The Journal - Living Locally

Erica Van Horn

5 September Friday

For those curious readers who keep trying to click on the link below and keep being told that the site is In Process, or not ready yet, or whatever, please go back to the Coracle home page

and click the second snail on the right side of the stone. The new blog site is up and running. There are both small and momentous things happening in our valley. I am just not very good at linking ---obviously. If you have been holding this link on your feed or favourites it will continue to take you nowhere fast. It is time to begin again.

15 August Friday

After 8 years, writing the journal in this form has become just too cumbersome. It is very, very slow to load and I have been spending far too much time trying to work with it while it has been working against me. With a lot of help from Simon and Joe, I have now converted the whole thing to a blog format. It can be found by clicking on the second snail on the right hand side of the stone on the Coracle home page or by going to

I hope this works.

6 August Wednesday

A man who offered to paint the house said "I'd cost you less than the paint".

5 August Tuesday

I now have a weather app on my phone. It is for the Irish weather and it can be accessed for various things. One is by region and another is a Rainfall Radar. There are other things to check for too, like wind and sea crossings. Everyone can check the things that concern them. There is a special place for Blight. Potatoes are always important here. When growing potatoes there is always a danger of the Blight. Blight can destroy an entire potato crop in no time at all. No one in the middle of the city is going to care about the possibility of Blight, but here it is a big topic of discussion, in season. When there is possibility of Blight, it appears as a place to check on the app. The rest of the time it is not there. Rainfall Radar is listed even when there is no possibility of rain, but Blight is only listed if the threat is present.

4 August Monday

We went to visit John and Marian. They have a farmyard which is completely decorated. There are many things painted red and blue and white. Some things are painted red and blue. Some things are painted blue and white, and some things are painted red and white. Some things are painted with all three colours. There is some yellow here and there, but red, white and blue are the predominant colours. A gate with wire mesh in between the bars is painted red, with white around the top edge. It stands open against a bright blue wall. There are dozens of bird houses. Some of the birdhouses are for feeding and nesting. Some have become only decorative because they are in places where the rats could get at them so they are not safe for birds anymore. There are planters with red and pink flowers in them. There are lattice work things in various shapes for plants to grow up and there are stable doors painted in several colours, both inside and out. There are tables and chairs everywhere as though at any moment anyone at all might want or need to take a sit down. One table has cups and saucers glued down in position for four people. Just inside one shed was another table with two chairs and a big ashtray. This is for sitting inside when there is rain. It is inside but it is still outside. It is not like going into the house. There is a gazebo which was probably planned for two people to sit in, but two people would be a squeeze. One person could sit there comfortably and again, be out of the rain. John and Marian are brother and sister. I do not know who has the ideas we saw John's big and very well organized workshop in one barn. Maybe it is just his or maybe they work in there together. There is a sound system with eight speakers all piled one on top of the other. I don't know if they were all hooked up but Tipp FM has never sounded so good..

3 August Sunday

The Cabbage Whites are back. They have been flapping and fluttering over the lavender and the sweet peas for hours and hours. It looks like it is the same group all the time but perhaps some fly away and others take their place. It's a breezy day, so the whole gathering of butterflies could even be blown away while a new gathering gets blown in. It is impossible to know. The clouds are racing along with the breeze, so in between moments of bright sun, there are moments of overcast greyness. When the grey takes over the whiteness of the Cabbage Whites seems even whiter. It glows. The whiteness of the wings glows while the wings are flapping. On the subject of white, I saw three small puffballs up near the farm yesterday. Their whiteness is another sort of glowing. They are really bright and fresh looking. I decided to wait a day or two before collecting them. I do not know if this is a bad idea or a good idea. Last year I saw a huge puffball in the same vicinity and while I waited for it to get bigger, it disappeared. I am now remembering what a friend who is knowledgeable about mushrooms told me after that. He said You must never wait. He said If you find a puffball or indeed any mushroom, grab it immediately. Here I am again, greedily waiting for my puffballs to get a little bigger. Maybe I should walk up and fetch them right now.

1 August Friday

Today I saw a bar doubling as a bicycle shop. It is normal and traditional to see bars which also function as grocery shops. Mary Halley's bar in Clogheen used to have a huge smoked ham hanging over the bar. The whole place was two tiny rooms and the bar was not very long. Drinks had to be ordered around the ham. I have not been in there for a long time, but I would guess that there is probably still a ham hanging there. People running bars often double as undertakers, and sometimes as auctioneers or property valuers. There are not so many people to do business in a rural places so it is practical to double up on jobs. This is the first time I have seen a bicycle shop and a bar together, but it makes good sense. There is not so much day time drinking these days, so repairing bikes is a good activity for the quiet times. It keeps someone around just in case someone does want a drink.

31 July Thursday

I went to have my hair cut. The man doing the cutting loves to cook. I have never been there without the postman or a courier arriving with a parcel of new cookbooks for him. He loves cookbooks. He loves to cook and he loves to talk. He talks about what he has cooked recently and he talks about what he is going to cook. Today he told me that he has all the ingredients for tonight's dinner cut up, prepped and in little containers in the refrigerator ready to go. He makes dinner for between 15 to 18 people every single night. He is feeding a large extended family. I do not know if they all live in one house or in several houses. I do not know how many are children and how many are adults. There is a large vegetable garden down the back. There are chickens and ducks. I know as much as he tells me in the time it takes for my hair to be cut. Last night, he organized those people still sitting around after dinner to help him cut up the vegetables for tonight's dinner. He likes to get everyone working. And Thursday is his night for working late so he prefers to be ready. He described his newest favourite Sunday supper. He said it was such a hit with the family that they want him to make it every Sunday. He had three chickens which he rubbed with herbs and seasoning and he put butter under the skins. When he had finished with that, he pushed an open can of beer up each chicken's bottom. The can made the chicken stand up straight. He then put the three chickens into a barbeque. It was a big barbeque, probably like a Weber, with a rounded top. The chickens were able to stand up in there in the dark on their beer cans. As the beer heated up in the cans, it fizzed out like a quiet volcano and the chickens were cooked from the outside in. He was delighted with the end result and so was everyone else. The older woman beside me was the only other person in the salon. Her hair had some gloopy mixture on it. She listened avidly to the whole description of the chickens. When he was done, she asked if she could do the same thing in her oven. He said Well, that wouldn't really work, would it, as you need the heat to be coming from the bottom and you need to hold all the heat in a confined space to keep the steaming process going. He said you needed exactly what a barbeque could do. She still did not understand why her cooker could not do the same thing. He said she had been stewing too long and it was time for her to get her hair rinsed.

29 July Tuesday

We picked up Em in Skeheenarinky. Some flags have been installed along the road side of the meadow. There are about ten so far. They are small flags, not big flags. The road is narrow with grass down the middle. It dead ends just after the kennel. It is so narrow that it is not even easy to turn around. The only people who will see the flags are those come to drop off or collect a dog. Each flag is for a country connected to a dog, or rather to a dog's owners. Most of the dogs who stay are Irish, but their owners are from various places. People are being invited to give Lukki a flag from their own place of origin. So far he has flags from South Africa, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, England, and Australia along with a few other European ones. I should have looked more carefully to be able to remember all of them. Although not a great fan of America, he suggested that I might want to contribute a flag.

11 July Friday

We have a long narrow sack with an elasticized opening at both the top and the bottom. The purpose of the sack was to hold all of the plastic carrier bags which every house acquired after trips to the shops. We shoved bags into the top of the sock-like sack and pulled one out of the bottom whenever we needed one. There are no plastic carrier bags in our lives now. It has been so long since the governement passed the carrier bag tarif. We are all conditioned to carry our cloth shopping bags or baskets. The ladies who invented this kind of storage sack must have been delighted with themselves. No more drawers full of unewieldy plastic. Every time the Irish Countrywomen's Association had a sale someone would be selling these hand-made sacks. Now no one needs the sacks. I have been waiting and waiting to think up another use for my bag sack. It hangs limp and useless and faded from a coat hook. It is not even attractive. Somehow I cannot quite bring myself to throw it away.

10 July 2014

Rose has a method for serving up a hot toddy. Hot water, lemon, whiskey and sugar are put into a glass. The glass used is a particular glass with vertical ridges and a sort of lip about half way up the glass. The lip extends out from the surface of the glass in a way that allows the glasses to be stacked upon one another. When Rose has filled one glass with the hot drink for medicinal purposes, she sits the glass inside another glass. The person recieiving the drink can hold the glass which is not hot while drinking from the glass which is hot. Another method to solve the hot glass problem is a few sheets of newspaper torn off and wrapped around the glass with a twist where the newspapers join. This serves the same purpose but is not as attractive as a double height glass.

9 July Wednesday

Em walks and walks and walks. She walks as if she is measuring out space. Her steps will take her to a certain point and then she will change direction abruptly. Sometimes there is a bush or a wall or a chair in her path. Sometimes there is nothing in her path. Some instruction panal in her head gives the command to turn left or to trun right or to reverse direction, and she obeys. I have spent a lot of time watching but I can discern no order nor logic to her movements and her decisions. I am watching dementtia in control.

8 July Tuesday

A Gas Man is someone who is humorous. To be called a Gas Man is considered a compliment. A funny or an entertaining person may be called a Gas Man, but something funny is not referred to as A Gas. I have never yet heard a woman described as a Gas Woman.

7 July Monday

The government gives grants for houses to be re-thatched. The grant is larger if the house is visible from the road. Houses near roads can be seen by visitors.. The thatched roof is a look the country and the government like to keep going. There are lots of complications to go along with a thatched roof. The belief is that a thatched roof is more prone to fire so the insurance on a thatched house is considerably higher than the insurance for a regular house. If a person buys an old thatched cottage, the person is obliged to keep the roof thatched. Roof repairs cannot be re-done with slates. If the thatched house is a wreck and must be torn down, a new house built on the same location must be thatched. Replacement thatching varies a lot. Sometimes it is done in the old traditional way. Sometimes it is a different sort of thatching and not at all what is traditional here but rather what is traditional somewhere else. The reeds might come from the area around the Shannon, or the reeds might be imported from Poland. The thatchers might be Irish or they might be over from England. Where the thatcher comes from will determine the style of the thatching. A small cottage nearby has just been re-thatched. No one lives in the cottage nor is there a plan for anyone to live in it. It has just been re-thatched and the ground immediately around it has been cleared. It all looks very nice. That seems to be enough.

6 July Sunday

People begin arriving for 11 o'clock Mass as early as 10 'clock. Some park way up near the bridge with the car facing in the direction in which they live. They park way up there in the hope that they will not be trapped in tight by other cars which come along later and park out towards the bridge. They park there so they will be ready to leave. The later drivers will park out there just because all of the places nearer have been taken. There are elderly drivers backing into spaces in front of the shop. They too are in Ready Position but they are closer to the church. They find it easier to back into a place before there are other cars to possibly bump into. Some people stay sitting in the car, waiting for others to arrive. Most get out and they go into the shop or they go into the graveyard to visit the dead. By the time they return from the graveyard there are more people arriving. They are able to talk and visit with the living. The older people arrive early. Younger people and families come racing down the hill at the very last minute.

5 July Saturday

The man on the radio said that one hurling team overcame another, rather than saying that one team defeated another.

4 July Friday

She has gone into hospital. She had a week in bed and then the pain got bad. It was so bad that she spoke of it, and she is not one to complain. The ambulance came and took her away on Monday. He said he did not like seeing her go off in the ambulance but he said again that she was not one to complain, so if she complained she must have been very bad. He said they were doing tests. He is old and she is old. He is very worried and he feels useless. He said he did not know what to do for a sick woman. He said "Give me an ailing horse or a sheep or a goat, and I know exactly what to do. I just do not know what to do for a sick woman."

3 July Thursday

I was down in the book barn sewing book sections. I sensed eyes on me. When there are cows in the near field I sometimes feel I am being watched. It is not unusual to look up and to see two or three cows pressed against the fence and looking in at me. Cows are curious. There were no cows in the field today. When I looked up The Fox was just outside the window. The window is long and low to the ground. From the inside, it is at my waist height, but from the outside it is nearly even with the ground. The window is long. It is just under three metres long and about one metre high. The Fox was almost touching the glass. His breath was making the glass steam up. He looked at me and I looked at him. I did not move and he did not move. Standing so still in such an expanse of glass, made him appear to be less The Fox and more like a photograph of a fox. After a few seconds he raised his left front foot and then he waited a little longer. He turned his head away from my gaze, and he ran down the hill. For a few minutes, I watched the space where he had been standing and then I went back to sewing my books.

2 July Wednesday

These mornings, Em does not get up until 10 or 10.30. She wakes a little bit by opening her eyes to note the tea and breakfast making movement around her. She is aware of us stepping over her stretched out body, but she makes no effort to get out of the way nor to get up. She dozes in between our activity. Since she gets up so late and goes to bed so early, her days are short. She still spends a lot of her time pacing in circles around a chair or around a table. When she attempts to take a corner too quickly she crashes into a leg or a wall and just stands stopped and surprised by her inability to go forward. Sometimes the impact with something just knocks her to the floor. Then she looks around as if lying exactly where she is is exactly where she meant to be.

30 June Monday

It is hot. It is hot for here. It is hot enough for people to use the expression that It Is Hot Enough To Split Stones. This is the expression that comes out every time the heat builds up. It is not really that hot. I think the highest temperature is 23 Celsius or 73 Fahrenheit. That is not terribly hot, but it is nice. It does not get much hotter here, so we are at our optimum of summer heat. Everyone is excused for doing less than usual. This much heat brings the possibility of thunder and lightening. Last Friday the sky went black and there was thunder and a little bit of lightening. People are very frightened about lightening. The talk at the market was all about the fearfulness. I do not understand why it is considered so scary. They do not understand why I find it exhilerating rather than threatening.

28 June Saturday

I went to the market today. It was the first time in almost six weeks. I completely overdid it. I did not drive, but this is only the second time I have left our valley at all. The first time was just to the village and back. This trip had a great many installments. I climbed the stairs at the cafe where we went for breakfast. Stairs are difficult. I had no idea how difficult. Then we walked over to the market and there were ever so many conversations which should have been nice but everything took place while I was standing up. Standing up and talking is more difficult than I realized. It was Jim's birthday, so we had to sign a card for him. The card was a secret. We were sent behind the table at the stall of the man who sells jellies and jams and chutneys. The card was hidden there. That meant another conversation and that meant more standing. It was a big birthday. Jim was turning 80. There was to be a presentation of the card and a gift for him at 11 o'clock. We were told this by the cheese lady. Everything was discussed, at each stall, in big whispers by everyone. Every discussion was accompanied by quick looks over at Jim to make sure he was at his stall and not near enough to hear the plans being discussed.. We promised to be back in time for the presentation. We rushed over the bridge and went to the supermarket. I walked at my usual speed. The excitement of the birthday plan made everything feel imperative and important and that everything must be done quickly. Everything was important. The supermarket was full of Saturday shoppers and their trolleys and conversations. Music played loudly. I got dizzy with it all. The walk over the bridge was too fast and the shop was too full. Looking for a place to sit down, I found a display made of three old pallets just beyond the check-out counter. There was an olive green rug spread over the pallets and there were various things on the old rug, not really as a proper display, but sort of on display. Things had been put there in clumps as a place for them to put. I found a little empty edge and sat down with my head low to stop myself from fainting. Within minutes an old man came along and grabbed at one of the items on display. It said GRIP N GRAB on the cardboard backing. The thing attached to the cardboard was about a metre long. The man bent the cardboard away from the gadget itself at both top and bottom. He nudged me so that I could observe how it functioned. He said his daughter had bought him one of these things. He threw a packet of cream crackers onto the floor and shouted "Watch this! I'll pick it up,so!" He did something and picked up the crackers with the claw at the end. I nodded and dropped my head again. He stopped someone walking past and he threw the crackers down again and he did his demonstration again. After the third time, someone came and either took him away or took the GRIP N GRAB away. I did not look up. Simon came and found me and we walked slowly back over the bridge. We did not return to the market for the birthday presentation. We got into the car and went straight home. It was all much too much.

27 June Friday

Michael grew up in Clonmel. He said you could always tell when someone had recieved The American Parcel. They would be walking down the street wearing clothes that no one else was wearing. You would know that the clothing came from one of these parcels sent by well-meaning relatives from America, even if you did not actually know the person. The clothes looked different and they looked new, even if they were not exactly new. If you saw someone in a pair of checked trousers they had to have come from an American Parcel. Checked trousers were a dead give-away. Any time someone walked out in new clothes, he or she would be asked if The American Parcel had arrived. In one way it was a joke and in one way it was just showing that nothing happened without others taking note. If you were in a family who received an American Parcel, you wore the clothes but it did not mean you liked them. Recieiving the clothes was one kind of announcement. Wearing them was another.

26 June Thursday

Tommie came back to report that a second duck has been taken by the fox. He said he was not surprised by this news. After the fox took the first duck, Tommie knew he would be back for the second. He knows that the fox will now be back again for the third and final duck. The fox will not stop until he has had all three of them. He said that a fox always prefers a duck to a chicken. He explained how easy it was for a fox to grab a duck by its neck and to toss the duck over his shoulder while he or she carried the duck back to the woods to feed a family of young foxes. He said it is easier to get hold of the duck and easier to carry the duck. Chickens are okay but the feathers make the journey more difficult. The feathers and the shorter neck combined make the carrying more difficult. A chicken does not stay tossed over the shoulder like a duck does. Tommie ended his telling by saying, "You can believe that if you like, but I know it to be true."

25 June Wednesday

When Joe's cows are in the near field, there is often a wild tooting of his tractor horn at 5 o'clock. He races through the field rounding up the cows for their walk to the milking parlour. There are both long drawn out blasts and little pips. It is an exciting sound in the midst of the gathered quiet of an afternoon.. Sometimes he does not toot the horn at all. He just drives around and gets the cows walking in the same direction. I think they respond to the sound of the tractor as much as to the sound of the horn. The horn makes it all more imperative and makes me feel like they are really going somewhere special. This rounding up, with or without the horn tooting, is not an everyday thing. The cows are rotated around different fields eating their fill of one before moving on to another. We enjoy their company for a few days every few weeks when this is their field for eating. Along with their occasional presence comes the thrilling sound of their departures.

24 June Tuesday

The grass roof has gone brown overnight. In spite of day after day of hot sun and no rain, it has remained looking good and fresh and green with lots of purple strife standing tall and bright against the sky. Now the grass is burnt and the blossoms, though still purple, look weak and washed out. The difference from yesterday is shocking. We are promised a band of rain coming in off the Atlantic. I hope it's arrival will be soon enough to rejuvenate the roof.

22 June Sunday

Yesterday was the longest day. The Summer Solstice. The sun rose at 4.56 and it set at 21.56. At midnight, the sky was still not dark. It was a dark blue but it was still a colour. I lay awake and looked out at the sky wondering if I would fall asleep before the blue disappeared into night black. I thought about the older woman who I had heard complaining so bitterly about these long bright evenings. She said she did not like to Go To Bed in the Brightness. She preferred the winter when it got dark early and she could go to bed early because everyone else went to bed early. It was okay to go to bed early because the darkness made the world quiet. With these long days she felt she had to stay awake simply because it was light. She felt lonely in the long light evenings but she did not feel loneliness with long dark evenings. She was not in the habit of sleeping in the day so why should she begin the habit of sleeping in the light. If she wanted to take a nap in the day she would have to remove her shoes and put them on again. All her life she has put on her shoes in the morning and she has removed them at night when she went to bed. She could not imagine taking off the shoes and putting them back on again in the middle of the day. That would be as disturbing as the long light nights, or maybe it would be more disturbing.

21 June Saturday

Now that the sun has come out and the days are long and dry and hot, we are surprised again and again by the absence of the shade. The big branches were cut off in the autumn. The cutting was years overdue as the main trunk of the tree has long been hollow and dangerous. Had the branches not been cut when they were they surely would have crashed down in the winter winds. The winds were wild. Trees and branches fell down everywhere. So regardless of how the branches came down, we would still be missing the shade as we sit out at the big table this summer.

18 June Wednesday

Simon wanted to make a rubber stamp of a fly. He wanted an image of a fly poised as if it had just landed upon something. His image of the fly was tiny. He wanted a smaller than life-sized fly but he still wanted it to appear real. He talked to someone at a rubber stamp company in Dublin. The man insisted that he himself had a better image of a fly than the image that Simon had sent. He sent his own fly image back by email. It was not a fly which had landed on something, rather it was a scientific diagram of a fly. When Simon phoned and explained that this was a completely different kind of fly and a different kind of portrayal, the man responded by saying "Well, what does it matter? Sure, a fly is a fly." Simon returned to his original fly for the making of the stamp. When the invoice arrived for the finished stamp, it was described as Bee.

15 June Sunday

I found a wren's nest over near the fig tree. It was down on the ground and empty, so I guess the wrens were finished with the eggs and the babies and the nest itself. The entire nest had been woven using Emily's hair. There were a full selection of her long hairs. The black and white and a selection of grey hairs were all mixed together. A few tiny bird feathers were there too.

14 June Saturday

Tommie stopped down for a visit. He commented about the separateness of some neighbours. He asked us if we ever saw them and he asked if we ever spoke with them. He wanted to know if they ever spoke to us in response when we spoke to them. He told us that these people are people known to value their privacy. He announced: "It's like they have their own language."

8 June Sunday

At first I thought it was a grand idea for Em and I to take a stroll together. She cannot go very fast and neither can I. I felt we were more evenly matched. By putting her on the lead I thought we could do a slow journey up the track together. What I forgot is how often her back legs give way. I am not able to lift anything. My lifting ban includes her back legs. I cannot lift her hips and hold her up for the few minutes needed until she gets herself stable. All I can do is to stand patiently nearby until she is ready to push herself up and start her slow stagger again.

6 June Friday

It might just be a generational thing. There seem to be so many men with the name Michael. . There are of course a lot of men named John and Patrick, but it seems every other person of a certain age is named Michael. I have been remembering one Michael who was schedualed to have an operation which he did not want to have. I do not know if he did not want the operation because he was terrified, or if he did not want the operation because he felt he knew better than the doctors and he felt he did not need the operation. He evaded surgery for more than a year. Each time he was schedualed to go to hospital he would drink heavily for several days. He would drink so much that he would then be turned away by the hospital for not being in a fit state to be operated upon. Finally they took him into a bed early in order to control his drinking in the days before the surgery. After the operation and after a long recuperation, he was proud to tell anyone who would listen that he had been four hours On The Table. He felt sure that this long time of attention to himself was something unusual and special. It seems not long ago that he was bragging about all this but it must have been longer than I think, as this particular Michael has been dead now for at least seven years. The operation he avoided for so long was not the cause of his death.

5 June Thursday

I cannot hang out the clothes because they are too heavy when they are wet. I cannot carry the basket of wet laundry as far as the line anyway. I am continually surprised by my limitations. I tried to explain this to someone. She said "Oh You mean you can't do the Pegging Out?" I forget that clothes pins are called clothes pegs and that the act of hanging out a wash is called Pegging Out. I never speak of Pegging Out since I never speak of Clothes Pegs.

2 June Monday

Every part of this recuperating brings me new ways of doing things. I can slip on my rubber shoes but I cannot put on my welly boots. The welly boots demand a degree of pulling and pushing which I am not yet capable of. Anyway, I cannot even do the bending which would be the first part of the boot putting on. The slip-ons are okay. Luckily, they restrict my movement to places with short grass. My little walks out feel adventurous to me but they are still very little walks. Short grass locations are just enough.

29 May Thursday

The bed is built into the walls. There are walls on three sides. The bed is high off the floor. The bottom of the mattress is at the same height as the window sill. I need a step stool to climb in and out of the bed. This bed has become my world. I have read about operations and the recovery time afterward. I have visited people in this state but I had never been in this state myself. I understood that the world gets smaller when one is confined. Now I am living this smaller world. My immediate world is the only world. The window at the end of the bed gives me a view out into the garden. Most of the things I can see are white. There are white lilacs, ox-eye daisies, cow parsley, hawthorn blossom and stitchwort. It is a big year for stitchwort. It is everywhere. The green grasses, leaves and foliage in between things as well as mounds of purple sage set off all the frothy white. The grey of the stone barn is a further backdrop for the shades of white. Later there will be other colours as more blossom appears. For now, white is the colour of this waiting.

19 May Monday

Again: The Man Who Waits Beside His Car While His Sister Walks Her Dog. The man and his sister continue to stop and walk the dog on the same impossible stretch of road. He is parking his car more and more out in the road every day. He barely uses the lay-by area anymore. As he leans against the car smoking and waving to each passing vehicle, he is imposing himself further and further out into the traffic of the road. It is as if he is daring someone to hit him. He salutes enthusiastically at each passing motor. He is impossible not to notice. The sister still pulls the dog up tight on his short lead as soon as she hears a motor approach which means she is pulling quite often on the poor dog's neck. Her stick looks like it has gotten bigger. It is now a very short but very thick black cudgel. She holds it close over the poor dog's head all the while that she is choking him with the lead. I cannot bear watching them. They each seem madder than the other. And everyday between 2.30 and 3.30 when I head down to catch the last post, there they are. With so few people out and about, these two are usually the only two I see. I feel I am setting myself up to be annoyed by passing them and their unhappy dog every weekday.

18 May Sunday

Em and I are back to walking up the boreen. We proceed only as far as the gate to Scully's wood. I am being extra careful not to overdo her energy and leg strength. She often sets off with reluctance, but very quickly she becomes involved in the smells and the possibilities. The cow parsley has been filling up the space of the track at head height. At my head height, not Em's head height. She can walk in the arched space in either of the two tyre tracks. I am having trouble walking anywhere. Even the lumpy grass in the middle is not a free spot. The cow parsley is so heavy with blossom that it just droops and falls. Today it is also heavy with the remains of the rain. Wherever I walk, I am slapped in the face and flapped around the shoulders. It is a soft and gentle slapping and flapping. It might even be fun if it were not so wet.

17 May Saturday

The last few days have been warm and balmy. We all feel like summer has arrived and we joke about how nice it would be if this would just continue for the next four months. We pretend that it will be like this for four months. Of course, there is no chance of this weather continuing for four months. We already know that the rain and cooler air will return tomorrow. People are worried for the schedualed Ardfinnan Tractor Run. The town has been decorated with bunting since early in the week. There are many events and fund-raising things planned. It is all to raise money for the hospice. The tractors, mostly old but a few new ones too, will drive through the countryside and through selected villages. People have paid money to sponsor the tractors doing their slow procession. Even though there are huge stretches of road with no one to watch them, they will drive slowly through the landscape in a long line. When people do see them, both the tractor drivers and the people on the ground will wave like mad. Since rain is promised there will be fewer people standing outside and waving but the tractors will continue their crawl. The older ones rarely have a roof so those drivers will be wet. We are all worried about the tractors driving in the rain tomorrow but today it is sunny, and lambs and calves are in every field. Blossoms and birds and bees are everywhere. Joe's blue Teat Trailer with all of the pink nipples is parked outside a gate. Everywhere looks like summer.

16 May Friday

I am enjoying the posters for this upcoming election. There are more and more posters appearing every day. Maybe it just seems like there are more and more appearing every day. The posters are on utility poles and on trees. Some are on fences and gates and sometimes they are on the side of a barn. Some of the candidates affect a glamourous pose in their photograph. Some look dazed and unhappy as they attempt a confidence inspiring expression. One man looks like his shirt is always untucked. This is immediately understood, even from his head and shoulders shot. The faces scattered through the landscape make the countryside feel more populated and active. I do not know these people but I feel like I do when I see the same few faces again and again. I think what I am most enjoying is the imposition of language in the landcape. There is so rarely anything to read as we move around on foot or in cars. Knowing that in a week or ten days all of the signs will be gone and we will be just looking at cows and green things again makes it okay too. For now I am enjoying all of the slogans and the few names which repeat themselves. There are three people on one poster and the slogan across the top is The Cuts and Charges. They have made themselves sound like a music group when all they are doing is protesting various austerity measures and the new water rates.

15 May Thursday

Thoroughout the winter months and in this time before vegetation and foliage fill in the ditches, dumping places are exposed. There is one particular place which I keep track of. It is a deep dug-out area, just under the ditch and near the road. There are feed bags, and rusted buckets and many rusted things which I cannot identify. There are broken fence posts and old churns, and a fair bit of wire in coils. Sometimes I think this place was simply a dumping spot for the farmer and sometimes I think it was not just a dumping place. I think it doubled as a storage place. If the farmer were out in the fields and a fence needed repair, he probably knew that the wire he needed was right there. Mid-summer, the whole pile of stuff in its pit would be tangled up with brambles and growth but during a great part of the year it could just be considered Things In Storage. The particular farmer whose storage pit I pass and look into is now dead. I doubt anyone else is using the place either for dumping or for storage so in a few more years the brambles will have made it all disappear. The last of the still useable materials will succumb to the weather and the spot will no longer exist as any sort of a place at all.

14 May Wednesday

The Smell of Slurry over the land is terrible. We have closed all of the windows but still the smell seems to just ooze in. It is burning my eyes and my throat. I am glad I had not yet hung the washing out to dry. If it were hanging out it would simply be absorbing all of the slurry smell with its drying. I think it is a good day to go to do some errands in town. It is a good day to be anywhere but here. When I return the smell will be less horrible. It won't be gone but it will be a little bit better.

13 May Tuesday

Oscar is now the neighbourhood dog. He hangs around most of the day at The White Cottage but even if he is up the hill at his own house, he keeps track of anyone walking the road. When he hears someone coming along, he rushes out from wherever he is and then he walks along with them wherever they are going. If they come back the same route, he will split off on the way back, otherwise he will just go home alone when the walk ends for the people he is with. We all enjoy his company. If the people he sees a have a dog with them, he joins along with their dog. If they are on their own, they are happy to have him. We are all happier to walk with a dog for company. I especially enjoy him since Em can no longer go with me. Dogs pay attention to things in different ways. I feel a dog and I are exploring together. Tonight we sat out in the evening sun even though it was still a bit cold. Being out in the air was the best way to enjoy the light. Oscar arrived and rushed around greeting us and peeing on things and drinking water. We listened for voices. We assumed that he was walking with someone. We sat for a long while after his arrival and no one ever came down the boreen. No one on foot and no one on a horse. After an extended visit, we went inside and Oscar went home. To have Oscar come calling all on his own is a new thing.

12 May Monday

Tommie stopped and spoke to me on the road. He was in his car. I was on foot. He gave some news of a local man. Then he commented on that same man and said how well he looked. He commented that the man looked very young for his age. He was quiet for a minute as he thought about this youthfulness. He concluded by saying "It must be A Lack of Bitterness."

11 May Sunday

The cows have been using the upper boreen to go in and out to the far fields across the tar road. The grass down the middle is completely gone. At first I thought the grass had been eaten but eating is not possible when they are moving in a group. The track is completely churned up. Both the grass and the lumpy section of earth down the middle are just gone. The lumpy section had been high enough to scrape on the bottom of cars. Now the grass and the earth it was growing on have been trampled into a single muddy evenness. It is messy, but even so, the walking over such a definitively flattened surface is grand.

10 May Saturday

My room is full of dead bumblebees. Well, it is not full, but today I counted seven. Other days I have not counted. I have just noticed the bodies. The dead are all just in front of the door. They must be diving at the glass trying to get out. The impact with the glass either kills them or it stuns them. Either way they end up dead. I let a few of the living out every time I am up there. Some I catch in a jar and toss outside and some just fly right out if I leave the door open. I can't figure out where they are coming from.

9 May Friday

The fox walked into the yard. He moved slowly. He moved as though he were confident about where he was and where he was going. He stopped and sat near the big table. Then he moved over to drink some water from the low water trough. He wandered here and there sniffing at things and looking at other things. He looked good with his shiny coat and bushy tail. He did not look in the least bit scruffy. There were no clumps of rough old fur. He looked almost as if he had been freshly brushed. He never looked at the house, even though he was very near to it. He must have smelled Em out in the grass. Possibly he has already realized that she is not much of a threat. He wandered around for 15 or 20 minutes and then he continued down the meadow. I watched from the window until he disappeared from my sight.

8 May Thursday

I am waiting for a man to deliver some mulch. I dare not use the telephone because I fear he will either try to ring because he is lost or because he is stuck trying to fit down the boreen in a truck that is too large. That is, of course, assuming that his mobile phone will have any reception wherever he is, which is not very likely. Indeed, if my own mobile worked here, I could be using that instead of avoiding the land line to await his call. Or he might just come down, and dump the very big and heavy bag somewhere where I do not want it and then it will be impossible to move it until it is half emptied. It cannot be moved except with a forklift. Even half empty the bag cannot be moved. . So I have the window open, even though it is cold and miserable. I am trying not to use the telephone. All I can think of are calls I should be making. Today is his delivery day for fuels, fence posts and whatever in the area and I was promised he would be here right after 10. So I am staying off the phone and sitting in the cold. It is now 1.30. Surely by now he has decided to leave it until after lunch?

7 May Wednesday

Twenty-four hours of Nearly Dead Dog and today Em is back. She is not begging to go up the track again but she is walking. She got up off the floor without needing The Morning Hip Lift. I was so happy to see her moving about that I wanted to take her photograph. That made me realize that I have pretty much stopped taking photos of her in recent months. It is not so interesting to take pictures anymore. She looks like herself, but a photograph of herself staring off in the distance would not really portray the vacant staring of an elderly dog. It would just look like Em looking off in a direction. A photo would not show the vacant stare but I would know. Even in a photograph, I would know. This is not a look I want to remember.

6 May Tuesday

So---the new walks with Em have perhaps been a bit too much. Perhaps I should have tried every other day. Or perhaps I should have tried every third day. Every day, one after another, whet her appetite for more and she could not wait to get going in the morning. It was too many days in a row. We now have a dog who can barely stand up. She can barely stand and barely walk and she is collapsing in a heap after just a few steps. Either she is dying or she is just exhausted and needing a few days off. I hope it is only exhaustion. I really, really hope it is only exhaustion.

5 May Monday

Another Bank Holiday. Grey, overcast and cool. I am hoping the sun will come out. I have taken Breda's advice and have been giving Em some strolls in the boreen.  She suggested that I drive Em up as far as the farm and use the downhill slope to get her to walk back down to the house. It is difficult to get Em in and out of the car these days, so even though it is uphill, I have been putting her on the lead and setting off. By attaching her to myself, she has to come along with me and since she does not resist, I like to think she appreciates having the decision made for her. To begin, we only went to the first gate on the left, the one leading into Joe Keating's field. Another day, we progressed as far as the gate into Scully's wood. Today we went all the way to the farm and I think she wanted to Keep Going. It is a slow walk, but that is mostly because she needs to sniff at every single thing. It is so much better and more stimulating than wandering around in circles out in the grass. Since we got home she has been sleeping soundly. Both the stroll and the nap are an improvement on the ceaseless pacing around a random table or a chair.

4 May Sunday

We set off to walk down to the joining of the two rivers but when we got as far as the bee hives, there was a man working on the them. He was wearing the full protective clothing of a beekeeper. He did not say that we could not walk past but he quietly suggested that the bees were stirrred up and that it might be best to come back later. He spoke to us from a distance but he kept his voice very low and calm. He did not want to upset his bees. We turned around. The hives are located along the edge of a field of rapeseed which is now in full bloom. The bright yellow flowers and the bright orange of the strapping material which had held the hives together look wonderful together. Rapeseed is a relatively new crop in this area. People still stop and make photographs of a bright yellow field when they see one. They show the photographs to one another and they admire the colour.They remark at how lovely it is. It is an exciting and welcome change from green green green. So far people only say good things about the fields of rapeseed. Maybe they have not yet noticed how horrible the smell is. To me, it smells like fibreglass resin. In large quantities, it smells toxic and the odour hangs heavy over the land. For now, it is all wonderful. Rapeseed is welcomed as a dependable cash crop which also makes the landscape look pretty.

3 May Saturday

There is a square white plastic bucket with a green lid on the ground just outside the gate at Michael and Biddie's house. A rock sits on top of the lid. The lid is a clip-on lid. The rock is there just to be on the safe side. I think the container is positioned as a receptacle for the delivery of milk, but I am not sure. It might be for eggs or for anything else. The two words on the bucket are DRY COW. No doubt this bucket held some kind of something for the care of dairy cows. The bucket has been emptied and cleaned and now serves another purpose. Every time I pass, I check to make sure that DRY COW is still in position.

2 May Friday

The hawthorn is in bloom all around. I cannot decide if it is earlier than usual or later than usual. A woman in the village told me that the branches full of frothy white blossom look just exactly like heaven.

1 May Thursday

It was A Big Decision. I needed to buy a new bag of food for Em. I was buying a brand of dried food that was specially recommended for elderly dogs. There are a lot of foods for Seniors, but that usually means any dog over the age of 7. Since she is over 15, I was advised that this particular food was a better choice for her. We tried a three kilo bag of the food and she liked it. Along with her daily tablets, it seemed to help to keep her mobile, alert and bright-eyed. I went back to buy more food and I was faced with the dilemma of buying another 3 kilo bag or a 15 kilo bag. The food is very expensive. I was offered a special price on the larger bag. I stood in the shop and I wondered if it was crazy to buy such a lot of food. I then had to wonder if it was a very negative thing to think that Em might not live long enough to eat a whole 15 kilo bag of the special food. I stood in the aisle of the shop as I went back and forth with these thoughts. I did not want to wish an early demise on my basically quite healthy old dog. I bought the 15 kilo bag. As I was paying, the sales rep from the company who produced the food arrived. He was happy to see me buying his brand as the very first thing he saw when he entered the shop. He raced out to his car and ran back to hand me a ten euro voucher off the purchase of my next 15 kilo bag.

30 April Wednesday

There is a new outdoor table and chair arrangement at McCarra's. It was made by the men on the FAS scheme. The table is constructed out of two metal bicycle wheels, without their rubber tyres. They are connected with a piece of metal which works like an axle. One wheel is flat on the ground working to stabilise the table and the other one is the table top. A piece of glass has been fitted on the top wheel so that a cup of coffee or a cold drink can sit safely on the flat. There are four seats. The seats are black bicycle seats fitted onto two welded metal structures which have been painted bright red. The idea of the project was to make things with recycled materials. Everything was found and re-used except for the seats. When it came to the placing of the four seats, the men were unhappy to have four different and old seats from four different bicycles. They chipped in together and bought four matching black seats so that the two seating structures look smart and welcoming. We are looking forward to sitting outside with a cup of coffee but we are waiting for the weather to improve.

29 April Tuesday

The young girl was whining to her mother. She did not want to scrape the potatoes for the midday meal. She asked "Can't we just skip the potatoes and eat something else for the dinner?" Her mother answered,"Of course not! If we do not have potatoes, it will not be dinner. Dinner without potatoes is Just Salad!"

28 April Monday

I am often using the word Doctor when I should be using the word Mister. I always call a dentist Doctor, but a dentist is not a Doctor. A dentist is never a Doctor. A dentist is a Mister. Some Doctors are called Doctor and some are called Mister. The Surgeon is a Mister but the General Practitioner is a Doctor. I am better at using the right form of address than I used to be, but I continue to get it wrong more often that I would like. Some of these people do not mind but some get very upset and they correct me immediately. These people say "I am not a Doctor. I am a Mister." They correct me so quickly that it is as if they fear someone will overhear them accepting a title which is not rightly theirs to have. I have never really found out definitively who is who and when who is who. And because everyone here is quickly on first name basis, the medical person very often becomes someone with a name rather than a title. In the case of my first GP, the doctor and her husband shared a practice. Since they were both Doctor Carey, it was easier for her to be Doctor Rosaleen and for him to be Doctor John. Now that they have retired and a group of new doctors have taken over their pracice, there are two doctors among them named Kelly. These two Doctor Kellys are not married. In this case to differentiate between them, the woman doctor is now always spoken of as Doctor Maria Kelly and the male doctor is just Doctor Kelly. We call our dentist Daniel.

27 April Sunday

There are 28 beehives just beyond the green barn. They were not there the last time we walked along this farm track. There is bright orange strapping on the sides and tops of the hives. These must have been straps to secure them while they travelled from wherever they were to where they are now. The loosened orange straps make the hives look like gifts which have been recently unwrapped. There is a rope across the area where the hives are stacked. The rope keeps people away the bee hives. The rope threads itself through a piece of slate with two holes in its corners. On the slate are very small white letters which read HONEYBEES WORKING!

26 April Saturday

I was waiting in the car outside the church and just across from the shop. Rain was bucketing down. Simon had gone into the shop to buy the papers. A little red car pulled up in front of me. A woman jumped out of the passenger seat. A billow of smoke came out of the car with her. She ran in a funny way in order to protect her burning cigarette from the rain. She had her hood pulled up but she had no umbrella. She opened the gates to the church and attached them in the open position. Then she ran around the side of the church and did something else. She scurried back to the car and opened the door. Another large cloud of smoke billowed out. There were two young men in the car. They were smoking and she was smoking. Everyone had their hoods up. The car with its inhabitants did a U-turn and went back in the direction which it came from. It all happened really fast. The church was now open for business.

24 April Thursday

When there has been a bank holiday everyone asks the same question of everyone else: "Did You Get Away?" No one says "Did You Go Somewhere?" Or even "What Did You Do?" Getting Away implies escape from normal life. Maybe Getting Away is the expression used because we are living on an island. Nobody Goes Away, they Get Away.

