7 August Bank Holiday
An elderly robin has become a friend. He stays nearby whenever we are outside. Mostly he sits on the back of the chair where one of us is sitting. Then he moves to sit with the other one of us. He hops along the tabletop. His head and wing feathers and his red breast are scruffy looking. That is how we know he is not young. His scruffiness is what makes him distinctive. It does not matter which table we are sitting at or whether we are drinking tea or coffee. He seems to like the companionship. Or maybe it is the sound of our voices.
6 August Sunday
The clock in Cahir has not worked for a while. It is at least three years since I looked up at it expecting to see the correct time. Now the clock is gone. It might have been absent for a long while already. I got out of the habit of looking up to see the time because it was always wrong no matter what the clock showed. It might have been a year since the clock was removed. There is some black plastic tacked into the space where the clock was. I shall now try to keep an eye on that space to notice when the clock is returned.
5 August Saturday
Cate’s mother suffers from bad arthritis. She is 91. Terrible pain in her knees makes it difficult for her to walk. Cate had heard about a cure. She offered to try it on her mother. Her mother was willing to give it a go. She was ready to try anything to stop the pain. Before bed, Cate wrapped her mother’s knees in leaves of cabbage. Then she wrapped cling film around the cabbage so it stayed nice and firm around the knees. She did not want the cabbage to come loose in the night in her mother‘s bed. In the morning she went upstairs and found her mother still in bed. Cate was looking forward to news of the miracle cure. Instead her mother had had the worst night ever and had barely slept a wink because of the excruciating pain in her legs. I have no plan to recommend this cure to anyone but I did need to ask if the cabbage was cooked or raw. Cate said it was raw.
4 August Saturday
The nest by the door into my workroom now has baby swallows in it. The mother gets angry when I attempt to enter the room. I have given up. Anything I need to do in there can be done another day or next week. I have decided to just wait until all five children have left home. None of them are even flying yet. They just sit in the nest and wait for their mother to return.
3 August Thursday
Fergal came to collect some boxes. He asked where our dog was. He told us his own dog had died last month. He is still mourning. The dog was an Alsatian. He had had it for twelve years. He misses it every day. He has two other dogs but he does not love them the way he loved the Alsatian. The other two dogs are Rottweilers. He claims they are sweet and gentle. He saw that he was not going to convince me about the sweetness of any Rottweiler. He said he lives on a housing estate outside Dublin. He said every house in the neighbourhood has been robbed but his own house has never been robbed. He said his dogs terrify everyone. He said that just hearing them bark Would Put The Heart Across You.
2 August Wednesday
I never see slugs in the morning. I get used to not seeing them. I certainly do not look for them. The slugs are back. It is good weather for slugs. I should not say the slugs are back. The slugs are never really gone. They disappear in the day and they reappear in darkness. We just get accustomed to not seeing them. This kind of weather that is not too hot and not too cold is ideal for slugs. They enjoy damp evenings. I should remember to close the bathroom window. There are no screens on the windows. The few insects that come in neither bite nor sting. The slugs enter through the open window or maybe they ooze up through the drain hole in the tub or the sink. They might just spend the day sleeping somewhere in a dark place like under the sink waiting for dusk. This evening there was one lying across my little plastic containers of contact lenses. The slug was about two inches long and the usual drab brown colour. The lenses on the shelf are only for my left eye. The right eye has been done. It was done on Monday where I was the youngest person present and there was not a nun to be seen. I am now seeing the world with bright colours and a stunning clarity. Black things now appear to have a lot of blue in them. Some greys appear violet. I do not know if this is the actual colour of these things or if the colour will settle down and go back to what I believed it was before the surgery. Have I been seeing colour wrong all along or am I seeing it incorrectly now? The colour of the slug is the same as it has always been. I shall never need a contact lens for the right eye again. But as long as I need these lenses for the left eye I would prefer not to have a slug recline upon them. It is a worse thing to find a slug stretched out on my toothbrush bristles. Once I see one in the bathroom I know they could be anywhere at all so it does not matter where they are when I see them as I know that they have already been oozing over anywhere and everywhere as and when they like.
