The Long Shed

by ericavanhorn

13 July Thursday

Peter and Davi arrived and tore out the messy mix-up of three or four versions of bedraggled string and wire fencing. They cleared the land and installed a new length of fence to replace what had fallen down six years ago. It was a job that has needed doing for a long time and now it is done. To accommodate the rising price of all building materials we now have a fence with two bars rather than with the traditional three. I cannot wait for the cows to reappear in Joe’s field so that I can look at them looking at me over a wooden fence.

14 July Friday

There was a gap in the rain. I walked the one kilometre up the boreen with my clippers wearing a pair of heavy gloves. I cut back brambles and thorny wild rose branches on the right hand side of the track as I walked. When I reached the tarmacadam road, I turned around and came back down cutting the other side. It started raining before I reached the top road but I continued with my job thinking that the drizzle would not last. It did last. The drizzle became solid rain and the rain became heavier and heavier. I was soaking wet by the time I reached the farm. I was even wetter when I got home. The rain and drenched clothing matched my mood of deep sadness because my friend Tessa died last night. Tessa died last night and I cried the whole way up the boreen and the whole way down again. The rain did not matter one bit.

15 July Saturday

Picking blackcurrants over several days has been a constant activity in between downpours and cloudbursts. Today the first batch of berries was gently cooking in a large heavy cast-iron saucepan. I turned the temperature up for one last blast of heat and I left the room and the blackcurrants burned. The terrible smell filled the kitchen. The whole mixture had to be thrown away. The pan is a mess and may have to be thrown away too. I am so distracted and saddened by my dear friend’s death that I cannot do anything right.

17 July Monday

There has been hard lashing all day rain along with gusty winds. Everywhere I go, I hear discussions about the drying of clothes. It is an enormous struggle. It is a struggle so it is a point of ongoing conversation. The Broken Washing Line is a problem. When the washing is hanging out and rain falls steadily, the clothes get wet and heavy. Then they get even heavier. Then the line snaps, and depending on the amount of mud below the line, the clothes or sheets must all be washed again. Some people own dryers. Many revert to The Long Shed in weeks of endless rain. The Long Shed is a stone building which might have been built for animals but now it adapts itself to any number of functions. There are two short sides and one long side built with stone. The other long side is open to the weather. There is no need for a door.  If a person owns a Long Shed, they are certain to have a washing line stretched along inside. The washing can be hung in the Long Shed and it will get the whipping of the wind but not the direct wetting of a cloudburst. Donal told me that he thinks it is nothing more than Blind Optimism that dries the washing in this country.

18 July Tuesday

The figs look terrific. They are large. They are large but they are as hard as rocks. I squeeze and test them every day but there is no softening of the flesh. These figs are not even good enough to cook. I am waiting and the birds are waiting but with the weather we are having this summer these figs may never get any closer to being ready.

20 July Thursday

I walked into the small car park near to Lismore Castle with my arms full of Cavolo Nero and two boxes of small tomatoes. I did not have a bag with me so I was balancing everything on top of my flat parcel and a book and I was trying to eat the delicious tiny tomatoes at the same time. An older woman came rushing over and asked if I was there for the Fish Man. I had to stop chewing in order to answer her. Before I could say that I was not there for the Fish Man, she pointed and said that a fifteen seat bus had parked in the place where the fish man always parks his van. She was worried about where he would park because his regular spot was taken. I apologised for my full mouth and I offered her a tomato. She studied them for a while and then she chose a small yellow one. She held it snug in her hand and she asked me what she should do with it.

21 July Friday

The calves are making a racket up in Joe’s top field. They are trying out their vocal chords and moaning and bleating all day long. They make a terrible noise answering one another, or talking over one another. It sounds like they are being tortured. They have been there all week. They do not stop their noise until complete darkness has fallen. They start up again early in the first light of dawn. I cannot hear the morning birdsong for the cattle noise. They are teenagers or maybe adolescents. They are young and they are exploring the sounds they are able to make. There is so much variation that I have been trying to find words to describe their emanations. There is a small bit of Mooing and sounds that one identifies with cows but there is Grunting. Bellowing. Moaning. Squealing. Squawking. Groaning. Grumbling. Screaming. Rumbling. Screeching. Except for the mooing it is not much like cow sounds, even though that is exactly what it is.

