The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Schooling Your Features

29 June Thursday

The Yield sign at the corner gets more and more battered but it never gets replaced. There should be a stop sign there not just a vague suggestion to look out three metres before the crossing road. I say the words Géill Slí out loud when I pass it but never when anyone else is with me.  I do not know how to say the words correctly in Irish even though I have been told many times.

28 June Wednesday

The word EVENING can still mix me up.  Breda texted today to ask if I wanted to go for a walk this evening. I said yes and I looked forward to an evening walk.  I imagined a quiet walk in the hour or so before sunset.  The sun does not begin to go down until ten o’clock so I did not expect the walk to be mid-afternoon.  The word evening to me still means the time between afternoon and night.  Around here the word evening is anytime after lunch. I should know this by now.

7 June Wednesday

The bees are walking.  I am not certain what kind of bees these bees are.  They are not bumblebees and they are not wasps. They are not yellow jackets. They are furry and more brown than yellow. They appear every day in the heat up in the corners in the ceiling of the high room.  I do not know if they are coming in or if they have a nest somewhere up there in the roof and they just crawl out into the room because of the heat.  Either way it is too high for me to try to find out.  They buzz around and smash into the windows.  Sometimes they go right out the windows but mostly they seem to be walking.  They come down to the floor and they waddle around.  I am nervous to walk without shoes.  The bees make no buzzing noises when they are walking. They just scurry along like some kind of beetle.  It is a quick walk for something that small. They could fly much faster.

2 June Friday

I saw Tommie twice this week.  We had a chat in the hardware shop. He sat himself on a big bucket of paint while we talked.  He told me he cannot be away from the house for long as Margaret cannot be left alone. He says the indoor life does not suit him.  He said I am better in Open Spaces.  Catherine joined us for a few minutes.  She was pleased to see Tommie relaxing in conversation on the paint bucket. She reminded him of how he had once rescued her when she was a little girl.  She had been trapped underneath a pony named Tom.  They both laughed about Tommie rescuing her from Tom.  He was happy to be the hero of her story. Yesterday I delivered some fresh scones for him and Margaret. Tommie answered the door looking fragile and old.  His clothes are disheveled.  He is thinner than I have ever known him to be.  I think he is digging out old work clothes from years ago.  His belt is pulled tight but the trousers are still too large at the waist. Everything hangs off him. I have been worrying about Margaret who cannot see and can barely stand. Now it seems that Tommie himself is suffering.  Both physically and mentally there is a kind of visible defeat.  It is hard to be the one looking after someone else.  It is hard being the one who has to keep going no matter what.

1 June Thursday

When you are required to speak with someone with whom you would prefer not to be speaking but you are making an effort, that is the time when you are in the mode of Schooling Your Features. Schooling Your Features is something that everyone does sometimes. This just a new way to say it.

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A Small Hospital

29 May Monday

Sign on tree:

PHOTOS OF

BIRDS OF PREY

5 EUROS EACH

 

27 May Saturday

The rain was torrential and wild. All night it lashed down. It rained from all directions. We were reminded yet again about the leak in the bathroom.  Roads were flooded as we drove to Cahir. The farmers market looked bedraggled. There were hardly any customers and only six  stalls.  The few sellers were all squeezed up against the wall trying to be out of the wind and trying to keep their wares dry or at least to keep things from blowing away. They were brave to be there at all. By afternoon the sun came out. Everywhere the fields turned a garish unreal kind of bright green.  This was the rain we had waited for. Everything was soggy and squishy underfoot but everything was glowing.

26 May Friday

First thing this morning the nurse took my bloods and then she printed out some labels from her computer. When the printing was finished the machine made a little pinging noise. She said “Ah, how perfect to hear that! It is exactly the note that has been giving me trouble in choir practice. With it repeating on my printer,  I’ll be after singing all day.”

25 May Thursday

I was admiring the copious number of enormous three-leaf clovers growing in the middle of the track as I walked the Long Field. I had to remind myself that the hugeness of the clover leaves and of the purple and white flowers is not natural.  The large size is a result of nitrogen sprayed on the fields.  There are so many bad things that are easy to forget.  It is never possible to forget the terrible weed killer that the farmers spray along verges and the edges of fields and in front of gates.  The weed killer turns things a horrible brown. It then goes to gold and then to gold red and then to dead brown.  We have to look at the aftereffects of this poison for a long time, so we never forget it and we never like it.

24 May Wednesday

Dellie told me her method for rescuing the birds that careen into windows at speed and knock themselves out. She keeps a large pot of mint growing near to the house. She does not keep the mint in a pot to stop the mint from growing rampantly all over her garden. She thinks of her pot of mint as a small hospital. If a bird is found unconscious, it gets rested right in the middle of the pot so that it is surrounded by mint. She is certain that the smell works to revive and give strength to the stunned bird. She says it is a rare day when the bird is still laid out among the mint when she returns for a look. If a bird has not moved the bird is dead. She says the mint always revives those who can be revived.

