THE JOURNAL

some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Tag: Black Bulls

A Butty Yoke

22 December Thursday

Tommie and I went to Dunnes’s Stores for his pre-Christmas shop. We drove into town early to avoid any crowds. His knee was paining him so he did not enjoy the trip as much as usual. He was glad to have traveled out, but he was gladder still to get home. Once he was settled back in his chair, he was eager to tell me about those people he had met and spoken to in the supermarket. He met one man he used to know through hurling matches a long time ago. He said the man had played for a competing team. He said being on opposite sides made no problem for either of them. The matches had taken place more than seventy years ago.  He was happy enough to converse with that man today. Before I left, he told me that he was glad to be back at home with his dog.  The dog is a needlepoint that Margaret did many years ago. It is used as a fire screen in the daytime when the fire is not yet lit.

23 December Friday

The Farmers Market took place this morning rather than tomorrow, which is Christmas Eve. It was busy with an air of excitement although we were sorry that the cheese woman was not there. Keith had very little on his stand. He had a few boxes of eggs and some apples and a lot of beets. The beets looked shiny. I went closer to take a look. I thought perhaps he had polished them but even as I thought it I could not believe that was possible. They were not polished but they had been scrubbed clean. They had been scrubbed so hard that the skins were rubbed off and the beets did indeed look polished. He said that the beets had been heavy with clay and barely recognizable as beets. He said they looked like clods of earth, so he washed them to make them look better. Three years ago, Keith was selling beautiful tulips grown by his wife but he had cut all of the leaves off every stem. He said cutting off the leaves made the tulips last longer. I said that I wanted leaves on my tulips and I suggested he could just let people make their own decision about leaves or no leaves.

Keith has been selling flowers and vegetables and eggs at the Farmers Market for more than ten years. He works very hard but he is not a natural. He is not a natural grower, nor vendor nor raiser of chickens. He is always the last one to arrive at the market and the last one to get his tables set up. We all bring our egg cartons to him for re-use. He and his wife make a tiny little printed label to put into each box of eggs that he sells. The label is made of two small pieces of paper, cut carefully with pinking shears and glued together with the date hand-written. The printed note may give the Best Before date, or it might be the day that the eggs were laid. It is not clear what the date represents. Making a tiny label for each box, one at a time, is at least as labour-intensive as the one-on-one visiting time he tries to spend with each of his chickens every single day.

26 December Monday

Whenever I open the kitchen door, Mary tumbles into the house. She sits out there pressing her entire body into the wood of the door. If it were sunny, I would think she is basking in the reflected heat of the door, but it is grey and bitterly cold. There is no warmth to be found from the wooden surface. I think instead she is listening and trying to be ready for when and if we remember to feed her. She does not appear every day now so I am not so regular about putting food out for her,  but if she does not eat it, the fox does.

28 December Wednesday

29 December Thursday

I have been keeping an eye on the Historical Society’s postcard supplies, purchasing a new one almost every time I visit the shop. I was delighted to buy two new ones today. One card shows Rose in front of the pub with some Scottish tourists and other one shows her with a crowd of local bikers.  They all like to stop there when they are out for a spin.

30 December Friday

The ground has thawed and there is mud everywhere. The bull in Joe’s front field stands for hours and hours ankle deep in the mud. If bulls have ankles? He does not seem to mind the cold mud.

 

3 January 2023 Tuesday

Breda’s horse died last night. His name was Levi. He had a stroke and he could no longer walk. He could not stand. They called the vet and she came to give him an injection to put him to sleep. Breda is heartbroken. Levi was a member of the family and he stayed on and on while various other horses and dogs and cats came and went. He was 36 years old and had been living with Breda for 25 of those years. I never knew that horses could live so long but I guess if they are healthy and well cared for, they do.

5 January Thursday

We had a bonanza load of post delivered today.  It is the first time we have had a delivery since 23 December.

6 January Friday

Epiphany. Twelfth Night. Little Christmas. Women’s Christmas. Nollaig na mBan. Today is the last day of Christmas and the day when all decorations and cards and trees and wreathes and lights and every single sign of the holiday period is supposed to come down and be stored away or thrown away. In counties Cork and Kerry the women go out to dinner together to celebrate all of the work they have done over the holiday. In the village, Anthony will move his Tyre Tree on its pallet into the back part of his yard and the greenery draped around it will die. It is the same this year as it was last year and it will be exactly the same again next year.

7 January Saturday

Teresa said her newly married grandson had traveled to Rome for his honeymoon and then got caught up in the Pope’s funeral.  She said it was not what he and his wife had planned for themselves.

8 January Sunday

A Butty Yoke is a short stubby kind of a person. It is not a complimentary way to describe someone but the description makes for a clear picture.

That Drainpipe of a Man

12 January Thursday

A commemorative stamp has been produced to celebrate the fifty year anniversary of Ireland joining the European Communities. There have been many articles in the newspapers and on the radio discussing the subject. There are a few gripes about the long arms of European regulations, but after watching the UK since Brexit, no one doubts that the decision to join was a wise one. Finding this glorious stamp at the post office today cheered up a gloomy grey and wet day.

13 January Friday

The rains have been torrential. The river has swollen hugely and fields are full of water. The road approaching the village is no longer bordered by fields. It looks like the mountains come right down to a lake.

15 January Sunday

If someone says she will meet me on Monday Week , she is not talking about tomorrow, the day after today, but the Monday after that. It is never Next Monday but always Monday Week.

16 January Monday

Joe has put numbers on some of his fence posts. Relief Farm Workers help him out for two or three weeks or months at a time. I assume the new numbers are helpful when he asks a lad to spread slurry on Field No. 8 or to move the fence wires to direct cows into Field No.12. When I think of it like this, the numbers make good sense. Each red number has the word PADDOCK printed above it. I hear people speak of fields and meadows but paddock is an alien word. Paddocks are not a word used in dairy farming. Paddocks are for horses not cows. Nevertheless, I am happy to have something new to look at and to read as I walk out. There is not much by way of print to read in nature.

17 January Tuesday

The top shelf in the Cahir library was not tall enough to put the books in right side up so they have just been crammed in with their spines at the top, and all I can see are the bottom pages. No titles are visible. It is no way to look for a book.

18 January Wednesday

Tommie went to Dublin once. He has never traveled any further from home, but he likes to tell me about Paris. He considers himself a bit of an expert on Paris. John is Tommie’s nephew. He is a long distance lorry driver and he rings Tommie from wherever he is. Wherever John is, if he is abroad for his work, according to Tommie he is always in Paris. He is in Paris if he is loading up with chocolates in Belgium or unloading his consignment of beef somewhere north of Paris or waiting to board a night ferry in the port of Calais or Le Havre. Whenever John is on the road, he is always in Paris.

Tommie tells me that John is a homebody and that he frequently bemoans the fact that he would prefer to be down any old muddy boreen than unloading his truck in Paris at five in the morning. Tommie does not have a mobile telephone.  He does not know anything about mobile telephones. When he speaks on his telephone he sits in the upright red chair right beside his small telephone table.  Even though he knows next to nothing about mobile telephones, he assures me that John has a really good mobile telephone. He is certain that it must be a very fine top of the range telephone because when John talks it sounds like he is right there in the room with Tommie.

Last week, John could not board the ship because the storms were ferocious and the seas were rough. That meant that he could not eat nor could he even go to the loo. He had to wait in the queue for hours and hours just in case they started to load the lorries. He did not want to be left behind. Once the lorries board the ship, there is hot food and a bed and a shower waiting for the freight drivers. Everything is included in the cost of crossing. Because of the storms, it took thirty hours before they could get onto the ship and when John returned to Ireland and unloaded his goods, he had to load up again and leave immediately because there was a schedule to be met. Tommie says that John is needed in Paris and that is why he is rarely at home.

