My Own Name

by ericavanhorn

23 April Sunday

I lost track of when the first swallow arrived this year. I have lost track of a lot of things. Breda knows exactly because she always keeps a record. She writes the date on her calendar and every year it seems to me that she sees the first swallow a few days earlier than she saw it the year before.  She is delighted with the first sighting and she tells everyone she meets that she has seen it, so in a way her sighting has become a signal for me to start looking for my first swallow.  Breda now tells me that she has heard her first cuckoo.  I will need to get up and into the mountains before I have a chance to hear one and since I am not yet able for the mountains, my first cuckoo will be heard much later than Breda’s first cuckoo.

26 April Monday

As of today, I have permission to stop wearing my blood clot socks.  I am sick to death of them.  They are difficult to put on and they are difficult to take off. This does not mean that I have reached a full recovery, but giving up wearing these socks every day up feels like a momentous thing.

28 April Wednesday

I remembered that putting out cooked eggshells for the birds is a good thing to do in the spring when they are laying their eggs. Since the birds need extra calcium, they take the shells and that provides the chicks with more of what they need to get strong.  The blue jays in New Hampshire used to eat paint off the sides of the house in order to get a calcium boost. I do not think we have blue jays here.  There are jays but I do not see the big blue jays I that recognize from home. I cooked up some empty eggshells and crumbled them, and I took them out to the bird’s dining area. After two days I could see that not one bird had been interested in the eggshells. They were all on the table and on the ground exactly where I had scattered them. There had not even been any wind to blow them away. Blue jays are native to New Hampshire. They are not native here.  I thought the local birds might be tempted by the cooked and crunchy shells but they have no interest. They do not even want to try them. It is better for me to continue with apple scraps.

2 May Sunday

Florrie told me that her husband took to baking bread during the lock-down. It has been a fashion of the Covid months and everyone was making bread but she was completely surprised when her husband decided to start baking. First he made soda bread and then he progressed to sourdough. He is currently on a new phase of making pizza bases. He was happy to make bread and she loved that he made bread, but she said he would not cook the dinner. Florrie’s husband had no interest in any other kind of food preparation. Baking was a form of entertainment for him. He felt that cooking was her job and he was glad to leave it to her.

4 May Tuesday

The magpies are going crazy on the nut feeders.  They jump up from the ground and attack the feeder.  Sometimes there are two magpies beating and thrashing at the same time while the feeder swings wildly on its branch.  I do not think it is easy for them to get their big beaks into the little mesh openings but they continue to try.

5 May Wednesday

I had my first vaccination today. The scheduled time was very specific. I was advised to arrive no earlier than five minutes before my assigned time, which is what I did.  The whole thing was well organized.  There was no wait at all, just a steady movement toward the vaccination booths. There was a quiver in the air. Everyone was eager to get their vaccination and we had all been warned by friends and family and neighbors to drink lots and lots of water before we arrived. People checked with one another in the queue to make sure that everyone else had drunk enough water. Some people carried bottles of water with them as if to illustrate that they were the most hydrated.  As I moved along the route, I was asked repeatedly to state Your Own Name. No one just asked my name.  It was always Your Own Name, as if I might be giving someone else’s name and always with the double form of possession.

When I reached the vaccinating booth, I was once again asked for Your Own Name, and the two women there squealed with delight at hearing My Own Name.  They wanted to know all about it and where it came from.  They knew right away that it was not local. When the woman at the desk noticed that I was born on Valentine’s Day, she announced that my mother had missed a great opportunity as she could have named me Valentine. She said my mother Should have named me Valentine as there was nothing finer than to be named after a saint.  I did not explain to her that my mother would never in one million years have considered naming me after a saint.  I could not explain that that was not how my mother chose our names. When I left the booth after my jab the two women sang out “Good Bye! Good Bye! Dear Valentine!” as though My Own Name really is Valentine.