30 July Sunday
Aut Even means Beautiful Place in Irish. It is the name of a hospital in Kilkenny. I must go there for my cataract operation on Monday. One eye at a time. First the Right eye. Four weeks later they will do the Left eye. Breda assured me that I will be the youngest person in the waiting room. She said everyone else will be in their eighties. Yesterday at the Farmers Market, Jim, who is in his eighties, told me that when he had his own eyes done last year, the waiting room was full of nuns. There were nuns of all ages. Or all ages from about sixty upwards. He was the only man. He was the only person who was not a nun. Jim asked the doctor about the large number of nuns. He joked that perhaps they were getting a group rate. The doctor said they were all bussed in from a convent. He avoided the question of the group rate.
29 July Saturday
Tom told me that it is considered very unlucky to meet a woman with red hair on the road early in the morning. I asked if it was different to meet a woman with red hair on the road in the middle of the day. Was the luck different then? He did not answer me. He pretended not to hear my question.
28 July Friday
The figs are coming along. We need some long hot days. We need a week of hot days to bring the figs to ripeness. There are so many things not doing well this year. Tommie calls it Things Not Coming Good. I hope the figs are not another disappointment. Today I picked all the black currants. It is a job which was not difficult even with the splint on my arm. It is not difficult but it is slow. It is a slow job even without a splint. I thought it might take me an hour but I spent more than three hours clearing the bushes of every single berry. Then I spent another hour clearing the leaves and stems from my containers. The currants are now bagged up and in the freezer. I forgot to count how many bags I had. It seemed like a lot. Simon is making a black currant pandowdy.
27 July Thursday
Oscar is appearing irregularly these days. He is getting old and no doubt believing that he can keep track of the world as well from his hilltop yard as he can from his sleeping spot in the middle of the road in front of Sharon’s house. Perhaps his hearing is deteriorating. For years it has been impossible to walk the road without him racing out from wherever he was. If I whistled or if I did not whistle he always knew I was passing. He knew when anyone at all was passing. The sound of quiet walking conversation or even the sound of footsteps was enough to let him know.
13 July Thursday
From a distance there is a blue haze on the grass roof of the shed. The tall blue flowers growing there are not cornflowers. That was my first thought but this is not a flower I recognize. It is not easy to get close enough to see it and with my hand in this splint I cannot safely climb a ladder. Now Rachel tells me that she believes it to be Vipers Bugloss which usually grows at the edges of dry fields. It is not native to Ireland. A dry roof is probably quite similar to a dry field, only smaller.
12 July Wednesday
At 9 o’clock this morning the Fracture Clinic was teeming with people. Each person took a number and waited for the next step. In between things I sat beside an older lady who asked what had happened to me. She admired my flesh-coloured splint, and I admired her own navy blue splint. She said she had been wearing a blue blouse the first day she came in so she thought perhaps they had tried to match it for her. She asked where I lived. She was thrilled when I said Grange but disappointed to realize that we lived at opposite ends of Grange. She is nearly in Cahir and I am nearly Newcastle. She said we might as well be from different counties. She said Grange is nothing but one huge farmland full of fields. She said that we all get Lost in the Landscape. She was sad that there was nowhere in the village to meet anyone except the church or the school or the graveyard. I said “Well, there is Frank’s shop.” She agreed. And she was quiet. She said “ There is not much to buy in Frank’s shop. I can buy bread and a paper in Frank’s shop but it is scarcely worth driving in that direction as I can get those things anywhere, and other things besides.” I left the clinic with a spare flesh-coloured splint and an appointment to return after four more weeks of wearing it. The lady from Grange had left before me. She waved from the stonewall where she was sitting to wait for her lift home. She had been told that she need not wear her splint any longer.
11 July Tuesday
We walked over Joe’s fields this morning. We arrived up at the farm just as the cows were leaving the milking parlour to start their walk back down into the fields. They stopped dead and watched us until we were well out of the way and then they set off down the track. Our timing was perfect but it was perfect only by chance. More cows, another herd, are in the lower meadow. They have been moaning and bellowing for two days. These are Anthony’s cows. I think one cow makes a noise and then the others join in. I wish I knew if it were pleasure or annoyance or need which makes the moaning commence. It is the kind of question I always intend to ask a farmer but then I forget.