20 January Friday

My workroom looks and feels like a storm has passed through. It has been far too cold to stay up in that barn or down in the book barn for long so I rush in and look for something and then I rush out again, leaving opened folders and boxes and little stacks of objects  and chaos in my wake. It is too cold to sit down for any period of time. This week I installed some pages of a book. I thought if they were up on the wall I could not avoid filling in the gaps of what I need to do to pull them all together. I thought I might trick myself to ease back into the project. These are the pages of An Inoffensive Man. An Inoffensive Man is an expression often used at funerals by a priest. I can never decide if it is a compliment to be called an Inoffensive Man, or if it suggests a dearth of admirable and noteworthy characteristics.  I put this book away a few years ago with good intentions but at this moment it is still nothing more than a series of disconnected stories about people I have met and about whom I know very little because I did not grow up here so I only know these mostly men at the end of their lives and what I know is what they have told me. It could all be lies.

21 January Saturday

The day was bright with watery sunshine. It was not really bright but it was not raining either. Two women stood on the footpath. One was giving out about the British Monarchy and the other one was her audience. The one said, “Those English people they loved their Queen. And oh, but then there was Poor Princess Diana. They loved her too, but Poor Diana was married to That Drainpipe of a Man. And now don’t you know but that Drainpipe is the King.”

23 January Sunday

Snowdrops are pushing up. I have been watching for them and today I see two have come into flower. I like the French word for snowdrops: Perce-neige which means to perforate or pierce the snow. There is no snow here for the green shoots to perforate, but the idea is the same. Snow. Mud. The promise of springtime is made visible in each green shoot.

The Dancing Place

12 March Sunday

Two black bulls are in Joe’s front field. They were standing around there like cut out silhouettes in January before I went away and they are still there. As if they have never been anywhere except there.

13 March Monday

On inquiring in the shop if they had any brown shoe polish, the woman and I began a conversation about the reduced availability of shoe polish and about the general lack of shoe polishing done by anyone these days. We agreed that the disappearance of shoe polishing activity probably is largely to do with people wearing sneakers or trainers, soft shoes that never needed polishing. She apologized for her own lack of shoe polish to sell to me and then she suggested, in a whisper, that I might try using Spray Furniture Polish. She said that she has used this method herself in the past and assured me that it works well. Still in a hushed voice, she said, “If I were to see you out and about with well polished boots, I would be the last person to question whether the shine came from shoe polish or furniture polish. The question would never cross my mind.”

14 March Tuesday

When Liam Harper needs an updated reading of our electricity consumption, he sends me a text and requests it. This happens several times a year. He used to leave a telephone message on the land line. Some weeks ago he sent a text and I told him that I was out of the country and that I would send the reading along as soon as I got home. He sent back a message saying Lovely! Enjoy! With little glasses of champagne scattered about. Back at home, I sent him the current reading: 81668. Smart Meters have been installed in local homes recently but we do not have one yet because we were not here when the men were going around doing the installations. For at least twenty-three years, we have reported our readings to Liam Harper, either by telephone or by text. I would not know Liam Harper if I met him on the road but I feel we have a certain amiable friendship. I asked Liam if the installation of a Smart Meter would spell the end of our regular chats. He texted back No More Reading with the Smart Meters! So, this current reading was our last. He added that he was delighted that we had a great holiday.

15 March Wednesday

There are daffodils everywhere. Daffodils. Narcissus. Crocus. Hyacinths. Forsythia. It is cold and often wet but it looks like spring, even when it does not feel like spring.  Primroses are blooming on the way up the boreen. And the wild garlic has arrived.

16 March Thursday

Ned arrived with a supply of fuel. I opened the window to pull in the extension lead and I plugged it in to the wall socket. Ned brings heating fuel on a small truck with a generator. The generator needs to be plugged into an electricity source in order to function. It is not possible for a normal size oil truck to come down the boreen so we always need to wait until Ned can come and then we must always be at home so that we can plug in the generator for him. We do the same ritual every time. He told me that he needed the ladder, so I went to the lean-to and dragged three ladders out and onto the grass. They were kind of tangled into each other and there were lengths of timber on top of them, so it was a struggle.  I could not pull only one out. I had to pull all three at the same time. The step ladder was too short. I took him one of the taller ladders, and he climbed up the banking to the oil tank where he cut away brambles with clippers before he started to fill. When he was finished, I unplugged the generator and handed the plug back out the window to him. Then we had tea and discussed the world. And we discussed Simon’s uncanny ability to measure volume. Before we ring Ned, Simon goes outside with a stick and he climbs up the banking and makes a measurement of the contents of the green plastic tank. There are no markings on the stick, nor on the tank. This time he did not even use a stick. Instead he just tapped the tank and listened to the fullness. Or the emptiness. When he arrives at the number of litres he thinks we need, he asks Ned to bring that amount. Today it was 750 litres. So far his estimate has never been wrong. Ned swears he has never known anything like it for accuracy. Before he left, Ned shouted to me that he had put the ladder away. When I went outside later, I saw that he had done so. Sort of. He threw the ladder down onto the grass with the other two, leaving them all for me to put away. It was even more difficult shoving them back into the lean-to than it had been to get them out.

19 March Sunday

I waited at Flemingstown Cross for the cows to pass. Flemingstown is not a town. It is just a name for a short area of road and land. It is a townland. There is no sign for Flemingstown. It is just a place with no specific edges, and we all know the name of it, which is how we are able to tell someone where we are or where something else is. There were two white tapes stretched across the road, one blocking my direction and another blocking the cul de sac to my right. The white tapes were tied onto bushes and even though they had no real physical strength or authority they were enough to let the cows know that they had to take a right, or my left, down Flemingstown. The cows plodded along single file to where they were being directed by this lack of choice. The boy on the quad bike following the cows looked very young. He dismounted to untie the white tapes and free the road again for traffic. I recognized that the cows belonged to Tomás O’Dwyer but I knew this boy was not a son of Tomás. He has five daughters.

20 March Monday

I walked down the street from Mike’s garage after leaving the car to be checked out. There is a gate in a break of the stone wall that leads into a field and often there is a small horse eating in the field. Maybe it is a pony. Today the horse was at the gate looking in the opposite direction from me as I approached on the sidewalk. I called out a cheerful Hello Horse! and he turned his head around and bit me on the shoulder. It was not a hard bite and it did not go through my coat. But it hurt and  it surprised me. I think it surprised the horse too. When I walked back the same way a few hours later, I had cleaned the horse saliva off my coat and I thought I might make a photograph of The Biter. He was no longer at the gate. I could not see him anywhere far down the muddy field.

21 March Tuesday

A elderly man stood in the center of the door to the shop.  Each time someone approached him to go in, or to come out of the shop, he made moves first left and then right and then left again.  He blocked the way in a kind of false confusion, threw out his arms and jiggled his hips back and forth. Each time, he announced with glee, “This is The Dancing Place!” I have heard this expression used before. It is used to define a busy doorway where people bump into one another as they try to go past one another or around one another. The idea of it being a Dancing Place is about the unintentional movement of two people together trying to move around one another. it suggests a dance. The man was reveling in the chaos of making a normally efficient doorway into a party. He was having a wonderful time.

22 March Wednesday

The top blew off one of the nut feeders. It blew off and it blew away. I cannot find it anywhere. I have now secured an oyster shell on the top of the feeder with the help of an elastic band. I may never find the original top but that is no longer a worry. This one is working well.

Leave the Hare Standing

4 April Tuesday

There was one aluminium milk churn in the trailer. It had the number 4 painted on it with red paint. I could not help but wonder where churns number 1, 2 and 3 were.

5 April Wednesday

The car died on Saturday. We thought it needed a jump start with cables and then we tried a push.  Nothing worked. Tom Burke came today and loaded it onto a trailer. The car has gone to the Nissan garage in Dungarvan to wait while they hunt for a replacement part.  Unfortunately the part is not easy to find. There are none in this country and none to be found so far in the United Kingdom.  The search is on throughout the rest of Europe. The small piece for the ignition must be replaced before the car can be re-programmed. This tiny little thing is manufactured in Ukraine and the factory that makes the part is not functioning now because of the war.

6 April Thursday

Breda saw the first swallow of the year today. Breda always sees the first swallow well before anyone else does because she focuses and pays attention and she is looking looking looking for the swallows to arrive. She has a calendar on which she marks her initial sighting every year. When she announces her first swallow, she usually reports on what day it was when she saw it last year too. Not only was she the first person to see a returning swallow once again this spring, but she saw two of them.

