some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Tag: local hospice

This Day Twelve Months

17 December Friday

The woman in front of me at the post office counter announced in a loud voice: “I have not bought a stamp since This Day Twelve Months, and today I bought three!”

18 December

It was not a cold day but yesterday had been bitter. The older lady at the farmer’s market was half-way apologizing for appearing in her long fur coat. She explained out loud to no one in particular that she thought the day would be as cold as the one before had been. She was obviously happy to be out wearing her glamorous coat. She had taken a lot of trouble. Her long suede gloves were immaculate and her wig was perfect. The coat had a high fluffy collar and similar fluffy cuffs. It might have been mink or it might have been fox. I do not know much about fur. I felt I had to comment on her appearance and she was happy that I had. It gave her a chance to discuss the coat. It had been left to her by her friend who died earlier in the year. The friend had lived in the United States for many years and she owned three fur coats. She brought them back to Ireland with her, but the weather was rarely cold enough to have a need for even one of them. They were city coats designed for attending the opera or a concert. This coat she was wearing was not meant for an hour at the farmers market on a Saturday morning in December but she confessed that she had no where else to go and it seemed a pity not to wear the coat. Wearing the coat was a way to honor her friend. She told me that her friend’s initials were sewn into the lining at the hem and she thought of her each time she looked at the carefully embroidered letters.

19 December

Every year Anthony brings out his tyre tree and he decorates it with fresh greenery. Every year I am happy to see it again. After twelfth night, he will return it to the back of the yard where the greenery will die as it sits on its pallet until next year.

20 December Monday

I cannot see for the fog. It is heavy and thick and white. It has settled all the way down to the ground. My walking takes me from one tree to the next tree. I lose each tree as I pass it. I lose each gate as I pass it. I lose the stone walls. I am deprived of everything. Everything disappears as I move. Each thing looms and then it evaporates. Where I am going is familiar because I have gone this way before but inside the dense fog every single thing is new. I can only see the most immediate next thing and then my eyes are searching through the whiteness for the next thing.

21 December Tuesday

The local holiday clean-up seems to be proceeding as normal even though government warnings tell everyone to reduce their contacts and not to gather in groups.  I overhear the yearly conversations repeated about what has been done and about what has yet to be done. The flurry of activity is manic. The Omicron variant cannot stop all of these rituals. Getting the tree and its decorations up is just one thing. Festive evergreen wreaths must be taken to the graves of the family dead and the gravestones must be scrubbed clean. The car must be washed both inside and out, and the house must be cleaned and the windows washed even though most people will not allow anyone into their homes. There will be no one to see all the hard work. A trip to the hygienist for a cleaning of the teeth and a fresh haircut are essential to guarantee that everyone looks good in their photographs.

24 December Friday

Every year I get out my mother’s red tablecloth on Christmas Eve and every year I swear that this is its final year and I promise myself that this will be the year that I throw it away at the end of the holiday.  Every year we remark on the small red rounded iron-on patches and my father’s cigarette burns and the stains and the holes and melted candle fat. This table cloth is a mess. Every Christmas we say that this table cloth has had a long life but Enough is Enough. In the last few years I have laid a red and white checkered picnic cloth across the middle of the table so that the old red cloth only pokes out from around the edges. It is more difficult to see the wear and tear. The red checks look like summer. The checkered tablecloth does not look even vaguely Christmas-y but it covers a multitude of damage and of history.

27 December Monday

We walked out the road to Lady’s Abbey and as always, I stopped to look for the chair with the red velvet seat. It was no longer in the little room where it sat for so long before someone tried to set it on fire. I thought the area must have been cleaned up and the chair removed along with the rest of the burnt mess, but the chair had only tossed into an alcove on the side of the Abbey along with a lot of branches.


28 December Tuesday

Someone sent a card using last year’s postage stamps which marked The Christmas Day Swim. The swim is a big part of the celebration for anyone who lives near to the sea and since this country is an island there are a lot of group swims in the morning. The Christmas Swim is as much a part of the holiday as anything else.

1 January 2022

During Storm Barra, plastic feed bags blew down the boreen. One bag was stuck up a tree. I tried to reach it, first with a heavy stick and then with a rake. I could not get anywhere near as there were so many brambles and also because the tree was up on a precarious banking. I decided that I might have to wait for another kind of wind to catch it. It annoyed me every time I saw the white bag stuck high up in the branches. Last night we had more wild winds. The final winds of the year. Noisy smashing gusts woke us over and over all night long. This morning I found that the plastic bag had been blown out of its tree and that two others just like it were scattered down the length of the boreen. I walked along and collected all three and put them in the lean-to for eventual removal to the recycling depot. MAZZOLENI printed on the bags offered me the idea of a little bit of travel in these restrictive times. I like the idea of the Dry Cow Special coming all the way from Italy to feed Joe’s wintering Irish cows.


3 January 2022 Monday

Double barrel, solid with concrete.

This Day Week

6 January Thursday

Today is Nollaig na mBan: Women’s Christmas. Little Christmas. Twelfth Night. Epiphany. Today is all of these things. It is the official last day of Christmas and it is the day when all of the decorations and the tree should be taken down and everything except the holly should be removed from the house. Nollaig na mBan is supposed to be a day of rest and pleasure for the women who have done most of the work throughout the holiday season. The men of the house take over on this day and do any and all domestic jobs that need doing. The women are traditionally out visiting one another, sharing tea or dinner with female friends and family, but of course another year with Covid restrictions has put a halt to this ritual. Sharing a flask of coffee sitting on some stones after a winter walk in the mountains, or a shared park bench in the city, is more the order of the day.

8 January Saturday

I am walking across the yard in the dark and the rain. I am on my way to the sauna, wearing nothing but my dressing gown and carrying a little lantern. I am wishing that I was also carrying an umbrella. The ground squishes underneath my rubber clogs. There has been so much rain. There is so much mud. On the return trip, I am less bothered by the rain. My body is radiating heat. I feel impervious to the rain. I have to tread carefully because there are daffodils pushing up all over the place. They are already two inches out of the ground but there is not a snowdrop in sight. This is not the correct order of things. This is all wrong.

9 January Sunday

When a person says This Day Twelve Months, they mean a year ago today.  But if that same person speaks of This Day Week, they mean one week from today. I cannot figure out how these two expressions can be so similar but one implies going back in time while the other suggests the future.

12 January Wednesday

A farmer in Ardfinnan has two llamas in the field with his flock of sheep.  When he moves the sheep to another field for grazing, the llamas move with them.  The discussion locally is that the llamas function as protection.  A fox will not attack a sheep that has been separated from the flock if there is a llama nearby. I am not sure how much truth there is in this theory because llamas are not natural residents of Tipperary. Not one person can claim to be experienced much less an expert in the matter.

13 January Thursday

There are two kinds of names.  There are the names used as identifiers and the names used for address.  The identifier tells the listener about the person who is being discussed: Johnnie the Timber. Mickey the Boxer.  Pat Flan. Billy the Wood. Auntie She-She. I would never call Sheila Auntie She-She to her face. I would address her as Sheila, but if someone else speaks about her they call her Auntie She-She, so that we will know exactly which Sheila is being discussed. As for Mickey the Boxer, I do not know why Boxer is attached to his name, but it always is.  When I meet him on the road, I call him Michael. For years I thought one man was called Frankie the Wire, but eventually I learned that his name was Dwyer. It was  just a confusion because the whole name was said with a thick Tipp accent.

15 January Saturday

Breda and I walked up on Barranacullia. We walked around the mountain and down to the river and then up to the cairn on top. Wherever we walked the sheep ran along in front of us. Big lines of crushed up swedes had been poured out on the hill for them. They were interested to eat the vegetable matter but they were more interested to run away from us.

16 January Sunday

Simon boned out a chicken. He stuffed it with black pudding and rosemary and sausage meat and I do not know what else. When he was finished with the stuffing, he sewed it back up with book-binding thread.

17 January Monday

The light is lasting longer and later every single day. I enjoy taking a walk at the very end of the afternoon as the sky is going all pink and just as the sun drops. It is still light at five o’clock. Only a few weeks ago it was completely dark at five. A few times I have been caught out on a road when the light dropped faster than I expected. I should remember to wear a high-visibility vest.

18 January Tuesday

There is a low table in the waiting area of the doctor’s surgery. It used to be in the middle of the room covered with magazines and looking like an ordinary coffee table. There are no longer magazines available for anyone to touch or look at and there are only four chairs in the whole room. The low table is now pushed into place in front of the counter where the receptionist sits. The table is made of heavy wood. It is about 22 inches by 36 inches. It is not something that is easily moved. My impression is that it was placed there to stop people getting too close to the receptionist. There is a sheet of glass in front of the desk to protect the receptionist. The glass is 4 feet long and there is a shelf with bottles of hand sanitizer along the length of it. The only part of the long area not protected by glass is one end, about 6 inches wide, on the far left. This is where the receptionist hands out receipts and where the bank card machine is placed for payments. As a result of the low table blocking the way and the narrow point of access in the glass protecting the receptionist, every person who comes out of the doctors’ offices immediately squeezes themselves into the the slot between the heavy low table and the radiator that is attached to the wall. There is only about 10 inches available to stand in, so most people do so with one leg in front of the other. We each stand kind of sideways while trying to maintain a normal transaction. Every single person moves into this awkward space in order to settle whatever business needs to be settled. The table is another annoyance in our current life and we all accept it without question.

20 January Thursday


21 January Friday

Another late afternoon walk, up the road in search of a short mud-free stroll. There was indeed no mud, but the further I went, the stronger the smell. Slurry was being spread in the fields I was walking past. The stench was terrible and the after-effect of the smell was a horrible burning at the back of my throat. The interesting thing was a bright yellow and black sign announcing: CAUTION/SLURRY SPREADING IN PROCESS. It was both a redundant and an unusual sign. It is not normal to find something to read when I am out for a walk, but the smell of the slurry and the noise of the tractor is ordinarily enough to alert anyone to the activity of spreading. We do not need to read about it. Along with the sign were a pair of metal ramps so that any vehicles were able to drive over the thick hose that is transporting the pumped slurry from a tank to the tractor moving around out in the field.

