A Real Dote.

27 October Thursday

There is a new book.  The cover of the book is taped up in the window of the shop along with a telephone number to ring if we want to buy a copy. The title of the book is The Rabbit Industry in Ireland.  I did not have my glasses with me so I could not read the short descriptive text about it but I shall be sure to take my glasses with me the next time I go to the shop. There are plenty of rabbits here but I never knew they were abundant enough to constitute an industry.

26 October Wednesday

Last October we were presented with The Rounding Off.  The government decided that the costs involved in producing 1 and 2 cent coins exceeded their value. It was decided that prices and change would henceforth be rounded to the nearest 5 cent. There would still be some 1 and 2 cent coins floating around and people could still use them.  They could still request their proper change not rounded off to the nearest 5 cent.  Most people were happy to see the end of the small coins. This summer the cost of a postage stamp for an inland letter went up to 72 cent.  This price presents an ongoing dilemma at the post office counter.  The post mistress cannot charge 75 cent for a 72 cent stamp.  Giving change which no one wants or simply giving away the 72 cent stamp for 70 cent makes the raising of the price completely redundant.  I am most bothered by the use of the word cent in the singular. I would be happier for it to be plural, when it is anything other than 1 cent.

25 October Tuesday

It is now common knowledge. Everyone repeats it. Everyone repeats it as if it has always been a fact but I do not know if it was always such an irrefutable fact.  Everyone says that it is imperative to eat honey which has been produced as near to your own home as is possible. It is important if one is ill with cancer or with a cold, or recovering from surgery.  It is important to eat local honey as one is aging.  It might have indeed always been true but I do not think every single person knew it and repeated it and believed it. Mrs. Hally is one person who does not subscribe to this theory. For as many years as anyone can remember she has been eating Manuka Honey from New Zealand at 40 euro for a small jar.  She eats it daily.  I do not know how much Maunuka Honey she eats.  It might be a tablespoon full or it might be more than that. Mrs. Hally is 98 years old.  She is known to be A Fresh Woman. Especially for her age.  She looks well.  Each week, the pharmacist asks her for the secret of her glowing skin. The pharmacist wants to know whether it is the Manuka Honey or the Lancôme Face Cream which keeps Mrs. Hally looking so fresh.

24 October Monday

It is one of those mornings where it might remain grey and white and shadowless all day but it might burst out and become a bright sunny afternoon which means it will be nearly impossible to stay indoors even while almost of the things to be done are all needing doing indoors. How the days weather evolves affects everything.  It is an issue for today and for every recent day. With the shorter hours of light and the colder mornings, it is difficult not to be seduced by these unseasonably mild afternoons. Suddenly emptying the compost or picking apples or even loading up for a trip to the dump are all pleasant chores.  Moving old branches or cutting back the willow herb, whatever the job, everything is pleasant.  Chores are still chores but it is 24 October and if the morning clears it may again be good to be outside doing one thing while looking around at everything and anything else that might need doing.  Tommie told me that people in the town go out for drives on a good day as they do not want to be inside and they have no outside to be out in unless they are out for a drive, but then they are not really outside because they are inside a motorcar.  He said they are not outside anyway. They are only out of the house.

21 October Friday

In my vocabulary, dote has always been a verb. Someone who is doting upon another person lavishes them with love and uncritical attention.  The person doing the doting usually choses not to see any fault whatsoever in the object of their affection. The one doting can dote with infinite adoration upon their treasured person.  Around here, the word Dote is more commonly used as a noun.  A cute person is A Dote.  Someone sweet and adorable is called A Dote.  Or they might be called A Real Dote.  A Dote can be a grown person or a child, or it can just as easily be a dog.


All Milk to Cheese

20 October Thursday

Pat was delighted to eat the marrow out of the bone and to eat the beef around the bone and when she was finished, she asked if she could take her bone home.  She said she had made a similar bone into a necklace when she was at school. The other girls made fun of her. They said her necklace looked like a soggy cardboard loo roll on a string. Now she is not bothered what people think. In all she took six bones away in a plastic bag.  They were each one and a half or two inches long. Fitted together they had been the entire shin bone of a small cow. Pat took them home and put them in a basin of water.  After a few days she will put them into salty water. I do not know how long it will take for her bones to be ready to be made into a necklace.  She loves the sound the bones make when they collide.  She calls it a kind of klick-klack. When the necklace is finished, we will hear her coming.

18 October Tuesday

Fruit continues to grow.  The raspberries look good but most of them are soggy from the wetness of the night and the morning.  To gather a few freshly ripened ones at the end of a warm afternoon is okay.  The blackberries are the same. The bushes along every field and every bit of road are heavy with berries but the berries are wet and many are inedible. They squish between my fingers when I try to pick them. It is a deceptive time.  Some apples are still on the trees.  It is time to drag a ladder down into the meadow to collect the last of them.  There are figs too, which keep growing but they will never be ready to eat or to bake. The rose hips were unused this year. They just sit on the bushes looking lovely and bright. They too are soggy. The birds are happy to have them. Roses and sedums and daisies and poppies keep flowering.  Everything looks good and in today’s bright sunlight, it looks like full summer plenty.

17 October Monday

The woman was from Dingle and she was just visiting the area. She stopped at the craft shop and bought a walking stick made of ash.  The word ASH was carved in capital letters into the wood up near the top. The woman walked down the street with her new stick and turned to enter the Lazy Bean for a cup of coffee. A man sitting outside yelled across to her.  He shouted: “Where did you get that stick?”  She said she bought it.  He said, “Well I made it!  I am the man who makes those sticks.”  She was pleased to meet him and he was pleased that she had bought one of his sticks. She was so pleased with the whole thing that after she drank her coffee she went back to the craft shop to tell the lady there that she had met the very man who made her stick.

