Hand Cut Gate

11 October Wednesday

No one wants to turn on their heat yet. We all speak about it. It is almost a competition. It is only the 11th of October. It becomes a game to put it off for as long as possible. If anyone does turn on the heat they probably won’t admit it. The first of November is the ideal. Already the nights are chilly and the mornings are damp and cold. When the sun is out it is easy to forget about the cold and about the clothes not drying and the extra sweater. A fire in the wood stove is welcome enough at night. But when the day is cold and windy and wet the house can feel just miserable. Today is wild and windy but bright and sunny. We are not thinking about heat.

10 October Tuesday

I received a text from the library informing me that the book I had requested was now on reserve for me. It will be held for 7 days. I have no recollection of requesting a book. Once again this book offers me the pleasure of complete surprise. Once again, Marie, the head librarian, has decided that this is a book I should read. It might be a library book or it might be her own book. Either way she is certain that it is a book I need to read. It is a book I shall want to read. I have no doubt that this is the best possible service any library can offer a reader.

9 October Monday

I still go out most mornings to pick raspberries for breakfast. Every day I think that today will be the last day. There are fewer berries and some of them are just too ripe and too wet. The ones that are a deep dark beautiful red do not taste much like raspberries. Instead, they taste like fruit water. I pick the ones that are lighter in colour and almost a bit unripe. I go out to pick wearing my dressing gown over my pajamas and my Wellington boots. If I got dressed in my clothes for the day before I went out to pick raspberries, I would get so wet that I would need to change maybe even before I ate breakfast. That is just how wet the leaves are. And this is why I am often greeting the postman standing outside in my dressing gown with my partially filled bowl of berries. He does not seem to notice nor to mind my appearance. He is happy to accept a handful of raspberries before continuing on his way.

8 October Sunday

The woman who died is not a woman I know. Nor do I know her family. They all moved away years ago and she herself has been in a home for twelve years now. Two women were discussing her. They were fondly remembering that her specialty had been pricing the cakes for the Bake Sale.

7 October Saturday

There are still sweet peas to bring into the house. They are perfect to look at but they are devoid of smell. The cooler nights must have chilled them into this state.

6 October Friday

Breda and her sisters are trying to keep track of Jim who is 91 or maybe 92. He is living in the house he has always lived in. He is not driving any more so they take turns ferrying him to doctor’s appointments and out for his shopping. They have a sort of rota as to who visits him when just so they can keep track of him. They were taking it in turns to bring him a cooked dinner until one of the sisters decided it was better for him to prepare his own food. It kept him active and gave him some engagement both with his shopping choices and the preparation of the food. Breda stopped by yesterday and saw Jim standing by the gate.   The neighbour’s horse was just over on the other side of the gate. She assumed that Jim was talking to the horse but what he was doing was peeling a carrot over the gate so that the peelings dropped onto the ground. He said the horse could eat them if she wanted. He had two more carrots in his back pockets. The one on the left side had been peeled already. The one on the right side was still waiting to be peeled.

5 October Thursday

I heard Johnny announce  that he was shocked by the whole thing.  He said “I Nearly Fell Out of My Stand Up!”

4 October Wednesday

I sat in the log cabin at Daltons’ while my head lamps were adjusted. I was impressed that there is now a huge plate glass picture window in the cabin. No other customers are going to be left sitting there for hours while everyone goes home or out to lunch. I could see out into the work area and anyone in the work area could look in and see me sitting there on the plastic couch. I had already washed the car and filled the tires and cleaned out the inside and Mike had given the whole thing a look over. All this had involved two days of preparation. The lights were the last thing to do as the smallest bump in the road could set them off kilter. The man was not sure he had fixed them properly so he would not charge me for his time. He told me to come back after the test and if I had not passed because of the lights he would not charge me anything but if I passed I could give him ten euro.

I went to the NCT office and sat inside with the other people waiting for their test results. There were eight of us. There were three large windows so that we could watch the testing area and keep track of our own car. The new theory is that no one repairs their car before the test. They just wait to be told which parts failed and then they go and get that thing fixed. Variations on this were being discussed endlessly as we all waited. The rumour is that the authorities want to get old cars off the road so they are trying to find more things wrong with older vehicles. My vehicle is old. It is 19 years old. I had no doubt something would be found to be wrong. I was right. I failed the test but not because of the lights. I went back to the man and paid him ten euro and then went to Mike to discuss what needs to be done to pass. It is the rear suspension and the steering linkage. He says it is not a problem and that it will be simple to sort. But not today.

3 October Tuesday

I arrived on the street in front of the clinic. There was a woman standing in front of the door. She shouted at me, “The Eye Man, is it? He is right in there but you’ll have to wait. He has a following, so he does.” She moved out of the way to allow me to enter the building. It was my final check up after the cataract surgery. The waiting room was full. There were two seats taken for each appointment. There were a lot of elderly people waiting and each of them had a younger person with them. I was the youngest person of both sorts and I was the only person on my own. The woman beside me spoke in a loud voice to the man next to her. She said, “So you’ve been here before?” He answered, “I must have been.”