22 January Saturday

Walking to and from from the sauna tonight my torch lit up dozens of snowdrops in the grass. They are just coming into blossom. This is a cheerful sign. Nature seems to be back on schedule.

Dressing the Bed

24 January Monday

The first time I saw the fox, it had been freshly killed by a car. It was splayed across the road close to the grassy verge. Every day since then, the fox has been pushed more and more off the road and into the rough grass. Day by day the body is more damaged. I think birds have been pecking at it. I do not want to look at the fox but it is on my regular route and I cannot stop myself from turning my head to see where it lies. It has gone from being a fox to being a corpse and now it is simply remains, lying stretched out in a bedraggled fox shape in bright green grass.

25 January Tuesday

Seeing the Galtees covered with fresh snow this morning made me feel like I have woken up in Switzerland.

26 January Wednesday

The eye surgery is located in a bungalow. For years, there were two doors for entering the building. The right-hand door was for the eye specialist and the left-hand door was for her husband’s practice. He was a General Practitioner. There was one desk in the middle of the first room entered. The woman who sat at the desk had two big black books open in front of  her. If you entered by the left hand door, you were there to see the doctor and the receptionist noted your appointment in one book. If you entered by the right hand door you had an appointment with the eye specialist. Her appointments were listed in the other book. The system worked fine. The system worked perfectly until one day the receptionist was out walking and she was hit by a car and killed. The replacement receptionist never juggled the two books with the same ease.

I had not been for an eye check-up for three years. I was surprised to see only one entrance. The front of the building had been re-done, as had the interior. The GP died and his wife, the eye specialist, retired. There was no longer a GP sharing the bungalow and except for all of the small rooms and funny turns, the inside looked like a different place. Everything was painted white and new lights had made the whole place bright but evenly dull. There were no rows of old dining room chairs in the waiting area. It is now more of a regular optometrist’s office with an eye specialist as an extra part of the operation.

When I went to pick out some frames for my new driving glasses, I was not allowed to touch the frames randomly. Everything had to be overseen. Any pair I touched had to be set aside for Covid disinfecting. The optician assisting me pointed to things but she did not touch anything herself.  I mentioned to the woman how Dr. Bernie, the previous occupant of the practice, always told me to bring in any old pair of spectacles I had lying around and they could put new lenses into them. She felt that there was no reason to buy new frames, especially for reading or for driving, if you had perfectly serviceable ones laying around in a drawer. The optician said nothing but looked horrified by this idea.

27 January Thursday

Margaret took her aunt out for a drive. It was a way to get the ninety year old Lillian out of the house and into the fresh air, and of course, it was a chance to see what was happening in the world. The primary purpose of the drive was a hunt for Whooper Swans. This year the Whooper Swans have not been as visible as they usually are. Often we see 40 or 50 of them gathering in the middle of a field looking from a distance like white plastic carrier bags tied at the top, full and heavy and  slumped on the grass. Then  a few days later the whole flock will have moved to another field.  I have only seen two of the migrating swans this year and that is not normal. Lillian has always harbored a great love for Whooper Swans. She loves the way they cheer up the winter. She knows all of the places where they stop to rest. Margaret drove in and out of small quiet roads for an hour before they found a sizeable flock. Then they went home, drank a cup of tea and discussed their find.

28 January Friday

The radio up-dates throughout the week gave us more and more details of the young man in Carlow who went to the post office to collect the pension of an elderly neighbor. He was told that the man himself had to come in to collect his own pension. The post-mistress said that the young man could not collect unless he was officially registered to do so. He went away and came back later with another man. They walked into the post office holding both arms of the pensioner. When the pensioner did not respond to questions from the post-mistress, the two men propped him up against the counter and they ran out of the post office. An ambulance was called but the man was already dead. He had been dead for several hours. He was not elderly. He was only 66. He had had a heart attack and died. The man who tried to get his pension is in jail. Had he succeeded in his fraud he would have received only 240 euro for all of his trouble. Adrian is threatening to put up a sign at his own post office counter announcing: No Pulse. No Pension.

29 January Saturday

The act of making a bed look fresh and tidy, with clean sheets, or simply with some pulling and tucking and smoothing, is To Dress The Bed. When someone has been sleeping in a bed and it has not yet been dressed, the expression to describe the disheveled bed is that It Has Been Tossed

30 January Sunday

Around mid-day I went to meet Breda, Fiona and Siobhan at the boulders for a walk on Barranacullia. There was a lot of mud underfoot and a steady  drizzle. It was not enough to call real rain but it was soaking and it was miserable. it was miserable but we had met up to walk so we walked.  It looked like there were even more sheep up on the top than the last time I was up there and the farmer had once again spilled out a long path of smashed root vegetables for the sheep to eat.  Once again I wondered what it was. Mangel is what it is called. Mangel beet is a kind of beet grown for wintering animals so calling it mangel might mean that is exactly what it is, or it might be a generic term for whatever kind of root vegetable is being used today.  The sheep were enjoying it.

31 January Monday

The birds cannot get enough nuts.  I fill the feeders and they empty them.  I fill them again and they are emptied immediately.  I mentioned this to Tommie when we spoke this morning. He is scornful about feeding birds. He says you should never feed a bird unless you are planning to eat it. In his opinion anything else is a waste of food and time.

The Cows Are in The Fields.

25 February Friday

I was on the bus traveling up from Cork. The man in the seat behind me talked eagerly to the young lad beside him. The boy was excited. He had just passed his driver’s test and he had a car at home that he had been fixing up. It was almost ready for the road. The man seemed to feel it was his job to give the boy some encouragement. Once he started talking I never heard another word from the boy.

“You’ll be off the buses for good when you’ve got your own motor car, lad.”

“Just go carefully. Take it sweet and easy. Whatever you do, you must never draw attention to yourself. That is the best advice I can give you.”

“Are you very good at the parking so?”

“I’ll take a spin in it with you if you like and I’ll tell you what kind of a driver you are.”

“I’ve never had a ticket for speeding or bad tires or anything at all. I’ve never had a single ticket. I’ve always been a driver Under The Radar me. That is the kind of driver you want to be.”

26 February Saturday

The weather has been wild. It changes every few minutes. I look out a window and see one thing coming down and by the time I turn to another window there is something else happening: RAIN. SUN. SLEET. RAIN. SUN. RAIN. SNOW. SUN. SLEET. SUN. HAIL. RAIN. SLEET. RAIN. SUN. HAIL. SUN. WIND WIND WIND WIND. RAINBOW. WIND. SNOW. SLEET. RAIN. SUN. WIND. WIND. Always the wind. Never stopping. WIND.

27 February Sunday

People were gathered around and talking in the space between the church and the shop. Mass had just ended.  I usually try to avoid this time. I try to be either earlier or later going to the village on a Sunday. I prefer to miss the muddle of people congregating and conversing while they leave the church. As I came out of the shop, I heard one man ask another: “Well, Johnny, How are ye? I heard you had lost your mind. Tell me now, is there any truth in it?”

28 February Monday

Andrzej has cleared the sides of the path and moved the fallen branches. Wind toppled trees have been sawn up and stacked in the lean-to for firewood. There is a lot of deep mud to struggle through but the walk up past Johnnie Mackin’s is more clear than it has been for over a year. It feels like a walk to a whole new place.

I March Tuesday

Ardfinnan is a village chock full of homemade seats in public places. Wherever one walks there is a bench or chair or something rigged up so that a brief rest is possible. Some of the seats offer a view but many are just dropped down in a random location. Views do not seem especially important. There are tables too. There are not as many tables as there are chairs and benches but there are several tables if a person is looking to sit down, eat a sandwich and listen to the birds. One table surprises me each time I see it. It has four legs encased in blocks of concrete. The concrete on the base of the legs is to ensure that the table cannot tip over, nor can it be stolen or pushed into the stream by hooligans. But there are no seats anywhere near to the table so it is not there for the eating of a sandwich or chatting with a friend over coffee. I am not sure what it is for.

2 March Wednesday

I saw Lena in the shop. She called out, “Hello Sally!” I answered, “I am not Sally.” She was wearing her mask but even so I could still see that her face registered shock. “Of course you are Sally. You have always been Sally.” I told her that I have never been Sally even though she has been calling me Sally for years. I told her that I never felt like correcting her but today I decided to just tell her that my name is not Sally. She screwed up her face and looked at me carefully, before she asked, “Why today?”

4 March Friday

Weather is the main topic of discussion. Weather rules our lives. This week has been cold. Very cold. Temperatures drop very low at night and every morning is frosty. The daffodils begin the day lying down flat on white crunchy grass. When the sun finally breaks through, the rest of the daylight hours are bright and cold and green. The daffodils stand up. The cows are in the fields. They are out from under cover during the afternoons. The winds are bitter and unrelenting but the blue sky makes everyone feel better. They say: “Well, at least it is dry.” Any day that is not wet is considered A Good Day.

5 March Saturday

Council workers with shovels and diggers have moved through the area. They made gashes in the grass and lumpy earth beside the roads to allow for the run-off of excess rainwater. The hopeful idea is to prevent flooding on the roads. There is no rain now and there has been no rain for a week or more, but they know it will come so it is important to be ready. It is an annual precaution and it always looks ugly.

9 March Wednesday

It is snowing. All night and all morning, and all day yesterday, it has been raining. Water has been gushing down the boreen and down the path, only taking a sharp right turn just before it reaches the kitchen door. Torrents of water have fallen. The noise from the beating rain was so loud that it was not possible for us to talk to each other over breakfast.  The noise of the rain hitting the roof was too loud. Now it is noon and the rain has turned to snow. I know it is too wet for snow to accumulate but even so the big fat wet flakes are beginning to pile up on surfaces. It is the ninth of March. Local opinion is that we have had our spring before our winter.

