The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

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Buns for Norman Chicken.

31 January Thursday

The days are getting longer. They are getting longer and lighter. It is a constant topic of conversation. We no long speak of the longer days by saying that there is A Stretch In It. We are well past that. The first of February is considered the first day of spring even though in my mind it is not really spring. Weather-wise it is not even vaguely spring, but here it is the day that is officially considered the First Day of Spring. Every year this surprises me. It should not surprise me any longer. The first of February is the First Day of Spring. Every single year, the first day of February is the First Day of Spring. This morning Johnnie reminded me that tomorrow is the First Day of Spring. He said, “It won’t be long before you can eat your dinner by the light of day.”

29 January Tuesday

I am always pleased to find a lost shopping list. I like the sort of eavesdropping effect of reading what somebody else intends to purchase.
Yesterday I found a small piece of cardboard.  The list read:

Rolls/TV Guide
Buns for
Norman.
Chicken.

I spent the rest of the day speaking about Buns For Norman Chicken. I repeated it over and over again. It became a little chant. Buns for Norman Chicken! I was delighted with the name Norman Chicken. I woke up happy with the name Norman Chicken on my tongue. Now I see that Norman Chicken is neither a person nor a recipe. Buns For Norman was one thing. And then there was Chicken.

28 January Monday

I was not sitting very near to the door, but I was sitting near enough to the door to be visible to anyone going out or coming in. As I looked up from my coffee, I saw Paul on his way out the door. He was chatting with another man and he left without me saying hello to him nor him saying hello to me. A few seconds after the door closed, he opened it again, and stuck his head in.  He said, “Hello there! I didn’t see you till I saw you!”

26 January Saturday

The clock on the library building in Cahir has been repaired and replaced. For about a year or maybe longer there has been a piece of black plastic in the rectangular space where the clock used to be. I wondered if the clock would ever return. I worried about it. Now it is back. I do not know exactly when it disappeared and I do not know exactly when it returned.

24 January Thursday

Some people do it and some people do not do it. It does not seem to be a spoken quirk from one specific county.  Or I cannot tell if it is something that belongs to a particular place. I just hear it sometimes and sometimes I do not hear it. I think it is more like a kind of a lisp or speech defect. Or maybe it is a pronunciation thing from the Irish language. It is the saying of a T instead of a TH, usually at the beginning of a word. When people say T instead of TH, the entire meaning of the word they are saying can be different.

The two lads were sitting behind me on the bus. We were going to Cork and they were going to Cork. One of them spoke of TICK TIES. He said it once and then he said it again. I had not been listening to their conversation but these two words were repeated again and again. I could not understand the words so I had to listen in order to put them into context. It was a bit like hearing a few words that I do understand in the midst of a sentence in a foreign language. The familiar words make the rest of the conversation kind of public business. I think this was the same kind of situation.

Eventually I understood that TICK TIES was actually THICK THIGHS. It was THICK THIGHS with the T sound replacing the TH sound. The lad doing most of the talking was discussing his three years in Australia. The other lad was on his way to Australia so the first one was telling him what to expect and what problems might be encountered. Apparently a major issue down there is that the legs of Irish men are not like the legs of Australian men. The buying of a new pair of jeans is a real and pressing problem if you are the kind of lad with Thick Thighs. Apparently these two lads are both the kind of lads with Thick Thighs. Many Irish lads have Thick Thighs and the Australians do not have the same kind of leg shape so their blue jeans are made to fit their body type. These jeans are not comfortable for an Irish lad’s legs. In fact they are impossible for the majority of Irish legs.

And anyway, the Australian jeans are too long. Even the shortest length is too long. The first fellow had located a website that sold blue jeans for the Irish expatriate audience. The jeans were cut wider in the thighs and shorter in the leg and they were just as good as what you could buy right here at home. It was easier to use the website than it was to ask your mother to go and shop for you and post you a pair of jeans. The instructing lad ended this portion of the conversation by saying, “After all, she is your Mam. She would only be after thinking that you could not take care of yourself without her help.”

23 January Wednesday

I spent two hours in the cold barn undoing clumps of bubble wrap this afternoon. I collect it from the vet’s office in Cahir. They keep it crammed behind a shelving unit until it gets to be too much. When I need a fresh supply for wrapping book parcels, I ring and they tell me if they have any or not. Sometimes it has already gone off to the recycling. Two weeks ago, I got a three enormous rubbish bags crammed full. The vet’s office is happy to pass the bubble on to me as they consider that recycling it via me is superior to recycling it to the council. Today I spent the time pulling off strips of sello tape and flattening out the pieces. It is a job I avoid for as long as possible. There is always something more interesting to do. Sometimes the tape rips the plastic but sometimes I can get it off smoothly and I end up with huge great pieces to fold up and put away for use later. I listened to the radio while I was working which distracted me from the cold. As always, I marveled that a veterinary practice receives so many things in bottles and containers that need careful padding with bubble wrap. I did not get through all three of the bags before the cold in the barn drove me back up to the house. A good supply is now ready for use so I feel wealthy and ready for any package that might need to be packed.

22 January Tuesday

My collection of lichen up the boreen is getting bigger but not as quickly as I had hoped. I think I thought it expected that it would grow and grow. I think I hoped it would be so large that it would need to be detoured around.  That it would be impossible not to see it as one walked along. It is still quite a small amount. I am surprised that neither the wind nor a dog or a boot has displaced the little pile. I showed it to PJ one day when I met him and his dog Walker. I suggested that if he finds any clumps of lichen, he is more than welcome to add to the collection. I was trying to let him know that it was not just my pile. Anyone else could add lichen. I do not think he was very interested but he was polite about it.

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A Rib of Hair.

21 January Monday

George Mason died in October. It was sudden and shocking. He was a young man. He was not yet fifty. I did not really know him but he generously allowed us to walk the track through his fields. When we saw him in the distance we waved to him in his tractor and he waved back. The rare time we spoke with him it was about the weather. If his herd was not grazing in the lower meadow we walked right through it to the special place where the Nire River runs into the Suir. George Mason raised cattle for beef. His brother is a dairy farmer. The brother has taken over the fields for planting and harvesting since George’s untimely death. If we did not already know that there was someone else working the land we would know it anyway by the completely new way that the round bales are stacked in the shed.

20 January Sunday

There are things to do After Dark and things to do Before Dark. At this time of year the days are short. The days are getting longer but they are still short. I go for walks and I hang the washing in the light. I prefer to empty the compost in the light but I can do it in the dark if I use a head torch. The light fixture in the tool shed is broken so getting things out of the freezer is best done before dark. I make phone calls and I write emails and letters when daylight is gone and darkness has fallen. Sometimes I say it aloud to people. I say that I will ring them After Dark. They do not register what and why I am saying this. I try to divide the activities of my day by Before Dark and After Dark. This is only an issue in the winter. There is no reason to even consider it during the rest of the year.

