Squaring A Pusher
2 October Tuesday
While working to appeal the Post Office closure, I was told about one man who lives alone way up the mountain. He buys one stamp each week when he comes down to the village to get his messages. He buys a single stamp and he posts a card to himself. I do not know if it is a post card or a folded card in an envelope. I do not know what he writes on the card. Maybe he does not write anything on it. The post man delivers the card to the man’s house the next day or the day after that. This means that at least one day a week the man has someone call to his house which means that he is not always alone. The postman of course would notice if he is not there to receive his post. Hopefully the postmistress too will have noticed if he has not arrived to buy his weekly stamp.
30 September Sunday
There were five small pheasants on the lawn this morning. I did not see the mother. They stayed for a long time rushing back and forth in a group not really going anywhere. There are raspberries still to pick, but not so many now. It is best to pick in late afternoon. I can collect enough to provide two good bowls full for breakfast. The days are warm again. The raspberries ripen as the day heats up. The figs are long gone. Blackberries are not gone but they are almost gone. Apples are everywhere but they are not the best apples ever. The drought has made for disappointing dry apples. We have walked up through the Mass Path several times. The Mass Path has been impassable all summer. Now the brambles and things are dying back. We can trample on some of the stuff still in the way. Waving a heavy stick is helpful too. It is a completely new place to walk after so many months. The best blackberries are up at the top by Johnnie’s orchard. Crab apples are all over one section of the path and they make for deadly walking. This happens every year and it is always treacherous. No amount of experience can make walking on the hard little apples easier. It is like walking on ball bearings.
27 September Thursday
Jim invited me to do a reading for a local group of retired business people. I was happy to oblige. Today was the day. I went to Raheen House at 10.30 in the morning. The group gathered and drank coffee and ate biscuits and chatted with one another for about half an hour. I was introduced to several of the members. I drank coffee and chatted too. There were about eighteen men and two women there. All of the men wore clean pullover sweaters over freshly ironed shirt collars. One man wore a tie and a jacket. I was glad I had worn my blue dress. After the coffee time, I did my reading. There were lots of questions and comments afterwords. Jim told me afterwards that usually no one says a word except thank you when the speaker is finished. People were eager to tell me expressions that I might not have heard yet. They were also pleased to hear these expressions used again themselves. One man said that his uncle had taken him to Tipperary town and to Limerick Junction when he was thirteen. This was a far distance and a big outing for him. The journey was memorable. He saw a young man talking to a pretty girl on the pavement in Tipp Town. His uncle explained that the man was Squaring a Pusher. That meant that he was courting the girl. A Pusher was an term from the dance halls. It was only used about females.
26 September Wednesday
The letter of appeal concerning the closure of the Newcastle Post Office has been completed and sent to the Independent Reviewer at An Post. All of the petitions have been collected and sent along with the letter. We were thrilled that more than eight hundred people have signed the petition. Letters from various small businesses and civic organisations have been written and included as support materials. Our committee will hear something back in 28 days. The Post Office is scheduled to be closed at the end of December. We did not have very much time to appeal nor to research and publicise our plight. We only had a few weeks. If we were to begin now we would all know so much better how to do this. I hope we have done enough.
24 September Monday
The holes in the road in front of O’Dwyer’s farm have been filled in and repaired by the council. I have been swerving around them for several weeks now. We have all been swerving around them. There are different movements for when I am driving down the road and for when I am driving up the road. It has been terrible to forget sometimes and to drive right through them as the holes were deep. Slamming down into them is not good for the tyres nor for the axle. Seamus told me he had filled the holes up with gravel twice but of course that only worked until the next heavy rain. Then all the gravel got washed out. We spoke about these holes before they got repaired. Now that the job has been done we are still talking about them. Not having to swerve around the holes is as big a shock as falling into them by accident.
23 September Sunday
Everything has been chaotic. The bathroom has been torn apart. The bathroom has been unusable. The bathroom has been remade and put back together again. The kitchen has been full of tools and materials. The kitchen has also been unusable. Nothing could be piled nor left outside the door because the weather was so bad. The entire house has been uninhabitable. In addition to the manure and rain and the wind, it has been unseasonably cold, but the door has been wide open all day every day. I have had to sleep at Joan’s house but I have returned each day to witness the progress and to run errands for Peter while he worked. And to shovel manure. Simon left the country. He left me with all of this mess. It was clever of him to leave. When all of this is done it will be the end of the two years of leaking and indoor puddles and black-stained walls and repaired ceilings and all of it. Repairing the roof was just one thing. The World’s Largest Spice Rack has been screwed back onto the freshly painted wall. I hope this will be the last thing. I have had a wretched time.
