Any Stick You Could Buy In A Store

1 July Monday

Anthony has a bucket near the doorway of his premises. There is a thick piece of timber on the bucket to make it more comfortable. Anyone waiting to have a tyre repaired is welcome to take a sit-down on the bucket. Or someone who is walking by can take a seat and chat even if they are not having a tyre repaired or replaced. Today, I see that Anthony has added a red cushion.

 

30 June Sunday

I was walking up near Middlequarter and thought to take the path that drops down to the Holy Well. It was a bad idea as everything was heavily overgrown and I was wearing shorts. There were too many nettles to make such a walk pleasant or even possible, so I gave up. I was sorry as I have not been down there for a long time. There is not much to see. I am never certain how and why one little spring gets called a Holy Well and another does not. There are hundreds of Holy Wells around the country. Not all of them are signposted. Some are just known to be where they are by the people who know. Usually the water is believed to have curative powers. Sometimes a particular saint used a well and that made it holy. I must ask around for the story of this well, which does not look like a well at all. It is just a slab of stone with a trickle of water coming out beneath it. And at this time of year it is probably completely choked out with weeds and nettles.

 

29 June Saturday

We had just finished lunch when there was a tiny tap on the door. It was Tommie. He was returning the plate I had taken to him last week. The plate had been full of lemon cake and strawberries. Now it was empty and washed.  I was preparing strawberries to eat with cream just as he knocked so I offered him some. Tommie loves fruit. He loves all fruit but he especially loves summer berries. He refused a cup of tea but said yes to the fruit.  He sat down and we all three ate big bowls of fresh berries. Then we talked. Or Tommie talked. He told us stories of Real Life People. He told about a woman who could tell a lie and he said that whatever she said and whatever way she said it, it looked better than the truth. As he talked he swung his walking stick up above him and around in the air. He was pleased when we complimented him on the stick. It was a length of ash with the bark stripped off. It was not straight but it was strong. He said he preferred this stick to any stick you could buy in a store.

After an hour and a half, Tommie said he should be going. I walked him out to his motorcar. I was surprised to see that the passenger door was open and I was shocked to see Margaret sitting there. I asked him why he had not brought her into the house. He said it was because he had not meant to stay so long. I spoke to Margaret and said that she should have come inside. She said she was fine where she was, just sitting out and listening to the weather. I guess by weather she meant the little breeze. She is mostly blind and she cannot hear a lot, but she perhaps she was able to hear and see enough to enjoy the light wind and the birdsong. Her face looked terrible. It was black and blue and she had a big bandage on her forehead and another one around her forearm. Her fingers and her hand were all black and blue and swollen. She said she had had another fall. She said “This is just the way things are going, Girl. I recover from hitting the ground just in time to fall again.”

 

28 June Friday

Sharon moved away at least six months ago because the house she had been renting was being put up for sale. It was Mary Corbett’s cottage. Then it was The Murder Cottage. Dessie lived there next and it was still spoken of as The Murder Cottage. When Sharon moved in, she wanted to change the way people referred to her home. Living in a place where someone was savagely killed carries a tough legacy. She searched out a large flat stone and put some sticky vinyl letters on it. She renamed the place The White Cottage. The letters were quite small. The heavily varnished stone was leaned up against a tree so that it could be seen from the road.  We all tried hard to use the new name but The Murder Cottage remains the shorthand way to identify the place. The house has not sold yet. A man comes along and does some small jobs every few weeks to keep it looking tidy. When Sharon left, I thought maybe she had taken her naming stone with her but today I walked past the house and there it was lying flat on the top of the wall with most of its letters missing.

 

27 June Thursday

The fire station in Lismore is not large. I am not even sure that it is even wide enough to have a fire truck inside. There are two yellow firemen’s helmets hanging outside the station. The original plan must have been for them to be used as hanging baskets.  No one planted any flowers in the helmets this year, so there are just a few dead stalks.

 

26 June Wednesday

It was raining hard. Just as I turned to drive into the boreen I saw a young boy pressed against the stone wall. He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The sweatshirt was not waterproof. He was dripping wet and his hood was plastered tight to his head with the rain. I recognized him as the son of a neighbour a kilometer or so down the road. I think he is 12, or maybe 13. I stopped to ask if he wanted a lift home. He said no. I saw that he had a hatchet held in his hand. Maybe it was a hatchet or maybe it was an ax. It  was pressed close down along his leg. It might have been that he was trying to hide it from me. Or it might have been that he was trying to keep it from getting wetter. After I got home I mentioned him to Simon. He said the boy had been up and down past the house several times in the rain. Always carrying his hatchet. I have spent the rest of the day wondering if we should be worrying about this lad marching around with a hatchet.

