Bags of Sandwiches

1 September Thursday

The shoe shop had a special tiered round table with shoes on display. The shoes were displayed sitting on copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The volumes were used and a bit grubby.  They were not really old, they were handled copies. I wonder if any homes have shelved sets of encyclopedias these days.  The woman in the shop told an admiring customer that it was her Back to School Display.

31 August Wednesday

The blackberries are slowing me down. There are so many coming ripe that even a short walk demands a lot of time for sampling and nibbling.  There are so many different varieties growing side by side.  I have not even started to walk with a bag or a container yet.  I just eat as I go.

photo 3

30 August Tuesday

Campbell’s Perfect Tea. The name says it all. It is a delicious tea which never tastes bitter and and it comes in a round tin which is yellow and short and fat.  I do not think anyone throws away a Campbell’s tin.  After the tea is used up, the tin can be used for pencils and pens, or nails or string or any number of things. I have tins in the barn and older, slightly rusty ones in the shed.  They are always useful. A tin can be used to hold a different brand of tea, or even tea bags. I have two tins in the kitchen. I always have two tins in the kitchen.  One sits on top of the other.   One is full of loose tea and one is full of coffee beans. When people ask if I prefer Lyons tea or Barry’s tea they never include Campbell’s in the question.  The question is an either or kind of question. I am not sure if that is only around here.  Maybe Campbell’s is more popular in other parts of the country.  I am noticing that it is more and more difficult to find and buy a tin of Campbell’s Perfect Tea than it used to be.

29 August Monday

In 2007 permission was granted to build a new runway at Dublin airport.  Nothing happened. Now it is being discussed again. They say building will begin next year and it will be up and running in 2020.  I am confused. I thought the runway had already been built. There was some excitement a few years ago. I thought it was because of a new runway. It must have been something else.  Whatever it was, the airport authorities decided that something needed celebrating. They accompanied the first plane to land, maybe from a new route(?), with several fire engines that raced along beside the plane with sirens screaming and lights flashing. The passengers inside the plane knew nothing of the celebration.  They were terrified.

Today the two brothers from Skibbereen who won silver medals at the Olympics flew home. The pilot invited them up into the cockpit for the landing in Dublin. He told them”It’s All Going To Be Massive, Lads!”  As the plane landed it was blasted with water cannons. That was the celebration. The airport itself was full of busloads of people who had been driven 4 1/2 hours up from Cork for the welcome.  The whole rowing club and loads of other people were there.  There was cheering and singing and applauding. Then everyone got back on the buses to head back to Skibbereen. The return would take them 4 1/2 hours again but they had bags of sandwiches on board and a huge party waiting when they arrived.

28 August Sunday

Nellie knew she did not have the whole story. She did not have the whole story but she was determined that she would have the whole story before long.  She kept muttering “I am looking for More Meat on this Stick.”

27 August Saturday

The old man walked with a lot of puffing and with a kind of twisting of his upper body up from the torso.  It was hard work for him to cover much distance even walking with a stick.   He carried a paper bag with handles which he plopped down onto Jim and Keith’s table at the market. The bag was full of sweet peas.  He said it was every last sweet pea from his garden because he liked to get them in before a frost so here they were all together in one place.  He told Keith to sell them or to give them away as he had no use for them at all and he did not want them dying anywhere where he could see them.  He did not want to have to cut them down when they were dead.  Keith knew that it was rather early to be worrying about a frost but he said nothing about that. He just said Thank You.  The man turned and left immediately. Keith knew that this was the first year ever that I have failed to plant sweet peas. He knows I love sweet peas and that I have been missing them.  He offered me the entire bag of blossoms.  I suggested that I take a few and leave some for other people.  Keith said that would not work and there would just be a mess.  He was right. When I got home and opened the paper bag there was then a plastic bag full of wads of wet paper towel.  The stems were very short. There were a few long stems but mostly they were cut too short to be of much use to anyone.  I managed to get all the flowers crammed into small jars and glasses of water. I now have ELEVEN containers full of sweet peas. The smell is too much. I shall have to move them all around the house.  I love the smell of sweet peas but this is an entire summer’s worth of sweet smell in one room at one time. As wonderful as it is, it is too much.

26 August Friday

The slugs are out.  They are out and they are in. It might be the cooler evenings.  I am finding slugs on the sink and slugs on the bathroom wall and slugs on the mirror and last night there was one tiny slug on my toothbrush. It is a good idea to close the windows early in the evening to avoid encouraging more slug traffic.


Ditch is the word

photo 2

25 August Thursday

Competition for the figs is fierce with the local birds. I check them every day.  I compete with the birds. The birds are checking more than once a day.  They have the advantage of eating half a fig while it is still on the branch and then just leaving the rest and maybe returning later.  I have the advantage of bringing the just barely squeezable ones inside for final ripening. The raspberries are coming on fast and furiously.  I pick a bowl full every morning and every evening and still I do not seem to get them all. The birds can be grateful for that.

photo

24 August Wednesday

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Em.  I miss her.