10 July Monday
Two women were discussing the son of a neighbour. They had nothing but admiration for the fellow. They spoke of his good manners and his hard work and his prospects. One woman said “Ah yes. He is A Fine Big Lump of a Lad.”
9 July Sunday
The shop installed an ice cream machine. It is popular. Whenever the temperature goes up no one enters the shop without buying a cone. It is that white kind of swirly ice cream that comes out of a nozzle in the machine. It is not scooped ice cream. There is no choice of flavours. There is just ice cream and it is white and in a cone. I understand there are milk shakes available too but I rarely see them. Today I saw two elderly men in their parked car outside the shop giving their cones full and careful attention. It was a muggy hot afternoon. There was not a breeze nor any movement in the air. The men might have been speaking to one another while they licked their ice cream but there was no way to know as they had their windows rolled up tight.
8 July Saturday
There is a muddy little nest just beside the door into my work room. I cannot enter without getting dive-bombed and I get dive-bombed as I exit. I am surprised every time. The swallow, or maybe a sparrow, is never in the nest but she appears the minute I go near. She moves fast. I duck to avoid getting hit. Maybe this is preparation for more babies.
7 July Friday
I never know if hanging up a dead crow is meant to be a warning to other crows or if it is just a proud show-off moment for the killer of the crow.
6 July Thursday
The small sign advertising HONEY FOR SALE is wrapped up with a black plastic bag and tape. A stone is in the middle to keep the plastic from blowing off. The sign has been there for years. It has two sides and is visible from both directions on the road at Kilnabutler near Cahir. If we forgot to buy honey on the way we were always reminded to get some on the return trip. We often read in the newspapers and hear on the radio about the destruction of the bee population by pesticides and big business. The covering up of this one sign brings the scary news a little closer. We note it as there is less and less honey to be found.
5 July Wednesday
I had never visited the barracks. Kickham Barracks are named after the poet Charles Kickham. Five years ago the Army people moved out and over to Limerick. The barracks have been mostly empty since. The area inside is visible through a fence on one side. A sign on the gate advertised a temporary café serving food for the duration of the festival. We went in and walked around. The buildings were low and white and small and cheaply built. Three of the shabby white buildings had large white letters painted in a window: HEALTH CARE. ANIMAL CARE. CANTEEN. The buildings were all locked up tight. There were no more signs for food, nor for the festival nor for anything else except a threat about parking within the grounds. There was no bunting, no colour, nothing to suggest a week long celebration. It was a bleak walkabout on a hot day. We left and went elsewhere to find something to eat.
4 July Tuesday
The days have been warm and sometimes hot. The days have been warm but the sky has sat heavily upon us. The sky has been oppressive and white or the sky has been gloomy and grey. The sun rarely breaks through until eight or nine at night. We waver between hoping for rain and hoping for blue sky. All conversations return to these two possibilities. I spoke to a man in a shop doorway. I did not know the man but as I was leaving I asked, “Is the sun going to break through today?” He took a big breath in and he said “I am going to tell you Yes.”
3 July Monday
For the first time in fifteen years I have not made elderflower cordial. I feel I have let myself down. It was a combination of not being in the right location when the flowers were in bloom and falling down and smashing my hand. After 3 weeks of what I thought was healing, today I spent 6 hours in the hospital getting x-rays. It turns out that my hand has healed but it has healed incorrectly and it might be that the fracture now needs to be broken so it can heal properly. I will not know anything for certain until next week when I attend a Fracture Clinic. I am not looking forward to a return to the hospital even as an Outpatient. The corridors are full of beds with people in them looking miserable and eating their dinner on trays while their families cluster around them with carrier bags full of useful thing which there is no place to put down and everyone is in the way because the corridors were never meant to have loads of beds in them much less guests so there is a constant clogging up of any and all movement. Everything is on wheels but that does not help as there is no room to maneuver. It has been a depressing day. And the birds have eaten every gooseberry off all four of my bushes.
