The Journal

Erica Van Horn – Living Locally

Water Dog under the Woodpile

 

27 March Tuesday

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

26 March Monday

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

25 March Sunday

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

24 March Saturday

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

23 March Friday

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

22 March Thursday

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

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The Pump Is Gone on the Central Heating.

21 March Wednesday

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

20 March Tuesday

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

17 March Saturday

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

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

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

15 March Thursday

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

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

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

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

We Have Enough Rain Got.

16 January Tuesday

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

15 January Monday

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

13 January Saturday

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

12 January Friday

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

11 January Thursday

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

10 January Wednesday

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

9 January Tuesday

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

8 January Monday

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

7 January Sunday

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

6 January Saturday

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

A Crest of Moss

4 January Thursday

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

3 January Wednesday

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

2 January Tuesday

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

1 January 2018 Monday

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

31 December Sunday

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

30 December Saturday

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

The Irish Harp

29 December Friday

THE IRISH HARP IS NOT CONSTRUCTED BUT CARVED OUT OF A SINGLE TREE LIKE A CANOE.

In 1993, we made a letterpress concertina of this statement for our Coracle residency at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. In 1998, we laminated some of the leftover pages of text that had never been folded. We put grommets and strings on them. We called them Tree Ties. Today I spent some time down by the stream pulling pieces of ivy off the tree so that I could expose the Tree Tie a bit. I do not remember how long it has been attached to that tree. It is in pretty good shape.

 

27 December Wednesday

There is a lot of moss everywhere. I am not sure if it is because of the mild weather or if it is in spite of the mild weather. The luminous green glows and makes us pay attention to things which we might miss.

 

26 December Tuesday

We walked up Middlequarter and along the old track which is more like a riverbed than a path. It would have been wise for me to take a walking stick. The rocks were slippery with moss and wet leaves.  We managed to do most of the walk before the rain started up again. The path is lined with holly on both sides.  The sharp edges of the holly scratched at us as moved through them. When we dropped down to the place where the narrow path becomes a farm track we passed Des Dillon’s cottage. As always, I admired his green gate.

 

24 December Sunday

Every year Anthony makes a Christmas tree from tyres. Anthony runs the motor factors and tyre place in the village. Everyone with a car or a truck or a tractor goes to Anthony for new tyres and for repairs to flat tyres. He is as happy to fix a wheelbarrow tyre as he is to do a bicycle tyre. He has a lot of old tyres. Every year his tyre tree is a little bit different from the year before. The tree is built on top on some pallets and held on with a big yellow strap. It might even be the same tree each year with just slightly different treatment. This year he layered green leaves between each tyre. Every year the tree appears as a surprise.

23 December Saturday

There was a piece in the news about some youths wrecking a church. They went in and smashed things up. The church was in an isolated spot out west somewhere. No one heard them or saw them. They broke every window and most of the benches. They set a few things on fire. They did not appear to have stolen anything. They just destroyed the place. People have been discussing it.  Jimmie was very saddened by it. He did not like the disrespect nor the irreverence. He despaired about the waste. He shook his head again and again. In a quiet voice, he said, “It is the problem for kids today. They are trying to have fun but they do not know how.”

22 December Friday

The weather is all wrong. It is unseasonably mild after a period of deep hard cold. There are daffodils pushing up from the ground. Some are already showing three inches of green. Lilacs and currant bushes have buds. The apple trees have buds and one even has a few blossoms. Roses are showing new growth. None of this is right. There are two snowdrops in bloom. They are also early but at least they are only a few weeks early. They are not as early as everything else. I heard on the radio that a daffodil grower down in Wexford has multiple fields of daffodils in full bloom. He is deeply upset. There is no market for daffodils in December. He said he is a ruined man.