Dellie is short for Adele. The sounds are in there. It is a nickname which is understandable. Dellie has a friend named Betty. Betty is short for Gwendolyn. That makes less sense .

The Coptic Pope

23 May Tuesday

The young man was shouting over the road at someone who was walking away from him. He cursed and swore. His language got more and more obscene the further the first man went from him. A woman who came out of the shop in the middle of his rant announced. “Now there’s a lad who wants manners put on him.”

22 May Monday

There is a fine straight line marked into a field where cows have been grazing. They stick their heads under the fence and reach out as far as they can to get at every single bit of fresh long grass that they can.  The resulting line is always a surprise. It is as straight and even as if it has been drawn. From afar it looks like there might be a different crop being grown in one field exactly beside another.  It is all grass and it is all the same grass but one batch has been eaten as low as the cows can get it before the herd are moved to another field.

21 May Sunday

Do not sweep around a chair with an unmarried woman sitting in it.  If you do, she will never marry.  She should move before you start sweeping.

20 May Saturday

The Coptic Pope was to arrive in Cahir today at 1.15. It was planned that he was to perform a Mass and do other pope-like things for the order of Egyptian Coptics who now reside in the former Catholic school and convent. As early as 10 am, there were two Garda and one man in a reflective vest directing any cars away from the convent which I am not certain the Egyptian Coptics still call the convent but everyone else calls the convent because that is what the building has always been and that is what the building has always been called. Apparently there had been a threat on the life of the Coptic Pope recently which explained the police presence. We left town before he arrived and I have not heard of any trouble so I guess it all went well. I sort of wish I had stayed to see what he looked like and what the congregation who greeted him was like.  It is difficult to imagine how and why this Egyptian order ended up in County Tipperary.  John Joe said they first came here because they got jobs in the slaughterhouse.

19 May Friday

Every car is covered with bird droppings. Every house is covered with bird droppings. Windows are covered. Outside tables and outside chairs are covered with bird droppings. There are long huge white splashes. There are lashings of excrement. The excrement is thick as well as white.  Where it is on the windows it is not possible to see through it, which can make driving difficult. It is a seasonal problem but every year it is a surprise.  We had hoped the rain would clean it off or at least in a few places but I fear it is hardened on and really will need scrubbing.

18 May Thursday

A sanctuary up in Kildare rescued the chickens. They had been resident in a battery farm. After 18 months the chickens are no longer considered reliable as good egg layers. The next step for them is death and a future in a goujon or curry or some other fast food. There was an announcement on Facebook saying that a truckload of the rescued chickens were being driven down to Clonmel. People were waiting in a car park for the truck. Some people took a lot of the chickens. Some took a few. I met four of the confused birds this morning. They were walking about tentatively. They kept returning to the darkness of their new house which is made of stone. I think so much space both indoors and out and all of the new and never before tasted  greenery to eat makes them nervous. They looked terrible. The bone structure of their wings was completely exposed. The bones should have been covered with feathers. There is no chance that these chickens can fly as they are now. I wonder if the feathers will grow back after exposure to sunlight and space and fresh green things to eat. Even the red of their wattles was a pale unhealthy looking pink.

 

15 May Monday

The path is completely closed in with cow parsley. It is impossible to see the path.  There is just the sense of knowing where it goes and where it usually goes so I walk and assume I am in the right places but sometimes I am not and I stagger and stumble into the tangle. This morning I fell down and startled a pheasant who was running from me in the undergrowth and I think he thought I could not see him and indeed I would not have seen him except that I dropped down to his level. Not only is the undergrowth thick but it is wet. Today I got soaked and slapped with all of the blossoms and branches.  I wore full waterproofs for the rainy drizzle which was falling and against the rainy drizzle which had already fallen. I ended up soaked anyway because my rain jacket is old and now un-waterproof and because the water off the plants went down my neck and the water went through the hole in my boots. I could have been wetter when I reached home but not much wetter.

14 May Sunday

I was surprised to realize that my cow book (I Always Have An Audience For My Work) is now out of print. The Butter Museum had had  ten copies of it.  I wrote to ask Peter if he had any copies left. He said “I think I still have some copies of the cow book.  I was reluctant to sell them as they are so wonderful.” Since the purpose of him having the books was to sell the books, I am not sure what was accomplished by them being too wonderful to sell.

Last bluebells. High banking. Knockmealdowns.

12 May Friday

Two women were discussing a man.  I did not know the women and I did not know the man they were speaking about. One of the women said, “He’s been single for a while now so he has. There is no reason for it, as he’s good enough to look at.”

