The Bee Hive
24 January Friday
There was a gate. Was there a gate? Now there is no gate. Maybe there never was a gate? I see a stone wall cleared of any growth. Has the wall been recently rebuilt to compensate for a place where a gate had been? Or was the hedge covering the wall simply cleared? Passing the same place every day, and sometimes several times a day, I feel I should know exactly how these things are. The fields, the openings, the gates, and the ditches are all so familiar that I am confused. Once bushes grow up and around this wall I will not remember where the wall was and I will not remember my question about the space or the gate that might have been there. Or might not have been there. However it was will be lost within what it is.
25 January Saturday
Bright sun and deep mud. Somehow it is easier to struggle and slog in the mud up the Mass Path when the sun is out. When I came out onto the road at the top, I met PJ and his two dogs. Jessie, the Saint Bernard puppy, is growing bigger by the day. PJ nodded towards my muddy trousers and said, “You got taken”. I did not understand what he meant until he pointed out that by me falling into the mud, the mud had won. I got taken.
26 January Sunday
Margaret is still in the hospital. Tommie continues to be driven up and down to visit her in Waterford every other day. She had a kidney infection after the two hip operations so she was put into isolation. She went on hunger strike for a while. Well, it was not a hunger strike but she went off her food and she went off her food for long enough that it was a worry for Tommie and for the doctors and nurses. No one knew what to do to tempt her back into eating. Now she is eating again, but no one knows what made her change her mind and to begin eating again. Tommie figures she just got hungry. He worries each time that he goes to Waterford what he will find this time. He cannot do anything to help but he can worry. He put his foot down and refused to carry her decorated vase to the hospital. He is pleased that she seems to have forgotten about the vase.
He told me that he is very very weary. He said that weary is different than being tired. He is weary. He has decided to spend two or three days at home this week just to get himself rested up before the next journey to Waterford. When he is at home he gets many phone calls from people inquiring about Margaret. He gets worn out with having to explain everything. The telephone is near to the front door. There is a little seat beside the telephone table but it always has things piled up on it. Tommie has to stand up to speak on the phone so he never likes to talk for a long time. This is a telephone that is attached at its base with a twisted, tangled, and not very long cable. The hallway is a little bit draughty. This weekend he had a call from a former neighbour asking about Margaret. He was surprised that this woman was ringing as he did not know how she could even know that Margaret is in hospital nor did he think it was like her to be asking after Margaret. It was not a normal call. It was a call that puzzled him. He could not think how this woman knew that Margaret was unwell. He thought about it for a long while. He said he could not rest until he identified The Source of the information. Finally, he remembered that both woman went to the same hairdresser. He said he felt better knowing that he had located The Source.
27 January Monday
The battery died. It needed a neighbour and jump leads to get it going. The red cap covering one terminal of the battery was all chewed up. The black one was fine. That was not why the battery died but it was a messy surprise. As a result of the dead battery, I learned that rats are a big problem this winter. It is not just us. Noel O’Keeffe has had many cars coming into the garage with complaints of things not working. The answer is always rats. Farms are active spots for rats and it seems every farmer has had his engine invaded by the rats. There are chewed brake cables and fuel lines and any number of rubbery plasticky things under the bonnet all gnawed until they do not function correctly any more. All car problems keep coming back to the hungry rats. The garage has developed a rodent strategy. Blocks of poison have a hole in the middle. Noel’s mechanics are attaching the blocks with a loop of wire. The loop is fastened to something inside the engine so that a rat can be attracted to the block and he or she can nibble away at it and then hopefully go away and die. It is a clever system, but it will not be so good if the rat dies in the engine.
29 January Wednesday
The Bee Hive is a bungalow on the Dungarvon Road. It has not been open for as long as I have been here. The house is always referred to as the Bee Hive. There is no sign and there has never seen a sign but everyone knows it as the Bee Hive. There are two old petrol pumps outside. They have not been serving petrol for as long as I have been here. The inside of the bungalow used to have a room that served as a bar. All of the drinks were served in bottles or cans. There were no barrels or kegs and there was no refrigeration. I do not know if there was even an actual bar. There were drinks to be bought and chairs to sit in while drinking the drinks and petrol could be bought outside. The shade in the large window was up when the Bee Hive was open. If the bar and the petrol pumps were not open for business, the shade was pulled down. I have never seen a person going in or coming out of the Bee Hive. The building is kept tidy outside. The Dungarvon Road is a busy road. Few passing cars would even notice the pumps, much less stop expecting to buy fuel.
30 January Thursday
A lot of people are described as a A Good Few. Actually, a lot of anything can be A Good Few, not just people.
1 February Saturday
Today is the First Day of Spring. In Ireland. It is not the first day of spring anywhere else. Some people say it is The First Day of Spring because today is the halfway mark between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Others credit Saint Brigid. Brigid is the patron saint of a lot of things and today is her day. Her presence is good for crops and babies and farmers and printing presses and dairy cows and lots of other things. She is the patron saint of blacksmiths, boatmen, brewers, cattle, chicken farmers and children whose parents are not married. She is the patron saint for children with abusive fathers, children born into abusive unions, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, mariners, midwives, milk maids, nuns, poets and the poor. Poultry farmers, sailors, scholars, travelers and water men all come under her protection too. She is sort of an all-round helpful and hopeful saint. She is a good one to have on your side. Most years I feel like it is crazy to be celebrating the first day of spring on 1 February, but today the air feels light and right. The snowdrops are up. There is even the first appearance of wild garlic showing itself. We all comment on the noticeable stretch in the days. Everything feels positive so it might as well be the First Day of Spring. Another positive thing about the days being longer and lighter means that people are happy to say that 1 February is the first day in the year that You Can Eat Your Dinner By The Light of Day.