23 August Tuesday

Our mobile phones are without signal since last week.  It was the night of the big winds.  I cannot remember which night that was.  When we got in touch with the network people they told us that a mast had fallen down and that it would be repaired quickly.  As soon as we leave this valley our phones function. It is just here that they do not.  Today we rang again.  The person on the line had no proper answer to give us. He tried to sound like he knew what was being done but he ended up bumbling his way through.  He said “It can take the amount of time up to the time it has taken.” We know no more than we knew before.

21 August Sunday

The word Lashing is used often.  It is mostly to do with liquid.  Single or double cream can be applied with Lashings.  Rain is regularly described as Lashing.  Lashings of butter are essential for the eating of potatoes, but the butter is not liquid, or at least not till it melts.

20 August Saturday

Brambles are extending by the minute. They are reaching out for the light and they grab at anything that passes. They scratch hard if they can. Cars and faces and clothing are all under attack. I have walked along the top part of the boreen a few times and clipped the longest branches with my secataurs but the big cutting back of the ditches with machinery cannot be done for at least another week. Officially the ditch is not to be trimmed between 1 March and 1 September. Some people insist it is from 28 February to 1 September. The idea behind this restriction is to allow for birds and animals to safely use the time for nesting. Heavy cutting can disturb them and maybe even destroy nests. By now, I am used to hearing the ditch being called the ditch but sometimes talking about trimming a ditch still surprises me and I wish the word hedge could be used. Hedge is not the word for the bushes that grow along the road. Ditch is the word.

19 August Friday

The woman in the dentist waiting room came in and sat down and talked to me as if she knew me so I thought she must indeed know me. I thought that if I knew her I would remember her name or how I knew her within a few minutes of listening to her speak.  She never stopped talking. She did not take a breath. She told me that she had been in to the dentist yesterday and she had to return today to have something finished but she did not mind because she had read something in a magazine right here in the waiting room about a man who was at his daughters wedding and he did not walk the daughter down the aisle even though he could walk perfectly well.  He had both legs and he was fit and fine. She had been thinking about the article all night so she was delighted to come back and see what she thought about it all after thinking about it all night. She was not glad to be back to the dentist but she was glad to have another look at the magazine. She started to show me the photographs of the wedding but she did so really quickly as she was leafing though and she said she thought it such a terrible terrible shame that the father was not walking the daughter down the aisle and she had never in her whole life known such a sad thing. It turned out that the daughter was being walked up the aisle by Prince Charles instead of by her own father and the woman could not reconcile this in her own mind. Being escorted by a prince was of course special but a father is a father and there is no substitution for that.  She was still worrying about it all when I was called to go in.  By then I was certain that I had never met this woman before.


Clutches of Mist

18 August Thursday

The radio weather man announced the presence of Clutches of Mist everywhere.

17 August Wednesday

I was in the supermarket. Among other things, I bought two long narrow red peppers. The girl at the till got flustered and asked me to wait a minute. She had to void something on the till and start again.  By the time she was finished, she tried to tell me what had happened. It looked like I had bought four Chicken Pot Pies when in fact I had not bought a single Chicken Pot Pie. The Pot Pies were listed and then voided and then listed again and voided again. My till receipt was long and confusing. The girl explained it as best she could because she said she did not want me to get home and think I had paid for a lot of Chicken Pot Pies when in fact I had none at all. She said that it was all because of the red peppers.

photo 2

16 August Tuesday

We were given some Japanese geta sandals which are very nice but they are not exactly practical for life around here.  We hung them up on the wall in the entry to the sauna where they have been for seven years now.  Tom Browne’s slate mirror is wedged in up over the sauna door.  When I went to photograph it, I noticed that a swallow had made her nest on one of the shoes.  The mother was in the nest and she got agitated with my presence.  Today both mother and babies are absent. The nest is empty.  They might just be out for a flight around the place or they might be gone for good.

15 August Monday

This morning was completely white with fog.  We could see nothing beyond the fence.  A morning like this feels like the beginning of autumn, even though the calendar says August. By late morning the fog had all burned off.  The sky was blue and the sun was warm. After lunch the sun was hot. I lay down on the grass and fell asleep.  When I woke up I felt warm pressure on my back.  Oscar was stretched out beside me snoring heavily.  I never heard him arrive. He does not usually come down to visit unless he is walking along with a person.  He lives a kilometer away.  I got up from my nap and went on with my jobs.  He stayed where he was for another half hour and then he got up, had a drink of water and ambled off toward his house. He is an independant dog.