11 May Thursday

I am fond of the place names made of three complete words squished together with no spaces in between the words. No doubt they are a form of translation from the Irish, but when I look them up I can never tell if the translation is literal or if it is something else altogether. There is one place with the name Twomilebridge and another called Two Mile Bridge. I do not know why one is crammed together into one word while the other is three separate words. Twopothouse. Fourmilewater. Fivemiletown. Sixmilebridge. Ninemilehouse.

We used to drive through Watergrasshill as we traveled home from Cork. After the motorway was built, we no longer drove through it. Watergrasshill is now just an exit. Watergrasshill is a village I have no reason to visit. It is not a special place. It is just a place. I love the name Watergrasshill. It feels more and more utopian with each visit I do not make. It has become a place to hope for, never a place to visit.

10 May Wednesday

The cows were in Joe’s field all night. I could hear them tearing grass and moaning softly from my bed.  I did not hear the tractor coming this morning to lead them away. They were just gone when I woke up.  I thought they might return after milking but they must have gone to graze another field. All day dozens of crows have been swarming over the ground. The very dry earth is completely churned up from where the cows moved about all day yesterday.  The crows are taking advantage of the disturbed soil to feast on worms.

9 May Tuesday

The man in the waiting room pulled his chair out from the row of seats which were lined up against the wall. He sat himself right in the middle of the waiting room beside the elderly woman he had rolled into the room in a wheelchair. There was no room for her chair to go against a wall so he moved himself out to be next to her. He spoke in a loud and clear voice so that she could hear him. He spoke almost without taking a breath. She nodded sometimes but mostly she just listened or perhaps she did not listen. Her head was bent down well into her chest.  It was impossible to know if she was paying attention.  He never stopped talking. None of us could read whatever we had been reading because his central spot and his loud delivery took over the room. He told her about a group coupon project on the internet and about a three bedroom holiday house she could rent in Sligo for two nights for a song. He asked her about some family photographs and he told her she could get them framed. He said he had seen some nice wooden frames in Aldi’s. They were real wood not just some plastic that looked like wood and he said there was a good dark wood available or some nice light wood too and if she were to decide to frame the photographs he would go and get the frames she needed. He said he had gone there to buy a picnic basket but once in the store he decided that he did not need a picnic basket. He decided that all he really needed was two lunch boxes. He said A picnic is a different thing today. He said You no longer need to replicate the dinner table at home.  He said, Indeed you can just buy a box of salad and call it a picnic.

8 May Monday

John the Post has been in hospital. We have been worried about him.  We are glad to hear that he is back at home now but he is not yet ready to return to work. A new substitute postman came this morning.  We know the three other postmen who have been substitutes but this was a new man. He brought a package to the door and he said that it was registered and that it must be signed for.  He asked Simon if he was Simon.  Simon said yes, so the postman said Okay. Good. I will sign your name for you. He signed Simon’s name for him with a signature that looked nothing like Simon’s signature while Simon stood there and watched him do it.

Cuckoo

2 May Tuesday

The sun has arrived after the big rain and after so many days or weeks of grey heavy skies. Already I cannot remember anything but this brightness.  It is clear. Everything looks cheerful. The sun did not set until nine last night. When the days are grey it is hard to know when it is going down. Now the days just get longer and longer and longer. Plants are growing by the minute.  The path is more and more overgrown.  Some of the cow parsley is already up and over my head.  The stickyback climbing stuff is on everything and acts like a trap I must struggle though in the overgrown places. I just learned that it is called Robin-Run-The-Hedge.  A much nicer name than Sticky Back.  The nettles are all tangled up with the stickiness. A sting from the youngest of the nettles is the worst.  This morning I got stung in the face while swatting a bunch of cow parsley. This sting will be with me all day.

1 May Bank Holiday

The month of May arrives with a lot of superstitions. I think there might be more for May than for any other month but maybe I only hear more. The weather is better and people are more willing to slow down for a chat.  I am not sure if the superstitions are all pisogues. I know that a pisogue is a local superstition, but I am not certain that all superstitions are pisogues.  One thing I have learned is that it is imperative to walk out in the dew on a morning in May. It does not matter which morning. Any morning is fine as long as it falls within the month. If you do not do this you will have bad luck and if you do do it you will have good luck. Another superstition is that you must hear the Cuckoo during the month of May.  If you do not hear the Cuckoo, you will die. The minute the person saying this is finished saying it, he or she quickly reassures the listener by saying that of course you will die at some point anyway so maybe not necessarily in May, and maybe not this May, but still it is best if you do hear the Cuckoo during the month. Kathleen told me that you should not dust the house in May.

