mossy. Suddenly it has become a sandy bottomed river bed and even at the very top up near the orchard at Johnnie’s the bottom is sandy and still there is no logic nor understanding of where this sand has come from.

6 January Wednesday

So many fields have been lakes for so long now that it is hard to look at them as anything but lakes. Will the rains never stop?

5 January 2016 Tuesday

The woman on the bus spoke in a loud and constant ramble to the man next to her.  No one sitting nearby could fail to hear her. She said that her grandmother had taught her how to tell the weather and she reckoned it would be dry tomorrow even though the weather man had said it would rain.  She said I do not care if it rains because I am going to be at home anyway but my grandmother’s method tells me that it won’t rain.   She said I know how to tell but I won’t tell you because I do not know you. I am just sharing a seat on a crowded bus with you.  It is not like I know you.

4 January 2016 Monday

I have never lived anywhere else where it is normal to see young men drinking milk from bottles or cartons.  A street corner with four or six lads slugging down milk while laughing and talking is not an unusual sight.