23 April Wednesday

Today, I picked up a coloured leaflet for a sale of hats. The hats were being sold off by Teresa's Hat Hire in order to make room for New Stock. The hats shown in the photograph as well as Many More were all available for 50 euro each. Potential customers are advised: To ensure a perfect matching hat, please bring your outfit. The world of Hat Hire is a mystery to me. It is not unusual to be driving through the countryside and to be in the middle of nowhere and to see a sign in front of a bungalow offering Hat Hire. And now, here is the chance to buy the very hats which have been rented, borrowed, worn and admired at weddings, christenings, at the races and wherever else women are wearing hats these days. The leaflet made it all look very exciting. In fact, it is just the selling off of well-worn hats.

22 April Tuesday

Over the weekend, PJ and Gavin went up the Mass Path with a chain saw. They cleared the fallen trees which were blocking the way since the winter storms. In some places they just cut a section out of a lying down tree so that those of us who walk the path can walk through the opening. In other places, whole trees were pulled or cut and removed from the path. Where the fallen trees are at head height or higher, they have been left. Those trees make a series of arches. It is a kind of architected space along the track. It is lovely to walk through these places. We no longer have to climb over trees nor crawl underneath other trees. The walk is a fully upright and pleasant walk again. It is still very muddy.

21 April Monday

I am now so accustomed to going out for walks without Em that I no longer feel guilty when I close the door and leave her in the house alone. I do find that as I am walking, I look around for her. Out and about is when I expect to see her off in the distance in front of me or trailing far behind as she sniffs and explores things. Out in the world is when I miss her. Wandering around in the grass near the house is not the same as being off discovering each day together. She wanders in circles and I wander in and around with her. Her own aimlessness makes me walk aimlessly. The more I move about the more she walks so that is good for her elderly legs. Once in the house, she continues to walk but her journey is either around the big table or around a chair. The tight circles around a single chair are the ones that really depress me. She focuses on something and goes around and around and around it. She can continue the same path of circling for a very long time. Her little bell jingling as she walks reminds us that she is not resting but walking and walking and walking.

20 April Sunday

The Abbey Walk is our current favorite walk. We start off at the new graveyard and walk a narrow road to Molough Abbey which was an Augustinian Nunnery dedicated to St.Bridgid. The original nunnery was founded in the 6th century but the present remains date from the 13th century. There is a cloister with the intact frames of two high windows as well as two small domestic buildings. None of this information is available at the Abbey. I went on a walk with an archeaologist and a local historian a few years ago. There were about 40 of us gathered on a wild and rainy Sunday afternoon. We walked up from the village and we were introduced to the history of the Abbey and shown a very small area of orange paint on one wall as well as a carved symbol by the stone mason. We received all of the information while huddled under umbrellas. There were children in prams and elderly people who did not walk up from the village but who met us there. Everyone was eager to be a good audience but everyone was cold and wet and glad when it was over. Now I delight in returning to the Abbey. I am pleased to point out the few things I know about it. Sometimes when out walking, we stop at the buildings and sometimes we do not. We walk down the road and then through fields and down to the place where the River Nire flows into the River Suir. This meeting of the rivers feels like a very special place. Some options on how to make the walk into a circular walk are being explored. But walking back the same way we arrived is just fine.

19 April Saturday

The man who turns wooden bowls was at the market today. He had set up his lathe with the long curved branch held securely on the ground with cement blocks. On his early visits to the market, he wedged it under the back bumper of his automobile, but perhaps the cement blocks work better. He has a foot pedal with which to control the turning. Learning to turn wood and then the making of wooden bowls and plates seems to be a rite of passage for men when they reach retirement age. Some men become very skilled and enjoy using different kinds of wood to make different kinds of containers. Others just make the same thing over and over again. A table full of bowls with handwritten labels announcing each kind of wood is much nicer than a table full of matching bowls all made from the same wood.

18 April Friday

Every Good Friday is different but every Good Friday is the same. There is always a deep silence over the countryside. The silence is deeper thatn usual because there is less activity. Lots of things are closed. Restaurants, bars, banks, schools and post offices are closed but many other places like petrol stations, supermarkets and garden centres are open. Most places can choose whether or not they want to be open. This is the first day of a four day weekend. A long weekend means people need food and things, but it also might mean that they want to go away. Every business can decide but places which serve alcohol cannot decide for themselves. They must close. The laws decreed by the Catholic church are still in place. There is usually a lot of panic buying of alcohol on the Thursday before Good Friday. Just because it is not possible to get a drink on the Friday, people feel an imperative need to have a supply ready just in case. There are two places where it is possible to get a drink on Good Friday. One is a train station. If you have a ticket to travel, you can sit in a station bar all day long.. People used to go and buy the cheapest ticket possible and then sit and drink the day away. The other place is in a hotel bar. Legally it is required that one be resident in the hotel but there were lots of ways that people were able to get around that, like if they knew the bartender or if the waitress was their cousin. Now people feel confident enough to drink at home. In the past, most people did not ever drink anything in the home, except maybe for medicinal purposes. Still, this attitude that one must drink simply because it is against the law to drink is mad. It would be easier to change the law. And yesterday, I learned that it is also a Catholic rule that one cannot eat meat on Good Friday. Butcher shops remain open, and have ignored this for a long time.

17 April Thursday

The woman did not want to go to the event by herself. She did not want to have to arrive alone and she did not want anyone to notice her arriving alone. She wanted to arrive with someone else even if after arriving she would desert the other person immediately. She said she needed someone To Take The Bare Look Off Her.

15 April Tuesday

The phone books arrived again today. Last week, I phoned the Eircom people and asked for new telephone directories. We had not received a new one since 2010. The girl on the phone said they would post them out immediately. They did, and we got them the next day but the books they sent were for the 06 area not for our area which is 05. I phoned again and we were sent out two more books, one with the residential listings as well as a copy of The Golden Pages for businesses. Everything is smaller about these new books. The measurement from top to bottom and from left to right is the same but the thickness is greatly diminished. The text within tthe books is smaller. The paper is the same thin paper as is always used in the directories, but I think there are fewer numbers and names within as so many people have given up having a landline. We need a magnifying glass to read anything at all.. And even though we now have four books rather than the two requested, they still take up less space on the shelf than two of the older ones.

14 April Monday

The Man Who Waits Beside His Car While His Sister Walks Her Dog. The first time I saw this man, I was on the way to the post office in the afternoon. He waved to me as he stood beside his parked car. I waved back. On my return up the road, he was still there so I stopped to ask if he was alright. I thought perhaps his car had broken down and that he was waving to ask for help rather than just being friendly. He said he was fine and that he was only there waiting for The Sister to walk her dog. He was an older man and his sister looked to be about the same age. She was down the road with a sheep dog and a big heavy stick. At the time I thought it an odd place to choose for walking a dog. It is a narrow length of road and it is probably the single stretch where the cars go fast. There is no way to get off and out of the way of a big truck or a tractor. The ditches are high and there is no edge nor sidewalk. But then I thought that maybe the dog just had to get out of the car and that was why they had stopped where they stopped. Now, almost every time I go to the village in the afternoon, I see the man leaning on his car, smoking a cigarette, and waving to whoever passes. The Sister is either walking up the road or down the road toward the bridge. If a car comes along she whacks the dog with her heavy thick stick. The dog is on an extremely short lead so there is no way he could get out in front of a car even if he wanted to. I think she just hits him to let him know who is in charge. There are many quieter roads and plenty of field tracks where this dog could walk with a lot of pleasure. I think the spot is chosen both by and for The Man Who Waits. He has lots of people to salute while he waits and probably every so often someone stops to speak with him. The location is chosen for the man's convenience and the poor dog gets a walk even if it is a terrible struggle down a busy tar road in between beatings.

13 April Sunday

Shovel Duty is a new part of life. The Elderly Em never goes far from the house anymore so when she poops we try to locate it and pick it up with the long handled shovel. Our walking routes through the grass criss-cross between buildings and it is easy to be stepping in something at any time. The little modules of excrement are firm and not squishy as long as we get them before they are stepped upon. They tend to be in a little line, three or four of them dropped as she moves away from the activity while still doing it. The shovel we use has a rounded surface with a dulled point on the end. It was the one Tom Browne always used for throwing sand and cement into the mixer. Because Tom always used it for that, it became the one which Simon also used for cement mixing. The surface of the shovel is coated and crunchy with old dried concrete. Now it has this new function which is good because the shovel itself is light. Since the handle is long, it is easy to swing and toss the little poops over the fence, over the wall or down the banking. It does have one downside and that is that there is a fingernail shaped hole in the middle of the metal. If the balance is not right, whatever has been picked up might fall through the small hole. I could go and find a less worn out shovel but it has become a challenge to balance everything while getting it out of the way. There has to be a modicum of satisfaction in every job.

12 April Saturday

I gave two empty egg boxes to David the Egg Man at the market. He thanked me four times. He was so grateful to receive them that I felt embarassed that it was only two boxes. I wished it had been a dozen. He said that he has been so short of boxes that he was obliged to order some to be sent down from Belfast. He hated to have to do that. Paying for the boxes annoyed him and he hated having to order a large quantity of them. He fears people got out of the habit of saving their egg cartons over the winter. He hopes that everyone who buys his eggs will remember to bring him their empties now that spring is here. I am not sure what the weather or the season has to do with it but he sounded so very certain that the springtime would make a difference, I feel I must believe him.

10 April Thursday

I took some freshly cooked rhubarb down to Tommie and Margaret. He had told me that he loves rhubarb but he said he never ate it because he did not know how to prepare it. He does not know how to cook anything and Margaret is no longer allowed to cook. Her eyes are too bad. Her hip is bad too. It gives her a lot of pain so even if she could see to cook, she cannot stand up to cook. Not only can she not stand for long but she is also falling down a lot. I took some custard to go along with the rhubarb. Margaret answered the door when I knocked. She opened the door wide and called out "Who Have I?" She could see the shape of a person but she could not tell who the person was.

9 April Wednesday

Alma told me that they do not milk on a Sunday now. The quotas for milk production being what they are means that things have gone so official that farmers cannot milk every day of the week without producing too much milk. Too much milk will get them into trouble with their farm subsidies. I was confused at how the cows cope with eating grass all day in order to produce milk and then not being milked. The cows cannot understand about quotas and subsidies. They just eat grass and make milk. Alma said the cows can get used to anything and that one day without being milked was Not A Bother for them.

8 April Tuesday

When school lets out at the Loreto in the afternoon, the Gashouse Bridge is impassable. It is always a mistake not to think about what time it is before driving that way. The girls in their dark green knee-length pinafores and dark green socks or tights and bright red sweaters are everywhere. They are on the pavements and they are crossing the road. The many pairs of bare white legs look terrible on a cold day. There are buses to collect some of the girls and dozens of cars to collect others. Cars are parked all along both sides of the bridge. Other cars come along and stop right in the middle of the road when the drivers see the girl they are there to collect. None of the cars use an indicator when they pull over nor do they let other drivers know that they are about to stop. They know what they are doing and it is our job to let them do it. At this same hour every school day afternoon the Gashouse Bridge belongs to the Loreto School girls and their parents. For everyone else it is simply a bad route to have taken.

7 April Monday

Wild garlic everywhere. It smells good when I step on it. It smells good when I pick it. It tastes good and it looks good. I always welcome these first bright green leaves as a sign that spring is really here. Later the leaves will go darker and the white star-like flowers will appear. By then spring will be well established.

6 April Sunday

Em is still and always getting stuck under chairs or in amongst the legs of tables. She has been trapped between a wall and a standing lamp, and trapped between a door and the door jamb. Some times she can get herself out of these physically challenging situations but sometimes she just stops struggling and she waits. She waits for someone to come along and release her. Sometimes it is not easy as it is a case of lifting a chair or a stool up and over her but if part of her is straddling a side piece of the furniture it is not possible to lift both the object and the dog without hurting the dog. Her patience and her resigned acceptance of each new entrapment are upsetting for me. I don't know if they are upsetting for her. This is just her life.

5 April Saturday

For someone to announce that she is Pushed To the Pin of My Collar is another way of saying that she is under great pressure or at the very end of her tether.

4 April Friday

Someone is moving into The Tailor's Cotttage. It is always called The Tailor's Cottage even though there has been no tailor in it for as long as I have been here. The tailor's name was Willie Hurley. When anyone speaks of him, everyone else has something to add. People came from Clonmel and even farther away to have things made by him. His house was surrounded by bushes which were high and overgrown. Just outside his door there was a pile of marmalade jars. They were the two-pound marmalade jars. The heap of jars was higher than his head when he stood at the door. The high bushes and brambles meant that not much light got inside the cottage. The high bushes and brambles also made sure that the local children were terrified of him and his cottage. Willie Hurley knew everything. He listened to the radio all day. He knew everything that was going on everywhere and he could talk about it all. One of his many jobs was to sew uniforms for the guards. His house was piled high with cloth and with clothes. Some clothes were hanging and some were folded into piles. He had an old treadle sewing machine but he also did a lot of his sewing by hand. No one knows how he learned to sew. His own mother could not sew at all. Everyone is agreed that he was trained by someone else.

3 April Thursday

I met the Dulux Man in Cahir this morning. He greeted me enthusiastically. We have not met for maybe half a year. He immediately asked about Em, and then told me that his own sheep dog lived until she was 18. Since Em is only 15, he does not consider her particularly old. He introduced me to his new dog whose name is Cleo. She is a spaniel and was bred for a hunting dog but she was gun-shy. The owners were about to shoot her because a gun-shy gun dog was was useless to them, so the Dulux Man was happy that he saved her from that fate. Everything he tells me is always told in the same breathless and speedy recitation. He leaps from one thing to the next and there is no chance of the conversation being a conversation. It is just a chance for him to talk and for me to listen until I decide that it is time to continue on my way. He told me about a cat who was on television because it was 25 years old and he told me about a Jack Russell who had been thrown out by someone in Cork and then had his back leg ripped off by some other bigger dogs. His eyes filled with tears as he spoke about the poor dog who he has never known. He loves all animals. His tears provided a gap in the telling, so I was able to say my good lucks and move along the pavement.

2 April Wednesday

One bird sits on the top edge of the barn for hours. He or she sits right above the bird house but not on the roof of the bird house. I do not know if he or she is standing guard or just checking out the neighbourhood as a possibility for a future family home. Other birds are staying away. This bird seems to have marked the territory at least provisionally. I feel like an estate agent keeping track of possible new tenants.

1 April Tuesday

Tea time or just after tea time is when the candidates go visiting. That is the time when they have finished with their own daytime jobs and that is the time when they are apt to find people at home. They have to be careful to pitch the time correctly. Interrupting families while they are eating is not always a good idea but leaving it too late when people are settled for their TV viewing is not good either. Rural canvassing also means that they cannot be arriving after dark as it might frighten people and that is not going to win votes. Candidates in towns or villages can do a whole street quickly but visiting in the countryside means a drive from house to house. It might not be possible to hit more than ten or twenty places in an evening. It is easier now that the clocks have changed. Darkness does not come so quickly. Most people running for office in an area like this assume that everyone already knows them. If they are of the parish, and if their families have been of the parish for a long while, it is just a matter of letting people know that they are running for an office. Then there are the candidates whose father or mother or spouse held the office and if that person has died, especially while holding the office, there is an implicit acceptance that the job should of course stay in the family. A right to ascendency only works if everyone already knows that and adheres to it. Introducing oneself to strangers, who might even want to talk policy, is different than just reminding people that you are ready to step into family shoes.

31 March Monday

There is a someone new living in Michael O'Connor's cottage. There are new shrubs planted and there are flowers in pots on the windowsills. There are five baby goats, as well as cats and ducks. There is a large garden area dug and the frame for a polytunnel has been erected. After several years with the house sitting empty, it is exciting to witness all this activity. There is more happening in a day than ever happened in all the years that Michael lived there and still, the covering has yet to be stretched over the tunnel.

30 March Sunday

We put a bird house up high on the gable end of the barn. It sticks out from the profile of the barn and I am not sure that I like the look of the location. I was thinking maybe we should move it before any birds get settled inside but already the box is inciting busy interest. At dfferent times during the day, the birds come and sit on the roof of the barn and then they hop onto the roof of the bird house and lean over to look inside. There is a lot of in and out and flying back to the tree and and flying back to the house. I do not know if the same birds are coming to look and look and look again or if it is different birds.

28 March Friday

Even with all of her confusion, forgetfulness and stumbling in circles, Em never fails to check the Crumb Jar. The Crumb Jar is not a jar. It is a wide mouthed metal pot which stands on the floor beside the Rayburn. This is a good time of year to check it because any crumbs from making toast on the stovetop end up being swept into the pot. In summer there are no crumbs being added to the pot because the stove is turned off. But just in case, Em checks it several times a day, everyday.

27 March Thursday

Simon is planning a trip to Galway. He looked up the train scheduale. If he gets on a train in Cahir at 8 am and switches trains first at Limerick Junction and then again in Limerick, he will reach Galway at 2.30 in the afternoon. On the return trip he would need to get on a train at ten past nine, do the same two changes in Limerick and at Limerick Junction in order to arrive back in Cahir at 5.30. The trip there would take 6 1/2 hours. The return trip would take 8 1/2 hours. There is no way that the journey can be done in one day by train. Driving takes only about 2 1/4 hours. Is it any wonder few people bother to travel by train?

26 March Wednesday

Traditionally, busy butcher shops have had a woman sitting in a home-made booth. The booth is constructed out of plywood. The woman sits inside the booth either directly across from the counter with the meat or at a right-angle to it. After some meat has been chosen and cut and weighed and wrapped, the customer is given a piece of paper and he or she goes over to the woman in the booth. The person in the booth is never a man and never a girl. The woman takes the paper and tallies up the purchases with a pencil and tells the customer the total. The woman has a drawer where the money is kept. The woman never has a cash register. After paying her, the customer returns to the butcher who has usually watched the whole transaction. Nevertheless, he asks for the piece of rubber stamped paper and then he hands over the wrapped parcel. The butcher never touches the money and the woman never touches the meat. Some shops are now eliminating the woman and the booth. Increasingly, the butcher moves to the end of the counter and takes for the meat himself.

25 March Tuesday

I went to collect my dress from Jurgita. She is the seamstress from Lithuania who was making adjustments for me. When I arrived, my wool dress was on her dummy and standing right in the middle of the shop. An older woman was examining my dress very carefully while Jurgita finished pinning trousers for another customer. The woman asked what I thought of the dress. I said that I liked it. I said that it was my dress which might explain why I liked it. She was interested to know that it was my dress, but she offered no opinion of her own. She circled around the dummy a few times. She asked me where I would wear it. I did not know what she meant by that. I said I would wear it wherever I felt like wearing it. I said it was not a single occasion garment. She said, "Oh, you know what I mean! Now, would you wear it to the races?" Going to the races is a major social event here. There are always photographs in the newspaper of people dressed up for the races. Woman wear elaborate hats and fancy dresses. Even in terrible rain and mud they dress as though it was warm and sunny. I think they mostly dress like that in the hopes of being photographed. My dress did not look in anyway showy enough for the kind of thing I think she was suggesting. I thought about this all the way home. I decided that acknowledging that a dress is one which might be worn to the races implies its specialness, even if it is never worn for that purpose. Of course, I could be wrong.

24 March Monday

Lashing rain all day. Most of the rain is falling sideways. I am not sure if something can fall sideways. Maybe the word fall is what is wrong here. Nonetheless, sideways is how the rain is moving from the sky before it reaches the ground. The rain is sideways and sometimes diagonal and it is drenching and it has not stopped once all day. The daffodils have been beaten down. They are lying flat on the grass. Em has had a spring haircut, which offered a brief distraction from the weather. I stayed and helped to hold her up on the grooming table. Her back legs collapsed frequently. It was a job to get the horrible clumps cut off first and then to wash and dry her and then to start again to cut the rest of the hair. Altogether it took about an hour and a half. Most of the time she looked out the window at the rain and the few passing cars while the cutting was being done. There was no struggle and no wiggling. She is a placid dog even in her decrepit condition. I think for her it was a very big day out. She now looks like a much younger version of herself. And still, the rain falls.

23 March Sunday

Where you live is Home. Where you started from is your Home Place. The Home Place is hugely important. No one here ever gets over not being in their Home Place even if they never go back there for years and years. On returning from anywhere, one is always welcomed home whether where you are returning to is your Home Place or simply Home.

22 March Saturday

Em tends to walk out the back door and take a sharp left through the narrow space between the bench and the table. There is a step down and onto the slate path which she has been hesitant to take recently. It took me a few weeks to understand why she stops at the step and never goes further. Tendrils of honeysuckle were hanging down and blocking her way. They were not dense but they were there. The old Em would have pushed right past them, but now they are enough to stop her in her tracks. Today I got out the clippers and cut the honeysuckle. I made a clear opening for her to pass through. I thought she would be happy. She went out the door, took the left, stepped off the step and fell flat in a heap onto the path. The honeysuckle was just one obstacle. The step was another.

21 March Friday

I went to the hospital yesterday. I was told to PRESENT at the hospital at 8 am. I was not told to Present Myself, nor was I told simply to arrive. PRESENT is the verb used. Now that the things which needed to be done there have been done, I have been told that I will need to see the doctor IN ROOMS. IN ROOMS is where the doctor is when he is not in the hospital. IN ROOMS is the doctor's office, or consulting rooms.

19 March Wednesday

The radio gives traffic and travel bulletins at various times throughout the day. It is especially thorough during the morning and evening rush hours. In addition to the road reports there are notifications of any flight and ferry delays. It is normal to be told that things are all moving smoothly, not only if there are problems The road bulletins cover the entire country. Information is given both for highways and for the traffic moving through the cities of Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. Just now I heard that the movement in Galway is Slow Enough Through the City Centre. Anywhere where a problem or an accident has happened is mentioned no matter how obscure the road or in what part of the country the road is located. Back roads are given the same attention as the big roads. The AA Roadwatch covers the entire country and still, the whole report only takes a few minutes.

18 March Tuesday

I was waiting my turn. There were several other people in the waiting room and there were enormous stacks of magazines piled up on the chairs where no one was sitting. Underneath all of the chairs were plastic bags full of books and magazines and papers. There was very little unfilled space. Over near the doorway, stood a high stool with a torn grey plastic seat and back. Upside down on the seat was a small white plastic laundry basket. It was too small to actually be a laundry basket. It was rectangular and the same sort of shape and made for carrying or holding things. On top of the upside down white basket, there was an open lap top computer. Its back was resting against the back of the seat. The electric cord for the computer hung down and went right across the open doorway. Each time someone entered or exited through the door, the woman in charge cautioned them to be careful of the flex. I sat and waited for someone to trip over the cord. I waited for someone to trip over the cord and pull the lap top off its precarious perch. By the time my turn came and even as I was departing everything stayed standing, including the woman working at the computer. She said standing up was better for her back.

16 March Sunday

Yesterday we walked up the Mass Path for the first time in many months. The large lake which was at the bottom of the meadow has drifted off downstream or sunk into the ground. The entire still wet. The mud is ankle deep. There is a line of dusty dried mud all along the edges to mark the height of where the lake used to be. The leaves and grasses look like they have been sprayed with something grey and toxic, but it is just mud. All the way up the path there are trees down. In some places we could squeeze underneath the trees. Sometimes we had to crawl up and over them. None of it was easy. In a few cases there were branches broken off but mostly it was entire trees pulled out of the soil by their roots. The ground was so wet and the wind has been so fierce that the entire root systems just could not hold on. In some places the trees have fallen away from the path. In a way this seems good because it opens up some light in the tunnel of the path, but it is not really good because it smashed up stone walls as it fell away. There must have been twenty or thirty trees down between the bottom where the stream is and the road at the top. It was hard work to get up through it all. We usually don't like road walking very much but after all of that tree climbing and mud, it was a relief to be on the firm dry surface.

15 March Saturday

I have been watching Em's deterioration into old age for so long now. I marvel that I can continually note new levels of her slow-down. She still shows a lot of curiosity about the world around her. Her reactions are just slower. She is able to stand and look out an open door for 4 or 5 minutes before making the decision to walk through it. She rarely walks all through the house any more. Her movements are in a smaller number of places and her sleeping spots are always new and often in places she has never before tried. I do what I can for her comfort and pleasure. It is hard to brush her as her scalp is tender. Strong and vigorous brushing is no good but a gentle bit of stroking with an old soft brush is okay. Her skin shows very pink and delicate through the thinning hair. There are a lot of clumpy bits which I keep hacking off with scissors. She is not so good at cleaning herself these days. We now divide her food into three small meals a day which the vet says is best for elderly digestion. It also provides for a bit of excitement and anticipation. When she and I go out and wander about on the grass she turns left and then she turns right and sometimes she stops abruptly as if she has hit a wall. Sometimes she follows me and sometimes she does not follow me. Sometimes, I leave her outside wandering around on her own and doing her about face turns until I worry that she is so tired that she will fall over. Today Oscar came by for a visit and his wagging tail hit her in the face and knocked her to the ground. That is when I knew it was time to bring her back into the house, even though I do think she enjoyed the excitement of his visit. Getting knocked down once was thrilling. Getting knocked down twice would be too much for one afternoon.

14 March Friday 14-3-14

The entire country is in a bit of a tizzy. Today is the last day of the Cheltenham Races. About half the country left by boat to spend anywhere from four days to a week there. Of course, lots of horses go too. The national news is full of Irish wins, Irish injuries and Irish odds on Irish betting. Then on Saturday the Irish play the French in the final of the Six Nations Rugby Championship in Paris. Hundreds or thousands of people will be flying off to France for that, or else they have already gone. The politicians are away celebrating Patrick's day in foreign countries under the guise of diplomacy, and hordes of marching bands and majorettes and state troopers are arriving from faraway to demonstrate how Irish they are. They will all be participating in the parades to be held here on Monday. It is a particularly mad time with all of these things happening together.. Mostly, it is good for the airports and hotels and ferries.

13 March Thursday

The starlings are back. Today is the first day we have seen them. They are diving and swooping at the barn roof and its edges. Plans for nests are in the collective mind. Spring is officially here.

11 March Tuesday

Well, Girl! Well, Boy! This is what people in Clonmel say to one another as greetings. The Boy is not really pronounced as Boy it is more like By. Bey or By. I cannot really decide. I would never say it. I would never be able to get it right. Girl is also used to punctuate sentences. When used like that, it has nothing to do with whether the person being spoken to is male or female. It is just a form of friendly address.

10 March Monday

Three elderly men and on elderly woman were sitting together at a table. They each had a big mug of milky tea. While everyone was stirring in their sugar, the woman went back up to the counter. She came back and handed out Twix bars to each of them. They all made the same noises of delight and immediately opened the wrappers. They ate their Twix bars in unison. Treats are very often the same treats as they have always been. They are relished for their familiarity. A slice of brack or a scone is always welcome because it is familiar. A treat must not be a threat.

9 March Sunday

The endless rain has stopped. It is still cold. Some days are bright and clear. We have had mornings with a heavy crunchy frost which melts into a warm and lovely afternoon. Some days are grey and dull. Other days the fog sets in and we can see nothing in the distance, neither near nor far. Everyday, rain or clear, the shop still brings out its stand-up metal sign. The sign advertises Anti-Mould Products. Everyone who has not used them yet will still be looking to purchase something for their clean-up of some mildew somewhere in their life. I doubt anyone has escaped it but some of us are slower to clear it up than others.

8 March Saturday

There is a three foot drop from the edge of the flower bed down to the concrete path in front of the barn. I was inside working at the big table and Em was wandering around on the grass. She must have seen me going into the barn, or else she caught sight of me through the glass. I looked up just in time to see her making a straight line towards me. Lucky for both of us there are some stones along the edge of the bedded area. She was trying to raise her legs high enough to step over them. A more nimble Emily would have bounded over the not very large stones. This old Emily couldn't handle such a lift of the leg. Her struggle gave me a bit of much needed time. I was able to deflect her from her straight line before she fell down the three foot drop to a very hard landing.

7 March Friday

The telephone is working again. We were on the verge of deciding that maybe it was enough to have only the internet phone and mobile phones. We thought we might give up on a landline, but everything in this valley is more difficult than normal. Since nothing works all the time, a landline is a pleasing constant, when it is working. The sun is out. Em is having a better and less bumbly day. The door is still not working right, but spring feels closer.

6 March Thursday

Simon took Em's wicker bed out to the barn and he used a jigsaw to cut the front down to floor level. He also cut a bit off each side to widen the opening. Em has not used this bed much in recent months as she stumbles when she tries to get into the bed and then she falls when struggling to get out. I think she just decided there were other less complicated places to sleep, so she stopped trying to get in and out of it. Simon thinks this new opening will give her the enclosed cozy bed back. We keep trying to do as much as possible to make her life pleasant. He has glued up the edges so tomorrow, when it is dry we will see if she is interested to get in.

4 March Tuesday

A frequent sight is a dog lying in the space between the road and the place where he or she lives. It might be the end of a driveway, or the wide opening of a farmyard, or the bit of gravel and soil just outside the gate. These country dogs locate themselves between that which is their own territory and the territory which is the outside world. Sometimes the dogs are stretched out and almost on the road. Sometimes they are stretched out as long as their bodies can go and just their front paws are on the tar road. I do not know if they are expanding the sense of their own world or if it is a teasing taunt. They are not interested to chase the odd car or tractor which passes. They are simply watching. I think there is a strong sense that their world is inside and the world beyond is outside that line where the road begins. But maybe their world is everything that they can see.

The phone is still dead.

3 March Monday

The phone is still dead. It has not worked consistently since early December. There are phones out all over the place. It is not just us. Trees have come down and knocked out lines and the soggy ground has caused things to tip and drop and droop. Many trees are down and have been cut away from where they fell. We are lucky that we had the branches of the big ash cut in the autumn. They would never have survived the winter winds. Many people are terrified of trees which is why they do not like them near to their houses. There are people who claim to hate trees. How can you hate trees? After this winter, many people are more fearful than ever. A lot of trees planted are the wrong kind of trees. If the trees planted near houses were not the ones which can grow to be massive, some problems would never arise and the presence of the houses in the land might be softened. A lot of houses end up with a naked look in an over zealous attempt to keep nature under control. The houses sit on their plots surrounded by cement and tar. Nature, like mud, is something to keep at a distance.

2 March Sunday

Walking with Em is improving. We go out into the yard together and wander around. I look at trees and storm damage and the buds. She walks about and stops at odd moments and then turns and turns back again. She does not know where she is going or she does not remember where she is going but she seems to want to keep going. There is much less falling about. Her legs are getting stronger. Once again, I thought she was dying but she seems too busy for that now. I am delighted. Every so often we manage to get down into the meadow. I was worried that she might discover the new lake at the bottom where the stream has flooded. If she got into the water she would not be able to swim and I do not think she would be able to climb out. The rushing water against her weakened legs would be too much. So far there is much to examine in the meadow. The many turns and wrong turns take so much energy she has no chance of getting as far as the water.

28 February Friday

The door still will not open. It will not open nor will it close properly. Each time I bang my body weight against it to open the lower part of the door, I am hurt by the horse chestnuts in the pocket of my raincoat. I have bruises on my hip from the ramming of the horse chestnuts between the door and my hip. Getting in and out is such a job that each time I remind myself to throw the horse chestnuts away, but it is such a pest to get the door closed again, that I forget all about them until the next time. The phone is still dead.

27 February Thursday

There are orange signs everywhere. They are in the ditches, leaning against walls and buildings. They are usually positioned near to a group of sandbags. The signs say ROAD FLOODED in black letters on the bright orange background. At the moment there is not any flooding on the roads. There are long puddles and there is a lot of water but there is not enough to be called flooding. The signs are not being collected and put away as there has been so much flooding already, that the understanding is that there will be more flooding. On a certain level there is only one topic of conversation. On another level, everyone is so weary of this topic that they barely speak at all.

26 February Wednesday

Em is very fragile. She is stumbling and staggering. Most times her legs do not seem strong enough to hold her up. She is forever on the verge of falling over. It is difficult to watch her like this. The smallest thing in her path is enough to knock her off balance. A dead teasel lying on the grass, a shoe on the floor. I am moving things around manically so that I do not have to watch her struggle. When she walks, her legs are unequal in their strength so sometimes she is falling into a circular movement. She is falling into a circle. She is always on the verge of tumbling but the circling and the stronger legs mostly keep her from collapsing. Sometimes they do not and she falls to the ground in a heap. Pushing herself back up to standing is sometimes easy and sometimes very hard work. Twice today I have helped by lifting her back end up and she has immediately begun her wandering again. She is very interested in the smells. Her hearing is bad and her eyes are not good but there is nothing wrong with her sense of smell, even in this soaking and sodden world.

25 February Tuesday

Everything is wet. The world is wet. The kitchen door is nearly impossible to open. Once it is open it is nearly impossible to close.Walls are slimey with moisture and with mildew. The boreen is ripped up worse than ever. The damage has been done simply by the force of rushing water. The house is in pretty good shape. No tree limbs have come down on top of it. The telephone is dead and the mobile phones don't work very well. There are daffodils coming up and there are snowdrops still in bloom and most trees have buds. Spring is burgeoning, but it is hard to believe anything can be happening in all of this wetness.

24 February Monday 2014

The landing was rough. The wind pushed the plane. The stewardess announced that since it was raining very hard, we would be sure to get wet while going down the steps and walking across the tarmac to the airport. She admonished us all to put up our hoods. If we did not have a hood, she told us to put on our hats. For those with only a hat, she said we would have to keep a hand on the hat or else it would blow away. She made these motherly suggestions first in English and then in Irish and in French. Everyone looked around at one another to see that all of our heads were covered before we even began the move away from our seats.

17 December Tuesday

It took three butchers in white coats to unload the little trailer full of hanging meat into the store room. One butcher would lift a carcass, while a second one removed the hook from which it was hanging. He would then take that hook inside and hang it on another rail and the carcass would be hung back up on the same hook. Then that butcher went out and removed the hook from the next carcass which was being lifted by the third butcher. It was a carefully choreographed set of movements. Each of the three knew their part and no one rushed but everyone moved quickly. I watched the whole thing. I lost track of the number of cow bodies which were carried in from the trailer. I think there were nine.

16 December Monday

We went to the cinema. As we were handed our tickets, we were told that there were seat numbers on each ticket, but that we need not pay attention to them. We could just sit anywhere at all. Inside the theatre, the seats were numbered 1-11 and 14-17. The only row with seats 12 and 13 was the very back row. The numbers were big and white and about 3 inches high on each seat back. On the side of the first seat in each row there was a letter. The letter was also big and white. Below the letter there was a smaller letter on a little metal circle. The letter on the piece of metal was not the same as the letter in white. If your seat assignment was B15, I guess you could chose which row B you preferred to sit in. As we sat and watched the other people come in, everyone asked each other what their seat number was and then they said, "Ah, but we don't have to sit there anyway." and every single person went to sit somewhere which was not where they had been told to sit.

15 December Sunday

Instead of the afternoon meadow meander, Em and I headed up the old Mass Path. She was excited by the smells and by the new territory. The trees protected us from the bitter wind. Her pace accelerated and she rushed from here to there, pursuing each new odour with enthusiasm. She was so excited she forgot that she was going uphill. By the time we reached the spring, I thought she might be overdoing it so I turned her around and directed her downhill. She set off down as rapidly as she had been going up but with down, the gravity caught up with her. She stumbled and tumbled several times. She fell down and she got up, but she never stopped rushing. Her tail never stopped wagging. She had a wonderful time. It was an exciting trip. We were both tired when we returned home.

14 December Saturday

A neighbour stopped to chat. She was in her car and I was on foot. She spoke of a few different things and then, very gently, she asked me about Em. She had seen me out walking but she had not seen Em for many months. She knew that Em had been getting old and walking neither far nor fast. She was worried that something had happened to her. She asked all of her questions carefully and with kindness. She never used the word death or dead in relation to Em, but I knew that that was exactly what she was asking. I was pleased to be able to reassure her that Em was not dead but just living within a more restricted set of movements.

13 December Friday

Most people do not want to talk about the things that are already there. Things that are known do not need to be discussed because they are recognized and understood. There is no need to bring up the things that everyone knows. Things get forgotten as they happen. Everyday things are just everyday things. Paying attention to gather the detail of those things which are too normal to be thought about is what I enjoy. Sometimes by asking a question I can see that a person enjoys telling me all that he or she knows about that thing. It is often obvious that as the telling is happening there is more to tell than the person thought there would be to tell. Some other times I can ask a question and the person does not want to bother giving me an answer because it just seems too much a waste of time to even begin to speak about the subject. That is when they might think me nosy, while all along I think that I am just observing daily detail.

12 December Thursday

The red hat on the man at the farm is gone. Now there is now only a blue shape. The blue shape is not a man's jacket. It is not any part of a man. The red hat was not a hat and it was not worn by a man. The absence of the red thing that looked like a hat makes the junction box look much less like a man than it looked before, so now my own confusion can be forgotten. No hat. No man. No more waving at a junction box.

11 December Wednesday

Mary was the first to say it to me. It was my thumbs we were talking about. The arthritis and stiffness is making some jobs very difficult and painful. She said I would have to give up cutting the carrots. I had not said a word about carrots. Since she said that, I have been told the same thing by several people. That is how you know your arthritis is bad. If you cannot cut carrots and if you have no one else around who might cut them for you, that will be the end of carrots on your plate.

10 December Tuesday

Em and I walked up the boreen. She was much slower than usual. I wondered if maybe we should turn around when we reached the farm. Just as I was thinking this, her legs collapsed and she fell to the ground. I went to her side and she looked up at me as if it was quite natural for her to be lying where she was in the middle of the track. I sat down, stroked her and decided to wait until she felt ready to get up. In a few minutes she rolled over so I could scratch her tummy. After twenty minutes, when it was too cold for me to stay sitting on the cold ground, I stood up. She stood up too, and we continued our usual walk up to the tar road. She continued her walk as if it was a completely normal thing to lie down in the middle of the journey.

9 December Monday

Saturday is the day coal is delivered at the shop. At this time of year the delivery is always a big one. Last Saturday there were so many palettes full of bags of coal lined up in front of the shop that there was no where to park. I had never seen so much coal down there. I thought a lot about the high piles I had seen. Today I asked how much coal had been delivered. I was told that 16 palettes were unloaded and there were 40 bags on each palette. That added up to 640 bags with 40 kilos in each bag. To me, that sounded like a huge amount of coal. I was told that they had sold more than half of it already, and since it was only Monday, they were worried about running out before the end of the week. There would be equal loads delivered on every Saturday throughout the winter.

8 December Sunday

I did some errands for an older friend. She is living in one of the houses built for handicapped and elderly people. There is a committee which has overseen the building and caretaking of these small houses. Every town and village now has some of these independent dwellings. The houses are warm and dry and inexpensive to heat. When any of the inhabitants have a problem they can ring up and someone comes to sort things out for them. There is no need for anyone to be climbing up a ladder. My friend was in a good mood. She said that the man who used to be the caretaker was gone. He had taken a job in another village. She was sorry that he was now in position to terrorize another group of vulnerable people but she was delighted that he was no longer able to terrorize her. She said that each time he came to do anything, it cost her twenty euro. If he changed a lightbulb or rang a plumber to repair a drain, or if he just came to inspect the cleanliness of her home, it always cost her twenty euro. Sometimes he came several times in one week. He came even when she had not asked him to come. He came before he went on holiday and he told her that she had to give him twenty euro toward his holiday. She said it was no wonder he was able to Go Foreign so often what with the money he was taking off herself and all of the other Vulnerables. She did not dare to report him because he said he would have her thrown out if she said a word against him. Now the committee sends a person to do a specific job and they instruct her to give the new man ten euro. She feels a great relief at the savings, but I still do not understand why the man being paid by the committee needs to get a tip for every job done.

7 December Saturday

A white haired man drove up and rolled down the window on the passenger side of his car. I was just entering the shop so he shouted to me from the driver's seat. He told me to send someone out to him. When a girl who worked there came out, he shouted that he wanted some bird nuts. She asked him how many he wanted. He had forgotten to bring his own bucket but he said he needed a bucketfull. He sent her indoors to find out how much the nuts would cost. She came out and gave him the price per kilo. He said he did not remember how many kilos his bucket held and he did not remember how much he usually paid, so he did not know how many kilos to ask for. When I left she was still standing at the open window of his car discussing how best to approximate his normal bucket of bird nuts.

6 December Friday

There was a nice breeze on today. The first person I saw said that it was a good day for the drying. After that several more people said the same thing. Getting ones washing to dry when the days are so short and often so wet is an issue of major consideration. It becomes as important a topic of conversation as any other aspect of the weather.

5 December Thursday

The fish market has been closed for more than a year. Now someone decided to paint the building. Perhaps they are hoping to rent or to sell the premises and they want it all to look fresh. The colour chosen for the paint job is a green. It is not dark green but it is not bright either. The letters that say FISH MARKET are still in position but now they have been painted the same green as the background. When asked why the letters had not been removed, the man doing the painting said, "But sure everyone knows it's The Fish Market, even if it isn't anymore, so why would we pretend it's not?"

4 December Wednesday

Every afternoon, Em and I take a little stroll down into the meadow at about 4.30. It is a short walk just before darkness falls and just before her supper. Some days it is exactly the walk that we used to do before her bedtime. That night walk involved me staying on the mown paths through the meadow while she did some racing around barking into the darkness and with some sniffing at trees. Our current walkabout no longer includes running. She still sniffs at things. Sometimes we go as far as the stream. Today we went past the stream and we scuffed around in the leaves under the big chestnut tree at the edge of Tom Cooney's wood. She spends a lot of time examining branches and grasses and little paths through the undergrowth where the fox passes. This afternoon time used to be for frisbee throwing in the field. Now it is a sedate exploration for as far and as long as I can keep her off the idea of her supper.