30 April Sunday

Last night there was wild gusting wind and lashing rain all night long.  The blustery noise was so erratic and demanding that I had to close the window which is something I rarely do. Each time I relaxed into sleep another huge crashing gust would sort of whack into the house. This morning things were blown all around the place.  Nothing was where it had been left and the few garments which had been hanging on the washing line were either wrapped tightly around the line or lying wet and bedraggled on the grass. A few things had flown out into Joe’s field.  The rain was welcome and this morning the land is saturated. Everything glows green and bright with the big amount of water.

29 April Saturday

Already it is sad not to see young Oscar at his house.  He has moved to Goatenbridge with his people. They had only been renting the house up the track for a year and have now decided to buy a house and to settle in the area.  After years of working on water projects in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, they now feel the need to stay in one place for the children and their schooling. The toys and the trampoline are gone.  I shall miss Oscar and his rolling over for tummy rubs. I miss him already.

 

28 April Friday

I have a fair number of photographs of things made with tyres. Mostly the uses are utilitarian like holding down a huge sheet of black plastic on a slurry heap, or stopping vehicles bumping into a cement wall but there are a lot of floral and planting arrangements in tyres. Usually the tyres are painted.  Each spring they get a fresh coat of paint before being replanted. Two swans made out of tyres have been in place in front of Mr. Bumbles in town for several years.  They never seem to get repainted and the painted surface looks no worse for it.  A reddish beak is painted onto the white tyre.  In the body of the swan is planted a brown spiky plant. They are safely behind a little fence so that no one can steal them. This year a box of pansies has been placed between the two swans.

27 April Thursday

Michael corrected me.  He said that we live BEHIND the O’Byrnes not BELOW the O’Byrnes.  We have always said BELOW because we are down the hill from the O’Byrnes. We speak of them as being ABOVE at the farm, so if they are Above we are Below. He said that they are closer to the road so they are in Front and therefore we are Behind.

26 April Wednesday

There was the shape of a car in the field near Moloughstown.  Was it a ghost limestone dust car or maybe a tarpaulin-covered car in the field?  Was the shape formed in the back of a tipper truck and dumped?  Was it strange nitrogen granules for the next crop of oil-seed rape to be grown later in that place?  A few days later, I walked past that field and the ghostly car shape was gone.  No trace of the grey dust remained.  I have no idea what it was.

25 April Tuesday

I stopped in the middle of the shop as I tried to remember what I had had on my list because I had left my list at home.  A woman came near to me and then she stopped.  I guess she was waiting for me to move but I just stood still.  After a few seconds she asked “Can I cross you?” I was confused so I said yes.  She passed in front of me and around the corner to continue with her shopping.

Rainlessness

24 April Monday

It rained for six minutes today.  A tentative little drizzle that barely started before it stopped again.  Everyone speaks of the lack of rain. It is an endless topic of discussion.  The fields seem to be growing with barley and corn and various crops but nothing is growing as quickly as it should be growing. The cows are eating grass faster than it is coming up. Most days are cool, overcast and grey.  It looks like it should rain. It feels like it should rain. We wish it would rain or we wish the sun would come out.

23 April Sunday

The field across the meadow is very steep.  It is so steep and so straight up and down that when Paul’s cows are walking along the top edge of the field in a long drawn out single line, they look like they could tumble off the field. The field looks like it is vertical and flat.

22 April Saturday

There is a squished thing in the road.  It has been there for months now.  Maybe it has been there for a year.  It was the kind of long narrow tube that is used for squeezing silicon or adhesive or bitumin or some other building stuff. The tube gets fitted into a sort of gun and then whatever is inside gets squeezed out through the nozzle.  From the first time I noticed it flattened on the tarmacadam it was already too late to know what it had held.  It had been run over several times and the printed information which described its contents was already faded to an all over grey. There was nothing to identify what had been inside.  The nozzle is unbroken. Whatever it was that was inside was tough stuff. It has survived in its flattened condition for a long time with tractors and lorries and cars rolling over it. It has not broken down at all. It is well stuck to the road.  In the midst of my spring time walking and my noting of each new kind of flower as it arrives, I check to see that the squished tube is still in place. Speedwell. Vetch. Apple Blossom. Bluebells. Garlic flowers. Primroses. Stitchwort. Cow Parsley. Flattened tube.

21 April Friday

The man on the radio was giving advice about calling in to visit elderly people just as a way to make certain that they are all right and that they know someone is keeping track of them. He said that this is important in the country where houses are far apart but it is important in the city too where the neighbours are not who they used to be and the person still living there might not know anyone around any more even if once they knew everyone on the street. He said that calling in did not have to mean going in. He kept repeating that there is no need to go into the house. Just a brief hello and A Standing Up Tall on the step was enough.  He said, “You don’t have to go and live in the house.”

