Dirty Carrots

 

12 January Sunday

The farmers market was open at barely half capacity yesterday. There were not many stalls and there was very little to buy. It was windy and cold and drizzling with rain.  I am not sure why any of us were there.  I bought Dirty Carrots and a cauliflower from Pat.  I do not like Dirty Carrots. I have never understood the excitement with which they are greeted. People go looking for Dirty Carrots and they are excited when they find them.  I have no problem with a dirty carrot but I will never understand the lure of Dirty Carrots.  Dirty Carrots have clumps of soil on them. They take a lot of washing. The sink is full of sand and clay after they are washed. I do not think they taste any better than any other carrot. I have been marveling about the attraction of Dirty Carrots for years. I rarely buy them, but because there was so little to purchase yesterday I did buy some. While paying for the Dirty Carrots and the cauliflower, I looked at Pat’s money box. He was using small potatoes in the compartments where the bills were piled up in order to keep his paper money from blowing away.

11 January Saturday

When asked if a man would be running for a local political office again, the women seemed to be in agreement that He was very Shook Looking. This did not mean that he had been shaken up nor upset by something.  Mary explained that it meant that he was not looking healthy.

 

10 January Friday

The place where I enter the Lumpy Fields is two rusted gates joined together at a single point in the middle. A twisted piece of wire holds the gates together in a precarious kind of balance.  To make the opening big enough to pass through, I need two hands to lift and push the diagonal gate up into a horizontal position and then I slide it along to allow enough space for me to pass between the edge of the gate and the wire of the electric fence. For some reason the fencing wire is always on even though there are no cows in the vicinity. I do not need much space to squeeze through but I have been zapped enough times to want to avoid more shocks. To close the gate, I slide the one along again until there is more weight in the section of gate on the right and it drops back into its angled position. The two gates are old and not very sturdy but the system works.

 

9 January Thursday

There is a shed up beside the ruin of Murphy’s cottage. It is open to the elements but the roof is still good. There are three small triangular windows in one wall of the building. Someone laid a piece of sheet glass on the bottom edge of one of the triangles, like a window sill.

 

8 January Wednesday

It has been unseasonably mild. There are cows out in fields. Joe’s cows are in a field that has kale in it so this is a winter eating treat for them. It is not normal to see cows out in the fields at this time of year. Most herds are kept under cover in big sheds with open sides so there is air and light but no freedom to roam. They stand on slatted floors so their excrement falls through and they are not standing in their own mess. Standing outside in mud and muck, or inside in muck, causes hoof infections. Joe houses his cows up on a specially constructed platform. The platform is open so the animals are exposed to the elements all winter. I believe this is called an Out Wintering Pad. In the summer months, Joe gets delivery of enormous piles of wood shavings. The shavings get dumped in several piles and he uses the tractor to move them all into a storage place. While they are outside the smell is wonderful and woody. Throughout the winter, fresh shavings get spread down on the outdoor slats and replenished every so often. I find it worrying that the cows are outside in the rain and the cold and the winds all day and all night all winter. Joe has assured me that it is not a problem for the cows. I continue to worry.

7 January Tuesday

The ground underfoot continues to be muddy and slippery. I have been walking out with Breda’s dogs every day. My current preferred route is up Murphy’s lane and into the fields. The stubble in the field is crunchy even while it is soggy. It does not make sense. The stubble gives no resistance underfoot. When flattened it stops my feet from sinking in to the mud but it is soft and pliable and it still makes a crunching noise. I find the combination of crunchy and soggy at the same time confusing. The dogs don’t mind. They are running and running and running and trying to sniff down every single rabbit hole.

6 January Monday

Today is Women’s Christmas. Little Christmas. Nollaig na mBan. Twelfth Night. Epiphany. Today is the last day of Christmas. The tradition is that all the decorations and signs of the holiday must come down and be put away before the day is over. The tree. The wreath. The cards. The lights. Everything must be cleared away. The men are supposed to take over the duties of the house because the understanding is that the women have been doing all of the cooking and cleaning and everything over the twelve days of Christmas and now they need a break. Women gather together to go out for lunch or afternoon tea or dinner just to be together with other women and to have the chance to eat some different food. Women get together to be without children or responsibilities. I assume all of the holiday stuff has to be completed before the women go out but I am not sure exactly who does all the clearing. It is probably the women.  The new thing I learned is that the kitchen floor must be swept before going to bed on Twelfth Night. Again, I do not know who does the sweeping and is it the very very last thing done before going to bed?

 

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He Is Not Keen On Caps.

 

4 January Saturday

Birds are crashing into the windows every day. I think they think it is spring because the days are so mild and things that should not be growing are growing. Most of them fly off but sometimes they knock themselves out when they hit the glass. This afternoon I heard a loud thump. When I went outside, I found a fat robin on the path. She was on her back breathing heavily. After about an hour, she was still there but her breathing was less labored. I picked her up and moved her to the table with a little bit of water and some mashed up nuts. She sat upright and very still for another hour and then a second robin came to collect her and they flew off together.

3 January Friday

I went into a shop in town to buy a few things. The shelves were nearly empty. They did not even have any milk. More places are opening up again after the holidays but the delivery of supplies has not fully kicked back into operation. I sort of wondered why this shop was open at all. When I went to the counter to pay, the woman at the till offered me a coupon for a discount off my few purchases. I said okay and waited but she did not give me a coupon. Her eyes were darting back and forth and back and forth and she moved her head as though she had a crick in the neck. She said “Look at me. Look at me. Look at my eyes. Look where I am looking. Down! Down! Down to the left!” It almost seemed like she was talking to someone else but I was the only person there. I looked down to the left and there was a piece of paper with four coupons on it. She spoke in a loud whisper. She said, “Pick it up. Pick it up. Rip one off and give it to me. I cannot be seen to be giving it to you, but it is there for the taking. There is a camera installed here now and if they see me giving you the coupons, it will mean my job, but there is no reason why you cannot find them for yourself!” I did as she instructed and when I handed her the coupon, she acted surprised and then she gave me 5 euro off my shopping.

 

2 January Thursday

The pencil selling dispenser is new and shaped like a short fat pencil. The top of the unit has a point like a sharpened pencil. It is made of clear plastic with small drawers to open once a pencil has been selected. The little drawers are labelled from 5B or 5H  right on down to plain H.  Every pencil in the display is a Faber Castell. I believe it is the only kind of everyday pencil sold in the entire country.

1 January Wednesday

The boreen is full of trees that have fallen over in the winds and because of the rain. The earth is still so wet. Roots cannot hold. The earth has been wet for so long that even though the rains have stopped everything remains soggy. Branches heavily laden with ivy have snapped off. Once again I am crawling on my knees to go underneath trees and climbing over other trees and slipping in the mud just to take a walk. I am wondering why I do not simply go for a walk somewhere else.

