Essential Errands

3 April Friday

Birds are everywhere. In the cities people are remarking that this easy to hear birdsong in their lives is thrilling. Here it is the same as always. It is of course exciting but it is the same as always. The bird activity sounds no different. It is spring and birds are building and discussing and rushing about. What is unusual is the racket inside the book barn. I knew the starlings were building their nests in the roof as they always do, but now they are way past the building stage. There are already new chicks. There is a great noisy chirping altogether. Never ending chatter. Sometimes there are what sound like little screams. At moments it is impossible to be down there and to get anything done. The noise is too loud.

4 April Saturday

I was glad that I remembered to ask Joe about the red tape when I saw him. He told me that the cow was probably on a course of antibiotics. The red tape on her tail and her legs was simply there as an alert to ensure that her milk would not be put in with the milk of other healthy cows. He said that this is what he does for his cows and he is just assuming this is the case because the cow in question belongs to the other Joe and she is not one of his own cows. He was only answering my query.

5 April Sunday

All day rain. Soaking rain. Heavy, lashing, pissing rain. Desperate rain. It is desperate rain with gusting winds that throw the downpour into different and often surprising directions. This is the kind of rain we have not had for many weeks. Many many weeks. The farmers will be happy. It is good to have an excuse to stay in the house. It is good to have an excuse that has nothing to do with disease or contagion or death. It is a valid and completely ordinary reason to be struck indoors all day. It is pleasing to feel trapped and happy. I spoke to Tommie on the telephone before lunch.  I ring him often. He can no longer visit Margaret in the home in Cappoquin. His dinners are delivered to his house. He was not bothered by the rain. He said “Sure, where would we be going anyway?” Several times, as the rain appeared to let up, I dressed for a walk but as soon as I was ready to step out, the rain came down hard again. If I had a dog I would be obliged to go for a walk, but since I do not have a dog, I am not obliged. I made the short trip across to the tool shed to fetch something from the freezer. I decided that as a walk out, perhaps this was enough. Going to the freezer is a bit like going out to a shop. I always find something in there that I did not know I needed or wanted. Which is kind of what happens in a shop.

 

 

6 April Monday

I am trying to use things up. My plan is to not wear anything that has much life left in it. I only wear old clothes. I wear the sweaters that have unraveled at the sleeves and have been caught on barbed wire. I am letting holes and stains have their day. Socks that are almost worn out with holes in the toes or almost broken through at the heels are being worn and worn. When the heels finally break through the socks will be thrown out. We are eating the things from the back of the cupboards. There is a high shelf in the pantry that I cannot reach. Since I cannot reach it and I cannot see up there, I pay no attention to what is there. The other day we soaked and cooked some ancient lentils. That was a mistake. Even after several days of soaking and cooking, they never softened. They remained hard and unrelenting but the sauce they were in was so good that we crunched our way through them anyway. Homemade chutneys and jams have appeared. These are the things that are always being Saved for Something Special. Now is the time. They are being dusted off and they are being eaten.
Yesterday I threw out six old telephone books from 2014, 2015 and 2016. Some were the residential directories and some were the Golden Pages. Of course, throwing out is a relative term. All I could do was to move them into the lean-to. It is me who drives things to the Recycling Depot. This morning I decided it was time and I loaded up the stuff to go. It has been more than two months since my last trip. Maybe it is more than three months since I last went. I think it was January. The lean-to was full. Gathering all the stuff from the various buildings took me about an hour. There was not one inch of spare space in the car when I was finished loading up.

The instruction from the government is to go no further than two kilometres from home, except for Essential Errands. I drove to town with three Essential Errands to do. I have to break the two kilometre rule to go anywhere at all. As I drove up the Cashel Road, I was stopped at a Garda checkpoint. I had heard about these checkpoints but it was my first time to be stopped at one. The young Guard looked at my car and said, “Going to the Dump?” I said, “How did you know?” He claimed that he just has a sense for these things, and he waved me along.

7 April Tuesday

This morning, the doctor telephoned to check that Simon is okay. They had a long and cheerful chat about a variety of things. Dr. Maher said that he rings a few of his vulnerable patients every day just to make certain that they are keeping well and safe.

In the afternoon, a police van arrived. Mattie McGrath, our local TD, was the passenger and a young Garda was driving. They came to see that we are all right. This checking up on isolated homes and older people is another gesture by the authorities. It was also a way for the new Garda to learn where people are living. New police recruits are trained in Templemore at the Garda Training College, and then they are sent all over the country. They are never sent to the place where they are from, so each new posting is full of strangers, never friends and family. Ideally this means that there is less chance of them being compromised or corrupted but it also means they do not know the back roads, the boreens and the hidden away places. The word Garda means Guardian, which means they are the protectors of the people, so in order to be protectors they need to know where everyone is. Mattie, as a TD (Teachta Dála), is one of several elected Deputies for Tipperary. He sits in the Dáil in Dublin. He is the equivalent of a Member of Parliament or a Member of Congress. He is also our neighbour on the road to the village.

8 April Wednesday

Every day there are more and more plants and flowers to notice. I cannot keep track of what appears but it is fun to try. Nothing in nature is ever the same. The same plants appear every year but they are always a surprise. Today I saw the first bluebell. Dandelions. Celandine. Robin-Run-Up-The-Hedge. Forget-me-nots. Every tree has buds or blossoms. Gorse. Hawthorn. Spring is rampant.

9 April Thursday

In the midst of this time of isolation and hand-cleaning and worry, the Everyday Challenges remain the same. The enormous milk tankers which race along at speed remain a danger on the road for both pedestrians and drivers. Milk gets collected every other day from each farm, but both Glanbia and Dairygold collect in this area so there seems to be a long shiny milk truck on the road every single day. Today I pushed myself into a ditch as a tanker came barrelling around a corner. After it was gone, I spent  ten minutes getting myself unhooked from the brambles that held me.

10 April Friday

Good Friday is always a quiet day. But this is the quietest Good Friday ever. Except for one tractor in the distance, there is not a single human sound. In previous years there was always the discussion about the pubs being closed and all alcohol consumption forbidden. Increasingly these discussions have felt more and more at odds with contemporary life. The pubs have been closed for many weeks now. There has been no Good Friday discussion this year. The radio has been silent on the subject.

11 April Saturday

We walked down through the fields below Molough Abbey. On the right side the field is freshly plowed. Maybe it has been planted. If not, it is all ready and a crop will be planted any day now. On the left side the rapeseed has grown tall. It is as high as my head. It is so beautiful to see the glowing yellow of the blossom but the smell is terrible. It smells like fibreglass resin. As pretty as it looks, the stink of it nearly ruins a walk.

12 April Sunday

Another Sunday of all day rain. After a week of warm sunshine and eating our lunch outdoors in sheltered spots, today feels like winter. The rain has been hard and straight down and it has never ceased all day long. An Easter Sauna seemed a good idea. I enjoyed walking across the grass in my dressing gown and my rubber clogs while holding an umbrella. I liked stepping out of the sauna and standing in the rain, using the downpour as my shower. I liked walking back across the grass not even bothering with the umbrella.