2 July Sunday
I call it lunch but everyone else calls it dinner. She goes to the garden centre for her dinner most days. It is a popular destination as they do a big roast with two kinds of potatoes and loads of vegetables and gravy and thick slices of buttered bread. There is plenty of parking available. Everyone says that the garden centre dinner is Value For Money. She goes there because lots of other older people go there. She is looking for a man. Her husband died three or four or maybe five years ago and after all her training as a nurse she would rather have someone to live with and to take care of than to live alone and worry about things. When she goes to the garden centre for her dinner, she always dresses up tidy and she wears her wig. She looks perky as she sits and eats and she smiles as she looks around at everyone else eating their own roast dinner. Her theory is that if you have someone at home to cook a good dinner for you then you do not need to come out to the garden centre to eat. She assumes that most of the men eating are either single or widowed. She does not count the two priests who are there most days. She is convinced that at least one of the men who is eating his dinner would rather not be living alone. She just has to locate that one man.
1 July Saturday
Ferns are flapping all along the boreen. As the seasons go along sometimes it is the cow parsley that takes over and sometimes it is long grass and later it will be blackberries and honeysuckle. I have never seen so many ferns. The boreen is wildly overgrown and it looks like nothing but ferns are growing. I can walk down the grass in the middle without anything touching me but if I walk in either of the tyre tracks the ferns are flapping and slapping my face all the way. They are soft. It is not unpleasant to be flapped at by ferns. I think of ferns as something growing more in damp and shady places. It has been hot and rain-less for ages now. The heavy high arching of the ferns is making its own shade.
29 June Thursday
The Yield sign at the corner gets more and more battered but it never gets replaced. There should be a stop sign there not just a vague suggestion to look out three metres before the crossing road. I say the words Géill Slí out loud when I pass it but never when anyone else is with me. I do not know how to say the words correctly in Irish even though I have been told many times.
28 June Wednesday
The word EVENING can still mix me up. Breda texted today to ask if I wanted to go for a walk this evening. I said yes and I looked forward to an evening walk. I imagined a quiet walk in the hour or so before sunset. The sun does not begin to go down until ten o’clock so I did not expect the walk to be mid-afternoon. The word evening to me still means the time between afternoon and night. Around here the word evening is anytime after lunch. I should know this by now.
7 June Wednesday
The bees are walking. I am not certain what kind of bees these bees are. They are not bumblebees and they are not wasps. They are not yellow jackets. They are furry and more brown than yellow. They appear every day in the heat up in the corners in the ceiling of the high room. I do not know if they are coming in or if they have a nest somewhere up there in the roof and they just crawl out into the room because of the heat. Either way it is too high for me to try to find out. They buzz around and smash into the windows. Sometimes they go right out the windows but mostly they seem to be walking. They come down to the floor and they waddle around. I am nervous to walk without shoes. The bees make no buzzing noises when they are walking. They just scurry along like some kind of beetle. It is a quick walk for something that small. They could fly much faster.
2 June Friday
I saw Tommie twice this week. We had a chat in the hardware shop. He sat himself on a big bucket of paint while we talked. He told me he cannot be away from the house for long as Margaret cannot be left alone. He says the indoor life does not suit him. He said I am better in Open Spaces. Catherine joined us for a few minutes. She was pleased to see Tommie relaxing in conversation on the paint bucket. She reminded him of how he had once rescued her when she was a little girl. She had been trapped underneath a pony named Tom. They both laughed about Tommie rescuing her from Tom. He was happy to be the hero of her story. Yesterday I delivered some fresh scones for him and Margaret. Tommie answered the door looking fragile and old. His clothes are disheveled. He is thinner than I have ever known him to be. I think he is digging out old work clothes from years ago. His belt is pulled tight but the trousers are still too large at the waist. Everything hangs off him. I have been worrying about Margaret who cannot see and can barely stand. Now it seems that Tommie himself is suffering. Both physically and mentally there is a kind of visible defeat. It is hard to be the one looking after someone else. It is hard being the one who has to keep going no matter what.
1 June Thursday
When you are required to speak with someone with whom you would prefer not to be speaking but you are making an effort, that is the time when you are in the mode of Schooling Your Features. Schooling Your Features is something that everyone does sometimes. This just a new way to say it.
