A Roundy Birthday

22 April Bank Holiday Monday

The fox was zig-zagging up the field. He wandered a bit to the left and then he wandered a bit to the right. He was always heading uphill but he did so in a desultory manner. He was in no rush to get anywhere. He moved slowly while looking around. He did not notice me beside the fence or maybe he did notice me but he did not worry about me because he had the advantage of four legs. I was close but not close enough to be a threat. This is the same fox I have seen every single day this week. Most days I have come upon him when walking down the boreen. I always see him at the same corner. He sees me and he jumps up the banking and away into Scully’s wood when I approach. This fox is young and shiny with a dark orangey-brown coat and a dark brown tail. I have no proof but I feel certain that this fox is a male fox.

21 April Easter Sunday

We met Tommie outside the shop. I thought he would be going to an Easter Mass either in the village or in Fourmilewater, but he said he was going into town to visit Margaret in hospital. He said that she has been there for three weeks already. The doctors cannot determine what is wrong with her. She felt dizzy while she was having her hair done at The Hair Den. The hairdresser called the ambulance and Margaret was taken away and ever since then he has been visiting her every day. He did not seem unduly upset. He has had a difficult time taking care of her at home because she is blind and mostly deaf and she cannot move around easily. She had a broken hip and even though the hip is healed, it has never been right. He said that it will never be right. Tommie says that he spends a lot of time shouting at Margaret when they are at home together but since she cannot hear much of what he says she does not notice that he is shouting and he just gets more and more angry. These three weeks have been like a holiday for him. He was in cheerful mood this morning. He was wearing a sweater tucked into his high belted trousers. The sweater and the trousers were covered in food spills. He looked down and said that if he were going to Mass he might change his clothes and put on a jacket but he said Margaret will not see what he is wearing and anyway he will be sitting down all the time that he is in the hospital visiting her. He lowered his voice when he told us that each day they give him his dinner on a tray while Margaret gets her dinner. He was looking forward to a special feed today since it is Easter.

20 April Saturday

Ter is a common nickname. It might be short for Teresa, or it might be for Terence.

Ger might be short for Geraldine, or for Gerard or for Gerald. It might even be for Jerome, but then it would be spelled with a J even though the pronunciation would be the same.

Phil can be short for Philomena or it might be for Philip.

Pa is shortened from Pascal, or sometimes from Patrick.

Pa is never used as a name for Father.

19 April Friday

Niamh explained The Nun’s Embrace to me. Or she tried to explain it but then she had to do it to me to show me because she could not explain it and now I can not explain it either but it is a kind of gently pulling the person with one arm while pulling stronger with the other arm. It is not a hug and not an embrace but it is a two-armed pull not really a hug and traditionally a way for the person being embraced by the nun to have no doubt that the nun is the one is charge.

18 April Thursday

The waitress told the people at the next table that they did not take any credit cards in the restaurant and that they would need to pay for their lunch with cash. She thought she should warn them before they ordered their food. The man was foreign. Maybe he was Dutch. He said he had no cash. The woman with him had no cash either. The man said he would go immediately to find a cash machine. The waitress said, Oh, there is no rush for money. Order your food and have yourself a good feed and then you can go out and look for some cash. There is a machine out on the main street. She said, Why they might even give you some money up at the petrol station.

17 April Wednesday

Any birthday that ends in a zero is called A Roundy Birthday.

16 April Tuesday

Today was the first day this year that the cows arrived in the near field. Maybe it was not the first day but it was the first time I have seen them in this field so for me it was the first day. I was in the book barn when they came rushing over the hill. They ran and jostled one another. The long winter days and weeks under cover mean that each new field marks a joyful adventure. They have been out in some other pastures before today, but today was the first day in this particular field which is their geographically-furthest-from-the-farm field. The cows pushed and rushed at each other and ate bits of grass erratically from all over the place and they lined up and looked in the window at me and then they all lay down at the same time. They stayed laying down for about twenty minutes and then they all got up and ran back over the hill and out of sight.

The Borrowing Days

13 April Saturday

The wind is brutal.  The wind is unrelenting. Every time I think of something that I might do out of doors, I change my mind. Instead I find myself something more to do in the house.  I do not want to even walk across to the barns. The light is inviting but the wind is wicked. The birds have disappeared. They cannot land on the feeders. The wind gusts and drops and gusts and drops. The sounds of buffeting and blowing are constant. It is difficult to remember life without this wind.

12 April Friday

The weather continues to be changeable. It should not be a surprise anymore but it is. Each morning starts cold and bright and bitter. It might rain. It might get warm. There might be sleet. The winds are ferocious in turns. Then there will be something else or there will be a repeat of some sort of weather that occurred earlier. There is no way to be prepared for what might come next. Tommie says that the weather is In And Out Faster Than A Fiddlers Elbow.

11 April Thursday

The woman was clutching a piece of paper in her hand. It was windy. She was holding it tight so that it would not blow away. She was a bit bent over and moving in a sideways direction even while she was going straight ahead. She walked over to me on the pavement in Thurles. I assumed she was going to ask me how to get somewhere. I do not know Thurles well so I was prepared to tell her that I could not direct her to wherever she was going. She did not ask for directions. Instead she stood up tall right in front of me and said, “I’d be very short of The Money.” I watched her continuing around the square approaching various people. Each time she said the exact same words: “I’d be very short of The Money.”  She kept the piece of paper in her hand. I guess it was a prop so that each person would think that she was in need of directions, and not just asking for The Money.

10 April Wednesday

The doorway at Clonfert Cathedral was well worth the detour. It is not a large building but nevertheless it is called a cathedral.  It is more like a small chapel with an amazing entrance. The Romanesque carving offers an fine variety of animal heads, motifs, foliage and human heads. We were unable to go inside as a woman in the nearby house holds the key and she had gone out to do her shopping.  The farmer in an adjoining field directed us to her door but he said that he had no way of knowing when she might return.

Raggy Trees appear here and there around the country. They are also called Wishing Trees.  There is always more than one name for anything. People use the trees to make wishes or as a form of prayer to get something they need or want. They make an offering in order to pass an exam, to get a job, to regain health or just generally to ask for good fortune. The tradition is that one should return to the tree three times with a request to ensure that the wish or prayer will come to pass.  I do not know what makes one tree into a Raggy Tree and another nearby tree just a regular tree. How does its power become established?  St Brendan’s Tree, just through the little gate beside the cathedral, is a horse chestnut tree. Maybe proximity to the cathedral is enough to have given this tree it’s magic. It is a real mess. Perhaps it is a mess because a lot of the offerings have been there all winter. They have been rained upon and the wind has beaten them. There are coins hammered sideways into the bark of the tree and lots of rosary beads and caps and photographs and toys and packets of pills and bits of fabric. Things are hanging off the tree and things are strewn all over the ground. For some reason there are a lot of socks. A LOT of socks. Pairs of socks and single socks. Maybe socks are the easiest thing to tie onto the tree.

