All Milk to Cheese
20 October Thursday
Pat was delighted to eat the marrow out of the bone and to eat the beef around the bone and when she was finished, she asked if she could take her bone home. She said she had made a similar bone into a necklace when she was at school. The other girls made fun of her. They said her necklace looked like a soggy cardboard loo roll on a string. Now she is not bothered what people think. In all she took six bones away in a plastic bag. They were each one and a half or two inches long. Fitted together they had been the entire shin bone of a small cow. Pat took them home and put them in a basin of water. After a few days she will put them into salty water. I do not know how long it will take for her bones to be ready to be made into a necklace. She loves the sound the bones make when they collide. She calls it a kind of klick-klack. When the necklace is finished, we will hear her coming.
18 October Tuesday
Fruit continues to grow. The raspberries look good but most of them are soggy from the wetness of the night and the morning. To gather a few freshly ripened ones at the end of a warm afternoon is okay. The blackberries are the same. The bushes along every field and every bit of road are heavy with berries but the berries are wet and many are inedible. They squish between my fingers when I try to pick them. It is a deceptive time. Some apples are still on the trees. It is time to drag a ladder down into the meadow to collect the last of them. There are figs too, which keep growing but they will never be ready to eat or to bake. The rose hips were unused this year. They just sit on the bushes looking lovely and bright. They too are soggy. The birds are happy to have them. Roses and sedums and daisies and poppies keep flowering. Everything looks good and in today’s bright sunlight, it looks like full summer plenty.
17 October Monday
The woman was from Dingle and she was just visiting the area. She stopped at the craft shop and bought a walking stick made of ash. The word ASH was carved in capital letters into the wood up near the top. The woman walked down the street with her new stick and turned to enter the Lazy Bean for a cup of coffee. A man sitting outside yelled across to her. He shouted: “Where did you get that stick?” She said she bought it. He said, “Well I made it! I am the man who makes those sticks.” She was pleased to meet him and he was pleased that she had bought one of his sticks. She was so pleased with the whole thing that after she drank her coffee she went back to the craft shop to tell the lady there that she had met the very man who made her stick.
16 October Sunday
Maud sent me the photo of a sign from the Dairygold Plant in Mitchelstown. Big shiny stainless steel Dairygold tanker trucks drive around the countryside filling up with milk. The trucks are big. They are too big and they go too fast on these narrow roads. They terrorize everyone. If you are walking or if you are driving, you know that the Dairygold trucks will not make space for anyone. The Glanbia trucks are just as big and just as scary. Lucky for us they only come around a few times a week. At least they do not come every day. The milk at each farm gets stored in coolers awaiting pick up. When a tank is full, the truck heads to the Mitchelstown co-operative plant. The ALL MILK TO CHEESE sign must be directing drivers to deliver milk to that part of the plant which turns it into processed cheese.
15 October Saturday
I recognized the man. He was discussing lead flashing with someone who worked in the store. He wanted to fold the flashing into a join between two roof sections to ensure that there was no way for rain water to leak in. The man who worked in the store was telling him again and again that this was not the best solution. I recognized the man but I could not place why I recognized him. I could not locate him. I thought if I listened to his voice I might remember. That is why I learned so much about the roofing job he needed to do. I walked up and down the aisle where he was talking. I thought if I could get a good look at his face I might be reminded of who he was or why he seemed so familiar. At a certain moment something clicked. I remembered Toss and Walt. I did not know if this man was Toss or if this man was Walt. Whoever he was, he was an older version of himself.
It was 1997 when I last saw him. We had a desperate need for windows to be installed in the house. The old wooden frames were rotten. Sometimes a pane of glass just fell into the house. Sometimes a pane of glass fell out and onto the ground outside. The frames were rotten and rotting and the soft old wood was just giving up. We spoke with several people about installing new windows. When we finally decided on a solution, the man who did the measuring and the estimating told us that the windows would be made rapidly. He said that Toss and Walt would arrive in two weeks to do the installation. We were pleased with the speed. Living without glass was draughty and living with pieces of wood in place of missing glass was gloomy. Anyway, winter was coming. The house needed to be secured from the weather.
Toss is one of those names that evolved out of Thomas. There are a lot of men named Thomas. Some become Tom or Tommy or Tommie. Some remain Thomas. Some use the Irish Tomás. I think Toss as a short version comes from Thos. as written on gravestones, in bibles and in the phone directory. It is just another shortening. And Toss said is more literal than Thos. I had never met a man called Toss.
Toss and Walt arrived with half of the windows and began installing. They worked over a few days. They returned with the rest of the windows and finished the job. They were quiet and efficient and they were funny when I made them cups of tea. Everything in the house was in chaos with all of the building work. I kept moving piles of stuff and pieces of furniture out of the way of the windows when Toss and Walt were heading for those windows. They needed space to work from both inside and outside. As workmen go they were easy to have around.
A few months later I developed several rolls of film. I had an old Minolta camera. I used it to try to keep a rough record of how some parts of the house looked before we did work. Eventually I wanted to be able to compare how it all ended up. I kept the camera around all the time to remind myself to keep documenting our progress. Instead I got so used to seeing the camera lying around that I rarely picked it up.
When I brought the batch of photographs home, I found a picture of Toss or Walt. One day while doing the window installation, Toss had picked up the camera and taken a photograph of Walt or Walt had taken a photograph of Toss. I was more than a little surprised to find a photograph of one of these two men in among my snapshots. The man in the photograph was not smiling but he was looking straight into the camera.
The man I recognized in the store was Toss or maybe he was Walt. I did not need to stick around any longer because now I knew who he was. I did not need to wait to find out how he resolved his roof problem. I did not need to say hello. I very much doubted that he would remember me and anyway it did not matter one bit if he did. I remember him whether I want to or not because I have a photograph of him.
14 October Friday
Mick often prefaces what he says by saying “Now, I am not going to lie to you.” I can never decide if this is a way to ensure the veracity of what he is saying or if maybe when he does not say this he might actually be lying. I think I have come to believe that it means he is very serious about the thing he is telling and therefore it is important that one believes him.
13 October Thursday
More and more women are using the large clicking stove lighters for lighting a cigarette. It is startling to see a woman whip this long thing out of her purse and light her cigarette with a flourish of huge flame before shoving it back in the bag. These lighters are at least ten times bigger than a normal lighter. I have not seen any men using these things to light their cigarettes but that may just be because they are too big to carry easily in a pocket. And no one anywhere seems to use matches anymore.