31 December Tuesday

Another unseasonably mild morning. Two women were standing outside the shop talking. One of them was saying that her tree has lasted well this year. She said it is the best Christmas tree she has ever had. She said it still has not dropped any needles. She has confidence that it will last well right up until Twelfth Night. Her companion said that must be because it was more freshly cut when she brought it into the house. “No,” said the woman, “It is because I have been putting Red Bull into the bucket instead of my usual sugar and water.”

30 December Monday

We are seeing shoots of green as daffodils push up and out of the ground. We are not seeing snowdrops yet. The order of everything is wrong.

 

29 December Sunday

Tommie is up and down to Waterford to visit Margaret in Ardkeen Hospital. She fell and broke her hip again. It might be the same hip that she broke a few years ago or it might be the other hip. He might have told me which hip it was, but I have forgotten.  She had to have two operations to get it right. He said that she is weak but cheerful. Different people take Tommie down to visit with her every other day. He finds the whole journey very tiring. It is almost an hour away and he can no longer drive that far himself. I have offered to drive him but he says he has a waiting list of offers so instead I check up on him on the days when he does not go down to Waterford. Billy Kennedy took him down on the 25th so that he could have his Christmas dinner together with Margaret. She cannot hear much and she cannot see much so all she can do is to worry. She worries about small things. She insisted that Tommie take her blue cardigan home and then she asked him to bring it back. She has been back and forth about her purse too. First she is afraid to have it with her in the hospital and then she is afraid to not have it with her. Tommie put his foot down about that.  He is refusing to take her purse back  to the hospital. Now she wants Tommie to bring her the vase that she made by sticking broken ceramics into plaster. She says it will brighten up her room to have the vase and the artificial flowers there. He says she won’t be able to see it anyway. I think it is important for him to discuss these demands that Margaret makes upon him because besides carrying things back and forth to Waterford, there is not one thing he can do to help her.

 

27 December Friday

The morning was cold and grey. We walked up Middlequarter. Just before turning onto the rough track, we met a woman with two small dogs. The first dog stopped in front of Simon and he refused to move. He was not aggressive. He just stopped. The woman said “He is Not Keen on Cats.” We had no idea what she meant. There were no cats in sight. She nudged the dog forward and patted herself on the head. It was well after she and the dogs had gone that we realized she had said Caps. “He is Not Keen on Caps.” The dog had a problem with Simon’s tweed cap and he had to be jollied along to continue walking. I was surprised that a dog would have such an opinion about headgear.

 

25 December Wednesday

There are two feeders full of peanuts hanging on a tree just outside the window. The birds all go for the feeder on the right. There are five or six different kinds of small birds eating at the feeders. Chaffinches. Bullfinches. Blue Tits. Robins. Gold Crests. House Sparrows. Wrens. Maybe there are others too. Every single one of them prefers to eat from the green feeder. The feeder on the right has a green plastic top and a fine metal mesh. The one on the left has a metal top and heavier metal mesh. The green cylinder is emptied hours before the metal one is even one third empty. We watch this happening day after day. I brought the metal feeder indoors and emptied it and scrubbed it with hot water. I thought maybe it had been contaminated in some way and since I rarely remember to wash the feeders, I thought this might be as good a time as any to do it. The cleaned metal feeder did not attract more birds. Next, I moved the feeders. I changed their locations on the tree. The green one was hung where the metal one had been and the metal one was hung where the green one had been. I thought I could trick the birds into going to the metal one which was placed where the green one had been. They have paid no attention to my attempt to confuse. They continue to empty the green feeder first. The birds are all choosing the green topped feeder over the metal topped feeder. I wonder if they can see colour and they prefer the faded green to the not very shiny metal. It does not matter. I wanted to feed the birds and the birds are eating. When the green one is empty they will go for the metal one. Or not.

21 December Saturday

Our usual system has fallen asunder. Derek the postman was off work with a bad back so the post all got piled up inside the box instead of being put into the shed which is the norm when we are away. The substitute postman did not know the system, nor did he have the key to the shed since Derek still had that and he was in too much pain to be worrying about passing on our shed key to the man taking over his delivery route. The old tool box which we have been using as a post box let in the rain after too many days of heavy heavy downpour. Half of everything was sitting inside the box and under several inches of water when we found it. It was not a real problem. Most ink is waterproof these days. It was just a matter of drying letters out on the radiator before opening them. An attempt to remedy the problem in anticipation of future torrential rain was to buy a new plastic box which looked good in the Co-op, but it is really a bit light for the job. We have several weights in the bottom so that the wind cannot move it around and then another stone has been placed on top. There is also a piece of wood under the front edge just to tip the box a little to stop a huge and deep lake forming in the cover. There are clips to hold the lid on but if they are not clipped and the wind is ferocious the whole top blows away. Stone and all. This new box is not ideal. Now I am wondering if we should just return to the rusty tool box and hope that there will not be another prolonged period of heavy rain.

 

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Seven Thirty.

19 December Thursday

The fence has fallen down. It has been propped up many times, first from one side and then from the other side.  I think this is the end. The posts are rotten from the bottom up. The rain and the mud have won. The wild strong winds of last night were the final straw. The wind just blew the fence down. There is no way it will ever stand again. The west of the country was badly hit by these winds.  Losing our already wobbly fence is not much of a problem in comparison. Even the little stile step has given up.

18 December Wednesday

After living here these many years, I still say Seven Thirty instead of Half Seven. And the day after Christmas is just the day after Christmas. But I cannot say that out loud. It is yet another example of how I get things wrong. The day after Christmas is Stephen’s Day or it is St. Stephen’s Day. If I were to say it is Boxing Day that would be incorrect because that is what the English call it. No one here says Boxing Day. And no one says Merry Christmas. It is Happy Christmas. Happy not Merry. Merry would mark me as from somewhere else, as if my accent does not already do that. Nor do I call the Nativity scene The Crib. If I speak of it at all, I would call it the Nativity or the Manger. No one says The Manger. It is always The Crib. The Baby Jesus is in The Crib. The whole scene with the shepherds and the kings and Mary and everyone else is called The Crib. And when people say that they will see me in the New Year they punctuate their good wishes by saying Please God or God Willing. These are two more expressions that are not in my vocabulary. I am consistently marked by the things I get wrong.

17 December Tuesday

I asked for black ink cartridges. The woman in the shop had blue ink cartridges. She had no black ink. She said, “Blue is the correct color for ink. There is no one alive who needs to write with black ink. No one in their right mind would use back ink. Blue is the color for ink.” She was so vehement that I bought the blue ink cartridges even though I did not want them. I wanted black ink. I still want black ink. Now I will have to wait until I use up the blue ink before I can move back to black ink. And I will have to find a different shop.

