The New Stanley

by ericavanhorn

16 June Wednesday

An Post has printed special stamps to celebrate Ireland’s Pride Month. Booklets containing both national and international stamps are available for purchase. Some of the rainbow colored stamps are printed with the word PRIDE and some are printed with the Irish word BRÓD. An Post sent everyone a card with the information about this support for the LGBT community and suggested that we all display the card in our window as a show of solidarity.

23 June Wednesday

We have had a good spell of dry and warm weather. Now rain is promised. We know that all the fields and the gardens need a soaking. Jacinta was in a rush because she and her husband wanted to bring their turf in before the rain come. Every year they purchase turf from a man who owns a bog up on the mountain. They buy the turf by the line. The man has a machine and he cuts the lines and Jacinta and her husband and the other people who are buying the turf from him go up to the location regularly to make little stacks of the turf. This is called footing. They move the brick-like pieces of cut turf so that each side gets exposed to air, and over weeks, they slowly add more pieces to each stack as the drying process continues. When the turf is brown and kind of hairy it will let in the wet and hold the moisture. It will not dry out evenly. It will not be much good for burning. When it is black and crusty, it is more water-resistant and then it gives off great heat. With several days of hard rain forecast, Jacinta and her husband are eager to load up their six air-dried lines of turf and to get it all home and stacked in the shed. This will provide them with good fires in their wood stove all winter long.

28 June

I woke up depressed to see yet another morning of heavy grey cloud cover hanging over everything. Later I overheard two women standing outside the shop discussing and taking great delight that this day is drizzly and grey and damp. They repeated again and again that they love this weather, over and over and to whoever would listen. They agreed that neither of them enjoy a day when it gets too warm. They prefer a day that is cool and fresh. They did not enjoy the recent stretch of almost hot days. One of the women was complaining about how hard it is to get even the smallest of jobs done when it Goes Hot. She listed all the problems that she could think of about hot days. Then she stopped herself mid-complaining and she laughed and said, “I’ll Have the Ears Burnt Off You with My Giving Out!”

30 June Wednesday

The new graveyard is called the new graveyard even though it has already been there for nineteen years.  It is no longer new but it is newer than anywhere else for burying people.  There are now thirty-five people buried in the new graveyard.  It is filling up but the filling up is not fast. This morning, I met Olive at the gate to the graveyard. She had a scouring sponge and a spray bottle of cleanser with her. She had arrived to clean the stone on her husband’s grave. Murty has been dead for six years now. Six, or maybe seven, years. She told me that she misses him every day. She misses him dreadfully. She goes to clean his stone frequently just to give herself something to do.  She says that without Himself to cook for three times a day, her life has no order. Her days are empty. She was quick to tell me that three men died recently and that all three had been buried in the graveyard in as many weeks. She spoke of each man by his first name.  She said she was of course sorry and deeply sad for their families, but she added cheerfully that “Now we will have Some New Company.”  After a few minutes more, I said good-bye and I left her there with her cleaning equipment. All day I have been wondering what she meant by Some New Company.  Was she suggesting that the visits of other mourners might provide companionship for herself when she goes to visit her husband, or was she implying that the newly deceased would provide some company for Murty and the others who are buried in the graveyard?

3 July Saturday

I picked up three small courgettes. The man at the market stall offered me more but the rest of them were all big ones. I told him that I preferred the very small courgettes for their tenderness and sweetness. I said I was happy to take just the three. He directed my attention back to the larger ones again and he said, “But these were small last week.”

4 July Sunday

We drove up the mountain to meet friends in Lismore. Heavy rain was promised so we planned to eat in the outdoor area of a restaurant. This was to be our first time eating in a restaurant for more than eighteen months, since the pandemic began.  We were led through the still non-functioning and not yet legal indoor part of the restaurant to an area out back that had been built out of corrugated metal. There were gaping openings in the homemade construction to allow the air in, and to keep the rain out. The wind was blowing hard through the room and I was glad to have dressed in several layers of warm and waterproof clothing. The tables were much too close together and the floor was made of cast concrete. The noise inside the indoor/outdoor room was deafening. There was nothing to absorb the sound and nowhere for the noise to go. A table of six women were dressed in summery sleeveless party garments. They were all heavily made up. They were necking colorful cocktails and laughing and talking and shrieking and roaring. Every aspect of this lunch time OUT was thrilling and wonderful to them. They were celebrating. They were raucous. Along with the diners at the other four tables in the little indoor/outdoor room, we had to shout to make ourselves heard over the noise of the happy women and the crashing sound of the rain beating down on the tin roof.

5 July

She was disturbed that the day was rainy. It was not because the rain was interrupting the warmth of summer, instead she explained “I do not like to see the roads wet.”

7 July

The new cooker has been installed. The old cooker has been removed and the new one has been moved in, positioned and wired up. The new cooker is not beautiful, but it will provide us with reliable heat and hot water in the winter months. It is not beautiful nor is it new, but it is a fine second-hand Stanley.  It had only one owner and the only reason it had to be removed from the house it was in was because the woman of the house is now in a wheelchair and she could no longer work with it. It was too tall and the lids on top were much too heavy for her to lift. It took three men to take out the old Rayburn and to get the Stanley off the truck and to bring it in on rollers and to lower a new liner down the chimney. Ned and Eddie returned today to finish the bricking up of the chimney hole and the wiring and all of the smaller but important details. When Eddie finished the drilling and wiring, he turned on the cooker to test that everything was working correctly. We were all impressed with the immediate strong heat that came off it. The radiators heated up quickly as did the hot water in its tank. The day was warm and the doors and windows were all wide open. We did not need any heat at all but we needed to test the machine. Simon was excited by the large size of the hot plate on top and at how quickly it heated up. He sliced some bread and began to make toast. I made a pot of tea and we sat down with Ned and Eddie at the big table with our chairs all facing the new cooker while we discussed its merits and the job that had just been accomplished. We ate toast with butter and marmalade. We toasted the new Stanley with toast.

9 July Friday

The morning was cool and overcast. I was wearing long trousers and long sleeves. I thought I would attempt to walk the overgrown Mass Path. This was a terrible mistake. The nettles and brambles and hogwart made the track into a tangled mess. I knew right away that I had made a bad decision but I kept believing that since I had already been through the worst of it, I might as well continue. I was wrong. Over and over again I was wrong. Every time I reached a short distance where the undergrowth was kept at bay because of the tree shelter, the tangle took over again with a vengeance. I could not go back so I kept going forward. By the time I reached the road at the top my face and my neck and my hands had all been scratched and torn by the brambles. I had nettle stings on every bit of exposed skin.

11 July Sunday

It has been raining off and on all afternoon. A heron stood on the roof of the book barn for a long time. I wanted to go outdoors and get closer but I knew it would fly away if I approached. I went back and forth to the window to check on it for an hour. The last time I looked the heron relieved herself while I watched. There was a long white stripe of excrement in a perfectly straight line from the top ridge of the roof to the bottom edge. It was wide enough and white enough to be easily visible from the house. Then the heron flew away and within the hour the white stripe was washed away by the rain.

12 July Monday

I have been competing with the birds for the gooseberries. I think I am winning.

14 July Wednesday

When she commented about the man by saying: He Has a Turn in Him, I had to ask what she meant.  She explained that it means that he is able to do something good for others, but more than that it means that he is not all bad.