22 July Saturday

We took a punnet of perfect plums to Tommie and he started to eat them immediately even as he talked with us. He loves fresh fruit and he cannot resist it in the way that other people adore chocolate. He studied each plum for a few minutes before he happily bit into it. He exclaimed about how delicious and how sweet it was. On biting into the the fourth one, he said, “This plum is at the Top of its Game.”

23 July Sunday
There was a small red tractor parked in front of the shop. It was old. It had no windows in the sides nor in the back but it did have a windscreen. The owner had cut himself a thick chunk of foam to cushion his seat.

24 July Monday

The Parish News announced that Two First Class Relics are coming to Cahir on the 29th of the month. The relics are Padre Pio’s Heart and Glove Bandage and it is hoped that they will draw a large crowd.

25 July Tuesday

The bucket has been placed under the tap to catch drips and over-spills. The bucket has been carefully cemented into position below the tap, but there is no hole at the bottom of the bucket to direct water into a drain, or perhaps there was a hole but it has become clogged, so when the bucket fills up it overflows anyway.

26 July Wednesday

It has been many weeks now since the Boil Water Notice has been in place. Everyone is advised to boil their water before drinking it because of the endless rain. Run off from the constant downpours has contaminated the reservoirs. There are no free glasses of water in restaurants or cafes. Water must be purchased. I find myself surprised each time I am refused water. We have our water directly from our well, so we are free from the Boil Notice.

28 July Friday

There are always piles of things in the farmyards that I pass:  things ready to be used and others ready to gotten rid of. Sometimes the use of something looks obvious, but sometimes it is a mystery.

29 July Saturday

The Annual Mass Rock Mass is to be held today up in the Knockmealdowns. It is usually held in August. Or maybe it is usually in August because it gets cancelled due to bad weather until it eventually takes place in August. Anyway. It is supposed to take place today. Subject to Weather. Tractors and trailers will be available to take those people who cannot walk across the mountain to the rock.

30 July Sunday

It was nearly ten o’clock, but we had not yet turned on a light in the house. The television was on and the light from outside was just beginning to drop. It was dusk. I noticed a flapping and a flying of something over our heads. I thought it was a large butterfly or a moth. I pointed it out and Simon said that it was a bat. We tried to steer the bat towards an open window. I put on a hat. We moved it from room to room by turning out the lights in one room and turning them on in another. The bat went round and round and round high up along the ceiling never going anywhere near the wide open windows. I waved a long stick but it was useless. The bat ignored my stick and my directional encouragements. It took about forty minutes but eventually we got the bat to the kitchen and then the next step was out into the dropping evening light. Simon asked why I had put on my hat. As a child I was told that bats have a tendency to land in hair and get tangled and then bite the head and the person would get rabies and die. That was American advice. Animals in this country do not carry rabies, but my first instinct was to put on a hat even though my hair is far too short to ensnare a bat.

1 August Tuesday

Dungarvan Queens are the big news.  They are advertised with excitement as Balls Of Flour.  This means they will explode into a pile of dust on the plate, ready for copious amounts of gravy and butter to moisten them.  Balls of Flour do not excite me. They fill my heart with dread.

2 August Wednesday

Even when it is not raining the days continue to be grey and gruesome. it is not warm. It is not cheerful to wake up and to look out the window. The sun does break through between showers but there are no rainbows. Neither the sun nor the blue sky last for long. There is always the promise of more rain to come soon. Cloudbursts. Showers. Downpours. Drizzle. Mist. Lashing. Desperate. Bucketing. Mizzling. Heavy. Light. Occasional. Frequent. Persistent. The weather announcers try to use a variety of words in an attempt to distract us from the forecasts of more of the same.