A Cow With Red Tape on Her Tail.

21 March Saturday

I love the gate closest to the end of the boreen. It has been made to favour the uphill slope of the land.

 

 

22 March Sunday

I met Breda and Margo up at the Boulders at 11. We each traveled in our own cars and we did not venture near to one another. We walked for three hours following a particular overland route that Breda knew and that Margo wanted to learn. She was tracking us on a new app on her telephone. I was happy with the freedom to walk the mountains without a single thought about where I was going. There was no path. All I had to do was keep Margo in my sights. We saw one man and his dog in the far distance. Otherwise we saw no one. Breda kept repeating, “There is Not A Sinner in Sight!” I saw some furry caterpillars curled into circles and nesting in the dry grasses. We saw a lot of sheep, and ten or twelve Belted Galloways in a little group. The gorse was in bloom everywhere.

 

23 March Monday

I found a new cattle ear-tag stuck in the peaty soil up the mountain yesterday. I did not show it to Breda nor to Margo. I knew they would not be interested. I knew Breda would tell me to drop it because it was covered in muck and dirt. I put it in my pocket and today I have washed it. I am delighted to add it to my collection.

25 March Wednesday

There were cows being led up the road. Rather than wait, I turned up the Knocklofty road on my way home. Seeing a car stopped up ahead, I assumed it must be someone else blocking the road while another herd was ready to cross. It was not a normal time of day for the movement of cows so it was odd to be stopped in two places for the same problem. As I neared, I saw that a woman was walking around the outside of her car which was stopped exactly in the middle of the road. She was looking down. I assumed she had a mechanical problem. I drove a bit closer and then I stopped and got out. There was a white-haired lady sitting in the back seat. An old and extremely dirty terrier was wedged under the car on the drivers side. He was not trapped. He was just sitting there with only his head showing. His head was unusually large. His head was large and it was ugly. The woman said she stopped because the dog was in the road and she did not want to hit him. As soon as she stopped, he went under her car and now she could not get him out from underneath nor could she get back into the drivers side. He was barring her way. I approached the dog and he bared his teeth and snarled at me. He was vicious. I talked to him nicely and then I lowered my voice and attempted to sound stern. I told him to Go Home. Go Home. Go Home. He snarled and snapped each time I attempted to get closer. At one point, he rushed at me and then he ran around the car and wedged himself in under the other side. A small van pulled up behind my car. I went over and asked the driver if she had any kind of a stick. She got out with a walking stick and a small boy. By now the white haired lady had gotten out of the back seat of the first car. All five of us were keeping our distance from each other and we were all trying to keep an eye on the dog. The woman with the stick pushed at the dog and he scooted underneath the car so that he was completely out of sight. He came running out again and went from one side to the other side returning always to his position of head exposed and body tucked underneath. I ran up the road to the only house in sight to see if the people there knew who owned the dog or maybe if it was their own dog. Two big lazy friendly dogs greeted me in the yard and then they returned to lie down in the sun. They could not be bothered. No one answered the door, so I ran back down the road. Just as I got there the dog rushed out from under the car and into some tall grass. He bared his teeth and snarled at the woman with the stick who had nudged him away. Without a word, we all jumped in the cars and raced off before he could rush out and get underneath one of our vehicles. He was looking for shelter and protection. I have been worrying about the dog all day. I know that he was angry and probably he was scared and hungry and maybe hurt, but I also know that he was vicious and dangerous. I deserted an animal in need. I had no idea what else to do.

26 March Thursday

An Post has given us all postcards. We can post them for free anywhere within the country. It is their gentle idea of a way to keep us in touch with one another. It is a gift to make everyone feel good. Having the postman arrive down the track is like a visit. There are lots of balancing acts. Some of the postmen have to take turns taking care of their children while their wife works. Some of the postmen have fallen ill, or someone in their family has fallen ill. There is only one man left who knows our rural route plus his own regular route so he delivers to us every other day. Maybe he arrives three times a week or sometimes it is only twice a week. There are never any deliveries on a Saturday. Having things delivered by post is better than ever.

27 March Friday

This year Lent lasts from 26 February to 9 April. Every year I hear people describing or listing what they have given up for Lent. It is only valid if you give up something that you want and you love like butter or chocolate or wine or television. The idea of Lent is to remind yourself that you cannot have everything all of the time. I am surprised that people are still bothering now with this particular denial when all of life has been turned upside down. I find it strange that people are still sticking to their self-imposed restrictions even while so much of life and normal activity have been curtailed from outside forces.

28 March Saturday

We are eating wild garlic at least twice a day. So far it has not been added to breakfast. I keep a jug of it on the counter. It is used as a garnish. It is made into a pesto. It is mixed in some way with just about everything we eat. When I go out to collect more, it is a form of shopping. I must decide where to get my leaves from today. Under an apple tree? Under which apple tree? Near the water butt? Down the edge of the path? These are the decisions that keep me busy.

29 March Sunday

We changed our clocks last night. This means that the sun is now going down at 8, but really it is not fully dark until 9.

 

30 March Monday

We have been walking through Joe’s fields but it is hard work. The last time the cows were in the field it must have been extremely wet and muddy. There are deep and varied hoof holes all through the grass. The soil is now dry. The holes are hard. Walking over the fields makes for a lurching and staggering kind of progress. Without strong boots and a sturdy stick, such a walk would be ankle-breaking stuff. It is a relief to get to the long rough track and out of the fields. Every day this week, we have lumbered all through the fields and around on the road and down the boreen to home. It is about a 4 1/2 kilometre walk. Today, we saw only one man on a bicycle and one man in a tractor. Most days we see no one.

 

31 March Tuesday

There is a cow in the field of the other Joe with red tape on her tail and red tape around each of her back legs. None of the other cows have any red tape. I would like to know what this means and what her problem is. The chances of me bumping into Joe to ask about the tape are slim. I wonder about the cow and her red tape each time I pass. I shall continue to have theories.

Nest Building

6 March Friday

We organized the bags around our feet as the bus closed its doors and drove off. At that exact moment, a woman greeted us with a hearty roar.

She shouted, “You’re back, then? Have you been away to London again?”

I looked up in confusion. The woman was no one I knew. After a few minutes of her enthusiastic chatter, I realized that I did indeed recognize her as the woman who had sat beside us in the bus shelter last November. That day the X8 was well late. There had been heavy traffic when the bus left Dublin, so it was behind schedule all the way along its route. We were on our way to Cork to catch a flight. We had plenty of time so we were not worried about the bus being late nor about getting to our plane. The woman was sitting in the bus shelter to be out of the rain. She was not going anywhere. She was just waiting for the rain to stop. She told us all about her brother in Manchester who was dying. She thought it was The Cancer but she said no one was telling her straight. She had been to see him once and she thought she might need to go again before it was too late. She announced that it is no good going to see someone when the person is already dead. They won’t appreciate your visit nor your love if you just travel to see them dead and in the box. She said that is the easy way for people to look like they care. She said she understood it all as it is no fun to visit a dying person because there is not much to talk about. They have no future and you do, so every conversation is going to be a bit skew-whiff.

