31 May Sunday
We walked to the Abbey and down toward the river. Wild wind sun rain wind sun cloud rain sun rainbow rain sun kind of weather continued during the whole walk. The barley is thigh-high on both sides of the track. At the bottom gate we spoke with four Frenchmen in full fishing gear. They were getting ready to cross through the field full of calves to the riverbank. They were surprised to see us. We were surprised to see them. We never see another person down there except maybe the farmer who owns the fields. They had extremely long fishing rods which flapped about in the wind. They knew the rain was coming again. They spoke no English. We discussed the weather in French and then we all continued with what we were doing. We all knew we would get drenched. I had to change my trousers when I got home.
30 May Saturday
It was cold at the market this morning, but it was dry. I spoke with the woman who sells knitted things. A few weeks ago she made a tea cosy that looked like the front of a Volkswagon camper van. She was very pleased with it. Everyone admired it. Since then she has made two more versions of the camper van. She says she is trying to get the windscreen wipers right. I like the early version where the wipers are made up of several little stitches but she is working on a longer loop which does look more like an actual wiper. She has three camper vans and a beehive and little Aran sweaters with buttons up the front, as well as some other styles of tea cosies. They are lined up on two levels on her table. They look wonderful as a group. She rarely sells one. She says that she makes tea in a mug with a teabag herself. Maybe no one is using tea cosies these days. She said she won’t make another camper van until she sells one of the ones she has already knitted.
It has been trying to rain since 11 this morning. The weather report promised that it would rain all evening and into the night. Evening is anytime after lunch so we knew the afternoon would be a wet one. After returning from the market, I stalled on going out to do anything. Simon rushed outside to do some jobs immediately before lunch. I stalled and stalled. It was cold and windy as well as threatening rain. Just changing into my grubby garden clothes was something I put off. A few minutes ago I walked down to the book barn and a steady soft drizzle was coming down. I finally have my excuse not to go and work outside. Now I can settle to something inside. It is a real relief. We are so weary of this cold and gloom and sun and rain and no sun and the never-ending chill over everything. It is not so many hours before the month of June begins and it is not very nice.
29 May Friday
I followed a car pulling a horse box for about 20 kilometres. On the back of the trailer there was a blue net sack with hay in it. The sack bounced and twirled as the car and the horse box moved along. Sometimes the wind caught the hay and made it spin even more than the bumping along on the back of the trailer already made it do. I could not help but worry if the horse inside the box had some hay to eat during his journey or if his supply was what I was watching bouncing and blowing away in small bits all along the road.
27 May Wednesday
The posters have all been taken down. The feeling of exhilaration and celebration after the successful YES vote has all settled now. For the weeks and days before the referendum the topic was never far from our lives. Directly after the results no one spoke of anything else. People flew from as far away as New Zealand and Australia just to be able to vote. It was the Yes voters who traveled. I do not think the No people were as committed. There were many stories being told. People were both thrilled and proud to have voted for equality. Now it seems that it is time to move on and to talk about other things.
26 May Tuesday
The driving entrance to some houses is called an Avenue. I think an Avenue usually has a tarred surface. If not tarred, it is at least a hard surface. An Avenue is not a dirt track with grass in the middle. An Avenue simply by its name suggests something a little bit finer and a bit wider. An Avenue implies something grand. I never hear an Avenue called a drive nor a driveway. Nor is a boreen an Avenue. A boreen is too rough.
Our own boreen has become a tunnel. It is horribly bumpy underneath and it is wildly overgrown on the sides and the top. The cow parsley has come into its largest and most frothy and effusive mode. The cow parsley is meeting itself at the top and making a canopy under which we drive and walk. It is a fluffy tunnel. The blossoms touch the car on both sides and on the roof as though they are some kind of car wash. An Avenue would never have anything at all touching a vehicle as it drove along.
21 May Thursday
Tomorrow is voting day for the referendum on Same-Sex Marriage. Both radio and television have been full of discussions and arguments. The newspapers have been teaming with articles and essays. There are posters up on trees. Polls report daily on the swings of the Yes, the No and the Undecided. It has seemed clear that the Yes vote is way out ahead but I think no one dares to feel certain. The rural vote is less positive than the urban vote. And now we are dropping into this day of silence from the media before voting begins. The referendum is a huge thing in this old-fashioned but strangely progressive country. It is a huge thing, period.
