The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: May, 2018

The New Immersion.

20 May Sunday

The bench in Ardfinnan gets repainted in the spring. First it was blue and then it was red and now it is blue again. There is not a lot of room to sit as the home-made corner structure does not allow for a lot of knee room.  Two people can happily sit and chat but anymore than that will feel a bit squished.

19 May Saturday

A tree fell down in Joe’s field.  We have not had great winds. We have not even had heavy rain. It looks completely wrong to see this tree lying down. The tree is on a low bit of the field. It is often squishy and muddy down there.  All I can think of is that the roots got wet and wetter and stayed wet and finally rotted. I have never lived anywhere where trees fall down so frequently. The mass path is blocked by fallen trees several times a year. Sometimes I think it is to do with the kind of trees. Maybe these trees have shallow roots. Most of the time I think it is to do with just too much water.

18 May Friday

We have had a week without hot water. Niall the plumber came today. He apologized.  He kept promising to come each day but then each day he never arrived. He said he had been Dead Busy.  He said it’s always the same with the work: Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. He said it three times and then he went to work. He installed a new immersion unit. He showed us the old one. It was covered with lime. This is a terrible area for lime in the water. It coats and cakes onto everything and eventually destroys machinery. He was smitten with the date notations I have made on the wall each time we have had to replace the heater.  He was surprised with how long the previous unit had lasted.  He said he hoped that this new one would last as long as the old one. As he left he instructed us to be sure to mark today’s date up on the wall.

17 May Thursday

They are back.  The season is on for the Sticky Back weeds. Sticky Back.  Sticky Jack. Cleavers. Sticky Willy. Robin-run-the-hedge. They are everywhere.  They run up anything that is growing. They tangle in and out between anything that is growing.  Because they are covered with things that make them stick to whatever they touch there is not much need to worry about what or where they go. They stick onto animals and clothes as well as plants.  These weeds are so fast growing and so busy that they look like they are strangling anything they touch.  In fact the growth is more like a fishing net that is thrown over things.  One good grab and the whole clump comes away in the hand.  Of course a good pull does not remove the roots.  The plant just breaks off at the bottom.  I do not really care.  If they are pulled away from things they do not seem to grow back immediately. They will return next year no matter what.  It is a seasonal thing and the season does not last long.  While it is happening the Sticky Backs are everywhere.  I love pulling them off things.  If I am passing in a car I get the urge to just stop and get out to pull the big clumps off the ditches. Sometimes I do it.  When I am walking, I keep slowing down and pulling and slowing down and pulling.  I can grab an armful without even coming to a full stop. Of course there is the good chance that I might grab a stinging nettle or a thorny bramble. Sadly, I do that often.  Stings and stabs do not stop me from this obsessive pulling.  It is the most satisfying kind of weeding work ever.  I seem to have the urge to pull it all down from everywhere in the world which is, of course, not even vaguely possible.

 

Advertisements

The Dog on the White Line.

16 April Wednesday

The old dog was outside the community hall. I was pleased to see him. He looked healthy and bright-eyed although he could certainly use a good brushing. His hair is coming out in huge clumps. He is scruffy.  He greeted each car as it drove up and he greeted each person as they got out of their car or as they left the hall.  He was not aggressive nor was he begging. He was just interested. He is the same old dog who used to come up to visit Frank at the shop every morning.  Frank would give him cake or some other treat that had reached its sell-by date or had just gone stale. Then the dog would sleep for a while. He always walked home in the middle of the road right along the white line until he reached his house.  Since Frank has been ill and the shop has been closed, maybe the dog has decided that evenings are a more sociable time for visiting the shop even if it is not open. Or maybe he comes in the morning and also in the evening. The section of the road with the white line is not a long stretch of road but it is long enough that anyone who drives it regularly knows that the dog on the white line has priority.

 


15 April Tuesday

It is more than ten years since someone started to paint the house in Irishtown. Maybe it is more than twelve years. It might even be longer ago than that. For as long as I can remember the house has had just this amount of blue paint on it. Someone started in the upper left corner and continued as far as the paint went and then they took a break and no one ever returned to finish the job. Painting this kind of pebble-dashed surface uses up a lot of paint. It demands a lot more paint than a regular wall. Maybe the person who began the painting thought he had enough paint for the whole house. Maybe he was not able to get the exact same colour mixed again. The person who began painting has not returned to finish it. Nor has anyone else. Now the house is empty. It is boarded up. Somehow there is still a freshness to the blue paint. It looks like the paint job might be completed any day now.