The woman talked and talked and rarely paused, but when she did pause, she asked a question. She might have been 28 or she might have been 45. It was hard to tell. She quickly found out that we were flying to London, but also that we lived here and that we were only going over there for a book fair and some visiting. She said she was happy about that. She was happy that we would be coming back. She felt it was important to have people from different places living in Tipperary because it made the area like the world and not like a village. She said too many people had already married their cousins and the whole county was in sore need of fresh blood just the same way as farm cats need to be refreshed before they all become inbred and end up getting stepped on by a cow because they are too stupid to move out of the way. She covered a lot of conversation in every gust of talking.

I had not seen the woman again since that day in November. Now it was March. I doubt I would have recognized her at all, but when she started talking I knew her voice. She recognized us and she started right in as though we had all been speaking together this day last week. She reported that she was just back from Manchester herself, but this time it had been for The Brother’s funeral. She said he lasted longer than anyone had expected or even hoped for. No one had expected him to make it to Christmas, but he did. She said he was little more than a shell when he died. She said that she had only been back a few days but when she arrived back from the funeral and the flight, she had gotten off the bus and walked right down to the Aldi and bought herself a Shepherd’s Pie for her tea and it was lovely and full of carrots and peas and just what she needed after the plane and the bus and arriving home into a cold house. She said her boyfriend was useless so she knew there would be nothing to eat and that he would not be at home to welcome her anyway. She recommended that we do the exact same thing. She said, “A Shepherd’s Pie is not something you will ever regret.”

8 March Sunday

Primroses are blooming in the boreen. The air is cold but the pale yellow blossom means that spring is here.

10 March Tuesday

The market square felt a bit empty when I stopped in Mitchelstown. Half the country has gone over to England for the races at Cheltenham. The other half of the country was placing their bets for the first race at 1.30. I parked in front of Paddy Powers. People were rushing in and out of the door. It was the busiest place on the square. The word on the pavement outside the shop was that you should bring your own pen when placing a bet. The Virus is sure to be clinging on to those little stubby pens that they always have for you to use in the bookies. I heard one man tell another it would be no good at all to have your horse come in with a big win, and then to die of The Virus right after.

12 March Thursday

I have been sewing up the sections of a book. I finished one section and I am halfway through the second section. Each time I build up a sizeable amount of cotton off-cuts, I take the threads outside and leave them on the table for the birds. Immediately, the birds leave off their eating of nuts in the feeders and they attack the pile. Within minutes, the threads are scooped up and off into various nest building projects. As often as I take them out there they disappear. I cannot sew any faster.

14 March Saturday

Popping in and out of several pharmacies, I had been asking for the sanitising liquid that is being recommended. We are constantly told to use it all the time, after every single interaction out in the world. Everyone is looking for it but no one has any to sell. One pharmacist said she had heard that the woman who ran O’Gormans Pharmacy in Clonmel had gotten 144 bottles of the sanitiser in yesterday, but she added that they were probably already gone. Every single person is trying to protect themselves. I saw people shopping in the supermarket with gloves on. Some of them were wearing the plastic disposable surgical gloves, and some people wore just any old winter gloves. One woman was wearing mittens. In the second pharmacy I visited, the pharmacist came out from the back and suggested that I buy some cheap vodka. 40% should do it. That will work just as well as any hand sanitiser, she said. She turned to the other woman behind the counter and then back to me, and she said, “You did not hear me say this!!”

16 March Monday

I heard a car horn outside. Ned had arrived with the heating fuel in his mobile tank. He needed me to move my motor out of his way, and to fetch him a ladder and then he needed me to open the window so we could drag in the extension lead to plug in his generator. He said he knew we were all in lock-down so that is why he arrived without ringing first. He knew we would be at home because where else would we be? He said, You are going nowhere. He did not like the idea of us running low on fuel. When he was finished filling the tank, I asked if he wanted to come in for tea. I was not sure if I should ask him to come into the house, but I did. In the end, he did not offer me much choice. He said, “Of course I will come in for tea. We always have a cup together, don’t we? We cannot let a small thing like an world-wide epidemic get in the way of tea. Your table is a large table. I will sit at one far end and you two can sit at the opposite end. We will speak up good and loud-like and we’ll have no problem hearing one another.”

17 March Tuesday

Today is Patrick’s Day. There is no celebration anywhere. It is a quiet. It is very quiet. I walked up the Mass Path, slipping in the mud all the way up the hill. Once there, I was delighted to find the wild garlic in bloom. I had not noticed any growing in the lower meadow yet, but the path at the top is lined with the shiny leaves. I came home with huge handfuls of it ready to be eaten.

The Bee Hive

24 January Friday

There was a gate. Was there a gate? Now there is no gate. Maybe there never was a gate? I see a stone wall cleared of any growth. Has the wall been recently rebuilt to compensate for a place where a gate had been? Or was the hedge covering the wall simply cleared? Passing the same place every day, and sometimes several times a day, I feel I should know exactly how these things are. The fields, the openings, the gates, and the ditches are all so familiar that I am confused. Once bushes grow up and around this wall I will not remember where the wall was and I will not remember my question about the space or the gate that might have been there. Or might not have been there.  However it was will be lost within what it is.

25 January Saturday

Bright sun and deep mud.  Somehow it is easier to struggle and slog in the mud up the Mass Path when the sun is out. When I came out onto the road at the top, I met PJ and his two dogs. Jessie, the Saint Bernard puppy, is growing bigger by the day.  PJ nodded towards my muddy trousers and said, “You got taken”. I did not understand what he meant until he pointed out that by me falling into the mud, the mud had won. I got taken.

26 January Sunday

Margaret is still in the hospital. Tommie continues to be driven up and down to visit her in Waterford every other day. She had a kidney infection after the two hip operations so she was put into isolation. She went on hunger strike for a while. Well, it was not a hunger strike but she went off her food and she went off her food for long enough that it was a worry for Tommie and for the doctors and nurses. No one knew what to do to tempt her back into eating. Now she is eating again, but no one knows what made her change her mind and to begin eating again. Tommie figures she just got hungry. He worries each time that he goes to Waterford what he will find this time. He cannot do anything to help but he can worry. He put his foot down and refused to carry her decorated vase to the hospital. He is pleased that she seems to have forgotten about the vase.

He told me that he is very very weary. He said that weary is different than being tired. He is weary. He has decided to spend two or three days at home this week just to get himself rested up before the next journey to Waterford. When he is at home he gets many phone calls from people inquiring about Margaret. He gets worn out with having to explain everything. The telephone is near to the front door. There is a little seat beside the telephone table but it always has things piled up on it. Tommie has to stand up to speak on the phone so he never likes to talk for a long time. This is a telephone that is attached at its base with a twisted, tangled, and not very long cable. The hallway is a little bit draughty. This weekend he had a call from a former neighbour asking about Margaret. He was surprised that this woman was ringing as he did not know how she could even know that Margaret is in hospital nor did he think it was like her to be asking after Margaret. It was not a normal call. It was a call that puzzled him. He could not think how this woman knew that Margaret was unwell. He thought about it for a long while. He said he could not rest until he identified The Source of the information. Finally, he remembered that both woman went to the same hairdresser. He said he felt better knowing that he had located The Source.