20 April Thursday

As always, it is slippery and wet going up the Mass Path. It is the only place that is wet. I was walking carefully through the mud when I was pushed hard from behind.  I knew I was alone so the hefty nudge startled me. It was the big yellow labrador who appears every few weeks. He wanted to walk in front of me not behind me. I have no idea who he is nor where he lives. We walked together as far as the tar road and then he turned and went off into a field. I have not seen him since.

19 April Wednesday

I took a short cut down a street in Clonmel.  At the corner a plastic sleeve folder was wired to the hedge.  Inside the sleeve was a sign which read WALL GREASED DO NOT SIT.  The wall beneath the hedge was about as high as my thigh.  It had been daubed with globs of some kind of grease.  Maybe it was axle grease. It was not dry. It would probably never be dry.  It will make a terrible mess of a person’s clothes if someone sits down on it. There is a school across the street.  Perhaps the resident of that house is weary of school children sitting on the wall.  But what about an elderly person who might need a rest on the way home from the shops? Both the wall and the hedge and the grease continued right around the corner where there was a second sign, exactly the same as the first one.

Wild Garlic

17 April Monday

It is still dry.  Nights are cold and mornings are chilly.  Some days get warm but mostly the wind keeps things from warming up. I walked through Joe’s fields carefully trying to step around the lumpy mashed down hoofprints of the cows and in between the cow pats.  Under the fence and through another field. Under another fence and through another field.  I went through four fields and then got onto the dirt track which is just for tractors and cows.  It is rocky. Between the hoof indents and the stone it is all rough walking. The only place where it was wet was right down in the hollow where there is no where else for water to go. I think the water and mud there just came from a leaky water pipe leading to a drinking tough. Everywhere things look green and lush. Nothing looks dry but all conversations keep coming back to the lack of rain.

15 April Saturday

She is a very shaky elderly woman.  I do not know her name but she comes to the market every Saturday. She has been getting more fragile in the last few years.  Today Jim mentioned the lack of rain and she launched into a long tirade about the problems of the dry land. She quickly worked herself into a rage.  The grass was not growing and the cows were not making enough milk and once their bodies got into the habit of making less milk they would not easily return to making the amount of milk that their bodies should be making.  The variations of this problem went on for twenty minutes and then she stopped talking abruptly and she walked away.

There is some sort of big Easter family event being set up for Easter Sunday and Monday. Right at the edge of the farmers market there are suddenly toilets set up for the public. Two for women and two for men.  Each cubicle has a little sink included. They will not be there by next week.

14 April Friday

Today is Good Friday. There have been all the usual discussions on the radio, in the papers and over the counter. It seems certain that this will be the last year when the Good Friday Alcohol Ban is in effect. After ninety years, the government is passing something soon and apparently without much resistance to say that none of it matters any more. Bars and restaurants and shops will be able to sell and to serve alcohol. People are already bemoaning the passing of this outdated law and it has not yet come up for a vote. For years the Thursday night before Good Friday has seen packed pubs and shops selling loads of drink. The idea seemed to be that if people were told they could not drink they would do everyhting they could to make sure that they did drink. A bit of it was about defying authority and a bit was about the joy of the forbidden. It was well known that people could drink in hotel bars if they were registered guests or if they knew the bartender. And with a ticket to travel the bars in railway stations or airports were another possible drinking place. I just learned that the Dublin Dog Show, formerly held over Easter weekend, was another place where drink was served but only to people who had dogs in the competitions. It became the norm to borrow a dog for the day if you did not own one and to take it along with you just to have a place to sit and drink. Boring and a bit confusing for the dogs. Normal access to alcohol will make the country a little bit more like everywhere else but no doubt the stories of outwitting the ban will continue for a good many years. Poor Rose.  Christmas Day and Good Friday have been the only two days of the year when she could sleep late.

13 April Thursday

It cannot be very long since the first swallow arrived but I cannot remember seeing it.  Already the swallows seem to be back with such a lot of busy swooping that I cannot remember them not being here. Some people mark the first swallow on their calendar so that they can check this years arrival with last years arrival and maybe with the last four or five years of arrivals but even though I do not usually mark the day I do tend to remember the first one I saw in a year.

12 April Wednesday

Michael was rung by the hospital. A woman informed him that he was still on the waiting list for an electro-cardiogram. He was asked if he was happy to still be on the waiting list. He said he was happy to wait. He then spent two days fussing about the phone call and the question. Of course he would rather not be waiting. Of course he would rather the electro-cardiogram be done and over with. He worried out loud and he worried by himself. Finally he rang back and he spoke to the same woman. He said, “Maybe I did not really understand your question.” He said, “If I am not happy to be on the waiting list, what is the alternative?” She said, “There isn’t one.”

