The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: September, 2016

Loose Lichen Letting Go

8 September Thursday

Nellie was speaking of a man.  She said he was Old and Short and Timid. She said that was enough.  She said that said it all.

7 September Wednesday

Breda and I walked in the mountains. The sky was white with moisture and with fog. We were sure it would rain so we wore full waterproofs but it never rained.  It just looked wet and it felt wet. We could not see any distance at all.  The mountains and the hills and the horizon completely disappeared. All we saw were lots of ghost-like sheep appearing and then disappearing in the whiteness.  Many had red paint on their backs but there were some with both red and blue markings. For the few minutes before the sheep disappeared in the mist, the colours looked really bright in the otherwise whited-out world. All was quiet and white and damp.

6 September Tuesday

The girl was trying to be helpful.  When I asked if the eye drops were okay for people wearing contact lenses she said “Oh I am sure they are.”  She said “I am after using them myself and they are wonderful for dry eyes.”  I asked her if she wore contact lenses.  She said “No, but I wear glasses.”

Two week ago I was in a shop and I tried on a pair of shoes which were a kind of reddish brown leather.  The shoes did not fit.  The woman serving me went to the back room to see if there was another pair in the correct size.  She came back with an armful of boxes.  She could not find my size in that shoe style so instead she pulled out every pair of red shoes that she could find. She too was trying to be helpful.

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5 September Monday

The bread man delivers bread from a small truck. He does not carry cakes or biscuits or anything else. He only delivers bread. Some of the loaves are sliced and wrapped in waxed paper.  Some of the loaves are just sitting on the floor or on a metal shelf.  The bread delivery man has a large wooden tray which he loads up with whatever bread the shop has requested.  He carries it across the street and into the shop. If it is raining there is no protection for the unwrapped bread.  Lucky for the bread, it is a short walk across the street.

4 September Sunday

The first Sunday in September is the traditional day for the All-Ireland Hurling Final.  This year the two teams playing were Kilkenny and Tipperary. They have been meeting each other in the finals for many years. The competition between the two counties is fierce. Everything everywhere is decorated with the respective team colours.  Bunting and flags, hats and shirts, cars and buildings. I think maybe the two teams have met for the finals six times in the last nine years.  Kilkenny has won six times. Some other counties have won in that time too but Tipperary has not won for nine years.  There was a deep silence everywhere in the county as people were either up in Dublin or in their homes watching the match.  Tipperary won.  There is wild joy among the fans. The Liam McCarthy Cup is the prize and now the cup will be traveling around the county for a year. It will go to schools and to shops and to small villages and to every sort of event.  It will be touched and rubbed and kissed.  Many many people will have their photograph taken with The Liam McCarthy. But first there will be a huge parade and welcoming party for the team on Monday night up in Thurles.  Everyone who went to the match will be there and everyone who did not get to go to the match will be there. It will be the middle of the week before things get back to normal in Tipperary.

3 September Saturday

I continue to collect and dry and glue up my pieces of lichen.  Some days it is difficult to find any pieces at all. Some days I find a lot. I was certain that after last night’s wind and wild rain that the ground would be strewn with copious clumps of lichen in the undergrowth. I took a little bag ready to fill it with huge pickings. I  imagined the birds scrabbling away on the branches, trying to hold on tight to stop themselves from being blown away.  I imagined their feet loosening lots of lichen.  I imagined Masses of Loose Lichen Letting Go. As I walked up the path I got very excited about how much I would find.  If the winds and the birds did loosen lichen last night, the winds blew it far from the branches where it had been living.  I failed to find a single bit in the entire length of wooded area where I was expecting such bounty.  I put the little bag into my pocket and just went on with my walk.

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2 September Friday

The word Fáilte is omnipresent.  It is in every single bit of advertising for the country and its tourism. The official expression is Céad Míle Fáilte which translates as A Hundred Thousand Welcomes.  Fáilte by itself is widely used too.  It is on doormats and flowerpots and little signs. Recently I saw a postbox with NO FÁILTE in small white vinyl letters.  I had to stop in order to look at it more closely because I thought that maybe some other letters had peeled off and the NO was not really NO but part of a bigger word.  But in this case No means No.  The man who lives inside the closed gate and up the steep drive is not very sociable. There is a long drive, many mature trees and heavy undergrowth which ensures that his house is not visible from the road. On a good day this man might be called morose. On other days he would be called A Very Private Person. I have not set eyes on him for years.  I am not sure I would recognize him.  He was never very friendly then and it seems he is even less interested in people now. The always closed gate would be enough to let people know that he welcomes no one but announcing NO FÁILTE like this means he really really really does not want visitors. A KEEP OUT sign would do the job. It might even be a little less harsh.

