The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Category: Uncategorized

The New Immersion.

20 April Sunday

The bench in Ardfinnan gets repainted in the spring. First it was blue and then it was red and now it is blue again. There is not a lot of room to sit as the home-made corner structure does not allow for a lot of knee room.  Two people can happily sit and chat but anymore than that will feel a bit squished.

19 April Saturday

A tree fell down in Joe’s field.  We have not had great winds. We have not even had heavy rain. It looks completely wrong to see this tree lying down. The tree is on a low bit of the field. It is often squishy and muddy down there.  All I can think of is that the roots got wet and wetter and stayed wet and finally rotted. I have never lived anywhere where trees fall down so frequently. The mass path is blocked by fallen trees several times a year. Sometimes I think it is to do with the kind of trees. Maybe these trees have shallow roots. Most of the time I think it is to do with just too much water.

18 April Friday

We have had a week without hot water. Niall the plumber came today. He apologized.  He kept promising to come each day but then each day he never arrived. He said he had been Dead Busy.  He said it’s always the same with the work: Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. He said it three times and then he went to work. He installed a new immersion unit. He showed us the old one. It was covered with lime. This is a terrible area for lime in the water. It coats and cakes onto everything and eventually destroys machinery. He was smitten with the date notations I have made on the wall each time we have had to replace the heater.  He was surprised with how long the previous unit had lasted.  He said he hoped that this new one would last as long as the old one. As he left he instructed us to be sure to mark today’s date up on the wall.

17 April Thursday

They are back.  The season is on for the Sticky Back weeds. Sticky Back.  Sticky Jack. Cleavers. Sticky Willy. Robin-run-the-hedge. They are everywhere.  They run up anything that is growing. They tangle in and out between anything that is growing.  Because they are covered with things that make them stick to whatever they touch there is not much need to worry about what or where they go. They stick onto animals and clothes as well as plants.  These weeds are so fast growing and so busy that they look like they are strangling anything they touch.  In fact the growth is more like a fishing net that is thrown over things.  One good grab and the whole clump comes away in the hand.  Of course a good pull does not remove the roots.  The plant just breaks off at the bottom.  I do not really care.  If they are pulled away from things they do not seem to grow back immediately. They will return next year no matter what.  It is a seasonal thing and the season does not last long.  While it is happening the Sticky Backs are everywhere.  I love pulling them off things.  If I am passing in a car I get the urge to just stop and get out to pull the big clumps off the ditches. Sometimes I do it.  When I am walking, I keep slowing down and pulling and slowing down and pulling.  I can grab an armful without even coming to a full stop. Of course there is the good chance that I might grab a stinging nettle or a thorny bramble. Sadly, I do that often.  Stings and stabs do not stop me from this obsessive pulling.  It is the most satisfying kind of weeding work ever.  I seem to have the urge to pull it all down from everywhere in the world which is, of course, not even vaguely possible.

 

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The Dog on the White Line.

16 April Wednesday

The old dog was outside the community hall. I was pleased to see him. He looked healthy and bright-eyed although he could certainly use a good brushing. His hair is coming out in huge clumps. He is scruffy.  He greeted each car as it drove up and he greeted each person as they got out of their car or as they left the hall.  He was not aggressive nor was he begging. He was just interested. He is the same old dog who used to come up to visit Frank at the shop every morning.  Frank would give him cake or some other treat that had reached its sell-by date or had just gone stale. Then the dog would sleep for a while. He always walked home in the middle of the road right along the white line until he reached his house.  Since Frank has been ill and the shop has been closed, maybe the dog has decided that evenings are a more sociable time for visiting the shop even if it is not open. Or maybe he comes in the morning and also in the evening. The section of the road with the white line is not a long stretch of road but it is long enough that anyone who drives it regularly knows that the dog on the white line has priority.

 


15 April Tuesday

It is more than ten years since someone started to paint the house in Irishtown. Maybe it is more than twelve years. It might even be longer ago than that. For as long as I can remember the house has had just this amount of blue paint on it. Someone started in the upper left corner and continued as far as the paint went and then they took a break and no one ever returned to finish the job. Painting this kind of pebble-dashed surface uses up a lot of paint. It demands a lot more paint than a regular wall. Maybe the person who began the painting thought he had enough paint for the whole house. Maybe he was not able to get the exact same colour mixed again. The person who began painting has not returned to finish it. Nor has anyone else. Now the house is empty. It is boarded up. Somehow there is still a freshness to the blue paint. It looks like the paint job might be completed any day now.

14 April Monday

A few good days of sun or even just one good day of sun and all of the summer clothes come out. Even if the next day is cold and wet and howling with wind, the summer clothes do not disappear. Or they do not disappear completely. This morning was warm. It was almost hot. But by afternoon it was raining and cold. The only people I saw in the shop were wearing rain jackets over heavy fleeces and sweaters. But they were wearing sandals with bare feet. Two women were admiring the brand new sandals worn by one of them. The one not wearing the new sandals said, “I know they would fit me. I know they would look well on me.” They laughed together and the one who was wearing the sandals looked pleased to be the one with the desirable new footwear. As the other one turned to leave the shop, she shouted, “I hope they’ll cut into you, so. Then you’ll have to give them to me!”

13 April Sunday

I have some tiny plastic tubes with one open end. They come with the little flossing brushes. They are for protecting the little brushes. If I go somewhere I can slide the brushes into the the tubes and then they will not get bent in transit. I rarely put the brushes into the tubes at home. I just line up the different sized brushes on the shelf. This morning I picked up one of the tubes which looked different than the other two or three. There was something in it. I banged it on the side of the sink. A little tiny slug had worked its way into the tube and could not reverse out. It was stuck. Most of the slug came out. Part of what I think was the head remained inside. I was busily trying to flush it out with water for several minutes before I questioned why I was doing it.  I did not want to re-use the tube that the slug had been in. I threw it away.
Even with the erratic weather and the cold nights, I could tell that winter was finally over. Things in the bathroom are sort of protected by the cold weather but nothing is ever completely safe. Once the slugs have made their way back in there is nothing that they won’t ooze and creep over on their way to somewhere else. Nothing is safe. On the whole I would rather not know where they have been.