14 April Monday

A few good days of sun or even just one good day of sun and all of the summer clothes come out. Even if the next day is cold and wet and howling with wind, the summer clothes do not disappear. Or they do not disappear completely. This morning was warm. It was almost hot. But by afternoon it was raining and cold. The only people I saw in the shop were wearing rain jackets over heavy fleeces and sweaters. But they were wearing sandals with bare feet. Two women were admiring the brand new sandals worn by one of them. The one not wearing the new sandals said, “I know they would fit me. I know they would look well on me.” They laughed together and the one who was wearing the sandals looked pleased to be the one with the desirable new footwear. As the other one turned to leave the shop, she shouted, “I hope they’ll cut into you, so. Then you’ll have to give them to me!”

13 April Sunday

I have some tiny plastic tubes with one open end. They come with the little flossing brushes. They are for protecting the little brushes. If I go somewhere I can slide the brushes into the the tubes and then they will not get bent in transit. I rarely put the brushes into the tubes at home. I just line up the different sized brushes on the shelf. This morning I picked up one of the tubes which looked different than the other two or three. There was something in it. I banged it on the side of the sink. A little tiny slug had worked its way into the tube and could not reverse out. It was stuck. Most of the slug came out. Part of what I think was the head remained inside. I was busily trying to flush it out with water for several minutes before I questioned why I was doing it.  I did not want to re-use the tube that the slug had been in. I threw it away.
Even with the erratic weather and the cold nights, I could tell that winter was finally over. Things in the bathroom are sort of protected by the cold weather but nothing is ever completely safe. Once the slugs have made their way back in there is nothing that they won’t ooze and creep over on their way to somewhere else. Nothing is safe. On the whole I would rather not know where they have been.

Repeal the Eighth

11 April Friday

I am wearing my Repeal the Eighth badge wherever I go. I wear it out walking in the fields when there is no one to see except the birds and the cows. I wear it to the shop and the post office and to anywhere I go. I wear it to town and I wear it to the market. I wear it up the boreen and down the boreen. Actually we have five or six different badges.  We both make sure we never leave the house without one. Most people never say a word about it either way.  Most people never say a word but I see that their eyes notice the badge.  My position is registered.  The Eighth Amendment is being discussed everywhere on the radio, TV and in the papers but in the country, people are reluctant to speak about it out loud.

10 April Thursday

Treasa was sort of singing today but it was not singing with words it was singing a tune with some syllables. She said she was only Lilting. Lilting being just that: singing without words but singing a tune nonetheless. Maybe this is a normal expression. Maybe it is just a word I have not heard used quite like this. Maybe it is just herself that calls it that.

9 April Wednesday

I took fresh rhubarb and custard down to Tommie and Margaret. It was not stewed rhubarb. The pieces were still firm and they were gently cooked with a bit of molasses. Tommie was in hospital for 6 days. He has been back home for a week now. Yesterday he had his stitches removed. He was disturbed that he had thought there were eleven stitches but the doctor told him there were actually twelve stitches. He said they were small and his eyes are not so good but still he did not like to have it wrong. He was upset to have learned that Ian had sold the house. The house was on what had been Tommie’s land where his old house had been. The new house was not his house and the land was not his land anymore, but he had been up and down feeding the cats for years and years whenever he was asked to do it and a lot of times when no one asked but he worried anyway about the cats starving. It was still his place even though it was not his place anymore. He has had an emotional tie for too long to not be considered in any changes. He said that he felt Aggrieved that he had not even been told that the house was sold. He was Aggrieved about the miscount of his stitches. He was Aggrieved about no one telling him about the new residents in the house. He was also Aggrieved that he was not allowed to drive for another 6 weeks. Once he started to say the word Aggrieved he could not say it often enough. He was glad to see the rhubarb. Tommie loves rhubarb. He was glad for the distraction.