All to one side like the town of Fermoy

17 March Patrick’s Day

I just watched the 6 o’clock news. This is my favorite television programme of the year. They show clips from the big and small Patrick’s Day parades taking place all over the country: farm machinery, little girls doing gymnastics, and every Ukrainian refugee who has arrived here was in a parade. The Ukrainians were put in front position in a great many of the parades. They led their parades with tears pouring down their faces. Blue and yellow pennants and flags and banners were everywhere. Green was not the predominant color. There were doctors and nurses from the Indian subcontinent, Jamaican musicians and a gay tractor convoy — the whole diversity of the country out in force. Tae kwon do and karate clubs in disheveled groups tried to keep moving down the street at the same time as they showed off their skills. One parade was led by the oldest woman in the country to survive Covid, at the age of 102. She waved cheerfully from an open topped red car. There were groups of children dribbling basketballs, and line dancers with cowboy hats. Troupes of Brazilian singers and dancers. A dozen eleven-year-old boy swimmers flapped along wearing flippers and masks and taking huge gasps of rhythmic breathing. Their feet flapped and slapped while their arms practiced the crawl. Each boy wore his swimming togs but most had long underwear underneath. It is still March after all.

20 March Sunday

It has been a wild morning. The winds are gusting and thrashing. Birds are flying into windows from all directions. Three have already knocked themselves out and one is dead.

21 March Monday

We were both waiting in the plastic chairs at the clinic. There were several empty places between us. I had never seen the woman before. She started talking and she just kept talking. She told me that she was a painter. She explained that her family had owned a fruit and vegetable shop when she was a child and she said the whole family lived upstairs. She began by painting pictures of fruit. People praised her. Everyone said that her fruit was so real that they could reach right into the paintings and take it out and eat it. She trained to be a primary school teacher. All the time that she was teaching, she never stopped painting. Each time she enrolled in an art class she was told to go away and paint. Each teacher told her that they could not tell her how to do what she was already doing so well. She thought to go to art college but was told that if she did get a place in art college, she would have to Go Abstract because her kind of painting was old fashioned and nobody would teach it and anyway no one wanted it. She did not want to Go Abstract so she continued painting fruit and vegetables, and sometimes landscapes. She was happy now that she was retired because she could paint all day. She had just begun to paint birds but she found them difficult because they always moved. Sadly, she now has a dislocated shoulder, or maybe it was a frozen shoulder, and that was making painting difficult for her. She was hoping that physiotherapy would solve the problem soon.

24 March Thursday

This time of year is full of firsts. Today the first sorrel arrived on our plates. We ate the young leaves in a delicate paste tasting like citrus and making a perfect omelet. The wild garlic is pushing its shiny leaves up all along the path and it is blanketing the orchard. Small flowers are in bloom everywhere: Primroses. Stitchwort. Dandelions. Forget-me-nots. Celandine. Robin Run The Hedge. And the blossom on the fruit trees….

28 March

We received the notice from the ESB promising that our electricity would be cut off for at least a few hours or maybe all day. We received the same notice three times in the post, although every time the address printed on the card was wrong. Usually when we are informed of this kind of power interruption it turns out that it is only for a few hours.  This time it was all day.  It is amazing how many things stop working when here is no electricity.  The water is always a surprise as the generator bringing our water from the well is an electric pump. No electricity means no water, except for whatever we have put aside in jugs and buckets.

30 March

There is a bee flying around up high. He bashes himself up against the skylight and buzzes loudly. He must have ridden in with the firewood. There are some bees, or maybe they are wasps, who sleep tucked into the crevices of the wood over the winter.  If I see a sleeping bee when I am loading up the wheelbarrow, I put that piece of wood aside and leave him or her to continue with their winter sleep. Sometimes I miss seeing one and I bring it in with the firewood by mistake. The warmth of the house wakes the bee up and soon there is a groggy banging on the window. If I catch the bee and take it outside it might be killed by the cold, but I do not want it in so it must go out. Today I found an earthworm, long and stretched out on the floor. I thought it was a piece of twine. I can only think that it came in with the firewood too.

2 April Saturday

The first asparagus of the year. Or what I thought was the first asparagus of the year. Pat told me that he had a few bundles of it last week but it had disappeared before I got to his fish stall. He buys it from some people in Wexford. If they have any left at the end of the market day in Kilkenny, they sell it to him and he brings 12 or 18 small bundles to the Farmer’s Market in Cahir. It was tender and delicious. I cannot wait to get more next week, but I will have to get to the market early because I am not the only one who wants it.

6 April Wednesday

There are two bulls in Joe’s field. They have been there for a month or more. The was one bull all alone for a few months. These two seem to be both companionable and quiet.

10 April Sunday

We have changed our clocks. The stretch in the spring days has already been enormous but now it is still not dark at 9 in the evening. Dusk goes on for another forty minutes. Bird song goes on until nearly ten o’clock. Birdsong seems to never stop. Soon people will begin to use the expression Going To Bed in the Bright. No one likes to go to bed when it is still light outside but as the days stretch out lighter and brighter each week, very soon there will be no choice in the matter.

12 April Tuesday

It was cold and wet and the winds were the kind that cut right though you no matter what you are wearing. The waitress brought us a big pot of tea and as she put it onto the table she said: There is nothing like a pot of tea to Put the Heat Back Into You!

15 April Friday

The cable must have been tight up against the tree when the tree was small.  The tree kept growing and the cable was eventually embedded into the growth.  Now the tree has been cut down and the part of the tree that the cable is trapped in has been left to hang off the cable.  It is a curious thing. I enjoy seeing it each time I drive to the village.


20 April Wednesday

I jumped up on a chair to get something out of the bookshelf and then I jumped down again and I hit the floor at a bad angle and I fell and I rolled to a stop but I was not fast enough with my roll over the stone floor to avoid having hurt my foot.  I think it is a sprain. It is definitely not broken, but I cannot bend it. I can barely walk without a stick.  I am hobbling with the stick and when I am without the stick, I lurch. I cannot wear a shoe so if I go outside my heavy green wool sock gets wet in the grass. It has been three days now.  I have read three books while I rest the foot which is black and blue and swollen.  When I look up from whichever book I am reading, I see a cow looking down on me from Joe’s high field. I like to think it is the same cow keeping an eye on me but it is probably different ones who wander by. And I would like to think I have more sense. I am not 16.  As a short person, I have spent my entire life jumping up on things to reach high things. Jumping. Hopping. Climbing. Stretching on tiptoes. It is not easy to change the habits of a lifetime. I cannot go anywhere because I can barely walk and I can certainly not drive, so Derek the Post is the only person to have seen me lurching about.  He laughed with me at my predicament and declared that I am All to One Side Like The Town of Fermoy.

She’d put Hair on an Egg

24 April Sunday

It was a Friday at the end of March when Charles and Camilla made a royal visit. This was yet another event to remind the world that the Queen of England has been on the throne for many decades. A Farmer’s Market was planned for the royals on Friday pretending to be our usual Farmers Market which meant that on the Saturday half of our regular stalls were absent. They had come on the Friday for the Pretend Cahir Farmer’s Market and could not be bothered to come again the next day for the Regular Cahir Farmer’s Market. The majority of the people selling wares on the Friday are not people who ever normally do the market. They were invited for the photo opportunity.  The Pretend Market was twice the size of our Regular Market. The car park below Cahir Castle was closed off for two days ahead of the royal visit. Local people could not use the car park because of security for the visiting royalty.

Opinion was mixed about the entire visit. Some people were aggrieved, pointing out that this royal family is nothing to do with the Republic of Ireland. Others pointed out diplomatically that it was good for the area. Good for Tourism. Sure it would bring some money into the area. There was a photograph in the newspaper of Charles buying a loaf of bread. C + C also visited the Rock of Cashel and had coffee at the newly re-furbished Cashel Palace Hotel. They went to Waterford and met a bunch of Ukrainians who have been temporarily re-settled there.

The two or three days when the royals were in the area were cold and dry and still. There were no winds. It was perfect weather for spreading slurry. I just learned that thirty farmers in the area surrounding Cashel spread slurry on their fields for the occasion. The stench was ghastly and burnt the back of throats and the entire nasal passages of anyone who stepped out in the town Cashel including, of course, those in the royal entourage.

25 April Monday

I spoke to Tommie this morning. He is hoping that I will be able to drive him into town one day soon. He has a few things he wants to buy at Dunne’s stores. They are things he cannot buy in the village. He could ask the husband of his niece but he said he would rather go with me. I told him that my foot is still not fully healed and that if he is willing to wait I will be happy to take him to town when my foot is up to the job. He said he has no problem with the wait. He said he would rather go with me because he feels that we Travel Well Together.

26 April Tuesday

The black cat from the farm comes down the track most days. He spends a lot of time underneath the bird feeders. I thought that perhaps he was waiting to catch a bird, but today I saw him eating the peanuts that had spilled out from the feeders.

27 April Wednesday

You can usually recognize a Pioneer because they wear a small pin on their lapel. That is, you can recognize a Pioneer if he is a man who is wearing a suit jacket. It is not quite as easy as it used to be to see who is and who is not a Pioneer. I rarely see a woman with a pin although I know there are plenty of female Pioneers. The lapel badge signifies that the person is a Teetotaller not an Explorer.

28 April Thursday

The sky stays bright well after 9 pm. It is still blue but a darker blue at 9.30.

29 April Friday

She is the lady who volunteers herself for every committee. If someone asks her to do something or to help out in any way, she always said yes. Her week is packed full of meetings and responsibilities. Once she is on a committee, she is not so agreeable. She has never been an easy woman to work with. Jim is not the first person to tell me that this woman is a Hard Woman to Control in a Committee. Today he came right out and said that this woman is impossible. He said that she is the kind of a person who would Put Hair on An Egg.

30 April Saturday

I am trying to stay home and to stay still. The foot is still not healing as fast as I would like it to. I think I was foolish not to go for x-rays and now I feel it is too late. I had begun to drive again but only while wearing my wooden clogs. The clog on the bad foot worked like splint.  It kept me from bending the foot, but now I think that even that was too much. I should not have been driving at all. I am now trying to stay at home and to rest my foot as much as possible. This is what I should have been doing all along. The out of door ground is rough and uncomfortable to walk upon so I am spending a lot of time in the house while the birds are singing and the world outside is getting itself going with spring activity. All I can do is to keep the windows open and to go out to sit on the bench beside the kitchen door as a way to enjoy the spring weather.

2 May Bank Holiday Monday

The door to the Book Barn was wide open this morning. It must have been left open all night long. Three swifts were swooping and diving around inside. They were bumping and crashing into the windows and skylights in their attempts to leave the barn. We spent about forty minutes with a broom and with a colander. Eventually Simon captured two of them in the colander and he released them outside. We drove the third one out the open door.