.

 

 

8 April Monday

The two woodcutters who have been felling the ash trees for hurleys were back at the edge of Cooney’s wood today. They were loading up some of the sections they had cut. They put a few into the front end of their van and when I walked by they were putting a few more into the back of the van. I did not stay long enough to see if they would fill up the entire space. One man had a long beard and he did not talk at all. The other man talked enough for the both of them. He told me that some trees are thick enough to make as many as five hurleys, but that two per tree is more normal. This man had been to cut ash trees in Romania and Massachusetts and England. He said that ash trees everywhere have been hit by a disease and soon there will be no more of them to harvest. He does not know where future hurleys will come from when all of the ash trees are dead. He said he is worried for the future of hurleys but at least he won’t be out of a job because by then he will be sitting at home and collecting his pension. The job ahead of the men in the next days and weeks is to slowly drag out the rest of the hurley wood, and then get back into the forest to cut everything else up for firewood.

7 April Sunday

Dead shrew on the mat outside the kitchen door. Dead bird outside the door of the book barn. At first look, the bird seemed like it might be simply stunned, but it was dead.  The shrew had a big bite taken out of its side.

6 April Saturday

A busload of German tourists arrived at Cahir Castle. They walked over to the gate but they were not allowed to go in. There were security men at the gate. This is not normal. There were more security men around the back in Inch Field. The men were wearing high visibility jackets and they were turning away anyone who approached the castle. The tourists were confused and some were a little angry. They all took photographs of themselves in front of the castle. They took photographs of themselves with the geese and without the geese. They wandered around for a little while and then they all got back on the bus. They were all grumbling. No one at the farmers market seemed certain about what was going on at the Castle. Someone said that maybe there was an important dignitary inside and they needed protection. Someone else said they were in there filming an advertisement for a car. I walked over to one of the security men and asked. He said that they were filming a scene for a movie. He said that they needed a castle and this castle was as good as any and better than most for the purpose. He said it might be Walt Disney who was making the movie or it might be someone else.

5 April Friday

The starlings are back and they are busy building nests in the roof of the book barn. A wren is building a nest in the yew hedge. We watch her from the kitchen window. She is busily taking twigs and things into the private place she has found. All of her movements are full of purpose. We cannot see the nest but we can see that she is very busy. I have been busy too. I am sewing up the sections of a book with red thread. This morning I noticed that the wren has collected my tiny off-cuts of red thread from the compost heap to use in her nest. She dropped a few strands on her way into the hedge. Now her entrance is brightly signposted.

4 April Thursday

The Skinning of The Old Cow. The Irish expression for this is Seannrioch or Seanriabhach. It is used to describe these first seven or ten days of April. Some people say seven days while others swear that it is always ten days. The expression comes from the idea that everyone expects April to be warmer and good and nurturing but in fact it rarely is. It is more normal for April to have borrowed some days from March to continue with the bitter, wild and harsh weather.  These days are also called The Borrowing Days. Hay supplies have run down in the sheds and some of hay barns are completely empty, while the grass in the fields is not really long enough to feed the cattle. There has been no rain. The word April implies springtime but the actuality is much more haphazard. There is wind and there is the sharp, desperate chill. These are thin days for eating and they are colder than any of us would like.

3 April Wednesday

I attended the coffee morning at the Community Hall in Grange. It is a newish event planned to take place on the first Wednesday of each month. Since Frank’s shop closed down there is less and less opportunity for people who live in Grange to ever catch sight of one another. The entire hall was set up with tables and chairs in little groups. It looked like they might be expecting as many as 60 or 80 people. There was easily enough food for 60 people. There were heaped up plates of scones and there were seven different kinds of jam, along with butter and margarine, and brownies and biscuits and flapjacks and all kinds of home-baked goods. For 2 euro you could eat as much as you liked and you could drink coffee and tea for the whole two hours if you wanted to. There were not 60 people in the hall. There were more like 16, not counting the ones who had done the work of setting it up. I saw some people I knew and I met a few people I had never met before. The older people were firstly interested to know where anyone they were introduced to lived. They needed to locate the person in the landscape of the townland. I explained to one elderly man that I lived in Willie English’s old cottage, just down the boreen from Johnny Mackin. He was delighted at the information that I lived below the late Johnny Mackin. He was not interested to know another thing about me. He was happy to tell me what he knew. He said Johnny was not like any other man in all of Tipperary. He said that to have been Johnny’s neighbour was a good bit of luck.  He told the small group of people near to the cake table where we were standing several stories about Johnny. He said it was a known fact that The Man Had Buckets of Brains.

A Low-Sized Woman

2 April Tuesday

I set off for a walk this afternoon in the bright cold. There was a sharp wind. It felt chilly for April. I was not worried about the wind because I knew that once I started to move I would warm myself. Nor was I bothered about the wind because I was wearing a wool hat, gloves and a jacket. I was surprised to see snow across the tops of the Knockmealdowns. After less than a kilometre, clouds appeared and the sky went completely dark. Sleet lashed down on me. I turned around, walking straight into the downpour heading for home. I was frozen solid by the time I arrived and by then the sun was back out and the sky was blue.

1 April Monday

Two older women were talking. The first woman was a little confused. She could not remember the name of a lady she was making reference to so she attempted to describe the woman’s appearance. She hoped if she could describe the woman well enough the woman she was talking to would recognise her and provide her with the name she had forgotten. She was unable to offer much by way of description. She said, “You’d know her yourself. She is A Low-Sized Woman.”

31 March Sunday

It is a small field with ten or twelve sheep in it. The lower half of the gate is cluttered with clumps of wool. The gate has a wire mesh fence attached to it so that the sheep cannot slip underneath. It looks as if some of the sheep tried to squeeze through the fence and their wool was pulled off them by the wires. Or it is as if the wool has blown off the sheep and the wind has dashed it all against the fence and the gate. Only one of the sheep looks scruffy as though she has lost clumps of wool. The others are fat and fluffy and do not look like anything is missing.

