Visiting Dogs

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27 May Friday

Cow parsley is everywhere.  It is the time of year when every road and field is lined with it. Everything everywhere has frothy soft edges.  I struggled up the path through much too much of it. I am too short for the cow parsley.  It has grown up high.  It has grown up over my head. The only way I could keep going was to hold my arms up in front of my face.  My elbows were at chin level and my fingers were pointing straight up.  I was looking out through a narrow slit between my forearms which was just enough for me to see what was ahead but not wide enough to allow any of the blossoms and stems to slap me in the face.

26 May Thursday

Greg’s rubbery wet suit hung on a curtain rail suspended by two ropes from a tree in the rain.  It was flesh colored because it was turned inside out. The flesh color made it look exposed and very naked. It was sort of a surprise but not really a surprise.  Wet suits are everywhere on this island now.  Everyone can swim in the freezing cold sea or they can go kite surfing all year long because having a wet suit makes it possible. Not long ago it was unusual to see a wet suit anywhere at all.  Today wet suits are sold in supermarkets, which is the most surprising thing.

25 May Wednesday

I had a plastic container full of dog treats. It was labeled Visiting Dogs with thick black marker on brown paper tape.  It had all sorts of things in it.  Some were things that Em never liked and some were things she was unable to eat in her last months. There were sections of pig’s ears and rawhide chews and little straw-like things.  I kept the box around for a long time and whenever I remembered I would offer a treat to a Visiting Dog.   It took me forever to use up this mish-mosh of odd things because I usually just went directly to the big box of biscuits. I kept forgetting the plastic container. After a while I dumped the odd things in with the biscuits and that way whatever I pulled out for a dog is what he or she got offered. I removed the piece of brown tape from the empty container and stuck it up on a shelf.  The tape itself was not a reminder of Em. It was a reminder of life after Em. Now the tape is peeling off.  It is dry and the words Visiting Dogs are less and less visible as it curls up. The tape is peeling off the shelf and soon it will just drop.  I could pull it off and throw it away.  I should pull it off and throw it away.

24 May Tuesday

Arriving back from away is always new. The arrival itself and the place itself are completely familiar. The familiarity is both comforting and comfortable. Things are always changing. Things are the same but they are never exactly the same. We got home late afternoon. Simon kept repeating: It is so quiet here. It is so quiet here. It is so quiet here. I though it a bit noisy myself as tractors were racing back and forth up in Joe’s fields getting silage in and some cows were bellowing in another field and the birds, well, the birds were making a racket. But he is right.  It is quiet here.


Dusty Cards

 

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17 May Tuesday

Tommie described the new car which Jack had bought. He was impressed and excited about the car.  He was as excited as if the car was his own car. He said it was a great bargain. It said it was old, but it was perfect. He explained its level of perfection by saying that it was A Woman’s Car before Jack got it.

16 May Monday

Nine Egg Morning.  Eggs have been broken open all along the path. They are pale blue.  Every day there are more. This morning is the first time I have counted while walking.  Nine eggs seems like a lot.  Some are Thrush eggs and some are Blue tits.  Or maybe they are all Blue tits or all Thrushes.  The shades of blue vary from very light almost white to bright almost aqua.  I am not any better at identifying eggs than I am at identifying birds. I am most excited if I find a really large portion of the egg shell unbroken, or broken into two tidy  parts.

15 May Sunday

Cleaning The House has taken on a new meaning. We got out an extendable mop thing which I believe is intended for washing windows but which we have never used for washing windows. This is the first time we have used it for anything.  One side of the house was completely splattered with white bird excrement.  The windows and the walls were covered with enormous white splashes. It was not just six or eight splashes.  It was more like sixty.  All of the splashes hit the wall at the same diagonal. It looked like an enormous flock was passing and the wind was blowing and they all let go at the exact same moment.  Actually the splattering splashes did not all appear at the same time. I think they built up over a week.  It just looks like it all happened at once. And since the house is painted this peculiar pinky-purple color, which would perhaps look normal at the seaside but here looks a little strange, the white splashes stood out as very loud.