16 December Monday

Adrian was weighing some parcels for me in his post office cubicle. A man was behind me waiting for his turn at the counter. He was not directly behind me but he was over near the bird seed and the dog foods just looking at things in a relaxed manner. It was not like being in line but it was obvious to both him and to me that he was next and anyway we were the only people there. The radio in the shop was playing some Christmas music. The man was facing towards the bird nuts with his back to me when he started to sing along with the carols. As he got warmed up his voice got louder and he began to harmonize. He sang in a beautiful voice. When I was finished I nodded to him and said “Thank you for the singing.” He nodded back and continued to sing as he walked over to the counter. The song on the radio was not over yet.

15 December Sunday

Laurence has been in and out of hospital and now he is at home again. He looks frail but he seems happy to be back. I asked John how his father was doing and he answered that “He’d want to be as Good as he is.”

 

14 December Saturday

Jim found mouse droppings in his bag of oats. He likes to be the one to prepare the porridge every morning. He makes the porridge for himself and for Margo. Margo is the Polish woman who is living in the house as a carer for Jim. Her real name is not Margo but not one person could pronounce her Polish name so Jim called her Margo. Now everyone else calls her Margo too. Jim is 93 and he cannot be alone at night. Margo has her own rooms upstairs and she is there Just In Case there is a need for her. When Jim found the mouse droppings he said that it was a fiddly job to separate them from the oats. He said that he did not mind that a mouse had been in the oats but that he himself would not be the one to pick out the droppings. He told Margot that this would be a good job for her. He told her that she could separate all of the mouse droppings from the oats and he would stick to the more pressing job of preparing their porridge for breakfast.

13 December Friday

A few years ago, Joe devised a new and sort of rigid system of keeping the gates drawn across so that the cows can move from the field to the yard or from the yard out into the fields. When the gates are pulled across and blocking the car passing, it is inevitably a wet day. It is always a muddy and mucky mess at the top by the farm and it is never the kind of day when I want to get out and go to find someone to open the gates. I could do it myself but that would assume that I am wearing boots and that I do not mind walking in the muck. I always have the wrong sort of shoes for that job and anyway I rarely want to fill the inside of the car with mud and manure. In recent weeks, there has been a new man working with Joe. I assume he is Polish. But he might be Latvian or Moldovian or even Lithuanian. He is definitely Eastern European. He was very cheerful when I needed the gate opened today and then when I came back a little later and the gates were still blocking me he was cheerful again. His English is poor but he told me to just lay on the horn and he would come to open up for me. “No problem.” He said and he repeated: “No problem.”


When the post man finds the gates across the road he uses it as an excuse to not drive down the boreen. He just marks on the letter Gates Locked and that gives him permission to leave our post in the van overnight or even for several nights.

12 December Thursday

We entered the airport through the arrival doors and we were hit with a blast of noise.  There was Irish music playing loudly on some kind of CD player or sound system and a row of five children in school uniforms dancing energetically. This was a welcome home performance for the many people arriving home from far away for the Christmas holidays. At a pause in the music, the five dancing children were shoved out of the way by another five children who took their places and danced and jigged like mad with their hands on their hips and big smiles on their faces. Another group pushed them roughly out of the way and they began to dance. This continued for as long as we watched. Then we were pushed out of the way by the next group of people off another flight coming through the arrivals door.

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You Can’t Go Near It For The Weather.

3 December Tuesday

I found the dead mouse. Most of the stench had already evaporated. It was not the burning of the candle that eliminated the smell. It was the drying out of the corpse. I opened a box containing our small concertina After Brancusi. Dozens of enormous bluebottle flies came flying out smashing into my face and collecting all over my head. I rushed the box outside and the remaining flies flew away. The dead mouse was resting in a sorry clump on top of the little volumes. I could see that some of the contents would need to be thrown away. As would the box. Enough bodily fluids had escaped to render some things ruined. After the mouse was removed what could be rescued was rescued. And once free of the distraction of death, I enjoyed looking at my drawing of the bench which was my whole reason for opening the box in the first place.

2 December Monday

I got a text announcing that a short film had been made about Frank’s shop in Grange. The shop has been closed for several years now. Frank became ill, and his son Shay ran it for a while, but then the family decided to just stop completely.  We none of us knew if it might be re-opened at a later date.  We hoped that it would be re-opened. We all miss Frank’s shop. The film about the shop was made by a grandson and there was a showing of it in the Village Hall in October.  Unfortunately, I missed the viewing. I heard later that the Hall was completely packed out with family and friends. It was standing room only.  It was perfect for Frank and his wife to walk the very few steps from their house to the Hall. They were the stars of the evening. Today PJ sent me this link for the film.  I have already watched it four times.

 

1 December Sunday

It was dry enough this morning to spend time plucking figs. It is one of those jobs I have been meaning to do for the whole month of November. It was one of many jobs that we could not do because of the rain.  The excuse everyone repeats is that You Can’t Go Near It For The Weather. The fig leaves had already died and dried and fallen so the fruits were easily visible. The rule is to pick all of the figs except the ones that are the size of the smallest fingernail. The tiny tiny remaining figs will be the first ones to begin their growth in the spring. Because the morning was sharp and cold, I found that I was snapping the figs off rather than plucking them off the branches.

29 November Friday

The woman told the man in the shop to Leave It Into The Bag. Leave is frequently used in place of the word Put.

 

27 November Wednesday

Ned Shine arrived in the yard in his Hedge Cutter. The machine is always called the Hedge Cutter even though the hedges are always called ditches. Ned was cutting the ditches with his Hedge Cutter. He opened the door of the cab so that we could say hello to one another. His sheepdog was in the cab with him. I could not see the dog until the door was open because she was well below the level of the window. She was tucked in beside Ned’s feet. The dog’s face and my face were exactly across from one another.  I was standing on the ground and she was sitting in the cab. She began to lick my face as soon as the door opened. When she was finished licking, I closed the door and Ned continued with his hedge cutting going back up the boreen.

26 November Tuesday

There is a dead mouse in my workroom. I cannot find it but I can smell it. The stench is bad. There are big fat flies looping about. These are the kind of flies that gather around death. It is probably best that I cannot find the corpse. It is too cold to leave the door open to get rid of the smell. I have been burning a scented candle that someone gave to me as a gift. It is the kind of gift that someone else gave to that someone. And that someone saved it until it was time to pass it on to someone else. No one wants this candle. It has a terrible smell all of its own. I liken it to a floral toilet cleaner. Who makes these candles? Who thinks they are a good idea? Who thinks they smell good? I lit the candle and headed out for a walk. Between the smell of the dead mouse and that of the stinky candle, it was impossible to stay in my room.