30 March Saturday

I saw Mary at the market. I had not seen her since before Christmas. She was looking distressed and confused and then she straightened up and announced to no one in particular because no one was standing very near to her, “It’s in the car. I left my stick in the car. It is okay. I have not lost it. My stick is in the motor.” I offered to go and collect her stick for her but she declined. She was happy enough just to know where it was. Mary’s husband never gets out of the car. He drives as close to the market stalls as he can get and he sits in the car and waits for Mary to do her shopping and have her conversations. He never seems impatient. He just waits for Mary while he stares straight ahead through the windscreen. Maybe he is listening the radio. As for Mary, she was looking well. She looked like herself only much thinner. I think perhaps the winter has been hard on her. Her coat was the same winter coat as she always wears. It is the very end of March but it is still cold enough to need a winter coat. The coat looked enormous on Mary, but the coat is the same size as it always was. The coat is big and she is not.

 

29 March Friday

The wild garlic is everywhere. It tastes like spring and it smells like spring when I walk through it.

28 March Thursday

I needed to get the saw and cut some branches down near the stream before I could walk up the path. A few trees and branches had toppled in and over the stream and over the path. I was not in the mood to crawl through the mud to go underneath them. It was the cutting of the timber in Tom Cooney’s forestry that had caused the trees to fall into one another and knock some others down. The men who were doing the felling had come down the Mass Path from the top on a Quad bike. The normal single track now looks like a road. A muddy road. The men are not just cutting trees for firewood, they are felling ash trees for hurleys. PJ explained part of it to me. The trees are cut about one and a half metres from the ground. In order to do that other trees have to be cleared all around the desired ash tree. Then the bottom of the tree is cut as low into the roots as possible. This cutting is done with a series of cuts to allow for the curve. The cutting goes almost under the ground. The strange looking stump left after the felling is called a hurley butt. A finished hurley has a curve at the end of it and the curve has to already be a part of the natural flare at the bottom of the tree. First a curve and then straight up. The stick is kind of like a hockey stick but it is rounder, maybe fatter, and shorter. Ash wood is both strong and flexible and apparently it is the only wood that makes a proper hurley. I understand very little about hurleys. I understand very little about the game of hurling. The game is so popular that there is a need for at least 400,000 new hurleys each year. The rest of the ground around where these trees have been carved out looks like a massacre.

27 March Wednesday

Annie shouted hello across the wall. She declared that she was far too busy from one end of the day to the other. She blamed the longer days and the extra light. She said, “I haven’t the time to bless myself!

Daily Bread.

25 March Monday

The bread man was delivering at O’Dwyers. Both of the back doors were open. There was plywood fitted inside the back windows with charts telling how to store and to locate the bread in the back of the van. I guess each side of the van demands a separate stocking system.

24 March Sunday

Breda announced that she was a real Go The Road.  I was not exactly sure what she meant. I felt I had to ask. She told me that it just meant she was busy all the time and all of her busy-ness involved Going. She was always going somewhere by car and never ever staying home. I liked the fact that a Go The Road was a name for a person and not simply an action.

23 March Saturday

We had porridge in the café. We were sitting upstairs where there was only one other woman sitting at the far end by herself. Other than that the place was empty. A second woman came heavily up the stairs with a cup and saucer rattling in her hand.
She shouted across the room, “Oh, Margaret! It is good to see you!” Actually she did not shout, she just used her voice in what was probably her normal way which was extremely loud. Her voice boomed. She made the entire upstairs of the café into her own place. We immediately felt like extras as she and Margaret settled in to talk and catch up on things.

22 March Friday

Yesterday was the vernal equinox and we were promised a full moon. Before bed, I went out out to look at the moon. There was no moon to be seen. Solid cloud cover blocked out all the stars and the moon. I walked down through the meadow taking the route I always used to walk with Em. I did not feel frightened to be walking alone in the dark, but I did wish that Em were with me or at least that she was off barking in the darkness and that she would be back beside me soon. I did not feel frightened but I felt lonely. I felt my isolation. I felt the deep silence surrounding me. The darkness was complete. I could just barely discern the whiteness of the birch trees at the bottom of the path. When a moon is full and bright there are usually shadows on the land. Last night there were no shadows.

21 March Thursday

Ned arrived early and un-announced with a delivery of heating fuel. He usually rings to say that he is coming. He needs to let us know because someone needs to be at home when he comes so that he can plug the generator in through the window. A regular oil truck will not deliver down this boreen. A normal oil truck is too large to drive down here. We have to have our fuel delivered in a small truck with its own generator for pumping. If no one is here when he arrives, Ned’s trip is wasted and he has to take his fuel all the way back to Piltown.

He quickly explained that the reason that he was so early and un-announced was because he had had to rush into Lidl right away this morning. They were having a special on protective helmets with drop-down face visors and sound-muffling ear protectors. The price was only 20 euro and he knew full well they would be popular. He knew they would be Flying Out The Door.  The advertisement had said the helmets would be in-store from Monday morning, so he rushed along in order not to miss getting one. The store opened at 8 am and he was there waiting, with our oil in a big plastic tank on his truck, at a quarter to eight. He was not the only one. There were six or seven other men waiting. They were all waiting for the helmets.  The men stood at the door and discussed the high quality of these German tools and work products. They all agreed it would be a crime to miss out on such a bargain. Ned was so impressed with the helmets when he saw them that he bought three instead of the one he had come for. He pointed into his truck window to show them to me. There were two on the floor and one on the seat beside him.

I was still wearing my bathrobe when he arrived, so he told me to give him my car keys so that he could move the car and get his truck into position near to the oil tank. When the tank was full, we all had tea and biscuits while Ned further explained the various merits of the new helmets for outdoor work. Before he left, he loaded up the old cast-iron bathtub that we had moved outdoors in September. It has been siting out there ever since. The oil truck had a hydraulic lift on the back. That made it possible for him to get the tub up and into the truck.  I was sorry to see it go but glad it has found a new function. He was taking it for his brother to use as a watering trough for the cows.

Before he drove away, Ned patted the boxed helmet on the seat beside him. He said, “It has been a grand day already and it is early yet.”

19 March Tuesday

The smell of slurry is everywhere. The acrid burning smell makes me gag.  Lingering outside is not pleasant. Lingering outside is not possible. Daffodils are in bloom. There are primroses all down the boreen. I want to be looking at everything and savoring the springtime but I shall have to wait for another day.

———————
20 February Wednesday

Oscar took a turn in the night. He was taken to the vet but it was all too late. I was saddened, but not surprised to receive this news. I am more  surprised that he lasted so long after his stroke. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to know dear Oscar. To have walked with him and to have had him visiting on his own irregular regular basis. He was gentle and loyal and undemanding. His absence is a loss for the whole neighborhood.

