Post Office Petitions

by ericavanhorn

31 August Friday

The Eircom man came down into the yard in a big white van. He stayed in the van and talked down to me out the window. He said he was out testing the poles. He was surprised to find us at the end of the boreen. He had no idea that there was a house down here and he had no idea there were so many more poles that would need to be tested. What he thought might be a morning job was now an all day job or maybe a two day job. While he was talking to me he saw a movement on the stone wall. His voice dropped to a whisper and he asked “What is that? Over there on the wall —What is it?” It was the mink rushing and leaping across the wall with its very fluid body movements. The man was not breathing. He was excited. He said he had never seen such a thing.

1 September Saturday

I am a naturally parsimonious person. I do not like waste. When the toothpaste is getting difficult to squeeze out of the toothpaste tube, I cut the tube off with a pair of scissors. I cut close to the end with the screw top. I then scrape any remaining toothpaste into that end. I stand the cut-off tube on its top and I place a water glass over the whole thing. The glass keeps out any dust and insects. When we want some toothpaste we dip the bristles of the toothbrush into the remaining paste. There is usually at least a week’s worth of toothpaste for two people still in the tube. I like making this little apparatus for using up all of the toothpaste. I like using the dipping method. It is just as well that I did not mention that the glass over the top is also a way to ensure the slugs cannot get in. Last night I found a slug under the glass. It was not in the toothpaste but it was curled around the screw top. I am now in the position of having to reconsider this method.

2 September Sunday

There are grain spills everywhere. There are big grain spills and there are small grain spills. Tractors rush around trying to bring in as much of the harvest from this difficult dry season as they can.  The roads are dangerous with the speed and the size of the machinery. The spilled grain always looks good in sunlight.

3 September Monday

The man working in the grounds of the church offered to show me around. He said he had just started to work for the church the week before. He was proud of the small church. He found it very special and beautiful. The church was a Church of Ireland which he reminded me was for Protestants. He said that he himself was a Catholic but he said the people in charge did not seem to mind about that since they gave him the job anyway.

4 September Tuesday

Every time I leave the Post Office petitions somewhere I get into conversations about the difficulties and possibilities and practicalities of saving our Post Office. Several times every day I am told yet another version of the man down in County Cork who runs a tiny post office in a tiny tiny village. Sometimes as the story is repeated, the man is 82 and sometimes he is 85. Once he was 87. He is determined to keep his post office open even though he is too old for the job. He would like to retire but he knows An Post will use his retirement as an excuse to close the post office. He is a national hero. Each time the story is retold, people feel more and more proud of this stubborn elderly Postmaster.

6 September Thursday

Walking in the same tracks and fields every day offers a restful quality. There is plenty to observe in small changes. There is  plenty of time to think. I find it a surprise and a delight to find language in the landscape. There is a sign in the ditch on the way home. It is a notice for planning permission. Joe is seeking permission to build an underpass for his cows so that they can cross the road by themselves when they have been milked and they are on the way back to their current grazing place. Most of Joe’s fields are on the other side of the road from where his barns and his milking set-up are. The cows can only go so far and then they have to wait for him to finish the milking and come out to get them and open the gates so that they can cross the road. This underpass system for the cows is new to me. Apparently it is becoming very popular with farmers. The little notice for planning permission was not only a little something to read in the landscape but it is a whole new concept.  It is something to look forward to.

Almost all of the fields around have new concrete watering troughs scattered about in them. It looks like every farmer has these new troughs which are much heavier than the usual blue or black plastic ones of recent years. Maybe these last longer. Joe Keating is the only one whose new troughs have language on them. The name of the firm who makes and sells them and their phone number is spray stenciled on the side of each trough with red paint. It is an exciting thing to see and to read in the middle of green pastures.

7 September Friday

I am still dropping petitions in to various places. The conversations with each drop-off are animated. Today I attempted to leave some at the house of the hairdresser in Goatenbridge. She has no sign at her house but I was told that her name is Colette and that her house is the last one on the right before the duck pond. I could not find anyone at home nor anyone to ask so I went for a walk around the duck pond. It is a short circuit. Then I went off climbing the forestry paths for an hour and a half. On my return, there was still no one at the hairdresser’s house, if the house I had located was indeed the correct house. I went to the Glenview Lounge which is the only other business with a public face in Goatenbridge. The car park there has a glorious view over the valley and straight up the mountains and the glen. I could not believe how stunning it was. I could not believe I had never been there before. As soon as you enter the bar there is no view of the mountains. The outside does not exist when you are inside. There were two doors to enter. One door was labeled Lounge and the other door had no sign. I went into the Lounge. I was greeted by an older woman who was sitting at a table having a cup of tea from one of those shiny metal teapots. I explained my mission and she said that many people from Newcastle come over to Goatenbridge regularly to play cards. She said the villages have close connections. She called to a man behind the bar to take some petitions from me. He might have been her son. The bar was in the center so he could serve both the lounge and the other room from the one location. The woman said the post office in Newcastle was especially important since Goatenbridge has no post office itself. No post office. No shop. Just the bar. I wanted to tell them that Rose in the bar in Newcastle has been asking people to sign the petition before she will even serve them a drink. But I did not mention that. I just thanked them both and went back out to the amazing view.

8 September Saturday

It was lovely to wake up this morning after the heavy all night rain. The fields have that glowing almost florescent green colour that is nearly garish. It is a bright bright green that I never see anywhere else. We have not seen it for months and months. We have not seen it all summer.

9 September Sunday

A Church Gate Collection is a frequent event. Ordinarily two people station themselves at both entrances to a church yard or they have one person standing on either side of the gate if there is just one entry gate. These people are collecting for some worthy event or charity. This morning I went alone to Grange church to collect signatures for the Newcastle Post Office petition. I was not collecting money but names. I had never done this before. I got there early to be ready. I arrived at 9.30 for the 10 o’clock mass. The first person to arrive was the priest. I introduced myself and explained to him that I had rung the office on Friday to get permission to be there. My committee insisted that it is was only right to ask permission from the priest. He asked what I was collecting for and when I explained, he waved his hand in the air and said he was fine with All That. The person in the parish office had told me that he is a temporary priest while the regular priest is on sabbatical. The priest did not sign my petition. It was silly for me to attempt this job by myself. Everyone arrived sort of at the same time but by two different gates. I was running back and forth trying to catch everyone. I had four clipboards. Each one had a pen attached to it with red garden twine. I had a little table with another pen and more pages. I had a small sign on the table. My sign kept blowing over as it was a breezy morning. One woman said she would think about it, but everyone else signed with alacrity, if not with much hope. Grange has not had a post office for several years already ever since the branch in Frank’s shop closed. Everyone feels the absence of both the post office and of Frank’s shop. I got a lot of signatures but I did not get every single person. Some headed straight for the side doors. Apparently everyone has a regular route into the church and a regular place where they sit every week. By the time everyone arrived and entered the church there was nothing left for me to do. There were no more people. Everyone who wanted to attend mass was inside the church. Everyone else was at home. I loaded my table and my clipboards into the car. From my arrival to my departure, it was all over in 40 minutes.