The Boulders.

9 October Friday

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

10 October Saturday

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

11 October Sunday

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

12 October Monday

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

13 October Tuesday

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

15 October Thursday

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

16 October Friday

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

 

17 October Saturday

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

18 October Sunday

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

20 October Tuesday

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

22 October Thursday

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

23 October Friday

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

 

 

 

Peppermint Oil

23 September Wednesday

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

25 September Friday

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

26 September Saturday

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

28 September Monday

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

29 September Tuesday

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

1 October Thursday

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

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

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

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

2 October Friday

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

4 October Sunday

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

A Bull In The Back

10 September Thursday

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

12 September Saturday

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

13 September Sunday

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

14 September Monday

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

15 September Tuesday

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

16 September Wednesday

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

18 September Friday

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

20 September Sunday

The freshly mown middle.

Easy Enough to Forget

25 August Tuesday

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

26 August Wednesday

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

27 August Thursday

The roads remain dangerous. Farm vehicles command priority.

28 August Friday

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

29 August Saturday

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

31 August Monday

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

2 September Wednesday

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

4 September Friday

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

5 September Saturday

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

6 September Sunday

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

 

7 September Monday

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

Bockety

13 August Thursday

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

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

14 August Friday

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

 

16 August Sunday

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

17 August Monday

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

18 August Tuesday

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

21 August Friday

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

Biddable

27 July Monday

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

 

29 July Wednesday

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

30 July Thursday

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

1 August Saturday

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

3 August Monday

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

 

5 August Wednesday

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

7 August Friday

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

 

8 August Saturday

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

10 August Monday

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

A Two Bird Morning

12 July Sunday

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

13 July Monday

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

15 July Wednesday

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

17 July Friday

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

18 July Saturday

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

20 July Monday

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

21 July Tuesday

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

23 July Thursday

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

25 July Saturday

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

The Odd Passing Shower

30 June Tuesday

The Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan is begging people not to go Abroad. At the same time, the radio is full of non-stop advertising from airlines offering low fares to escape to everywhere and anywhere. Travel agencies have asked the government to put a halt to all travel outside of the country. They want everyone who has booked a holiday overseas to get their money back with a payment from the government. They want everyone to Holiday At Home. In daily life, there is a constant question and answer discussion about where one is going for a holiday. The question is asked even when just buying milk. It is imperative for everyone to be going somewhere simply because we are out of lockdown and allowed to go somewhere more distant than 20 kilometres from our homes. Some people are going to Donegal or to Tramore but a lot of people believe it is their right to go to Spain or to a place further afield. The country is divided between those who fear people bringing The Covid back with them and those who just want to Go. There is a lot of hand-wringing and worry about people Going Foreign.

1 July Wednesday

A rabbit flew off the banking at a great speed. She thumped into my chest before pushing off with her feet, dropping to the ground and disappearing. I guess she was being chased. She came out of the opening in the bushes that the fox usually comes through so I assume she was being chased. My presence interrupted the whole activity. This is the first time I have ever collided with a running rabbit.

2 July Thursday

We walked out of Ardfinnan on a narrow tar road in the direction of Lady’s Abbey. There was grass down the middle of the road. On the right we passed a small two-story building. It was small but we knew it was too big to have ever been a house. It was built of stone. All four walls were standing but the roof and the windows were long gone. It was built as a Fever Hospital. Lady’s Abbey was also without roof and without windows. It has been through various states and re-buildings over the centuries. There are a few graves outside and a few crumbling interiors intact. In one small room there is a wooden chair. It is not an old chair. The chair is in fine condition. It has a red velvety seat which has not been damaged by the weather, so it cannot have been in the room for long. Someone carried the chair in there for a reason. There is nothing inside the room to suggest an altar or a place of prayer or any reason at all to be there for a long enough time that anyone might need a chair. The ground beneath the chair is not even flat enough to allow for sitting without teetering or tipping over. I have been thinking about this chair all day. I will go back soon to see if it is still there.

3 July Friday

Slurry has been spread on the fields. The entire out-of-doors stinks. A terrible stench hangs over everything. It causes a burning in the back of the throat. The washing can stay on the clothesline. It is too late. Who wants to sleep in sheets that smell like slurry? They can be left outside for a few more days. The rain and the wind will refresh them and blow all of the odor out.