6 May Thursday

John the electrician returned early this morning.  He finished the job of re-wiring the book barn that he had started yesterday. He finished the job that Peter Ryan began when he drove down on a digger and dug out a trench to lay a cable from the tool barn to the book barn. He finished the job that needed to be done after the mice chewed some wires and the book barn caught on fire. We were lucky to catch the fire in its early smoke-filled stages and we were lucky that the fire did not start in the middle of the night.  It was mostly the paper shelves that suffered damage. We were fortunate that no books were destroyed.  The fire forced us to do a major clear-out of paper and samples and all kinds of collected stuff.  The fire made us do a lot of work that we would not have done if we had had the choice.  I am still not fully strong so my level of participation in the work has been slow and small. Every day the doors were thrown open to air out the place but we had to establish elaborate methods to let the air in to circulate but not to let the swooping and diving birds come in. Plenty of birds did get in but most of them flew out again. Now the smell of burnt plastic fittings and smoke are gone and the new wiring is complete. We trust the rodents have been defeated.

8 May Saturday

I returned to the Farmers Market today for the first time since mid-March.  It was nice to be welcomed back.  It was lovely to have been missed.  Pat O’ Brien had his final day selling vegetables last week. Three weeks ago he announced that he thought he had just enough potatoes to last him three weeks and when the big sacks of potatoes were gone that would be the last day for him. And so he is gone. He was the one who organized the market and got it all started eighteen years ago. It is a shock to note his absence.  The remaining stalls have all been moved around to accommodate the gap. I neither have nor need a photograph of Pat, but I have an old picture of his money box with small potatoes placed in position to hold down the paper euros on a windy day.

10 May Monday

Some things are opening up today. We can now go anywhere in the entire country. We are no longer confined to a twenty kilometer radius within our county. Hairdressers and barbers are open, but most non-essential shops are not.

11 May Tuesday

The baker told me it is called Gur although some people call it Gudge.  In Cork, it is known as Donkey’s Gudge. What it is is a cake made of all the leftover cakes and biscuits that did not get sold or eaten. It is never the same twice because the leftovers are never exactly the same.  The baker in Grangemockler told me that he adds jam and raisins to his Gur and it has a thin top and bottom made of pastry. Those are the his only constants. He swears that leftover Christmas cake makes the finest Gur. I bought a piece of the Gur he had on offer today and I brought it home. It was not delicious, but it was filling.

13 May Thursday

Two sparrow hawks hover on the side of the book barn.  They sit on the roof or cling vertically on some stones. They spend many hours waiting and watching. They are watching for the starlings who are nesting in under the roof.  The starlings are careful when they go in and out.  It is a dangerous situation.

14 May Friday

No bag is ever used only once.  I comment on this frequently.  It is not so much about recycling as it is just something that is always done, and has always been done. Sugar bags are re-used to carry jars of homemade jam.  Sugar was poured out of the bag to make the jam and later the same bag is used to transport the jam in case the sides of the jar are a little bit sticky. The bag for Flahavan’s oats appears regularly, often, and in many guises.  The bags are too sturdy and well made to use only once. People carry their sandwiches to school or to work in these strong paper bags.  Today I loaded one up with empty glass jars to give to Anne for her marmalade making. I know that she will re-use both the jars and the bag.

15 May Saturday

There are flowers in the edges of the track and along every road and every path.  Buttercups, and Tufted Vetch, and Stitchwort and Speedwell, and more Vetch. Primroses. Wild garlic. Loads and loads of Vetch, and Lady’s Smock, and Herb Robert. I love the names and I love that that Cow Parsley is now blooming and sheltering all of the small blossoms. They are not hidden but they are a little harder to see.

17 May Monday

More of the country has opened up but there are many warnings along with the openings. Shops and museums and libraries are now open. We can go places but at the same time, we are sort of being told not to go anywhere. Or not to go to many places and not to go anywhere with many other people.  Restaurants and bars remain closed. The weather is so changeable that it kind of goes with the mixed messages we are receiving. The weather is not very encouraging for going out to all of the places where we now have permission to go. We have driving lashing rain followed by sun and blue sky and then there is rain again. It is not easy to be outside for more than a few minutes without a big sweeping gusting change. Even though we are landlocked, it is obvious that we are living on an island.

19 May Wednesday

I met Mickey the Boxer getting down off his tractor.  He had loaded up a single bale to take down the road for his cows. He used his cane to get himself down out of the small tractor and and he used it to push himself back up into the driver’s seat.  Collecting one bale from Tom Cooney’s shed and taking it home again was a job that had taken him the entire morning.  When I met him, we talked together for a few minutes about the weather and the hay and the unseasonably cold nights and the frosty mornings and then he was ready to head home for his dinner.