2 October Monday

Everyone has things left for them at one shop or the other. McCarra’s shop and O’Dwyer’s shop are both helpful about taking things in for people. There are too many people who live up the mountains or down terrible roads like our own. The couriers cannot be seeking us out all day long as there is often no phone service and anyway we all end up stopping in at the shop eventually and then we can pick up whatever was left for us. The trouble is that the person who is looking for the parcel is rarely the one who put it wherever it is now.

Maud left something for us at the shop last week. Now we have come to collect it. No one knows exactly what size the parcel is and since they do not know what it looks like it is harder to find it. The area behind the counter and up on the shelf is cluttered with things dropped off by neighbours and friends and couriers. Everything gets put somewhere but that somewhere is not always evident. The thing might be behind the counter or it might be in the hardware shop or if it is large it might be in the shed or it might be behind the post office counter. Things are always found eventually but the finding is rarely fast.

1 October Sunday

Yesterday we went to a celebration gathering for Pam up in the mountains at an old hotel. We had never been to this hotel before. It smelled badly of mildew and damp and there was a lot of wallpaper peeling off the walls. In some places the paper had been stuck down with bits of sello tape and sometimes staples had been used. Many friends and family were there and there were a few speeches and stories all about Pam and her long life. It was a cheerful event. Small triangular sandwiches were served with the crusts cut off. This was the kind of food Pam liked to serve and to eat herself. She loved having tea. It is a pity no crisps were served as everyone who knew Pam knew how she loved crisps although since her preferred place to eat them was in bed maybe it is just as well they were not on offer. As we drove back down the mountains and over the Vee the sheep were everywhere on the road.  It made for a slower drive but not an unpleasant one.

30 September Saturday

I have a new feeling about the slugs in the bathroom. Even if the window has been closed for hours I walk in at night and I know they are there. I turn on the light and I enter the room and I stand very quietly in the doorway. My eyes search around from floor to ceiling. I don’t move. Only my eyes move. I do not know if slugs can hear anyway. I know they are there even when I cannot see them and I am determined to let them know that I know. Sometimes I see one on the side of the sink or in the tub. Sometimes I do not see any but I know they have been there by their tracks all over the mirrors and the windows. I hate that they are hiding in the underneath dark places. Once I leave and turn off the light I forget all about them but I do not like to be surprised by even the smallest of slugs.


Two Fox Morning

23 September Saturday

A Two Fox Morning and it is still early. Several have been through the yard. The first was the old scruffy looking fox climbing uphill and moving slowly. It is hard to assign this fox a colour. He is messy and sort of brown and dirty and his tail is half cut off. It looks like his tail was caught in something and cut with a straight line down the middle. This tail does not come to a point anymore. This tail ends with a straight line. I have never seen a tail cut like that. I have never seen any fox with his tail cut. The second fox moved quickly and gracefully almost like a dancer dashing quickly from place to place without any sense of rushing. The second fox was beautiful and red with a perfect white tip on its bushy tail.

22 September Friday

The raspberries keep ripening. The blackberries keep ripening. I pick them. We eat them. I give them away. I freeze them. I feel like I am constantly picking berries. We gathered all the wild damsons and made an enormous quantity of thick sauce. It is a beautiful colour and it tastes wonderful. We will be able to dig it out of the freezer for months and months. There is a lot of it. There are rose hips and elderberries and sloes.  I am not even dealing with them. Andrzej and I went up to Johnnie’s orchard on Monday. We took four buckets with us. We returned with one bucket only partly full. Thwarted optimism. My apple trees are not the only ones that have suffered a dreadful year. It does not make me feel any better to see so few apples elsewhere.

21 September Thursday

It was Jim who said it to another man. He said it with a great laugh. Everyone laughed so I smiled along though I did not really understand it. I have thought and thought about this expression but I still do not understand it. He said “You’re lovely up front like the back of an old dresser.”

20 September Wednesday

They promised rain for today and said it would be Turning Persistent For a Time. Once the rain started, it rained without stopping for the entire day and into the night. Persistent seems a polite word for this kind of downpour.

19 September Tuesday

A Nominated Neighbour Scheme is being introduced. From what I understand, older people living on their own will receive a card to hold up in a window to tell a visitor that they are not recognized and therefore they should go to the Nominated Neighbour whose name and address are displayed on the card. The neighbour will then check the callers identity and maybe even return with the caller to the persons house after having been satisfied that they are genuine. Of course, this all depends on the Nominated Neighbour being at home when a stranger calls. It also depends on the stranger not being a complete lunatic.


A Right to Strong Suction.

 

17 September Sunday

It has been there for a while now. Maybe it is already four or even five months. For a while I assumed it was a temporary solution. I thought it would just be there until something more permanent could be found. Now I realize that the waste bin is going nowhere. It is tied to the front gate with rope. It rests against the inside of the gate at an angle. It is silver and the kind of bin with a pedal on the bottom. It is made so that a person can step on the pedal and open the bin. There is no need to touch the top flap to open it. But a foot pedal is no help for the postman. I doubt he could reach down inside the gate and push it with his hand with enough pressure to open the top. Even if he could reach in and press the pedal, I fear the opening of the top would slap him in the face. And anyway, now a flood gate apparatus has been put across the front of the gate so it will be even harder to lean in and reach the pedal. No doubt the postman just opens the bin with his fingers. And anything he places inside will stay good and dry even on a desperate rainy day when no one goes out of doors to check the post anyway.