 


19 January Saturday

For at least a week, the air has been full of the stench of slurry. The smell is everywhere. All of the farmers are at it. Sometimes it is so bad that it makes my eyes sting and my throat burn. Lately it has not been that bad. I think the cold keeps the smell down. Joe has a lot of fields on the other side of the road from his farm and his slurry pit. For the last four days he has had a long heavy hose connected to his spreader as it moves over and back on the far fields. The big hose crosses the tar road. When the slurry is pumping through it there are little ramps to make it safe to drive over the hose. The hose is under a lot of pressure. When the ramps are in place there is Joe or a young lad waiting nearby to tell any driver to travel carefully over the ramps. The boy who was there today told me that the hose is probably 850 metres long. Maybe he was only guessing at the length. I love the ramps. I love aiming the car in just the right way so that all four wheels bounce up and over.

18 January Friday

The old sand-cast aluminum letters do not always make for even letter spacing.

17 January Thursday

The Irish language TV people -TG4 – were in the village this morning. A man and a woman filmed and took photographs to do a report on the fact that our Post Office has been saved. Or spared. Our committee sat around a table having a fake meeting for them and we posted some fake parcels. Any real customers who came into the shop rushed out again saying they did not want to be on TV. Treasa has been the substitute post mistress for about 18 months. She is fluent in Irish, so she did the interview. She was all dressed up and wearing bright red trousers which unfortunately will probably not be seen as the camera only framed her head and her shoulders. Catherine was inside the Post Office booth being interviewed through her window. The TG4 woman held up a big piece of paper with Catherine’s answers in Irish written on it. She had written them down last night because she was terrified she would forget them or pronounce them poorly. The shop was full of chatter and excitement. I learned that the Irish word for this kind of chat is COONSHEE.  No doubt there is a proper way to spell it and this is not it. After it was over, I walked the three miles home in bright sun and cold wind. I was smiling the whole way.

 


16 January Wednesday

String storage is a common sight. When a farmer moves cows from field to field or out of one field and down a road and into another field, he stretches a length of string or plastic tape across from a gate post or tree or bush to another post or tree or bush. The thin white line of string is enough to let the cows know that they cannot go that way. Any cow that wanted to could barge right through such an insubstantial bit of droopy string, but somehow they rarely do. I am not sure if this is because some sorts of string have a filament wire and an electric current through them. Wire, which probably looks like string to a cow, can also be electrified. So in the mind of a cow the line drawn in their path might or might not have a little charge in it, so it is best to be avoided. The strings used for road crossings are usually left looped in place right where they will be needed again. They are carefully hung up in readiness for their next job.

15 January Tuesday

Helen said, “He hasn’t a RIB of hair!” I knew that the man was bald but I could not see the word Rib having any connection to anything else in the sentence. She told me that the word Rib came from the Irish.  Rib means a Strand. She said Rib was so completely incorporated into speech that few people even knew they were using an Irish word in the middle of an English sentence. She said that no one around here would ever say Strand. They would say Rib and everyone, except for me, would know what was meant.

One. At. A.Time

 

14 January Monday

I was trying to leave the grade school in Grange but I could not open the door. Then I saw that there was a buzzer high up to press in order to release the door. I buzzed and pushed just as the door was pulled hard from the outside. The woman on the other side and I both made startled shrieks of surprise and then we burst out laughing. She laughed so hard that she fell to her knees. In between laughing gasps, she said, “Well, we are awake NOW!”

13 January Sunday

An overweight yellow Labrador comes across the fields and visits every morning. He arrives at around 9.30 and wanders around and drinks water and sniffs in a lot of places. He is old but he is able and he rushes around doing his investigations in a friendly way. I am always happy to see him and he seems happy to see me. When he decides his visit is finished he heads off over the fields. I do not know his name. I am not certain where he lives. He might be called Zack and he might belong to the Slatterys on the Knocklofty road at Clonacoady, but I might be wrong. He might have a different name and belong to someone else altogether.

 

12 January Saturday

The Farmer’s Market was sort of back in action today. There were only about half of the usual stalls there. Keith had no vegetables at all on his table. He had very little to sell. He had apples and eggs and he had buckets full of freakishly long stemmed daffodils. The stems were two feet long. These were not daffodils that had just poked their heads a tiny bit above ground because of the too the mild weather. Daffodils in January is not right, but they looked wonderful.  We came home with some just to make ourselves feel more cheerful on such a gloomy grey day.

 

11 January Friday

Doing extra transactions at the Post Office has become a challenge. I have been busily posting parcels and depositing money into my Post Office account book. On Wednesday, I also paid our house insurance there. I was proud to tell Rosie that I had made Seven Transactions in three days. I was sort of bragging. She was not overly impressed. She told me that a woman from Greenmount had just been in.  She had done Eleven Transactions in the same number of days. I felt both deflated and envious. It is perhaps good that we begin to feel competitive. That means we will all be using the post office more and more. By today I was happy to have done Eleven Transactions. I wondered how many the woman from Greenmount had done. Mairead reported that she had just come from the Post Office and she had done Five Transactions in one visit. She paid two bills and bought Three Stamps. One. At. A.Time.

10 January Thursday

Dr Bernie told me that I need some glasses, just for The Driving. I was stunned. I thought my repaired eyes would need no help for years and years. She said that this is a Normal Post-Cataract Kind of A Thing. She said that once the spectacles are made up, I can leave them in the car and never wear them anywhere else. She said I would not even need them anywhere else. She said it is not imperative at all but by summer I will surely be wishing I had them. She wants to give me the kind of lenses that become sunglasses when it is bright outside. She suggested that I look around at home for some old glasses frames. She said, “Sure, there is no reason to pay money for frames when you already have some old ones that will work perfectly well.”

 

9 January Wednesday

Em and me has been available for sale at the shop in the village for a few months now. As the copies dwindled to just one, I noticed that some days the final copy would be there among the farm magazines and children’s comics and some days it would be gone. The next day it would reappear.  People are delighted to tell me that they have read the book. More people have read it than have bought it. It seems the books on the shelf are not just for buying and browsing but they are for borrowing.

This lovely review from Maurice Scully:

This is a book centred on the relationship of the author & her dog. It is composed from blogs during her dog’s life & so has an episodic & almost poetically repetitive form. A pet’s life is of course an accelerated & condensed version of a human life, of all animal life & its phases, & so tracks the arc from exuberance of youth to the pathos of old age.  Such a theme can lend itself to sentimentality, but Van Horn is the opposite of a sentimental writer: she writes of what-is with clarity & intelligence & lets the given speak for her beloved animal, without enlargement, just as her pet’s acuity is a given of nature, beyond adumbration.
Okay then if you want a cosy, warm, lovey-dovey pet book, this is not it. If on the other hand you want a penetrating portrait of a pet & its ‘mistress’ this is for you.
Em & Me is an unfussy, tasteful production, as one takes for granted from Coracle Press, with good paper, good margins, clear font, pleasantly pocket-sized dimensions, attractive matt wrap-round cover & a good all-over feel to it in the hand.
There are four protagonists in Em & Me: the dog, its owner, the countryside, & the owner’s human partner, Simon, this latter a shadowy but significant presence. Simon’s making a gravestone for the dog at the end & speaking to the dog’s spirit at her graveside could be mawkish, but it isn’t. Van Horn’s gift for presenting human feeling, human affection, love & sadness, without sentimentality is exceptional.
Em & Me is about attachment ultimately: to a pet, to a locale, to art, to a life lived with alertness. An exceptional book. Coming from an exceptionally gifted partnership, whose lifelong project is Coracle Press: Erica Van Horn & Simon Cutts. Em & Me is forever, not just for Xmas.