11 April Tuesday

Jer informed me that it is common knowledge that a pregnant woman never enters a graveyard. It may be common knowledge but it is new to me. Even if a woman’s own father has died she will not enter the graveyard for his burial. She will be at the funeral but not at the burial. It is something to do with not letting Death and Life touch. But a tiny baby can be taken into a graveyard for a burial with no worries. Once there, the baby will have a tiny clump of the soil for the burial plot put on him or her, just above the heart and underneath the bib. For a baby this is good protection.

10 April Monday

There is a curtain at the kitchen door. During the day it is pulled over to the left side. It is tied out of the way with a wrinkled blue ribbon which I always intend to replace but I never do. At night I close the curtain because the stable door is a homemade door. It was once a regular door but Simon cut it in half and made it into a double opening door. It is draughty. That is not the fault of the top and bottom parts of the door fitting. They are pretty snug. The sides are a little less tight fitting than is normal. In the winter and on any cold windy day there is a breeze coming through the cracks. The full length curtain pulled across the door at night keeps a lot of wind out. Perhaps it keeps the heat in. I made the curtain. It has long loops of fabric sewn onto the top edge. The idea of the loops was that they be generous so they would be easy to slide across the wooden dowel which I used as a curtain rod.   But it is not easy to slide the fabric across the wood. Maybe metal would have been better. It might have been more slippery. I have to use both hands to tug the curtain open in the morning. I have to use both hands while I stand on tip-toes. Sometimes it is just too hard to get the loops sliding across and I am not able to stretch myself tall. I think rubbing a waxy candle along the wood might make for easier sliding. I think of it and I always mean to do it later. It is quicker to drag out the little two step ladder. The curtain was supposed to be a simple thing. Instead it takes two hands and a big stretch. Tip-toes. Step ladder. Open in the morning and close at night. Some people have doors that fit tight and do not let in the wind. But I do not.  This is where I live.  I live here and nothing is easy.

9 April Sunday

More and more often I find Old Oscar lying across the road. When he hears or sees a car or a tractor he gets up slowly and carefully.  He is older than Young Oscar but he is not an old dog.  He is not stiff and slow.  He can run as well as any dog. He gets up slowly to show that he does not like being interrupted.  He wants others to wait. His deliberate careful movements give me time to think about his way of being in charge.

8 April Saturday

Things are dry. There has been no rain. Or there has been a bit of rain here and there but it is never a soaking rain. It has not been the kind of rain to water the crops. The dirt tracks across Joe’s fields are dry. There is mud up the path even though no where else is wet. A little spring half way up the hill feeds into the mass path so it is always muddy and mossy. Walking up makes me look down. I have to keep track of the slippery stones and the squishy muddy places. I have to watch where I put my feet. At this time of year it is good to be looking down anyway because there are so many new things to see. Each day new plants come up. There are primroses, wild garlic, violets lots of violets, several kinds of ferns, wild irises and many broken birds eggs. The eggs are open and the small birds are gone. I want to gather up the different shades of blue halves but unlike lichen or horse chestnuts, I know the shells will smash in my pocket before I get home. Instead I scoop up big handfuls of wild garlic on each trip. The white blossoms are starting to open so a handful of garlic leaves now looks more than ever like a lovely bouquet. If I meet someone out on the road, I am asked what it is.   I explain and describe its many pleasurable uses. No one looks enthused or interested. Without exception, I offer them the wild garlic. When I offer my handful to anyone, they accept it but I do not think they want it. A mistrust of food found free in nature is ongoing. People are accepting it to be polite to me. They might not even put it into water when they get home. They probably drop it on the side of the road as soon as I am out of sight.

 

Since God Was A Child

7 April Friday

When someone says something has been the way it is “Since God was a Child” you can be sure that there is no chance of it changing now.

 

3 April Monday

A soft boiled egg is called a Guggy Egg. The word Guggy means the yolk of the egg will be runny.  The man in the barber shop talked about making Shepherd’s Pie and serving it with a poached egg on the top. He said that when the egg and the pie are cut into the Gugginess comes running down into the pie. He said that this is a wonderful thing. He announced firmly that anyone who eats Shepherd’s Pie this way will never again eat Shepherd’s Pie without a Guggy Egg on top of it.

2 April Sunday

We were having a cup of tea together. Pam asked each of us what was our favourite kind of potato crisps. She was happy to agree with everyone’s choice. She said she loves every kind of crisp that has ever been made. She especially likes the ones with chili flavouring. What she really likes is to eat crisps in bed when the lights are out. She loves the sound of crunching in the dark and she loves the salt on her lips. I asked if she did not worry about scratchy crumbs in her bed later in the night. She said she has been eating crisps in bed for longer than she can remember. She rarely drops one in the bedclothes. She said that at 93 years of age, she feels certain that she has perfected her method.