7 April Friday

When the doctor told me that we would Leave The Hare Standing, I had no idea what he was saying to me. I was not sure whether he said Hare or Hair. He was surprised by my confusion and said that it was of course Hare. The Hare has a sacred position in Celtic history. It is a mystical symbol of abundance, prosperity and good fortune. The animal is treated with great respect and it is never eaten. To Leave the Hare Standing, or To Leave the Hare Sitting is a way of saying that we will leave things as they are. We will leave well enough alone. It means that there is no reason to upset things. To Leave the Hare Sitting is literally to show the animal its due respect.

8 April Saturday

A bird has appeared in a garden on the walk down to Molough Abby.  It is an old, stuffed and moth-eaten bird. The entire chest feathering has been ripped off and hangs off the bird. Maybe it is a female pheasant?  It is hard to tell what it is, or rather, what it was.  It stands on a small broken branch on a wooden base.  It was made to stand on a shelf or a mantle piece but now it has been relegated to the garden along with a ceramic chicken and a plastic cat.

 

9 April Sunday

Mary the Black Cat comes down to visit and to wait for some food but she does not appear every day. Sometimes it is every third day.  Sometimes once a week.  She is looking scruffier than usual and her hair is matted down, but she is less obese.  I have seen two small black cats up near the farm so perhaps Mary has had a family.

10 April Monday

This weekend the village of Newcastle celebrated the 100 year anniversary of the death of Liam Lynch. Lynch was a General in the Irish Republican Army. He was shot in a skirmish in the Knockmealdown mountains where there is a monument to him. Every year, a wreath laying ceremony is held up there. For this centenary, there have been three days of events, with a Mass in the church, a pipe band procession, the laying of the wreath at the monument and a special bus to take people up to the monument. There were speeches and musical entertainment and a visit to Nugent’s Pub where Liam Lynch was laid out on a couch after he was brought down from the mountain in a bad way with gunshot wounds. From the pub, he was moved on to the hospital in Clonmel where he died later that day. Rose still has the couch in the same position as it was on the day that Liam Lynch was laid out upon it. The cushion has been repaired a few times. Rose is always willing to take interested visitors into the back room to view the couch. A commemorative plaque has now been placed on the outside of the pub. The Historical Society produced a postcard to celebrate the the role of the couch in this historic death.

 

11 April Tuesday

Terrible thrashing rain. ALL DAY. The only word for it is Desperate. Walking out of the house even a few metres is a soaking experience. The rain is coming from all directions and it is bouncing up from the ground. The boreen is like a riverbed with water rushing downhill and into the yard.

12 April Wednesday

Terrible beating buffeting winds. ALL DAY. The noise inside the house is deafening.The entire country is on Amber Alert. Trees and branches are falling and even the largest of lorries is being pushed around on the roads. People are being asked to avoid driving anywhere if possible. There is still rain falling but mostly it is the wind. The wind is savage.

14 April Friday

Ardfinnan is full of homemade chairs and tables as well as any number of decorations that have no practical purpose. The out of doors in the village is cluttered with things. Some are useful and some are just there. I was startled to see a canoe up high on a banking, with three shop mannequins. One is a child sitting in the canoe with a black dog on its lap. One a woman with a paddle, sunglasses and a curly wig. Standing behind the canoe is another woman, with a fishing rod and in a full waterproof fishing outfit. Her waders have been filled with some viscous black material. Tar? I think this is maybe to keep her standing and also to keep anyone from stealing her waders. The canoe is there to celebrate Ardfinnan’s position on the river as part of the Blueway.

15 April Saturday

Every year, Pat the Fish brings asparagus with him to the Farmer’s Market from some people who grow it in Wexford. It is not a large farm and it is not a long season. The asparagus crop only lasts for about eight weeks. Today is the third week. Only five more to go. Every Saturday, I buy three for four of the small bundles. I do not want to be greedy and take too much, but I love asparagus. I feel it is my duty to eat it as often as I can during this short growing season.

17 April Monday

The daffodils are already gone. As are magnolia, forsythia, narcissus and the flowering currant. But there are more visible blossoms everyday so we scarcely notice those that have died back. Dandelion. Stitchwort. Apple. Cherry. Plum. Primrose. Forget-me-not. Hawthorn. Bluebell. Lesser Celandine. Gorse. Tulip. And now, the bright star-like bursts of the wild garlic blooms.

19 April Wednesday

This is the time of year. The days are warmer and the nights, while still cold, are warmer too. Any time after dark, I walk into the bathroom extremely slowly. I enter quietly and I look around carefully. This is the time of year when slugs begin to appear. I am not certain how they get in. They are not visible in the daylight. They hide in dark places until night when they begin to ooze around the room. I can see the trails they leave across the mirror when the room steams up. I enter the room quietly and look carefully everywhere so that I can see a slug before I can be surprised by one. I doubt they can hear me but for some reason I feel a need to move very silently.

22 April Saturday

Heavy white wet fog over everything. The morning is thick with it and even with headlights on it is hard to see much of anything.

The Anxiety of Small Villages

25 April Tuesday

Christy announced that Anxiety is Not A New Thing. He was giving out about the way that Anxiety is receiving a lot of attention in the media these days. He said that you cannot turn on the radio without hearing a discussion about Anxiety. He told me that he spent his youth feeling anxious and that he is nearly 80 now. He said that what he felt then was The Anxiety of Small Villages. He said that the pressure was terrible and huge and that everyone felt it. He said, “You had to pair up and you had to find that someone soon, before everyone was taken.”

26 April Wednesday

It has been a complicated week and it is only Wednesday. We have been without water for several days. Every single thing is more difficult when there is no running water. For a short time, we had water from the hot water tank, but then that ran out. We had rainwater from the water butts and we purchased some drinking water. Every job took considerably longer than usual. We planned what to eat in order to reduce the washing up. We feared it was an electrical problem with the old pump that brings our water up from the well. We called the firm that takes care of these things. John said he would stop by this evening after he finished a job in Skeheenarinky. He arrived with another man and said that yes the pump had just packed in, due to age. Together they replaced it. The new pump does not look like much, but it cost a lot.

27 April Thursday

We got the phone call to tell us that the car had finally been repaired, so we drove to Dungarvan to collect it.  It has taken a month to locate the tiny missing part.  Unfortunately the man who tracked down the part somewhere in Europe was not there when we arrived so we do not know in which country the part was found.

29 April Saturday

The very sticky Robin-run-up-the-hedge is rampant. It is clumped onto every hedge and stone wall. It is everywhere in thick vertical mats. I rip it off in huge handfuls as I walk. There are new blossoms every day. Frothy cow parsley is lining the roads and paths. There are  lilacs, flowering chestnut, vetch, cranesbill, and even early elderflower along with masses of stitchwort and forget-me-nots.

30 April Sunday

A Tractor Run is planned. There is always a Tractor Run planned as a way to raise money for a worthy cause. The farmers who own vintage tractors enjoy an afternoon driving out in a slow parade along back roads from one starting place to a specified destination.  And those with brand new shiny tractors like to join in and show them off too. It is up to all of us to sponsor the tractors to make the money for the cause.

1 May Monday

Nellie announced that her cousin is in a tizzy about the upcoming coronation of the King in England. She said it is lucky that her cousin lives over there because there are not many people who give a fig about it over here. She said that her cousin will never be able to return to live in Ireland because she is completely obsessed by the British monarchy. Nellie said that this cousin moves frequently because nowhere is ever good enough for her, but no matter how desperate she is she will only ever move to a street with a royal something in the name. She said that her cousin is not the only one. She knows for a fact that there are a whole crowd of people in England who aspire to this kind of vicarious connection to the Royal Family. She said her address book is filled with scratched out royal-sounding addresses, all belonging to the same cousin at one time or another. She listed off a few from the top of her head: Princess Anne Lane. King Street. Castle Acre. Prince of Wales Crescent. The Queen’s Gate. Duchess Mews. Royal Rise.

2 May Tuesday

It is normal for me to see cows daily, but each spring I am both surprised and delighted by the appearance of the new born lambs. The fields are full of them running about.