3 December Tuesday

Another mild day. It is crazily mild for this time of year. The nights are cold and the mornings are cold but it is dry. I cannot remember the last time we had rain. When the sun comes out, it is pleasant. I did some of the pre-winter jobs in the garden. I should have done more of them weeks ago but this good weather is a reprieve. It is good to work without a hat even though kneeling in the soil is cold. I started my work too late. I was just getting going when the darkness fell. I tried to keep going in the dusk but it all happened so fast that I had to give up.

2 December Monday

Every day as I walk up by the farm, I see a man in a blue coat wearing a red hat. I wave to the man. The man does not wave back. It has taken me more than a week of waving at this man to realize that it is not a man but instead it is some kind of junction box system on a wooden post. And now, even though I know it is not a man, I still begin to wave each time because it seems polite. I am trying to make myself look the other way so that I can get over this confusion.

1 December Sunday

It was early when I heard the first shots. It took me some time to recognize them as gunshots. I looked out the window and saw The Fox racing up the path. He was about three feet from the house and running really fast. He leapt up the banking and disappeared into Joe's field. Fearing that he might be being pursued by The Hunt, I went outside. I heard men and dogs down below. A little later, I went out again. There was a man with a gun and two dogs in the near field. He shouted across and reminded me that it was himself who had brought us pheasants last year. He shouted that he would bring us more if he shot anything today. A few hours later he came back with another man and with the dogs crammed into a tiny little trailer behind the car. He gave us two woodcocks and two pheasants. I forgot to ask him but I guess today must be the first day of bird season.

30 November Saturday

Two women were talking together. The one said to the other: " They're injecting it with God Himself Only Knows What, so the only way you can be sure is to buy it organic and sure, who can afford that?"

29 November Friday

There is a whole area of trees cut down up near Johnnie Mackin's. The trees were mostly old and ivy covered. They were on a piece of Donal's land which also has a couple of small open-sided stone buildings on it. One of the buildings used to be house. Sometimes Donal stores hay in the buildings or he leaves equipment on the land or in the buildings. It is an extra place for him. It is not a place for animals nor for growing things but it is a kind of storage area. Now the entire area within the stone walls is full of fallen trees and branches waiting to be cut up. There are so many trees and branches it will be hard to know where to start working on them. There is no where to stand. The surprise for me is walking up the track and finding a lot of sky and light where there used to be shady darkness.

28 November Thursday

Mike has not been as busy as he used to be. People are putting off doing repairs until they absolutely have to do them. Many people are trying to live with one car instead of two. There are lots of ways that people are economizing. Mike is one of many affected by personal austerity measures. He has occupied himself with other jobs. He cleaned up his whole garage and painted the interior walls so they are now a nice bright white. When the concrete walls end, the space continues up into a big rounded corrugated roof space. This big space is all grey. He did not try to paint up there. There is a lot of ivy growing into the area of the roof, especially along the edge where it connects to the walls. In one corner, a small mezzanine area has been constructed out of nine palettes. I cannot see how it is held in place. I do not understand why it is not drooping at a mad angle. The mezzanine space is full of motor parts and big things which are not needed often. On the floor, there is an MG sports car which Mike has stripped down and is now beginning to rebuild. There is primer on most of it, except for the places where he has begun to paint it candy apple red. When the engine is rebuilt and the car is finished, he will sell it. He has rebuilt and sold several cars since the recession began. He usually does Saabs. This is something different. It keeps him busy during the day when people are not needing his skills to repair their cars, but he is always happy to be interrupted. His frequent trips away are not so much holidays anymore as visits to vintage car fairs to purchase the things he needs to make his current car project perfect.

27 November Wednesday

Em is tripping on things that get left in her path. Shoes are a particular problem. She walks around and around the edges of rooms and sometimes takes a route under a piece of furniture. Her route is very specific and she is able to go around and around a room many times without varying it. If a pair of shoes, a bag or a box is in her path, she will stumble over it. She might stumble or she might fall to the ground in a heap. On her next trip around the room, she will be on the exact same path and so she will again stumble over the object. I try to keep things out of her way but each day the path is a new path.

26 November Tuesday

I took the early bus to Cork. It was dark when I left the house. By the time the bus arrived, the day was starting. It was no longer dark but it was not yet light. As we motored along the valley road, the dawn began to light up the land. The pinkish red glow of the sun lit the mountains first. Mountains and trees and buildings got bathed in warm colour which got brighter and brighter while everything around them was still not fully illuminated. I sat on the left side of the bus looking out and across at the mountains. I was enjoying the silent emptiness of the countryside. As we approached Ballyporeen, the first house in the village came into sight. On the white side of the house, someone had painted in foot high letters with bright red paint. What had been written was TOM O'GORMAN RAPED ME. My pleasure in the pastoral and beautiful winter morning was more than a little shaken. Ballyporeen is a small village. There are only about 300 people living right in the village. There are more in the coutryside around, but not many more. It is a shocking announcement and the big red letters make it more shocking. .Everyone there will of course know who Tom O'Gorman is. Everyone will know everything. If they did not know before, they know it now.

25 November Monday

There are new signs on two sides of The Pure Drop. For years the name was only painted in red on the wall facing into the car park as one approached from the direction of Clonmel.Approaching from any other direction there was nothing to say what the place was. We used to tell people to use The Pure Drop as the place to turn left but then we realized that they would never know it when they saw it. It is easier to say: Take a left at the round-about. There is only one round-about in the village. The bar itself used to be called The Round-About before it was renamed The Pure Drop. A lot of people just continued to call it The Round-About since there was no reason not to. Now some plastic letters have been put on the front and the side. They are not very nice letters, but they do the job.

9 November Saturday

One of my favourite November jobs is removing all of the figs from the fig tree except for those that are the size of my baby fingernail. In theory, those remaining will be part of next years first crop. Plucking every single fig which is not the right size off its branch is a satisfying task. I wish more jobs in the garden could be this pleasurable. We rarely have enough heat here to get a proper two crops of figs but I like continuing with the illusion.

8 November Friday

La Bigoudene has closed after twenty one years of serving crepes and other French food. There is nothing left inside the restaurant. It is dark and empty. The painted sign remains over the window. There are two black and white photographs in the window. They are small photographs and they are the same photograph. Each photo shows the chef owner and his wife. In the photograph, the chef is wearing his high chef hat. One of the photos has handwriting across the bottom thanking clients for their loyalty over so many years. The other photo has no writing on it.

7 November Thursday

I saw one of the new An Post vans today. It is depressing. A man with a parcel under his arm is of flying diagonally across the side of the van. He crosses over a green stripe. I guess as each green van gets older and needs repairs it will not be repaired but instead it will be retired and replaced by one of these new white ones. From here on, I must savour every remaining green van that I see.

6 November Wednesday

Soft boiled eggs are called Guggy Eggs. It might have started as an expression by or for children but adults do not stop calling their eggs Guggy.

5 November Tuesday

Em and I set off every morning with her on the long extendable lead. She does not take advantage of the good length available. Instead she tries to walk in the same rutted tyre track in which I am walking. If I move to the other track, she moves over with me. We are tripping over each other for the early part of the walk. Neither of us want to walk in the rough lumpy and bumpy grass which grows down the middle. Ideally, we should just each walk in our own tyre track. After a little while, there is a smell or a something which she needs to investigate and she moves out of the track that I am in and she stretches her full distance away from me. This is so much more pleasant. By the return trip, when she is no longer on the lead at all, we both wander along and just keep one another in sight. Every second day, she reaches the final corner down the boreen and breaks into a little run. It is not a fast run. Maybe it is more of a skip. I am certain that it is joyful because her tail wags with the excitement of accelerating downhill. I think she is surprised to find that she can do this at all. I do notice that she does not attempt it every day.

4 November Monday

Sign on a tree:


Black cat-very friendly

Big green eyes

Is deaf

Missing since last Thursday

2 November Saturday

There was a woman in the sewing shop who was happy to have an audience. She was an older lady and she spoke loudly. The sewing shop is a very small shop and it serves a great number of different kinds of activities like sewing, knitting, quilting, embroidery and needlepoint. If there are four people in the shop, in addition to the woman who runs the shop, the shop is crowded. It is not possible to avoid hearing what is being discussed. The older lady was telling the one with her about a woman she had known when she worked in a hospital for Infirmities of the Mind. She had worked in several of these hospitals over the years and had taught the patients to do various hand crafts. She said that she cannot look at red cotton to this day without remembering the woman who stole the brassieres of the other female inmates. She took them away to embroider. No one ever saw her stealing the brassieres nor did they see her embroidering them. She always embroidered her own name Kath.Reagan in large letters with a full stop between the Kath and the Reagan. The women in the ward were distressed by this especially since most of them only owned one brassiere. If they did eventually get their own brassiere back it would have the name Kath.Reagan embroidered in bright red, and usually right across the front . This caused a lot of upset in a place where people were already often upset.

1 November Friday

Em steps in dishes now. She steps in the dish she is eating from and she steps onto the dish she has just finished eating from. She steps on things and she crashes into things because she now goes straight to wherever she is going. Moving around things is no longer considered. It is a little bit about deteriorating vision but I think it is more about confusion. She has walked into her water bowl and she has tipped over her water bowl many times this week. I have mopped up the water and I have mopped up the water again. I am tired of mopping up water. Today I found a heavy stainless steel pan in the cupboard. It has a weighted bottom. She cannot tip it over. This is the new water bowl. It will not solve the problem of dishes being stepped in and on, nor will it stop dishes from being broken. It will just keep the water in the bowl.

31 October Thursday

Last week someone hit a telephone pole down the road. We could tell that it had been hit by a tractor or a big truck because the break was high up. It was broken right through and the top half of the pole was completely separated from the bottom half. Cables were still attached, but everything was lying in the ditch. No one seemed to do anything about it for many days. Yesterday Jimmy Hyland reported that there were three men out interviewing the broken telephone pole.

30 October Wednesday

For as long as I have been living here, there have always been dogs walking themselves home. They are usually sheep dogs but sometimes they are another kind of dog. They walk carefully along the side of the road. These are not dogs who chase cars nor are they dogs who aggress against people. These are gentle, sociable dogs who have been somewhere and now they are on their way somewhere else. They walk carefully along the edge of the road. They move along with a sense of purpose. Some of them stop if a car or a tractor comes along, but sometimes they just continue on their way. If I see a dog I recognize then I know if he or she is on the way home. If it is a dog I do not know I wonder how far the dog has been and how far it has to go. A few shortcuts across fields can save a lot of walking and allow a dog to cover a great distance.

29 October Tuesday

There is a red and white panal truck up at the farm. The words Mobile Workshop are painted on its sides. The truck is full of tools. Two men from the Mobile Workshop are working on the red tractor. The tractor and its attached red slurry tank have been in the same position since last week. Now it is the Tuesday after a Bank Holiday weekend and the Workshop is back to continue with the job it started on Friday. One of the men is wearing a red fleece. There is a lot of red to be seen. The tractor has a couple of old cushions on its seat and drooping off the seat. Tractors always have old cushions in them. The cushions are discards from a sofa or an armchair. The cushions in the red tractor are not red. They are just old and dirty. There is no colour to note.

28 October Monday

Rain. Sun. Rain. Rain. Sun.. I walked out in bright sunlight but I hardly got any distance at all before the sky went dark and rain came lashing down. I could see a rainbow off to my right and blue sky off to my left but I was under a cloud and the cloud was dumping a massive amount of water. Em was annoyed because I turned back before we had done our full walk. After this many days of wet weather, it was foolishly optimistic of me to go for even a short walk without a raincoat. It was not even optimistic, it was just foolish.

27 October Sunday

The Church Gate Collection is just that. Someone sets up a small table at the gate which leads into the church. The person or persons setting up for the collection are always there very early. They are in position well in time before the first Mass goers arrive. There is usually a sign to explain what charity or cause the collection is for. Sometimes there is one table but sometimes there is a table and a person on either side of the gate. It is difficult for people to walk in or out of the church on a Sunday morning without giving some money to the collection. I would guess that these collections are very successful

26 October Saturday

There was a well-worn floppy rag doll hung up with a piece of rope in the Cahir Post Office. Underneath the doll, on a piece of card, was written: Found in the Post Box.

25 October Friday

We were down in Rose's. Several men came in, had quick drinks and then left right away. Their main function for stopping in was to get their numbers for the lottery. They first bought tickets at the shop for the National Lottery. Then they came to the bar to buy numbers for the local lottery. One man finished his pint and went to the door. He called to the man he had left behind at the bar that he was planning on a win this week. He said "When it happens, we'll all be Drinking off the High Shelf." The High Shelf is the uppermost shelf of the bar. It holds the more expensive brands of whiskey and brandy. The High Shelf is never for Everyday Drinking. It takes a special occasion for anyone to drink off the High Shelf. It might be a funeral or some other event. It does not happen often. When it does, Rose has to fetch a stepstool in order to safely reach the requested bottle.

24 October Thursday

An Post is currently phasing out their bright green vans. The people in charge say that the green vans are not visible enough in the landscape. The current green is a distinctive shade of green and not one that could ever be confused with grass or ditches.The colour is not loud, but it is by no means camouflaged among all of the surrounding nature. There is a yellow stripe along both sides of the van and four wiggly yellow lines which look like cancellation marks. Soon, all of the An Post vans will be white. There are already dozens or hundreds or thousands of small white vans in every corner of the land. The people in charge promise a decal of a sort of Super Postman on the side of each van, just so that we know it is a post van and not just any other white van. I shall miss the green vans. I doubt that seeing a superman delivering my post will make up for the loss of the lovely green vans.

23 October Wednesday

"It would be that kind of a way". That is how things get explained when they are not really explained but that there is an assumption that you already know how whatever it is is. To give it emphasis, the speaker might add "You know yourself that it would be that kind of a way." You Know Yourself is the same as someone somewhere else saying "You Know What I Mean" or just "You Know".

22 October Tuesday

Knocklofty Bridge is a small hump-backed bridge. It is made of stone. I cannot drive over the bridge without saying Wheee! I do not say Wheee! when I drive over the small bridge into the village. That bridge is not such a steep up and steep down. I do not say Wheee! when I go over any other bridge. Knocklofty Bridge just forces the word out of my mouth and no matter how many times I cross it, I always have to say Wheee! We cross a lot of bridges all the time. We are crossing and re-crossing the River Suir on each or any of the bridges. Once we get into town there are four bridges. It is easy to hear the names but it is not easy to learn which bridge is which. There is The Old Bridge,The Ferry House Bridge, The Gas House Bridge, The Dry Bridge, The Loreto Bridge, St. Thomas Bridge, The Convent Bridge and Presentation Bridge. That makes eight names for four bridges. There are rarely signs for things but there are always names for things. Knocklofty Bridge is the only bridge in or around the townland of Knocklofty so that is one bridge name I can be absolutely certain of.

21 October Monday

Em spends a lot of time standing and staring at things. When I see her outside looking off across the valley for fifteen minutes without moving, I find myself feeling sad. I imagine that she is remembering running over the fields, or that she is maybe recalling a good chase of the fox, or some birds or a frisbee. When I see her back in the house spending the same amount of time and concentration with her face two inches away from the refrigerator, I know that my imagination is the only one experiencing these memories. I have no idea what she might or might not be thinking. Today we walked up to the tar road in the drizzle. I go just as far as the road with her on the lead. Then I unclip it and let her meander back home at her own pace. When she gets to the road, she goes out and steps onto the tar with all four feet. She looks to the left up the road and she looks to the right down the road. Her whole body turns to take in each direction. She gives each direction a long look. There is rarely a car passing so her looking is not about acknowledging activity. There is nothing special to see. Just seeing is something. It is just looking. Everything happens so slowly that I have a lot of time to invent what she might be thinking.

20 October Sunday

The moon was full last night but we could not see it for the rain and clouds. Tonight it is bright and still very full. The sky is clear with masses of small rushing clouds. The light from the moon is like some kind of Morse Code as the clouds cover it and then uncover and re-cover it in rapid siucession.

19 October Saturday

I saw a old man with a dog yesterday. I passed him on the way to the village and then I saw him again on the way back. He was standing near his car while the dog nosed around in some bushes. It was not a safe place to park as he was more on the road than off it.. I stopped on the way back because it had just started to rain. I thought he might be having car trouble. He assured me that all was well and that he was just letting his sister's dog have a walk out. He then leaned into the car and warned me "It's gonna get dirty." He was right about that. The rain has set in and it is drizzly, grey and horrible, with more of the same promised for the next few days.

18 October Friday

Mighty is usually said as a positive thing. A glass of hot whiskey is Mighty for almost everything. That means it is a cure all. It is good. Mighty can be about little things or about big things. Suffering can also be Mighty. Then it is not good, but it is big.

17 October Thursday

For years I have been calling the ways in and away from our house by the name boreen. Now I have been corrected. The way down from the farm is indeed a boreen. It is a narrow unpaved single track with grass growing in the middle of it. The way past the house and up towards Johnnie's might have been a boreen in the past but it has deteriorated over the years. It is now a disheveled path. Some of the more shaded parts are quite clear for walking but other parts are wildly overgrown and a struggle. One portion is always muddy as there is a spring part way up which causes water to not exactly flow but to be present. During very wet seasons, that section is like walking up a stream bed. Older people call the path The Mass Path, because the people who lived down this way would use it to walk up to go to Mass at the small church at Tullaghmelan. A Mass said inside this church was not recent as there is no roof. The church was burned down by Cromwell and his men. There are gravestones both within the remaining stone walls of the church and around it.. Perhaps people continued to gather there and say Mass long after the fire and without a roof. Maybe that is why the path is still called a Mass Path.

16 October Wednesday

An elderly woman outside the shop was explaining to a little girl about the bumps and white marks on her fingernails. She said, These are Little Calendars on My Body. She promised the girl that she would have calendars of her own, but that she had to grow bigger before they would appear.

15 October Tuesday

Two dead shrews by the kitchen door this morning. I have grown so accustomed to seeing dead shrews. They are always tiny. They are always without visible wounds. They are always lying on their sides. I never know what has caused their death. I used to worry about it every time I found another body. I do not worry about it any more.

14 October Monday

There are always geese to see in Ardfinnan. Usually, the geese are in the river or walking around on the bankings. The playing fields and all of the large grassy area are slippery with goose shit. In the morning the geese are usually seen crossing the road from the house side of the village and heading toward the river. Sometimes the geese go part way across the road and then they just stop in a group and whatever cars might be driving in either direction have to wait until the geese make up their minds to move one way or the other. Going into the village for the early bus is the exact time when the geese are on their way over to the river. It might be me being taken to the bus or me taking Simon or a guest to the bus. If the geese are in the road, we wait. If we are standng and waiting for the bus, we watch the geese crossing and we watch other people waiting for the geese to cross. I have never known where the geese are coming from before they get to the road. They might have a night-time shelter safe from foxes, but there are a lot of geese. Sometimes there look to be thirty or forty of them. It would need to be a big shelter to accomodate that many geese. I want to ask someone where the geese are walking from, but then the bus comes and either I get on it or I drive away and I forget about the geese until the next time.

13 October Sunday

A man died after a long illness. Even though it was sad, everyone knew it was best that he died as it had all gone on for so long and his suffering had been so terrible . One woman was trying to express this when she said, "Sure, it will be an ease to his bones."

12 October Saturday

At the tool hire place there is a machine on the counter with a big glass globe on the top of it. The globe is full of plastic capsules. Inside each capsule is a small chocolate bar and a one euro coin. Because there is often a long wait while questions and answered are exchanged about some tool and a particular job, there is plenty of time to look at this machine. People almost always drop their two euro coin into the slot while they are waiting their turn. They get a chocolate bar and one euro back. The whole thing is a fund raiser for some worthy cause. There is a note beside the machine asking that the capsules be left on the counter so that they can be used again.

11 October Friday

People in England often send letters or packages to Ireland with an inland stamp. When they do this, it can take several weeks, instead of a few days, for the posted thing to arrive. Sometimes the thing never arrives. When we mention this to people in England, they ask, "Well, can't the postman just make you pay for the incorrect postage?" That is not as easy as it sounds. Why would the Irish postman be collecting postal shortages for another country? And if they did collect the euro equivalent of the wrong postage, the English would not want our euros anyway. How would this money be returned to the right country and the right postal service? It is certain that people in England would not think of posting something off to France with an inland stamp. France is another country. France is Europe. People here get cross about it as they feel it is arrogant of the English to still consider that they are in charge of things here, or that here is still a part of there.. I do not think that it is such a calculated thought. It is just thoughtless.

10 October Thursday

I met Joe up the track and he asked me if I liked mushrooms. He said this weather was perfect for them. He would not eat them nor would his wife, but he thought we might like them. He led me down into the nearest field. He picked the field mushrooms and dropped them into my dress which I held out to collect them. For someone who did not want to eat them himself, he was very careful to pick only the freshest looking ones. I knew there was some reason why I had put on that dress over my trousers today. It was the perfect receptacle. I felt I was wearing an apron. When I had a full load, I stopped him and walked carefully back down the boreen. Em was annoyed as we had not gone as far on the walk as we usually do. The mushroom lunch was magnificent. Later I saw the cows were out in that very field so I know we were lucky to get them before they all got squished underfoot. Cows do not eat the mushrooms, they only step on them,

9 October Wednesday

Sound Out. Sound Out is an expression of hearty agreement or approval. Sound Out is said when one person says something and his or her listener wants to agree enthusiastically. The emphasis is on the word Sound. It is said a lot here. I have not heard it said elsewhere. Bunny is the first person I ever heard saying Sound Out. He said it often and with feeling. Bunny's real name was Patrick but he was small as a child so he was given the nickname Bunny. Bunny remained small even as a grown man. He was a small man with a deep voice. When he said Sound Out it sometimes sounded like a growl. I cannot remember how many years it has been since Bunny died. He fell down one winter night while fetching in a cabbage from his vegetable patch. No one found him until the next day. It was his heart. I never hear anyone say Sound Out without thinking of Bunny and since I hear it fairly often, I do not forget Bunny.

8 October Tuesday

I took the bus from Ardfinnan down to Cork this morning. There were very few passengers and it was early so the bus was quiet. We stopped in Clogheen and Ballyporeen and then in Mitchelstown. A lot of people got on in Mitchelstown and the whole sound level changed. Somewhere between Mitchelstown and Fermoy, the young woman beside me got a phone call. She spoke respectfully to someone named Michael. She told him it was her day off and that she was on her way to Cork. She said she was sorry about his situation and if there was no one else available, of course she would turn around and be there to help him. She told him to get back to her. I thought it was an elderly person needing a lift to somewhere important like the hospital. She then made three quick calls to other people discussing Michael and the problem. She was on her way to Cork and it was her day off and she had a hair appointment and then she was meeting some girlfriends for dinner and she had not seen the girls for a long time and she had even made plans to stay over. Michael phoned again and said he needed her to be there by 3.30. She said her hair appointment was at 3.20 so there was no way she could be back by then but then she proceeded to say she would help in any way if she could. The offers to help and the importance of the hairdressing appointment were at odds with one another. I was not trying to eavesdrop, but I could not help but be involved in the ongoing problem. Her voice got louder and louder each time she discussed the situation with anyone who was not Michael. With Michael himself, she remained calm and quiet. After several more phone calls, I realized that Michael was her boss and whoever she had gotten to take her place that day had stood him up so she was needed back at the job. We got to Cork before anything was resolved. I forgot about her and about Michael while I did my errands. When I returned to the station for the 3 o'clock bus to take me back to Ardfinnan, I found myself looking for the young woman amongst the people who were already in the long line. I wondered if she was heading back to help Michael or if she was on her way to the hairdressers by now. I did not think I would recognize her face but I knew I would recognize her trousers. And as for her hair, she was planning on getting a completely New Look done so there was no chance of me recognizing her by her hair. She had announced several times to the people on the phone who were not Michael that she had found the New Look in a magazine and had torn the page out to show to the hairdresser. She had the page in her bag and she had patted the bag each time she mentioned it. A lot of the same people who had ridden down in the morning were on the return bus with me, but she was not among them.

7 October Monday

The autumn raspberries keep ripening. I am able to pick a bowlful every day. This feels like a great luxury. Every year it feels like a luxury. There are still blackberries and apples to collect. Except for a small number of wild damsons the plums are finished.

6 October Sunday

Em has a new bell. This one looks like a small cow bell. It came from a selection which went all the way from tiny to big. The largest was big enough for a cow although I do not think anyone puts a bell on a cow. It sounds much louder than the first foolish bell, but it is not Too Loud. It has already beome a reassuring sound to announce her presence, both in the house and outside. I would not be able to hear it at a huge distance but if I could than we would not be able to live it. This is just right and since she cannot hear it anyway, she does not mind.

5 October Saturday

I saw John the Ancient Man this morning. When I asked him how he was, he answered "Well, I am Above Ground". I am certain this is not the first time he has said this to the people he meets, but I wonder if he says it to get a hearty response about what great shape he is in or if it is a bit of a grumble. It was somehow a relief to see him without the enormous umbrella which always seems so cumbersome for him to carry along with him.

4 October Friday

At odd intervals around the country there are signs warning drivers to drive on the left. These signs are no doubt aimed at foreigners from right-hand drive countries who might become confused by the different side of the road. It is not unusual when the signs are near to an airport or a ferryport. It is always a surprise to find one of these signs in the middle of the countryside, far from anything that might suggest something was different about the road than the way it had been two minutes ago. The signs are in three languages: Drive On Left! Conduire a Gauche! Links Fahren! I am consistently surprised by the erratic presence of these signs. Perhaps the element of surprise is exactly what they are aiming for.

3 October Thursday

Em is looking and behaving like a different dog. She is moving as though she is at least one year younger. Maybe the blood circulation pill being given in the morning instead of at night is the reason. It is intended to aid her blood flow to the brain and also to her joints. She rushed out for her walk this morning and even ran a little bit when she was going downhill and toward home. Maybe it was her stay in Skeheenarinky which has enlivened her. Being surrounded by loving friends both old and new is stimulating for everyone.

2 October Wednesday

I have had my Flu Jab. It is not called a shot. It is not called an injection. It is not called a vaccination. It is a always called a Jab. Today it felt like one.

15 September Sunday

When we are out walking together and we meet an older man also out walking, the man will speak to Simon. Sometimes he speaks to us both, but not really to us both. He looks at Simon, and addresses his questions, comments, and statements at Simon. If I ask a question, the answer is given to Simon. The man might be a farmer or he might be something else but now he has the time to walk out in the middle of a day. He might be someone we know or he might just be someone who is walking near to wherever we are walking. Today we met such a man. We talked about the lack of rain and we talked about the Wild Winds. We talked about this wind which has not stopped for twenty hours. We talked about a number of other weather related items but this man never looked at me. I can never decide if this refusing to speak directly to me is sexist or if, instead, it is just an old-fashioned kind of respectfulness. I do not know whether to be annoyed, insulted or just amused.

14 September Saturday

Poor old Em. Her back legs just collapse sometimes and she finds herself sitting down. Her look of surprise is funny, but it is also sad. Increasingly, she does not want to sit down or lie down to do those things which she has always done lying down. She no longer settles down to lick out a yoghurt pot while holding it carefully between her two front paws. Instead she just licks it from a standing position and never cleans it as thoroughly as she used to. A bone was once a great pleasure but now her teeth are maybe not as strong and again, she does not want to lie down to really get involved. It is not possible for her to chew on a bone with complete oblivion from a standing position anyway. Collapsing down and the struggle to push herself back up are factors in every decision.

13 September Friday

John the Post has complained to me yet again that we are not getting enough mail. Some days he has nothing at all for us and he does not need to make the trip down the boreen. I thought that would make him happy as he hates our rough track and the scratching bushes. More than his dislike of the location, he has always depended on us to keep his delivery levels up. Now there are many people paying bills on line and doing any number of things on line. He is glad for the packages that must be delivered but he says it is hard to have relationships with people who are never home and who never get any post. He misses the people part of the job and would like everyone to get more things delivered.

12 September Thursday

Mike has a lot of calendars. They are all hanging on two nails side by side on his office wall at the garage. I always assumed that the calendars underneath were old and that the new ones just got hung up year after year in the same place without removing the old ones. Today I looked underneath at the top few layers of calendars and they were all for this year. Five or six calendars on each nail were for this year. Well underneath those for this year were indeed several for the previous year. Each calendar came from a different oil, tyre, windscreen replacement or motor factors company. When the nails can hold no more, he may replace the lot or maybe he will just hammer in two more nails.

11September Wednesday

I needed tracing paper. The pad said 50 sheets on the cover, but I was told I could not have 50 sheets. The woman in the shop said that people are often looking for only one sheet of tracing paper, so it is normal to just tear out a sheet and sell them a single sheet. I said I did not want to buy the paper by the sheet. I said I wanted a whole pad. There was not a whole pad available. I wanted 50 sheets but I came home with 11.

10 September Tuesday

There is hay scattered along either side of the road. It has blown off the tractor trailers while it is being driven from a field to a farm. The pieces are small and as they are lining the road on both sides they make a beautiful golden pathway.

9 September Monday

I bought Em a little bell. It is a cat bell so it is not very big nor is it very loud. I hoped a bell might help me to locate her when she wanders. She cannot hear it at all. There is no chance that she will be humiliated by the feeble sound of this little cat bell. This bell is not much help, but for the moment it works as a reminder for me to get something better. The woman at the shop told me that she has two metal tags for her own deaf dog.She has had each tag engraved. One says: If You Find Me I Am Lost. The other gives her own name and phone number. The two tags jingle together to make a locatable sound. Tomorrow I am taking Em to Wruff to Fluff for a haircut. When the big amount of fur around her neck is removed, the sound of this tiny bell might be a little less muffled.

8 September Sunday

Joe's cows are in the adjoining field. I woke up several times in the night hearing them tearing the grass. I used to think of that sound as the sound of chewing but after watching them, I realized that it is the sound of the cows ripping the grass to get a mouthful. The actual chewing is quiet. Cows have little curiosity about food. They are happy to eat the same thing day after day. Unlike cows, dogs are very curious and they like to try new things.

7 September Saturday

Light Grey Morning. More than just the chill in the air, I feel like autumn has arrived with the change in the colour of the sky. The sky is light grey. There is brightness behind this grey. It is not a heavy oppressive grey, but it is grey nonetheless.. It is grey and it is cold. On a morning like this, I do not put on a pair of wool socks because it is not hot. I put on a pair of wool socks because it is cold. Everyone is shocked by this abrupt change in the weather. Some people are shivering in clothing which is too light. Other people are heavily bundled in layers. The change is our only topic of conversation. We all reassure each other of rumours for the weather to Get Good again next week.

6 September Friday

External stone buildings around the house are all called houses. Barns are not called barns but they are called houses. Sheds might called sheds but they are often also called houses. The houses for animals and the houses for people are all places to live. Or maybe it is because a house is a shelter.

5 September Thursday

There is a small second-hand bookshop in Cahir which was set up to earn money for the projects of the Lion's Club. It started last Christmas and was largely supplied by a someone who drove a van load of books over from Britain. There were some great finds to discover, and all the books cost a euro. It was a big success in the town where there is no bookshop of any kind. After closing for a while, it re-opened, with new supplies. It continues in a temporary state of sort of permanent. I was in there today and there was a young girl at the small table which serves as a counter. She was staring into space and never moved once all the while I was rummaging through the books. Finally, I asked her wasn't she eager to read all these books which were all around her. She said "I don't really read all that much." I said "Ah, here's a good chance for you to get started." She answered "Well, why would I?"

4 September Wednesday

How I miss Em when I go out for a walk on my own. I miss her on the way to anywhere. For so long we have walked together and we have always walked separately even when we were together. The only time my active presence was required was when I was needed to throw the stick into the stream. Once the swim and the stream became too difficult for her, she would turn and look at me, then look at the place to go down to the stream under the fence and look at me again, and then continue on her way. Then she stopped even looking at the place. Now if I walk past the stream I am always on my own. She no longer goes that far. I look at the stream and I think of her. Sometimes, on my walk, I collect a stick as if I might need to throw it. I think of her in many moments along the way. I miss her Alll the Way Around.

3 September Tuesday

It is still summer. Everyday is still summer. The mornings are cooler and the nights are cooler but the sun and blue sky return day after day. The land is dry. Grass is turning brown and plants in pots are struggling if they don't get watered often. I know we are desperate for rain, but I do not want this warmth to stop. It is a delight not to be complaining about the weather every day. It is a delight not to have to listen to other people complaining about the weather too.

2 September Monday

This afternoon, I went down to the shop to do some photocopying. The photocopy machine used to be in a small room off to the side of the shop. Since that room has now become The Gift Room, the photocopier has been moved to a place behind the counter. When it was located in the small room, we were free to use it ourselves. It was good to be able to enlarge and reduce and do different things as the need arose rather than having to direct someone to do things that we did not always know we needed to do until we needed to do them. Even now, with the new location, I am allowed to go behind the counter to do my copying. It is more awkward to get access to the copier because if the shop is busy both cash registers might be in use. Today, before I could get started, I had to move a large number of empty candy bar boxes, as well as a stack of printed pages, which were all on top of the copier. I put all of that onto the counter and I set my folder full of pages on top of them. I set up a second pile of what I had finished printing onto a box on the floor. As I was getting started, the cigarette machine was being filled. That took up a lot of space and was a distracting activity. Cigarettes are not on view anymore. They are in a closed and locked cupboard. To sell cigarettes, a salesperson punches the brand on a screen off to the side and the package drops out a slot at the bottom of the locked cupboard. At that point they do the exchange of money with the customer. Maybe they take the money first. It seems like a lot of extra steps to do a simple transaction. The doors to the cigarette cupboard were open while it was being filled, so I was closed into my own little narrow space between the counter, the photocopier, and the displays of batteries and cigarette lighters, with a large number of empty cartons. I finally managed to focus my attention and I did all of my reductions and copies. I was only interrupted once by a man who wanted to pay for a carton of milk at my register. I directed him down the counter to the other register.

1 September Sunday

Em no longer gets into her wicker bed to sleep. She does not get into the wicker bed for a nap in the daytime nor does she get into the wicker bed at bedtime. She never gets into the wicker bed. She does not acknowledge that it is an option. She sleeps only on her lambs wool bed which we continue to call the New Bed. She used to sleep curled into a little ball held snugly in place by the sides of the wicker bed. Now she sleeps flat on her side with her legs out straight from her body. She does not get into the wicker bed because she cannot get out of the wicker bed. The struggle is not worth it.

31 August Saturday

We stopped in at Rose's last night for the first time in ages. We met some friends, heard some news and caught up with things in general. One old man came in and shouted for Mary Ann to give him a drink. Mary Ann was the name of Rose's late mother. By the time we moved here, Mary Ann was dead. We never knew her. There are a lot of old men, especially those who come down from the mountains, who always call Rose by her mother's name and they speak of the bar itself as Mary Ann's. Maybe they remember that Mary Ann is dead and maybe they do not. Maybe they call Rose by her mother's name as a way of not letting Mary Ann be absent. I keep meaning to ask if the name painted out front was once Mary Ann's or if it has always been Nugent's. Rose's name is not Nugent but maybe it was Nugent before she married. These are the things that everyone who has always been here already knows.

30 August Friday

On Wednesday we ate rabbit cooked with kale, cider and tiny pieces of diced turnip. I usually prefer rabbit prepared with a mustard sauce, but this was a delicious variation. Last night, the leftover rabbit was made into a small pie. It was cooked in a narrow deep dish with a lovely golden crust.. As it was taken out of the oven, something slipped. It was the hands or it was the potholders or it was the dish itself. Whatever it was that slipped, meant that the pie landed upside down and the juices ran in all directions. We rescued a bit which had not fallen out of the pan. Since the pie had been a small pie to begin with, the remains from a mostly spilled pie made for a miniscule portion each. What we did have of the pie was tasty. We thought so and so did Em. She spent twenty minutes licking up every bit of the juices and tonight she will have some of the Floor Pie in her supper dish. This rabbit has provided pleasure all around.

29 August Thursday

When someone is not drinking, he is said to be On The Dry. If he starts drinking again, he can say he is Off The Dry. He cannot be Off The Dry unless he has had a time of being On The Dry. Otherwise he is just a regular person who has a drink.

28 August Wednesday

I like the sound of A Big Dog Drinking.. When Oscar comes down, he always has a long drink of water. He laps and laps and laps the water and it is a noisy thing to hear. Em is smaller and she is lady-like. As she drinks there is the sound of slurping and lapping but it is much quieter. When Sydney was still alive, I used to wake up in the night and I could hear him drinking water from the low water trough way across the yard. He would drink and drink. It was a loud but pleasant sound in the stillness of the night. I knew he was enjoying his water, so it was a comforting sound.

27 August Tuesday

We have eaten the First Fig of the year. It was perfectly ripe and not at all woody. After a summer with this much heat to gently squeeze the figs on the tree each day. If I am careful and attentive, we should be able to eat a few fresh figs daily. The birds will be checking too, so it is a strategic activity. I do not mind sharing as long as I get plenty. I hope to eat enough to make up for last year when it was too cold and wet to even think about figs ripening.

26 August Monday

An elderly man stood near the shop doorway. He watched a woman come out and get into her car, then she got out of her car and went back into the shop and then she came out and then she went in again. I saw all of this as I approached the shop. As I got close to the man, he looked up and spoke. I do not think he was speaking to me. He just had something to say and it was me who was there. He said, "That eejit of a woman, she's as Scattered as a Spring Shower."

25 August Sunday

I took some cake and fresh strawberries down to Tommie and Margaret last night. I had not visited since she came home. She was away for nine weeks, first in the hospital in Waterford, and then at the Rehabilitation Unit in Cashel and most recently at the residential home in Clogheen. Her broken hip is mostly healed, but she said she still has some pain. She has a frame for walking and there is a new ramp cast from concrete to help her in and out of the front door. I said you must be delighted to finally home again. She said she was pleased to be home, but that she had had a lovely time. She loved the food and all of the different people to talk to. She loved the nurses and the physiotherapists. She loved the bustle and the activity. She loved meeting people she knew and people who knew people she knew and people who were strangers until they met and became friends. She said that once the bad pain was gone she enjoyed every minute of it. I went away feeling that she was maybe a little disappointed to be back in her own life.

24 August Saturday

There were four or five crafts people selling things at the market today. All of them were new except for the wood turning man who has been coming to the market off and on all year. He sets up his lathe with the foot pedal. The armature for the lathe is a big curved branch. He used to use the weight of the back of his car to counter-balance the pressure needed for the turning. Now he has brought some cement blocks to do that job. People like to watch him turning a piece of wood but I do not think they are buying his bowls. I do not know if the other crafts sold well. Pat at the vegetable stall was glad the crafts people were there. He said, "It is good to have some different things on show, even though people do not have money now. They might not buy the crafts, but you can be sure they need their spuds every week."

23 August Friday

Em goes outside in the morning and then she comes back in. Sometimes she goes and wanders around on the grass. Sometimes she stands just outside the door looking outwards without moving her head. She just stands. After ten minutes of one activity or the other, she comes back in and she looks at her dish or at the usual place for her dish on the floor. She is no longer trying to trick us into thinking she has not had her breakfast yet. She is no longer trying to get her breakfast twice. These days, she simply does not remember if she has been fed or not.

22 August Thursday

Two women in the shop were discussing an upcoming weekend wedding. The hotel rooms were booked. They had their dresses and their shoes. They had each had their legs waxed. One of them had had her tan done and the other was going in to be done this afternoon. The first woman was a very browny-orange colour. She said she would look better after she showered. She said the tanning was always better after a day or two, so it is best to get done early. They agreed that no one would consider going to a wedding without tanning first. It is all part of Looking Good. You can almost tell who has been to a wedding by the condition of their tan. Unlike the tan, they agreed that doing the nails is best left to the very last minute. I learned all this just while waiting to buy a newspaper.

21 August Wednesday

Most fields have now had their hay cut. The bales have been gathered up, taken away and piled somewhere beneath a sheltering roof. Some fields are still dotted with big round bales awaiting collection. The golden bales sit in the golden stubble looking lovely. Today I saw several fields with large rectangular bales scattered about. These are no longer a common sight. I guess the machines that makes that kind of bale are the older and smaller machines and they are being pushed out of use by the enormous modern balers. These rectangular bales are strangely flat. They are like large cereal boxes lying down.

20 August Tuesday

For a long time now, I have been trying to pin down the difference between a Cup of Tea and the meal called Tea. I find it confusing, which is perhaps why I have never tried to explain it. If we ask someone for Tea, I think sometimes they arrive expecting the supper kind of Tea. As I understand it, inviting someone to Tea means that Dinner has been eaten at midday. Then Tea would be a light supper. More often, Tea, these days, is understood as a time. After Tea or Before Tea are acceptable and easily understood times of the day. We never do the supper kind of Tea. Nor do we have our Dinner at lunch time. We have lunch and later we have dinner. We never eat A Meal called Tea. I try to remember to say A Cup of Tea, meaning just that: A Cup of Tea as a day-time drink, accompanied with a piece of cake or some biscuits. If someone arrives expecting a supper and all you give them is a few cups of tea and biscuits, they will no doubt leave your home feeling disgruntled and maybe a bit cheated. They will also be hungry.

19 August Monday

Emily no longer even pretends to go down the meadow before she goes to bed. The distance she walks from the house is a much shorter distance. Tonight I took her around the house. She was confused about where I was going so she followed me. We left from the back door and we returned to the back door. This might be the new night walk, which is not much of a walk, but it is better than no walk at all. I may have to let her into the house and then walk down the meadow by myself. I miss taking that evening stroll even if she does not.

