Just the right wood

18 October Sunday

Simon’s  wooden gutters were taken down last year when the house got painted.  Slowly they have been getting re-used.  The treated Douglas Fir will last maybe forever, so it has been good for the wood to find new functions. It has been used to make new table tops on two outdoor tables and it has made a new bench just outside the sauna.  The props for the lean-to have been strengthened and replaced.  The broken fence where the cows broke through down below has been repaired with the gutter wood.  There is still more of the wood.  We are looking around not in any kind of a hurry but knowing that there will be another job needing to be done and knowing that this wood will be just the right wood when the time comes.

17 October Saturday

Every one of these sunny afternoons is full of activity.  Cows are out in fields which have already been cut or chewed short.  Hundreds or maybe thousands of crows are gathered on a freshly ploughed up field.  I think they are eating worms. They lift and they land in huge crowds.  They are too many for me to call them a flock. Young heifers rush along beside the stonewall.  The field where they are grazing is just above the level of my head as I walk.  They race along in a group jostling and trying to get as close to me as they can. They push each other as they follow and look over the wall to make sure that I am still down below but just beside them. They seem to just want to be going somewhere and they want to be going in a big excitable group.  Wherever I am going is just somewhere to be going.

16 October Friday

A Garda was buried yesterday.  He was shot and killed while trying to calm a domestic dispute.  The country is in shock.  The media keep reporting details of the attack and details of the funeral.  They list the objects which were lined up on his coffin. Alongside a family portrait were the things that he loved to enjoy in his relaxing time.  They included a shirt from his local hurling club, the remote control for the television, a can of coke, a chocolate bar and a bag of Hunky Dory crisps.

15 October Thursday

I sat in the small narrow room where everyone sits while waiting for their car to be inspected.  Some people were waiting for their turn.  Some people had their cars in the inspection bay already.  Some were just there to keep other people company. There are ten seats in the room, eight along one wall and two at the end.  The seats are close together.  There are three doors as well as a little counter space. It is a cramped room. I read a book while I waited.  All of the other nine seats were taken and two people were standing.  Every single person in the room was talking.  The room was loud and cheerful with the noise.  People talked to the person next to them and they called down the line to others.  They spoke with people they knew and they spoke to the people they did not know.  My book was the wrong sort of book to be reading in such cacophony.  I struggled to keep my focus.  I was just about to give up on reading altogether when the older man in the next seat nudged me and said “So, have you nothing to say for yourself then?”

14 October Wednesday

Another foggy morning.  Every morning is foggy.  It is no longer a surprise to not be able to see beyond the fence in the morning.  Every morning is the same.  Today there was bright sun.  It was bright and it got very high in the sky before it was able to burn off the fog. Through the white emptiness around us, we could hear cars on the Dungarvan Road.  It is rare to hear cars from such a distance.  The sound might have been from the Knocklofty Road.  The sound of cars on any road is not something we normally hear.  It might be the wet surface of the road but I think it is just the strangeness of the fog. It muffles and it amplifies at the same time.

13 October Tuesday

What brand of tea do you drink? This might be the question asked the very first time a cup of tea is drunk together.  Or it might not come up for a while. People are divided between being drinkers of Barry’s tea and being drinkers of Lyons tea. If you are one you rarely cross over.  If your family are all Barry’s drinkers you will be a Barry’s drinker too.  If your family have always been Lyons drinkers you will continue to be a Lyons drinker. The transition from loose tea in a pot to tea bags is not a much commented upon issue since almost everyone goes for the ease of tea bags these days.  Which tea you drink is always important.

12 October Monday

Each time I walk up the mass path and around is a chance to collect a few more horse chestnuts.  I pick up at least one at the bottom near the stream and at least one at the top near Maisie’s old house.  Sometimes I collect four or five in each place but one is my minimum.  I think of it as a kind of toll.  There is a bowl by the back door.  I put my chestnuts into the bowl before I enter the house.  The bowl is filling up.  Soon I will need a bigger bowl.  No one but me knows that I am paying into the bowl with each circuit of the boreen.

11 October Sunday

Trying to remember when a death had occurred, I asked Tommie.  I said “Wasn’t it nearly a year and a half ago?”  He thought for a moment and said “No, it was last May twelve months.” However I think about it Last May Twelve Months is exactly eighteen months ago.  Tommie just said the same thing in a different way.

10 October Saturday

A side plate is placed to the left of one’s dinner plate at the table.  The side plate is for potato skins.  Each person peels their own potatoes leaving the skins on the side plate.  Some men do not peel their own potatoes but wait for it to be done for them by their wife or mother.  The skinned potatoes are then ready to be eaten with butter and gravy.  No one seems interested that the skin is where the fiber and the vitamins are.  No one seems interested that the skins taste good.

Source: Just the right wood

Ducks with capes


9 October Friday

There are apple blossoms on three of our apple trees.  All three of the trees have apples ripening on their branches.  The same branches have both blossom and fruit.  I feel confused looking at them. I feel disturbed looking at them. What will these trees be doing in the spring if they are in blossom now?

8 October Thursday

Jeri is making capes for his ducks.  He has a few capes left over from last year but he now has more ducks so he needs more capes. The ducks are white and the capes are black.  Each cape has a ruffle at the neck and a bit of red edging on the top of the ruffle.  The capes are held onto each duck with a little piece of velcro at the neck fastening.  The ducks wear these capes during Jeri’s Halloween Scary Garden.  They make little swooping flights from here to there.  The whooshing of their wings and their capes thrill and frighten the visiting children.  The children race about with torches in the darkness screaming and finding sweets.  Jeri’s ducks usually go to bed quite early but they  stay up later than usual on Halloween.  They seem to enjoy their capes and the company.

