Pineapples and Pine Cones

12 December Saturday

I found shredded paper and mouse droppings in a deep corner of the long cupboard. There was no food in the vicinity.  The mice were happy enough to chew on other things. I was cleaning up the mess and moving things around as I searched for more of the same. All the time that I was looking and clearing, I was wondering where the mice had entered, and when. I do not know if this is fresh activity or old activity.  I wondered if this nibbling was done yesterday, or was it long ago?  Maybe it was September?

14 December Monday

He is a tall man. He wears a waistcoat with many pockets over a heavy sweater, but no hat. There is no logic about when he arrives. It might be early on a Sunday morning or he might appear on a weekday afternoon. There are twelve or fifteen small dogs with the man. They run around in ever lengthening loops all around him but they never go too far from him. None of the dogs have collars and none of them are large. They are not hunting dogs. Some of them look like long-haired dachshunds but I do not think that is what they are. That is the nearest way for me to describe them. All of the dogs are mixed-up breeds and all of the dogs are short-legged and all of the dogs are fast and quiet. They are not a barking and baying pack. The man is formal in his address. He has dark curly hair and looks like a person from a medieval painting. He is not a modern man. He might be in his late thirties or he might be older. When the man and his dogs appear down the track he always asks politely if I have seen The Fox. I always say no. I never help anyone in their pursuit of a fox. Sometimes he asks if it is okay for him to cut across our land and to cross up into Joe’s fields. Sometimes he turns and goes back the way he came. Other times he continues up the Mass Path towards Johnnie Mackin’s. The dogs are everywhere. They are like a liquid mass moving all through the yard and off into the fields. They rush to drink out of our low water butt. I see the dogs before I see the man. He carries a curved horn over his shoulder with a strap. It gives off the loud rallying TallyHo call associated with The Hunt. This man has no horse, no weapon and no crowd of people and baying dogs with him. He is always alone with his many small dogs. When he blows the horn the dogs all come running from wherever they are. He also carries a huge whip, which is hooked onto his belt. When he cracks the whip in the air the dogs hear the loud snap and they come running to join him. Each time he comes the man tells me that he is looking for The Fox because it is stealing chickens. I do not believe him. Today the dogs appeared and shortly after they arrived, he himself arrived, walking down from Scully’s wood and asking if I had seen The Fox. I did not say a word. I bent my head at the neck and gave him a little grimace to say that we have had this conversation three or four times already and you know that I will not tell you even if I have seen The Fox. He nodded, said Thank You, and then he bowed low from the waist. He turned and strode back up the track. A few minutes later I heard the horn.

15 December Tuesday

The morning was bitter and sharp. The cold was harsh. Derek was late delivering the post. He was so late that I had assumed that there would be no post delivered at all. I asked him why he was not wearing his cap. He acknowledged my concern and agreed that yes, it was way too cold to be out without a cap. He told me that he had had a puncture. I wondered what a punctured tyre had to do with him not wearing a hat. He said he had to change the tyre on the van this morning in the dark and when he was finished, he used his cap to clean and dry his wet hands. It was the only thing he could find. He said it was better to wear no cap at all than to pull a wet and muddy one down over his ears.

18 December Friday

As of today, we are out of our six week lockdown. We are now allowed to cross county borders. The trouble is that everyone else is allowed to cross the county borders too, so there is a mad rush in all directions. It is pre-Christmas panic. It seems to be a very good time to not cross any borders and not to go near the town and to just pretend that we still cannot go anywhere. We shall continue to stay at home.

19 December Saturday

It was a rare treat to find razor clams at the market.  We ate them for lunch.

 

20 December Sunday

I am always happy to see Anthony’s tyre tree out on display again. He keeps it out back on its pallet all year and brings it around to the front at this time of year after festooning it with fresh ivy vines and little lights.

21 December Monday

The village shop is extra busy right before lunch time. There are workmen and delivery men picking up sandwiches to eat in their vans and there are the wives of the farmers all in a rush collecting a bit of something towards the dinner. There is always one women who roars, “I cannot stop to talk. I left The Spuds On The Boil!”

22 December Tuesday

When something is broken beyond repair, it is Banjaxed. Banjaxed means that an object or a machine is broken, or ruined. A person can be Banjaxed too—ruined or shattered or deeply deeply tired. A person who is Banjaxed might just be exhausted.

24 December Thursday

I have lined the windowsill with pineapples and pine cones. The pineapples were on special offer at the supermarket for 47 cents each. I bought a couple and then I bought a couple more. They look very festive. The windowsill looked best when there were six pineapples in a row, but we keep eating them so now there are only three.

25 December Friday

Someone spread slurry on the fields. It was either Joe or Joe. The smell is noxious and it burns the back of the throat even when I am outside for only a few minutes. That is the bad news. The good news is that the first snowdrop has come up. It is early but it is a welcome sign of spring. A sign of hope.

27 December Sunday

We have been beaten and thrashed by Storm Bella. We had yellow warnings and we had amber warnings. Winds and rain and the noise of it all. It went on and on and on. I think it is now over. I hope it is over. There is deep water everywhere but we have not suffered downed trees. We have not lost our electricity. The west of the country has had it worse with snow and severely blocked roads. We are just mired in even more mud than we already had. Walking out in any direction is hard slogging work.

29 December Tuesday

My pursuit of mice continues. The long cupboard has been cleared. Traps are set but the mice ignore the traps. They are eating poison every day but it is not killing them. They take some of the poison and move along the length of a shelf and eat it there. They come back for more and more pellets and they continue to evade my traps. Apparently there is an explosion of mice all over the country this winter. Everyone has mice and everyone is fighting the same battle but most people do not talk about it for fear of the rodents reflecting badly on them. My mice keep chewing and nibbling paper and cardboard. Any and all food items have been removed and stored in a big plastic box. Everything else taken out of the cupboard is in little piles along the wall. I am looking forward to being able to put things back but I am mostly looking forward to the end of the mice.

30 December Wednesday

Today is Simon’s birthday. I bought him a calendar down at the shop. It was a fund-raising project for the FAS scheme. It has a few tractors on it. It also has one page with some cleaned-up farm equipment repainted with bright colours. I do not think he will like this calendar much, but I will. He is not interested to view farm machinery and tractors in the everyday world around him so he will not be interested in photographs of them. I will wrap the calendar up and give it to him with the card I have not yet made. He went up and down to the book barn a few times this morning.  It is too cold to stay working down there for long. On one of the trips back and forth, a bird shat on his head.  It was obviously a big bird because it was an enormous messy dropping. He had to wash his hair thoroughly to get rid of it. If it had been a seagull, it would be considered Good Luck. But we think it was a magpie or a crow.  Their droppings are big but they do not arrive with any promise of luck.

31 December Thursday New Year’s Eve.

Last night the sky was beautifully clear. We were able to see the Full Moon. The out of doors was so bright that there was no need for a torch. We have missed the last two full moons due to thick cloud cover and rain. We missed the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn too. Maybe this sighting of the full moon is a positive sign for the year to come. Last night at midnight the entire country went back into Level Five Lockdown.  It is only 13 days since we were released from the last lockdown. Everything except essential retail shops such as food and pharmacies is closed and will remain closed. We can only go five kilometres from home for the purpose of exercise. These restrictions will remain in place until the end of January. It is more cheering to think about the bright full moon and the lengthening hours of daylight.