31 March Friday

The cows had been milked and they were on the way to a field somewhere further down the road. I waited as they ambled along. I did not see anyone driving them from behind so I kept the car rolling slowly. If any of the cows stopped or turned too far left or right, the proximity of my vehicle convinced them to keep walking. After a few minutes someone appeared on a quad bike. He slipped in front of me and zig-zagged along the road. The lad was young. He was wearing a bright red wooly hat pulled down low on his head and he was standing up on the quad as he held the handlebar in one hand and he texted onto his phone with the other hand. Every so often he shouted to a cow who wandered to the ditch on the roadside. He whooshed back and forth from left to right with the quad and he texted and he shouted and he never stopped doing any of these things. The cows did not stop either or if they stopped it was not for long. They did not walk any faster but they did not go slower either. After a while they all turned left into a field and I continued on my way alone.

29 March Wednesday

This house is difficult for me. It has always been too big. It is not a large house but I am small. Many things are out of reach. I spend a lot of time unable to get to things. I can only turn on the light over the kitchen counter by using a long wooden spoon to press the on/off switch up on the plug socket. A short wooden spoon will not do the job. There is a second light above the stove. To turn that one on I have to get out the step stool and climb up on the counter. Once on the counter I balance on one knee while I plug the light into its socket. I have to do the same thing in order to turn it off. It is a precarious bit of balancing. I keep meaning to find an easier solution or at least to find a different light.

28 March Tuesday

The well cleared path which was so wide open is already closing in again. There are two fallen trees. One pretty much blocks anyone getting past it. I made it through this morning but with difficulty. I was only able to do it because I crawled underneath on my hands and knees. This tree needs a small saw and about thirty minutes of work to clear a walking way through it. The other place is not really a fallen tree. It is just ivy covered branches which toppled because of the weight of the ivy tugging on the dead wood. It only blocks a portion of the path. A narrow space around the right of the the ivy clump allows enough room to pass. Cow parsley and the Alexanders are growing fast.  They seem to be getting taller by the minute. I think they will be waist high within a week.

Inside in the water

26 March Sunday

Inside is another word which gets regularly used with undue emphasis. When Inside is used along with In, I think it just says the same thing twice.  I cannot get used to this doubling up of prepositions: Margaret is inside in the hospital. Teddy is inside in the shed. Gussie is inside in Clonmel. The dog is inside in the water. A dog can be in the water. But I do not understand a dog being inside the water.  And inside in the water is a step towards complete confusion.

25 March Saturday

Two baby jackdaws fell down the chimney. They were young. They had no feathers yet. They were naked except for a tiny bit of fluff. No one was near the chimney when they fell. Gavin found them because he and another lad were in and out of the bar painting the loos. It was early in the day and there was no one else around. He showed the birds to Rose. The babies were still alive so she put them into an open cardboard box with an old tea towel. The Inspection Woman made a surprise visit. She came in shortly after the birds got settled into their box. Rose quickly put the box out in the small room that people walk through to go to the outdoor smoking area. She assumed the Inspection Woman would not go that far. The woman was busy looking everywhere for any breaches in Health and Safety. She reprimanded Rose for having an old and barely visible sticker for Silk Cut cigarettes on the underneath of the hinged bar hatch. No one ever sees the Silk Cut sticker except when Rose opens the hatch to go in or out from behind the bar to clear a table. The sticker has been coated over with varnish and old smoke for years and years now. It is barely visible. It is impossible to see where the sticker ends and where the wood it is stuck onto begins. The Inspection woman said that the sticker violates a law about openly advertising cigarettes. She made notes about a few other things and then she walked out the back door to go out to the smoking area. She squealed when she saw the two little jackdaws in the box. She asked no questions. She just said Get Them Out of Here! in a loud and imperative voice. She continued on with her examination. The birds were not mentioned again and Rose wonders if they will be noted in the letter with its inevitable list which the woman will be sending out later in the week.

24 March Friday

I stepped out of the barn to feel the warm sun. It is hard to believe that we had snow on the ground just two days ago. There is a sharp wind but in any sheltered spot the sun is hot. I sat down on the bench just outside the door and turned my face up to the sun. I lasted about three minutes in this pleasant position. Sticks and straw and leaves and little puffs of insulation material fell down onto my face and my shoulders. The starlings have been nest building in their normal spot up under the eaves. The ground is covered with the mess of construction. I was foolish to choose that bench for sitting.

