The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: December, 2017

The Fermoy Pencil

13 December Wednesday

Wild lashing rain with a bit of sun at rare intervals but really it is the kind of day to get soaked no matter what you do or how long you spend out of doors. Ned came down to fill the oil tank. We have to be at home when he comes.  The generator needed to fill the tank must be plugged in to the house currant through an open window.  A normal sized oil lorry will not fit down the boreen.  Ned was soaked through when the job was done.  He was happy to sit down with hot tea and biscuits.  He spoke about one man giving another man the hard time he deserved for abusing public trust. He said that The one man Lacerated the other man.  I had never heard Lacerate used like this. Ned said, “He gave the fellow a Real Laceration.”

12 December Tuesday

A damp struggle up the path today. It was not really a walk.  It was a only a struggle. The really huge tree that was blocking all movement up or down has finally been cut and moved by Andrzej with a chain saw.  Unfortunately, he ran out of both time and light to do any more clearing because that one tree took so long. There are still other trees in various angles of collapse.  We straddled our way over one large one which was covered with ivy and very wet. I think it is the ivy that pulls some of these trees down. It strangles and weakens them. Most of the others just involved crawling underneath or a squeezing around. There are plenty of brambles tugging at our hats and skin. Still, after so many weeks or maybe two months, of not being able to walk that route it was a pleasure to be back up there again.  I saw two pheasants and the fox.

Once we were out on the road, we saw Tom Cooney overseeing the moving of hay bales into his new shed. Tom Cooney always wears a big black hat with a large brim so even at a distance it is easy to know that it is himself. His hat is not exactly a cowboy hat, though maybe it is a cowboy hat.  It has a distinctive look.  Not one other person around here wears a hat like that.  Tom Cooney drives a big black Land Rover and he has two large black dogs who go everywhere with him. Mostly they stay inside the vehicle while he is checking on things. If he lets them out to run around he cannot keep his attention on the job being done as he would need to keep all his attention on the dogs. The new shed is much bigger than the old shed. And now he has two sheds where before he only had one. The roof supports off the old shed have been removed. The old galvanized round top has been replaced with a flat roof. The metal was all deformed and bent after the roof blew off in the hurricane. I am glad I photographed it before it was replaced. Seeing the new roof makes it is hard to even remember what the old one looked like.

11 December Monday

Dilly is not the only one who ends her sentences with the words PLEASE GOD. Many people use these sentence endings.  If I say “I shall see you on Wednesday” Dilly always adds the words  “Please God”. Sometimes she says “God Willing”. Both endings embrace the assumption and a certain acceptance that the future is not something that is in your own hands.

10 December Sunday

Our Green Cone is a green plastic cone which is wider at the bottom that it is at the top. It is made so that we can throw bones and fish skin and any amount of horrible stuff which would not be appropriate in the compost heap.  No rodents can dig down and get at anything because of the basket-like container at the bottom of the cone.  The container is dug into the ground. We still use the regular compost heap for vegetable matter. The green cone gets the horrible things.  If I go out to the cone at night I use the head torch so I can have two hands free for opening the top and tipping something inside. Last night my entire bowl, complete with fish skins and bones, slid into the cone.  I closed the top and went back into the house.  It was cold and dark and the contents of the cone smelled. My arm is not long enough to reach down into the cone even if I wanted to. I considered the bowl gone forever.  It was a heart shaped sponge ware bowl which had been a gift.  Today Simon went out and rescued the bowl with the help of a long spade.

8 December Friday

Ever since the new motorway bypass was built we have had little reason to drive through Fermoy.  As a town it is a little too far away to be useful for everyday things and not special enough for a visit on its own. Today we made a detour into town to take a photograph of the Fermoy Pencil.  The pencil is located on the road leading out of town. It was a good moment for a photo as the pencil had been recently painted.  It looked bright and clean and crisp and the graphite point was perfectly sharp.  The pencil was originally erected as a sign post for the Faber-Castell company just down the road.  The factory opened in 1954.  They made any number of different writing implements. I do not know if the big pencil was erected right away. No doubt it has been replaced a few times.  Kids carve their names in the wood of the pencil at least as high as they can reach. They never get up to the top. The pencil is about two and a half meters high.  Whenever the column is repainted the words and names get filled in and the pencil once again becomes a smooth, new writing utensil. The Fermoy branch of the Faber-Castell factory closed in the early 90’s but people love the Columbus which is the name of this style of pencil.  Tom Martin & Co. took over the distribution of the Columbus throughout the country. I assume the company is responsible for maintaining the pencil itself. I love the Fermoy Pencil.

6 December Wednesday

Em hated closed doors.  A closed door inside the house was a personal insult.  She moved through the house at intervals checking in rooms where she thought something might be happening.  The bathroom was on her route.  After years of slipping in and out and rubbing her side along the edge of the door frame, she left a grubby smudge at dog body height.  She has been dead now for three years but the smudge remained.  Even though it looked like dirt on paintwork to anyone else, it was a sign of Em for me.  Now the smudge has been cleaned away.  Another sign of her absence.