Don’t Act the Maggot

23 November Monday

The good news is that I now have a robin friend who hops along close to me as I perform small outdoor jobs. Wherever I go out of doors she appears and follows me. The days are bitter and frosty and short so most jobs get done in small spurts. I am stacking another load of firewood, and plucking off the big figs left on the bush while leaving only the tiny fingernail-sized ones. Moving the clay pots into the shed to avoid them cracking with frost and moving plants into the house or the book barn to help them to survive the winter. This new robin has no name yet but if she sticks around and becomes the robin who recognizes me and who I expect to see every day, I will of course name her. It is companionable  to have a small presence to chat to in the cold. She tips her head to the left each time I speak.

24 November Tuesday

Tommie has lost track of how long it has been since he last visited Margaret in the care home in Cappoquin. He thinks he was forbidden to visit even before we went into this lockdown but he claims he is mixed up with the time. He knows that there is no chance that Margaret will remember when they last met so if he cannot remember then it probably does not matter anyway. He told me that when he last saw her she was in good form and that she was Thumping Away on Her Crate. He said he could not hear the racket through the glass dividing wall. Her Crate is what he calls her walking frame.

25 November Wednesday

The day was sunny and frosty. There was only one car parked in front of the shop. An elderly woman sat in the passenger seat. She waved to me with enthusiasm and mouthed greetings through the tightly closed window. I went into the shop and when I came out again the car was still there but the woman was gone. I looked up just in time to see her scurrying out from the churchyard leaning heavily on her stick and coming across the road as fast as she could move which was not very fast. She was out of breath when she reached the car and she asked me not to tell a soul that I had seen her. Her husband was still inside in the shop. She said there would be a massacre if he learned that she had stepped out of the car, especially as she was wearing neither a hat nor a mask. She had just popped into the churchyard to say hello to her parents in their grave. She felt certain that they would be feeling the cold.

26 November Thursday

The Community Alert text message warned that a white Nissan van was “calling to farmers’ yards looking for hay.” The identifying number of the van was given and any sightings were to be reported to the Cahir Garda Station. The problem was not that someone was needing hay for their animals. The implication was that Looking for Hay was the pretext for people looking for things to steal.

27 November Friday

Not many cows are still grazing in the fields. Some herds are already under cover for the winter. Whenever I see any cows out in the grass, I call out, “Hello Cows! It’s me!”

29 November Sunday

The morning is white. There is nothing to see beyond the book barn. The fields are gone. Joe’s cows are gone. The hills beyond are gone. There are no hills to be seen. Thick fog makes everything into an absence.

1 December Tuesday

Today is the first day that things are open again. We have completed our Six Week National Lockdown at Level 5. Almost everything is re-opening today: shops selling non-essential goods, libraries, churches, hairdressers and barbers are all open. Restaurants and cafés will be allowed to open in a few more days. Wet Bars will not be allowed to open. Everything is being staggered to try and keep group movement under control. We are still required to stay within our own county. Announcers on the radio are warning people not to be careless and not to congregate in groups indoors. I heard several voices instructing people: Don’t Act The Maggot. To Act The Maggot is to behave in a foolish way. It is to play at being dumb, usually to garner attention. I have never heard this slang expression used in official terms but today I have heard it again and again. Because everyone knows the expression, we know that we are being told to behave.

2 December Wednesday

I was nearing the top bit of the mass path where it is almost a road or it would be a road if anyone could drive on it. It is wide enough for a single vehicle but it is overgrown with grass and weeds and bushes on both sides are impinging. I saw Buddy up ahead. He was squatting and relieving his bowels. He looked at me with surprise but he did not bark. He finished what he was doing and then he jumped up and over the wall into his yard. Once there he began to bark. His barking made Jessie come running and she ran ahead of him to bark louder and to jump up on me as I reached the tar road.  Buddy stayed in the background and let her do the job of protecting the property.

4 December Friday

There was a bloody bird carcass on a mossy rock. The bones of the body were still attached to the wing. I must have interrupted the fox because when I walked back that way a little later, the bird was gone and there was nothing left except the mossy rock.

7 December Monday

The fog was bad. Again. Thick and white and impenetrable. Driving to Waterford was terrifying but I needed to go to the hospital for a test.  I had no choice. I had a valid medical reason to cross the county line and I was driving in dense fog. It was a big day for me. I was halted by a Garda. I thought I was being stopped to justify my destination, but instead it was because there had been a collision. It looked bad. I had to wait a little while for the emergency services to arrive. I was the only car waiting so I was asked to put on my flashers to warn anyone else who might drive up behind me. As I sat waiting for permission to drive onward, I watched two Garda unfolding a newspaper and attempting to cover the license plate of the mangled car. They had some tape but it was not the right kind of tape for the wet and cold weather. The newspaper kept falling off. They tried tucking it in around and behind the number plate, but nothing was working very well. The paper got wet and fell off. The Garda who had stopped me told me that they were trying to cover the plate so that if someone saw the car and perhaps knew the people who had been in it, they would not recognise the vehicle and be upset.

An Added Apostrophe

26 October Monday

Today is a Bank Holiday. In the current climate, it is difficult to know what this means. It is difficult to know if the words Bank Holiday mean anything at all. We remain in Level Five Lockdown. Everything everywhere is closed and everyone is staying at home. The word Holiday feels misplaced.


31 October Saturday

Wild winds gusted and bashed the country all night. All leaves have been blown off all trees. Branches are naked. Views are opened up. We can see things in the far distance. We can view vistas that have not been visible since last year. This is all the work of Storm Adrian. Or it might be the other storm that was coming right behind him. It is not easy to keep track of the names of these relentless winds off the Atlantic.

Most of the vendors at the Farmers Market did not even try to put up their little tents this morning. James, the vegetable man, attached his tent to his car in the hope that the car would keep it from blowing away. Lorraine opened the boot of her car and used the interior space to display her baked goods in tiered rows. We could not get very close to anything she had on offer but we could point to what we wanted. No one lingered at the market. We purchased our food and we rushed away. The noise of the wind made conversation impossible.

1 November Sunday

Today is the first day of the shooting season. I have already seen three cars with men inside and tiny covered trailers being pulled behind. The trailers carry the gun dogs, usually three or four of them squished into the small space. The men will be out hoping to shoot birds and the dogs will be hoping to retrieve the downed birds. It is the time of year for me to sing loudly and to recite poetry when I walk through wooded areas. I need to alert the men with guns that I am not something to be shot. More importantly, I hope to alert the birds of possible danger.

2 November Monday

Joe has had a new man working with him up at the farm for a few weeks now. Today I was chatting to the new man while waiting for the cows to cross the track, so I asked his name. He said his name is Joe. Joe is working for Joe. And then there is the other Joe in the adjoining fields. Joe and Joe and Joe. We are surrounded by Joes.

