12 December Saturday
I found shredded paper and mouse droppings in a deep corner of the long cupboard. There was no food in the vicinity. The mice were happy enough to chew on other things. I was cleaning up the mess and moving things around as I searched for more of the same. All the time that I was looking and clearing, I was wondering where the mice had entered, and when. I do not know if this is fresh activity or old activity. I wondered if this nibbling was done yesterday, or was it long ago? Maybe it was September?
14 December Monday
He is a tall man. He wears a waistcoat with many pockets over a heavy sweater, but no hat. There is no logic about when he arrives. It might be early on a Sunday morning or he might appear on a weekday afternoon. There are twelve or fifteen small dogs with the man. They run around in ever lengthening loops all around him but they never go too far from him. None of the dogs have collars and none of them are large. They are not hunting dogs. Some of them look like long-haired dachshunds but I do not think that is what they are. That is the nearest way for me to describe them. All of the dogs are mixed-up breeds and all of the dogs are short-legged and all of the dogs are fast and quiet. They are not a barking and baying pack. The man is formal in his address. He has dark curly hair and looks like a person from a medieval painting. He is not a modern man. He might be in his late thirties or he might be older. When the man and his dogs appear down the track he always asks politely if I have seen The Fox. I always say no. I never help anyone in their pursuit of a fox. Sometimes he asks if it is okay for him to cut across our land and to cross up into Joe’s fields. Sometimes he turns and goes back the way he came. Other times he continues up the Mass Path towards Johnnie Mackin’s. The dogs are everywhere. They are like a liquid mass moving all through the yard and off into the fields. They rush to drink out of our low water butt. I see the dogs before I see the man. He carries a curved horn over his shoulder with a strap. It gives off the loud rallying TallyHo call associated with The Hunt. This man has no horse, no weapon and no crowd of people and baying dogs with him. He is always alone with his many small dogs. When he blows the horn the dogs all come running from wherever they are. He also carries a huge whip, which is hooked onto his belt. When he cracks the whip in the air the dogs hear the loud snap and they come running to join him. Each time he comes the man tells me that he is looking for The Fox because it is stealing chickens. I do not believe him. Today the dogs appeared and shortly after they arrived, he himself arrived, walking down from Scully’s wood and asking if I had seen The Fox. I did not say a word. I bent my head at the neck and gave him a little grimace to say that we have had this conversation three or four times already and you know that I will not tell you even if I have seen The Fox. He nodded, said Thank You, and then he bowed low from the waist. He turned and strode back up the track. A few minutes later I heard the horn.
15 December Tuesday
The morning was bitter and sharp. The cold was harsh. Derek was late delivering the post. He was so late that I had assumed that there would be no post delivered at all. I asked him why he was not wearing his cap. He acknowledged my concern and agreed that yes, it was way too cold to be out without a cap. He told me that he had had a puncture. I wondered what a punctured tyre had to do with him not wearing a hat. He said he had to change the tyre on the van this morning in the dark and when he was finished, he used his cap to clean and dry his wet hands. It was the only thing he could find. He said it was better to wear no cap at all than to pull a wet and muddy one down over his ears.
18 December Friday
As of today, we are out of our six week lockdown. We are now allowed to cross county borders. The trouble is that everyone else is allowed to cross the county borders too, so there is a mad rush in all directions. It is pre-Christmas panic. It seems to be a very good time to not cross any borders and not to go near the town and to just pretend that we still cannot go anywhere. We shall continue to stay at home.
19 December Saturday
It was a rare treat to find razor clams at the market. We ate them for lunch.
20 December Sunday
I am always happy to see Anthony’s tyre tree out on display again. He keeps it out back on its pallet all year and brings it around to the front at this time of year after festooning it with fresh ivy vines and little lights.
21 December Monday
The village shop is extra busy right before lunch time. There are workmen and delivery men picking up sandwiches to eat in their vans and there are the wives of the farmers all in a rush collecting a bit of something towards the dinner. There is always one women who roars, “I cannot stop to talk. I left The Spuds On The Boil!”
22 December Tuesday
When something is broken beyond repair, it is Banjaxed. Banjaxed means that an object or a machine is broken, or ruined. A person can be Banjaxed too—ruined or shattered or deeply deeply tired. A person who is Banjaxed might just be exhausted.
24 December Thursday
I have lined the windowsill with pineapples and pine cones. The pineapples were on special offer at the supermarket for 47 cents each. I bought a couple and then I bought a couple more. They look very festive. The windowsill looked best when there were six pineapples in a row, but we keep eating them so now there are only three.
25 December Friday
Someone spread slurry on the fields. It was either Joe or Joe. The smell is noxious and it burns the back of the throat even when I am outside for only a few minutes. That is the bad news. The good news is that the first snowdrop has come up. It is early but it is a welcome sign of spring. A sign of hope.
27 December Sunday
We have been beaten and thrashed by Storm Bella. We had yellow warnings and we had amber warnings. Winds and rain and the noise of it all. It went on and on and on. I think it is now over. I hope it is over. There is deep water everywhere but we have not suffered downed trees. We have not lost our electricity. The west of the country has had it worse with snow and severely blocked roads. We are just mired in even more mud than we already had. Walking out in any direction is hard slogging work.
29 December Tuesday
My pursuit of mice continues. The long cupboard has been cleared. Traps are set but the mice ignore the traps. They are eating poison every day but it is not killing them. They take some of the poison and move along the length of a shelf and eat it there. They come back for more and more pellets and they continue to evade my traps. Apparently there is an explosion of mice all over the country this winter. Everyone has mice and everyone is fighting the same battle but most people do not talk about it for fear of the rodents reflecting badly on them. My mice keep chewing and nibbling paper and cardboard. Any and all food items have been removed and stored in a big plastic box. Everything else taken out of the cupboard is in little piles along the wall. I am looking forward to being able to put things back but I am mostly looking forward to the end of the mice.
30 December Wednesday
Today is Simon’s birthday. I bought him a calendar down at the shop. It was a fund-raising project for the FAS scheme. It has a few tractors on it. It also has one page with some cleaned-up farm equipment repainted with bright colours. I do not think he will like this calendar much, but I will. He is not interested to view farm machinery and tractors in the everyday world around him so he will not be interested in photographs of them. I will wrap the calendar up and give it to him with the card I have not yet made. He went up and down to the book barn a few times this morning. It is too cold to stay working down there for long. On one of the trips back and forth, a bird shat on his head. It was obviously a big bird because it was an enormous messy dropping. He had to wash his hair thoroughly to get rid of it. If it had been a seagull, it would be considered Good Luck. But we think it was a magpie or a crow. Their droppings are big but they do not arrive with any promise of luck.
31 December Thursday New Year’s Eve.
Last night the sky was beautifully clear. We were able to see the Full Moon. The out of doors was so bright that there was no need for a torch. We have missed the last two full moons due to thick cloud cover and rain. We missed the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn too. Maybe this sighting of the full moon is a positive sign for the year to come. Last night at midnight the entire country went back into Level Five Lockdown. It is only 13 days since we were released from the last lockdown. Everything except essential retail shops such as food and pharmacies is closed and will remain closed. We can only go five kilometres from home for the purpose of exercise. These restrictions will remain in place until the end of January. It is more cheering to think about the bright full moon and the lengthening hours of daylight.