Five men named John

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13 September Sunday

Lambert’s garage has four floral displays on show.  The plants are each hanging out of a tyre.  The tyres have been painted different colours.  At intervals across the building the tyres are white, red, yellow and blue.   The paint does not work too well on the yellow one, but the idea is there.

12 September Saturday

There is stuff to collect. Apples have been disappointing.  I thought it was just our own trees, but I understand there are problems all around, even over at the Apple Farm.  Some varieties just fell off the trees early and unripe.  Others have ripened but lack flavour and texture. Our figs are doing remarkably well considering this is not really a fig-growing climate. I have to squeeze and test them at the end of the afternoon as the wasps are all over them in the daytime and birds get them in the early morning.  I do not like to compete with the wasps.  I gather most of the figs a little unripe and let them ripen inside the house.  The blotcheens are coming ripe but they are not plentiful.  Most plums have had a bad year.  The wild damsons sort of shriveled on the branches before they ripened. I marked three different puffballs with sticks in the ground and kept checking them every day.  They have shriveled up into nothing.  Raspberries and blackberries are rampant. I pick masses of them daily. And the Cavolo Nero, which is a glorious shade of green, just goes on and on.

10 September Thursday

The elderly lady at The Cross keeps an eye on the road.  I rarely see her.  I do not think she goes out often.  I saw her at the ceremony to install a commemorative stone for five local men named John who all fought and died in WWI. She was sitting in the front of the two short rows of chairs which had been set up for older people.  She was pleased to greet me.  She commented immediately that since we now drove only one car rather than two, it was easier for her to keep track of our movements.  I next saw her at her brother-in-law’s funeral.  She asked me why I do not wave to her as I pass the house.  She said that most people salute or sound their horn as they pass.  Now I wave each time I pass the house.  I do not know which window is the room where she sits.  Simon and I have decided that her room is the end room on the front of the house so I slow down and wave directly at that window no matter which direction I am coming from.  If it is late, we sometimes say to each other that she must have gone to bed so we need not wave.  We cannot see anyone through the window so I have no idea if she is waving back or if she is sitting there at all.  There is a fair chance that I am be waving at the wrong window. I just do not want to be reprimanded again.

9 September Wednesday

Someone is camping near the edge of the road as we drive through Marlfield. A brown and orange tent is set up just outside the big field on a small mown corner of grass. The tent is tidy and self-contained.  I have been noticing it for two or three weeks.  Today the man who lives in the tent was sitting on a lawn chair in the drizzle with a large umbrella.  He was facing out toward the hill.  Last week I saw him in the chair under the umbrella but that day he was facing the road.  When the man is not sitting in the chair the chair is put away inside the tent. There is not any of the stuff of camping visible.  There is neither a fire place nor a cooking stove. Nor is there a lot of passing traffic to watch.  There are no cattle in the field right now either.  The field was part of a big plan to turn the area around Marlfield House into a fancy golf course a few years ago.  The project ran out of money before it was finished.  Now all of the fields around the big house are back to being used for grazing cattle and for growing hay. It is an odd place to set up camp.  It is an empty and slightly lonely spot but it is not a very private spot.



Source: Five men named John

Desirable parking positions

8 September Tuesday

SuperValu is having a French Food & Wine Sale. There is a large handwritten sign outside the shop.  Beside the sign is a mannequin dressed up to look French.  It is wearing black trousers and a black and white horizontally striped shirt.  I think the striped shirt is supposed to look like a Breton shirt.  The shirt looks more like a shirt worn by a gondolier in Venice.  The very white arms and feet of the mannequin are visible but it has no head.  A black beret rests on the neck, nearly hiding a jaunty red neckerchief.

7 September Monday

I was on the road returning home.  A car came around the far corner just as a small rabbit ran out and ran diagonally across the road.  The other car accelerated and aimed at the rabbit.  He was racing toward the rabbit and he was racing toward me.  The rabbit jumped into the bushes just at the last minute.  The rabbit escaped. The driver swerved at the last minute and did not smash into me.  He passed me with a big smile and a wave.  If he had been a young man I would have thought he was a creep.  But he was an older man with white hair and a round cheerful face.  I still thought badly of him, but my disgust was mixed with shock.

6 September Sunday

Heading to the village to get the papers this morning, I thought I was early enough to miss the crowd arriving for mass.   A short wait behind Tomas’ cows on the road meant that I arrived exactly at the time as many others were arriving.  The desirable parking positions in front of the shop were already filled.  Every single car had backed in so that they could easily drive out after mass. This is a way for the people in the cars to stay sitting in their seats so that they can watch everyone else arriving.  They can stay in their cars right up until the last minute. This is especially good on a wet day. People were walking toward the church from all directions.  It was a lovely morning so people stopped as they met one another and they chatted on the pavement. There was no reason why people could not talk while they walked but every single person stopped walking to talk.  Some cars halted to let out an older person and then the car went off to park.  No one parks directly in front of the church. That is one space always left open. A lot of men have the habit of dropping their wife off and then they go to find a parking spot. This way they arrive separately.  They do not go into the church together.  They just meet up again when it is all over. The men were all tidy in their new sweaters and most of the women wore cardigans. It was a lovely morning but still there was a chill in it.