18 August Sunday

It was a very small museum. There were no hours listed on the board outside, and when we tried the door, it was locked. There were lights on inside. It was well after lunchtime. I looked into one of the windows. Directly across from me was a long horizontal frame surrounding a black and white photograph of a forehead. The frame was about one metre long. There were no eyes visible in the photograph. There was enough hair so that I knew I was looking at the forehead of a woman. Eventually, the door was opened by a young man who was still eating his lunch even though it was 2.30. We took turns going into the museum while one of us stayed out in the sunshine with Em. The forehead belonged to a woman named Maude Delap. She had been a famous naturalist, largely self-taught, who studied and drew all kinds of marine life. She was particularly interested in plankton and jellyfish. There were copies of her drawings to be seen underneath a hand written sign which read: Copies of Maude Delap's Sketches from her Note Book. There was no mention of the photograph of the forehead, neither who had taken the photograph nor whose head it was. It was obviously the forehead of Maude Delap. I asked the young man at the desk why there was a photograph of her forehead and only her forehead.. He said he had often wondered about this himself. He thought perhaps it was because she was so very smart and this was the closest someone could get to making a picture of her brain.

16 August Friday

Em and I walked as far as the road this morning. It is not easy for me to walk so slowly. I find it hard to even think about much when I stroll, while a good walking pace is great for thinking. Now I carry my secataurs. As I meander, I can clip at the eternally encroaching thorny blackberry and wild rose. They are always growing. They are always reaching out into the light and open space. They are already filling in the boreen which felt so open and light for a few weeks. So until there are blackberries to collect on the walk, I will do some cutting every day while Em does her smelling and investigating. We are both multi-tasking.

15 August Thursday

A grey and dreary morning which has turned into a grey and dreary day. Every so often it rains for a bit but never for long nor very hard. The grey light has made the one red rose in the garden look extremely red and extremely bright. I do not know what this rose is called. I do not know how I came to have it. It is not a tall bush. It has multiple blossoms on each stem and they are repeat flowering. I am not especially fond of it. I just have it. Or rather, it is just here. All summer long, I have bright red roses. The very bright red amidst all of my quiet purples, whites and lavenders makes it look like a real life version of a John Hinde postcard of Ireland. Each Hinde card has a bright red focal point. A sweater. A door. A wagon. Something red which was not really red but was painted red in the studio to make the photograph more exciting. This rose is playing the same role in my flower bed. And today in the bleak greyness, that is not a bad thing.

14 August Wednesday

It is increasingly difficult to learn about the ways of this parish. So many older people are dying. Some are taken off to hospitals or residential homes. Some stay in their homes but they no longer drive so unless you already know them you will never have a chance to get to know them. I met one lady in the shop today. I had not seen her for a long time. She has aged a lot since we last spoke, but she is still out and about. I was pleased to see her. This woman has an endless supply of safe comments. She seems to have one for every situation and for every single thing you might say. Sometimes speaking with her does not feel like a conversation so much as a challenge for her to use each and every one of her Automatic Expressions. She asked me about my dog who she used to enjoy seeing. When I explained Em's deafness and general aging, she sort of cooed and said "Oh, The Poor Old Misfortunate". As we went our separate ways, I said 'See you soon!.' She responded with the ever-ready "God Willing!" which never fails to frighten me a little.

13 August Tuesday

I lost my reading glasses somewhere between here and County Kerry. I cannot remember exactly when I last had them. After looking everywhere in the house where we stayed and in the car and in various bags and pockets, I traced our journey backwards. I phoned the restaurant where we ate lunch. It was well beyond Killarney. They phoned back and said that no glasses had been turned in. Then I phoned a small place where we had a cup of coffee before reaching Killarney. It took a while to remember the town and to remember the name of the cafe. The man said he would have a look on his Lost and Found Shelf and ring me back. I assumed I would never hear another thing. He did ring back in half an hour. He was delighted. He said "Ah, you mean the giraffe's neck!" I said "I beg your pardon?". He said "Yes! Your glasses are red and black and they look like the neck of a giraffe". I said "No, my glasses are black, all black". He said "It's a pity that. These giraffe ones are a lovely fine specimen of eyewear".

6 August Tuesday

I am thrilled with Em's improvement but I cannot help but keep noticing all of the things which she does not or can not do any longer. She does not push the kitchen door open. She might push it open, but just a little bit open. She does not have the strength for it. If she manages a little opening, she runs her nose up and down the crack until we notice it and let her in. She does not even scratch at the door. Because she can no longer hear herself scratching, she probably thinks we cannot hear it either. If a door is closed she just sits and waits. She also spends a lot of time being oblivious to what is happening around her. Wherever things are happening, she looks the other way. I wonder if she realizes that she can no longer do some things or if she is relieved to not have to be bothered anymore.

5 August Monday

There are a lot of old and broken gates. Sometimes they just rust and pieces of a gate fall off. Sometimes they are rammed into again and again by cows and tractors and other machinery and they get bent out of shape and then some pieces fall off. The gate on the way into Scully's wood has one of its horizontal bars missing. . It is just a gate leaning against a tree and a post. It is not hinged to anything and it is not a gate which can be locked or securely closed. If anyone wants to go in, you need only lift the gate off the ground enough to push your way in, and then, once in, you just lean it back against the side. The gate has been repaired recently. It has been repaired carefully. It took careful work and attention to fix it. There is a barbed wire grid woven into the space where the bar is missing. The grid makes eight tight and almost evenly spaced squares in the place which was once just two long narrow horizontal spaces. It is not a place where animals are going in nor going out. Maybe the barbed wire repair is holding the whole gate together in a way I do not quite understand. This attention to the gap in the gate is more than a little excessive but it is very well done. It is a considered job.

4 August Sunday

Yesterday, an old man at the market gathered an audience around him. He did not do it intentionally. He was walking toward Jim and Keith's vegetable stall when Jim called out to him to ask how his tomatoes were this year. The old man walked closer. He was using a stick for balance, so his progress was not fast. He wore voluminous trousers held up with blue braces. His shirt was white and ironed and he was wearing a tie. When he got over to the stall, the man began to talk about his astonishing tomato bush. It had started from a little potted plant. He recounted that he had bought it for a few pence. The small plant had been replanted into a big bucket which he filled halfway with FarmYard. All of his tomato plants were doing well this year, but this one had become an enormous bush and was covered with hundreds of small tomatoes. They were not yet ripe so he was waiting for some sun to finish them off. Several people had stopped to listen to him discussing his tomatoes. Each time a new person stopped, Jim included them in the conversation by announcing that the man was growing his tomatoes Out of Doors. We have all tried to grow tomatoes out of doors here. Most people give up. If they do not have a polytunnel or a greenhouse or a good glassed-in porch, it is too difficult to grow tomatoes out of doors. The weather is unpredictable and it is depressing to work hard at plants that always let you down. Each time a new person joined the little circle around the old man, the murmuring about his tomatoes being grown out of doors increased. Everyone was full of respect and maybe envy. Each time a new person joined the little circle, the man began his story again at the beginning telling about the little plant which only cost him a few pence. I was fascinated by the term FarmYard which he re-used each time he explained his methods. He never said manure nor even well-rotted farmyard manure. He called it Farm Yard and we all knew just what he meant.

3 August Saturday

I walked with Em along the River Path. Our progress was slow but steady and I was happy to have her on her new extendable lead. I did not have to worry about losing her nor about her wandering away while I was not paying attention. We both had a more relaxed time as a result. A woman marching along at speed while swinging her arms stopped abruptly and asked me what sort of a dog my dog was. I am often asked this question. As always, I said that Em's mother was a sheepdog. I said we did not know who her father was. The woman exclaimed "Well, I'd say he was good looking!" and she continued on her way.

1 August Thursday

Breda's grandmother lived until she was 98. She was a positive person. No matter what sort of misfortune happened to anyone, her response was always the same. It did not matter if a cup of coffee had been spilled or a leg had been broken. Her comment remained constant. Time and again, she repeated "It's a small thing compared to the North".

31 July Wednesday

I walked up the boreen as far as the farm with Em. That was enough. I put her into the house on our return and took off up the rough track for my own walk. I start missing walking for myself because, increasingly, I try to accomodate her slowed pace. I knew that if I did not leave immediately, I would let something get in my way and maybe never get around to taking my own walk. The sky was grey and heavy but I did not wear any rain gear. I felt certain that I could walk quickly and get home before it began to rain. I did not consider the heavy downpours which had fallen during the night. Before I got a third of the way up the path, I was thoroughly soaked by the wet leaves and the wet trees and the dripping off every kind of vegetation which I had to push my way through.. I kept going thinking that I probably could not get any wetter. By the time I came out of the wooded track and onto the road, the rain had begun. It was falling hard. If I walked or if I stood under an ocassional tree or if I scrunched up my shoulders and scurried along, it did not make any difference. I just kept getting wetter. Even when the brain accepts the inevitability of getting drenched, it is difficult to walk at a normal pace.

30 July Tuesday

Em is better. She is much, much better. She is getting more sleep because we are continuing to barricade her into the kitchen at night. She does not seem to mind. All these years, she has had the free reign of the house and has struggled against any closed door. Now she paces around her newly restricted space for a short while and then she settles and sleeps for a straight twelve hours. She might be better, but she is no younger.

29 July Monday

The antibiotics are workiing and I am relieved to see Em looking and being better. I am less tearful as I watch her bumbling about. Today I was picking up her wooly bed in order to give it a shake outside. I noticed a mass of little scratch marks on the wall. There is a rubbed surface of liming wax on that wall made of wood.. Em has a habit of rolling on her back and tossing herself back and forth when she wants to feel good. Now I see that her back toenails have been lightly scratching through the wax over the years. The places where the wax has been scratched off allow the wood grain to be seen more clearly. The little marks have made a delicate drawing on the wall.

27 July Saturday

Tractors are racing up and down the roads with huge upright trailers full of the grass cut for silage. They arrive up at the farm and empty their load quickly while another tractor is waiting just outside the gate to go in and empty its own load. They rush up and down the road and go into fields where the cutting machine never stops. It just keeps cutting and spraying its cut stuff into the trailer of the next tractor which drives along exactly beside it. Everything happens at top speed. It is an amazing bit of choreography. It is The Silage Dance. I say this every year. This season all of the tractors are the same colour. They are all new and they are all bright blue. Their trailers are bright blue too. I could not tell how many tractors were racing up and down. I knew there were at least three, but since they are always in movement I could not get a sense of numbers. I drove through the farm yard at midday and there were five matching tractors and trailers all parked around outside. Their large size and their proximate parking made the area feel very urban. I felt like I was moving between tall buildings. There were no people on the ground nor in the tractors. The drivers were in the kitchen being served a big farm workers dinner.

26 July Friday

I cannot stop worrying about Em. I cannot stop thinking of the inevitablity of lfe here without her. I know this will happen, but I had placed it into a far future not the immediate future. I took her to the new vet today. I have reassurance but I do not feel reassured. She is pacing and pacing in circles and in zig zags throughout the house. We do not know if it is pain or age or maybe dementia causing the pacing. It is a normal thing for old dogs. It is not a normal thing for my dog. I am unable to think about anything else.

25 July Thursday

New cars this year were given the number 131 on their number plates so that no one would have any bad luck which the number 13 might bestow upon them. Now there are newer new cars which have the number 132 on the plates. This new number allows people to be able to show off that their car is newer than a 131. I guess it is incentive for those sorts of people for whom it matters, because not so many cars are being sold these days. Any marketing trick is possibly a good trick.

24 July Wednesday

Em is spending a lot of time going to places she never used to go to. It is as if she is trying to remember these places even as she is forgetting them. We find her staring into corners. Every day we find her sleeping somewhere new with her head underneath a piece of furniture or under the bathtub. Sometimes she walks behind a chair or a door and then she cannot get herself out from behind that thing. Because she is spending time in odd places, I find I am spending time in odd places too. It is a way to be together with her.

23 July Tuesday

At night, when we go out to walk down the meadow together, it is still bright and light so I do not need a torch. I can easily see Em as she comes down the steep path behind me, and then she stops. She waits and watches me go all the way down and through the birch trees at the bottom. Then she watches as I continue up the path on the far side. When she sees that I am on the final stretch, she turns and walks back up the same short way she has come and she meets me at the back door. Does she think that I do not know that she has not walked the whole way around or is it enough for her to know that I have done it. Maybe she thinks that is enough for us both.

22 July Monday

There are so many signs of age. If she did not look so youthful, perhaps I would not feel so disturbed by it all. Increasingly, I walk into the kitchen and find Em staring hard and for a long time at the hinge side of the door, not realizing that it is the wrong side of the door.

29 June Saturday

Em disappeared in the Long Field. I think the horror of it all is still too close for me to properly describe it.  She was there, walking along behind me, and then she was not there.  I looked and shouted and clapped my hands and she was no where to be seen. I could see for miles in all directions. The barley was high enough to hide her. And her deafness made it all harder, of course. When she is in trouble she never barks or makes a noise herself. She just waits. She is a very quiet dog. It took several hours and lots of wading through dikes and phone calls and a search party and finally she was found slowly walking in a deep dike which had gotten deeper the farther she walked. It went lower and the parellel track rose higher. Breda's dog, Molly, found her.  She was about eight feet below the level of the dirt track when Molly located her. I was still hunting for her way back where I had last seen her which was about a kilometer and a half away.

28 June Friday

The library has a sign up inviting people to take a photograph of their library books on holiday. There is a photo of a book on a beach and another of a book on a bench in the railway station in Prague. This invitation appears every summer and every summer I am surprised all over again, because I always think it is irresponsible to take library books to faraway places. From the number of photos which get gathered together from widely varied locations, I gather I am alone in thinking like this.

27 June Thursday

As we returned from walking to the farm and collecting the post, Em started to walk slowly but it was a different slowly than the kind that suggests that she cannot keep up the pace. This was an intentional slowness. She dawdled well behind me and then looked to see if I was noticing. This was not old dog behaviour. There was something else going on. This was dog with an agenda. I continued walking but looked back again and again until I noticed that she had picked up something. I went back to see what it was. It was a cow's horn and it was in Em's mouth. They must have been de-horning up in the yard and somehow one had gotten out onto the road. Em dropped it but as soon as I turned away, she picked it up again. I walked along and she dropped it again and then slowly moved toward me. I moved away and she sloped back to the horn. We went back and forth like this until I took it from her and made her walk in front of me. I dropped the horn back on the road knowing that it would still be of interest on her next trip. I had a good look at it myself before letting it go.

26 June Wednesday

There is a lot of brown dead vegetation on the edges of the road and and in front of farm gates at this time of year. The seasonal spraying of industrial strength weed killer makes for a horrible look. We are happy not to have any of it at all down our track. The postman is not so happy though. The growth on both sides of the boreen is rampant. Everything grew in a mad rush because it all waited for so long for some warm weather to let any growth begin. Now all kinds of things are out at the same time even if they aren't usually out at the same time. What John doesn't like is the oily nature of the blossoms and the clutching weeds and how they stick all over his van and his mirrors. What I don't like is the whacking of the car on both sides by bushes and blossoms and how the car fills up with insects if a window is open. They just get thrown in as the bushes bang and scrape against the sides. In the last few days, I have found that I could barely walk up and down anymore. If I tried to walk in the tyre tracks I had to fight the bushes off and away from my face and if I tried to walk down the middle, the uneven high grass and clumpiness made me stagger and flail from side to side. It is still a few weeks before the big hedge cutting will begin. To placate John, we moved the plastic post box up to the farm for a while so that he does not have to drive down. For myself, I decided to attempt mowing out some of the central area of grass. It is a long way up to the farm with a heavy old lawnmower and I knew it would take two or three runs to get the entire width done. I thought I might do a bit today and the rest of it tomorrow. In a burst of energy, I managed to do it all this afternoon. My arms are still shaking and my shoulders are tired but I am ever so proud of my work.

25 June Tuesday

A man at the vegetable counter turned to the woman nearest him and asked "What does celery look like?" Before the woman could answer, he said "Is it one of those long yokes?" She replied helpfully "Yes, it is one of those long yokes. It is green. Let me see if I can find some for you."

24 June Monday

I know most of the dogs around here. Many of them I know by name but even the ones I do not know by name, I know by sight. I know where most dogs live and I know who owns them. There are not that many dogs and there are not that many houses. Everyone is accounted for. As I was feeding Em tonight, I looked out the door and saw a medium-sized black dog come racing down the boreen, around the side of my studio, across the lawn and down the path into the meadow. I ran out and tried to see where it went after running through the meadow but it was already gone by the time I got there. The dog ran really fast. It ran as if it was being chased or as if it was chasing something. The dog only had three legs but that did not seem to slow it down. I waited around a bit expecting to see someone coming down the track after the dog. No one ever came and the dog never came back up the meadow to return to wherever it came from. In the excitement of anticipating and finally getting her dinner, Em missed the whole thing. I have been unable to stop wondering and worrying about this Unknown and Definitely Not Local Three Legged Dog all evening.

23 June Sunday

Today has been muggy and overcast.  Em and I walked as far as the farm. She is very slow.  It is no longer the limp, so much as the age. Some days she sets off with great glee and gusto.  Some days she plods.  She no longer looks shocked when I make the signs for turning back.  She did manage the entire river walk on Saturday but I think these longer walks now have to be the exception rather than the norm. She is simply Not Able for It.

22 June Saturday

There is a tiny truck with a two-sided sign on the back of it. It is the same little tent-like sort of sign arrangement which we otherwise only see when there is an election in process. These signs advertise the Farmer's Market in Cahir. Throughout the morning the little truck moves around the town. It is first parked in a highly visible spot up on the square. Every now and then, someone goes and drives it around the town for a few minutes, then reparks it in a different visible location. This happens each Saturday morning between the hours of 9 and 1 o'clock while the market is open. It is a fun to see the little tent in yet another new surprise spot.

21 June Friday

While I was still in bed this morning, I looked across the yard . There was bright sun falling on the daisies a few metres in front of the barn, but the barn itself was situated under dark cloud. There was no light on the barn. The stone of the walls looked as heavy and grey as the slates of the roof. Walls and roof looked to be all of the same colour which is never the way they usually look. There was no reflection of light on any of it. There was no reflection of light in any of it either. I looked and looked and tried to understand the heavy deadly darkness in contrast to the brightness so close by. By the time I was up and moving around the cloud cover had moved and the garden and the buildings had returned to normal with light, shadow, and brightness all shared.

20 June Thursday

Soft drinks of the sweet and fizzy sort are all called Minerals.

19 June Wednesday

I keep adding more nuts to the feeders because the man on the radio tells us that with the confusion in weather and plant growth this year, the birds have not had the right things in the normal quantity and order for eating. I would usually have stopped feeding them by now. The two feeders were full this morning and already they are nearly empty. It is hard to sit at the table and to look out the window as there are just so many birds rushing to eat . They gather around and wait sitting on the old church chandelier and on the wooden sides of the tower. There are dozens of bird waiting their turn to eat, while each feeder has four or five actively eating at any given minute. It is chaos out there.

18 June Tuesday

Glorious sun and warmth today. Just when I feel defeated and cheated by the chill and grey gloom of this year, along comes a day like today which helps me to forget the horrible ones. This is the kind of day which is difficult to scheduale. It is always hard to scheduale oneself with discipline when the weather is so inconsistent. I feel I absolutely must do some work outside today simply because I can. It has not been possible and now it is possible. Does that mean I give up some other activity? I just finished packing up parcels of books down in the lower barn. The books needed to be packed. The orders needed to go out. The orders needed to be taken down to the post by 3.30, if they were to go out today. It was not so bad to do such a job with the door open and Em wandering in and out. Swallows flew in and out. I went in and out too, fetching books and addresses and a cup of coffee. The packing up of books is not as interesting as planning, writing, drawing, printing and even folding books but it is all part of the life we have here. Something will not get done today. I fear it is the things which are my own projects. I put myself last too often. Balance is always hard to find. Today I shall not resent the time spent in the sun and in the garden. There has been too little sun to chance missing a bit of it.

17 June Monday

I stopped to say hello to an elderly friend. She was pleased to have a visitor and she greeted me with the offer of tea or coffee. Before I could choose, she took back her offer of coffee. She said she had indeed had a jar of coffee, but she kept it for so long that it went all green.

16 June Sunday

There is a new business down in the village. It is in the small space which was used as an insurance office for a few years. The people there always fed a cat outside on the footpath. When they closed up and left the premises, they left the dish outside. They left the cat too. The cat has since found various people to feed it in the neighbourhood. For a year or so the space was turned into a little museum. A priest who lived nearby left his books about the area but I am not sure exactly who he left them to. They were put on display, along with other books which were just books that he had without any particular subject joining them. There was discussion about building a larger collection of local stuff. The space was far too small for much of anything to be acquired. I do not know where the books are now. The sign over the door still announces the space as a museum but as of today, the place is for dog grooming. A flyer has been printed up to advertise this new business. On it are different prices listed for five sizes of dog starting from Tiny and going to Giant, with a reduced rate for puppies. The flyer locates the premises with the phrase: Where the museum used to be.

15 June Saturday

No more activity in Scully's wood. All of the busy woodcutting and thinning work has ceased. The wood which looked so bright and full of light with its undergrowth cut away has now gone dark and gloomy again. The leaves up top have grown and made a solid, dense ceiling. No light can get through and we no longer want to go and walk there. Even Em stops at the gate and shows no interest to enter.

14 June Friday

Blustery rain and wind on and off all day. Sometimes the sun comes out and it is bright even while the rain continues to lash down. There are cows in Joe's field just above us. There are the cows of the other Joe in the field immediately over our fence. There are more cows below in the river meadow. Those belong to Paul. All of the cows are noisy today. It is rare to have three different herds in such proximity all at the same time. They seem to set each other off. If one cow starts to bellow and moan, the others join in. The conversation bounces from field to field. I call it a conversation but I do not know if they are actually communicating with one another or if they are just enjoying the sound of their own voices. Sometimes I hear them over the sound of the beating rain. Sometimes the rain stops, and the wind drops and then the cows take over with their racket. It is a noisy day here.

13 June Thursday

I took Em all the way around today. I have just been walking up and down as far as the farm with her this week. That has been enough. Sometimes we have ventured all the way out to the road. Today I thought to try the whole circuit because she was not limping and she seemed eager to be on her way. We struggled up the overgrown path. I can barely call it a path anymore. It is worse than ever. Kathleen was with us. She and I are both short. Nature has taken over and it is taller than us. The cow parsley is still there as is wild angelica and alexander and nettles and more nettles and honeysuckle and grass and everything is all tangled together and even when they are growing separately, the plants joined together to stop us or at least to slow us down as we struggled to push through. I could barely see Kathleen and I did not see Em at all until we came out onto the the tar road. We were all three covered in tiny white dots from various blossom and we were wet. It felt good to be free of the struggle. It felt good to see ourselves covered in confetti. When we got to the stream, Em dashed down for her stick and her swim. I was pleased. Everything was returning to normal. When she started to climb up the steep banking, she slid back down and fell into the stream. She tried three times to climb up and after the third fall she began to walk around in the water as though that were exactly where she wanted to be. I climbed over the fence and went down to her. I stood in the stream and pushed her gently up the steep incline. Her front legs were fine but the back ones did not have enough strength in them to get her up. Just when I think she is fine and back to normal, I am reminded that she is an old dog and that she cannot do absolutely everything in every walk every day.

12 June Wednesday

Here and there around the countryside there are signs which read STAMP OUT CRIME. Sometimes the signs are hand-drawn and painted. Occasionally they are more commercially produced. Along with the words, there is always a picture of a single big lace-up boot. The boot is doing the stamping out.

11 June Tuesday

I was thinking of a short and not very hilly walk as a variation for Em and the little Loop walk in the village came to mind. For a few minutes, I forgot that the walk no longer exists.We had it for less than a year. It provided a gentle two kilometre circuit along a fast moving stream which poured down from the mountains. Some of the trees had little wooden signs with their Irish names on them. None of the trees were special trees. They were just the trees that were already there. The path had been made with an agreement between a landowner, the county council and with some European money. Small bridges had been built to cross the water at five or six locations. There were little gates here and there to stop livestock from escaping if any happened to be around. It was a lovely walk. It was used by people of all ages. One day the entrances to the path were found to be blocked up with big branches and bushes. There was a lot of speculation. No one knew exactly who to go to to find anything out. We looked over a gate from the road and saw all of the bridges had been ripped out and piled up together on the edge of a field. Such destruction was the work of men with heavy duty machines. We were shocked. Everyone was shocked and everyone was sad. Everything we know about all of this is rumour. It was widely discussed. We understand that the man who owned the land wanted to build some houses. He had made some kind of pact with the council that if he allowed this path to be made on the edges of his land, he would then recieve permission to build his developement. Maybe this was before the building boom ended. Anyway, his project was eventually refused permission, so he tore out the bridges and closed the path in vindictive anger. To this day, we do not know the exact truth of any of it. We cannot even protest to the man because he does not live around here. He neither knows nor cares that everyone in the whole village is mad at him.

10 June Monday

There is an exhibition of photographs along the hallways at the airport. It consists of 250 photographs of people who live on this island. Each picture is a shot of the head, not unlike a large passport photo. A few of the people are famous people like politicians or actors. Theirs are the faces we expect to see in media situations. The rest are just people who live here. This display might not be as effective somewhere else but because this is a small country, everyone expects to see someone they know. The unsurprising thing is that we all do see someone we know.

9 June Sunday

A huge funeral today. A fifteen year old was buried. One young friend told us that sometimes he thinks it would be better to have been brought up in a city. He explained that in a city he would only have his own circle of friends but in a small rural community everyone knows everyone and because you know everyone you know not only the person who has died but you know their siblings and their parents and their uncles and aunts and cousins and neighbours and you probably know their grandparents and the neighbours of the grandparents who live three townlands away. The lines of connection go on and on. Everyone feels the grief even through a long stretched out thread. Because the connection is there, the pain is there and you have to feel that and to share it together with the entire community. He said he is glad that he lives here but he feels so sorry to have to participate in this great sadness. On a day like today he feels it is all just too much.

8 June Saturday

I walked through the wood in Cahir. It is what Em and I do on a Saturday morning on the way to the market. She was slow and walking with a bit of a limp. I do not know if it was an injury limp or an old age and maybe a bit arthritic kind of limp. She was slow so I slowed to match her pace. We came upon a man who was digging around under a tree with a penknife. He had two small boys with him. The boys were delighted to see Em coming along slowly in the distance. They anticipated her arrival with squeals of both fear and excitement. I asked the man what he was digging for. He said he was looking for Pig Nuts. He showed me the plant which grows above ground. The pig nuts are attached to the roots of the plant. He had found one but it was small and he was sorry not to have a better tool. We talked a bit about foraging. He wanted to learn about the gathering of fungi but could not find anyone locally who would take him out and teach him. He knew one woman but she would not share her knowledge as she feared that someone might take home the wrong sort of mushroom and get sick and then she would be blamed and probably sued. We commiserated for a few minutes about the litiginous nature of the country. As we talked, he scraped his single pig nut clean and cut off a piece to give me. We each had a bit and discussed the taste which we tried to believe tasted like a hazelnut but really it did not have much taste at all. We decided that it was perhaps old or maybe young and not fully ripe. I think a mass of them together might be more tasty. I left him to his digging and the boys kissed Em goodbye. Later I wondered if I was foolish to have sampled an unknown nut from a complete stranger who did not know what he was doing any more than I did.

7 June Friday

The heat is extraordinary. It is difficult to do anything more than to just enjoy it. All of the windows and doors are open. It is good to be outside where it is hot and sultry. It is equally good to be inside with the cross breezes and cool shade. It is good to simply feel weather in such an enjoyable way. A swift flew into the house and started swooping and dashing around. It bumped into a few windows. The last bump must have stunned it because it dropped down onto Em's new bed and just sat there. Em was lying nearby, just beside her bed. She looked at the swift but she did not seem to be very interested in its arrival nor in its presence on her bed. She had come indoors because it was too hot for her outside. I had come indoors because I wanted a glass of water. I don't know why the swift had come in. I picked up the bird. It was too dazed to struggle. I took it outside and put it on the table. Within a few minutes it was racing off and away down over the meadow.

21 May Tuesday

If someone is sleeping they are said to be Above in the Bed. It does not matter if the house is a single storey house or a two storey house. I think the above of Above in the Bed is just a description of being in another place and of sleeping in that place.

19 May Sunday

I walked up the path with Em. We went as far as the tar road and then we turned back. I wanted her to have a shorter walk today and I also wanted to collect some apple blossom from Johnnie's orchard. I made sure that she saw me as I turned off into the tall grass of the orchard. I signaled with my hands and I trusted that I had caught her eye. I saw her walk towards me so I turned and got busy cutting a few branches. When I looked again, she was no where in sight. It was easy for her to be gone because the grass was so high and where there was not tall grass there was cow parsley. The cow parsley is already taller than I am. I shouted and whistled and clapped but none of my sounds caused a movement in the vegetation. She is too deaf to hear much but sometimes the sharpness of a clap works. Today nothing worked. I walked out and into the big field but I could not see the movement of any tall grass which would have suggested where she was walking. I stood clutching my armful of apple blossom and wondered which way to go to look for her. Would she have continued back up the track and gone out onto the road and done the usual walk around? Was she still in the orchard or in one of the fields around Johnnie's house? Had she turned to go back down the track toward home? I wandered around in the high growth for a while and then I decided to head down the track toward home. About a third of the way, I came upon her in a dense clump of cow parsley. She was sitting very still and turning her head slowly from left to right, probably trying as hard to locate me as I was trying hard to locate her.

18 May Saturday

Oscar has had an operation on a growth on his back. After the surgery, the wound became infected so he was put on antibiotics. He had one of those lampshade collars but he ripped it off the first day. The wound kept getting infected. He is now on his third dose of antibiotics and the vet suggested he be kept indoors and wearing a child's T-shirt to protect his wound. We were missing him each time we were out walking and we wondered where he could be. He is not an indoor dog but his people are now keeping him inside for The Healing. I am longing to see how this huge black dog looks in his little T-shirt.

17 May Friday

At first I thought it was just a few elderly people. I thought it was a problem with hearing. Now I know that it is not only old people. I cannot explain exactly who does do it and who does not do it. I want to stop them but I feel it would be impolite. I do not know if they realize that they are doing it. It is a response in conversation which takes the form of a repeating of each thing the first person says. Sometimes my own sentence will be returned to me as a question, or sometimes it is just plain repeating, which I think implies agreement. The repeating gives the thing which has been said emphasis. The repeating takes the form of an overlapping. It does not start as my own sentence ends but it starts a bit in the middle of what I am saying. It is a little bit like an echo but it is more annoying. I sometimes imagine a whole family sitting around the supper table, all restating what each other says. I do not know how anyone can be listening and repeating at the same time and without ever pausing.

16 May Thursday

There are two welly boots on the side of the road. One of them has been there for more than two years. It appeared at about the time the woodcutters were finishing their work in Cooney's wood. The toe of the boot was ripped off which rendered the whole thing useless. That boot lay on its side for months and months. One day another boot was there beside it. The second boot was the same size as the first boot but it is a different brand. The second boot was ripped at the top and was all green. The first boot was green with a yellow sole and treads. The two boots have been lying side by side on the verge and slowly the spring vegetation has grown around them for a second year. I no longer know exactly where they are but I know they are there. I will forget completely about both boots but I know that they will reappear when everything dies down again for the winter.

15 May Wednesday

Em was standing beside the table looking hopeful. She placed herself nearby on the off chance that something edible might fall or be dropped. She looked back and forth at each of us. Suddenly, without any more movement than the turn of her head, all four legs let go and she crashed to the floor in a heap. She was surprised and we were surprised. A few hours later it happened again. It is difficult to know if this is just age or if it is something more sinister. I am trying to keep an eye out to see if it happens again.

28 April Sunday

We set off in a soft drizzle. It is mild but not as spring-like as it was a few days ago. The rain was a soaking kind of rain, or maybe it was just soaking because we had so many stops. We were passed by seven cars which is an unusual amount of traffic. I think they were all returning from Mass. Each car stopped and the people within the cars commented about Em. Some people thought we had a new dog. Others just had a good laugh. Some were shocked at how pointy her ears are. Some thought her exposed face made her look like a terrier. Others commented upon her very fluffy tail. Each time we stopped for these conversations we stood in the drizzle while the people talking sat dry inside their cars. Joe was by his gate when we passed. He too had a laugh at Em and thought she looked very youthful. He said "Sure, doesn't everyone who gets a haircut look younger." We were wet through by the time we got home.

27 April Saturday

I met John while walking on the river path in Cahir. I had not seen him since the day he spoke of his fear of The Reaper. I was glad to see him after so long, and I decided not to bring up the topic of The Reaper and his own narrow escape. He was full of the news of the grass cutting at Shannon Airport. Ordinarily the three thousand acres of grass around the landing strips are only cut every 2 or 3 years. This is a kind of protection for various nesting birds. This year the grass has been cut out of sequence because there are so very many farmers desperate for food for their animals. A lot of hay and feed is being imported from Britain. Farmers are having a dreadful time between the cold and the wet. Nothing is growing. I do not know how they decide who gets a portion of the Shannon grass. Maybe it is divided up between some farmers in the immediate area. Everyone feels glad that something is being done to help.

25 April Thursday

Someone has robbed a chemists. There are bright blue cardboard packages of Durex condoms all along the road. The packages are empty and all splayed open. They have been thrown out the window of a moving car. The still folded-up directions for use are scattered all along the verge too. The first time I spotted them we counted fourteen packets over a distance of a kilometer and a half. On the next walk, I counted 22. Now the vegetation is growing so quickly that all of the packets are disappearing into the foliage.

24 April Wednesday

I took Em to be groomed this afternoon. Her clumpy hair had just become impossible and I could no longer brush her. The hacked out areas were looking worse and worse. Debbie took a quick feel of her and said This is hopeless. She said that the daily swim was making the tightness of the clumps worse. No shampoo was going to release all that hair, so we agreed that Em would get the Big Trim. She has not had this extreme cutting done for about four years. I returned after an hour to find a new dog. Debbie left some hair on the face and head and the big plume of the tail, but all the rest of Em's big fluffy coat is gone. I cannot look at her without laughing. She looks naked and vulnerable. She looks both extremely young and very frail at the same time. Debbie said she had a hard time standing for the time taken to trim her. Her legs kept collapsing. That is the old age.

23 April Tuesday

We walked down The Long Field in warm sunlight. The elusive spring has finally arrived. The fields on both sides of the straight track are large. These fields used to be many fields which have been brought together over years. It is unusual to find big fields unbroken by ditches or dykes around here. Most fields are in odd shapes and sizes which have evolved and been integrated through varied ownership and use over time. Something is growing on both sides of the track. It looked like dark green grass but probably it was barley or wheat or maybe hay. I have no idea what it is, but I was pleased to see it all looking healthy. Right down the middle of the track was a solid mass of dandelions. The center of the track was bright yellow, and that was what we followed all the way down and all the way back up again. Later, I saw that our own boreen has plenty of bright yellow dandelions too. The sun seems to be making things grow by the minute. There are thousands of pale yellow primroses on both sides and well up the bankings. The Lesser Celandine displays another bright yellow, and the wild garlic a deep green. There are little vetches growing in between lots of everything. At the end of the afternoon we sat with friends in four chairs looking out over the fields and listening to the stillness. As we sat quietly, I heard my first bee of the year.

22 April Monday

In the past few days, I have been told by three different people that they have seen the swallows. Each person announcing this did it with great glee and joy in their voice. I felt left out. I was looking and looking but there were no swallows here yet. Today I spied a pair swooping and rushing around the lower barn. I am thrilled to welcome them back.

21 April Sunday

There is a big black plastic bag tied on the end of a string. The string is tied onto a branch and the bag is often flopping down in the boreen as I drive or walk along. I hate this bag. I think it holds a connecting device for stretching across the boreen when the cows come down that way. Or maybe it is just more string wound up in there. Whatever it is, it has no weight, which is why it blows around. I can drive right over it without harm to my tyres or to itself but I hate the ugliness of it. Sometimes I try to tangle it behind the bushes but it always blows back out. I spend a lot of energy disliking this black plastic sack but I have yet to find a solution to it. I hate to even give it this much attention to write about it.

20 April Saturday

I asked Tommie if he had been to the funeral. He said No, It was too far away for him to drive these days and anyway he did not know the way.

19 April Friday

The SALUTE. The Salute is a small part of everyday life. It is a small part of everyday life but it is an important part. On driving up and down the same roads day after day, we all see the same people and the same vehicles. It is imperative that we acknowledge one another. It is also important as a thank you if someone pulls over to let you pass or if you have pulled over to let someone in a tractor or a big machine pass in a tight situation. The salute from someone driving is often just the index finger raised up from the steering wheel. It might be four fingers raised up from the steering wheel, with the thumb and the palm staying on the wheel. One man always points his index finger, with his whole fist in the air. I used to think his finger pointing at me from his clenched fist was like a gun, but then I realized that if he had been making a gun sort of sign his thumb would have been raised. This directed finger is just his way of saying hello. Very few people wave their entire hand, but it does happen. A quick nod or shake of the head is another form of salute. This nod is not a full nod, it is a very quick move, more like a nervous tic. Not everyone can pull off this quick nod. Sometimes when I am alone I practice it but it is not easy. If I am walking I raise my hand to every car which passes. Sometimes I do not even look up, but I never fail to wave. If I salute every single time I pass someone then I cannot be guilty of Failing to Salute, which is considered rude. There are not that many cars nor people to pass at any time so it is not a big thing. Not doing it is a big thing.

18 April Thursday

More winds. I cannot stop writing about the winds because I cannot stop hearing the winds. The winds are worse than the rain. The rain stops often and for long periods but the winds just go on and on. This morning we saw that our heavy wooden bench had been tipped over by the wind. It usually takes two of us to move this bench. The bench had not only been knocked over but it had been moved several feet from where it stood. Slates are off a roof up the road. Not just one slate or two has been blown off, but 20 or thirty. A whole section of the roof has been laid bare. The birdfeeders in sheltered places have stayed hanging, but I had to take some of them inside after they were blown down. No matter how strong the gusts the birds just hold on tight and eat and eat while they are swaying around. I had to stop the car and drag a heavy tree limb off the road just so that I could drive down the boreen and home.

17 April Wednesday

Em and I headed up the path. There appeared to be a good break in the rain so I thought we could get up and right down again without getting wet. By the time we got to the top she was going at a good pace so I decided we might as well continue all the way around. She did well and kept up a slow but steady speed all the way. The rain started and became a downpour. We both got thoroughly soaked. Her soaking was only half a result of her swim. The top of her was rain wet and the underside was swimming wet. I should have put on my waterproof trousers, even to go out for a short walk. My wet clothes and her grubby wet towels are now all hanging to dry. Again.

16 April Tuesday

As we came along the road, I saw the old man with his pushbike standing and looking out over a ditch. By the time we reached him, he started to speak while he was still facing out and across the fields. He was not looking at me but he was talking to me. He announced that everyone swallows at least four spiders in their lifetime. The swallowing of the spiders happens at night when our mouths fall open. The spiders just walk into our mouths and then we swallow them. I must have looked startled when he turned to face me. He said, "No need to worry. You have probably already swallowed your four."

15 April Monday

The winds continue to be wild and gusty. We go to sleep with the sound of the wind and we wake up with the sound of the wind. I walk out in the wind except for sometimes when the wind is just too strong and I cannot walk against it. When it is that bad, I just have to give up and return home. Today I found many limbs and branches down as we walked. Some were blocking the way. Em and I could walk over or under most of them. Some I pushed out of the way. There were a few very big branches down which were as big around as I am. That is not so big but a branch that size could easily knock me down. It could flatten Em and pin her to the ground. Because these branches are already broken and have fallen and landed, I do not feel nervous about them. I wonder if I should be worrying about the others which have not fallen yet. Maybe walking out in this ceaseless wind is not such a great idea.

14 April Sunday

A friend has been visiting. He came regularly to this country as a child with his parents who were born here. His father used to tell them how things were when he himself was a child. He was always pointing out how different it all was from England even though England was not very far away. One thing the father used to do was to send him and his brothers around a grocery shop to find the tinned dog food. It became a thing they all looked for whenever they went into a shop. The father said "You will never find the tinned dog food because they don't feed their dogs here. Table scraps is all they'll be getting". The country has changed. The treatment of dogs has changed. But our friend still looks for the dog food whenever he enters a shop.

11 April Thursday

The trees in Scully's wood are being thinned. Every seventh tree is being removed. From down here, there is the sound of a chain saw in the distance, but it is not as loud as I thought it might be. It is just a reminder of activity in the district. As the cutting progresses, the road being cut through the wood gets longer. The wood is 16 acres and the acres are spread over a long distance. The wooded area is narrow and stretched out. By the time the work of clearing is finished, there will be a rough track that cuts right across to Flemingstown. I look forward to walking through the wood on this secret shortcut. The road won't be ready for a long time. This work will take many months. It is one man and a chainsaw cutting every seventh tree. When a trailer load of felled trees is ready, it is driven out and up the boreen. The tractor pulling the trailer is like a tractor drawn by a child. It is very small, and all of its angles are squared. There is no roundness to this tractor. There are no windows in this tractor. Well, maybe there is a windscreen. It is tiny and it is bright red. I love seeing this tractor but I prefer not to meet it head on in the boreen while driving. There will be a lot of backing up in our lives for as long as this work continues.

10 April Wednesday

The radio announcers here always speak of the time as Almost. They do not say it is 10.29. They say The time is coming up to 10.29. Or It is Almost 29 after 10. They might say Nearly instead. It is Nearly 29 past the hour.

