some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Tag: sagging ferns

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.