This particular kind of dog is disappearing from the lanes of the countryside. These are the dogs who walk out and visit somewhere maybe several miles away and maybe for all day, but they always go home again because they know where they belong and they know where they are fed.  These are the dogs who walk only along the very edge of the road where the grass and the soil meet the tarmac. They do not walk in the middle of the road. It is no doubt a little softer for their feet just there along the verge and, anyway, they are well aware that they need to be safely out of the way of motorcars and tractors. Oscar did have an unusual habit of stetching out across the road in one particular place in front of The White Cottage, but even if he was sound asleep he could be seen by anyone driving along from either direction. His death was not a result of being run over. He died because he was old and tired and unwell.

Buns for Norman Chicken.

31 January Thursday

The days are getting longer. They are getting longer and lighter. It is a constant topic of conversation. We no long speak of the longer days by saying that there is A Stretch In It. We are well past that. The first of February is considered the first day of spring even though in my mind it is not really spring. Weather-wise it is not even vaguely spring, but here it is the day that is officially considered the First Day of Spring. Every year this surprises me. It should not surprise me any longer. The first of February is the First Day of Spring. Every single year, the first day of February is the First Day of Spring. This morning Johnnie reminded me that tomorrow is the First Day of Spring. He said, “It won’t be long before you can eat your dinner by the light of day.”

29 January Tuesday

I am always pleased to find a lost shopping list. I like the sort of eavesdropping effect of reading what somebody else intends to purchase.
Yesterday I found a small piece of cardboard.  The list read:

Rolls/TV Guide
Buns for
Norman.
Chicken.

I spent the rest of the day speaking about Buns For Norman Chicken. I repeated it over and over again. It became a little chant. Buns for Norman Chicken! I was delighted with the name Norman Chicken. I woke up happy with the name Norman Chicken on my tongue. Now I see that Norman Chicken is neither a person nor a recipe. Buns For Norman was one thing. And then there was Chicken.

28 January Monday

I was not sitting very near to the door, but I was sitting near enough to the door to be visible to anyone going out or coming in. As I looked up from my coffee, I saw Paul on his way out the door. He was chatting with another man and he left without me saying hello to him nor him saying hello to me. A few seconds after the door closed, he opened it again, and stuck his head in.  He said, “Hello there! I didn’t see you till I saw you!”

26 January Saturday

The clock on the library building in Cahir has been repaired and replaced. For about a year or maybe longer there has been a piece of black plastic in the rectangular space where the clock used to be. I wondered if the clock would ever return. I worried about it. Now it is back. I do not know exactly when it disappeared and I do not know exactly when it returned.

24 January Thursday

Some people do it and some people do not do it. It does not seem to be a spoken quirk from one specific county.  Or I cannot tell if it is something that belongs to a particular place. I just hear it sometimes and sometimes I do not hear it. I think it is more like a kind of a lisp or speech defect. Or maybe it is a pronunciation thing from the Irish language. It is the saying of a T instead of a TH, usually at the beginning of a word. When people say T instead of TH, the entire meaning of the word they are saying can be different.

The two lads were sitting behind me on the bus. We were going to Cork and they were going to Cork. One of them spoke of TICK TIES. He said it once and then he said it again. I had not been listening to their conversation but these two words were repeated again and again. I could not understand the words so I had to listen in order to put them into context. It was a bit like hearing a few words that I do understand in the midst of a sentence in a foreign language. The familiar words make the rest of the conversation kind of public business. I think this was the same kind of situation.

Eventually I understood that TICK TIES was actually THICK THIGHS. It was THICK THIGHS with the T sound replacing the TH sound. The lad doing most of the talking was discussing his three years in Australia. The other lad was on his way to Australia so the first one was telling him what to expect and what problems might be encountered. Apparently a major issue down there is that the legs of Irish men are not like the legs of Australian men. The buying of a new pair of jeans is a real and pressing problem if you are the kind of lad with Thick Thighs. Apparently these two lads are both the kind of lads with Thick Thighs. Many Irish lads have Thick Thighs and the Australians do not have the same kind of leg shape so their blue jeans are made to fit their body type. These jeans are not comfortable for an Irish lad’s legs. In fact they are impossible for the majority of Irish legs.

And anyway, the Australian jeans are too long. Even the shortest length is too long. The first fellow had located a website that sold blue jeans for the Irish expatriate audience. The jeans were cut wider in the thighs and shorter in the leg and they were just as good as what you could buy right here at home. It was easier to use the website than it was to ask your mother to go and shop for you and post you a pair of jeans. The instructing lad ended this portion of the conversation by saying, “After all, she is your Mam. She would only be after thinking that you could not take care of yourself without her help.”

23 January Wednesday

I spent two hours in the cold barn undoing clumps of bubble wrap this afternoon. I collect it from the vet’s office in Cahir. They keep it crammed behind a shelving unit until it gets to be too much. When I need a fresh supply for wrapping book parcels, I ring and they tell me if they have any or not. Sometimes it has already gone off to the recycling. Two weeks ago, I got a three enormous rubbish bags crammed full. The vet’s office is happy to pass the bubble on to me as they consider that recycling it via me is superior to recycling it to the council. Today I spent the time pulling off strips of sello tape and flattening out the pieces. It is a job I avoid for as long as possible. There is always something more interesting to do. Sometimes the tape rips the plastic but sometimes I can get it off smoothly and I end up with huge great pieces to fold up and put away for use later. I listened to the radio while I was working which distracted me from the cold. As always, I marveled that a veterinary practice receives so many things in bottles and containers that need careful padding with bubble wrap. I did not get through all three of the bags before the cold in the barn drove me back up to the house. A good supply is now ready for use so I feel wealthy and ready for any package that might need to be packed.

22 January Tuesday

My collection of lichen up the boreen is getting bigger but not as quickly as I had hoped. I think I thought it expected that it would grow and grow. I think I hoped it would be so large that it would need to be detoured around.  That it would be impossible not to see it as one walked along. It is still quite a small amount. I am surprised that neither the wind nor a dog or a boot has displaced the little pile. I showed it to PJ one day when I met him and his dog Walker. I suggested that if he finds any clumps of lichen, he is more than welcome to add to the collection. I was trying to let him know that it was not just my pile. Anyone else could add lichen. I do not think he was very interested but he was polite about it.

A Rib of Hair.