MassSign

13 August Saturday

Today was the day for the yearly celebration at the Mass Rock.  I had never attended so I decided that I really should see it for myself.  There was a lot of confusing information about the time but the place was fixed.  A Mass at the Mass Rock could only be held at the Mass Rock. Cars drove up into the Knockmealdowns as far as they could go and then people walked across the mountain for about 25 minutes to get to the Rock.  A few of the people setting off were wearing completely inappropriate shoes.  The day was dry and there was not much mud but little summery sandals did not seem like a good idea.

photo 1tractor1brendan.

John and Brendan Condon had tractors and trailers at the ready. They drove across carrying the elderly and anyone who was in any way unable to walk. They made several trips back and forth. Larry Doocey said he had The Sciatica on him so he could not walk but claimed that they needed him up there for taking the photographs because that is what he does every year. John drove a blue tractor with a blue trailer. Brendan drove a red tractor and pulled a red trailer.  Both of the trailers had been fitted with padded benches which could be lifted in and out as people entered and exited the trailers.  Brendan’s trailer was lined with carpet and he had covered the side rails with pieces of carpet which he secured with blue baling twine. He provided cushions and an umbrella for his passengers. Both bothers had upside-down plastic crates to help people to step down off the trailers. Brendan wore a cowboy hat for the occasion. John wore no hat.

tractor2                                             tractor 4

There were about 80 people at the service. Some people sat across the stream because the hill rose steeply up from there.  They were directly facing the Rock and the priest.  The priest wore a white robe and he had a microphone with an amplifying box at his feet. It looked like a yellow suitcase. The sound did not carry very well although it was probably better for those sitting across the stream. It was almost like they were on bleachers.  Everyone else stood or sat along the griff. Some people had their backs to the priest.  It just had to do with what kind of rock could be found to sit upon. A few people had brought little stools. There was a little bit of music with both singing  and instruments.  The Mass did not last too long and then everyone got up and talked to one another for a while and then we all headed back across the mountain. By the time we were leaving a large bottle of whiskey had appeared and several of the fiddles were tuning up again.

tractor3.

 


Old Slates

mirror

11 August Thursday

Eventually everyone makes something with slates.  That’s because there are a lot of old slates around.  Most people buy new slates for a new roof.  Old slates have become expensive. They  come in many sizes and different shapes. We have one kind of very thick slate on one side of the barn roof and another smaller rectangle on the other side of the barn.  I think many of the new ones are made in China.  Left-over slates get used in lots of ways around a place.  We have a path made of broken ones which makes a nice sound when it is walked upon. I find them useful to put around the base of a plant to keep the weeds down while the plant gets established.  Some get cemented and used as edging. Some people just throw them away. I never throw any away.  Anyone who has the smallest artistic leanings tries to make slates into something special.  A lot of people paint on them. A slate might end up as a little chalk board with a painted floral edge painted.  Or it might have a pastoral scene painted upon it. Or a cow.  Or the name of a house. The most popular thing is that they get made into frames for pictures or for mirrors.   One woman asked for an angle grinder for her birthday so that she could shape her slates before she painted on them.  Tom Browne made me this mirror fifteen years ago. A nail wedged into a piece of wood was his primary tool, mainly for tapping the rectangular shape out of the center.  He ended up chipping and cleaning off the outer shape with a pair of tin snips. His idea was that it should look like a shamrock.

10 August Wednesday

The figs are ripening.  The tree is heavy with fruit but most of it is still very hard. I have picked and brought in three so far.  They are not really ready for eating but they are ready for baking.  I need to get at least eight or maybe ten more before we can make a tart so I bring them into the house to finish the ripening. If I hesitate the birds will tear into them. They have already started.  We are competing. It is an evening job. The honeysuckle in the ditches is really blossoming everywhere at once and the blackberries are starting to ripen. It seems early for the blackberries but I think I say that every year.  Each morning I go out and fill a bowl with raspberries for breakfast which is a good way to start the day. Fig collecting at night, raspberries in the morning.

9 August Tuesday

Over seven and a half thousand English people have made inquiries about applying for Irish passports since the Brexit vote. Nearly three thousand people from Northern Ireland have done the same.  If a person has an Irish grandparent, the application process is a mere formality.  The application will not be turned down. The government has already run out of passport application forms.

8 August Monday

He is a practicing solicitor but in this court he was being questioned in regards to a case.  He was in the box as a witness and not as a solicitor. The questions for the defense began with him being asked if his legal practice was located on Church Street.  He answered Yes. He said Yes, my firm has been in the Church Street premises for twenty years now.  Then he was asked if the address was No. 5 Church Street.  There was a long silence.  He said I really do not know.  He said We do not use a number.  He said We do not use a street number. We have no number on our door.  We have no number on our writing paper. We do not use a street number because everyone knows where we are.

6 August Saturday

For three mornings in a row, I have found a small dead rodent outside the kitchen door.  Each time I have nearly stepped on it.  I am not sure if the dead rodent is a shrew or a little mouse.  Actually I am pretty sure it is a shrew but it is difficult to be certain because in each case the head has been bitten off.