23 March Thursday

We woke up to snow yesterday. About 4 inches of fat heavy wet snow. It looked beautiful and it covered everything thickly. It was a complete freak.  We have entire winters, year after year after year, with no snow at all. Now, in late March, we get this lovely surprise snowfall. I am certain not everyone felt it was lovely. It could not be called a storm. It was a quiet gentle falling and all the time that the snow was falling the birds continued to sing as if it were another spring morning. The snow stopped by mid-morning and in the afternoon a soft rain began. By nightfall most of the snow had been washed away. Today the daffodils are popping back up again as if they had not been completely flattened to the ground by the weight of the snow. A very few of them have had their stems bent and their blossoms are hanging down. The bent daffodils will not recover but most of the others have shown amazing resilience. They are up and blowing in the breeze as if there had never been snow on top of them. The hills and the mountains remain white.

21 March Tuesday

There are two Oscars to meet on each walk up the path and around. The first Oscar is a young sheepdog with chestnut brown coloring. He is always desperate with desire for a tummy rub. He rushes out from the yard running low to the ground. He has rolled over and is waiting for a rub well before I reach him. After that first rub he stands up and hops about with pleasure. He hops with all four feet off the ground at the same time. Then he rolls over for more. If there is more than one person on a walk, we have to do a minimum of two good tummy rubs each before we can continue on our way. The second Oscar is the older dog. He is a big black Labrador. He rushes out from any number of locations, all in close proximity to his house. He greets anyone passing on foot with enthusiasm but he does not seek any rubbing, scratching, patting or touching. This Oscar has little interest in affection. Just being together is enough for him. He wants a person to walk with. I am always happy to have him walk me home. And since he is getting a bit fat in his older age he needs as many walks as he can find walkers to go along with in a day. Living where he lives he is often without any walk at all as there are few people passing by.

There can only be one Front.

20 March Monday

The walls that contained the compost heap have been collapsing for a long time. Instead of another make-do repair, the bin has now been completely rebuilt by Andrzej. He built it in the way that he decided it should be built and not at all the way it had been before. The only thing about it is that is the same is that the structure has been built with the re-used wood of a pallet. The pallet he found to use was a painted pallet. It was bright blue. Suddenly the compost bin is colourful and exciting. And it has a hinged cover.

19 March Sunday

Breda and I walked the lumpy fields again today. We love these fields. We were discussing the fields and how they join up. We know that each one must have a name because how else would anyone be able to say where they were going or where they were putting the cows if they could not put a name to the place. One of the fields has a clash in it. A clash is a kind of saucer-like indent in the land. It looks like it could be full of water but it is not. That is the easiest field for us to give a name to. One is shaped kind of like a corner piece. We decided to attempt a Field Count but we were talking as we were walking and we kept losing our count. We think that we ended up with nine but there are several fields we did not even walk into so we still do not have a total. And anyway I think we might have lost count somewhere between eight and nine.

18 March Saturday

There is a particular way for houses to be built of concrete blocks and then for the front of the house to be clad in stone so that from head on it looks as if it is a stone cottage. It is easy to see that the building is not completely made of stone as the sides remain concrete walls. No one seems bothered that the building has two different finishes. The stone clad front is an attempt for the house to look fancier and better presented to the world. And as Mick declared when admiring a newly built house, “There can only be one Front.

17 March Friday

An elderly dog lives just down the road from Frank’s shop. The dog is deaf and his eyes are not good. He makes a visit to Frank’s shop every morning. A white line is painted on the road. It starts just at the point where the old dog lives.   The line goes right down the middle of the road. Not many of these roads have a painted line. The old dog is fortunate that there is a line because with his poor eyes, he needs the line to get to the shop. He walks right along the white line with his head down keeping his full attention on it. The white line takes him to the shop and the white line takes him home again. When he gets to the shop he wanders around outside for a little while. He smells things and he pees on things. Then he sits down on the step. When Frank sees the dog he comes out and gives him a piece of yesterday’s cake or a bun. After the snack, the old dog takes a nap and when he wakes up he goes to the center of the road and walks along the white line until he arrives back home. We all know this dog and his scheduale. He cannot hear a car coming up behind him so it is up to us to be aware and to be careful if we are driving that bit of road mid-morning.

16 March Thursday

Taking To The Bed is what people do when they are poorly. They might be feeling sad and depressed or they might be ill with a cold or a flu.  When someone is said to be Taking To The Bed, it is best not to ask too many questions.

 

15 March Wednesday

One bit of Joe’s field hovers high above the ditch. A cow standing up there makes the height confusing. It is not like the cow is merely looking over the ditch with its head visible.

14 March Tuesday

It has been four years now since her father died. She was mad at him when he died and she remains mad. She goes to his grave nearly every day to tell him how angry she is. She also tells him how much she misses him and she tells him how much work there is for her to do all because he is not there to do it. Her mother died last year. She is not angry with her mother. She saves all her rage for the father.