Repeal the Eighth

11 April Friday

I am wearing my Repeal the Eighth badge wherever I go. I wear it out walking in the fields when there is no one to see except the birds and the cows. I wear it to the shop and the post office and to anywhere I go. I wear it to town and I wear it to the market. I wear it up the boreen and down the boreen. Actually we have five or six different badges.  We both make sure we never leave the house without one. Most people never say a word about it either way.  Most people never say a word but I see that their eyes notice the badge.  My position is registered.  The Eighth Amendment is being discussed everywhere on the radio, TV and in the papers but in the country, people are reluctant to speak about it out loud.

10 April Thursday

Treasa was sort of singing today but it was not singing with words it was singing a tune with some syllables. She said she was only Lilting. Lilting being just that: singing without words but singing a tune nonetheless. Maybe this is a normal expression. Maybe it is just a word I have not heard used quite like this. Maybe it is just herself that calls it that.

9 April Wednesday

I took fresh rhubarb and custard down to Tommie and Margaret. It was not stewed rhubarb. The pieces were still firm and they were gently cooked with a bit of molasses. Tommie was in hospital for 6 days. He has been back home for a week now. Yesterday he had his stitches removed. He was disturbed that he had thought there were eleven stitches but the doctor told him there were actually twelve stitches. He said they were small and his eyes are not so good but still he did not like to have it wrong. He was upset to have learned that Ian had sold the house. The house was on what had been Tommie’s land where his old house had been. The new house was not his house and the land was not his land anymore, but he had been up and down feeding the cats for years and years whenever he was asked to do it and a lot of times when no one asked but he worried anyway about the cats starving. It was still his place even though it was not his place anymore. He has had an emotional tie for too long to not be considered in any changes. He said that he felt Aggrieved that he had not even been told that the house was sold. He was Aggrieved about the miscount of his stitches. He was Aggrieved about no one telling him about the new residents in the house. He was also Aggrieved that he was not allowed to drive for another 6 weeks. Once he started to say the word Aggrieved he could not say it often enough. He was glad to see the rhubarb. Tommie loves rhubarb. He was glad for the distraction.

7 April Bank Holiday Monday

There is blossom everywhere. Stitchwort. Forget-me-not. Primrose. Hawthorn. Gorse. Bluebell. It seemed like spring would never come but now that it is here, it is everywhere.

5 April Saturday

Stella told me that the usual place for a safe is inside in the Hot Press. If a person is going to install a safe in their house for important things like papers and money and jewellery, the place where they always put the safe is in the floor of the Hot Press. The Hot Press is the airing cupboard. It is the place where the hot water tank is located. Most people have some shelves built into the Hot Press. If you have shelves in the Hot Press you can put sheets and towels and clothing in there when they come in from the washing line. Things can be put inside the Hot Press until they are thoroughly dry or maybe until they are ironed. The sheets and towels may never go any further. The Hot Press often becomes the permanent storage place for these things. The trouble is that the burglars know that if a household has installed a safe anywhere, then the Hot Press is the place to find it. If a burglar locates the Hot Press, he will locate the safe. Stella said of course not every house has a safe but a burglar won’t know that until all of the clean and dry folded towels and sheets have been pulled out and thrown onto the floor and probably stepped upon. Stella said this is almost the worst thing about having your house broken into. She said the things that get damaged in the looking and looting are the real pity. The things that are gone are just gone. She said that it is a sad job to wash a bunch of sheets and towels all over again just because someone stepped on them.

3 April Thursday

We climbed the stile and walked over Joe’s fields. From a distance, they looked green and grassy and inviting. It had not rained for a few days but the ground was all churned up from the cows being in those fields in recent weeks. The holes were big. It would have been easy to break an ankle. Some of the holes were just empty. Some of the holes are just firm mud mashed down in the shape of a heavy hoof. Some are full of pee. At first I thought the wet holes were just muddy water but the cow urine mixed with mud and rainwater makes a different colour. It was not easy to walk across the fields. We lurched from lump to lump and hole to hole. It made for a clumsy and rollicking kind of walking. Simon took a stick. I would have been wise to take a stick too. When we reached the last hill up the track to the farm, the ground underfoot got worse. The dirt track was covered in manure. It was slippery and deep and it was hard to get footing. Luckily the distance was not great and the cows were not yet starting to walk down while we walked up. Joe had 10 new troughs piled up in his yard. They are cast from concrete and will soon be distributed out in the fields for drinking water. They are the newest thing. I have been seeing them appearing in the fields of other farmers. I guess this is a new development from the big black plastic ones which have been used for years.

Stuck in Inchicore.

1 May Tuesday

This May Day is gloomy and cold and rainy. It is a desperate day. I walked up the path and I was reminded that it is still wild garlic season. Every stage of wild garlic season is a pleasure. First there are the little shoots coming up and the bright fresh green colour is full of promise. Then the leaves push all the way up and they are a shiny darker green. That is when I think both the smell and the taste are the strongest and the best. Then the buds appear and the leaves lose a bit of their shininess. Slowly, the star-like flowers start appearing like little explosions. The leaves look duller but the flowers make it all look exciting. It tastes and smells good at every stage. I like walking up the boreen and stepping on it and smashing some down with my boots just so that I can walk in a cloud of the smell. There is nothing that is not good about the wild garlic season.