 
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16 October Sunday

Maud sent me the photo of a sign from the Dairygold Plant in Mitchelstown.  Big shiny stainless steel Dairygold tanker trucks drive around the countryside filling up with milk.  The trucks are big.  They are too big and they go too fast on these narrow roads. They terrorize everyone.  If you are walking or if you are driving, you know that the Dairygold trucks will not make space for anyone.  The Glanbia trucks are just as big and just as scary. Lucky for us they only come around a few times a week.  At least they do not come every day. The milk at each farm gets stored in coolers awaiting pick up.  When a tank is full, the truck heads to the Mitchelstown co-operative plant.  The ALL MILK TO CHEESE sign must be directing drivers to deliver milk to that part of the plant which turns it into processed cheese.

15 October Saturday

I recognized the man.  He was discussing lead flashing with someone who worked in the store. He wanted to fold the flashing into a join between two roof sections to ensure that there was no way for rain water to leak in. The man who worked in the store was telling him again and again that this was not the best solution.  I recognized the man but I could not place why I recognized him.  I could not locate him.  I thought if I listened to his voice I might remember.  That is why I learned so much about the roofing job he needed to do. I walked up and down the aisle where he was talking.  I thought if I could get a good look at his face I might be reminded of who he was or why he seemed so familiar.  At a certain moment something clicked.  I remembered Toss and Walt.  I did not know if this man was Toss or if this man was Walt. Whoever he was, he was an older version of himself.

It was 1997 when I last saw him.  We had a desperate need for windows to be installed in the house.  The old wooden frames were rotten.  Sometimes a pane of glass just fell into the house.  Sometimes a pane of glass fell out and onto the ground outside.  The frames were rotten and rotting and the soft old wood was just giving up.  We spoke with several people about installing new windows.  When we finally decided on a solution, the man who did the measuring and the estimating told us that the windows would be made rapidly.  He said that Toss and Walt would arrive in two weeks to do the installation. We were pleased with the speed.  Living without glass was draughty and living with pieces of wood in place of missing glass was gloomy.  Anyway, winter was coming. The house needed to be secured from the weather.

Toss is one of those names that evolved out of Thomas. There are a lot of men named Thomas.  Some become Tom or Tommy or Tommie. Some remain Thomas. Some use the Irish Tomás. I think Toss as a short version comes from Thos. as written on gravestones, in bibles and in the phone directory. It is just another shortening.  And Toss said is more literal than Thos. I had never met a man called Toss.

Toss and Walt arrived with half of the windows and began installing.  They worked over a few days. They returned with the rest of the windows and finished the job.  They were quiet and efficient and they were funny when I made them cups of tea.  Everything in the house was in chaos with all of the building work.  I kept moving piles of stuff and pieces of furniture out of the way of the windows when Toss and Walt were heading for those windows.  They needed space to work from both inside and outside. As workmen go they were easy to have around.

A few months later I developed several rolls of film. I had an old Minolta camera.  I used it to try to keep a rough record of how some parts of the house looked before we did work. Eventually I wanted to be able to compare how it all ended up. I kept the camera around all the time to remind myself to keep documenting our progress. Instead I got so used to seeing the camera lying around that I rarely picked it up.

When I brought the batch of photographs home, I found a picture of Toss or Walt.  One day while doing the window installation, Toss had picked up the camera and taken a photograph of Walt or Walt had taken a photograph of Toss.  I was more than a little surprised to find a photograph of one of these two men in among my snapshots. The man in the photograph was not smiling but he was looking straight into the camera.

The man I recognized in the store was Toss or maybe he was Walt.  I did not need to stick around any longer because now I knew who he was. I did not need to wait to find out how he resolved his roof problem. I did not need to say hello.  I very much doubted that he would remember me and anyway it did not matter one bit if he did.  I remember him whether I want to or not because I have a photograph of him.

14 October Friday

Mick often prefaces what he says by saying “Now, I am not going to lie to you.” I can never decide if this is a way to ensure the veracity of what he is saying or if maybe when he does not say this he might actually be lying.  I think I have come to believe that it means he is very serious about the thing he is telling and therefore it is important that one believes him.

13 October Thursday

More and more women are using the large clicking stove lighters for lighting a cigarette.  It is startling to see a woman whip this long thing out of her purse and light her cigarette with a flourish of huge flame before shoving it back in the bag.  These lighters are at least ten times bigger than a normal lighter.  I have not seen any men using these things to light their cigarettes but that may just be because they are too big to carry easily in a pocket.  And no one anywhere seems to use matches anymore.


Not a Bother.

12 October Wednesday

Mornings are wet with dew and heavy mist.  Leaving the washing out on the line over night guarantees that it will be wetter in the morning than it was at the end of the previous afternoon.  I am not averse to leaving the washing hanging for a few days.  Margaret says that if it gets wet again it is just a second rinse. Or a third rinse.  The problem arises when one Joe or the other Joe is spreading slurry.  Then the washing takes on the smell of the decomposing excrement sprayed over the fields.  The slurry does not have to touch the clothes or even come anywhere close to them. The strong smell permeates everything.  If I bring wet clothes into the house they carry the stench with them.  Once a nearby field has been sprayed with slurry it is best to leave everything out on the washing line for a few more days.