14 May Saturday

I went into the shop in Cahir looking for a newspaper.  The English paper I wanted was not there.  It had not been in the other two other shops either.  Either it was already sold or it had never arrived today. I knew that meant there was not one to be found in the whole town. I stopped to look at the postcard rack on my way out.  When I rotated it a little bit to get a more complete viewing, three large folders fell down.  They were leaning up against the back of the rack. The man at the counter whom I assume is Mr. Sampson because the shop is called Sampsons and I have never seen anyone but himself in there, said that it did not matter. He said everything was always moving and falling in the shop. I chose two cards of a pony named Bridge Boy who was three times adjudged Champion Connemara Stallion.  The information on the card also told me that the Connemara Pony is the only indigenous breed of pony in the country.  He looked completely unreal against a bright blue sky which looked equally unreal. I took the two cards up to the counter and the man who might or might not be Mr. Sampson commented on how dusty they were.  He pulled out a rag and started to wipe them off but then he stopped because they were kind of sticky.  He said he was not any better at cleaning than he is at making displays and if the cards were too dusty for my taste I need not feel obligated to buy them. I told him I have no problem with dust and I purchased both cards.


The Teeth in the Shrine

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13 May Friday

Sharon was outside.  She was outside wearing a fluffy pink bathrobe. Her two small dogs were on leads.  She never lets them run free because she knows they will take a scent and be off to who knows where.  The leads were the long kind which stretch as far as the dog wants to go.  Both animals were all tangled around her legs. She commented that I must be missing Em whenever I am out walking.  She told me how she still misses dogs from her past even thought she now has these two.  She told me that she has a small shrine on the wall in the house, one for each of the canine pets she has loved.  One includes the teeth of a particular dog.  She then told me that she and her sister are fostering a rescue dog which had been abused.  They took turns having him stay with them. She said he is a small Staffie. Horrific things had been done to him.  His feet are bent up in a forward direction. As a result, he can hardly walk but hobbles about and now seems to be in less pain and he is putting on weight and the terrible burns, probably from cigarettes, are healing.  She kept telling me more and more details about the abuse. I did not want to hear it but how could I not listen and anyway she barely took a breath in the telling.  It took me quite a while to realize that she was suggesting that I might want this dog to take the place of Em. I said that I was not ready to replace Em.  I said that I really did not think I could own a Staffordshire Bull Terrier no matter how desperately it needed a home.  I did not say that a dog who cannot walk is hardly the dog for me. I had said enough to refuse her kind offer. Oscar was waiting and we rushed off up the road together. I was happy to be with a dog who could run and jump with pleasure.  I have been thinking about the teeth in the shrine ever since.

12 May Thursday

I am curious about the Unemployed Workers Party.   I am not really curious enough to look it up nor to even ask anyone about it. I mostly just wonder if when a member gets a job does he or she have to leave the party?

11 May Wednesday

Johnnie Mackin’s orchard is looking fine. The trees are full with apple and plum blossom. The ground is completely covered with the long leaves of wild garlic and the garlic flowers are all in bloom so there is a twinkling of the white star-like blossoms against the dark green.  And in between and around the edges there are masses of stitchwort.  More white flowers. It is a world of white polka dots on a green backdrop. It looks planned. Oscar wading through it all is so very big and black.  He is like a cut-out shape of dog amidst the green and white. He makes it all look greener and brighter and whiter.

10 May Tuesday

I was having a cup of coffee and reading after lunch when I heard crunching on the gravel. Then I heard tearing and snuffling.  I looked out the window and saw a young cow on the lawn. It was one of the frisky teenagers. I ran outside.  There were five more young ones with the first one. They ran when they saw me running.  Simon rushed out too.  We both shouted and waved sticks. The heifers ran around behind the barn in a tight group. Then they were stuck because behind the barn was a dead end. They clumped together and could not figure out how to escape. The stone wall, the fence and the building had them trapped. It is not easy to get cows to change direction if you are in a position behind them. I climbed the fence into the field to encourage them from the side while Simon hid behind a bush.  When they saw there was no longer anyone behind them, they rushed out from their entrapment to escape my noise and waving arms and waving stick.  Simon stopped them from running down into the meadow with his flapping arms and flapping stick.  We got them onto the boreen and chased them off in the direction of the farm.  They did not go very far before they were distracted by edible young green things around them. I got into the car and drove up the track slowly with them scurrying and bumping each other along in front of me. It was lucky for us that they were young and not too heavy. The damage to the soft wet lawn was not too bad.  It would have been much much worse if they had been full-grown adults.  My coffee was cold by the time I got back.