29 May Monday
Sign on tree:
BIRDS OF PREY
5 EUROS EACH
27 May Saturday
The rain was torrential and wild. All night it lashed down. It rained from all directions. We were reminded yet again about the leak in the bathroom. Roads were flooded as we drove to Cahir. The farmers market looked bedraggled. There were hardly any customers and only six stalls. The few sellers were all squeezed up against the wall trying to be out of the wind and trying to keep their wares dry or at least to keep things from blowing away. They were brave to be there at all. By afternoon the sun came out. Everywhere the fields turned a garish unreal kind of bright green. This was the rain we had waited for. Everything was soggy and squishy underfoot but everything was glowing.
26 May Friday
First thing this morning the nurse took my bloods and then she printed out some labels from her computer. When the printing was finished the machine made a little pinging noise. She said “Ah, how perfect to hear that! It is exactly the note that has been giving me trouble in choir practice. With it repeating on my printer, I’ll be after singing all day.”
25 May Thursday
I was admiring the copious number of enormous three-leaf clovers growing in the middle of the track as I walked the Long Field. I had to remind myself that the hugeness of the clover leaves and of the purple and white flowers is not natural. The large size is a result of nitrogen sprayed on the fields. There are so many bad things that are easy to forget. It is never possible to forget the terrible weed killer that the farmers spray along verges and the edges of fields and in front of gates. The weed killer turns things a horrible brown. It then goes to gold and then to gold red and then to dead brown. We have to look at the aftereffects of this poison for a long time, so we never forget it and we never like it.
24 May Wednesday
Dellie told me her method for rescuing the birds that careen into windows at speed and knock themselves out. She keeps a large pot of mint growing near to the house. She does not keep the mint in a pot to stop the mint from growing rampantly all over her garden. She thinks of her pot of mint as a small hospital. If a bird is found unconscious, it gets rested right in the middle of the pot so that it is surrounded by mint. She is certain that the smell works to revive and give strength to the stunned bird. She says it is a rare day when the bird is still laid out among the mint when she returns for a look. If a bird has not moved the bird is dead. She says the mint always revives those who can be revived.
Dellie is short for Adele. The sounds are in there. It is a nickname which is understandable. Dellie has a friend named Betty. Betty is short for Gwendolyn. That makes less sense .
23 May Tuesday
The young man was shouting over the road at someone who was walking away from him. He cursed and swore. His language got more and more obscene the further the first man went from him. A woman who came out of the shop in the middle of his rant announced. “Now there’s a lad who wants manners put on him.”
22 May Monday
There is a fine straight line marked into a field where cows have been grazing. They stick their heads under the fence and reach out as far as they can to get at every single bit of fresh long grass that they can. The resulting line is always a surprise. It is as straight and even as if it has been drawn. From afar it looks like there might be a different crop being grown in one field exactly beside another. It is all grass and it is all the same grass but one batch has been eaten as low as the cows can get it before the herd are moved to another field.
21 May Sunday
Do not sweep around a chair with an unmarried woman sitting in it. If you do, she will never marry. She should move before you start sweeping.
20 May Saturday
The Coptic Pope was to arrive in Cahir today at 1.15. It was planned that he was to perform a Mass and do other pope-like things for the order of Egyptian Coptics who now reside in the former Catholic school and convent. As early as 10 am, there were Garda and men in reflective vests directing any cars away from the convent which I am not certain the Egyptian Coptics still call the convent but everyone else calls the convent because that is what the building has always been and that is what the building has always been called. Apparently there had been a threat on the life of the Coptic Pope recently which explained the police presence. We left town before he arrived and I have not heard of any trouble so I guess it all went well. I sort of wish I had stayed to see what he looked like and what the congregation who greeted him was like. It is difficult to imagine how and why this Egyptian order ended up in County Tipperary. John Joe said they first came here because they got jobs in the slaughterhouse.
19 May Friday
Every car is covered with bird droppings. Every house is covered with bird droppings. Windows are covered. Outside tables and outside chairs are covered with bird droppings. There are long huge white splashes. There are lashings of excrement. The excrement is thick as well as white. Where it is on the windows it is not possible to see through it, which can make driving difficult. It is a seasonal problem but every year it is a surprise. We had hoped the rain would clean it off or at least in a few places but I fear it is hardened on and really will need scrubbing.