9 November Monday

It has been an exhausting week. Watching and listening to the election and the results and the endless discussions and laborious counting has been all-consuming. On top of my own concern, I have had to take on the role of The American. I have received many phone calls and messages of congratulations and of shared joy and relief. These messages have arrived from England and from just down the road. I have been stopped by neighbors out walking. Without seeking the job, I seem to have been representing the entire nation. I am the American Friend. One man who knew who I was although I did not know he was, stopped his car when I was walking on the road. He rolled down his window and he asked me if I had voted in the US election. He said, “Of course it only matters to me if you voted the right way.” We quickly established that he and I shared the same idea about who the right choice was. One man, who is a Rabid Republican, avoids me if we happen to be in the village at the same time. Many years ago he lived in the United States and he retains his vote there. He takes his responsibility as a voter seriously. He takes his role as an American even more seriously. I do not know why he lives here and not there. I do not think that he likes having another American in the vicinity. Without me around, he could be the authority on all things American. I do not want the job but I know that he does want it. Actually, he stopped acknowledging me years ago, so this election makes no difference to anything at all.

10 November Tuesday

The newest Gift from the Government is the offer of Free Postage to anyone sending anything to a residential Care Home. A letter or a parcel to a friend or an elderly relative or anyone at all is now carried by An Post for free. The government is trying to make up for the fact that because of The Covid, no one can visit their loved ones in a home. They think everyone will feel better if things can be sent without cost as often as one wants. And they are certain that the people inside the homes will feel better too.

11 November Wednesday

The bales of silage wrapped in pink plastic are cheerful against the grey skies.  Not all farmers use the pink plastic but many do. The pink silage wrap appears every year. It starts out bright pink and it fades in the light.  It’s purchase price goes toward helping support Breast Cancer charities. The idea is that the surprise of pink bales in the landscape will remind everyone that this is an problem that is not going away and that it is one that needs attention and vigilance. The pink is always a surprise. No matter how often I see the bales close up or in the distance they refuse to be ignored.

 

12 November Thursday

The child had thrown himself onto the ground. He was weeping with ferocious energy. His crying left him gasping and gulping and making a lot of noise. It looked to me like he could not get any air. I watched him with concern. His mother saw my face. She said “Don’t worry yourself, he knows that kind of Hegging will get him plenty of attention.” Hegging is the word for this particular form of desperate sobbing. Just when I think I know all the words that might be new to me, along comes another one.

13 November Friday

Helen McGrath keeps bees up in the Knockmealdowns. Her bees feed on mountain heather. The honey is delicious. The printed labels for the jars were missing an apostrophe. I have enjoyed adding an apostrophe each time we purchased a jar of Helen’s Honey. A new label has now been designed. This one has an apostrophe where it should be, so the jar we are now eating will be the last one with An Added Apostophe.

 

14 November Saturday

The man selling organic chickens and sausages, bacon, and rashers off his tiny table at the market pronounced loudly to another man. His voice was scornful and dismissive. He said “Vegetarians are No Good to me!”

16 November Monday

The winds have been relentless for weeks now. I go to sleep with the sound of the wind and I wake up to the sound of wind. We have also had a lot of rain. The fields around the village disappeared as they turned into one enormous lake. The river left its banks and became part of the lake. There were no longer any edges to anything, no recognizable boundaries. We lost all sense of location in the landscape. Trees without leaves popped up as if growing out of water. It was hard to know if they were dead or alive. The hump-backed bridge was the only familiar thing. It was shocking to drive down to the shop and to see all of the water. Now the waters have mostly receded. Fields are back and the grass is bright green. It is not easy to believe that all of that water has been so quickly absorbed by the land. Of course, not all of the water is gone anyway. Most of the fields have select lakes and ponds still visible in their low places.

17 November Tuesday

Our internet has been down more often than it has been up and running. It is all weather dependent. It comes and goes in gusts, like the wind. It has not been possible to ring a neighbor and to ask to go to their house and use their internet because we are not supposed to go inside anyone else’s house. Everyone is trying hard to obey the rules and not to allow anyone into their homes. I went down to the shop and I was given permission to sit alone in the badly lit storeroom surrounded by boxes of pasta and porridge and biscuits. The cold came up through my feet and numbed my legs but the wi-fi was strong and good. I have been trying all day to post this blog. I may need to drive back to the village and back to storeroom to get it done.

The Boulders.

9 October Friday

I looked down and saw a brown wallet at my feet. It was fat and well-worn. I picked it up and looked around. There was no one around. I started back into the shop to leave it at the counter in the hope that the owner would be back to claim it. Before I reached the door, someone shouted my name. I turned and saw Dilly running toward me. She was wearing her mask. I could not see her mouth but her eyes were full of panic. She called out, “It’s mine! Erica, it’s mine!”  She was still breathless as she told me that she had been parked right there, right there with her car just beside my car and she had noticed that it was my car when she got into her car and she drove the kilometre all the way up the road to her house and she got out of the car before she realized that she must have dropped the wallet as she sat into her own car. She noticed and registered the presence of my car but she did not notice the dropping of her wallet. She turned around and came rushing back. I was happy that the lost wallet found its owner so quickly. She whispered through her mask that she was just after drawing down some money out of the Post Office account so the wallet was Fat Full of Cash. It took a little while but I was glad to see the panic leaving her eyes. She removed her mask and I removed my mask and we stood and talked in the watery sunlight. We kept the distance of the car bonnet between us. I watched her face return to normal as we spoke of this and that and about how much she missed seeing her grandchildren. The whole time she was talking Dilly never stopped clutching her wallet with both hands.

10 October Saturday

New bramble growth is rampant. The young ones are hanging down as tendrils. They grab at my hair and my face and they catch on clothing. I have had two falls in the last week. Both happened while I was walking up the mass path. Both times the reason for the fall was the thicker brambles that are growing or creeping sideways across the path. They hooked my ankle and down I went. I am good at falling. I fall often. I have learned to sort of roll into a tumble and unless there are a lot of rocks, I am mostly unhurt. The first fall was into mud and leaves. The second fall was caused by creeping brambles too but I fell into a scattering of apples both rotten and not yet rotten and some freshly fallen from the trees up at Johnnie’s orchard. The apples that are still hard are like ball bearings. Once the brambles tripped me it was difficult to get myself up and out of the rolling mess without slipping on another apple. The best part about the fall was the lovely smell of rotten apples on my trousers and my hands. The smell followed me around for the rest of my walk.

11 October Sunday

Shebeens are getting busted all over the country. Hundreds of these illegal Wet Bars have opened in sheds and garages and in custom-made structures built of scrap wood and old pallets. Some are elaborate with beer on draft and electricity and portable toilets installed outside. Others just offer a few cans and bottles to drink by lantern or candlelight. Most have a wood stove for heat. Depending where they are located, those partaking can arrive by foot or bicycle or on a tractor but it is best if very few vehicles are visible. These private bars have always been around in rural places but apparently they are now opening in the suburbs and in the towns. The Gardaí are finding them and busting them but they know that for every three they find, there are another one hundred shebeens out there.

12 October Monday

No Bodge! No Bodge has evolved from No Bother. I do not know if people have always been saying this, or if it is a new development of slang. Now I hear it all the time. When I say thank you, the person I am thanking used to say No Bother which I did not really like but that was what was said. Now when I say Thank You what I hear in return is No Bodge. Maybe this is a distinctly local expression or maybe it is more widespread. Since we are in constant but varying degrees of lockdown we do not venture far. Perhaps everyone in the entire country now says No Bodge. Or maybe it is only within our very near world.