Star / Steer

 

In 2015 in Vienna I found a reprinting of the classic poem-print Star / Steer, which Stuart Mills and I had issued from Tarasque Press, Nottingham in 1966. The original was beautifully screenprinted on MG poster paper. It avoided the pitfall of the numbered and editioned fine-art print, and was the epitome of Finlay’s overtly available poster-poem. Suddenly, I was shown a fine print, done on fancy paper in a very limited edition of 30 copies, and selling for some €1200. The positioning of the poem was bizarre to say the least, so high on the format. I was informed that a notebook had been discovered in which Ian Finlay had said he wanted the print to be placed behind a toy boat?

It doesn’t make sense, given the purity of the initial print, with all its integrity.  I must write an essay on MG poster paper, its glazed front surface to take the image that rain can run off, and its back-side, the toothy rough surface that can hold the adhesive to stick to a wall! Pure affiche!

 

 

Ian Gardner 1944-2019

Ian Gardner, the eminent watercolourist, has died in his home town of Lancaster at the age of 75. He attended Lancaster School of Art, before post-graduate studies at Nottingham School of Art under David Measures and David Willetts. His work developed through the flatness of America Minimalist painting, which he then applied to printmaking, and screenprinting in particular. Eventually discovered an equivalent reductive flatness of imagery in the watercolours of John Sell Cotman and other essentially English painters in the medium.

The collaborative work he did with Tarasque Press in Nottingham with Simon Cutts and Stuart Mills led him from the visual to the literary and back again, and culminated in the group exhibition ‘Metaphor and Motif’ in 1972 which travelled widely in Britain and Northern Ireland. He worked with the American poet Jonathan Williams, who lived in Dentdale, Cumbria to produce ‘Pairidaeza’, a portfolio of images of topiaries from the nearby Levens Hall in Kendal. These were to become archetypes of his reduction of watercolour to simple forms. : his work was to redeem the medium from the folly of assumed amateurism, and imbue it with new possibility.

He taught in many places, mostly in printmaking at Bradford School of Art, where he spawned a school around him, of flat watercolour and print landscapes, with artists like Karl Torok, and others who became the New Arcadians, with the historical input of Patrick Eyres. He  once hired a bus to take his excited students to the birthplace of Frederic Delius, the composer. The assembled company boarded the bus early one morning. It drove round the corner, where they were told to get off. They had arrived at the Delius Brothers Garage in the middle of Bradford!

At the Urbana-Champaign campus of the University of Illinois in the mid-West, where he taught from 1987-88, he painted the endless landscape on inch strips of paper one yard long, and mailed them home in 35mm film canisters.

He became a constant collaborator of Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Wild Hawthorn Press in Lanarkshire during the early nineteen eighties and produced some of his most developed collaborations on print, book, and card projects with the poet. Perhaps most enduring are the sectional watercolours for A Walled Garden: A History of the Spandau Garden in the Time of the Architect Albert Speer, the emblem book Finlay devised from his correspondence with Speer about his own rubble garden at Spandau, in the late nineteen seventies.

                                                     Ian receiving the certificate for first-prize

                                                    for the Best Regional Mantelpiece Display,

                                                                2018. photo Alistair Peebles

 

Back in Lancaster, his later work took on the celebration of domesticity, his allotment garden and its produce, the kitchen plants where some of the imagery had begun. It was well short of the aspirations and pretensions of contemporaneity. The notion of the immediacy of publishing stayed with him all his life, and even after serious illness, the ‘At a Stroke’ series of cards and printed ephemera continued to the end, running to an accumulation of twenty plus items. He could be found in the Sun Hotel, hanging a few pictures in a side room, and attending to his correspondence and sending out cards at his regular table.

 

Ailsa Craig. 1983

Going to Bed in the Bright

25 June Monday

A man in a tractor dumped a big pile of stuff to the side of the storage shed on Mason’s land. It looked like lime. When his trailer was empty, he climbed down from the cab and put a delivery note bill under a stone. I was walking up the track towards him. He waved and shouted across the field , “If you see your man tell him the bill is right there. But no worry. He’ll find it or he won’t!”