9 April Tuesday

I had to go to Dalton's garage to get my tyres checked and aligned. I had not been there for a long time. I was glad to see that the log cabin was still there, although it had been changed a lot and now it was more like a regular waiting area.. The first time I went to have something done on the car, I was directed to go and sit in the cabin. It was a version of an Log Cabin built with rounded wood, and trying hard to look like a cabin in the American West. There was a heavy wooden door. Inside the cabin, there were comfortable old chairs, a gas fire, a table full of magazines and a television set. It was cosy and bright and once I turned off the television set, it was quiet. Through a little window, I could look out and see the work being done on my own car and on another car which was up on the lift. I could not hear the sounds of the men working, nor could I hear their radio. I read my book and felt sleepy with the heat. My waiting seemed to go on for a very long time. I finally looked out the window and saw that nothing was up on the lifts, and there was no one around. I went out into the work area and found the woman in charge. She said "Ohmygod we forgot all about you in there!" They were just closing up for the day. When I saw that the new version of the waiting room is a more open place, I figured that perhaps I was not the only person who had been forgotten when they were tucked away out of sight in the Log Cabin.

8 April Monday

Every county in this country is a bit obsessed by their own GAA colours. The GAA is the Gaelic Athletic Association and they oversee the hurling matches for young boys and girls right up to the adult games. I am not particularly interested in all of the activity but it is very hard to live here and to not be aware of the coulours and the games and the loyalties. Here in Tipperary the colours are gold and blue. It is really a bright yellow, rather than any colour I would call gold, and a royal blue. The colours appear everywhere at the time of big matches but they are present all the time in smaller quantities. There is always another something that can be bought or sold with ones own county colours on it. My latest observation is the car air fresheners, which people hang from their rear-view mirrors. They are in the shape of little hurling shirts. The colours here are of course the Tipp colours. On the bottom of the shirt it says New Car Scent.

7 April Sunday

The daffodils started to push up so very early this year. Then the cold came and they all stopped growing. Now the cold continues with a few intermittent bright and sunny days. Some daffodils blossom and then they collapse with the cold or get beaten down with the wind. Then some more blossom and it all happens again. There has never been the large showing of flowers all together. The weather has not let anything happen as normal.

6 April Saturday

Em and I set off up the boreen together. I lifted her over the fallen tree and then we each climbed the muddy path at our own pace. When I got to the top, I had a long wait for her arrival. She was doing a version of Stately Pace but it was difficult for her to maintain an evenness of stride as she went through the mud. I watched her and decided she was just too slow to do the entire walk around today. We have been going Around every other day and taking her for shorter strolls in the fields or just up and down to the farm on the other day. She is still eager for a few throws of the frisbee in the afternoon but a long walk and swim every day is just too much. So today I thought we would go and have a little poke about in the graveyard at Tullaghmelan before we went back the way we had come. I walked along the road and she followed at a distance. When I got to the graveyard, I went up over the stile and in. I am accustomed to her knowing where I am going and always keeping track of me. I did not bother to notice if she had seen where I turned. A little while later, I returned to the stile and looked out onto the road, Em was sniffing around at the bottom of the stone steps. She stopped sniffing and took off at a good speed down the road. I shouted to her. She did not hear me, of course. She is deaf. I whistled and I clapped my hands. Sometimes the sharp sound of clapping hands makes her take note. Nothing worked. She was trotting rapidly away, rushing to find me. I ran behind trying to catch up with her as she rounded the corner. I kept hoping she would turn around, but she was really on the move. Eventually, I caught up with her. She was startled to see me come from behind. We returned to the graveyard together and walked around looking at carvings and stones and the old roofless church. By the time we left and headed back down the boreen I do not think she felt like we were turning around and just walking the same route home. We had been somewhere with new smells and now we were heading home. It ended up being a lovely but very muddy outing for us both.

5 April Friday

I went down to the old bit of ground near the stream where I had found the pieces of green wall from Maisie's kitchen. I took gloves and a few tools for digging. I stood in the middle of the area trying to decide where exactly I had been when I had worked on my collection point for the green pieces. The woodcutters had used the area for a long stretch of work and storage. There was a lot of scraping and moving and piling up done there. It felt silly to be trying to return, but after a few failed attempts I found the remnants of my area. I greeted the pieces with great pleasure. When Maisie died, she was gone. When her house was torn down, she was gone again. Or she was more gone. When the rubble got moved down to this spot, and I found the green parts of her kitchen, it was as if I found her again. Then the woodcutters took that away. Now the green pieces are back, more worn, more faded and some completely chipped off so that there is no colour left. It is not really like Maisie is back but there is a funny connnection. It is like a conversation which continues.

4 April Thursday

Simon went to the chiropodist. The person he usually goes to was away so he went to a new place. The woman there greeted him and immediately apologized because her pneumatic chair was not working. It would not go up and down. He said he would look at it for her. He managed to repair whatever was wrong with it. She was delighted. When he was ready to leave, she was horrified to realize that she had failed to put his socks on the radiator as she usually does. She said the problem chair had so distracted her that now he had to suffer with cold socks. She felt that she had really let him down. She apologized again and again for having been so remiss.

3 April Wednesday

The oil man, whose name is Ned, came today. Just before Christmas, he arrived to take our old trailer away. He has been busy working on it, so he told us all of the things he had done since he drove away with it attached to the back of his car. He told us about the drive on back roads all the way home with two flat tyres on the trailer. It was about 30 kms. He had his daughter with him. She had just returned from London for the holidays so he said the extremely long ride gave them time to talk and catch up with one another. He has since put in a new floor, new lights and wiring and repainted the outside and the inside with both primer and outer coats of paint. He had to put on new tyres and new wheels. He drank two cups of tea and was proud to tell us that we simply would not recognize the old trailer now.

2 April Tuesday

Cursing From A Height. I have heard this expression used but never really thought about what it meant. I just thought it must mean that the person cursing was very very angry, sort of like the cursing had built up until it just had to come out. This may be partly true, but today I learn that the expression comes from an old Druidic practice of climbing up to a high place so that the curses fall down with more force on top of the person or persons who are being cursed. The added height gives the curses added invective.

1 April Monday Bank Holiday

Over years, farm cats just keep breeding with each other. Breeding and inter-breeding means the gene pool gets completely corrupted due to the absence of new blood. These cats and their families are not taken care of. They don't get shots or regular food or organized shelter. There is the milk of the cows put out in dishes, if it is a dairy farm, and maybe a bit of something else if it is another sort of farm. Mostly these cats just have the job of keeping down the mice and the rats. They get to eat what they kill. They sleep where they chose. Every so often it is considered a good idea to bring in a new cat or kitten from across the valley or even from another town. If the animal survives its ride, usually in an old bucket, and if it survives its welcome by the established cat population, the new blood will freshen up the gene pool of the community of outdoor working cats. Tommie and I took three kittens from Flemingstown to a farm in Mullinahone eighteen months ago. We had a cup of tea after releasing the young cats and then we drove home. It has been a long time now, but he still asks regularly how the cats are doing in their new home.

31 March Sunday Easter

Em walks and runs like a dog. Of course she walks like a dog. She is a dog. She walks fast or she walks slowly. She runs and chases and twirls. She has a lower and longer walk which she uses when she is on a lead and in a town. Her town walk is lady-like and dignified. Now she has added an elderly walk. She doesn't do it all the time, but when she does, it can only be called A Stately Pace. When she is doing Stately Pace, nothing can change her speed or her direction. It is all as if it has been rehearsed and the script cannot be varied. Stately Pace is appearing with increasingly frequency.

30 March Saturday

The tree at the bottom by the stream is still blocking the way, but we have cleared some of the branches. The tree is heavily covered with ivy. Maybe the ivy choked it and weakened it enough so that the rain and the wind were just the last straw. It is possible to step over the tree to make the walk. Em cannot get underneath nor can she climb over the fallen tree, so each walk is begun with a lifting and dropping operation to get her going up the path. She no longer even snuffles around in an attempt to squeeze herself under. She just waits to be picked up. We must take a saw and do a big cutting and clearing job down there, but it is easy to put everything off in this cold.

29 March Friday

I went down to the shop just before lunch. I was not even sure it would be open as today is Good Friday and a great deal of the world here is shut. It was open. An old man was waiting beside his small red car for Kevin to load a bag of coal in for him. He squinted at me and said "I've seen you already today". I said "Yes, you have". He asked "Where was it then, that I saw you?" I said, "You were turning right and I was just above on the road by Mary Corbett's, with my dog." He said, "Ah yes." He went back to overseeing his coal loading. I have never known this man's name. I usually see him on his old and heavy push bike, right down near where I saw him today. He lives somewhere along the road we call Neddins. Sometimes he is in the red car which has AGI plates. That means the car is registered with some kind of agricultural restrictions. The restrictions mean that he cannot go too far from home in that car. When he is on the bike he is sometimes riding it but often he just pushes it. He stops and looks out over the ditches and if he is standing when I pass, he often tells me something he might be thinking about. He speaks in a series of pronouncements. It is never a conversation. The last time we met he told me that the English like to wash their automobiles on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon. He said "It is just a thing that they do when they have nothing else to do".

28 March Thursday

I saw Oscar with his owner today. I commented on how we have enjoyed having him walk along with us some day and how very good he is about going back home as soon as he is told to go. I said he was wonderfully obedient. She nodded and said, Yes, he is Biddable.

27 March Wednesday

The shop looks like it has been there for a great many years. The wooden front is beautifully made with fine wooden divisions between old curved pieces of glass. The sign is painted with golden letters. D.W. PARKE is the name over the shop, and on one side of the name there is a diagonal word, also in gold, which says CHEMIST and on the other side another diagonal says OPTICIAN. The shop has been closed for a few years but even when it was open it did not look like it was open. To enter was always a bit of an adventure because it was so dark within. A bell rang on the door to signal the arrival of a customer. There was very little floor space in the shop as there were a great many glass fronted cases full of boxes and bottles. Most of the packages on show were empty. Because they were empty they often were lying on their sides because there was nothing inside to hold them up straight. Even within their case, the packages were dusty and mostly faded. A few items seemed to be actually there in their packaging. To buy anything it was necessary to ask the man at the counter. If he was not there when you first arrived, he came out of a back room when the bell sounded. I assume that the man was D.W.Parke himself, but maybe he was the son, or grandson, of D.W.Parke. He always wore a white shirt, a tie and a dark suit jacket. The shirt was not really white but it had once been white. It was old white and the white of something that has been washed a great many times but it was never going to be bright white again. It was white enough that it implied a formality in his dress. On going up to the counter and asking for something, like indigestion tablets, the man who I think of as D.W. Parke, would nod silently and reach into a drawer behind the counter. He would bring out an item, wait for your own nod of acceptance and then proceed to wrap the box in brown paper with tiny pieces of cello tape to keep it tidy. Since the shop has been closed, the display packages in the windows just get more faded. Otherwise everything looks exactly the same. Recently the large glass window on the right hand side of the front was smashed in. Instead of boarding it up, the solution for keeping people out has been to stretch a few lines of barbed wire across the inside of the broken window. It has been a few months already and so far, the method seems to be working as a deterrent.

26 March Tuesday

This wretched cold and this wretched east wind! None of it shows any sign of ending and none of it makes us happy. I am trying not to talk about it all the time but there is nothing else we can speak about until we get the weather out of the way. I went to buy more peanuts for the birds. They are eating like mad. This cold makes them hungry. This cold makes us all hungry. I left my plastic bucket in the shop to be weighed and filled. I went around and did my other shopping and came home without the bucket of peanuts. I did not remember it for two days. When I went back to fetch it, I remarked to John that I simply cannot remember anything these days. He laughed and said, "You are lucky if you're only just Starting to forget things!" I said "No, it has been going on for quite a while, but lately it seems to be getting worse". He said, "It is probably no worse, but now you're just more public about it."

25 March Monday

The moon is almost full, but I cannot see it. As Em and I went out and down the meadow tonight, the sky was completely starless. Low cloud covered everything but somehow it was quite light. I turned off my torch and was able to walk the path without a problem. I could easily see things that were light in colour. The white bits of Em's fur showed well. Her white feet and their movement were visible. Her fluffy moving tail was visible. The first primroses which are blooming at the base of a birch tree glowed, as did the bark of the birch tree itself. I could see a white label on a one of the plum trees. It was an eerie walk tonight with just a few things highlighted in an otherwise dark evening.

23 March Saturday

An entire months rain fell yesterday. The world is sodden. Again. Em and I tried to walk up the boreen but a tree has fallen down and is blocking our way. I am not sure if the wind knocked it down or if the wet ground just let go of the roots. We had to take a different walk.

22 March Friday

The rain and the bitter cold are just terrible. Two women were trying to collect for the annual Daffodil Day for the Irish Cancer Society. They were both squeezed in under the small awning at the cash machine in Cahir. Each time someone came along to use the machine they had to move out into the rain to let the person get at the machine with a modicum of privacy. The people who used the machine were the only ones who gave them any money. No one else was around.

21 March Thursday

I went to collect Em in Skeheenarinky. Rain was coming down in all directions. It was the kind of rain that comes at you as though a bucket had been tossed randomly. Sometimes the bucketfull hits you and sometimes it misses. Regardless, you are going to get wet. I was told that I had to wait at the gate, because I had arrived earlier than expected. For the safety of dogs or the safety of people or for the safety of both, Lukki always has people wait outside the gate. I got back into the car to stay dry. Em was in the Infra-Red Room. I had no idea what that meant. When eventually she came out she looked very happy and very dry. I asked what the Infra-Red Room was about. He has hooked up a special light, just the same kind that you can buy at the Co-op for hatching chickens. He has put wire over the light to make it safe in case a dog goes toward the electrics. The dogs like to go in and lie down in the warmth. He claims it is very good for the bones of old dogs. He said Em loves to spend hours stretched out, tummy up, in there. He told me she is five years younger than she was when we brought her in to stay. I do not know if that is the result of the Infra-Red Light.

4 March Monday

There is a new sort of petrol station. We were directed to one by friends. If we had not been told, we would never have considered stopping. As we drove in, we saw that the station was boarded up, empty and closed. There were large pieces of plywood nailed up over what used to be plate glass windows. There was no one around. Two petrol pumps on the forecourt were fitted with credit card machines. To get fuel, one punches in an amount and then gets charged accordingly. The pump then allows that much fuel to be put into the car. I know card pumps have been available for a long time but this seems to be different. There is no one there. There never will be anyone there. The fuel is available 24 hours a day but even in the middle of a bright afternoon, it feels like a dodgey deal is being transacted. The first station like this that we saw was in Wicklow. Now we have seen another in Wexford. They both look completely deserted. There is no litter bin, no air, no water. There is nothing. There are just the pumps and a sign overhead which reads GREAT GAS.

1 March 2013 Friday

The old priest has been dead for several years. A sign on the gate at the drive leading down to his house read BEWARE OF THE BULL. As far as I know there was never a bull within the gates. I always chuckled to myself about the warning. The old priest is dead and someone else is living down in his old house. It might be his relatives or it might be someone else altogether. The gates now have an electronic opening device on them. The sign is still there. Priest or no priest, one is still warned: BEWARE OF THE BULL.

28 February Thursday

Oscar joined us at the corner and set off ahead in the position of leader. He was suddenly distracted by a smell and had to follow it. He squeezed through the third section of the six bar gate with difficulty and ran in circles to smell whatever it was he needed to smell in Joe's field. By the time he was ready to come back out onto the road, I was even with the gate. He tried to sqeeze back through and just could not make himself fit. He stood at the gate and nudged it in a suggestive way for me to open and let him out of the field. The gate had a chain and a shiny new padlock on it. A gate with such a serious lock is unusual. There was no way I could let him out. I tried to encourage him back through the same section of gate he had entered but he was simply not able for it. I was looking around for an alternative exit for him when he ran at the stone wall and leapt over it with no problem at all. It was so easy for him, I wondered why he had even bothered to squeeze through the gate in the first place.

27 February Wednesday

I went to a hardware shop in town and asked about a kind of catching latch for the cupboard door. The man showed me several sorts which were not what I needed. He told me to check back with him if I was unable to find what I wanted. He said "I'm going to get some more of those as soon as I find someone to sell them to me".

26 February Tuesday

We were nearing the house of Susie and Shep. The gate is normally closed and they bark madly as we pass. Today the gate was open and they were standing out in the road. They do not bark when they are out in the open. They were quiet as they watched Em who was way up the road. When she raised her head and saw them, she turned and looked behind her. She was looking for a way not to proceed past them. I called and signalled for her to come along. She dropped down into the deep trench which was dug by the county council workers to allow for water run-off. There is no water in the trench now, but there is grass growing around and in it. Em flattened herself and tried to walk low and invisibly down the trench on the opposite side of the road. Susie and Shep watched her all along her way. She was not invisible at all. They wagged their tails but they never moved towards her. They stood by their gate. She came out of the trench and took the wide swing away from their gate and then continued down the road as though nothing had happened. Actually, nothing had happened.

25 February Monday

As a gift for opening a new bank acount we were given a green First-Aid box. Back at home, I looked in the box to see what was included inside. I saw that the box of plasters had been opened and several of them had been removed. A roll of gauze had been opened, as had a tube of antiseptic ointment. The ointment had been squeezed out of the tube and the cover was not replaced, nor was it anywhere visible in the box. Sometime later when I was in the bank again, I mentioned this to the woman who had given us the box. She said, Oh Dear, someone must have cut themselves!

24 February Sunday

Em's daily dip in the stream has become a more formed and longer swim. I always threw the stick from the left side of the wall just because that was the only place where I could see her and the stream, but I had the problem of branches in my way. My stick fell fairly close to where she was standing and waiting. A few walks with Simon showed me that he throws the stick from the center of the wall. His position means he can see her and he can throw right down the middle of the stream. His throw means she must swim to get her stick and she must turn and swim back a good distance. This is much better than the little wade about and swim my throw was providing. Now I too stand at the center of the wall to throw but I cannot see her down below and waiting. I just throw and hope that she is looking in the right direction to see the stick heading downstream. Sometimes she misses the whole action and I have to go and find another stick while she waits in the water.

23 February Saturday

I am sad to see that the sign pointing to Grange has disappeared. It was there yesterday. This morning it is gone. It is not on the ground below where it was on the pole. I had a thorough look in the grass and in the ditch. It is not anywhere in the immediate vicinity. Like all of the old signs it has no doubt been stolen and is now en route to an Irish bar somewhere far away, or at least in Dublin. The sign was one of the old cast-iron ones where the black letters of both the Irish and English Place Names were raised off the surface. The number 2 was raised off the surface too. The 2 denoted the correct distance in miles even though the word miles was not present on the sign. On all of the old signs, distances of less than a mile were signified with fractions. A second and newer sign pointing in the opposite direction, towards Newcastle, remains on the post. This sign is made of aluminium and the letters and figures are printed, rather than painted. Again, they are black letters on a white background. The distance on this sign is in kilometres which is announced with a km after the figures 1.5. The distance is incorrect. It should read 4.5 km. A lot of the older people are unhappy with the change from miles to kilometres anyway. If things are going to change then they should be changed so that they are right. Otherwise everyone sort of wonders if maybe things were fine the way they were.

22 February Friday

There are lots of viney lengths of brambles hanging down in the boreen on the way up to Johnnie's. They are young brambles so the thorns and prickly bits on them are present but they are not very large.. The long tendrils hang off stronger branches. Some of them are five feet long. They are long enough that they wave in the wind looking for things to catch onto. What they mostly catch onto is my hat. Every day my hat gets taken off me two or three times on the walk uphill.

21 February Thursday

The first time a neighbour's child asked if she could rub my dog, I did not understand what she was asking and so I said "No, of course you cannot rob my dog. If you took her I would not have her and I would miss her terribly". The child looked confused. She tentatively reached out her hand to touch Em. That is when I realized that she meant RUB not ROB. Luckily, she did not seem to understand a word of what I had said so she still just wanted a rub. I use the word PAT for stroking a dog not RUB. Now I hear people speak of giving a dog a rub often and I know what they mean but it is not a word or use of a word that I can incorporate in my own vocabulary. It just never sounds right for my ear.

15 February Friday

We do not always get post delivered on a Friday. If the postman does come down, the weekend's weather is predicted for us. Sometimes he says "They're Giving Good For the Weekend". Today he was gloomy when he announced "They're Giving Bad For the Weekend". The sun is out and it is cold. It is these terrible winds that make it bad.

13 February Wednesday

We have had some lovely spring-like days but still things are wetter than anyone would like. There is rain at night and rain at intervals through most days. The ground is wet. The ground is very wet. Mud is everywhere. The farmers are discouraged. The cumulative wetness of the last year has diminished the soil. They are saying that There is No Life in The Ground. This is said often and always with a shaking of the head which implies both sadness and helplessness.

12 February Tuesday

A group of dieters was photographed in the newspaper. Their cumulative weight loss was 74 pounds so they were photographed standing behind a table with 74 shiny packages of butter piled in front of them to illustrate the weight they had lost . Things here are metric so packages of butter are sold in weights of 454 grams which is just about the equivalence of a pound. Even so, the group weight loss was still recorded in pounds and not in kilos so it is all a bit confusing. Regardless of the various issues of conversion they all looked happy, though some looked thinner than others.

11 February Monday

A man was discussing the terrible pressure that people were being put under in a particular situation. His way to describe it was to say that things were so difficult that they were being Put to The Pin Of Their Collar.

10 February Sunday

Today was the Annual Book Fair in Fethard. The fair is called Tipperariana, but book dealers come from all over Ireland to participate. There are antiquarean books, and newly published local books and old maps, posters, and postcards as well as heaps and heaps of second-hand books being sold by dealers and fund-raising groups. Some people have just been clearing out their house. There are a fair number of specialists. Irish subject matter is the most plentiful, but there are people selling agricultural books, and those dealing with trains, bees, crafts, architecture and music. We went and sold books there for a few years but no one was very interested in our productions. This year there were at least thirty stalls, or maybe more. The fair takes place in the Fethard Ballroom which I believe doubles as an occasional sports hall, or at least it used to, because all of the light fixtures have little cages around them to protect from balls being wildly thrown and breaking the bulbs. The ballroom holds dances every Saturday night and they are very popular, particularly with older people. At the dances there is always live music. For the duration of the book fair there is a piano player playing a medley of things from Chopin to Satie to the Teddy's Bear's Picnic. I do not know if the piano player is the same person who plays for the dances. There was not any dance music played. With the music playing and the hundreds of conversations going on all at the same time, the book fair is a noisy event. The background of the stage was painted some years ago and still looks very fresh and bright. From the floor to about five feet up, there is a painted field of wheat. The wheat is larger than life and it looks tremendous from out on the floor of the ballroom. The piano player looked good sitting in among the wheat.

9 February Saturday

I met John (The Ancient Man) again this morning on the river path. I have been thinking and thinking about him saying that he walks five miles a day every day except on the odd days when he has to go off somewhere. He is old and he is slow and I wonder if he is really walking that far. I have been trying to figure out how I could find out. Today I asked him when he sets off for his walk. He answered "20 past 9. I always leave at 20 past 9." So then I asked when he arrives home. He said "Sometimes it is 11.15 but some days it is closer to 12. My return depends on how many conversations I have along the way." I guess he could indeed be walking 5 miles as his pace is consistent even though it is not fast. He would have no trouble at all maintaining 3 miles per hour. Today he was worried because he said The Reaper was out looking for people his age. Two local people had died this week and he did not want to be the third but he knows these things always happen in threes. He said he knows he is being selfish but he will be relieved when he hears the news of someone else's death.

8 February Friday

The license plates for 2013 cars seem to printed as 131-TS-230 instead of 13-TS-230. Is this just because the number 13 is so often considered unlucky? If so, I guess next year we will be back to 14-TS-230.

6 February Wednesday

We saw the fox today. We were just approaching the place where Em always squeezes under the fence to go down to the stream when the fox squeezed out from under the fence a little farther along. Em hesitated. The fox hesitated. The fox was too close for Em's taste. She enjoys a chase but she prefers the outcome to be well out of her control. The fox took off by running a few feet up the road and then ducking under the fence and back into the woods. Em continued down into the water and got on with her daily swim and stick-fetching.

5 February Tuesday

There was snow on the ground when we woke up today. There was snow on the roof of the barn too. Fat wet flakes were falling. By the time Em and I were ready to go out for our walk, the flurries had stopped and the grass and fields were green again. The boreen was as wet and muddy and messy as ever. When we got out of the trees and up onto the road near Maisie's old house the sight of both the Galtees and the Knockmealdowns was breathtaking. All of the mountains were covered with snow and their contours looked completely different in the bright sunshine. I walked along our normal route and pretended that I was in Switzerland.

4 February Monday

There is one house on the road out of Ardfinnan which never looks like anyone is at home. The house is a drab light brown colour with a pebble-dashed front. It is a single story bungalow sitting at the very back of its acre of land, as far from the road as possible. Next to the road is a low wall made of blocks cemented together. Just inside the wall there is a vegetable garden. It is quite a nice large patch for vegetables. I have never seen anyone working in this garden. I am just glad to see the garden. It has made me realize that there is rarely a vegetable garden in sight from any road. People keep their front yards looking devoid of activity. There may be some plants for landscaping but there are never plants for cultivation and eating. A vegetable garden seems to have no place in the look of rural homes. If vegetable gardens exist at all, they are out back and out of sight. I am very pleased to see this one garden right out front and visible in its prime position. I am now on the look-out for more vegetables not being grown in secret.

3 February Sunday

Em is always in the way. When we are out walking, she is fine and she rushes along with all of her regular examinations and activities. When we come back into the house, she becomes a nervous wreck. She follows me everywhere from room to room and each time I get up and move she has to get up and move too. She is always underfoot because she does not want to miss anything. If I leave a room quickly, she follows along and enters through a door moving her head slowly from left to right and back again until she locates where I am. Not being able to hear me means she must see me. Sometimes this attention to my presence means that she must be pressing up against me. I don't like to get angry at her. It is so sad. I hate myself for getting impatient but I hate tripping over her too. It would be nice if she would just curl up and take a nap for a little while instead of trying to be the sheepdog and keeping track of every single movement all day long.

2 February Saturday

The men who wait in cars are a big part of any Friday and Saturday morning in town. The women go into the supermarkets and the shops. The women might even go to the hairdressers. The men have driven the women into town for the shopping. The men sit in their cars and read the newspaper. If the weather is fine, the men might stand outside and read their newspaper on the bonnet of the car. They might stand and chat and smoke with other men who are waiting in and near their own cars,. These men never go too far from their cars. They are sort of On Duty. Their job is to be there when the wife or children return with bags of stuff. They are there to open the boot and to wait for the next arrival of things or people. This is not an activity of younger men. It is only older men who wait in the cars. They have always done this. They have always parked in pretty much the same car park in the same part of town. I should think there are many older men who have never once set foot in a supermarket. Their place is in the car. They wait and when everything is done, they drive the car and ferry herself home.

1 February Friday

As usual, everyone speaks of today as the First Day of Spring. As usual, it does not feel one bit like spring. It feels like February.

31 January Thursday

We have had more of the wild winds that we have had every day this week. I wake up with the sound of wind and I go to sleep with the sound of wind. The sound of the wind is driving me crazy. Last night, in addition to the winds, which changed direction every few minutes, we had beating rains which also changed direction often. First one side of the house would be pelted with rain and then another side would be pelted. Being inside the house is like being under siege.On top of all this, around midnight, we had an hour and a half of thunder and lightening. I don't think it is normal to have thunder and lightening in January. We all know that weather and normal weather patterns are changing and that mad things are happening everywhere. After last night, I am more certain than ever that the weather is changing. I am certain that mad things are happening.

30 January Wednesday

MOTOR FACTORS is the name for a shop which sells is parts and accessories for cars and trucks and motorcycles. I don't think an individual item is called a Motor Factor. I never see the word without it being plural.

29 January Tuesday

I said Good Morning to Kathleen. She responded by saying Yes, A Good Morning is any morning that's dry.

27 January Sunday

Every September the South Tipperary Beekeepers Association organizes the Clonmel Honey Show. Beekeepers come from all over. They display their honey. Prizes are awarded and methods are discussed. It is especially fitting that the Honey Show is held in Clonmel as the word Clonmel comes from the Irish CLUAIN MEALA which means Meadow of Honey. I have always meant to attend the show and every year I forget to keep track of when it is held. This year I have marked my calendar. I am not sure of the exact dates yet, but I know it will be a weekend and that it will be toward the end of the month. The event is open only to beekeepers except on the Sunday afternoon when they allow the public in for two hours.

26 January Saturday

The use of the word AFTER is curious. People say it frequently, but when they say it, it is not in relation to Before and After or Now and Then. It is a more like a perfect continous tense. A sentence might be: I'm after giving it a chance. or: He's after leaving his job. I hear it used and I understand it but I am unable to use it that way myself.

25 January Friday

I took Margaret and Tommie a plate with some slices of chocolate cake. Margaret stood in the doorway and looked eagerly at the cake, but I was not sure that she actually remembered me. Both her vision and her memory have gone very bad. We chatted a little bit. I admired her hand-knit sweater. She told me that she has twelve cardigans and nine pull-overs, all knitted by herself. She said that they are good ones and that they will last forever. She said that since she cannot see well enough to knit anymore all she can do is wear them.

24 January Thursday

Someone who was going on and on and annoying everyone with herself going on and on was said to be so annoying that She'd Put Hair on an Egg.

23 January Wednesday

I drove out today to go to the post office. Just before I got out to the tar road, I was stopped by large pieces of the slurry machine in my path. There was a curved pipe and the metal connecting bits that should have held it onto the rest of the machine. I had to stop because there was not enough room to pass around it. I knew it was part of the slurry machine because it was all covered with slurry. It was all covered with slurry and it sat in a large puddle of slurry. I debated with myself as to what I should do. Backing up all the way down the track as far as the farm was one option. A difficult option. Getting out and moving it was another option. I didn't have any gloves so I thought about kicking it out of the way. It looked heavy for kicking. I did not really want my shoes to get covered with slurry, which was an inevitable result. The inside of the car would then be slurry smelling and mucky at least where my feet had to go to use the pedals. I wondered if I would get to the post office before the post was collected for the day. Before I made up my mind as to what to do, the tractor drove up behind me. The slurry tank was attached to the back of the tractor. The man who was doing the spreading got out and came around my car. We talked for a minute or two. He was wearing heavy gloves. He picked up the mucky piece of equipment, and squeezed himself up tight against the ditch while I drove past him and away. Yesterday, I met the same man and the same tractor and the tank at almost the same point in the boreen. I was on foot then and I had both Em and Oscar walking with me. We went back out to the road and waited to let him pass. Em was annoyed that she had to vary her movements. She stared at the tractor in disbelief. When we got past the farm and were walking down the boreen toward home, a cow walked up the middle towards us. Oscar ran away in fear, taking a big detour. Em looked at the cow as if confused at what he was doing in her path. I shooed the cow up and into the farmyard and we continued walking. I can walk and drive up and down for weeks at a time without meeting one person, vehicle or animal. This much traffic activity is unprecedented.

20 January Sunday

When I was walking in Cahir yesterday, I saw John. Before I knew his name, I called him The Ancient Man. He was always walking along the river path with his Ancient Dog. The dog was a spaniel named Sally. Sally died a few months ago and John is sad to have lost her, but he continues his daily walks. He walks five miles every day whatever the weather. He walks slowly but with a steady pace. John is 88. Sally was only 11 but she had been in poor health for a long time. She often sat down and waited on the path for him to turn around and collect her on the return trip. She was just too tired to go all the way. He told me that he had a dog before Sally who was also called Sally but she was a different sort of dog. Now his daughter has got a new dog. The new dog is also called Sally. The new Sally is a puppy and John thinks that she is too energetic to walk with him. He says that the new Sally will be ready to walk with him in about ten years

19 January Saturday

There is water everywhere. There are lakes where there used to be fields. There are rivers in new places. The real river is swollen to three times its normal width. The river path in Cahir has only two feet left before it will be covered by water. The field behind the castle is a lake and there are swans swimming around as if they have always been swimming there. As we drove along on return from the market there were new landscapes to be seen in every direction. It is a super-saturated landscape. As we drove along and remarked about the water and the flooding and the damage, Em rode along in the back of the car and chewed off both ends of the smoked eel.

18 January Friday

We have snowdrops but no snow.

16 January Wednesday

The men from the county council have been digging trenches and cutting channels into the sides of the roads. The diggers make gashes and gouges off the side of the road to lead the water into the dykes. They do this every year. Every aspect of it is a mess but if they did not do it, it would be a worse mess. It is necessary to give the rain water plenty of ways to drain off the roads, because the water runs off the fields and into the roads and then it has to go somewhere. The trenches have been dug along the foot of the ditches. They are parallel to the road and parallel to the ditch. The trenches make dykes which are quickly filled with the rushing water at the base of the ditch. It all sounds confusing. Ditches should be full of water not growing as hedges. I use the words but I do not get used to them.

14 January Monday

Em goes less far from the house now but because she is older I think she feels that it is far, or even farther than what she used to do. Sometimes I look out a window and she is standing near the door and just staring off in one direction. It is a blank kind of staring. It is just standing. Sometimes it is like she is staring off toward the fields and sometimes she is staring toward a wall which is only a few inches from her face.

11 January Friday

A headline in The Nationalist today reads SOUTH TIPPERARY ROADS SO BAD THAT EVEN PRIEST WON'T VISIT HOMES. That kind of says it all. The roads do seem worse than ever. It is probably because it has been raining all year. Potholes are so big and deep that tyres and car axles are easily damaged. People joke that what we once called pot holes are now Sheep Dips. The roads are falling away and people feel that nobody cares, so we all talk about it all the time.

10 January Thursday

I went to PAWS, the dog rescue place, to walk dogs today. A core group fund and run the place with help from volunteers. It was my first visit. I think there were about seventy dogs in residence with most of them in large kennels each sharing with another dog. There were outside runs for each pair of dogs, accessed by a slip door from the indoor space. Overspill dogs and some of the smaller ones were in cramped cages along a narrow corrider inside the building. The noise was unbelievably deafening while in there. The minute one dog barked they all joined in. Some did twirls and flips and some just jumped up to get closer to people. The three of us managed to walk twelve dogs. In one way, it seemed generous to give each dog a 25 minute walk, but at the same time, we barely made a dent in all that needed to be done. My second dog was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was far too big and strong for me. He pulled me hard down the track and several times I almost fell when he took off abruptedly. My final dog was a greyhound. I had never been close to a greyhound before. I loved this dog. He was both gentle and handsome. Of all the dogs there, I think more than half of them were greyhounds. They are popular dogs in Ireland for the coursing. People breed them and train them for chasing hares at race meetings. Great winning greyhounds have had statues built to them. Great winning greyhounds are venerated. Old greyhounds or greyhounds who no longer win are often shot and their bodies are thrown into holes. Some are just let go out in the world to fend for themselves. Before they are disposed of in one horrible way or another, the owners sometimes cut off their ears because each running greyhound has a tattoo inside the ear which allows him to be traced. Without the ear marking, an owner can rest assured that he need not be responsible anymore. Many of the dogs we saw had one ear bloody or scabbed over from where it had been cut. I was pleased to learn that many of the greyhounds get sent to Italy because the Italians adore them and find them gentle and loyal pets. I love to think of these dogs leaving the barking mayhem of PAWS, and the damp cold of homelessness, and arriving in a new life full of love and warmth and maybe some lying around under olive trees.

9 January Wednesday

We woke up to find the world outside our windows white and cold. It is not snow, just icy frost and thick white fog. The fog never cleared all day, so the sun never managed to come through and melt the frost. The sun sat in the sky like a bright circle but it was not bright enough. Everything has stayed white and frozen so the the world feels extra quiet and extremely far away. When Em and I walked out, we reached a point on our circuit where everything was clear. The fog is just being held in the pockets and hollows of land. We walked out of the white fog and then as we returned home, we walked back into it.

8 January Tuesday

If someone is joking or teasing or being teased, they say Go Away! or Go Away with You! They say it to make sure that you know they do not believe what you are saying. This Go Away does not sound like Go Away, it sounds like Gooowheigh. It comes out a little bit breathless and quite drawn out. Maybe I have not found the right syllables to explain it. There is a phonetic vernacular to which I listen and listen but I think I often miss. It took me a long time before I even understood what was being said and even now I cannot explain it right.

7 January Monday

Slurry was being spread in the field first thing this morning. The smell was horrible. We heard the tractor stop and then saw a young man in overalls and wellingtons pacing up and down the field and talking into his phone. He did a lot of walking which was probably due to the lousy signal out here. We couldn't tell who it was from a distance but somehow wwe felt sure it wasn't Joe. After about forty minutes, another tractor appeared and the two men hooked it up to the first one. The second tractor attempted to pull both the first tractor and the bright red slurry tank out of the thick mud at the bottom of the field. It took a long time but finally they did it. The slurry tank never returned today so we have been spared the stench for a while. Em and I went down to investigate the deep tyre tracks and the mess from the churned up mud.

6 January Sunday. Epiphany. Little Christmas.

Daffodils are pushing out of the ground. In some spots they are as much as two inches out of the ground. Snowdrops are up and in blossom and my Lenten Rose is in glorious full flower. Once again, it is hard to know what season it is with so many mixed messages between the mild weather and the calendar telling me that it is early January. I still have tulip bulbs which I never got around to planting. I must bury them quickly and hope that it is not already too late.

4 January Friday

There was a dead baby shrew on the second step going down to the lower barn this morning. Once again, I noticed no visible injuries. There was no blood and there was no part of the body missing. I am consistently confused as to why young shrews die like this. I feel sure they must have weak hearts and die of fright, or maybe excitement.

3 January Thursday

I have heard four people today speaking of Two Thirteen. I have occasionally heard someone say Two Three, Two Eleven or Two Twelve, but I always thought those were mistakes. Sometimes I thought I just must have heard it wrong. Now it sounds like it is becoming a normal way to state the date.

1 January 2013 Tuesday

It was a perfect blue sky day up in the Knockmealdowns and walking with friends was a fine way to begin the New Year. We ate smoked trout sandwiches as we sat lined up on a griff which looked like a bench. The mud and peat and unevenesss of the ground made for difficult walking. It was the kind of walking where you need to watch every step. Even with two walking poles it demanded constant vigilence. We knew the walk would be too exhausting for Em, so we left her at home, but we kept looking around and expecting to see her anyway. We felt sad that she was not with us.. Molly ran enough for two dogs.  She is young and madly energetic. She spent her first 2 1/2 years in a tiny cage producing puppies in wretched conditions on a puppy farm.  She is still relishing her rescue and the wonderful life she now has.  The five of us stopped in Rose's on the way back for drinks and cups of tea. We say Happy New Year to everyone we see and they all say Happy New Year or Many Happy Returns back. Today is the first day. We know this exact conversational exchange will continue for at least three more weeks.

30 December Sunday

Maud and Peter stopped at a supermarket. They were thrilled to find whole pineapples on sale at 25 cent each. At first they thought there must be a mistake but were told that with the holiday week it was important to sell off all fresh produce. They filled their trolley with pineapples. When they got to the till to pay, the young girl there was confused as how to ring up the sale price for the pineapples. She did not want them to be embarassed or confused later when they looked at the receipt so she asked in advance if they would mind if she charged them for thirteen lollipops because that was the only thing she had listed for 25 cent. They are delighted with their receipt and showed it to us. The items purchased are listed here: Avonmore Milk. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop.Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Lollipop. Broccoli. Red Onions.Onions.Peppers.

29 December Saturday

To Pass Out means to overtake in a car. It does not mean collapsing into unconsciousness.

28 December Friday

A woman was telling me about someone who was extremely personable, friendly and open. By way of further describing his manner she said: He'd be as interested in the next person he met as he had been in the previous one.

27 December Thursday

No one drives on the left-hand side of the road. No one drives on the right-hand side of the road. On these tunnel-like roads, we all drive right down the middle. When we meet another vehicle, we adjust to accommodate one another. The roads are narrow and there is no line painted in the middle. This winter, it is damp and unseasonably mild, so what we have is a green smudge of moss down the centre. It is an elusive amount of greenness. It is just a glow on the dark and wet tar.

24 December Monday

I made some notecards for my mother and sent them off to her as a gift. She loves new notecards and she has a large number of boxes of them in her desk. She writes a lot of notes to people and she likes to have the right notecard for the right occasion and for the right person. My mother keeps a list of whom she has sent which card to within each box of notes. She does not want to send the same card to someone twice. I chose flowers from my selection of dried vegetation and glued one blossom onto each heavy folded card. I used my method of the small strips of brown tape to secure the stems. I am a little bit worried that my mother will not really like these cards with the brown tape and that she will feel that they are a little bit rough looking. What I know she will like are the very fine thick envelopes which accompany each card.

23 December Sunday

One day last week, the shop had eight Christmas wreathes stolen from out front. Today, they had six Christmas trees stolen.

22 December Saturday

Another crazily mild day, but this time without the mist and fog. Over the last few weeks, we have been filling water bottles and containers and stockpiling them to be ready for a sudden heavy frost such as we had two years ago. The water from the well was frozen then and we had a difficult ten days living without running water. With the weather we have been having so far there is no chance that we will be losing our water. We may never even need mittens. I will keep the containers full just in case. It feels like a kind of insurance.

21 December Friday

I met Tommie coming around the corner just after the bridge. We were both in our cars. I raised my hand in a salute but he did not return my greeting. He had a look of complete terror on his face. He looked like he did not know if he would get around the corner or not. I do not know exactly how old he is but he has been looking fragile of late. His face has been sinking in upon itself and his skull is prominent. It is hard to think of this frightened Tommie on the corner with the Tommie who used to stop at any time right in the middle of any road. He would turn off his engine and begin a conversation as if there was never a chance of another car coming along and needing that length of road.