13 October Tuesday

Moll Collins of Moneygall turned 100 years old this week. A colour photograph of her was printed in the Irish Times. In lieu of a party, a Drive-By was organized and assisted by the the Gardaí from Roscrea and Nenagh stations. Moll sat in a chair at the end of her path just outside her gate while people drove or walked by at a safe distance. They tooted their car horns and they called out Many Happy Returns. It looked like the best celebration ever.

15 October Thursday

There are announcements on the radio telling British people resident in the country to hurry up and exchange their driving license for an Irish one. They must do this before the end of the year or else they will no longer be legal to drive here. Their insurance company will not cover them. They will be illegal driving on their British licenses. This is all part of the reality of Brexit arriving on 1 January. The British will no longer have the rights of other Europeans. Most of them feel outraged by this change. They think things should continue as they are even when that is not possible. Everything will be different.

16 October Friday

I finished stacking firewood into the lean-to and under the long bench. Billy the Timber has retired and his son no longer cares to cut and sell firewood. Johnnie O’Brien delivered this wood but we were asked to pay for it by writing a check to Father Sheehy’s GAA Club. The load was a mixture of Lime wood and Palm wood. Together the load smells like old geraniums. I had never heard of using palm as firewood and when I looked it up I read that burning palm in your wood stove is tantamount to burning straw. Then I learned that the palm trees that grow all over the Irish coasts are not real palm trees but they are some kind of import from New Zealand called a Cabbage Palm (Cordyline australis).  They look like palm trees and they grow well in this temperate climate and in windy locations, but they are not even remotely related to Palm trees.

 

17 October Saturday

Tommie told me that he is 88. He implied that he will not be 88 for much longer but he would not tell me his birthday. He does not want me to know the date. He does not want me to give his birthday the smallest amount of attention. He said he has never had a card nor a cake and never a party to celebrate his birthday.  No one has taken notice of the day even once in his life and he says there is no reason to start now.

18 October Sunday

The honeybees are still in and out of the barn roof. They are busy all day every day. They are in and out and swarming around the entrance. There must be a massive supply of honey up there and there is no way anyone except the bees can get it.

20 October Tuesday

The unripe blackberries growing in the ditches suggested such bounty. We thought this year would be the best year ever for blackberries. Since that moment of initial promise, actual plump edible berries been few and far between. I have not gathered large bowls full of blackberries. I have had a few cupfuls here and there. Most of my blackberry eating has taken place while coming upon a laden bush when out walking. The bushes are still full of hard berries that I am beginning to accept are berries that will never ripen. My raspberry canes keep producing but they are slower than they were. They take longer to ripen and the berries are smaller and less sweet. Every three or four days I can fill a bowl. It is worth keeping an eye on the bushes. It has been raining now for 24 hours. Maybe more. The wind does not stop. The rain blows hard in different directions. There is flooding all over County Cork. We do not have any flooding but we have a lot of water everywhere. The raspberries were looking ready to pick so I went out and picked some in what I thought was a lull between downpours. It had not stopped raining.  It continued as a drizzle but no longer a lashing. I did manage to gather half a bowl of raspberries and I got completely soaked doing so.

22 October Thursday

As of midnight last night we are in full Level Five lockdown again. We are allowed to go no further than 5 kilometres from home for exercise. Schools and crèches remain open. I am wondering if The Boulders fall within the 5 km restriction. The Boulders are a group of about seven large stones maybe pushed into place so that no one drives off that bit of the road.  There used to be some blue paint on one or two of them. It was the same blue used to mark sheep. Most of the blue has worn off. The Boulders is nothing more than a slim spot to pull off the narrow road and park before heading out to walk on Barranacullia and beyond into the Knockmealdowns. The Boulders is a place to meet in these times when we all have to travel in separate cars. If it is more than 5 kms from here, it is not much more.

23 October Friday

We love the postman. The days when letters or packages arrive from afar are the best. Derek also brings news gathered from along his route. Even if nothing comes and Derek does not appear down the boreen, we savor the anticipation. He is not an early postman so his arrival time is always a surprise. He might arrive anytime from 9.00 to 11.30. These days he only comes three times a week. Last week we learned that one of the postmen went off to Greece on a holiday all by himself. Everything there was closed. He had to spend most of his time locked up in his hotel room and then he came home and had to self-isolate for two more weeks. All the other postmen had to take turns working extra hours to cover his route. Derek said, “I have no news today. I am keeping Myself To Myself as I have been told, so I have no news.”

 

 

 

Peppermint Oil

23 September Wednesday

The week after the Third Thursday in September is traditionally the week when the National Ploughing Championships are held. Of course the championships are cancelled this year. There is as much discussion on the radio about the cancellation as there would be if the Ploughing was really happening.

25 September Friday

There are spiders everywhere. It is a good year for spiders. It is a great year for spiders. We all comment on it. We are all  living with them. They are inside the house in corners and on the ceilings and around the windows and slipping around in the bathtub and in coffee cups and everywhere. It is not just one kind of spider. There is a lot of variety. No one seems to know why they are all visible and active all at once nor why they are all visible and active at this particular time of the year. Ned told me that peppermint oil is the answer.  He repeated peppermint oil a few times but he never told me exactly what I should do with the peppermint oil. He assured me that peppermint oil will send them packing.

26 September Saturday

The car park beside Cahir Castle was full of big trucks and machinery. Fifteen portaloos had been dropped into place. They were blocking access to the bottle banks. The entrance to the car park was closed with metal gates that could be shoved aside. Security men were allowing those people who wanted to attend the Farmers Market into the car park on foot. They would not let any cars drive in. Already more than half of the car park was roped off. They were just waiting for the market to be finished at one o’clock so that they could take over the rest of the place. No one seemed completely sure what the film was but the name I kept hearing repeated was Matt Damon. Matt Damon. Matt Damon. Whatever the film was, he was going to be in it. His name was heard like a little rumble coming out from under all the masks. There were men with clipboards and dozens of men in reflective security vests. They were taking over the entire place while we were trying to shop for our fish and vegetables. I was disappointed that there were no more strawberries, but I was delighted to see that Tipperary Pippins are back in season and they were for sale on the stand of the Apple Farm.

28 September Monday

A tiny wren was flying around the room. Wrens are always small but this one looked extra tiny. It was young and it was crashing into the windows trying to escape and to get back out doors. It finally smashed into a window with such force that it knocked itself out. I picked up the little body and placed it under the rosemary bush with a jar lid full of water nearby for when it woke up. The wren did not wake up, so I buried it under Kattie English’s rose bush.