7 April Bank Holiday Monday

There is blossom everywhere. Stitchwort. Forget-me-not. Primrose. Hawthorn. Gorse. Bluebell. It seemed like spring would never come but now that it is here, it is everywhere.

5 April Saturday

Stella told me that the usual place for a safe is inside in the Hot Press. If a person is going to install a safe in their house for important things like papers and money and jewellery, the place where they always put the safe is in the floor of the Hot Press. The Hot Press is the airing cupboard. It is the place where the hot water tank is located. Most people have some shelves built into the Hot Press. If you have shelves in the Hot Press you can put sheets and towels and clothing in there when they come in from the washing line. Things can be put inside the Hot Press until they are thoroughly dry or maybe until they are ironed. The sheets and towels may never go any further. The Hot Press often becomes the permanent storage place for these things. The trouble is that the burglars know that if a household has installed a safe anywhere, then the Hot Press is the place to find it. If a burglar locates the Hot Press, he will locate the safe. Stella said of course not every house has a safe but a burglar won’t know that until all of the clean and dry folded towels and sheets have been pulled out and thrown onto the floor and probably stepped upon. Stella said this is almost the worst thing about having your house broken into. She said the things that get damaged in the looking and looting are the real pity. The things that are gone are just gone. She said that it is a sad job to wash a bunch of sheets and towels all over again just because someone stepped on them.

3 April Thursday

We climbed the stile and walked over Joe’s fields. From a distance, they looked green and grassy and inviting. It had not rained for a few days but the ground was all churned up from the cows being in those fields in recent weeks. The holes were big. It would have been easy to break an ankle. Some of the holes were just empty. Some of the holes are just firm mud mashed down in the shape of a heavy hoof. Some are full of pee. At first I thought the wet holes were just muddy water but the cow urine mixed with mud and rainwater makes a different colour. It was not easy to walk across the fields. We lurched from lump to lump and hole to hole. It made for a clumsy and rollicking kind of walking. Simon took a stick. I would have been wise to take a stick too. When we reached the last hill up the track to the farm, the ground underfoot got worse. The dirt track was covered in manure. It was slippery and deep and it was hard to get footing. Luckily the distance was not great and the cows were not yet starting to walk down while we walked up. Joe had 10 new troughs piled up in his yard. They are cast from concrete and will soon be distributed out in the fields for drinking water. They are the newest thing. I have been seeing them appearing in the fields of other farmers. I guess this is a new development from the big black plastic ones which have been used for years.

Stuck in Inchicore.

1 May Tuesday

This May Day is gloomy and cold and rainy. It is a desperate day. I walked up the path and I was reminded that it is still wild garlic season. Every stage of wild garlic season is a pleasure. First there are the little shoots coming up and the bright fresh green colour is full of promise. Then the leaves push all the way up and they are a shiny darker green. That is when I think both the smell and the taste are the strongest and the best. Then the buds appear and the leaves lose a bit of their shininess. Slowly, the star-like flowers start appearing like little explosions. The leaves look duller but the flowers make it all look exciting. It tastes and smells good at every stage. I like walking up the boreen and stepping on it and smashing some down with my boots just so that I can walk in a cloud of the smell. There is nothing that is not good about the wild garlic season.

30 April Monday

I dropped some carrots on the floor. They snapped into pieces. Carrots are usually a bit bouncy. I think of carrots as rubbery rather than brittle. The floor in the kitchen is a stone floor. Most things break when they hit a stone floor. But it seemed odd to have carrots snap into clean halves like these did. I grated a few of the carrots for a salad at lunch. They were watery and completely without taste. I wish I could remember where I got these carrots because I do not want to buy them again.

28 April Saturday

Leaving Dublin on the bus with a man shouting into his phone. No one could read or sleep. No one could not listen.