4 May Wednesday

I miss going for walks. My world has become very small. It would be easier if it was wintery and cold and maybe rainy outside. Then I would not feel like everything is happening out there without me. It would be better if my foot would hurry up and heal.

Turn Left at The Master McGrath

6 May Friday

It has been raining, sometimes hard and sometimes gently, all day long. The rain has been washing the wall. Yesterday we asked our neighbors if their walls and windows looked like ours. We were standing in front of the east wall of the house, just outside the kitchen door, when we asked the question. The wall was splattered with bird droppings. The excrement was white and splashed as though from a great height or at great speed. Or both. There were lashings of it all over the windows and all over the walls. It was not a few instances of excrement. It was a massive amount. The whole wall suggested an explosion. The neighbors looked at our wall in disbelief. There is no such explosion happening at their house. Not on any walls.

7 May Saturday

I sat in the car waiting for someone to arrive on the bus from Cork. I was early and the bus was late, so my wait was longer than normal. A man came and sat himself on the wall in the sun. As soon as he sat down he took off his right boot. He waved his leg around a bit and then he just rested his stocking foot on top of his other foot. He talked to himself the whole time. I was too far away to hear what he said but some of it was funny, because he laughed often.

8 May Sunday

The rain did not really do much towards cleaning off the white splashes of bird droppings. It wet some of the guano and diluted it a little so that the whole mess dripped and dribbled down the wall and across the windows. There were seventy or eighty splashes of excrement on a wall that is only nine metres long. Maybe there were one hundred splashes. This afternoon Simon got out a mop and scrubbed the wall. His theory is that if he cleans the wall at the peak of these seasonal droppings, he will not need to do it again. I am not certain that we have reached the peak yet, but for the moment things look less like a disaster area.

9 May Monday

I heard John telling the woman to Turn Left at The Master McGrath.  McGrath, as always, was pronounced McGraw, as if there were a W at the end of the word and not a TH. This is how the name is always pronounced. The woman was confused. She knew she needed to drive on the Clonmel road all the way to the junction with the Cappoquin road just outside Dungarvan but she had no idea who Master McGrath was nor how she would recognize him. The Master McGrath Monument is easy to miss. It is a relief carving of the most famous greyhound in the country. The relief is centered on a stone obelisk. The monument is not huge and it is set back from the road but it is completely visible if you are looking for it. This dog won many races. He won the Waterloo Cup three times. When he died in 1871, the monument was erected to honor him, first at his birthplace and later it was moved to its present location so that more people could see it. There are many people who do not know anything about his celebrated history but they know exactly what to do if they are told to take a left at The Master McGrath.

10 May Tuesday

My right foot is still a problem, but now I know why. It is fractured. The X-rays do not lie. I am required to wear a big Velcro boot. And I need crutches, or at least one crutch to go anywhere at all. The cumbersome nature of the boot knocks me off balance. I bump into things a lot because I am not used to my foot being so large.

11 May Wednesday

The wild garlic is in bloom. The white blossoms look like little star explosions. The blossoms taste just as good as the leaves but they are more exciting to look at. When the flowers have finished blooming, the leaves will start to die back and that will be the end of wild garlic for another year. It is already getting harder to find it because it is disappearing underneath the cow parsley.  By the time the cow parsley dies back the wild garlic will be gone.

12 May Thursday

The whole country has gone mad. It is the time of First Holy Communions. As I am not a Catholic, this frenzy take me by surprise every year. I forget that it is an enormous part of local life. None of this activity took place during the lock-down years. Everything was cancelled which caused many people to bemoan the absence of the ritual. The radio was full of the crisis. There were endless discussions about the unfairness and the hardship of it all on the talk shows. Now it is all happening again. As a result, it is impossible to get an appointment for a haircut. The hairdresser said she is flat-out and she is working several evenings to try and keep up with the demand. People are cleaning their houses, mowing their lawns and all of their windows must be washed, inside and out. Visits are scheduled with the Dental Hygienist. New clothes are purchased for the participating children as well as for their parents.  It is difficult not to overhear conversations about the application of fake tans. It is imperative to look good in all of the photographs. Cars must be washed. Parties are organized and Bouncy Castles are a must-have for these parties. Gifts must be bought or envelopes full of money must be given. I hear people announcing with great excitement that they have to go to several of these parties in one weekend. The pressure is enormous, not just for the children but for the entire community.

14 May Saturday

I do not really know this woman. I do not know her name. I meet her at the market most Saturdays and we chat about small things like the weather and about how busy the market is or is not. Sometimes we comment about a fine looking cake or the new cheese stall. Today she started to talk and it was like a faucet had been turned on. I was not moving fast because of my crutches. I was unable to move away with ease or speed. She told me about her hysterectomy many years ago and how it had left her damaged for life. She declared that a woman’s life is too hard from beginning to end. It was a completely depressing conversation. She said that she now has nothing in her life except family and her ailments and her grief—(Dead husband. Dead son. Dead siblings. Dead grand-daughter) and now, I learn she has this seething anger about being a woman. She was happy to see me and to stand and talk in the cold sunshine. She said she finds the Saturday market a high point of her week. I found it grueling but I tried hard to be cheerful inside the conversation for her sake.

15 May Sunday

Silage cutting is in full flow. The sound of tractors and other machinery in the distance and in every direction is constant. The sound of the repetitive work continues late into the night. The farmers are all taking advantage of the good weather to get their first cut in.


I’ll be needing some light

8 June Wednesday

The woman went into the toilet that was just across the narrow corridor from where we were sitting. There were three other people besides myself. We were on chairs waiting to be called for an X-ray. The woman closed the door and then she opened the door. She closed the door again and then she opened it again. She closed it for longer and then for a shorter time. We all watched. She was hoping and expecting a light to go on inside. She stuck her head out the door and announced to us all: “I’ll be needing some light in here to be doing what I need to be doing.”

9 June Thursday

There is a dead rodent underneath the bird feeders. It is too small to be a rat. It might be a mouse. It is probably a shrew. The head is missing. The black cat from the farm is sitting on the wall nearby. He may have been the killer but he does not seem interested to eat whatever it is. It makes me question his hunger. He is scrawny. His neck is extremely thin. He looks desperate and starving even on a good day. If he is as hungry as he looks, he would eat that rodent.

21 June Tuesday

When Frankie answers the telephone he does not say hello. Nor does he say his name. He says “Well.” It is not a question. It is just the word, followed by the wait for whatever comes next. He also says this as a greeting when he meets someone. He snaps his head in a sharp little nod and he says, “Well.” He is not the only person who says hello like this.

23 June Thursday

Ferns are falling. They are weighed down by themselves. They are making the boreen more narrow by the day. Maybe it is the rain that is making them drop.

24 June Friday

The black cat comes down from the farm at regular intervals throughout the day. If I look out the door, he crouches on the path and catches my eye. I know he is hungry and he knows that I know he is hungry. Sometimes I put a few scraps out on a dish. He runs away when I step outside but as soon as the door is closed he returns and gobbles whatever is on offer.

25 June Saturday

Creena was driving past the church. She crossed herself when her car was directly in front of the church. She always crosses herself when passing any church. This morning she was driving and crossing herself and taking a left turn for the shop all at the same time. Then she saw another car coming towards her and she waved to the person in the car. She was not certain who it was in the other car, but she knew that not waving would reflect badly on her if it was someone she knew and someone she failed to acknowledge. She always salutes everyone just as she always crosses herself on passing a church. She was waving and driving and crossing herself and turning all with the same two hands. I watched from my parked position. Everything happening at the exact same time. I marveled that there was no collision.

26 June Sunday

Mickey responds with hearty agreement when someone says something that meets with his approval. He declares : “NOW you have it!” with the emphasis on the word NOW. He slaps his leg whenever he says it.

27 June Monday

People are dressing for summer because it is summer. There are people walking around in sleeveless dresses and shorts and T-shirts. Bare legs and sandals. We are wearing sweaters most of the time. Sometimes the sweaters are cotton but often they are heavy woolen sweaters. Every evening we consider lighting a fire in the wood stove.  It is not warm and it is not sunny and it does not feel like summer. There has been a lot of rain. Every conversation includes rain. Before the rain. After the rain. During the rain. The sound of rain. The threat of rain. The promise of rain. The clearing of the rain. Heavy rain. Light rain. Drizzles and downpours and desperate lashing. It is cold and it is wet. It does not feel like summer. It is disheartening and bleak. We might have a few hours of bright sky and sun but then it rains again. 6 or 7 or 10 times a day. It is impossible to do much outside because it has always rained recently so everything is wet. The garden is bright and green with weeds and growth.

28 June Tuesday

I am keeping an eye on my gooseberries. The branches are heavy with fruit. It is a yearly contest. I need to be ready for the moment when the berries are ripe and hope that I notice their readiness before the birds find out.

29 June Wednesday

I visited Tommy yesterday. His knee is painful and he can only walk with a stick. Sometimes he uses two sticks. He wants to go to town to do some errands. He and I have been discussing this trip to town since before Christmas. I do not think that he can manage walking around in Dunnes’ Store but he is determined to go there. He also wants to visit the men’s clothing store. He wants to buy himself a pair of new trousers and two new sweaters. We have made a date for next Tuesday. I am to check in with him on Monday to see if he feels Able For The Outing. Already I am worried about dropping him at the door of a shop while I go to park the car and then rush back to locate and assist him. He told me that his electric kettle is broken and that he is using an old and dangerous one that he found in a cupboard. The substitute kettle does not turn itself off when the water has boiled. It just keeps boiling and boiling until the plug is pulled out of the wall socket. He has already dropped it once because the handle got too hot to hold. He wondered if Dunnes’ Stores would take it back and replace it even though he has no receipt and the kettle is at least twelve years old. This morning I took him an spare kettle that we had here. I had tested it to make certain that it was safe. This made him happy. I too was happy knowing that he will not be dropping boiling water down his legs when what he needs and wants is a cup of tea.