Bags of Sandwiches

1 September Thursday

The shoe shop had a special tiered round table with shoes on display. The shoes were displayed sitting on copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The volumes were used and a bit grubby.  They were not really old like antique old, they were just handled copies. I wonder if homes still have shelved sets of encyclopedias.  The woman in the shop told an admiring customer that it was her Back to School Display.

31 August Wednesday

The blackberries are slowing me down. There are so many coming ripe that even a short walk demands a lot of time for sampling and nibbling.  There are so many different varieties growing side by side.  I have not even started to walk with a bag or a container yet.  I just eat as I go.

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30 August Tuesday

Campbell’s Perfect Tea. The name says it all. It is a delicious tea which never tastes bitter and and it comes in a round tin which is yellow and short and fat.  I do not think anyone throws away a Campbell’s tin.  After the tea is used up, the tin can be used for pencils and pens, or nails or string or biscuits or any number of things. The lid fits tight. I have tins in the book barn and older, slightly rusty ones in the shed.  They are always useful. The tin can be used to hold a different brand of tea, or even tea bags. I have two tins in the kitchen. I always have two tins in the kitchen.  One sits on top of the other.   One is full of loose tea and one is full of coffee beans. When people ask if I prefer Lyons tea or Barry’s tea they never include Campbell’s in the question.  The question is an either or kind of question. I am not sure if that is only around here.  Maybe Campbell’s is more popular in other parts of the country.  I am noticing that it is more and more difficult to find and buy a tin of Campbell’s Perfect Tea than it used to be.

29 August Monday

In 2007 permission was granted to build a new runway at Dublin airport.  Nothing happened. Now it is being discussed again. They say building will begin next year and it will be up and running in 2020.  I am confused. I thought the runway had already been built. There was some excitement a few years ago. I thought it was because of a new runway. It must have been something else.  Whatever it was, the airport authorities decided that something needed celebrating. They accompanied the first plane to land, maybe from a new route(?), with several fire engines that raced along beside the plane with sirens screaming and lights flashing. The passengers inside the plane knew nothing of the celebration.  They were terrified.

Today the two brothers from Skibbereen who won silver medals at the Olympics flew home. The pilot invited them up into the cockpit for the landing in Dublin. He told them”It’s All Going To Be Massive, Lads!”  As the plane landed it was blasted with water cannons. That was the celebration. The airport itself was full of busloads of people who had been driven 4 1/2 hours up from Cork for the welcome.  The whole rowing club and loads of other people were there.  There was cheering and singing and applauding. Then everyone got back on the buses to head back to Skibbereen. The return would take them 4 1/2 hours again but they had bags of sandwiches on board and a huge party waiting when they arrived.

28 August Sunday

Nellie knew she did not have the whole story. She did not have the whole story but she was determined that she would have the whole story before long.  She kept muttering “I am looking for More Meat on this Stick.”

27 August Saturday

The old man walked with a lot of puffing and with a kind of twisting of his upper body up from the torso.  It was hard work for him to cover much distance even walking with a stick.   He carried a paper bag with handles which he plopped down onto Jim and Keith’s table at the market. The bag was full of sweet peas.  He said it was every last sweet pea from his garden because he liked to get them in before a frost so here they were all together in one place.  He told Keith to sell them or to give them away as he had no use for them at all and he did not want them dying anywhere where he could see them.  He did not want to have to cut them down when they were dead.  Keith knew that it was rather early to be worrying about a frost but he said nothing about that. He just said Thank You.  The man turned and left immediately. Keith knew that this was the first year ever that I have failed to plant sweet peas. He knows I love sweet peas and that I have been missing them.  He offered me the entire bag of blossoms.  I suggested that I take a few and leave some for other people.  Keith said that would not work and there would just be a mess.  He was right. When I got home and opened the paper bag there was then a plastic bag full of wads of wet paper towel.  The stems were very short. There were a few long stems but mostly they were cut too short to be of much use to anyone.  I managed to get all the flowers crammed into small jars and glasses of water. I now have ELEVEN containers full of sweet peas. The smell is too much. I shall have to move them all around the house.  I love the smell of sweet peas but this is an entire summer’s worth of sweet smell in one room at one time. As wonderful as it is, it is too much.

26 August Friday

The slugs are out.  They are out and they are in. It might be the cooler evenings.  I am finding slugs on the sink and slugs on the bathroom wall and slugs on the mirror and last night there was one tiny slug on my toothbrush. It is a good idea to close the windows early in the evening to avoid encouraging more slug traffic.