21 December Thursday

The pressure is on. People stop one another to ask if everything is done. These are the Pre-Christmas things to be done. It is not only the things like the tree and decorations and the wreath for the door and the gifts and the turkey. It is all the other things which demand attention before the day. It is all the things to do before the Great Christmas Shut Down. Even though things do not shut down as completely as they once did, people act like the stores and the banks and the Post Office will never open again, and there will never be enough in the house to get through the ten days of the Shut Down. There are so many things which MUST be done before the holiday. I always feel like people are adding completely unnecessary things to the Must Do list just to increase the sense of panic. Every year I try to take note of all of the Important Things and every year I learn about some more things. A list might be the best way for me to keep track of the demands, even though I shall not be doing these things myself.  I shall no doubt forget some things:

  1. The graves of the deceased must be cleaned and either fresh flowers or an evergreen remembrance wreath should be placed on  the grave. This is especially important for the recently deceased.
  2.  The dog, if you have a dog, must be washed and groomed at the dog groomer.
  3.  The car must be washed.
  4.  The car should be filled to the top with petrol or diesel before Christmas Day.
  5.  A haircut is essential.
  6.  A supply of coal or turf must be bought and ready.
  7.  The firewood supply must be stacked and ready.
  8.  Teeth must be cleaned by the dental hygienist.
  9.  The windows of the house must be washed inside and out.

Clean Food.

19 December Tuesday

A box of birthday candles in the shop has been opened and 3 candles have been removed.  Or maybe 4 candles have been removed.  The box held 24 candles when it was new. Near the top of the box the price sticker has been amended to read 21 only.  At the bottom someone has drawn a zero over the 4 of 24, so there are either 20 or 21 candles in the box now. I do not know if the price on the packet takes the smaller number of candles into consideration.

18 December Monday

For as long as we have lived here, we have been run off the road by  enormous shiny milk tankers. It is a regular thing. Some of the tankers are from Glanbia and some are DairyGold. They rush around the countryside several times a week collecting the milk from farms. We are lucky they do not collect every day. Both kinds of these tankers go too fast. They are dangerous if we are walking and they are dangerous if we are driving.  Maybe it is more dangerous to be driving because they take up the entire road and they never slow down for anyone. I never thought the word GLANBIA was anything more than a company name.  Today Breda told me that it is the Irish word for CLEAN FOOD. Knowing this translation does not make the milk trucks any less dangerous.  If anything, it is disconcerting to imagine being run over by Clean Food.

17 December Sunday

I took a cake and a card down to Tommie and Margaret.  Tommie was alone and he looked exhausted.  He told me that Margaret fell outside the house on a tiny bit of ice yesterday and broke her leg. The ambulance arrived within half an hour which Tommie thought was good timing but he said it was a very long half hour for Margaret.  She had to wait on the cold ground as he dared not move her. She is now in Waterford awaiting surgery.  He slept very badly last night with the worry. This morning he went over to Grange for Mass as he could not deal with going in the village as usual.  He would need to be answering questions from everyone and he had no answers to give.  I knew he was not able for the drive to Waterford so I asked if he needed a lift.  He said, “Not to worry.”  He said that Some of His Own will be driving him.

16 December Saturday

The little chicks are growing up at the Farmers Market.  Each week they arrive in a cloth lined box that sits on the end of the table at the egg stand.  There are four of them. This week they are four weeks old. They are fuzzy. Everyone who sees them smiles.  I think this is the third egg seller we have had since David retired.  One of them was charging so much for his eggs that people started to boycott his stand and there was a lot of grumbling among the customers. I had never before heard grumbling at the market.  People said “Can you imagine paying that much for a dozen eggs!  And they are not even organic!” as if they always bought organic when mostly they never bought organic.  It did not take many Saturdays before that egg man stopped coming to the market.  These new egg sellers have a huge stack of boxes out on their long table.  The baby chicks are at one end, the eggs are in the middle and at the far end of the table are jars of chicken broth. David had a tiny round garden table and he only ever had two or three boxes of six eggs out at any one time.  As he sold them he would bring a few more cartons out from the back of his car.