29 September Tuesday

I took the car in to Mike to get something fixed. I had an hour to wait around. I had forgotten about the filming in Cahir. Since Saturday we have had all the news: The film is called The Last Duel, and set in Medieval France. The car park is completely closed off now and there are temporary walls in place so no one can see what is going on down there. Some of the walls are made of stretched plastic sheeting and some are woven willow. Flags are waving on standards and large red banners are hanging down off the sides of the castle. It all looks festive in the sunshine. There are dozens of people all leaning over the sides of the bridge hoping for a glimpse of the actors: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jodie Comer, Adam Driver. They are all there somewhere. Ridley Scott is directing the film. No one is so interested to see him. The radio station Tipp FM had a car from which they were broadcasting reports of the activity even though there is not much to be seen. There are several small rough carts made of dark planks standing around in front of the castle. Other carriages ramble around town pulled by horses. The Limerick bus had to wait to unload its passengers because a carriage was in the way. There is an open courtyard inside the old mill where all of the horses are being stabled. The town seems full of this movie but at the same time everything is proceeding as normal. A elderly man standing on the pavement remarked, “Isn’t it fine to have something to talk about that is not The Covid and not the weather!”

1 October Thursday

I had not seen the woman for months and months. She started right in talking as if we had only met yesterday. She started right in talking as if no time had passed.

“I would not marry. I have no time for marriage. It is not for me. I will not even live with The Boyfriend. I need my evenings for the crocheting and the knitting. He can fool around on top of me down in the shed at the bottom of the yard. My mother knows what we are doing down there but I am a grown woman. She would never come down while he and I are down there. Not like the bathroom though. She walks right in when I am taking a shower or having a wee. She thinks it is no problem. She did that to my father for years. She took the locks off the doors because she was afraid of him falling, or that is what she said anyways. I only moved back in after he died so that she would not be alone but now I am never alone. I live in one room, in my own room, but really I never know when the door might open and she will be there. I am never alone except when I am down in the shed but that is when The Boyfriend is with me, so really I am never alone.”

I said, “Well, it is good to see you after all this time. You are looking well after the quiet of Lock Down Life.”

She said, “I’d look better if I had my teeth in.”

2 October Friday

I took an early walk through Joe’s fields. I timed it for when I thought  the cows would be up in the milking shed. I do not always get the timing right. Neither Joe nor the cows work to an exact schedule. I have been spoiled by the long stretch of dry weather and the ease of walking up the track and through the fields on a hard firm surface. Now the weather has changed. There has been rain. We are promised a lot more rain. Today the sun was watery but there was sun. The track was slippery with mud and manure. It was hard work walking uphill.

4 October Sunday

When a mass is being held in the church, a small group of men stand outside the church. They are not always the same men but their behavior is always the same. They stand close to the front door. The men are dressed for the occasion. They wear their good pull-over sweaters with clean ironed shirt collars showing at the neck. Usually there are four or six men standing and smoking cigarettes and talking quietly among themselves. When everyone else comes out of the church the men are right there by the door. They will be noticed. They will be seen to be In Attendance. Some people might realize that the men have never gone into the church but most people will believe that they were standing or sitting at the back of the church for the whole time and that they were the first to leave the building. Today I saw five men standing and leaning outside while Mass was being said inside. Instead of the usual cigarettes being smoked, the five men were all wearing masks. Not one of them was smoking.

A Bull In The Back

10 September Thursday

Thursday is a big day for shopping. It has to do with it being the day when people get paid. I always forget about Thursday. Normally I try not to go to a supermarket on a Thursday but sometimes I forget. I went to the Supervalu in Cahir and it was full of the workers from the meat processing plant. The workers are mostly from Brazil and Romania. Meat plants have been a big problem in recent months with sizeable outbreaks of Covid in the factories because of sloppy testing practices. Or no testing. The government is now putting pressure on the meat processing plants and forcing extra testing and vigilance. It is a difficult situation. The workers are treated badly and they are poorly paid. Many of them do not speak enough English to really understand the rules of the current pandemic situation. Their employers exploit that fact. They know that the workers cannot afford to miss a day of work so if they feel unwell they will come in to work anyway. They will bring their symptoms with them. On top of that they have to share their protective equipment. Even their masks get shared. As do their beds because the meat plants tend to be working 24 hours a day. The workers are living with other men who work in the plants and they share the beds. When one man is out working another man is sleeping in his bed. They are living in close proximity and sharing every single thing in wretched circumstances. Their lives are dreadful. This morning in the SuperValu there were ten or twelve of these men running around the store calling out to one another. They were happy and excited, like children on an outing. These men all wore terrible cheap clothes made of flapping synthetic fabric.  Many garments had been torn and then repaired with heavy black tape. Several of the men had huge scars and rough stitches on their shaved heads. Several had oozing sores on an arm or a hand. At least two were missing fingers. I felt like weeping as I watched them gleefully rushing up and down the narrow aisles. At the same time, I wanted to get as far away from them as I could.

12 September Saturday

Blackberries are now rampant. They are ripening in every direction. The ditches are heavy with berries. I call all of them blackberries. Other people call them brambles. There are many different kinds and they are all in varying degrees of ready for the picking. Some are sour and some are tart and some are juicy and sweet. Once they are all together in a bowl they are lovely. Bird droppings full of blackberry excrement are everywhere. There are purple and blue smudges on the clothes that hang on the washing line, on the outdoor tables and chairs, on the car, on the road.

13 September Sunday

Michael stopped. His truck was pulling a trailer with a bull in it. He was taking the bull to another farm to be put into a field with females. He turned off his engine. He was in no hurry. As we spoke, with me on foot and him sitting inside in his truck, the bull began to throw himself around. The trailer rocked from side to side. The force of the bull’s weight thrashing around inside the trailer made the whole truck move. Even with the emergency brake on, Michael’s pick up truck was getting pushed and jolted along. I could not believe that the truck could be rammed forward by the sheer force of a bull in the back. Michael was neither surprised nor worried about the energetic antics of the bull. We continued with our conversation until another vehicle came along and we had to stop blocking the road with our words.

14 September Monday

Wet Pubs are scheduled to open on the 21st of September. Wet Pubs are those pubs that do not serve food. I had never heard this expression but I knew exactly what it meant as soon as I heard it. In recent weeks, bars and restaurants that serve both alcohol and food have been allowed to open with strict rules. The time a customer is allowed to stay in the establishment is restricted to 90 minutes. Public houses that only serve alcohol have been kept closed. This means most rural pubs, the wet ones, have not been allowed to open. Eating a bag of potato crisps is not considered food. Now there is a date for the reopening but there will still be strict rules and that means no one can stand at the bar while they order or while they drink. Drinks must be served to a person sitting down and staying seated at a table that is a distance from any other table. Rose is not planning to open the pub in the village. It is a very small place. She is thinking that she will give it a few weeks and see how things develop elsewhere goes before she gives it a go.

15 September Tuesday

I saw six greyhounds running along on the side of the road. Several of them had thick blue ropes dangling from their necks. They had escaped from somewhere. They were not running fast but they were not loitering and sniffing at things. They were on the move. The one in the lead was young and light on her feet. She sort of danced along almost on tiptoes. She kept turning her head to check if the other five were still with her. It had all the look of a great day out.

16 September Wednesday

Telling someone to Keep It Between The Ditches is as close as you get to hearing someone telling another person to drive carefully.

18 September Friday

I long for a dog. For the moment I have a windowsill full of animals. It is not enough. It is not the same as a real hungry happy dog but it is something.

20 September Sunday

The freshly mown middle.