30 April Monday

I dropped some carrots on the floor. They snapped into pieces. Carrots are usually a bit bouncy. I think of carrots as rubbery rather than brittle. The floor in the kitchen is a stone floor. Most things break when they hit a stone floor. But it seemed odd to have carrots snap into clean halves like these did. I grated a few of the carrots for a salad at lunch. They were watery and completely without taste. I wish I could remember where I got these carrots because I do not want to buy them again.

28 April Saturday

Leaving Dublin on the bus with a man shouting into his phone. No one could read or sleep. No one could not listen.

“The bitch yeah you heard about it? Yeah she had her head out the window. She loved doing that she did but we went through a skinny bit of the alley backing down and her head hit a pole. Yeah yeah dead right away. Not even a bark. Hey who is this anyway? Paddy? Paddy Dorman? Who the hell gave you my number? Who do you think you are ringing me? Paddy Gorman or Paddy Dorman? Oh you’re that Paddy. Oh Sorry Paddy I thought you were the other Paddy. You know him yourself. He’s a a nuisance that one. 
We’re stuck in Inchicore. I’m on the bus and we’re stuck in Inchicore. We’re going off to Tipp to see The Wife’s mother. She’s down there already with The Mother. I’m with the The Son. On the bus yeah. She’s not well. Yeah I’ve got the grapes for the gift. Yeah Paddy we’re on the bus but we’re only in Inchicore. We’re going nowhere Paddy. We paid to go to Tipp but we haven’t got far. I’m in the bus now. Yeah we got on at BusAras. That’s where it starts but at this rate we won’t get to Tipp till Tuesday. You know yourself Paddy. Once you’re on the bus it’s like a trap . You can’t get off. You’ve got to go where you paid to go. It was 28 euro for the both of us Paddy. That’s what we paid and we’re only in Inchicore so in that kind of a way it’s an expensive trip but if we ever get to Tipp we’ll feel sure we’ve had our value for the money we will. We’ll feel glad Paddy to be somewhere else.”

25 April Wednesday

The swallows nest in the corner by my door is still in position from last year. The birds left and the nest remains. I have gotten used to it being there. I do not really see it anymore. But now there are birds everywhere. They are all flying around with bits of sticks and moss in their beaks. Nest building activity is manic even though the weather is colder than it should be. The weather is horrible. I think I should remove the nest from the wall before anyone decides to use it again. I do not know if swallows use a nest for a second time. Nor if other birds move into any old nest just for the convenience of not having to build their own. It was interesting to have the mother and the chicks in the corner for a while, but then I had to give up my room. I was driven away by the mother trying to protect her young. I would rather not go through all that again. By the time everyone had learned to fly there was crunchy excrement all over the door and the door handle and the step. I thought I could just pull the nest off today in passing but I think I will need a chisel. It is tightly welded to the wall with mud and bird spit. And since it is now raining and the rain is lashing sideways, I shall do it later.

24 April Tuesday

Celly Ryan was the name on the small van. It was a private bus service. The driver was standing near the van with the door open. He was waiting for his passengers to return. I think the vehicle could seat 6 or maybe 8 people. I wish I had stopped to ask the man what Celly was short for. Celestine? Celeste? I cannot think of a man’s name that might be shortened to Celly, but I am trying.

23 April Monday

A blue security van arrived while we waited at the station in Cork. The man driving it made a careful backing up to the door on the side of the station. It took him two or three tries to get into the exact right position. When he finished he was perfectly in line with the door so I assumed he would rush out of his van, do some efficient moves and take money in containers into or out of the station and then quickly drive away again. He got out of the van and took two small silver suitcases out of the special door. He also removed two pouches which he put under his arm. He walked around the van towards the station and then he met a man he knew. He put the two cases down on the back bumper of the van. It was a flat bumper and it easily held the two silver suitcases. The two men shook hands and then they both lit cigarettes. As they talked a third man came along. They all shook hands again and then they moved about ten steps away from the van until they were standing in the sunshine. The sun was warm on an otherwise cold day. It was warm in the sun and very cold in the shade. The driver kept the two pouches under his arm while he talked for about 20 minutes. He had his back to the van and the suitcases. The silver suitcases seemed to be forgotten. Two small boys came along. They each picked up a suitcase. One of the men saw the boys and nudged the driver. He turned his head and said, “Go away, Lads and leave my cases where they are.” The boys put the suitcases back on to the bumper and they wandered off. The driver stood in the sun for another 10 minutes and then he said good-bye to the two men. He went into the station with the pouches and the silver suitcases. He came out with some different things and he drove away. None of his activity seemed as imperative as getting the vehicle in an exact straight line with the door.

 

22 April Sunday

The cows are in the upper field. They are looking into our windows which means they are looking down and into our windows and watching us from an elevated position. It is not often that cows are in that field and when they are they are not always so interested in what we are doing. This group seem determined to catch our attention. They seem determined to want us to look back at them. This group is very interested in us. There might be one or there might be two or three or four and then they run off and away together and then two more come. I am always facing them from my seat at the table. I wave. I smile. I nod. I have no idea if any of this registers with them. We cannot eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without attracting an audience.

Warble Fly Eradication

6 April Friday

Last night there was an AMBER warning for weather. I was not sure what that meant but the non-stop torrential, lashing rain and the wild gusting winds might be the most wretched rain I have ever experienced.  I have been in a lot of rain. I am sure that I have been in worse rain but this felt bad enough. Now I have spent all morning moving more things out the way way of fresh drips and and puddles. Nothing can be done to solve the leaking in this weather. We can only wait. It is good that the floors are made of stone. The ceilings are another matter. It is good that we read a lot of newspapers. It is not good that I delivered nine big bundles to the dog sanctuary last week. I am going through the remaining supply of paper for soaking up the water fast. I hope the rain stops before I run out.  I have every straight edged container I own snicked up tight against walls wherever there is a leak.  It is time to stop talking about this. I cannot stop living with it but I can stop pretending that my descriptions will help in any way.

