Just inside the West Gate

by ericavanhorn

29 April Friday

Another packet of greeting cards has arrived from the Mouth and Foot Painters of Ireland.  Usually I receive these cards before Christmas.  I never really like them and I never want them but I always end up paying for those which have been sent.  It feels churlish to send them back.  This new group of six cards and envelopes arrived as a Spring Pack.  A hand-written letter by Steven Chambers (Mouth Painter) explains the seasonal selection. Of course, it is not a hand-written letter.  It is a mouth-written letter. There are pictures on the back of the letter of the various painters, all Mouth Painters. No Foot Painters. I think Foot Painters are more rare. Each person is described by how they came to have no hands or arms.  I see the term limb deficient for the first time. Some of the painters are described as having other hobbies besides painting.  One woman with no arms is also a keen ballet dancer.  Steven himself paints in watercolors but what he really likes is fishing. I know I will not send these cards back. I know I will send the money instead.

28 April Thursday

I have only been in the house for a matter of minutes.  I took old bread out to the table. Today is another cold and windy day.  We are promised sleet and hail and even thunder by afternoon. Each day is long and bright with interludes of precipitation.  Each day is cold. Except for occasional moments of bright sun, it is not warm. Spring is simply refusing to settle this year.  I broke the bread into crumbs and small pieces.  I wondered who would come for the bread. Would the fox arrive to eat it? Or would the birds get there first? I have only been in the house for a few minutes.  As I look out the young fox is already standing on the table eating the bread in yet another sudden downpour.

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27 April Wednesday

The shop just inside the West Gate heading into Irish Town surprised me today. It has been brightly painted and it is now THE HOUSE OF LOURDES.  Or it was The House of Lourdes and now it is ready to be something else. There is a sign in the window offering the place To Let. I do not walk down that way often when I am in Clonmel so I do not know how long The House of Lourdes has been The House of Lourdes. The last I remember there was a Polish food shop in that building.  Many years before that there was a shop which sold clothes and boots and equipment for hill climbers and for fishermen. I think there were a few other businesses in between but I cannot remember what they were.

26 April Tuesday

Johnnie Mackin was a man who knew how to do everything.  He is known locally as a man who could do anything. He knew how to do most things and he taught himself to do the things that he did not know how to do but that he wanted to know how to do. He invented a fair number of things that had already been invented. He invented a gun, and a record player, and he taught himself to paint and he built beehives out of cement. At some point he taught himself to carve letters into stone.  He made a tombstone for his mother and he made one for his sister.  He made one for himself too.  I am a little confused about this.  I think he must have made two for himself.  Anyway, he is the only dead person in the graveyard at Grange who has one tombstone at his head and one at his feet.

25 April Monday

The Wood Road has had two traffic lights moving along its length for two or three weeks now. The lights change the two-lane road into a one-lane road for a distance. I keep meaning not to use that road but I keep forgetting.  Each time the wait is as long as fifteen minutes. Each time I sit there with four or five other vehicles while we wait for the light to change and let us continue.  The radio is dead in the jeep so fifteen minutes is a long and quiet wait. The men and their digger are gouging, scraping and clearing out clay and undergrowth all along the edge of the road.  They are clearing a distance of a meter off the tarmac wherever they can. They are stopped going any further by stone walls or the ditch. The stuff that they dig out gets poured into a lorry and then taken and dumped somewhere down the road.  When the truck returns the digging and scraping begins again.  It is slow work.  The Wood Road is about four kilometers from Knocklofty Bridge to the Dungarvan Road turn-off.  At this rate, the work could go on for months.

24 April Sunday

Calves are in the field which is elevated above the track where I walk.  These are the calves who have just hit their teen-age years.  They are strong and feisty and they are always in a hurry. As I walk up the track, one calf runs over to see what I am doing.  Then they all rush to the side of the wall and they rush along beside me.  There is a lot of jostling to get closest to whatever might be happening. They do not want to miss anything. There is a place at the end of that field where wooden fencing comes together in a tight corner. It is the very last point at which the crowd can accompany me.  The only brown calf takes up position in that corner.  He does not rush with the others in the crowd. I guess I should call it a herd not a crowd but they make such a thing of pushing and jockeying for position I think of these calves as an unruly crowd not a herd. The brown one moves his head back and forth and back and forth.  Left to right and left to right as if he is saying no. No. No. No. I think probably he is just using the fence corner as a scratching place for his neck. The other calves ignore him and he ignores them and he ignores me.  He just keeps turning his head from left to right without a pause.

23 April Saturday

Breda and I took buckets and gloves and a spade and walked up the path to Johnnie’s orchard. Trees and branches are still blocking the path. We had a bit of a wiggle getting underneath the biggest tree with our equipment. Each time I crawl underneath that tree I promise myself that I will return with a saw. Breda wanted to dig up some wild garlic to replant near her riding ring. The dogs trampled what she had put in before closer to the house. I bring some garlic down to plant every year.  It is now coming up all over the place and multiplying.  I do not really need to transplant more but it is a thing I do in the spring so I shall continue to do it.  I have put it under the apple trees and under the birch trees and under a willow and near the water butt by the barn and near the sauna and on the primrose wall and near the flowering currants.  Soon it will look like Johnnie’s orchard which is completely carpeted with wild garlic.  The white flowers are not in bloom yet up there but when they are the carpet will be complete.  It is beautiful with the leaves covering every inch of ground.  We filled our buckets and dragged them to the end where the track meets the tar road.  We walked back down and drove up to fetch our supplies and then drove straight up into the mountains with the whole van smelling of garlic.  We walked in the late sun and silence surrounded by bright yellow gorse and a few sheep. We drove home in a cloud of garlic.

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