Wartesaal 1979-86

I’m rarely in Paris without remembering Reinhard Mucha’s Wartesaal seen at Centre Pompidou in 1986, in what was the big open space just off the corner of Rue du Renard.

There were several very large cumulative works in his retrospective of the time, stacked furniture, ladders, dissemblies of rooms, re-makes. But the one piece that really struck me, an entire room in itself, was The Waiting Room built between 1979 and 1982 in Dusseldorf by Reinhard Mucha, and modified in 1986 for this exhibition. It is made of made of a system of stacks of drawers in a what look like dexion supports, butted and bolted together, intersecting at right angles, and incorporating a cumbersome gothic wardrobe. This in itself gave the whole installation placement, and was the sort of accoutrement you might find in any isolated railway station across the network. At the same time it anchors the piece from being completely self-enclosed, and gives it its veiled narrative.

There are eleven of these wheeled shelving units, each with twenty two drawers. In each drawer is the name of a station in Germany, painted on boards, each of them of six letters, 242 place-names in total, taken from a 1948 freight directory first published in 1943. They are rendered in the modernist type of the German rail system

Because of the need to open the drawers, you are passively invited to examine and move name-plates to a lit table in the middle of the piece, and in the hue of the fluorescent strips running at the top of each unit and the wardrobe.

In its nostalgia, its soulfulness, Wartesaal embodies the whole journey of Europe, even if taken from one particular place, almost as a cross-section of it. It also begins to use the materials of Reinhard Mucha’s construction in a more abstract, less narrative way, and forms the basis of much of his later work in which these place-names continue to be used.

It might seem like a fragile remit for this Paris column , but it is as present for me as the Eiffel Tower, even if it has not existed there for thirty years, but whenever I turn that corner from Rue du Renard into Place Beaubourg, I am amongst it.

The Postman’s Party

24 June Sunday

I found an envelope on the road. It is printed bright yellow and white and is for the Building Fund of the two churches of Newcastle and Fourmilewater. They are two separate churches but they are joined as a parish. If there is a mass at one of the churches on a Sunday there will not be a mass at the other. I think there is only one priest between them. I do not know which building is being worked on. Maybe it is both. The date 31 March 2019 suggests that there is no rush to turn in one’s envelope.

23 June Saturday

The heat is extraordinary. They are giving more heat and higher and higher temperatures for the coming week.  The temperatures are bigger than any we can usually expect.  Haying is being done everywhere. Haying is the only thing being done with a sense of frenzy.  Except for the sounds of those machines, the countryside is quiet. Even the birds seem to be resting somewhere in the shade.

One plastic barrel cut in half makes a fine feeding place. The barrels used like this are always bright blue. I do not know what came in the barrels originally, but I love them in the fields for as long as they last. The cows bump into them in their eagerness to eat and eventually the plastic cracks and the whole thing falls to the ground.

22 June Friday

We went to John the Post’s retirement party. John has not been well for several years now. We kept hoping that he would get better and that he would return to work. He has not been able to drive because of his neck and his throat and his head, so he waited and waited thinking that the various treatments would allow him to begin driving again. Now he has accepted that  the various treatments are not going to get him back behind the wheel, so he has officially retired. The little group around John was all postmen. A few of them had themselves retired in the last few years. Others were still working. They were all wearing cotton short-sleeved shirts of a particular summery type. They almost looked like they were wearing an official off-duty uniform. The bar was covered with dark wood inside and it was very quiet and cool. We were the only people, except for John’s sister, who were not postmen. There were no postwomen. No doubt some other people arrived after we left. I enjoyed talking with the postmen. Tom was there.  He had been John’s substitute for a while but now he has his own route. He is now up and down in the Nire Valley, in the Comeraghs and almost all the way to Dungarvan. His route covers an enormous area. Most of the postman do not want this winding, climbing, difficult route, especially in winter. Tom is happy to do it and happy too because his grandfather used to do the exact same route but on a bicycle. He knows delivering the post in his van is easy in comparison. Besides the difficult driving, the other postmen do not like this route because there are so many people on it who are related to each other. Tom said that there are a tremendous number of Ryans in the Nire and several are brothers who do not speak to one another so if the simple mistake is made that the wrong letter gets delivered to the wrong Ryan all hell breaks loose. Another postman told us about a different postman who did that route for a while. The man only used four tyres a year while all of the other postmen used at least twelve tyres a year. This postman only did about 20,000 miles a year on his van while everyone else did 60 or 70,000. The man was eventually called in for some questioning by the administration. The man had figured out a system to make his work life easier. He would go to the creamery and wait around while the farmers came to drop in their milk or to pick up supplies. He would hand-deliver the post to whoever arrived and then he would ask people to drop things off at their neighbours on their way home. He also went to any and all funerals in the area and did his deliveries by hand from outside the church, after giving his condolences to the bereaved.

21 June The Solstice

I took the car to Mike for some work. He told me that we are promised a heat wave today. People are ready for it or at least some people are ready for it. Some people are wearing shorts and t-shirts while others are wearing wind-proof jackets all zipped-up. I saw one woman wearing an enormous white fur hat with sparkly things sewn into it. She looked hot but she also looked very proud of her hat. Mike told me that the heat wave will begin at half two. He said it will be over by tea time. This was his joke.

