Drab Brown Birds
1 January 2017
We have been saying Happy New Year to people since the day after Christmas. We shall continue to say Happy New Year for at least two more weeks. Every year I feel it goes on and on and every year I am determined to note the day when everyone stops saying it. It is probably not a single day but still I would like to recognize when we stop saying it. Saying Happy New Year is a politeness, like The Salute. It is polite to say it and rude not to say it so it is best to keep on saying it until you have said it to every single person you meet. The light is getter brighter and longer each day. Saying Happy New Year several times each day is a cheerful thing.
31 December Saturday
There was a wedding in the village. There is always a wedding at this time of year. Actually there are often quite a few weddings because there are a lot of people home From Away. The McCarra family have gathered together from London and South Africa and California and Australia, as well as from other parts of Ireland. It is a good idea for them to do all of the celebrating that might need doing while they are Home since they have come from so far away. There is no question that these same sons and daughters and babies will travel back in a few months when the weather might be better simply for a wedding.
The idea of Home is always at the forefront of everything. Christmas is the most important time for Home. Everyone must go Home for Christmas. We spoke with Rob and Geraldine about their plans. They were going to Waterford. Geraldine was going to stay at her mother’s house with the twins. Rob was going to stay with his parents. On Christmas morning he would join her and the boys at her mothers house and then he would return and have his Christmas dinner with his parents. He would stay on with his parents for several days. She was planning to remain with her mother for at least a week, maybe longer. Going Home from Newcastle to Waterford is not the same as returning from somewhere like Australia. It is only a 50 minute drive away. Going Home is the thing.
29 December Thursday
The seasonal closing of the world goes on and on. Some places are open sometimes. Today and tomorrow the post office is open. The post men are delivering the post. After Friday the post office will stop again until next Wednesday. I went to the shop and the postman was parked out front. He was standing near his van and handing out letters to people in front of the shop. If someone stepped toward their car, he shouted Don’t Go! I have something for you! It was not our postman John. A different man does the village route. I do not know his name. Since it was not our postman I felt a little left out. I knew I would not be shouted at and summoned over.
28 December Wednesday
She studied the card carefully. Her eyes are poor so she held it right up close to her face. The card had a bright red cardinal on it. The cardinal looked extra bright against a background of snow. She looked carefully at the card and she kept repeating that the cardinal looked like a lovely bird. She might have been sad but instead she sounded angry. She said It is a pity we have no cardinals here. We have nothing but drab brown birds.
27 December Tuesday
Twice now I have walked up the Mass Path and past the house of the Killer Dog. Twice he has not rushed out onto the road. He is no longer on the loose. I have been nervous about taking that route. Each time he is not out I feel better but I wonder if I shall ever be completely relaxed about that stretch of road again.
26 December Monday
A bull has been in Joe’s front field for a few weeks now. Twice in the time that he has been there I have seen people standing beside their parked vehicles out on the road looking at the bull. I assume they are admiring him. As bulls go I do not think he is the biggest I have ever seen but he is large and black and strong and he does command attention. I have no idea how to judge a bull. I just look at him. I say hello whenever I pass if he is near enough to the track to hear me. He seems interested and he seems to respond to my voice. I do not think it is me. I think any voice would cause his head to turn. In the last few days, he has mostly been in a narrow little finger of the field which seemed silly as it was the smallest place he could be. He is sort of crammed into the space. There does not look like enough space for him to turn around. His face is coated in mud. Then I realized that his attention is directed across at the cows in the lower field. He is either longing for the company of the cows or he is longing for some kale. This little space is probably the only spot from which he can view the herd.
The cows are in what I call their winter Cow Kale Field. They eat the specially planted kale in a long line as they eat their way downhill. They eat together one cow beside another in a long line. There is nothing to see but the backs of the cows. Their bottoms and their legs and their tails. It will take many days maybe weeks for them to reach the bottom of the field. It is a big field. It is four or six acres. Joe once told me how big it is but I have forgotten. Each day Joe moves the little white string and the metal posts. The string stops the cows. I have never really known if this white string has a little electric charge in it or if it just looks like wire which might be electrified and that is enough to convince the cows to go no further. I do not know if a visual deterrent is enough. I do not know how visually alert cows are. However it works, I marvel that a herd of cows can be stopped by one fragile string when the other side of the string is full of things they want to eat and the side they are on holds nothing but trampled mud and stalks. Each day they eat the allotted amount of kale and then they wander off to find some grass in the next field. The bull is watching closely from across the track. There is a stone wall and a ditch and a strong fence between him and the kale eating cows. I do not think a white string would be sufficient to stop him if he wanted to get out.
25 December Sunday
We set off to walk up in the Knockmealdowns. On the way, we saw heavy cloud cover settling over the mountains and felt some light drizzle. The walk plan quickly changed. It became a different walk. The new walk took us along a side of one hill. Every walk has a name. We call this walk The Des Dillon as it starts on the road out of the village and it passes his cottage before the rough track gets rougher and before it becomes a rocky muddy riverbed. We met one farmer who was off up the hill to tend to his animals. He shook Simon’s hand and wished him a Happy Christmas. I received a salute, from a distance.