5 April Thursday

Two women were in the baking section of the market. They both had several kinds of flour, ground almonds and other cake making things in their baskets. One of them mentioned the fact that the Protestants are very competitive about their cakes. It was a known fact. The other woman felt no need to question or to disagree. It was just a truth and everyone knew it. The one woman said, “Sure they only make us feel bad.”

 

 

4 April Wednesday

The rain is not stopping. The farmers are getting more and more worried. They are running out of fodder for the cattle. The Tipperary farmers cannot help out the farmers in the midlands and in the west as they usually do in a crisis. They cannot help because they need help themselves.
We all need help. All of the repairing of our roof and our leaks has become something much worse than it was before. There is water flowing through the fuse box and down the wall in the kitchen. I have moved every single thing off the coat hooks and off the little racks down below. There was a row of seven small framed things above the coat hooks. The frames are soaked and the things in them are soaked. I enjoyed studying the wet things as I tried to dry them and to save them. It is easy to stop looking at things when they become familiar. Moving a thing from one place to another makes it new again. Which is nice. The warble fly certificate and a small envelope addressed to Kattie and Willie is among the things that I am drying out. The seven frames are lined up underneath a radiator.
Kattie’s name was not Kattie. Her name was Kathleen or maybe Katherine but everyone called her Kattie. Probably Kattie was a pet name which began when she was a child and it just stuck. Maybe the family thought of her as a little kitten kind of person. Kittie. Kattie. Maybe indeed it was supposed to be Kattie but there is an ongoing problem here with the pronunciation of TH. TH often sounds like TT. When I first came here, if I mentioned Kattie, I would automatically adjust it to say Kathie. If I said Kathie someone would always correct me. The correction would be gentle because I am From Away and because of course I never actually knew Kattie. Kattie English lived in what is now our house with her brother Willie English. At one time, there were two older siblings, Frederick and Elisabeth, living here too. Frederick and Elisabeth died years before Willie and Kattie. But they all died well before we came here. Increasingly the people who knew Kattie and Willie themselves are dying or have already died. There are few people now who would notice if I called Kattie Kathie. Even so my correction of her name to be what I think it should be rather than what everyone knew it to be is a little bit arrogant. If I speak of Kattie at all I should use the name that she was known by, not the name I think it started from.

3 April Tuesday

Simon bought a pair of boots. He had seen them in the window of the shop. They were on sale. He walked in and he asked to try them on. The man in the shop was a very serious white haired man. He was staidly dressed in a well fitting suit, a white shirt and a tie. The man spoke highly of the brand of boots. He said they were extremely well made and he pointed out the fine leather and various features. Simon felt happy with the fit, so he bought the boots and he came home. Later he tried on the boots just to walk around in the house and get comfortable with them. The boots did not feel right. They did not feel as good as they had felt inside in the shop. He took them off and looked carefully at the boots. He saw that one boot was size 42 and one boot was size 43. He called the shop and spoke to the man who had sold him the boots. The man burst out laughing. He laughed long and hard and when he could finally speak again, he gasped while he said, “Oh dear! It is not the first time I have done this!” He told Simon to come in and make the exchange for the correct size. When Simon returned for the exchange, the man got the giggles again. He said “Now let us hope I am not after sending you home with the opposite pair of wrong ones.”

2 April Monday

Sister Carmel went to along to celebrate the birthday of another nun who was extremely old. She lamented that it was a pity that there were not many close family members present. She said, “First Cousins are very rare when you are at the age of 100.”

Wine in the Teapot

1 April Sunday

The ceiling has been repaired and the roof was all sealed up in the appropriate places.  Everything has been cleaned and put away. The rain started mid-afternoon and it has been coming down off and on since.  I am discouraged to see the bathroom ceiling leaking in its usual way as if all of that analysis, discussion, diagnosis and work had not been done. I am not looking forward to telling Peter that everything that was done has solved nothing.

31 March Saturday

Debbie and Jim, the goats, were back at the market.  This time they were secured both by generous ropes and within a small fenced area.  There was no chance that Jim could escape this week. A large group of people walked through the market coming off the river path into the car park and then they  loaded themselves onto four waiting buses. They were walking in twos and threes and they were all wearing walking boots and most carried walking poles.  The line of people seemed to be endless.  I asked one of the bus drivers what was going on.  He said they were the Active Knockmealdown Group. He said there were about 300 people in total and that they were going to Cashel by bus and then returning to Cahir on foot  via the St. Declan’s Way. I do not know if that meant they were finished with the entire walk then or if they would be continuing the walk all the way to Ardmore on another day. Or maybe they had already come from Ardmore. The driver did not know. Most of the people walked in a straight line through the market as if they did not notice it was there. A few stopped and filled their pockets with cheese or cakes or apples. There were two tiny lambs in a hay-filled pen. They were exactly to the right of the walking line of people but not one person looked down to notice them. No one looked at Debbie and Jim either.

30 March Good Friday

For the first time in 91 years it is legal to serve and to buy alcohol on Good Friday. The law was changed in January. Restaurants and bars now have the option to open or not to open. They can choose to respect the old ways or they can get on with the new. We stopped in at Rose’s last night. The Thursday before Good Friday was traditionally a wildly busy night with everyone who wanted to drink trying hard to drink enough for two nights in the one night. This year, early evening on Thursday was just early evening on Thursday. Most people have outgrown the manic behaviour that demanded that one had to drink just because one was not allowed to drink. Someone said that it used to be normal for restaurants to serve wine in a teapot just to get around the law. I had not heard that before. I wish I had seen it. I suppose the wine would have been poured from the teapot into a teacup. All very hard to think about. Of course, today people drink at home without a worry or fear of judgement anyway. Brendan seemed to be the only one who had a problem with the relaxing of the old law. He was reprimanding Rose and insisting that she should not open and that she should not be serving drink on Good Friday. John muttered, “No fear, Brendan will be the first one in the door when she opens. And he will be the last one out.”