Mike has bee hives on the top of four wrecked cars in his yard. The cars have one, two or three hives on their roofs. Each hive has a bit of metal something from a car to weight the tops down. All of the hives are homemade and they are painted in different colours. My favourite is the pale yellow one. An 83-year old friend brought the hives and a few queens over from Burncourt to attract fresh workers to his community of bees. The man has already taken two hives away and there are lots of bees swarming around the remaining hives. The four cars are all Saabs. Mike loves Saabs. They are his preferred car to work on. He is saving these old cars for parts. When there is not much work, he rebuilds old Saabs and makes them good and then he sells them and rebuilds another. Right now he needs a piece out of one of the Saabs but he thinks he will have to wait till the bees have been taken away. Mike has learned a lot about bees because the bee-keeping friend tells him things and then people like me come along and ask a lot of questions and he is able to pass on the new knowledge. He said that most bees in America are African bees and that they are very aggressive. The strains here came from other places and they are more relaxed. I believe him, but I still prefer not to go too close.

 

20 June Wednesday

The Elderflower Cordial has been strained and decanted into bottles. Twelve and a half bottles is this years supply. The bottles have been labelled. Simon thought he was doing me a great favour by cutting out the labels and gluing them onto the bottles. Labelling the bottles is my favourite part of the making. I felt a bit disappointed but I did not tell him that. I just said thank you.

19 June Tuesday

There were four little girls standing outside the stone wall. I was just walking along the road. I did not recognize any of the girls. Three of them were holding hands and singing sweetly over the wall to a cluster of wobbly young calves. The calves looked interested and excited to have this performance. Probably they were confused. The one girl who was not singing shushed me with her finger on her lips. She told me that we must be very quiet because baby calves prefer music to talking.

 

18 June Monday

Forty large elderflower blossoms took no time to collect. The countryside is covered with the creamy blossoms. Sometimes they all look easily available but in fact they are too high and way to get near to them is surrounded by nettles. Today was easy. I needed twenty blossoms for a batch of cordial and I planned to make two batches. Forty blossoms plus a few extra. I cut off all the leaves and most of the thick stems. The mixture is now out on the table in a covered pan. It needs to sit and steep for twenty fours hours. Tomorrow I shall bottle it.

17 June Sunday

I took fresh strawberries to Tommie and Margaret. As I stood at the door I looked down and saw a white envelope from Lourdes addressed to Tommie and Mgt. Hally in blue biro. On top of the envelope was a small bottle of Holy Water. I picked the two things up off the ground just as Tommie opened the door. I handed him the Holy Water and the envelope with one hand and the strawberries with the other. It was a confusing moment. He was thrilled with the strawberries and he was thrilled by the Holy Water. He barely knew which to deal with first. He whispered “Oh, They went to Lourdes and now they are back.” I do not know who the They were, the people who had gone to Lourdes and so kindly brought back the Holy Water. I was pleased to see how happy he was about the gifts. I was interested in Mgt. as an abbreviation for Margaret.

16 June Saturday

On entering Cahir for the Farmers Market the road is often full of parked cars. Every Saturday there is some kind of game being played by the children in the sports field. The cars of the parents are parked all along on both sides of the road. With cars parked along both sides the road becomes a single lane road. Some Saturdays there is also a funeral at the church. The church is across from the playing fields. Once the car park is full the cars spill out onto the road for a long way in either direction. One can tell how big a funeral is by the number of cars. If the road is really blocked up we know that the family was well-known in town and maybe related to a lot of people. Today there was a huge event following the death of a woman named Mary. I know very little about this Mary, but I know a little. She was the receptionist at the Surgery. The eye doctor and her husband both have their practices in a bungalow on the edge of town. There are two doors to enter the two surgeries and inside in the centre is one desk. Mary took care of the patients who entered in the left hand door for Dr John and his practice as a General Practitioner. She also took care of the patients who entered from the right hand door for Dr. Bernie who is an Eye Specialist. She was completely efficient and she never forgot anyone’s name. She had an exuberance which made you feel that no one had a more fun or happy job. Between endless phone calls and the patients coming in and going out of the two doors she made everyone feel that they were lucky to be there and that she was lucky too. Mary was in her early fifties. She was walking down a road on Wednesday with her niece, or maybe it was a nephew, who was on a bicycle. The road is a very long and very straight stretch of road. It used to a be the busy main road on the way to Mitchellstown and Cork, but since the motorway was built, it is an extremely quiet road. Anyone going in either direction on the road can see for a mile up the road. There is a wide space along the road for people to walk safely or for tractors and slow moving vehicles. Mary was hit by a car. No doubt it was the only car on the road. Whenever I am on that road I am always the only car on the road. The road is never busy. The car hit Mary but it did not hit the child. Mary was killed. The community is shocked. The funeral this morning was packed. Death in a small community affects so many people. Even if one does not know the family there is always a connection no matter how small. We all feel a need to show our shock and sadness. The word tragedy is used again and again.

Sheep on a Lump

15 June Friday

The Irish flag down in the village near to the bottle bank looks like it is blowing in the breeze.  It looks like it is blowing in the breeze all the time.  Yesterday was a wildly gusty day and the edge of the flag got caught on a branch.  Now the wind is no longer blowing but the flag is still in blowing position.

 


13 June Wednesday

The roses on the side of the grass-roofed shed are better and more plentiful than they have ever been. We have never had so many in bloom all at the same time. The smell makes me dizzy when I walk past to my room. This is Kattie English’s Albertine rose. It is the only plant remaining from her life here, so I feel it is important to take good care of it and to keep it healthy. It is barely possible to cut these roses and to bring them into the house. They last a few hours and make a thick perfume in a room, and then they droop and die. They are best enjoyed where they grow.