Discoloured Water

7 January Monday

Yesterday we walked the New Walk in glorious sunshine. I am already calling this walk The KnockPerry. The walk has found its name. Rachel and Peter joined us. A crowd of sheep were rushing from one field down the road to another field. They had a man and a dog and a girl on a bicycle behind them. When they saw us in their path they tried to look busy and to pretend they were turning but there was a stone wall in their way. There was no where to go.

6 January Epiphany.

Today is Little Christmas. Little Christmas is short for Women’s Little Christmas—Nollaig na mBan. This is the day when all of the holiday decorations come down and get stored away. Holiday cards get filed or recycled, and the tree is removed. On Little Christmas, the tradition is that women are supposed to be free from All Household Duties. Probably this release is only after they have finished putting all of the decorating stuff away. Husbands and partners are left to take care of children and cleaning and pets and preparation for back to school and whatever else needs doing. The women go out with their friends in the evening and have dinner with other women. In Cork city, I understand that the restaurants are packed full of women and that there is rarely a man in sight.
Officially, Christmas is over. Tomorrow the world will go back to normal. Children and teachers will return to school. The post office will return to its usual hours and deliveries. It will be almost as if the last two weeks never happened. Except that everyone will continue to say Happy New Year to one another again and again and again until we are all certain that we have not missed anyone. This will go on for at least one more week. Maybe two.

5 January Saturday

Living Locally No.30

Letterpress card 2015

4 January Friday

Another mild day. I was walking Around alone. I did not see one car nor one person the entire way. When I entered the boreen and reached the top of the first slope, I heard footsteps and heavy breathing. Oscar came staggering up behind me. I could not believe my eyes nor my ears. He was wheezing and gasping like an old tractor, as he has in recent months. The back of him is still not functioning very well but the front of him was delighted to be on the way to anywhere. As happy as I was to see him, I knew he should not be out on his own. Just a few days ago he was almost dead. He was already a kilometre from home when he caught up with me.  I had no idea if he would have the strength to walk back. I walked him home slowly. I wondered if I should have rung June to come to fetch him. She was shocked to learn that he had gone so far. As we stood talking, Oscar lifted his leg for a pee and he fell over. His back legs have lost all their power but already he is a changed dog from a few days ago.

3 January Thursday

Catherine McCarra, the postmistress, has taken back her resignation. In doing so she gave up the financial package which was on offer. AnPost made this back-handedly generous one-time offer to try to close 400 post offices. Since Catherine decided not to take the package and not to retire at the end of this month, our post office can stay open. Our committee tried all kinds of things but no half-way solution would do. As a last-ditch attempt, and at great personal sacrifice, Catherine wrote and rescinded her resignation, and forfeited the money, even though she is not a well woman. If she collapses tomorrow, our post office may well be closed down immediately. We called a general meeting to announce the turn around and because our only hope now is to increase the transactions which take place at the counter. I was fearful that only 10 people might turn up, but the Community Hall was packed. Everyone seems eager to work to double our transactions in the next six months. One suggestion was that someone with a post office savings book could put 2 euro into their account one day and then they could take it out again the next day. This would count as two transactions. It might drive Rosie, behind the counter, crazy. But at least she would have a job. Unfortunately we do not seem to have a number of how many transactions are currently being done, so it is hard to know how many we will need to double the number.

2 January 2019 Wednesday

The Christmas Nativity Scene that gets set up every year is called The Crib. People go to view The Crib. They ask if you have seen The Crib. They comment on how well The Crib is looking. They mourn the occasional theft or random destruction of The Crib by Bad Lads. It took some years before I understood what was being discussed.
When our currency here was Pounds and Pence, a Pound was always called a Quid. We have been using the Euro since 2002, but people still speak of something costing A Quid. Or of being paid 10 Quid. Quid is still the slang for money even though the actual currency has changed.

I find the Christmas period complicated because the talk of Quids and Cribs gets confusing. Now that January has begun there will still be Quids but no more Cribs.

31 December Monday

At the end of my walk I detoured to visit Oscar. He is weak and wobbly. He is really really weak and really really wobbly, and his eyes are glazed over, but he is alive. He is on steroids and some other tablets. Mark and June are trying to get him to eat regularly and often. They are trying to get him to take water. June said he has never had the habit to drink fresh water from a bowl. He has preferred to drink from puddles. Now they are trying to discolour the water in his bowl to convince him to drink it. The vet said that if he does not eat and drink to build up his strength he will not recover from his stroke. I was longing to ask what they are using to discolour his water.

Woodworm

28 December Friday

June and Mark came down the boreen. They were looking for Oscar. He has not been seen since Stephen’s Day. June was in tears. She was hoping we had seen him. She was hoping anyone had seen him. He has been gone for two days. They have been walking and driving around always looking on the verges and in the dikes in case he might have been hit by a car. He might be lying somewhere hurt or he might be dead. We wished we could say something positive. The thing that we did not say and that they did not say is that there is always a particular worry when an elderly dog disappears. There are rough people around and about who steal old dogs. They prey upon dogs who have never known anything but kindness. These people run dog fights which are illegal. They organise the dog fights in out of the way locations. Spectators bet on the dogs. The dogs fight to the death. To get the fighting dogs in the mood and to give them a taste of blood their owners provide them with an old dog. The old dog will be attacked and killed by the fighters to encourage viciousness and a taste for blood. I hate to think about this. When any dog, especially an elderly dog, goes missing, people think about this possibility, but it is rarely discussed out loud. We all hate to think of such a cruel nightmare scenario, but we know that it does happen.

Before darkness fell, Oscar was found staggering across a field. His back legs kept giving out. It took him a very long time to get home from wherever he had been. We will never know where he was for two whole days. June and Mark took him to the vet who said he had had a stroke. We are all relieved to know that Oscar is back at home. Now we must wait patiently to see how he recovers. The vet said that it might take weeks.

 

26 December Stephen’s Day

We walked The New Walk again today. The sun was out for part of the time. I am learning the names of the places we pass through. We begin just off the New Line at Barnacullia, and then we turn into Fitz’s Boreen. I have already heard two names for this same boreen. One is Fitz’s Boreen as Jim Fitzpatrick, or Fitzgerald?, has a farm just nearby. The boreen used to be called Paul’s Boreen because of Tommie Paul Hally who lived nearby. Since there was another Tommie Hally in the area, Tommie Paul was called Tommie Paul rather than just plain Tommie and the boreen got shortened to Paul’s Boreen to differentiate it from the other boreen called Hally’s Boreen further down the New Line. I am not yet certain which name is the correct name but I love this green road. Back on the climbing road we are at Knockperry, and then we circle Garryduff and come back down the New Line. No doubt there are a few more place names in between that we do not know yet.