27 January Monday

The battery died. It needed a neighbour and jump leads to get it going. The red cap covering one terminal of the battery was all chewed up. The black one was fine. That was not why the battery died but it was a messy surprise. As a result of the dead battery, I learned that rats are a big problem this winter. It is not just us. Noel O’Keeffe has had many cars coming into the garage with complaints of things not working. The  answer is always rats. Farms are active spots for rats and it seems every farmer has had his engine invaded by the rats. There are chewed brake cables and fuel lines and any number of rubbery plasticky things under the bonnet all gnawed until they do not function correctly any more. All car problems keep coming back to the hungry rats. The garage has developed a rodent strategy. Blocks of poison have a hole in the middle. Noel’s mechanics are attaching the blocks with a loop of wire. The loop is fastened to something inside the engine so that a rat can be attracted to the block and he or she can nibble away at it and then hopefully go away and die. It is a clever system, but it will not be so good if the rat dies in the engine.

 

29 January Wednesday

The Bee Hive is a bungalow on the Dungarvon Road. It has not been open for as long as I have been here.  The house is always referred to as the Bee Hive.  There is no sign and there has never seen a sign but everyone knows it as the Bee Hive. There are two old petrol pumps outside. They have not been serving petrol for as long as I have been here. The inside of the bungalow used to have a room that served as a bar. All of the drinks were served in bottles or cans. There were no barrels or kegs and there was no refrigeration.  I do not know if there was even an actual bar. There were drinks to be bought and chairs to sit in while drinking the drinks and petrol could be bought outside. The shade in the large window was up when the Bee Hive was open. If the bar and the petrol pumps were not open for business, the shade was pulled down.  I have never seen a person going in or coming out of the Bee Hive. The building is kept tidy outside. The Dungarvon Road is a busy road.  Few passing cars would even notice the pumps, much less stop expecting to buy fuel.

30 January Thursday

A lot of people are described as a A Good Few. Actually, a lot of anything can be A Good Few, not just people.

1 February Saturday

Today is the First Day of Spring. In Ireland. It is not the first day of spring anywhere else. Some people say it is The First Day of Spring because today is the halfway mark between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Others credit Saint Brigid. Brigid is the patron saint of a lot of things and today is her day. Her presence is good for crops and babies and farmers and printing presses and dairy cows and lots of other things. She is the patron saint of blacksmiths, boatmen, brewers, cattle, chicken farmers and children whose parents are not married. She is the patron saint for children with abusive fathers, children born into abusive unions, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, mariners, midwives, milk maids, nuns, poets and the poor. Poultry farmers, sailors, scholars, travelers and water men all come under her protection too. She is sort of an all-round helpful and hopeful saint. She is a good one to have on your side. Most years I feel like it is crazy to be celebrating the first day of spring on 1 February, but today the air feels light and right. The snowdrops are up. There is even the first appearance of wild garlic showing itself.  We all comment on the noticeable stretch in the days. Everything feels positive so it might as well be the First Day of Spring. Another positive thing about the days being longer and lighter means that people are happy to say that 1 February is the first day in the year that You Can Eat Your Dinner By The Light of Day.

 

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He Has Been Knitting His Own Cardigan.

15 January Wednesday

A courier rang and announced that he was up at the farm. He refused to drive down the boreen. He had a parcel to deliver and it needed a signature. He claimed that he could not and he would not leave it at the shop in the village. I explained that the people at the shop signed for our deliveries all the time. I said it was a system that worked and that it was normal for us. He was not going to do it. He said that if I did not arrive to sign for the parcel he would be obliged to return it to the warehouse. The rain was lashing down. I said he would have to wait a little while as I had no car today and I would have to walk up to meet him. He said he could wait but then he said he would not wait for long. He told me to hurry. I slogged up the track in my rain jacket and my welly boots carrying an umbrella. I carried the umbrella because I knew I would need to protect the parcel on the way back down.  I was hoping it would not be too heavy. He handed me the thing to sign out the window of his van. He had no intention of getting out and getting wet. I passed him the umbrella. He held it over my head while I signed and then he handed me the parcel and returned my umbrella all while sitting up high and dry in his van.

16 January Thursday

The judge in the court case was annoyed. The young man in question was not doing the things he was supposed to be doing. He was not doing the things that he had been ordered to do by the court and he was not doing things in the order that they had been assigned to him. He was not obeying the rules of his probation and the judge said that he was self-referring elsewhere. The young man was just doing things in whatever way he felt like doing them. He is knitting his own jumper. He has been allowed to knit his own cardigan. These are the expressions the judge used. I suppose the expressions might be positive in certain contexts but in this case they were not.

17 January Friday

A rabbit is a symbol of luck. John Mike casts rabbits in a jelly mold. I do not know if he casts rabbits because they are a symbol of luck or if he just he likes rabbits. He casts the rabbits in concrete, not in jelly. His garden is full of rabbits. Some are painted and some are left natural. The colour of concrete is the colour he calls natural. Rabbits are tucked under bushes and in little lines around the edges of the beds. There must be several hundred rabbits in the small area around his house. Maybe there are more. He will not listen when anyone curses real rabbits that are eating vegetables and young plants in their own garden. John Mike will not have a bad word said about rabbits. He holds up his hands and shouts STOP. STOP. STOP.

18 January Saturday

Free. I have learned a new nickname. Free is short for Geoffrey. Free Hackett. Free Costigan.

20 January Monday

There were only two of us sitting in the waiting area. A nurse came out and spoke to the other woman who was waiting and then she went away. Before she left she encouraged the woman to fill up her cup at the water cooler and to keep drinking. The woman had been sitting on the other side of the room but she moved to sit closer to me. She came and sat in a chair leaving only one empty seat between us. The woman and I were sitting in the Ultrasound Scan department. We were both waiting to be called. My instruction letter had said that I should drink one and a half liters of water one and a half hours before I arrived. After I drank all that water I was instructed to Hold It. The woman had obviously had the same letter. She told me that the first thing she did when she arrived in the scan waiting room was to go and pee. She said she could not wait one minute longer.  She said that she could not hold any water at all these days. She said she certainly could not hold a liter and a half and if she could she certainly could not hold it for that long. She sipped slowly from her plastic cup. She said, “It might be alright if I had a lift to get myself home but I have to go home on the bus. There is no way I am getting on the bus after wetting my pants.”

The nurse came back and introduced herself to me. She said her name was Rose. She checked my date of birth and she told me to keep drinking water. She refilled my cup and then she refilled the cup for the other woman. She told us both to keep drinking.