12 June Tuesday

Rhododendrons are in bloom all the way up into the mountains. They are late this year but they are as beautiful as ever. I am glad we remembered to drive up to see them. It is easy to wait a little while and then suddenly it is too late. The blossom do not last long. Shades of pink and lavender and purple line roads and paths. The sides of the hills glow with the soft colours. The rhododendrons in the Knockmealdowns are a much maligned pest. They have invaded and grown like weeds spreading everywhere and choking out a lot of other more indigenous plants. People speak in despair about these enormous invasive shrubs or trees. Some of them really are trees. They are big enough to be trees. Sheep farmers curse them. But for two weeks every year the rhododendrons are adored. Festivals are organized to go walking among the rhododendrons and millions of photographs are taken. When the two weeks are over we can return to worrying about how they are running rampant and taking over all of the other vegetation. And I shall not have to struggle with spelling the word rhododendron for another year.

11 June Monday

I overheard the woman in the shop saying that Shay had been Off Dagging. She said it again and again. She said that Shay had been Dagging Again. I feel I know a lot of local vocabulary and that even if I do not know exactly what a word means I usually know enough to be able to unearth its meaning. I think that context is enough for clues. I think that if I focus on the context I am certain to arrive at the correct definition. Knowing that Shay was Dagging Again just left me in quiet confusion. I had no idea what Dagging was nor where to begin in knowing what it was describing. I did not even know who the Shay that the woman was talking about was, so the fact that Shay was Off Dagging Again was an impossible thing to solve all by myself. I could not ask the woman because that would suggest that I had been eavesdropping which of course I was doing but I was not eavesdropping in a nosy kind of way. I was just standing behind the woman as I waited in the shop and she was talking loudly and for a long time. How could I not listen and how could I not pay attention? I could not leave the shop until she stopped talking and moved from the counter. I could only hope that the mystery of Shay and his Dagging would get solved before she left. I could not interrupt and ask what Dagging meant. Later I asked Breda for an explanation. She told me that Dagging was the same as Mitching. As a word, Mitching left me just as confused as Dagging. Eventually I learned that it was all about not going to school when one was supposed to be attending school. The English called it Skiving. We called it Playing Hooky or Skipping School. At least with Skipping School, the word School was included and that gave a major clue. Skipping attached to the word school made it obvious, at least to me. Dagging and Mitching and Skiving sound dangerous and exotic in comparison.

10 June Sunday

Day after day of sun and heat. It feels like we are living somewhere else. It is impossible to walk up the mass path as it is too hot to wear long trousers and long sleeves and there are too many nettles and brambles along the way to grab and rip at any unprotected skin. Walking must be done in other directions. And it has been dry for so long now that it is not just the farmers who are wishing for rain. The haying is getting done which is good but lawns are brown and the grass is not growing which is not good. I cannot believe that I am hoping for rain. The leaks in the roof have not been fixed yet although we do have a plan ready for the fixing.  Why do I want to battle with rain running down the walls when I can have day after day of sun?  The hedgerows are full of the cow parsley skeletons, the sticky weed is dying back and the wild honeysuckle is blooming.

 

9 June Saturday

Jim and Keith had some beautiful fat Egyptian garlics on their stand today. The garlics themselves are lovely and plump but the way that the green tops are woven together is what is really lovely. Every single person who sees the garlics reaches out to touch them and to comment upon them. The garlics are grown locally by one of the members of the Egyptian Coptic church which is located in what used to be a Catholic convent. The nuns lived there for years and they ran a school for girls. The nuns have mostly died off. Now the convent is the home for an order of Coptic monks. The garlics are grown by the monks or maybe by just one monk who brings them to the market and gives them to Jim and Keith to sell. I think he just gives them the garlics and he does not even ask for any money in return. Perhaps he has so many garlics that he just wants to share them. They are bigger than most garlic we ever get around here. The bulbs are more purple and they are milder. Every single person comments on the garlics and some people buy them saying that they never buy garlic but they feel that they need to buy this garlic. All of this enthusiasm annoys Keith. Sometimes he announces that Jim grows garlic too. It is like he is defending Jim’s garlic even though it is not really the same thing. Jim’s garlics taste good but they never look like a gift. They never appear with such presentation. They arrive in a jumble in a box and we buy them and we eat them and we enjoy them. The Egyptian garlic gets a lot of attention which is not solely about the eating.

 

Fisherman’s Friend

5 June Tuesday

Andrzej has been repairing the strimmer again and again. Simon has been fiddling with it for years too. The strimmer is now twenty years old. It is a heavy-duty model which is perfect for the rough stuff up and down the boreen. It is also a physically heavy machine. Andrzej says it is the best he has ever used  and he likes to keep it going. His last repairs were finally not enough. The three of us went through every container we could find in any of the barns and the house and the workshop. We could not find a cap to replace the gas cap which finally cracked off. The gas cap was kind of the final straw. Andrzej stuck an old and too big sort of cap on it and then wound some plastic sheeting and a rubber band in order to be able to finish the job he was doing. The gas was still leaking and the engine was making a grinding noise. After that we took the strimmer to O’Brien’s to repair. The younger O’Brien found a new cap to fit. He was pleased that it was even  orange to match the machine even though he knew that of course the colour did not matter.  He did various other tuning things. He said the engine is great and strong and that the machine should last for another twenty years. He was full of admiration for the repair that Andrzej had done by taping on the metal top from a tin of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges to repair the carburetor. The O’Brien said, “I could not have done it any better myself, so I just made it a better shape.”