4 July Saturday

A man leaned into his car boot and lifted out a Madonna. I do not know if she was made of plaster or wood, but she was carefully painted. I could see no chips, cracks or missing bits. She was large. She was at least half the size of the man himself. He cradled her in his arms as he walked across the road with slow deliberate steps to where another man was waiting with the boot of his own car open. The second man had blankets ready. Together they wrapped the Madonna carefully and they laid her down in the boot. They were gentle in all of their movements. They crossed themselves before they closed her in.

5 July Sunday

Birds are eating my gooseberries. It has never been such a big problem as it is this year. I do not mind sharing with the birds but this has been a battle. They have had more than half the crop off my four bushes. This morning I sat outside on a box in a soft drizzle of rain. I have to pick in the rain because I want to collect the gooseberries before they disappear.  I picked as many as I could but even while I was picking a thrush was on a near branch plucking and carrying a berry away. And it was not just one thrush. As soon as I turn my back, a whole flock descends and strips the branches bare.

6 July Monday

Murt stood outside his gate. Sometimes he stands inside his gate and sometimes he stands outside his gate. He cannot walk far these days but he likes to have a look at things. It is important to have something to report to the next person he sees. He told me that he saw two girls out walking. They were going fast. He was impressed with their speed. He said, “Those girls are Good To Walk. They went past me like I was Tied to the Ditch!”

7 July Tuesday

The woman was discussing the definition of her crease. She was thinking of maybe even changing her crease once she had her hair color sorted out. She has had a lot of time to think about it because until now it has not been possible to talk with her hairdresser. I had no idea what she was talking about. I had to ask. A crease is the parting in the hair. A crease defines the point on the scalp from which the hair goes left or right. I did not have to learn a new language when I came to live here but I am always learning a new language.

9 July Thursday

On and off rain everyday. It is grey and gloomy and it does not feel like July. Some days are cool and some days are humid and close like a tropical jungle, but the days are rarely bright. Lady’s Mantle always looks good with raindrops in its leaves. That is one small good thing about the rain and drizzle. We all feel a bit discouraged. The weather people on the radio are running out of ways to forecast the rain. Today we are promised Just The Odd Passing Shower.

 

——————————————

The Beinecke Library at Yale invited me to contribute something to their project Creativity in Isolation.  I thought I had nothing to offer but then I realized that of course, this journal is what I have been doing throughout the lockdown. It was not a special something extra for the lockdown or because of the lockdown. It is just a continuation of what I have been doing anyway. With many thanks to Tubyez Cropper, for doing the tricky stuff, and to Nancy Kuhl for pushing me..

https://beinecke.library.yale.edu/article/creativity-2020-erica-van-horn-journal

 

 

Staying Home

18 June Thursday

I stepped out of the book barn and found myself up to my knees in wasps. They were swarming in a deep dark mass from my knees right down to the ground. Some of them were not even flying. They were just walking around. They did not seem to be going anywhere except for a few who walked right up and onto my sandals. I panicked and stepped back into the barn and I shut the door. I stood there for a few minutes but since I did not want to be in the barn anymore, I had no choice but to step out again. The wasps ignored me and they kept swarming. I waded slowly through them. When I cleared the barn and the wasps, I looked back and I could see that there was the usual crowd up under the eaves going in and out in a busy manner. There did not appear to be any up and down activity between the two groups. Still, the low-to-the-ground swarming felt dangerous.

We phoned a man who does Pest Control. His name was Pat. He works with his daughter, and his firm is called Arrest-A-Pest.   He said he would stop by this evening. We were pleased that he would be coming so soon but we had the usual heart-sinking feeling about the word Evening. Evening is a complicated word. Evening here is not like Evening elsewhere. Evening is any time after lunch and it stretches as far as night. The way I understand it is that Evening is both afternoon and evening combined in one word. These days the sun is not going down until 10 pm and it is not full dark till much later. We had no idea when Pat would arrive but we knew it would not do us any good to think nor to worry about it.

