Sheep on a Lump
15 June Friday
The Irish flag down in the village near to the bottle bank looks like it is blowing in the breeze. It looks like it is blowing in the breeze all the time. Yesterday was a wildly gusty day and the edge of the flag got caught on a branch. Now the wind is no longer blowing but the flag is still in blowing position.
The roses on the side of the grass-roofed shed are better and more plentiful than they have ever been. We have never had so many in bloom all at the same time. The smell makes me dizzy when I walk past to my room. This is Kattie English’s Albertine rose. It is the only plant remaining from her life here, so I feel it is important to take good care of it and to keep it healthy. It is barely possible to cut these roses and to bring them into the house. They last a few hours and make a thick perfume in a room, and then they droop and die. They are best enjoyed where they grow.
Rhododendrons are in bloom all the way up into the mountains. They are late this year but they are as beautiful as ever. I am glad we remembered to drive up to see them. It is easy to wait a little while and then suddenly it is too late. The blossom do not last long. Shades of pink and lavender and purple line roads and paths. The sides of the hills glow with the soft colours. The rhododendrons in the Knockmealdowns are a much maligned pest. They have invaded and grown like weeds spreading everywhere and choking out a lot of other more indigenous plants. People speak in despair about these enormous invasive shrubs or trees. Some of them really are trees. They are big enough to be trees. Sheep farmers curse them. But for two weeks every year the rhododendrons are adored. Festivals are organized to go walking among the rhododendrons and millions of photographs are taken. When the two weeks are over we can return to worrying about how they are running rampant and taking over all of the other vegetation. And I shall not have to struggle with spelling the word rhododendron for another year.
11 June Monday
I overheard the woman in the shop saying that Shay had been Off Dagging. She said it again and again. She said that Shay had been Dagging Again. I feel I know a lot of local vocabulary and that even if I do not know exactly what a word means I usually know enough to be able to unearth its meaning. I think that context is enough for clues. I think that if I focus on the context I am certain to arrive at the correct definition. Knowing that Shay was Dagging Again just left me in quiet confusion. I had no idea what Dagging was nor where to begin in knowing what it was describing. I did not even know who the Shay that the woman was talking about was, so the fact that Shay was Off Dagging Again was an impossible thing to solve all by myself. I could not ask the woman because that would suggest that I had been eavesdropping which of course I was doing but I was not eavesdropping in a nosy kind of way. I was just standing behind the woman as I waited in the shop and she was talking loudly and for a long time. How could I not listen and how could I not pay attention? I could not leave the shop until she stopped talking and moved from the counter. I could only hope that the mystery of Shay and his Dagging would get solved before she left. I could not interrupt and ask what Dagging meant. Later I asked Breda for an explanation. She told me that Dagging was the same as Mitching. As a word, Mitching left me just as confused as Dagging. Eventually I learned that it was all about not going to school when one was supposed to be attending school. The English called it Skiving. We called it Playing Hooky or Skipping School. At least with Skipping School, the word School was included and that gave a major clue. Skipping attached to the word school made it obvious, at least to me. Dagging and Mitching and Skiving sound dangerous and exotic in comparison.
10 June Sunday
Day after day of sun and heat. It feels like we are living somewhere else. It is impossible to walk up the mass path as it is too hot to wear long trousers and long sleeves and there are too many nettles and brambles along the way to grab and rip at any unprotected skin. Walking must be done in other directions. And it has been dry for so long now that it is not just the farmers who are wishing for rain. The haying is getting done which is good but lawns are brown and the grass is not growing which is not good. I cannot believe that I am hoping for rain. The leaks in the roof have not been fixed yet although we do have a plan ready for the fixing. Why do I want to battle with rain running down the walls when I can have day after day of sun? The hedgerows are full of the cow parsley skeletons, the sticky weed is dying back and the wild honeysuckle is blooming.
9 June Saturday
Jim and Keith had some beautiful fat Egyptian garlics on their stand today. The garlics themselves are lovely and plump but the way that the green tops are woven together is what is really lovely. Every single person who sees the garlics reaches out to touch them and to comment upon them. The garlics are grown locally by one of the members of the Egyptian Coptic church which is located in what used to be a Catholic convent. The nuns lived there for years and they ran a school for girls. The nuns have mostly died off. Now the convent is the home for an order of Coptic monks. The garlics are grown by the monks or maybe by just one monk who brings them to the market and gives them to Jim and Keith to sell. I think he just gives them the garlics and he does not even ask for any money in return. Perhaps he has so many garlics that he just wants to share them. They are bigger than most garlic we ever get around here. The bulbs are more purple and they are milder. Every single person comments on the garlics and some people buy them saying that they never buy garlic but they feel that they need to buy this garlic. All of this enthusiasm annoys Keith. Sometimes he announces that Jim grows garlic too. It is like he is defending Jim’s garlic even though it is not really the same thing. Jim’s garlics taste good but they never look like a gift. They never appear with such presentation. They arrive in a jumble in a box and we buy them and we eat them and we enjoy them. The Egyptian garlic gets a lot of attention which is not solely about the eating.