3 May Wednesday

One older woman at the Gentle Gym wears noisy charm bracelets. I have always hated charm bracelets. This woman wears two of them on the same wrist. They make varying degrees of clatter as she uses different machines. If anyone comments on the bracelets or the clatter, she stops what she is doing and explains them, one charm at a time. There is one charm for each of her grandchildren and from what I can see, she has a enormous number of grandchildren.

4 May Thursday

I have been walking with Walker while Fiona and PJ are away. Today we walked up into Tom Cooney’s fields. Walker is terrible about chasing large vehicles and tractors when we are on the road but once we are in the fields, I take him off the lead. I left my red extendable lead by a tank with a green ladder at the bottom of the fields. It is not unusual to find jackets or hats hanging on a gate or on a wall. We all start off on a walk with things that we end up not wanting. It is easy to leave the thing somewhere and to collect it on the return trip.

5 May Friday

Lashing, cold and miserable rain all day. Desperate.

I saw John in the shop. Tommie had asked last week if I had seen John lately because he lives up near us.  I said I had not seen him for many months but I reported that during Covid, John had grown a long beard and he had never cut it off. Tommie was surprised by this news. So when I saw John in the shop today, I told him about my conversation with Tommie and told him too that Tommie had been taken off the road and that as a result he feels he is a prisoner in his own house. John is walking with a stick because he has terrible back pain. Some of his discs are pressing on each other and there is nothing to be done for it. He just has to live with the pain. I asked him if I could take a photograph of him and his beard to show to Tommie and he said yes.

I found Tommie sitting in his dark red upright chair with no lights on and no fire in the grate. The room was dark and gloomy and quiet. Neither the radio nor the television were playing. The only sound was that of the beating rain. He was reclining in an awkward way in his chair. His hips were sort of hanging off the front of the seat. It looked like he was trying to lie down but the chair was so rigidly upright there was no give to accommodate his attempted position. This is the chair that was designed to be plugged in so that it could serve as a recliner. This is the chair given to him by the Health Service. He refuses to plug his chair into the electrical wall socket. I do not know if he does not trust sitting in a chair that is plugged in or if he has never had a chair that plugs in, so he feels there is no reason to begin now.

He marveled at John’s beard in the photograph. We wondered together how John might wash the beard. I thought it would be done in the shower, but he felt sure that John would not be a man for the shower. He would have to wash it in the bath. I told him that I had suggested to John that he come over to visit with Tommie in his house, but he spoke with authority when he said that John would not come to visit him. He said that John is not a man to go into houses.

6 May Saturday

One man comes to the Farmers Market every Saturday, but he never carries a bag nor a basket.  He buys a few things, like four potatoes and then he walks to his car with two in each hand and he places them in the boot. Then he returns and buys something else. Maybe a bunch of rhubarb and he returns to his car with that.  He makes many trips back and forth to his motorcar. Yesterday I saw into the open boot of the car as he placed a handful of leeks inside.  All of his purchases were lined up in a a tidy row.

8 May Monday

Mary the Black Cat has been coming down to eat but so has another larger cat. The larger cat is black with white markings.  Tonight I saw two more farm cats, neither of whom I had seen down here before. This is too many farm cats hanging around the kitchen door. Things have gotten out of control. I must stop feeding Mary because I can no longer be certain that it is Mary who I am feeding. I know that all the cats get milk at the farm and that their job is to be catching rodents to fill their empty stomachs.  I am sending them all back to the job of feeding themselves.

Driven Demented

12 May Friday

None of the farm cats have been fed at my kitchen door for three or four days now. There was a loud screeching battle two nights ago between two or maybe three cats. Mary no longer appears. She has been frightened away by the competition. Last night the big black and white cat hurled himself up against the door. He did this for several minutes throwing his entire enormous body against the door again and again and again. He made a big noise. After he departed, in what I can only presume was disgust, two other cats, mixed grey and brown, skulked around the door  looking up at me hopefully as I looked out at them.

13 May Saturday

Today is week number six of the fresh asparagus from Wexford. I cannot get enough of it. I buy lots and I savour every bunch. Every week after this one might be the last.

14 May Sunday

A man was backing up his trailer as I walked through the farmyard. The side of the trailer announced that whatever was inside was not for animal consumption. Before I could get around the vehicle, the man was out of the small van and signalling for me to look away. On the ground just inside the gate were two small dead calves in a clump. His job was to collect the bodies and take them away. He was trying to spare me the sight of the the corpses, but his gesture was too late.

15 May Monday

Liam has no near neighbours with whom he can leave a house key. His method has been to put his spare into a jar with a screw-on lid. The jar is then thrown into the bushes to be hunted for when it is needed. The extra key is for someone who might need to get into his house when Liam is not there. It is also useful for himself in case he loses his key or fails to find it in any of his pockets. The jar keeps the key from rusting. The system works well. It has worked well for years up until the other night, when Liam misplaced his house key. He was not worried because he knew he had the spare in the jar under the bushes. He found himself struggling to get down on his hands and knees to search under the bushes for the jar and once he had found it he was unable to stand back up on his own. It was lucky for him that that he was not alone and that Peter was with him. He is now trying to decide on a new easy-to-reach hiding place for his key.

18 May Thursday

The lanes are frothy with cow parsley.


23 May Tuesday

I have been admiring the number seven on the gate post for months. Some days I think it is a painted seven and some days I am convinced it is a piece of metal with a perfect shadow that just looks like a seven. Today I stopped the car to take a look. It is a seven.

24 May Wednesday

There seems to be a lull in the activity surrounding The First Holy Communions. Hairdressers have been booked solid and bouncy castles and parties schedualed all over the place. Now the wedding season is in full swing. There is always another reason to dress up and have a party.

25 May Thursday

I have been taking Walker out for walks again. As always, our preferred destination is Tom Cooney’s fields. We walk in the narrow paths made by tractor wheels through the barley. He runs way out in front of me, but turns every so often to make sure that I am still with him.

26 May Friday

Una was describing to the girl at the till all about how she had been on a Zoom call with her friend Louise in New Jersey when a swallow flew into her house and started swooping around. The swallow knocked things off the windowsills and thumped and flailed as it looked for a way back outside.  Louise saw the bird passing by the computer screen in Tipperary and she began to panic. She squealed: “How did a bird get into your house? Don’t you have screens on your windows?? Don’t you keep your doors locked?” Una told Louise that the bird would fly out again soon, but Louise remained in a frantic state about its erratic presence.  Una explained to the girl behind the counter that in the United States everyone has screens on their windows and that they lock their doors all the time even when they are inside the house. She said that they never let a bug much less a bird in. Una said that she only locks her own door when she goes to bed.

27 May Saturday

The woman looked like she was a the end of her tether.  She looked like she might cry or maybe scream. She screeched, “I’m Driven Demented!”

30 May Tuesday

Today was the day. I finally took Tommie to town. He has been waiting and waiting and wanting to go but he has had a bad chest infection and was unable to go out at all for two weeks. I think it was pneumonia but the doctor gave him antibiotics and sent him home, so he has just healed slowly on his own. Before I had helped him all the way out of the car at Dunnes’ Stores, a man shouted out a greeting. Tommie was delighted to be recognised and he walked taller for it. I got him a trolley and loaded in his shopping bags. He put his walking stick into the trolley and set off into the store while I went to park the car. He was stopped several more times by people who were happy to see him and to talk to him. He said that one lady talked his ear off but he said he could only hear half of what she said anyway. I drove him home on a meandering route and he was pleased to see how many fields had their first silage in and he was happy to see hay being cut. He noticed everything. We had to stop several times for large tractors and machinery in the road. He said he could have ridden in my motorcar all day but when we got to his house he collapsed into his chair. Tommie said he was completely worn out by the outside world.

31 May Wednesday

I make potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing, celery, diced gherkins, onions and hard-boiled egg. Most people make it with mayonnaise. Which is fine. Until I came to live here, I loved potato salad in most forms. Potatoes in Ireland tend to be floury. These are the potatoes that people like so these are the potatoes that are grown and sold. A Green Grocer will proudly announce: “These Potatoes Will Explode in Your Face.” It sounds scary but this is not a threat. Floury potatoes are considered a Good Thing. The problem is that floury potatoes fall apart when they are boiled or even steamed. They are no use for a potato salad, though no one seems to care. People make potato salad anyway and they do not mind that it is mushy. There are no pieces of potato in the potato salad. It is just a seasoned mush with nothing to bite into. We joke that the potato salad is made with mashed potatoes. Today I saw a a bowl in the deli section labelled Mash Potato Salad. It is no longer a joke but documented truth.