 

25 November Monday

Everything is wet. It feels like it has been raining forever. Everything that is not wet and underwater is covered with moss. There is a mossy covering all over everything. The moss grows on rocks and hard surfaces. It loves the damp. It is bright green and cheerful but it is wet. Fields are flooded and there are sandbags all over the place. Everything everywhere underfoot is squishy and slippery. I cannot drive through the farmyard without mud and muck splashing all over the car. And I can neither get in nor out of the car without a special kind of push and leap movement. If I forget to do my leap I end up with a thick line of mud across the back of the right leg of my trousers. Everyday someone tells me that I have mud on my trousers. It is always a woman who tells me. It is always someone telling me nicely and quietly because they think that of course I will want to know. They are certain that I do not want to be out and about in town nor anywhere else with a big clump on mud on my trousers. I always say thank you and I act a little surprised to find that I have mud on my leg. I do not tell them that this is an every day event and that it is not just mud but it is mainly cow manure. It is a greenish brown kind of mud and manure mix because the cows are still eating grass and the color of the manure reflects that. The boreen goes right through the farmyard so I have no choice but to drive through the muck. And it does not matter how often I clean the side of the car the splash-up happens again the minute I drive through the yard. Soon the cows will be moved up onto their winter platform and they will not be crossing the road anymore. The ground will freeze so there will be less mud. I hardly dare to hope that this rain will stop.

24 November Sunday

There was a terrible noise of yelping and baying and barking. The hunt was in the valley. I am not a fan of the hunt. I dislike the advantage of the dressed-up people on horseback. The one who has the horn is called The Master. He is constantly bellowing and blowing and shouting to the dogs and to the other riders across the fields. I hate the fox being hounded out of his world and running for his life. At one point the noise of the dogs down by the stream got louder and louder. I could not stand it for another minute. It sounded like they had cornered the fox. I rushed down the path to shout at the dogs and to confuse them with a different command from a different human. I was running downhill as fast as I could on the rough ground wearing rubber boots. The ground was slippery with wet leaves and muddy grass. I nearly collided with the fox who was rushing uphill to escape the dogs. I do not know which of us was more startled. He turned abruptly and rushed back towards the dogs who were baying. They obviously thought they already had him cornered in some place that he had already slipped away from. The fox did not know that I was there to help him. He could not know that I was not trying to hurt him. I felt terrible. I had foiled his escape route and scared him even more. I felt better when I could tell by the dog sounds that they knew the fox had eluded them. He must have veered left and up into Joe’s field. After that the dogs continued their chaotic running in all directions. I chased them out of the yard each time they arrived until they finally disappeared up and into Donal’s fields.

It’s a Tonic.

7 November Thursday

The winds have been fierce. Leaves are blowing down from any tree that still has leaves. They blow into the kitchen each time the door is opened. I swept them up and then I swept them up again and now I have ceased sweeping. There are leaves on the floor. Sometimes there are a lot and sometimes there are not so many because they get kicked and shuffled into the edges and corners of the room. As I make a cup of tea or do any other job, I am happy to crunch around on them. They make a good sound on the stone floor. The leaves outside are soggy and wet and they make no sound at all when I step on them.

4 November Monday

I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. TippFm was playing quietly on the radio. A special announcement cut in and interrupted the programme to say that Gay Byrne had died. There was only one other person in the room. It was an elderly woman. Her left hand shot right into the the air with her finger pointing upward almost before the announcement was finished. It was the gesture of someone raising their hand to speak in a classroom. She called across to the receptionist in her cubicle and said, “Did you hear that? Gay Byrne is dead!” The receptionist had missed the announcement because she was busy. Together they discussed how very good he was for so many years. Was it 35 or was it 37 years? They agreed that he was brilliant, especially on The Controversial Ideas.
A man came out of the doctor’s rooms and the woman told him right away that Gay Byrne had died.
He looked sad, and a little confused and he asked, “Oooohhh. Ah. No. And how old was he now?”
“He was 85. Such a man. Such a man.”
After the man left, the woman still wanted to talk about Gay Byrne. As a broadcaster and announcer on radio and TV and because of the Late Late Show, everyone in the entire country feels that they know Gay Byrne personally. He was a regular part of life for a long time. Many speak of him fondly as Gaybo. A nickname like that makes him feel even more like family. The woman was determined to continue to be the bringer of this news but there was no one left to tell except for me. I was only two chairs away, but I was reading my book with my head down.  She turned to me and said, “Erica, did you hear that Gay Byrne died?” I was startled to be addressed by my name. But, of course, she already knew my name because when I first arrived into the waiting room, I had gone to the loo and when I came out of the loo, I told the receptionist that someone had peed all over the floor. I said this quietly, but the receptionist answered in a firm and loud voice. She said, “Thank you, Erica!” She said, “I do not want to know but of course I need to know, so thank you, Erica.” She went off to get a mop and I took a seat to await my turn. That is why the old woman knew my name and that is why I got dragged into the conversation about Gay Byrne being dead.

 

2 November Saturday

There is a lot of moss everywhere because there has been so much rain and everything is sodden. I am always pleased to see moss growing and glowing down the centre of the tar road. It acts to remind us all that even though the road is supposed to be wide enough for two vehicles we all drive right down the middle as if it were made for just one. The moss is safe to continue growing down the middle. There is no chance that it will be run over and destroyed by tyres.

 

1 November Friday

Not every bus journey is a good journey. Every so often the bus we board is a terrible old broken-down vehicle and I wonder how and why they ever let that bus out of the depot. Today’s bus was a bad bus. Many of the seats were broken in one way or another. Some of them were leaning backwards nearly horizontal and several were leaning forward so far that no one could possibly sit on the seat. All of the seats were stained. It is difficult, at first glance, to tell if a stain is fresh and wet and sticky, or just a dry discolouring on the old and grubby upholstery. There were no outlets for plugging in and charging phones. All of the tray tables had been broken off. The only good thing was that it was one of the increasingly rare buses with the exuberant running Irish setter on the woven seat covering fabric.

An older man boarded the bus. He shook hands with everyone in the seats all around him before he sat himself down. He pronounced to the bus at large: “It is a fine day. A fine day to travel by bus.”  He said, “It is good to get away for a day. It’s a tonic.” He did not appear to notice that he was reclining well below the level of the windows on his broken seat.

Disembodied Hands

14 October Monday

The announcement is at the entrance to the little park at the Old Bridge. THE FAMILY THAT PRAY TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER is freshly re-painted every year. I love the disembodied hands. The fingers made of concrete get thicker and more stubby looking with each new coat of paint.

