The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: January, 2018

We Have Enough Rain Got.

16 January Tuesday

A glove in the mud.  A glove in the mud is a welcome distraction from just mud. I am obsessed by the marks on the glove.  They look like they have been painted by hand with paint and a paintbrush. They look far more expressive than the usual marks on work gloves. They appear to be more than just grips to ensure that tools and blocks and bricks do not slip while work is being done. And again, the seemingly hand-painted glove is a good distraction from the endless mud.

15 January Monday

Margaret had been at Ardkeen in Waterford since the 17th of December, but the doctors said they could not operate on her leg until after Christmas. And then they wanted to do the surgery in Cork and not in Waterford. Tommie has been distraught. He had hoped she would be taken care of immediately in Waterford and then sent up to Clogheen for recovery. He was hoping she was going to be brought nearer to home, not further away. By the time she went to Cork and had her operation and skin grafts, several more weeks passed. Tommie has been impatient for her to be closer to home so that he can go to visit her without asking someone to drive him. He spoke of going to Cork on the bus with his Senior Bus Pass but really, he was a bit nervous about doing that. Today Margaret has finally been moved to St Theresa’s in Clogheen.  She will stay there for as long as it takes her to heal.  Tommie will be able to drive himself to visit her every day.  After an entire month of depending upon others, he is nearly overcome with relief.

13 January Saturday

We see the people every Saturday when we go for breakfast in Cahir. We have gotten to know them in a particular kind of a way. We always sit in the upstairs and so do they. They come in and have coffee and breakfast and they do a crossword puzzle.  The woman told us that it is the same one that used to be in a newspaper to buy but now they can get it for free in the Farmer’s Weekly. They bring a duplicate copy and they each start the puzzle at the same time. It is a Saturday morning competition. She said that he usually wins but she says she is better on certain kinds of clues. Over the months we have learned where they live and we know that she is not local but comes from Carlow. And we know some others things about them. And they know things about us.  We always chat and say morning things to one another. We do not know their names. Between ourselves we call them The Crosswords. We do not know how they speak of us. I am not sure that they know that we always have porridge. This morning Simon went into the men’s toilets. He saw the Crossword Man standing by the sink speaking to someone on his mobile phone about one of the clues. The man winked at Simon and put his finger to his lips. Every week we learn more about The Crosswords. The secret of the Crossword Cheat has taken things to a whole new level.

12 January Friday

There is a regular robin at the outdoor table. Actually there are several regular robins. None of the robins are Michael. I know I shall never see my Michael again but I enjoy imagining that I might. I am surprised at how different each robin looks from every other robin. I do wonder and ask the robins if one of them might be a brother or sister or aunt of Michael. I do not expect an answer but I ask anyway. I keep the feeders full and some crumbs out on the table. There are so many Michaels. It is one of those names which is used again and again and again. Not for robins but for people. I wonder why I even chose the name Michael for my robin when there are already so many Michaels. I could easily write a story with every single person in it named Michael. Every person would be a different Michael but they would all be Michael. I saw one Michael this morning who said he was pleased that the day was starting dry. He said, “We have enough rain got.” I have been thinking about his phrasing all day.

11 January Thursday

Marian was telling me about a woman. She felt certain that I must know her too. She could not remember the woman’s name so she did a fair job describing her, even telling me the road where the woman lived. She said,“You would know her by sight sure you would.” She said, “You can’t miss her. She looks like an Uncooked Pastry.” Now each time I go to the village I am looking for this woman. There cannot be more than one who fits this description.

10 January Wednesday

There were 12 square red buckets spread about in the field. It seemed a lot of buckets for not very many sheep. The sheep wandered back and forth eating out of different buckets but I am sure that whatever was in the red buckets was all the same kind of food. There was one green bucket. That was probably the same too.