7 October Wednesday

When the sugar bowl is empty or almost empty there is the feeling that you should wash it.  There are always some clumpy bits of sugar at the bottom of the bowl.  Someone has always dipped a wet spoon into the sugar bowl.  There is sugar stuck to sugar and there is sugar stuck to the side of the sugar bowl.  It might always be like this but it is more noticeable when the bowl is nearly empty. So the normal thing is to wash your sugar bowl so that you can start fresh with a clump free offering of sugar.  The thing about washing your sugar bowl is that it is a known fact that if you wash your sugar bowl you will get visitors.

6 October Tuesday

A mean person is a stingy person.  A mean person is tight.  A mean person would not give you the steam off his porridge.

5 October Monday

I should know better than to drive down to the village anytime after five o’clock.  There are bound to be cows on the road.  There are three farms to pass.  Sometimes everyone is moving their animals so I have to wait for first one herd and then another and then a third.  They will be being driven back from some fields to the barn for milking.  After that they will be on their way to another field.  Some of the cattle are just being moved from field to field.  It is a foolish time of day to be on the road.  When the animals bar my way I have nothing to do but to turn off the engine and to wait while they amble towards me or away from me.  Sometimes they jostle the car as they pass.  It is a good idea to fold in the side mirror so that the weight of a cow swaying by does not snap it off.  There is no way to hurry the movement of the group.  Today as I waited I watched a cow jumping up on a gate in an attempt to get into a field where there was a bull. I have never seen a cow jumping at a gate to get out of a field so it is even more peculiar to see one jumping to get into a field.

4 October Sunday

Yesterday we visited the newly built extension to the SuperValu in Cahir.  It is not altogether complete but it is being shopped in as if it is complete.  A lot of areas are empty where the shelves have not been moved into them yet.  Other areas are crowded because there is so much movement of boxes and products and shelving.  Every single person in the shop looked confused.  Nothing was where it used to be and some things were not anywhere to be seen at all. There was a man painting the outside doorways with bright red paint.  Another man was sweeping up the area outside the doors.  His sweeping was sending great clouds of dust into the air.  The man painting the doors did not take any notice of the dust flying and floating and landing on his fresh paintwork.

Source: Ducks with capes

Nor the sky over him

3 October Saturday

Two women at the market were discussing someone who had returned after being away for a very long while.  They both agreed that this man had changed beyond all recognition.  To emphasize how different he was now from how he had been before, the older lady said, “I would not know him nor the sky over him.” The other woman said that she felt the same.

2 October Friday

We have not missed potatoes on our plates.  I guess it has only been about a week.  Oddly, there is a large potato plant growing in the compost heap.  Strange to see it when we did not plant any potatoes this year and we do not care if any are growing.   I shall have to pull it out and see what kind of volunteers are growing there.  I am not averse to eating whatever is growing.  I am only against the buying of potatoes for now. Several people are shocked with our decision not to purchase or cook potatoes.  Some people are disgusted.  One man said “Sure all the meat in the world wouldn’t fill you unless you had a potato.”

1 October Thursday

Thick fog this morning.  We could not see beyond the fence until after eleven o’clock.  The grass was wet with heavy dew.  Even while wearing short rubber boots my socks got soaked, and my hands were frozen as I picked the morning raspberries.  The leaves were wet and it was hard not to get soaked all over just from reaching in among the canes.  It is time to start collecting our fruit for morning the night before.  The postman arrived down the boreen while I was picking berries.  He had his headlights on but he said they were not much help in the fog.  He was not surprised to see me picking raspberries in my dressing gown.  He said the first days of back to school waiting for the bus are over.  The children now go out and wait by themselves.  The mothers in their fluffy robes and slippers are no longer standing with the youngest children by the edge of the road making sure that they get on the bus okay.

30 September Wednesday

Mornings are cold and a little foggy and wet.  When the fog burns off we have hot summer days. We have hot summer days every day. We have summer days which are better than most of the days we had in the actual months of summer. Everyone is enjoying the weather but they are all making noises about how it cannot last.  There is an ominous tone. We are promised or threatened that we will pay for this good weather.

The barn has been emptied out.  We moved things to the sauna and to the print shed and to the upstairs room.  The barn is clear and clean and it looks like a new place.  The man who came to put down some carpet for us said that what we had planned will not work.  We thanked him for his time and we thanked him for his honesty.  I did not really want so much carpet down there anyway.  I did not want the wide boards covered up.  I do want a workshop where the cold does not come up through our legs while we work. Already we have found a more flexible solution. We feel like we have had a lucky escape.

29 September Tuesday

There was a radio announcement from the horse races. I think it was from Leopardstown but maybe it was somewhere else.  The man said “We have a change to the Going.  The Going is now soft.”  He seemed very pleased.

Thor went back to his own home yesterday.  We miss him.  The house seems empty and a little bit lonely.

