The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: May, 2017

A Small Hospital

29 May Monday

Sign on tree:

PHOTOS OF

BIRDS OF PREY

5 EUROS EACH

 

27 May Saturday

The rain was torrential and wild. All night it lashed down. It rained from all directions. We were reminded yet again about the leak in the bathroom.  Roads were flooded as we drove to Cahir. The farmers market looked bedraggled. There were hardly any customers and only six  stalls.  The few sellers were all squeezed up against the wall trying to be out of the wind and trying to keep their wares dry or at least to keep things from blowing away. They were brave to be there at all. By afternoon the sun came out. Everywhere the fields turned a garish unreal kind of bright green.  This was the rain we had waited for. Everything was soggy and squishy underfoot but everything was glowing.

26 May Friday

First thing this morning the nurse took my bloods and then she printed out some labels from her computer. When the printing was finished the machine made a little pinging noise. She said “Ah, how perfect to hear that! It is exactly the note that has been giving me trouble in choir practice. With it repeating on my printer,  I’ll be after singing all day.”

25 May Thursday

I was admiring the copious number of enormous three-leaf clovers growing in the middle of the track as I walked the Long Field. I had to remind myself that the hugeness of the clover leaves and of the purple and white flowers is not natural.  The large size is a result of nitrogen sprayed on the fields.  There are so many bad things that are easy to forget.  It is never possible to forget the terrible weed killer that the farmers spray along verges and the edges of fields and in front of gates.  The weed killer turns things a horrible brown. It then goes to gold and then to gold red and then to dead brown.  We have to look at the aftereffects of this poison for a long time, so we never forget it and we never like it.

24 May Wednesday

Dellie told me her method for rescuing the birds that careen into windows at speed and knock themselves out. She keeps a large pot of mint growing near to the house. She does not keep the mint in a pot to stop the mint from growing rampantly all over her garden. She thinks of her pot of mint as a small hospital. If a bird is found unconscious, it gets rested right in the middle of the pot so that it is surrounded by mint. She is certain that the smell works to revive and give strength to the stunned bird. She says it is a rare day when the bird is still laid out among the mint when she returns for a look. If a bird has not moved the bird is dead. She says the mint always revives those who can be revived.

Dellie is short for Adele. The sounds are in there. It is a nickname which is understandable. Dellie has a friend named Betty. Betty is short for Gwendolyn. That makes less sense .

The Coptic Pope

23 May Tuesday

The young man was shouting over the road at someone who was walking away from him. He cursed and swore. His language got more and more obscene the further the first man went from him. A woman who came out of the shop in the middle of his rant announced. “Now there’s a lad who wants manners put on him.”

22 May Monday

There is a fine straight line marked into a field where cows have been grazing. They stick their heads under the fence and reach out as far as they can to get at every single bit of fresh long grass that they can.  The resulting line is always a surprise. It is as straight and even as if it has been drawn. From afar it looks like there might be a different crop being grown in one field exactly beside another.  It is all grass and it is all the same grass but one batch has been eaten as low as the cows can get it before the herd are moved to another field.

21 May Sunday

Do not sweep around a chair with an unmarried woman sitting in it.  If you do, she will never marry.  She should move before you start sweeping.

20 May Saturday

The Coptic Pope was to arrive in Cahir today at 1.15. It was planned that he was to perform a Mass and do other pope-like things for the order of Egyptian Coptics who now reside in the former Catholic school and convent. As early as 10 am, there were two Garda and one man in a reflective vest directing any cars away from the convent which I am not certain the Egyptian Coptics still call the convent but everyone else calls the convent because that is what the building has always been and that is what the building has always been called. Apparently there had been a threat on the life of the Coptic Pope recently which explained the police presence. We left town before he arrived and I have not heard of any trouble so I guess it all went well. I sort of wish I had stayed to see what he looked like and what the congregation who greeted him was like.  It is difficult to imagine how and why this Egyptian order ended up in County Tipperary.  John Joe said they first came here because they got jobs in the slaughterhouse.

19 May Friday

Every car is covered with bird droppings. Every house is covered with bird droppings. Windows are covered. Outside tables and outside chairs are covered with bird droppings. There are long huge white splashes. There are lashings of excrement. The excrement is thick as well as white.  Where it is on the windows it is not possible to see through it, which can make driving difficult. It is a seasonal problem but every year it is a surprise.  We had hoped the rain would clean it off or at least in a few places but I fear it is hardened on and really will need scrubbing.