16 September Saturday

Mary was at the market this morning. She does not look well. She too has had her cataracts done recently but she is not happy. She says that her vision is all wrong. She looked like she might cry at any moment. She studied my eyes carefully to try to see how they are. She did the same thing to Jim who had his done last year. I am not sure what she was hoping to see. She also had a knee replaced in the spring. I think she is more than a little exasperated about getting old. She is annoyed with various body parts that have always worked properly and are now demanding endless attention. On top of all that, she is angry at the European Union. They are discussing, or maybe they have already passed into law, something about the power and the energy consumption of vacuum cleaners. Mary is outraged that Those People in Europe feel they can intrude on this aspect of her life. She complained to everyone she saw. She asked again and again, “Whatever are you to do if you feel you have A Right to Strong Suction?”

15 September Friday

I entered the room. I heard a thud. I looked up. There was an owl looking straight at me. He was pressed up against the outside of the window. I was just inside. We were very close to one another. His right wing was spread out in a flying position and the left one was down beside his body. He must have flown into the glass because of the light. We stared at each other without moving for several seconds. Then he stepped backwards off the window ledge and into the darkness.

14 September Thursday

Evening is a constant challenge. I tend to think of evening as the soft time before full darkness. It is the time before night. Evening is the few hours between afternoon and night. Around here, if a man tells you he will deliver something in the Evening, he means he will be with you any time after dinner. That means you can expect him any time after your lunch, which is his dinner. The time after dinner can extend right up until night. Evening is then Evening. Sometimes it is possible to pin a person down to a specific time, but mostly you just have to wait.

13 September Wednesday

I am hoping that Michael has found a new place to call his own. I do not know if the other robins chased him away. There are two robins who still stop at the table regularly. They both have fat bodies and strong straight legs. They are not Michael. I was worried about him in the wild winds but the winds have stopped now. I thought he might be sheltering but if that was the case he should be back. I have spent time in the places he used to go with me. I have picked raspberries and talked to him as if he was nearby. I hoped that if he was hiding my voice might encourage him to come out. I have done some weeding. I have sat on the kitchen bench and I have drunk tea out at the big table always hoping and hoping he might appear. I have been hoping his curiosity would make him come along to see what I was doing.   One day I sat on the bench in the rain under an umbrella just in case he felt the rain provided a safe time to come out of hiding. Most birds are not out in the rain. I hope wherever he is that he is happy. He might not remember our voices and our treats. The brain of a robin might not hold onto a past. Maybe the present is enough. I still look outside for him many times each day. I hope he is not dead.


Never not in my ears

11 September Monday

The wind never stops. It never stops. It is exciting and it is completely annoying. I cannot remember how long it has been. It seems like it has been windy forever. I feel we could be blown away. We might end up in another country or at least another county. The sun has come out and in between glorious bright sunshine there are small amounts of rain. The rain falls while the sun shines. Every few minutes the day is different. Some robins have appeared around the table. They are here to eat crumbs but none of the robins are Michael. I am looking carefully at their markings and their legs which are all strong and straight. I am looking for the crooked tail feather. I am worried. I thought maybe all the robins had gone away but that is not the case. I wonder if Michael has been chased away by bigger birds or if he has been blown away by the wind or if he has been the victim of a bigger creature. Some of the robins are here. Where is Michael?

10 September Sunday

The woman walked into the waiting room and waved to the receptionist. She shouted “It’s Myself!” as she plopped down into the chair nearest to the door.

9 September Saturday

Billy the Wood came and delivered several loads of firewood today. We had far too many phone calls back and forth to get this delivery arranged. It seemed to be unusually complicated to get a time organized. When I had to ring him, I thought maybe it was his wife answering the phone. Even as I say this, I do not even know if Billy has a wife. I do not know anything about Billy. Billy’s voice does not really sound like a woman’s voice but it does not sound like a man’s voice. It does not sound like any other voice I know. It is a strange and most particular voice. I find it just as strange when he is standing in front of me as I do when I am on the phone and I do not know if I am speaking to a man or a woman. The wood that Billy brought is half ash and half birch. I was wondering whether to cover the pile with a big tarpaulin but the rain started lashing down before I decided. This wood has been wet before so I cannot worry about it being wet again. And anyway, any kind of a cover would have been difficult to hold down in the wind. I would have needed a lot of big pieces of the wood on top to hold it down and then all the wood piled on top would all get wet anyway.

8 September Friday

The winds are wild and gusty. We are being buffeted about. The sound of the wind is never not in my ears. It is always in my ears. I hear it when I am inside the house and I hear it when I am outside the house. I hear it while I sleep and while I eat. I hear it while I am thinking of other things. I am worried about Michael. I have not seen him all day. I hope he is tucked away somewhere safe and out of the wind. I think he spends a lot of time under the rosemary bush. I hope he has plenty to eat.