1 June Thursday

Mary is back. She seems to like the quiet. The other cats have given up on getting anything to eat from me so they no longer arrive to squabble around the kitchen door. Mary follows me around in the garden. She likes to be nearby. I am not even sure she is hoping for food. She just likes a visit.

2 June Friday

I accompanied Simon to his hearing aid appointment this morning. My presence was required as his Familiar Voice. I was asked to be there in order to speak some words to him without my lips being seen. I sat quietly in a chair in the far corner of the small room and I waited to be included, but I never was. At the end of the appointment Fergal invited me to come along to the next meeting if I so wished.

3 June Saturday

The Wexford strawberries are on sale on the main roads. This is the sign that summer has arrived. The painted strawberries are on signs and also on the sides of the little selling trailers. Every painted strawberry is different. Both strawberries and new potatoes are both being sold by but it is the strawberries that get advertised with a painted image, never the potatoes.

4 June Sunday

The days have been dry and warm.  Day after day of bright sun and heat and not a drop of rain. The fields are silent. Grassy places are looking more brown and less green. The broad creamy elderflower blossom is everywhere but there is no citric acid to be found in any pharmacy, so I am unable to make my annual cordial. The vegetation lining the roads has gone from looking lush to looking skeletal. Wild daisies are rampant.

Bucket of Brains

24 June Saturday

Tommie has been in the care home at Rathkeevin for two weeks. A second dose of antibiotics were not clearing his lungs and he was not getting better at home all by himself. Being cared for in the new environment seems to be helping him. He enjoys being served three meals a day and not having to do the washing up himself. He was looking much better today. There were two men visiting when I arrived, but after a short conversation to establish who I was, they left, one to visit his cousin Betty in another part of the home and the other to go and help his son with the milking. Tommie and I watched the last race of Royal Ascot together. The race was called The Queen’s Jubilee. He explained to me that it was called that still and probably would be called that forever, even though the Queen is dead. An outsider by the name of Khaadem won. The odds were 80-1 against him. Tommie asked me if I ever bet on the horses. He said he was not a betting man himself, and he never had been, but if he was that would have been the horse to bet on.

25 June Sunday

We woke up to find the big red umbrella blown off the pole that held it up. It was a mistake to leave it open overnight.

26 June Monday

I cannot pick the gooseberries fast enough. Between downpours the birds are stripping the bushes or maybe they continue eating the berries in the rain. I do not want to sit on my plastic box and pick berries in the rain. The birds have had a lot more than I have had so far and I do not think the berries are even fully ripe yet. The days have gone cool and damp. There is rain at some point every day.  Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. On the one hand, there is Great Delight when a day is drizzly and grey and damp. People exclaim that they LOVE this weather, while at the same time there is a widespread fear that the summer might be over. Even while praising the soft damp weather the same people are moaning that the hot weather we have had is all we will get for this year. It is not even July and they are certain that the summer is over. Some people are even lighting a fire in the evening.

27 June Tuesday

We have had to restrict our driving to times when there is no rain. This is not easy because there continues to be some rain every day. Rain is not a surprise. A little or a lot, but every day there is rain and it rarely falls when expected. The tiny motor that makes the windscreen wipers work is broken. We need to have it replaced. Simon made a device for clearing the windscreen. He hoped that if he had a long enough pole, he could clear the screen with it while he was driving. It was not a good idea. The piece of wood on the device was rough and he got splinters in his hand. He would have gone off the road while trying to use it. Mike called today and said he has the new motor and can install it tomorrow, which is not a moment too soon.

28 June Wednesday

The house is in a state. Ollie buys the newspaper every day. He buys a newspaper and he reads it from front to back and then he lays the pages out on the floor. Day after day the papers pile up covering every inch of the floor in his small house. Ollie says that he spreads the newspapers around as a way to keep the floor clean. Rather than sweep up crumbs or muddy footprints, he just covers everything up with layer after layer of newspapers. He can no longer close the door in the sitting room because the papers are too deep. Walking across the floor is like walking on a mattress. The bounce of the many layers of papers makes every step into a bit of a wobble. Ollie is also a heavy smoker. His sitting room is full of large and deep ashtrays full of cigarette butts. He likes to smoke while he reads the newspaper and he likes to smoke while he watches television. He is rarely not smoking. The smell in the room is dreadful. Butts are piled like mountains in each ashtray. I cannot imagine where he might put another cigarette butt without the whole mountain tipping off and onto the floor.

29 June Thursday

A 25 kg bag of cow feed lay in the middle of the road. It must have fallen off a trailer. I could not drive around it so I got out of the car and dragged it to the side. The farmer who lost it will have to retrace his steps to locate where it fell off.

30 Friday

Tommy Myles’ butcher shop was hopping this morning. There was so much going on that I did not mind having to wait a long time for my turn. Tommy himself was standing at the little end table. He was in charge of taking the cash from customers while two other men cut up meat and chops and weighed things and then called out the prices to him. The three or four customers buying meat were all women. Four elderly men in the back end of the shop were talking and shouting at one another and at Tommy. I think the shouting was because none of them had good hearing. Three of the men were leaning heavily on sticks. One man said that he could no longer Stand For The Chat so he went outside and sat up high in his jeep with the window open. He pulled the jeep along the curb so that his open window was directly across the pavement from the open door of the shop. He tried to keep his part in the conversation going by shouting out his window but the men inside did not pay much attention to his contributions. They continued to talk loudly among themselves without him and every so often one of them would call out that he should ring up on his telephone if he wanted to talk with them.

1 July Saturday

Winnie works as a cleaner. She complained that she keeps losing jobs because she fails to dust anything up high. She says she is Not Able For It. Her customers cannot believe that she does not see the cobwebs or dust above her own chest level. She is oblivious to anything up high. She says that she does not look up because she gets vertigo and she thinks it is bad manners to faint in someone else’s house.

2 July Sunday

The three women were not traveling together but they were all three waiting for the bus to Waterford. When a bus pulled up, the driver let people off and then he closed the door and went into the back of the bus for a sit down. He did not let anyone onto the bus. Nor did he answer any questions. The sign on the front of the bus said Charleville which is in the opposite direction from Waterford. It is a long way in the wrong direction. The women considered the issue and then discussed when they had last been to Charleville. One of the women had never been there at all. They did not want go to Charleville, but together they worried the possibility until the driver roused himself from his nap and came to the front of the bus and changed the sign on the front to read Waterford.

4 July Tuesday

Two men stood outside the shop as they spoke about how very clever another man was. I did not know who they were talking about. They kept saying things about this man’s great knowledge and about his ability to solve problems. Each man tried to say something more definitive about the degree of smartness this man possessed. Each of the men was trying to be the one to have the final word. The last thing I heard as I walked away was that “He is A Bucket of Brains.

5 July Wednesday

Breda and I walked down through the Long Field in late afternoon.  There was a break in the rain but we did not trust it to last. We wore our rain jackets tied around our waists. There were tractors and machines rushing around and cutting the grain. The cut fields looked like corduroy.

6 July Thursday

Torrential rain has been falling all day.  The slugs are out in force. Every evening, I find one or two creeping around the bathroom. And those are only the ones I see. Most of them are in dark hidden away places. Their trails appear all over the mirrors when there is steam in the room after a bath or shower, so I know they have been oozing around in the night.

The Long Shed

13 July Thursday

Peter and Davi arrived and tore out the messy mix-up of three or four versions of bedraggled string and wire fencing. They cleared the land and installed a new length of fence to replace what had fallen down six years ago. It was a job that has needed doing for a long time and now it is done. To accommodate the rising price of all building materials we now have a fence with two bars rather than with the traditional three. I cannot wait for the cows to reappear in Joe’s field so that I can look at them looking at me over a wooden fence.

