The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Month: July, 2019

Will I See You Out?

9 July Tuesday

Another batch of elderflower cordial has been bottled. This is the first time I have made several small batches over a few weeks. Ordinarily, I make one big batch. This year it was about gathering the blooms at the right moment and in bright sunshine. The weather was against me and then blossoms were often too high for me to reach. I hope I do not do it this way again. It is just as much work to make a small batch twice as it is to make a big batch once.

8 July Monday

Cars drive too quickly through the village. Tractors and farm machinery always go too fast, especially when they are getting in the silage which is what they are doing now. The days are not long enough for the work that must be done and there is always the possible threat of rain which will ruin the Getting In. The narrow roads are treacherous with speeding equipment. If there are several other vehicles pulled in or a delivery truck parked when one is ready to leave the shop in a car, it is not easy to see around them. This is a problem at any time of the year. It is worse with speeding tractors on the move.  It is nearly impossible to see if something is coming from either direction. A person walking out of the shop or arriving and getting out of their own car will offer to check the road for the person attempting to depart. He or she will say “Will I see you out?” Or “I’ll see you out then.” That means they will stand in the road and look both ways and signal or shout when it is safe to back out. It is the polite thing to do and it is much appreciated. We all do it for one another.

7 July Sunday

I have been picking gooseberries. It feels like I have been picking gooseberries forever. The bushes just keep on producing. Every afternoon I sit on my box and I pick and pick and I pick and then I toss bags full of berries into the freezer. I am in competition with the birds. Often I am picking from one side of a bush while a bird is eating away on the other side of the bush. This is a battle and I am determined to win. I do not mind the birds having a good feed of fruit. I just want to be certain that I get more than they do. The thorns are sharp and painful. It feels like they are ripping me to shreds but at the same time, they never seem to pierce my skin. There is no blood but there is a bit of shouting and cursing as I get stabbed again and again. I think there are some kinds of gooseberries that have no thorns. Maybe these are new breeds. Even if thorn-less gooseberries exist, I am not going to plant any of them.  I already have too many gooseberry bushes. Today I have decided that I am finished with the picking. Whatever remains on the bushes is all for the birds.

6 July Saturday

Maureen got out of the car. She has been instructed to stand still for a moment so that she does not get dizzy by moving too quickly. Her friend stood close by. She was there to give Maureen an arm if needed, just until she got her balance.  Her friend squealed, “OhMyGod! Your glasses are filthy! It looks like you cleaned them with Mashed Potatoes!”

5 July Friday

I see Marie at least once a week. I do not know her well. I do not know her family or where she lives or anything like that. She used to work in the shop and then she trained to work at the Day Care Center. The pay is much better there and she loves working with the children. She is a cheerful person. We always greet one another and she always calls me Sally. I used to correct her and tell her my proper name, but I no longer bother. I just return her greeting and chat about whatever there is to be chatted about.

4 July Thursday

There are a lot of bees around the edge of the roof of the barn. They are just over the door. They have been there for several weeks now. We now try to enter and leave the barn from the opposite direction, but it does not really make much difference because the swarm is still just above and to the left of the door. We cannot ignore them but we can move quickly and quietly past them. It is a pity they did not choose to make a hive on the back side of the barn. They would have had more privacy and we would not be so aware of them. Their noise is loud. It is a little bit scary to go into the barn and a little bit scary to come out, but really I do not think it matters much. They are busy and they seem to pay us no attention at all. Anyone who sees or hears the bees advises us to get a beekeeper to come and take them away. The hive is well tucked up and into the eaves. I do not think anyone could get up and get them out without killing the lot. Since the bee population is in short supply all over the world, we feel it is best if we leave this community to just keep doing exactly what they are doing.

 

3 July Wednesday

The barley looks fine in the fields on both sides of the track. It moves constantly and gently with the smallest breeze.

2 July Tuesday

The woman stood in the middle of the road. It is not a busy road. It is a single track road with three houses on it. One of the  houses has been empty for four years. It is an extremely quiet road. The woman stood in the middle of the road watching as two painters were finishing up a bit of detail around her windows. She was admiring her freshly painted house from as far away as she could be which was not really very far at all. I was out for a walk. I do not know this woman except to say hello to. We exchange pleasantries like “It’s a desperate day altogether!” and “A Fine Evening, isn’t it!” But that is as far as we go. That is as far as we have ever gone. She used to have an elderly dog. I spoke to the dog every time I passed the house. He was deaf and blind and did not pay any attention to me.  Today the woman turned to me as if we were in the habit of discussing a great many things. She said, “It is looking well, isn’t it?” It was both a statement and a question. I replied, “Yes, indeed it does look well.” She nodded and said “Yes. I think it is looking well. I am happy how well it is looking.” If I had not seen the painters there I would not have known that the house had been painted because it was exactly the same colour as it was before it was painted.

