The Cough Bottle.

by ericavanhorn

19 December Tuesday

In these weeks before Christmas, there is not a till nor counter in any shop without a bowl or tub of individually wrapped chocolates on offer for each and every customer. It is a little gift offered by a shop to its customers. Cadbury’s Roses. Heroes. Quality Street. In the butcher shop in Ardfinnan, there is a tin of Celebrations. People take a chocolate and chew on it while they are waiting their turn. Then they take another one after they have paid. The same sentence is repeated in every shop: You can worry about The Waistline in the New Year!  The dentist did not offer me chocolate today, but he did give me a pen with his name and telephone number on it.

20 December Wednesday

After not finding Tommie at home, I rang around to find him. It was not easy.  Eventually I located him. He is back in the hospital. Today I went to visit. He is in a ward with three other men. All of the men had visitors. Visiting hours are a lively and noisy time. The fluids support stand at the end of his bed was a free standing device. There were no bags hanging on it, so I hung my jacket on one of the empty hooks. Tommie reprimanded me and told me that the nurses would not be happy for me to be using the stand as a coat rack. The nurses were in and out of the ward and not one of them seemed to notice my jacket. Tommie is never happy to disobey rules nor to question authority. I left my coat where it was. After he told me three separate times to move it, I moved it.

21 December. Winter Solstice.The Shortest Day.

Another day of wild and noisy wind. The wind has been thrashing us for days and days.  It never stops. The noise is deafening. Today the label on the post box blew off. The label was a piece of duct tape with the word POST written in thick black letters. The lid of the post box blew off too, even though there was a rock holding it down. The rock and the lid blew off together but the lid did not go too far. I now have a larger rock on top of the box. The duct tape has been blown far away. It has disappeared completely.

22 December Friday

A tractor tooted its horn as it drove past me on the road. There was a length of blue and silver tinsel dangling from the side mirror.

23 December Saturday

Seamus has plenty of old batteries around the place. Some are car batteries and the other larger ones looked like they had been for his tractor. He uses two batteries to hold up the drooping shed door and a few more are clustered around as a way to gather like with like.

24 December. Sunday. Christmas Eve.

Tommie has been moved to Rathkeevin. He is in a room with one other man. This man spends all day in the Day Room. Tommie does not go to the Day Room. He was in a cranky mood when I visited today. His legs are giving him a lot of discomfort. He said he hopes that no one comes to visit on Stephen’s Day as he wants to give the horse racing his full attention. I promised him that I would not be visiting on that day. He asked me to spread the word.

26 December. Tuesday. Stephens Day.

I walked out along the narrow road to Ladys Abbey in between downpours. Thick ivy has covered nearly every bit of the stone building.  The shapes of the ruined Abbey exist as things somewhere between topiary and architecture.

27 December Wednesday

A pigeon has been massacred and eaten outside the door to my workroom. It was the fox who killed, ate and left the mess.  There was nothing I could do except sweep up the remains so that I do not step in them. I threw the whole mess over the stone wall.

29 December Friday

Everything remains closed. Shops and businesses are locked up tight. Supermarkets, petrol stations and pharmacies are open, with restricted hours, but nothing else is open. The Twelve Days of Christmas go on for twelve days.

31 December. Sunday. New Years Eve.

The shelf in Marie’s sitting room was narrow. It was made out of a single piece of wood. The shelf was just wide enough for a single can. Lined up along this shelf were seven spray cans of air freshener. Each can offered a different scent, or flavour. The caps were all different colours.  Marie was proud of her selection of smells. She had them spread out with a little bit of space between each can, just to make certain that each one could be individually admired. She waited for me to say something about the selection of cans but I found myself speechless.

1 January. New Years Day. Monday 2024

I brought in three wheelbarrow loads of firewood this afternoon. Already I can hear a wasp buzzing around the room. He came in with the wood. The heat has woken him up and now he floats around in a sleepy stupor. He is dopey but noisy.  If I can catch him I will toss him out the door.  The cold will probably kill him but perhaps he will find his way back to some timber for more sleep.

2 January Tuesday

There is water everywhere. From a distance it looks like the Knockmealdown mountains drop directly down into a lake. It is not possible to see the far edges of the lake. The river is no longer a river. The river is part of the huge lake that covers every field in sight. It is beautiful but it is not good. There are swans on the lake where there are usually sheep in the field.

3 January Wednesday

I went to the pharmacy to get something for Simon’s cold and cough. I described his condition. The pharmacist said: “What you need is The Cough Bottle.” No one ever speaks of cough syrup. It is always The Cough Bottle.

4 January Thursday

I asked at the shop if they had any frozen spinach.  The woman at the till said No.  Not only did they have no frozen spinach but she said that they have never had any frozen spinach. She said I was the first person who had ever even asked for it.

6 January. Twelfth Night. Little Christmas. Nollaig na mBan. Women’s Christmas.

Today is the day for the tree to come down and the decorations and the cards and the wreathes to be put away or thrown away. If one has all of these jobs to do, the day is a busy one. The putting away and returning the house to how it was before the holidays can be a lot of work. At the end of this day, women are supposed to take time for themselves. To share food with other women and to have the evening off after doing so much work during the extended holiday. Clearing the way to take the evening off seems like a small reward indeed.