14 July Friday

There was a gap in the rain. I walked the one kilometre up the boreen with my clippers wearing a pair of heavy gloves. I cut back brambles and thorny wild rose branches on the right hand side of the track as I walked. When I reached the tarmacadam road, I turned around and came back down cutting the other side. It started raining before I reached the top road but I continued with my job thinking that the drizzle would not last. It did last. The drizzle became solid rain and the rain became heavier and heavier. I was soaking wet by the time I reached the farm. I was even wetter when I got home. The rain and drenched clothing matched my mood of deep sadness because my friend Tessa died last night. Tessa died last night and I cried the whole way up the boreen and the whole way down again. The rain did not matter one bit.

15 July Saturday

Picking blackcurrants over several days has been a constant activity in between downpours and cloudbursts. Today the first batch of berries was gently cooking in a large heavy cast-iron saucepan. I turned the temperature up for one last blast of heat and I left the room and the blackcurrants burned. The terrible smell filled the kitchen. The whole mixture had to be thrown away. The pan is a mess and may have to be thrown away too. I am so distracted and saddened by my dear friend’s death that I cannot do anything right.

17 July Monday

There has been hard lashing all day rain along with gusty winds. Everywhere I go, I hear discussions about the drying of clothes. It is an enormous struggle. It is a struggle so it is a point of ongoing conversation. The Broken Washing Line is a problem. When the washing is hanging out and rain falls steadily, the clothes get wet and heavy. Then they get even heavier. Then the line snaps, and depending on the amount of mud below the line, the clothes or sheets must all be washed again. Some people own dryers. Many revert to The Long Shed in weeks of endless rain. The Long Shed is a stone building which might have been built for animals but now it adapts itself to any number of functions. There are two short sides and one long side built with stone. The other long side is open to the weather. There is no need for a door.  If a person owns a Long Shed, they are certain to have a washing line stretched along inside. The washing can be hung in the Long Shed and it will get the whipping of the wind but not the direct wetting of a cloudburst. Donal told me that he thinks it is nothing more than Blind Optimism that dries the washing in this country.

18 July Tuesday

The figs look terrific. They are large. They are large but they are as hard as rocks. I squeeze and test them every day but there is no softening of the flesh. These figs are not even good enough to cook. I am waiting and the birds are waiting but with the weather we are having this summer these figs may never get any closer to being ready.

20 July Thursday

I walked into the small car park near to Lismore Castle with my arms full of Cavolo Nero and two boxes of small tomatoes. I did not have a bag with me so I was balancing everything on top of my flat parcel and a book and I was trying to eat the delicious tiny tomatoes at the same time. An older woman came rushing over and asked if I was there for the Fish Man. I had to stop chewing in order to answer her. Before I could say that I was not there for the Fish Man, she pointed and said that a fifteen seat bus had parked in the place where the fish man always parks his van. She was worried about where he would park because his regular spot was taken. I apologised for my full mouth and I offered her a tomato. She studied them for a while and then she chose a small yellow one. She held it snug in her hand and she asked me what she should do with it.

21 July Friday

The calves are making a racket up in Joe’s top field. They are trying out their vocal chords and moaning and bleating all day long. They make a terrible noise answering one another, or talking over one another. It sounds like they are being tortured. They have been there all week. They do not stop their noise until complete darkness has fallen. They start up again early in the first light of dawn. I cannot hear the morning birdsong for the cattle noise. They are teenagers or maybe adolescents. They are young and they are exploring the sounds they are able to make. There is so much variation that I have been trying to find words to describe their emanations. There is a small bit of Mooing and sounds that one identifies with cows but there is Grunting. Bellowing. Moaning. Squealing. Squawking. Groaning. Grumbling. Screaming. Rumbling. Screeching. Except for the mooing it is not much like cow sounds, even though that is exactly what it is.

22 July Saturday

We took a punnet of perfect plums to Tommie and he started to eat them immediately even as he talked with us. He loves fresh fruit and he cannot resist it in the way that other people adore chocolate. He studied each plum for a few minutes before he happily bit into it. He exclaimed about how delicious and how sweet it was. On biting into the the fourth one, he said, “This plum is at the Top of its Game.”

23 July Sunday
There was a small red tractor parked in front of the shop. It was old. It had no windows in the sides nor in the back but it did have a windscreen. The owner had cut himself a thick chunk of foam to cushion his seat.

24 July Monday

The Parish News announced that Two First Class Relics are coming to Cahir on the 29th of the month. The relics are Padre Pio’s Heart and Glove Bandage and it is hoped that they will draw a large crowd.

25 July Tuesday

The bucket has been placed under the tap to catch drips and over-spills. The bucket has been carefully cemented into position below the tap, but there is no hole at the bottom of the bucket to direct water into a drain, or perhaps there was a hole but it has become clogged, so when the bucket fills up it overflows anyway.


26 July Wednesday

It has been many weeks now since the Boil Water Notice has been in place. Everyone is advised to boil their water before drinking it because of the endless rain. Run off from the constant downpours has contaminated the reservoirs. There are no free glasses of water in restaurants or cafes. Water must be purchased. I find myself surprised each time I am refused water. We have our water directly from our well, so we are free from the Boil Notice.


28 July Friday

There are always piles of things in the farmyards that I pass:  things ready to be used and others ready to gotten rid of. Sometimes the use of something looks obvious, but sometimes it is a mystery.

29 July Saturday

The Annual Mass Rock Mass is to be held today up in the Knockmealdowns. It is usually held in August. Or maybe it is usually in August because it gets cancelled due to bad weather until it eventually takes place in August. Anyway. It is supposed to take place today. Subject to Weather. Tractors and trailers will be available to take those people who cannot walk across the mountain to the rock.

30 July Sunday

It was nearly ten o’clock, but we had not yet turned on a light in the house. The television was on and the light from outside was just beginning to drop. It was dusk. I noticed a flapping and a flying of something over our heads. I thought it was a large butterfly or a moth. I pointed it out and Simon said that it was a bat. We tried to steer the bat towards an open window. I put on a hat. We moved it from room to room by turning out the lights in one room and turning them on in another. The bat went round and round and round high up along the ceiling never going anywhere near the wide open windows. I waved a long stick but it was useless. The bat ignored my stick and my directional encouragements. It took about forty minutes but eventually we got the bat to the kitchen and then the next step was out into the dropping evening light. Simon asked why I had put on my hat. As a child I was told that bats have a tendency to land in hair and get tangled and then bite the head and the person would get rabies and die. That was American advice. Animals in this country do not carry rabies, but my first instinct was to put on a hat even though my hair is far too short to ensnare a bat.

1 August Tuesday

Dungarvan Queens are the big news.  They are advertised with excitement as Balls Of Flour.  This means they will explode into a pile of dust on the plate, ready for copious amounts of gravy and butter to moisten them.  Balls of Flour do not excite me. They fill my heart with dread.

2 August Wednesday

Even when it is not raining the days continue to be grey and gruesome. it is not warm. It is not cheerful to wake up and to look out the window. The sun does break through between showers but there are no rainbows. Neither the sun nor the blue sky last for long. There is always the promise of more rain to come soon. Cloudbursts. Showers. Downpours. Drizzle. Mist. Lashing. Desperate. Bucketing. Mizzling. Heavy. Light. Occasional. Frequent. Persistent. The weather announcers try to use a variety of words in an attempt to distract us from the forecasts of more of the same.

Squeezing the Figs

10 August Thursday

Rain has been falling on and off every day and every night. We can no longer remember the weather being any other way. The sun comes out and the day is suddenly hot. Everyone relaxes. Hunched shoulders drop and people stand taller. Then it rains again and people crunch their bodies again in attempts to make themselves small while scurrying to get under cover.

11 August Friday

Rolls of Silage Tape have appeared on the counter at the shop.  It is a reminder to those farmers who need it to remember to buy it.  The silage is being cut and baled in between cloudbursts.  The men in tractors and large cutting machinery race from field to field during even the briefest of dry spells.

12 August Saturday

I am Squeezing the Figs. I run up the stone steps to get close to the higher branches where I can reach the largest figs. I make the trip to squeeze four or five times a day. There are not many figs this year and if one of them is going to soften, I want to be sure to get it before the birds do. They will rip open the thin skins and eat away at the fruit inside. I want to find each fig first.