 

24 June Sunday

To me, it is a pie. Here it is called a tart: top crust, bottom crust and a layer of fruit in between. I find there is always too much pastry for the skimpy amount of fruit inside. The fresh tart in the shop had a large circle cut out of the top crust. The piece of crust which had been cut out was laid onto the top of the tart, just beside the hole, so that the hole was both absent and present. It was still attached to the tart and had been baked right along with the rest.

23 June Sunday

The cows in the lower meadow began bellowing sometime after midnight. They woke me up. I lay in the dark and listened. I wondered what had set them off. There was moaning and mooing. Screaming. Lowing. Roaring. I do not know what got them going. Hunger? Separation? Distress? Maybe a fox startled one of them.  After about twenty minutes they were quiet again. I went back to sleep.

22 June Saturday

The talk at the Farmers Market this morning was all about the dead goose. By current count, 41 geese live in the river with their nests up on the banking of the castle. They are fed a lot of snacks by tourists and given a more healthy regular diet by locals. They have no reason to leave the area. Last week one of the geese was walking across the car park when he was hit by a car and killed. The car drove away without stopping. The murdered goose was named Bruce. I did not know any of the geese had names. This makes me wonder if perhaps they all have names? Apparently a young girl gave Bruce his name but how did she recognise him in the crowd? They all look very similar to me.

21 June Friday. Solstice. The Longest Day

At this time of year there is not much night. Today is the longest day. The sun rose 4.56. It will set at 21.56. The elderly woman in the shop complained that these long hours of daylight depress her. She feels that seven hours of darkness is not enough. She finds it a sad and difficult time because she fears Going To Bed in the Bright. She knows that she is not the only one.

20 June Thursday

A young man boarded the bus with us at the airport. He was carrying a large bouquet of flowers. It was a showy and extravagant bouquet in a white cellophane paper. The paper was like an enormous upside-down white skirt. I do not know where he bought such a bouquet. I do not think there are flowers on sale anywhere at the airport. I think this man must have bought the bouquet somewhere else. He must have arrived at the airport with the flowers but it was not to give the flowers to someone just off a plane from somewhere because he had no one with him. He just had the flowers. Now he was boarding the bus and taking the flowers somewhere else. The entire bus smelled of his bouquet. It was a bit much. There were enormous lilies and something else with a strong smell. The man wedged his bouquet high up into a crack between the two seats in front of him so he could enjoy the journey and have his hands free while the flowers were safe from any crushing and damage.

Before leaving Dublin we made a stop at the bus station. Two people heavily laden with plastic carrier bags stuffed full of things got on the bus. A terrible smell arrived with them. Suddenly the flower fumes that had seemed overwhelming during the journey from the airport to the station seemed not so bad. There would be at least two hours between leaving the Bus Aras and the first stop. No one would be able to get off the bus. This was a daunting prospect. I wondered if I would be able to stand it. A older woman leaned across the aisle towards me and she sort of cooed: “Oh the Poor Poor Misfortunates.” Then she sighed heavily and went back to her book.

Traffic was bad and the bus was slow. The two hour journey took three hours. I was sitting near the front of the bus. The bouquet was propped up in its position of safety in the center of the bus. The Poor Misfortunates sat all the way in the back of the bus. I suppose I was lucky in a way. From where I sat, the smells cancelled each other out and I was far enough away to able to forget about them, at least for some of the time.

A Slender Horizon of Light

Bill Culbert’s strategy for working developed from and through the painting of his early years to the late nineteen-fifties. His post-cubist painting then turns towards construction, and becomes almost serial. By the mid-sixties, this constructive axis of the work could almost be confused with some aspects of kineticism and the Groupe Recherche d’Art Visuel in France. His kinetic-field and camera-obscura pieces, the more pure object-of-light pieces were made at this time, and  his Cubic Projections of 1968 has indeed been much imitated.  But the work was always more questioning, and with revelatory humour, than merely perceptual. Perhaps this led to the more ready-made and bricolage works – the suitcases, the  doors, windscreens, headlights and parts of the 2CV, the plastics, the lampshades, the refractions of wine. His assembly of lamps, tables, chairs, domestic objects, picked from the refuse tips of the Luberon valley were put to work in the cluster of rebuilt houses and studios in the village of Croagnes, using and making available light and light available.Through all the work runs the distilled optimism of the modernist, the structured enquiry of his entire project.