9 May Monday

I drove down to the village just before noon.  Cars were parked everywhere.  Even as I crossed the bridge I could tell it was a funeral. Funerals are always held at eleven am.  This funeral had just finished.  Some people were disappearing around the corner on foot as they followed the hearse down the road to the graveyard.  I could not park. I could not stop because there was no where to stop without being in the way of  someone. The bread man had arrived to deliver bread to the shop. He parked in the only available spot which was directly in front of the church and which the hearse had just vacated. He was trying to unload his bread. There were people standing everywhere talking to one another. They were on the pavements and in the middle of the road. The day was warm and everyone was happy to be out and seeing one another for some conversation. No one looked sad.  Some cars were trying to pull out and some were trying to turn around. I could barely get through the cars and the people. I would not have driven to the village if I had known there was a funeral but I did not know there was a funeral, and I did not know the woman who had died even after I was told her name and where she lived.

8 May Sunday

Last week I went to Bob Fitzgerald’s.  It was just after nine o’clock. The outside shutters were still down. The door of the shop was open but there were no wheelbarrows or ladders or sacks of grass seed out on the pavement.  I was not sure if they were ready for business.  It was dark inside but the shop was full of tradesmen getting stuff for the day’s work.  There was a feeling of imperative and rushing in the place. That is why there was so little light.  Everyone was too busy to finish opening the shop.  They were too busy to open the shutters and they were too busy to turn on the lights.  I bought myself a pair of knee pads in the gloom. The knee pads are made of some heavy foam.  They are made for roofers and people who do jobs on their knees.  I felt very pleased with myself.  I wore my new knee pads around the house all day yesterday. The pads attached around the back of my legs with elastic straps and velcro. It rained all day so I did not even consider working outside for one minute but I wore the new knee pads just because I was so proud to own them. I only took them off when I went for a walk at the end of the afternoon.  I could not pull my waterproof trousers on over the new knee pads.

Today I strapped on the new knee pads and I went outside.  The morning was bright and sunny but that did not last. The rest of the day was overcast and balmy.  Even though it was grey, it was warm and after yesterday’s non-stop downpour, I can call today a fine day.  I worked away at this and that.  Clearing the scutch grass and the creeping buttercup from beds and edges is a thankless and never-ending job.  My new knee pads were a disaster.  They just kept slipping down my legs each time I walked.  I decided that they must be made for grown men.  I decided they must be made for grown men with thick legs.  I wondered about how to fix them. I wondered if perhaps I could make the elastic shorter.  I wondered if they were slipping down because my trousers were sort of slipping down.  I  wondered if I should just put the knee pads into the shed and pretend I never I bought them.  I adjusted them every so often and then they were great but they always slipped away again. I was disappointed and I was very very quiet about them. I had been so happy anticipating how good they were going to be.

Late afternoon, I went indoors to make a cup of tea.  I waited for the kettle to boil and I looked down.  I realized that I had been wearing the knee pads upside down, all day yesterday and all day today. I turned them around, re-attached the velcro and suddenly I had the knee pads I had been dreaming of.  I went back outside for a few more hours just to enjoy how well they worked.

7 May Saturday

The Emigrants Rest is painted in large letters on the the side of the building. The building is not attached to any other buildings and it is on a corner which forces a turn in the road.  The Emigrant’s Rest is the name of a bar.   The sign is visible while driving into town. If one is driving out of town on the same road the painted sign over the door on the front of the bar is Bernie Mac’s.  If a person is looking for Bernie Mac’s on the way into town that person will never find the place. If a person is driving out of town and looking for The Emigrants Rest that too will not be found. It is as if two different places exist in the same building. I cannot help but wonder if some of the customers go for a night out at Bernie Mac’s while others go to The Emigrants Rest.


Walking and Working

 

 

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We have been lucky to have had yet another Urban Hibernation. We have loved walking and working from this starting point. We have loved walking and working from the quiet and private sanctuary out and into the city, and then coming back in again.  I hate using the word bustling but cities do bustle.  There is so much activity which just goes on all the time and variations of activity which gets busier and quieter at different times of the day and night. It is good to know that it is all happening but I do not need to know all about all of it.  Or I do not need to know about any of it.  Just by looking out the window of the apartment, I can see the butcher shop across the street starting its set-up at 6 in the morning. It continues to do that, even while I am far from there.  I am absolutely nothing to do with their actions. We have left the city but the city does not note our absence. Very little happens here. From these windows there is not much action.  Yesterday Joe’s tractor crossed the near field bringing up the cows.  For a few minutes, I heard the engine and  I thought I was hearing the post man’s van. But it was Saturday and the post man does not even deliver on a Saturday. Here in Tipperary, we continue our Walking and Working. Otherwise not one single thing is the same.