7 September Thursday

The two-sided sign at Kilnabutler which was wrapped in black plastic all summer has been unwrapped. The honey is ready.

6 September Wednesday

I am taking Jessie and Molly out for a walk every afternoon. We have been walking in the same field each day. Today is the eighth day. It is a walk I do not have a name for yet. We walk through a gate and up a track to get to the field and then through another gate before we get to the field. We go all around the perimeter and the rejoin the track near the second gate. On one side there is a small house which has been empty for as long as I have been here. The doors and windows are broken in. Most of the house is covered with green growth: brambles and bushes and trees. We can see this building from the road at certain vantage points. I wish I knew whose house it once was. The field is owned by a man named Murphy but the house might have nothing to do with him. The hay or wheat has been cut so we are not walking on a crop. The remaining stubble makes a clacking kind of sound when we step on it. When both dogs are close to me we sound like an cartoon orchestra but mostly the dogs are rushing around at high speed and I am clicking and clacking through the stubble alone. I am trying to find the right word to describe this crunching hollow noise. I am trying to find a word for the noise and I am trying to find a name for the walk.


Frank’s Shop

5 September Tuesday

Frank’s shop is closing. Today is the final day. Frank is in hospital.  He is in intensive care. He had surgery last week. If the shop is closing it is all very serious. The shop is Frank’s shop. The family lives in the house connected to the shop but I have never seen Frank’s wife working there. I never saw Frank’s wife at all. Or if I did see her I did not know who she was. His son worked in the shop sometimes. Last time I saw the son in there I asked for a lemon. The son asked why would I be wanting a lemon. I bought milk just so that I would be buying something since I had gone there for a lemon but there were no lemons to buy and I felt I could not leave without buying something. The shop has been a center for local news and for couriers dropping off parcels for people who live down long hard to find lanes as well as a place for basic groceries and newspapers. It is the only shop in the village. There is the shop and the church and the school and the community hall. That is the entire village center. Frank used to have a post office counter in the shop but that got taken away a few years ago. Now there is only a post box outside. There are also two pumps, one for petrol and one for diesel. I am sad about the village without the shop. I am worried about the old dog who walks there every day for his treat. I am worried for Frank’s family. I am worried for Frank. We are all worried for Frank.

4 September Monday

The physiotherapist was happy with my hand. She sent me home with more exercise instructions and a piece of rubber. It is three months since my fall and fracture. I feel I am healed. She said it will be a few more months before I regain full strength. She said there was no need to see her again but even so there is a good chance that I will see her again as she lives just up on the road in Grange near to where the old dog walks the middle line every day to go to Franks’s shop. We spoke of the old dog and we spoke of Frank and his recent surgery. Now that we know who each of us are and we would recognize one another we probably will indeed see each other often. There is a good chance we saw one another before but since we did not know each other then we did not know that we lived sort of nearby.

3 September Sunday

Michael sits on my knee. He sits on Simon’s shoulder. He has not sat upon my shoulder and he has not sat upon Simon’s knee. Today he sat on Maud’s foot. He is completely happy to be near us and on us. Sudden movements frighten him but mostly he appears to like the sound of voices and the presence of people. He made a diving attack on some other robins who showed up and started to eat some of his crumbs so I am less worried about him being able to survive than I was. His leg is bent but it does not stop him from flying. It does not dangle from his body in such a useless way.

2 September Saturday

Last Saturday we had a stall at the market. We sold our books and cards. Jim brought a table and a canopy kind of cover for us. It did not rain so we did not need the cover but it was nice to have it just in case. Catherine loaned me the postcard rack from the shop. She said I could take it if I took all of the cards out and then put them all back in when I returned the rack. I asked what would she do if someone needed a postcard while they are all shoved into a box. She snorted and said “No one is after buying postcards anymore.”

The stallholders at the Farmers Market try to offer some things to interest the busloads of visitors who arrive every Saturday morning. Sometimes as many as five buses arrive. The tourists might be from somewhere else in Ireland or from England or they might be from France or Germany or Israel. They could be from anywhere. Once there was a load from China. They come to see Cahir Castle and the Swiss Cottage and the tiny John Nash church. It is always nice if lots of ducks are in the river. The visitors love the ducks. The trouble with busloads of tourists is that they are driven from place to place and that usually involves a lot of eating stops and a big breakfast. They have no need to buy plants or raw fish or vegetables. Stella makes some small single portion rectangular cakes with them in mind as well as scones, which are popular. Traveling types might purchase apples, berries or a jar of jam. They might buy a wooden egg cup or a bowl or a tea cosy.

Pat likes to have different tables now and again just to vary what the market offers. I was convinced that the visitors would be delighted to see some of our cards on offer. We filled up the rack with a fine selection. The rack held about 24 cards. We tried to bring things mostly of local interest or of Irish interest. Catherine was right. Not much of anyone wants to buy postcards anymore. A busload from Dresden spent a long time looking at every single card but they did not buy any. They did not look at the books. We did sell some things and we had a lovely morning. We came home with gifts of a cauliflower and green beans.