21 January Monday

George Mason died in October. It was sudden and shocking. He was a young man. He was not yet fifty. I did not really know him but he generously allowed us to walk the track through his fields. When we saw him in the distance we waved to him in his tractor and he waved back. The rare time we spoke with him it was about the weather. If his herd was not grazing in the lower meadow we walked right through it to the special place where the Nire River runs into the Suir. George Mason raised cattle for beef. His brother is a dairy farmer. The brother has taken over the fields for planting and harvesting since George’s untimely death. If we did not already know that there was someone else working the land we would know it anyway by the completely new way that the round bales are stacked in the shed.

20 January Sunday

There are things to do After Dark and things to do Before Dark. At this time of year the days are short. The days are getting longer but they are still short. I go for walks and I hang the washing in the light. I prefer to empty the compost in the light but I can do it in the dark if I use a head torch. The light fixture in the tool shed is broken so getting things out of the freezer is best done before dark. I make phone calls and I write emails and letters when daylight is gone and darkness has fallen. Sometimes I say it aloud to people. I say that I will ring them After Dark. They do not register what and why I am saying this. I try to divide the activities of my day by Before Dark and After Dark. This is only an issue in the winter. There is no reason to even consider it during the rest of the year.

 


19 January Saturday

For at least a week, the air has been full of the stench of slurry. The smell is everywhere. All of the farmers are at it. Sometimes it is so bad that it makes my eyes sting and my throat burn. Lately it has not been that bad. I think the cold keeps the smell down. Joe has a lot of fields on the other side of the road from his farm and his slurry pit. For the last four days he has had a long heavy hose connected to his spreader as it moves over and back on the far fields. The big hose crosses the tar road. When the slurry is pumping through it there are little ramps to make it safe to drive over the hose. The hose is under a lot of pressure. When the ramps are in place there is Joe or a young lad waiting nearby to tell any driver to travel carefully over the ramps. The boy who was there today told me that the hose is probably 850 metres long. Maybe he was only guessing at the length. I love the ramps. I love aiming the car in just the right way so that all four wheels bounce up and over.

18 January Friday

The old sand-cast aluminum letters do not always make for even letter spacing.

17 January Thursday

The Irish language TV people -TG4 – were in the village this morning. A man and a woman filmed and took photographs to do a report on the fact that our Post Office has been saved. Or spared. Our committee sat around a table having a fake meeting for them and we posted some fake parcels. Any real customers who came into the shop rushed out again saying they did not want to be on TV. Treasa has been the substitute post mistress for about 18 months. She is fluent in Irish, so she did the interview. She was all dressed up and wearing bright red trousers which unfortunately will probably not be seen as the camera only framed her head and her shoulders. Catherine was inside the Post Office booth being interviewed through her window. The TG4 woman held up a big piece of paper with Catherine’s answers in Irish written on it. She had written them down last night because she was terrified she would forget them or pronounce them poorly. The shop was full of chatter and excitement. I learned that the Irish word for this kind of chat is COONSHEE.  No doubt there is a proper way to spell it and this is not it. After it was over, I walked the three miles home in bright sun and cold wind. I was smiling the whole way.

 


16 January Wednesday

String storage is a common sight. When a farmer moves cows from field to field or out of one field and down a road and into another field, he stretches a length of string or plastic tape across from a gate post or tree or bush to another post or tree or bush. The thin white line of string is enough to let the cows know that they cannot go that way. Any cow that wanted to could barge right through such an insubstantial bit of droopy string, but somehow they rarely do. I am not sure if this is because some sorts of string have a filament wire and an electric current through them. Wire, which probably looks like string to a cow, can also be electrified. So in the mind of a cow the line drawn in their path might or might not have a little charge in it, so it is best to be avoided. The strings used for road crossings are usually left looped in place right where they will be needed again. They are carefully hung up in readiness for their next job.

15 January Tuesday

Helen said, “He hasn’t a RIB of hair!” I knew that the man was bald but I could not see the word Rib having any connection to anything else in the sentence. She told me that the word Rib came from the Irish.  Rib means a Strand. She said Rib was so completely incorporated into speech that few people even knew they were using an Irish word in the middle of an English sentence. She said that no one around here would ever say Strand. They would say Rib and everyone, except for me, would know what was meant.

One. At. A.Time

 

14 January Monday

I was trying to leave the grade school in Grange but I could not open the door. Then I saw that there was a buzzer high up to press in order to release the door. I buzzed and pushed just as the door was pulled hard from the outside. The woman on the other side and I both made startled shrieks of surprise and then we burst out laughing. She laughed so hard that she fell to her knees. In between laughing gasps, she said, “Well, we are awake NOW!”

13 January Sunday

An overweight yellow Labrador comes across the fields and visits every morning. He arrives at around 9.30 and wanders around and drinks water and sniffs in a lot of places. He is old but he is able and he rushes around doing his investigations in a friendly way. I am always happy to see him and he seems happy to see me. When he decides his visit is finished he heads off over the fields. I do not know his name. I am not certain where he lives. He might be called Zack and he might belong to the Slatterys on the Knocklofty road at Clonacoady, but I might be wrong. He might have a different name and belong to someone else altogether.

 

12 January Saturday

The Farmer’s Market was sort of back in action today. There were only about half of the usual stalls there. Keith had no vegetables at all on his table. He had very little to sell. He had apples and eggs and he had buckets full of freakishly long stemmed daffodils. The stems were two feet long. These were not daffodils that had just poked their heads a tiny bit above ground because of the too the mild weather. Daffodils in January is not right, but they looked wonderful.  We came home with some just to make ourselves feel more cheerful on such a gloomy grey day.

 

11 January Friday

Doing extra transactions at the Post Office has become a challenge. I have been busily posting parcels and depositing money into my Post Office account book. On Wednesday, I also paid our house insurance there. I was proud to tell Rosie that I had made Seven Transactions in three days. I was sort of bragging. She was not overly impressed. She told me that a woman from Greenmount had just been in.  She had done Eleven Transactions in the same number of days. I felt both deflated and envious. It is perhaps good that we begin to feel competitive. That means we will all be using the post office more and more. By today I was happy to have done Eleven Transactions. I wondered how many the woman from Greenmount had done. Mairead reported that she had just come from the Post Office and she had done Five Transactions in one visit. She paid two bills and bought Three Stamps. One. At. A.Time.

10 January Thursday

Dr Bernie told me that I need some glasses, just for The Driving. I was stunned. I thought my repaired eyes would need no help for years and years. She said that this is a Normal Post-Cataract Kind of A Thing. She said that once the spectacles are made up, I can leave them in the car and never wear them anywhere else. She said I would not even need them anywhere else. She said it is not imperative at all but by summer I will surely be wishing I had them. She wants to give me the kind of lenses that become sunglasses when it is bright outside. She suggested that I look around at home for some old glasses frames. She said, “Sure, there is no reason to pay money for frames when you already have some old ones that will work perfectly well.”