5 August Friday

I finally finished picking all of the black currants.  The bushes are stripped clean.  I have been picking them off and on in a desultory fashion. Some days it has been too windy and the bushes blew around a lot. Some days it was too hot and some days just too chilly to sit on a box and pick carefully under the leaves.  I filled a bag for the freezer, then I filled a bowl for us to eat. We made them into a thick sauce which was delicious on every single thing we poured it over. We have eaten this sauce on yoghurt, on ice cream, on Fromage Frais, and on porridge. We have eaten it with sour cream and pancakes. Every few days I filled another bag for the freezer.  Then we would make more sauce. This has gone on for weeks.  The supply seemed endless. Every time someone came to visit they looked at the bushes and told me that I must hurry and pick the currants before the birds eat them. The birds are not interested.  I have taken my time. The freezer now has a good supply of black currants in it and we are eating our way thorough yet another batch of the lovely lovely unctuous sauce.


Quiet but Fruitful

4 August Thursday

When people speak of The Small Paper they mean South Tipp Today.  South Tipp Today is a free weekly paper with lots of advertisements for builders and chimney sweeps and painters and window cleaners.  The advertisements listed by individuals are called the Small Ads. There is always a bit of news and some photographic coverage of local events but mostly the paper is a vehicle for the small ads. People looking for jobs and people looking to hire other people advertise. People offering garden work and applications for building permits are listed.  If people are selling a washing machine, a motorcar or a sofa, they take out a small ad. Agricultural contractors list their services, as do farmers selling hay or animals.  Today I noted a Bull being offered for his reproductive possibilities.  He was described as Quiet But Fruitful.

photo 2

3 August Wednesday

Every field in every direction all over the county is full of bales. There are round bales, and rectangular bales and round bales of silage wrapped up tight in black plastic.  Already the fields are going from yellow to a deep golden colour.  There are some fields that look nearly red in their goldenness. Today I saw a long trailer in the middle of a field.  The trailer was stacked high with square bales. The trailer was no longer attached to a tractor. All of the bales still on the ground in the field were round bales.  It looked like that trailer load of square bales had been driven to that field full of round bales for some purpose but it was hard to imagine what that purpose might be. There were so many round bales in the field it is difficult to know how the trailer load of square bales even got driven into that position. Another field had every bale collected except for one.  That single bale sat all alone in a large expanse of field.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the logic of these activities.

1 August Bank Holiday

Tommie told me about a man whose car failed the NCT test last week.  He said the car did not get far enough along the testing procedure for the inspectors to find out if anything was wrong with it. The car just failed because it stunk so badly of dog. The inspectors refused to get inside the car and since they could not test it, they were obliged to fail it. Tommie said he could not say the name of the man whose car had failed, but he was quick to assure me that it was not his own car which had failed because it smelled so bad.  He reminded me that he did not have a dog nor had he had a dog himself for many years now and certainly not since he has owned the car that he is driving today. And anyway he said that he himself had never been a man to take a dog out driving around the countryside.

photo 4

31 July Sunday

I walked the Long Field at the end of the afternoon when there was a gap in the rain. I forgot that I had been warned about a recent crow massacre up there.  Two men had been shooting crows the other day.  I do not know why.  I quickly came across dozens of bodies and a lot of feathers.  Some dead crows were visible out in the middle of the yellow stubble of a field.  Most of them were on the dirt track where I was walking.  There were dozens. I could see the place where the two men had sat in long grass off to the right.  The grass was all flattened down. There was a bad smell off the many corpses. It was more than bad. It was revolting. Some of the carcasses had been torn up while being eaten. In some places there were only wings left or some bits of boney stuff.  It was horrible but it was fascinating.  I could not stop checking each new crow as I came upon it. I thought maybe I should turn around and go for a walk elsewhere but then I reached a clump of bushes and rounded a curve and there were no more bodies.  I was relieved to be away from death and its thick smell. After a few minutes of walking and breathing fresh air, I came upon one more crow.  He was lying on his back.  He was a good distance from all of the other corpses and he had not been found by predators yet.  He was a dark profile in the grass which grew in the middle of the track. After all the wild carnage, this crow looked peaceful. He looked like he was just sleeping.

30 July Saturday

Laura and Richie have a new puppy. His name is Ted.  He arrived today from the dog shelter.  He is three months old and a mix of a sheep dog and a springer. He does not really have hair.  His black and white coat is a fuzzy surface.  His hair is more like a stuffed animal than like a sheep dog’s hair.  He looks like the sort of toy which might have a zip in the tummy for storing pajamas.  I am smitten.