 

4 June Monday

Tommie was happy to get the cake. He is always happy to get cake. He told us that he is in a lot of pain. He woke up twice in the night to take more pain killers. He said he never wakes up in the night not for anything. He knows the pain is bad if it is waking him up. Margaret would know what to tell him to do because she used to be a nurse. She knows things. He cannot ask Margaret for advice now because she cannot hear and she cannot see and she sits in her chair all the day and mostly she sleeps. He does not want to go to the doctor because he does not want to be sent back to the hospital. I offered to take him to the doctor or even to the out of office CareDoc facility. He said no to everything. His excuse is that today is a Bank Holiday so he cannot go to the doctor anyway until tomorrow at the earliest. He promised that he will go to the doctors if he is still in pain in the morning. He has started to drive again even though he is not supposed to be driving yet. He will drive himself over to the doctors office. He said he could walk but he would rather drive.  He tested Simon’s stick which is a hill walking stick with a bit of spring in it.  He liked the bounce. He has a sturdy stick which he finds good for The Balance. He said that A Good Stick Gives Him Courage.

3 June Sunday

A sparrow hawk smashed into the window and lay stunned on the ground just long enough for me to get a quick photograph of him through the glass. After a five minutes he was up and away again .

 

2 June Saturday

They are still working on the new public toilets in Cahir. It has been months now. There was a lot of digging and pipe laying which went on for ages. And that was after the toilets had already been closed for a year or so. The little temporary toilets are still down in the car park which is convenient for the stall owners at the market. It means they do not have so far to go if they need to use the loo. The new toilets are the talk of the town. They are modern and shiny and sort of glamorous in a crazy way. The castle is in sight, just down the hill on the other side of the river. Cahir is a heritage town. It was once a stagecoach stop and it is full of traditional  buildings. Suddenly there is this silvery grey pointed thing popping up in between other things and right near the bus stop. There are four doors which I assume means four toilets. Today a man was putting some coin machines into the walls. It will cost 40 cents to use a toilet. Some people think this is an outrageous price. Some people think this is a bargain. No one can decide what all the space at the top of the pointy building is for. It is being widely discussed. People worry that it seems like a lot of material and space for not much function. There is more discussion about the shape of the building that there is about the 40 cent charge.

31 May Thursday

The cows are bellowing in the fields in two directions so it is a little bit like several radios on, but it is not exactly stereo. It is always just a few beats off. Anthony Keating’s cows are up in the very steep pasture which used to be Johnnie Mackin’s field. Or maybe they are Donal Keating’s cows not Anthony Keating’s cows. I keep an eye on any cows when they are there because the field is too straight up and down to be fully believable. I fear they will fall off and roll right down if they put a foot wrong. Joe Keating’s cows are in the near field and Joe Casey’s cows are in the field directly above the house. We cannot see Joe Casey’s cows but we can hear them. They are extremely close but the ditch has grown up so it is like while they are the nearest, they are also invisible. There is a bull or a cow who is moaning and bellowing up there. It is making the cows over on Mackin’s field bellow back. Sometimes Joe Keating’s herd joins in. It is a loud and all day kind of noise. It is rare to have cows in all three of these fields at the same time. Usually if a herd is in one field there are no cows in any of the other fields immediately around us. I like to think that all the noise has to do with various kinds of greetings and a shared delight in this glorious weather as well as the proximity.   Between all the cows and all the Keatings and the two Joes it is a distracting kind of day with nothing but birdsong to interrupt all the bellowing.

The New Immersion.

20 April Sunday

The bench in Ardfinnan gets repainted in the spring. First it was blue and then it was red and now it is blue again. There is not a lot of room to sit as the home-made corner structure does not allow for a lot of knee room.  Two people can happily sit and chat but anymore than that will feel a bit squished.

19 April Saturday

A tree fell down in Joe’s field.  We have not had great winds. We have not even had heavy rain. It looks completely wrong to see this tree lying down. The tree is on a low bit of the field. It is often squishy and muddy down there.  All I can think of is that the roots got wet and wetter and stayed wet and finally rotted. I have never lived anywhere where trees fall down so frequently. The mass path is blocked by fallen trees several times a year. Sometimes I think it is to do with the kind of trees. Maybe these trees have shallow roots. Most of the time I think it is to do with just too much water.

18 April Friday

We have had a week without hot water. Niall the plumber came today. He apologized.  He kept promising to come each day but then each day he never arrived. He said he had been Dead Busy.  He said it’s always the same with the work: Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. Famine or Feast. He said it three times and then he went to work. He installed a new immersion unit. He showed us the old one. It was covered with lime. This is a terrible area for lime in the water. It coats and cakes onto everything and eventually destroys machinery. He was smitten with the date notations I have made on the wall each time we have had to replace the heater.  He was surprised with how long the previous unit had lasted.  He said he hoped that this new one would last as long as the old one. As he left he instructed us to be sure to mark today’s date up on the wall.

17 April Thursday

They are back.  The season is on for the Sticky Back weeds. Sticky Back.  Sticky Jack. Cleavers. Sticky Willy. Robin-run-the-hedge. They are everywhere.  They run up anything that is growing. They tangle in and out between anything that is growing.  Because they are covered with things that make them stick to whatever they touch there is not much need to worry about what or where they go. They stick onto animals and clothes as well as plants.  These weeds are so fast growing and so busy that they look like they are strangling anything they touch.  In fact the growth is more like a fishing net that is thrown over things.  One good grab and the whole clump comes away in the hand.  Of course a good pull does not remove the roots.  The plant just breaks off at the bottom.  I do not really care.  If they are pulled away from things they do not seem to grow back immediately. They will return next year no matter what.  It is a seasonal thing and the season does not last long.  While it is happening the Sticky Backs are everywhere.  I love pulling them off things.  If I am passing in a car I get the urge to just stop and get out to pull the big clumps off the ditches. Sometimes I do it.  When I am walking, I keep slowing down and pulling and slowing down and pulling.  I can grab an armful without even coming to a full stop. Of course there is the good chance that I might grab a stinging nettle or a thorny bramble. Sadly, I do that often.  Stings and stabs do not stop me from this obsessive pulling.  It is the most satisfying kind of weeding work ever.  I seem to have the urge to pull it all down from everywhere in the world which is, of course, not even vaguely possible.