Easy Enough to Forget

25 August Tuesday

Tommie was finally allowed to have a visit with Margaret in the care home in Cappoquin. He found it awkward.  He and Margaret sat on opposite sides of a big sheet of glass and they both wore masks. He said she did not know who he was with his mask on, so he took it off. She still did not know who he was.  He felt that after more than 60 years of marriage she should recognize him, but 5 months of no contact had made him easy enough to forget. He was told that he could scheduale a half hour visit every two weeks but before he had the chance to do a second visit, they placed the home back into lockdown.

26 August Wednesday

The ditches are full of honeysuckle and purple loosestrife and creamy clumps of meadowsweet. I am still waiting for the ripening of the blackberries. There are loads of little hard berries but there has not been enough sun to ripen them. The teasels took a beating with all of the storms and winds. They are tumbling everywhere. Very few remain standing fully upright.

27 August Thursday

The roads remain dangerous. Farm vehicles command priority.

28 August Friday

I recognized the woman at the dump. She was the one who had quizzed me about how to dress when dropping off the rubbish and recycling. She said it was a dilemma because if she came all the way into town she wanted to do some other errands and she liked to look nice when she went into a shop. She did not want to wear her good clothes because going to the dump could easily become a messy job if your Black Bag full of the horrible non-recycling stuff broke or if something leaked in the car or spilled when one lifted it up. This woman was always in two minds about whether to dress for the dump or to dress for the town. She lived too far out to make two separate trips. It was last year when she quizzed me about how I managed this issue for myself. When I saw her today, she looked just the same to me as she did then. She certainly did not recognize me from our previous conversation. Either she has resolved the question in her own mind or she is still worrying the problem.

29 August Saturday

As always, the cows ate their way right around one field leaving it tidy and short with straight edges exactly where the fence stopped them eating. Today, after milking, they walked right through that field to the next one where the grass was fresh and long and ready for the eating.

31 August Monday

I saw a yellow plastic ear tag under the gate. It was stuck in the dried mud. I debated whether to crawl over the gate or to squeeze under the gate. I had to get the tag. I looked around until I found a stick. It was a short stick but it worked alright as an extension of my arm. I reached through the gate and scratched away at the mud until I dislodged the plastic. Then I scrabbled and raked it over towards me. As always, I am delighted to have a new tag.

2 September Wednesday

We often hear reports on the radio lamenting the fact that the country is no longer practicing religion as it once did. Actually it is not so much a lament but more of an observation about the change in attitudes and behaviour. Few people attend mass regularly and that is not just because of The Covid. The numbers attending church have been falling for many years. There are not so many people subscribing to the practices of the church. When it comes to a funeral or a wedding or the confirmation rituals for children, it seems everyone is still a Catholic. It remains common to see a car slow down as it passes a church while the driver crosses himself or herself. The crossing is often done while the driver is also on the mobile phone. Many sentences end with the expression God Willing or Please God, especially when anticipating the future. Today my doctor told me on the telephone, “I  will see you on Wednesday at 10.30, God Willing.” In written form I do not usually see God Willing abbreviated (G.W.), but P.G. and T.G. (Thank God) are common on paper. I am not even certain that people realize that they are saying it. They just say it.

4 September Friday

Raspberries are ripening fast now. I am picking a bowlful every day. Sometimes it is just a normal kind of cereal bowlful and sometimes it is a very large bowlful. We are eating copious quantities of raspberries, giving some to neighbours and freezing some. The freezer is full of all sorts of frozen fruit. I spilled an enormous bag packed full of blackcurrants inside the freezer today. The hard little berries all tumbled to the bottom. Of course. It is a pity it was such a large bag. I have yet to go out to the shed to empty the freezer of its contents and shovel up all the escaped blackcurrants. Blackberry picking has not started. They seem to be slow to ripen, although I hear from other people that they have huge quantities growing near them. I am busy enough with my raspberries so I am glad the blackberries are not ready.

5 September Saturday

Breda and I walked up the old path along the stream to the waterfalls. It was clear for most of the way. We remarked on what easy going it was and we remarked that we had not expected it to be so clear, but as soon as we said that we walked into a mass of fallen down trees and branches. Either Storm Ellen or Storm Frances had done the damage. It was a mess. It was a scrabble to get through but with a lot of crawling and snagging and scratching, we managed to get in and then we had to keep going because backing up was not possible.  Halfway though our struggle we heard a man shouting. It was another walker who was crashing through from the other direction. He said he had walked down from Bay Lough which is several hours walk from where we were then. He was a huge fat man and by the time we met him he had blood pouring down his face. When we pointed to the blood he waved his both of his hands in the air and said “No Bother. No Bother. You know yourself. It will be clotting itself any minute now.” And then he marched off down the path.

6 September Sunday

The cows get a bit of fresh grass thrown down to munch on while they are waiting for the rest of the herd to finish up the milking. Some days they wander off down the fields whenever they are ready, but if they are being taken to a new field across the road they have to wait till everyone has been milked. They do not leave the farmyard until they are all ready to go together in a group.

 

7 September Monday

While walking up through Joe’s fields today I found another ear tag mashed into the manure on the track. This one had been snapped off so no doubt the last bit is still in the ear of the cow. A few days ago Breda pointed me towards a tag in the bog when we were up the mountain. She did not want to pick it up but she knew I would want it.  It was a small one, made for a sheep.  Finding three new tags in one week is a thrilling bounty. Sometimes I go for months without finding a single new one.

Bockety

13 August Thursday

The new stove arrives today. It has been an idea on the horizon for months. Back in April, I thought there was a dead rodent in the honeysuckle. The smell near the kitchen bench was terrible. The smell went on and on. I could not believe one small body could take so long to decompose. Then I thought it was second dead rodent. I avoided the bench and I sat elsewhere. There are lots of places to be outside. It was not a bother.
When the gas bottle that provides the fuel for the stove ran out, we replaced it. It reminded us that we meant to buy a new stove last summer and then again in the autumn, but we just never got around to it. Replacing the bottled gas involves unhooking it from the rubber tube and carrying the yellow cylinder to the car and wadding stuff around it so it does not thrash around in the boot while driving to the shop and then having Kieran unload the empty and put a full bottle into the back of the car. And again, wadding a blanket or cramming a box or something around or against it so that it does not crash heavily around in the back when the car turns a corner. I cannot lift the full bottle out of the car. Simon does that. He hooks it up and then we have gas but it is not great this butane gas. It is wet. The heat on the stove has never been high heat. We decided last year to buy an electric stove even though we both dislike electric stoves. What we dislike even more at this point is the constant transporting of gas bottles up and down from the village. Empty gas bottles and full gas bottles. Back and forth and up and down.
After the latest bottle was replaced, it did not last long. It only lasted two weeks which is far too soon to be running out of fuel. A bottle should provide at least 100 hours of cooking. The timing was terrible. It ran out while we were cooking supper. The smell was back again too. I could not believe that there was yet another dead rodent in the same location in the honeysuckle. We decided that maybe there was a leak in the gas line that takes the gas into the kitchen through a small hole in the wall. We thought maybe a rat had chewed the rubber, or maybe the rubber was just old and perished. We began to turn the gas on at the top of the bottle where it stood inside the honeysuckle bush each time we chose to use the stove. Then we had to remind ourselves to turn it back off again when the cooking was done. That was all right on a fine day but when it was raining it was annoying to go outside each time the stove was needed. And then again when it was no longer needed.