 

The intruded light tube, the fluorescent strip in various sizes and combinations is one of the parts of his work. Light tubes have been imposed on large photographic installations, as in Weather 1988. They have been installed from wall to floor and floor to wall and through furniture, even imposed on Alvar Aalto’s small table in Table Lamp II 1982. They were thrust through the windows of a full scale model of the Serpentine Gallery windows in An Explanation of Light 1984. In floor pieces such as Flat Light House from 2008, or Flotsam 1992, or the seemingly randomised Spacific Plastics of 2001, in Pacific Flotsam of 2007, the intruded light tubes irradiate a seemingly dishevelled scattering of dicarded plastic containers to form an enormous glow of coloured light. Culbert always reminds us of the pleasure of finding dicardable materials for re-use. The window frame, the casement of light, has also often figured in the work. It has gone as far as the intimated flat-pack of Flat Light House from 2008. Besides their resource as parts of works, the windscreens and panels from Citroen 2CV cars have been used by Culbert as more domestic shields and tables, as they are used in the localities of rural France as canopies over porches and doors.

 

We are witnessing the last days of the incandescent light bulb, to be replaced by more energy-efficient forms. Bill Culbert celebrates this with an editioned piece in the form of The Last Incandescent Light Bulb, where a clear light bulb is used as the stopper of a glass decanter, a vessel often seen in the Culbert household. Its image was first used as a photographic work  Decanter from 1985.

 

There have always been the photographic works at a parallel to the objects and installations. There is always a duality in the photographic works, an ambiguity that posits the question of what is the actual work: the subject of the photograph or the photograph itself, the issues of choice of black and white and colour. An early compilation of such black and white pieces was called Extant Works and Sources, 1984. Perhaps more importantly, they all have a necessary myopia of focus, a re-iteration of the themes of the work, the lampshade armatures at sunset, the empty abats-jours.

 

The work is also the drawing of built pieces and pieces to be built, often a working inventory, the instructions for making them. The drawings were, at times, also pure form, with the swift and spare open line begun in his earliest work, enhanced by his trusted Parker 51 Fountain Pen, designed by Moholy-Nagy.

 

There is always wine, and the consequence of wine poured into a glass, its reverse perspective, its shadow, the lucidity of it. ‘Small Glass, Pouring Light’, 1983 is the seminal work, now permanently installed in the Chateau d’ Oiron in the Poitou region of western France. Bistro glasses of a particular refractive index, filled with red wine, re-form the light bulbs above them onto the table – a work of mysterious calm, generously and silently inviting the viewer to participate in the refreshment of the work.

 

The work of Bill Culbert is of a different legacy to the reassembly of Duchamp and Schwitters. There is always an affirmation of the balance between art and living, the fuss-less ‘bien-fait’ of Creation Permanente of Robert Fillou, a celebration of quotidian ordinariness. In his oeuvre there is enormous width and range, far more so than that presumed for some acclaimed artists working in France and Britain in a most overblown time. He is one of very few really radical figures who did not settle for manufacture, brand and production – a distinct virtue of his partial neglect.

2009-2019

Leonard McComb RA

Leonard McComb began as a sculptor and moved to painting, flecking his large watercolours from a sable brush with a trail of colour. There is even one made up of, I believe, 91 A1 sheets of paper, of the cliff outside the house of his mother in North Wales. Of remaining sculptures, there are not many. But the figure of Young Man Standing  has a profound mystery to the work, a compacted energy about to burst. It is there in its the 7/8ths scale and proportion. His presence follows you round the room in which you encounter him .

I remember the evenings in his Brixton house and studio in the late nineteen seventies, when his then wife Barbara, equally mysterious, wafer-thin from not eating properly, often prepared a dinner overwhelmed by coriander, which she did not and could not taste. I think she was really his model, his muse, and there are many portraits of her or females exceedingly like her. Len was always immaculately dressed in a suit and white shirt, sometimes open at the neck, but more likely with a cravat loosely tied, or even a dark overcoat worn indoors, and supple and worn Oxford shoes. It seemed to me that it was the tradition of the Slade School to be so immaculately dressed, and I could only contrast it with the casualness of most of the artists I knew. I guess all that formality showed in the mannerism of their paintings, but in Len’s case it was never quite the eccentricity of a Stanley Spencer and his loaded pram. Len was somehow always more upright.

He had destroyed much of his early work on a fire in the back-garden of his Brixton house. A man of firm and even entrenched prejudice, of the obduracy of a Balthus. It is said that he tried to persuade Peter Blake not to include so-called Conceptual Art in a Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, saying that there were enough artists genuinely responding to Nature for it to be unnecessary for a glass of water to represent an oak tree.

 

 

 

It is Nice to be Nice.