29 March Thursday

It is a tight time of year. Tight is the expression being used and used often. A few weeks ago the cows were out in the fields. Now a lot of them are back in the barns and under cover. The animals are building up in the sheds. The winter feed is running low. Some of the farmers let the animals out for the day and then bring them back inside at night. Nothing is growing anyway. The cows are in a field to eat grass but there is not much grass growing. There is not much to be eaten. Everyone is tired of the cold and of the long long winter which just refuses to go away. The light has changed but the temperatures remain low. This morning I saw a few sheep wandering around in a big field nibbling and pulling at last seasons stubble. There was not much there for them to eat. Tight. It is a tight time of year.

28 March Wednesday

Peter Ryan was on the roof both in the rain and not in the rain. He was spraying water from the hose into the place where the roof meets the other part of the roof. I ran in and out of the house while Simon checked on the walls in three leaking locations. Simon shouted to me and then I shouted up to Peter. We were waiting for the water to drip and to leak and to puddle into the places where we have learned to expect leaking and puddling. Peter was on the roof for more than an hour. It might have been two hours. The ladder fell down twice. The sun came out and there was a huge rainbow visible over the foot hills. Then it rained again. The rain did not fall for long nor heavily. It just rained and stopped and rained again. Finally the probable leak was found and understood. The water was running UP the galvanized metal in and underneath the roof join. It must have been a combination of rain and wind over time and maybe there is an old nail hole or several old nail holes that rusted and made an opening for the rain to enter. There is a big section of the ceiling ripped out and plaster skim everywhere in the kitchen and in the bathroom. The plan is that this will all be repaired on Friday.

Water Dog under the Woodpile

 

27 March Tuesday

Sean arrived to collect his daughter to go and visit the mother in hospital, but he was thirty minutes early. She was not home yet.  He went next door to chat with Greg just To Put Down The Time .

26 March Monday

Niall came to look at the heating system. With a bit of fiddling, he was able to get it all working again. The pump was not gone after all. We were relieved. We feared we might be needing a new stove and the amount of money to be spent would be huge. The hardship of a few days without heat are already forgotten in our relief. Then Ned Coady came down with his plug-in generator to fill the fuel tank. As we drank tea together afterwards he joked that Simon was off his mark. Usually Simon calls the oil company and asks for 720 litres or 680 litres or whatever amount is needed. He is always spot-on with his order. He has no gauge on the tank. He only uses a long piece of wood that he sticks into the tank and from that he makes his estimate of the volume required. He climbs up a ladder and stands on the edge of the wall beside the tank to make his calculation. It is a joke with Ned and a joke with the men at the yard and and a joke with Simon and himself that Simon is always correct. He never orders more fuel than can be fit into the tank.  The tank fills to within a few centimetres with the amount he orders. The men at the yard cannot figure out how he does it. Today’s estimate was a bit off. He had ordered 650 litres and the fuel filled the tank about 250 centimetres below the top. Ned was not going to let this be forgotten. He was not interested in our days without heat and the almost broken heating system. He acted like he had won a wager. He was still chuckling when he left the house.

25 March Sunday

The older woman was shorter than me and she was badly bent over. She asked me to lift a box of porridge oats down from a high shelf. She said, “I don’t like To Put In On You but I cannot reach that high.” I did not know the expression but I understood the need for help. I mentioned it to Breda and she defined it exactly in the way I had understood it. To Put In On Someone is to impose upon them. There is always another way to say the exact things that I think I already know.

24 March Saturday

The path is wet and there is water running down it and there are lots of rocks covered with moss. The winter has been long and wet.  The moss is everywhere. But the big branches and the brambles are cut back. It is easy to walk without getting entangled or ducking down low, as long as I look carefully at the mud and the slippery stones.  Up near the top the mud dries up and there is so much wild garlic growing along the way that garlic is the only smell. I cannot smell the mud nor any of the other young green things.  The entire length of the path smells like garlic.

23 March Friday

Simon shouted for me to come outside. He said he’d seen the biggest stoat ever and it was under our wood pile. The stoat stuck his head out and looked at us both and then it went back in. It looked too big to be a stoat. We did not know what it was. It went in and out, and around the back, and in and out again, and it studied us without fear and with a lot of interest. It had a nice face. I took a few photographs as it took off and ran across the grass. When it ran it moved low along the ground with large elongated flexing and bouncing movements, sort of like a hare. It was black and sleek and long. A little later we were down at the shop. I asked the blonde woman behind the counter if she knew her animals. She said she did. She looked and said that she did not know what it was but that it was Not a stoat. She called Marian over and Marian said it looked like a stoat but it was too big for a stoat. My phone was being passed around. I thought it looked like a mink but I did not know if minks were native. Marie had a look and said it is more mink than stoat. There were six people discussing the animal now with each other and with Simon and I. My phone kept being grabbed and the photos studied and enlarged as everyone tried to solve it. Someone suggested a pine marten but others put that idea down scornfully. It was too sleek and too thin to be a pine marten. Without exception everyone disliked the pine marten as a possibility and as an animal. John Condon walked into the shop and Marie said “Here’s the man to sort this!” Someone handed my phone to John. He recoiled from it and said he did not have his glasses. The photos were enlarged yet again and shown to him. We all said what we thought it was or was not. Everyone was talking at the same time. John looked at the phone with care and shouted, “It’s a Water Dog!” There was a group sigh of agreement. Of course, a water dog! I had no idea what a water dog was. They all agreed it needed water nearby and Simon mentioned the stream at the bottom of our meadow. John made a flexing movement with his body and his back. He said, “It moves like this.” He imitated the movement exactly right. I looked up water dog when I got home and found all kinds of dogs, mostly Portuguese, which were called Water Dogs but not one of them looked like our animal. Eventually I found a picture of what we had seen and it was indeed a mink.