5 September Saturday

The big cow flap down near the stream has stayed in an unusually liquid state for a long time.  It was deposited by a cow during the break out or break in through the meadow.  That must be several weeks ago now.  Normally manure forms a crust over the top.  The underneath stuff remains wet and mushy but the top crust forms and then slowly the whole thing dries from the top down.  This manure has looked the same for all the time it has been there.  I think maybe the top crust has not formed because it is well shaded by the chestnut tree and other bushes.  I think there is not one bit of sun all day long in that spot.  I will continue to hop over it each time I walk the path but I will be glad when it has broken down into mud.

4 September Friday

I do not go to Dublin often.  I never want to go to Dublin.  I never have an urge to rush up to Dublin simply because I have not been there for a while.  I know Dublin is there but somehow I do not need it. It is not that I do not like cities.  I love cities and there are cities I look forward to visiting and re-visiting.  Dublin is not one of them.  For most people the capital city is the place to go because it is full of pleasures. I always feel disappointed after a trip to Dublin.

As a result of my foot-dragging relationship with this city, I have missed something I really wanted to do there.  Back in January, Donal told me about two short films which could be seen at the An Post Museum in the General Post Office.  One was of a postman in Donegal doing his rounds.  The other film was watching somebody sorting the post in the Athlone center. I put a reminder up on my wall.  I looked at it often. I have been to Dublin a few times but it was never the right time.  It was either a busy day for errands, or just passing through on the way to a plane or a ferry, or it was a Sunday.  For various reasons, I failed to get to the GPO during opening hours.

I finally got there this week. I finally made it a priority on my list of things to do. Unfortunately the museum has been closed.  It will not be re-opened until next year and then it will no longer be a museum but an Interpretive Center. The reason for the renovation and the re-naming is because of the anniversary of the 1916 Uprising.  Perhaps the museum will be exactly the same when it re-opens.  I will not know if it is the same.  The woman at the nearby Philatelic Counter could not tell me if the films will be included in the new Interpretive Center.  She was not even vaguely interested. Her job was selling stamps to collectors.  And because the museum had been closed she was required to sell a few of their souvenirs because her counter was nearest to the closed door.  I bought four postcards.  She was not happy with her added workload.



Source: Desirable parking positions

Blue knot

photo 3

3 September Thursday

Breda, Molly and I walked in the mountains this morning.  The sky was grey and heavy looking but we felt sure that it would not rain. It is always a pleasure to be in such a high and empty place after only a ten minute drive from home. The heather is in bloom.  From a distance it shows itself as a smudge of colour across the hills. Up close it is brilliant and reads as many different shades of pink and rose and purple. The sheep scattered around are all looking wretched.  They have been shorn.  Their skin looks scruffy and baggy.  The red or blue paint markings look more like bruises and wounds because of the lack of hair. The mountains are all commonage which means more than one farmer can feed his sheep up there.  There are no fences.  The coloured markings are all that distinguish one farmers sheep from another farmers sheep. The sheep meander about in groups. They run away at the slightest provocation or sometimes for no reason at all. Many of them were interested in Molly but she is too well-behaved to chase them.  At times I think they set off running just to see if she will give chase.

We walked past a tree with a knot of blue rope hanging from a branch.  There was a piece of white plastic hanging beside the rope.  I did not have paid much attention to either thing.  Breda told me that they had been put there to mark the way for the recent mass at the Mass Rock. I have never been to the yearly mass up there since I do not go to any mass ever except for the occasional Funeral Mass. Now I wish I had gone to this mass.  We saw tracks from a tractor. Breda told me the tractor pulled a trailer load of people up to the Mass Rock. The people were all standing up in the trailer.  There were no seats and anyway there was no room to sit.  The passengers were all people who would not walk or could not walk up to the rock. Most of the people in the trailer were older people. Maybe some mothers with small children were in the trailer too. Everyone was packed in upright and the number of bodies held up the rest of the bodies. Other people walked up from wherever they were able to park to get near to the Rock.  The little single track road was completely blocked by cars. The rope and the plastic were tied onto the branch just in case people lost their way on route through the boggy undergrowth.

2 September Wednesday

The house on the hill opposite has been under construction all summer. We are increasingly aware of it.  The scaffolding has now been removed.  A red van has been parked in front for a few days now.  The van looks tiny from here but the red draws my eye.  The gap left by the tree which we removed for the internet signal makes the house more visible.  It was easier to ignore it before.  The house is big.  It is too big. It is annoyingly symmetrical.  It is at least three kilometres away as the crow flies and eight kilometres by road. I fear this house will be the kind of house which wants to show itself off.  It will be the kind of house which shines lights on itself at night so that any people passing will not be able to miss it. It is on a road with almost no traffic.  The blinds will be pulled down so the people inside will not be disturbed by the lights but for us far across the valley we will be constantly reminded of this house. I hope I am wrong about this.

1 September Tuesday

The opticians has a sign saying that they open at 8.45.  Their website also says they open at 8.45.  When questioned about this, they said No, they actually open at 9.40.  They do not see any reason to change the listed information as everyone knows that they open at 9.40.

31 August Monday

We have had no internet since Saturday.  Our signal comes off the roof of Michael Hickey’s house.  As always when there is a signal problem, we telephoned Michael. He told us that his own service is just fine.  We had to wait until today when the office in Waterford was open.  They sent up two Polish men with ladders and binoculars.  The men did things inside the house and they did things outside the house. We cut down a tree two weeks ago to clear the Line of Sight which makes the internet signal possible. For a while we had a signal, but then we did not. The tree could have stayed where it was. The men decided to hook up the signal box from one side of the chimney.  That did not work.  One man waved a receiving box in the air on the end of a long stick while the other kept an eye on his computer, and shouted back and forth in Polish.  Finally they found a spot one and a half metres above the flat kitchen roof. They put up the box on a bracket and a pipe.  It looks pretty awful.  We are trying to convince ourselves that it is not so bad.  We are trying to remind ourselves that we want the internet and that for now this is the only way we can have it down in this valley.  We are trying to convince ourselves that we will learn to love this box on a pole.   It looks like we are living in a submarine.