12 June Wednesday

I went into town to get a new tax disc for the car. The old one expired at the end of May. We have until the end of June to get a new one. A one month grace period. I was feeling a little bit confused. Maybe this is the old way and things have changed while I failed to notice that they had changed. I felt certain that the one month grace period somehow does not apply any longer and that instead of me being a few weeks early to get my new disc, I am actually a few weeks late. I asked the woman at the counter if this was still the system. She said Yes, of course. I asked her why we are allowed an entire month after the date of expiration. Shouldn’t the tax expiring mean that the tax has expired? Why do we get a whole month extra to sort ourselves out? She explained that everyone is always so very busy with things to do and deadlines and life in general, so why should the motor tax office put more pressure on people? Then she added, “And, anyway, it is nice to be nice.”

11 June Tuesday

A starling is caught in the blind of an old empty house in Irishtown. It must have gone down the chimney and got itself caught in the blind trying to escape out the window and now it is dead. There is not a thing to be done. It is too late for anything to be done. I look at it every time I pass. I try not to look but then I do. It has been hanging there for a long while now. It does not seem to get any more decomposed. It just hangs there. Dead.

 

10 June Monday

The tiny calves are together in one field, without their mothers. They have two little white plastic houses to go into to get out of the rain. Or to get their food which might be in there to keep it dry, or to keep it from being blown around. These are the reasons that I thought they have the little houses. Today under a steady soft, but persistent, drizzle, I saw all of the calves huddled in a tight group in a far corner of their field. They were moaning and bellowing together in voices louder than their small bodies seem able for. And they were all wet. So much for my theories about shelter.

9 June Sunday

Elderflowers are everywhere. Except when they are not. They look like they are everywhere. The cream colored blossoms are polka-dotted all over the landscape. Everywhere in every direction, there are elderflowers. Their omnipresence is deceptive. The big floppy flowers are all high up on the trees. Today we had a few hours of bright sun in the midst of all the rain and the grey darkness and cold days. When we do get some sun, it is watery sunlight. It is not strong hot sun. I decided I must gather the flowers and make at least one batch of elderflower cordial. The weather forecast is promising ten straight days of rain and no sun. And this on top of all of the cold and sunless days we have already had. I decided I had to use today’s sunlight to get the blossoms while I could. Popular wisdom says that blossoms picked in overcast light will make a cordial that smells like cat pee. I did not want to risk that. I went out with clippers and a basket to collect 20 or 25 blossoms, which is not very many. It was really hard to even get that small amount. Everything was high up and way out of my reach. I eventually got my flowers and made my single batch. It was far too difficult. I can only hope the rains move off and I will have a second chance to make more.

8 June Saturday
I went to the vet’s office to collect some bubble wrap. They are happy to save the bubble for me as it is a kind of recycling. It is a slow job for me to go through it all and remove the tape from the bunched up bits, but it is free. I try to remind myself that the time I spend untangling and folding up the bubble wrap is cheaper than the money we would spend to buy brand new rolls of it. They seem to have less bubble these days. Maybe the vaccines and the liquids for the cows and horses are being shipped in plastic instead of glass containers. Or maybe there is another reason. Anyway I need to stop in more frequently than I used to and I get less per trip than I used to.

As I waited for the young girl on duty to stuff my bubble into a bin liner, I met a 3 1/2 year old mixed breed Whippet. I fell in love immediately. I have been vaguely looking for a new dog. I have mentioned here and there that I am ready for a new dog. I have mentioned here and there that I am no longer happy to live without a dog. I have mentioned that when I see the dog that is to be my dog, I will know immediately. Seeing this dog gave me that feeling. Unfortunately, this dog was happily owned and loved by the two people with her. But now I have a whole new breed of dog to be looking at and for. I did not know I wanted a Whippet, but now I do.

7 June Friday

The bee hives from the bee man in Burncourt are back on the tops of Mike’s wrecked cars in his work yard. These hives are different from the ones that the same man brought last year. One is covered with tar paper. Another looks like a picnic cooler painted yellow. The third one is just a wooden box with a red top. The bee man is looking to attract a new swarm. None of the boxes have attracted any bees yet. I think this weather is too cold for bees.

Wet Rain.

 

6 June Thursday

All week, every I look out the window or walk out the door I see a rabbit. There is never not a rabbit in my line of vision. Simon has been adamant when he assures me that there is only one rabbit and that I am always seeing the same rabbit. Tonight I walked across from the barn and I saw three rabbits in a little group quietly eating grass together. Another one was hopping over near the white lilac.  I should know better than to believe Simon.  Rabbits often look alike. And rabbits are known to multiply. Pretending that there is only one is silly.