 

The Dog on the White Line.

16 April Wednesday

The old dog was outside the community hall. I was pleased to see him. He looked healthy and bright-eyed although he could certainly use a good brushing. His hair is coming out in huge clumps. He is scruffy.  He greeted each car as it drove up and he greeted each person as they got out of their car or as they left the hall.  He was not aggressive nor was he begging. He was just interested. He is the same old dog who used to come up to visit Frank at the shop every morning.  Frank would give him cake or some other treat that had reached its sell-by date or had just gone stale. Then the dog would sleep for a while. He always walked home in the middle of the road right along the white line until he reached his house.  Since Frank has been ill and the shop has been closed, maybe the dog has decided that evenings are a more sociable time for visiting the shop even if it is not open. Or maybe he comes in the morning and also in the evening. The section of the road with the white line is not a long stretch of road but it is long enough that anyone who drives it regularly knows that the dog on the white line has priority.

 


15 April Tuesday

It is more than ten years since someone started to paint the house in Irishtown. Maybe it is more than twelve years. It might even be longer ago than that. For as long as I can remember the house has had just this amount of blue paint on it. Someone started in the upper left corner and continued as far as the paint went and then they took a break and no one ever returned to finish the job. Painting this kind of pebble-dashed surface uses up a lot of paint. It demands a lot more paint than a regular wall. Maybe the person who began the painting thought he had enough paint for the whole house. Maybe he was not able to get the exact same colour mixed again. The person who began painting has not returned to finish it. Nor has anyone else. Now the house is empty. It is boarded up. Somehow there is still a freshness to the blue paint. It looks like the paint job might be completed any day now.

14 April Monday

A few good days of sun or even just one good day of sun and all of the summer clothes come out. Even if the next day is cold and wet and howling with wind, the summer clothes do not disappear. Or they do not disappear completely. This morning was warm. It was almost hot. But by afternoon it was raining and cold. The only people I saw in the shop were wearing rain jackets over heavy fleeces and sweaters. But they were wearing sandals with bare feet. Two women were admiring the brand new sandals worn by one of them. The one not wearing the new sandals said, “I know they would fit me. I know they would look well on me.” They laughed together and the one who was wearing the sandals looked pleased to be the one with the desirable new footwear. As the other one turned to leave the shop, she shouted, “I hope they’ll cut into you, so. Then you’ll have to give them to me!”

13 April Sunday

I have some tiny plastic tubes with one open end. They come with the little flossing brushes. They are for protecting the little brushes. If I go somewhere I can slide the brushes into the the tubes and then they will not get bent in transit. I rarely put the brushes into the tubes at home. I just line up the different sized brushes on the shelf. This morning I picked up one of the tubes which looked different than the other two or three. There was something in it. I banged it on the side of the sink. A little tiny slug had worked its way into the tube and could not reverse out. It was stuck. Most of the slug came out. Part of what I think was the head remained inside. I was busily trying to flush it out with water for several minutes before I questioned why I was doing it.  I did not want to re-use the tube that the slug had been in. I threw it away.
Even with the erratic weather and the cold nights, I could tell that winter was finally over. Things in the bathroom are sort of protected by the cold weather but nothing is ever completely safe. Once the slugs have made their way back in there is nothing that they won’t ooze and creep over on their way to somewhere else. Nothing is safe. On the whole I would rather not know where they have been.

Repeal the Eighth

11 April Friday

I am wearing my Repeal the Eighth badge wherever I go. I wear it out walking in the fields when there is no one to see except the birds and the cows. I wear it to the shop and the post office and to anywhere I go. I wear it to town and I wear it to the market. I wear it up the boreen and down the boreen. Actually we have five or six different badges.  We both make sure we never leave the house without one. Most people never say a word about it either way.  Most people never say a word but I see that their eyes notice the badge.  My position is registered.  The Eighth Amendment is being discussed everywhere on the radio, TV and in the papers but in the country, people are reluctant to speak about it out loud.

10 April Thursday

Treasa was sort of singing today but it was not singing with words it was singing a tune with some syllables. She said she was only Lilting. Lilting being just that: singing without words but singing a tune nonetheless. Maybe this is a normal expression. Maybe it is just a word I have not heard used quite like this. Maybe it is just herself that calls it that.

9 April Wednesday

I took fresh rhubarb and custard down to Tommie and Margaret. It was not stewed rhubarb. The pieces were still firm and they were gently cooked with a bit of molasses. Tommie was in hospital for 6 days. He has been back home for a week now. Yesterday he had his stitches removed. He was disturbed that he had thought there were eleven stitches but the doctor told him there were actually twelve stitches. He said they were small and his eyes are not so good but still he did not like to have it wrong. He was upset to have learned that Ian had sold the house. The house was on what had been Tommie’s land where his old house had been. The new house was not his house and the land was not his land anymore, but he had been up and down feeding the cats for years and years whenever he was asked to do it and a lot of times when no one asked but he worried anyway about the cats starving. It was still his place even though it was not his place anymore. He has had an emotional tie for too long to not be considered in any changes. He said that he felt Aggrieved that he had not even been told that the house was sold. He was Aggrieved about the miscount of his stitches. He was Aggrieved about no one telling him about the new residents in the house. He was also Aggrieved that he was not allowed to drive for another 6 weeks. Once he started to say the word Aggrieved he could not say it often enough. He was glad to see the rhubarb. Tommie loves rhubarb. He was glad for the distraction.