25 December Tuesday Christmas

I now have a little lichen collection up the boreen. Each time I pass I add a few more pieces of lichen or else I add a stick that has some lichen attached to it. The lichen is falling off branches because of the wind or because the birds scrape it off with their feet. I have only been depositing my pieces of lichens there for a few times now but already I think of it as a kind of toll. It is a duty. I must add to the little place each time I walk up the mass path. I think about this little spot as I lie in bed at night. I now want to walk that way more often just so that I can make the little pile into a bigger pile.

24 December. Monday. Christmas Eve

It is too warm. The rain has finally stopped but temperatures are much higher than they should be at this time of year. The days are mild and the nights are mild. There are buds on my black currant bushes. The Lenten Rose is blooming. Daffodils are pushing up out of the soil. Some are as much as two inches in the green. Today I saw snowdrops in bloom beside Em’s stone. There are loads more snowdrops pushing up through the grass everywhere. This is not right.

22 December Saturday

We have a new walk. I took Simon and Breda on it today. I was nervous because I was hoping it was as wonderful a walk for them as it had been for me a few days ago. I was hoping I had not exaggerated it too much, first in my mind and then in the re-telling of it. I had been describing it again and again. I urged them both to come for this walk with me as soon as possible. So they did. They loved it. I loved it again. It was just as wonderful as I had found it the first time. There is a lot of climbing which affords fine views. I do not know what to call this walk. For the moment, it is The New Walk.

The Long Field is the name for one walk. We need names to explain where we are going or where we will meet. We have The Abbey Walk. The Des Dillon. The Mattie Loop. The Gate to Gate. The Virgil. The Poets Walk. The Waterfall Walk. The Boulders. The Cottage Loop. The Mass Rock. The Lumpy Fields. The Mass Path. Around. The Reg and Dedge. Neddins. The Perimeter. Murphy’s Lane. The Duck Pond. The Forestry.

These are not the old names of the meadows or the lands we are walking through. These are our names given so we know which walk we are going on or thinking of going on. It also suggests time. The Gate to Gate is a very short walk through the fields that are part of the Abbey Walk. This walk is especially useful right before sunset. It is a tidy little walk mostly for stretching one’s legs or for letting dogs go for a rush about.

It is usually Breda and I who give names to our walking places. We share this need to identify. Other people who we walk with quickly use the names too. The names become the walks. Every walk finds the name that is right for it. Proper local names for fields and places are important but sometimes they are difficult to learn. Our names become the walking route name which most likely incorporates several fields. If each field has a name we cannot list all the names when we want to walk there. The Lumpy Fields, as a walk, goes through nine or eleven fields. Each field has a name for the farmer who owns it, but to us the fields join to become a single walk, unless one field has cows in in it and then we detour around that one. We only need one shorthand name to identify a walk. We need to pick one name that sums it up. The name for The New Walk will find itself. It will not be The New Walk forever. It will find its name and then there will be another walk that is The New Walk.

21 December Friday Solstice

The woman was in front of me in the shop. She was grumbling about the many pre-Christmas jobs and pressures. She was grumbling about getting the car washed and the windows washed and the gravestones washed and about cleaning the entire house. She said: “I also do not like Christmas. I dislike everything about it, except the cookies.”

20 December Thursday

I have been speaking on the telephone with Martina at the council. We have had the same conversations several times in recent months. She has promised to have someone come and look at the boreen. The holes are bad. The holes are very bad and they are getting worse. Derek the postman is not complaining about the holes, but he is commenting on the holes. Complaining will be the next thing after the comments. We know that the heavy rains have ripped out the tar and gravel and dirt. The patches have been patched and then they have been patched again. Everything has been washed away with the rain. Today Martina told me that Walter, who is in charge of the road repair crew, will come by to take a look in the next three days. Tomorrow is Friday. Walter might come on Friday. He will not come on Saturday nor will he come on Sunday. He will not come on Christmas Eve nor will he come on Christmas Day. And he will not come on Stephen’s Day. I shall ring Martina again in the New Year and we can start again with the promises.

 

18 December Tuesday

The road has gouges all along one side. Not all roads have these gouges but the very narrow tar lanes have them. They have been dug out by a digger. About every 6 metres. I am not sure what to call them. Gashes. Channels. Gouges. Sluices. Their function is to direct excess rain water to rush off the road and into the ditch. I am not sure who has dug these gashes. It might be the council or it might just be a neighbour with a tractor. Whoever has done it with the digger has ripped out a fair amount of tarmacadam at the same time as they made each gash. This happens every year. It contributes to the narrowing of the road.

 

17 December Monday

There is woodworm in the type drawers. The type is kept out in the little print shed in a tall unit with shallow drawers. The drawers are divided up as California Job Cases. Each drawer holds a specific type in a particular size. Someone who knows how to set type can reach across a drawer and find a letter without looking. The letters are always in the exact same position in every drawer. If one does not know the lay-out of a California case, finding each letter is a long and laborious job. Actually if one does not know the lay-out of the 89 compartments, each compartment a place for an upper-case or a lower-case letter or an element of punctuation, it is impossible to set type for letterpress printing. Now we have woodworm in the drawers. We can see the little piles of wood dust that they leave behind as they burrow. If we do not do something the drawers will begin to fall to bits and one alphabet will be mixed in with the alphabet just below it. Sorting them out will be impossible. Or if not impossible it will be such hard work that I doubt we will ever do it.

Between Him and His Sleep.

 

16 December Sunday

Anthony has brought out his Christmas Tree made of tyres. This is the third year for this tree. He keeps it on a pallet out in his yard. It is there all year to be seen at any time if anyone walks out back where all the machinery and used tyres are kept. At this time of year, he brings the pallet with the tree on it out near the road with a small forklift and he places it near to the petrol pumps. He adds a few bits of fresh greenery. Now we know it is Christmas.

15 December Saturday

About four or maybe five years ago—the last time I was in hospital, the surgeon came to collect me when he was ready for me. I was wearing my hospital gown, with little paper elasticized slippers and a little paper hat. The hat was like a shower cap. The surgeon and I walked down to the operating theatre together. We chatted about this and that as we walked. This time I was in the bed and ready to go when a man came to collect me. He was not the surgeon. He was a Porter. I did not have to walk to the operating theatre. The Porter pushed me and my bed though the maze of corridors. Before we left, he raised the bed so that I was sitting upright. I assumed he was doing that so that I could see where we were going. He said, “I know you will want to look around. Well anyone would, wouldn’t they? And no doubt you will see someone you know along the way.”

12 December Wednesday

Michael reported that he had just seen Robert with a chain saw. He was speaking down from high up in his tractor to Geraldine who was standing on the ground. They were discussing a tree that was hanging down over the road in an unnatural and dangerous way. The tree looked ready to tumble. The ground is so wet and so very sodden after all the weeks of rain. Some roots cannot hold on to the earth anymore. If the tree tumbles in the upcoming promised gusts of wild wind, it will block the farm gate and the road and it will take an electricity cable down with it. Robert is Geraldine’s partner. She knew exactly which tree was being discussed.
She said, “That tree is getting between him and his sleep.”