When I returned the postcard rack to the shop Catherine said someone had been looking for a postcard that morning for the first time in months and no one knew where the boxful off the rack had been put.

Today, customers of the regular sort, not the visiting sort, asked us why we were not there with our books again. They are asking when we will return. This week we were just customers but maybe we shall borrow the table and the canopy and the postcard rack and do it all again sometime before winter comes.

1 September Friday

My eyes are seeing colours in the new way all the time now. Most greys have a lot of lavender in them. I was afraid two eyes done would return me to the old colour range but blues and lavenders are now more prevalent than blacks and greys. Sometimes I need to ask someone else how a colour looks to them. I cannot close first one eye and then the other to test by myself anymore. The world looks a lot more lively. This morning the entire valley disappeared in a thick white fog but even the white fog had a nice bright tone on it. By the time the sun cleared it away I sort of missed the look of the world ending at the fence.

31 September Thursday

Michael was being badly bullied by some bigger fatter robins this morning. He walked into the kitchen so I fed him some cracker crumbs on the floor. He ate in his sitting down position in peace and quiet.

30 August Wednesday

As I drove to Kilkenny a sign appeared several times on trees and posts. It was not until the return trip from the hospital when I was not allowed to drive that I realized that HAM SANDWICH was not an announcement for something to eat. The big black letters had a date printed small below it. That was when I realized that HAM SANDWICH was the name of a band.


Fire Depot

Today is the last day that I need a contact lens. After forty five years of using them it is odd to know that I will not need to buy them, put them in, or take them out ever again. Monday is my second eye operation. I went to see Mr. O’Reilly this week. He was pleased with the first eye. He said it is perfect. He was not so pleased with me. He said that I fought him during the surgery. The local anesthetic did not relax me enough. The day after the first eye was done he said I would have a choice, but this week he said I have no choice. He wants me to have the general anesthetic for this second eye. I asked him about the change in colours and he said that was normal. I wanted to know more about how my two eyes will function together. I wanted to know if the blacks and greys would still be full of blues and lavenders or if everything would settle down. I wanted to know why the road in front of me looked grey and the road in the rear view mirror looked lavender. I guess these sorts of questions are no longer interesting to him. He knows how things go. He looks very young but still, he has been doing these operations for a long time. None of it is new and exciting for him. Mr.O’Reilly told me that I ask too many questions.

26 August Saturday

This morning Michael is sitting on the table while he eats his crumbs. He sits on the table the way a mother bird sits on her nest. His left leg has gone off into the same uncomfortable looking angle it was at a week ago. We thought it was fully healed. Now it looks like a bit of wire hanging off his body. It does not look like a leg. It is worrying. When he stands on the dish taking sips of water, he can hardly stop himself from falling into the water. Balancing on one leg is no treat. Luckily flying is no problem for him. I use a piece of Kilkenny limestone to gently smash his biscuits into small pieces. He does not fly away when I mash. He stays close waiting until I stop so that he can begin eating.

25 August Friday

Way back when Mick the electrician installed sockets in this house he was eager to install more then we thought we needed. He said “Better To Be Looking At Them Than Looking For Them”. He said this again and again and again. I was reminded of Mick and his words this week. Peter Ryan said he did some work at a house. The work he was doing was not electrical work. He saw there were 38 sockets installed in the bedroom of the house. He said “I do not care what people get up to in their bedrooms but no matter what way you think on it, 38 sockets are a lot of sockets.”

24 August Thursday

There is a lot of talk about Lollipop Ladies. School is starting next week. No one speaks of Lollipop Ladies in the summer. Now young children must be trained to pay attention to what the Lollipop Lady tells them. For me, the person who stood at the crosswalks to stop the cars and let the children go from one side to the other side safely was called a Crossing Guard. It was ages before I understood what a Lollipop Lady was. A Lollipop Lady has a long stick with a round sign on the top of it. The sign says STOP. When the Lollipop Lady walks into the road and holds up her sign the cars must stop and then the children can cross. The round sign on the thin stick looks like a lollipop so that is where the name comes from. There are Lollipop Men as well as Lollipop Ladies.

23 August Wednesday

This is not a country for figs. I remind myself of this again and again. I am always hopeful that the summer will be so hot that the figs will be juicy and wonderful to eat in the hand. This will never happen. After all the squeezing and waiting and throwing away of moldy figs I finally got the right amount for a tart. There was extra fig juice to pour over it. The tart was perfect. I have now begun collecting for another one. And all this while the raspberries keep coming and the blackberries are ripening by the minute and the ditches are full of honeysuckle. Sadly we have not one apple on any of the trees. The few that appeared have been attacked by birds and have fallen to the ground. It is a shock to have eight leafy trees all devoid of apples. The late frost in the spring is what we are blaming but when I see that other people have heavily laden trees I feel extreme Apple Envy. I wonder if there is something other than the frost to blame.