The woman looked over at the book I was reading and she squealed, “Oooh! I’d like to read that book.” I was startled by her enthusiasm. I asked her if she knew something about the book. She said No. I asked her if she was a fan of the writing of Natalia Ginzburg. She said No, but she said that she liked the title. The title was “Happiness, as Such”. She asked me if the book was good. She asked if it was new. I told her that it was not new. I explained that it had been published in 1973 in Italian. I told her that this translation had been done in 2019. So it was new in English. She snorted. “Why would you be wanting to read such an old book? I only like new books. I like happy books. I might like that book but probably I would not because it is too old.”

Rose came back and asked the woman to finish her still full cup of water. When the cup was drained, she led the woman away to the Ultrasound room.

 

21 January Tuesday

The mornings have been crunchy and white with frost. The frost does not last long but it is good to have this hard dry cold after all of the mud and damp. Everything looks different.

22 January Wednesday

I detour past the house as often as I can. I do not know who lives there. I know nothing at all about the house. I have been trying to understand what the gunny sacking is doing on the wall. Why is it draped in such a particular way and over such a small area of such an enormous wall? The fabric is well secured and it has been there for several months already. Is it hiding something or is it protecting something? It has not been left there by chance. Each time I approach, I think that this time will be the time when I pass the house and the fabric is gone.  If it is gone, I will not know anything more than I know now.

23 January Thursday

The birds continue to empty the green-topped feeder. The nuts in the other feeder do get eaten. Eventually. Slowly. Very very slowly. Every day I tell myself that I will not refill the green-topped feeder until they are both empty, but then I do it. I cannot bear to see the branches laden with birds all waiting for nuts. I just want to know why they do not like the metal-topped feeder.

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Dirty Carrots

 

12 January Sunday

The farmers market was open at barely half capacity yesterday. There were not many stalls and there was very little to buy. It was windy and cold and drizzling with rain.  I am not sure why any of us were there.  I bought Dirty Carrots and a cauliflower from Pat.  I do not like Dirty Carrots. I have never understood the excitement with which they are greeted. People go looking for Dirty Carrots and they are excited when they find them.  I have no problem with a dirty carrot but I will never understand the lure of Dirty Carrots.  Dirty Carrots have clumps of soil on them. They take a lot of washing. The sink is full of sand and clay after they are washed. I do not think they taste any better than any other carrot. I have been marveling about the attraction of Dirty Carrots for years. I rarely buy them, but because there was so little to purchase yesterday I did buy some. While paying for the Dirty Carrots and the cauliflower, I looked at Pat’s money box. He was using small potatoes in the compartments where the bills were piled up in order to keep his paper money from blowing away.

11 January Saturday

When asked if a man would be running for a local political office again, the women seemed to be in agreement that He was very Shook Looking. This did not mean that he had been shaken up nor upset by something.  Mary explained that it meant that he was not looking healthy.

 

10 January Friday

The place where I enter the Lumpy Fields is two rusted gates joined together at a single point in the middle. A twisted piece of wire holds the gates together in a precarious kind of balance.  To make the opening big enough to pass through, I need two hands to lift and push the diagonal gate up into a horizontal position and then I slide it along to allow enough space for me to pass between the edge of the gate and the wire of the electric fence. For some reason the fencing wire is always on even though there are no cows in the vicinity. I do not need much space to squeeze through but I have been zapped enough times to want to avoid more shocks. To close the gate, I slide the one along again until there is more weight in the section of gate on the right and it drops back into its angled position. The two gates are old and not very sturdy but the system works.

 

9 January Thursday

There is a shed up beside the ruin of Murphy’s cottage. It is open to the elements but the roof is still good. There are three small triangular windows in one wall of the building. Someone laid a piece of sheet glass on the bottom edge of one of the triangles, like a window sill.

 

8 January Wednesday

It has been unseasonably mild. There are cows out in fields. Joe’s cows are in a field that has kale in it so this is a winter eating treat for them. It is not normal to see cows out in the fields at this time of year. Most herds are kept under cover in big sheds with open sides so there is air and light but no freedom to roam. They stand on slatted floors so their excrement falls through and they are not standing in their own mess. Standing outside in mud and muck, or inside in muck, causes hoof infections. Joe houses his cows up on a specially constructed platform. The platform is open so the animals are exposed to the elements all winter. I believe this is called an Out Wintering Pad. In the summer months, Joe gets delivery of enormous piles of wood shavings. The shavings get dumped in several piles and he uses the tractor to move them all into a storage place. While they are outside the smell is wonderful and woody. Throughout the winter, fresh shavings get spread down on the outdoor slats and replenished every so often. I find it worrying that the cows are outside in the rain and the cold and the winds all day and all night all winter. Joe has assured me that it is not a problem for the cows. I continue to worry.

7 January Tuesday

The ground underfoot continues to be muddy and slippery. I have been walking out with Breda’s dogs every day. My current preferred route is up Murphy’s lane and into the fields. The stubble in the field is crunchy even while it is soggy. It does not make sense. The stubble gives no resistance underfoot. When flattened it stops my feet from sinking in to the mud but it is soft and pliable and it still makes a crunching noise. I find the combination of crunchy and soggy at the same time confusing. The dogs don’t mind. They are running and running and running and trying to sniff down every single rabbit hole.

6 January Monday

Today is Women’s Christmas. Little Christmas. Nollaig na mBan. Twelfth Night. Epiphany. Today is the last day of Christmas. The tradition is that all the decorations and signs of the holiday must come down and be put away before the day is over. The tree. The wreath. The cards. The lights. Everything must be cleared away. The men are supposed to take over the duties of the house because the understanding is that the women have been doing all of the cooking and cleaning and everything over the twelve days of Christmas and now they need a break. Women gather together to go out for lunch or afternoon tea or dinner just to be together with other women and to have the chance to eat some different food. Women get together to be without children or responsibilities. I assume all of the holiday stuff has to be completed before the women go out but I am not sure exactly who does all the clearing. It is probably the women.  The new thing I learned is that the kitchen floor must be swept before going to bed on Twelfth Night. Again, I do not know who does the sweeping and is it the very very last thing done before going to bed?

 

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He Is Not Keen On Caps.

 

4 January Saturday

Birds are crashing into the windows every day. I think they think it is spring because the days are so mild and things that should not be growing are growing. Most of them fly off but sometimes they knock themselves out when they hit the glass. This afternoon I heard a loud thump. When I went outside, I found a fat robin on the path. She was on her back breathing heavily. After about an hour, she was still there but her breathing was less labored. I picked her up and moved her to the table with a little bit of water and some mashed up nuts. She sat upright and very still for another hour and then a second robin came to collect her and they flew off together.