The Virgin and her surrounding structure, which is somewhere between a boat and a bathtub, are also repainted regularly. It is the same shade of blue that is used for any painting of grottoes and statues.  I think of it as Virgin Blue. The stones in the stone wall are painted white.  The halo which used to be a glowing blue neon is now just a wire structure. The glass has been broken and It has not been replaced. If I pass by at night the halo is no longer illuminated but since I remember that it used to be lit, my mind keeps the glow going. The wire looks more like a lampshade than it ever did when it was supporting the neon.

12 October Saturday

A lot of rain. A lot of wet. There is mud everywhere. I drove around the corner and slid from one side of the track to the other. I had no control of the vehicle. The mud was in charge. John watched me slide. When I got out of the car, he said, “You Got Taken.”

11 October Friday

The days are getting cooler and Alma’s dog is getting older. The old dog spends most of her day sleeping in the Hot Press. Alma is getting older too so she understands this need for sleep. Alma’s biggest worry is that she will close the door to the Hot Press and forget that Susie is inside.

10 October Thursday

His appointment with the nurse was cancelled due to A Bereavement. He will have to wait God only knows how long for another appointment. Everything stops for A Bereavement and the How Long part is never clear. Grief is not a finite thing. There might be travel to be considered and there may be obligations. No employer can deny how much time can be taken off work for A Bereavement. I think two or three days are considered normal and after that things are up for negotiation.

9 October Wednesday

Alistair visited from Orkney. We walked together up the mass path and stopped to collect horse chestnuts the top. I was filling my pockets with bright shiny conkers and he was collecting the ones barely visible and still in their prickly outer husks. He told me that there are no horse chestnut trees on Orkney. He was gathering a selection of the leathery capsules to show to his grandson who has never seen horse chestnuts. Now I think of Alistair’s grandson every time I pass whatever bounty the tree has dropped since I last walked that way. Today I was bending down and collecting a few more chestnuts when I was thumped from behind and knocked to my knees. It was Jessie the new dog at the Shine’s house. Jessie is another one of those names that people give to dogs but rarely to people. There is always another female dog called Jessie. This Jessie is a St Bernard puppy. At five months old, she is already the size of a small pony and she loves to jump up on people. She has no idea how strong she is. I dread to think how big she will be when she is fully grown.

Evening Is Gone Altogether.

8 October Tuesday

The raspberries continue to ripen so I continue to pick them. There are fewer berries each day so my gathering work is now once a day rather than twice a day. It is better if I pick at the end of the day because the mornings are so wet with dew.  The freezer is full of bagged berries. Raspberry vinegar is quietly fermenting. Instead of two large bowls every day, I bring in one not so large bowl a day.  Everyone we know has received bowls of berries. It has been easy to be generous with such bounty.

7 October Monday

The nights are drawing in. Each day feels shorter than the day before. Today it was not fully light until almost 8 o’clock. The sunset will be at 18.54. If a day is grey and rainy it feels much shorter than a bright day. Conversations are punctuated with a shake of the head and the words, “Ah, Now. The evenings are gone altogether.” Evening is the word for afternoon. Evening is followed by night. If evening is gone altogether then we proceed directly from morning to night. This is all a bit depressing.

6 October Sunday

It has been raining off and on for days. Today was sunny and almost warm. By late afternoon there was no excuse. The grass was dry. We needed to cut it. It was a rapid kind of mowing just so that everything that has grown long does not get out of control. The time available to cut grass gets smaller and smaller as the days get shorter. By the time the morning dew has dried off, it might nearly be dark. Mowing in the dark is a bad idea. Cutting the paths down through the long meadow grass makes everything look sharp and crisp. When the grassy middle of the boreen gets very long and starts to rub against the bottom of the car we know it is well past time to cut it. It does not get cut every time the rest of the grass gets cut. There is not much I like better than the look of the Freshly Mown Middle.

5 October Saturday

Michael has been pestering us for months. He has been inviting us to come and look at his Old Books. He has been promising us that his books are old and that they are valuable and that we will want to come and look at them. He was convinced that the books are valuable simply because they were old. Today was the day. We could no longer escape. He rushed out to his shed and pulled some books from a high shelf. Then he ran upstairs in the house and brought down several more books. A few of the books had covers but the covers were not the covers that had been on the books originally. At some point the books had been roughly torn out of their hard covers. Most of the books had been shoved back into a cover that was not the cover that belonged with the book block. Some of the pages had been used by children as paper for drawing. Some of the pages had been used for lists or for drawn diagrams. Many pages had been nibbled by mice and most were swollen with dampness. There was not one complete book among the 10 or 12 Valuable Volumes. We tried to explain that the books were indeed old but that old is not enough to make a book valuable. Michael became angry with us. The whole time he was talking his cigarette lighter was swinging back and forth. He had it attached to the lapel of his jacket with a safety pin. I could not take my eyes off it. He said that we were frauds and that we did not know anything about books. He said we were of No Use To Him At All.

4 October Friday

We were all waiting with excitement and trepidation for the arrival of Storm Lorenzo. The radio was full of news and warnings and sandbags. We knew that Galway and the west would get a great whacking when the storm came in off the ocean. The coastal areas were mostly under threat. All day Thursday, every conversation turned to Lorenzo. Storm Lorenzo was quickly shortened to Lorenzo. He was a threat but we already knew him. We were on intimate first-name terms with him. Each time the radio was on there was more news about where Lorenzo was, and what route he was taking and whether the warnings were Yellow or Orange. There was preparation in cities, towns and in the countryside, and in the homeless shelters. Battered and Blown were oft-used words. Bingo and Line Dancing and Bridge Clubs were cancelled all over the county. We were told to keep our mobile phones charged up and we were instructed how to call emergency numbers even if the lines and phone towers go down. We were told to have a battery-fed radio with fresh batteries at the ready, as well as candles and torches. Everyone was told to stay home and off the roads and if we did need to be out for any reason at all, we needed to watch out for trees and branches falling or already fallen. We were told that the trees were more dangerous because they were still so heavy. Heavy with what? I asked. The answer was leaves. The trees have not yet lost their leaves so they are heavier with leaves than they will be later when their leaves have fallen. We went to bed with the sound of the gusting wind. We woke up to the sound of gusting wind.
Today we are hearing reports from all over the country. Lorenzo was not as devastating as predicted. There are lots of congratulations at how well prepared we were. The wind continues. The wind is blowing and thrashing and blowing and gusting. It has not stopped once all night and all day.

3 October Thursday

Three Garda had set up a little road block. Every vehicle had to stop. There was no way to continue without stopping. Maybe they were checking to see if people had paid their road tax and if they had up to date insurance. Or maybe it was going to be a breathalyzer test. The laws for Drink Driving have become very strict. The police are checking people at night and they are also checking people in the morning because the medical experts say that it takes 18 hours for alcohol to leave the blood system. People get stopped on their way to work and pulled in for Drink Driving which means it is hard to have a glass of wine with dinner if you know you are going out the next morning. I waited for the two cars in front of me. When I got up to the officer in charge, I said, “Good Morning, Sir. What are you looking for today?” The man leaned right over to my window and said in a hushed voice, “We are looking for Americans but it’s okay. Now we have found one.” He stood up straight and waved me along.