30 August Sunday

I listened to Jimmie. He was giving out to anyone who would listen.  He said he had been on his way to Limerick.  He said he was not actually going to Limerick, he was going to a place well beyond Limerick.  He decided before he got to where he was going that it was always the same.  He said The more you go West you realize you should be going East.

29 August Saturday

Potatoes which fall apart when they are cooked will always fall apart when they are cooked.  These terrible potatoes cannot be trusted for making potato salad.   Potato salad made of cooked floury potatoes becomes a kind of cold mashed potato mush with some salad-ish seasoning.  Today I saw pots of it in the deli section of the supermarket.  It was labelled Smooth Potato Salad.  It is a shocking thing to receive this when anticipating potato salad.



Source: Blue knot

My favorite honey label

28 August Friday

It used to be easy to buy nice honey wherever we went while traveling. It was lovely to return home with honey from somewhere else.  Honey made by bees eating different things tastes very different.  I like to bring honey as a gift and I like to eat honey.  I like noticing the difference of honey made by bees eating lavender or heather or apple blossom. I have almost stopped looking for honey when I am away from here.  I read a lot about the dangerous disappearance of bees in the world.  Bees are dying everywhere. So far we are still surrounded by lots of bees and lots of honey, but not everyone is.  Those who have it are less apt to be selling what little they have.

27 August Thursday

I went down to the shop and did a few errands.  I was a bit early so I sat in the car and read the newspaper.  Then I got out of the car and I leaned against it.  I looked around and I watched people coming and going.  The village is a busy place in the morning.  There were delivery men unloading things from trucks and vans. One would finish and leave and then another would arrive.  People went into the food shop and the post office.  Other people went into the hardware shop.  Some people went in and out of both places.  People stood and talked with one another outside the shop or with one person already in their car and the other outside talking through an open window.  Everyone had things to do.  I recognized everyone I saw.  Some people I knew by name and some people I only knew by sight.  Or maybe I did not recognize them but I knew their vehicle.

Tommie came down the road slowly.  Tommie always drives slowly.  He pulled up to the curb.  He did not pull up very close to the curb but it was close enough.  His car was not exactly blocking the road but it was making the thoroughfare into a single lane road rather than a place where two vehicles can pass each other.  He got out of the car and left the door open while he came over to say hello. We spoke a little about things in general.  We spoke about the weather and about his wife Margaret, who is not well, and about all the farmers getting their hay and silage in.  I told him that I was waiting to meet someone.  I said that I was waiting to meet a man so that I could lead him with my car to our house.  I said it was easier to do this than it is to give directions.  I told Tommie that I did not know the man I was waiting to meet.  I did not know if he was old or he was young.  I did not know what kind of a car he would be driving.  I did not know one single thing about what he would look like.  I said that so far I had recognized everyone I had seen so I knew that not one of those people was the man I was waiting for.  Tommie reassured me.  I was not at all worried, but he felt I needed reassurance.  He said You will know right away when you see the person you are waiting for even if you have never seen him before.

26 August Wednesday

Mick is disturbed by the sugar spoon. He knows that he always has four heaped teaspoons of sugar in his tea.  The spoon in my sugar bowl is made of cherry wood.  It was carved by a friend.  I like having it in the sugar bowl so that we can see it everyday. Mick is confused because the bowl of the spoon is bigger than a spoon he would ordinarily use.  He wants to have one spoon to portion out his sugar and then he wants to stir his tea with the same spoon.  He does not enjoy adapting.  I usually try to put out a regular teaspoon when he is here but today I forgot.  He is too polite to say anything about the incorrect kind of spoon but his unhappiness is obvious.

25 August Tuesday

We have been given an Eircode.  There was a letter in the post which assigned us this seven digit number.  The letter tells us that we do not have to use this code when writing our address.  The letter is written in a pleasant way.  It implies that it is understood that most people do not like change therefore no one is being asked to change.   The letter has a tear-out card at the top which we are instructed to carry in our wallets.  If we do not actually need to use the Eircode, I am not sure why it would be useful for us to carry the number around with us.  One of the benefits is supposedly for ordering things on the internet.  For years we have had to write a bunch of zeros or a random number whenever we were asked for a postal code. Now we can give this number.  Already we are hearing stories that the it is not any good to put the number into a GPS or any other kind of system.  I thought perhaps it would make deliveries by couriers easier as there are so few road signs in the countryside and there is such bad phone coverage and there is never a person to ask for help with directions when out driving.  The Eircode has not yet been set up to be used by any computer or satellite system.  So far, it is no more useful than not having a number.

23 August Sunday

Em died a year ago today.  I still miss her. I miss her everyday.  I miss her in funny places and at odd moments.  I mostly miss her when I am out on a walk.  I miss her when I am out on a walk with another dog who is not her. I miss the sound of her soft snoring and the sound of her feet tapping through the house in the night.  I miss the lapping sound of her tongue when she was drinking water from her bowl. I would not say I am mourning.  I am just noting her absence.  Her sounds were part of the house sounds. Her bed is still in place. Her water bowls, both indoors and outdoors, get re-filled regularly.  Visiting dogs use them. There does not seem to be any reason to move these things since they are getting used regularly. People ask weekly if we have thought about getting a new dog.  We have thought about getting a new dog but we have done nothing about getting a new dog.