5 June Wednesday

A motorcar had turned in at the end of the lane. There was a tractor and another big machine cutting and collecting silage in the adjoining field. Jobs like cutting silage get contracted out. I recognized neither the machinery nor the men. They both rushed over to the corner of the field when the car arrived. A woman and a small boy got out of the car. The woman stretched up on tip-toes to pass a couple of plastic containers over the stone wall to the young man who climbed down from the tractor. Then she handed a flask and two big plastic bottles of some fizzy drink over to him. He put one container and one bottle up and into his tractor. He walked over and handed one of each of the things up to the man in the other machine. Then the woman lifted the little boy over the wall. The man reached and lifted the boy the rest of the way over and into the field. The boy was about 6. I am guessing his age from his size. Maybe he was younger. Maybe he was older. I did not know the woman, nor the man, nor the other man who never left his machine.  I had never seen the little boy. I was only out for a walk by myself. The man, who might have been a brother or the father or an uncle swung the boy up into the tractor and then he climbed up himself. The little boy stood high on the seat beside the man and he waved wildly with both hands at the woman and at me.  He was delighted to be in the tractor in the midst of the important work of bringing in the silage. He wanted to be seen to be high up in the tractor. The woman and I stood and waved at the boy as the machines turned away from us and started back into the work of cutting grass and circling round and round the field. We waved until the boy stopped waving and directed his attention to the job being done.

4 June Tuesday

Today has been all day Wet Rain. People might think that all rain is wet.  There are different kinds of rain. There is Soft Rain. Rain can be Desperate. It can be Lashing. I do not think there are as many words for rain here as some northern places have for snow but there are a lot of ways to explain and describe rain. I doubt I have heard all of them yet. Wet Rain is a particular sort of soaking rain. It is the kind of rain which means you will get wet no matter how you dress or how you move.  A Wet Rain will drench any person out in it. This is a certainty. The daisies are drooping down with this all day rain. They are drooping and dripping. They are lying down flat with the excessive water so they are tangling into each other and sometimes tripping us when we try to move through them. We get wet simply by walking out to check the if the post has arrived or going down to the the book barn to do a job. It is much too wet to go out to trim these flopping daisies out of the way.  We have the choice of changing our trousers with abnormal frequency, or else we just stay in the house.

3 June Monday

Morning. How are you? Are you well? This quickly spoken greeting comes out like one long word with little space for breathing or differentiation. The you is pronounced as ye. MorningHowareyeAreyewell?

2 June Sunday

There is a big black bull in Joe’s front field. I call it the front field. Probably Joe does not call this field the front field. It is the first field as I enter the boreen from the road. It is the field on my right. When there is a bull in residence, the bull is always in this field. I do not think that Joe owns a bull. I think that he rents or leases a bull for a month or for a few weeks for breeding. The bull arrives from another farm in order to inseminate cows. I do not think they say inseminate. I hear it said that the bull is here to Cover the Cows. This is not the same bull as in recent years. The previous bull was brown and white. This bull is black. He is so black that he looks like a silhouette against the green pasture. He is so black and so big that it is almost hard to see him. He is like an absence cut out of the field.

31 May Friday

I could not sleep last night. It was the jet lag. Coming from west to east is often a problem. Reading had not worked and listening to the radio had not worked. I finally got out of bed. I played solitaire for a while. This usually tires me. I get bored and sort of hypnotised by the cards and then I get sleepy. I did not become sleepy. I just kept playing. I worked on a crossword puzzle from yesterday’s newspaper. I read yesterday’s newspaper. After three hours I finally went back to bed. I did not sleep. The room was getting lighter and lighter. The birds were making an enormous noise outside. I should call it the dawn chorus but it sounded too noisy for a chorus. It was cacophony. I got up again. It was about four o’clock. I made a cup of tea and I went outside. It was too chilly to sit down so I walked around and looked at things. There was plenty of light to see everything that had been growing in my absence. The ox-eye daisies were rampant. They are the wild flowers that just take over everything at this time of year. It was really getting light but it was not bright. It was only a little after four in the morning. I could see the white blossom of the daisies and the pink roses against the grey stone of the book barn. There was plenty of light to see colours and to see details. It was subdued light but it was light. Joe’s cows were not in the near field but they were just a little further along in the second field across. They were all standing around along the rounding of the hill pulling grass and eating. I wondered why they were not sleeping. I wondered if cows sleep. My thoughts kept returning to sleep. There were more cows down in Donal’s field. That is the field I call the Water Meadow but Jim Trehy told me that a field like that is known as the Bottoms. I try to think of it as the Bottoms but as often as I remind myself of it, this name does not come naturally to me. It is still the water meadow and this morning it was full of Donal’s cows. I could see them clearly. Their black and white hides showed bright against the green. I walked down the meadow and through the apple trees and I considered getting out a rake to gather up some of the long grass which had been cut down around the trees. I was wearing my dressing gown over my pajamas and a shawl around my shoulders. I was wearing low rubber boots. It did not seem the best outfit for raking and anyway I was too tired to DO anything. The only thing I wanted to do was to sleep and since I could not do that I was happy to look at all of the variations of white blossoms against all of the green and to watch a rabbit hopping and to listen to the birds singing and screaming. I finished one cup of tea as I walked so I went  inside to make another. It was 5.15 and there was no chance that I was going to get any sleep.