18 May Thursday
A sanctuary up in Kildare rescued the chickens. They had been resident in a battery farm. After 18 months the chickens are no longer considered reliable as good egg layers. The next step for them is death and a future in a goujon or curry or some other fast food. There was an announcement on Facebook saying that a truckload of the rescued chickens were being driven down to Clonmel. People were waiting in a car park for the truck. Some people took a lot of the chickens. Some took a few. I met four of the confused birds this morning. They were walking about tentatively. They kept returning to the darkness of their new house which is made of stone. I think so much space both indoors and out and all of the new and never before tasted greenery to eat makes them nervous. They looked terrible. The bone structure of their wings was completely exposed. The bones should have been covered with feathers. There is no chance that these chickens can fly as they are now. I wonder if the feathers will grow back after exposure to sunlight and space and fresh green things to eat. Even the red of their wattles was a pale unhealthy looking pink.
16 May Tuesday
The swan made from an automobile tyre is one of a pair. The head is cut out in such a way that it droops convincingly. A reddish beak is painted onto the now all white tyre. In the body of the swan is planted a brown spiky plant. The two swans have been in front of Mr.Bumbles restaurant for a few years now. They are safely behind a little fence so that no one can steal them. This year a box of pansies has been placed between the two swans.
15 May Monday
The path is completely closed in with cow parsley. It is impossible to see the path. There is just the sense of knowing where it goes and where it usually goes so I walk and assume I am in the right places but sometimes I am not and I stagger and stumble into the tangle. This morning I fell down and startled a pheasant who was running from me in the undergrowth and I think he thought I could not see him and indeed I would not have seen him except that I dropped down to his level. Not only is the undergrowth thick but it is wet. Today I got soaked and slapped with all of the blossoms and branches. I wore full waterproofs for the rainy drizzle which was falling and against the rainy drizzle which had already fallen. I ended up soaked anyway because my rain jacket is old and now un-waterproof and because the water off the plants went down my neck and the water went through the hole in my boots. I could have been wetter when I reached home but not much wetter.
14 May Sunday
I was surprised to realize that my cow book (I Always Have An Audience For My Work) is now out of print. The Butter Museum had had ten copies of it. I wrote to ask Peter if he had any copies left. He said “I think I still have some copies of the cow book. I was reluctant to sell them as they are so wonderful.” Since the purpose of him having the books was to sell the books, I am not sure what was accomplished by them being too wonderful to sell.
12 May Friday
Two women were discussing a man. I did not know the women and I did not know the man they were speaking about. One of the women said, “He’s been single for a while now so he has. There is no reason for it, as he’s good enough to look at.”
11 May Thursday
I am fond of the place names made of three complete words squished together with no spaces in between the words. No doubt they are a form of translation from the Irish, but when I look them up I can never tell if the translation is literal or if it is something else altogether. There is one place with the name Twomilebridge and another called Two Mile Bridge. I do not know why one is crammed together into one word while the other is three separate words. Twopothouse. Fourmilewater. Fivemiletown. Sixmilebridge. Ninemilehouse.
We used to drive through Watergrasshill as we traveled home from Cork. After the motorway was built, we no longer drove through it. Watergrasshill is now just an exit. Watergrasshill is a village I have no reason to visit. It is not a special place. It is just a place. I love the name Watergrasshill. It feels more and more utopian with each visit I do not make. It has become a place to hope for, never a place to visit.
10 May Wednesday
The cows were in Joe’s field all night. I could hear them tearing grass and moaning softly from my bed. I did not hear the tractor coming this morning to lead them away. They were just gone when I woke up. I thought they might return after milking but they must have gone to graze another field. All day dozens of crows have been swarming over the ground. The very dry earth is completely churned up from where the cows moved about all day yesterday. The crows are taking advantage of the disturbed soil to feast on worms.