 

9 January Wednesday

Em and me has been available for sale at the shop in the village for a few months now. As the copies dwindled to just one, I noticed that some days the final copy would be there among the farm magazines and children’s comics and some days it would be gone. The next day it would reappear.  People are delighted to tell me that they have read the book. More people have read it than have bought it. It seems the books on the shelf are not just for buying and browsing but they are for borrowing.

This lovely review from Maurice Scully:

This is a book centred on the relationship of the author & her dog. It is composed from blogs during her dog’s life & so has an episodic & almost poetically repetitive form. A pet’s life is of course an accelerated & condensed version of a human life, of all animal life & its phases, & so tracks the arc from exuberance of youth to the pathos of old age.  Such a theme can lend itself to sentimentality, but Van Horn is the opposite of a sentimental writer: she writes of what-is with clarity & intelligence & lets the given speak for her beloved animal, without enlargement, just as her pet’s acuity is a given of nature, beyond adumbration.
Okay then if you want a cosy, warm, lovey-dovey pet book, this is not it. If on the other hand you want a penetrating portrait of a pet & its ‘mistress’ this is for you.
Em & Me is an unfussy, tasteful production, as one takes for granted from Coracle Press, with good paper, good margins, clear font, pleasantly pocket-sized dimensions, attractive matt wrap-round cover & a good all-over feel to it in the hand.
There are four protagonists in Em & Me: the dog, its owner, the countryside, & the owner’s human partner, Simon, this latter a shadowy but significant presence. Simon’s making a gravestone for the dog at the end & speaking to the dog’s spirit at her graveside could be mawkish, but it isn’t. Van Horn’s gift for presenting human feeling, human affection, love & sadness, without sentimentality is exceptional.
Em & Me is about attachment ultimately: to a pet, to a locale, to art, to a life lived with alertness. An exceptional book. Coming from an exceptionally gifted partnership, whose lifelong project is Coracle Press: Erica Van Horn & Simon Cutts. Em & Me is forever, not just for Xmas.

Discoloured Water

7 January Monday

Yesterday we walked the New Walk in glorious sunshine. I am already calling this walk The KnockPerry. The walk has found its name. Rachel and Peter joined us. A crowd of sheep were rushing from one field down the road to another field. They had a man and a dog and a girl on a bicycle behind them. When they saw us in their path they tried to look busy and to pretend they were turning but there was a stone wall in their way. There was no where to go.

6 January Epiphany.

Today is Little Christmas. Little Christmas is short for Women’s Little Christmas—Nollaig na mBan. This is the day when all of the holiday decorations come down and get stored away. Holiday cards get filed or recycled, and the tree is removed. On Little Christmas, the tradition is that women are supposed to be free from All Household Duties. Probably this release is only after they have finished putting all of the decorating stuff away. Husbands and partners are left to take care of children and cleaning and pets and preparation for back to school and whatever else needs doing. The women go out with their friends in the evening and have dinner with other women. In Cork city, I understand that the restaurants are packed full of women and that there is rarely a man in sight.
Officially, Christmas is over. Tomorrow the world will go back to normal. Children and teachers will return to school. The post office will return to its usual hours and deliveries. It will be almost as if the last two weeks never happened. Except that everyone will continue to say Happy New Year to one another again and again and again until we are all certain that we have not missed anyone. This will go on for at least one more week. Maybe two.

5 January Saturday

Living Locally No.30

Letterpress card 2015

4 January Friday

Another mild day. I was walking Around alone. I did not see one car nor one person the entire way. When I entered the boreen and reached the top of the first slope, I heard footsteps and heavy breathing. Oscar came staggering up behind me. I could not believe my eyes nor my ears. He was wheezing and gasping like an old tractor, as he has in recent months. The back of him is still not functioning very well but the front of him was delighted to be on the way to anywhere. As happy as I was to see him, I knew he should not be out on his own. Just a few days ago he was almost dead. He was already a kilometre from home when he caught up with me.  I had no idea if he would have the strength to walk back. I walked him home slowly. I wondered if I should have rung June to come to fetch him. She was shocked to learn that he had gone so far. As we stood talking, Oscar lifted his leg for a pee and he fell over. His back legs have lost all their power but already he is a changed dog from a few days ago.

3 January Thursday

Catherine McCarra, the postmistress, has taken back her resignation. In doing so she gave up the financial package which was on offer. AnPost made this back-handedly generous one-time offer to try to close 400 post offices. Since Catherine decided not to take the package and not to retire a the end of this month, our post office can stay open. Our committee tried all kinds of things but no halfway solution would do. As a last ditch attempt, and at great personal sacrifice, Catherine wrote and rescinded her resignation, and forfeited the money, even though she is not a well woman. If she collapses tomorrow, our post office may well be closed down immediately. We called a general meeting to announce the turn around and because our only hope now is to increase the transactions which take place at the counter. I was fearful that only 10 people might turn up, but the Community Hall was packed with people. Everyone seems eager to work to double our transactions in the next six months. One suggestion was that someone with a post office savings book could put 2 euro into their account one day and then they could take it out again the next day. This would count as two transactions. It could drive Rosie, behind the counter, crazy. But at least she would have a job. Unfortunately we do not seem to have a number of how many transactions are currently being done so it is hard to know how many we will need to double the number.

2 January 2019 Wednesday

The Christmas Nativity Scene that gets set up every year is called The Crib. People go to view The Crib. They ask if you have seen The Crib. They comment on how well The Crib is looking. They mourn the occasional theft or random destruction of The Crib by Bad Lads. It took some years before I understood what was being discussed.
When our currency here was Pounds and Pence, a Pound was always called a Quid. We have been using the Euro since 2002, but people still speak of something costing A Quid. Or of being paid 10 Quid. Quid is still the slang for money even though the actual currency has changed.

I find the Christmas period complicated because the talk of Quids and Cribs gets confusing. Now that January has begun there will still be Quids but no more Cribs.

31 December Monday

At the end of my walk I detoured to visit Oscar. He is weak and wobbly. He is really really weak and really really wobbly, and his eyes are glazed over, but he is alive. He is on steroids and some other tablets. Mark and June are trying to get him to eat regularly and often. They are trying to get him to take water. June said he has never had the habit to drink fresh water from a bowl. He has preferred to drink from puddles. Now they are trying to discolour the water in his bowl to convince him to drink it. The vet said that if he does not eat and drink to build up his strength he will not recover from his stroke. I was longing to ask what they are using to discolour his water.