9 January Tuesday

Donal sent me his CD. It is called Dead Air. It was a strange time for it to arrive. Our ancient CD player continues to act up and the one in the car does too. The car engine itself is also acting up. I hear an unsettling droning sound when I drive uphill. Mike, my regular mechanic, is in the hospital. I spoke to him on the phone but he will not be out and working again for a long while. I went down to Noel O’Keeffe in the village. His mechanic Noel Hackett and I drove up into the mountains. We both listened to the droning sound of the car as we climbed. I had not seen this Noel for a long time so we chatted about a lot of things as we drove along. He told me about his family. We noted new houses along the way and he told me who was living in them or who planned to live in them once there was enough money to finish building. I had not been up that particular road in a year or more.  I was distracted thinking about the number of new houses while all the time Noel continued paying attention to the droning. He had me listen to understand that the car made the same noise going downhill as it had been making going uphill. That helped him to recognize the problem. In between the strange moaning of the car and the distortions of the CD players, I eventually listened to Dead Air on my lap top. I cannot really say what I think of it except that everything kind of fits together.

8 January Monday

Simon is still discussing his tooth gluing repair. He is delighted with it and with his new ability to bite things. He has already located another tooth which he thinks might be a candidate to be attached to the one beside it. He discusses the repair job with anyone who shows the slightest interest. He is happy to add the fact that in addition to the cementing job, Daniel also gave him a full cleaning of his teeth. And then he was only charged fifty euro for everything. While speaking about his repair work, he never mentions that Daniel uses old souvenir tea towels around the neck of his patients. He has been going there long enough that he now considers a tea towel bib as normal dental practice.

7 January Sunday

Snow on the Galtees.  Green fields. Sunshine. Cold but dry.

6 January Saturday

Billy had heard about the new flights flying from Cork to the USA. The flights are cheap. The price of the flights are almost half of what they usually are. He liked the idea of maybe going on such a flight but he was nervous. He had been told that a lot of people on the plane take their own lunch because the airline charges so much for food. He likes the idea of the cheap flight but he is disturbed about the idea of taking his own lunch. He said he would not want to be the only one. He worried because he would not want people to think that he was Skint. He said if he knew that everyone else was doing it, it would be alright then.

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A Crest of Moss

4 January Thursday

We walked around in wild, wild winds.  The wind has been blowing ferociously since last night. It feels like the wind has been blowing forever. We are not getting the heavy damage that they are getting in the west of the country. One tree fell down and across the road right near the corner where Tom Cooney has been stacking his timber from the cleared forest. An electrical or maybe a telephone wire was drooping too. As we passed, we hoped our own electricity had not gone.  Someone with a chain saw had already moved the tree off the road. The wind is a drying wind. It is drying the sodden land.  A little rain has fallen but mostly it is just wind endless wind noisy wind which is in our ears.  It is impossible to get away from the sound of the wind.  Along the way I found three blue tits. They were all dead. Three dead blue tits. Each of them was lying on his or her back with legs in the air. They did not have any visible wounds. I guess they were caught by the wind and blown along until they were smashed into something and died.  I moved each one to a sheltered spot on a rock or under a branch so they would not get stepped upon.

3 January Wednesday

Simon went to the dentist. He had a wiggly tooth. The tooth was right in the middle on his bottom row of teeth.  It was making him feel nervous to bite. Daniel, the dentist, looked at it and told him that the tooth was barely holding on. He said it could fall out any minute.  He said it would be a pity to take it out or to let it fall out as it would leave an unsightly gap.  Daniel suggested that he attach the tooth to the strong tooth beside it in order to hold it in place.  So that is what he did. The top of Simon’s tooth is now cemented to the top front and the top back of the neighbouring tooth.  A space remains between the two teeth lower down to allow for little flossing brushes to slip in and out.  Everything has been thought of.