13 August Sunday

These wet days are warm, so windows are open. Open windows become an invitation to slugs. I never really know if they enter the bathroom through a window or if they ooze up through the plug hole in the bathtub, or the sink. They just appear. At night. And always in a surprising place. I am never happy to find a slug in the bathroom. I thought that by now I had been startled by a slug in every imaginable and disturbing location. Tonight I grabbed the tube of toothpaste and found my hand squeezing a large slug that was stretched the length of the tube. Lucky for me, I did not squeeze hard enough to kill it nor for its body to ooze through my fingers. I scraped the slug off the tube on the edge of the open window and got on with the job of cleaning my teeth.

15 August Tuesday

So far the birds have had one fig. I have had three. There are a lot of small fruits that will never grow large enough to ripen. It is not going to be a large crop this year so I am keeping count.

16 August Wednesday

We thought the thrush in the garden was one thrush singing non-stop. Now we recognize that there are several voices. They sing and sing and sing all day. There is not a moment of quiet.

18 August Friday

A storm is coming. It promises to be a big one. It has been named: Storm Betty. One woman said she tried to go to Dunnes’ Stores but the car park was full because everyone is rushing to get their food shopping in before the threatened rain and winds and floods descend. There are discussions about whether to bring in the lawn furniture, or maybe just the cushions? Since we have barely sat outdoors all summer some people have already put their lawn chairs away. Some people never brought them out of the shed. What about small plants in plastic pots: will they blow away? And Hanging Baskets are another worry. Preparations are frantic. People are feeling uncertain because they might well be trapped by floods or they fear that their electricity might be cut off. They want to be ready for every possibility, so everyone is rushing about so that they are not the ones to be caught out by Betty. The storm has quickly gone from Storm Betty to just Betty. Everyone feels familiar and on a first name basis with her.

19 August Saturday

In this part of the country, we escaped the Betty’s battering without much damage. Some branches are down but no roads are blocked. Other areas lost electricity and there was some terrible flooding. Betty is already fading as a topic of discussion.

20 August Sunday

Mickey Nugent died this week. He died in hospital but he was brought home to be laid out. A neighbour asked Tommie if he would like to go to the wake, so he was driven up to the house on Friday evening. He said he felt like The Pope for the welcome he received. The warm greetings and the friends he saw made him even sadder to know that Mickey was gone. He told me that Mickey was the kind of friend who would Fill His Car before he drove off to any event.  He never headed off for a match nor a funeral with Empty Seats. Tommie was never unhappy to be taken on an journey with Mickey as he himself rarely felt confident about locating any place that he did not know already. Mickey was never bothered with such worries. He was Without Fear. Tommie said that Mickey was both a Generous Man and a Gentleman. He said that several times. I think he enjoyed the sound of the words together. Tommie had decided to stay at home on Saturday because his knee was so painful, but after he heard about all the musicians who arrived carrying their instruments into the church, he regretted that he had not attended the Funeral Mass. He was sorry to have missed the musical farewell for his friend.

21 August Monday

I have a note to remind myself to keep checking the figs, but really, I do not need a note. I am obsessed with the figs. I bring them into the house when there is just the smallest amount of softness, a mere suggestion of squeezability. The figs then ripen in the house slowly over a few days or a week. There is no hurry. Once they are inside the birds cannot destroy them. Once they are inside I am happy to wait.

22 August Tuesday

The compost bucket is an ongoing problem in this dreadful endless rain. We all commiserate about the weather. It is important to take the compost out when the weather is dry. It is not pleasant to carry it out in lashing rain and to open my compost heap especially with its sliding heavy cover that no longer slides with ease. Emptying the bucket before it is full is becoming even more of an issue since the handle broke. It is now necessary for me to clutch the bucket to my chest with both arms as I walk. If I wait until the bucket is full up, it is heavy and if it is raining too, I must perform a staggery kind of a run to complete the task.

23 August Wednesday

Lads is a collective noun. People are described as Lads. Not Mates. Not You All. Not Guys. The Lads might be a clatter of small children, or it might be a rugby team made up of grown men. The Lads might be out on a Stag Night or The Lads might be out on a Hen Party. The word Lads does not seem to be restricted to one sex or the other. It is just a word for a grouping of people where names are not the issue. I might be mistaken, but it seems that Lads is always plural. Not Lad, but Lads. As soon as I decide this, I find an exception.

24 August Thursday

This endless wet means that there is always mud and there are always puddles. As a result, whatever trousers I am wearing, I always have a smudge or a clump of mud on the calf of my right leg. This is where the back of my leg rubs as I step out of the car. The muck splashes up onto the bottom of the car as I drive through the farmyard. If it is a warm day, the smudge is on the back of my bare leg. If the smudge is a green-ish color, it is not mud, but manure. It is green because the cows are feasting on nothing but grass in their fields.

25 August Friday

I watched as a man opened the back of his vehicle to load up a new gas bottle. Another man carried the bottle out to him and then he sat down on the back of the car. The two men talked quietly for a while and then they loaded in the gas bottle. One man drove away. The other one walked to wherever he was going.

26 August Saturday

Breda and I consulted the weather and we picked a time. I walked out and waited for her at the end of the boreen and we drove up to the Boulders in her car. We figured we had two, maybe two and a half hours, before the next cloudburst. We tied lightweight rain jackets around our waists and set off with long strides on our walking poles. We walked 40 minutes uphill to the cairn, with the sheep scattering and rushing away from us. We dropped down towards the river, just as the sky opened and the rain bucketed down hard. We were unable to get our jackets on before we were soaked to the skin. We hoped it might be a short downpour but the rain kept lashing down. It was hard and it was heavy. There was nothing for it but to head back to the Boulders and the car. There was not one tree nor shelter of any kind. We could not run because there was so much mud. We lurched and slipped along as quickly as we were able. The rain never let up for one minute. It felt like hail. By the time I got home I stripped off every bit of wet clothing and jumped into a hot shower. When I came out, I saw Simon’s shirt and trousers hanging off the rail. He was not interested in my report of heavy rain. He had his own report. He had been sitting out in the sunshine where he fell asleep in his chair. He was woken up by the rain pouring down upon him. He got completely drenched in the short run back to the house.

28 August Monday

I could not pass the farm because the gate was across the road. I shouted around the gate to the man at the cattle crush and he shouted to Joe and Joe came and opened the gates to let the car through. He told me that they were testing the cows to see which ones were in calf. When I returned two hours later, I had to shout up the yard again and Joe came down again and let me drive across. I asked how many calves he was expecting and he muttered that he feared they would never be finished with the testing because he had to keep letting men or machines or me in and out of the yard or up or down the road.

30 August

We ate caramelized figs on a pancake. Now I am slowly collecting more. The indoor ripening system is working well. The birds are deprived and we are winning. I have picked buckets full of apples from the meadow, both off the trees and the windfalls off the ground. The freezer is not going to be able to accommodate all the fruit I am gathering. And now the raspberries are ripening fast. I need to go out and pick them every afternoon. Overripe wild damsons are falling off the branches in the boreen. The branches are too high for me to reach. Four years ago I parked the car on the corner under the tree and I used a ladder to climb up and pick the plums while standing up on the curved roof of the car. I no longer feel safe using this method.


1 September Friday

The man stood outside the station and he pointed to a tree. Everyone who walked by followed his finger and looked up at the tree. There were not a lot of people around. Some were waiting to board a bus and others had just gotten down off a bus. Some were just off the train. We all followed the man’s directive. We all looked up at the tree. I heard a cat miaowing. Every person responded to the sounds of the crying cat. Each person stopped and looked and looked for the cat in the tree. After some minutes, the man laughed and said, “It’s ME! I am the cat. The cat is me. Can you give me some money for lunch?” Most people gave him some money. They were impressed with his act of throwing his voice into the tree. They were appreciative of his talent of imitating a cat in distress and they were relieved that there was not a real cat in trouble. Not everyone gave him money. Some people rushed away, embarrassed to have been caught up in his trick.