22 August Saturday

Blackberries are ripening by the day.  It does not matter if the days have been hot or if there has been a lot of rain.  Every time I walk up and down the boreen or anywhere at all, I see hundreds of berries.  I stop to eat as I walk.  Sometimes I take a container and I pick the berries to bring home.  Sometimes I am just noting a location that offers easy picking and loads of berries so that I can return.

21 August Friday

Patsy Tom sat up on a high stool in Rose’s.   He sat at the same stool in the corner where he always sits.  He announced that he had been speaking with a man who told him that you cannot have a road without two ditches. As the hedges bordering each road are called ditches, we are used to seeing them on the sides of just about every road we traverse.  I could not understand what the issue was.  Instead, this was an opener for what became a long and heated conversation.  Everyone within earshot had an opinion about this man’s statement.  I left before anything was resolved.

20 August Thursday

I bought a Half Sliced Pan.  Or a Half Pan Sliced.  I can never remember which way to speak about this bread.  It is sliced bread available as a small or half loaf.  I do not like this bread and I do not buy it often but some days and in some shops it is the only bread to buy.  The reason I mention it is that when I opened the package to take out a slice of bread the first thing I saw was a piece of cardboard in the shape of a piece of bread.  It had rounded bottom corners and the top was rounded.  The cardboard had one shiny side and one rough side.  The cardboard was white and the bread was brown. The cardboard was not heavy.  It was like shirt cardboard.  It was not strong enough to protect the bread if something heavy fell on top of it. There were not two pieces of card, one at each end.   I have no idea what function the shaped bit of card had for the half loaf of bread.
Source: My favorite honey label

Rubber bands on the path

19 August Wednesday

We woke up to rain.  It was heavy beating rain. We had been warned that this rain was coming and that it would continue for a few days this week.  The wet air felt different.  It felt like summer might be over.  I was sad.  Then I decided to cheer up and to believe the forecast that promised better weather for Friday and the weekend. The postman promised that They are Giving Good for the Weekend.  This is an often used expression and one can always choose to believe it, or not.

Andrzej arrived to do some heavy outdoor work.  The early lashing rain had changed into a soaking drizzle but it was still much too wet for him to even consider doing anything.  Then we understood that he had made the trip specially to bring us a big plastic container full of fileted mackerel which he caught in the sea last night.  He said it was only a few hours since he caught it and that we must eat it fresh for lunch. We were delighted and he drove off happy with his gift-giving.  I worried that he might meet Mary in the boreen forcing one of them into a difficult backing up.   Fortunately, she was late.  She came in announcing that she had brought lunch today for us all.  She brought bread and a rhubarb tart and mackerel.  Lucky for us that her mackerel is smoked so we are spared eating a mountain of fresh fish for lunch.

18 August Tuesday

I saw another bunch of the bright pink silage bales in a field today.  They were piled, placed and shaped together to look like a tractor and trailer.

16 August Sunday

The announcer on the radio spoke about how a player in today’s match had made a long reach.  He said He was Stretched Out Long, As Though It Were Morning and He Was Still On The Bed.

15 August Saturday

There was another escape of cows.  There are always cows escaping.  This lot got out of their field, went down the Long Field,  then took a left onto the Ardfinnan road and took a right down the hill and into the village.  One of the cows bit a chunk of hay out of the Two Bale High Man who is standing at the corner near the bridge advertising a fun event.  After the cows crossed the bridge into the village, they spread out in all directions.  Local estimates claim that there were 80 cows.  It was 2 in the morning when they were discovered.  I do not know how long they were there before someone noticed them. Most interesting was how anyone figured out where they had come from.  Who would miss their cows at 2 am?  And these cows had made a journey of 4.5 kilometres from the farm where they lived.

14 August Friday

Everywhere feels quiet.  The land is quiet.  There is little birdsong to be heard.  It is so quiet that it nearly feels worrying.  Someone told me that the silence of the birds is because they are moulting.  I do not understand the logic of this but it is something to think about.

13 August Thursday

Three of us took a walk in Killballyboy woods.  Sometimes the path we were on was narrow and sometimes it widened.  We walked side by side or single file or two together and one alone.  Our positions were changing constantly.  The track was not rough so we did not have to look down all the time but still it was important to scan the area ahead for roots or stones or holes as we walked.  Early on I noticed a rubber band on the ground.  It was a nice fat rubber band and it looked new.  I like rubber bands.  I noted that it was a good one.  Minutes later I saw several more rubber bands.  These were also thick and also new. To see one or even two rubber bands out in the woods is not noteworthy.  Walkers might have them on their their lunch bags, or they might be used to hold something onto a pack.  They might have been on someone’s wrist or in a pocket.  Very quickly, I realized that the number of rubber bands which I was seeing was not a normal amount of rubber bands to be finding on a forest path.

Later, I learned that this wooded area, which has been completely invaded by rhododendrons, is a popular spot for people who export the leaves.  Each bunch of leaves on thin branches is held together with a rubber band.  These are then shipped to Holland where the Dutch like them.  I do not know what the Dutch do with these bunches of rhododendron leaves.  Maybe they arrange them as greenery with various kinds of flowers.  The industrial scale cutting and gathering of these leaves is not legal in the forest. The people doing the exporting hire Romanian workers who work deep in the forest well out of sight of the paths.  The workers then gather somewhere discreetly at the end of the day to load the gathered leafy bunches into trucks.  It is hard to imagine how many bunches of rhododendron leaves it takes to fill a lorry.  The rubber bands are the only sign that the pickers have been there.
Source: Rubber bands on the path

Every night there are slugs.