18 May Thursday

A sanctuary up in Kildare rescued the chickens. They had been resident in a battery farm. After 18 months the chickens are no longer considered reliable as good egg layers. The next step for them is death and a future in a goujon or curry or some other fast food. There was an announcement on Facebook saying that a truckload of the rescued chickens were being driven down to Clonmel. People were waiting in a car park for the truck. Some people took a lot of the chickens. Some took a few. I met four of the confused birds this morning. They were walking about tentatively. They kept returning to the darkness of their new house which is made of stone. I think so much space both indoors and out and all of the new and never before tasted  greenery to eat makes them nervous. They looked terrible. The bone structure of their wings was completely exposed. The bones should have been covered with feathers. There is no chance that these chickens can fly as they are now. I wonder if the feathers will grow back after exposure to sunlight and space and fresh green things to eat. Even the red of their wattles was a pale unhealthy looking pink.

 

15 May Monday

The path is completely closed in with cow parsley. It is impossible to see the path.  There is just the sense of knowing where it goes and where it usually goes so I walk and assume I am in the right places but sometimes I am not and I stagger and stumble into the tangle. This morning I fell down and startled a pheasant who was running from me in the undergrowth and I think he thought I could not see him and indeed I would not have seen him except that I dropped down to his level. Not only is the undergrowth thick but it is wet. Today I got soaked and slapped with all of the blossoms and branches.  I wore full waterproofs for the rainy drizzle which was falling and against the rainy drizzle which had already fallen. I ended up soaked anyway because my rain jacket is old and now un-waterproof and because the water off the plants went down my neck and the water went through the hole in my boots. I could have been wetter when I reached home but not much wetter.

14 May Sunday

I was surprised to realize that my cow book (I Always Have An Audience For My Work) is now out of print. The Butter Museum had had  ten copies of it.  I wrote to ask Peter if he had any copies left. He said “I think I still have some copies of the cow book.  I was reluctant to sell them as they are so wonderful.” Since the purpose of him having the books was to sell the books, I am not sure what was accomplished by them being too wonderful to sell.

Last bluebells. High banking. Knockmealdowns.

12 May Friday

Two women were discussing a man.  I did not know the women and I did not know the man they were speaking about. One of the women said, “He’s been single for a while now so he has. There is no reason for it, as he’s good enough to look at.”

11 May Thursday

I am fond of the place names made of three complete words squished together with no spaces in between the words. No doubt they are a form of translation from the Irish, but when I look them up I can never tell if the translation is literal or if it is something else altogether. There is one place with the name Twomilebridge and another called Two Mile Bridge. I do not know why one is crammed together into one word while the other is three separate words. Twopothouse. Fourmilewater. Fivemiletown. Sixmilebridge. Ninemilehouse.

We used to drive through Watergrasshill as we traveled home from Cork. After the motorway was built, we no longer drove through it. Watergrasshill is now just an exit. Watergrasshill is a village I have no reason to visit. It is not a special place. It is just a place. I love the name Watergrasshill. It feels more and more utopian with each visit I do not make. It has become a place to hope for, never a place to visit.

10 May Wednesday

The cows were in Joe’s field all night. I could hear them tearing grass and moaning softly from my bed.  I did not hear the tractor coming this morning to lead them away. They were just gone when I woke up.  I thought they might return after milking but they must have gone to graze another field. All day dozens of crows have been swarming over the ground. The very dry earth is completely churned up from where the cows moved about all day yesterday.  The crows are taking advantage of the disturbed soil to feast on worms.

9 May Tuesday

The man in the waiting room pulled his chair out from the row of seats which were lined up against the wall. He sat himself right in the middle of the waiting room beside the elderly woman he had rolled into the room in a wheelchair. There was no room for her chair to go against a wall so he moved himself out to be next to her. He spoke in a loud and clear voice so that she could hear him. He spoke almost without taking a breath. She nodded sometimes but mostly she just listened or perhaps she did not listen. Her head was bent down well into her chest.  It was impossible to know if she was paying attention.  He never stopped talking. None of us could read whatever we had been reading because his central spot and his loud delivery took over the room. He told her about a group coupon project on the internet and about a three bedroom holiday house she could rent in Sligo for two nights for a song. He asked her about some family photographs and he told her she could get them framed. He said he had seen some nice wooden frames in Aldi’s. They were real wood not just some plastic that looked like wood and he said there was a good dark wood available or some nice light wood too and if she were to decide to frame the photographs he would go and get the frames she needed. He said he had gone there to buy a picnic basket but once in the store he decided that he did not need a picnic basket. He decided that all he really needed was two lunch boxes. He said A picnic is a different thing today. He said You no longer need to replicate the dinner table at home.  He said, Indeed you can just buy a box of salad and call it a picnic.