20 May Wednesday
Late afternoon sun. Suddenly at 5.30 it is a beautiful day. It is almost enough to make me forget the rain and hail and the broken heating system. It is almost enough to make me forget how unpleasant it is to even be thinking about a heating system at the end of May. We have had Thor staying for a few days. It has been so nice to have a dog in the house again. He is quite deaf so he follows us around because he needs to know where we are. I find myself looking for him if I do not see him often. I do not know who is following whom. I took him out walking. We met Oscar. Male dogs do not always get along very well but both Thor and Oscar are agreeable animals. They quickly fell into step together. As a result of their exploring and sniffing, I made the walk much longer. Thor would look back every so often to check if I was with them. I could shout out a direction to Oscar and I could be certain that Thor would follow. It is not possible to shout directions to a deaf dog but hand signals do work. Oscar became the guide dog. A guide dog for a dog. We all had a great walk yesterday. We had another great walk today. Thor is very small and Oscar is very big but somehow they managed to find a pace to satisfy them both. I was worried about Thor struggling through the cow parsley and the long grasses but he was so determined to keep up that no obstacle slowed him down. It is so much better to walk with a dog. Everything is better with a dog.
18 May Monday
Jo Hyland locks and unlocks the church and keeps track of the cleaning. I do not know if she does the cleaning herself, but I think she does. She is also the bell-ringer. She pulls the thick ropes to ring the bells for Mass and for funerals. She is a very small woman. She is described as being Low to the Ground. I just learned that she is 93 years old. She will let her daughter or someone else unlock or lock the church if she is unwell or if the weather is wretched, but she will not allow anyone else to ring the bells.
17 May Sunday
We have eaten Lumpers! Up until now my only experience with a Lumper was in reports of the famine. It was one of the potatoes which suffered badly from blight. Because there were so many Lumpers planted at the time of the famine, they contributed to massive crop failure. I understood Lumpers to have a bad reputation. I have never seen a Lumper for sale in a shop nor at a market, so I was surprised when Simon arrived home with a bag of them. He was excited. My heart sank. I feared that we were stuck with yet another bag of floury potatoes which would not behave properly. I feared that we would complain and moan through this bag of potatoes. The Lumpers were ugly. They obviously earned their name because of their bumpy and not beautiful appearance. To our surprise, the Lumpers are lovely to eat. They are a delicious potato with a great texture. They are not at all floury. We cooked them in several different ways and each time the eating was pleasurable. These Lumpers came from Antrim. I wonder if we will be able to find them again or if their presence here was a freak. If no one but us likes them, the shop where they came from might be tempted to say No when next offered a load of Lumpers.
15 May Friday
I went to catch the 3.45 post. The village was full of cars. I parked at the bottom of the bridge and walked in. I thought the cars were lined up for a funeral but I knew that funerals are always always at 11 in the morning. This was not the right time of day for a funeral. People were standing in front of the church and across the street in front of the shop and facing the church. Everyone was talking but there was not much sound. It was quiet with the waiting. I nodded and spoke to people as I went along and into the shop. The entire side of the street in front of the church was blocked off with striped plastic tapes. I went into the shop and posted my parcels. By the time I had done that, the lights were turned off, the shades were pulled down and the door was shut. Kieran pulled the grating halfway down. I was trapped in the shop. I did my photocopying in the dim light. The three of us talked in low voices even though we were inside the shop and we could have spoken in normal voices. The man who died was 85 or 86 and had been poorly for 14 years. For the last 8 years he had been badly taken with Alzheimer’s. He had a large family. I did not know the man and I do not think I know his family. I might know some of them by sight but this was not the time to find out. He had six or seven daughters and one son and they all had children and then there were some great-grandchildren too. The reason that the funeral had to be so late in the day was because they were waiting for the sister of the deceased. She was 84 herself and had to take several planes to get here from the western provinces of Canada.
When the hearse arrived all of the striped tapes were quickly removed and the family was able to park all along in front of the church. We watched from a small unshaded area of the window. Dozens and dozens of floral wreathes and bouquets were taken out of the back of the hearse. Each one was handed to a young girl. There were lots of little girls in bright outfits. In no time they were each holding flowers. When the coffin was carried into the church, the girls and their flowers followed close behind and then the rest of the family went in and then other people filed in. Not everyone went into the church. There are always some men who stand outside and smoke and speak among themselves while the service goes on inside. Other people simply take their leave after the coffin has been carried into the church. That was when I slipped out and under the grating and headed back to my car. In the thirty minutes or so that I had been in the shop, another 8 cars had pulled in and parked behind me. Cars were parked right up the side of the narrow bridge.