EVH


Worldly Goods

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She appears erratically.  Sometimes I do not see her for a week or ten days. Sometimes she pushes and sometimes she pulls a large cart full of bags and boxes and stuff. Sometimes there is a piece of furniture among her things. She does not pay any attention to traffic. The pavements are too narrow for her load, so she stays on the street. She weaves back and forth making diagonal cuts through intersections. Cars just have to go around her or else they wait for her to be out of their path. There are some homeless people who are local.  They sleep regularly in doorways or in the shelter of shop awnings. They have dogs and they know all of the people both in the shops and the shoppers. They know the people and the people know them. There is a man who sits near to the supermarket all day and then he sleeps there at night. I bought some early daffodils from a boy one morning.  He did not have change so he went to the man sitting outside the supermarket to get my ten euro note changed.  The homeless in the neighbourhood sort of have their home places within the place of immediate quarter. Maybe homeless is not really the right word.  There is a sense of home and there are regular places.  Sadly the places are outside in the cold. I do not know where the woman pushing the large cart full of her worldly goods sleeps. She just passes through.  She never seems to linger. She does not acknowledge anyone. This is not her neighbourhood. Maybe she does not even sleep on the street. Maybe she just likes to keep a lot of things with her all the time.

EVH


The Book Artist of Rue de Bretagne

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We have our very own Book Artist on Rue de Bretagne. He has been here ever since we started coming in the winter, and he makes fan and bellows-like constructions from the pages of books held open by their covers. The local wine shop uses one such construction to file away their delivery notes and receipts, much as we had done with postcards held in a rubber filter contraption from the inside of a Citroen car. It is always interesting to note the dichotomy between concept and content, even as close to home as this is. By far the most interesting thing about the Book Artist is his table, held up at one end by a broom handle and where you can feel the force of the willow bristles to push upwards and achieve their purpose. Now that is content,   not decoration. SC

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Pigeon-Voyageur

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Every visit to every museum leaves me with at least one thing I think about again and again.  It might be something I made a note about or it might be something I did not even fully register at the time but it returns again and again for me to think about. Sometimes I have to go back again to see the thing which has settled into my mind.  The Carnavelet seems to be the place which pulls me back again and again this trip.  I adore the Musée des Arts et Métiers, but I return again and again to the Carnavelet. I have tried to get a good photograph of the feather of a carrier pigeon (Plume de Pigeon Voyageur) from the time of the Siege de Paris (1870-71)  but it is in a little frame and the frame is in a glass fronted vitrine.  There is just too much glass between me and the feather. The feather is bedraggled.  At the end of the feather there is a tiny little knot tied with the thinnest ribbon imaginable. The ribbon even in its thinness shows stripes of red, white and blue.  I think my drawing is better than the photograph. Also from the time of the Siege and in the same vitrine is a glass container holding pieces of bread.  The bread was prepared with a mixture of flour and sawdust.  Times were hard and there was little to eat.  A painting of a man selling rats for roasting is another example of reduced eating options.

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Chopin. Chopin. Chopin.


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Posters for music performed in churches appear regularly on certain walls and fences. They are always photocopied on attention getting  pieces of coloured paper. The posters are always the same year after year. The churches might be different and the composers being performed may be different but the format and the bold black letters remain the same. I sort of feel like the music might be the same too.  The only new note is an added strip of white paper announcing TODAY AUJOURD’HUI in capital letters.

EVH

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The Finished Boxes of Pencil Shavings

 

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We finally divided up the 6B pencil shavings of Takesada Matsutani in small bundles of cellophane bags and fastened with a label with twisted wire to seal them. The labels were rubber stamped with the narrative of the making of the edition and the particular number within it.We had to move sideways and put the parts into bags because not all the boxes had not arrived in time. Nonetheless it made for another part in the ritual of its production, and something for the small audience of onlookers to see and puzzle over, just round the corner in a bookshop in Rue Vieille de Temple. We wore white coats with project badges on the lapel pocket whist we were putting the parts together, to add to the procedure of it all, and Matsutani wrote his name in calligraphy with brush and ink, under the number on the inside of the lid.                                                                                                                           Of course all this is total distraction from walking the city from porte to porte, but it does show you can get things done somewhere other than your main base, and you can live in other places too. In fact I would recommend wearing a white warehouse coat in the street, shops and cafés of places you visit, to be taken for ordinary and of the place. The residents think you’re the local chemist, butcher, or delivery man and nothing could be more normal! It’s my number one piece of tourist advice, and we must try them elsewhere, as well as maybe finishing the porte-walks in them, as a sort of industrial Gilbert and George.  SC

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