20 December Thursday

It has been misty all day. This whole world is covered with a soft damp fog, so we cannot see very far in any direction. It is mild. There is a bright green feathery growth coming out of the dark brown wet and shiny leaves along the path. The brightness of the plant suggests springtime, but it is winter now. It is not spring. There were cobwebs all across the path as I walked through the trees with Em. Some were illuminated by tiny drops of water but most were invisible. As I walked they glued themselves onto my face. If it were night, it would be frightening to have these cobwebs all over my head but in this grey misty daylight, they are not frightening, they are just wet and sticky.

19 December Wednesday

Em is showing her age. Her huge fluffy plume-like tail has gone scrawny and limp. Her neck is thin. She still pushes at the back door to let herself in, but most times she does not have the strength to open it all the way. Sometimes she opens it enough to stick her nose in and sometimes she just makes noises and hopes that we hear her. Since she cannot hear her own scratching, I do not think that she fully believes that we can either.

18 December Tuesday

I stopped at the library to return two books and to take out two more. I still had two at home which I had not yet read. Borrowers are only allowed four books at a time. I asked the librarian if the library would be open over the holiday period. She told me they would be open on 21 December and then on the 28th and the 29th but not again until 2 January. She said no one ever came in over the holiday week so they no longer bothered to stay open. She explained that they did not mind if people were late with their books or even if they took extra books. She said We just let everyone take as many books as they need to get them through the holiday and if they are late returning them, we turn a blind eye. So instead of taking two books, I took four and now I have six here ready to be read. I am prepared.

17 December Monday

I have had five mousetraps set ever since the big massacre. Every morning I check them to see if there have been any victims. It has been several weeks now without a single death so today I removed two traps. Three is plenty as they are in stategic locations. With three rather than five, I still have the daily dilemma of whether to check the traps before or after I eat my breakfast.

13 December Thursday

I stopped up in Grange at Frank's shop. I do not go to his shop often because I do not go to Grange often. There is not much reason for me to go to Grange as there is only the church and the school and Frank's shop and there is almost nothing to buy in the shop. When I go in there I walk up and down the two short aisles and I look for something to purchase. I often select greaseprooof paper or bananas or biscuits. Milk. Lemons. There is always something to get but there is not much of anything and the few things that are there are spread out on shelves with a lot of space in between them. Today as I drove by, I stopped and gasped. The windows had been covered with little puffs of cotton wool. Every puff was about two inches from every other puff and the windows and the door glass and the glass above the door were all dotted with this cotton wool snow. It looked fantastic. I ran in and complimented him on the festive quality of it all. I asked him what he had used to stick the cotton wool onto the glass. He said he had made a wallpaper paste solution. I was surprised that it stuck onto the glass. I was amazed that the cotton was not sliding down the glass. We discussed his method for a while. He was very pleased with his results. We stood there together quietly in the nearly empty shop and looked out through the big windows at the empty road, but we were looking out through the idea of snow so it was wonderful. I bought ginger biscuits and cream crackers and a KitKat before I left.

12 December Wednesday

Today has been one of those bleak grey days when we never know what time it is. In the morning it could be afternoon. In the afternoon it could be morning. There is no sunlight promising to break through. There is no sunset. There is nothing but grey and darkness and a soft drizzle throughout most ot the day. There is nothing cheerful and no sense of promise. People are already talking about the upcoming shortest day of the year. They are already consoling themselves with the promise that once that day passes the next days will get longer and then spring will follow soon. On a day like today it feels like it will always be like this and that is a dreary thought.

10 December Monday

There is a new shop within the shop. The small side room which has had multiple functions has been transformed. It is now a Christmas shop. It is full of decorations and wrapping papers and possible gifts. It has displays of candles and picture frames. Most of the items have been in the shop all year long but now they have been gathered together and suddenly the candles look like gifts not just like candles. This room used to hold two photocopy machines and a computer and printer with a chair and coin-accessed internet, as well as a bookcase full of books which people donated and left on the shelves. Other people took books and left money for them in a bucket with a rectangular hole cut in its lid. There was also a table in the room where we could have a cup of coffee or even a lunch from the take-away counter. The table is still there as is the computer. The photocopy machines are now behind the counter in the front of the shop. I have no idea where the books have gone.

9 December Sunday

Paddy McGarry died last week. His nephew phoned to tell us the sad news. He promised to let us know when the funeral would be but he said it would be a while because Paddy died in London and they had to go through official channels to bring the body over to Birr in County Offaly where the family was from and where the funeral would take place. I gave the news to Rose and she told a lot of other people as I knew she would. Today I spoke to Paddy's wife and she said the service had taken place yesterday. We all missed it because the nephew had forgotten to let us know. Rose was very sad as she had promised to organize a bus to take people up to Birr for the day. All of the seats had been reserved right away even though no one knew what day it would be. They all thought that much of Paddy that they would take the day off whenever it came along. Paddy was a good builder and a good man. He could tell a story well. All week I found myself remembering Paddy stories. I loved the one about him courting a girl when he was young. He had to sit down and speak with her father one Sunday afternoon. He knew it was an important conversation. Every minute that he sat there across from the father and in front of the fire, he was aware that he had big holes in the soles of both of his shoes and that he had grey cardboard stuck inside so that his feet inside would not get wet too fast. He spent the whole visit trying to keep his feet flat on the floor so that the father would see neither his holes nor his cardboard.

8 December Saturday

The Egg Man at the market apologized because he had no large eggs today. He only had medium ones and small ones. He said that his chickens have been unhappy with all of the rain. He said they do not mind the cold so much but they do not like the rain and when they are wet day after day they tend to lay fewer eggs and smaller eggs. He is hoping for a cold snap to get his hens back on form.

7 December Friday

When a child is misbehaving, he or she is said to be Bold. They might be said to be Very Bold. No one says they are being Naughty or Bad. Naughty is just not a word that gets used. Dogs might also be called Bold, as might adults. It is not just a word for children, it is a term for unacceptable behaviour.

5 December Wednesday

A man I do not know looked carefully at Em today and asked about her age. He was impressed to find out that she is one month short of fourteen, and that she looks and moves in such a youthful manner. He said: She's Good To Go. I hear this expression said a lot and I never know if it means that she is healthy and well able to be going along with me, or if it is good of her to join me.

4 December Tuesday

I like the sky at this time of year. I love the dawn and I love the sunsets when there is a lot of pink and red and orange in the sky. The clouds look beautiful lit up by the colours. It is a bleak time, but if you are out of doors or looking out a window at the right moment, there is colour in the countryside. It is just a pity that the hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset are so very brief.

3 December Monday

I went on-line to sign a national petition this morning. After I signed, I looked at the names which were popping in. Each time a new person signed, their name was recorded and then moved down the list as someone else signed and then someone else after them. There were four names at a time on the screen. I was surprised to see the name of someone I knew come up on the list. Because of this never ending cold, I was still not feeling very well nor very energetic so I sat and watched the names pop up and then disappear as new names came up. I sat and stared at the screen. It was hypnotic. I became obsessed with the names and with the number of people signing and with how many times the goal of how many names were needed changed. The number got bigger and more and more people came on to sign the petition. I checked in and watched the signing off and on all day. I was delighted to see how many people were making themselves heard and I was delighted to see how many of the names I knew. Some of the people I knew well and some only a little bit, but Ireland is a small country. It should not surprise me to find people I know on such a list, but it does.

2 December Sunday

Simon went to the chemist this week. He wanted to buy a bottle of Tonic for me. There is a great belief in Tonic. I do not know exactly what is in a bottle of Tonic. Each chemist makes his or her own and people swear by their own version. The Tonic always comes in a brown glass bottle with a little plastic spoon for measuring out a dose. Three times a day after a meal is the usual amount. The chemist told Simon that pharmacists had now been banned from producing their own Tonic. The chemist was upset. He was disraught. He said that he had made people happy and healthy with his mixture of vitamins and iron and whatever else for years. Now he could not give out a Tonic without a doctor's prescription. He could not believe he was no longer allowed to serve his own mixture at his own discretion. In spite of this, he made up a bottle full for Simon to give to me. The chemist said that the next time I went to the doctor, even if it was several months from now, I should get a written request for the Tonic and deliver it to him retrospectively. He said that would cover him.

1 December Saturday

I took Em around for the walk this morning. It was the first time I have been Around since we returned from London. I still felt weak with my cold but I went along knowing that since she is slow these days, I can be slow too. It was a nice quiet and exploratory walk. Everything was familiar and everything, as always, was completely new.

30 November Friday

The shop has made a new display just inside the door. The shelves are full of the sorts of things that people might be looking for on Sunday or in the evenings when the hardware shop next door is closed. Some of the items, like motor oils, are things we might need at any time, but many of them are seasonal. The display is full of things like firelighters, manufactured firelogs and bags of sticks. There are several choices of mouse and rat traps as well as a variety of poisons. ENDORAT Rat Killer is a brand I have not seen before. The shelves display de-icer, anti-freeze, reflective arm-bands and belts, batteries, torches, and hot water bottles. It is an impressive selection. I feel like they have thought of everything.

29 November Thursday

I am better but I am not all better. I thought I would be better today. I should be better today.  This is a bad cold. I am coughing less and sneezing less and blowing my nose less, but I am still coughing and sneezing and blowing my nose.  I am tired of thinking about it and I am tired of living with it and I am tired of talking about it. I was warned by someone who said: I hope you do not have what I had because mine went on and on and on for weeks.  I am on my 11th day since the sore throat started and I have had enough.

28 November Wednesday

I walked down the meadow with Em tonight. I have barely been outside all week so she has been taking both her morning walks and her evening walks with Simon. She has only gone as far as the vegetable patch with him each night, but tonight she raced down the path and I went along behind her. The moon was full and the sky was clear and frosty with cold. I was glad to be out in the brightness but I was more glad to get back inside.

23 November Friday

Anything Strange? This is a regular question not unlike being asked What's Happening? or What's Up? I never hear it asked anywhere else. Or perhaps it is just that no one asks it of me anywhere else. For a long time I thought my answer should be about something very exotic or special. Now I know that it is just the first part of a conversation of local news. It can be about anything at all.

22 November Thursday

This is my third day with a bad sore throat. I walked as far as the farm with Em which was not enough of a walk for her but it was exhausting for me. Following advice from a friend, I boiled up some carragheen moss and made myself a sort of tea. I left the carragheen in the pan in case I wanted to make a second cup. Even with copious amounts of honey stirred in, it tasted terrible. I would love to say that this seaweed tea tasted of the sea and that it tasted like wonderful minerals and goodness. There is no chance I will be having a second cup, but the compost heap will no doubt benefit from the plethora of minerals.

20 November Tuesday

It is not unusual to stop down at the shop and to see a car parked in front of the church with no one inside the car but with the engine left running. When I see this, I wonder if the driver has dashed into the shop to get something or if the driver has dashed into the church for a quick prayer. I never wait around to find out. Today I was walking into the shop and an old man who was smoking outside said hello. The man then jerked his head toward a car with its engine running in front of the church. He said, That man there is a millionaire. With the price of petrol what it is, that man must be a millionaire to leave his motor running like that.

6 November Tuesday

Em is working to keep me in her sight all day long. This means she follows me from room to room and back again. She is exhausted by the following but since she cannot hear me moving around she needs to see me in order to know where I am. I get exhausted too because I am always bumping into her. I change direction more quickly than she does. She sits next to me and presses herself against me. If I am standing she is near to my feet. When I move, I trip over her. When she gets really tired of all of the movement, she collapses somewhere and goes to sleep for a short while. It is both heartbreaking and annoying. When we go out walking, she is fine because she knows the route and she knows her role in the walk. She knows all the places to smell and examine and chase. She only needs me to go along with her. The walk makes for a different kind of fatigue. After a walk, she arrives home, cleans off any mud and muck from her legs and feet, and falls into a heavy sleep. After a walk, I have a good hour of freedom from the following..

5 November Monday

Tyres appear often. Reusing is a form of recycling. If you have a lot of tyres you have to find something to do with them. Some tyres are lined up on the ground at the end of a place to park the car. The tyres are there to stop the cars going too far into a field or onto a lawn. They are something soft to bump into. Tyres hanging by strong ropes against a wall are also practical for car parking. It is more pleasant to bump the front of the car into a tyre than to bump it into a cement wall. A tyre on a rope makes a nice swing.. Farmers use hundreds of tyres to hold down the black plastic with which they cover up on their huge heaps of silage. The black tyres on the black plastic mountains look like polka dots. Sometimes 5 or 8 tyres are piled up on top of one another and cement is poured down the middle. This might become a fence post or just some kind of strong vertical thing whose purpose I do not understand.

4 November Sunday

There have been mice in the kitchen, eating barley and scattering it around. I set traps and I killed ten of them in ten hours. Most of them were babies so I think I destroyed the entire family. The hole around the waste pipe has been filled in. I think that is how they were getting into the house. I was going to fill the hole in with cotton wool and cover it with duct tape. Luckily Peter came by and quickly filled it with cement. He said the cotton wool would have pleased the mice as they would have been happy to use it to line their nest. I am so proud of my mass mouse extermination that I must write it down..

3 November Saturday

We have a new light outside on the corner of the house. It is an old light which came from the old schoolhouse over at Lagganstown. When a new security light was being put up there twelve years ago, this light was going to be thrown away. We brought the fixture home and it has been in the shed ever since. It was designed with two metal brackets to be placed on the corner of a building so that is where it finally is. It has a round green metal shade and a long narrow glass thing to protect the bulb. It is old and heavy. It has ridges in its thick glass. I love the light which spreads out from it. I have gone out into the night just to walk around in the thrown circle of light.

2 November Friday

There is a Double Possessive used here. It is used so much that I think it is never not used. No one will say My Mother when they can say My Own Mother. My Own Car. Your Own House. His Own Cow. Her Own Leg. It makes ownership very specific and not something to be argued about. It makes ownership irrefutable, especially because the word OWN is the word which is emphasized.

1 November 2012 Thursday

There is a cement wall with raised letters which I love to see on the way into town. The letters read THE FAMILY THAT PRAY TOGETHER STAY TOGETHER. Each capital letter is about 9 inches tall. The wall is white. The top of the wall and the letters are bright blue. They are a bright, light blue.. It is the same shade of blue which is always used for religious shrines and holy places all over the countyside. Repainting every few years keeps the blue bright and light. Inside the wall there is a statue of the Virgin Mary with a blue neon halo around her head. The blue of the light is the same as the painted blue.

31 October Wednesday

At this time of year, the hunters appear. They just look like any men out in the fields or forest but they have guns and dogs with them. They walk with their guns broken open over the forearm which is both safe and reassuring. They never wear bright clothing which I find a bit worrying. The cars or trucks with hunters in them usually have a gun on the dashboard and a pile of cartridges on the seat. The cartridges are bright red or yellow. This must be the right sort of shot for shooting birds. I try to wear bright things when I am walking up the boreen. I talk and sing and generally make a lot of noise. I whack at bushes and trees with a big stick. I am alerting any hunters to my presence. I am also alerting any birds.

30 October Tuesday

With Em walking quite slowly these days, I have taking up Cow Counting. When I come up near to a field full of cows, I try to count them quickly. They are always moving around. Sometimes they move because they see me but more especially when they see Em. I count a herd three or four times in quick sucession. I always come up with three or four different numbers. If I ever find myself getting the same count three times in a row, I will be delighted. This is a good method to amuse myself while taking Em's slowness into consideration. My next problem will be keeping warm while the walking is so slow.

29 October Monday Bank Holiday

The moon is full but the world outside is not bright. Some things have a a bright clarity about them but mostly it is just dark. On some full moon nights I can walk up and down the meadow paths without a torch. Tonight is not one of those nights. Em never seems to care if it is dark or bright. She rushes out with confidence into the night. Do dogs have the same vision in the light as in the dark?

28 October Sunday

We changed the clocks last night. The changing plunges us into a darker darkness. It is always at this time of year that I miss street lights and urban illumination. Walking across from the barn as early as six o'clock is now a walk which requires a torch, and there are many weeks yet before we get to the shortest day.

27 October Saturday

The doctor told me not to worry. She assured me that it was Nothing Sinister. She said we shall wait for the tests but we both can sleep easy because it is Nothing Sinister. The more often she used the expression Nothing Sinister, the more I believed her.

26 October Friday

The county council have sent a digger and a truck to scrape the middle of the boreen. The grass has grown so much over the years that each time it dies back it makes more soil and then more grass grows. The grass itself is not so long but the area it grows on is both high and wide. Cars, espeically ones which are low to the ground, get rubbed and dragged hard along on the bottom as they come down the track. Sometimes it is difficult to find a space to roll the tyres along on either side of the grass. The place to drive has been taken over by the thick grass in the middle. So far the council men have come twice. They scraped up the grass and the soil and filled their truck with it all, and then they drove away to empty the load somewhere. They have come twice at one week intervals and have finished two lengths of maybe a fifty metres each time. They usually come just before lunch, and they do not return after lunch. It will take many weeks for the job to be completed at this rate. What is left behind is a muddy mess. If they keep working at this slow speed, the first cleared areas will be growing grass again before the final lengths are finished.

25 October Thursday

Annie, from over on the other side of Cahir, gave me back my map. I had forgotten that we loaned it to her in the summer. She had some questions about place names so we took her the Ordnance Survey map for her area and pointed out the places she was asking about. It was not a new map and it had been folded and unfolded a great number of times. It was torn and shabby but she did not mind. She was pleased to be able to study the locations on paper so we left the map with her. She is unsteady on her legs and cannot walk much and she is too old to explore the actual places any more, but her eyes are good so she has enjoyed tracking down people and fondly remembered spots with her finger and a magnifying glass. When I visited today, Annie returned the map to me. She had spent a long time making careful repairs with strips of clear sello tape. Every fold has a strip of tape along it on both sides of the page. It is now an enormous unwieldy thing. It will never again fold up small enough to fit into a pocket. She had such a good time repairing it for us that all I could say was thank you.

23 October Tuesday

There are wool gloves in the pockets of my rain jacket all year round. I never take them out. They are there just in case. I do not necessarily wear my rain jacket every day and I certainly do not need gloves every time that I do wear the jacket, but I need gloves often enough that it is best if they stay right there in readiness.

22 October Monday

More and more petrol stations are closing. There are huge gaps between places where one can get fuel. In Ballyporeen, the pumps have been gone for a few years now and planters have been placed on top of where they were. There is no longer a station in Clogheen and now another has closed in Ardfinnan. With the price of fuel going up, it seems unfair that people have to drive long distances to get some fuel just so that they can use most of it up to drive themselves home.

21 October Sunday

We went down to the village to get the papers and to take Em on the little loop walk. Because it is Sunday we had to be careful where we parked as we could find ourselves trapped into a place by everyone arriving and parking at the very last moment and rushing in to the church. Some Sundays there is a mass in the village and some Sundays there is not. On the Sundays when it is not there, it is over in Fourmilewater. I speak of people going to church but they do not go to church, they go to Mass. They go to the activity, not to the place.

20 October Saturday

There is an excitement about bunches of carrots coated with large clumps of garden soil which I do not understand. I never go to the market without hearing someone exclaim about the presence of Big Dirty Carrots. If someone points them out to me, I disappoint them with my lack of enthusiasm. The times when I do come home with these enormous carrots and their falling off quantities of soil, I find the carrots fibrous and unpleasant. To me, they are like carrots I might feed a donkey. They have no sweetness and they have an unpleasant texture. I keep thinking I am missing something when I hear the delight which greets the Big Dirty Carrots. I do not mind a lot of dirt when I peel or scrub carrots, but if I end up with a sinkful of mud and then I have a carrot which I do not want to eat, I fail to see the point.

19 October Friday

I spoke to a woman who was going to send me something in the post. She was going to put it into the post today but then she stopped herself and said, 'Oh no, I can't do that. I don't like things to sit in the post office or in a box all weekend.' She wanted to wait until Monday to send it. If she sent it on Friday, I would have it on Monday. If she waits until Monday, I have to wait until Tuesday to recieve it. With no post office activity on Saturday, things are slow enough here but an unwillingness to trust things to the post office over the weekend makes the movement of things even slower. This is not the first time this has happened. It happens a lot.

16 October Tuesday

Sometimes a long driveway or entrance to a house is called an Avenue. I do not know how long the drive must be for it to be an avenue and not just a drive. I also do not know if it must be tarred to be called an avenue. I do know that not all entry roads to houses are called avenues, so I do not know if this is an affectation or if the length determines the name.

13 October Saturday

One of the big ash trees near to the barn has been felled. We watched it fall in a perfectly placed drop. It has been on a list of things to get done for a long time now. Today the man with the chain saw came and cut it, along with a few other dead or unwanted trees. With his chain saw and his son, he managed to down them all in a crazily short time. The fallen trees and limbs are in large pieces, piled in several locations. Now everything needs to be cut up into wood-stove sized pieces and stacked. The gap left by the big tree opens up a new vista down the valley and across to the little bell tower of the Church of Ireland in the near distance and the hills beyond in the far distance. Because the new view is seen between two other trees, it is about looking through rather than just looking at. And because the new view is visible from the kitchen window, it is a view through and through again.

11 October Thursday

The debit and credit card machine at the shop has been a problem for a long time. The slightest movement caused it to lose its connection and to cancel any transaction it was in the middle of. Various techniques have been tried to keep it from wiggling loose. The latest solution has been to attach it, with screws, to the exact middle of the display of sweets. The machine has been placed between the Turkish Delight and the Maltesers. This position puts it at eye level for me, but for most people it is in a good position to look down at as they tap in their numbers. I am trying not to be a pest about it, but I do inquire frequently if this new location has caused an increase in the sales of candy.

9 October Tuesday

It is good to walk along and to hear leaves crunching underfoot. Up until now the walking over fallen leaves has been a wet and slippery affair. I could not hear Em walking ahead of me or behind me. With her deafness, she cannot hear the leaves swishing and crackling as she walks, but I like to think that she is enjoying it all as much as I am.

7 October Sunday

It has been a sad year for gathering things to eat from our immediate world. I cannot bring myself to use the word foraging. The garden vegetables were a complete disaster. Things like courgettes, which usually overwhelm us, just rotted and the few that did not rot produced few and tiny courgettes. The apples trees had barely anything on them after the wretched spring and summer. I found few apples between eight trees, and most were disappointing to eat. There were no pears, no plums, no wild damsons, no blotcheens. Sloes are not visible anywhere. Usually there are thousands all through the blackthorn hedges. How can such huge quantities of sloes be absent? Blackberries can be found with careful looking but what I find are rarely worth the effort needed to pick them. It is a bad year for us, but it is even worse for the birds.

5 October 2012 Friday

Today I brought the last of the sweet peas into the house. The blossoms are bright pink. They have the quality of both silk and paper. I want to enjoy them for as long as possible,because after they die I shall have to wait until next year for more. I hope they last for more than a few days.

4 October Thursday

When needing to get rid of an old car which is too old or too undesirable to resell, it is no longer possible to just take it to a dump. A man from a scrapyard used to take cars away for people. Sometimes the people would pay the man to take the car. Sometimes the man would pay the people in order to take the car and use it for parts. Now the car must be taken to a registered car dismantling yard and the destruction of the car must comply with Waste Management Regulations. The owner of the car must get a special form called a Certificate of Destruction. The owners copy of the Certificate of Destruction is green. Another copy goes to the Motor Tax office, but I cannot remember what colour that copy is.

3 October Wednesday

There is a small house in the middle of the village. It has not been lived in for as long as we have been here but it is always very well taken care of. It is regularly repainted with white paint. For a long time the window frames and the door and the iron gate were bright yellow. This summer the house was repainted and now all of these trims have been painted bright red. The one window in the upstairs of the gable end of the cottage was replaced a long time ago with a piece of wood. The window panes and a sheer lace curtain have been painted in place of the absent window. The painting is well done. I admire it often. It is realistic and so natural looking that I wonder how many people realize that they are looking at a painting and not a real window.

1 October 2012 Monday

I was at the doctor's office today. The practice has recently moved to a new building. There are quite a few doctors sharing the building and there are two different waiting rooms to accommodate the patients. There is one reception desk which seems to take care of everyone. After seeing my doctor I was told to go and wait in the waiting room.while some papers were prepared. I sat in the room with one young woman and her small child. The child was busy watching the fish in the enormous fishtank. It is much nicer to have a fishtank than the noisy television set which was in the waiting room of the old practice. There is an intercom in the room and every so often a name was called for someone to go into a doctors office. When the announcement was over, the intercom returned to the quiet playing of the local radio station. None of the names called were for myself nor the young woman nor her child. Those people must have been in the other waiting room. After a few names were called, we heard the sound of a man moaning. I thought it was something on the radio. Then the moaning became louder. It was a young man, not a child. He might have been in his late teens or maybe he was in his twenties of thirties. He was not an old man. He moaned louder and then he screamed and then he begged for someone to stop. He screamed and he screamed louder. The young woman and I were transfixed by the sounds and we stared right into each others eyes. The sounds were terrifying. Then we heard a voice saying It is alright now, we are nearly done. Stay calm. The man screamed again. Actually the man never stopped screaming. The screams just had different volumes and different intensities. The child turned from the fish tank and then he screamed too. I ran out and told the receptionist that I thought her intercom was broadcasting someones painful procedure. She could hear the screams coming from the open door of the waiting room. She screamed a small scream herself and ran to turn it off.

29 September Saturday

Already I need a torch when I walk out into the night with Em. I need a torch and I need a sweater. Soon I will need a jacket, then a scarf and then a hat, and then boots. The early darkness and the need for a torch are the first signs heralding the onset of winter.

28 September Friday

As always when we have been away, Em returns from her stay at the farm with a large number of clumpy bits in her hair. Somtimes these clumps are just tangled hair, but more often they are the gathering of hair around something horrible. I think the main culprit is cat shit. There are always cats in the barns, and the cats and dogs are all happy to leap and play in the hay. Sometimes a few days back here with a lot of rolling in the grass and swimming in the stream is all it takes for Em to return to her usual sweet smell. Sometimes I have to get out scissors and I need to cut out the wadgey bits. The cutting and brushing can go on for days before I get everything smelly out of her hair. This is one of those times.

26 September Wednesday

The National Ploughing Championship is back. This year it is in Wexford. Every year it moves to a different location around the country. Every year the radio and the news are full of stories from The Ploughing. Every year people are discussing whether or not they will go to The Ploughing, and who they know who might be participating. I suppose in Dublin and Limerick and Galway, no one mentions The Ploughing, but in these rural parts it is a highpoint of the year. Besides the competitions for different kinds of ploughing, there are lots of things on show. There are exhibitions of Farm Machinery, and Bio Energy and Business Plans for Farmers and Animal Husbandry. There are competitions for Livestock Breeds, Sheep Shearing and Sheep Dog Trials. There are lots more things but since I have never been to The Ploughing, I only hear about some of the activities. There is a lot of food both on sale and being given away. There are samples to taste and ideas about production and marketing. This year the people of Flahavans, who produce oats, are making and giving out bowls of porridge from early in the morning all day long. The reports say that this is the coldest year ever for The Ploughing. It is unseasonably cold, so everyone is bundled up. People are happy to wait in long lines for a hot bowl of porridge.

10 September 2012 Monday

A drizzly soft and grey day. It has not been unpleasant but no one is ready to give up on the warm and balmy days we have been enjoying. No one wants to believe that this is the end of the sunshine. No one wants to believe that this is the end of the summer we never had but since we had a little we are willing to forgive the rest. We are almost ready to believe that we had a summer.

7 September 2012 Friday

A week of glorious sunshine. Everyone is cheerful. It is the weather we have waited for all summer. The evenings are cool and the mornings are wet with dew and chilly, but the days are beautiful. It does not matter if the jobs we do are indoor jobs or outdoor jobs. With the doors open and the windows open there is easy movement between buildings and between actions. Em settles herself somewhere in between so that she can keep track of where we go in and where we go out of, but she herself does not have to move. She just opens her eyes occasionally to make sure that we are not too far away.

3 September 2012 Monday

We drove up from the sea in east Cork. It was such a beautiful day that we thought we would drive through Tallow and Lismore and then over the mountains before dropping down and over into our valley. As we neared Tallow we were directed to a detour by uniformed Garda. Then we came to another detour and then another detour. At the last place, there were people getting out of their cars and walking over the bridge into Tallow. A big Horse Fair was taking place. The Garda were trying not to let people drive into the town. Most of the participants of the horse fair were members of the travelling community and the Garda were trying to keep them from bringing their weapons into the town. There are always a lot of fights at the horse fairs. If someone gets into a fight they will at least not have their scythes and pitchforks to use in attacking someone else. They might have a knife but it is not easy to walk into a town with a heavy stick or another large and unwieldy weapon in your arms without looking like you are anticipating a fight. Leaving the cars means leaving the weapons. When we finally got around all of the traffic and arrived down in the village here, we pulled up behind a car. It was just a regular car. It was not a big car. A woman and a child got out of the passenger side of the car. A man got out of the drivers side. In the back seat there was a small pony. The pony was in the car horizontally. His head and nose were against one window and his tail and his bottom were against the other window. His feet were on the floor. He was not on the seat. He filled the width of the back seat exactly with his body length. We assume the people bought him at the Horse Fair.

1 September 2012 Saturday

For years and years, I have always been pressing flowers. I have never done anything with the flowers after they were pressed except to enjoy finding them much later in books. Lately, I have been carefully removing the well-dried flowers and leaves and glueing them down on card and using very thin strips of brown paper tape to ensure their safe position on the card. I am so pleased with my results that I am pressing more and more kinds of vegetation. I wonder if what I am pressing now will disappear for years and years or if I will continue to glue and tape. I think the very thin strips of bown tape are a huge part of what I love about this activity.

31 August 2012 Friday

My berry picking has become an evening activity. I try to go out and pick some berries just before the light starts to drop. I can gather both a good bowl of raspberries and a good bowl of blackberries in a very short time. By collecting them at dusk, I am guaranteed berries for breakfast. I think that a lot of the birds are gone. I do not know if they have headed south already but they do seem to be gone. The raspberries are safe from atttackers. It is nice to know that everyday there will be freshly ripened berries. It is nice to know that the freshly ripened berries are waiting for my arrival.

28 August 2012 Tuesday

Selling raffle tickets or selling sponsorship for some kind of walk or run or tractor ride or any other charity event used to be easy. A piece of paper could be left in the shop and it would be signed and filled up in no time. Now it is difficult to expect people to put money out for any of these events. The piece of paper left in the shop might remain unfilled for days and days. It is difficult to ask people directly to contribute because they feel awkward having to refuse. It is considered bad manners to put people on the spot. There are a lot of people pretending that things are okay when they are not okay. If you ask someone to sponsor a charity run, they cannot refuse even if they are in very dire financial circumstances. They have been put in the position of looking churlish if they refuse. So when someone sneaks up to you, very near to your parked motor car, and asks you to sponsor a person doing a walk for a charity, you know that they have carefully considered if it is okay for you to be someone to ask. You know that they have considered your situation as best they can in order not to offend.

25 August Saturday

The Ancient Man was looking behind a big tree as I approached from a distance. As I got nearer, he went behind a second tree. Then he walked a bit and went behind a third tree. His Ancient Dog sat still in the middle of the path. His Ancient Dog is always pleased for an excuse to sit down. I said hello and he said hello. I asked if he was looking for something or someone behind the trees. He said that he had tired of carrying his big multi-coloured umbrella. He has been carrying it all summer. Almost every day he has needed to use it at least once. Since it was not raining and the sky was clear this morning, he hid the umbrella behind a large tree to collect on his return along the path. Now he had forgotten which tree it was hidden behind.

24 August Friday

There was a small notice in the paper from a man in a nearby village. The notice was in a little box with a black line around it. Underneath the man's name and the name of his village, it said that he hereby apologised unreservedly and sincerely to the people he has caused anguish to, with his actions of circulating 'comments' on a certain day this summer. He said that the comments were complete falsehoods without foundation or truth and he regrets the distress and hurt that he has caused to these people and their families.

23 August Thursday

There is such a lot of fear about mint in the garden. No one wants to plant mint because they are told that it will send out runners and take over the whole place. Everyone believes this. Mint gets planted in pots. That way it cannot invade. I am not worried about my mint taking over my world. I put some in over at the corner of the round topped tool shed. Every summer it grows into a fine big bush. Yes, the mint has spread but when we pass nearby with the mower we can just mow over anything that seems excessive. It is a little difficult to get to the hose and the outdoor tap now without walking through the copious mint growth. This is a nice thing. I look forward to using the hose so that I can breathe the minty air. Unfortunately, this summer it has been too wet to need the hose. I have to make a special detour to rustle the bushes and get a good whiff of mint.

22 August Wednesday

The blackberries are ripening. I can pick some here and there as I walk. I can pick a hand full but I cannot pick a bowl full. As with all growth this summer it is amazing that the berries have not rotted before they had a chance to ripen.

21 August Tuesday

Clonmel is a great going home for lunch town. If you are on the road at one o'clock it can be very shocking to witness all of the traffic. People jump into their motors and race home even if they live ten miles away. By the time they get home there is not too much time left because they have to eat and then rush back to their jobs. There is usually a mother or a wife waiting with the dinner, but even so it seems a very rushed way to take a break. The traffic around two o'clock when they are all coming back is equally frenetic.

18 August Saturday

A sunny day. After so much wet and grey it does not feel like summer but it feels good. Everyone is cheerful. We can speak of nothing else.

17 August Friday

We nearly lost Em today. We went to do the gentle loop walk just outside the village. Em rushed off ahead as she usually does. She always wants to get into whatever water is available. I was about to start a search for a stick to throw for her, when I remembered how fast the water has been rushing down from the mountains. Everywhere is swollen and everywhere is flooded and all rivers and streams are overflowing. I ran to get to her before she got to the stream. I got near just in time to see her grabbed by the fast moving current and flipped over onto her back and carried away. Simon ran downstream to where there was an opening in the undergrowth. He hoped that if she was swept along he would get there in time to grab her as she went by. I waded into the stream and found her a little way down. She was caught in some bushes. She was struggling to keep her head above water. The water was up to my waist. It was hard for me to stay standing. I got one hand onto a thin branch and one hand onto her collar. I pulled and stretched and pulled some more and finally I got her near to me. Eventually we got to a place in the banking where I was able to push her up and out of the water. I had a lot of trouble getting myself up and out. By the time we got home I think the shock of it all hit me. She is fine. I am fine. I have burst into tears several times just looking at her and thinking how close we came to losing her. Someone told me that I had Need of a Glass of Brandy. I did not have one but probably I should have.

16 August Thursday

As I passed the washing line, I stopped to pick up the clothespegs which had blown out of their container. They were scattered in all directions through the long wet grass. I was surprised to see how far they had been thrown. The winds have been vicious. The grass is long because it is too wet to cut. The grass cannot be cut because it is never dry enough. The longer it gets and the wetter it gets the more impossible a job it becomes. We do not even think about cutting the grass anymore. It has been raining for days. It has been raining for weeks. It has been raining for months. Early on, they said it was the worst summer in living memory. Then they said it was the worst summer since 1867. Now they say that this is the worst summer ever. They are right. My raincoat has lost its ability to keep out the wet.

15 August Wednesday

This morning Em and I walked up the boreen. There was water rushing down toward us. Suddenly we were walking up a river bed. It was not a river but it was like a river. There was water rushing down so we slipped on rocks and squelched in mud and just generally had to struggle all the way up. The vegetation was also a struggle as so much has fallen and been blown over. A lot of big branches are broken. We crawled and squeezed through a lot of tight places. We took turns getting caught on brambles. When we got to the top and walked out onto the road, I looked at Em and she looked at me. We had had a wonderful time.

14 August Tuesday

When a shop or a restaurant or even a country is very expensive, it is said to be A Savage Dear Place. An expensive object is the same: A Savage Dear Car. A Savage Dear Clock.

23 July Monday

The countryside is full of haying activity. Even though the weather has been much less than ideal, the haying has been happening. After all the dire warnings and the weeks of rain and no sun, the hay has still grown and now the the hay is being cut. No one calls it haying. They say they are On the Silage. Some fields are cut already. They sit all stubbly and golden with big round bales of hay scattered around waiting to be collected. Some fields have smaller square bales. Everywhere there are tractors and baling machines and big trailers full of baled up hay being pulled along the roads. As always, the summer roads are dangerously full of this activity. Today I drove behind a big trailer piled high with round bales. The road was narrow, so the bales were scraping against trees and bushes all along the way. The trees rubbed at the load so that there were little bits of hay flying off. As I drove along in the sunshine, the small bright yellow pieces of hay surrounded me in a private little summer blizzard.

22 July Sunday

Em is in terrific health again. She seems to be getting younger and younger. After months of worrying that I was living with an elderly, slow and deaf dog, she is in better health than ever. She has learned to live with her deafness. I no longer believe it is complete deafness. When we walk she turns her head to look over her shoulder to keep track of where I am. Sometimes she looks over the right shoulder and sometimes she looks over her left shoulder. I do the exact same thing if I am the one in the front. We keep an eye on each other.

21 July Saturday

I was told about a man named Handmade Condon. He was famous in the area for making fine shoes. When I mentioned him to two people here, they started to argue about him. One of them was convinced that he made clothes and the other was certain that he made shoes. I was mostly interested in him for his name.

20 July Friday

On these summer nights the sky is still very bright at ten or ten thirty at night. When someone goes to bed at an early hour, it is said they are Going to Bed in the Brightness.

18 July Wednesday

We needed some boxes. We needed strong boxes. We wanted the boxes to be of equal dimensions to make for a consistent shipment. We did not have any such boxes and we did not really have the time to order any. What we did have was a bunch of 10 kilo FedEx boxes which were the perfect size. We did not want the boxes to say FedEx because we were not planning to ship by FedEx. There are enough difficulties with shippers these days. We did not want the boxes moved somewhere and then not all the way if the people shipping thought that FedEx would finish the job. Since it would never have never been the job of FedEx, they would not further the journey of the boxes so there was a good chance all of the boxes would go no where. I offered to paint the boxes. It was a silly job but it was a pleasant job. I spread the boxes out on the big table outside. I painted each box with a coat of white emulsion paint. The white took to the coated cardboard very nicely. It covered all of the FedEx information and everything else. The soft dryness of the paint looked very nice on the heavy cardboard. The white was chalky. The boxes looked very fine in white. When the boxes were dry, I folded them up and put them back into the barn ready to be packed up. Later some things changed about the idea of this shipment. It was decided that FedEx would indeed be contracted to move the boxes. As a result we packed everything up in the normal boxes which FedEx supply. We now have eight very beautifully painted white boxes.

16 July Monday

Em and I walked up through the overgrown and very wet boreen today. I had to wear waterproof trousers even though it was not raining. Everything is so wet. The sky is grey and heavy and it carried the promise of more rain, even though it was not raining for the moment..We struggled all the way up. There was no part of the walking which was not a struggle. I took my secauters and did some clipping on the way but the next time I go up there I need to carry a saw. There is a lot to do to clear the path for upright walking. When we came out of the undergrowth and onto the clear track, I saw that Em's back was covered with slugs. There were big slugs and small slugs. They were all grey. They were riding along on her wet back just because they had been knocked off the wet vegetation. I wiped them all off her back. I do not know if I was carrying slug passengers on my back and on my head too. I did not even think of that until now.

15 July Sunday

An AUCTIONEER is a person who sells land and buildings . Increasingly, tthe title Auctioneer is being replaced by Estate Agent. Estate Agent sounds more modern. Perhaps that is because the word Estate suggests glamour and the big old country homes which were thought of as estates. It is not meant to conjure up vast tracks of shoddily built homes which are called Housing Estates. Maybe the use of the word estate for these communities is also an attempt to make them feel nicer than they are. I like the word Auctioneer. I feel like an Auctioneer might be selling anything. He might be selling cows or farm equipment or houses or quarries. He is ready and able to sell whatever needs to be sold. I like to think of him with a good strong voice and a gavel to strike loudly upon the table when a sale has been made.

14 July Saturday

I have located two puffballs up near the farm. They are beautiful and white and every day they get a bit bigger. One of them is already quite large. They are not in an easy place to reach. I know that no one else wants to get them nor to eat them. I know that they are safe. I know that I can wait a bit longer before figuring out how to get at them.

13 July Friday

A woman I met today told me that she has run out of the jobs for rainy days. She said on these kinds of days it is often good to clean out the airing cupboard or to do some ironing or to finish some kind of job which you have put on The Long Finger. She said there are usually so many of those jobs that you know there is no hope of ever finishing them. Now she has finished all of those kinds of jobs and the low pressure and grey skies just do not inspire her to think about any other jobs that might need to be done. I know exactly how she feels.

12 July Thursday  

We walked again on the river walk up at Glenshelane, which means Glen of the Fairies.  Glenshelane is between Cappoquin and Mount Mellary. Mount Mellary is a big old monastary. There are only about 29 monks there now and most of them are very old. There used to be hundreds of monks there. No one wants to be a monk these days. The grounds are huge and well kept. The church is huge. It is all a surprise to find this manicured place up in the mountains. The grounds include a working farm but it is not the monks who do that work. I have never been inside the church but sometimes we stop and go into the coffee shop after our walk. Most times we are lucky. We have never arrived at the same time as a busload of people. The river walk is not on the grounds of Mount Mellary.  It is a few miles further down the road.  The place where we park is near a grotto. The grotto has a Virgin in the rocks who was once seen to be weeping. The people who believe in the tears of the Virgin come to get holy water and to pray. I am not sure if the water comes from a stream or a well. There is a little spot just below the Virgin where people dip in and get the water. This is the spot where the water is not simply water. This is the spot where the water is Holy Water. There are small plastic bottles available for filling with holy water. Some days we have witnessed elderly ladies in the car park emptying huge bags of large plastic bottles from their cars.  The entire back seat of the car might be full of plastic bottles. These are two litre water bottles and two litre minerals bottles which have been washed out first. Minerals are all those drinks like Coke and orange and 7-up. All sweet fizzy drinks are called minerals. These bigger bottles get left for filling too.  I guess if you need a lot of holy help you can take the filled-up big bottles home and make your tea and brush your teeth and do absolutely everything with such large quantities of holy water. The people who are lighting candles and leaving messages for the Virgin and getting holy water are not the people who are walking down along the river and in the woods. We all just use the same place to park.