29 July Friday

My Friday afternoon trip to Cork was a mistake. I did not think it through. I should have thought it through.  The Friday before a Bank Holiday.  Who would do that? The city was full of people arriving with suitcases.  The city was full of people departing with suitcases. Backpacks, rolling luggage, duffel bags, everyone was on the move with stuff and everyone else was in a mad shopping frenzy. The Gay Pride Parade Weekend was commencing. Some other festival was also cranking up.  All over the whole country things will be happening.  The August Bank Holiday is a big summer event.  Everything everywhere is planned for that one long weekend.  That is why everyone is on the move to somewhere. I made the trip to do one single thing and to settle my mind about that thing. Once I had done my errand, I walked through the English Market and bought an enormous bag of cherries.  I collected my car and headed home.  The traffic was terrible.  Everyone who had not specially gone to Cork for the weekend was trying to leave Cork. I ate cherries all the way home.  This is not a country where cherries are easily available. When they are available they are crazy expensive and often not very good.  These cherries were perfect. I love cherries. I kept saying to myself that I must stop eating the cherries while I was driving, but I never did.  I just kept eating them. They made the entire wretched journey worthwhile.


Possibilities of a Lemon

28 July Thursday

Joe’s cows are in the adjoining field.  They are unusually quiet today. There is no jostling or mooing or bellowing. They are standing and eating grass.  Quietly. The morning is sunny and windy and cloudy all at the same time. Clouds are racing across the sky.  At moments all goes dark and overcast and then the clouds keep moving and the day is all over bright again.  The only sounds are the wind in the branches, a far-away chain saw and the tearing of grass.

photo

27 July Wednesday

I am delighted with my lichen cards.  I have been collecting lichen on every walk up the mass path for years now.  Some days, like Monday when the walking was such hard work, I do not even think of lichen but most days my eye is drawn to the little pieces which get knocked off the branches by birds or wind or time. Every pocket of every jacket has been full of dried up crumbling pieces of lichen.  Sometimes I fill a bowl with the silvery green-ish pieces and enjoy having them in the house with me.  Now I have printed a folding card with a square in which to glue one piece of lichen.  I have been rushing up and down to the barn with my glueing and weighting down of the glued pieces and then the checking to make certain that the card with the weight upon it is not sticking to the lichen and ripping it off.  I glue up five cards at a time. It is slow work because the dried and pressed lichen is so brittle.  I am becoming skilled at judging the delicacy of each piece.  I thought I had an enormous supply saved under pressure but of course the old stuff in my pockets was useless.  Now I return from a walk and carefully place any new samples under a weight to flatten them for a few days. I do not leave any in my pockets.  I am nearly through with what I believed was an enormous cache of lichen.  Actually, it was not so much. Now I must plan walks for the hunting. Picking up scraps of lichen is no longer just a whim.  It is a job.  I have glued about thirty cards so far.

26 July Tuesday

Peter ordered fresh mackerel. It was served with potatoes and a gooseberry sauce. Three potatoes arrived in a side dish which was placed to his right.  He took the potatoes off the small side dish and put them on his plate.  Then he took the skins off the potatoes. He moved the skins onto another small plate which was to the left of his main plate.  He enjoyed the potatoes so much that he asked the waitress for more.  She was neither surprised nor bothered by his request. She was happy to bring him three more potatoes. He performed the ritual of moving and skinning the potatoes and then moving the skins away again. The potatoes broke up as he removed the skins. He mashed them a bit with his fork. He added plenty of butter. He asked for the salt. I passed the salt and I offered him the pepper mill.  He looked at me in horror.  He said You do not put pepper on potatoes!  I said that I did put pepper on potatoes.  He said NO NO. Salt and butter are the only things to put on potatoes.  I keep thinking I know all there is to know about the Irish and their potatoes but it seems there is always more that I do not know.

25 July Monday

For walking up the mass path I wore two long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.  The morning was too warm for that much clothing. Everything was overgrown all the way up the path. No one has walked through in quite a while. I should have taken some clippers.  I should have taken a stick to beat some of the vegetation down.  I should have worn gloves. Both the brambles and the nettles got me right through my clothes. I got tangled in the sticky weeds.  It was a struggle from start to finish.  It was not really a walk, it was a battle. When I reached the open road at the top I felt like a survivor. I had many stings and I had ripped flesh. I enjoyed every minute of it.

24 July Sunday

I made the mistake of rushing down to the village to buy a lemon. I thought I could get there and leave quickly just before everyone came out of Mass.  I was too late. The road was full of people leaving the church and talking to one another. The sun was out and no one was in a hurry. The shop was full of chattering people.  I found the only lemon available and I waited my turn and I bought it.  I left the shop with the lemon in my hand. I passed a man sitting on the ledge. I had passed him on the way in too.  I knew the man and he knew me. He shouted out Oh A Lemon!  You’ll be having a whiskey then!  I said There is more than one thing to do with a lemon and anyway it is kind of early in the day for whiskey, isn’t it? He said Whiskey is the only place I have ever had a lemon and that only when it was A Hot Whiskey. He said, I like A Hot Whiskey with lemon. I was in a rush so I did not stop to discuss the many other possibilities of a lemon. This man is a talented man with the spoons and with a mouth harp but he cannot read nor write and he cannot do numbers.  I decided that what he did not know about lemons was just another thing he did not know  What he did not know did not bother him.