Pat said on the telephone that he knew where we lived and he did. He arrived at around 8 pm. He had known Willie English and his three siblings who had lived in this house for years. He knew Johnny Mackin from the ruined house above. He said he had Come Up in the area. He was born just over in Roxbrough and he knew everyone around here. He knew the people who were still alive and he knew those who were dead. He was pleased to tell us as much as he knew. We showed him the wasps. They were busy up around the roof but there was no longer a single wasp down low to show to him. He said that they are not wasps but honeybees and that it is illegal for him to do anything against them. He said we would have to live together in friendship. He said the honeybees are not aggressive and that they will not attack nor sting us. Sadly the honey they are producing is all up in the roof with the queen and there is no chance that anyone can get to it. He explained that the swarm down low to the ground that scared me this morning was a group consolidating to move out. There was a ready queen and the crowd was heading off with her to make a new home somewhere else. It was just a fluke that I walked into the middle of them while they were preparing to depart. Pat said they were not interested in me and probably thought no more of me than they would any tree that was in their path.

19 June Friday

There are certain seasonal things that I never remember. There are months when it is okay for the farmers to spread slurry on the fields and there are months when it is not allowed. There are certain months when it is not permitted to cut the ditches. The months when birds are nesting and laying their eggs in the bushy growth are the times when the cutting is not okay. I should know the months both for spreading and for hedge cutting by now. They should be in the calendar of my head, but somehow these familiar activities take me by surprise every year. Early this morning I walked along a stretch of road and I felt dizzy with the heavy scent of the wild honeysuckle. It was sweet and thick. I slowed down so that I could enjoy it. It was almost overpowering. I wished that I was not alone. I wished that I had someone walking with me today to share the fragrance.  In the afternoon, I walked along the exact same stretch of road and the honeysuckle was completely gone. The big machine driven by Ned Shine or someone working for Ned had come along. The hedges had been cut. It looks like a massacre and there is not even one tiny blossom of honeysuckle left to see nor to smell.

20 June Saturday

At the age of 66, the government gives everyone in the country a card which allows them the freedom to travel anywhere in the country on a bus or a train for free. The card includes travel to and travel within Northern Ireland. It works for public transport within a city like Dublin or Cork. I had my birthday a few months ago and my card arrived right on schedule but I have never used it. This spring has not been the time when anyone wants to be traveling on a bus or on any other form of public transport, even if it is free. Traveling on a bus is not what anyone wants to be doing, at least not if they can avoid it, so the gift of this card is sort of like being given nothing.

21 June Sunday

Elderflower blossom is everywhere. Loose and loopy branches bounce up and down in the breeze. The creamy white blossoms look enormous and blousey. Foxglove is rampant too.  I think I have never seen so much of it in so many places. And as always the wild daisies have taken over the garden.

22 June Monday

Today I received a check in the post from the insurance company. It was for 30 euro. They sent checks out to everyone because they know we have not been driving our cars during the lockdown. They felt we should be rewarded and reimbursed for not using our motorcars. There is a new sort of boasting that people are doing about how little petrol they have used in the last three months. Two men were discussing this outside a shop. They were shouting to one another across the back of a blue car and banging their fists on the boot of the car for emphasis. The first fellow said he had filled his tank in the middle of March and he still had 3/4 of a tank left. The other man said he had only put 27 miles on the clock since the lockdown began. It was a kind of oneupmanship to announce how far each man did not go.  There is pride in the act of going nowhere.

23 June Tuesday

I walked out this morning and I found a puffball beside the path. We ate it for lunch.

24 June Wednesday

I saw Anthony’s Christmas tree.  It is the one made of tyres that he brings out every year. It is sitting on a pallet out the back with assorted machines and stacks of old tyres and stacks of new tyres.  It is waiting until it is needed again. It looks a little forlorn with last December’s greenery still there but gone dead and the baubles hanging just as they were when it was Christmas.

25 June Thursday

The government is encouraging people to stay at home this summer. They want people to stay in the country and not to fly off to Europe nor to travel by ferry to the continent. The Kerry County Council has sent a check for 100 euro to every household to encourage residents to stay in Kerry and to spend this windfall locally.

26 June Friday

Tommie was rushed to hospital and after a week there, he was sent to Saint Teresa’s Care Home in Clogheen to recuperate and to regain his strength. Once he was over feeling ill, he had a lovely time. He enjoyed being fed three meals a day and he enjoyed the tea and biscuits before bed at 9 pm. He said if he had stayed any longer he would have gotten fat. He loved the women who worked there and he loved not being alone all day every day. He said that before he went into hospital The Spring Had Gone Out Of His Step. Now he feels that he has it back. I took him to town and this time his new dentures were ready. He came home a happy man.