28 September Monday

I went to visit Pam in the Knockmealdowns.  She lives in a castle which is full of home-made solutions.  When she was a young woman, her husband was in the British army.  They moved frequently around India and the Far East as his assignments changed.  She said that is how she learned to make do and to furnish a home with things that did not need to last forever.  She said her curtains were never hemmed up with proper sewing.  They were always pinned so that when she got to a new home she could just unpin them and then pin them again to fit the next set of windows. The castle is full of these solutions even though she has lived there for a great many years.  She pointed to a large pouffe or hassock in the middle of a room.  It was covered with chintz and made a nice wide low seat or footstool.  She giggled when she explained that underneath the chintz was a tractor tyre. The pelmets around the top edge of most rooms are made with plywood.  They are quite roughly cut and then painted a bright red or whatever the colour the room is. They sort of blend in.  One staircase was rotten so they had a new one cast from concrete.  That too is painted red.  Pam likes red.  At the age of 90 she finds it a cheerful colour.

27 September Sunday

Jim announced that he is glad that the haying season is over so that he can stop Consulting the Glass. Consulting the Glass is often discussed as an essential activity before doing out of door jobs during hay and silage season. It is done at night and it is done in the morning.  I am pretty sure that what he calls the glass is a barometer.

Source: Nor the sky over him


photo 126 September Saturday

Every Saturday morning Simon eats a bowl of porridge in the cafe in Cahir.  Some mornings I join him for the porridge and some mornings I do not.   The porridge is so slow to arrive that it makes me cross.  I prefer to breakfast at home and have a walk down the river instead.  Since the porridge is so slow, he is usually not finished by the time I arrive.  I have a coffee. Every Saturday we see a couple who come in and sit at the exact same table each week.  They arrive with photocopied crossword puzzles.  They work quietly and intensely on their crossword puzzles and then they switch pieces of paper.  There is very little conversation. They eat and drink but they never stop working on their puzzles.

25 September Friday

Joe has put up new signs at each of his gates.  The signs are white with printed black letters reading LANDS PRESERVED AND POISONED.  Preserved means that the lands are off-limits for any kind of hunting. I never really understand what poisoned means in this context.  I think there is law which says if poison is laid down on farm land it has to be a certain distance from a road so that dogs will not be killed by it. I do not know what kind of poison is being laid nor who the intended victims are.   Usually there is just a hand written sign which gets made with whatever is available around the place.  Joe’s signs are all new, all clear and easy to read and all very official looking. What they are not is friendly.

24 September Thursday

The tent is gone.  I am not certain if this means that Tommy has been been re-housed.  It might just mean that the recent nights of terrible torrential downpours were too much for him in his tent.  I hope that he is warm and snug in a new home of his own in the village.  There is nothing to show that anyone was ever there at all except for a slightly pale rectangle of flattened grass where his tent was.

23 September Wednesday

Thor was collected on Sunday on the way to the Honey Show.  He has come to stay for a week.  It is good to have a dog in the house again.  It is good to have a dog to walk with.  He is quite demanding about heading off first thing in the morning.  He has met the local dogs and he enjoys the rushing and sniffing which they all do together.  Each dog must sniff and pee and examine everything that the other dog has sniffed and peed upon. There is nothing new about this but since everything is new and exciting for the dogs, I find it is new and exciting for me too.  Being with a dog is a reliable source of pleasure. Most days I go for several walks with Thor. He knows our routes now.  He loves the Mass Path with the smell of foxes and pheasants.  He just looks around to make sure that I am still with him when he is rushing off ahead. For an elderly deaf dog he has a lot of energy.

22 September Tuesday

We have decided to stop buying potatoes.  We have decided to stop buying potatoes and to stop preparing potatoes.  If we are served potatoes elsewhere we will eat them but we are tired of buying potatoes because we are tired of being disappointed by potatoes. I heard on the radio that the government is thinking to offer an incentive for people to eat more potatoes.  I do not know why other people are eating fewer potatoes, but for myself I am just weary of floury, dusty, fall-apart in the water potatoes and I am tired of hard-as-rock salad potatoes.  The struggle does not seem worth the eating.

21 September Monday

The Honey Fair was much as I expected.  It was a grand event and it was a disappointment.  The room it was held in was not large.  There were four rows of things on display with three aisles for walking up and down and looking.  The aisles were not wide but there were not too many people there anyway, so it was not difficult to walk up and down.  The day was wet and windy which kept people away.  The All-Ireland Final kept a lot of other people away.  I am not certain that there would have been much overlap in the  audiences.

In one corner of the room there were some women pouring tea and serving big platters of sandwiches and cakes.  Nothing they were serving had anything to do with honey.  There were tiered displays of honey in jars all up one side of the centre aisle and there were large flat cakes of wax, as well as candles and little decorative objects made of wax. There were bars of wax which had come out of moulds so that they had the words Bees Wax on them.    All of the different categories had names of the winners noted on pieces of paper on the tables.  All of the displays had signs saying Do Not Touch The Displays.  There were bottles of mead and there was a long row of trophies along the edge of the stage at the far end of the room. One trophy was in the shape of a bee hive.

The judges were wearing long white lab coats with STBA (South Tipperary Beekeepers Association) logos at the pocket.  Five of the judges were men and one was a woman. They walked about talking to people and pointing at things.  Their white coats made them stand out and kept them looking very official.  There were photographs of bees and beekeepers and of beehives out in fields.  There were some live bees crawling around in a honeycomb safely behind glass.  I had looked forward to seeing a lot of kinds and shapes of bee hives but there was only one hive on display and it looked flimsy and cheap.  It did not look like it would last long in this wet climate.  Still there was plenty to look at. Everything in the entire hall was presented with equal importance.