2 September Saturday

We would not have bought the strawberries. They were pale and sickly looking. And we have too much fruit to eat at home. The girl at the market assured us that they were the sweetest of berries and they were only pale because there has been so little sun. She explained that we are all suffering from a lack of sun. She said they were delicious and that we needed to eat them all today or they would disintegrate into a mush. We began to eat them right after lunch and we did not stop until they were gone. The girl was right. They were the best strawberries we have ever eaten.

4 September Monday

I am picking raspberries every day. Some get taken to friends. Some go into the freezer. Most of them we just eat.  I am seeing the blackberries ripening all up the boreen and I am now feeling the pressure to start picking them too.

Minerals

11 September Monday

I cannot go near to the book barn without colliding with a bee. The honeybees in the roof are wildly busy.  They are making up for the many weeks of wet weather this summer. Even if I am working in the garden at a distance, the bees crash into my head and my body. I try not to swat at them because I know that makes them angry so most of the time I just stay away, except to walk in and out of the barn. Their entrance is right above the door so it is impossible to avoid them completely. Beekeepers everywhere are bemoaning the poor honey production this year because it has been too wet for the bees to do their job. All of our honey is all up in the roof, completely inaccessible to anyone.  The Clonmel Honey show is coming up in a few weeks. There is discussion and worry that this will be the worst showing ever. The Irish for Clonmel is CLUAIN MEALA which translates as Meadow of Honey. The Honey Show is a big event. But without honey it will be less of an event.

12 September Tuesday

Tommie is in the care home in Clogheen. First he went to hospital with his ongoing lung infection and while he was there he contracted the new variant of Covid. After two weeks in isolation, he has been sent to St Theresa’s but he is still not allowed any visitors. I send him cards.

13 September Wednesday

There are more spiders around than ever.  I learned on the radio that at this time of year the males are out hunting the females to reproduce and the females are all hiding. The reason for the hiding is not clear. There are enormous numbers of spiders on the prowl. I do not know how to recognize a male from a female. There are large wood spiders with hairy legs trying and failing to climb the slippery walls of the bathtub. There are delicate spiders with long thin legs like fine hairs and all kinds of quick moving tiny ones and along with the massive quantity of spiders there are huge droopy cobwebs in every corner of every room. They never talk about the cobwebs on the radio.

14 September Thursday

There is a tendency for any walking path in woods that is gentle enough for children and families to be littered with little doorways for the fairies. The small doorways might be made of painted wood, or the doors might be colored plastic. They give the children something to rush around and discover while they are out getting fresh air. I am not a fan of these little doorways. I hate them. There is never just one doorway. There are usually 20 or 30 in a given area. I avoid any place where the fairy doors have invaded. The window in the hardware shop has a display of little fairy figurines and several little doorways. Added into the mix is a variety of Fairy products, which have nothing to do with fairies. Fairy is an English brand name for washing-up liquid and laundry soap. It is difficult to decide which idea came first in this display.

15 September Friday

My mother never gave us carbonated drinks except when we were sick in bed, and then we were given a tiny glass of flat warm ginger ale. All soft drinks were called Tonic in New Hampshire, but we were allowed none of them, so flat ginger ale seemed like a treat. When I left New Hampshire, I learned to say Soda instead of Tonic. In some parts of the US people call it Pop. And some people call it all Coke, even if it is not Coca Cola, but another flavor of fizzy drink. When I moved to Ireland, my vocabulary had to adjust again. Even though I never drink these drinks, I need to know the correct word: carbonated drinks are called Minerals.

16 September Saturday

Everyone feels beaten up. Twenty-eight hours of straight heavy rain will do that to a person. The rain fell hard and heavily without a moment of pause. Many people said they never stepped outside their door once all day and all night. The roads were running with brown water. The water was full of topsoil rushing off the fields at speed.

17 September Sunday

For some time and in some places, milk cartons had pictures of missing children along with police phone numbers to ring if one spotted a lost child. It was something to read while eating breakfast. Now there is a Q-code on our milk cartons. If we click on the code we can hear the sounds of cows in the field. Or we can just go outside and eat our cereal. There are plenty of cows in either Joe’s field or the other Joe’s field. We do not need the recorded version.

18 September Monday

Raspberries. I am picking raspberries as fast as I can in between the cloud bursts. I am also picking blackberries, but my priority is always raspberries. I like raspberries more than blackberries and I hate for them to get soggy in this endless rain.

19 September Tuesday

The news is full of The Ploughing. Today is the first of the annual three day event. The radio has been noisy with excitement and anticipation for weeks now. There is new terminology to accompany the types of competiton: reversible, conventional, stubble, three-furrow and two furrow. This year the event is being held in County Laois. The location changes every year but the event is always plagued with bad weather, terrible backups of traffic and parking issues in places where parking has never before been a problem, free servings of Flahavan’s porridge, and lots of mud. It is the place where farmers from all over the country gather to see new machinery and to learn new methods for various jobs, and how to tackle the climate issues as European laws evolve. Politicians know that it is important that they attend The National Ploughing Competitions. They need to be available to answer questions and they need to have the right solutions to problems if they are going to have any chance to be re-elected. The Ploughing itself is a National Sport and the Irish winners will be rushing off to the European Championships in Denmark soon, along with their tractors.

20 September Wednesday

I like to see what is going on as I walk through the farmyard, but most days there is little to see. The road makes two sharp right angles and we call it The Dog’s Leg. High gates block off a lot of the activity. The machines get bigger and bigger and they do more and more of the work. People are less visible. Ann picks apples at this time of year, but she only picks once. The rest of the apples fall onto the ground and rot. Otherwise women are not visible at the farm. The newest farm worker helping Joe is named Rafael. He is from Brazil.

21 September Thursday

I have seen the young fox three times this week. Each time I have been walking in the boreen. When he sees me, he leaps high into the underbrush, and is gone almost before I can register his presence.

22 September Friday

The nights are cool and the mornings are misty and cold. Already the sun sets earlier and earlier, but there are plenty of flowers still in bloom. Daisies, honeysuckle, purple loosestrife, buttercups, rose hips, wild fuchsia and meadowsweet fill the hedgerows, and in the garden the roses, daisies, lavender and Lady’s Mantle keep blooming. Lady’s Mantle is perfect for this climate because it’s leaves look splendid with drops of water.

23 September Saturday

Today there was a Twenty Year Anniversary Celebration at the Farmer’s Market. The day was celebrated with lots of balloons and pennants and a group of musicians from The Cahir Men’s Shed. Their music was not lively. Everything sounded like a dirge and there were too many of them to fit under the little tent covering when the rain started. Pat the Fishmonger made little sandwiches for each customer with cream cheese and his smoked salmon.


24 September Sunday

Slugs abound. This wet weather is just what they like.

25 September Monday

Beautiful sunshine today after yesterday non-stop pouring rain. Yesterday was not a day to step outside if it could be avoided. I walked through the farm as a long truck was backing up to deliver wood shavings. This is what the cows stand on on top of their slatted mats. The driver dumped a huge load of shavings and now it will take a few days for Joe to move it all from that pile to wherever he stores it until it is needed for the cows. Then the driver will come and dump another load. Or two loads. The shavings in the yard smell wonderful.

26 September Tuesday

I visited Tommie today with a large bowl of raspberries and a jug of heavy cream.  He arrived home yesterday in the afternoon. He had been away for nearly five weeks. By seven o’clock he had had his tea and he told me that he felt depressed. He felt lonely and alone.  His neighbor  came over with two sausages on a plate and he told him to go away.  He did not know if the sausages were for him or if Pat just wanted to display them to him. He did not want to see Pat. He said he missed all of the nurses and the activity of people around him with food and cups of tea and smiles. His hair looks thick and shiny.   I told him that it looked nice and he said they were good to shampoo it for him at St .Theresea’s. He said he doesn’t bother with shampoo much himself.

28 September Thursday

Yesterday we were heartily thrashed by Storm Agnes.  I do not know why the naming of storms has gone from Betty to Agnes.  Why would we be going backwards through the alphabet?  The winds were fierce and a lot of people lost their electricity.  Even inside the house it was hard to think for the noise of the gusting wind. Today the winds are weaker but still blustery. There is nothing but the weather to focus upon.