 

2 October Wednesday

I am pleased to announce that Living Locally has been reprinted by Uniformbooks, with financial assistance from A Purse For Books. It presents a distilled selection of the years 2007-2012 from this blog, and is illustrated with my drawings of rusted metal objects. The new blue cover is even brighter and bluer than the original.  I could not be happier.

To order from Coracle:            coracle.ie/living-locally-2/

 

llspread

 

From Slow Boat Review by Nick Holton:

Robert Walser quoted in the opening pages of Living Locally:
“What I saw was as small and poor as it was large and significant, as modest as it was charming, as near as it was good, and as delightful as it was warm.”

When I established SlowBoat in it’s current iteration just over a year ago I would explicitly reference each post against one of the six themes that run beneath the surface of the content – boat / silence / seasonality / sense of place (navigating) / savouring / simplicity – however as the year has passed I’ve increasingly seen posts crossing my self-imposed thematic boundaries and touch on several, or all, themes in the one post.
This book review is a case in point. Artist, writer, printer, and bookmaker Erica Van Horn’s Living Locally is a celebration of simplicity, sense of place, savouring and seasonality.
A ‘chronicle of place’, direct, simple, ‘attention to the everyday’, essential, elemental, colloquial, ‘strangeness found in such a concentration of repetition and usage’. I could take a few lessons from Van Horn when writing blog posts! The fact is this selection from her journals of life in rural Ireland is pretty much perfect.The writing is crystalline in its eloquent simplicity. What she achieves with brevity and gentle repetition is a complete picture of a community, it’s roots, it’s people, the weather, the days chores. It’s a wonderful, admirable and quietly seductive piece of writing. And it gets under your skin, in a good way. It’s neither whimsical nor overtly nostalgic, the descriptive narratives are just that. Acutely observed, bittersweet, astute, comic, warm, Van Horn tells simple tales profoundly well.
I found the book as effective an antidote to our gloomy, strife-torn modern world as you’re likely to get.

Everything is Grand.

1 October Tuesday

It is a simple method for making a tall support. One barrel is placed on top of another barrel. Both ends are cut off the top barrel. The bottom barrel might have its bottom cut off or it might be left on to help to keep the shape. The two are held together somehow while they are filled with a cement mix. When the concrete is hard this makes for a tall strong column. The column can be used to hold up a fence or a gate. I am sure it can be used for others things but what it cannot do is to be moved.

30 September Monday

Everything is Grand. An event is Grand. Dinner is Grand. The weather or a day can be Grand. Grand can be a refusal as well as a positive description. If someone is offered a cup of tea and they do not want a cup of tea they will say “No, you’re Grand.” Or “I’m Grand.” Getting the hay in before a rain is Grand. If something is suggested to do or to be done, the answer to imply agreement will be “Grand”. It is a multi-purpose word which gets used every day in a great number of ways. I doubt I will ever get all of the ways.

29 September Sunday

They call the mannequin Mandy. She is propped up near the potatoes when there are any potatoes growing. Otherwise she just stands or leans around somewhere outside. Robert had some duct tape wrapped around her private parts “Just for The Decency” he said, because her old clothes had worn out or blown to bits or somehow fell off when they moved to the new house. Brendan came up on his tractor to break up the soil with a rotavater. He was shocked by Mandy’s near nudity so he halted his work and drove all the way back to his own house and went upstairs and found some of the clothes left in the press by his mother. His mother has been dead now for at least ten years. He chose an outfit for Mandy and drove back up to Robert’s house on his tractor. Driving from Robert’s to Brendan’s house and back again is a slow enough journey on the tractor. It took Brendan most of the morning. He dressed the mannequin carefully and stood her up beside the ditch. He then finished the job he’d been hired for which was the tilling of the soil.

28 September Saturday

I meet the Dulux Man every Saturday. Every Saturday he asks me if I have found a new dog yet. Every Saturday I tell him I have not found a new dog. I tell him that I am not really looking. Or I say that I am not actively looking to find a new dog but if the right dog happened along I would not be averse to the idea. His current dog is a spaniel and she is perpetually eager to go. She is always tugging at the leash which helps to keep conversations with the Dulux Man brief. He tells me that he takes the dog out four or five times a day so sometimes people say to him that they have not seen him out walking that day but he says that his walking times are always changing and the dog does not mind so neither does he. He never speaks of the dog by a name. The dog is just She. The Dulux Man spends a while at the market talking to the people who are there every week. He talks to those who are customers and those who are vendors. He does not buy anything himself. He just talks. He always wears one of those fishing vests with many pockets. In the summer, he wears a sleeveless T-shirt underneath the vest and when the temperature drops he puts on a long sleeved shirt. It is only September but he has already moved into his long-sleeved mode. I do not know his name so I still call him the Dulux Man in my head. He does not know my name but he does not care. He remembers my dog and dogs are what interest him. One Saturday he told me that his mother was originally from Cahir but she moved over to England when she was young and that is where she lived and that is where he lived too somewhere near Lancaster until he came over here and he has been here since. These are the things I know about him. It is rare that we speak of anything except dogs.

27 September Friday

So far the cows have not arrived in the yard. They now appear to be held at a close distance by a thin string. It is that kind of white string stretched taut between metal posts. The string has a little thin bit of wire with an electric charge in it and I think the cows have learned not to touch it. Sometimes I do not believe there really is a charge in the string. I think the cows just believe there is a charge when they recognize the white string so they stay well away from it.

26 September Thursday

I have received a Jury Summons. I really do not want to sit on a jury again. It was 2016 when I did so before. The older man who was on trail was defending himself although he knew little or nothing of the legal process. He attended proceedings wearing the jacket, waistcoat and trousers from three different tweed suits. He did not wear a tie but his white shirt was clean and buttoned right up to the top. The case was confusing as it involved the accusation of himself entering a solicitors office and throwing a large quantity of used motor oil along the receptionist’s counter and onto the carpet. He made a terrible mess and then he raced out of town on a red bicycle followed by a female Garda on her own bicycle who stood up in court as a witness. After a prolonged flapping of papers, the accused announced to the court that he had never owned a red bicycle. Things in the courtroom progressed very slowly. After several days of this kind of slow procedure, the man changed his plea to Guilty and we. the jury, were sent home. I never understood why he was angry at the solicitor nor why he chose to throw oil around as a way to vent his anger.