3 January Friday

I went into a shop in town to buy a few things. The shelves were nearly empty. They did not even have any milk. More places are opening up again after the holidays but the delivery of supplies has not fully kicked back into operation. I sort of wondered why this shop was open at all. When I went to the counter to pay, the woman at the till offered me a coupon for a discount off my few purchases. I said okay and waited but she did not give me a coupon. Her eyes were darting back and forth and back and forth and she moved her head as though she had a crick in the neck. She said “Look at me. Look at me. Look at my eyes. Look where I am looking. Down! Down! Down to the left!” It almost seemed like she was talking to someone else but I was the only person there. I looked down to the left and there was a piece of paper with four coupons on it. She spoke in a loud whisper. She said, “Pick it up. Pick it up. Rip one off and give it to me. I cannot be seen to be giving it to you, but it is there for the taking. There is a camera installed here now and if they see me giving you the coupons, it will mean my job, but there is no reason why you cannot find them for yourself!” I did as she instructed and when I handed her the coupon, she acted surprised and then she gave me 5 euro off my shopping.

 

2 January Thursday

The pencil selling dispenser is new and shaped like a short fat pencil. The top of the unit has a point like a sharpened pencil. It is made of clear plastic with small drawers to open once a pencil has been selected. The little drawers are labelled from 5B or 5H  right on down to plain H.  Every pencil in the display is a Faber Castell. I believe it is the only kind of everyday pencil sold in the entire country.

1 January Wednesday

The boreen is full of trees that have fallen over in the winds and because of the rain. The earth is still so wet. Roots cannot hold. The earth has been wet for so long that even though the rains have stopped everything remains soggy. Branches heavily laden with ivy have snapped off. Once again I am crawling on my knees to go underneath trees and climbing over other trees and slipping in the mud just to take a walk. I am wondering why I do not simply go for a walk somewhere else.

31 December Tuesday

Another unseasonably mild morning. Two women were standing outside the shop talking. One of them was saying that her tree has lasted well this year. She said it is the best Christmas tree she has ever had. She said it still has not dropped any needles. She has confidence that it will last well right up until Twelfth Night. Her companion said that must be because it was more freshly cut when she brought it into the house. “No,” said the woman, “It is because I have been putting Red Bull into the bucket instead of my usual sugar and water.”

30 December Monday

We are seeing shoots of green as daffodils push up and out of the ground. We are not seeing snowdrops yet. The order of everything is wrong.

 

29 December Sunday

Tommie is up and down to Waterford to visit Margaret in Ardkeen Hospital. She fell and broke her hip again. It might be the same hip that she broke a few years ago or it might be the other hip. He might have told me which hip it was, but I have forgotten.  She had to have two operations to get it right. He said that she is weak but cheerful. Different people take Tommie down to visit with her every other day. He finds the whole journey very tiring. It is almost an hour away and he can no longer drive that far himself. I have offered to drive him but he says he has a waiting list of offers so instead I check up on him on the days when he does not go down to Waterford. Billy Kennedy took him down on the 25th so that he could have his Christmas dinner together with Margaret. She cannot hear much and she cannot see much so all she can do is to worry. She worries about small things. She insisted that Tommie take her blue cardigan home and then she asked him to bring it back. She has been back and forth about her purse too. First she is afraid to have it with her in the hospital and then she is afraid to not have it with her. Tommie put his foot down about that.  He is refusing to take her purse back  to the hospital. Now she wants Tommie to bring her the vase that she made by sticking broken ceramics into plaster. She says it will brighten up her room to have the vase and the artificial flowers there. He says she won’t be able to see it anyway. I think it is important for him to discuss these demands that Margaret makes upon him because besides carrying things back and forth to Waterford, there is not one thing he can do to help her.

 

27 December Friday

The morning was cold and grey. We walked up Middlequarter. Just before turning onto the rough track, we met a woman with two small dogs. The first dog stopped in front of Simon and he refused to move. He was not aggressive. He just stopped. The woman said “He is Not Keen on Cats.” We had no idea what she meant. There were no cats in sight. She nudged the dog forward and patted herself on the head. It was well after she and the dogs had gone that we realized she had said Caps. “He is Not Keen on Caps.” The dog had a problem with Simon’s tweed cap and he had to be jollied along to continue walking. I was surprised that a dog would have such an opinion about headgear.

 

25 December Wednesday

There are two feeders full of peanuts hanging on a tree just outside the window. The birds all go for the feeder on the right. There are five or six different kinds of small birds eating at the feeders. Chaffinches. Bullfinches. Blue Tits. Robins. Gold Crests. House Sparrows. Wrens. Maybe there are others too. Every single one of them prefers to eat from the green feeder. The feeder on the right has a green plastic top and a fine metal mesh. The one on the left has a metal top and heavier metal mesh. The green cylinder is emptied hours before the metal one is even one third empty. We watch this happening day after day. I brought the metal feeder indoors and emptied it and scrubbed it with hot water. I thought maybe it had been contaminated in some way and since I rarely remember to wash the feeders, I thought this might be as good a time as any to do it. The cleaned metal feeder did not attract more birds. Next, I moved the feeders. I changed their locations on the tree. The green one was hung where the metal one had been and the metal one was hung where the green one had been. I thought I could trick the birds into going to the metal one which was placed where the green one had been. They have paid no attention to my attempt to confuse. They continue to empty the green feeder first. The birds are all choosing the green topped feeder over the metal topped feeder. I wonder if they can see colour and they prefer the faded green to the not very shiny metal. It does not matter. I wanted to feed the birds and the birds are eating. When the green one is empty they will go for the metal one. Or not.

21 December Saturday

Our usual system has fallen asunder. Derek the postman was off work with a bad back so the post all got piled up inside the box instead of being put into the shed which is the norm when we are away. The substitute postman did not know the system, nor did he have the key to the shed since Derek still had that and he was in too much pain to be worrying about passing on our shed key to the man taking over his delivery route. The old tool box which we have been using as a post box let in the rain after too many days of heavy heavy downpour. Half of everything was sitting inside the box and under several inches of water when we found it. It was not a real problem. Most ink is waterproof these days. It was just a matter of drying letters out on the radiator before opening them. An attempt to remedy the problem in anticipation of future torrential rain was to buy a new plastic box which looked good in the Co-op, but it is really a bit light for the job. We have several weights in the bottom so that the wind cannot move it around and then another stone has been placed on top. There is also a piece of wood under the front edge just to tip the box a little to stop a huge and deep lake forming in the cover. There are clips to hold the lid on but if they are not clipped and the wind is ferocious the whole top blows away. Stone and all. This new box is not ideal. Now I am wondering if we should just return to the rusty tool box and hope that there will not be another prolonged period of heavy rain.

 

                     ———————————————————————–

Seven Thirty.

19 December Thursday

The fence has fallen down. It has been propped up many times, first from one side and then from the other side.  I think this is the end. The posts are rotten from the bottom up. The rain and the mud have won. The wild strong winds of last night were the final straw. The wind just blew the fence down. There is no way it will ever stand again. The west of the country was badly hit by these winds.  Losing our already wobbly fence is not much of a problem in comparison. Even the little stile step has given up.