Your Own Name

14 May Tuesday

The woman at the desk asked me: “What is your own name, so?” Anywhere else a person asking for my name would be enough. Your Own Name is a kind of double possession. A double descriptor which never fails to surprise me. It should not surprise me any longer but it does.

13 May Monday

I was paying for my milk and newspaper when I felt eyes upon me. I looked to my left and there was Peggy, right beside me, and staring intently at me. The minute I turned towards her, she averted her head sharpish and marched across the shop to the magazines. She picked up a magazine and began flipping through pages rapidly. It was a teen magazine. Peggy has no children and she has no grandchildren. I am certain she has no interest in a teen magazine. It was obvious that she just grabbed the first thing that her hands touched. Peggy has not spoken to me for four or five years. The last time was a phone conversation when she rang and said that she did not want to fall out with me. We spoke on the phone for 45 minutes that day. We parted on good terms. Or I thought we parted on good terms. Since that day she refuses to salute if we pass one another in the car. She does not just fail to salute, she turns her head abruptly and looks away even if she is driving in a forward direction. It is a dangerous kind of head turning while operating a motor car, but she is making a point. In the last two years she has extended the snubbing to Simon. Her problem is with me and not with him, but he is now tainted by association. I wave and I greet her with a smile wherever and whenever we meet. This friendliness on my part has no effect. I have been told by another neighbour that Peggy fell out with the neighbour’s cousin over a jar of jam. That snubbing and feud lasted for twenty years. It only ended when the cousin died.

12 May Sunday

There have been thundering and thumping noises throughout the afternoon. All week there has been silage cutting. After it was cut the grass has been left to dry in piled up lengths through the fields. The fields looked like corduroy. Now machines are racing through the fields and picking up the piles and spitting them into huge trailers. The trailers are huge and blue and they are pulled by blue tractors that rush along beside the grass collecting machines. It is a dangerous time to be on the road or driving through the farmyard as the speed of the activity keeps everything moving at top speed. From here in our valley it sounds like planes on a runway. Sometimes it sounds like thunder. Sometimes it sounds like rumbling traffic from afar. The noises are a shocking change from the usual deep silence.

11 May Saturday

Ned painted his van. He painted it red. It already was red but he repainted it, just to brighten it up. He painted it with some red gloss paint from his shed and he used a paint brush. It is not well done. There are saggy bits where the paint was too heavy and it drooped in kind of sideways puddle. He did not do the small area around the letters on the back of the van because his brush was too big to get in between the letters. Around the chrome letters it is possible to see the old, not glossy red that was the previous colour. The van sat behind him at the Farmers Market as it always does. There was a lot of discussion of his van and his painting skills and not much of any attention paid to wooden bowls for sale on his tables. He got a lot of teasing but he did not seem to mind. I think he enjoyed it.

Old Linoleum

 

10 May Friday

There is a small piece of printed linoleum outside my work room.  It is old. It might have come from Johnnie Mackin’s house.  It might have come from Tommie Halley’s house. It might have come from some other old house where people had lived but where no one is living any longer. Maybe it was stuck onto the bottom of something and it fell off once it arrived here.  I have had it for a long time already. I keep it on the step. It is not useful for wiping feet. It is not useful for anything. I like the pattern. I think of it as a little welcome mat.