12 August Wednesday

Every night there are slugs in the bathroom.  I never find them anywhere else in the house. That is not to say that they are not anywhere else.  I just do not see them anywhere else.  I throw at least two out the window each evening.  In the morning, I try to remember to pick up the pieces of tissue off the ground outside.  Maybe the same two or three slugs just creep back up the wall and into the window every day.  Even on the nights when I do not see any slugs, I know they have been there.  I see their wiggly trails all over the steamed up mirror in the morning.

11 August Tuesday

Mary arrived this morning.  She and Simon had just started working on their separate computers.  I was half-way listening to them discussing plans for the day and halfway listening to a lot of noisy bellowing from the cows in the field.  I looked out the kitchen window and saw two cows in the yard.  I rushed out and Mary rushed out behind me.  We chased the cows down the meadow and they jumped over the banking back into the field the way they had come in.  They had broken through the last section of the fence.  Maybe they wanted to get at the apples.    Just as we were congratulating ourselves, we discovered five more cows running up towards Johnnie Mackin’s.  Or they had been running up towards Johnnie Mackin’s but now they were coming back.  They saw us and turned around again.  Simon was guarding the place where the cows were trying to come back in from the field.  Each time he turned his back a cow jumped the banking.   Mary followed the ones up the boreen and managed to drive three of them back down and over to Simon.  Joe was on holiday but I got through to his brother Michael who was just having a cup of tea.  He came rushing down with Tommie, the young man who is taking care of Joe’s herd while he is away.  It was all exciting and chaotic.  They both had short lengths of stiff black rubber hose to wave at the cows.  We had sticks.  Two of the cows who were being pursued up the mass path by Mary crashed over another banking and off into Paul’s field.  Tommie went after them and drove them across the high field toward Paul’s farm yard and eventually to the road.  Except for those two,  the rest of the cows are back on their own side of the fence.  Every single one of them is lying down and they are all silent.  The broken fence is  blocked off with one of Simon’s old wooden gutters.  He has been wanting to find a use for those gutters.

10 August Monday

John the Post is not well.  He had surgery last year.  I thought he was getting stronger but he is now off work again.  When I last saw him a few weeks ago, he did not look good.  He was in a lot of pain.  For now we get our post delivered by Mick or Tom or Lee.  If Lee is on, the delivery is very early in the morning. He arrives so early that we rarely even see him.  If Mick or Tom are on, there is a chance we will receive some news about John.

9 August Sunday

I strolled down the meadow path this evening.  Earlier in the day Simon finished making a new bench which he made with a long piece of Douglas fir.  He had been saving the wood for a long time waiting until he knew just what to do with it.   The new bench was just the right thing.  I sat on the new bench and looked at the pink clouds.  It was a beautiful evening.  I admired my new vantage point. I had never sat in just this spot.  I knew right away that I would enjoy sitting exactly here in the future.  I thought about Em and about how often I had stood down there in the dark just waiting for her to finish barking and to come back and join me. I thought about sitting on the bench in the darkness later in the year.  It might be a bit lonely to just sit there unable to see a thing if the sitting were not also waiting.  Tonight the cows were all in the adjoining field.  I could not see them through the bushes, but I could hear them pulling and tearing grass. It was a companionable kind of quiet.

7 August Friday

I spoke to a young man who regretted that he had never been inside a pub where people were smoking.  He was too young.  The smoking ban had already been in place well before he started going to any pub.  He had heard of the strong smell of old cigarette smoke mixed with the smell of fresh cigarettes and pipes and cigars.  He had heard stories about yellowed paintwork and nearly brown ceilings after years of smoke held inside in bars with closed doors and closed windows.   He was proud that the ban on cigarette smoking in public places was one of the first such national bans. But he sort of felt like he had missed something.



Source: somewordsforlivinglocally

Shredded wood

6 August Thursday

Joe has an open platform system for wintering his cows.  The cows stand on this big concrete platform which has  lots of drainage.  There is no roof over the cows all winter.  This worries me.  Joe assures me that the cows do not mind.  They are most concerned that their feet are not wet. It is bad for cows to have ice forming in their hooves.  It is bad for cows to have wet feet all day and all night.  The drainage in the platform keeps their feet dry.  Once, or maybe twice a year, an enormous load of wood shavings gets delivered.  It is dumped in the yard.  The pile is bigger than a large lorry.  It is not really shavings, it is more like long thin shredded pieces of wood.  Joe cleans all of the old wood stuff off the platform and then spreads the new shredded wood so that the surface will be ready when the cows are no longer able to be out in the fields all day. He has been doing this work over the last few days.  I love it when the pile of shredded wood arrives.  It smells good.  Then I enjoy seeing it disappearing one load at a time.  Winter seems a long time away but I guess it is wise to be ready.

5 August Wednesday

The raspberries are coming ripe.  They seem a bit early but I am not complaining.  They are delicious.  The black currants need picking.  Mostly we have very little growing this year.  A lot of apples are ripening on all but one of the trees but plums are not doing well. Maybe the plums will come later.  Even the sweet peas are fewer than normal. The figs are plentiful on the tree, but I wonder if there will be enough heat for them to ripen. The weather is so un-summery and grey and cool it is hard to know if the plants know to continue or if they are just skipping the season.