18 December Wednesday

After living here these many years, I still say Seven Thirty instead of Half Seven. And the day after Christmas is just the day after Christmas. But I cannot say that out loud. It is yet another example of how I get things wrong. The day after Christmas is Stephen’s Day or it is St. Stephen’s Day. If I were to say it is Boxing Day that would be incorrect because that is what the English call it. No one here says Boxing Day. And no one says Merry Christmas. It is Happy Christmas. Happy not Merry. Merry would mark me as from somewhere else, as if my accent does not already do that. Nor do I call the Nativity scene The Crib. If I speak of it at all, I would call it the Nativity or the Manger. No one says The Manger. It is always The Crib. The Baby Jesus is in The Crib. The whole scene with the shepherds and the kings and Mary and everyone else is called The Crib. And when people say that they will see me in the New Year they punctuate their good wishes by saying Please God or God Willing. These are two more expressions that are not in my vocabulary. I am consistently marked by the things I get wrong.

17 December Tuesday

I asked for black ink cartridges. The woman in the shop had blue ink cartridges. She had no black ink. She said, “Blue is the correct color for ink. There is no one alive who needs to write with black ink. No one in their right mind would use back ink. Blue is the color for ink.” She was so vehement that I bought the blue ink cartridges even though I did not want them. I wanted black ink. I still want black ink. Now I will have to wait until I use up the blue ink before I can move back to black ink. And I will have to find a different shop.

16 December Monday

Adrian was weighing some parcels for me in his post office cubicle. A man was behind me waiting for his turn at the counter. He was not directly behind me but he was over near the bird seed and the dog foods just looking at things in a relaxed manner. It was not like being in line but it was obvious to both him and to me that he was next and anyway we were the only people there. The radio in the shop was playing some Christmas music. The man was facing towards the bird nuts with his back to me when he started to sing along with the carols. As he got warmed up his voice got louder and he began to harmonize. He sang in a beautiful voice. When I was finished I nodded to him and said “Thank you for the singing.” He nodded back and continued to sing as he walked over to the counter. The song on the radio was not over yet.

15 December Sunday

Laurence has been in and out of hospital and now he is at home again. He looks frail but he seems happy to be back. I asked John how his father was doing and he answered that “He’d want to be as Good as he is.”

 

14 December Saturday

Jim found mouse droppings in his bag of oats. He likes to be the one to prepare the porridge every morning. He makes the porridge for himself and for Margo. Margo is the Polish woman who is living in the house as a carer for Jim. Her real name is not Margo but not one person could pronounce her Polish name so Jim called her Margo. Now everyone else calls her Margo too. Jim is 93 and he cannot be alone at night. Margo has her own rooms upstairs and she is there Just In Case there is a need for her. When Jim found the mouse droppings he said that it was a fiddly job to separate them from the oats. He said that he did not mind that a mouse had been in the oats but that he himself would not be the one to pick out the droppings. He told Margot that this would be a good job for her. He told her that she could separate all of the mouse droppings from the oats and he would stick to the more pressing job of preparing their porridge for breakfast.

13 December Friday

A few years ago, Joe devised a new and sort of rigid system of keeping the gates drawn across so that the cows can move from the field to the yard or from the yard out into the fields. When the gates are pulled across and blocking the car passing, it is inevitably a wet day. It is always a muddy and mucky mess at the top by the farm and it is never the kind of day when I want to get out and go to find someone to open the gates. I could do it myself but that would assume that I am wearing boots and that I do not mind walking in the muck. I always have the wrong sort of shoes for that job and anyway I rarely want to fill the inside of the car with mud and manure. In recent weeks, there has been a new man working with Joe. I assume he is Polish. But he might be Latvian or Moldovian or even Lithuanian. He is definitely Eastern European. He was very cheerful when I needed the gate opened today and then when I came back a little later and the gates were still blocking me he was cheerful again. His English is poor but he told me to just lay on the horn and he would come to open up for me. “No problem.” He said and he repeated: “No problem.”


When the post man finds the gates across the road he uses it as an excuse to not drive down the boreen. He just marks on the letter Gates Locked and that gives him permission to leave our post in the van overnight or even for several nights.

12 December Thursday

We entered the airport through the arrival doors and we were hit with a blast of noise.  There was Irish music playing loudly on some kind of CD player or sound system and a row of five children in school uniforms dancing energetically. This was a welcome home performance for the many people arriving home from far away for the Christmas holidays. At a pause in the music, the five dancing children were shoved out of the way by another five children who took their places and danced and jigged like mad with their hands on their hips and big smiles on their faces. Another group pushed them roughly out of the way and they began to dance. This continued for as long as we watched. Then we were pushed out of the way by the next group of people off another flight coming through the arrivals door.

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You Can’t Go Near It For The Weather.

3 December Tuesday

I found the dead mouse. Most of the stench had already evaporated. It was not the burning of the candle that eliminated the smell. It was the drying out of the corpse. I opened a box containing our small concertina After Brancusi. Dozens of enormous bluebottle flies came flying out smashing into my face and collecting all over my head. I rushed the box outside and the remaining flies flew away. The dead mouse was resting in a sorry clump on top of the little volumes. I could see that some of the contents would need to be thrown away. As would the box. Enough bodily fluids had escaped to render some things ruined. After the mouse was removed what could be rescued was rescued. And once free of the distraction of death, I enjoyed looking at my drawing of the bench which was my whole reason for opening the box in the first place.

2 December Monday

I got a text announcing that a short film had been made about Frank’s shop in Grange. The shop has been closed for several years now. Frank became ill, and his son Shay ran it for a while, but then the family decided to just stop completely.  We none of us knew if it might be re-opened at a later date.  We hoped that it would be re-opened. We all miss Frank’s shop. The film about the shop was made by a grandson and there was a showing of it in the Village Hall in October.  Unfortunately, I missed the viewing. I heard later that the Hall was completely packed out with family and friends. It was standing room only.  It was perfect for Frank and his wife to walk the very few steps from their house to the Hall. They were the stars of the evening. Today PJ sent me this link for the film.  I have already watched it four times.

 

1 December Sunday

It was dry enough this morning to spend time plucking figs. It is one of those jobs I have been meaning to do for the whole month of November. It was one of many jobs that we could not do because of the rain.  The excuse everyone repeats is that You Can’t Go Near It For The Weather. The fig leaves had already died and dried and fallen so the fruits were easily visible. The rule is to pick all of the figs except the ones that are the size of the smallest fingernail. The tiny tiny remaining figs will be the first ones to begin their growth in the spring. Because the morning was sharp and cold, I found that I was snapping the figs off rather than plucking them off the branches.

29 November Friday

The woman told the man in the shop to Leave It Into The Bag. Leave is frequently used in place of the word Put.

 

27 November Wednesday

Ned Shine arrived in the yard in his Hedge Cutter. The machine is always called the Hedge Cutter even though the hedges are always called ditches. Ned was cutting the ditches with his Hedge Cutter. He opened the door of the cab so that we could say hello to one another. His sheepdog was in the cab with him. I could not see the dog until the door was open because she was well below the level of the window. She was tucked in beside Ned’s feet. The dog’s face and my face were exactly across from one another.  I was standing on the ground and she was sitting in the cab. She began to lick my face as soon as the door opened. When she was finished licking, I closed the door and Ned continued with his hedge cutting going back up the boreen.