8 May Monday

John the Post has been in hospital. We have been worried about him.  We are glad to hear that he is back at home now but he is not yet ready to return to work. A new substitute postman came this morning.  We know the three other postmen who have been substitutes but this was a new man. He brought a package to the door and he said that it was registered and that it must be signed for.  He asked Simon if he was Simon.  Simon said yes, so the postman said Okay. Good. I will sign your name for you. He signed Simon’s name for him with a signature that looked nothing like Simon’s signature while Simon stood there and watched him do it.

Cuckoo

2 May Tuesday

The sun has arrived after the big rain and after so many days or weeks of grey heavy skies. Already I cannot remember anything but this brightness.  It is clear. Everything looks cheerful. The sun did not set until nine last night. When the days are grey it is hard to know when it is going down. Now the days just get longer and longer and longer. Plants are growing by the minute.  The path is more and more overgrown.  Some of the cow parsley is already up and over my head.  The stickyback climbing stuff is on everything and acts like a trap I must struggle though in the overgrown places. I just learned that it is called Robin-Run-The-Hedge.  A much nicer name than Sticky Back.  The nettles are all tangled up with the stickiness. A sting from the youngest of the nettles is the worst.  This morning I got stung in the face while swatting a bunch of cow parsley. This sting will be with me all day.

1 May Bank Holiday

The month of May arrives with a lot of superstitions. I think there might be more for May than for any other month but maybe I only hear more. The weather is better and people are more willing to slow down for a chat.  I am not sure if the superstitions are all pisogues. I know that a pisogue is a local superstition, but I am not certain that all superstitions are pisogues.  One thing I have learned is that it is imperative to walk out in the dew on a morning in May. It does not matter which morning. Any morning is fine as long as it falls within the month. If you do not do this you will have bad luck and if you do do it you will have good luck. Another superstition is that you must hear the Cuckoo during the month of May.  If you do not hear the Cuckoo, you will die. The minute the person saying this is finished saying it, he or she quickly reassures the listener by saying that of course you will die at some point anyway so maybe not necessarily in May, and maybe not this May, but still it is best if you do hear the Cuckoo during the month. Kathleen told me that you should not dust the house in May.

30 April Sunday

Last night there was wild gusting wind and lashing rain all night long.  The blustery noise was so erratic and demanding that I had to close the window which is something I rarely do. Each time I relaxed into sleep another huge crashing gust would sort of whack into the house. This morning things were blown all around the place.  Nothing was where it had been left and the few garments which had been hanging on the washing line were either wrapped tightly around the line or lying wet and bedraggled on the grass. A few things had flown out into Joe’s field.  The rain was welcome and this morning the land is saturated. Everything glows green and bright with the big amount of water.

29 April Saturday

Already it is sad not to see young Oscar at his house.  He has moved to Goatenbridge with his people. They had only been renting the house up the track for a year and have now decided to buy a house and to settle in the area.  After years of working on water projects in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, they now feel the need to stay in one place for the children and their schooling. The toys and the trampoline are gone.  I shall miss Oscar and his rolling over for tummy rubs. I miss him already.

 

28 April Friday

I have a fair number of photographs of things made with tyres. Mostly the uses are utilitarian like holding down a huge sheet of black plastic on a slurry heap, or stopping vehicles bumping into a cement wall but there are a lot of floral and planting arrangements in tyres. Usually the tyres are painted.  Each spring they get a fresh coat of paint before being replanted. Two swans made out of tyres have been in place in front of Mr. Bumbles in town for several years.  They never seem to get repainted and the painted surface looks no worse for it.  A reddish beak is painted onto the white tyre.  In the body of the swan is planted a brown spiky plant. They are safely behind a little fence so that no one can steal them. This year a box of pansies has been placed between the two swans.

27 April Thursday

Michael corrected me.  He said that we live BEHIND the O’Byrnes not BELOW the O’Byrnes.  We have always said BELOW because we are down the hill from the O’Byrnes. We speak of them as being ABOVE at the farm, so if they are Above we are Below. He said that they are closer to the road so they are in Front and therefore we are Behind.

26 April Wednesday

There was the shape of a car in the field near Moloughstown.  Was it a ghost limestone dust car or maybe a tarpaulin-covered car in the field?  Was the shape formed in the back of a tipper truck and dumped?  Was it strange nitrogen granules for the next crop of oil-seed rape to be grown later in that place?  A few days later, I walked past that field and the ghostly car shape was gone.  No trace of the grey dust remained.  I have no idea what it was.

25 April Tuesday

I stopped in the middle of the shop as I tried to remember what I had had on my list because I had left my list at home.  A woman came near to me and then she stopped.  I guess she was waiting for me to move but I just stood still.  After a few seconds she asked “Can I cross you?” I was confused so I said yes.  She passed in front of me and around the corner to continue with her shopping.