11 October Tuesday

I heard voices.  I went outside and saw three men and a long narrow truck.  It was an odd looking vehicle. They were from the council and repairing holes in the road.  I was pleased to see them. They commented on how narrow the boreen was and how their truck had been scraped on both sides by brambles and branches.  They had been nervous as they drove down that they might be unable to find a place to turn around. They were worried about having to back the truck all the way up to the farm. I was happy to see them and happy to know the new holes were getting filled. They were happy to see space to turn the truck.  I said I was surprised that they were here at all as I had been told again and again by the council that the trucks that did the sort of repairs we needed doing were all too big to drive down the boreen.  This excuse has been given to me for several years now.  The men said that this truck is a new truck. It is only a few weeks old.  They said their job now is to go around to all of the impossible small roads with this new long narrow vehicle to repair places which have not been repaired for years and years. They are proud of the new truck and they were pleased to have me appreciating it.  They kept pointing out features so that I could continue admiring the truck for longer.

10 October Monday

Dilly has taken to announcing each job that comes along as one that she can do or one that she cannot do.  She prefaces each observation with either the sentence:  This is something I Can do. or This is something I Cannot do.  She is not complaining.  She is simply maintaining a running commentary on herself as she gets older. If she is asked how she is getting on, she always answers: Not a Bother. Not a Bother.

9 October Sunday

The walk up the path is clearing.  Much of the vegetation is dying back so there is less of a thorny grab on clothes and skin as I walk.  One tree which fell across the path has dropped lower.  Now I need to bend from the waist to get under it where as a month ago I could just duck my head a bit.  Crab apples are falling off the trees and that part of the track is deadly.  The small hard apples fall on this same length of path every year but I never get any better at walking over them. It is like walking uphill on ball bearings.

8 October Saturday

The morning fog is white and thick.  I could not see beyond the fence when I woke up.  I could not see the fence.  As the morning went on and the sun slowly burned off the fog, things appeared. Fence. Field. Cows.  I was surprised to see Joe’s cows in the near field.  They had been so quiet and invisible that I had no idea they were out there. I still cannot see the hills yet but I suppose they will appear in the next hour or so.

7 October Friday

The girl in the supermarket had no place on the till to ring up the onions from France.  She suggested that perhaps I would prefer local onions?  I told her that I always have the local onions and that these French onions would be nice for a change.  I said that if I waited until the next time I was in the shop the French onions might be gone so today I wanted to buy French onions because they were there and available for the buying. The girl was flustered.  Then she asked if it was okay if she charged them as bread.  She said that it would appear on my receipt as if I had bought bread when really I would have bought onions. She worried that I might mind. She worried that I might be confused when I got home. We finally agreed that I understood fully that there would be no onions listed on the till receipt but that did not mean I had not bought onions. The girl was reassured that it would not worry me at all.


Loose Lichen Letting Go

8 September Thursday

Nellie was speaking of a man.  She said he was Old and Short and Timid. She said that was enough.  She said that was enough to say it all.

7 September Wednesday

Breda and I walked in the mountains. The sky was white with moisture and with fog. We were sure it would rain so we wore full waterproofs but it never rained.  It just looked wet and it felt wet. We could not see any distance at all.  The mountains and the hills and the horizon completely disappeared. All we saw were lots of ghost-like sheep appearing and then disappearing in the whiteness.  Many had red paint on their backs but there were some with both red and blue markings. For the few minutes before the sheep disappeared in the mist, the colours looked really bright in the otherwise whited-out world. All was quiet and white and damp.

6 September Tuesday

The girl was trying to be helpful.  When I asked if the eye drops were okay for people wearing contact lenses she said “Oh I am sure they are.”  She said “I am after using them myself and they are wonderful for dry eyes.”  I asked her if she wore contact lenses.  She said “No, but I wear glasses.”

Two week ago I was in a shop and I tried on a pair of shoes which were a kind of reddish brown leather.  The shoes did not fit.  The woman serving me went to the back room to see if there was another pair in the correct size.  She came back with an armful of boxes.  She could not find my size in that shoe style so instead she pulled out every pair of red shoes that she could find. She too was trying to be helpful.

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5 September Monday

The bread man delivers bread from his small truck. He does not carry cakes or biscuits or anything else. He only delivers bread. Some of the loaves are sliced and wrapped in waxed paper.  Some of the loaves are just sitting on the floor or on a metal shelf.  The bread delivery man has a large wooden tray which he loads up with whatever bread the shop has requested.  He carries it across the street and into the shop. If it is raining there is no protection for the unwrapped bread.  Lucky for the bread, it is a short walk across the street.

4 September Sunday

The first Sunday in September is the traditional day for the All-Ireland Hurling Final.  This year the two teams playing were Kilkenny and Tipperary. They have been meeting each other in the finals for many years. The competition between the two counties is fierce. Everything everywhere is decorated with the respective team colours.  Bunting and flags, hats and shirts, cars and buildings. I think maybe the two teams have met for the finals six times in the last nine years.  Kilkenny has won six times. Some other counties have won in that time too but Tipperary has not won for nine years.  There was a deep silence everywhere in the county as people were either up in Dublin or in their homes watching the match.  Tipperary won.  There is wild joy among the fans. The Liam McCarthy Cup is the prize and now the cup will be traveling around the county for a year. It will go to schools and to shops and to small villages and to every sort of event.  It will be touched and rubbed and kissed.  Many many people will have their photograph taken with The Liam McCarthy. But first there will be a huge parade and welcoming party for the team on Monday night up in Thurles.  Everyone who went to the match will be there and everyone who did not get to go to the match will be there. It will be the middle of the week before things get back to normal in Tipperary.