26 November Tuesday

There is a dead mouse in my workroom. I cannot find it but I can smell it. The stench is bad. There are big fat flies looping about. These are the kind of flies that gather around death. It is probably best that I cannot find the corpse. It is too cold to leave the door open to get rid of the smell. I have been burning a scented candle that someone gave to me as a gift. It is the kind of gift that someone else gave to that someone. And that someone saved it until it was time to pass it on to someone else. No one wants this candle. It has a terrible smell all of its own. I liken it to a floral toilet cleaner. Who makes these candles? Who thinks they are a good idea? Who thinks they smell good? I lit the candle and headed out for a walk. Between the smell of the dead mouse and that of the stinky candle, it was impossible to stay in my room.

 

25 November Monday

Everything is wet. It feels like it has been raining forever. Everything that is not wet and underwater is covered with moss. There is a mossy covering all over everything. The moss grows on rocks and hard surfaces. It loves the damp. It is bright green and cheerful but it is wet. Fields are flooded and there are sandbags all over the place. Everything everywhere underfoot is squishy and slippery. I cannot drive through the farmyard without mud and muck splashing all over the car. And I can neither get in nor out of the car without a special kind of push and leap movement. If I forget to do my leap I end up with a thick line of mud across the back of the right leg of my trousers. Everyday someone tells me that I have mud on my trousers. It is always a woman who tells me. It is always someone telling me nicely and quietly because they think that of course I will want to know. They are certain that I do not want to be out and about in town nor anywhere else with a big clump on mud on my trousers. I always say thank you and I act a little surprised to find that I have mud on my leg. I do not tell them that this is an every day event and that it is not just mud but it is mainly cow manure. It is a greenish brown kind of mud and manure mix because the cows are still eating grass and the color of the manure reflects that. The boreen goes right through the farmyard so I have no choice but to drive through the muck. And it does not matter how often I clean the side of the car the splash-up happens again the minute I drive through the yard. Soon the cows will be moved up onto their winter platform and they will not be crossing the road anymore. The ground will freeze so there will be less mud. I hardly dare to hope that this rain will stop.

24 November Sunday

There was a terrible noise of yelping and baying and barking. The hunt was in the valley. I am not a fan of the hunt. I dislike the advantage of the dressed-up people on horseback. The one who has the horn is called The Master. He is constantly bellowing and blowing and shouting to the dogs and to the other riders across the fields. I hate the fox being hounded out of his world and running for his life. At one point the noise of the dogs down by the stream got louder and louder. I could not stand it for another minute. It sounded like they had cornered the fox. I rushed down the path to shout at the dogs and to confuse them with a different command from a different human. I was running downhill as fast as I could on the rough ground wearing rubber boots. The ground was slippery with wet leaves and muddy grass. I nearly collided with the fox who was rushing uphill to escape the dogs. I do not know which of us was more startled. He turned abruptly and rushed back towards the dogs who were baying. They obviously thought they already had him cornered in some place that he had already slipped away from. The fox did not know that I was there to help him. He could not know that I was not trying to hurt him. I felt terrible. I had foiled his escape route and scared him even more. I felt better when I could tell by the dog sounds that they knew the fox had eluded them. He must have veered left and up into Joe’s field. After that the dogs continued their chaotic running in all directions. I chased them out of the yard each time they arrived until they finally disappeared up and into Donal’s fields.

It’s a Tonic.

7 November Thursday

The winds have been fierce. Leaves are blowing down from any tree that still has leaves. They blow into the kitchen each time the door is opened. I swept them up and then I swept them up again and now I have ceased sweeping. There are leaves on the floor. Sometimes there are a lot and sometimes there are not so many because they get kicked and shuffled into the edges and corners of the room. As I make a cup of tea or do any other job, I am happy to crunch around on them. They make a good sound on the stone floor. The leaves outside are soggy and wet and they make no sound at all when I step on them.

4 November Monday

I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. TippFm was playing quietly on the radio. A special announcement cut in and interrupted the programme to say that Gay Byrne had died. There was only one other person in the room. It was an elderly woman. Her left hand shot right into the the air with her finger pointing upward almost before the announcement was finished. It was the gesture of someone raising their hand to speak in a classroom. She called across to the receptionist in her cubicle and said, “Did you hear that? Gay Byrne is dead!” The receptionist had missed the announcement because she was busy. Together they discussed how very good he was for so many years. Was it 35 or was it 37 years? They agreed that he was brilliant, especially on The Controversial Ideas.
A man came out of the doctor’s rooms and the woman told him right away that Gay Byrne had died.
He looked sad, and a little confused and he asked, “Oooohhh. Ah. No. And how old was he now?”
“He was 85. Such a man. Such a man.”
After the man left, the woman still wanted to talk about Gay Byrne. As a broadcaster and announcer on radio and TV and because of the Late Late Show, everyone in the entire country feels that they know Gay Byrne personally. He was a regular part of life for a long time. Many speak of him fondly as Gaybo. A nickname like that makes him feel even more like family. The woman was determined to continue to be the bringer of this news but there was no one left to tell except for me. I was only two chairs away, but I was reading my book with my head down.  She turned to me and said, “Erica, did you hear that Gay Byrne died?” I was startled to be addressed by my name. But, of course, she already knew my name because when I first arrived into the waiting room, I had gone to the loo and when I came out of the loo, I told the receptionist that someone had peed all over the floor. I said this quietly, but the receptionist answered in a firm and loud voice. She said, “Thank you, Erica!” She said, “I do not want to know but of course I need to know, so thank you, Erica.” She went off to get a mop and I took a seat to await my turn. That is why the old woman knew my name and that is why I got dragged into the conversation about Gay Byrne being dead.

 

2 November Saturday

There is a lot of moss everywhere because there has been so much rain and everything is sodden. I am always pleased to see moss growing and glowing down the centre of the tar road. It acts to remind us all that even though the road is supposed to be wide enough for two vehicles we all drive right down the middle as if it were made for just one. The moss is safe to continue growing down the middle. There is no chance that it will be run over and destroyed by tyres.

 

1 November Friday

Not every bus journey is a good journey. Every so often the bus we board is a terrible old broken-down vehicle and I wonder how and why they ever let that bus out of the depot. Today’s bus was a bad bus. Many of the seats were broken in one way or another. Some of them were leaning backwards nearly horizontal and several were leaning forward so far that no one could possibly sit on the seat. All of the seats were stained. It is difficult, at first glance, to tell if a stain is fresh and wet and sticky, or just a dry discolouring on the old and grubby upholstery. There were no outlets for plugging in and charging phones. All of the tray tables had been broken off. The only good thing was that it was one of the increasingly rare buses with the exuberant running Irish setter on the woven seat covering fabric.

An older man boarded the bus. He shook hands with everyone in the seats all around him before he sat himself down. He pronounced to the bus at large: “It is a fine day. A fine day to travel by bus.”  He said, “It is good to get away for a day. It’s a tonic.” He did not appear to notice that he was reclining well below the level of the windows on his broken seat.

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