30 June Thursday

Farms keep cats around to keep the rodent population down. These cats are not pets. They are usually inbred so they not the smartest cats. The idea is to keep the cats hungry so that they will be eager and efficient hunters. I should not feed the black cat when he comes roaming but I cannot help myself. He is so thin. He will eat anything I put in the dish. He eats pasta and vegetables and cheese. He eats things that I do not expect a cat to eat. He sits for hours under the bird feeders waiting for the possibility that a bird might drop to the ground. He stretches out on the table where I keep the water dish for the birds. I doubt that he believes he will catch a bird but when I put out bread crumbs for the birds he is the first one there to eat them. I know that if I give him a name I will be committed to this animal.  For now, he is just The Black Cat.


3 July Sunday

I stopped to admire the new underpass for the cows. It took many weeks and many many hours of several huge diggers removing rocks and soil and finding new places to put the enormous piles of stuff once it was dug up. The noise was mighty. It seemed like the work would go on forever. Now it is done. The cows can walk from the milking shed over the fields and under the road to wherever they are directed by string fences to their place of grazing for the day. There is a kind of slip road on each side of the underpass so the system feels like a wide motorway. The cows walk long distances to get to the far fields. I watched them moving slowly but steadily down the new track from the farm and disappearing underneath the road and then I crossed to watch them coming out the other side and ambling away to the grass. I wonder if they feel happy with the new underpass or if it is nothing more than another days walking.

4 July Monday

The Black Cat has learned to tell time. He skulks around the bird feeders in the early morning and then he disappears. He returns after supper to see if there are any scraps for him to eat. He is increasingly comfortable in my presence. He sits close to the kitchen door. He used to run far across the garden when I appeared or when I even looked out the door, but now he just moves a cautious but short distance away from me.

5 July Tuesday

This morning I collected Tommie at his house and drove him into town. He had decided that we should just go to Dunnes’ Stores and not go to the men’s clothing shop today. We agreed that one destination was plenty for the day. I dropped him at the door of the supermarket and went to park the car. By the time I got over to where I had left him he was talking to a man he knew from Goatenbridge. He was pleased to be recognized. He introduced me to the man. The trip was starting well. I gave him a trolley and a mask. He had refused to wear a mask in the car but agreed to wear one in the shop. I set him off to do his shopping and I went to do my own. I caught sight of him now and again and each time he was wearing his mask hooked onto his ears, not over his mouth nor his nose, but wedged underneath his chin. I drove him home and carried his bags into the kitchen. He plopped down into his old chair immediately. He was exhausted by the expedition but he said he was glad to have made the trip. As he thanked me, he commented that, as always, We Travel Well Together.

6 July Wednesday

This morning I found a pin on the passenger seat. I recognized it as the one Tommie had been wearing on his lapel yesterday. I rang him to tell him that I had found it and that I would return it to him soon. We agreed that the pin must have come off when I put his seat belt on or off. He dislikes the seat belt and he dislikes the face mask. He said that the pin was his Pioneer pin and that he would not like to lose it. He explained that when a Catholic child takes his First Holy Communion, he is given a pin. After the age of 18, each person has to make a personal decision whether or not to carry on as a non-drinker. After 25 years of abstinence, a Pioneer is given a silver pin. After 50 years, one is presented with a gold pin. Tommie explained that he had lost his gold pin some years ago and he had had to pay 50 euros to replace it. He was glad that I had found this one. He told me again that he would not like to lose it.

7 July Thursday

I am still picking huge quantities of gooseberries. They show no sign of ending. I have given away 19 pounds of them to several people who want to make jam. I have frozen more than 10 pounds. We are now on our third gooseberry tart. And still they ripen.

9 July Saturday

It was ten o’clock last night when the cows broke in. Or the cows broke out. A few of them escaped from their field and wandered into our yard. The majority of the cows remained on their side of the fence where they all started mooing and moaning and bellowing. The noise is what alerted us to the invasion. No doubt more of the cows would have followed the first ones but we shooed them out and back over the broken down fence. We telephoned Joe and then we worked at tying up the boards of the fence with some thick blue rope. We stretched more rope along the rest of the opening and waited until Joe arrived over the hill in his tractor.  We had a chat about the cows and the destroyed fence and the man who is supposed to come to replace the fence but who never arrives and about the dry weather and then we all said good night and he directed his cows along to a different field.

11 July Monday

There are blue and yellow flowers in bloom on top of the shed with the grass roof. There are more flowers than grass.

13 July Wednesday

I took some gooseberries and custard down to Tommie.  He was nervous about the gooseberries but happy to have the custard. He showed me his new chair.  A man had come and measured him for it five months ago. The man who measured him was named Sam.  The chair was free.  It was provided by the health authority. He was offered a choice of colours: black or dark red. He chose the red and felt certain that he had made a good decision. The chair is upright and extremely narrow. When Tommie sits in it, there is no room for him to gain a single pound.  The chair is designed to be plugged in. Once plugged in, it will function as a recliner. There is a device he can hold in his hand to make the back of the chair recline while the lower part will lift his legs up off the floor.  Tommie has not plugged the chair in yet.  He says he has no intention of ever plugging it in. He says he has no need for an electric chair and that he is happy enough with it the way it is.

14 July Thursday

The men working on the roads for the council have parked the small yellow trailer just off the road in a spot looking across fields to the Knockmealdowns. This little van appears here and there at intervals throughout the year. I am always impressed with how many functions the very small unit appears to cater for: a toilet, a drying room for wet garments and boots, and a canteen. There is no sign of any work being done in the vicinity but the men are guaranteed a lovely view at lunchtime.

No Road Markings

6 August Saturday

There were only four cars, but we waited a long time to board the ferry.  The docks were in Bootle, north of Liverpool. Passenger cars were the least important part of the crossing. The ship was designed for freight and for trucks. Increasingly, trucks leave their loads at the dock and drive away with a different load. Perhaps this is a way to economize on fuel.  Innumerable long trailers were manoeuvred onto the ship by small vehicles in which the driver could swivel his seat changing direction to either push or pull the load. With no cabs to take up space, a lot more lorry loads fit onto the ship. We watched all of the loading and the skilled movements. Once we were on board, we went to a small window where we were given a cabin key. The small window was also the location for the duty free shop which consisted of a single shelf of quietly rattling bottles.

It was already 8.15 by the time we got to our tiny cabin. A loud-speaker announcement told us that supper would be served from 8-9 pm. Our food and our cabins were included in the price of the crossing. Everyone who was on the boat went to the small cafeteria line where we had a choice of four different main courses and one pudding. There were not many lorry drivers on the boat. Each of the few who were there sat alone at a table. The small dining room was quiet as each man fiddled with his phone or watched something while he ate. One man finished his food and telephoned his wife. I assume it was his wife. He told her that he had eaten chicken curry and rice for his tea. He told her this three times. He said that the company was paying and that No, he did not have any salad but he had custard and an apple tart. He then explained how far he needed to drive in the morning to make his delivery and how far he needed to drive to pick up his next load and he said he would be back on the boat the next night and he did not know what he would have for his tea tomorrow, but he said he would be home after the new load had been delivered. His name was Taggy. It was embroidered in white capital letters on his company shirt. A few men got drinks from the bar. One German driver drank three pint glasses full of tomato juice. At 9 o’clock the food was cleared away and the overhead lights flashed. Another announcement came over the loudspeaker saying that the bar would close in ten minutes. We were told that breakfast would be served at 04.15 and that unloading in Dublin would commence at 05.30. We were instructed to go to bed.  As we walked through the little lounge area, we saw the elderly man and woman and their middle aged son who was their driver. They had been in the car in front of us as we waited to load. The three of them sat in a tight little semicircle right in front of a small television watching the Commonwealth Games being broadcast from Birmingham. They waved to us and said they could not go to sleep until they had finished their final cup of tea.

We all ate breakfast quietly in the early morning.   We waited for a long time while the lorry loads were taken off the boat in the dawn. It was not fully light when we rolled off the ferry and drove through the empty streets of Dublin on our way home to Tipperary.

7 August Sunday

A message from Fiona alerted me to a huge rainbow. I ran outside to see it and I tried to take a photograph but it was too big. I could not see either end.

8 August Monday

I went into the shop looking for potatoes. I saw Roosters, Wexford Queens, and McGrath’s New Potatoes available for sale. I could not remember what Wexford Queens are like and I did not know what breed the New ones were, so I asked Laurence which potatoes were the least floury. He told me that the Queens were lovely and floury as were the New ones from his relations up the road. He promised me that the Roosters were the least floury and that they were maybe even a bit Soapy. He told me that his mother had always been scornful of any potato that was in the least bit soapy. He said that soapy was not a positive attribute. I told him that I called such potatoes waxy, and that for me waxy was good. I told him that I am always on the hunt for a potato that is not floury. He assured me that this was firm evidence that I have not a drop of Irish blood.

11 August Thursday

Several signs have appeared on the road where there has been some resurfacing. The signs tell us to be careful because there are no road markings. There have never been road markings on this road. This is not News. There have been no lines nor any kind of markings for decades, but now we have signs to announce this.

12 August Friday

The Black Cat continues to appear every day at 5 o’clock.  She waits close to the kitchen door and catches my eye.  She is bolder and bolder with each arrival and she will eat whatever she is given. I have not yet found one thing that the starving cat will not eat. She even ate some old hummus. She came into the house and walked around last night.  She did not stay long but she showed no fear inside the house and seemed interested to look carefully at everything before she left. I think of the cat as she, but I do not know for certain what sex it is.

13 August Saturday

The latch for the shed door has been adapted to fit the droop.  The hole for the latch remains where it was but the angle of the whole thing has changed to accommodate age.

16 August Tuesday

The figs are not ready to pick but the raspberries are. I have finished picking buckets full of black currants. The apples and plums are now demanding attention. I cannot keep up with the fruit harvesting. Already the freezer is full.

20 August Saturday

There is jumble of books for the taking in two wire baskets on the way into SuperValu. Sometimes the bins are full to overflowing. Sometimes they are kind of empty. A strangely worded sign invites us to help ourselves:







The Woman from Wexford

24 August Wednesday

Today a new runway opened at Dublin Airport. The work was completed both on budget and on time—which no one expected —so they had only one flight scheduled for the whole day: the 12 noon RyanAir flight from Dublin to Eindhoven. There was nothing prepared to celebrate the new runway. The last time the airport attempted to give an event some special attention, they did so by accompanying an incoming flight from Manchester with fire engines racing alongside the plane, sirens and lights flashing. The passengers on the flight had no warning. They were terrified. They assumed that their plane was on fire. Since today’s first flight was outgoing there was not much for the radio to report. They could not interview the first passengers to arrive on the runway. Instead an announcer talked to some of the Plane Spotters who were gathered near the perimeter fence. There were at least 100 people filming, recording and documenting the inaugural flight. The interviewer gave the Plane Spotters a good long stretch of comments and reactions because there was nothing else to report. They had quite a few complaints about the new viewing area, because there was too much traffic on the road. They felt they would have been better accommodated on the other side of the runway.