25 September Wednesday

What a week for weather. Rain. Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Rain. It is hard to do much out of doors. I am keeping a close eye on the cows in Joe’s field. They are not in the near field but they are in the field just beside the near field. They are very close. If they come back tonight after milking and move into the near field as is their normal way, they will barely be contained. The fence is rotten. The ground is wet and the wood is wet and the fence is old and now it is rotten. It is not rotting. It has rotted. In the last few months, we have propped up bits of the fence and nailed lengths of wood along the horizontal parts but now our temporary fixes are not enough. The posts are rotting from the ground up. We know that Joe is aware of the problem. He will get around to repairing the fence when he has a chance. I just hope he doesn’t forget and let the cows into the near field because if they are in that field they will be here in our yard in a matter of minutes. With everything so wet and so squishy their heavy feet will make a terrible mess.

24 September Tuesday

A sparrow hawk sits on a utility pole between here and Old Grange. He has been on the same pole every day for a week. He sits very very still and moves his head slowly from left to right, right to left and left to right again. The movement is so slight he could be almost asleep. When he sees the prey he wants he swoops off from his pole and he moves fast.  He is gone in a flash.

23 September Monday

The car situation is not as dire as feared. Mike says he can repair what is wrong next week and if we pass the re-test we can put off looking for a new car. Or else we can take our time looking for the right second-hand car. At least we need not leap into a decision.

Hard to Put Down The Time

22 September Sunday

I walked into St. John’s, the Protestant Cathedral in Cashel, because the door was open. I had never been inside before. The door is usually locked when I am in the area. They were were about to begin a special Harvest service. I did not stay for the service but I admired the apples and vegetables placed here and there as decoration.

21 September Saturday

Everyone sits together in a very small waiting room as their cars are tested.  Everyone listens when one of the inspectors come out with the result of each car.  It is impossible not to listen.  The inspector calls out a name.  He calls out the name of the car owner on the certificate even though that might not be the name of the person who has brought the car in for the test.  “Now-Kitty Maher’s car!” I was already nervous because our car is 20 years old. When the the inspector called for my car he jumped right in on the attack. They are eager to get old cars off the road. He was especially harsh about the small bit of paint that Mike sprayed up along a brake pipe to cover what he said was a tiny area of rust. He pronounced, “You cannot just cover over something like that!” He said it three times. His voice got louder each time. It made him angry to think I was trying to trick him. The car failed the test. No one looked at me as I walked out of the waiting room.

20 September Friday

I sat on a cement wall in the hot sun at the petrol station while a young boy power-sprayed manure and mud from the tyre wells and the bottom of the car. The car is scheduled for the NCT vehicle inspection test on Saturday. If manure falls on the heads of the inspection men they will not be happy. They might well fail the car for that. We are living below the farm line. We cannot drive in or out the boreen without going through the yard. The cows cross that way often so there is always a build-up of muck. It is much worse in wet weather than in dry weather. Lucky for me it has been a dry week. When the boy finished spraying there were huge clumps of mud and manure all over the ground underneath the car. He assumed I must be a farmer myself. He said, “With that much muck, I would have thought you would be off up The Ploughing with all the others.”

19 September Thursday

Willie has an answer for everything. Today he said, “Sure, why say it is Bad when you can say it is Not Good.”

18 September Wednesday

The National Ploughing Championships are being held up in County Carlow. The yearly three day event moves around the country. It is always held in a location where there is plenty of land for the various ploughing competitions and farm equipment demonstrations plus all of the other activities around the business of farming. It is unusually good weather for it this year. No rain and no cold, just day after day of glorious sunshine. People are flocking to attend. I know a lot about The Ploughing without ever attending. In that way, it is much like the All-Ireland Match. I find out more than I ever wanted to know without trying. It does not matter if I am interested because it is part of the background. Everyone discusses who is going to The Ploughing and who has gone to The Ploughing. The radio is full of interviews and songs and various special interest items all being broadcast Direct from the Ploughing. This morning I heard about two brothers just back from Minnesota where they won silver medals for some particular form of ploughing. They were looking forward to competing back here at home. It is important for politicians to attend and to be seen among their constituents. The build-up in the weeks before The Ploughing are always full of radio excitement and there was much advice about preparation. I heard a lot about Hoof Polishing. I am not sure why the hooves of a cow need to be polished, but it is subject about which there are strong opinions.

17 September Tuesday

The man was waiting his turn. When he got to the desk he told the librarian he wanted to get a library card. She asked if he had ever had one in this library before. He said No. She asked if he had ever held a library card at another library anywhere in the country and he said No. She raised her voice and demanded, “Well, and why not?”

 

16 September Monday

An Post has new vans. A few years ago they changed all the delivery vans from green to white with a flying postman stretched diagonally across the side of each van. No one liked the white vans.  We all liked the green vans. Now they have changed again this time to a terrible plasticky kind of green and they are ugly.  The new vans are a bit longer and they are a hybrid vehicle which is a good thing.  Derek told us that there is a new man in charge at An Post. He said that the man used to work in television so he knows a lot about telling people what they should like. None of the postmen are happy with the new vans. The new boss is phasing out all deliveries by bicycle too. This is causing a quiet uproar.

15 September Sunday

A dog appeared in the yard. It was old and yellow. I think it was some kind of a Lab but I did not recognise it. It is always a surprise when I do not recognise a dog. I walked outside to greet it and then I heard voices over in Joe’s field. A young man popped his head around and asked if he could cross over the land as he could not easily get through the top gate due to the brambles and thorns. I said yes but told him to be careful of the fence as it is about to fall down and the stile looks sturdy but it is not. He hopped over the fence and four more dogs came rushing through as did a young blonde girl. Maybe she was his sister. None of the dogs were hunting dogs. They were just mixed breeds out for a chaotic walk. I commented on the number of dogs and he said he usually has more with him than the five but today he was traveling light just out on the hunt for some deer. He had a shot gun which startled me. I forgot that it was the beginning of the hunting season. For the next few hours I heard him up on Keating’s hill with a loud horn. It was the kind of horn they use for fox-hunting. He and his dogs and his sister, if it was his sister, criss-crossed back and forth through the woods and the bushes for a long time. I never heard a gun shot but he blew the horn again and again.

14 September Saturday

We produced a shopping bag to commemorate our dear friend Joan who died this summer. She loved the Farmer’s Market so we thought it a fine way to remember her.

 

13 September Friday

There are long tendrils with thorns dangling down from branches in the path. They grab at clothing and hair and skin. Walking up there is a bit tricky especially when I reach the place where the crab apples are all over the path. They make the walking deadly. It is like walking uphill over ball-bearings, but if I try to duck out of the way of the clingy tendrils I am certain to spin out of control on the apples. All it takes is a branch to fall and the entire architecture of the path is changed again.

