A Post Box Named Stanley
5 December Monday
We pass the little bungalow all the time. It was flooded inside a few years ago. The damage was extreme because no one was living there at the time. The pipes froze in the cold of winter. They burst when they thawed and they just kept pumping out water. There was no one there to notice. The bungalow has sat empty ever since. A few months ago some men began to tear it down. Then work stopped and the place was left standing without doors or windows or roof. After another month or so the bungalow is being worked upon again. A new house is being built onto the walls and the foundation of what was left. It is a peculiar looking operation. The house is not any bigger on the ground but it is a little bit taller. I do not know if the additional height is enough to provide a second floor.
3 December Saturday
When I went down for bottled gas on Thursday I met Tommie Hally in front of the shop. He had walked from his house using a stick. He had just arrived as I was ready to leave. He does not normally walk with a stick. He does not normally walk to the shop either. I think driving is becoming difficult for him. I admired his sturdy stick. He said it was made of elm and that was why it was not very straight. He told me that he is not fond of the kind of walking sticks that can be purchased. He prefers this one because he made it for himself some years ago knowing that it was something he might need one day. He was prepared to settle in for a chat. Indeed that was why he had walked to the shop. He was planning to have a few conversations along the way. We spoke for a few minutes. He reported that Margaret is not at all well. She cannot see and her hip has never stopped being a problem since her fall a few years ago. He is having a difficult time taking care of her and she will not allow anyone from the outside to come in to help. I was freezing and he should have been freezing too. It was too cold to be standing and talking outdoors. I told him that I had to go home with the gas bottle so that I could finish making my cake. I told him I would bring him some of the cake later. Tommie loves apples and he loves cake. Today I delivered some slices of cake along with a pot of cream. He was delighted to have the cake. He did not know that it was not the same cake that I had promised to bring. We ate all of that first cake before I delivered any. Simon made a second cake. It was not the same kind of cake but it did have apples in it. Tommie said they would eat it tonight when they returned from 6.30 Mass.
2 December Friday
Another post box has been retired. The plastic has perished with the weather and with the weight of the stone that I kept inside the box to keep it from blowing away and from the second stone on the top. Lifting the lid without removing the stone means that the sides of the lid are always getting strained, so then the lid cracks and then I tape up the cracks and then it cracks some more and then finally it is time to give up on that box because one day we go out to get the post and the box has three inches of water in the bottom of it and the post might be floating in the water. If we are lucky the envelopes are resting on the stone and the stone is not yet fully submerged. Simon got annoyed with the broken box full of water and he went off looking for a new post box. The boxes that we have been using are large storage boxes which people fill and then store under their bed or in the attic or the shed. We receive a lot of awkward parcels so a small postbox is not an option. Simon came home with a fancy toolbox which cost far too much. He put a weight in the bottom which now takes up half of the not very copious space inside the box. John the Post is not impressed with the new box. Neither am I. I have no doubt this box will be stolen someday soon. It might even be put into a workman’s van by mistake. The old postbox just looked like plastic box with a rock on top sitting outside near a bush. This one looks like it could be full of expensive tools. Simon is the only one who likes it. He is delighted with himself. He thinks of it as A Post Box Named Stanley.
1 December Thursday
I made a cake. It is not often that I bake. We had friends coming for tea. We have a lot of apples stored but they are starting to go soft, so I made a Dutch Apple Cake. We have three kinds of ovens but they are all complicated. None are any good for baking. My cake took hours to make as I had many many interruptions. As well as several phone calls, Ned came to deliver heating oil. He cannot deliver oil unless we are at home because he needs to plug the generator on the back of his truck into our electricity mains. We have to pull an extension lead in through a window to plug it in. Normal oil trucks are too big to drive down the boreen. This system with the electric generator allows us to get oil. Since someone has to be here whenever Ned comes, he always has a cup of tea and we have a discussion of the world at large. Today he kept repeating: We have to stop voting for what we are voting for. After Ned left but before my cake could be finished and lunch could be eaten, the gas bottle ran out. That meant unhooking it and loading it into the car and taking it to the village to get a replacement bottle. I had to wait for awhile outside Teddie O’Keefe’s because there was a big lorry blocking the road. I tried to fill the car with petrol while I was in the village but Seamus had run out of petrol in his pump. He has one pump for petrol, one for diesel and one for agricultural diesel. He was waiting for the man to arrive to refill the petrol one. The road on the way home was busy with tractors. One tractor hit my side mirror because it was so big and it was going so fast and the road was just not wide enough. There were other interruptions both before Ned arrived and after I got the new gas bottle but the cake was finally baked. It was delicious, but I do not feel I shall be baking again soon.
30 November Wednesday
Everyone exclaims—-The cows are still out! It has been so unseasonably mild and now it is cold. For a while it was frosty and freezing, but it continues dry so it is fine for the cows to be out in the fields and not shut up in their winter barns. There is not much grass for them to eat. The fields are all bright green to look at but still there is not much grass for the cows to eat. They mostly get fed on nuts or on hay delivered to their fields by the farmers. The thing being remarked upon again and again is that it is December and the cows are still out.
29 November Tuesday
I brought in the remaining little chilies off the plant. I am amazed at how many were left and that they did not seem to suffer in that hard crunchy cold last week. They are hot and delicious.