3 September Saturday

I continue to collect and dry and glue up my pieces of lichen.  Some days it is difficult to find any pieces at all. Some days I find a lot. I was certain that after last night’s wind and wild rain that the ground would be strewn with copious clumps of lichen in the undergrowth. I took a little bag ready to fill it with huge pickings. I  imagined the birds scrabbling away on the branches, trying to hold on tight to stop themselves from being blown away.  I imagined their feet loosening lots of lichen.  I imagined Masses of Loose Lichen Letting Go. As I walked up the path I got very excited about all I would find.  If the winds and the birds did loosen lichen last night, the winds blew it far from the branches where it had been living.  I failed to find a single bit in the entire length of wooded area where I was expecting such bounty.  I put the little bag into my pocket and just went on with my walk.

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2 September Friday

The word Fáilte is omnipresent.  It is in every single bit of advertising for the country and its tourism. The official expression is Céad Míle Fáilte which translates as A Hundred Thousand Welcomes.  Fáilte by itself is widely used too.  It is on doormats and flowerpots and little signs. Recently I saw a postbox with NO FÁILTE in small white vinyl letters.  I had to stop in order to look at it more closely because I thought that maybe some other letters had peeled off and the NO was not really NO but part of a bigger word.  But in this case No means No.  The man who lives inside the closed gate and up the steep drive is not very sociable. There is a long drive, many mature trees and heavy undergrowth which ensures that his house is not visible from the road. On a good day this man might be called morose. On other days he would be called miserable. I have not set eyes on him for years.  I am not sure I would even recognize him.  He was never very friendly then and it seems he is even less interested in people now. The always closed gate would be enough to let people know that he welcomes no one but announcing NO FÁILTE like this means he really really does not want visitors. A KEEP OUT sign would do the job. It might be a little less harsh.


Bags of Sandwiches

1 September Thursday

The shoe shop had a special tiered round table with shoes on display. The shoes were displayed sitting on copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The volumes were used and a bit grubby.  They were not really old, they were handled copies. I wonder if any homes have shelved sets of encyclopedias these days.  The woman in the shop told an admiring customer that it was her Back to School Display.

31 August Wednesday

The blackberries are slowing me down. There are so many coming ripe that even a short walk demands a lot of time for sampling and nibbling.  There are so many different varieties growing side by side.  I have not even started to walk with a bag or a container yet.  I just eat as I go.

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30 August Tuesday

Campbell’s Perfect Tea. The name says it all. It is a delicious tea which never tastes bitter and and it comes in a round tin which is yellow and short and fat.  I do not think anyone throws away a Campbell’s tin.  After the tea is used up, the tin can be used for pencils and pens, or nails or string or any number of things. I have tins in the barn and older, slightly rusty ones in the shed.  They are always useful. A tin can be used to hold a different brand of tea, or even tea bags. I have two tins in the kitchen. I always have two tins in the kitchen.  One sits on top of the other.   One is full of loose tea and one is full of coffee beans. When people ask if I prefer Lyons tea or Barry’s tea they never include Campbell’s in the question.  The question is an either or kind of question. I am not sure if that is only around here.  Maybe Campbell’s is more popular in other parts of the country.  I am noticing that it is more and more difficult to find and buy a tin of Campbell’s Perfect Tea than it used to be.

29 August Monday

In 2007 permission was granted to build a new runway at Dublin airport.  Nothing happened. Now it is being discussed again. They say building will begin next year and it will be up and running in 2020.  I am confused. I thought the runway had already been built. There was some excitement a few years ago. I thought it was because of a new runway. It must have been something else.  Whatever it was, the airport authorities decided that something needed celebrating. They accompanied the first plane to land, maybe from a new route(?), with several fire engines that raced along beside the plane with sirens screaming and lights flashing. The passengers inside the plane knew nothing of the celebration.  They were terrified.

Today the two brothers from Skibbereen who won silver medals at the Olympics flew home. The pilot invited them up into the cockpit for the landing in Dublin. He told them”It’s All Going To Be Massive, Lads!”  As the plane landed it was blasted with water cannons. That was the celebration. The airport itself was full of busloads of people who had been driven 4 1/2 hours up from Cork for the welcome.  The whole rowing club and loads of other people were there.  There was cheering and singing and applauding. Then everyone got back on the buses to head back to Skibbereen. The return would take them 4 1/2 hours again but they had bags of sandwiches on board and a huge party waiting when they arrived.

28 August Sunday

Nellie knew she did not have the whole story. She did not have the whole story but she was determined that she would have the whole story before long.  She kept muttering “I am looking for More Meat on this Stick.”