11 December Tuesday

The morning started grey and gloomy. The thick cloud cover has not lifted all day. It is impossible to know what time it is by observing the light. I kept thinking the sun might break through but it never happened. It is unseasonably mild. When it is not raining it is mild. Even when it is raining it is mild. These warm temperatures are not normal. There are mosquitoes and all sorts of small bugs that should not be flying around in December. Today I found a bee in a tea towel. I shook the towel out the door and the bee plopped to the ground. It walked away. It did not fly. It walked. There are cows in the fields. That is a good thing for the cows and for the farmers. It is good that the cows can be out eating grass when the fodder shortage still has its grip on things. It is a good thing but it is not a normal thing for this time of year.

10 December Monday

Our Post Office is doomed. It will be closed at the end of January. All of the efforts of our committee and our community have come to nothing. The population in the village is not close enough to the 500 mark. We needed 500 people within a one kilometre radius. People in the countryside live in the countryside. We do not live all crunched together in the village even though we consider this village our village. The fact that there are plenty more people in the five and ten kilometre radius does not count. Or it does count, but it counts against us.

9 December Sunday

There is rain and more rain. It is getting to that point where it is no longer interesting to speak of it. Everyone is tired of talking about the rain. The path is slippery and rocks are covered with moss. The fields are squelching. Walking anywhere is a wet event. There are lakes and ponds and rivers where there are usually fields.  Every river and every stream is overflowing. It is not easy to remember where the river used to end and where the fields begin.

 


8 December Saturday

We went to the Farmers Market. There were eleven stalls today. There is a new one preparing and selling Fish & Chips or Sausage & Chips. Since we had just had our porridge at the cafe, we did not partake but we received a little coupon to give us a special price in case we changed our minds. I think everyone gets this same special price. It makes everyone feel special, so why not? A few years ago there was a couple cooking and selling Boerewors, a South African sausage. Those were a bit hefty and rich to be eating in the morning, but many people seemed to like them. Some people made a special trip to the Market just to eat one of these sausages. The smell took over the whole area. I am not sure how long ago those people stopped coming to the market. I cannot remember when I last saw them. The geese came out of the river and up onto the Castle car park because people were throwing them chips. They might have come out of the river because it is so swollen and high. There is so much water that it is easy for the geese to just walk straight out onto the car park without even climbing up the bankings.

 

7 December Friday

The supermarket seemed full of elderly people this morning. It made moving around the narrow aisles a little awkward. One woman came up and grabbed my arm. She said, “I am Loving Your Hat!” She repeated this several times in a loud voice. Then she said it to another shopper who was passing. She said, “I am Loving Her Hat!” She said it two or three times. The other woman just smiled and walked on. I do not think she heard a thing.

6 December Thursday

At this time of year, there is a man who parks his lorry in various locations in order to sell firewood. Usually he is in Clonmel. Sometimes he comes to the market in Cahir on a Saturday but he always parks well away from the actual market. He parks at the far side of the car park so that he does not have to pay for a place in the market. His intention is to get the customers from the market but without putting out any money. He has a young boy working with him. The boy stays up on the truck and hands bags down to the man. Bags of kindling cost 1.50 each. Five euro buys four bags. One day I bought four bags. The man had the boy hand the bags down to him and then he tossed them onto his shoulder and he asked me where my car was. We walked together to my car with him chatting and asking questions all the while. He loaded the bags into the back of the car, complimented me on my accent and went back to his truck. It was not until I got home that I noticed how small the bags were. The bags on display and the bags which the boy handed to the man were not the same sized bag. It was a clever trick. I wonder how many customers go back for a second purchase.

4 December Tuesday

There was a sparrow swooping and flying around in the food court at Dublin airport. Everyone was delighted to see it. One table had been set aside with some crumbs and a bowl of water for the bird. The name of the cafe was Warbler + Wren.

Eleven Geese from Galway

18 November Sunday

It does not matter if a bale of silage is at the bottom of the pile with lots of bales on top of it or if it is resting all by itself. The meeting of the bale with the hard ground always pushes the bottom of the bale flat.  What is inside the plastic wrapping is rotting down. Without the plastic keeping it in its bale shape, it would just be a puddle of mush. No, that is not right. Without the plastic wrapping it would not be closed in and rotting. It would not be silage. It would be a bale of something but it would not be silage. It would just be a bale of straw. Or a bale of hay.

17 November Saturday

I have laid poison in both barns. I do not like to kill mice but I do not like living with mice either. In the house, I set traps. I can never decide if it is worse to find a poisoned mouse staggering about in agony and in death throes after being poisoned or to find a small body squished in a trap mixed up with the peanut butter that lured her there. This morning the lower barn smells like a dead mouse but I cannot locate the corpse. The upper barn does not smell of death but there are several large fat flies flying around lethargically. The weather is unseasonably mild so there are more insects than usual for the time of year. These obese flies are probably blue-bottles.  They are usually a sign that there is a dead something nearby.

 

16 November Friday

Walking with a dog who turns his head and looks back to make sure that you are turning the corner when he thinks you should be turning the corner or just checking that you are not lagging too far behind is good. It means you are not walking alone. Oscar has been leading me out on every walk he can. He continues to wheeze like an old tractor but he is willing and eager to rush along ahead of me. He hops off the ground with all four feet when we meet. As we dropped down and out of the field to meet the road today, I saw two small flashing blue lights in a place where I have never seen blue lights. It was a place where I have never seen any lights. Daylight was dropping fast. It was dusk or it was almost dusk. Oscar and I ran over to the flashing blue lights. They were two small strips laying on the road edge calling attention to a sign with an arrow. The sign said FUNERAL. There is no church nearby. I had not heard of any one dying in the area. Either the signs were directing people to a wake at a house or there had been a burial up in the old graveyard at Tullaghmelan. A burial up there is a rare event. The only people who get buried up in that graveyard are very old. I think they have to have a family plot already set aside. The road is too narrow to allow two-way traffic especially for people who are not in the habit of such roads. Especially in the dark. Breda told me that the Guards had directed the traffic to go away from Grange Cross but still we had no idea who had died. I found the blue lights exotic. Oscar did not care. He waited down the track for me to catch up with him.

15 November Thursday

No one knew where they went. It was a matter of huge discussion for weeks. One after another the geese in Ardfinnan went missing. One goose at a time. There have always been geese on the green and in the river. The playing field gets slippery with goose droppings but no one ever objects because there have always been geese on the green in Ardfinnan. It is as if the geese have the right of way. Ten or twelve geese disappeared over a two week period. There were no feathers and no signs of struggle. They did not fly away. They could not fly away. Their wings had been clipped. Everyone believed that a Two-Legged Someone took the geese. In the butcher shop, they said no one could eat the geese because they would be much too tough. One goose was left behind. It mourned and became very sad. Another goose was brought in from somewhere to keep the single goose company. Today there is great excitement in Ardfinnan. Someone, it might have been Tommie Myles the butcher, drove all the way to Galway and came back with eleven geese. A small crowd gathered to see them unloaded. Since then everyone has been down to the river to look at them. Now there are thirteen geese on the green in Ardfinnan. The village feels complete again. There is the small worry that these geese might disappear too. For the moment everyone is delighted.

