THE JOURNAL

some words for living locally

Erica Van Horn

Tag: snowdrops

A Butty Yoke

22 December Thursday

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

23 December Friday

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

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

26 December Monday

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

28 December Wednesday

29 December Thursday

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

30 December Friday

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

 

3 January 2023 Tuesday

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

5 January Thursday

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

6 January Friday

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

7 January Saturday

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

8 January Sunday

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

That Drainpipe of a Man

12 January Thursday

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

13 January Friday

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

15 January Sunday

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

16 January Monday

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

17 January Tuesday

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

18 January Wednesday

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

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

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

20 January Friday

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

21 January Saturday

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

23 January Sunday

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

The Dancing Place

12 March Sunday

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

13 March Monday

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

14 March Tuesday

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

15 March Wednesday

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

16 March Thursday

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

19 March Sunday

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

20 March Monday

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

21 March Tuesday

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

22 March Wednesday

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

Leave the Hare Standing

4 April Tuesday

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

5 April Wednesday

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

6 April Thursday

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

7 April Friday

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

8 April Saturday

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

 

9 April Sunday

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

10 April Monday

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

 

11 April Tuesday

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

12 April Wednesday

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

14 April Friday

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

15 April Saturday

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

17 April Monday

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

19 April Wednesday

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

22 April Saturday

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

The Anxiety of Small Villages

25 April Tuesday

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

26 April Wednesday

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

27 April Thursday

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

29 April Saturday

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

30 April Sunday

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

1 May Monday

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

2 May Tuesday

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

3 May Wednesday

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

4 May Thursday

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

5 May Friday

Lashing, cold and miserable rain all day. Desperate.

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

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

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

6 May Saturday

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

8 May Monday

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