The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: November, 2017

Campbell’s Tea

27 November Monday

Going to the village to post a few parcels before the afternoon pick up became a long trip. There was work being done between the
graveyard and the bridge. It was big work with lots of men and lots of trucks. Yesterday there was one truck and a few men there with two at each end. They had STOP & GO signs that they turned around every few minutes. Today I had to wait about 15 minutes for a little white
van with flashing lights to arrive. This was the Convoy Vehicle. He arrived and turned around and then led myself and two other cars down
the road where one other car was waiting to come up. Then the Convoy Vehicle turned around to lead that car back up. I had to wait to
travel in The Convoy as I went back home too. There was no other way to go unless I drove all around by way of Ardfinnan and that would
have been stupid. It seemed to me that the two men with their two signs and their mobile telephones did the job just as well, and faster.

26 November Sunday

Simon found a pumpkin in the ditch. We had walked down the Long Field in cold windy sunlight. He chose to return by walking around by the road. I walked back up the way we had come. I wanted to look again at the metal things on the rock in the low place where rocks and rubble have been dumped to keep them off the fields and all in one place.This rock depositary has been used for a long time. Years. Most of the rocks are probably parts of the stone walls that separated many small fields before the Long Field became one enormous field. There are
plenty of furze bushes and brambles growing around the piled up stones. It is a place to aim for on the walk. I always think of it as
about halfway but it is not really halfway. And of course it depends from which end of the field you begin your walk. There are eight metal
things on the rock. They have been there for at least two months. Each one has two big bolts in it. I guess they were taken off a piece
of machinery during the harvest and replaced with new parts. Or maybe they are waiting for collection and will be used again. It might be
that the farmer knows exactly where he left them. Lined up together on the rock in the sun they looked like a little flotilla of boats.

Back to the pumpkin. Simon was walking up the road just after the fork. There are no houses nearby. He saw a pumpkin in the ditch. And
of course the ditch was not a down ditch as most people know a ditch but a Tipperary ditch meaning a section of hedgerow. Someone had
thrown the pumpkin there, maybe from a moving car. It was resting deep and snugly within the tangled brambles and hawthorn branches. It was not visible to anyone in a car or a tractor, but it was visible to a walker. He scrabbled in the ditch and rescued it. It was not broken nor were there any gashes from the thorns. Simon was not able to walk too far with the pumpkin in his arms so he waited under a tree until I
drove down that way. I was wondering why it was taking him so long to get up the hill. Now we have a pumpkin sitting outside waiting to be
cooked and made into a pie or a cake or eaten as a vegetable.

25 November Saturday

Yesterday morning was cold and frosty. There was a thick covering of snow on the Galtee Mountains. They looked like the Alps. The
Knockmealdowns and the Comeraghs were less heavily coated. They were only sprinkled with snow. We had no snow down here. It was all in the distance. The good thing about the snow and the cold was that I thought there might be fewer slugs alive and crawling around in the
bathroom. The unnaturally mild weather has meant that they have not died off or gone into hibernation or whatever they do in the winter.
Every evening I have been finding at least one stretched out on the sink or the tub or the shelf and every time I throw him or her out the
window. There was no slug to toss out last night. I hope that means the end of them until next year.

Tuesday 1 slug
Wednesday 1 slug
Thursday 2 slugs
Friday 0

24 November Friday

I turned the corner in the boreen and surprised the fox. He surprised me too. He turned his head and saw me just exactly as I saw him. I was close enough that I could have touched him with an outstretched arm. He leapt high across the track and into the woods without missing a beat.

23 November Thursday

Young people do not go to High School. They go to Secondary School. I was surprised to see a musical event listed to take place at the CBS
High School. The CBS is the Christian Brothers School. The ground floor of the school is for Primary School boys and upstairs is the
Secondary School, for the older boys. It is called the High School because it is upstairs. It is higher off the ground. The man who explained this to me said that he himself left school early. He told me that he never got Up the Stairs.

22 November Wednesday

I was stopped going through the security line at Cork Airport. The security woman took me and my bag aside. Before opening it, she said “You are carrying coffee in a tin?” I said “No, I have tea. I have two tins of Campbell’s Tea.” I had been a little worried that the security people might consider the metal tins to be potential weapons. I babbled a bit and said that I liked to take Campbell’s tea as a gift because I love the big yellow tins and because people love to receive them. I forgot that I was in Cork. The woman was not worried about the metal and the possibility of it being bent or shaped into a knife or a weapon once I was on the plane. She did not care about the tins. She was disgusted that I was not taking Barry’s tea as a gift. Barry’s tea is the only tea to buy or to drink if you live in Cork. Barry’s tea is a Cork product. It is a Cork institution. The Barry Family are from Cork. They still live in Cork. They donate generously to all things Cork. Barry’s tea is synonymous with Cork. I worried that she was going to confiscate my Campbell’s Tea. She made me wait around a bit. She let me and the tea go, but she did not want to.



