19 December Thursday
The fence has fallen down. It has been propped up many times, first from one side and then from the other side. I think this is the end. The posts are rotten from the bottom up. The rain and the mud have won. The wild strong winds of last night were the final straw. The wind just blew the fence down. There is no way it will ever stand again. The west of the country was badly hit by these winds. Losing our already wobbly fence is not much of a problem in comparison. Even the little stile step has given up.
18 December Wednesday
After living here these many years, I still say Seven Thirty instead of Half Seven. And the day after Christmas is just the day after Christmas. But I cannot say that out loud. It is yet another example of how I get things wrong. The day after Christmas is Stephen’s Day or it is St. Stephen’s Day. If I were to say it is Boxing Day that would be incorrect because that is what the English call it. No one here says Boxing Day. And no one says Merry Christmas. It is Happy Christmas. Happy not Merry. Merry would mark me as from somewhere else, as if my accent does not already do that. Nor do I call the Nativity scene The Crib. If I speak of it at all, I would call it the Nativity or the Manger. No one says The Manger. It is always The Crib. The Baby Jesus is in The Crib. The whole scene with the shepherds and the kings and Mary and everyone else is called The Crib. And when people say that they will see me in the New Year they punctuate their good wishes by saying Please God or God Willing. These are two more expressions that are not in my vocabulary. I am consistently marked by the things I get wrong.
17 December Tuesday
I asked for black ink cartridges. The woman in the small shop had blue ink cartridges. She had no black ink. She said, “Blue is the correct color for ink. There is no one alive who needs to write with black ink. No one in their right mind would use black ink. Blue is the color for ink.” She was so vehement that I bought the blue ink cartridges even though I did not want them. I wanted black ink. I still want black ink. Now I will have to wait until I use up the blue ink before I can move back to black ink. I am going to make myself use the blue ink. Just to think about it again and again. I shall write a lot and frequently with that pen until I use up the blue ink. Luckily I only bought the one packet. And I will have to find a different shop.
16 December Monday
Adrian was weighing some parcels for me in his post office cubicle. A man was behind me waiting for his turn at the counter. He was not directly behind me but he was over near the bird seed and the dog foods just looking at things in a relaxed manner. It was not like being in line but it was obvious to both him and to me that he was next and anyway we were the only people there. The radio in the shop was playing some Christmas music. The man was facing towards the bird nuts with his back to me when he started to sing along with the carols. As he got warmed up his voice got louder and he began to harmonize. He sang in a beautiful voice. When I was finished I nodded to him and said “Thank you for the singing.” He nodded back and continued to sing as he walked over to the counter. The song on the radio was not over yet so the man did not stop singing until the song came to an end.
15 December Sunday
Laurence has been in and out of hospital and now he is at home again. He looks frail but he seems happy to be back. I asked John how his father was doing and he answered that “He’d want to be as Good as he is.”
14 December Saturday
Jim found mouse droppings in his bag of oats. He likes to be the one to prepare the porridge every morning. He makes the porridge for himself and for Margo. Margo is the Polish woman who is living in the house as a carer for Jim. Her real name is not Margo but not one person could pronounce her Polish name so Jim called her Margo. Now everyone else calls her Margo too. Jim is 93 and he cannot be alone at night. Margo has her own rooms upstairs and she is there Just In Case there is a need for her. When Jim found the mouse droppings he said that it was a fiddly job to separate them from the oats. He said that he did not mind that a mouse had been in the oats but that he himself would not be the one to pick out the droppings. He told Margot that this would be a good job for her. He told her that she could separate all of the mouse droppings from the oats and he would stick to the more pressing job of preparing their porridge for breakfast.
13 December Friday
A few years ago, Joe devised a new and sort of rigid system of keeping the gates drawn across so that the cows can move from the field to the yard or from the yard out into the fields. When the gates are pulled across and blocking the car passing, it is inevitably a wet day. It is always a muddy and mucky mess at the top by the farm and it is never the kind of day when I want to get out and go to find someone to open the gates. I could do it myself but that would assume that I am wearing boots and that I do not mind walking in the muck. I always have the wrong sort of shoes for that job and anyway I rarely want to fill the inside of the car with mud and manure. In recent weeks, there has been a new man working with Joe. I assume he is Polish. But he might be Latvian or Moldovian or even Lithuanian. He is definitely Eastern European. He was very cheerful when I needed the gate opened today and then when I came back a little later and the gates were still blocking me he was cheerful again. His English is poor but he told me to just lay on the horn and he would come to open up for me. “No problem.” He said and he repeated: “No problem.”
When the post man finds the gates across the road he uses it as an excuse to not drive down the boreen. He just marks on the letter Gates Locked and that gives him permission to leave our post in the van overnight or even for several nights.
12 December Thursday
We entered the airport through the arrival doors and we were hit with a blast of noise. There was Irish music playing loudly on some kind of CD player or portable sound system and a row of five children in school uniforms dancing energetically. This was a welcome home performance for the many people arriving home from far away for the Christmas holidays. At a pause in the music, the five dancing children were shoved out of the way by another five children who took their places and danced and jigged like mad with their hands on their hips and big smiles on their faces. Another group pushed them roughly out of the way and they began to dance. This continued for as long as we watched. Then we were pushed out of the way by the next group of people off another flight coming through the arrivals door.