4 August Tuesday

Everything is closed.  Well, not everything, but a lot of things.  The framer is gone for his two week holiday.  The tool hire place and the lawn-mower repair place are both closed.  The wood yard is closed.  The electrical supply place is closed.  Most workmen take this time off as even if they were trying to do a job no one else would be open for them to purchase materials.  It is the same two weeks each summer and every year it takes us by surprise.

3 August Monday Bank Holiday

There was torrential rain last night.  It started at about five o’clock and continued all night long.  I woke up several times and heard it coming down hard.  By morning it had stopped and the sky was not clear but there was a bit of brightness in it.  We took a walk over Joe’s fields.  The long grass was wet and the grass which had been eaten down short by the cows was wet.  When we got to the dirt track the mud was deep.  The mud sucked at our boots as we walked up the hill.  There was the regular after rain mud and then there was mud which had been churned up by the cows walking through it. There was mud which was a slippery mix of fresh manure and rain and mud.  Then there were puddles which were full of muddy water and other puddles which were full of a mixture of rain water and cow pee. The different kinds of puddles were distinctive by the type of liquid in them.  The track is long so there was plenty of time to consider all of this mud.  When we reached the farmyard and went out of the gate and onto the road, we scuffed along in the grass to clean our boots.  We always walk in this same stretch of grass to clean our boots after a particularly mucky walk up the track.  Walking backwards, then forwards and a bit sideways through the long grass is the method for cleaning up.

1 August Saturday

A coach load of tourists from Israel arrived at the market.  They were there to see the castle and the cottage and since the farmer’s market was on they looked around. Many of them took photographs.  It is not easy for tourists on buses to buy things at the market as they are usually eating in restaurants and hotels and many of the market goods are in need cooking or preparation.  Things like eggs and fish and broccoli are not going to be very interesting for them.  They can buy apples or berries and maybe individual cookies or cakes.  Wooden egg cups tend to be popular as they are small and not perishable. Today one Israeli tourist bought fresh garlic from Jim and Keith.  Pretty soon another one came and bought some garlic.  Then another.  At least half of the busload of tourists bought Jim’s garlic.  More people might have bought the garlic but he ran out before they could do so.  It seemed an odd souvenir.

31 July Friday

A Fun Dog Show is schedualed for August.  There are five classes listed for Pure Bred Dogs and nine classes for Fun. One of the Fun classes is for Rescue Dogs in Best Condition.  I have been wondering about this.  Are these dogs who were rescued and are now in good shape, or are these dogs who have led a life of rescuing others and who are still in good condition despite all of their work?

30 July Thursday

There is a stack of plastic wrapped bales of silage in the field. It is not unusual to see plastic wrapped bales piled up, especially not at this time of year when everyone is rushing to cut and prepare their silage for winter. What is unusual is that these bales are not wrapped in the normal black plastic.  These bales are wrapped in bright pink plastic.  Bright pink is not a colour that we come across very often in our landscape.  I did a double-take when I saw these.  I nearly drove off the road.  Later I was told that the Co-op is selling this pink plastic and each time it is purchased by a farmer a percentage of the cost goes toward supporting research and treatment for breast cancer.



Source: somewordsforlivinglocally

white rose bay willow herb

12 July Sunday

There is a large clump of white rose bay willow herb in bloom beside the round topped shed. I had never heard of nor seen the white version.  Laurie sent me some from Scotland.  She wadded wet paper towels around the roots and loosely wrapped it all in a plastic bag.  It arrived through the post in a padded envelope in only a few days.  It survived the journey well.  The plants have taken a few years to root and to settle.  This year is the best it has ever been.  The white blossom on tall stalks against the stone wall is beautiful.   Today’s watery grey light makes the white look whiter.

11 July Saturday

I met the man who walks down the river every Saturday morning. I do not see him every week but I know that whether I see him or not, he does the exact same walk every Saturday.  He told me that he walks every single day and that where he will walk that day is the first thing he thinks of when he wakes up.  He gave up smoking five years ago and started to walk daily. Now he cannot live without his walking.  Most of his walks are circular walks but on Saturday he walks the road from his house and drops down through the woods and then he walks the river path. He walks into Cahir and does an errand and then he turns around and walks home with his single purchase in a white plastic bag.  He brings the white plastic bag in his pocket.  The walk takes him exactly two hours.  Today I asked him why he does not try using a small back pack so that his hands are free when he does his return journey.  He said that he has a backpack at home but his wife will not let him use it here close to home.  She says that people will think ill of him if he uses a back pack in the local area.  She said that people will think that he has some sort of attitude.  She only allows him to use the back pack when they go away on holiday.



Source: somewordsforlivinglocally

A Cold Kettle.

 

 

 

 

photo10 July Friday

Simon has been lightly cooking gooseberries with a few elderflower blossoms.  The perfume off this combination is wonderful.  It is more like muscat than like what it is. The blossom is just about gone now.  We are hoping that later in the year we will be able to recreate this taste of summer by using my elderflower cordial in place of the actual blossoms.  There is a good supply of gooseberries stored in the freezer.  I feel wealthy when I see them in there.