Sean Hackett sent out an electrician named Tommy Lonergan. Tommy installed an outlet and switch to adapt the electricity and allow the stove to work.  Now the stove will be delivered and installed. I can take the last gas bottle back to the shop and get our deposit back. I will take back the old empty one and the new one we had on hand in anticipation of yet another one running out. We need never buy another. And as for the honeysuckle, this seems like a very long-winded way to announce that since it has gone scraggy and horrible, and since it’s major function was only ever to hide the gas bottle, perhaps this is the time to cut it down.

14 August Friday

I bumped into Michael Keating this morning. He only just found out that Jim Costigan died. Pat at The Cross told him and he said he had been meaning to tell Michael and Joe for weeks and weeks now, but then he forgot and with no one seeing much of anyone these days the news got lost.
Michael told me how fond his father and Biddy had been of Jim and how much they enjoyed his yearly visits to service their Stanley. Michael said if the times had been different and if he had known, he would surely have driven his mother over to Moyglass for the funeral, but of course he did not know at the time and anyway we were all in lockdown and not able to travel that far from home. We spoke of the many ceremonies and rituals going on without any possibility of being shared in this strange time. We spoke for as long as we could talk with Michael up in the tractor and me standing down on the ground. We talked until a car came along and then we had to move along because we were blocking the road.

 

16 August Sunday

Cows walk from all corners when they are ready to leave a field. Walking around all day while eating grass and changing places does not make much wear on a field.  By the time the walking cows get to the track or the gate that they need to file through they have formed a single line. There is always one cow who is the leader. Their single line nearing the gate quickly wears a path through the grass.

17 August Monday

Julie used the word Bockety to describe the house. It suggested that the house is ramshackle. Bockety is a lovely word. I am not certain if it is a word in common use or if it is her own word. She was quick to tell me that Bockety is used to describe things, not people.

18 August Tuesday

The washing was hanging on the clothes line when the rain began. We had 24 hours of hard steady straight down rain. This morning the clothes line is drooping dangerously low. The clothing is heavy with water. Everything is too wet to bring indoors. I am waiting to see which happens first: Will the clothesline break with the weight of wet fabric or will the clothes dry in the breeze before that happens?

21 August Friday

The early evening silence is enormous. It takes a while to register that the deep quiet is because the wind has stopped. There is no wind. After two days of howling and thrashing and buffeting, the world is silent. We have been beaten and buffeted by gusts of noisy wind since Wednesday night when Storm Ellen hit. Branches and entire trees have fallen down, roofs have blown off, fences have been blown down and electricity has been lost all over the country. This area has been hit harder than usual. The storms off the Atlantic usually hit the west of the country first and they are weak by the time they reach Tipperary.  We got off lightly. We did not lose electricity but lots of homes nearby did.  Along with the winds we had thunder and lightening and rain off and on throughout the days and nights. Here we have had many branches to pick up. Things blew all over the place. There were small animals and birds dead everywhere. They had been tossed into walls and trees. Part of the roof in the entryway to the sauna blew off. The roads are lined with trees being cut up into manageable pieces. I rang Tommie to see how he was after the storm. He said he did not hear a thing. He slept like a baby all though the worst of the winds.  He said “Giving these storms a name like Ellen is a trick to make us less frightened. Sure, we all know an Ellen, don’t we?”

Biddable

27 July Monday

I was thinking that the haying was not quite as frantic as the silage but I was wrong. Few farmers own the enormous machinery needed to cut, turn and bale the hay. Contractors have the machinery and they send out teams to race and rush around the fields in order to do the job for everyone in the area. When they finish one set of fields they are immediately on the road to another set of fields. The big machines are always in motion. They often move in convoys. The machines get bigger every year. Most of them take up the entire road. And the roads are deadly. This afternoon, I was driving up from the village and I met a tractor racing towards me. Then I saw that it was not a single tractor but one tractor followed by two huge machines. There was no way we could pass one another on the narrow road. These were the machines that were as wide as the road. I began to reverse but I was on the narrowest bit of the road just past O’Dwyer’s farm. The corner there is a blind spot and it is a bit scary even without tractors racing around. I was backing slowly. I am not the best backer-upper. Another tractor appeared behind me. This one was pulling a trailer full of hay bales. The trailer made his backing up more difficult. We both went slowly in reverse, as did the second tractor that had come up behind him. I found a field with an open gate and I backed myself in there. I waited in my field while the two tractors and the loaded trailer maneuvered themselves into the O’Dwyers farmyard. The first three were able to drive along on their way and once the second two had come out of the yard and passed up, I drove out of the field and headed home. It was not the longest wait but it was long enough. An idea might be to stay at home until the haying is over.

 

29 July Wednesday

Since Monday the 20th, we have been required to wear masks inside all shops. There was a pair of short muddy boots in front of the shop. A man came out of the shop. He said quietly to himself, “On with the mask. Off with the boots. Off with the mask. On with the boots.” He climbed up into his tractor and drove away.

30 July Thursday

So far we have had one perfect fig from the tree. It was delicious. We could have believed ourselves in Italy while eating it. It was that good.   I am keeping an eye on the rest but the birds are also keeping an eye on them. Sometimes they peck into a fig that is still too hard to be tasty for them.  I do not know why they are in such a hurry.  The pecked fig is ruined for both them and for us. The only thing that we have had copious quantities of this year are the black currants. Everything else has been a victim of the weather. I have a lot of hope pinned on the raspberries and blackberries.

1 August Saturday

I prefer a circular walk but sometimes I am forced by conditions or locations to turn around and go back the same way that I came. This is not a terrible thing. The view is different when the direction changes. But it is less satisfying than a walk which starts in one place and arrives back in the same place without repeating itself. When I am forced to turn around and go back the way I came, I touch the gate or a post or a tree before I turn around. Since the onset of Covid 19 and the threat  of germs I got into the habit of tapping the gate or the pole with my foot instead of my hand.

3 August Monday

We met Thomas while out for a walk somewhere between Goatenbridge and Clogheen. Siobhan knew him. He was happy to chat with us while sitting on his bench near the house. He asked if there was Anything Strange which is just a way of asking if we had any news. He owns 14 old tractors but most of them do not go out anywhere on the road because of the insurance. He just crosses with them into his fields. Or his son does the driving. Or his grandson. Mostly the tractors get worked on and painted and fixed up. One tractor was hooked up to a table saw. It was being used as the power source to run the saw. Thomas had cut some chairs out of trees and made a little sitting place by the road. It might have been for people to stop and sit and rest while they were walking by, or it might have just been just to look at. He included a small table also cut from a tree and on it he placed a teapot.

 

5 August Wednesday

The door was open. The radio was blaring. The keys were in the ignition. The motor was running. The man who owned the car was inside the shop. He wore a mask with his mouth covered but with his nose exposed. He talked to this one and to that one. There were only two or three people inside the shop when he arrived but then someone came in and someone left. It went on like that. He spoke in a loud voice. Maybe he thought nobody could hear him because he was wearing a mask. Maybe his voice sounded muffled to himself. He was in no hurry to leave. Someone suggested that he might run out of petrol keeping the engine running but he said there was no worry about that as he had just filled up over at Joanie’s.