22 March Thursday

I admired his fancy designer spectacles. I could see they were new. Since I had never seen him wearing any glasses at all before this, I asked if he had always worn them. In fact, he said he had never worn glasses, but he had been instructed to wear them twenty years ago. He said it was hard enough being gay in school. He said that wearing glasses would have finished him off. I asked what wearing the new glasses did for his vision. He claimed that the world was a new place. When I suggested that poor vision was a liability in his line of work, he looked at me in the mirror and we both fell about  laughing. He said that every head of hair he cuts now is a brand new head of hair even if it is a head of hair he has been working on every week for the last fifteen years.

The Pump Is Gone on the Central Heating.

21 March Wednesday

The pump is gone on the central heating. We think it is the pump. We hope it is the pump. It might be something more. We are lucky it is not too cold today. No snow. No sleet. No rain. No wind.  We have kept the wood stove going all day. Sadly, that heat does not reach everywhere. Niall, the plumber, cannot come until tomorrow evening. That means anytime after dinner (lunch) and before about six o’clock. All we can do is wait.

20 March Tuesday

After the torrential rain. After the snow. This morning, I spent half an hour outside on the bench. I sat with my back against the wall feeling sun on my face. With coffee. Out of the wind, the sun was hot and lovely. The first primroses are showing in the boreen. It has been a week of high contrasts. Big holes out on the tar roads remain treacherous. The road drops away in chunks. The tar and everything supporting the tar just drops down to somewhere deep. The holes are big and flat, when they are full of water. If they are filled with water there is no way to know if the hole is an extremely deep hole or a shallow puddle. If there is a really large hole, big enough for one or more car tyres to drop into, we might call it a pot hole but more often it is spoken of as a sheep dip.

17 March Saturday

The market was quiet today. There were only eight stalls. The weather did not help. It was cold and sleety and horrible. The big field behind the castle was completely covered with water. If you did not know that it was usually a field, you would believe that it was always a lake. There were few customers. The good news is that Maria, who makes the pates and terrines and wild garlic pesto is now selling cheese. She had five kinds of cheese on one end of her table. They were all Irish cheeses I had not seen before. One was a smoked cheese and one was a hard sheep cheese and the other three were made of cows milk. We have not had a cheese seller at the market since Katherine left to enjoy her retirement and to play more golf. That must be at least four years ago. Maybe five. We bought three kinds of cheese.

Keith was selling long stemmed daffodils. The stems were 24 inches (62 cm long). I measured them when I got home. I have never seen such tall daffodils. He said he grew them in the poly-tunnel. That explains the height. Our own daffodils get knocked down by the wind. Today they are lying flat under yesterday’s surprise snow, but I know they will stand back up again as the few inches of snow melts. They will never grow as tall as Keith’s daffodils. Our daffodils fight the weather so they will always be stunted.

The Apple Farm had Elstars on offer which made me happy. I know they keep the apples in a cooler over the winter, but still, I marvel that last autumn’s apples can taste so sharp and sweet and crunchy in March. Pat had homemade butter from Tinnock Farms in Wexford along with plenty of fresh fish. We complained together about how buttermilk is being mixed in with a lot of commercial butter these days. It is a way to lower production costs. It makes the butter do funny things in a pan. The new egg woman, who is Australian, had two goats in a pen beside her table. They were young goats rescued from an elderly neighbour who could no longer care for them. Their names are Jim and Debbie. I hope they return next Saturday.

15 March Thursday

I had looked ahead at the weather report. I knew there was a lot of rain falling. I knew that copious amounts had fallen throughout the night. Even with this knowledge I was not ready for the reality of so much rain. It is easy to forget how much rain can fall in Ireland if one is away from it for a short time. As we neared the area close to home, all of the roads were flooded. There was water rushing off the fields as though they were always fast running rivers and they were never fields. The gashes that the council digs out of the sides of any road in preparation for exactly this kind of thing were all full and overflowing. The dikes along the road were also deep and fast running.

Peter was driving us from the airport. He was shocked and worried about his car. He was worried about so much deep rushing water. We were not worried as we have seen it so often before. We knew that it could be much much worse than what we were seeing. At one point I got out of the car and walked through a large lake of water which covered the road in order to let him know how deep it was before he drove through it. It looked deeper than it was. I was glad that it did not come up past the top of my boots. My boots are only ankle boots and they are made of leather. It is not really a good idea to wade through water in leather boots. If I had not done it, he would not have dared drive any further, so there was not much choice.

He told us how he and Maud had returned from a winter holiday in the south of France where they had suffered badly from the dry air. He said the aridity day after day hurt their lungs. He said that it was just Too Dry. When they stepped off their plane in Cork, they were glad to be back in the dampness. He said they felt the moisture wrapping itself around them and then they knew they were home. Immediately, their lungs and their bodies felt better.

I listened as he spoke.  I knew that no matter how long I live in this country, I will never feel good about being damp. I was even more certain about this as I surveyed the rain water pouring down our bathroom wall and into the cupboard in the big room and in the little passageway. I have become very efficient at mopping up water with towels and newspapers. I am good at drying things out over as many days as it takes. I know that I will never fully belong here unless I learn to accept all this dampness. That will never happen.

We Have Enough Rain Got.