“The bitch yeah you heard about it? Yeah she had her head out the window. She loved doing that she did but we went through a skinny bit of the alley backing down and her head hit a pole. Yeah yeah dead right away. Not even a bark. Hey who is this anyway? Paddy? Paddy Dorman? Who the hell gave you my number? Who do you think you are ringing me? Paddy Gorman or Paddy Dorman? Oh you’re that Paddy. Oh Sorry Paddy I thought you were the other Paddy. You know him yourself. He’s a a nuisance that one. 
We’re stuck in Inchicore. I’m on the bus and we’re stuck in Inchicore. We’re going off to Tipp to see The Wife’s mother. She’s down there already with The Mother. I’m with the The Son. On the bus yeah. She’s not well. Yeah I’ve got the grapes for the gift. Yeah Paddy we’re on the bus but we’re only in Inchicore. We’re going nowhere Paddy. We paid to go to Tipp but we haven’t got far. I’m in the bus now. Yeah we got on at BusAras. That’s where it starts but at this rate we won’t get to Tipp till Tuesday. You know yourself Paddy. Once you’re on the bus it’s like a trap . You can’t get off. You’ve got to go where you paid to go. It was 28 euro for the both of us Paddy. That’s what we paid and we’re only in Inchicore so in that kind of a way it’s an expensive trip but if we ever get to Tipp we’ll feel sure we’ve had our value for the money we will. We’ll feel glad Paddy to be somewhere else.”

25 April Wednesday

The swallows nest in the corner by my door is still in position from last year. The birds left and the nest remains. I have gotten used to it being there. I do not really see it anymore. But now there are birds everywhere. They are all flying around with bits of sticks and moss in their beaks. Nest building activity is manic even though the weather is colder than it should be. The weather is horrible. I think I should remove the nest from the wall before anyone decides to use it again. I do not know if swallows use a nest for a second time. Nor if other birds move into any old nest just for the convenience of not having to build their own. It was interesting to have the mother and the chicks in the corner for a while, but then I had to give up my room. I was driven away by the mother trying to protect her young. I would rather not go through all that again. By the time everyone had learned to fly there was crunchy excrement all over the door and the door handle and the step. I thought I could just pull the nest off today in passing but I think I will need a chisel. It is tightly welded to the wall with mud and bird spit. And since it is now raining and the rain is lashing sideways, I shall do it later.

24 April Tuesday

Celly Ryan was the name on the small van. It was a private bus service. The driver was standing near the van with the door open. He was waiting for his passengers to return. I think the vehicle could seat 6 or maybe 8 people. I wish I had stopped to ask the man what Celly was short for. Celestine? Celeste? I cannot think of a man’s name that might be shortened to Celly, but I am trying.

23 April Monday

A blue security van arrived while we waited at the station in Cork. The man driving it made a careful backing up to the door on the side of the station. It took him two or three tries to get into the exact right position. When he finished he was perfectly in line with the door so I assumed he would rush out of his van, do some efficient moves and take money in containers into or out of the station and then quickly drive away again. He got out of the van and took two small silver suitcases out of the special door. He also removed two pouches which he put under his arm. He walked around the van towards the station and then he met a man he knew. He put the two cases down on the back bumper of the van. It was a flat bumper and it easily held the two silver suitcases. The two men shook hands and then they both lit cigarettes. As they talked a third man came along. They all shook hands again and then they moved about ten steps away from the van until they were standing in the sunshine. The sun was warm on an otherwise cold day. It was warm in the sun and very cold in the shade. The driver kept the two pouches under his arm while he talked for about 20 minutes. He had his back to the van and the suitcases. The silver suitcases seemed to be forgotten. Two small boys came along. They each picked up a suitcase. One of the men saw the boys and nudged the driver. He turned his head and said, “Go away, Lads and leave my cases where they are.” The boys put the suitcases back on to the bumper and they wandered off. The driver stood in the sun for another 10 minutes and then he said good-bye to the two men. He went into the station with the pouches and the silver suitcases. He came out with some different things and he drove away. None of his activity seemed as imperative as getting the vehicle in an exact straight line with the door.

 

22 April Sunday

The cows are in the upper field. They are looking into our windows which means they are looking down and into our windows and watching us from an elevated position. It is not often that cows are in that field and when they are they are not always so interested in what we are doing. This group seem determined to catch our attention. They seem determined to want us to look back at them. This group is very interested in us. There might be one or there might be two or three or four and then they run off and away together and then two more come. I am always facing them from my seat at the table. I wave. I smile. I nod. I have no idea if any of this registers with them. We cannot eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without attracting an audience.