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Any Stick You Could Buy In A Store

1 July Monday

Anthony has a bucket near the doorway of his premises. There is a thick piece of timber on the bucket to make it more comfortable. Anyone waiting to have a tyre repaired is welcome to take a sit-down on the bucket. Or someone who is walking by can take a seat and chat even if they are not having a tyre repaired or replaced. Today, I see that Anthony has added a red cushion.

 

30 June Sunday

I was walking up near Middlequarter and thought to take the path that drops down to the Holy Well. It was a bad idea as everything was heavily overgrown and I was wearing shorts. There were too many nettles to make such a walk pleasant or even possible, so I gave up. I was sorry as I have not been down there for a long time. There is not much to see. I am never certain how and why one little spring gets called a Holy Well and another does not. There are hundreds of Holy Wells around the country. Not all of them are signposted. Some are just known to be where they are by the people who know. Usually the water is believed to have curative powers. Sometimes a particular saint used a well and that made it holy. I must ask around for the story of this well, which does not look like a well at all. It is just a slab of stone with a trickle of water coming out beneath it. And at this time of year it is probably completely choked out with weeds and nettles.

 

29 June Saturday

We had just finished lunch when there was a tiny tap on the door. It was Tommie. He was returning the plate I had taken to him last week. The plate had been full of lemon cake and strawberries. Now it was empty and washed.  I was preparing strawberries to eat with cream just as he knocked so I offered him some. Tommie loves fruit. He loves all fruit but he especially loves summer berries. He refused a cup of tea but said yes to the fruit.  He sat down and we all three ate big bowls of fresh berries. Then we talked. Or Tommie talked. He told us stories of Real Life People. He told about a woman who could tell a lie and he said that whatever she said and whatever way she said it, it looked better than the truth. As he talked he swung his walking stick up above him and around in the air. He was pleased when we complimented him on the stick. It was a length of ash with the bark stripped off. It was not straight but it was strong. He said he preferred this stick to any stick you could buy in a store.

After an hour and a half, Tommie said he should be going. I walked him out to his motorcar. I was surprised to see that the passenger door was open and I was shocked to see Margaret sitting there. I asked him why he had not brought her into the house. He said it was because he had not meant to stay so long. I spoke to Margaret and said that she should have come inside. She said she was fine where she was, just sitting out and listening to the weather. I guess by weather she meant the little breeze. She is mostly blind and she cannot hear a lot, but she perhaps she was able to hear and see enough to enjoy the light wind and the birdsong. Her face looked terrible. It was black and blue and she had a big bandage on her forehead and another one around her forearm. Her fingers and her hand were all black and blue and swollen. She said she had had another fall. She said “This is just the way things are going, Girl. I recover from hitting the ground just in time to fall again.”

 

28 June Friday

Sharon moved away at least six months ago because the house she had been renting was being put up for sale. It was Mary Corbett’s cottage. Then it was The Murder Cottage. Dessie lived there next and it was still spoken of as The Murder Cottage. When Sharon moved in, she wanted to change the way people referred to her home. Living in a place where someone was savagely killed carries a tough legacy. She searched out a large flat stone and put some sticky vinyl letters on it. She renamed the place The White Cottage. The letters were quite small. The heavily varnished stone was leaned up against a tree so that it could be seen from the road.  We all tried hard to use the new name but The Murder Cottage remains the shorthand way to identify the place. The house has not sold yet. A man comes along and does some small jobs every few weeks to keep it looking tidy. When Sharon left, I thought maybe she had taken her naming stone with her but today I walked past the house and there it was lying flat on the top of the wall with most of its letters missing.

 

27 June Thursday

The fire station in Lismore is not large. I am not even sure that it is even wide enough to have a fire truck inside. There are two yellow firemen’s helmets hanging outside the station. The original plan must have been for them to be used as hanging baskets.  No one planted any flowers in the helmets this year, so there are just a few dead stalks.

 

26 June Wednesday

It was raining hard. Just as I turned to drive into the boreen I saw a young boy pressed against the stone wall. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was not waterproof. He was dripping wet and his hood was plastered tight to his head with the rain. I recognized him as the son of a neighbour a kilometer or so down the road. I think he is 12, or maybe 13. I stopped to ask if he wanted a lift home. He said no. I saw that he had a hatchet held in his hand. Maybe it was a hatchet or maybe it was an ax. It  was pressed close down along his leg. It might have been that he was trying to hide it from me. Or it might have been that he was trying to keep it from getting wetter. After I got home I mentioned him to Simon. He said the boy had been up and down past the house several times in the rain. Always carrying his hatchet. I have spent the rest of the day wondering if we should be worrying about this lad marching around with a hatchet.