7 April Bank Holiday Monday

There is blossom everywhere. Stitchwort. Forget-me-not. Primrose. Hawthorn. Gorse. Bluebell. It seemed like spring would never come but now that it is here, it is everywhere.

5 April Saturday

Stella told me that the usual place for a safe is inside in the Hot Press. If a person is going to install a safe in their house for important things like papers and money and jewellery, the place where they always put the safe is in the floor of the Hot Press. The Hot Press is the airing cupboard. It is the place where the hot water tank is located. Most people have some shelves built into the Hot Press. If you have shelves in the Hot Press you can put sheets and towels and clothing in there when they come in from the washing line. Things can be put inside the Hot Press until they are thoroughly dry or maybe until they are ironed. The sheets and towels may never go any further. The Hot Press often becomes the permanent storage place for these things. The trouble is that the burglars know that if a household has installed a safe anywhere, then the Hot Press is the place to find it. If a burglar locates the Hot Press, he will locate the safe. Stella said of course not every house has a safe but a burglar won’t know that until all of the clean and dry folded towels and sheets have been pulled out and thrown onto the floor and probably stepped upon. Stella said this is almost the worst thing about having your house broken into. She said the things that get damaged in the looking and looting are the real pity. The things that are gone are just gone. She said that it is a sad job to wash a bunch of sheets and towels all over again just because someone stepped on them.

3 April Thursday

We climbed the stile and walked over Joe’s fields. From a distance, they looked green and grassy and inviting. It had not rained for a few days but the ground was all churned up from the cows being in those fields in recent weeks. The holes were big. It would have been easy to break an ankle. Some of the holes were just empty. Some of the holes are just firm mud mashed down in the shape of a heavy hoof. Some are full of pee. At first I thought the wet holes were just muddy water but the cow urine mixed with mud and rainwater makes a different colour. It was not easy to walk across the fields. We lurched from lump to lump and hole to hole. It made for a clumsy and rollicking kind of walking. Simon took a stick. I would have been wise to take a stick too. When we reached the last hill up the track to the farm, the ground underfoot got worse. The dirt track was covered in manure. It was slippery and deep and it was hard to get footing. Luckily the distance was not great and the cows were not yet starting to walk down while we walked up. Joe had 10 new troughs piled up in his yard. They are cast from concrete and will soon be distributed out in the fields for drinking water. They are the newest thing. I have been seeing them appearing in the fields of other farmers. I guess this is a new development from the big black plastic ones which have been used for years.

Stuck in Inchicore.

1 May Tuesday

This May Day is gloomy and cold and rainy. It is a desperate day. I walked up the path and I was reminded that it is still wild garlic season. Every stage of wild garlic season is a pleasure. First there are the little shoots coming up and the bright fresh green colour is full of promise. Then the leaves push all the way up and they are a shiny darker green. That is when I think both the smell and the taste are the strongest and the best. Then the buds appear and the leaves lose a bit of their shininess. Slowly, the star-like flowers start appearing like little explosions. The leaves look duller but the flowers make it all look exciting. It tastes and smells good at every stage. I like walking up the boreen and stepping on it and smashing some down with my boots just so that I can walk in a cloud of the smell. There is nothing that is not good about the wild garlic season.

30 April Monday

I dropped some carrots on the floor. They snapped into pieces. Carrots are usually a bit bouncy. I think of carrots as rubbery rather than brittle. The floor in the kitchen is a stone floor. Most things break when they hit a stone floor. But it seemed odd to have carrots snap into clean halves like these did. I grated a few of the carrots for a salad at lunch. They were watery and completely without taste. I wish I could remember where I got these carrots because I do not want to buy them again.

28 April Saturday

Leaving Dublin on the bus with a man shouting into his phone. No one could read or sleep. No one could not listen.

“The bitch yeah you heard about it? Yeah she had her head out the window. She loved doing that she did but we went through a skinny bit of the alley backing down and her head hit a pole. Yeah yeah dead right away. Not even a bark. Hey who is this anyway? Paddy? Paddy Dorman? Who the hell gave you my number? Who do you think you are ringing me? Paddy Gorman or Paddy Dorman? Oh you’re that Paddy. Oh Sorry Paddy I thought you were the other Paddy. You know him yourself. He’s a a nuisance that one. 
We’re stuck in Inchicore. I’m on the bus and we’re stuck in Inchicore. We’re going off to Tipp to see The Wife’s mother. She’s down there already with The Mother. I’m with the The Son. On the bus yeah. She’s not well. Yeah I’ve got the grapes for the gift. Yeah Paddy we’re on the bus but we’re only in Inchicore. We’re going nowhere Paddy. We paid to go to Tipp but we haven’t got far. I’m in the bus now. Yeah we got on at BusAras. That’s where it starts but at this rate we won’t get to Tipp till Tuesday. You know yourself Paddy. Once you’re on the bus it’s like a trap . You can’t get off. You’ve got to go where you paid to go. It was 28 euro for the both of us Paddy. That’s what we paid and we’re only in Inchicore so in that kind of a way it’s an expensive trip but if we ever get to Tipp we’ll feel sure we’ve had our value for the money we will. We’ll feel glad Paddy to be somewhere else.”