11 July Wednesday

We were down in Cork today. I saw a man with a shopping trolley on wheels. His trolley had been full of sand which he had emptied out onto a red rug. He shaped the sand into the form of a dog lying on its side. His sand dog was about the size of a labrador. It was not a small dog. He scraped away the sand which was not part of the dog. It was all very neat. He made a little raised area of sand in front of the sleeping sand dog and he used little letter forms to spell out the name Sandy for his dog.

10 July Tuesday

I have been waiting and waiting for a sunny day to collect the elderflower blossoms for my cordial. I think I have been waiting for more than three weeks. There have been too many grey and overcast and rainy and dismal days. I am trying not to write about every one of these dreary days. There have been too many days when I felt it was not a good idea to collect the blossoms. Every bit of advice has always stressed that one should not collect blossoms on an overcast day. There have been a lot of days when it has been impossible to collect the blossoms. I have kept my supplies of sugar and lemons ready. I have had my bottles ready. I have watched as the trees have displayed fewer and fewer blossoms. Most trees no longer have any blossoms. Today I put away the bottles and the recipe and the ingredients. Today I decided not to make any cordial this year. This is a small decision but it feels like an important decision. Every day is full of small decisions. Some small decisions feel large, because once they are made there is sense of letting go and going forward. Now that I know that I have not got a new supply of elderflower cordial, I will be extra careful with what I have left of last years supply. I have my drawings of the blossoms which I usually use for my labels on the bottles. I love the drawings, so this year I am printing a card instead of making labels with them..

9 July Monday

The Bedside Locker is a small table unit with one drawer in it. The Bedside Locker is sometimes just called a Locker. It is always beside a bed. It has a surface, a drawer and a little door with storage space. There might be one or two shelves inside the little cupboard space. This is what is beside the bed in a hospital. It is also what is beside the bed at home. I do not know if The Bedside Locker has a lock. I do not know if it is ever lockable. I do not know if locking is the issue. I do not know why it cannot be called a bedside table. Here it is The Bedside Locker.

8 July Sunday

For years, we always spoke of the road which sweeps along beside the river into Clonmel as the River Road. We knew exactly which road we were speaking about when we spoke of the River Road. It took us a very long time to notice that no one else called it the River Road. People understood what we were saying and they knew which road we were describing, so no one corrected us, but no one else called it the River Road. It is the Wood Road. The road has the River Suir running beside it on the left hand side all the way into town. The road has woods rising uphill beside it on the right hand side all the way into town. It could as easily be called the River Road instead of the Wood Road, but it is the Wood Road and not the River Road. We have had to adapt.

7 July Saturday

One of the apple trees has Woolie Aphids. I am delighted with the name but less delighted with the infestation. It looks like the tree has globs of cotton wool stuck here and there over its branches. The white stuff is very sticky to the touch. I must go and scrub it all off with warm, soapy water using a rough brush. The second step will be to rub the areas with methylated spirits. I hope this will be enough to solve the problem. The Worcester Pearmain is the only tree infected so I hope I am quick enough to halt the spread of these very sticky Woolie Aphids.

5 July Thursday

There is an upsurge in the fashion for people to make bars in their garden sheds. Some people build a shed just for the purpose of it being a bar. This has been happening around here for quite a long time. It is not a new fashion but maybe the newer versions are just more plentiful. They are perhaps more glamorous too. A homemade bar is called a Shebeen. We were told of one recently where the woman did not like to go to the pub and the man did not like to drink in the home. They built a Shebeen in the yard out of old pallets. The man figured out a way to take the pallets apart with a minimum of trouble. On the inside of the Shebeen he installed narrow shelves. They lined the shelves with bottles and cans. They put in an old wood stove for warmth. They used candles and lanterns for light. Neighbours came by in the evening for a few drinks if they saw the lights were on inside. People dropped by on their tractors. Everyone liked it because they could smoke without going outside, which they can longer do in a regular bar. People liked it because it was a cheaper way to drink. This Shebeen was a popular spot for about a year and then it burned down. A new Shebeen was built to replace it but now the roof has fallen in. The man has very bad arthritis so he cannot drink anymore. Any incentive to repair the Shebeen is gone. I do not know if another one has started up to replace what the neighbourhood has lost.

4 July Wednesday

Another grey and damp and cool day. I am feeling dreadfully discouraged with this non-summery summer weather. I know it is not just horrible here but I am not feeling very generous about other people and their problems with the weather. I am not interested in the weather of other places. My weather is enough to be thinking about. I walked outside when the postman arrived this morning. I walked outside and I said Hello John. I said What I am doing in this country? He handed me the post and he put his arm on my shoulder. He pointed out across the valley and he said Look at that colour! That is why you are here.

3 July Tuesday

Most metal farm gates are constructed as traditional six-bar gates. The spaces in the bottom two sections of the gate are smaller than the top three sections. This slightly smaller space is just enough to guarantee that small sheep or young calves are not able to squeeze through and away. Even at her slimmest, Em is also unable to squeeze through them.

2 July 2012 Monday

The grass roof has loads of blossoms on it. This damp weather suits it. The corn flowers are the most beautiful. Their shade of blue glows against the permanently grey sky.

1 July 2012 Sunday

When a new septic tank is being installed, it is traditional to put the blood of a pig into the tank to ensure that the tank works correctly. If there is not a pig being slaughtered nearby, it is normal to go to a slaughter house to fetch a small amount of blood. It is worth the trip to have a trouble free septic tank.

30 June Saturday

A visiting dog always takes over the sheep's wool bed which we call The New Bed. It is not a New Bed any longer but it is newer than the old bed so the name New Bed continues. I have never seen a visiting dog crawl into the other bed which is a wicker basket with old blankets in it. I have never seen a visiting dog express any interest at all in the old bed. Large dogs and small dogs, every single dog who has visited has settled itself onto the New Bed and gone straight to sleep. Em has never challenged a dog sleeping on this bed. She lets it happen but she does not appear pleased. She wanders around and usually flops on a rug somewhere nearby. Eventually the visiting dog will leave so she knows the New Bed will once again be Her Bed.

28 June Thursday

We set off to take a walk down The Long Field. We left our car in Peggy's yard so that it would not be blocking any tractors or trucks moving down the narrow lane. While we chatted to Peggy before we set off, Emily disappeared. We all three raced around in and out of sheds and barns and down little passageways in the farmyard. We got Peggy's old dog Podge barking at our rushing about kind of activity. He did not know what we were up to, so he just barked to let us know that he was there. It is hard to call or whistle for a deaf dog. We had to see Em before we could catch her attention. We had to catch her attention before we could catch her. Eventually we checked the house for a second time. As we went toward the kitchen, Em came racing out with her body pressed as close to the side wall as she could make it. A huge cat was sitting up on a chair near the door. It hissed and whacked at Em as she passed. The twenty minutes of our rushing about search time had been twenty minutes of imprisonment by a cat for Em.

27 June Wednesday

There is a fair bit of repetition with names around here. It is easy to say a name and for someone to think you are speaking of one person when in fact you are speaking of someone else. We have both Joe and Joe farming on either side of us. Then there are the various fields owned by the Keatings and the Keatings and the Keatings. There is Michael and his son Michael, as well as Breda and Breda and Breda. Then there are PJ and PJ and TJ and DJ. I am only referencing the immediate area. This use of the same names continues all over the place. People do not get too confused. Context is everything. Mostly we all keep track of who is who.

26 June Tuesday

He was trying to explain to us how the old house in its dilapidation and neglect had been frightening to all of them as children. He said it was a scary house. He said again and again that it was a scary house. He did not have the words to explain exactly why it was a scary house. Finally he said, It was the kind of house that was full of Cats and Jam Jars and Vines. He said the Whole Entire Place was frightening.

25 June Monday

The English say Mum. Americans say Mom. Here it is Mam, or Mammy. It is also Ma and Da. Once adult, a formality creeps in. I first heard one young man speak of The Mother and The Father when discussing his parents. It sounded nearly biblical. Now I note that this same formality pops up often in local conversation. It was not just a characteristic of one family. It is most odd when heard on an answer phone, for example: The Mother and I are not available at this time.

23 June Saturday

The blacksmith has wide double gates in front of his workyard. On the gates he has large letters cut out of steel. They are beautifully made capital letters. They are simple and straight and even. They are welded onto the top edges of the gates. O.FLYNNS is on one gate. IRON.WORKS is on the other gate. All of the letters are capital letters but the S of O'Flynns and the S at the end of Ironworks are larger capital letters than the other capital letters. After the O there is a full stop which is a tidy small square. It is easier to have made a full stop than an apostrophe and the meaning of the full stop is understood. More confusing is the full stop between IRON and WORKS.

22 June Friday

The longest day was a sorry joke. The sky was so dark that even the chickens went to bed earlier than usual.

5 June Tuesday

The fish shop down on the quay has been owned and run by John Wall for many years. Now it has a new name and a new owner. I knew John Wall would not be lasting much longer when he stopped displaying his fish in his glass cases. He left it in boxes in the cool store room. The guessing game for customers about which fish he had and how fresh it looked meant that he did not feel too concerned to do much work towards selling fish any more. No one could see the fish. He knew what he had. He expected his customers to have the same knowledge. If you asked what he had, he would ask what you wanted. It was getting difficult to buy any fish at all from him. The new owners have a sign painted over the window which reads No Bones No Skin No Fear.

4 June Monday

Dirt is not called Dirt. Dirt is called Clay. Soil is another word for dirt, but soil is also called clay. Dirt implies filth. Dirt is synonomous with excrement. It is not a good thing to say that you have been Digging in the Dirt.. Clay is a common natural material which comes from the earth. Clay is used to make things like bricks and pots and plates and other ceramic things. There are lots of degrees of fineness in kinds of clay throughout the world. Around here, clay is what you dig in order to plant your vegetables.

3 June Sunday

It has been raining steadily since 5 o'clock yesterday. For most of the night, the rain was so heavy and so loud that it woke me up again and again. One of the wheelbarrows is completely full of water. That is how much rain has fallen. The other wheelbarrows have holes. They are empty. Em and I walked out this morning as usual. I wore full waterproof clothing. She took her usual swim and did not acknowledge the rain in any way at all. The birds do not seem to mind either. They are all singing and flying and swooping. I feel like I am the only one who is bothered by it. After so many days of summery mild weather I must have convinced myself that it was all going to continue like that. I was willing myself not to remember this.

2 June Saturday

The Polish woman in town who is doing repairs and alterations for clothing is the only one who is busy. She is very good at what she does. Everyone is taking clothes to be shortened or adjusted. Everyone is taking care with what they have as there is no money to buy new things. The clothing shops are devoid of customers. Even with the great reductions in price being offered, no one is buying anything. The seamstress told me that she was up until 4 in the morning trying to catch up with all the work.

1 June 2012 Friday

I have been carrying my phone with the camera in it all day. It fits easily into my pocket and it allows me to be ready at any moment to get a photo of the crow. I stood on top of the big table outside for twenty minutes. I stood very still and I waited for the crow to return to his preferred doorway in the barn. Em sat on the ground and looked up at me standing on the table. She was wondering why I was where I was. The crow did not come back while I waited. A real birdwatcher could probably stand quietly for much longer then this while waiting for a bird to appear. I am not a birdwatcher and this is not a special bird. It is just a crow. I do not really need a photograph of it. I am pleased to wake up hearing it knocking on the glass each morning. I know who is knocking. I know which door he is knocking at. I know what he looks like. I do not really need a photograph of this crow.

31 May Thursday

Yesterday I heard a knocking noise. I heard this knocking noise again and again. Each time I heard the noise I went to the kitchen door because each time I heard it I was sure someone was knocking on the door. There was never anyone at the door. I looked around outside thinking someone might be knocking on a different door. It took me most of the day to find the source of the knocking. It was a crow who was on the top step at the door to the upstairs room of the barn. He has been tucking himself into the doorway and tapping on the glass. I do not know if it is his reflection that he is tapping at or if he just enjoys the sound he is making. He is a handsome crow with a grey head and neck. Today I have been trying to get a photograph of him at the doorway, tucked in and tapping. Each time I hear the knocking noise, I rush outside with my camera. Each time the crow hears me coming, he flies away. Between yesterday and today this knocking noise is keeping me busy.

29 May Tuesday

A child or any person who is making a lot of noise and calling attention to herself or himself is called a NOTICE BOX. It is not a positive thing to be called a Notice Box. Calling attention to oneself is a way of standing out in the crowd. A lot of traditional socialisation here is about blending in and being like everyone else. A Notice Box is not a good thing to be.

28 May Monday

The growth of everything has gone mad with this heat. Now with a bit of rain at night, it is even more rampant. The boreen gets narrower as the cow parsley grows and grows. Driving through it means the car is rubbed and fluffed on both sides. The postman is annoyed by it all. I have to wear long trousers and long sleeved shirts as I walk up the path toward Johnnie's. I walk with my hands up and over my head. Somedays I feel that I am plunging through water. It is like water because I am surrounded by it and I am moving through it, but it is not at all like water. Somedays I pretend I am being marched along at gunpoint. With my arms up and over my head I do not have a good sense of balance. My feet trip and slip on stones which I cannot see. I would not be able to see them even if my arms were not up in the air because the vegetation is so thick. With my arms in the air I do not find my usual center. The slipping is wilder and less containable. The slipping feels awkward and dangerous. I use my upper arms to shield my face from nettles and brambles. Em is invisible down in the lower level of all the vegetation. As she gets closer to me, I see flashes of her black and white colouring just appearing and disappearing in among the dense greenery. When we finally get out and onto the more open path, we are both very wet and we are covered with bits of blossoms and leaves and sticky stems.

26 May Saturday

People here are still going off to Turkey to get Dental Work done. It is called Dental Tourism. Even with the price of travel and paying to stay somewhere it is cheaper than having the same work done here. I do not think as many people are travelling to get their teeth worked on as there were a few years ago. With the New Austerity I think people are just letting dental work which needs to be done wait. They are not doing it here and they are not doing it elsewhere. Usually, on these trips, several members of one family are getting things done and several others go with them to make it into a holiday. They have regular places where they stay and regular dentists who they visit. Someone told me about his trip a few weeks ago. His wife and daughter had major dental work done over six days. He did not have anything done himself. He had a lot of time with his grandchildren. I asked if he enjoyed the Turkish food. He said No No. He said he would never eat it. He had never tried it. He said they did cook a good steak and that is what he ate every day.

25 May Friday

It is a confusing one because one cannot live here without awareness of another, official, language, but because it is not spoken often nor everywhere it is easy for it to become a floating hovering kind of absence rather than a real presence. And this I say even as we live outside a village which is a little pocket of Irish speaking. I am aware of the damage, or irreverence, of the changes and inconsiderate translations made over many years. So the language exists, battered and ghost-like. As I live here and I listen, I try to pick out the meanings of words which I know I have never before encountered. It is slow and interesting.  Wrong pronounciation is a diffferent thing.

24 May Thursday

Glorious heat and sunshine. It feels and it looks like we are living in another country. It is too hot to do anything except to enjoy the fact that it is too hot to do anything.

22 May Tuesday

BRUSCAR is the word printed or painted on litter bins. I never hear anyone use this word. I have never heard anyone say Pick up that Bruscar. Or Put that Bruscar in the bin. I have never heard this word said out loud. We know what it means because it is on a litter bin and we know what the bin is for. I assume it means Litter but maybe it means Litter Bin. That is how much I do not know even while I know.

19 May Saturday

The cat is still out on the road. I should have gone and moved the body with a spade when it was freshly dead. Now it has been run over again and again. It is getting more ragged and stretched and less cat-like. What was white is now grey. What it looks like now is no longer The Cat.

18 May Friday

Early this morning, the walk around was full of flowers. It is still wet and cold and mostly horrible but the blossoms are out regardless. I saw primroses, greater stitchwort, wild parsley and harebells. I saw red campion, and dandelions and wild garlic and vetch. I saw harebells, apple blossom, lords and ladies, and forget-me-nots. There are lilacs blooming in some places but not on our own trees yet. I am trying to name what I see and I am trying to remember the names. I was taking great pleasure in all of the vegetation but even my pleasure could not distract from the knowledge that we were approaching the dead cat on the road. I did not want to look but Em could not pass without investigation. I saw more than I wanted to see.

17 May Thursday

The farm cat was hit by a car out on the corner of the tar road just before we turn into the boreen. I feel sad about it. It was a mostly white cat with a few black markings. I have no idea if the cat was a male or a female. I doubt the cat had a name. I just thought of it as The Cat. The Cat travelled widely. It used to come down here most days. Sometimes it sat up on the platform in the sun cleaning itself. We could watch it while sitting inside at the big table. The birds would be eating from their feeders while The Cat sat just over their heads. They were all oblivious of one another and they were all safe. I saw The Cat way up in Johnnie's orchard and at any number of locations up and down the track. The area around the farm was its headquarters. If we caught sight of The Cat while walking, Em would take off after it, but The Cat was quick and disappeared into the ditch before Em ever got close. As usual, it seems that I cannot go out without seeing dead shrews or dead mice scattered in my path. All of these little rodents have the top half of their bodies chewed off. I do not know what other creature is eating only half of these rodents. Such displays of violent death do not bother me much, but the death of the farm cat has made me sad. I shall miss the surprise of its unexpected arrivals and departures.

15 May Tuesday

Trading In is not the expression used for replacing an old car with a newer car. This is called Changing Up.

14 May Monday

Mickey The Boxer stopped his car and said good morning. He had a trailer attached on the back of his car. There was nothing in the trailer except a spade. He usually just nods or salutes as he passes. He never stops to speak to me. Today he commended me for walking out in all weathers. He said the sunshine today was much nicer for me than the rain and cold of the recent weeks. He said "You are looking well on it." I thanked him and said something else. He then said he was getting very deaf. He said he was seventy-seven. I think he was telling me this because he did not hear or understand what I had said in reponse to his comments. So I said "Seventy-seven? Well, you are looking well on it." He thanked me and drove along down the road with his trailer.

13 May Sunday

No one ever parks directly in front of the church. On a Sunday, when Mass is on and there are cars parked all through the village and all the way to the bridge, there is always a gap in front of the church. On weekdays, when people stop to do errands and to run in and out of the post office or the shop, no one parks directly in front of the church. People will use the space where no one parks as a place to back in and turn their car around. I do not know if this Not Parking is some kind of sign of respect or if no one does it because no one else does it. I do not know if this is the norm in front of every church or if it is just this village and this church.

12 May Saturday

I heard two men at the market complaining about a shop where the man in charge was not to be trusted. They no longer went to his shop unless they absolutely had no choice, but they continued to grumble about his untrustworthiness. The one man said "If you bought a paper from him, there'd be a page missing." The other man agreed.

10 May Thursday

Living down a narrow track means that every arrival and every departure is full of anticipation. When driving there is always the chance of meeting another vehicle. The only solution to a meeting is that someone has to back up for a distance. The vehicle closest to one end or the other is the one who is obligated to do the backing. It is an understanding based on politeness. Meeting cows in the track calls for another sort of behaviour. Cows do not back up. A horse can be turned around by its rider. A person walking can squeeze himself or herself into the hedgerow. A fox sighting is always accompanied with a rushing feeling of excitement. The fox will be off and into the woods or the field before many seconds pass. The response of the fox is the same for a motor car or for a person on foot. The fox never lingers.

9 May Wednesday

Returning to this valley after a few days in London is full of a sense of less. There is little to read in my immediate out of door world here. There are no signs advertising shops, directions or streets. There is nothing that tells me when to stop or when to go. There are few words and no images to catch and distract attention. There is no language to clutter up my thoughts as I walk. There are plenty of shades of green. In this cold and very slowly burgeoning springtime there are plenty of blossoms and leaves to observe. That is a kind of reading but it is not reading with words and letters. The reading of language as a part of my surrounding environment does not exist. The single sign on the corner of our walk has even disappeared in the last few weeks. It was one of the old cast iron signs and it counted the distance to Clonmel in miles. It had not yet been replaced by an aluminium sign with the distance in kilometres. If it had just fallen down, it would be in the vegetation underneath where it had been on its pole. I looked in the grass below, and it is not there. It has been stolen and is probably on its way to decorate some Irish pub somewhere far from here.

5 May Saturday

I went down to the village to get the papers and there were dozens of motor cars arriving at the same time. There was a funeral about to begin. Eleven o'clock is when funerals always begin. The church is right across from the shop so it is impossible not to be caught up in the activity, even if that is not why you yourself are there. While in the shop, I asked who had died. The deceased was an older man called Free Hackett. I had never heard of him. This is not unusual as I know I shall never know all of the people around here. I think you have to be born here to even have a chance of knowing everyone and all of their interconnections. I have never heard the name Free. I could not imagine what Free might be short for. Upon asking, I was told that his name was short for Geoffrey (or Jeffrey).

4 May Friday

The weather is still unseasonably cold. The rain is off and on. The winds are bitter. I keep saying that I am not going to talk about it anymore but it is hard not to.

3 May Thursday

I have been loaned a book about the history of the Creamery in Ireland. I am not particularly interested in this history, but since the person loaning me the book was so enthusiastic, I felt I should read it. On page 24, there was a caption for a photograph of "Molly O'Brien of Ballyorgan, County Limerick hand milking in the 1950s." and in smaller letters underneath, it was written " This is not the Molly O'Brien mentioned in the text." I was intrigued by the double presence of Molly O'Brien and proceeded to rush along with my reading just so that I could find the other Molly O'Brien in the text. As a result, I ended up reading the entire book very quickly. One of the final chapters recorded folklore and superstitions about butter and milk which I would have been sorry to have missed. Thanks to Molly O'Brien, I did not miss it.

2 May Wednesday

SOUTH TIPP TODAY is the local free newspaper. It comes out on Wednesday. It carries advertisements for services and products. It also has news, articles and notices for building planning permissions around the area. There is a large section of people remembering the anniversary of the deaths of loved ones For many people this is the only newspaper that they read. It is rarely called by its name. It is just known as The Small Paper.

1 May Tuesday

Sunday was horrible and cold and windy and grey. Yesterday was horrible and cold and wet and grey. Today is horrible and cold and wet and grey. The light is devastating. It is heavy and dull and it sucks the life out of everything. Em and I walked around, as usual. We were soaked in a very short time. I wore full waterproof gear but with this kind of lashing downpour, the rain gets in eventually. I am told that today is the first day of summer. I believe this in the same way that I believe that the first of February is the first day of spring. I do not understand the calendar here. I sort of think it is based on Hope.

30 April Monday

An older woman who looks youthful might be called A Fresh Woman. It could be said of her that she is Fresh Enough.

29 April Sunday

I throw a stick down into the stream for Em every time we pass. I have thrown a huge number of sticks into this stream over the years.. I have only one place where I can stand so that she can see me doing the throwing. With her deafness she needs to See the throw to know that it is happening. I still shout On your mark! Get set! Go! each time, but that is for me, not really for her. It is getting difficult because there is a branch that blocks my throwing area. If I hit the branch the stick might get lodged into the branch. Or the stick might bounce off the branch and drop straight down and land on top of Em. I need to get the throw right to pass over or under the branch and to land in the water. What I really need to do is to take a saw and cut this branch back. This is something I think of every day but I never take the saw nor wear the Wellington boots which I would need to stand in the stream to do the cutting. A new development of the stick ritual is that when Em comes up the banking and flattens herself out to crawl under the fence, she sometimes gets her stick stuck. If she cannot get her stick through the opening with ease, she goes back down the banking and she drops the stick into the water. Then she pounces on the stick and carries it back up the banking and under the fence.

28 April Saturday

I am not very good about offering tea. The ritual here dictates that you offer tea and the person being offered the tea says No. Then you wait a little longer and you offer again. Again, the person being offered the tea says No. The third time tea is offered the person being offered the tea says Yes. This goes for anything being offered, not just tea. I get annoyed with having to play this game. I tend to believe people when they say No. Sometimes I just announce that I only make the offer once so they should say Yes if they do indeed want it. If people know me, they understand that they can say Yes immediately. The people who I do not know very well are the ones for whom I sometimes feel I should play the game. Even children are conditioned to participate in this ritual. It is a form of politeness. People can go away very hurt or very hungry if they are not given the correct number of times to say No before saying Yes.

27 April Friday

The butcher in Ardfinnan has a refrigerated storage place across the street from his shop. It is next door to the hairdresser which is called Curl Up and Dye. The storage place is a small free-standing building made of cement blocks. The door is open all day long. There are carcasses hanging in there which can be seen from the road. There might be a freezer compartment in there too. The building is not large. It is just a room. The two butchers are in and out and crossing the road all day long. Sometimes they have to wait for a car or the bus to go by as they stand with a side of beef or lamb hanging over their shoulder.

25 April Wednesday

More cold and rain and wind. This does not even look like a day with the respite of intermittant sun. It is grey. It is wretched. It is dreary. It is April. We should not be surprised by this weather but we are. It is not the rain that surprises us. It is not even the hail that surprises us. It is the endless cold that keeps surprising us.

24 April Tuesday

I talked to a man who had bought 3 acres and an old crumbling house during the boom years. Last week he was offered the surrounding 28 acres of farmland for the same price as he paid for the original three acres and the house.

23 April Monday

Whenever I throw out old bread for the birds, Em is very careful to keep track of where it is thrown. Last night I had a few slices of old bread which I took with me as we left for our night walk down the meadow. I waited until she had run off ahead of me and then I scattered the bread off and into the long grass while I walked down the path. There is no way that she could have seen me throwing the bread. This morning we set off for our walk and she went right into the long grass and started to eat the bits of bread. She could only have located it by smell.

22 April Sunday

When we pay for something in a shop, the total is often just rounded up. Or actually it is rounded down to the nearest euro. I like this. It feels very generous and unfussy. If the person paying is short a few cents, the cashier just says "Oh, that's okay." and rounds it off. They might say "Well, what have you got there?" and they will look at our change and say "That is close enough, so." If the total come to 16.49 euro, we may end up paying 16.35. We may end up paying 0nly 16.00. They would even prefer to take less money than for someone to have to break a bill. This does not happen in the bigger stores and supermarkets but it is normal in smaller shops. Today we noticed that even the Tax Office participates in this relaxed manner with money. On their forms it says DO NOT ENTER CENTS. If a tax bill comes to 2378.57 euro, it must be rounded off to 2378.00 euro. They do not want to be bothered by the cents.

19 April Thursday

The Month's Mind is a special Mass which takes place one month after a funeral. It is a time for the family to gather together again to honour the deceased. It is also an opportunity for someone who might have missed the original service to come and pay their respects. I am not sure if this is written with an apostrophe. Is it The Month's Mind or The Months' Mind or just The Months Mind?

18 April Wednesday

For some years, it appeared that all of the women in Ireland were blondes. It was very fashionable to have blonde hair. Now, with the New Austerity, a lot women have stopped colouring their hair. It is fashionable to be careful with ones money. It is now fashionable to return to one's Natural Shade.

17 April Tuesday

Tuesday morning is when the Circuit Court sits in Clonmel. I never think about the court being in session unless I try to park in the area of the courthouse. Today I found a parking spot on the quay. I walked up the street and saw the Garda unloading a prison van. The young men being led out of the van were all young and skinny and they all looked like each other. There were lots of Garda around. Some were attached to the prisoners with handcuffs and some were not attached but were keeping an eye on the prisoners. Some were keeping their eyes on the crowd. A group of people were gathered on some high steps across from the Courthouse. Some of them shouted out to the prisoners. Some of them shouted at the Garda. As the prisoners were led into the courthouse, the people on the steps ran down and rushed across the street in order to get seats inside. There was a lot of chaos and there was a lot of noise. I decided to walk along a different street.

16 April Monday

John was very sad when I saw him today. He had been caring for a dog for a friend. The dog mourned while her owner was away for a fortnight. The dog waited all day every day at the end of the track for her owner. She had to be carried down to the house each night as she would not come when called. She wanted to stay and wait for the return of her man. She would not eat her supper and she would not eat her breakfast. She never ate a thing for the whole fortnight. She drank some water but she refused all food. When the man returned at the end of his time away, the dog was overjoyed. That night, she ate her supper with enthusiasm. Her supper was the same sized supper as she was always given but her stomach could not hold it after two weeks of eating nothing.. She ate happily but her stomach could not hold that much food. Later that night, she died.

15 April Sunday

We removed Em's lampshade collar and had a lovely walk up in the woods along the Glenshelane River. Em swam and ran and rushed around. The sunny day, the companionship of another dog and the excitement of a new place made five days with her head in a plastic nimbus into something that never happened.

14 April Saturday

When a shop is selling free range eggs, there is usually a snapshot of a field full of chickens beside the egg display. The photographs are never very big and they are often out of focus. The photograph is just there to reassure us that the chickens are free to run around out of doors. The photograph lets us know that the chickens are not cooped up all day and all night. We have to believe that the chickens in the photographs are the same ones who laid our eggs.

13 April Friday

I took Em around on the usual boreen walk this morning. She was eager to go. Even though she bumped into a lot of stones and branches and things on the way up the path, she was pleased to just be going. She developed a very particular way of dragging the plastic collar along through the long grass in order to get a good lick of water. I did not let her down and into the stream for her swim, but she was not too bothered about that. Any walk at all was at least something more interesting than thinking about what she had on her head.

11 April Wednesday

The woman stood on the pavement telling another woman that she knew what was going on. The woman kept saying more and more things to try to explain that she was not someone to be easily fooled. Her voice got louder and louder. The last thing I heard her shout was: I didn't come down in the last shower.

10 April Tuesday

I took Em to the vet and now she has antibiotics and cream and a plastic collar around her neck to keep her from licking and scratching her tummy. The collar looks like an upside-down lampshade. She is annoyed and unhappy with this arrangement. I am to leave it on her for at least five days. She cannot lie down in her bed and she keeps bumping into door frames with the edges of her apparatus. We go back and forth between feeling sorry for her and trying not to laugh because she looks so foolish. It is bad enough that she is deaf and now the vet tells me that she is half blind. Bumbling around with this collar is an indignity too far.

9 April Easter Bank Holiday Monday

We have spent the last two days re-organizing the stone tool shed. Peter built a fine new wooden front and put a new door on it while we were away. We had taken down shelves and moved all the stuff before we left. Now we have had to put shelves up again and sort everything out. It is a huge and dirty job. We have been getting rid of a lot of stuff. There will be at least two trips to the dump. There is a fair amount of burning to do and I think we might do a day selling at the car boot sale too. As pleased as we are with the new door, we feel a bit worried as we know that the swifts will be desperate to get back in when they return. Three or more years of nesting in that building has made it their summer home. Now there is no place for them to enter. We are both glad and sad.

8 April Easter Sunday

I drove down to the shop to get the papers when everyone was inside the church for Easter Mass. There were cars parked all along the road as far as the bridge. They were parked far down in the other directions too. There were a huge number of cars. Maybe there were one hundred cars. Maybe there were not quite that many. There was complete silence which was odd as the cars made the village look so busy. I double parked right in the middle of the road. There was no chance of anyone needing to pass. They were all at Mass. As always, there were a small group of men who stood at the door of the church. They were all cleaned up and wearing their tidy Sunday pullover sweaters. These men did not go inside the church. They stood just outside and smoked quietly. There is always a small group like this outside the church. There is always a small group like this outside every church. I do not know if it is always the same men but it is always men and they never go inside. I suppose they are there when everyone else comes out and everyone can assume that they have just exited themselves. Maybe being at the door is enough. Being seen to be present is important.

7 April Saturday

I have been trying different kinds of creams on Em's tummy. It is raw and sore and she licks at it all the time. Swimming seems to soothe it for a while. Walking through the long wet grass is also helpful.

5 April Thursday

I went down to the Post office to post a parcel of books to Seattle. I rushed to get there in time for the 3.45 collection. I always aim to get there for the pick up time. After I got home I realized how silly I was. There is no chance that my parcel will be boarded onto a plane today. There is no chance that my parcel will be boarded onto a plane tomorrow. It will probably not even get to Dublin. Tomorrow is Good Friday. The country squeals to a halt. It is not just bars and restaurants that are closed. The banks and the post offices are closed too. Most places are closed. Saturday is never a day when any post is moving in or out or around the country anyway. Sunday is Easter Sunday. And Monday is Easter Monday. Easter Monday is another Bank Holiday. There is no chance that my parcel of books will leave the country until at least Tuesday.

3 April Tuesday

Simon is able to put a shoe on his foot again. He is not able to tie the shoe yet, but the swelling has gone down and this is good. He has a huge dislike of slippers, so he has mostly been hopping around on his crutches with just a sock on the bad foot. He is the sort of person who puts on a pair of shoes in the morning and does not take them off again until he goes to bed. Myself, I seem to be changing shoes all day long. There are walking boots and Wellington boots and the short rubber shoes for going out to the clothesline and going to town shoes and, of course, there are slippers. And there are all kinds of variations even within the categories. Living in the country demands varied and specific footwear.

2 April Monday

Someone dumped a big black bag of rubbish beside the road. Very quickly the bag was ripped open, probably by animals. Or maybe it broke open when it was thrown from a moving car. The rubbish was a particularly horrible combination of domestic stuff. It has been blown and dragged all up and down the road. I have walked past it all several times and each time I tell myself that I should carry a plastic bag with me so that I can pick it up. I never remember the mess until I see it again. I mentioned this to Breda today after Em and I had walked up to her house. I asked if she had a bag to give me for the return trip. She decided to come along with me which was much better than just giving me a bag.. We each took a large white bag and we had thin rubber gloves and the two dogs with us. We picked up everything along the way even before we got to the very nasty stuff. There were used diapers and quite a number of things which we did not care to identify. We met Joe at a gate. He was waiting for his brother to join him. Together, using two vehicles, they were going to move a group of young and frisky calves quite a distance down the road to another field. They needed to use two vehicles so that any oncoming cars would not crash into the animals. They also needed the animals to not run too far too fast. He warned us that this would be happening and that the road would be very full of the excited calves. We thanked him and we walked further along collecting our wretched rubbish as we went. When Michael came along, we looked up and saw that the calves were really racing and jumping all over the road behind his small car. They were completely excited to be out of their field and going somewhere. They were excited to be going anywhere. It was not exactly a stampede but it was a pretty chaotic rushing and jostling. Breda dropped her bag and ran to get Molly who is very skittish about things like cows. I picked up her dropped bag and stood at the side of the road. The calves stopped and started trying to back away from me. This caused them to be crashed into by the ones rushing up behing them. I do not know if they were disturbed by me or if they were disturbed by the two big white bags. I jumped up onto a gate and dropped the two big bags behind the gate. I shouted and gestured at the calves to get going. Finally they did that. Joe came along in his truck with a few stragglers just in front of him. After they were all gone, Breda returned with Molly. She asked where Em had gone. Em was standing in the water down in the stream looking up and waiting for me to throw her a stick. The stream is below the level of the road. She had missed all of the excitement with the running calves. She just expects everything to continue as usual.

1 April Sunday

The tulips I bought at yesterday's market are a beautiful deep reddish purple. I was so pleased to see them and to bring them home that I did not notice their leaflessness. Someone had carefully cut every single leaf off every single tulip.Where there should be several wide floppy leaves on each stem there were only tiny green triangles. The flowers looked completely naked and foolish in the vase. I could not make them look right even though the colour indoors was even more lovely than it had been out of doors. This morning I went outside and gathered some long leaves from the spent daffodils in the grass. I cut a few wide tall leaves from the wild irises down by the stream. The combination of these added to the blossoms does not look right but it distracts from the lack of real tulip leaves.

31 March Saturday

I went down to the shop this morning and I returned with three newspapers, some milk and a pair of crutches. I borrowed the crutches for Simon. He has been hobbling around with a stick for a few days. He has been unable to put his right foot down onto the ground at all. His hobbling has been a bit wild and unbalanced and even though I have tried to move things out of his way, it is all a bit dangerous. It is nice that we can get crutches at the shop. We always joke that we can always get anything we need at McCarra's shop. It is that kind of a shop. The crutches have taken this to a new level. I mentioned the crutch loan to someone later and I was told that hospitals here are only allowed to use crutches once as if they give them to a second patient they might get sued for providing used and faulty goods. I am shocked by the wastefulness of this. No wonder the health authority is in financial trouble. I was told that the once used crutches are collected by charities who send them off to Africa.

27 March Tuesday

I am not really fond of forsythia. I like it as a word but I am not so fond of it as a tree, shrub or flower. It always makes it's way into the house at this time of year simply because it is in bloom and it is bright. Today there are a few small sprigs of forsythia in a little jar on the table. The jar sits beside a wooden platter holding four yellow pears. The combination of these things together could not look more beautiful.

10 March Saturday

We are packing books for Norwich. We seem to be packing endless numbers of books. Some are easily gathered from the cupboards. A great many need to be fetched from the upper barn. We make a list of what is needed and then every once and a while I run up there to collect whatever is on the list. It has been raining off and on so I time my trips for the sunny dry moments. Em waits outside the book barn and when I go up to the other barn, she follows me and settles herself down outside the door of that building. When I come out again, she is surprised by my reappearance. She gets to her feet and follows me back to the book barn. After a few of these trips back and forth, she is weary of the job and weary of the lack of undisturbed sleep. Feeling guilty about the many disturbances, I finally take her to the house. I leave her indoors to enjoy a proper nap.

It is not just books being collected and packed. There are cards and there are things in frames and there are things not in frames. Everything has to be gathered together and listed and then packed in different kinds of categories. We have the books and objects which will be displayed in glass cases. Some things which we would like to take, we cannot take because they are too big to fit inside the glass vitrines. Some things will go on the walls. Then there are the books which will be on the reading tables.. These are the books which will be handled and read. There are other books which will make up a small reference section. These books will also be available for reading. The piles get bigger and bigger. We do not want to pack them until we are certain that we have not forgotten anything.

Another category is The Books for Henry. Every once and a while, one of us will ask Do you think Henry would like this? Or Is this right for Henry? We speak of Henry with great familiarity. We speak his name warmly as if we know him and his preferences well. We each have a sense of what he does and does not like. Sometimes we disagree and one of us will say No, that is silly. Of course, Henry does not want that! Neither of us have ever met Henry. Henry has a bookshop in Norwich. His shop is called The Book Hive. He has agreed to sell some of our books during the time of our exhibition PRINTED IN NORFOLK. We are trying to choose the right books for him and his shop. We look forward to meeting Henry. We hope that our choices are right.

9 March Friday

The milk truck is a big hazard on the road. It is as wide as the road and when we are driving, we have to move to the side or sometimes we even have to back up to let the tanker go first. Since it is so big we can usually see it from a distance and that makes getting out of the way a bit easier. Even before she lost her hearing, I always reached for Em and held her collar when the milk truck came along. The drivers are moving too fast and the vehicle is too large for an abrupt stop. A dog in the way would most likely just be run over. Today I had both Em and Oscar to keep squeezed onto the road side as the shiny tanker with a young driver went by. There was the usual older man in the cab and he waved. The young driver did not wave. He looked nervous. He was obviously new. He was being directed around and learning the route. There is one truck from Glanbia and another truck from Dairygold. Some farmers have their milk collected by one creamery and some have their milk collected by the other creamery. I think that not very ago everyone in an area sold their milk through the same local creamery. Now there is competition and the farmers choose to sell according to the best price. The trucks collect from each farm every other day, but because there are two different companies collecting it seems like there is a milk truck on the road every day. I feel fortunate when I meet only one milk truck a week.

8 March Thursday

A small dead shrew on the track. I was examining the wild garlic lining the boreen when I saw it. It was laying on its back with its little feet up in the air. Its mouth was open and pink inside. Once again, there seemd to be no wounds. I wonder if these baby shrews die of fright. When I got home, there were parts of a dead goldfinch on the path to the house. The bird had been selectively eaten. One leg remained and some tiny organs were spread about, as well as a lot of feathers and fluff. The head was missing.

7 March Wednesday

They say that we are getting fifteen more minutes of light every week. It feels like more than that. I love the hopefulness of it.

6 March Tuesday

Another very icey morning. As soon as the daylight comes the grass is wet. I do not think we can call it dew when it has been so cold but it is not really melted ice either. I met PJ up the top and we spoke of the cold and the wet. He said he had been Agitating over at Donal's early this morning. He was surprised by how wet he got just walking over the field. I was surprised by the word Agitating.. I could not imagine what he was up to. I asked what he meant by Agitating. He said he had been stirring up the slurry in the tank so that when they were ready to do the spreading later today, the slurry would have a good consistency. Getting it ready in advance was called Agitating.

5 March Monday

I am the self-appointed keeper of Johnnie Mackin's house. The house is empty and it is falling apart more and more every year. There is very little glass left in any of the windows. Some of the wooden window frames are completely gone. The front door is made of two doors of equal size which open in the middle. I can tell when people have been in and wandering around the place because they always leave the door on the right side open. I walk past the house everyday with Em. I push through the brambles and go to close the door whenever I see it open.. She rarely joins me. She sits on the track and waits. I secure the two parts with a piece of metal rod which has two loops of metal at either end. I hook the loop of one end through one handle. The other end of the metal stays in its position on the other door handle. The windows in each of the doors are broken. There is a large hole in the bottom of the left hand door. It might be that it was kicked in or it might be that the wood of the door has just rotted. Animals, people and birds all have easy access to the interior of Johnnie's house. I do not know why it is so important to me that the front door be closed. It feels respectful. I will continue to close it for as long as the door itself remains intact.