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A Sparrow On Galtymore

4 December Monday

Simon and I spent an hour or so with clippers and saws trying to work our way up the mass path. We had not gotten too far when we reached a fallen tree.  It was too big for our little saws.  It needed a chain saw and since we did not have a chain saw, we back-tracked and went through Cooney’s wood where tree felling has been going on for weeks and weeks now.  We struggled up a steep banking, got into the field and walked along the side parallel to the path. A small fox run at the top of the hill allowed us to slip back down onto the path.  We were both scratched and bleeding from the pushing and cutting through brambles and branches.  We had thick clods of mud encasing both the top and the bottom of our boots from the field. The very sticky soil made walking hard. The soil is called Clay. No one calls it dirt.  Dirt implies excrement.  Clay is what fills the fields. The way it clumped around our boots made our feet heavy and awkward. We staggered down the road with clay falling off at intervals.  At the fold in the land near Ballynamudagh, Oscar came rushing out to greet us and he walked with us all the home. With sunset at about quarter past four we just made it before dark.

3 December Sunday

I saw Mary at the market yesterday. She is the Mary I usually see at the Farmers Market. I do not think I have ever seen her anywhere else. She is the Mary who loves Edvard Grieg.  She has traveled to Norway to sit on Grieg’s bench. She and Anne baked cakes and pies and scones for the market for at least six years.  They also took baking orders for special occasions. They had a little mobile stall from which they sold their wares.  The stall was small and high off the ground. It meant that they were standing way up above their customers. The cakes were at the level of the top of my head. I could never see what was available.  I had to ask. Mary’s pear and almond tart was a great favourite.  Anne’s husband arrived early each Saturday morning and got the stall backed in and level and secure and then he went home and came back later with Anne and her baked goods. The two women retired a few years ago. Anne and Mary stopped selling at the market and I have never seen Anne again.  Mary comes to the market every week.  She swears she has never baked another thing from that day to this.  When I saw her today she looked a bit lost.  Maybe a bit naked.  Then I realized that she was wearing no glasses.  She too had her cataracts done this year and she has had a bad time since then with infections.  I asked how her eyes are now and she said they are terrific.  She told me they are so good that she can see A Sparrow On Top Of Galtymore.

2 December Saturday

I went down to the post office yesterday afternoon to catch the last post before Monday.  There were cars everywhere. It was the wrong time of day for a funeral. Funerals are always at 11 am.  This was a wedding and everyone was just leaving the church after the service as I arrived.  There were cars parked everywhere all the way up to the bridge and there were people all over.  The men were all wearing suits and ties and looking smart.  The women and girls were all completely underdressed.  There were lots of spaghetti strapped dresses and bare legs with fake tan and high heeled sandals.  It was a bright and sunny day but the temperature was 2 degrees.  It was nearly freezing and in my many layers and my wool hat I was still feeling the cold. These women must have been nearly dead.  I saw a few hats but they were summery wedding hats not wooly cold weather hats. I saw one little white furry cape that covered someone’s shoulders and came halfway down her upper arms.  The shop was full of people laughing and talking and getting warm. They were getting cash and cigarettes and talking about what a lovely ceremony it had been. The wedding was for David John and his girlfriend.  I do not know her.  I do not even know her name.  They have been together for maybe seven years and they have two children.  People save up for years to have a wedding.  They are more apt to buy a house than to have a wedding. That is the current order of things.  DJ is Rose’s son. She had opened the bar for an hour before the wedding and it was going to be open for two hours after the service. That is why people were in the shop getting some cash.  People like to drink before a wedding and they like to drink after a wedding.  Two buses were going to come after the two hours to collect everyone and take them down to Dungarvan for the party and the Afters. Later in the night, or in the early morning, the buses would make a few trips to bring everyone home again and deliver them all to their houses.

1 December Friday

We spent a lot of the morning looking for an apple corer.  We knew we did not own one.  We were looking for something that might work the same way.  I texted Breda.  She did not have one. I texted Siobhan.  She did not have one but she met us for a walk and brought a potato peeler thing which she thought might do the job.  We bumped into Biddy at the graveyard. She did not have one either but she remembered that she used to have one.  She could not recall the last time she even needed an apple corer. There was not a corer for sale at the shop.  Kieren found a short piece of pipe with a sharp end in the hardware shop. The pipe had been part of some shelving unit.  We decided that might do the job.  It was the best solution so far and in the end it worked beautifully.

30 November Thursday

The pumpkin rescued from the ditch was too old to be edible. One side started to rot so I cut it open. The flesh had gone all spongy. I think it had been frozen and thawed one time too many.  I scraped out the seeds and dried them in the oven with a bit of oil.  They are delicious. The pumpkin is in the compost heap.

28 November Tuesday

We walked up the small road past Tommie’s and met Michael at Middlequarter.  He thought we were walking toward the waterfall and he warned us that it was wickedly muddy and slippery up there right now.  We knew that to be true so we said we would wait for another day to do that walk.  He told us that Rose’s mother MaryAnn swore that the waterfall was a Tried and Proven cure for alcoholics. If any man went and stood up under the rushing water at The Gash he would be cured of his drinking addiction.  She used to tell this to anyone who would listen as she stood behind the bar serving drinks. After a bit of laughing at this, Michael said goodbye.  He was on his way to the stream just below to rinse off his Wellington boots.  He had been with his cows and he had muck and hay and mud coated almost to the top of the boots. He did not want to sit into his car with all of that still on his boots.