16 January Tuesday

A glove in the mud.  A glove in the mud is a welcome distraction from just mud. I am obsessed by the marks on the glove.  They look like they have been painted by hand with paint and a paintbrush. They look far more expressive than the usual marks on work gloves. They appear to be more than just grips to ensure that tools and blocks and bricks do not slip while work is being done. And again, the seemingly hand-painted glove is a good distraction from the endless mud.

15 January Monday

Margaret had been at Ardkeen in Waterford since the 17th of December, but the doctors said they could not operate on her leg until after Christmas. And then they wanted to do the surgery in Cork and not in Waterford. Tommie has been distraught. He had hoped she would be taken care of immediately in Waterford and then sent up to Clogheen for recovery. He was hoping she was going to be brought nearer to home, not further away. By the time she went to Cork and had her operation and skin grafts, several more weeks passed. Tommie has been impatient for her to be closer to home so that he can go to visit her without asking someone to drive him. He spoke of going to Cork on the bus with his Senior Bus Pass but really, he was a bit nervous about doing that. Today Margaret has finally been moved to St Theresa’s in Clogheen.  She will stay there for as long as it takes her to heal.  Tommie will be able to drive himself to visit her every day.  After an entire month of depending upon others, he is nearly overcome with relief.

13 January Saturday

We see the people every Saturday when we go for breakfast in Cahir. We have gotten to know them in a particular kind of a way. We always sit in the upstairs and so do they. They come in and have coffee and breakfast and they do a crossword puzzle.  The woman told us that it is the same one that used to be in a newspaper to buy but now they can get it for free in the Farmer’s Weekly. They bring a duplicate copy and they each start the puzzle at the same time. It is a Saturday morning competition. She said that he usually wins but she says she is better on certain kinds of clues. Over the months we have learned where they live and we know that she is not local but comes from Carlow. And we know some others things about them. And they know things about us.  We always chat and say morning things to one another. We do not know their names. Between ourselves we call them The Crosswords. We do not know how they speak of us. I am not sure that they know that we always have porridge. This morning Simon went into the men’s toilets. He saw the Crossword Man standing by the sink speaking to someone on his mobile phone about one of the clues. The man winked at Simon and put his finger to his lips. Every week we learn more about The Crosswords. The secret of the Crossword Cheat has taken things to a whole new level.

12 January Friday

There is a regular robin at the outdoor table. Actually there are several regular robins. None of the robins are Michael. I know I shall never see my Michael again but I enjoy imagining that I might. I am surprised at how different each robin looks from every other robin. I do wonder and ask the robins if one of them might be a brother or sister or aunt of Michael. I do not expect an answer but I ask anyway. I keep the feeders full and some crumbs out on the table. There are so many Michaels. It is one of those names which is used again and again and again. Not for robins but for people. I wonder why I even chose the name Michael for my robin when there are already so many Michaels. I could easily write a story with every single person in it named Michael. Every person would be a different Michael but they would all be Michael. I saw one Michael this morning who said he was pleased that the day was starting dry. He said, “We have enough rain got.” I have been thinking about his phrasing all day.

11 January Thursday

Marian was telling me about a woman. She felt certain that I must know her too. She could not remember the woman’s name so she did a fair job describing her, even telling me the road where the woman lived. She said,“You would know her by sight sure you would.” She said, “You can’t miss her. She looks like an Uncooked Pastry.” Now each time I go to the village I am looking for this woman. There cannot be more than one who fits this description.

10 January Wednesday

There were 12 square red buckets spread about in the field. It seemed a lot of buckets for not very many sheep. The sheep wandered back and forth eating out of different buckets but I am sure that whatever was in the red buckets was all the same kind of food. There was one green bucket. That was probably the same too.

9 January Tuesday

Donal sent me his CD. It is called Dead Air. It was a strange time for it to arrive. Our ancient CD player continues to act up and the one in the car does too. The car engine itself is also acting up. I hear an unsettling droning sound when I drive uphill. Mike, my regular mechanic, is in the hospital. I spoke to him on the phone but he will not be out and working again for a long while. I went down to Noel O’Keeffe in the village. His mechanic Noel Hackett and I drove up into the mountains. We both listened to the droning sound of the car as we climbed. I had not seen this Noel for a long time so we chatted about a lot of things as we drove along. He told me about his family. We noted new houses along the way and he told me who was living in them or who planned to live in them once there was enough money to finish building. I had not been up that particular road in a year or more.  I was distracted thinking about the number of new houses while all the time Noel continued paying attention to the droning. He had me listen to understand that the car made the same noise going downhill as it had been making going uphill. That helped him to recognize the problem. In between the strange moaning of the car and the distortions of the CD players, I eventually listened to Dead Air on my lap top. I cannot really say what I think of it except that everything kind of fits together.

8 January Monday

Simon is still discussing his tooth gluing repair. He is delighted with it and with his new ability to bite things. He has already located another tooth which he thinks might be a candidate to be attached to the one beside it. He discusses the repair job with anyone who shows the slightest interest. He is happy to add the fact that in addition to the cementing job, Daniel also gave him a full cleaning of his teeth. And then he was only charged fifty euro for everything. While speaking about his repair work, he never mentions that Daniel uses old souvenir tea towels around the neck of his patients. He has been going there long enough that he now considers a tea towel bib as normal dental practice.

7 January Sunday

Snow on the Galtees.  Green fields. Sunshine. Cold but dry.

6 January Saturday

Billy had heard about the new flights flying from Cork to the USA. The flights are cheap. The price of the flights are almost half of what they usually are. He liked the idea of maybe going on such a flight but he was nervous. He had been told that a lot of people on the plane take their own lunch because the airline charges so much for food. He likes the idea of the cheap flight but he is disturbed about the idea of taking his own lunch. He said he would not want to be the only one. He worried because he would not want people to think that he was Skint. He said if he knew that everyone else was doing it, it would be alright then.