7 August Friday

Biddable. It is not a word I was accustomed to hearing but now I hear it often and I enjoy it. I think it is my new favorite word. When someone is agreeable and not difficult, he or she might be called Biddable. A Biddable person will be someone open to options.  Dogs too are spoken about as being Biddable, but that is about obedience.

 

8 August Saturday

I am trapped by bales.  I cannot drive out through the farmyard. I cannot do anything but wait.

10 August Monday

We had two days of hot sunny summer weather. The mornings began cool with dew on the grass and then the sun warmed everything. After weeks of grey heavy skies and thick humid weather, the change was wonderful. I have been depressed by the lack of summer. Today we woke up to white mist over everything. There was no horizon. It is still warm but the blue sky is gone. We are still waiting to see where the weather will go today.

A Two Bird Morning

12 July Sunday

I was in a hurry. I ran out of the shop, opened the car door and threw my newspapers onto the back seat. As I slammed the door I wondered whose sun hat was on the seat. That was the exact moment when I realised that this was not my car. I re-opened the door, grabbed my papers and apologized to the man sitting in the front seat as I did so. He did not turn around. He mumbled with his mouth full: “You caught me eating The Chocolate. I have been told not to eat The Chocolate.” He did not seem at all bothered that I had put my things into his car and that I then took them out again. He was only worried about being caught eating The Chocolate. I never saw his face so he need not worry that I will identify him.

13 July Monday

A Two Bird Morning. The first was a tiny wren who came into the big room and flew into a window and knocked herself out. I took her outside and placed her under a table. She was still there an hour later. I worried that she might be injured, so I placed a jar lid full of water and some crumbs nearby in case she needed sustenance to get herself flying again. Perhaps it was just the shock that kept her there. An hour later I looked to see if she was still there. I moved the water a little closer to where she was sitting and my movements startled her. She made an awkward little stumble and a wobbly flight and disappeared into the rosemary bush. About an hour later, a starling came sweeping into the kitchen, did a quick circuit and rushed out again.

15 July Wednesday

Tommie is back at home. Again. He was rushed into hospital for a second time. He spent another seven days inside. While there he was given a second test for The Covid which he assured me is a most unpleasant thing. He felt that having the test once was painful but twice was unfair. He said it is the fault of his lungs and his breathing but the antibiotics did their job and now he is pleased to be at home again. He claims to have No Big Energy but for the moment he is committed to the idea that his lack of energy is the fault of the heavy grey and humid weather, and not his health. He reported that his new teeth give him a lot of pleasure every single day. He can eat anything at all without fear that he might be swallowing another tooth. He declares that it was money well spent and that these new teeth that Daniel made him are even better than the last set.

17 July Friday

I had seen a little envelope like this once before. I found it on the ground out in the middle of nowhere. It was from Fourmilewater and it was yellow and white.  I did not know what it was for. Today a neighbour offered me some Dear Little Envelopes from her church. The envelopes are dated and because the dates have expired, she would just be throwing them into the recycling. Because no one has been attending church during the days of the Lockdown, she has a backlog of unused envelopes. She knew I would like them. She knew that they would be a novelty to me. The plain green ones are for the weekly offering. She has loads of those. The ones for special collections have different colours on the top. The three I have been given are for St. Patrick’s Day, a Projects and Development Fund and the Diocesan Priests Easter Collection. People attending the church can decide which causes they want to contribute to. There is no obligation to put money into every envelope. There is no obligation, but there is a list. And every envelope has a number. My neighbour’s envelopes all have the same number printed onto them. This number is her number. The person who gathers the envelopes together in the Parish office can tell exactly who gave what. They can match the number to a name and keep track of the generosity, or the miserliness, of each Mass-goer. Throwing random coins into a collection basket is an anonymous way to contribute to a church. There is nothing anonymous about the envelope system.

18 July Saturday

There are three different windows in the end of the building. The stone shed was part of the farmyard when Maisie lived there. Her house was torn down and a new one built in its place. The shed with the three unmatched windows remains exactly where it was, even though it is hard to remember it’s exact location now without the house to define its spot. It is strong and well-built and the roof is good. These windows were the windows that were available at the time the shed was being built. They were not a decision. They were just there and they did the job.

20 July Monday

Tommie was interested to hear of the visit from Pat, the man who came to investigate our wasps. The wasps that were not wasps but honey bees. I said we had been surprised that Pat knew so much about our house and Willie English and his siblings and Johnnie Mackin and everyone else in the vicinity. He snorted and said, “Of course he knows everyone! He Came Up here.” Pat had told us that himself, but he did not tell us that he was Aidan’s brother. I asked Tommie how I could ever have known that Aidan and Pat were brothers. He said that everyone knows that. I reminded him that of course I did not grow up here myself. I did not Come Up Here. I do not know all of the extended families of every single person whose home place is here. He remained scornful. He told me that I have been here long enough to know these things for myself.

21 July Tuesday

I am picking blackcurrants every other day. The bushes keep producing. The figs are ripening. Both the birds and I are keeping careful track of them. Raspberries promise to be abundant, but the apple trees are not doing very well. Nor the wild plums. Meadowsweet, Brambles, Herb Robert, Dog Roses and Cranesbill climb everywhere. After the seasonal massacre with the hedge-cutting machine, the honeysuckle is again crawling over the ditches and smelling sweet. Ferns. Ferns. Ferns. Everything is growing. Everything is fine.

23 July Thursday

We walked out to Lady’s Abbey to check on the chair with the red velvet seat. I was delighted to see that it was still in its place and still looking well. There was a man we recognized who was mowing and trimming around the graveyard and the Abbey. He used to work for the council but we could not remember his name. He did not remember our names either, but we all knew that we were known to one another. He clears the grass at the Abbey once or twice a year even though he is not paid to do it. He also does the grounds down at the old Ballybacon church. He was wearing a floor length leather apron totally covered with bits of grass. He said he had wondered about the chair himself. His theory was that probably someone left the chair in the small room so that they could bring it out and sit beside a grave. They then put it away so that it would not be wet the next time they came to sit upon it.

25 July Saturday

Tomorrow is Reek Sunday. This is the traditional day for devout Catholics to climb Croagh Patrick. Every year up to 25,000 pilgrims arrive from all over the country. Local farmers open their fields for parking and there are stands for refreshments and volunteers and ambulances at the ready. Mountain Rescue teams are on hand, as are multiple priests at the top of the mountain saying endless Masses. Some of the pilgrims walk in bare feet and others climb in their Sunday best which is not really appropriate clothing for walking up or down a steep and rocky mountain. Croagh Patrick is exactly the kind of pointed mountain that a child might draw. This year the priests and everyone else in County Mayo are asking people not to come and walk the mountain on Sunday as a crowd because of the Covid but instead to spread their visits out over the summer. Tomorrow there will  be no parking and no priests and no one to rescue anyone if there is an accident. There will be chaos if the pilgrims come anyway.

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