27 June Saturday

Another sign of the year moving along is Joe’s delivery of wood shavings for his cows. They stand outside all winter on a specially built platform with no roof over their heads and these wood shavings underfoot. As the shavings fall through the cracks of their platform, new shavings get put down. Every year I worry about the cows exposed to the weather and every year Joe tells me that they do not mind being out. All day today I have heard the noise of the tractor scooping up the shavings and taking them off to be stored until they are needed in the winter. The smell as I pass through the farmyard is lovely. I know there will be a second delivery in the next week or so.

 

Swinging the Beans

9 June Tuesday

Yesterday Tommie and I went to the dentist again. He was in high spirits. He was looking forward to his new dentures. He was looking forward to eating toast without first dunking it into his tea. He was not in Daniel’s office for long. All that happened was that he had more measurements taken and he had his mouth yanked about a bit. He was disappointed to be leaving yet again without his new dentures. We walked down the ramp slowly. He was not tearful. He was cross. I drove him home on a different road. I slowed the car to look at a field where small bales were strewn all over the place. They had not been properly stooked. They were a mess. It was obvious that the bales had been in this disarray for a week or more. I could see the error in this because of my recent education about stooks and stooking. These bales were exactly as they were not supposed to be. Tommie was outraged. He has spent his whole life knowing the correct way to care for hay. He could not believe how wrong this was. He told me that I should go right in and inform those people of the Error in Their Hay. He said he would wait in the car for me. I said it was way too late to save that hay. Tommie was invigorated by his anger. It was the best thing that happened on the whole trip.

10 June Wednesday

She was unhappy to learn that she was listed in his mobile phone under W for Wife. He wanted her to list himself in her telephone under H for Husband. She had him listed under his own name and she felt like that was where she wanted to look for him and that was where she wanted to find him. He had a perfectly good name. He explained that this was not about his name. His name would, of course, stay the same. This was a practical detail. This was about A Possible Future Emergency. She understood what he meant but she said that she did not like being reduced to being Noun. He pleaded. He said, “Sometimes it is important to be a Noun.”

11 June Thursday

We set off early for a walk over Joe’s fields. The cows had been gone from the near field for long enough. We knew that they were already up in the milking shed by the time we set out. We would not be in their way and they would not be in our way. We passed a group of calves with ear tags as big as their ears. They were no longer babies. They were off the formula and now eating grass and hay. These were adolescents, or maybe teenagers. They ran to the gate to look at us.

12 June Friday

The expression everyone is using is Letting Out. We are still only in Phase Two of the opening up of services and shops and movement in the whole country.  Already the language has changed to accommodate our new freedoms. We are not Coming Out of Lockdown. We are being Let Out.

13 June Saturday

The fox moved through the long grass. His head and body and tail moved as one long curving line. His legs were not visible. The grass was too long for that. He was just a slither of colour. The cows were in the same field. They did not pay any attention to the fox weaving in and out very near to them in the grass. The cows paid no attention to the fox and the fox paid no attention to the cows. They were all in the same field but they were doing different things.

14 June Sunday

The sign was very small. It was tiny. The road is not a busy road. The arrow pointed down a side road which is even less used. The smaller road is a narrow dead end with only four houses the whole length of it. One belonged to Pa and Peggy but they have both died and their cottage is empty.  I walked down to the Bake Sale because I thought it would need some customers.  The little girls doing the baking would be disappointed if no one came to buy their cookies and cupcakes. I could not have been more wrong about the lack of passing trade. Everyone from their primary school was there and it was a lovely afternoon so people were lingering in the sun and drinking tea and staying two meters apart from each other in all of the official ways, but happy to be together and happy mostly to be anywhere at all.

15 June Monday

I love these days with the doors and windows open and the bird activity and noises of tractors in the far distance.  I stepped outside to drink my coffee on the bench beside the kitchen door. As soon as I sat down I had to jump up and move to another part of the garden. Something has died in the honeysuckle. The smell is terrible. There is a rotting corpse in there getting heated up by the late morning sun. No doubt I could dig around in the foliage and find whatever it is and remove it, but I am not going to do that. I shall just wait for the smell to go away.

 

16 June Tuesday

Twice a week we do a Zoom exercise class. There are about 30 people participating in the class. At the beginning of each class we greet the people we know and the people we don’t know but who we now recognize as other regulars and when it is over we all wave good bye to one another. We have named this class Swinging The Beans because some of the exercises require us to use tins of beans as hand-weights. Simon started out using chickpeas but now he claims to prefer cannellini.

 

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