One category was honey cakes. There were many honey cakes on display for the competition.  All of the honey cakes were round and all of the honey cakes were the same size.  The color of the cakes varied from bright golden to deep brown.  There were also honey cakes for sale.  The tea ladies were not serving honey cakes.  We bought one, which we ate with a cup of tea when we got home. It was very dry.

Source: Poison

Cluain Meala


20 September Sunday

Today I am going to The Honey Show in Clonmel.   Cluain Meala in Irish means Honey Vale.  I am not sure if the Honey Show is located in Clonmel because of this name or if Clonmel is simply a convenient and central location.  The Honey Show is organized each year by the South Tipperary Beekeepers Association.  It is a two day event.  I do not know exactly what happens at the Honey Show.  I understand that there are competitions for wax and honey and mead and other things.  There are classes, presentations and discussions on all kinds of topics.  I cannot really say what the topics are as I have not been there yet.  No doubt one topic will be hives.  Every year I mark the show on my calendar and every year I miss it.  The paying public is allowed in to The Honey Show between 2 and 4 o’clock on the Sunday afternoon.  It is a narrow window.

19 September Saturday

I passed a field with about fourteen cattle in it. Each one had a wide white stripe around its middle.  The rest of the animal was black. The hair was very fluffy.  It was almost more like sheep’s wool than the usual cow hair.  These are obviously some special breed.  Maybe they are not special at all but they are new for around here.  Maybe they are not new for around here but they are new for me. They were so odd to see that I had to turn around and go back to look at them again. One of these heifers alone looked odd but in a group they were difficult to read.

17 September Thursday

The fields are all full of stubble.  They have changed in the last week from golden stubble to brown stubble.  There is no longer a glow off the fields neither from a distance nor close up.  There are still a lot of hay in bales spread around and waiting for pick-up in fields.  Some is in big round bales and some in the big square bales.  Sometimes in small fields there are very compact rectangular bales which are leaned up against one another to let some air move through in between them.  There are also the black plastic bales from the second cutting of silage.  I keep thinking that we should be at the end of the season of dangerous driving and ferocious roaring farm machinery rushing up and down the roads.  There is always another enormous machine roaring toward me whether I am on foot or in the car.  The driver is always on the phone with his head bent sideways to keep the phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder.  The drivers are often smoking and drinking minerals from two litre plastic bottles and mostly they look very young. Mostly they look too young to be driving.

16 September Wednesday

I walked out into the darkness before bed. The sky was clear.  It is unusual for the sky to be so clear and perfectly cloudless.  There were millions of stars.  The large constellations were all easily visible and zillions of little tiny far away stars were visible too.  The sky was bright with stars but it was extremely dark on the ground.  I could not see my own hand.  I lay down on the bench in the meadow and looked at the stars until I got cold and I had to come in.

15 September Tuesday

The man who is camping beside the road in Marlfield is not camping for a holiday.  He is living in a tent because he has been evicted from his home in the village.  I am not sure why he was evicted.  His presence beside the road is a protest. As soon as I mentioned him, people have been telling me things about him.  His name is Tommy.  He has been living in the tent all summer but at first the tent was inside the gate and near to the boundary wall of the big house.  That is why I never noticed it.  Someone advised him to move out into this new and more prominent location so that people like me will wonder about him and wonder why he is there.  He is waiting to be re-housed by the council. The area around the tent is spotless.  I still wonder where and how he eats.  If he were to make a mess around the tent, I suppose he could be removed as a public nuisance.  He is so tidy that he is almost not there.  Maybe someone is feeding him at their house. There is neither a restaurant nor a shop in Marlfield.  Tommy has a long way to go to get anything at all, and he would have to go wherever he goes on foot. I do not see  a car or a bicycle near his tent.  As far as I can see there is only the aluminum lawn chair and his umbrella for equipment.

14 September Monday

It poured with rain all night and all day.  Larry Doocey arrived in his red tractor and trailer bringing us a load of pebbles.  He was not bothered by the rain except that he had to take a different route to get here. He told us that he drove over to Silver Sands on the windy hilly road to Cahir but he drove back to us on the flatter route through Grange. He needed to compensate for the 6 ton of stone in his trailer and he needed to compensate for the slippery wet roads while towing such a weight. His journey was slow.  He was ready for a cup of tea when he got here. He had several cups of tea while he talked.  We all ate biscuits too.  We had always assumed that he was a native of Newcastle but he told us that he had moved down from Ballinamult to live in the village.  He said he did not miss it up there.  He said “There’s nothing exciting to me about a mountain.”

Source: Cluain Meala

Five men named John


13 September Sunday

Lambert’s garage has four floral displays on show.  The plants are each hanging out of a tyre.  The tyres have been painted different colours.  At intervals across the building the tyres are white, red, yellow and blue.   The paint does not work too well on the yellow one, but the idea is there.