Woodworm

28 December Friday

June and Mark came down the boreen. They were looking for Oscar. He has not been seen since Stephen’s Day. June was in tears. She was hoping we had seen him. She was hoping anyone had seen him. He has been gone for two days. They have been walking and driving around always looking on the verges and in the dikes in case he might have been hit by a car. He might be lying somewhere hurt or he might be dead. We wished we could say something positive. The thing that we did not say and that they did not say is that there is always a particular worry when an elderly dog disappears. There are rough people around and about who steal old dogs. They prey upon dogs who have never known anything but kindness. These people run dog fights which are illegal. They organise the dog fights in out of the way locations. Spectators bet on the dogs. The dogs fight to the death. To get the fighting dogs in the mood and to give them a taste of blood their owners provide them with an old dog. The old dog will be attacked and killed by the fighters to encourage viciousness and a taste for blood. I hate to think about this. When any dog, especially an elderly dog, goes missing, people think about this possibility, but it is rarely discussed out loud. We all hate to think of such a cruel nightmare scenario, but we know that it does happen.

Before darkness fell, Oscar was found staggering across a field. His back legs kept giving out. It took him a very long time to get home from wherever he had been. We will never know where he was for two whole days. June and Mark took him to the vet who said he had had a stroke. We are all relieved to know that Oscar is back at home. Now we must wait patiently to see how he recovers. The vet said that it might take weeks.

 

26 December Stephen’s Day

We walked The New Walk again today. The sun was out for part of the time. I am learning the names of the places we pass through. We begin just off the New Line at Barnacullia, and then we turn into Fitz’s Boreen. I have already heard two names for this same boreen. One is Fitz’s Boreen as Jim Fitzpatrick, or Fitzgerald?, has a farm just nearby. The boreen used to be called Paul’s Boreen because of Tommie Paul Hally who lived nearby. Since there was another Tommie Hally in the area, Tommie Paul was called Tommie Paul rather than just plain Tommie and the boreen got shortened to Paul’s Boreen to differentiate it from the other boreen called Hally’s Boreen further down the New Line. I am not yet certain which name is the correct name but I love this green road. Back on the climbing road we are at Knockperry, and then we circle Garryduff and come back down the New Line. No doubt there are a few more place names in between that we do not know yet.

25 December Tuesday Christmas

I now have a little lichen collection up the boreen. Each time I pass I add a few more pieces of lichen or else I add a stick that has some lichen attached to it. The lichen is falling off branches because of the wind or because the birds scrape it off with their feet. I have only been depositing my pieces of lichens there for a few times now but already I think of it as a kind of toll. It is a duty. I must add to the little place each time I walk up the mass path. I think about this little spot as I lie in bed at night. I now want to walk that way more often just so that I can make the little pile into a bigger pile.

24 December. Monday. Christmas Eve

It is too warm. The rain has finally stopped but temperatures are much higher than they should be at this time of year. The days are mild and the nights are mild. There are buds on my black currant bushes. The Lenten Rose is blooming. Daffodils are pushing up out of the soil. Some are as much as two inches in the green. Today I saw snowdrops in bloom beside Em’s stone. There are loads more snowdrops pushing up through the grass everywhere. This is not right.

22 December Saturday

We have a new walk. I took Simon and Breda on it today. I was nervous because I was hoping it was as wonderful a walk for them as it had been for me a few days ago. I was hoping I had not exaggerated it too much, first in my mind and then in the re-telling of it. I had been describing it again and again. I urged them both to come for this walk with me as soon as possible. So they did. They loved it. I loved it again. It was just as wonderful as I had found it the first time. There is a lot of climbing which affords fine views. I do not know what to call this walk. For the moment, it is The New Walk.

The Long Field is the name for one walk. We need names to explain where we are going or where we will meet. We have The Abbey Walk. The Des Dillon. The Mattie Loop. The Gate to Gate. The Virgil. The Poets Walk. The Waterfall Walk. The Boulders. The Cottage Loop. The Mass Rock. The Lumpy Fields. The Mass Path. Around. The Reg and Dedge. Neddins. The Perimeter. Murphy’s Lane. The Duck Pond. The Forestry.

These are not the old names of the meadows or the lands we are walking through. These are our names given so we know which walk we are going on or thinking of going on. It also suggests time. The Gate to Gate is a very short walk through the fields that are part of the Abbey Walk. This walk is especially useful right before sunset. It is a tidy little walk mostly for stretching one’s legs or for letting dogs go for a rush about.

It is usually Breda and I who give names to our walking places. We share this need to identify. Other people who we walk with quickly use the names too. The names become the walks. Every walk finds the name that is right for it. Proper local names for fields and places are important but sometimes they are difficult to learn. Our names become the walking route name which most likely incorporates several fields. If each field has a name we cannot list all the names when we want to walk there. The Lumpy Fields, as a walk, goes through nine or eleven fields. Each field has a name for the farmer who owns it, but to us the fields join to become a single walk, unless one field has cows in in it and then we detour around that one. We only need one shorthand name to identify a walk. We need to pick one name that sums it up. The name for The New Walk will find itself. It will not be The New Walk forever. It will find its name and then there will be another walk that is The New Walk.

21 December Friday Solstice

The woman was in front of me in the shop. She was grumbling about the many pre-Christmas jobs and pressures. She was grumbling about getting the car washed and the windows washed and the gravestones washed and about cleaning the entire house. She said: “I also do not like Christmas. I dislike everything about it, except the cookies.”

20 December Thursday

I have been speaking on the telephone with Martina at the council. We have had the same conversations several times in recent months. She has promised to have someone come and look at the boreen. The holes are bad. The holes are very bad and they are getting worse. Derek the postman is not complaining about the holes, but he is commenting on the holes. Complaining will be the next thing after the comments. We know that the heavy rains have ripped out the tar and gravel and dirt. The patches have been patched and then they have been patched again. Everything has been washed away with the rain. Today Martina told me that Walter, who is in charge of the road repair crew, will come by to take a look in the next three days. Tomorrow is Friday. Walter might come on Friday. He will not come on Saturday nor will he come on Sunday. He will not come on Christmas Eve nor will he come on Christmas Day. And he will not come on Stephen’s Day. I shall ring Martina again in the New Year and we can start again with the promises.

 

18 December Tuesday

The road has gouges all along one side. Not all roads have these gouges but the very narrow tar lanes have them. They have been dug out by a digger. About every 6 metres. I am not sure what to call them. Gashes. Channels. Gouges. Sluices. Their function is to direct excess rain water to rush off the road and into the ditch. I am not sure who has dug these gashes. It might be the council or it might just be a neighbour with a tractor. Whoever has done it with the digger has ripped out a fair amount of tarmacadam at the same time as they made each gash. This happens every year. It contributes to the narrowing of the road.

