27 May Wednesday
I went to the doctor’s surgery. There were many notes taped onto the door and the windows. All of the notes instructed me not to enter the building, but to telephone the front desk to announce my presence. I rang the desk and was told to wait outside the door but not to stand too near the door. I was to wait for the nurse to come and collect me. The nurse’s name is Alice. Every person is always on a first name basis. I stood and waited for Alice at a good distance from the door. I was glad that it was not raining.
28 May Thursday
It has become a thing with us women. When we meet, we look at one another’s hair. When someone looks freshly shorn there is a little bit of envy and an immediate need on behalf of the viewer to comment. One woman who was looking particularly well-coiffed told me that her 15 year old son had cut her hair. He did a good job. Some people trim their own hair and some wear it pulled up in a pony tail or a top knot. There are a lot of hair clips and head bands. Some women are doing home dye jobs just to keep their roots from showing. There is a lot of panic about roots. There are many blondes who are determined to make us believe that they really are blondes. And a lot of women who should be grey but who refuse to be seen with grey hair. It is a very telling time. On the 8th of June, we will enter the second phase of the 5 Phases that the government has decreed for us to come out of lockdown slowly and carefully. There are three weeks between each phase. On the 8th, among other things, our freedom to travel will be extended from 5 kilometres to 20 kilometres. Hairdressers and barbers are not allowed to open until Phase 4. Phase 4 is not until the 20th of July. The issue of hair will be even more desperate by then.
29 May Friday
We can look out the kitchen door and see anyone arriving down the boreen. We can see whoever appears from behind the grass roofed book barn. Usually it is one of the three cats from the farm, a grey squirrel, a rabbit or a high stepping pheasant, a magpie or a pigeon on foot, or the fox. In the last weeks there have been more people walking this route than we have ever seen in all of our years here. Because of the small distance still allowed for us to be away from our homes, people have been discovering walks closer to home. They have been discovering this boreen and the mass path. It is still a wild and unkempt route, and for those who wear white sneakers and do not like mud it is not an advisable walk. We have met people who live nearby but who we had never spoken to. We have seen other people we have not seen for ages. On a fine day it is good to stand outside and talk. It has made the Lockdown into a strangely social time. There are two small girls, now walking this route regularly with their parents, who equip themselves with little backpacks and rough walking sticks as though they are on a real trek into an overgrown unknown.
30 May Saturday
Today was the second Saturday back at the Farmer’s Market. Last week was too windy and cold to linger, so today was like the first day back after two months. The sun was out. Not all of the vendors have returned. There were only 7 stalls and elaborate marks sprayed onto the tar to tell us in which direction to move and where to queue. We all kept crossing each other in the wrong ways but it is a big space and there are never more than a small number of people so social distancing was maintained and a good time was had by all.
31 May Sunday
Ardfinnan is a village full of home-made seating in public places.
1 June Monday
Small rectangular bales of hay leaning up against one another are called a Stook. It sounds like Stewk. The word Stook is both a noun and verb. The bales get Stooked by hand, and they are arranged in Stooks. Leaned together, the air moves around them and allows the smallest area of each bale to be touching the ground while they dry out a bit, waiting to be collected and taken into a shed and under cover. When the bales are leaned up together it is important that the knot of the twine which holds each bale together is facing outwards. That way the rain, if it comes before the bales are collected, will drain off the bale with the least amount of water going in and soaking the hay. These bales are only made in small fields of hay. Big fields need huge machines and produce round bales. Richie and Greg explained all of this to me while they were collecting bales one Stook at a time. They only had a tiny trailer and four bales were all they could transport at a go. Richie explained that a Stook is also a term for someone being in a bad humour. Now that I know the word Stook I am looking forward to listening out to hear someone described with it: “That man is in a Stook” or “She has got herself into a Stook.”
2 June Tuesday
Every day from 12-1, RTE1 plays musical requests for people who want to send birthday or anniversary greetings to a person somewhere in the country. Since the Lockdown this shouting out has been more popular than ever. Everyone is at home and they cannot go to visit the person who is celebrating so they send elaborate messages by radio and whoever is being sent the message will receive it because it is almost lunchtime so they will be in the kitchen with the radio on in anticipation of the one o’clock news. If a person is quite elderly it can take a long time for the announcer to list the children and grandchildren and the great-grandchildren. If there are family members living in Germany and New Zealand and Boston as well as Limerick and Inchicore and Ballycotton, the locations have to be mentioned too. The announcer has taken to bunching up a few greetings for several people who have a birthday on the same day and one song will be played rather than a separate request for each person. As always, Roundy Birthdays get special attention. I never tire of this expression for a birthday that ends in a zero. Today a man was mentioned who was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his 21st birthday.
3 June Wednesday
I am still wearing my oldest clothes. I am still trying to wear things right out and into the rag bag or the bin in the course of this quarantine. Sibby announced that she has taken to wearing her best clothes even if there is no one at all to see what she is wearing. She announced that if she does not wear them now then when will she wear them. She said she is too old to be saving things for later. She said, “I am happy to be wearing my Sunday clothes on a Tuesday.”
4 June Thursday
Haying and the bringing in of silage have made the roads deadly. Agricultural contractors are racing around at speed rushing from one job on one farm to the next job on the next farm. Their machines are enormous. They take up the entire road. The tractor drivers start at 7 in the morning and work till 10 at night. There is a roar of machinery in the distance all day long. There is the tradition at dinner time that the drivers are fed by whichever farm they are on at the time. The hearty meals around the kitchen table are now taking place on patios or under trees or even at big table set up in the cow sheds. Everyone is social distancing at the lunch table. The wives of the drivers are always known as Silage Widows. They do not see their husbands or partners for days on end. This haying season seems to be coming to an end but in 6 weeks it will start up again for the second cuts. Weather permitting.
5 June Friday
After four or five days of hot dry weather, the temperatures have dropped, and each day is cool and brisk. Today the wind is sharp and every few hours there is a burst of heavy rain. The rain lasts for fifteen minutes and then in an hour there is another burst. The cow parsley has gone all skeletal and vetch has become the predominant flower in the ditches. Its purple flowers and tangly leaves are rampant. Honeysuckle, buttercups, clover, the dreadful hog weed, speedwell, foxglove, red campion, silverweed, dog roses and loads of ferns. Everything is in bloom and maybe it had been blooming earlier but we could not see it because up until now the cow parsley hid everything from sight.There is so much to look at.