Saving power

Saturday 12 November

There was a musical performance at the market this morning. It was cold and damp and the children playing the instruments did not look very enthusiastic. They had been drafted in to perform as a way to raise money for the local hospice.

13 November Sunday

Dogs were swarming everywhere. It is as though they were not separate four-legged beings but one single mass, like a liquid pouring across the grass and oozing this way and that. At first it was only about ten or twelve dogs. I saw them run up the track and then they came running back. Then they were rushing across the lawn and under the fence and into the field and back again. I ran out and shouted for them to GO HOME! GO HOME! GO! GO! GO! They heeded my voice and left as a pack rushing back down into the meadow. I could hear the noise of shouting up the hill. I could hear the sounds of the fox hunt. I hate the hunt and I hate how it spills over into our lives whether or not we like it. We have no choice about being surrounded by the mayhem on a quiet afternoon. I could not believe that horses and riders could even be moving up or down the Mass Path. The last time I tried to go up there it was completely impassable with overgrown vegetation. I was a small person on foot and I couldn’t get through the tangle of nettles and brambles. A horse with a rider upon it would have no chance. I went back into the house and suddenly there were horses in the yard, and riders running around and a pick-up truck arrived. There were six or seven men milling about and a few mounted riders and horses in Joe’s field. Some of the men were the ones in rough clothes: fleeces and jeans and hoodies with shovels or some other tools. These are the ones who clear the way and control the dogs and rush about. Others were the riders dressed up in full hunt kit with their little helmets and fitted jackets. The dogs were back. There were more dogs. Maybe forty of them. Maybe more. Maybe fifty. They were everywhere. There were no individual dogs just an oozing liquid mass of barking and baying. I ran outside and shouted at the dogs again while the riders in the field tried to direct the dogs to leave our yard but they were everywhere and the noise was getting louder. I shouted a lot and a man in a snug green jacket who was not on his horse explained to me calmly that they had not intended to come down this way but it is where the scent of the fox led them. I told him that the fox is wise and quick and that they will never catch him in such chaos and I said they should let us know when they were going to be in the area so that we do not feel like we are being invaded. He said the next time they might be in the area he would call and let me know. As he ran off, I shouted, “Well, don’t you want my phone number then?” And he shouted back “No. No. I will call!” meaning that he would drop by, of course, because no one says call when they mean to use the telephone because then they would say ring not call, and I know that but I was so cross that I forgot and anyway I doubt that he will call or ring and I will be angry and surprised again on another Sunday afternoon when the invasion happens all over again but probably with a different hunt.

Monday 14 November

We are being instructed by the government to think carefully about when we use electricity. The radio is full of helpful hints. The hours between 5-7 are to be avoided as much as possible which is difficult because that is when everyone is having their tea and children are being bathed and put to bed. We are also being told that it is bad to run the washing machine between those hours, but it is good to run the washing machine if it is a windy day because most of our energy will coming from the wind. This is silly. Wind turbines might be spinning like mad on a gusty day, but the electricity they produce is saved in batteries. Wind turbines do not provide electricity only when the wind is blowing.

Tuesday 15 November

We had finished our supper when the lights went out. The lights and all things electrical were gone. We lit a few candles and felt glad for the fire in the wood stove. There were texts flying back and forth between neighbors anticipating and predicting when the power would return, but then the telephone signal was lost too, so we decided that it was time for bed.

Wednesday 16 November

Today the entire world beyond the fence was completely white. The fog never lifted all day. It was bright but closed in all at the same time.


Thursday 17 November

Mary the Black Cat follows me. I think she believes that she is a dog. If I leave the house by the kitchen door, she moves away from the door quickly, and then she watches to see which way I am going. She reads my direction and bounds off across the grass in a bouncing kind of up and down movement. As she runs, she is less like a dog following me and not at all like a cat. She is more like a rabbit. She keeps her distance but travels with me in a parallel movement. When I am headed to the book barn she rushes off to the right to go down the high steps while I tend to turn left to go the longer and less steep route. We always arrive at the door at the same time. I go inside and she waits outside for our next movements.

Friday 18 November

I forgot that Friday morning is the day for many elderly people to collect their pensions at the post office. I heard two women talking and one said to the other that it used to be if she saw a man with a shaved head and tattoos she would be frightened half to death. The very sight of a tattoo made her fearful. Now she knows that it is probably just one of her grandsons and if it is not her grandson, then it is someone else’s grandson. Tattoos and shaved heads no longer scare her one tiny bit.