9 July Thursday

Margaret noticed that a fox was coming to eat the food that she had placed out for her dog.  She started to put extra food out when her dog was safely inside the house.  She kept a watch and saw the fox arriving and gobbling the food.  She changed the position of the bowl so that it now sits up on her wall.  She no longer has to worry about the dog getting the foxes food.  She is also able to watch the fox easily from inside her house.  She can not go too near to the window as the fox will sense her presence.  She stands back in the room a little ways.  She can look out but the fox can not see her.  Margaret tells everyone about her fox.  She has started to speak of him as her pet fox.  People are discussing this among themselves. The Knocklofty road is a busy road and the bend where Margaret lives is a bit of a blind bend.  People zip around there quickly in their cars. Some people think that it is wonderful that Margaret has this pet fox to feed and to watch and to think about.  Other people think it is an accident waiting to happen.  Either the fox himself will be hit by a car or else a car will swerve to avoid the fox as he jumps up or down from the wall directly into the road and there will be some sort of a crash. They shake their heads and make distressed sounds when they discuss the potential disaster.  There is not one person who does not have an opinion about the feeding of this fox.  I am wondering if this fox is the fox who lives up in Scully’s wood, or if it is a completely other fox who might live down in the quarry.

8 July Wednesday

First I learned the word Perisher.  I learned that I am a Perisher.  Being one who feels the cold and is always taking my sweater on or off, I am pleased with this new word.  I often find myself telling people that I am a Perisher.  I am interested to know if absolutely everyone else knew this word long before I ever even heard it. I mentioned it to someone recently and she said “Ah, you mean to say that you are a Cold Kettle!”  This is another way of saying the same thing, but these are words that belong to a different part of the country.

7 July Tuesday

We do not have mosquitoes.  Summer guests are always surprised and even a little confused that we have no biting bugs of any sort. We have no screens on our windows.  The only reason we ever close our windows in summer is if it gets too cold, or maybe if the rain is being blown in a particular direction.  I can feel smug about the lack of biting insects but I am less self-satisfied when I think about the slugs.  This has been a bad week for slugs.  There is always a slug in the bathroom at night.  I have taken to closing the window tightly quite early in the evening.  I have put the plug into the bathtub.  Now I am thinking that maybe I have not been keeping the night slugs out. I am not stopping a slug who might have oozed up the wall and in through the window.  I fear that they are already inside and that during the day they are simply staying out of sight under the tub or somewhere dark.  At night they come out and travel around. A few nights ago, I picked up my glasses and touched a slug that was draped around the bow.  I dropped the glasses with a little shriek.  I am lucky that they did not break on the stone floor.  I am not afraid of slugs but I find them horrible to touch.  I do not wish to be surprised by the feel of a slug.  The next night I found a medium-sized slug stretched out on the side of the sink as though it were sunbathing.  It had a little curve in the body which suggested more than just sleeping.  I threw that one out the window.  Last night I found another slug curled around my toothbrush.  It was not on the bristles.  It was down where my hand holds the toothbrush, but that does not mean it had not already crawled over the bristles. I used to dread stepping on a slug in my bare feet in the night.  Now I feel I am under attack.

6 July Monday

It was all day wet today.  The rain varied between lashing and just coming down.  It was never a mere drizzle and it was never warm.  It is July and it is chilly and wet and hateful.  I spoke to Marianne who was pleased that it was raining because she felt she now had an excuse to stay inside and watch the afternoon match at Wimbledon.  She was delighted with her change of plan until she remembered that their television does not work properly in the rain. The screen shows nothing but static when it rains which is not very good for tennis.  I set off for a walk at one point because I felt I just had to move.  If Em were still alive, I would of course be going for a walk.  She was not bothered about the rain.  If we all stopped everything in this country every time it rained no one would ever get a thing done. I dressed in full waterproofs and headed off and up the Mass path.  I did not get any further than the stream.  Branches have fallen and brambles have thickened and there was no way I could push my way through.  I got down on my knees to crawl but even that did not work.  I was trapped.  The growth was dense and clawing at me.  Everything was dripping.  The only way through will be with a saw and some secautars. That was not a job to do in the rain and that was not a job to do when what I wanted was a walk. I went the other way, up the boreen and out onto the road and once I met Oscar, we were both happy to march along in the gusty rain.  I wondered if maybe walking with a dog was even more of what I needed than simply walking.

5 July Sunday

A sign on a tree is advertising A SILAGE EXTRAVAGANZA — Family Day. I have no idea what a Silage Extravaganza might entail, but I assume the farmers will be cheerful to be celebrating.



Source: somewordsforlivinglocally

Bottling

photo

4 July Saturday

I finished bottling my cordial just minutes before the rain came lashing down.  Everyone has been wanting this rain.  The gentle rain of last night was perfect for sleeping, but everyone at the market today agreed that such a gentle rain was tantamount to useless for gardens and crops. This loud beating rain is bound to cheer everyone up as long as it continues for more than a few hours.

Four Bianconi horse-driven carriages traveled from Clonmel to Cahir this morning in a re-creation of their historic journeys.  People were lined up waiting for them.  They were expected at 11 am and they arrived at 11.45.  One man told me that that was spot-on for Irish timing.  One side of the usual market area was cordoned off so that the horses and carriages could be on display there when they arrived.  It meant that David the egg man, Pat with his vegetables and the English man who sells potted plants all had to relocate for the day.  One man walked into the market and exclaimed “You’re all to one side like the town of Fermoy!”  It was good to hear the expression.  I had only heard it once before many years ago when Rose said it to someone who was walking with an exaggerated  limp in order to get sympathy.

