The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: July, 2018

Put a Smile On It.

25 July Wednesday

The work goes on. Yesterday I found a strange curl of something on the floor. It looked like an enormous toenail. That is not possible. There is no animal with such a large toenail around here. Today a knot of wood fell to the floor. It appears that the toenail was a bit of bark from around the knot. Lots of things are falling from the ceiling. This will not stop until the banging and tapping and activity stops. Most of the time the radio inside the work van is on and loud so that Peter and Mark can hear it above the noise. With windows and doors all flung open we cannot escape. Indoors and out the noise of the work is everywhere.

 

24 July Tuesday

Yesterday Peter Ryan came to remove the side of the roof where the leak has been confusing us for two years. He removed all the slates. He said the roofing felt was so old that it was like lace. There was scarcely anything to it but anyway he left the felt on for overnight just so that we were not completely exposed to the sky. At 9.30 we got an unexpected heavy burst of rain. Rain poured into the kitchen. It was not so bad in the bathroom and not too bad in the big room. We still had all the water catching devices in place there. The kitchen leak was the worst. By the time we went to bed it had mostly stopped. Lucky for us it was not the proper all night rain which everyone has been longing for. In the morning, the floor was soaked and the newspapers were sodden. The buckets were full. Peter sent me to Clogheen to get the lead flashing from Corbett’s Hardware Shop. Then I was sent to the dump with the load of old roofing felt. He cannot put that in Joe Keating’s rubble hole, wherever that is. Peter will return with Joe’s tractor when the work is all done to scoop all the remaining roof rubble and old slates off the flat roof. In between my errands I have made endless cups of strong tea as well as lunch for Peter and Mark. There is not much time in a day in between my jobs. The heat is exhausting.

23 July Monday

Pa is not Dad. Pa is never Dad. Pa is short for the name Pascal. It is never used by a child as a name for a father.

 

22 July Sunday

People look for the ways to describe the damage being done by the ongoing drought. It is a variation of grumbling. Our little concrete water trough is empty. It was made by Johnnie Mackin and rolled down the Mass Path from his house to ours. Nigel Browne rolled it down the hill through the mud and over rocks and branches and holes.  He offered to do it but later he wished that he had not offered as it was a difficult job to get it from there to here. He rolled it three-quarters of a kilometer.  It has been sitting where it is for at least twenty years.  It is empty for the first time in all those years.  The trough is not deep. The whole thing only comes up to below my knee but it has always been full of water. Rain water collects in it. Dogs drink out of it. Sometimes I use it to water nearby plants. Now it is empty. It is devoid of water. The bright green moss around the top edge has turned to brown. There was an inch of scummy muck in the bottom of the trough but already that is drying out and getting crunchy. It is as good a time as any to clean out the drying muck.

21 July Saturday

The three children often play their instruments and some music at the Farmer’s Market. They are all about twelve. There is a box on the ground for people to toss in money.  The money is being collected for the hospice. The girl and one of the boys nod and smile at people as they play their tunes and they nod when people throw coins into the box. The other boy sits straight and plays his banjo with skill but he never acknowledges the audience or anyone at all. His face is serious and sort of miserable. Glum. I thought perhaps I was maybe the only one who noticed it. Today the mother of the banjo playing boy was despairing.  She was at the Apple Farm stand. She said “How I wish he would smile. The very least he could do is Put A Smile On It, but he just cannot.”

20 July Friday

The dry weather continues. The land is bleached out. There is a lack of green everywhere. There is a sense of desperation. There is no grass growing so the cows who should be eating off the fields are eating nuts and feeds that they would usually be eating in the winter. There is worry about what they will be eating in the winter. Everyone likes the warm days but there are all kinds of conversations constructed around the idea of rainfall at night. Many people favour the time between 12 and 6. Or between 2 and 6. Or between 3 and 5. Everyone has a theory for the time they think a nightly rain will do the most good for the land and the least disruption for the summery weather. Everyone has a theory about how very good it would be for everyone and how it would solve the problems of drought but still leave us living in this holiday climate. Farmers and gardeners and cows are all suffering from the heat. Such heat is nearly unheard of. They are saying that it has been fifty days now. I have heard fifty days repeated several times. Surely it should be fifty-two days now. Or fifty-three.