25 April Wednesday

The swallows nest in the corner by my door is still in position from last year. The birds left and the nest remains. I have gotten used to it being there. I do not really see it anymore. But now there are birds everywhere. They are all flying around with bits of sticks and moss in their beaks. Nest building activity is manic even though the weather is colder than it should be. The weather is horrible. I think I should remove the nest from the wall before anyone decides to use it again. I do not know if swallows use a nest for a second time. Nor if other birds move into any old nest just for the convenience of not having to build their own. It was interesting to have the mother and the chicks in the corner for a while, but then I had to give up my room. I was driven away by the mother trying to protect her young. I would rather not go through all that again. By the time everyone had learned to fly there was crunchy excrement all over the door and the door handle and the step. I thought I could just pull the nest off today in passing but I think I will need a chisel. It is tightly welded to the wall with mud and bird spit. And since it is now raining and the rain is lashing sideways, I shall do it later.

24 April Tuesday

Celly Ryan was the name on the small van. It was a private bus service. The driver was standing near the van with the door open. He was waiting for his passengers to return. I think the vehicle could seat 6 or maybe 8 people. I wish I had stopped to ask the man what Celly was short for. Celestine? Celeste? I cannot think of a man’s name that might be shortened to Celly, but I am trying.

23 April Monday

A blue security van arrived while we waited at the station in Cork. The man driving it made a careful backing up to the door on the side of the station. It took him two or three tries to get into the exact right position. When he finished he was perfectly in line with the door so I assumed he would rush out of his van, do some efficient moves and take money in containers into or out of the station and then quickly drive away again. He got out of the van and took two small silver suitcases out of the special door. He also removed two pouches which he put under his arm. He walked around the van towards the station and then he met a man he knew. He put the two cases down on the back bumper of the van. It was a flat bumper and it easily held the two silver suitcases. The two men shook hands and then they both lit cigarettes. As they talked a third man came along. They all shook hands again and then they moved about ten steps away from the van until they were standing in the sunshine. The sun was warm on an otherwise cold day. It was warm in the sun and very cold in the shade. The driver kept the two pouches under his arm while he talked for about 20 minutes. He had his back to the van and the suitcases. The silver suitcases seemed to be forgotten. Two small boys came along. They each picked up a suitcase. One of the men saw the boys and nudged the driver. He turned his head and said, “Go away, Lads and leave my cases where they are.” The boys put the suitcases back on to the bumper and they wandered off. The driver stood in the sun for another 10 minutes and then he said good-bye to the two men. He went into the station with the pouches and the silver suitcases. He came out with some different things and he drove away. None of his activity seemed as imperative as getting the vehicle in an exact straight line with the door.

 

22 April Sunday

The cows are in the upper field. They are looking into our windows which means they are looking down and into our windows and watching us from an elevated position. It is not often that cows are in that field and when they are they are not always so interested in what we are doing. This group seem determined to catch our attention. They seem determined to want us to look back at them. This group is very interested in us. There might be one or there might be two or three or four and then they run off and away together and then two more come. I am always facing them from my seat at the table. I wave. I smile. I nod. I have no idea if any of this registers with them. We cannot eat breakfast, lunch or dinner without attracting an audience.

Warble Fly Eradication

6 April Friday

Last night there was an AMBER warning for weather. I was not sure what that meant but the non-stop torrential, lashing rain and the wild gusting winds might be the most wretched rain I have ever experienced.  I have been in a lot of rain. I am sure that I have been in worse rain but this felt bad enough. Now I have spent all morning moving more things out the way way of fresh drips and and puddles. Nothing can be done to solve the leaking in this weather. We can only wait. It is good that the floors are made of stone. The ceilings are another matter. It is good that we read a lot of newspapers. It is not good that I delivered nine big bundles to the dog sanctuary last week. I am going through the remaining supply of paper for soaking up the water fast. I hope the rain stops before I run out.  I have every straight edged container I own snicked up tight against walls wherever there is a leak.  It is time to stop talking about this. I cannot stop living with it but I can stop pretending that my descriptions will help in any way.

5 April Thursday

Two women were in the baking section of the market. They both had several kinds of flour, ground almonds and other cake making things in their baskets. One of them mentioned the fact that the Protestants are very competitive about their cakes. It was a known fact. The other woman felt no need to question or to disagree. It was just a truth and everyone knew it. The one woman said, “Sure they only make us feel bad.”

 

 

4 April Wednesday

The rain is not stopping. The farmers are getting more and more worried. They are running out of fodder for the cattle. The Tipperary farmers cannot help out the farmers in the midlands and in the west as they usually do in a crisis. They cannot help because they need help themselves.
We all need help. All of the repairing of our roof and our leaks has become something much worse than it was before. There is water flowing through the fuse box and down the wall in the kitchen. I have moved every single thing off the coat hooks and off the little racks down below. There was a row of seven small framed things above the coat hooks. The frames are soaked and the things in them are soaked. I enjoyed studying the wet things as I tried to dry them and to save them. It is easy to stop looking at things when they become familiar. Moving a thing from one place to another makes it new again. Which is nice. The warble fly certificate and a small envelope addressed to Kattie and Willie is among the things that I am drying out. The seven frames are lined up underneath a radiator.
Kattie’s name was not Kattie. Her name was Kathleen or maybe Katherine but everyone called her Kattie. Probably Kattie was a pet name which began when she was a child and it just stuck. Maybe the family thought of her as a little kitten kind of person. Kittie. Kattie. Maybe indeed it was supposed to be Kattie but there is an ongoing problem here with the pronunciation of TH. TH often sounds like TT. When I first came here, if I mentioned Kattie, I would automatically adjust it to say Kathie. If I said Kathie someone would always correct me. The correction would be gentle because I am From Away and because of course I never actually knew Kattie. Kattie English lived in what is now our house with her brother Willie English. At one time, there were two older siblings, Frederick and Elisabeth, living here too. Frederick and Elisabeth died years before Willie and Kattie. But they all died well before we came here. Increasingly the people who knew Kattie and Willie themselves are dying or have already died. There are few people now who would notice if I called Kattie Kathie. Even so my correction of her name to be what I think it should be rather than what everyone knew it to be is a little bit arrogant. If I speak of Kattie at all I should use the name that she was known by, not the name I think it started from.