15 December Friday

The sun was out. It was cold but bright. I walked over Joe’s fields. The ground was wet and squishy.  It was not cold enough to be frozen. I stumbled a bit in and out of the deep hoof marks left by the cows in the mud. Cows always churn up mud and when it gets really cold the hoof holes freeze. Because we had the deep cold and now we have this strange mild weather the hoof holes are deep but soft.  It is a different kind of treacherousness than the frozen kind. Later I spent part of the road walk detouring into any long grass to wipe mud and muck off my boots.  As I neared the turn into our boreen, I heard a siren.  It is rare to hear a siren. I stopped to figure out where it was coming from and where it was going. I could hear that it was up on the Ardfinnan to Knocklofty road but I could not decide if it was going towards Ardfinnan or away from Ardfinnan. When I saw a Garda car speeding up the road towards me with lights flashing and the siren going, I waited to watch it pass. It was the only car I had seen all day. The car stopped beside me and the siren was turned off. The Garda opened his window and asked if I had seen a car crash.  I said No.  He asked if this was the Knocklofty to Newcastle road.  I said No. I said, “This is the Grange to Newcastle road.” I told him to take the left at the top of the hill and to drive a short distance, about a kilometer, which is the entire length of that road, until he reached a T-junction.  I said, “That will be the Knocklofty – Newcastle road. The car crash you are looking for could be either down hill to the left toward Knocklofty or down hill to the right toward Newcastle.” He looked a little confused about what to do when he got to that decision-making moment. He thanked me, turned on his siren and set off again, at speed.

The Fermoy Pencil

13 December Wednesday

Ever since the new motorway bypass was built we have had little reason to drive through Fermoy.  As a town it is a little too far away to be useful for everyday things and not special enough for a visit on its own. Today we made a detour into town to take a photograph of the Fermoy Pencil.  The pencil is located on the road leading out of town. It was a good moment for a photo as the pencil had been recently painted.  It looked bright and clean and crisp and the graphite point was perfectly sharp.  The pencil was originally erected as a sign post for the Faber-Castell company just down the road.  The factory opened in 1954.  They made any number of different writing implements. I do not know if the big pencil was erected right away. No doubt it has been replaced a few times.  Kids carve their names in the wood of the pencil at least as high as they can reach. They never get up to the top. The pencil is about two and a half meters high.  Whenever the column is repainted the words and names get filled in and the pencil once again becomes a smooth, new writing utensil. The Fermoy branch of the Faber-Castell factory closed in the early 90’s but people love the Columbus which is the name of this style of pencil.  Tom Martin & Co. took over the distribution of the Columbus throughout the country. I assume the company is responsible for maintaining the pencil itself. I love the Fermoy Pencil.

12 December Tuesday

A damp struggle up the path today. It was not really a walk.  It was a only a struggle. The really huge tree that was blocking all movement up or down has finally been cut and moved by Andrzej with a chain saw.  Unfortunately, he ran out of both time and light to do any more clearing because that one tree took so long. There are still other trees in various angles of collapse.  We straddled our way over one large one which was covered with ivy and very wet. I think it is the ivy that pulls some of these trees down. It strangles and weakens them. Most of the others just involved crawling underneath or a squeezing around. There are plenty of brambles tugging at our hats and skin. Still, after so many weeks or maybe two months, of not being able to walk that route it was a pleasure to be back up there again.  I saw two pheasants and the fox.

Once we were out on the road, we saw Tom Cooney overseeing the moving of hay bales into his new shed. Tom Cooney always wears a big black hat with a large brim so even at a distance it is easy to know that it is himself. His hat is not exactly a cowboy hat, though maybe it is a cowboy hat.  It has a distinctive look.  Not one other person around here wears a hat like that.  Tom Cooney drives a big black Land Rover and he has two large black dogs who go everywhere with him. Mostly they stay inside the vehicle while he is checking on things. If he lets them out to run around he cannot keep his attention on the job being done as he would need to keep all his attention on the dogs. The new shed is much bigger than the old shed. And now he has two sheds where before he only had one. The roof supports off the old shed have been removed. The old galvanized round top has been replaced with a flat roof. The metal was all deformed and bent after the roof blew off in the hurricane. I am glad I photographed it before it was replaced. Seeing the new roof makes it is hard to even remember what the old one looked like.

11 December Monday

Dilly is not the only one who ends her sentences with the words PLEASE GOD. Many people use these sentence endings.  If I say “I shall see you on Wednesday” Dilly always adds the words  “Please God”. Sometimes she says “God Willing”. Both endings embrace the assumption and a certain acceptance that the future is not something that is in your own hands.