18 July Wednesday

We boarded the ferry and walked up from the car deck on level 5 to level 7 where there were seats and tables and toilets and the shop and food, etc. The first thing we saw as we came out of the stairwell was an elderly lady sitting exactly opposite the door. She had fluffy white hair and a round pink face. I could not see her face completely because she was holding a book right up in front and close to her eyes. The name of the book was TIBET IS MY COUNTRY. The woman was reading with complete concentration.  She was not paying any attention at all to the people arriving out of the stairs and off the lift with bags and books and pillows brought from their cars for the four hour journey across the Irish Sea. She was oblivious to all of the people and the bustle. She looked like she had been sitting there all day which she could not have been because the boarding had not been going on for too long. I think she must have gotten off the lift and sat on the bench in exactly that position so that she would not have far to go when it was time to disembark. Perhaps the people she was traveling with placed her exactly there for that very reason. We wandered off and found our own place to read and sleep and pass the journey. When the announcement came for the car drivers and passengers to return to the car deck and to their cars we saw her again. She was in exactly the same spot and the book was still held up close to her face. Another woman who was waiting to go down the stairs said in a kindly voice: “It must be a savage good book? You have scarcely looked away since you got on board.” The reading woman said “Yes. It is a fine book. I am obliged to return it to the library tomorrow morning but I will never finish it in time if I am forced to stop and speak with strangers.”

Advertisements

In the Low Countries by Stuart Mills

 

30 June Saturday

As we were leaving Dungarvan, I saw a boat in someone’s front yard.  It was not a big yard so the boat was, by necessity, close to the house.  It was raised up high and surrounded by scaffolding.  It did not look like anyone had been working on it for quite a long time. Both the scaffolding and the boat were rusting. I could not help but be reminded of this wonderful poem (written in the early sixties, I think) by our late friend Stuart Mills:

 

In the Low Countries

 

They are building a ship

in a field

much bigger than I should have thought

sensible.

When it is finished

there will never be enough of them

to carry it to the sea

and already it is turning

rusty.

 

 

29 June Friday

There is an active and busy wren’s nest right beside the kitchen door. It is well camouflaged with moss and built right into the ivy. It would be invisible if there was not such a lot of rushing and zooming in and out. I am spending a lot of time watching, but all the time that I am watching, I try not to look like I am watching. I am being watched at least as much as I am watching.

 

28 June Thursday

A victualler is a butcher. I love this word. It is specific and mysterious and old-fashioned all at the same time. I never get used to seeing it. I never hear anyone saying it out loud but some butcher shops have the name carved in stone on the front of the shop.

27 June Wednesday

A Community Alert text came through saying that someone had broken into the Grange National School over the weekend. The Garda were asking for anyone with information about the break-in to be in touch with them. The vandal or vandals used a big thick black marking pen to draw large pictures of bulls with enormous erect penises. There has been a lot of discussion about the break-in and the vandalism. Mostly people feel sad and disgusted by the damage to the windows and the general lack of respect. But within the discussions there are people who are impressed and maybe a bit proud of the careful and anatomically correct drawings. This is an agricultural community. People feel it would somehow be much worse if the kids with the markers did not even know the difference between a bull and a cow.

26 June Tuesday

Yesterday at about seven o’clock, I went up to a gun range in the Knockmealdowns. I have never before been to a gun range. I have never fired a gun. I have no interest in guns. Breda and Greg had rounded up a group of walkers complete with boots and walking poles and backpacks to walk some of the trails and over the river while a photographer took some pictures. I was there out of sheer nosiness, as were several of the other friends. I filled my backpack with bubble wrap. There was no need to carry anything useful or important. It was just an evening stroll. Tommie O’Donnell runs the gun range on part of his eighty acres. He also has sheep and fields of hay. Maybe he has cows too. There are some good walking trails that climb through the forests. He is happy to have walkers going through his land to get access to the mountains beyond. He has set up a bar and function room so that people can have parties with music and dancing. There is plenty of parking. I assume no one would be shooting when the walkers are about but I do not really know. The shooting areas are very carefully divided up and off in special areas. We were shown the target shooting places and some hides as well as a dug-out which hid men like de Valera and Collins during the uprising. We stood around on some slippery stones in the middle of the river pretending to study a map while the photographer took photos. The map was a map of Wicklow but the photographer was not close enough to be able to see that. The photographer told us that he was not a professional anyway. He was only a hobbyist photographer. In his real life, he is a paramedic and he trains other people to be paramedics. He was helping Tommie with the photographs as he is a member of the gun club himself.  He enjoys coming out to do target practice with one of his several guns. The photos were for a brochure which is being made to publicize the whole place.  We were served tea in the function room before we left as if we had just had a real walk and had worked up real thirsts.