3 July Friday

I went out last night in the early evening sun to pick elderflowers for making cordial.  I was really tired and it was really hot, but I had to do it.  The blossoms are starting to go over.  I knew if I did not gather them then, I might just miss them for this year. They looked so plentiful and big and round and creamy in the distance but getting up close to them was not easy.  It was still hot but I put on long trousers and long sleeves and welly boots and took a basket and some scissors.  Not one of the easy to reach trees had any useful blossoms left anywhere low enough for me to reach.  I walked up the boreen and then I walked down again. I went out into the fields and all around the edges of Scully’s wood.  Wherever I could see good blossoms I had a struggle to get close.  Most of the trees had deep swathes of tall nettles growing right in front of them.  In some places there was two metres of nettle between me and the tree.  The top of the nettles was as high as my face and wading through the dense growth was hard. My face and neck and hands were thoroughly stung.  Not one of the several paths made by the fox to go in and out of the wood from the field was of any use to me.  It took me a ridiculously long time to collect my forty blossoms.  But I did it.  The cordial is made and is now it is infusing for 24 hours.  Later I will no doubt be glad that I did this, but when I finished last night I was only annoyed with the whole process.

2 July Thursday

We had the big table all lined with books and cards.  Every pile of publications had a little piece of paper on it with the year.  The earliest year was 1964.  We had twenty five years spread out.  We could not fit everything on the table up to the present day. That will involve a second laying out.  This was the first installment of sorting.  The three of us were organizing, placing, re-positioning and listing the books and cards for several hours.  For the entire time we were working the door to the barn was wide open.  We needed the air.  The upstairs door was open too.  We had a nice little cross breeze keeping us from being too hot.  Suddenly a big gust of wind blew in.  Every little piece of paper with the dates written on it blew off the table.  I had jiggled the piles around at one point to make them fit the table better.  Sadly, that meant the piles were no longer in chronological order.  Getting the piles re-identified was frustrating   It all took far longer than we would have liked.

1 July Wednesday

As of today, the cost of postage has gone up. It went up last year at the beginning of July too. I do not know if it also went up the previous year.  An International letter stamp, which is for anywhere outside of Ireland, was 1 euro yesterday.  Today it is 1 euro 5 cent.  The domestic, or National, stamps have gone from 68 cent to 70 cent.  There are two ways to buy stamps.  If the postmistress sells them to me directly, she prints the stamps out from her computer and each stamp has a different picture on it.  If I buy a book of stamps the pictures will be the same for all ten stamps. The new National stamp has the head of a handsome red fox.  The International stamp has the head of an otter.  I would prefer to be using the fox but unfortunately the majority of what we post is going out of the country.

29 June Monday

Mary’s mother wanted to know some things about us.  She wanted to know how it was for Mary to work with us.  She wanted to know more about who we were than simply being two names.  Mary told her a few things that she hoped would help her mother to form a picture.  She told her mother that we had walked to Dublin a few years ago. She told her mother that we walked to Dublin because that was our idea of fun.  She explained that it took us ten days to get from our house to Dublin.  Mary’s mother asked “Do they not have a car then?”

28 June Sunday

We went to Veronica’s funeral today.  She died on Thursday.  She had been ill for a long time but her death still took a lot of people by surprise.  The funeral was at the church in Fourmilewater which was where her husband Tom was buried five years ago.  Tom’s funeral took place on a bitterly cold winter day.  That day the priest rushed both the service and the burial because snow was falling heavily and everyone was eager to get going before the roads got too slippery.  That day the altar girls wore winter coats over their robes and so did the priest.  In contrast, today was a glorious sunny day.  The church was full.  The community really turned out.  The funeral mass took place at the same time as the usual morning mass so I do not know if everyone was there for Veronica or if they would have been there anyway.  People were wearing sleeveless dresses and light summer shirts.  I think she would have enjoyed the light and bright clothing of the crowd. The priest kept calling her A Gentle Woman.  I think that must be the female equivalent of An Inoffensive Man.   A dead man is often described as An Inoffensive Man.  I am always unsure if this is a compliment or an insult.  I wonder if being described as A Gentle Woman is a similar way to say something without saying much. When the coffin was led outside to the grave, everyone followed.  Some people walked right down the hill and into the adjoining cemetery.  Other people lined up along the concrete wall between the church and the cemetery.  Some people leaned against the wall and others stood right up on the top of it. There was a lot of quiet conversation and even some giggling as we waited for the burial.  People exchanged little anecdotes about Veronica. Everyone who had ever met her knew that she was a great talker.   The consensus seemed to be that she was well able to talk for all of Waterford. The view out across the hills was south east towards the foothills of the Comeraghs.  The hills looked stunning in the bright sun. It looked like the entire congregation stayed for the burial.

27 June Saturday

Everything looks dry.  The grass roof on the book barn is completely brown and dead looking.  Fields are full of bales of hay scattered around or piled up. Other fields have black wrapped plastic bales full of silage lined up or clumped in a group. The freshly cut fields are all golden.  The fields full of things like barley, and potatoes and corn are still growing.  They remain green but still there is an overall look of dryness over everything.   The boreen is lined with long meadow grasses.  There are very few scratchy things.  It is just grass. The cow parsley is either completely gone or it is just a skeleton plant now.  The grasses have never been so long in the boreen.  It is necessary to close the car windows on both sides to prevent the grasses slapping us in the face as we drive down.  It is better than the brambles and the wild roses which have grabbed at me in other years.  They tear and scratch at the skin whether I am walking or driving. I should enjoy the softness of these grasses fluffing against my face.



Source: somewordsforlivinglocally

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