12 September Saturday

There is stuff to collect. Apples have been disappointing.  I thought it was just our own trees, but I understand there are problems all around, even over at the Apple Farm.  Some varieties just fell off the trees early and unripe.  Others have ripened but lack flavour and texture. Our figs are doing remarkably well considering this is not really a fig-growing climate. I have to squeeze and test them at the end of the afternoon as the wasps are all over them in the daytime and birds get them in the early morning.  I do not like to compete with the wasps.  I gather most of the figs a little unripe and let them ripen inside the house.  The blotcheens are coming ripe but they are not plentiful.  Most plums have had a bad year.  The wild damsons sort of shriveled on the branches before they ripened. I marked three different puffballs with sticks in the ground and kept checking them every day.  They have shriveled up into nothing.  Raspberries and blackberries are rampant. I pick masses of them daily. And the Cavolo Nero, which is a glorious shade of green, just goes on and on.

10 September Thursday

The elderly lady at The Cross keeps an eye on the road.  I rarely see her.  I do not think she goes out often.  I saw her at the ceremony to install a commemorative stone for five local men named John who all fought and died in WWI. She was sitting in the front of the two short rows of chairs which had been set up for older people.  She was pleased to greet me.  She commented immediately that since we now drove only one car rather than two, it was easier for her to keep track of our movements.  I next saw her at her brother-in-law’s funeral.  She asked me why I do not wave to her as I pass the house.  She said that most people salute or sound their horn as they pass.  Now I wave each time I pass the house.  I do not know which window is the room where she sits.  Simon and I have decided that her room is the end room on the front of the house so I slow down and wave directly at that window no matter which direction I am coming from.  If it is late, we sometimes say to each other that she must have gone to bed so we need not wave.  We cannot see anyone through the window so I have no idea if she is waving back or if she is sitting there at all.  There is a fair chance that I am be waving at the wrong window. I just do not want to be reprimanded again.

9 September Wednesday

Someone is camping near the edge of the road as we drive through Marlfield. A brown and orange tent is set up just outside the big field on a small mown corner of grass. The tent is tidy and self-contained.  I have been noticing it for two or three weeks.  Today the man who lives in the tent was sitting on a lawn chair in the drizzle with a large umbrella.  He was facing out toward the hill.  Last week I saw him in the chair under the umbrella but that day he was facing the road.  When the man is not sitting in the chair the chair is put away inside the tent. There is not any of the stuff of camping visible.  There is neither a fire place nor a cooking stove. Nor is there a lot of passing traffic to watch.  There are no cattle in the field right now either.  The field was part of a big plan to turn the area around Marlfield House into a fancy golf course a few years ago.  The project ran out of money before it was finished.  Now all of the fields around the big house are back to being used for grazing cattle and for growing hay. It is an odd place to set up camp.  It is an empty and slightly lonely spot but it is not a very private spot.

Source: Five men named John

Desirable parking positions

8 September Tuesday

SuperValu is having a French Food & Wine Sale. There is a large handwritten sign outside the shop.  Beside the sign is a mannequin dressed up to look French.  It is wearing black trousers and a black and white horizontally striped shirt.  I think the striped shirt is supposed to look like a Breton shirt.  The shirt looks more like a shirt worn by a gondolier in Venice.  The very white arms and feet of the mannequin are visible but it has no head.  A black beret rests on the neck, nearly hiding a jaunty red neckerchief.

7 September Monday

I was on the road returning home.  A car came around the far corner just as a small rabbit ran out and ran diagonally across the road.  The other car accelerated and aimed at the rabbit.  He was racing toward the rabbit and he was racing toward me.  The rabbit jumped into the bushes just at the last minute.  The rabbit escaped. The driver swerved at the last minute and did not smash into me.  He passed me with a big smile and a wave.  If he had been a young man I would have thought he was a creep.  But he was an older man with white hair and a round cheerful face.  I still thought badly of him, but my disgust was mixed with shock.

6 September Sunday

Heading to the village to get the papers this morning, I thought I was early enough to miss the crowd arriving for mass.   A short wait behind Tomas’ cows on the road meant that I arrived exactly at the time as many others were arriving.  The desirable parking positions in front of the shop were already filled.  Every single car had backed in so that they could easily drive out after mass. This is a way for the people in the cars to stay sitting in their seats so that they can watch everyone else arriving.  They can stay in their cars right up until the last minute. This is especially good on a wet day. People were walking toward the church from all directions.  It was a lovely morning so people stopped as they met one another and they chatted on the pavement. There was no reason why people could not talk while they walked but every single person stopped walking to talk.  Some cars halted to let out an older person and then the car went off to park.  No one parks directly in front of the church. That is one space always left open. A lot of men have the habit of dropping their wife off and then they go to find a parking spot. This way they arrive separately.  They do not go into the church together.  They just meet up again when it is all over. The men were all tidy in their new sweaters and most of the women wore cardigans. It was a lovely morning but still there was a chill in it.

5 September Saturday

The big cow flap down near the stream has stayed in an unusually liquid state for a long time.  It was deposited by a cow during the break out or break in through the meadow.  That must be several weeks ago now.  Normally manure forms a crust over the top.  The underneath stuff remains wet and mushy but the top crust forms and then slowly the whole thing dries from the top down.  This manure has looked the same for all the time it has been there.  I think maybe the top crust has not formed because it is well shaded by the chestnut tree and other bushes.  I think there is not one bit of sun all day long in that spot.  I will continue to hop over it each time I walk the path but I will be glad when it has broken down into mud.

4 September Friday

I do not go to Dublin often.  I never want to go to Dublin.  I never have an urge to rush up to Dublin simply because I have not been there for a while.  I know Dublin is there but somehow I do not need it. It is not that I do not like cities.  I love cities and there are cities I look forward to visiting and re-visiting.  Dublin is not one of them.  For most people the capital city is the place to go because it is full of pleasures. I always feel disappointed after a trip to Dublin.