22 August Tuesday

The Fire Depot in Clogheen occupies a tiny building. The building is attached to a house on each side. There is no chance that even the smallest fire engine could fit inside the depot. When I see it I wonder what is kept inside. Maybe it is full of shovels and buckets and ladders which can be collected in any old vehicle on the way to a fire. Perhaps there is a hose and a small water tank which can be hooked up with a trailer hitch too.


Eight figs are not enough.

21 August Monday

I saw Kevin this morning. He has had a messy swallow’s nest on his roof. He had been grumbling about the droppings and the mess. He came out one morning and found two dead baby swallows that had fallen down the drainpipe. There were two more on the ground. They were still alive so he brought them into the house and placed them in a shoe box with a pair of old socks for padding. He tried to feed them something but they were so tiny they would not eat. He rang his daughter for advice. His daughter rang the woman at the animal sanctuary over in the Nire Valley. The woman rang him back herself. She asked Kevin if he had been out for a drive recently. He said he had indeed been out in the car just the day before. She told him to go to the front of his car and scrap off the dead insects and to swish them around in his hand until he made them into a little paste. He did as she told him to. He collected the bugs and made the paste and tried to feed it to the baby swallows. They ate a little bit. The woman arrived and collected the box and took it away with her. She said if the birds survived she would return them to Kevin and then they would be ready and able to fly off to Africa with the rest of their flock. Since she has never returned with the birds, Kevin believes that the birds will never get to Africa. He said Sure, they only got as far as the Nire.

20 August Sunday

Rain is running down the wall in the bathroom again. We were promised a bit of a hit from Hurricane Gert. Gert has been driving her way across the Atlantic. It has been raining all day. I am not sure if this rain is Gert or if this is just rain. I have gotten into the habit of keeping the towels well over to the right hand side of the copper pipe towel rack. If I let them hang towards the left they get soaked when the rain comes in. I keep towels on the right all the time now even if it is not raining. Newspapers get spread across the floor only when the rain is falling hard. Because the floor is made of rough Killenaule stone, it is a very uneven floor. Once water hits the floor it goes off in several directions. Someday the mystery of exactly where this leak is will be solved. I hope it gets solved before we need to move from newspapers to buckets.

19 August Saturday

As I approached the place where the road starts to climb again, Oscar came rushing out to greet me. We both hopped and danced around for a few minutes. I was delighted to see him. He was delighted to see me. I had been told that he was so old and so fat and so awkward in himself that he was spending all of his days lying prone in front of his own house. He was no longer hanging around at Sharon’s nor was he sleeping in the center of the road in order not to miss anyone on foot. He looks terrible. There are huge clumps of fur coming out all over him. The clumps are nothing more than the result of the seasonal moult but for some reason they are all reddish in colour. He is normally an all black dog so I do not know why the hair he is losing is red. His tail is now red too. I feared he might be too idle to walk with me but he came all the way down the boreen to the house. He gasped with heavy raspy breathing all the way. Maybe he has a lung infection or maybe it is just his extra weight. When we got here, I tried to brush him to get some of the clumps off and out but he was not interested to stay still for that kind of thing. He just drank some water and took off for home.

18 August Friday

Eight figs are not enough. I continue picking any that are squeezable. I cannot wait for full ripeness because if I wait for a fig to fully ripen the birds eat it before I can pick it. If I pluck one On The Squeeze and bring it indoors to ripen I can usually collect enough for a tart. I had eight but Simon told me he really needed a minimum of twelve. Yesterday I threw one out. This morning I found three more had rotted. They were covered with hairy mold. Worrying that we might never have even one fig tart this year, I went to check the bush and came back with seven. Now I have thirteen and there are three others that might be ready by the end of the afternoon if the heat continues.

Michael sat on a low leaf while I collected the figs. His leg looks much better. He still favours it, but it no longer sticks out at that terrible angle. He sat on leaves or on large stones while I picked raspberries. He has no interest in eating fruit. Maybe robins do not eat fruit or maybe he is just too young to know that he might love it.

17 August Thursday

The baby swallows have begun to fly. They are racing in and out of the nest and lining up along the edge of the grass roof. I no longer have to worry about the mother protecting her brood. I thought it was safe to go into my room again. Instead I now I have five adolescents racing and rushing. The wind is wild today so it is hard to even sense which direction they will dive from next. I was only inside the door for a few minutes when all five of them rushed in and began to swoop around me. There was no chance I could catch them so I just sat down and waited until they flew out again.  My next job will be to get a shovel and brush to clear the large pile of crunchy excrement from the bottom of the door and from the floor directly under their nest. It seems foolish to do it until I am certain that they are no longer returning to the nest.  I have already cleaned the handle so that I can go in and out without grabbing a handful of crunch.