22 July Friday

They Have Skin in The Game.  I am guessing that this is a way to say that someone has a lot  invested in a project or a business so he cannot give up.  He cannot give up because he has too much to lose.

21 July Thursday

An Post raised the cost of postage today.  It went up in July last year.  It went up in July the year before too. I am not certain about the year before that.  The price of postage never goes down.

20 July Wednesday

The lights went out at about ten o’clock last night. The lights went out and everything else went out too.  I used the mobile phone to ring the electricity company.  The first thing the woman wanted to know was where I was calling from.  Then she asked me to tell her the account number off our last electric bill.  I said that I could not look for a bill because there were no lights in the house.  The woman said okay and then she told explained that the power was down in Ardfinnan and it might be back on soon or it might not.  She thought it was something to do with a cow and a pole and a branch, but she was not certain. It was dark so we went to bed.


The Things We Want To Have

19 July Tuesday

The high temperatures continue.  Half the county is paralyzed by the heat. The other half rushed down to the sea.  They came home disgusted. The coast is completely fogged in and it is not warm.  It is chilly.  In the village, boys are jumping off the hump-back bridge and into the river.  After they come out of the water, they hobble over the rough field and onto the dirt path. They climb over the wall and out onto the road and up the hill that is the bridge to cheer on the next boys and then to do it themselves again. There might be girls down below but there are no girls on the bridge. I do not know if the water is deep enough to be jumped into from that height.  The current is fast. There are a lot of big rocks.  People often drown in this river but usually they drown at night and in winter and mostly after taking drink. Now it is as much summer as it ever is.  The boys are hopping up and down on the hot tar with their bare feet.  They are waiting for their turn.

18 July Monday

Silence hangs over the land.  I can hear tractors in a far field, but just barely.  Even from this distance, there is a sort of rushing intensity about the sound because there is the need to get the hay in. To get the silage in. To get the grass cut. Or the barley. Or the corn.  Sunshine brings imperatives.  Being a far off muttering of machinery, the sense of imperative is not my imperative. I scarcely hear these sounds unless I really really focus my attention in that direction. Everything close by is quiet and motionless. There is no reason for me to seek out noise and activity elsewhere, but I like to know that it is there.  There are few birds making any sounds at all.  Bees and flies are barely audible. The heat has silenced everything.

17 July Sunday

The dead bird is gone.  I saw him yesterday from inside the barn.  The long window is waist height for me, but it is on even level with the ground outside.  I was inside and the bird was just outside. We were very close to each other with just the glass between us. I was certain he was dead and not simply stunned from crashing into the glass. He had flies all over him.  He was lying face down so I could not tell what sort of bird he was.  This morning he was gone.  There were no feathers or boney bits to be seen.  Maybe he was indeed only knocked out and he recovered and flew away.  Maybe he was eaten.  I do not think foxes eat things that are already dead. They prefer to make the kill themselves.  Maybe it was a sparrowhawk.

16 July Saturday

This might be the best ever year for figs.  The branches are heavy with them.  If the heat continues I think there will be loads.  I check them every day because I know the birds are checking too.

15 July Friday

They say that the recession is over and that employment is picking up all over the country.  John told me that the truth is a different story. He told me that he does not need a bulletin off the radio to tell him how things are.  His voice while he spoke was loud as he got angrier with the telling. He told me that Gerry had a robbery in his workshop last week.  He said the only thing stolen from the workshop was some lengths of copper pipe.  John said copper is easy to resell.  He said that copper gets a good price.  A lot of Gerry’s tools were lying around but none of his tools were stolen. One of the drills was new and another nail gun kind of a thing was not only new but it was German.  John assured me that it was a good brand.  John said it had been Savage Dear to buy. He said he knew that For A Fact.  The tools were not stolen and John said that that tells him more about the lay of the land than any words the politicians are telling.  He said that no one is stealing tools because no one is buying tools.  No one is buying tools because there is no work.  He told me that if there is no work there is no need for tools.  He told me these were the facts. He told me not to waste my own time listening to any news off the radio or on the paper.

14 July Thursday

Two small boys were in the shop. They were together in the little toy section which is behind the vegetable section.  They were examining the bags of plastic farm animals and the fencing and the various tractors on display. They were looking at all the things that they see in their lives everyday.  In the toy section of the shop everything is the same as it is out of doors but it is all on a smaller scale.  One boy said: Here we have all the things we want to have.