2 January Tuesday

Rain was promised for the entire day and night.  I rushed out for a quick walk around the mass path, the road, the boreen and home.  I managed to do it all just before the deluge began.  As I raced along the road at speed trying to beat the rain, I did enjoy the smudge of bright green moss down the center of the road.  It is that place where the tyres never touch because we all drive down the middle of the road. Since I returned there has not been one minute since eleven o’clock this morning without rain lashing and wind roaring.  Fields were already flooded before this rain began. Roads were awash with big puddles. The water across the roads is bigger than puddles. It is lake-like.  The mud on the path and in the boreen has been deep and squishy all week. There will be more flooding. I do sometimes wonder why I live here.

1 January 2018 Monday

We met Peter and Rachel at 10 this morning for a walk to Molough Abbey and down into the valley to where the rivers Suir and the Nire meet.  It seemed a fine way to start the year. Simon mentioned that Edmund Spenser wrote about the rivers of Ireland in The Faerie Queene. Everything was familiar to us because we walk there often but in showing things to others, everything became new.  Each time I visit the Abbey, I seem to focus on different features. I like to point out the two places for the bells, one of which would ring the time in Rome while the other would ring the local time.  The two dogs, Milo and Betty, were not much interested in facts. They ran a lot and they sniffed a lot.  I have never had much fondness for tiny dogs.  And I have never known a dog named Betty. But I have become fond of Betty. Holding her in my arms is like holding a cat.  She weighs very little.  I have known heavier cats. I am not sure what kind of dog she is. She is light brown and disheveled looking. I think she is some kind of terrier. After seeing the end of the year newspapers full of memorable photographs of the year, with lots of attention given to the horrific and widespread destruction of Hurricane Ophelia, I felt like there should be a photo of brave little Betty.  She walked into a branch or a fallen thing the day after the storm and injured her eye.  She had to have the eye removed. The vet sewed up the place where it had been.  Being a one-eyed dog does not stop her from keeping up with Milo, nor does it dampen her enthusiasm for exploring.

31 December Sunday

In the autumn, the McCarras built a long narrow outdoor/indoor porch place on the side of the shop. There is a bench along one wall and some chairs and tables. It is a place for cyclists and walkers to go in and sit down for a rest and a drink and maybe something to eat. This is a popular spot with the cyclists.  Laurence told me that Nicolas Roche stopped by recently. Everyone in cycling knows Nicolas Roche.  Long distance cyclists often stop in the village before climbing up into the Knockmealdowns. The porch room is light and it provides a sitting place out of the rain or wind. Suddenly today there is a big round clock in there too. Catherine said the clock was a problem as it was just too bold for anywhere else so this is where it will stay for now.

30 December Saturday

There was another big wedding in the village yesterday.  Weddings often get scheduled near to Christmas when people have the time off so that families do not have to make a repeat trip to come home for the event. Once again, there were loads of summer frocks, bare legs, fake tans and strappy high-heeled sandals. Once again, it was far too cold for such flimsy clothing.  I knew that Treasa was going to be dancing later at the wedding party. It was her cousin getting married. She would be doing Irish dancing along with some others.  When she told me about it, I was reminded to ask her about Dancing on a Barrel.  I had been meaning to ask for ages.  Treasa came to fill in at the Post Office when Helen, the post mistress, went into hospital.  She took on the job for three months after finishing university, but she has now been there for a year, or more. She has played on a Gaelic football team, performed in a play and done Irish dancing professionally, all while working at the Post Office. She does not intend to be staying there forever. Earlier in the year she auditioned to represent Tipperary in the Rose of Tralee competition, but she did not win. She was disappointed as she felt she had done a grand job.  She had Danced on a Barrel for three minutes. The image of dancing on a barrel stayed in my head.  I could barely think about it as it seemed so dangerous. She explained that the barrel works as a percussion instrument.  The sound of  tapping shoes is amplified. She said that in the competition she got her heel stuck once on the edge of the barrel, but luckily she did not fall. She also said that sometimes the barrel is cut so that the top is only a few inches off the floor instead of being full barrel height off the floor.  There would be no dancing on the barrel at her cousins wedding.