12 September Thursday

Sharon’s dog was run over and killed. She used to have four dogs and this was the last of the family group. She is heartbroken. She explained her sense of loss by saying, “I am finding it very hard to put down the time.” I was not sure what she meant by that but now I know that she simply does not know what to do with herself.

Destroyer Foam

10 September Tuesday

We are winning the Wasp Wars. There seem to be fewer insects going in and out of the slate opening in the roof. We will continue  the attack until they are gone.

8 September Sunday

The guitar group from the Men’s Shed was playing at the market yesterday. 6 or 8 older men with guitars, and one man in a chair with a tambourine and a saxophone which he did not attempt to play at the same time. The men at the Men’s Shed were given guitar lessons a few years ago. Since then they have formed a band. They arrive and perform at the Saturday market a few times a year. Mostly they all sing together as they strum but at one moment a man named Bobby was introduced and he stood his guitar on its stand and sang out: Have you ever been lonely? Have you ever been blue? The whole band crooned along as background.  Within minutes everyone in the market was singing along as they did their shopping. The stallholders and the customers were all singing with Bobby. He had that kind of voice.  It was difficult to keep our attention on the problem of solving our wasp problem because the singing was louder than any advice we were being given.

7 September Saturday

It was not a good way to wake up. We thought that there were wasps on the outside of the window. Then we realized that they were on the inside of the glass. And we realized that there were a lot of them. We quickly closed the window to stop more from flying into the bedroom. That was a mistake. The wasps were not coming in from outside, they were dropping down one at a time from a tiny hole up in the ceiling light fixture. At short intervals, each wasp squeezed itself out and then hesitated before flying toward the window and the light. The room was full of confused wasps trying to get from where they had been to somewhere else. The noise was loud. Simon began by gently pushing them out the window with a section of newspaper. Then we began to swat at them. Then we got a fly swatter and started to kill aggressively. The vacuum cleaner was next. Alive or dead they got sucked in. We could not keep up with the number dropping down from the ceiling.

The morning was spent getting advice. Everyone has a wasp story. Apparently this year has been a terrible year for wasps. We have had one nest in the roof of the book barn but we have just learned to live with that crowd. We learned that the wasps are all hungry and they are angry and this is the end of their season so they have an air of desperation. I am not sure exactly why they are angry. Kieren told me about a destroyer foam which he says works the best of anything he has ever known and anything he has ever had to sell but he cannot keep it in stock. He sells out of it as soon as he gets it. It is not just the wasps who are desperate. People are desperate too. Wasps are making life hell for everyone. Jim at the market told us that Pat came to his house and rid him of the wasp nest that was in his shed. He did it with a tin of petrol placed in with the nest. We went over to discuss this method with Pat at his vegetable stand. He said he used a long pole to put an open tin into position and by the time the petrol had evaporated the wasps were dead from the fumes. The Co-op had a stock of Destroyer Foam and the woman there was eager to tell us how well it worked.

Back at home we had plenty of wasps still alive inside the vacuum cleaner. We also had them all over the duvet and in drawers and on pieces of clothing and in shoes. Some were dead and some were alive. We also had a few more stragglers coming down through the ceiling light. Simon filled the little holes and then he glued the light onto the ceiling with a long length of timber pressing it up and tight for a few hours so that no more wasps would be able to squeeze through. It took us a while to locate the place outside between the slates where the wasps were going in and out. It was on the opposite side of the house.

We had been instructed to use the destroying foam just before darkness or at dawn, while the wasps were inside and sleeping. There was a sudden moment when the night went from dusk to very dark. We were not paying attention so we kind of missed our slot. We decided that it was too dark to go up a ladder especially not knowing if a swarm of wasps might come rushing out at the person with the can of spray. The first raid was planned for early morning.

6 September Friday

The big black bull has returned.  He is back in Joe’s front field. He was here for a few weeks and then he was gone and now he is back again. He is curious about me whenever I walk by.  He comes over the the fence and watches as I pass. I think he is not really interested in me.  He is just bored being in that big field all alone.

5 September Thursday

Gavin is back after three months in Boston. Many Irish college students do this. It is a part of a system called a J2 Visa. The students have permission to work for three months in the USA. They need to get the job beforehand, from a list which the J2 organization has ready. They live crammed into apartments that are too small for the many occupants. They have a wonderful time. Some of the students come home with the money they have earned. Some of them spend everything they earn and return for their last year of university completely broke. Gavin worked for a moving company all summer and he traveled all around both with the job and with his friends. He went out of the city into Massachusetts and to New Hampshire, Cape Cod, Maine and all the way to Washington DC. When I asked how he liked it, he was full of the excitement and the heat and the many differences. He commented that he was surprised that he never saw a single cow for the entire time he was in America. I was surprised that he found this notable enough to mention.

4 September Wednesday

The raspberries continue to ripen rapidly. I pick them twice a day. I am happy to share them. I am frequently told that I should be making jam. I do not want to make jam. I do not want to do anything with the raspberries. I just want to eat them. I freeze some to eat later. I usually keep one bowlful for us and take another bowlful to someone else. Each time I give the raspberries to anyone they comment that it is late in the year for raspberries. I explain that it is my Autumn Bliss breed but still they behave as though it is not right to be having raspberries at this time of the year. I offered some to Shirley when she was here re-painting a text on the gable end for Simon. She was thrilled. She said she loves raspberries. She announced, “Call me a pleb if you like but I just hate strawberries. I cannot be bothered with them. Of course I eat them out of a tin like everyone else but I would never touch a fresh one.”

3 September Tuesday

I am sitting up in my room. The stench of slurry spread across Joe’s fields is making my eyes water. I hate to close the door on a sunny day but this morning I have no choice.

2 September Monday

Paddy is a farmer. He has been farming all his life. He is 80. He is a big advocate for taking exercise. Two years ago he could not bend down to tie his shoes because he was so stiff. His daughter signed him up for a class in water aerobics. He likes the class and has been attending weekly ever since. He is proud that he is now both fit and flexible. He is proud of his body. Thursday last he was trapped in his tractor. He could not open either door to get out. He was trapped and locked in. He had no reception on his phone. He swung the back window open and crawled up and out over the seat. He is quick to tell everyone he meets that he could not have done that two years ago. Back then he would have had to wait the day out until someone came to find him and rescue him and that would have been if he was lucky. He might have had to wait two days for anyone to notice that he was missing.

1 September Sunday

The Lumpy Fields are special. The land is fertile land but it is rough. Disheveled is the way to describe it. It has been a while since I have walked there because the cows use the fields a lot in the summer months. Now I have Jessie and Molly to walk every day and that is where we go. There are many rabbits. Every field is bordered by hundreds of holes. The dogs go mad and run fast to smell everything and to investigate. They are finding their news in the fields.

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