Saturday 19 November

I interrupted Tommie while he was listening to the 4.30 Public Service Announcements on Tipp FM. This is the daily report, accompanied by tolling bells, that announces any and all deaths in the entire county and lists details of when and where both the wake and the funeral will be held in the next few days. When he had finished listening, he crossed himself, and then he told me that he was warming a pie for his tea. It was balanced on the top of his radiator.


Mary on My Mind

Thursday 3 November

We were unable to land at Cork Airport. We tried. The pilot tried. The plane circled for thirty or forty minutes, bumping and thudding through clouds while waiting for the high winds to drop. The winds did not drop. Several passengers turned green. Cork Airport is located on a hilltop beside the sea. It is always windy. It was a terrible place to build an airport. After several announcements and a lot of circling, we were diverted to Shannon Airport. The landing there was wild and scary and bumpy. We all had trouble walking down the steps to disembark because the cross winds were pushing and gusting so hard against us.

Shannon Airport is a large, mostly empty, space. There is one shop and one restaurant/bar. The restaurant is not big. The rest of the building, on two floors, consists of cavernous unfilled spaces. Shannon never became the busy hub it was planned to be. There are few flights in and out of the airport. It is a two hour drive to Cork Airport. 130 kilometres. Coaches were being arranged to transport the passengers off our flight from Airport to Airport, but it was going to take a little while to get the two or three coaches organised. Everyone was hungry or thirsty or else they needed a strong drink to settle their nerves. Everyone from the entire flight went to the little restaurant. The restaurant was not expecting such a crowd in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon. There was very little food left. All of the tables filled up with people drinking tea or pints of stout. Some people stood up and some went to sit outside in the smoking section which was in the howling wind. No one stayed outside for long.

We did not avail of the Cork coach. We caught a bus to Limerick bus and train station, and then another bus to Cahir. We were about three hours later than planned getting home. As the bus dropped down the hill into Cahir, we saw Breda through the window at the SuperValu check-out. We knew what she was doing. She was buying milk and a few things to make our arrival more pleasant. She delivered us home to our cold damp house. The door was swollen and difficult to open and it was difficult to close. The Black Cat was waiting for us beside the kitchen door. I greeted her as Mary and I have been calling her Mary ever since. There were a lot of people named Mary on the Limerick bus. They called out to one another and always used each other’s names which was usually their own name too. I had Mary on my mind.

There was a small hammer in a holder above my head. Below the hammer was a sticker announcing the presence of the hammer. In an emergency, the hammer should be used to smash the glass.

Friday 4 November

I have spent most of two days in Cahir. The car needed work before I could have the yearly inspection done. The library was closed and the second-hand book shop run by the Lion’s Club was closed. There is one cafe and it is cold in there. They are economizing by keeping the heat turned off. There is no where to wait at Mike’s garage. It is open to the elements and it is cold. He left me there while he went to take care of the first of my two flat tyres. He asked me to Woman the Fort so that he did not need to lock the place up. I thought to make myself useful while he was gone. I asked if I should answer the phone while he was away, but he no longer has a land line. A small economy. He does everything on his mobile phone now.

Saturday 5 November

It has been raining for weeks. Lakes have replaced fields and the river is swollen wide and running deeper and faster than ever. Everyone is weary of the non-stop downpours. The word Desperate is said a lot. Even when the sun comes out and the sky is blue, the sun does not last long enough to dry the land. I was in the shop and I heard one woman asking another: “Sure, could we be any more depressed?

Monday 7 November

Slugs usually disappear as the weather gets colder. But this November is not cold. It is mild and it is wet. It feels cold but that is not about the temperature. It is because the dampness gets into our bones and we feel chilled. When I put out a dish of food for Mary, the slugs are quick to climb up and over the plate. She is not bothered and seems well able to eat around them.

Tuesday 8 November

The waiting area for the NCT test is all new since last year. It is much bigger and there are large windows looking both into the inspection bays and out doors. There are three banks of four chairs each bolted to the floor. The seats are wide and long. The seats are too big for me. If my back is up against the backrest, my knees are unable to bend. My legs stick straight out. If my feet are on the floor my back is slumped awkwardly against the backrest. We can all sit at a safe distance from one another and if there is a toilet for use by the public, it is out of sight. We no longer have to sit gazing at the toilet and the sink if the last user fails to pull the door shut. We no longer sit knee to knee, but we remain as curious and alert to the goings on of everyone else’s car as we are to our own.