27 August Saturday

The old man walked with a lot of puffing and with a kind of twisting of his upper body up from the torso.  It was hard work for him to cover much distance even walking with a stick.   He carried a paper bag with handles which he plopped down onto Jim and Keith’s table at the market. The bag was full of sweet peas.  He said it was every last sweet pea from his garden because he liked to get them in before a frost so here they were all together in one place.  He told Keith to sell them or to give them away as he had no use for them at all and he did not want them dying anywhere where he could see them.  He did not want to have to cut them down when they were dead.  Keith knew that it was rather early to be worrying about a frost but he said nothing about that. He just said Thank You.  The man turned and left immediately. Keith knew that this was the first year ever that I have failed to plant sweet peas. He knows I love sweet peas and that I have been missing them.  He offered me the entire bag of blossoms.  I suggested that I take a few and leave some for other people.  Keith said that would not work and there would just be a mess.  He was right. When I got home and opened the paper bag there was then a plastic bag full of wads of wet paper towel.  The stems were very short. There were a few long stems but mostly they were cut too short to be of much use to anyone.  I managed to get all the flowers crammed into small jars and glasses of water. I now have ELEVEN containers full of sweet peas. The smell is too much. I shall have to move them all around the house.  I love the smell of sweet peas but this is an entire summer’s worth of sweet smell in one room at one time. As wonderful as it is, it is too much.

26 August Friday

The slugs are out.  They are out and they are in. It might be the cooler evenings.  I am finding slugs on the sink and slugs on the bathroom wall and slugs on the mirror and last night there was one tiny slug on my toothbrush. It is a good idea to close the windows early in the evening to avoid encouraging more slug traffic.


Ditch is the word

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25 August Thursday

Competition for the figs is fierce with the local birds. I check them every day.  I compete with the birds. The birds are checking more than once a day.  They have the advantage of eating half a fig while it is still on the branch and then just leaving the rest and maybe returning later.  I have the advantage of bringing the just barely squeezable ones inside for final ripening. The raspberries are coming on fast and furiously.  I pick a bowl full every morning and every evening and still I do not seem to get them all. The birds can be grateful for that.

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24 August Wednesday

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Em.  I miss her.

23 August Tuesday

Our mobile phones are without signal since last week.  It was the night of the big winds.  I cannot remember which night that was.  When we got in touch with the network people they told us that a mast had fallen down and that it would be repaired quickly.  As soon as we leave this valley our phones function. It is just here that they do not.  Today we rang again.  The person on the line had no proper answer to give us. He tried to sound like he knew what was being done but he ended up bumbling his way through.  He said “It can take the amount of time up to the time it has taken.” We know no more than we knew before.

21 August Sunday

The word Lashing is used often.  It is mostly to do with liquid.  Single or double cream can be applied with Lashings.  Rain is regularly described as Lashing.  Lashings of butter are essential for the eating of potatoes, but the butter is not liquid, or at least not till it melts.

20 August Saturday

Brambles are extending by the minute. They are reaching out for the light and they grab at anything that passes. They scratch hard if they can. Cars and faces and clothing are all under attack. I have walked along the top part of the boreen a few times and clipped the longest branches with my secataurs but the big cutting back of the ditches with machinery cannot be done for at least another week. Officially the ditch is not to be trimmed between 1 March and 1 September. Some people insist it is from 28 February to 1 September. The idea behind this restriction is to allow for birds and animals to safely use the time for nesting. Heavy cutting can disturb them and maybe even destroy nests. By now, I am used to hearing the ditch being called the ditch but sometimes talking about trimming a ditch still surprises me and I wish the word hedge could be used. Hedge is not the word for the bushes that grow along the road. Ditch is the word.

19 August Friday

The woman in the dentist waiting room came in and sat down and talked to me as if she knew me so I thought she must indeed know me. I thought that if I knew her I would remember her name or how I knew her within a few minutes of listening to her speak.  She never stopped talking. She did not take a breath. She told me that she had been in to the dentist yesterday and she had to return today to have something finished but she did not mind because she had read something in a magazine right here in the waiting room about a man who was at his daughters wedding and he did not walk the daughter down the aisle even though he could walk perfectly well.  He had both legs and he was fit and fine. She had been thinking about the article all night so she was delighted to come back and see what she thought about it all after thinking about it all night. She was not glad to be back to the dentist but she was glad to have another look at the magazine. She started to show me the photographs of the wedding but she did so really quickly as she was leafing though and she said she thought it such a terrible terrible shame that the father was not walking the daughter down the aisle and she had never in her whole life known such a sad thing. It turned out that the daughter was being walked up the aisle by Prince Charles instead of by her own father and the woman could not reconcile this in her own mind. Being escorted by a prince was of course special but a father is a father and there is no substitution for that.  She was still worrying about it all when I was called to go in.  By then I was certain that I had never met this woman before.


Clutches of Mist

18 August Thursday

The radio weather man announced the presence of Clutches of Mist everywhere.

17 August Wednesday

I was in the supermarket. Among other things, I bought two long narrow red peppers. The girl at the till got flustered and asked me to wait a minute. She had to void something on the till and start again.  By the time she was finished, she tried to tell me what had happened. It looked like I had bought four Chicken Pot Pies when in fact I had not bought a single Chicken Pot Pie. The Pot Pies were listed and then voided and then listed again and voided again. My till receipt was long and confusing. The girl explained it as best she could because she said she did not want me to get home and think I had paid for a lot of Chicken Pot Pies when in fact I had none at all. She said that it was all because of the red peppers.

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16 August Tuesday

We were given some Japanese geta sandals which are very nice but they are not exactly practical for life around here.  We hung them up on the wall in the entry to the sauna where they have been for seven years now.  Tom Browne’s slate mirror is wedged in up over the sauna door.  When I went to photograph it, I noticed that a swallow had made her nest on one of the shoes.  The mother was in the nest and she got agitated with my presence.  Today both mother and babies are absent. The nest is empty.  They might just be out for a flight around the place or they might be gone for good.

