Driven Demented

12 May Friday

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

13 May Saturday

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

14 May Sunday

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

15 May Monday

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

18 May Thursday

The lanes are frothy with cow parsley.

23 May Tuesday

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

24 May Wednesday

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

25 May Thursday

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

26 May Friday

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

27 May Saturday

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

30 May Tuesday

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

31 May Wednesday

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

1 June Thursday

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

2 June Friday

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

3 June Saturday

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

4 June Sunday

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

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.

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.