The Bottoms

by ericavanhorn

30 August Thursday

I am wrong again. I was certain that the name Haulie was the nickname for a man who moved whatever people needed moved.  He moved things like hay, silage, topsoil or stones with his tractor or his truck. I had no doubt that Haulie’s name came from his occupation. Peter has now informed me that Haulie is a nickname that comes from the Irish name Mícheál. The name is pronounced MEE-HAUL. MEE-HAUL to Haulie a logical development.

29 August Wednesday

It is still August but already the mornings are wet. The evenings are cool and the nights are cold so the mornings are wet with dew. Stepping outside to collect the breakfast raspberries is a different job than it was even a few days ago. Every morning I slip on my Wellington boots and go out with my bowl. Sometimes I take a cup of tea with me. Each time I reach in and underneath the leaves to take a berry my sleeve gets wet. Then the sleeve gets wetter. My dressing gown soaks up the water like a sponge.
I could gather my breakfast fruit in the evening or afternoon. I could collect a bowl of both raspberries and blackberries and they would be dry and I would be dry and breakfast would be a different breakfast.

27 August Monday

The Post Office committee is silent. I had a long talk with John. He explained the path of closures: Tooraneena is to close. Ballymacarbery is to stay open. Newcastle is to close. Ardfinnan is to stay open. Clogheen is to close and Ballyporeen is to stay open. It is a straight but wiggly line. It continues throughout the entire country like this. There are 400 post offices slated for closure. If the postmistress or postmaster retires or dies there is an immediate death sentence for that Post Office. No one is allowed to take over a Post Office. No rescues are considered.The couple in Tooraneena who have been running both the post office and the pub out of their house are now 70 years old. They want to retire. No one in their family wants to take over the job anyway. The village is tiny. No post office in any of these villages means quite a drive for anyone who lives there to get their pension or dog license or to pay their bills or anything else. This is a huge problem for people who do not drive. There is little or no public transportation to accommodate this problem.

26 August Sunday

I have always called the Keatings’ pasture the low meadow or the water meadow because it is the lowest piece of land in our immediate view. It has the stream running along one side of it. In very wet seasons the whole place is soggy because water runs downhill from both sides and it all settles there. Now I am told this is not called a water meadow. Nor is it a low meadow. This kind of field is called The Bottoms.

25 August Saturday

The hedgerows are heavy blackberries. They are full of blackberries and full of honeysuckle. The blackberries do not seem to have slowed down with the lack of water this summer. Long tendrils of brambles reach out and grab at me when I walk or drive by. I spent an hour walking up one side of the boreen and down the other side. I clipped off the long thorny bushes which were the grabbing ones. In between clipping I ate a lot of berries. There are many different kinds. Someone told me that we have 30 different kinds of blackberry variations growing. I do not know if there really are that many but there are a lot. Most of them are plump and sweet. Every so often I eat a desperately sour one by mistake. I was happily picking and eating and clipping when I heard a terrible screech just on the other side of the ditch. One of the scruffy farm cats came bursting through the bushes and smashed into me. She was startled and I was startled. We both made squawking noises at the moment of impact. She took off at speed. I continued picking and eating and clipping my way towards home.

24 August Friday

An elderly couple came into the shop. The girl at the counter ran around the place and collected the things they needed. The woman announced each item one at a time. Both the man and the woman were badly bent over. They both leaned heavily on their sticks. The woman was the worst. Her head was bent down well into her chest and her back was bent over too. Without the help of her stick, she would be unable to stand. She would just fall over. It was difficult to hear her voice because she was sort of talking down into herself. She could not project her voice any better. She said something into her chest and then the man repeated it. He said, “Did you say you wanted The Milk, Mary?” And then he repeated that to the girl at the counter. He said, “Mary wants The Milk so.” The girl ran to collect it. It was taking a long time to get all of the things but the girl was willing and eager to help. She was cheerful the whole while. When they finished with the edible items, the man said that Mary wanted a mop. The girl asked Mary if she wanted the Hairy One or the Spongy One. The man repeated the question to Mary who gave her muffled answer. The man said that Mary wanted the Hairy One. I was ready to leave the shop but I had to wait to see what kind of mop the Hairy One was. It was the old-fashioned kind of mop made of long stringy pieces of white rope. It is the kind of mop that is very heavy when it is wet. It is difficult to squeeze out and it is hard work to use. The white rope turns to grey after the very first use. Hairy was the perfect way to describe it.

23 August Thursday

Last night our Post Office committee met for the first time. I rushed off to the meeting with a pad of yellow paper and three pens (one a green Sharpie for the colour of An Post) and an initial list of nine ideas for publicising the campaign. I had a plastic folder to carry all my things in. I was ready. Simon and I designed a badge and we researched where to get badges produced inexpensively. I had all the information. I could not wait to get going on turning this closure decision around. I came home completely depressed. I could barely speak. Apparently local attitude is very negative and the committee did not feel it worth while to go forward without a meeting with John. The post office is located inside the shop so apparently there is a feeling locally that the family are getting something out of the deal. There is resentment and distrust. I have been told about the Irish problem of begrudging any good fortune of a neighbour. This is a really ugly example. I am stunned. It seems that few care about the Post Office. One committee member said that no one his age uses the post office. He could think of no reason to go to it ever. I wondered why he had volunteered to be on the committee. Suggestions to put things in the newspapers were met with the same kind of dismissal from him. No one who is young reads a newspaper. We know that we need to use social media in all of its forms but no one wants to start anything until we know where we stand with the local opinion. Our petition is printed up in multiple copies and ready to go. No one wants to distribute them nor go door to door with them until we have answers to the questions that we will be asked while asking for signatures. There is also the problem that if you write your name on a petition everyone else will see it and know that you have written your name on that petition.
Ger told us that the 18 September, the day for the Big National Protest March in Dublin against all of the Post Office closings, is exactly when the National Ploughing Competitions will be taking place. Rural Ireland will all be at the Ploughing. They will not be in Dublin marching to save their Post Offices.
I loaned Mairéad a pen to take a few notes. Everyone had their phones on the table in front of them. I was the only one with a pen. That was the least of the problems. I came home depressed. I went to bed depressed. I woke up depressed.

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