As a result of my foot-dragging relationship with this city, I have missed something I really wanted to do there.  Back in January, Donal told me about two short films which could be seen at the An Post Museum in the General Post Office.  One was of a postman in Donegal doing his rounds.  The other film was watching somebody sorting the post in the Athlone center. I put a reminder up on my wall.  I looked at it often. I have been to Dublin a few times but it was never the right time.  It was either a busy day for errands, or just passing through on the way to a plane or a ferry, or it was a Sunday.  For various reasons, I failed to get to the GPO during opening hours.

I finally got there this week. I finally made it a priority on my list of things to do. Unfortunately the museum has been closed.  It will not be re-opened until next year and then it will no longer be a museum but an Interpretive Center. The reason for the renovation and the re-naming is because of the anniversary of the 1916 Uprising.  Perhaps the museum will be exactly the same when it re-opens.  I will not know if it is the same.  The woman at the nearby Philatelic Counter could not tell me if the films will be included in the new Interpretive Center.  She was not even vaguely interested. Her job was selling stamps to collectors.  And because the museum had been closed she was required to sell a few of their souvenirs because her counter was nearest to the closed door.  I bought four postcards.  She was not happy with her added workload.

Source: Desirable parking positions

Blue knot

photo 3

3 September Thursday

Breda, Molly and I walked in the mountains this morning.  The sky was grey and heavy looking but we felt sure that it would not rain. It is always a pleasure to be in such a high and empty place after only a ten minute drive from home. The heather is in bloom.  From a distance it shows itself as a smudge of colour across the hills. Up close it is brilliant and reads as many different shades of pink and rose and purple. The sheep scattered around are all looking wretched.  They have been shorn.  Their skin looks scruffy and baggy.  The red or blue paint markings look more like bruises and wounds because of the lack of hair. The mountains are all commonage which means more than one farmer can feed his sheep up there.  There are no fences.  The coloured markings are all that distinguish one farmers sheep from another farmers sheep. The sheep meander about in groups. They run away at the slightest provocation or sometimes for no reason at all. Many of them were interested in Molly but she is too well-behaved to chase them.  At times I think they set off running just to see if she will give chase.

We walked past a tree with a knot of blue rope hanging from a branch.  There was a piece of white plastic hanging beside the rope.  I did not have paid much attention to either thing.  Breda told me that they had been put there to mark the way for the recent mass at the Mass Rock. I have never been to the yearly mass up there since I do not go to any mass ever except for the occasional Funeral Mass. Now I wish I had gone to this mass.  We saw tracks from a tractor. Breda told me the tractor pulled a trailer load of people up to the Mass Rock. The people were all standing up in the trailer.  There were no seats and anyway there was no room to sit.  The passengers were all people who would not walk or could not walk up to the rock. Most of the people in the trailer were older people. Maybe some mothers with small children were in the trailer too. Everyone was packed in upright and the number of bodies held up the rest of the bodies. Other people walked up from wherever they were able to park to get near to the Rock.  The little single track road was completely blocked by cars. The rope and the plastic were tied onto the branch just in case people lost their way on route through the boggy undergrowth.

2 September Wednesday

The house on the hill opposite has been under construction all summer. We are increasingly aware of it.  The scaffolding has now been removed.  A red van has been parked in front for a few days now.  The van looks tiny from here but the red draws my eye.  The gap left by the tree which we removed for the internet signal makes the house more visible.  It was easier to ignore it before.  The house is big.  It is too big. It is annoyingly symmetrical.  It is at least three kilometres away as the crow flies and eight kilometres by road. I fear this house will be the kind of house which wants to show itself off.  It will be the kind of house which shines lights on itself at night so that any people passing will not be able to miss it. It is on a road with almost no traffic.  The blinds will be pulled down so the people inside will not be disturbed by the lights but for us far across the valley we will be constantly reminded of this house. I hope I am wrong about this.

1 September Tuesday

The opticians has a sign saying that they open at 8.45.  Their website also says they open at 8.45.  When questioned about this, they said No, they actually open at 9.40.  They do not see any reason to change the listed information as everyone knows that they open at 9.40.

31 August Monday

We have had no internet since Saturday.  Our signal comes off the roof of Michael Hickey’s house.  As always when there is a signal problem, we telephoned Michael. He told us that his own service is just fine.  We had to wait until today when the office in Waterford was open.  They sent up two Polish men with ladders and binoculars.  The men did things inside the house and they did things outside the house. We cut down a tree two weeks ago to clear the Line of Sight which makes the internet signal possible. For a while we had a signal, but then we did not. The tree could have stayed where it was. The men decided to hook up the signal box from one side of the chimney.  That did not work.  One man waved a receiving box in the air on the end of a long stick while the other kept an eye on his computer, and shouted back and forth in Polish.  Finally they found a spot one and a half metres above the flat kitchen roof. They put up the box on a bracket and a pipe.  It looks pretty awful.  We are trying to convince ourselves that it is not so bad.  We are trying to remind ourselves that we want the internet and that for now this is the only way we can have it down in this valley.  We are trying to convince ourselves that we will learn to love this box on a pole.   It looks like we are living in a submarine.