3 April Tuesday

Simon bought a pair of boots. He had seen them in the window of the shop. They were on sale. He walked in and he asked to try them on. The man in the shop was a very serious white haired man. He was staidly dressed in a well fitting suit, a white shirt and a tie. The man spoke highly of the brand of boots. He said they were extremely well made and he pointed out the fine leather and various features. Simon felt happy with the fit, so he bought the boots and he came home. Later he tried on the boots just to walk around in the house and get comfortable with them. The boots did not feel right. They did not feel as good as they had felt inside in the shop. He took them off and looked carefully at the boots. He saw that one boot was size 42 and one boot was size 43. He called the shop and spoke to the man who had sold him the boots. The man burst out laughing. He laughed long and hard and when he could finally speak again, he gasped while he said, “Oh dear! It is not the first time I have done this!” He told Simon to come in and make the exchange for the correct size. When Simon returned for the exchange, the man got the giggles again. He said “Now let us hope I am not after sending you home with the opposite pair of wrong ones.”

2 April Monday

Sister Carmel went to along to celebrate the birthday of another nun who was extremely old. She lamented that it was a pity that there were not many close family members present. She said, “First Cousins are very rare when you are at the age of 100.”

Wine in the Teapot

1 April Sunday

The ceiling has been repaired and the roof was all sealed up in the appropriate places.  Everything has been cleaned and put away. The rain started mid-afternoon and it has been coming down off and on since.  I am discouraged to see the bathroom ceiling leaking in its usual way as if all of that analysis, discussion, diagnosis and work had not been done. I am not looking forward to telling Peter that everything that was done has solved nothing.

31 March Saturday

Debbie and Jim, the goats, were back at the market.  This time they were secured both by generous ropes and within a small fenced area.  There was no chance that Jim could escape this week. A large group of people walked through the market coming off the river path into the car park and then they  loaded themselves onto four waiting buses. They were walking in twos and threes and they were all wearing walking boots and most carried walking poles.  The line of people seemed to be endless.  I asked one of the bus drivers what was going on.  He said they were the Active Knockmealdown Group. He said there were about 300 people in total and that they were going to Cashel by bus and then returning to Cahir on foot  via the St. Declan’s Way. I do not know if that meant they were finished with the entire walk then or if they would be continuing the walk all the way to Ardmore on another day. Or maybe they had already come from Ardmore. The driver did not know. Most of the people walked in a straight line through the market as if they did not notice it was there. A few stopped and filled their pockets with cheese or cakes or apples. There were two tiny lambs in a hay-filled pen. They were exactly to the right of the walking line of people but not one person looked down to notice them. No one looked at Debbie and Jim either.

30 March Good Friday

For the first time in 91 years it is legal to serve and to buy alcohol on Good Friday. The law was changed in January. Restaurants and bars now have the option to open or not to open. They can choose to respect the old ways or they can get on with the new. We stopped in at Rose’s last night. The Thursday before Good Friday was traditionally a wildly busy night with everyone who wanted to drink trying hard to drink enough for two nights in the one night. This year, early evening on Thursday was just early evening on Thursday. Most people have outgrown the manic behaviour that demanded that one had to drink just because one was not allowed to drink. Someone said that it used to be normal for restaurants to serve wine in a teapot just to get around the law. I had not heard that before. I wish I had seen it. I suppose the wine would have been poured from the teapot into a teacup. All very hard to think about. Of course, today people drink at home without a worry or fear of judgement anyway. Brendan seemed to be the only one who had a problem with the relaxing of the old law. He was reprimanding Rose and insisting that she should not open and that she should not be serving drink on Good Friday. John muttered, “No fear, Brendan will be the first one in the door when she opens. And he will be the last one out.”

29 March Thursday

It is a tight time of year. Tight is the expression being used and used often. A few weeks ago the cows were out in the fields. Now a lot of them are back in the barns and under cover. The animals are building up in the sheds. The winter feed is running low. Some of the farmers let the animals out for the day and then bring them back inside at night. Nothing is growing anyway. The cows are in a field to eat grass but there is not much grass growing. There is not much to be eaten. Everyone is tired of the cold and of the long long winter which just refuses to go away. The light has changed but the temperatures remain low. This morning I saw a few sheep wandering around in a big field nibbling and pulling at last seasons stubble. There was not much there for them to eat. Tight. It is a tight time of year.

28 March Wednesday

Peter Ryan was on the roof both in the rain and not in the rain. He was spraying water from the hose into the place where the roof meets the other part of the roof. I ran in and out of the house while Simon checked on the walls in three leaking locations. Simon shouted to me and then I shouted up to Peter. We were waiting for the water to drip and to leak and to puddle into the places where we have learned to expect leaking and puddling. Peter was on the roof for more than an hour. It might have been two hours. The ladder fell down twice. The sun came out and there was a huge rainbow visible over the foot hills. Then it rained again. The rain did not fall for long nor heavily. It just rained and stopped and rained again. Finally the probable leak was found and understood. The water was running UP the galvanized metal in and underneath the roof join. It must have been a combination of rain and wind over time and maybe there is an old nail hole or several old nail holes that rusted and made an opening for the rain to enter. There is a big section of the ceiling ripped out and plaster skim everywhere in the kitchen and in the bathroom. The plan is that this will all be repaired on Friday.

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