10 December Sunday

Our Green Cone is a green plastic cone which is wider at the bottom that it is at the top. It is made so that we can throw bones and fish skin and any amount of horrible stuff which would not be appropriate in the compost heap.  No rodents can dig down and get at anything because of the basket-like container at the bottom of the cone.  The container is dug into the ground. We still use the regular compost heap for vegetable matter. The green cone gets the horrible things.  If I go out to the cone at night I use the head torch so I can have two hands free for opening the top and tipping something inside. Last night my entire bowl, complete with fish skins and bones, slid into the cone.  I closed the top and went back into the house.  It was cold and dark and the contents of the cone smelled. My arm is not long enough to reach down into the cone even if I wanted to. I considered the bowl gone forever.  It was a heart shaped sponge-ware bowl which had been a gift.  Today Simon went out and rescued the bowl with the help of a long spade.

8 December Friday

Wild lashing rain with a bit of sun at rare intervals but really it is the kind of day to get soaked no matter what you do or how long you spend out of doors. Ned came down to fill the oil tank. We have to be at home when he comes.  The generator needed to fill the tank must be plugged in to the house currant through an open window.  A normal sized oil lorry will not fit down the boreen.  Ned was soaked through when the job was done.  He was happy to sit down with hot tea and biscuits.  He spoke about one man giving another man the hard time he deserved for abusing public trust. He said that The one man Lacerated the other man.  I had never heard Lacerate used like this. Ned said, “He gave the fellow a Real Laceration.”

6 December Wednesday

Em hated closed doors.  A closed door inside the house was a personal insult.  She moved through the house at intervals checking in rooms where she thought something might be happening.  The bathroom was on her route.  After years of slipping in and out and rubbing her side along the edge of the door frame, she left a grubby smudge at dog body height.  She has been dead now for three years but the smudge remained.  Even though it looked like dirt on paintwork to anyone else, it was a sign of Em for me.  Now the smudge has been cleaned away.  Another sign of her absence.

A Sparrow On Galtymore

4 December Monday

Simon and I spent an hour or so with clippers and saws trying to work our way up the mass path. We had not gotten too far when we reached a fallen tree.  It was too big for our little saws.  It needed a chain saw and since we did not have a chain saw, we back-tracked and went through Cooney’s wood where tree felling has been going on for weeks and weeks now.  We struggled up a steep banking, got into the field and walked along the side parallel to the path. A small fox run at the top of the hill allowed us to slip back down onto the path.  We were both scratched and bleeding from the pushing and cutting through brambles and branches.  We had thick clods of mud encasing both the top and the bottom of our boots from the field. The very sticky soil made walking hard. The soil is called Clay. No one calls it dirt.  Dirt implies excrement.  Clay is what fills the fields. The way it clumped around our boots made our feet heavy and awkward. We staggered down the road with clay falling off at intervals.  At the fold in the land near Ballynamudagh, Oscar came rushing out to greet us and he walked with us all the home. With sunset at about quarter past four we just made it before dark.

3 December Sunday

I saw Mary at the market yesterday. She is the Mary I usually see at the Farmers Market. I do not think I have ever seen her anywhere else. She is the Mary who loves Edvard Grieg.  She has traveled to Norway to sit on Grieg’s bench. She and Anne baked cakes and pies and scones for the market for at least six years.  They also took baking orders for special occasions. They had a little mobile stall from which they sold their wares.  The stall was small and high off the ground. It meant that they were standing way up above their customers. The cakes were at the level of the top of my head. I could never see what was available.  I had to ask. Mary’s pear and almond tart was a great favourite.  Anne’s husband arrived early each Saturday morning and got the stall backed in and level and secure and then he went home and came back later with Anne and her baked goods. The two women retired a few years ago. Anne and Mary stopped selling at the market and I have never seen Anne again.  Mary comes to the market every week.  She swears she has never baked another thing from that day to this.  When I saw her today she looked a bit lost.  Maybe a bit naked.  Then I realized that she was wearing no glasses.  She too had her cataracts done this year and she has had a bad time since then with infections.  I asked how her eyes are now and she said they are terrific.  She told me they are so good that she can see A Sparrow On Top Of Galtymore.