11 May Monday
I am obsessed with the recorded announcement: STAND CLEAR. LUGGAGE DOORS OPERATE. It repeats again and again for the entire time that the luggage doors are open. The doors swing upward from the side of the bus whenever there is a stop and when someone needs to get something out or to put something in under the bus. Underneath is the storage place for baby prams, suitcases and other cumbersome packages. Each time I listen carefully to the announcement. There is something wrong with the sentence. I feel certain it should say LUGGAGE DOORS OPERATING or LUGGAGE DOORS ARE OPERATING. I listen hard to try to hear if I am missing a syllable or a word. I have listened so hard and so carefully so many times that I now find myself saying the words along with the announcement. I repeat the words at exactly the same speed as the recording. It is more intoning than speaking the words. If they are repeated ten times I chant them ten times. I harbour a fantasy of everyone on the bus repeating the words along with me and along with the announcement. It would be a quiet kind of joining in. When the announcement stops and the doors return to their closed position, everyone will continue reading or texting or sleeping and not one of us will refer to the chanting which we did together. The next time the door opens we will all do it again. And again. All the way to Cork or Dublin or wherever the bus is going.
10 May Sunday
It is crazy weather. The sun is out most of the time. The rain is lashing down most of the time. The sun does not disappear behind clouds. The rain just falls hard and then not so hard and then just a little. The rain continues without cease. The birds keep singing. Sometimes the noise of the rain on the roof of the big room is so loud that it is difficult to hear myself think. But beyond the sound of the heavy rain the bird song breaks through. The wind is gusting and blowing all the time. The wind never stops either. Nothing stops. Rain. Sun. Birds. Wind. Nothing stops so nothing else stops.
9 May Saturday
As I walked toward the entrance of the market, I saw a man walking away from the market. He had four leeks in his left hand. He had nothing else. He carried neither a bag nor a basket. I could hardly believe that he came to the market just to purchase four leeks. I have been thinking about him all day.
8 May Friday
A cardboard box had been cut open and flattened out on the ground. On top of the cardboard there was a brown rubber backed door mat. and the whole thing was topped by an orange rubber traffic cone. I thought it was all covering up a hole in the tarmac, but instead it was covering up a spill. Someone had dropped a bucket of paint. Sky blue paint oozed out from the edges of the cardboard. The apparatus and the traffic cone were in place to protect customers to the shop from stepping out of their car and right into the pigment. After three days the cardboard and the carpet have been removed. What remains is a sky blue shaped mess with orange cones on either side of it. I assume that the cones are still there because if the paint was oil based, it might still be wet.
This is my current favourite, ‘desert island’ dinner. It used to be a fast and lightly cooked vegetable couscous with harissa sauce to pour over, but this has capped it all. You could live on this with very minimal income, maybe costing a fiver to make a big pot for the week. It’s not that I’m a vegetarian, but if you can achieve this richness without meat, who needs it.
Braze six or so chopped garlic cloves in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until they’re brown or nearly burnt. Add a large chopped onion or two smaller ones, and let it sweat down. You can add a nub of chorizo if you believe that all bean dishes need pork, but you really don’t need to. Add two tins of black beans rinsed of their brine. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes. Grind two dried chipotle chillies and one large ancho chillie in a mortar, or cup them up finely, and add. You can get these from your Mexican shop, or on-line. Adjust the liquid level to just have everything covered. You can add a cup of freshly brewed coffee as an option for liquid, and two squares of dark chocolate. Let it simmer away for days, hardly bubbling at all.
Make a stiff polenta by stirring cornmeal into boiling water with a little oil. When it’s ready, take two desert spoons and make ovaloid dumplings and leave them to set further on a plate. When you’re ready to eat, add some of them to the beans and let them heat through and poach a little further. At the end add the greens, which can be spinach, the quickest, chard, kale or cavolo nero. Let it cook through and serve.