9 May Tuesday
The man in the waiting room pulled his chair out from the row of seats which were lined up against the wall. He sat himself right in the middle of the waiting room beside the elderly woman he had rolled into the room in a wheelchair. There was no room for her chair to go against a wall so he moved himself out to be next to her. He spoke in a loud and clear voice so that she could hear him. He spoke almost without taking a breath. She nodded sometimes but mostly she just listened or perhaps she did not listen. Her head was bent down well into her chest. It was impossible to know if she was paying attention. He never stopped talking. None of us could read whatever we had been reading because his central spot and his loud delivery took over the room. He told her about a group coupon project on the internet and about a three bedroom holiday house she could rent in Sligo for two nights for a song. He asked her about some family photographs and he told her she could get them framed. He said he had seen some nice wooden frames in Aldi’s. They were real wood not just some plastic that looked like wood and he said there was a good dark wood available or some nice light wood too and if she were to decide to frame the photographs he would go and get the frames she needed. He said he had gone there to buy a picnic basket but once in the store he decided that he did not need a picnic basket. He decided that all he really needed was two lunch boxes. He said A picnic is a different thing today. He said You no longer need to replicate the dinner table at home. He said, Indeed you can just buy a box of salad and call it a picnic.
8 May Monday
John the Post has been in hospital. We have been worried about him. We are glad to hear that he is back at home now but he is not yet ready to return to work. A new substitute postman came this morning. We know the three other postmen who have been substitutes but this was a new man. He brought a package to the door and he said that it was registered and that it must be signed for. He asked Simon if he was Simon. Simon said yes, so the postman said Okay. Good. I will sign your name for you. He signed Simon’s name for him with a signature that looked nothing like Simon’s signature while Simon stood there and watched him do it.
2 May Tuesday
The sun has arrived after the big rain and after so many days or weeks of grey heavy skies. Already I cannot remember anything but this brightness. It is clear. Everything looks cheerful. The sun did not set until nine last night. When the days are grey it is hard to know when it is going down. Now the days just get longer and longer and longer. Plants are growing by the minute. The path is more and more overgrown. Some of the cow parsley is already up and over my head. The stickyback climbing stuff is on everything and acts like a trap I must struggle though in the overgrown places. I just learned that it is called Robin-Run-The-Hedge. A much nicer name than Sticky Back. The nettles are all tangled up with the stickiness. A sting from the youngest of the nettles is the worst. This morning I got stung in the face while swatting a bunch of cow parsley. This sting will be with me all day.
1 May Bank Holiday
The month of May arrives with a lot of superstitions. I think there might be more for May than for any other month but maybe I only hear more. The weather is better and people are more willing to slow down for a chat. I am not sure if the superstitions are all pisogues. I know that a pisogue is a local superstition, but I am not certain that all superstitions are pisogues. One thing I have learned is that it is imperative to walk out in the dew on a morning in May. It does not matter which morning. Any morning is fine as long as it falls within the month. If you do not do this you will have bad luck and if you do do it you will have good luck. Another superstition is that you must hear the Cuckoo during the month of May. If you do not hear the Cuckoo, you will die. The minute the person saying this is finished saying it, he or she quickly reassures the listener by saying that of course you will die at some point anyway so maybe not necessarily in May, and maybe not this May, but still it is best if you do hear the Cuckoo during the month. Kathleen told me that you should not dust the house in May.
30 April Sunday
Last night there was wild gusting wind and lashing rain all night long. The blustery noise was so erratic and demanding that I had to close the window which is something I rarely do. Each time I relaxed into sleep another huge crashing gust would sort of whack into the house. This morning things were blown all around the place. Nothing was where it had been left and the few garments which had been hanging on the washing line were either wrapped tightly around the line or lying wet and bedraggled on the grass. A few things had flown out into Joe’s field. The rain was welcome and this morning the land is saturated. Everything glows green and bright with the big amount of water.
29 April Saturday
Already it is sad not to see young Oscar at his house. He has moved to Goatenbridge with his people. They had only been renting the house up the track for a year and have now decided to buy a house and to settle in the area. After years of working on water projects in Tanzania and other parts of Africa, they now feel the need to stay in one place for the children and their schooling. The toys and the trampoline are gone. I shall miss Oscar and his rolling over for tummy rubs. I miss him already.
28 April Friday
I have a fair number of photographs of things made with tyres. Mostly the uses are utilitarian like holding down a huge sheet of black plastic on a slurry heap, or stopping vehicles bumping into a cement wall but there are a lot of floral and planting arrangements in tyres. Usually the tyres are painted. Each spring they get a fresh coat of paint before being replanted. Two swans made out of tyres have been in place in front of Mr. Bumbles in town for several years. They never seem to get repainted and the painted surface looks no worse for it. This year a box of pansies has appeared between the two swans.