A Crest of Moss

4 January Thursday

We walked around in wild, wild winds.  The wind has been blowing ferociously since last night. It feels like the wind has been blowing forever. We are not getting the heavy damage that they are getting in the west of the country. One tree fell down and across the road right near the corner where Tom Cooney has been stacking his timber from the cleared forest. An electrical or maybe a telephone wire was drooping too. As we passed, we hoped our own electricity had not gone.  Someone with a chain saw had already moved the tree off the road. The wind is a drying wind. It is drying the sodden land.  A little rain has fallen but mostly it is just wind endless wind noisy wind which is in our ears.  It is impossible to get away from the sound of the wind.  Along the way I found three blue tits. They were all dead. Three dead blue tits. Each of them was lying on his or her back with legs in the air. They did not have any visible wounds. I guess they were caught by the wind and blown along until they were smashed into something and died.  I moved each one to a sheltered spot on a rock or under a branch so they would not get stepped upon.

3 January Wednesday

Simon went to the dentist. He had a wiggly tooth. The tooth was right in the middle on his bottom row of teeth.  It was making him feel nervous to bite. Daniel, the dentist, looked at it and told him that the tooth was barely holding on. He said it could fall out any minute.  He said it would be a pity to take it out or to let it fall out as it would leave an unsightly gap.  Daniel suggested that he attach the tooth to the strong tooth beside it in order to hold it in place.  So that is what he did. The top of Simon’s tooth is now cemented to the top front and the top back of the neighbouring tooth.  A space remains between the two teeth lower down to allow for little flossing brushes to slip in and out.  Everything has been thought of.

2 January Tuesday

Rain was promised for the entire day and night.  I rushed out for a quick walk around the mass path, the road, the boreen and home.  I managed to do it all just before the deluge began.  As I raced along the road at speed trying to beat the rain, I did enjoy the smudge of bright green moss down the center of the road.  It is that place where the tyres never touch because we all drive down the middle of the road. Since I returned there has not been one minute since eleven o’clock this morning without rain lashing and wind roaring.  Fields were already flooded before this rain began. Roads were awash with big puddles. The water across the roads is bigger than puddles. It is lake-like.  The mud on the path and in the boreen has been deep and squishy all week. There will be more flooding. I do sometimes wonder why I live here.

1 January 2018 Monday

We met Peter and Rachel at 10 this morning for a walk to Molough Abbey and down into the valley to where the rivers Suir and the Nire meet.  It seemed a fine way to start the year. Simon mentioned that Edmund Spenser wrote about the rivers of Ireland in The Faerie Queene. Everything was familiar to us because we walk there often but in showing things to others, everything became new.  Each time I visit the Abbey, I seem to focus on different features. I like to point out the two places for the bells, one of which would ring the time in Rome while the other would ring the local time.  The two dogs, Milo and Betty, were not much interested in facts. They ran a lot and they sniffed a lot.  I have never had much fondness for tiny dogs.  And I have never known a dog named Betty. But I have become fond of Betty. Holding her in my arms is like holding a cat.  She weighs very little.  I have known heavier cats. I am not sure what kind of dog she is. She is light brown and disheveled looking. I think she is some kind of terrier. After seeing the end of the year newspapers full of memorable photographs of the year, with lots of attention given to the horrific and widespread destruction of Hurricane Ophelia, I felt like there should be a photo of brave little Betty.  She walked into a branch or a fallen thing the day after the storm and injured her eye.  She had to have the eye removed. The vet sewed up the place where it had been.  Being a one-eyed dog does not stop her from keeping up with Milo, nor does it dampen her enthusiasm for exploring.

31 December Sunday

In the autumn, the McCarras built a long narrow outdoor/indoor porch place on the side of the shop. There is a bench along one wall and some chairs and tables. It is a place for cyclists and walkers to go in and sit down for a rest and a drink and maybe something to eat. This is a popular spot with the cyclists.  Laurence told me that Nicolas Roche stopped by recently. Everyone in cycling knows Nicolas Roche.  Long distance cyclists often stop in the village before climbing up into the Knockmealdowns. The porch room is light and it provides a sitting place out of the rain or wind. Suddenly today there is a big round clock in there too. Catherine said the clock was a problem as it was just too bold for anywhere else so this is where it will stay for now.

30 December Saturday

There was another big wedding in the village yesterday.  Weddings often get scheduled near to Christmas when people have the time off so that families do not have to make a repeat trip to come home for the event. Once again, there were loads of summer frocks, bare legs, fake tans and strappy high-heeled sandals. Once again, it was far too cold for such flimsy clothing.  I knew that Treasa was going to be dancing later at the wedding party. It was her cousin getting married. She would be doing Irish dancing along with some others.  When she told me about it, I was reminded to ask her about Dancing on a Barrel.  I had been meaning to ask for ages.  Treasa came to fill in at the Post Office when Helen, the post mistress, went into hospital.  She took on the job for three months after finishing university, but she has now been there for a year, or more. She has played on a Gaelic football team, performed in a play and done Irish dancing professionally, all while working at the Post Office. She does not intend to be staying there forever. Earlier in the year she auditioned to represent Tipperary in the Rose of Tralee competition, but she did not win. She was disappointed as she felt she had done a grand job.  She had Danced on a Barrel for three minutes. The image of dancing on a barrel stayed in my head.  I could barely think about it as it seemed so dangerous. She explained that the barrel works as a percussion instrument.  The sound of  tapping shoes is amplified. She said that in the competition she got her heel stuck once on the edge of the barrel, but luckily she did not fall. She also said that sometimes the barrel is cut so that the top is only a few inches off the floor instead of being full barrel height off the floor.  There would be no dancing on the barrel at her cousins wedding.