I forgot to bring my Drivers License or any other form of identification. I told the man that I had my library card with me. He sighed and said okay to that even though it has no photograph and it is not really an ID card.

The car failed the inspection test, so I spent another half day in Cahir. Once again the library and the book shop are closed. The river path and Inch Field remain flooded. I could not walk far in the sideways rain even if I wanted to. Mike replaced a wishbone on the right front side of the car and the suspension has been corrected. The re-test is scheduled for Tuesday.

Friday 11 November

It is so mild that the raspberries continue to ripen. There are not a lot but I gather a handful every day, between downpours.

All Asunder.

1 October Saturday

Jim has a way of presenting his vegetables at the Farmer’s Market. He makes them look like exactly what we want.

2 October Sunday

Sorting out the freezer is a job best done before winter sets in. The freezer is out in the shed so if I do not get an idea of what is inside it now, it will be too cold to spend time out there. Trying to figure out what is inside is more difficult when I walk across to the shed with a torch in the darkness. All frozen parcels look the same in the dark. Today I made a list of what is in there and I hung the piece of paper in the pantry, but I know that after a little while we will no longer look at the list. We will not cross things off the list as they are eaten nor will we add more things to the list. Soon there will come a point when the whole freezer must be emptied, scraped of ice and ancient food tossed or moved to the top and a new list made. It is a job I always approach with optimism. Carmel told me that the last time she cleared out her own chest freezer was in 2013.

4 October Tuesday

I met Tomás coming up the road on his quad bike. His herd of cows were plodding along behind him. They were going to his far field which is a one kilometer walk by road each way. I marveled that cows are such large animals to be walking such distances with ease. Tomás said, “If they are allowed to go at their own pace, they can just go and go.” I pulled over to allow them to pass. In truth, I did not have a choice. The cows took up the whole road. It is the kind of waiting in the car that I am required to do frequently.

5 October Wednesday

There is a hole dug deep into the grass of the meadow. The hole has been made by a swarm of wasps. There are hundreds of them swarming around the apple trees, making the path feel dangerous and impassable.

6 October Thursday

I pick apples and I make applesauce and I pick more apples and I make more applesauce. A pie. More applesauce.  I give apples away.  I give applesauce away. A good year for apples. Not so good for figs or plums.  Apples. Raspberries.  They just keep coming.

7 October Friday

I often use the word Doctor when I should be using the word Mister. I always call a dentist Doctor, but a dentist is not a Doctor. A dentist is never a Doctor. A dentist is a Mister. Some Doctors are called Doctor and some are called Mister. The Surgeon is a Mister but the General Practitioner is a Doctor. I am better at using the right form of address than I used to be, but I continue to get it wrong more often that I would like. Some of these people do not mind but some get upset and they correct me immediately. These people say “I am not a Doctor. I am a Mister.” They correct me so quickly that it is as if they fear someone will overhear them accepting a title which is not rightly theirs. I have never learned definitively who is who nor when who is who. And because everyone in this country is quickly on first name basis, the medical person very often becomes someone with a name rather than a title. My dentist’s name is Ryan.

10 October Monday

The sheep farmers who come down from the mountain always take time to chat at the petrol pumps in the village. These older farmers from up the mountain are never in a rush. They spend a long time talking to anyone they meet. Farming on the open expanse of the hills can be a lonely life. Traveling down to fill up a tractor and various containers with diesel is a Day Out.

11 October Tuesday

I drove Tommie into town for his shopping at Dunnes’ Stores. He likes our Tuesday trips and he likes that I collect him at 9.30 sharp and that we are back at his house with his bags in the kitchen to unpack in his own time well before twelve. He likes the pattern we have developed together. He likes suggesting which roads we travel and whose farms to drive past. Today he did not have so many standing up conversations with other customers in the aisles of the store, but on the way home he remarked that when you go to Dunnes’ you feel like all of the people who work there are happy that you are there. He punctuated every sentence with the expression You Know Yourself, which is just his way of saying You Know What I Mean.

13 October Thursday

Richie came to service the Stanley stove. He said he had To Take It All Asunder. Which he did. While vacuuming out one red box from within he found the messy remnants of a mouse nest. He thought the nest was old, and from well before the stove came to us. He thought maybe the stove had been in a shed for a while. He said Taking It All Asunder was the only way to learn everything about the insides. Before he left he asked us to keep an eye out for a woman who might like him. He said he is a good cook and he is handy with the jobs about the house, but he finds the long dark winter nights lonely ever since his daughter moved out to make her own home.