25 August

Everyone planted sunflower seeds this year. The seeds were sold by the Irish Red Cross as a way to raise funds and to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine. I was late getting my seeds started.  I planted them in three different locations, some in pots and in two different places directly into beds. Those in the pots are way ahead of those in the ground.



26 August Friday

I received an appointment for a mammogram. Today was the day. The Breast Check Unit moves around the country. It is a mobile department. Usually it is parked on the grounds of the hospital in Clonmel. This year it was in Cahir. Everything inside is built-in so that nothing will move when the unit is attached to a lorry and driven to a new location. Everything is basic and efficient. A desk and a narrow bench are directly inside the door. When a person enters, she gives her name to the woman at the desk. When a woman leaves the unit the next person is called to go from the waiting bench into one of two small cubicles with a curtain and a moulded plastic seat attached to the wall. We are told to remove our tops and our bras and to sit wearing our jacket or a loose top while waiting in the booth. There is very little room in the booth. My knees were right up against the wall and my face was nestled into my own shirt hanging on the single hook. I had my book to read but even so, I could not help overhearing the names of the other women as they were called, or greeted when they entered or exited the unit. In the short time I was there, three women named Geraldine were called, one woman named Mary and me. I thought this extraordinary. I mentioned this plethora of Geraldines to the woman on the X-ray machine. She made no comment.

28 August Sunday

The blade snapped off the Opinel this morning. It has been a favorite knife in our kitchen for years. It has never lost its sharpness. The wood inside the handle simply rotted away.

30 August Tuesday

Tommie was sitting in his narrow red chair. He told me that he had bad news. He had gone to his doctor for the required eye test to renew his driving license. The doctor said that she did not feel she could give him permission to continue driving a motor car. She suggested that if he wanted to challenge her decision he was welcome to pay for an inspector to come and give him a driving test. Tommie is of the generation who have never taken a driving test. He began by driving tractors as a young boy and then he moved on to cars. When the State decreed that a driving test and a driving license become a legal requirement, he and most of his generation were just given licenses. It was an amnesty of sorts. It was also a way to save on a huge backlog. There were hundreds of people who had always been driving and it seemed unfair to make them all take tests especially as so many of them would fail and then they would be stranded. So at the age of 88 or 91 or whatever age he now is, Tommie was given his first ever driving test. A woman came up from County Wexford. He had to pay her 300 euro for her time before they even got into the car. It was a lot of money but he felt that having the freedom to drive out in his own car was important. He said she was a big lady and she filled up the whole front of his car partly with her body and partly with her air of authority. He explained to her that he no longer drives into town nor on any busy roads. He also told her that he had a new clutch in his car. She instructed him to drive her out on those roads that were familiar to him. He drove her up the narrow mountain road as far as the Waterford border and then she asked him to turn around when there was a chance. He did just that. He did not notice the huge white truck bearing down on him. He told me that it was very unlucky to see any thing at all on that road. He told me that and he said he told that to the woman from Wexford. 1 time out of 100 he reckoned. It was a very unlucky event. The truck did not hit him and he drove back down the winding mountain road. He then drove out on the Goatenbridge road and stopped when some silage machinery was coming out of a side road. The woman from Wexford told him that he had the right of way and that he should not have stopped. He told her that he was trying to be nice. When they got back to Tommie’s, the woman walked into the house with him. She sat in the big chair and he sat in the narrow red chair and she spelled out his errors to him again. She told him that he had failed to use his mirrors even once. She stood up and said, “You are Off the Road. Forever. As. Of. Now.” And she walked out. She did not say goodbye. He is crestfallen. He says that he feels Marooned.

31 August Wednesday

As I walk out there is always a lot to look at: clouds, trees, fields, cows, moss, lichen, berries, blossoms, birds.  But when I come across something to read I perk up, even if it is just a few letters and no complete words. I like finding language in the landscape.

1 September Thursday

The gate at the farm was closed.  My passage was blocked. Cows were crossing slowly, one every few minutes. I had to get out of the car to shout and ask Joe to open the gates to let me through. He explained that he was scanning the cows individually to see if they were pregnant. He said most of them are pregnant and a few of them are not. He told me that the heat and the lack of grass make things more difficult for the embryo. It is not just the silage, and the haying and the grazing that are affected by these many weeks of hot rain-less weather. Fertility is a problem too. He explained that even if a few of his two hundred and fifty cows do not give birth there will be a few who will produce two calves. He feels both hopeful and certain that he will end up with 250 calves.

3 September Saturday

The kitchen door is a stable door. In fine weather the top half of the door is held open with an old dog lead attached to a coat hook. The traditional reason for a half door was to keep chickens out in the yard and not allow them, nor any other creatures running low to the ground, into the house. That is why I was surprised to enter the kitchen and to see The Black Cat rushing around the corner into the big room. How had she gotten into the house? I opened the bottom half of the door before I shooed her out. This is the third or fourth time we have found her indoors. It appears that she must be jumping in over the door. It is a huge distance to jump up and over, and then it is a long way down. I have various theories. Maybe she jumps from the outside table which is off to the left side of the door and then on to the top of the door. The top edge of the bottom of the door is narrow. It cannot provide an easy landing. It is akin to landing on a tightrope. I think it would be easier to miss it than to land safely. Maybe the outdoor table is the launch pad and the leap is sideways across the door and then a long drop to the stone floor. I would like to catch the Black Cat in action as she gets over the door. It needs to be soon. Once the weather changes, the top half of the door remains closed during the day.

5 September Monday

There is non-stop talk about the energy crisis. The energy crisis and climate change. The rising cost of everything and the onset of cold weather seem to be the only topics. The radio. The newspapers. The discussion around parked cars. The four prizes for the raffle tickets being sold in the shop are all for fuel: heating oil, two different sized trailer loads of firewood and two bags of coal. The days of cars, television sets and hairdryers as prizes seem to be over.

6 September Tuesday

We had been promised rain for several days. And we have indeed had rain in small amounts off and on since Friday night.  Yesterday we had torrential downpours and wild thrashing winds.  There are leaves and branches strewn everywhere. One pair of sunflowers in bloom were beaten to the ground. Apples are falling off the trees. I went out to collect some and I got soaked from the rain and the wet leaves and the drenched long grass, but I came in with a bucket full of apples that had been knocked to the ground by the winds. Today the rain has set in as hard steady all day rain. No matter how much we get it will take a long time for it to be enough. The soil is gulping it down. The land has been parched for too long. It will take many days of rain to make a difference.


The Fever Hospital

9 September Friday

I overheard the woman as she explained to someone on the telephone that a boreen is a small road that ends at a single house. I do not think this is correct but I felt it was rude to question her. She was not even talking to me. To be considered a boreen, a road or path should not be wide enough for two cars to pass and it should be unpaved. Usually it will have grass growing in the middle. Basically it is not much more than a cow path but it should be no wider two cows, or one cow standing sideways from nose to tail.

10 September Saturday

I tried to walk up the Mass Path to Johnnie Mackin’s, but one third of the way up, I was met with a complete blockade of growth. Nature has taken the path back. It will take more than me and my hand-held secauters to clear it.

12 September Monday

A man named Free was bemoaning that he misses going out for a pint. Free is short for Geoffrey. Free said that he likes to go to the pub. He likes drinking a pint in the company of someone he meets at the pub. He likes the meeting up with someone he did not know he would be talking to when he left home. He said that he cannot go to the pub anymore because the Guards are everywhere and he might be stopped after only one pint and then where would he be with no car and no way to get anywhere at all? He said that almost more than drinking a pint, what he likes is the chance to hear a bit of a story or maybe a lie. He claims that a lie is just as good as a true story, if it is told well.

13 September Tuesday

I drove Tommie to town and deposited him in front of the door at Dunnes Stores. Dunnes is his preferred shopping destination. I parked the car and fetched a trolley for him. I left him in the fruit and vegetable section. When I returned with my own trolley and with both my shopping bags and his own shopping bags, he was still standing where I had left him. A woman was talking to him intently. His walking stick was in the trolley and for now the trolley was his support. He introduced me to the woman and after a polite amount of time, I set off to do my own shopping. I peeked back at his location a few times. The woman was a real talker. He finally broke loose from her and started on a slow trawl for his messages. I caught sight of him here and there down the length of an aisle and I saw him chatting with other people. Before I got to the cashier with my finished load, the woman who had trapped Tommie for so long stopped me and started to talk. She told me everything that she and Tommie had discussed and she explained how she knew him and she kept me standing listening for too long too.
Eileen Condon cooks and delivers Tommie’s dinners to him every day. She provides mighty portions so he usually has enough left over for his tea. There is not a lot he needs at the supermarket but he likes to go because a trip to the supermarket is social as well as useful, and now, without a car, it is more important than ever for him to get a trip out of the house. He buys boxes of chocolates in case any children come to visit. He has developed a taste for smoked salmon so he buys that along with razors and laundry soap. Every purchase is carefully considered. I took our messages to the car in two trolley loads, first my trolley and then his trolley.  Then I drove over to collect him in front of the doors. He and another man were talking animatedly and blocking the way for anyone going in or coming out of the store.
On the drive home he told me that talking so much at the beginning of the shopping had confused him and he claimed that because of that woman, he lost his stride. He described each person he had met and how he knew them and he said that the last man he spoke in front of the store had been an Irish language teacher in the village and later at Rockwell College. He was happy to have met that man. Now that he was sitting down again, he said he was pleased to have had all the conversations and he was pleased to recount everything to me.

15 September Thursday

The Black Cat spend a lot of time up on the table outside the kitchen door. She no longer runs away each time I go near, but she always remains alert and ready.