27 April Thursday
Michael corrected me. He said that we live BEHIND the O’Byrnes not BELOW the O’Byrnes. We have always said BELOW because we are down the hill from the O’Byrnes. We speak of them as being ABOVE at the farm, so if they are Above we are Below. He said that they are closer to the road so they are in Front and therefore we are Behind.
26 April Wednesday
There was the shape of a car in the field near Moloughstown. Was it a ghost limestone dust car or maybe a tarpaulin-covered car in the field? Was the shape formed in the back of a tipper truck and dumped? Was it strange nitrogen granules for the next crop of oil-seed rape to be grown later in that place? A few days later, I walked past that field and the ghostly car shape was gone. No trace of the grey dust remained. I have no idea what it was.
25 April Tuesday
I stopped in the middle of the shop as I tried to remember what I had had on my list because I had left my list at home. A woman came near to me and then she stopped. I guess she was waiting for me to move but I just stood still. After a few seconds she asked “Can I cross you?” I was confused so I said yes. She passed in front of me and around the corner to continue with her shopping.
24 April Monday
It rained for six minutes today. A tentative little drizzle that barely started before it stopped again. Everyone speaks of the lack of rain. It is an endless topic of discussion. The fields seem to be growing with barley and corn and various crops but nothing is growing as quickly as it should be growing. The cows are eating grass faster than it is coming up. Most days are cool, overcast and grey. It looks like it should rain. It feels like it should rain. We wish it would rain or we wish the sun would come out.
23 April Sunday
The field across the meadow is very steep. It is so steep and so straight up and down that when Paul’s cows are walking along the top edge of the field in a long drawn out single line, they look like they could tumble off the field. The field looks like it is vertical and flat.
22 April Saturday
There is a squished thing in the road. It has been there for months now. Maybe it has been there for a year. It was the kind of long narrow tube that is used for squeezing silicon or adhesive or bitumin or some other building stuff. The tube gets fitted into a sort of gun and then whatever is inside gets squeezed out through the nozzle. From the first time I noticed it flattened on the tarmacadam it was already too late to know what it had held. It had been run over several times and the printed information which described its contents was already faded to an all over grey. There was nothing to identify what had been inside. The nozzle is unbroken. Whatever it was that was inside was tough stuff. It has survived in its flattened condition for a long time with tractors and lorries and cars rolling over it. It has not broken down at all. It is well stuck to the road. In the midst of my spring time walking and my noting of each new kind of flower as it arrives, I check to see that the squished tube is still in place. Speedwell. Vetch. Apple Blossom. Bluebells. Garlic flowers. Primroses. Stitchwort. Cow Parsley. Flattened tube.
21 April Friday
The man on the radio was giving advice about calling in to visit elderly people just as a way to make certain that they are all right and that they know someone is keeping track of them. He said that this is important in the country where houses are far apart but it is important in the city too where the neighbours are not who they used to be and the person still living there might not know anyone around any more even if once they knew everyone on the street. He said that calling in did not have to mean going in. He kept repeating that there is no need to go into the house. Just a brief hello and A Standing Up Tall on the step was enough. He said, “You don’t have to go and live in the house.”
20 April Thursday
As always, it is slippery and wet going up the Mass Path. It is the only place that is wet. I was walking carefully through the mud when I was pushed hard from behind. I knew I was alone so the hefty nudge startled me. It was the big yellow labrador who appears every few weeks. He wanted to walk in front of me not behind me. I have no idea who he is nor where he lives. We walked together as far as the tar road and then he turned and went off into a field. I have not seen him since.
19 April Wednesday
I took a short cut down a street in Clonmel. At the corner a plastic sleeve folder was wired to the hedge. Inside the sleeve was a sign which read WALL GREASED DO NOT SIT. The wall beneath the hedge was about as high as my thigh. It had been daubed with globs of some kind of grease. Maybe it was axle grease. It was not dry. It would probably never be dry. It will make a terrible mess of a person’s clothes if someone sits down on it. There is a school across the street. Perhaps the resident of that house is weary of school children sitting on the wall. But what about an elderly person who might need a rest on the way home from the shops? Both the wall and the hedge and the grease continued right around the corner where there was a second sign, exactly the same as the first one.