20 September Thursday
The terrible winds continue. The winds are constant and noisy. Today rain is lashing down. As the wind changes direction, the rain changes direction. It is impossible not to get wet. It is not easy to keep a hat on. Cows broke in from somewhere. Or cows broke out from somewhere. They must have come and gone in the night. They were all over the yard and all over the car parking area. It was not possible to step out of the car without stepping in a dollop of manure. Manure was everywhere. As soon as it was stepped in, it was tracked around everywhere else. I got a shovel and tried to move it out of the way of the workmen’s boots in order to keep it out of the house. There is enough mess and dust in the house. Shoveling heavy clumps of manure and gravel in the bucketing rain was difficult. I could only toss my shovel loads onto the side of the gravel parking place. If I threw it into the grass the gravel would play havoc later with the lawnmower blades. It was lucky for me that the cows that invaded were young. They must have been young. The cow flaps were not big. There were a lot of them but they were not huge ones and the holes in the grass from the hooves were not too big either. The cows knocked down garden chairs and made a general mess but then they went away. I do not know whether they went up the boreen or up the Mass Path. I do not even know whose cattle they are. I did not even ask. I do not care. I am just glad that they went away.
18 September Tuesday
The left rear tyre had been losing air. I filled it. It was fine for a few days or for half a day. Then it went squishy again so I filled it again and then it was fine for three days. Then I filled it and it went squishy in an hour. This went on for a week or so. I went down to Anthony yesterday to get it checked. He promised to look at it while I went for a walk. I only went as far as the Holy Well. The wind was strong and wild. I struggled to stay upright in the open gaps between trees. The sheep and the cows were all pressed tight against bushes and along the edges of fields. Anthony’s son found a screw embedded in the tyre. The screw was causing a slow leak. He removed it and patched the hole. Hopefully this patch will last for a while. As I left the village a man in a high visibility vest stopped me and pointed to a tree that was cracking and making terrible noises. He said it was going to come down with the wind. He said it could come down at any minute. He said I could make a run for it. I could race along hoping that it did not fall while I am underneath it or I could drive away and around one very long circuitous route or another. I asked him what I should do. I asked him what he would do. He said he would Put The Boot In and Go For It. He said that even if he got hit by the tree it would be worth it for the Craic. I was not sure I agreed with his logic. I was not interested to be killed in my car by a falling tree just for an adventure. But I Put the Boot in and rushed past the tree. I immediately felt smug to have escaped unscathed. It was probably stupid. Today I see that the tree has indeed fallen down. It has already been cut up and cleared from the road. The wind is up all over the country. Things are falling and breaking and blowing everywhere. There is damage and there are huge numbers of people without electricity. I think if it were today I would not feel so brave about driving under the breaking tree but yesterday it felt like an exciting option.
17 September Monday
Kitty wiggled her bottom. She moved the chair cushion. She pushed the cushion around again and again to make herself comfortable. She looked over at me watching her. She is a small woman. She reminded me of a dog or a cat getting herself settled. She said, “I am fond of myself.” This is what people say as they try to get settled on a chair.
15 September Saturday
I am not much of a fan of ironing. Neither is Simon. We do not own an ironing board. My version of ironing is to hang out the washing on a windy day. Or to leave it hanging for an extra day or two until a good breeze comes along. When I do need to iron something, I put a towel down on the table. It is never a very satisfactory way to work because when I iron the one side of a garment I am inevitably ironing creases into the other side. Simon has taken to having his shirts washed and ironed by a lady in Cahir. She is Lithuanian and her name is Regina. Regina and her daughters do a lovely job. The daughters insist on carrying the ironed shirts out to the car and laying them down gently and carefully in the back. We know that the woman’s name is Regina but she never remembers our names. The finished ironing is labelled with a handwritten piece of paper: ENGLISH MAN.