The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: October, 2017

Fetching the Mail

30 October Bank Holiday

Fetching the Mail has taken on a whole new meaning. We drive three miles down to McCarra’s shop and sit in the tiny room which used to be the Christmas Room and then was the All Year Round Gift Room. Later it returned to being a place to eat or to use the internet and the photocopier but lately it has a bunch of chairs and a few tables and a lot of merchandise which is piled up and waiting to be shelved somewhere else in the shop. We use the signal to take in the mail and to send out some mail. Our mobile phones do not work in the shop but they do work outside the shop. At home nothing works yet. We make two Fetch the Mail trips to the shop each day.

29 October Sunday

Maud had the whole day to herself. She told me that Peter had gone off to Chase a Churn. He drove to Gorey which is more than a three hour drive. He said it was worth it because it is not easy to find a butter churn with its top still intact. He would not be home till late. Maud was pleased to have the time to putter around and to just do what came into her head rather than doing things that needed to be done or demanded to be done. She told me that she had bought a lovely bunch of organic celery in the market. It had lots of leafy foliage and a glorious smell but she knew there was nothing at all to eat from it. The stalks were too thin to be worth anything. I wondered why she had bought it. She hung the celery in her window with a piece of pink twine. The sight of the celery hanging there pleased her enormously and she was glad to have had the time to do something like this with her afternoon. I forgot to ask if the celery was hung with the leafy part up or the leafy part down.

28 October Saturday

Pat Looby loaned me a copy of WASTING TIME ON THE INTERNET by Kenneth Goldsmith. It has been sitting around for a month or more. Now that there is no internet here and spending time on the internet is not even vaguely a possibility, I think it might be as good a time as any to read this book. The promised modem arrived but now the mast from which it receives its signal in Ardfinnan is down. So we remain without the internet. We are without our mobile phones too. We are reduced to using the landline and the dictionary. I have become accustomed to using my phone for everything. I check the weather with my phone. I am out of the habit of listening to the radio for this information and I no longer remember when to tune in in order to catch a weather forecast. Small things have become big things.

27 October Friday

The new modem is coming today. I do not understand it all but Simon spent a lot of the day yesterday talking to Winnie Hickey. Our internet has come from a system of bouncing connections all down the country. The last bounce before the bounce to us was off the roof of Winnie and Michael Hickey. This system has worked well for years. We could always phone the Hickeys if anything was malfunctioning with our internet. So that is what Simon did today. First he talked to the internet company, then he spoke to Winnie and then he went back to several different people at the company. No one gave him the same answers, Winnie assured him that no matter what they said the problem was nothing to do with the hurricane. She said that was their easy excuse but she said things had gone wrong a few days before the hurricane. We would have believed the man if she had not told us otherwise. The guy was trying to pretend it was the hurricane but then suddenly he said a tree grew up in the way. Simon said it was not possible for a tree to grow that fast and exactly in a position to be blocking the connection especially not at this time of year. The guy on the phone was waffling. He sort of implied without saying directly that they had sold off part of the company and the people who bought it could not be bothered with our small area of bouncing connections. Winnie is already signed up for a new service. She recommended that Simon do the same. That is why he ordered this modem which is to arrive today. I am confused by all of it.

26 October Thursday

There are many freshly cut trees everywhere. Big and sturdy stone walls have been knocked down by falling trees. Branches have been thrown into enormous piles to be dealt with later. The bright look of sawdust and exposed timber stands out from all of the gloomy grey light. Other trees that fell where they stood have huge ripped apart trunks. In some places it is difficult to remember how things looked before the storm.

25 October Wednesday

We missed the hurricane. It was the biggest natural disaster in years and years. We missed all of the problems and the dangers and the excitement. I felt a little left out to be far away. I still feel like that. Our own house was fine. We did not lose any slates and we did not find much damage except for branches and one plum tree that was blown down. And of course, the leak in the roof has let in more water, but that could have happened with any normal rain storm. It did not need a hurricane. We have been getting reports from everyone we speak to. Some people lost electricity for a week or ten days while their neighbours next door did not. In many cases the neighbours with electricity have filled their freezer with the food from the freezer of people who lost their electricity. Tom Cooney’s galvanized roof flew off his hay barn and landed two fields away. It could easily have cut off someone’s head. PJ and Fiona felt it landed too near to their house. They were fearful that it might take off again in a fresh gust of wind. Tom Cooney told me that he is waiting for the insurance company to assess the damage but he knows he will have to pay at least part of the repair himself. He said they are backed up to their teeth with claims. He is in despair as he feels the entire world to be in a perilous state. He said his roof is just a small thing. The Mass Path is impassable. Trees and branches are down. I could not walk far enough to find out if the problem continues all the way up the path or if it is just the first hundred metres past the stream.