Of course, you can make this whole dish from scratch, but I think the quality of the tinned stuff is fine. This dish only gets better with reheating and more servings. There is some innate chemistry between the tomatoes and beans taking place, and eaten with the cornmeal dumplings, complete protein.
The apex of that summer of 1990 had been the making of Rüdiger Schöttle’s ‘Stadt Aus Glas’, the small houses for which were made by local glass craftsmen. They were covered in ultra-violet powder, the lights were left on, and we quit for the summer. It glowed from across the river Arno.
It was saddening to hear last month of the end of Walter de Maria. He was visiting his 100 year old mum in California, he being a mere strip of 77. He was the most quizzical of artists,arriving from the world of bands in which he was drummer, the New York of the mid sixties, the neo-fluxus world of happenings.
He has left us with at least four major enigmas, that remain utterly fresh to the imagination every time you consider them. Thanks to the Dia Art Foundation, they are maintained, where they need to be, and at varying degrees of inconvenience, can be visited at any time. The Broken Kilometer still glistens from the ground floor of an industrial building in West Broadway, New York, and the Earth Room is still warm and humid in Wooster Street. The Lightning Field is a little more tricky in the desert of New Mexico, but it can be done as a pilgrimage.
But the piece that fascinates me perhaps the most is the Vertical Earth Kilometer in Kassel, Germany made in 1979. You can go and see it, but all you get is
You are asked to believe that the plate, set in a square of sandstone, descends a whole kilometer into the earth. It is a structure of belief, as is the notion that the fronds of lightening will play in their designated field in New Mexico. Walter de Maria’s work indeed seems to resound with the idea of belief, as the proposition of conceptualism, and he is perhaps its main proponent. We have to believe in the detail of time and geography of a work, say by Richard Long, before we can move to the next step.
I was staying with German friends in Kerry when Claudio told me that he collected espresso cups, and had quite a sizeable collection of them. He wondered if there might be an Irish one to add. I was most dubious about the idea, and said that although Illy Cafe had been in my valley for a decade at a drive of some 20 kilometers away, I thought it unlikely. That morning we went to a cafe on Valentia Island and to my surprise I was given an espresso in a fully Irish espresso cup. It wasn’t new and evincing nostalgia, but probably one from the original Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street in the bloom of cafe society, and probably the only place of its kind in Dublin. I was so enchanted with the coincidence that I asked the waitress if I could buy it for Claudio’s collection. She in turn was so delighted that such a collection might exist at all, that she washed and dried the cup and gave it to me.
I notice that Steptoe Brother or Del-Boy of the art scene is shelling-off some of his ill-considered wares at a Christie’s auction in October, at the time of course of the Frieze Art Fair. Apparently, there’s no room for it at the respectable auction house, so it’s being held in a Post Office warehouse. And there’s no reserve prices, so you could pick up your very own David Batchelor for a fiver, or some other sub-Culbert piece as illustrated in the clipping above. Of course, there’ll always be a Chapman or two in such yard sales, with increasing regularity. This shameless piece of David Batchelor is incidentally called ‘Brick Lane’. Where does he come from?
At last someone has managed to put on a Finlay show that might do the work some justice. There has been so much dithering around, so much lack of insight into a full exhibition, that you wonder if it will ever take place. In lieu there are a succession of smaller offerings of mostly printed work from private holdings. I saw one was held in some sort of taxi shed in Pimlico earlier this year : then there’s this, and I see another on the horizon in Portland Oregon, from the collection of Stephen Scobie, I presume. There is nothing amiss with a show based on publication, in fact it is a seminal cause, and Finlay’s work is a triumph of that. But not as an excuse for a more complete airing of all the work in all its facets. Nonetheless, this display at Arnolfini in Bristol which runs until early September, looks magnificent in its arrangement, fresh, light and aerated, the opposite of a mordant attempt at the end of last year in one of the bigger emporiums. I just wish they would give up on other artists’ responses to work being shown! What a bad idea, and how confusing. For instance, what is that little gridded thing in the middle of the floor that I spent ages trying to reconcile with Finlay, thinking it must be a maquette for a photograph for a postcard (maybe one to be called Swastika Compass! ) – then I thought it was the inlay for a table by Graeme Murray that he may have left with Ian Finlay. Eventually I realized it was some other persons work entirely!
But well done Axel Wieder for this show. I should have known, as pro qm in Berlin from whence you come is one of the great bookshops.