The recipe for the elderflower cordial, as requested

20 June Monday. The Longest Day. Full Moon. Lashing Rain.

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

20 large elderflower blossoms

(Best gathered in the sunshine, as if they are collected on an overcast day, your cordial may taste like cat pee.  I have never checked to see if this is true but I am not willing to take the chance.)

4 lb. (1.8 kg) sugar

2 ¾ oz. (75g) citric acid

2 lemons

Put the flowers into a large bowl (remove all leaves first)

In a saucepan, bring the sugar and 2 pints (a generous litre) of water to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the liquid over the flowers and stir in the citric acid.   Add grated zest of lemons, then slice the lemons and add them to the bowl too.

Cover and leave for 24 hours.

Strain through double muslin.

Pour into sterilized bottles and make a label.

Store in a cool dark place.

Makes about 1 1/2 litres or 2 ½ pints.

Serve a small amount of the cordial with sparkling or still water, with or without or ice.

18 June Saturday

I love to look into the eyes of dogs.  My preferred way to look into the eyes of a dog is to lie down on the floor.  Some dogs are uncomfortable with a human lying beside them.  Even if I am not touching them, some dogs do not feel happy. Some dogs get up, walk away and throw themselves back down onto the ground at a little distance.  Some dogs stay right where they are and they look right back into my eyes.  If the grass is wet or the area muddy I do not lie down with a dog.  In a house that is not my own, I try to pay attention to whose house it is and if it might seem rude to lie down with their dog. It is more often than not a bad idea.  I do like looking at another person’s home from down on the floor, looking up and seeing their world as I think their dog might see it.

17 June Friday

Joe’s cows eat the grass in the field but no matter how flattened it all is by their tearing, they always leave some tufts and thistles and things.  When they walk off the field to go for milking or just off to a different field, the crows come swarming in looking for worms  and other things that they might want to eat. I think the crows have easier access to these things because the grass is low. All of the recent rain can only make it easier to find the things they seek too.


Not oats.

15 June Wednesday

Rain. Hail. Thunder. Sun. Rain. Hail. Thunder. Sun. The weather is completely exciting.  We just do not know what will happen next. The order changes but it all keeps happening.

14 June Tuesday

There is a strange sort of kindness built into life here.  People seem eager to tell you the thing that you want to hear.  They will tell you that you can get a bus connection even if it is not true and if in fact the very bus you want will be leaving three minutes before your own bus arrives. Maybe they tell you this  because they do not want to disappoint you.  There is no thought that you will be disappointed later on when you understand that you missed a bus which you were never going to catch anyway.

Simon went into town early this morning.  He went into town to do a few errands.  He likes to eat breakfast out so he left even earlier than he needed to. The girl in the restaurant gave him a coffee and took his order.  He feared that because he was the first customer of the day he might have a long wait. He did have a long wait. It took twenty minutes for the cook to come out of the kitchen and serve him a big bowl of porridge that was dark and thick and had strawberries stirred into it. He began to eat and realized that what was in the bowl was not porridge.  It was not oats. What he was eating was a kind of bread flour stirred up and served as if it were porridge.  Perhaps the strawberries were added to distract him.  He called the girl over and explained that he had been given a bowl of partially cooked brown bread flour mixed with water and berries. She went into the kitchen and returned saying that the cook had no oatmeal yet as he was waiting for a delivery.  She said that the cook did not want to be the one to disappoint so he made the bread mix hoping that Simon might not notice that it was not oats. She offered something else to replace the lack of porridge. Simon asked for a croissant so she brought him two croissants.  Then she returned to his table with a huge handful of small change.  She apologized and said he must be refunded for his lack of porridge.

13 June Monday

photo 3Document9

12 June Sunday

I picked my elderflowers on Wednesday evening in bright sun. It felt a bit early but I wanted sunshine for the picking and we are promised a continuation of rain and overcast weather in the coming week. There were thousands of the creamy flowers to be seen in every direction but it was not easy to find many that were low enough to pick from the ground.  I did a lot of struggling through nettles but finally got my forty or fifty blossoms.  I was aiming for forty but I lost count and I always think that more is better than too few. I made the cordial.  It is a light brew. I am wondering if it will get stronger and maybe a little darker as it ages.  Today I put my labels onto the twelve bottles. The label with my same drawing changes a bit every year.  I am not sure how much I like this label. It is so good it nearly looks like a commercial production.

11 June Saturday

The two narrow strips where the tyres travel are indeed nicely tarred and patched but the grass down the middle of the boreen is growing like mad.  It is the combination of so much rain followed by hot sun.  The grass scrapes the bottom of the car when we drive up or down.  It is much too wet to mow. If the grass gets much longer we can hope that maybe it will weigh itself down and lie flat.


a Relic

10 June Friday

We woke to the sound of rain.  It is at least three weeks since we have had any rain at all.  Maybe it has even been longer.  To live in this hot summery world has been wonderful but in the last week there has been increased grumblings about the need for rain. Now that we have rain, new complaints will start.  There will be a lamenting that our summer is over already and really it was not nearly long enough.  Meanwhile it is lovely to watch the world turning greener by the minute. Heavy rain on the roof is a good sound.