15 August Monday

This morning was completely white with fog.  We could see nothing beyond the fence.  A morning like this feels like the beginning of autumn, even though the calendar says August. By late morning the fog had all burned off.  The sky was blue and the sun was warm. After lunch the sun was hot. I lay down on the grass and fell asleep.  When I woke up I felt warm pressure on my back.  Oscar was stretched out beside me snoring heavily.  I never heard him arrive. He does not usually come down to visit unless he is walking along with a person.  He lives a kilometer away.  I got up from my nap and went on with my jobs.  He stayed where he was for another half hour and then he got up, had a drink of water and ambled off toward his house. He is an independant dog.

MassSign

13 August Saturday

Today was the day for the yearly celebration at the Mass Rock.  I had never attended so I decided that I really should see it for myself.  There was a lot of confusing information about the time but the place was fixed.  A Mass at the Mass Rock could only be held at the Mass Rock. Cars drove up into the Knockmealdowns as far as they could go and then people walked across the mountain for about 25 minutes to get to the Rock.  A few of the people setting off were wearing completely inappropriate shoes.  The day was dry and there was not much mud but little summery sandals did not seem like a good idea.

photo 1tractor1brendan.

John and Brendan Condon had tractors and trailers at the ready. They drove across carrying the elderly and anyone who was in any way unable to walk. They made several trips back and forth. Larry Doocey said he had The Sciatica on him so he could not walk but claimed that they needed him up there for taking the photographs because that is what he does every year. John drove a blue tractor with a blue trailer. Brendan drove a red tractor and pulled a red trailer.  Both of the trailers had been fitted with padded benches which could be lifted in and out as people entered and exited the trailers.  Brendan’s trailer was lined with carpet and he had covered the side rails with pieces of carpet which he secured with blue baling twine. He provided cushions and an umbrella for his passengers. Both bothers had upside-down plastic crates to help people to step down off the trailers. Brendan wore a cowboy hat for the occasion. John wore no hat.

tractor2                                             tractor 4

There were about 80 people at the service. Some people sat across the stream because the hill rose steeply up from there.  They were directly facing the Rock and the priest.  The priest wore a white robe and he had a microphone with an amplifying box at his feet. It looked like a yellow suitcase. The sound did not carry very well although it was probably better for those sitting across the stream. It was almost like they were on bleachers.  Everyone else stood or sat along the griff. Some people had their backs to the priest.  It just had to do with what kind of rock could be found to sit upon. A few people had brought little stools. There was a little bit of music with both singing  and instruments.  The Mass did not last too long and then everyone got up and talked to one another for a while and then we all headed back across the mountain. By the time we were leaving a large bottle of whiskey had appeared and several of the fiddles were tuning up again.

tractor3.

 


Old Slates

mirror

11 August Thursday

Eventually everyone makes something with slates.  That’s because there are a lot of old slates around.  Most people buy new slates for a new roof.  Old slates have become expensive. They  come in many sizes and different shapes. We have one kind of very thick slate on one side of the barn roof and another smaller rectangle on the other side of the barn.  I think many of the new ones are made in China.  Left-over slates get used in lots of ways around a place.  We have a path made of broken ones which makes a nice sound when it is walked upon. I find them useful to put around the base of a plant to keep the weeds down while the plant gets established.  Some get cemented and used as edging. Some people just throw them away. I never throw any away.  Anyone who has the smallest artistic leanings tries to make slates into something special.  A lot of people paint on them. A slate might end up as a little chalk board with a painted floral edge painted.  Or it might have a pastoral scene painted upon it. Or a cow.  Or the name of a house. The most popular thing is that they get made into frames for pictures or for mirrors.   One woman asked for an angle grinder for her birthday so that she could shape her slates before she painted on them.  Tom Browne made me this mirror fifteen years ago. A nail wedged into a piece of wood was his primary tool, mainly for tapping the rectangular shape out of the center.  He ended up chipping and cleaning off the outer shape with a pair of tin snips. His idea was that it should look like a shamrock.

10 August Wednesday

The figs are ripening.  The tree is heavy with fruit but most of it is still very hard. I have picked and brought in three so far.  They are not really ready for eating but they are ready for baking.  I need to get at least eight or maybe ten more before we can make a tart so I bring them into the house to finish the ripening. If I hesitate the birds will tear into them. They have already started.  We are competing. It is an evening job. The honeysuckle in the ditches is really blossoming everywhere at once and the blackberries are starting to ripen. It seems early for the blackberries but I think I say that every year.  Each morning I go out and fill a bowl with raspberries for breakfast which is a good way to start the day. Fig collecting at night, raspberries in the morning.

9 August Tuesday

Over seven and a half thousand English people have made inquiries about applying for Irish passports since the Brexit vote. Nearly three thousand people from Northern Ireland have done the same.  If a person has an Irish grandparent, the application process is a mere formality.  The application will not be turned down. The government has already run out of passport application forms.

8 August Monday

He is a practicing solicitor but in this court he was being questioned in regards to a case.  He was in the box as a witness and not as a solicitor. The questions for the defense began with him being asked if his legal practice was located on Church Street.  He answered Yes. He said Yes, my firm has been in the Church Street premises for twenty years now.  Then he was asked if the address was No. 5 Church Street.  There was a long silence.  He said I really do not know.  He said We do not use a number.  He said We do not use a street number. We have no number on our door.  We have no number on our writing paper. We do not use a street number because everyone knows where we are.