19 September Monday

Greville came to visit us in his Ex-Library Van. It was de-commissioned from Leeds City Council. He bought the van and tore out the shelving and raised the floor inside for maximum storage. The outside of the van still advertises itself as a bookmobile. The inside is a work-in-progress but mostly it is woody wood tone rustic. He has a wood burning stove and a shower and a loo and a bed that flips down from the wall. He has a table with two benches salvaged from a London bus. The benches and the table are screwed into the floor.  Everything is either built in or made to be secured when the van moves. His son is attending the cooking school at Ballymaloe in County Cork.  He could not carry his special knives on the airplane, and he did not want to check them in with luggage, so Greville took the ferry and drove the knives over from England in his van. The van is too large and too low to drive down our boreen, so he parked up at the farm and slept there.

20 September Tuesday

After the many months waiting for my fractured foot to get strong, I have missed many regular walks. Now it feels like every walk is a new walk.  I still favor walking on hard even ground. We walked out the narrow lane toward Lady’s Abbey. The sun was warm. It has been a long time since I had been out that way. There was a lot of change to catch up on. Someone has cleared the land all around the the ruin of the old Fever Hospital. Someone else has thrown the old chair with the red velvet seat into the compost heap with dead flowers and other redundant grave offerings at the Abbey. All I could recognize was one leg and a bit of the old seat stuffing.

21 September Wednesday

Everywhere there are conversations about the economy and about the fearful shortages to come. The winter hovers ahead as a threat. People talk about The Squeeze. They also talk about squeezing their teabags to get an extra cup of tea out of every bag. It is kind of a joke but it is kind of not a joke. Dijon mustard is disappearing from the shelves of the supermarkets. I do not want to live without Dijon mustard. I love it.  I do not want bright yellow American mustard, nor do I want hot hot English mustard. I want French mustard. Dijon mustard. I want it for my salad dressings and for sandwiches. I need to know it is on my shelf. Between the pandemic shortages and the war in Ukraine, fertilizers have been in short supply. Who knew that most mustard seed is grown in Canada? Canada has been unable to produce the seed so there are empty shelves where there used to be jars of mustard. Not long ago I paid 45 cent for a small jar. Now, if I can even find a jar, it costs 2 euro 60.

22 September Thursday

I went for a walk after a morning of torrential rain. The afternoon was clear and bright. I found a puffball and carried it home. We ate it.

26 September Monday

A small van was delivering milk and dairy products to the shop in the village. The man unloaded some products out of the side sliding door and some from the back.

27 September Tuesday

I went out to pick raspberries for breakfast in a soft drizzle. I tried to pick quickly but the drizzle was deceptively heavy. I came in when I noticed my dressing gown was drenched right through to my pyjamas. I only managed 16 raspberries. Eight for each of us.

28 September Wednesday

After five days, Tommie is still waiting for his nephew to ring and tell him when he is going to drive Tommie to Dungarvan to visit his sister in hospital. She is 90 and unwell. Tommie tells me that his nephew is a man who does not have a Good Word. I did not understand. I thought maybe this meant that the nephew was a mean-spirited man who said unpleasant things. I was wrong. To say He Does Not Have a Good Word means that his word cannot be trusted. His promises are not reliable.

29 September Thursday

Loading up for a dump run tomorrow, I noticed something brown and furry and small on the ground. It was in the open doorway of the shed. I knew I would probably step on in as I popped in and out of the doorway, so I got the spade and tried to pick it up and move it out of the way.  It opened a tiny mouth and screamed.  It was not a dead mouse nor a dead shrew. It was a bat. Another couple of nudges and a couple more screams with bared tiny teeth and it swooped upwards and flew away.

All Asunder.

1 October Saturday

Jim has a way of presenting his vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. He makes them look like exactly what we want.

2 October Sunday

Sorting out the freezer is a job best done before winter sets in. The freezer is out in the shed so if I do not get an idea of what is inside it now, it will be too cold to spend time out there. Trying to figure out what is inside is more difficult when I walk across to the shed with a torch in the darkness. All frozen parcels look the same in the dark. Today I made a list of what is in there and I hung the piece of paper in the pantry, but I know that after a little while we will no longer look at the list. We will not cross things off the list as they are eaten nor will we add more things to the list. Soon there will come a point when the whole freezer must be emptied, scraped of ice and ancient food tossed or moved to the top and a new list made. It is a job I always approach with optimism. Carmel told me that the last time she cleared out her own chest freezer was in 2013.

4 October Tuesday

I met Tomás coming up the road on his quad bike. His herd of cows were plodding along behind him. They were going to his far field which is a one kilometer walk by road each way. I marveled that cows are such large animals to be walking such distances with ease. Tomás said, “If they are allowed to go at their own pace, they can just go and go.” I pulled over to allow them to pass. In truth, I did not have a choice. The cows took up the whole road. It is the kind of waiting in the car that I am required to do frequently.

5 October Wednesday

There is a hole dug deep into the grass of the meadow. The hole has been made by a swarm of wasps. There are hundreds of them swarming around the apple trees, making the path feel dangerous and impassable.

6 October Thursday

I pick apples and I make applesauce and I pick more apples and I make more applesauce. A pie. More applesauce.  I give apples away.  I give applesauce away. A good year for apples. Not so good for figs or plums.  Apples. Raspberries.  They just keep coming.

7 October Friday

I often use the word Doctor when I should be using the word Mister. I always call a dentist Doctor, but a dentist is not a Doctor. A dentist is never a Doctor. A dentist is a Mister. Some Doctors are called Doctor and some are called Mister. The Surgeon is a Mister but the General Practitioner is a Doctor. I am better at using the right form of address than I used to be, but I continue to get it wrong more often that I would like. Some of these people do not mind but some get upset and they correct me immediately. These people say “I am not a Doctor. I am a Mister.” They correct me so quickly that it is as if they fear someone will overhear them accepting a title which is not rightly theirs. I have never learned definitively who is who nor when who is who. And because everyone in this country is quickly on first name basis, the medical person very often becomes someone with a name rather than a title. My dentist’s name is Ryan.

10 October Monday

The sheep farmers who come down from the mountain always take time to chat at the petrol pumps in the village. These older farmers from up the mountain are never in a rush. They spend a long time talking to anyone they meet. Farming on the open expanse of the hills can be a lonely life. Traveling down to fill up a tractor and various containers with diesel is a Day Out.

11 October Tuesday

I drove Tommie into town for his shopping at Dunnes’ Stores. He likes our Tuesday trips and he likes that I collect him at 9.30 sharp and that we are back at his house with his bags in the kitchen to unpack in his own time well before twelve. He likes the pattern we have developed together. He likes suggesting which roads we travel and whose farms to drive past. Today he did not have so many standing up conversations with other customers in the aisles of the store, but on the way home he remarked that when you go to Dunnes’ you feel like all of the people who work there are happy that you are there. He punctuated every sentence with the expression You Know Yourself, which is just his way of saying You Know What I Mean.

13 October Thursday

Richie came to service the Stanley stove. He said he had To Take It All Asunder. Which he did. While vacuuming out one red box from within he found the messy remnants of a mouse nest. He thought the nest was old, and from well before the stove came to us. He thought maybe the stove had been in a shed for a while. He said Taking It All Asunder was the only way to learn everything about the insides. Before he left he asked us to keep an eye out for a woman who might like him. He said he is a good cook and he is handy with the jobs about the house, but he finds the long dark winter nights lonely ever since his daughter moved out to make her own home.

Mary on My Mind

Thursday 3 November

We were unable to land at Cork Airport. We tried. The pilot tried. The plane circled for thirty or forty minutes, bumping and thudding through clouds while waiting for the high winds to drop. The winds did not drop. Several passengers turned green. Cork Airport is located on a hilltop beside the sea. It is always windy. It was a terrible place to build an airport. After several announcements and a lot of circling, we were diverted to Shannon Airport. The landing there was wild and scary and bumpy. We all had trouble walking down the steps to disembark because the cross winds were pushing and gusting so hard against us.

Shannon Airport is a large, mostly empty, space. There is one shop and one restaurant/bar. The restaurant is not big. The rest of the building, on two floors, consists of cavernous unfilled spaces. Shannon never became the busy hub it was planned to be. There are few flights in and out of the airport. It is a two hour drive to Cork Airport. 130 kilometres. Coaches were being arranged to transport the passengers off our flight from Airport to Airport, but it was going to take a little while to get the two or three coaches organised. Everyone was hungry or thirsty or else they needed a strong drink to settle their nerves. Everyone from the entire flight went to the little restaurant. The restaurant was not expecting such a crowd in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. There was very little food left. All of the tables filled up with people drinking tea or pints of stout. Some people stood up and some went to sit outside in the smoking section which was in the howling wind. No one stayed outside for long.

We did not avail of the Cork coach. We caught a bus to Limerick bus and train station, and then another bus to Cahir. We were about three hours later than planned getting home. As the bus dropped down the hill into Cahir, we saw Breda through the window at the SuperValu check-out. We knew what she was doing. She was buying milk and a few things to make our arrival more pleasant. She delivered us home to our cold damp house. The door was swollen and difficult to open and it was difficult to close. The Black Cat was waiting for us beside the kitchen door. I greeted her as Mary and I have been calling her Mary ever since. There were a lot of people named Mary on the Limerick bus. They called out to one another and always used each other’s names which was usually their own name too. I had Mary on my mind.

There was a small hammer in a holder above my head. Below the hammer was a sticker announcing the presence of the hammer. In an emergency, the hammer should be used to smash the glass.

Friday 4 November

I have spent most of two days in Cahir. The car needed work before I could have the yearly inspection done. The library was closed and the second-hand book shop run by the Lion’s Club was closed. There is one cafe and it is cold in there. They are economizing by keeping the heat turned off. There is no where to wait at Mike’s garage. It is open to the elements and it is cold. He left me there while he went to take care of the first of my two flat tyres. He asked me to Woman the Fort so that he did not need to lock the place up. I thought to make myself useful while he was gone. I asked if I should answer the phone while he was away, but he no longer has a land line. A small economy. He does everything on his mobile phone now.

Saturday 5 November

It has been raining for weeks. Lakes have replaced fields and the river is swollen wide and running deeper and faster than ever. Everyone is weary of the non-stop downpours. The word Desperate is said a lot. Even when the sun comes out and the sky is blue, the sun does not last long enough to dry the land. I was in the shop and I heard one woman asking another: “Sure, could we be any more depressed?