24 October Tuesday

There were two Americans behind us on the bus. They were in their mid-sixties. A man and a woman. I think they were in their mid-sixties. I did not look closely because to do so I would have had to turn right around to stare directly at them. They were with two more Americans, also a man and a woman. The second couple were sitting in the seat across the aisle. I think these two were a little older. Maybe they were in their late sixties. Maybe they were the same age. They all had southern accents but I could not decide exactly from which part of the south. They spoke quietly. The two behind us discussed what to capture on their camera from the moving bus. The woman was beside the window and she had a proper camera rather than just a camera phone. We passed a field of sheep. The man said, “Get the sheep. Get the sheep. Get the sheep.” She snapped and snapped. He said, “Get the sheep. Keep shooting.” He was not bossy with his orders. He was just excited. There were only about twelve sheep in the field and the bus was moving pretty fast. The sheep were widely spread out so maybe she had enough time to photograph each one, but I do not think so. A little later, he said, “Get the tree.” She did. Then they discussed the tree.

Sometimes the four people spoke together. At one point, the woman across the aisle asked how long they had stayed in one place. They all agreed it had been six nights in one place and three nights in the next place. They joked about the woman updating her diary. Except for this interchange, each couple mostly just discussed things quietly between themselves.

I was not eavesdropping intentionally but I was exhausted from the long overnight flight and I was too tired to read and too tired to even fall asleep. The gentle excitement of photography from the moving bus was just enough to keep my interest. As the bus rolled down the hill into Cahir, the woman behind me was rapidly snapping the river and the weir and a heron which all looked beautiful in the sunlight. The couple on the other side of the bus were both taking pictures of Cahir Castle. We stood up to get our things together in anticipation of getting off the bus. Neither couple turned to look out the opposite side of the bus. The ones looking at the castle did not see the river and the ones looking at the river did not see the castle. Neither couple called over to the other couple to point out what there was to be seen out the other side of the bus.

I have been thinking of these people since I got home, and as I have drifted in and out of jet lag. I am hoping that at the end of each day of their travels they switch cameras and look at what was available to be seen out the other side of the bus. That way they can have a more complete picture of where they have been.

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Hand Cut Gate

11 October Wednesday

No one wants to turn on their heat yet. We all speak about it. It is almost a competition. It is only the 11th of October. It becomes a game to put it off for as long as possible. If anyone does turn on the heat they probably won’t admit it. The first of November is the ideal. Already the nights are chilly and the mornings are damp and cold. When the sun is out it is easy to forget about the cold and about the clothes not drying and the extra sweater. A fire in the wood stove is welcome enough at night. But when the day is cold and windy and wet the house can feel just miserable. Today is wild and windy but bright and sunny. We are not thinking about heat.

10 October Tuesday

I received a text from the library informing me that the book I had requested was now on reserve for me. It will be held for 7 days. I have no recollection of requesting a book. Once again this book offers me the pleasure of complete surprise. Once again, Marie, the head librarian, has decided that this is a book I should read. It might be a library book or it might be her own book. Either way she is certain that it is a book I need to read. It is a book I shall want to read. I have no doubt that this is the best possible service any library can offer a reader.

9 October Monday

I still go out most mornings to pick raspberries for breakfast. Every day I think that today will be the last day. There are fewer berries and some of them are just too ripe and too wet. The ones that are a deep dark beautiful red do not taste much like raspberries. Instead, they taste like fruit water. I pick the ones that are lighter in colour and almost a bit unripe. I go out to pick wearing my dressing gown over my pajamas and my Wellington boots. If I got dressed in my clothes for the day before I went out to pick raspberries, I would get so wet that I would need to change maybe even before I ate breakfast. That is just how wet the leaves are. And this is why I am often greeting the postman standing outside in my dressing gown with my partially filled bowl of berries. He does not seem to notice nor to mind my appearance. He is happy to accept a handful of raspberries before continuing on his way.

8 October Sunday

The woman who died is not a woman I know. Nor do I know her family. They all moved away years ago and she herself has been in a home for twelve years now. Two women were discussing her. They were fondly remembering that her specialty had been pricing the cakes for the Bake Sale.

7 October Saturday

There are still sweet peas to bring into the house. They are perfect to look at but they are devoid of smell. The cooler nights must have chilled them into this state.

6 October Friday

Breda and her sisters are trying to keep track of Jim who is 91 or maybe 92. He is living in the house he has always lived in. He is not driving any more so they take turns ferrying him to doctor’s appointments and out for his shopping. They have a sort of rota as to who visits him when just so they can keep track of him. They were taking it in turns to bring him a cooked dinner until one of the sisters decided it was better for him to prepare his own food. It kept him active and gave him some engagement both with his shopping choices and the preparation of the food. Breda stopped by yesterday and saw Jim standing by the gate.   The neighbour’s horse was just over on the other side of the gate. She assumed that Jim was talking to the horse but what he was doing was peeling a carrot over the gate so that the peelings dropped onto the ground. He said the horse could eat them if she wanted. He had two more carrots in his back pockets. The one on the left side had been peeled already. The one on the right side was still waiting to be peeled.