 

17 December Monday

There is woodworm in the type drawers. The type is kept out in the little print shed in a tall unit with shallow drawers. The drawers are divided up as California Job Cases. Each drawer holds a specific type in a particular size. Someone who knows how to set type can reach across a drawer and find a letter without looking. The letters are always in the exact same position in every drawer. If one does not know the lay-out of a California case, finding each letter is a long and laborious job. Actually if one does not know the lay-out of the 89 compartments, each compartment a place for an upper-case or a lower-case letter or an element of punctuation, it is impossible to set type for letterpress printing. Now we have woodworm in the drawers. We can see the little piles of wood dust that they leave behind as they burrow. If we do not do something the drawers will begin to fall to bits and one alphabet will be mixed in with the alphabet just below it. Sorting them out will be impossible. Or if not impossible it will be such hard work that I doubt we will ever do it.

Between Him and His Sleep.

 

16 December Sunday

Anthony has brought out his Christmas Tree made of tyres. This is the third year for this tree. He keeps it on a pallet out in his yard. It is there all year to be seen at any time if anyone walks out back where all the machinery and used tyres are kept. At this time of year, he brings the pallet with the tree on it out near the road with a small forklift and he places it near to the petrol pumps. He adds a few bits of fresh greenery. Now we know it is Christmas.

15 December Saturday

About four o maybe five years ago—the last time I was in hospital, the surgeon came to collect me when they were ready for me. I was wearing my hospital gown, with little paper elasticized slippers and a little paper hat. The hat was like a shower cap. The surgeon and I walked down to the operating theatre together. We chatted about this and that as we walked. This time I was in the bed and ready to go when a man came to collect me. He was not the surgeon. He was a Porter. I did not have to walk to the operating theatre. The Porter pushed me and my bed though the maze of corridors. Before we left, he raised the bed so that I was sitting upright. I thought he was doing that so that I could see where we were going. He said, “I knew you would want to look around. Well anyone would, wouldn’t they? And no doubt you will see someone you know along the way.”

12 December Wednesday

Michael reported that he had just seen Robert with a chain saw. He was speaking down from high up in his tractor to Geraldine who was standing on the ground. They were discussing a tree that was hanging down over the road in an unnatural and dangerous way. The tree looked ready to tumble. The ground is so wet and so very sodden after all the weeks of rain. Some roots cannot hold on to the earth anymore. If the tree tumbles in the upcoming promised gusts of wild wind, it will block the farm gate and the road and it will take an electricity cable down with it. Robert is Geraldine’s partner. She knew exactly which tree was being discussed.
She said, “That tree is getting between him and his sleep.”

11 December Tuesday

The morning started grey and gloomy. The thick cloud cover has not lifted all day. It is impossible to know what time it is by observing the light. I kept thinking the sun might break through but it never happened. It is unseasonably mild. When it is not raining it is mild. Even when it is raining it is mild. These warm temperatures are not normal. There are mosquitoes and all sorts of small bugs that should not be flying around in December. Today I found a bee in a tea towel. I shook the towel out the door and the bee plopped to the ground. It walked away. It did not fly. It walked. There are cows in the fields. That is a good thing for the cows and for the farmers. It is good that the cows can be out eating grass when the fodder shortage still has its grip on things. It is a good thing but it is not a normal thing for this time of year.

10 December Monday

Our Post Office is doomed. It will be closed at the end of January. All of the efforts of our committee and our community have come to nothing. The population in the village is not close enough to the 500 mark. We needed 500 people within a one kilometre radius. People in the countryside live in the countryside. We do not live all crunched together in the village even though we consider this village our village. The fact that there are plenty more people in the five and ten kilometre radius does not count. Or it does count, but it counts against us.

9 December Sunday

There is rain and more rain. It is getting to that point where it is no longer interesting to speak of it. Everyone is tired of talking about the rain. The path is slippery and rocks are covered with moss. The fields are squelching. Walking anywhere is a wet event. There are lakes and ponds and rivers where there are usually fields.  Every river and every stream is overflowing. It is not easy to remember where the river used to end and where the fields begin.

 


8 December Saturday

We went to the Farmers Market. There were eleven stalls today. There is a new one preparing and selling Fish & Chips or Sausage & Chips. Since we had just had our porridge at the cafe, we did not partake but we received a little coupon to give us a special price in case we changed our minds. I think everyone gets this same special price. It makes everyone feel special, so why not? A few years ago there was a couple cooking and selling Boerewors, a South African sausage. Those were a bit hefty and rich to be eating in the morning, but many people seemed to like them. Some people made a special trip to the Market just to eat one of these sausages. The smell took over the whole area. I am not sure how long ago those people stopped coming to the market. I cannot remember when I last saw them. The geese came out of the river and up onto the Castle car park because people were throwing them chips. They might have come out of the river because it is so swollen and high. There is so much water that it is easy for the geese to just walk straight out onto the car park without even climbing up the bankings.

 

7 December Friday

The supermarket seemed full of elderly people this morning. It made moving around the narrow aisles a little awkward. One woman came up and grabbed my arm. She said, “I am Loving Your Hat!” She repeated this several times in a loud voice. Then she said it to another shopper who was passing. She said, “I am Loving Her Hat!” She said it two or three times. The other woman just smiled and walked on. I do not think she heard a thing.

6 December Thursday

At this time of year, there is a man who parks his lorry in various locations in order to sell firewood. Usually he is in Clonmel. Sometimes he comes to the market in Cahir on a Saturday but he always parks well away from the actual market. He parks at the far side of the car park so that he does not have to pay for a place in the market. His intention is to get the customers from the market but without putting out any money. He has a young boy working with him. The boy stays up on the truck and hands bags down to the man. Bags of kindling cost 1.50 each. Five euro buys four bags. One day I bought four bags. The man had the boy hand the bags down to him and then he tossed them onto his shoulder and he asked me where my car was. We walked together to my car with him chatting and asking questions all the while. He loaded the bags into the back of the car, complimented me on my accent and went back to his truck. It was not until I got home that I noticed how small the bags were. The bags on display and the bags which the boy handed to the man were not the same sized bag. It was a clever trick. I wonder how many customers go back for a second purchase.

4 December Tuesday

There was a sparrow swooping and flying around in the food court at Dublin airport. Everyone was delighted to see it. One table had been set aside with some crumbs and a bowl of water for the bird. The name of the cafe was Warbler + Wren.

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