6 August Saturday

For three mornings in a row, I have found a small dead rodent outside the kitchen door.  Each time I have nearly stepped on it.  I am not sure if the dead rodent is a shrew or a little mouse.  Actually I am pretty sure it is a shrew but it is difficult to be certain because in each case the head has been bitten off.

5 August Friday

I finally finished picking all of the black currants.  The bushes are stripped clean.  I have been picking them off and on in a desultory fashion. Some days it has been too windy and the bushes blew around a lot. Some days it was too hot and some days just too chilly to sit on a box and pick carefully under the leaves.  I filled a bag for the freezer, then I filled a bowl for us to eat. We made them into a thick sauce which was delicious on every single thing we poured it over. We have eaten this sauce on yoghurt, on ice cream, on Fromage Frais, and on porridge. We have eaten it with sour cream and pancakes. Every few days I filled another bag for the freezer.  Then we would make more sauce. This has gone on for weeks.  The supply seemed endless. Every time someone came to visit they looked at the bushes and told me that I must hurry and pick the currants before the birds eat them. The birds are not interested.  I have taken my time. The freezer now has a good supply of black currants in it and we are eating our way thorough yet another batch of the lovely lovely unctuous sauce.


Quiet but Fruitful

4 August Thursday

When people speak of The Small Paper they mean South Tipp Today.  South Tipp Today is a free weekly paper with lots of advertisements for builders and chimney sweeps and painters and window cleaners.  The advertisements listed by individuals are called the Small Ads. There is always a bit of news and some photographic coverage of local events but mostly the paper is a vehicle for the small ads. People looking for jobs and people looking to hire other people advertise. People offering garden work and applications for building permits are listed.  If people are selling a washing machine, a motorcar or a sofa, they take out a small ad. Agricultural contractors list their services, as do farmers selling hay or animals.  Today I noted a Bull being offered for his reproductive possibilities.  He was described as Quiet But Fruitful.

photo 2

3 August Wednesday

Every field in every direction all over the county is full of bales. There are round bales, and rectangular bales and round bales of silage wrapped up tight in black plastic.  Already the fields are going from yellow to a deep golden colour.  There are some fields that look nearly red in their goldenness. Today I saw a long trailer in the middle of a field.  The trailer was stacked high with square bales. The trailer was no longer attached to a tractor. All of the bales still on the ground in the field were round bales.  It looked like that trailer load of square bales had been driven to that field full of round bales for some purpose but it was hard to imagine what that purpose might be. There were so many round bales in the field it is difficult to know how the trailer load of square bales even got driven into that position. Another field had every bale collected except for one.  That single bale sat all alone in a large expanse of field.  I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the logic of these activities.

1 August Bank Holiday

Tommie told me about a man whose car failed the NCT test last week.  He said the car did not get far enough along the testing procedure for the inspectors to find out if anything was wrong with it. The car just failed because it stunk so badly of dog. The inspectors refused to get inside the car and since they could not test it, they were obliged to fail it. Tommie said he could not say the name of the man whose car had failed, but he was quick to assure me that it was not his own car which had failed because it smelled so bad.  He reminded me that he did not have a dog nor had he had a dog himself for many years now and certainly not since he has owned the car that he is driving today. And anyway he said that he himself had never been a man to take a dog out driving around the countryside.

photo 4

31 July Sunday

I walked the Long Field at the end of the afternoon when there was a gap in the rain. I forgot that I had been warned about a recent crow massacre up there.  Two men had been shooting crows the other day.  I do not know why.  I quickly came across dozens of bodies and a lot of feathers.  Some dead crows were visible out in the middle of the yellow stubble of a field.  Most of them were on the dirt track where I was walking.  There were dozens. I could see the place where the two men had sat in long grass off to the right.  The grass was all flattened down. There was a bad smell off the many corpses. It was more than bad. It was revolting. Some of the carcasses had been torn up while being eaten. In some places there were only wings left or some bits of boney stuff.  It was horrible but it was fascinating.  I could not stop checking each new crow as I came upon it. I thought maybe I should turn around and go for a walk elsewhere but then I reached a clump of bushes and rounded a curve and there were no more bodies.  I was relieved to be away from death and its thick smell. After a few minutes of walking and breathing fresh air, I came upon one more crow.  He was lying on his back.  He was a good distance from all of the other corpses and he had not been found by predators yet.  He was a dark profile in the grass which grew in the middle of the track. After all the wild carnage, this crow looked peaceful. He looked like he was just sleeping.

30 July Saturday

Laura and Richie have a new puppy. His name is Ted.  He arrived today from the dog shelter.  He is three months old and a mix of a sheep dog and a springer. He does not really have hair.  His black and white coat is a fuzzy surface.  His hair is more like a stuffed animal than like a sheep dog’s hair.  He looks like the sort of toy which might have a zip in the tummy for storing pajamas.  I am smitten.

29 July Friday

My Friday afternoon trip to Cork was a mistake. I did not think it through. I should have thought it through.  The Friday before a Bank Holiday.  Who would do that? The city was full of people arriving with suitcases.  The city was full of people departing with suitcases. Backpacks, rolling luggage, duffel bags, everyone was on the move with stuff and everyone else was in a mad shopping frenzy. The Gay Pride Parade Weekend was commencing. Some other festival was also cranking up.  All over the whole country things will be happening.  The August Bank Holiday is a big summer event.  Everything everywhere is planned for that one long weekend.  That is why everyone is on the move to somewhere. I made the trip to do one single thing and to settle my mind about that thing. Once I had done my errand, I walked through the English Market and bought an enormous bag of cherries.  I collected my car and headed home.  The traffic was terrible.  Everyone who had not specially gone to Cork for the weekend was trying to leave Cork. I ate cherries all the way home.  This is not a country where cherries are easily available. When they are available they are crazy expensive and often not very good.  These cherries were perfect. I love cherries. I kept saying to myself that I must stop eating the cherries while I was driving, but I never did.  I just kept eating them. They made the entire wretched journey worthwhile.