9 May Thursday

Pat flew to Paris on a mission. She went to Paris to buy herself a Hermès scarf. She spent nearly three hours in the store deciding which scarf to buy. She said that the staff were wonderful. She said they had nothing but patience. A friend went with her to help but he was not involved in the final choosing. That was her job alone. The friend stepped outside to have a cigarette break now and then. While smoking, he was able to keep track of the limousines and other fancy cars arriving at the shop. Most of the other customers were wealthy Asians and none of them were traveling alone. Maybe they were with family or perhaps they were with friends. The shop was spacious and well organised. The staff could manage all of the buyers and the entourages who came along with them. The scarf was Pat’s gift to herself for her 60th birthday. It was not a casual decision. It was a special, long-dreamed of and costly purchase. She wanted to get it right. It has been several weeks now but she has not worn the scarf yet. She opens the box on her kitchen table to admire it and to show it to friends. She unfolds the scarf and look at it spread out large. Then she folds it up again and puts it carefully back into the box. She is simply overjoyed to have it here in her house in Tipperary. She has invited me over for a viewing.

8 May Wednesday

The rain bucketed down all night and well into this morning. This soaking is much needed by the farmers and much appreciated by me. It has been cleansing and cleansing is what we need. It is that time of year again. I do not know what causes it or who is the culprit. Is it one type of bird? Or is it all of the birds? Once again the house is covered with lashings of excrement. The car is covered with excrement. Every piece of washing that goes out to the clothesline gets hit. The birds must be flying extremely fast so every splash is long and diagonal and white. What are they eating to make such milky white liquid poop? How fast are they flying to make it all land with such splatter? And why does this last for a few weeks and then, as abruptly as it began, it stops. It just stops. Every year it is like this. It starts and then after about ten days or two weeks, it stops. I have theories about young birds and young digestive systems but these theories are not based on facts.

 

7 May Tuesday

There is a fine looking triangle in the long field. The triangle was dug out and filled with gravel. I guess it is for drainage.

6 May Monday

Election posters have appeared everywhere. I like the variety of suddenly having language in the landscape. The posters are tied onto trees, fences and telephone poles. Some of the posters have the words RECYCLED POSTER along the bottom edge. I assume this means that the candidate has run for office before. It does not look like a new head has been struck onto an old one. Almost every poster has a photograph of a head on it. That is how we know who is who. There are small mobile units with a poster on each side which get moved around the area. Just as we get used to seeing somebody’s face on the little tent device on a particular corner or stretch of road the whole display disappears and is driven off to another location. We might see it in a new place but we might not. We may not drive that way so we may never see it again. I love the element of surprise as these trailers move around the countryside.

5 May Sunday

The black and white farm cat ran across the path in front of me. She had something in her mouth. At first I thought it was a small rabbit. It might have been a shrew but it was big enough to be a rat. Whatever it was, it was not dead. It was struggling hard to be released.

4 May Saturday

Tom used to come to the Farmers Market every Saturday. He did not buy anything at the market but he stood around for an hour or more talking with the various people who had stalls or with the other people who were there for the shopping. He spent most of his time talking with Ned Lonergan who makes things out of wood. Ned makes fine bowls and egg cups and walking sticks from local timber. He and Tom would usually discuss where a tree had fallen recently and who Ned might have to approach to get access to some of the wood. Today we met Tom in the SuperValu car park. We talked for a few minutes and mentioned that we missed seeing him at the market. He said he had stopped going to the market because Eileen does not care to shop at the market. She thinks it is certain to be too dear and that it is a kind of exclusive affair altogether. She says that if you begin to buy from one person you will have to buy from everyone or else you will make enemies. She says the market itself is nothing but a problem and a way to be forced to spend money that you do not have anyway. Eileen never did come to the market for her shopping and Tom only came to meet people and to have some conversation. She has told Tom that it is not right to go there if he is not there to buy things. So now he does not go at all, but he wishes he did.

 


3 May Friday

Tiny calves cluster together in the fields. They are so small that their legs wobble. Their legs are not yet strong. They tumble into one another. They seem too young to be away from their mothers. When Joe arrives with the teat trailer full of their formula they rush and jostle to get a suck. The once bright red teat trailer is now a faded pink. It looks like a miniature fairground carousel. With rubber teats.

1 May Wednesday

It is the first day of May but the nights are still cold. It does not feel like May. I brought in several wheelbarrow loads of firewood just to be ready. I hope we do not need a fire in the evening but the probability is that we will need a fire. My new method for unloading the wheelbarrow is to wheel it right into the house. The old system of armloads or baskets or buckets full from the doorway seems silly now. I wish I had been doing it this way for years.

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