30 August Sunday

I listened to Jimmie. He was giving out to anyone who would listen.  He said he had been on his way to Limerick.  He said he was not actually going to Limerick, he was going to a place well beyond Limerick.  He decided before he got to where he was going that it was always the same.  He said The more you go West you realize you should be going East.

29 August Saturday

Potatoes which fall apart when they are cooked will always fall apart when they are cooked.  These terrible potatoes cannot be trusted for making potato salad.   Potato salad made of cooked floury potatoes becomes a kind of cold mashed potato mush with some salad-ish seasoning.  Today I saw pots of it in the deli section of the supermarket.  It was labelled Smooth Potato Salad.  It is a shocking thing to receive this when anticipating potato salad.

Source: Blue knot

My favorite honey label

28 August Friday

It used to be easy to buy nice honey wherever we went while traveling. It was lovely to return home with honey from somewhere else.  Honey made by bees eating different things tastes very different.  I like to bring honey as a gift and I like to eat honey.  I like noticing the difference of honey made by bees eating lavender or heather or apple blossom. I have almost stopped looking for honey when I am away from here.  I read a lot about the dangerous disappearance of bees in the world.  Bees are dying everywhere. So far we are still surrounded by lots of bees and lots of honey, but not everyone is.  Those who have it are less apt to be selling what little they have.

27 August Thursday

I went down to the shop and did a few errands.  I was a bit early so I sat in the car and read the newspaper.  Then I got out of the car and I leaned against it.  I looked around and I watched people coming and going.  The village is a busy place in the morning.  There were delivery men unloading things from trucks and vans. One would finish and leave and then another would arrive.  People went into the food shop and the post office.  Other people went into the hardware shop.  Some people went in and out of both places.  People stood and talked with one another outside the shop or with one person already in their car and the other outside talking through an open window.  Everyone had things to do.  I recognized everyone I saw.  Some people I knew by name and some people I only knew by sight.  Or maybe I did not recognize them but I knew their vehicle.

Tommie came down the road slowly.  Tommie always drives slowly.  He pulled up to the curb.  He did not pull up very close to the curb but it was close enough.  His car was not exactly blocking the road but it was making the thoroughfare into a single lane road rather than a place where two vehicles can pass each other.  He got out of the car and left the door open while he came over to say hello. We spoke a little about things in general.  We spoke about the weather and about his wife Margaret, who is not well, and about all the farmers getting their hay and silage in.  I told him that I was waiting to meet someone.  I said that I was waiting to meet a man so that I could lead him with my car to our house.  I said it was easier to do this than it is to give directions.  I told Tommie that I did not know the man I was waiting to meet.  I did not know if he was old or he was young.  I did not know what kind of a car he would be driving.  I did not know one single thing about what he would look like.  I said that so far I had recognized everyone I had seen so I knew that not one of those people was the man I was waiting for.  Tommie reassured me.  I was not at all worried, but he felt I needed reassurance.  He said You will know right away when you see the person you are waiting for even if you have never seen him before.

26 August Wednesday

Mick is disturbed by the sugar spoon. He knows that he always has four heaped teaspoons of sugar in his tea.  The spoon in my sugar bowl is made of cherry wood.  It was carved by a friend.  I like having it in the sugar bowl so that we can see it everyday. Mick is confused because the bowl of the spoon is bigger than a spoon he would ordinarily use.  He wants to have one spoon to portion out his sugar and then he wants to stir his tea with the same spoon.  He does not enjoy adapting.  I usually try to put out a regular teaspoon when he is here but today I forgot.  He is too polite to say anything about the incorrect kind of spoon but his unhappiness is obvious.

25 August Tuesday

We have been given an Eircode.  There was a letter in the post which assigned us this seven digit number.  The letter tells us that we do not have to use this code when writing our address.  The letter is written in a pleasant way.  It implies that it is understood that most people do not like change therefore no one is being asked to change.   The letter has a tear-out card at the top which we are instructed to carry in our wallets.  If we do not actually need to use the Eircode, I am not sure why it would be useful for us to carry the number around with us.  One of the benefits is supposedly for ordering things on the internet.  For years we have had to write a bunch of zeros or a random number whenever we were asked for a postal code. Now we can give this number.  Already we are hearing stories that the it is not any good to put the number into a GPS or any other kind of system.  I thought perhaps it would make deliveries by couriers easier as there are so few road signs in the countryside and there is such bad phone coverage and there is never a person to ask for help with directions when out driving.  The Eircode has not yet been set up to be used by any computer or satellite system.  So far, it is no more useful than not having a number.

23 August Sunday

Em died a year ago today.  I still miss her. I miss her everyday.  I miss her in funny places and at odd moments.  I mostly miss her when I am out on a walk.  I miss her when I am out on a walk with another dog who is not her. I miss the sound of her soft snoring and the sound of her feet tapping through the house in the night.  I miss the lapping sound of her tongue when she was drinking water from her bowl. I would not say I am mourning.  I am just noting her absence.  Her sounds were part of the house sounds. Her bed is still in place. Her water bowls, both indoors and outdoors, get re-filled regularly.  Visiting dogs use them. There does not seem to be any reason to move these things since they are getting used regularly. People ask weekly if we have thought about getting a new dog.  We have thought about getting a new dog but we have done nothing about getting a new dog.