2 December Saturday

I went down to the post office yesterday afternoon to catch the last post before Monday.  There were cars everywhere. It was the wrong time of day for a funeral. Funerals are always at 11 am.  This was a wedding and everyone was just leaving the church after the service as I arrived.  There were cars parked everywhere all the way up to the bridge and there were people all over.  The men were all wearing suits and ties and looking smart.  The women and girls were all completely underdressed. Everyone seemed to be dressed for a wedding in the middle of summer. There were lots of spaghetti strapped dresses and bare legs with fake tan and high heeled sandals.  It was a bright and sunny day but the temperature was 2 degrees.  It was nearly freezing and in my many layers and my wool hat I was still feeling the cold. These women must have been nearly dead.  I saw a few hats but they were summery wedding hats not wooly cold weather hats. I saw one little white furry cape that covered someone’s shoulders and came halfway down her upper arms.  The shop was full of people laughing and talking and getting warm. They were getting cash and cigarettes and talking about what a lovely ceremony it had been. The wedding was for David John and his girlfriend.  I do not know her.  I do not even know her name.  They have been together for maybe seven years and they have two children.  People save up for years to have a wedding.  They are more apt to buy a house than to have a wedding. That is the current order of things.  DJ is Rose’s son. She had opened the bar for an hour before the wedding and it was going to be open for two hours after the service. That is why people were in the shop getting some cash.  People like to drink before a wedding and they like to drink after a wedding.  Two buses were going to come after the two hours to collect everyone and take them down to Dungarvan for the party and the Afters. Later in the night, or in the early morning, the buses would make a few trips to bring everyone home again and deliver them all to their houses.

1 December Friday

We spent a lot of the morning looking for an apple corer.  We knew we did not own one.  We were looking for something that might work the same way.  I texted Breda.  She did not have one. I texted Siobhan.  She did not have one but she met us for a walk and brought a potato peeler thing which she thought might do the job.  We bumped into Biddy at the graveyard. She did not have one either but she remembered that she used to have one.  She could not recall the last time she even needed an apple corer. There was not a corer for sale at the shop.  Kieren found a short piece of pipe with a sharp end in the hardware shop. The pipe had been part of some shelving unit.  We decided that might do the job.  It was the best solution so far and in the end it worked beautifully.

30 November Thursday

The pumpkin rescued from the ditch was too old to be edible. One side started to rot so I cut it open. The flesh had gone all spongy. I think it had been frozen and thawed one time too many.  I scraped out the seeds and dried them in the oven with a bit of oil.  They are delicious. The pumpkin is in the compost heap.

28 November Tuesday

We walked up the small road past Tommie’s and met Michael at Middlequarter.  He thought we were walking toward the waterfall and he warned us that it was wickedly muddy and slippery up there right now.  We knew that to be true so we said we would wait for another day to do that walk.  He told us that Rose’s mother MaryAnn swore that the waterfall was a Tried and Proven cure for alcoholics. If any man went and stood up under the rushing water at The Gash he would be cured of his drinking addiction.  She used to tell this to anyone who would listen as she stood behind the bar serving drinks. After a bit of laughing, Michael said goodbye.  He was on his way to the stream just below to rinse off his Wellington boots.  He had been with his cows and he had muck and hay and mud coated almost to the top of the boots. He said he did not want to sit into his car with all of that still on his boots.

Campbell’s Tea

27 November Monday

Going to the village to post a few parcels before the afternoon pick up became a long trip. There was work being done between the
graveyard and the bridge. It was big work with lots of men and lots of trucks. Yesterday there was one truck and a few men there with two at each end. They had STOP & GO signs that they turned around every few minutes. Today I had to wait about 15 minutes for a little white
van with flashing lights to arrive. This was the Convoy Vehicle. He arrived and turned around and then led myself and two other cars down
the road where one other car was waiting to come up. Then the Convoy Vehicle turned around to lead that car back up. I had to wait to
travel in The Convoy as I went back home too. There was no other way to go unless I drove all around by way of Ardfinnan and that would
have been stupid. It seemed to me that the two men with their two signs and their mobile telephones did the job just as well, and faster.

26 November Sunday

Simon found a pumpkin in the ditch. We had walked down the Long Field in cold windy sunlight. He chose to return by walking around by the road. I walked back up the way we had come. I wanted to look again at the metal things on the rock in the low place where rocks and rubble have been dumped to keep them off the fields and all in one place.This rock depositary has been used for a long time. Years. Most of the rocks are probably parts of the stone walls that separated many small fields before the Long Field became one enormous field. There are
plenty of furze bushes and brambles growing around the piled up stones. It is a place to aim for on the walk. I always think of it as
about halfway but it is not really halfway. And of course it depends from which end of the field you begin your walk. There are eight metal
things on the rock. They have been there for at least two months. Each one has two big bolts in it. I guess they were taken off a piece
of machinery during the harvest and replaced with new parts. Or maybe they are waiting for collection and will be used again. It might be
that the farmer knows exactly where he left them. Lined up together on the rock in the sun they looked like a little flotilla of boats.