16 August Wednesday

It was a wet morning so I did not mind putting on a rain jacket to walk up the path. I figured it would keep the foliage drips off me. It would protect me from the blackberries, wild roses, nettles and anything else. Most days have been too warm to walk while wearing a waterproof coat and long trousers. I felt happy to be heading up the Mass Path. I wanted to see how things were doing after the heavy growth of summer. My feelings of pleasure were quickly dampened. I had water down my neck and thorns pulling at me from all directions. They ripped at my coat and they ripped my skin. They ripped through my trousers. When I reached the path outside Johnnie’s orchard I found myself completely trapped by the nettles and brambles both the ones hanging down and the ones climbing up. I was really stuck. I could not move forward and I could not move backward. I could not even fall down. I wiggled and wriggled and I wondered how long I might need to wait before someone came along. I could tell that no one had been up or down the path for weeks and weeks. I feared I might have to wait for weeks and weeks trapped and held in position by thorns, unable even to reach into my pocket for my phone. Eventually I escaped. I staggered the last bit of the path out and onto the road feeling wet and hot and beaten up and not very happy.

15 August Tuesday

Michael is here to greet us. Michael is here to greet us whenever we return to the house. It does not matter if we are coming back from ten minutes away or from three days away. He arrives and hovers close and comes indoors and generally lets us know that he is glad to be nearby. I have now been told that it is normal for young robins to adopt people. I thought we were special and that Michael was special. I still think he is special. It is just that it is not such an unusual thing to have him want to be with us. I do not mind that. Michael flies away when the other robin comes to frighten him but nothing we do frightens him. He has graduated to sitting on Simon’s shoulder now. He has not sat upon me yet but he is happy to sit very close to me.


Michael

11 August Friday

Michael was late arriving this morning. Every day he has been waiting on the table outside the kitchen before we are even up. He was doing the morning waiting for a long while before we realized that it was the same bird out waiting out there every morning. Today there was no sign of him until noon. We were worried about his leg. We are still worried about his leg. One leg is now at a wonky angle. The displacing of the leg happened some time yesterday. A bigger fatter stronger robin had been rushing onto the table and chasing Michael away each time he was there. That was when we realized that Michael is not an old bird as we first thought. He is a very young bird. The older robin who was pushing him out of the way had seniority. At the end of the afternoon we saw that Michael’s left leg was sticking out at a right angle. He kept falling over while trying to eat crumbs. We think he flew at a window and knocked himself down onto the ground. But we wonder if the older fat robin chased him and frightened him and forced him into the window or the wall of the house. It must be the impact with the ground that damaged his leg. We were happy to see him back today but we are worried about the leg. We are worried and we have no idea what to do about it.

 

10 August Thursday

No one speaks of Bathing Suits or Bathing Costumes. The garment that a person wears to go swimming is called Togs. A person puts on their Togs. When someone is changing clothes before going swimming, that person is said to be Togging Up.

9 August Wednesday

The robin has a name now. He is Michael. He joins us by the back door and he sits with us at the large table over by the fence. Wherever we are out of doors, Michael appears and is committed to Staying Near. He sat on a branch while I picked raspberries. He came into the kitchen and rested on the windowsill while we were preparing food and cleaning up. He jumps when there are sudden movements or loud noises but he seems to enjoy quiet words or nonsense syllables babbled softly in his direction. We are not getting too much done because we are constantly popping in and out or looking out a window to see where Michael is. We crumbled up crackers on the table for him. There is water for him to drink. He came with me as I went all around the tree and up the stone steps squeezing figs to test them for ripeness. He appears to pay careful attention to every single thing that is done out of doors.

8 August Tuesday

We walked over Joe’s fields today. The track was slippery with mud and muck. I found two fine round things to draw but they were too muddy to carry home. One was a wheel made of wire with spokes and the other was a wheel made of wire with spokes that had been run over and mashed into a more useless shape. I felt a bit bad about my new boots getting so muddy and coated with green manure. The old boots had been Letting in Wet for so long that I had to stop wearing them. I had to stop pretending that they were fine when they so obviously were not all right. Even on a dry day I was coming home with wet feet. I spent a good part of the walk dragging my feet sideways in the long grass trying to wipe the muck off the sides of my new boots.

 


It Would Put The Heart Across You.

7 August Bank Holiday

An elderly robin has become a friend. He stays nearby whenever we are outside. Mostly he sits on the back of the chair where one of us is sitting. Then he moves to sit with the other one of us. He hops along the tabletop. His head and wing feathers and his red breast are scruffy looking. That is how we know he is not young. His scruffiness is what makes him distinctive. It does not matter which table we are sitting at or whether we are drinking tea or coffee. He seems to like the companionship. Or maybe it is the sound of our voices.

6 August Sunday

The clock in Cahir has not worked for a while. It is at least three years since I looked up at it expecting to see the correct time. Now the clock is gone. It might have been absent for a long while already. I got out of the habit of looking up to see the time because it was always wrong no matter what the clock showed. It might have been a year since the clock was removed. There is some black plastic tacked into the space where the clock was. I shall now try to keep an eye on that space to notice when the clock is returned.