22 August Saturday

Blackberries are ripening by the day.  It does not matter if the days have been hot or if there has been a lot of rain.  Every time I walk up and down the boreen or anywhere at all, I see hundreds of berries.  I stop to eat as I walk.  Sometimes I take a container and I pick the berries to bring home.  Sometimes I am just noting a location that offers easy picking and loads of berries so that I can return.

21 August Friday

Patsy Tom sat up on a high stool in Rose’s.   He sat at the same stool in the corner where he always sits.  He announced that he had been speaking with a man who told him that you cannot have a road without two ditches. As the hedges bordering each road are called ditches, we are used to seeing them on the sides of just about every road we traverse.  I could not understand what the issue was.  Instead, this was an opener for what became a long and heated conversation.  Everyone within earshot had an opinion about this man’s statement.  I left before anything was resolved.

20 August Thursday

I bought a Half Sliced Pan.  Or a Half Pan Sliced.  I can never remember which way to speak about this bread.  It is sliced bread available as a small or half loaf.  I do not like this bread and I do not buy it often but some days and in some shops it is the only bread to buy.  The reason I mention it is that when I opened the package to take out a slice of bread the first thing I saw was a piece of cardboard in the shape of a piece of bread.  It had rounded bottom corners and the top was rounded.  The cardboard had one shiny side and one rough side.  The cardboard was white and the bread was brown. The cardboard was not heavy.  It was like shirt cardboard.  It was not strong enough to protect the bread if something heavy fell on top of it. There were not two pieces of card, one at each end.   I have no idea what function the shaped bit of card had for the half loaf of bread.
Source: My favorite honey label

Rubber bands on the path

19 August Wednesday

We woke up to rain.  It was heavy beating rain. We had been warned that this rain was coming and that it would continue for a few days this week.  The wet air felt different.  It felt like summer might be over.  I was sad.  Then I decided to cheer up and to believe the forecast that promised better weather for Friday and the weekend. The postman promised that They are Giving Good for the Weekend.  This is an often used expression and one can always choose to believe it, or not.

Andrzej arrived to do some heavy outdoor work.  The early lashing rain had changed into a soaking drizzle but it was still much too wet for him to even consider doing anything.  Then we understood that he had made the trip specially to bring us a big plastic container full of fileted mackerel which he caught in the sea last night.  He said it was only a few hours since he caught it and that we must eat it fresh for lunch. We were delighted and he drove off happy with his gift-giving.  I worried that he might meet Mary in the boreen forcing one of them into a difficult backing up.   Fortunately, she was late.  She came in announcing that she had brought lunch today for us all.  She brought bread and a rhubarb tart and mackerel.  Lucky for us that her mackerel is smoked so we are spared eating a mountain of fresh fish for lunch.

18 August Tuesday

I saw another bunch of the bright pink silage bales in a field today.  They were piled, placed and shaped together to look like a tractor and trailer.

16 August Sunday

The announcer on the radio spoke about how a player in today’s match had made a long reach.  He said He was Stretched Out Long, As Though It Were Morning and He Was Still On The Bed.

15 August Saturday

There was another escape of cows.  There are always cows escaping.  This lot got out of their field, went down the Long Field,  then took a left onto the Ardfinnan road and took a right down the hill and into the village.  One of the cows bit a chunk of hay out of the Two Bale High Man who is standing at the corner near the bridge advertising a fun event.  After the cows crossed the bridge into the village, they spread out in all directions.  Local estimates claim that there were 80 cows.  It was 2 in the morning when they were discovered.  I do not know how long they were there before someone noticed them. Most interesting was how anyone figured out where they had come from.  Who would miss their cows at 2 am?  And these cows had made a journey of 4.5 kilometres from the farm where they lived.

14 August Friday

Everywhere feels quiet.  The land is quiet.  There is little birdsong to be heard.  It is so quiet that it nearly feels worrying.  Someone told me that the silence of the birds is because they are moulting.  I do not understand the logic of this but it is something to think about.

13 August Thursday

Three of us took a walk in Killballyboy woods.  Sometimes the path we were on was narrow and sometimes it widened.  We walked side by side or single file or two together and one alone.  Our positions were changing constantly.  The track was not rough so we did not have to look down all the time but still it was important to scan the area ahead for roots or stones or holes as we walked.  Early on I noticed a rubber band on the ground.  It was a nice fat rubber band and it looked new.  I like rubber bands.  I noted that it was a good one.  Minutes later I saw several more rubber bands.  These were also thick and also new. To see one or even two rubber bands out in the woods is not noteworthy.  Walkers might have them on their their lunch bags, or they might be used to hold something onto a pack.  They might have been on someone’s wrist or in a pocket.  Very quickly, I realized that the number of rubber bands which I was seeing was not a normal amount of rubber bands to be finding on a forest path.

Later, I learned that this wooded area, which has been completely invaded by rhododendrons, is a popular spot for people who export the leaves.  Each bunch of leaves on thin branches is held together with a rubber band.  These are then shipped to Holland where the Dutch like them.  I do not know what the Dutch do with these bunches of rhododendron leaves.  Maybe they arrange them as greenery with various kinds of flowers.  The industrial scale cutting and gathering of these leaves is not legal in the forest. The people doing the exporting hire Romanian workers who work deep in the forest well out of sight of the paths.  The workers then gather somewhere discreetly at the end of the day to load the gathered leafy bunches into trucks.  It is hard to imagine how many bunches of rhododendron leaves it takes to fill a lorry.  The rubber bands are the only sign that the pickers have been there.
Source: Rubber bands on the path