 

14 November Wednesday

TOO RAUCOUS FOR A CHORUS is the title. I am thrilled with my new book.  I cannot stop looking at it. As usual, I have been moving it around the house to surprise myself with its presence.  The blue cover glows from across the room.  I have one copy here and Laurie has one copy in Scotland. We are waiting for Stuart to finish binding some more.  All we can do is to wait.  We can hardly be impatient now. I think it took us ten years to make this book.  We always wanted to make a book about birds together but neither of us never knew what the book might be. My knowledge of birds is so paltry. Finally these texts came together celebrating bird life, marking both small observations and small disasters. Laurie’s drawings could not be more perfect.

 

http://www.coracle.ie/too-raucous-for-a-chorus/

13 November Tuesday

We were surprised that the bus from Dublin airport was such an old bus. It was a town bus. It was a double-decker and not the usual type to drive distances. The X8 buses are normally high and modern and they have large automatic doors on the side to slide luggage into. This bus was so low to the ground that we each had to take our bags into the bus and try to find a place for them in between seats. The driver told us not to go upstairs. He said that we could go up there if we wanted but he recommended that we not go upstairs. He said it was roasting hot up there. He said he had No Knowledge of how to turn off the heat. This was not his usual bus. This was not his usual route. He said there was No Luck in this bus. He did not know what he had done to be given this bus for the day. He told an Indian lad who got on that he might enjoy the heat upstairs but he said no one else will like it. He told the lad that no matter where he sat he himself would wake him up in Cork. He said it will be at least four hours until we get there but No Worries, he said, I will wake you up. The bus was old and wobbly and as soon as we started off the rain began. The downstairs of the bus was freezing cold. The bus was not made for motorway speed. We did not go as fast as the bus was schedualed to go. We just puttered along.  The windscreen wipers were squeaky and loud. It was dark. There was nothing to be seen outside the bus. There were no lights anywhere. Cashel was the first stop out of Dublin. That took us more than three hours. By the time we got there, we were well late. A young woman told the driver she was desperate for the loo. Our bus was too old to have a toilet on board. The driver told her to run across the road to Feehan’s Bar. She left her belongings on the bus. He promised that we would wait for her. The driver sang us a song while we waited. He had a fine voice. It was not a song that I recognised. He sang it with a strong Cork accent. We all applauded when he finished. He did not sing a second song. Water was running down the aisle. The man behind me was going through his bag of groceries trying to find what was leaking. He announced each item as he pulled it out of the bag. He decided it must be a bottle of water at the bottom of the bag. He said he usually packs carefully so that nothing leaks. When the woman finally returned from the loo, she looked dreadful. She went upstairs. We set off again. The Indian lad was sitting beside the man with the leaking bag. He announced that he needed to get off in Fermoy not in Cork. The man with the leaking bag explained that after Cahir and after Mitchelstown, the very next stop would be Fermoy. The woman across the aisle said that she herself was getting off at Fermoy so she said she would alert the man from India when to get off. The driver heard all this and he shouted down the aisle that he would be calling out Good and Noisy-Like when the bus reaches Fermoy. We got off in Cahir. With so much help I have no doubt the Indian lad got off in Fermoy okay. Everyone was eager to make him feel welcome because he was so far from his home.

Train. Plane. Bus. A lift from Breda and home. London to Ballybeg was a ten and a half hour journey.

Pinhead Oatmeal.

2 November Friday

There are three dead leaves hanging outside the window. I see them each time I sit at the table. They have been there for ten days. The one dangling from the top of the window twirls in the breeze. The two on the left side of the window are held firmly in place by cobwebs. From where I sit the cobwebs are invisible. Every day I think that I should maybe go out and brush them away. Every day I do not do it. I have become fond of how firmly they maintain these incidental positions.

1 November Thursday

I heard gun shots up the hill and from the woods this morning, but there were never enough shots to make me think about what I was hearing. Later Siobhan and I went for a walk. On her way to meet me, she said she saw the Long Field being paced out by several men in camouflage clothing. Their guns were broken over their arms. The first of November is the start of bird shooting season. I forget it every year. It always comes as a surprise.  Pheasants and partridges are the birds in danger. We were glad that we had decided to walk down by the Abbey and by the river. No men. No guns.

31 October Wednesday

It was a Mart Morning. Every Wednesday is a Mart Morning in Cahir. Intake begins from 8.30 am. The farmers are all out with trailers full of animals. If we do not remember that it is Wednesday and if we do not remember that Wednesday is the day for the mart in Cahir we might be confused by the extra number of trailers being towed around and into the town. The approach roads are all a little slower than usual. Today it seemed like all of the trailers were full of sheep. Sheep are auctioned at 11. Cattle and calves are auctioned at 11.30. Some of the sales are from Farm to Farm. Other sales are from Farm to Factory. There used to be a hall with a kitchen and a canteen at the Mart. Joan Looby cooked a big hot dinner for all of the farmers who wanted to eat before they left for home. It was a big part of the day and almost everybody sat down to eat. It was the time for the farmers to chat. There was a fire a few years ago and the building burned down. Now there are no more cooked dinners. A decision was made not to rebuild the kitchen. There is a snack wagon that parks near the intake gate but most people ignore it. Snacks are not proper food. The farmers now go home for their dinner, with or without animals in their trailers.

30 October Tuesday

The flattened dog maintains his position and his watch on the road. This has been going on for months now. Sometimes I do not see him for four or five days. Then he is back again. He does not chase the car when it is going downhill. He only chases on the return trip when the car is going uphill. It is as if he knows that when I drive down to the village I will certainly be driving back up. He watches the motor and his head wiggles back and forth as I pass. His back and white sheep dog colours are crisp and bright against the sand and the drab grey tarmac. He lies a flat as he can. He thinks he is invisible. His chasing does not amount to much. It is all in the planning.


29 October Monday.

Bank Holiday. It was frosty this morning. There was ice in the water butts. The water is frozen solid in the butts while roses are still blooming. It is much too early for such deep cold. The frozen water feels wrong. The roses are in the right.

28 October Sunday

There is always another version of a stile. There is always another way to climb into a field which provides easy access for people but allows no escape for animals.

 

27 October Saturday

TJ has a lovely new sign. I think of him as a blacksmith. This sign offers his services as a welder. A welder with a bright attention-grabbing sign. Once again I find myself pleased with this new bit of language in my landscape.

26 October Friday

We have a new postman. We have had several temporary postmen in recent years ever since John became ill. Once John retired, we had Lee. Lee has been the most constant of all the substitutes. We assumed that he was our permanent postman now. A few weeks ago he started driving down with Derek. He was showing Derek the route so that Derek could take over. Lee himself has been given a new route. We thought he was going to Kilsheelan but it turns out he is doing Marlfield. He had the choice of a town route with a bicycle or being out of town in a van. Derek said it was no contest. Lee took the van. Lee always arrived with the post very early. Usually he was here and gone by 7 or 7.30 in the morning. He had a speedy manner in all things. Talking. Walking. Driving. Delivering the post. Derek said that Lee was always in a rush because he always wanted to be back in town for his elderly Nana. She made him his dinner every day and he hated to disappoint her by being late. Derek does not come early. He arrives any time between 8.00 and 10.30. This lack of certainty makes driving out the boreen in the morning a little scary for us. It is terrible to meet anyone because if we do, one driver must back up for as far as it takes. We got spoiled by Lee and his early delivery. Derek ends every sentence with the word Girl. This is a very Clonmel way of speaking. It does not matter if the person being addressed is a man or a woman. The sentence still ends with the word Girl.