9 June Thursday

I drove into Cahir and saw bright orange cones all along by the church and the playing field. There were about six men in reflective vests directing  a very few cars. No one was allowed to park on either side of the road for quite a distance.  On my way back out of town a man in a reflective vest directed me in to the second left.  I asked why and he shouted The Relic!  A little farther along another man in a reflective vest stopped me.  I asked what was going on.  He was very excited.  He stood very near to my open window and he shouted “We have A Relic of Saint Anthony of Padua here and we have it here all afternoon!  We have it here until 9.30 tonight!”

8 June Wednesday

The milk trucks are too big for the road.  It does not matter if the milk truck is a DairyGold truck or a Glanbia truck. They charge right down the middle of the road and the middle of the road is the whole road. There is no where to go to get out of their way when they are racing towards you. Even when I am on foot they seem to leave no space. To meet them in a car is terrifying.  Now the roads are full of more big things. Every turn is a confrontation with a tractor pulling some enormous machinery sticking out both behind it and above it.  Sometimes the tractors slow down because they are so high they can see over the ditch and they can tell if a car is coming but most times they just bomb along. Silage, haying, and any kind of harvesting activity that needs doing while the sun is shining is being done right now and it is all being done at top speed.  It is a good time to stay home.

 

photo

7 June Tuesday

John the Post arrived early.  He jumped out of his van in great excitement about the freshly repaired boreen.  He was so happy with the filling in of all of the terrible holes and gashes that he could not say enough.  He already knew who had done the work. The man who had done the work was known to him.  He said we had found the exact right man for the job. We could not possibly have had anyone better unless we had had that same man’s father-in-law who had taught him every single thing he knew about tarmacadam.  John was also thrilled with yesterday’s cutting back of all the drooping cow parsley. The cow parsley and all of the nettles and tall things growing with it had been making the track narrower and narrower almost by the hour. He said he would happily drive up and down our boreen all day long.

6 June Monday

Andrzej was explaining some of the surgery his sister has been going through.  She had a tumour in one part of her head or neck which had grown quietly inside her ever since she was a child and the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl exploded.  Almost everyone in their part of Poland had been affected as children but only now are the problems manifesting. It took this long for the tumour to grow and become something which anyone could find and identify.  Andrzej was trying to explain the situation of his sister’s neck and her surgery but because his English is not great he often has to resort to peculiar uses of language.  Today he spoke of the doctor who is going to fix The Yoke in the neck of his sister. Yoke is a catch-all kind of word.  It is a word which is used to name something or anything instead of using its proper name.  Yoke is interchangeable with Thing. Yoke is a thoroughly Irish bit of slang. It was fine to hear it coming from Andrzej with his strong Polish accent because I am sure that even if he had known the correct word for the part that was being fixed in his sisters neck we would not have known what it was anyway.  We would not have known the word in English nor in Polish.  It was just fine for him to call it a Yoke and for us to think of it as a Yoke.

5 June Sunday

Yesterday TJ installed a hand rail on the side of the barn. We were not allowed to touch it while the paint was wet. Today I have been up and down dozens of times simply enjoying the fact that it is there.

photo

4 June Saturday

TJ the blacksmith spoke about the apple tarts that his mother made.  There were a lot of children to feed so his mother never made a tart with a top crust. Instead she made her apple tart on a large rectangular baking sheet.  There was a crust on the bottom with sliced apples and sugar and butter spread over the top.  When the children saw that their mother was preparing a tart they tried hard to be helpful by setting the table or doing some small job that she would notice.  They were eagerly competing to be one of the four chosen to receive a corner piece.  The corners were the best and sweetest pieces. The children were convinced that the sugar oozed down into the corners. Unless the baking tray was quite misshapen I do not think that the corners would have more sugar in them than any other portion of the tart, but TJ was so happy remembering the sweet corners that I said nothing. Or perhaps his mother piled extra sugar in the corners just to maintain the excitement.

3 June Friday

Sewing books in the barn on a hot day is tricky.  I need to leave the door open for air but the birds are swooping and dashing around especially the swallows who are nesting in the roof.  They consider the entire area of the barn their own world both inside and out. Once they fly in it is hard to get them out again. It is hard to get them out and they poop on everything in their rush and panic to find an exit which is not glass. Sometimes they knock themselves out flying into the windows. At least then it is easy to pick them up and take them back outdoors. In the past three days I have had three swallows, a starling and a wren in the barn.  Two knocked themselves unconscious and two I captured in a colander. One found the door and flew out by herself.


Archives