Monday 7 November

Slugs usually disappear as the weather gets colder. But this November is not cold. It is mild and it is wet. It feels cold but that is not about the temperature. It is because the dampness gets into our bones and we feel chilled. When I put out a dish of food for Mary, the slugs are quick to climb up and over the plate. She is not bothered and seems well able to eat around them.

Tuesday 8 November

The waiting area for the NCT test is all new since last year. It is much bigger and there are large windows looking both into the inspection bays and out doors. There are three banks of four chairs each bolted to the floor. The seats are wide and long. The seats are too big for me. If my back is up against the backrest, my knees are unable to bend. My legs stick straight out. If my feet are on the floor my back is slumped awkwardly against the backrest. We can all sit at a safe distance from one another and if there is a toilet for use by the public, it is out of sight. We no longer have to sit gazing at the toilet and the sink if the last user fails to pull the door shut. We no longer sit knee to knee, but we remain as curious and alert to the goings on of everyone else’s car as we are to our own.

I forgot to bring my Drivers License or any other form of identification. I told the man that I had my library card with me. He sighed and said okay to that even though it has no photograph and it is not really an ID card.

The car failed the inspection test, so I spent another half day in Cahir. Once again the library and the book shop are closed. The river path and Inch Field remain flooded. I could not walk far in the sideways rain even if I wanted to. Mike replaced a wishbone on the right front side of the car and the suspension has been corrected. The re-test is scheduled for Tuesday.

Friday 11 November

It is so mild that the raspberries continue to ripen. There are not a lot but I gather a handful every day, between downpours.

Saving power

Saturday 12 November

There was a musical performance at the market this morning. It was cold and damp and the children playing the instruments did not look very enthusiastic. They had been drafted in to perform as a way to raise money for the local hospice.

13 November Sunday

Dogs were swarming everywhere. It is as though they were not separate four-legged beings but one single mass, like a liquid pouring across the grass and oozing this way and that. At first it was only about ten or twelve dogs. I saw them run up the track and then they came running back. Then they were rushing across the lawn and under the fence and into the field and back again. I ran out and shouted for them to GO HOME! GO HOME! GO! GO! GO! They heeded my voice and left as a pack rushing back down into the meadow. I could hear the noise of shouting up the hill. I could hear the sounds of the fox hunt. I hate the hunt and I hate how it spills over into our lives whether or not we like it. We have no choice about being surrounded by the mayhem on a quiet afternoon. I could not believe that horses and riders could even be moving up or down the Mass Path. The last time I tried to go up there it was completely impassable with overgrown vegetation. I was a small person on foot and I couldn’t get through the tangle of nettles and brambles. A horse with a rider upon it would have no chance. I went back into the house and suddenly there were horses in the yard, and riders running around and a pick-up truck arrived. There were six or seven men milling about and a few mounted riders and horses in Joe’s field. Some of the men were the ones in rough clothes: fleeces and jeans and hoodies with shovels or some other tools. These are the ones who clear the way and control the dogs and rush about. Others were the riders dressed up in full hunt kit with their little helmets and fitted jackets. The dogs were back. There were more dogs. Maybe forty of them. Maybe more. Maybe fifty. They were everywhere. There were no individual dogs just an oozing liquid mass of barking and baying. I ran outside and shouted at the dogs again while the riders in the field tried to direct the dogs to leave our yard but they were everywhere and the noise was getting louder. I shouted a lot and a man in a snug green jacket who was not on his horse explained to me calmly that they had not intended to come down this way but it is where the scent of the fox led them. I told him that the fox is wise and quick and that they will never catch him in such chaos and I said they should let us know when they were going to be in the area so that we do not feel like we are being invaded. He said the next time they might be in the area he would call and let me know. As he ran off, I shouted, “Well, don’t you want my phone number then?” And he shouted back “No. No. I will call!” meaning that he would drop by, of course, because no one says call when they mean to use the telephone because then they would say ring not call, and I know that but I was so cross that I forgot and anyway I doubt that he will call or ring and I will be angry and surprised again on another Sunday afternoon when the invasion happens all over again but probably with a different hunt.

Monday 14 November

We are being instructed by the government to think carefully about when we use electricity. The radio is full of helpful hints. The hours between 5-7 are to be avoided as much as possible which is difficult because that is when everyone is having their tea and children are being bathed and put to bed. We are also being told that it is bad to run the washing machine between those hours, but it is good to run the washing machine if it is a windy day because most of our energy will coming from the wind. This is silly. Wind turbines might be spinning like mad on a gusty day, but the electricity they produce is saved in batteries. Wind turbines do not provide electricity only when the wind is blowing.

Tuesday 15 November

We had finished our supper when the lights went out. The lights and all things electrical were gone. We lit a few candles and felt glad for the fire in the wood stove. There were texts flying back and forth between neighbors anticipating and predicting when the power would return, but then the telephone signal was lost too, so we decided that it was time for bed.

Wednesday 16 November

Today the entire world beyond the fence was completely white. The fog never lifted all day. It was bright but closed in all at the same time.


Thursday 17 November

Mary the Black Cat follows me. I think she believes that she is a dog. If I leave the house by the kitchen door, she moves away from the door quickly, and then she watches to see which way I am going. She reads my direction and bounds off across the grass in a bouncing kind of up and down movement. As she runs, she is less like a dog following me and not at all like a cat. She is more like a rabbit. She keeps her distance but travels with me in a parallel movement. When I am headed to the book barn she rushes off to the right to go down the high steps while I tend to turn left to go the longer and less steep route. We always arrive at the door at the same time. I go inside and she waits outside for our next movements.

Friday 18 November

I forgot that Friday morning is the day for many elderly people to collect their pensions at the post office. I heard two women talking and one said to the other that it used to be if she saw a man with a shaved head and tattoos she would be frightened half to death. The very sight of a tattoo made her fearful. Now she knows that it is probably just one of her grandsons and if it is not her grandson, then it is someone else’s grandson. Tattoos and shaved heads no longer scare her one tiny bit.

Saturday 19 November

I interrupted Tommie while he was listening to the 4.30 Public Service Announcements on Tipp FM. This is the daily report, accompanied by tolling bells, that announces any and all deaths in the entire county and lists details of when and where both the wake and the funeral will be held in the next few days. When he had finished listening, he crossed himself, and then he told me that he was warming a pie for his tea. It was balanced on the top of his radiator.


Ted Swallowed a Sock

8 December Thursday

The Newcastle Historical Society has produced a series of postcards to celebrate their ten year anniversary. The series is called A Snapshot in Time. Each card is a portrait of a local business. All of the businesses are small businesses. The cards seem to have been produced in tiny batches-maybe only 5 or 6 of each. I would like to have all of them but some of the images have run out already.  There must be 40 or 50 different cards. They tried to think of everyone.

9 December Friday

It is icy and it is cold. Such very low temperatures are not normal here. When these old houses were built the water pipes were not buried very deeply in the ground. I guess the trench for the pipe was dug by a single man with a shovel. The ground is full of shale so it would have been hard and slow work. The well is about sixty-five yards from the house. Digging a trench six to eight inches deep must have felt like it was deep enough. These days it is recommended that pipes be buried at least two feet down. I have filled 5 litre bottles with water in anticipation of the pipes freezing between the well and the house. It will not be the first time this has happened. I am filling bottles in readiness for the end of our water supply.

10 December Saturday

Pat the Fishmonger and Barry, who makes humus, and salsa and vegan peanut butter cookies, played music at the market this morning. They had never played together before, but they had a lovely time. In between numbers, Pat joked that everything at the fish stall was free while he was playing the music. He told people to go and help themselves. Barry needed a female voice at one point so he asked if anyone could sing the part. A woman stepped out from the audience and sang the song with him and then she went back to complete her shopping. It was cold and there were very few people at the market. The music made it feel like there was more going on.

11 December Sunday

The two black bulls were in the front field. The field rises uphill immediately so the bulls stood proud and tall above the ditch. Because of the added height of the steep field they look even more enormous than they are. From a distance they sometimes look like black silhouettes cut into the grass. Up close they look gigantic. As I walked towards them, there were 15 or 18 cows jostling against the bushes and against each other directly opposite the bulls on the other side of the track. They formed a long bumpy line. The cows were mooing and moaning and grunting and lowing in the direction of the bulls. The bulls were bellowing back across at the cows. It was loud and it was exciting to approach the conversation which was separated by a very short distance. All of the noise stopped as I walked down the boreen between them. It started up again immediately after I passed.

12 December Monday

Mary is looking well. When she first started hanging around she was scrawny and her coat was matted and dull. Now her coat is shiny and she is fat. Maybe she is pregnant. Or maybe she is just looking good on the extra food. For a few days there was a second cat. He sat up on the window sill and watched through the window at the movement on the television screen. He was hungry, too but Mary saw him off and he has not been back since.

13 December Tuesday

I had planned to take Tommie into town today to shop at Dunnes’ Stores. The fog is white and thick and visibility is poor. The roads are icy. Temperatures continue to be well below zero. We spoke on the telephone and decided that it was best to stay at home and to wait for better weather. Tommie says he is Kept Going watching the World Cup matches. He is enjoying it. He says that if he were a betting man he would put his money on France to win overall, but he says his favorite team so far has been the Japanese. He admired their speed. After talking about speed, he immediately changed the subject and discussed the merits of his walking stick and the security of using it. He has no doubt that triangulation is the best form of support.

14 December Wednesday

Ted was unwell. He was not eating. He was simply not himself. After a few days, he was taken to the vet. The vet took an X-ray and suggested that maybe Ted had swallowed a sock. She said it is not unusual for a dog to get a wad of fabric caught in his stomach and that it can be painful. She said that if Ted did not pass the sock in the next day or two they would need to cut him open and remove it. It seemed a drastic solution. We have all been worrying about Ted and the sock but today the sock appeared in a bowel movement. The news spread along the road. There is great relief all around.

16 December Friday

Usually when I take the compost out to empty, I rinse my bucket in the nearby water butt. In this deep cold, the water is frozen solid. I may not rinse my bucket again until spring.