Back to the pumpkin. Simon was walking up the road just after the fork. There are no houses nearby. He saw a pumpkin in the ditch. And
of course the ditch was not a down ditch as most people know a ditch but a Tipperary ditch meaning a section of hedgerow. Someone had
thrown the pumpkin there, maybe from a moving car. It was resting deep and snugly within the tangled brambles and hawthorn branches. It was not visible to anyone in a car or a tractor, but it was visible to a walker. He scrabbled in the ditch and rescued it. It was not broken nor were there any gashes from the thorns. Simon was not able to walk too far with the pumpkin in his arms so he waited under a tree until I
drove down that way. I was wondering why it was taking him so long to get up the hill. Now we have a pumpkin sitting outside waiting to be
cooked and made into a pie or a cake or eaten as a vegetable.

25 November Saturday

Yesterday morning was cold and frosty. There was a thick covering of snow on the Galtee Mountains. They looked like the Alps. The
Knockmealdowns and the Comeraghs were less heavily coated. They were only sprinkled with snow. We had no snow down here. It was all in the distance. The good thing about the snow and the cold was that I thought there might be fewer slugs alive and crawling around in the
bathroom. The unnaturally mild weather has meant that they have not died off or gone into hibernation or whatever they do in the winter.
Every evening I have been finding at least one stretched out on the sink or the tub or the shelf and every time I throw him or her out the
window. There was no slug to toss out last night. I hope that means the end of them until next year.

Tuesday 1 slug
Wednesday 1 slug
Thursday 2 slugs
Friday 0

24 November Friday

I turned the corner in the boreen and surprised the fox. He surprised me too. He turned his head and saw me just exactly as I saw him. I was close enough that I could have touched him with an outstretched arm. He leapt high across the track and into the woods without missing a beat.

23 November Thursday

Young people do not go to High School. They go to Secondary School. I was surprised to see a musical event listed to take place at the CBS
High School. The CBS is the Christian Brothers School. The ground floor of the school is for Primary School boys and upstairs is the
Secondary School, for the older boys. It is called the High School because it is upstairs. It is higher off the ground. The man who explained this to me said that he himself left school early. He told me that he never got Up the Stairs.

22 November Wednesday

I was stopped going through the security line at Cork Airport. The security woman took me and my bag aside. Before opening it, she said “You are carrying coffee in a tin?” I said “No, I have tea. I have two tins of Campbell’s Tea.” I had been a little worried that the security people might consider the metal tins to be potential weapons. I babbled a bit and said that I liked to take Campbell’s tea as a gift because I love the big yellow tins and because people love to receive them. I forgot that I was in Cork. The woman was not worried about the metal and the possibility of it being bent or shaped into a knife or a weapon once I was on the plane. She did not care about the tins. She was disgusted that I was not taking Barry’s tea as a gift. Barry’s tea is the only tea to buy or to drink if you live in Cork. Barry’s tea is a Cork product. It is a Cork institution. The Barry Family are from Cork. They still live in Cork. They donate generously to all things Cork. Barry’s tea is synonymous with Cork. I worried that she was going to confiscate my Campbell’s Tea. She made me wait around a bit. She let me and the tea go, but she did not want to.

Gallybandy

7 November Tuesday

When walking a path where no one else has walked for a while I feel that I am jostling the settled nature. Or that is the word I use for
it. I am jostling the landscape. I am jostling the land to help it remember feet going along it. Stepping down on upright grass and pushing through weeds begins the path-making all over again. The path feels fresh and new even when it is not exactly new and not exactly fresh. It is not making a path. It is just re-claiming where it was and reminding it and me that it is the same place only different. Jostling the memory of the land.

6 November Monday

There are two and sometimes three men working on the humpback bridge into the village. They are pointing and scraping at cement and stone and doing things underneath that we cannot see as we drive or walk past. We hope that this work will help the bridge to last for many
more years. There is a small container dropped in place by the bridge. It is called a Welfare Pod. One door on the long side has a crossed
knife and fork. That is the little kitchen and eating room. The short side of the Pod has another door and that is a loo. The kitchen and the loo are both only entered from the outside. There is a discrete separation between the two activities.