Possibilities of a Lemon

28 July Thursday

Joe’s cows are in the adjoining field.  They are unusually quiet today. There is no jostling or mooing or bellowing. They are standing and eating grass.  Quietly. The morning is sunny and windy and cloudy all at the same time. Clouds are racing across the sky.  At moments all goes dark and overcast and then the clouds keep moving and the day is all over bright again.  The only sounds are the wind in the branches, a far-away chain saw and the tearing of grass.

photo

27 July Wednesday

I am delighted with my lichen cards.  I have been collecting lichen on every walk up the mass path for years now.  Some days, like Monday when the walking was such hard work, I do not even think of lichen but most days my eye is drawn to the little pieces which get knocked off the branches by birds or wind or time. Every pocket of every jacket has been full of dried up crumbling pieces of lichen.  Sometimes I fill a bowl with the silvery green-ish pieces and enjoy having them in the house with me.  Now I have printed a folding card with a square in which to glue one piece of lichen.  I have been rushing up and down to the barn with my glueing and weighting down of the glued pieces and then the checking to make certain that the card with the weight upon it is not sticking to the lichen and ripping it off.  I glue up five cards at a time. It is slow work because the dried and pressed lichen is so brittle.  I am becoming skilled at judging the delicacy of each piece.  I thought I had an enormous supply saved under pressure but of course the old stuff in my pockets was useless.  Now I return from a walk and carefully place any new samples under a weight to flatten them for a few days. I do not leave any in my pockets.  I am nearly through with what I believed was an enormous cache of lichen.  Actually, it was not so much. Now I must plan walks for the hunting. Picking up scraps of lichen is no longer just a whim.  It is a job.  I have glued about thirty cards so far.

26 July Tuesday

Peter ordered fresh mackerel. It was served with potatoes and a gooseberry sauce. Three potatoes arrived in a side dish which was placed to his right.  He took the potatoes off the small side dish and put them on his plate.  Then he took the skins off the potatoes. He moved the skins onto another small plate which was to the left of his main plate.  He enjoyed the potatoes so much that he asked the waitress for more.  She was neither surprised nor bothered by his request. She was happy to bring him three more potatoes. He performed the ritual of moving and skinning the potatoes and then moving the skins away again. The potatoes broke up as he removed the skins. He mashed them a bit with his fork. He added plenty of butter. He asked for the salt. I passed the salt and I offered him the pepper mill.  He looked at me in horror.  He said You do not put pepper on potatoes!  I said that I did put pepper on potatoes.  He said NO NO. Salt and butter are the only things to put on potatoes.  I keep thinking I know all there is to know about the Irish and their potatoes but it seems there is always more that I do not know.

25 July Monday

For walking up the mass path I wore two long-sleeved shirts and long trousers.  The morning was too warm for that much clothing. Everything was overgrown all the way up the path. No one has walked through in quite a while. I should have taken some clippers.  I should have taken a stick to beat some of the vegetation down.  I should have worn gloves. Both the brambles and the nettles got me right through my clothes. I got tangled in the sticky weeds.  It was a struggle from start to finish.  It was not really a walk, it was a battle. When I reached the open road at the top I felt like a survivor. I had many stings and I had ripped flesh. I enjoyed every minute of it.

24 July Sunday

I made the mistake of rushing down to the village to buy a lemon. I thought I could get there and leave quickly just before everyone came out of Mass.  I was too late. The road was full of people leaving the church and talking to one another. The sun was out and no one was in a hurry. The shop was full of chattering people.  I found the only lemon available and I waited my turn and I bought it.  I left the shop with the lemon in my hand. I passed a man sitting on the ledge. I had passed him on the way in too.  I knew the man and he knew me. He shouted out Oh A Lemon!  You’ll be having a whiskey then!  I said There is more than one thing to do with a lemon and anyway it is kind of early in the day for whiskey, isn’t it? He said Whiskey is the only place I have ever had a lemon and that only when it was A Hot Whiskey. He said, I like A Hot Whiskey with lemon. I was in a rush so I did not stop to discuss the many other possibilities of a lemon. This man is a talented man with the spoons and with a mouth harp but he cannot read nor write and he cannot do numbers.  I decided that what he did not know about lemons was just another thing he did not know  What he did not know did not bother him.

22 July Friday

They Have Skin in The Game.  I am guessing that this is a way to say that someone has a lot  invested in a project or a business so he cannot give up.  He cannot give up because he has too much to lose.

21 July Thursday

An Post raised the cost of postage today.  It went up in July last year.  It went up in July the year before too. I am not certain about the year before that.  The price of postage never goes down.

20 July Wednesday

The lights went out at about ten o’clock last night. The lights went out and everything else went out too.  I used the mobile phone to ring the electricity company.  The first thing the woman wanted to know was where I was calling from.  Then she asked me to tell her the account number off our last electric bill.  I said that I could not look for a bill because there were no lights in the house.  The woman said okay and then she told explained that the power was down in Ardfinnan and it might be back on soon or it might not.  She thought it was something to do with a cow and a pole and a branch, but she was not certain. It was dark so we went to bed.


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