25 October Thursday

I went into a small shop in town to buy some Pinhead Oatmeal. The woman at the counter told me that Pinhead Oatmeal is very old-fashioned. She was scornful that I was even asking for it. She told me that absolutely no one eats Pinhead Oats anymore.  What they eat is Pinhead Buckwheat. She asked if I had ever eaten Buckwheat. I said, Yes I have eaten Buckwheat but what I want is Oatmeal. They are not at all the same thing. I told her that I was not interested in fashion when it came to breakfast. She herself is interested in being With The Fashion, so she no longer carries Pinhead Oatmeal in her shop. I purchased my oats elsewhere.

Milky Tea

 

24 October Wednesday

Friday is voting day. We have two things on the ballot. The Referendum on Blasphemy is being offered to the people to decide if it should be struck off the books.  It is basically an out-of-date law on censorship.  There is not a lot of discussion about it either way.  I should think many people will arrive in the voting booth still not sure if they should vote with a Yes or a No. This is the 21st century, so I hope people will vote Yes. Until this referendum came along, Blasphemy was a word rarely used on a daily basis. It sounds both old-fashioned and important at the same time. I have enjoyed hearing it said out loud again and again.  On the same day, we will be voting for the President. There are six candidates running. Michael D. Higgins, the current President, is miles ahead of anyone else. We all speak of him as Michael D.  No one ever bothers with his last name. And we do not expect anyone else to win.

21 October Sunday

Walker hates Tom Cooney. Tom Cooney does not like Walker.  It might have to do with the fact that Tom Cooney always wears a big black hat.  Maybe there was a bad or violent person in Walker’s past who wore a similar hat.  No one knows what Walker experienced in his life before he was rescued. He found a good home with Fiona and PJ, but he does have a tendency to take against certain people. He can be a vicious and scary dog. Mostly he is a gentle and friendly dog. Tonight I saw a sign on the gate into one of Tom Cooney’s fields. It is on the gate exactly opposite Fiona and PJ’s gate.  I assumed it meant that the field had been freshly planted or maybe that poison had been put down. I assumed that the person who made the sign forgot to put an S on the end of DOG when he or she wrote KEEP DOG OUT. Then I realized that the sign is meant just for Walker. Any other dog is welcome.

20 October Saturday

The one woman said to the other woman: “I believe it because I was told it by my cousin who is related to me.”

19 October Friday

A man sat down beside me on the bus. I was trapped between him and the window. I always sit near the window if I can because I like to look out. I sit by the window but I always hope the aisle seat will not be occupied. Today this man sat beside me. He was a large man. I was trapped. There was no where to go anyway except where the bus was taking us but having such a sizeable presence so close made me feel trapped. He flipped out the little tray table on the seat in front of him. The table pressed into his tummy. He placed two enormous cups of tea on the tray. He was lucky that there was a tray table for his two cups. Some of the new buses have little tray tables and some of the old buses have little tray tables. But not all of any of the buses have the little pull down tray tables. I would say maybe one bus in six has them. The man was lucky. I am not sure what he would have done with two cups of tea without a place to put them. The man’s name was Tim. His friend sat a few seats up ahead and he shouted down to the man calling the name Tim and Tim answered so I knew he was Tim. He chatted away to me as he settled in. I could not understand what he had said or what he was saying, but he said it all with a Cork accent. He sipped his tea quietly for a while and then he started to lick his arms. Tim had terrible flaking skin on his forearms. He had dry flaking skin and where the skin was not flaking or where it had already flaked off his arms were raw and red. They looked painful. Tim began to lick his forearms methodically. Up and down. Up and down. It took me a while to realise that before each long careful licking, he filled his mouth with milky tea. Tim was using the tea to sooth his painful arms. In between the licking he stopped and looked across me and out the window at the passing scenery. Sometimes he shouted something up the aisle to his friend. Sometimes he just stared straight ahead while he drank tea from one of his big cups.

18 October Thursday

Simon rushed off to have the National Car Test done this morning.  We had done all of the various things to prepare for the test. The last thing was to have the car washed by the lad at the petrol station. It is important to catch him in between his other job which is delivering things for the motor factors shop next door to the station. It is imperative for us to have to have the car washed underneath with a power hose as the daily driving in and out through the farm means that there is a lot of muck caked up under the wheel wells.  We would fail the test immediately if heavy clumpy chunks of manure and mud fell down on the men while they were testing the car. Town people have it easy.  These are not problems for them. Luckily all of our preparation paid off. The car passed the test. The officials are trying hard to get twenty year old vehicles off the road, but we have been spared for another year.

 

17 October Wednesday

There is a new system for checked out books in the library. Maybe it is not new. I do not know how long it has been in effect. It can all be done with computers, so it is considered good for the library. No doubt anyone in a branch library all the way up in the north of Tipperary can know when my book is due back. Everyone can know when my book is due back except for me. The book still has its usual lined piece of paper stuck into the front of it. There are three columns printed on the piece of paper. Each column is headed with DATE DUE. DATE DUE. DATE DUE. All of the columns are empty. The paper tells me that I will be charged 5 cents per day if my books are late but that never happens. Even if my books are late, I am not charged. I am told by the librarian that my books are due three weeks after I take them home. Why must I be the one remember when I took the books? Sometimes they stick a sort of receipt that is like the long thing from a cash register into the front of one book. Sometimes they do not include this slip. I cannot decide how a piece of paper which is not physically connected to the book is an improvement on a date rubber- stamped into the waiting column. With this new system, I rarely have any idea when my books are due.

 

15 October Monday

The morning is full of mist. We cannot see the fields nor the hills. We cannot even see the fence. There is a cold whiteness over everything. The sun is going to break through. There is a bright white glow in the midst of the dull white mist. The combination of the bright sun and the dull mist makes everywhere that is near and visible look creepy. The out of doors is full of spider webs all being caught by the strange light. The hedge looks like it is wearing a hairnet. The rosemary looks like something captured.

14 October Sunday

After all of my despair about our apples ripening too early and falling off the trees and about the apples ripening early but not ripening sufficiently and being all dry and too tasteless to eat, the Bloody Butchers have come good. They are delicious and plentiful and huge and falling off the tree by the bushel. I cannot collect enough of them. The ground underneath the tree is a mass of apples. I have filled boxes and buckets and bags and I have given many apples away. The leaves are falling off the tree and there are still more apples.

13 October Saturday

It rained all night and it has been raining all day. I took off for a walk in a gap between showers. I thought it was a gap but it was not. The rain just went from hard downpour to steady soft drizzle. I started up the mass path in the few minutes when I believed the rain had ceased. About halfway up, a tree limb had fallen from the left and it blocked my way. It was tangled with another big branch that had fallen from the right. I think these were branches that had been cut or broken earlier and last weeks wind just knocked them around. They were too entangled and too heavy for me to move, so I began to push and struggle through them. I broke off bits and pushed my way through. When I was right in the middle of the two branches I realised that I was caught. I could not go forward and I could not go backwards and the brambles had grabbed onto my jacket too and the rain was falling harder. I stood for a while at a funny bent-over angle and wondered what to do. I was sort of resting. I listened to the rain on my jacket. After a little while, I continued with my struggle. Eventually, I broke more branches and dropped to the ground. I crawled out of the mess through the mud and the moss on my hands and knees and continued up the path in the rain.