5 November Sunday

We all comment about the weather. We comment on the weather all the time. Today is bitter and cold and windy. But it is dry. That is the positive in every weather conversation. If it is not raining, it means that life is good and therefore we can only complain so much. We have been told to expect more of this cold. It has been unseasonably mild for so long now that the cold is a shock and a surprise. Tommie grumbled about it. Really what he grumbled about is that there is not one thing that any of us can do about it. He said, “We have no say at all in the weather. They put it inside into the radio and then it is after coming out and into our houses. We are just the ones who get it.”

4 November Saturday

We were just beginning to prepare supper when the gas ran out. The supper was fresh hake from the market. It needed to be cooked quickly,
in a hot pan. After considering a few options, Simon unhooked the gas canister from outside and put into the back of the motor. I drove to the shop to get a replacement. It was only about seven thirty but it was fully dark. I was worried that there might not be anyone there to lift the heavy full canister up and into the car. I knew it would be much too heavy for me. Luckily Kieren appeared just as I arrived and he loaded it for me. I had not wanted to go to the shop but the moon was big and full and the night was still so I was happy to be out driving through the dark with not another car in sight. There are times when the complete lack of any lights on the road is wonderful. Some full moons light all of the land and turn the world blue and bright but this full moon was just a circle of light. Nothing else was illuminated. Everywhere else was very very dark.

3 November Friday

I was in the hairdressers. People were discussing their plans for the weekend. One woman said she was going to go up to Eason’s to buy herself a good book. Someone a few chairs along screamed, “You mean to READ?!!??”

2 November Thursday

John Dowling gave me a box. The box was held closed by a big thick rubber band. I marveled at the strength and the width and the large size of it. I could not have been happier with this gift. The box itself became irrelevant. As did its contents. John told me that a rubber band this size is called a Gallabandy. This is a new word for me. A Gallabandy is a big fat strong rubber band which is produced, of course, for the normal functions. Locally, a Gallabandy is valued for being exactly the sort of rubber band needed to make a slingshot.

1 November Wednesday

Being in the SuperValu in Cahir on this Wednesday morning felt like a mistake. The whole store was full of boxes being unpacked and goods
being shelved as well as lots and lots of elderly people. Almost everyone was on a frame or a stick or being pushed in a wheel chair. Every aisle was a traffic jam. There was a lot of laughter as people struggled to get around the boxes and to get to the products. The whole place was full of delight at so much chaos. By the time I reached the check-out counter there were two people in front of me waiting while one lady placed her goods on the counter. She apologized to us all for being so slow. The elderly man behind her told her to take her time and indeed to take as long as she needed. When she was finally finished paying and loading her shopping and thanking us all, she rolled her trolley away. The man who had been behind her was tall. He stood beside the counter with all of his things still in his trolley. He announced, “I will put my purchases on the counter when I am ready.“ The check-out girl waited a few minutes and then she said, “So, now then, are you ready?” He said, “I am. Indeed I am.”

As he banged his items onto the counter he shouted out what each thingwas. He appeared to be buying two of everything:
“Two Bags of Apples!
Two bottles of Dettol!
Two tins of baked beans!
Two packages of Kitchen Towels with two rolls in each package!
Two bags of Golden Wonder potatoes!”

Everyone watched him as he emptied his cart. It would not have mattered if I had been in the other line as every single person in both check out lines stopped what they were doing to watch him and to listen and to look at what he was buying. He said “Maybe I have two wives and I am shopping for them both!”

He announced that he came for The Shopping every Wednesday morning and that he always arrived by helicopter. He said it was the best way to travel when the roads Go Muddy and the trees are falling every which way. The man had only one tooth in the top front of his mouth and very few along the bottom but he had a good loud voice.

By the time I left the store he had loaded all of his groceries into his car. He did not have a helicopter. He had small old car with agricultural plates. It was thirty years old and the shine had gone off the paint. It was a dull orangey red. It had not been shiny for a long, long time. He had both front doors of the car open and he was parked in the place reserved for Mothers and Babies. He was standing near the front of the car shouting to each person who left the store. He asked who might be needing a lift home in his helicopter.