5 October Thursday

I heard Johnny announce  that he was shocked by the whole thing.  He said “I Nearly Fell Out of My Stand Up!”

4 October Wednesday

I sat in the log cabin at Daltons’ while my head lamps were adjusted. I was impressed that there is now a huge plate glass picture window in the cabin. No other customers are going to be left sitting there for hours while everyone goes home or out to lunch. I could see out into the work area and anyone in the work area could look in and see me sitting there on the plastic couch. I had already washed the car and filled the tires and cleaned out the inside and Mike had given the whole thing a look over. All this had involved two days of preparation. The lights were the last thing to do as the smallest bump in the road could set them off kilter. The man was not sure he had fixed them properly so he would not charge me for his time. He told me to come back after the test and if I had not passed because of the lights he would not charge me anything but if I passed I could give him ten euro.

I went to the NCT office and sat inside with the other people waiting for their test results. There were eight of us. There were three large windows so that we could watch the testing area and keep track of our own car. The new theory is that no one repairs their car before the test. They just wait to be told which parts failed and then they go and get that thing fixed. Variations on this were being discussed endlessly as we all waited. The rumour is that the authorities want to get old cars off the road so they are trying to find more things wrong with older vehicles. My vehicle is old. It is 19 years old. I had no doubt something would be found to be wrong. I was right. I failed the test but not because of the lights. I went back to the man and paid him ten euro and then went to Mike to discuss what needs to be done to pass. It is the rear suspension and the steering linkage. He says it is not a problem and that it will be simple to sort. But not today.

3 October Tuesday

I arrived on the street in front of the clinic. There was a woman standing in front of the door. She shouted at me, “The Eye Man, is it? He is right in there but you’ll have to wait. He has a following, so he does.” She moved out of the way to allow me to enter the building. It was my final check up after the cataract surgery. The waiting room was full. There were two seats taken for each appointment. There were a lot of elderly people waiting and each of them had a younger person with them. I was the youngest person of both sorts and I was the only person on my own. The woman beside me spoke in a loud voice to the man next to her. She said, “So you’ve been here before?” He answered, “I must have been.”

2 October Monday

Everyone has things left for them at one shop or the other. McCarra’s shop and O’Dwyer’s shop are both helpful about taking things in for people. There are too many people who live up the mountains or down terrible roads like our own. The couriers cannot be seeking us out all day long as there is often no phone service and anyway we all end up stopping in at the shop eventually and then we can pick up whatever was left for us. The trouble is that the person who is looking for the parcel is rarely the one who put it wherever it is now.

Maud left something for us at the shop last week. Now we have come to collect it. No one knows exactly what size the parcel is and since they do not know what it looks like it is harder to find it. The area behind the counter and up on the shelf is cluttered with things dropped off by neighbours and friends and couriers. Everything gets put somewhere but that somewhere is not always evident. The thing might be behind the counter or it might be in the hardware shop or if it is large it might be in the shed or it might be behind the post office counter. Things are always found eventually but the finding is rarely fast.

1 October Sunday

Yesterday we went to a celebration gathering for Pam up in the mountains at an old hotel. We had never been to this hotel before. It smelled badly of mildew and damp and there was a lot of wallpaper peeling off the walls. In some places the paper had been stuck down with bits of sello tape and sometimes staples had been used. Many friends and family were there and there were a few speeches and stories all about Pam and her long life. It was a cheerful event. Small triangular sandwiches were served with the crusts cut off. This was the kind of food Pam liked to serve and to eat herself. She loved having tea. It is a pity no crisps were served as everyone who knew Pam knew how she loved crisps although since her preferred place to eat them was in bed maybe it is just as well they were not on offer. As we drove back down the mountains and over the Vee the sheep were everywhere on the road.  It made for a slower drive but not an unpleasant one.

30 September Saturday

I have a new feeling about the slugs in the bathroom. Even if the window has been closed for hours I walk in at night and I know they are there. I turn on the light and I enter the room and I stand very quietly in the doorway. My eyes search around from floor to ceiling. I don’t move. Only my eyes move. I do not know if slugs can hear anyway. I know they are there even when I cannot see them and I am determined to let them know that I know. Sometimes I see one on the side of the sink or in the tub. Sometimes I do not see any but I know they have been there by their tracks all over the mirrors and the windows. I hate that they are hiding in the underneath dark places. Once I leave and turn off the light I forget all about them but I do not like to be surprised by even the smallest of slugs.