A Dead Fox.

12 October Friday

Wild lashing rain.  Incessant beating winds all night and all day — so far.  The rain is so heavy and noisy it is difficult to think.  The roof of the big room is being pounded. After such a long dry summer, it is thrilling to hear this sound. It is exciting to hear the rain and to know that we do not have to line up the buckets and throw down the towels.  The leaks are not leaking.  I can still barely believe it.

11 October Thursday

It was first thing I saw as I came out of the undergrowth and reached the tarmacadam road. Dead fox. He must have been hit by a car. There were no obvious injuries. He looked perfect. A small amount of blood was coming from his mouth. He looked like he was resting. Part of me felt that I should move the fox off the road so that he would not be run over and squished by the next car or tractor that came along. Part of me just wanted to go away.

10 October Wednesday

The man did a fast U-turn in front of the church. The turn was too fast to be safe. At the same time as he made the scary turn he was crossing himself: Head.Tummy.Left.Right. and at the same time as he was crossing himself and making the turn he was talking into his phone which was squished between his shoulder and his ear.

8 October Monday

There are fewer raspberries everyday. I can no longer fill a big bowl but I can fill a small bowl. Some days I can only fill a cup. It is best if I pick every other day. For some reason the sorrel is growing like crazy. It is going mad. It is more plentiful that it has been all summer.

7 October Sunday

Oscar walks with me every day now. He walks with me every day that I use the Mass Path. He meets me two thirds of the way around. He meets me just as I pass Sharon’s cottage. The cottage Sharon lived in was The Murder Cottage but since she lived there, she gently made us all adjust to calling it The White Cottage. She painted several small signs to get everyone used to the new name. Sharon has moved away because the cottage was put up for sale and her lease was up. I think she was not offered the option of staying. She was sad to leave. She has gone to live with her mother which is hard for her but good for her mother. Her mother is not at all well and her father died recently. Oscar still spends a lot of time at Sharon’s house. He is waiting for Sharon to come back. He is waiting for her two dogs to come back. One of Sharon’s dogs died suddenly just after she moved but of course Oscar does not know that. He is waiting for both Emma and Shay. He lies down across the road and he waits. Some cars do not know that this is his regular resting and waiting place. He is not quick to move off the road. I worry that he will be killed but so far he does what he wants and all vehicles accommodate him. He is happy to see me on foot and then he is happy to walk up the road and down the boreen with me. Oscar is always happy. He wheezes a lot when he walks now. Maybe he has asthma. Maybe it is not asthma. Maybe it is just age.
Today we were both startled by the bull in Joe’s field. The bull is a different bull than the one that was in the field for most of the summer. That one was brown and white. This one is big and black. This one was rushing back and forth and stopping suddenly with a sort of skid and turning around and then racing off in the opposite direction. He bellowed and he roared and then he ran back again. He criss-crossed the field over and over at a frightening speed. He threw his head down in a charge and then he tossed his head way back. He looked like he could easily jump over the wall if he wanted to and since it was in a downhill direction to where we were, I felt it was a real and frightening possibility. Once he saw Oscar he stopped running abruptly and walked over to the wall. He stood completely still and stared at us.

6 October Saturday

A person stepping off a curb unexpectedly flails about to hold themselves up. Or someone falling in a hole and losing their balance catches themselves after a few wild steps and does not fall. That is what I was thinking as I saw the cow. I was driving down the road and Tomás’s cows were ahead of me. They took up the whole road. I slowed to a roll and watched them. There was nothing else I could do anyway. They had been milked and they were on the way to their next pasture. Suddenly one cow made the kind of wild struggle to stand up that I just tried to describe in human terms. She nearly fell but caught herself before she slammed into the stone wall. I assumed she had caught her hoof in a hole. Then she did it again. And again. The young helper who was driving the quad bike behind the herd to keep the cows moving. Tomás himself was up ahead in his truck. The boy must have phoned him. Within seconds he was there and out of the truck and moving toward the cow. He separated her from the rest of the herd, but it was not easy. She jerked away from him and fell to her knees. She could not get up but then she did get up and fell sort of sideways again. It was dreadful to watch. I had tears pouring down my face. It was awful to see her helplessness and confusion. The car stalled out. I could do nothing but watch. Tomás came near to the car. He looked like he wanted to cry too. He said “Meningitis.” He said it quietly. He said, “Her mind cannot tell her body what to do.” He said, “I must get her to the vet.” He followed while the cow staggered and fell and staggered and fell all the way up the road toward his farm buildings. I watched their slow progress in my rear view mirror while I waited for the rest of the herd to plod along until they got to where they were going. I wept as I watched. I weep again every time I think about it.

5 October Friday

It has been a Two Wake Week. Two people died. They were both elderly and they were both members of large farming families. In both cases, a field was mown and cleared and ropes were put up to define the area. Neighbours were out on the road in High-Visibility vests directing cars through and into the parking field. The entire community turns up on these occasions. The deceased is Reposing At Home. We each walk into the house and we shake hands with all of the members of the immediate family. I am sorry for your loss. Or -I am sorry for your troubles. We repeat these phases again and again. In one house the man was laid out in a coffin. In the other house, the woman was in her bed. They both looked peaceful. People cross themselves or bow their head for a few moments in front of the deceased. The person is at home surrounded by their families and now there are these 5 or 6 hours for the neighbours and friends and relations to come to pay their respects and to provide a special kind of respectful company. There are pots of tea and there are sandwiches and cakes. Visitors can choose to have a cup of tea or they can just continue on out of the house. They can continue with their day. There is a steady flow of people arriving and leaving. We all nod and acknowledge one another. We see people we have not seen for a long time. We also see the people we see every single day. Sometimes the deceased is removed to the church at the end of the wake for a mass and then they spend the night alone in the church. Sometimes they stay in their own house for one last night and then they are taken to the church in the morning in time for the funeral. This journey to the church is often full of small detours as the person who has died is slowly driven over the familiar roads which have been a part of their everyday life and landscape for a long time or forever. Each family makes their choices about these beautiful and quiet rituals.

4 October Thursday

The woman at the counter was grumbling. She said, “Sure, we still have plenty of tourists about. The coaches arrive several times a day to drop them off to see the castle. The trouble is that at this time of year, they are all the ones on the budget tours. It’s always the same with them. They say ‘We’ll have one scone and we’ll share a cup of coffee.’ And that is when you realise there are three of them doing the sharing.”
She kept grumbling and repeating to herself: “It is not my idea of a holiday, I can tell you that.”

3 October Wednesday

I was interested in the yellow and grey paint job. I took a photograph just to think about the colours. Since I have had the photograph to look at I am more interested in the two doors side by side. It is a tiny house. I have a lot of questions about the doors. I have no answers.