7 November Tuesday

When walking a path where no one else has walked for a while I feel that I am jostling the settled nature. Or that is the word I use for
it. I am jostling the landscape. I am jostling the land to help it remember feet going along it. Stepping down on upright grass and pushing through weeds begins the path-making all over again. The path feels fresh and new even when it is not exactly new and not exactly fresh. It is not making a path. It is just re-claiming where it was and reminding it and me that it is the same place only different. Jostling the memory of the land.

6 November Monday

There are two and sometimes three men working on the humpback bridge into the village. They are pointing and scraping at cement and stone and doing things underneath that we cannot see as we drive or walk past. We hope that this work will help the bridge to last for many
more years. There is a small container dropped in place by the bridge. It is called a Welfare Pod. One door on the long side has a crossed
knife and fork. That is the little kitchen and eating room. The short side of the Pod has another door and that is a loo. The kitchen and the loo are both only entered from the outside. There is a discrete separation between the two activities.

5 November Sunday

We all comment about the weather. We comment on the weather all the time. Today is bitter and cold and windy. But it is dry. That is the positive in every weather conversation. If it is not raining, it means that life is good and therefore we can only complain so much. We have been told to expect more of this cold. It has been unseasonably mild for so long now that the cold is a shock and a surprise. Tommie grumbled about it. Really what he grumbled about is that there is not one thing that any of us can do about it. He said, “We have no say at all in the weather. They put it inside into the radio and then it is after coming out and into our houses. We are just the ones who get it.”

4 November Saturday

We were just beginning to prepare supper when the gas ran out. The supper was fresh hake from the market. It needed to be cooked quickly,
in a hot pan. After considering a few options, Simon unhooked the gas canister from outside and put into the back of the motor. I drove to the shop to get a replacement. It was only about seven thirty but it was fully dark. I was worried that there might not be anyone there to lift the heavy full canister up and into the car. I knew it would be much too heavy for me. Luckily Kieren appeared just as I arrived and he loaded it for me. I had not wanted to go to the shop but the moon was big and full and the night was still so I was happy to be out driving through the dark with not another car in sight. There are times when the complete lack of any lights on the road is wonderful. Some full moons light all of the land and turn the world blue and bright but this full moon was just a circle of light. Nothing else was illuminated. Everywhere else was very very dark.

3 November Friday

I was in the hairdressers. People were discussing their plans for the weekend. One woman said she was going to go up to Eason’s to buy herself a good book. Someone a few chairs along screamed, “You mean to READ?!!??”

2 November Thursday

John Dowling gave me a box. The box was held closed by a big thick rubber band. I marveled at the strength and the width and the large size of it. I could not have been happier with this gift. The box itself became irrelevant. As did its contents. John told me that a rubber band this size is called a Gallabandy. This is a new word for me. A Gallabandy is a big fat strong rubber band which is produced, of course, for the normal functions. Locally, a Gallabandy is valued for being exactly the sort of rubber band needed to make a slingshot.

1 November Wednesday

Being in the SuperValu in Cahir on this Wednesday morning felt like a mistake. The whole store was full of boxes being unpacked and goods
being shelved as well as lots and lots of elderly people. Almost everyone was on a frame or a stick or being pushed in a wheel chair. Every aisle was a traffic jam. There was a lot of laughter as people struggled to get around the boxes and to get to the products. The whole place was full of delight at so much chaos. By the time I reached the check-out counter there were two people in front of me waiting while one lady placed her goods on the counter. She apologized to us all for being so slow. The elderly man behind her told her to take her time and indeed to take as long as she needed. When she was finally finished paying and loading her shopping and thanking us all, she rolled her trolley away. The man who had been behind her was tall. He stood beside the counter with all of his things still in his trolley. He announced, “I will put my purchases on the counter when I am ready.“ The check-out girl waited a few minutes and then she said, “So, now then, are you ready?” He said, “I am. Indeed I am.”

As he banged his items onto the counter he shouted out what each thingwas. He appeared to be buying two of everything:
“Two Bags of Apples!
Two bottles of Dettol!
Two tins of baked beans!
Two packages of Kitchen Towels with two rolls in each package!
Two bags of Golden Wonder potatoes!”

Everyone watched him as he emptied his cart. It would not have mattered if I had been in the other line as every single person in both check out lines stopped what they were doing to watch him and to listen and to look at what he was buying. He said “Maybe I have two wives and I am shopping for them both!”

He announced that he came for The Shopping every Wednesday morning and that he always arrived by helicopter. He said it was the best way to travel when the roads Go Muddy and the trees are falling every which way. The man had only one tooth in the top front of his mouth and very few along the bottom but he had a good loud voice.

By the time I left the store he had loaded all of his groceries into his car. He did not have a helicopter. He had small old car with agricultural plates. It was thirty years old and the shine had gone off the paint. It was a dull orangey red. It had not been shiny for a long, long time. He had both front doors of the car open and he was parked in the place reserved for Mothers and Babies. He was standing near the front of the car shouting to each person who left the store. He asked who might be needing a lift home in his helicopter.