 

5 August Saturday

Cate’s mother suffers from bad arthritis. She is 91. Terrible pain in her knees makes it difficult for her to walk. Cate had heard about a cure. She offered to try it on her mother. Her mother was willing to give it a go. She was ready to try anything to stop the pain. Before bed, Cate wrapped her mother’s knees in leaves of cabbage. Then she wrapped cling film around the cabbage so it stayed nice and firm around the knees. She did not want the cabbage to come loose in the night in her mother‘s bed. In the morning she went upstairs and found her mother still in bed. Cate was looking forward to news of the miracle cure. Instead her mother had had the worst night ever and had barely slept a wink because of the excruciating pain in her legs. I have no plan to recommend this cure to anyone but I did need to ask if the cabbage was cooked or raw. Cate said it was raw.

4 August Saturday

The nest by the door into my workroom now has baby swallows in it. The mother gets angry when I attempt to enter the room. I have given up. Anything I need to do in there can be done another day or next week. I have decided to just wait until all five children have left home. None of them are even flying yet. They just sit in the nest and wait for their mother to return.

3 August Thursday

Fergal came to collect some boxes. He asked where our dog was. He told us his own dog had died last month. He is still mourning. The dog was an Alsatian. He had had it for twelve years. He misses it every day. He has two other dogs but he does not love them the way he loved the Alsatian. The other two dogs are Rottweilers. He claims they are sweet and gentle. He saw that he was not going to convince me about the sweetness of any Rottweiler. He said he lives on a housing estate outside Dublin. He said every house in the neighbourhood has been robbed but his own house has never been robbed. He said his dogs terrify everyone. He said that just hearing them bark Would Put The Heart Across You.

2 August Wednesday

I never see slugs in the morning. I get used to not seeing them. I certainly do not look for them. The slugs are back. It is good weather for slugs. I should not say the slugs are back. The slugs are never really gone. They disappear in the day and they reappear in darkness. We just get accustomed to not seeing them. This kind of weather that is not too hot and not too cold is ideal for slugs. They enjoy damp evenings. I should remember to close the bathroom window. There are no screens on the windows. The few insects that come in neither bite nor sting. The slugs enter through the open window or maybe they ooze up through the drain hole in the tub or the sink. They might just spend the day sleeping somewhere in a dark place like under the sink waiting for dusk. This evening there was one lying across my little plastic containers of contact lenses. The slug was about two inches long and the usual drab brown colour. The lenses on the shelf are only for my left eye. The right eye has been done. It was done on Monday where I was the youngest person present and there was not a nun to be seen.  I am now seeing the world with bright colours and a stunning clarity. Black things now appear to have a lot of blue in them. Some greys appear violet. I do not know if this is the actual colour of these things or if the colour will settle down and go back to what I believed it was before the surgery. Have I been seeing colour wrong all along or am I seeing it incorrectly now? The colour of the slug is the same as it has always been. I shall never need a contact lens for the right eye again. But as long as I need these lenses for the left eye I would prefer not to have a slug recline upon them. It is a worse thing to find a slug stretched out on my toothbrush bristles. Once I see one in the bathroom I know they could be anywhere at all so it does not matter where they are when I see them as I know that they have already been oozing over anywhere and everywhere as and when they like.


Aut Even

30 July Sunday

Aut Even means Beautiful Place in Irish. It is the name of a hospital in Kilkenny. I must go there for my cataract operation on Monday. One eye at a time. First the Right eye. Four weeks later they will do the Left eye. Breda assured me that I will be the youngest person in the waiting room. She said everyone else will be in their eighties. Yesterday at the Farmers Market, Jim, who is in his eighties, told me that when he had his own eyes done last year, the waiting room was full of nuns. There were nuns of all ages. Or all ages from about sixty upwards. He was the only man. He was the only person who was not a nun. Jim asked the doctor about the large number of nuns. He joked that perhaps they were getting a group rate. The doctor said they were all bussed in from a convent. He avoided the question of the group rate.

29 July Saturday

Tom told me that it is considered very unlucky to meet a woman with red hair on the road early in the morning. I asked if it was different to meet a woman with red hair on the road in the middle of the day. Was the luck different then? He did not answer me. He pretended not to hear my question.

28 July Friday

The figs are coming along. We need some long hot days. We need a week of hot days to bring the figs to ripeness. There are so many things not doing well this year. Tommie calls it Things Not Coming Good. I hope the figs are not another disappointment. Today I picked all the black currants. It is a job which was not difficult even with the splint on my arm. It is not difficult but it is slow. It is a slow job even without a splint. I thought it might take me an hour but I spent more than three hours clearing the bushes of every single berry. Then I spent another hour clearing the leaves and stems from my containers. The currants are now bagged up and in the freezer. I forgot to count how many bags I had. It seemed like a lot. Simon is making a black currant pandowdy.

27 July Thursday

Oscar is appearing irregularly these days. He is getting old and no doubt believing that he can keep track of the world as well from his hilltop yard as he can from his sleeping spot in the middle of the road in front of Sharon’s house. Perhaps his hearing is deteriorating. For years it has been impossible to walk the road without him racing out from wherever he was. If I whistled or if I did not whistle he always knew I was passing. He knew when anyone at all was passing. The sound of quiet walking conversation or even the sound of footsteps was enough to let him know.


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