3 March Saturday

The beautiful mild days have gone and it is cold. It is really cold. The mornings are frosty. The roof on the barn has been white with frost and the nights are very sharp and bitter. It does feel more like the weather we should be having. I bought daffodils again at the market so I did not have to pick my own. I prefer the ones that are growing in the grass to stay where they are. At least that way it looks like spring outdoors even if it does not feel like spring.

2 March Friday

We have a new form to fill out at the post office. Any package or any envelope that is too fat to fit through the postmistress's little slot guide has to have this new sticker on it. It is green and white and it is called an Aviation Security Declaration. It must be used for all packages going to any destination in the European Union. It requires a detailed description of the contents of the parcel, and the sender's name and address and signature. The signature follows a line which states: I certify that this item does not contain any dangerous or prohibited goods. Anyone who wanted to send something dangerous through the post would not hesitate to lie on this little form. I am sending books. I am always sending books. Everything leaves this island on an airplane so everything needs this form filled out and declared and signed. I am weary of filling it out this form already and it has only been required for two weeks so far.

1 March Thursday

Some days Coco is waiting for us at the end of the drive. Some days Coco is gently bouncing on the trampoline. Somedays Coco is stretched out full length on the top of the picnic table. Today, Coco was sitting on a planter. There are two of these planters, one on each side of the front door. They are cast out of concrete and there is nothing growing in either of them. I assume there is soil in the pot otherwise Coco's bottom would have been drooping down into the empty cavity. The planters are shaped like urns, with a wide bottom and a wide top and a narrow connecting bit in the middle. They are about three feet high. When we stopped to admire Coco in his pose on the planter, he turned his head slowly to one side. Then he turned it back the opposite way. He was enjoying his elevated posture and he seemed to enjoy us admiring him.

29 February Wednesday

Everyday there is more growth to notice. I am seeing wild garlic, primroses, daffodils, celandine, crocus and even blossom on a few trees. There are lots of other things along the boreen. They are the things that I always mean to look up when I get home but then I never do. The herbs are coming up too. Chives and parsley and sorrel are all well advanced. Yesterday we made a fresh pesto with the new growth from the tarragon and some garlic and walnuts. The young tarragon tasted fantastic. Tulips are starting to show too. I think the first green of the leaves pushing out of the ground looks a lot like a part of a dinosaur. I think this every year. It is a prehistoric kind of shape. On the way down the meadow, right before the steep slippery corner, there is a cluster of tulip leaves showing among the rough grass. I emptied some large plant pots there last fall. I was trying to fill a hole which was a dangerous hole at that location beside the path. I knew I would fall into it at some point. The tulip bulbs must have been in one of the pots. I do not know what colour they will be but I am looking forward to their blooming.

27 February Monday

The Repossession Report. For quite a few weeks or maybe months The Repossession Report was a regular part of the late afternoon news program on a Monday. There were discussions about how many thousands of homes were being repossessed and often court cases were cited. People came to beg the court for leniency and for extended time for repaying their mortgages. Some weeks there would be several women trying to gain time to hold onto their family homes. The banks were blamed often but just as often the people who took out the mortgages had taken on too much. The banks and the people were all guilty for falling into the belief that things would keep going up and up. Property prices were insane. People believed that they had to buy or they would be left behind. Renting has been very much frowned upon, at least here in the country. People who rent are considered irresponsible. I have never understood exactly why. That kind of attitude made people feel a huge pressure to buy a place of their own. Now there are people whose home has been repossessed by the bank but they stay on in that house and rent it from the bank because they are afraid for anyone to know they have lost their home. The shame is completely oppressive. I have not heard a Repossession Report on the radio for a few months. Perhaps they have changed the time for the report or maybe they stopped doing it altogether. It was certainly a depressing portrait of these times. It was a kind of radio voyeurism which made everyone feel bad.

26 February Sunday

People go to Mass not Church. No one speaks of going to Church. They go to Mass. They go to the activity not the place. I do find myself writing about religion a lot. I guess it is because there is one religion which has such a large place in the lives of the people here that it is hard to avoid. Everyone takes so many aspects of it for granted. This religion is just the way life is. Daily life and religion are not separable. I am always outside of it so there is a lot to observe and since I do not really want to know enough about it to ask anyone for answers, I just ask and answer my own questions.

25 February Saturday

Kathleen is The Cheese Lady at the market. Today she had a bucket of green olives on her stand. She said she did not like olives and she did not know anything about olives so she felt she could not recommend them. The cheese maker who supplies her with cheese for the market has had some trouble getting paid by one of his customers in the North. Suddenly he is being paid in olives. He is not very happy about this. He is a maker of lovely goat and sheep cheeses and he proudly sells his own and other peoples' cheeses at several markets.. He does not want to sell olives. Now he has so many olives that he has to sell them to try to recoup his money. That means Kathleen has to try to sell them too. Her lack of enthusiasm is not very encouraging. I did not see anyone buying the olives.

24 February Friday

It is disturbing when we hear about house robberies in the area. It is especially disturbing when the house burgled is that of an eldery person who hardly ever goes anywhere at all. This suggests that the robber had been keeping an eye on that house and on the old person's movements. As this just happened in the vicinity, everyone is telling each other to on the alert for any strange vehicles. Or to be on the look-out for motorcars driven by strangers. Sighting unknown cars or vans is a more difficult thing than it used to be. Cars and people are moving around the entire country all the time. Not very long ago, almost all the cars around here had TS on their license plates. This stands for Tipperary South. I felt pleased with myself when I realized that I could identify the county of any car that I saw by its letters. Each county has its own letters and some are more obvious than others. Many are the first and last letter of the name, but there are plenty of exceptions. Waterford city is W. The county of Waterford is WD. Westmeath is WH, while Wexford is WX, and Wicklow is WW. I like the double letters WW and I like the KK for Kilkenny. It used to be that people bought and sold their cars in the same area. And people stayed living in one area usually for their entire lives. Now people are moving around the country to where there are jobs. They may still speak of their Home Place but they can live anywhere. Cars are sold all over the place. Cars are sold from any place to any place. So even if we do not see many cars around here from as far away as Roscommon (RN), Donegal (DL) or Offaly (OY) it does not mean that we won't. There are a great many cars driving around here with letters other than TS. It is getting harder to identify a car as that of a non-local. Even if we do not know a person by name, we learn to recognize the person driving each vehicle and get to know which vehicle is a regular part of our landscape, whatever its county affiliation.

23 February Thursday

The High Stool is a seat at the bar. When someone is headed to the pub for a drink, he'll say I'm For The High Stool.

22 February Wednesday

Em is in great shape. She is running and walking and being a happy dog. Besides our morning walk, and whatever the weather, we go out every afternoon for Games in the Field. She usually chooses the frisbee.. She takes four or five long runs down the field to fetch and then she calls it a day and she walks right past me. She takes the frisbee to her house. This means she has had enough and the games are over. She used to go on and on and on for hours. It is a relief to have her worn out so quickly. She seems to have come to terms with her deafness and instead of slowing her down and making her old, it is now just one thing about her. She has taken to hurling herself against the backdoor. She may be deaf, but she is strong. And it is still too cold to come into the kitchen only to find the door wide open after she has let herself in.

21 February Tuesday

There has been a lot on the radio this week about adopted people looking for their birth mothers and also about the mothers, who gave up their babies, now looking for their offspring. Society here was very unforgiving about children born out of wedlock, so there was a lot of shame. Even today some mothers will not acknowledge their given away children. In a discussion between one mother and her newly re-united son, the mother noted a characteristic of his which she claimed was not his at all, but a typical trait of her entire family. To make her point, she said You Didn't Lick That Off the Ground.

20 February Monday

Our freezer is out in the shed. We have always had it out there. It is not the most convenient place for it. It is not convenient at all but we are used to it. It is not so good when it is deeply cold or when it is raining. It is a pest to have to put on a coat and hat and maybe mittens and rubber boots too, just to go and take a look in the freezer. It is not so good when it is dark either. The light for the inside of the shed is at the far end of the room. The freezer is at the far end of the room too. It would be pleasant if the light switch were just inside the door. Since it is not, we try to keep a path clear so that it is never too difficult to walk through the shed. If I go outside and it is not dark enough to need a torch out doors but it is already dark inside the shed, it can be a precarious walk to the far end of the space. I have to trust that the path is clear. If I do go out with a torch, I have to turn on the light anyway once I get to the freezer as I cannot look through the freezer and hold the torch at the same time. I just do not have enough hands. If there is ever a quick need to see about whether or not this or that is in the freezer, it is very easy to avoid going out to check. And we rarely use ice cubes in drinks. It is just too far to go for them.

19 February Sunday

It is very cold this morning. The bright sunlight makes it look like it will be mild but the air and the wind are sharp and cold. Em and I walked around at about 10.30. We did not see one car. We did not see one tractor nor one person. We did see one dog and that was Oscar who greeted us and walked along for a few minutes before running back to his own house. It was a Sunday morning kind of quiet. I do not know if people were all still in bed or if they were at Mass. We stopped to admire Joe's new door on the narrow side barn. The new door is on a runner instead of on hinges. It is wide and square in shape. When the men began to break down the stone work of the old opening a while ago, Joe told me that he had decided to replace it because the cows were afraid of the old doorway. They were afraid because the opening was both narrow and low. He said he could not blame them as he had bumped his own head plenty of times if he forgot to duck when entering. Em has always liked to sneak into that door and she has often come out chewing something. For her there was no problem about the size of the door. The outside of this new sliding door is covered with shiny aluminum. I hope the cows will not be disturbed by the glare off the new metal.

18 February Saturday

I was down in the book barn. Em was lying just outside the door. She likes to be there as she can keep an eye on me through the glass door and she can keep an eye on the rest of her world at the same time. I heard a thud on the glass which meant that a bird had flown into it. This happens often. The birds dash around at speed and glass is a confusing material. I went to take a look. There was a bluetit on the ground right beside Em's head. I watched from inside the barn. The bird was alive and shaking. Em looked at the bird carefully. Then she stood up and sniffed at the bird. The bird could not move because it was either wounded or badly dazed. Em sniffed and walked around the bird and then she threw herself back down onto the ground.a few feet away. I would like to think that she moved away from the bird out of respect and consideration for a creature in pain. Instead I think she was afraid of it. I went outside and I moved the bird into a sheltered spot near the flowering currant bush. When I came out later, Em was back in her usual place and the bird had flown away.

17 February Friday

Ten past seven in Cahir. The town is quiet. Once again, I am in the car waiting for Simon to buy his newspaper and a coffee from the one shop which is open. Today he is catching a train to Limerick Junction. From there he will catch another train to Galway. Once again, I see the window cleaner working his way up toward me. His is the only movement in the street. The last time I saw this early morning window cleaning activity it was completely dark on a bitterly cold winter morning. Today, it is not yet light. It is not dark, but it is still more dark than light. The window cleaner is moving from shop to shop with his bucket and his rags and his squeegee. Once again, I wonder about the thoroughness of his cleaning before the day is even properly light.

16 February Thursday

In recent years the banks have closed branches all over the country. They have closed many banks in both towns and villages. In place of the banks they have installed cash machines. An ATM machine is good for some things but it can not provide all services. It has been difficult for people in rural places. Now the banks are removing the ATM machines too. In some places, especially in the west, a person might have to drive ten or fifteen miles to get to a machine to withdraw some cash. This is particularly difficult for people who have no car. The reason for the removal of the cash machines is that so many of them are getting robbed. The robbers come in the night with a JCB and they smash the wall and take the whole machine away with them. First they steal a car and then they steal a JCB anad then they steal the ATM. It is a big operation and it demands a fair bit of research and planning. It must be worthwhile because it has been happening quite frequently in these difficult times. I have not heard of any of the cash machine thieves being caught yet.

15 February Wednesday

It is nice to be returning after some weeks away. At this time of year the returning makes everything look new. It makes the ordinary environment feel like an exciting place. Everything I see is something I know very well, but everything looks just a little changed. The light at the end of the day lasts longer. The light is brighter. It is springlike. The green of the fields is bright and lush. All growth looks like new growth. I look forward to seeing the cows back out on the land. They must be impatient themselves after their winter under cover. I should think it won't be long now.

21 January 2012 Saturday

Yesterday I took a wheelbarrow down to the stream to collect all of the rubbish that has appeared during the winter months. There were empty plastic drinks bottles and food packets probably left upstream by the wood cutters last year. It has taken this long for the current and the weather to bring everything down this far. There were some plastic bags leftover from farming stuff and bits of old rubber hoses and tubing and many things I cannot name. There has been a lot of damage to the culverts which carry the water under the path. Big branches and trees have been carried downstream and the force of them hitting the banking has caused a lot of destruction. My picking up of the trash is a not really making much of an improvement but at least I do not have to look at human detritus everyday when I pass. It will just be nature's mess. I waded around happily in my high rubber boots. Em was delighted that we were walking about in the water together.

20 January 2012 Friday

Every Friday morning there is an old fellow who is brought to the shop to get his messages. Sometimes I do not see him for weeks and weeks as I do not always go to the shop at the same time. He always goes at the same time and he always goes on a Friday. He is brought down from the mountain by motorcar. The man who drives him goes around to the passenger door and he helps the old man out. Then the old man holds onto his cloth bag and the driver holds onto the opposite end of the cloth bag. The old man is bent nearly in half and his face is looking down at the ground. He is not able to see anything in a forward direction because his neck is so deeply bent. In addition, he must be at least partially blind. The driver leads the old man into the shop very very slowly with the help of the bag. He comes on a Friday because Friday is the day he picks up his check from the Post Office. Once he cashes his check, he can get his food and things for the week. Someone in the shop rushes about to collect everything for him. I have never noticed if he has a list or if they just know what he always has or if they go and ask him what he needs and wants. The old man sits at a table in the little side room with his head and his body still heavily bent. He sits very still. He wears a woolen suit jacket, with a sweater underneath, a flat wool cap and heavy wool trousers and black leather boots. His outfit is always the same and it is always very dirty. His face is very black with soil and soot. When his supplies are all gathered together and put into the bag, the man who drove him down carries the bag. The old man holds onto the back of the drivers jacket and together they walk slowly out of the shop.

19 January 2012 Thursday

There is a feeling of panic because the weather is so springlike. It is mild, yes, but in between there are harsh cold winds. The nights are cold and the mornings are cold but the days are mostly mild. Should I be pruning the fruit trees? Buds are forming and it could make more problems if they are not done in time. I need to prune the roses and the clematis and the honeysuckle. I already did the raspberries. It is a confusing time. I keep saying it. Everyone keeps saying it. Yesterday was so mild we could have eaten our lunch outside except for the fact that slurry was being spread over the fields on all sides of us. The smell permeates everything. It would ruin whatever we were eating..

The council has gone around cutting big gashes into the verges. The gashes are always on the downhill slant sides of the tar road. They are about every ten metres apart. They are made by a digger just gouging out the weeds, grass and soil and making a deep rough trench so that when the rain comes the water will have some place for running off. It is all an ugly mess but there is no doubt that the vegetation will re-grow very quickly, and the gashes will become rough verges again soon. We will forget the very existance of these gashes.

18 January 2012 Wednesday

He is Like the Head Cut Off His Father. This is what I was told today when I commented on a young baby boy. I said he looked a lot like his dad. This was a much stronger way of saying the same thing.

17 January 2012 Tuesday

The stile up by Maisie's old house is suddenly visible after having disappeared into a brambly undergrowth for a long time. Some of the ditch has been cleared up there and the stone steps can be seen again. I had forgotten all about those steps. No one has used them for a great many years. Even before Maisie died I do not think anyone else used them. When she was well into her eighties, she used to cross the narrow road and go over the stile and into the field for a walk. Sometimes she took the dogs with her. Sometimes she went on her own. As she got older, the steps became too much. They are very steep steps. The unevenness of the field made for difficult walking. In her later years, she just crossed over the road and then she crossed back home again.

Thinking of Maisie reminds me of a story which Breda told me. I had mentioned how I sometimes get mixed up by the two Shine brothers. She said I am not the only one to get confused. Some years ago, Maisie congratulated Ned on the birth of a daughter. He replied that he had had No Hand, Act or Part in it and in fact the child had been born to his brother PJ.

16 January 2012 Monday

The weather continues with its crazy mildness. More and more spring plants are appearing. The snowdrops are up and the Lenten Rose is in bloom. Daffodils are in flower in some places. Here they are just pushing out of the ground. The boreen is alive with fresh growth and many shades of green. There is also a lot of mud. Between the mud and the unusually large number of rocks heavily coated with moss, it makes for very dangerous walking. Any number of buds are visible on trees. The birds sing in the early morning as though it were normal for a morning in January. Everyday is like a spring day and every day we all exchange worried words about what might follow this. We are fearful of trusting it, even while we enjoy it. None of it feels right. The light is bright and spring-like and the days feel longer than usual because it is so mild. Some days I need a hat and gloves to walk out but most days it is just fine if I forget them.

15 January 2012 Sunday

One cannot pay for a horse on a Sunday. I do not know if this is considered bad luck for the horse, or for the new owner or maybe for the person selling the horse. It is just a fact.

14 January 2012 Saturday

Today we were able to drive the motor down here again. The concrete at the farm has set and the pile of stones blocking our way has been removed. While the car was parked up there all week, I enjoyed checking in the back as Em and I returned from our walk. John would leave our post in a neat pile inside it each morning. It was as though our car became the largest postbox ever. It was pleasing to collect the post and to carry it home but it was more work to carry groceries and things from town all the way down. Yesterday Simon phoned me on his way home. I walked up to meet him at the farm. If I had not been here, he would have had to make two trips: half a kilometer up and half a kilometer down and then up and down again. Together we carried the bags down. Em came along for the walk. It has also been difficult to come down in the dark if there was something to carry. Carrying a torch and a few bags and avoiding holes and puddles in the track was hard work. All winter, I have been longing for a head torch. I never remember to put it on a shopping list. I think of it when I am out in the dark walking or when trying to pick things out of the vegetable garden. A head torch would improve my night life.

13 January 2012 Friday

On our walk around today, I was asked if I had seen a particular cat. The man who asked me was just feeding the cat for someone else. It was not his own. He said that the cat was a fat cat because it had had a pampered life. He was worried because this cat had not returned to eat any dinner for a few days. He was worried because he said it was not the kind of cat who could go out and find its own food. He was worried because he said a fox will easily get a cat, especially if it is lying down.

12 January 2012 Thursday

I have a new address book and I have been very slow to start using it. I have been so slow that I cannot even call the new book new anymore. I need to sit down and copy the details of individuals from the old book into the new one. I need to just do it one letter at a time so that it is not a big chore. Each time I begin, I find myself confronted with the name of someone who has died. As long as they are there in my book, I am reminded of them on a regular basis. It is a nice thing to be reminded of a friend who is no longer alive. It is totally unnecessary to copy these details into my new book. But if I do not copy the name and the details into my address book, then I no longer come across these absent friends by chance. It is this side-effect of negating of people which keeps me from completing my task.

11 January 2012 Wednesday

The digging up at the farm has started again. We cannot drive up or down the boreen because the way is blocked with the drain digging and the piles of stones and with the men and equipment. It has been a few days already and today they are pouring a concrete slab. Now we need to wait a few more days until the concrete is safely set. We walk up and down to get to the car when we want to go anywhere. The mud is thick in parts of the track and the working area is a mess too. Yesterday I went to the dental hygenist. When I stood up to leave at the end of the session, the whole area of the reclining chair where my feet had been was covered with mud. Most of it was dry but some of it was not. It was a mess. I had not realized that I was carrying so much muck on my feet. I guess we should walk up to the car wearing boots and change into our shoes when we get there.

10 January 2012 Tuesday

Many shops are closed and closing all over the place. It is not a surprise to note yet another absence. One lady said that the town looks very Toothy. It took me a moment to realize that she was suggesting the spaces missing between teeth. It is not a surprise to see the empty shops, but it is sometimes quite sad. It is interesting to see new things opening in this climate of austerity. Each opening arrives with a sense of great optimismn. Today we tried a new Indian restaurant which opened upstairs in the place which has been four or five different Indian restaurants over the years. Each one fails, mostly because the first floor location is impossible. The very young couple who are running the present manifestation are sweet. They welcomed us and served us with great care and attention. We really wanted it to be a good place but the food was not very good. We were the only customers, which we would not mind at all, if the food was good. They smiled a lot as we left. We smiled a lot as we thanked them but we will not go back again.

The consolidation of several shops into one premises is another new aspect of the Austerity. The health food shop now has a wine shop in its back room. The wine shop used to be up around the corner. And the next door shop has been broken through and it is the now a version of the shop which used to be called Home Thoughts-From Abroad. I always found this a strange name. They sold organic paints and lovely cotton fabrics and things for the house. I do not know if they have the same name now, but they have many of the same things. Now these three shops can trade in one place and I assume everyones rent is lower and they can even share staff. I understand that the wine man is only in there two days a week. The rest of the time, the health food shop handles any wine transactions.

9 January 2012 Monday

We are still saying Happy New Year to everyone we meet along the way in a day. I never really know how long this goes on. I think it is approximately two weeks. If one has not said Happy New Year to everyone one meets by then, there is an understanding that it has been said even if it has not been said.

8 January 2012 Sunday

I have some plants in pots inside in the book barn. I put some in there every winter so that they will not freeze. I went to water them today. The white enamel pot which I used last year has a hole in the bottom. All of my enamel pitchers and jugs have holes in them. I keep all them because I love them not because they are useful. I have been using an empty wine bottle which is not a good method. I submerge the bottle in the water of the big water butt by the barn. Because the opening is small, I have to hold the bottle under water for quite a while before it fills up. With my hand in the water up to the wrist, my hand gets very cold and then I have to dry both my hand and the dripping bottle with an old rag so that I don't carry drips all through the barn on the way to the plant pots. It takes five or six fillings of the bottle to water everything. I keep thinking that the water in the butt will freeze soon and then I shall have to find a different method anyway. So far the lousy method gets repeated and repeated and the way this mild winter is going, I may never bother with a better system.

7 January 2012 Saturday

The Farmers Market will re-open on the 14th of January. Just by chance we were in Cahir early today and we drove into the castle car park as usual. Looking down the way we saw one small table with a dark red umbrella beside a parked vehicle. It was the Egg Man. I went over to ask him why he was there since there was no market today. He got out of the vehicle where he was sitting to be out of the cold wind. As always on a market day, he was wearing his sturdy leather shoes. They were well polished. A few months ago I would have called them brogues but now I have learned that brogues have patterns of small holes punched into the leather. Not all leather lace up shoes are brogues. The Egg Man said he might as well be there as his chickens keep laying. He said his chickens do not know that there is a holiday. They do not know what day it is ever. They lay eggs so he has eggs so he has to sell eggs. One man had been by first thing and he had bought one and a half dozen. A woman had bought two dozen. He said he would not have any trouble selling the rest. I bought six eggs and wished him A Happy New Year.

6 January 2012 Friday

Today is Twelth Night. It is the Ephipany. It is Little Christmas. It is Women's Christmas. It is the end of all of the festivities of the holiday season. It is the night when women go out in groups without any men and without any children. They have a party or a dinner to celebrate the end of all the feeding that they have done over the last few weeks. It is also the day when the tree and the decorations traditionally come down. The cards can be put away or thrown away. The lights and the wreathes come down. Increasingly people seem to leave their outdoor Christmas lights up. They leave the lights up for the rest of the year. They just do not turn them on any more.

3 January 2012 Tuesday

Everything is the same with a deaf dog. Everything Must Be The Same with a deaf dog. The thing she craves is routine. As long as all things are done the same way and in the same order she is happy and confident because then she knows what is happening. Anything different is a threat. I still shout On Your Mark. Get Set. Go! when I throw the stick into the stream or when I throw the frisbee. She is not hearing my words but she is in position and I am in position and she is carefully watching my arm and my movements. No wonder we did not recognize her deafness for such a long time.

1 January 2012 Sunday

I was late getting my bird feeding stations set up this winter but because it is so mild I did not feel guilty. There seemed to be plenty for the birds to eat in the surrounding bushes and fields. Once I got the food out and about the birdsong tripled in volume. Today I spent some time re-filling the containers and stringing up some fat balls. I dislike the little nets and I dislike trying to thread string through them and tying them tight. I am always trying to find a fool-proof method so that they will not break out and fall to the ground. I hate the idea of encouraging the farm rats down for a snack. I tied a few balls onto a lilac bush which I had not used before. I continued on my way with my tying and hanging and filling and when I returned to that part of the yard, Em was under the lilac chewing on a fat ball. She was so happy to have it. Luckily I came round before she had eaten more than half of it. The last thing this dog needs is more fat.

31 December 2011 Saturday

We were walking along our usual morning route when Greg came along in the van and said hello. He asked where Em was. She was, at that moment, standing down in the stream waiting for me to throw her the stick. He said he was off to take Molly for a walk in the mountains. He asked if we wanted to go. I was not sure Em could do a big mountain walk but he said it was a gentle hour circuit and since we would start at a high place there would not be too much climbing. It was a mild morning so I was not really dressed for the mountain. I did not even have a hat. He said he had extra gear, so Em and I hopped into the van and he drove up the New Line toward Cappoquin. He loaned me some gaiters and a hat and a waterproof coat. Everything was too big except the hat, but none of that mattered. It was just grand to be up there. The ground was soggy and we walked through a stream and meandered through the wet moorland. Molly raced around like a mad thing but Em was staid and steady. I was so proud of her. Every time we think she is an old dog she surprises us again. There were lots of sheep scattered about the hillside, all with red paint markings on their backs, but both dogs politely ignored them. Just as we got back to the van, a steady drizzle set in. It was a wonderful walk to end the year. Em has been sleeping heavily and snoring loudly ever since we got home.

29 December Thursday

The nights are dark and they start so early. The skylight window in the big room attracts Em's attention. She spends a lot of time looking up into the darkness and seeing her own reflection. We call the dog up there Canus Major. She looks up and then down and then up quickly as if to catch the other dog unaware. She worries about the dog up there. This activity can keep her busy for a long time. It is a regular winter activity.

28 December Wednesday

A collective term for a bunch of people is A Clatter. It might be one mostly used for families but not exclusively. What I like is that it suggests the sound of a group as well as the group itself.

27 December Tuesday

I found a glove on the side of the road today. I did not look at it very closely as I passed it but then I thought about it and I wandered back to take a look. Since Em is so hard of hearing now I need to stay closer to her when we are on the tarmacadam road. I can no longer just shout for her to get over and onto the side when a car comes. I keep saying to myself that I should remember to take the lead with me for when we get onto the road. Each day I forget so instead I do a more wandering kind of walk to stay near to her. If I had not been walking like that I would not have noticed this glove and I certainly would not have returned for a second look. It was one of the type that the man in the hardward shop told me are the current favourites for Block Layers. They have a rubbery waterproof palm area and a stretchy fabric wrist. The Block Layers can handle their materials well and efficiently with these very flexible gloves. I do not know if the thin rubbery surface is very good for brambley bushes and thorns. It does not seem that it would be strong enough for that kind of rough work, but I decided to take the glove along with me anyway. It looked new but it had already been run over at least once. No one else was going to pick it up. It will be useful for something as it is a right hand glove. The right hand is always the one that gets worn out first. We have loads of old left hands hanging around in the shed. A spare right hand will not go amiss.

26 December Monday Stephen's Day

The days are so mild that I have seen some little pink flowers in blossom up the boreen. It is called Herb Robert. It is a delight to see but surely not normal for it to be flowering in late December. There is also a lot of light blue grey lichen on the ground. It must be being scraped off high branches by some animals or birds. I may collect a bag full of it. It is such a lovely colour. The colour holds light.

25 December Sunday Christmas Day

I feel sad every time I we walk past the house and Max does not come out to join us. Today, Coco came down the drive. He is still stopping by there each morning to greet Max. I wonder how long he will continue this ritual. He and Em sniffed each other and both turned as though to give Max another chance to appear. If I am in the mood to feel sad I can acknowledge an absence at almost every house I pass. There are not very many houses, but it feels like a lot of people and a lot of dogs are missing along the way. Max, and Maisie, and Mary, and Kelly, and Snoopy, and Teresa and Seamus, and Sam, Topsy, Partner and Syd. The years go by and each one who is gone gets replaced or at least remembered less often.

24 December Saturday Christmas Eve

A woman in the village wanted to know if I had heard some man singing. She could not remember his name but she said he was a truly great singer. She said he was like a mix between James Brown and Pavorotti.

23 December Friday

We stopped down at Rose's for a Christmas drink. Everyone is very excited because she has installed a wood stove. The possibility of this has been a topic of conversation for several years. I understand there used to be stove there. I guess when the old one wore out it just never got replaced. This is a brand new stove and it is raised up on a little platform of stone. It sits on its platform about 12 inches (30 cms) off the floor. It is the kind of stove with a glass door in the front so the flames can be seen. By raising it off the floor the flames are more visible to people in the room. The wall behind the stove has all been faced with stone and there are two small rectangular places cut into the stone work on either side so that a glass or two can be placed there. Above the stove there is another larger inset area exactly where the picture of Paddy has hung since the year after he died. It is hard to describe this picture. It was done by Des Dillon in 2007. It is a sort of padded portrait of Paddy's head and of one hand holding the harmonica. It is all covered in grey. I think it is rubbed graphite. The hair is very hair-like, maybe it is wire. The hair is good. It is a tribute to the man and his music and it was hung above the bench where Paddy always sat. Now the bench is gone and the stove is there but the portrait of Paddy with its little brass plaque has been accommodated by the stone mason. Everyone is pleased about the Paddy staying in his place. Everyone is pleased about the stove and the warmth it provides. Everyone is complimentary about the stone work. There is no longer a need to bundle up in an extra sweater just to go down to the pub for a drink.

22 December Thursday Winter Solstice

Yesterday there was a special Pre-Christmas Farmers Market in Cahir. Instead of the usual Saturday morning market they did one today from four in the afternoon until eight o'clock. We went at about five. We had worried that people might not come to the market in the evening but there was a good crowd and the place was busy. Several of the baked goods people had sold out of everything already. The extra lighting for the darkness was just getting set up so except for some candles and the normal lights for the car park it was a bit dark at most of the stalls. Most people were buying or asking for things which they expected to be there rather than actually choosing what to buy. It was not a matter of browsing. Tina Looby had a table set up to paint faces on little children. She was not really able to see what she was doing in the gloom but she was so cheerful about it all that I do not think anybody noticed or cared. It was terrifying to watch Pat and his assistant slicing and fileting and gutting fish with their sharp knives. The lack of light did not bother them as much as it bothered me.

Today is the shortest day. Tonight will be the longest night. We all thought it was yesterday. I thought the solstice was always on the 21st. Somehow it has shifted on the calendar, for this year anyway. Since every day at this time of year is a short day and every night a long night whether it is yesterday or today does not make much difference. What is good is the chance to now anticipate the days getting longer. In a few more weeks people will start to mention The Cock's Step again. Then we will know that little step by little step, spring is on its way.

21 December Wednesday

The path down into the meadow has become really slippery. It is the bit where the corner is sharp and the hill is steep. The mud can be deadly. It is the exact point where Em often catches up with me and races by at top speed barking into the night. If I am going to slip and fall anywhere, this is where it happens. Tonight I knew it was very wet and very muddy so I decided to go around the opposite way. I walked down into the meadow on what is usually our path for the upward and return journey. I did not worry about Em as she often takes off into the far field before running down to join me. When I was all the way at the bottom and she had not yet arrived, I whistled for her. I whistled and then I shouted and then I whistled again. I made enough noise that I disturbed all the birds sleeping up in the fir trees. They all came rushing out, flying around and making lots of noises. I whistled and shouted some more and then I walked back up to the yard. Em was sitting beside the vegetable patch turning her head from side to side and looking dejected. I called again and she did not respond. We have been wondering about her hearing of late. Now there is no doubt. She is deaf. It is a sad thing.

13 December Tuesday

There is an E on a tree down below. I carved it into one of the birch trees last year. I know it is naughty and irresponsible to carve into trees but it was my tree and I wanted to do it. I thought that as I walked down the meadow each night with Em I would work on it a bit more. It was to be my little secret. I quickly found that it was not such a good idea to work on it at night because I had to hold the torch, so I could not cut. I just did not have enough hands. Running down the field with a knife in my hand did not seem such a good idea either. I found it was all much harder than I imagined. My E is very clunky. Originally I was planning to write my name. That would have been five letters. As it was so much harder than I anticipated, I reduced it to my initials as that would be only three letters and there would be no curves, only straight lines. Almost eighteen months have passed and I look at it every evening as I go past. There is still only an E on the tree.

10 December Saturday

Last night we received news that Max had died. We were completely shocked. He was a big healthy happy dog. How could he have a heart attack and be dead in just a few minutes? This afternoon we walked up to the house. Max was laid out on his bed in the porch. There were scented candles burning. He looked like he was sleeping. He had that straight legged lie-flat look that dogs often have when they sleep. I wept to see him like that. Em sniffed a bit and then she went off into the house. We sat down in the kitchen and we drank tea and we talked about Max. Another neighbour arrived and we all told stories with Max in them. He had been a rescue dog, so no one knew his exact age. They thought he was about eight. He had a few bad memories from his previous life. As a result, he did not like men with cigarettes, nor could he bear to be tied up. He hated going into sheds or any enclosed small dark places. He was lucky that in his life here he was able to roam free. He loved to come for walks with Em and I. Most days I would whistle as we got near to his house, but sometimes he was waiting for us at the end of the drive. Coco was his good friend and he came to visit Max every morning. There was never any animosity between them as male dogs. Dogs and people all loved Max because Max loved everyone. The family are going to bury him on Sunday morning out on the banking near to a place which they all love for its morning sun. They will plant some bulbs to mark the spot in the spring. I cried again when we left. I stroked him and said goodbye but I could not see for my tears. I am crying again as I write this.

7 December Wednesday

For a few years, I seemed to be off the list. I had asked to be taken off the list and I was pleased to not receive any further mailings. Now they have found me again. It is, of course, the time of year to get lots of requests from many charities. This group always tops their letter with the words Self-Help---not Charity. They are the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of Ireland (Representing All Mouth & Foot Painting Artists in Ireland). I always want to call them the Foot and Mouth Painters but of course that is the wrong way round. There is a list of names and most of them are Mouth painters. Only one on the list is a Foot painter and one person seems able to do both. They send a packet with six printed Christmas cards and envelopes and they ask that I buy the cards. If I send the cards back I shall feel like I am being churlish. If I buy the cards, I am stuck with some cards which I do not really like. Of course, I buy them. There are photographs of various people painting with their brushes in their mouths. It is quite difficult to imagine the effort involved. This year the enclosed letter was written (by mouth) by a woman who is paralyzed from the neck down. As I read the letter I realized that we knew this woman. I have come to realize that this is not uncommon in Ireland. It is completely normal. It is a small country. The longer you stay here the more apt you are to bump into someone you know, or someone who knows someone who you know. Twenty years ago, we taught a week long book course and this woman was one of our students. At that time she had a young girl with her who she called My Hands. She directed My Hands to do things on her project as she decided what she wanted done. Everyone in the class was severely disabled in some way and we were not in any way trained nor qualified to work with so many kinds of mental and physical handicaps. The people in charge just left us to it. They all disappeared. It seemed crazy and irresponsible to us at the time. In retrospect, it seems even more crazy and even more irresponsible. We were in a very small class room with a great many wheelchairs and endless crises. At break time, everyone rushed out and raced into the very small kitchen area where they drank coffee and smoked loads of cigarettes. We worked very hard and the students worked very hard. By the end of the five days, everyone ended up with a finished book.

4 December Sunday

The strong winds have knocked down lots of trees and branches. Every time I go up the boreen I promise myself that I will take some cutters and some strong gloves with me the next time. Every time I forget to do it. In one spot there are long tendrils of brambles which hang down and catch at my clothes and my face and my hair. I have to go down on my hands and knees to crawl under a large tree which has blocked the way. It is right at the point where there is a lot of mud and a lot of fallen apples. There are plenty of apples in place on the path again. The Large Apple section and the Small Apple section are in their exact same locations as last year but this year they are mushy and slippery, because it has been wet and warm. They are not like the hard rolling ball-bearings of last year, but if I do not pay attention they can be just as dangerous.

2 December Friday

I drove Simon into Cahir this morning so that he could catch the train up to Dublin. It was frosty and dark when we left the house. It was still dark when we got to Cahir. It felt like it was very late at night but it was not. It was early morning. One shop was open on the corner. I stopped so Simon could hop out and buy a newspaper. While I waited for him, I saw two men down the street. They were the only people in sight. As I watched, they came closer to where I was parked. I saw that they were window cleaners. They had finished one pair of shop windows and they moved along with their buckets and their extended poles to begin the windows of another shop. I watched them working quietly and carefully together. I watched them washing windows in the dark. I wondered how they could know if the windows were clean. There was no light outside and there was no light inside. If there were smears or smudges there was no way they could be seen.

Em and I went up onto the train platform with Simon. I was expecting the platform to be empty, but there were about twenty people all waiting for the train. Em went and smelled the legs of everyone present. Each person said hello and scratched or petted her. Then she came and sat down on the edge of the platform. I held onto her when the train pulled in. It was a small train. There were only two little carriages. There are always only two carriages. Simon got in with the other people and the doors closed and the train went away. Em looked and looked at the place where Simon had stood before he entered the train. She looked and looked and she could not see him nor could she see the place he had gone into. She found both his disappearance and the disappearance of the train disconcerting. He went in and the in he went into went away. She did not want to leave the platform without him.

1 December 2011 Thursday

I measure how wild and wet a day is by answering the question Can I go out to empty the compost? If it is really horrible, it is a job not to be considered. On a desperate day, I can squish the compost down no matter how full the bucket might be. On a desperate day, it is a job that can always be put off.

30 November Wednesday

The radio staions are promising not to overdo the Christmas music. They have joined together in a decision not to play any Christmas music until the 8th of December. The 8th is the traditional day when all of the country people go up to Dublin for the day to do their Christmas shopping. The day marks the beginning of the season, so now there is musical accompaniment for that beginning.

28 November Monday

If we are having tea with someone and the conversation is going along nicely, we might be offered A Hot Drop. A Hot Drop is that extra bit of hot tea added into the cup which is not yet empty. A Hot Drop extends the cup of tea and keeps the visit going a bit longer.

23 November Wednesday

It is the 23rd of November. It is grey and cold but I was able to pick a few flowers. Now they are in a jar on the table. Together they make a nice little bouquet. I think they will be the very last flowers of the year. I picked one pink rose, a few daisies, seven sweet peas, and some Lady's Mantel. There was also a little clump of forget-me-not in bloom. It was growing out of a space in the stone wall. The tiny blue blossom would have looked lovely with the other flowers but it looked so bright and cheerful next to the grey stones that I could not pick it. I left it right where it was.

20 November Sunday

There is always a bit of land between a fence or a wall or a ditch and the road. In some rural counties, these edges of the road are scruffy and bare, but in Tipperary the verges are always lush and green with grass and weeds and growth. I assume that the land right up to the edge of the road is owned by the person who owns the adjoining fields. Maybe it is not really owned by anyone. Maybe it is an extension of the public road. This strip of land along the side of the road is called The Long Acre. The Long Acre is regularly used by the traveling community as a place to tether their horses for grazing. It is a delicate balance to give a horse on a rope enough length so that he will be able to reach plenty of the grass around him, but not enough to let him get out into the road and get hit by a motor car. The Long Acre offers free grazing with a modicum of danger.

5 November Saturday

I sewed up some copies of my new book. I am using up a lot of old cover material as stiffeners under the wrap around cover. It means there will be different colours for different books but no one will know that unless they see more than one book. They will not notice at all unless they are careful lookers. They will also not know which cover material came from which earlier publication. I like this using up of extant materials and I like the hiding of a thing within another thing. Some of what I am using is the brown from the cover of GIFTS FROM THE GOVERNMENT. I am also using a green left over from WITH MY LEFT HAND. The printed titles of each these will be on the outside of the book but underneath the cover. I am also using a purple printed page from Simon and Bill's book SOME MORE NOTES ON WRITING AND DRINKING. There are also some printed proof pages from Tim Robinson's print THE VEGETABLE PLOT AT L8511. I won't know until I use all of this stuff up if I need to look for some more materials. We have a copy of a book called ART by Eric Gill. It was produced by John Lane The Bodley Head in 1946. On the collophon page there is a little emblem of an open book with a lion on top of it. Inside the drawn book image is printed Book Production War Economy Standard. The cover of the Eric Gill book is a yellow paper wrap around cover with the title and author's name printed in black. Inside the cover paper is printed, in green The Shorn Lamb and it is part of an edition of The Works of William J. Locke. If you did not remove the wrapper you would never know that the cover had had a previous existence. I love this cover for its wartime austerity. I am happy to think of my own re-using of materials sitting in such a fine tradition.

1 November 2011 Tuesday

Yesterday there was torrential rain and terrible wind all day long. The rain never stopped and the wind never stopped. I have seen a lot of rain since I have lived here but I do not think I have ever seen rain like this. Today it is raining still but not with quite the ferocity of yesterday. Both today and yesterday we have been printing in the shed. We are printing words for my book SOME MORE WORDS FOR LIVING LOCALLY. Each time we had to run from barn to shed or shed to house we were racing to get through the rain. It is difficult to walk slowly through this kind of downpour. Running seems essential. Wearing a hat or a coat does not help much as the wind whips everything around and the minute we go inside we are dripping onto something. All morning we were getting phone calls from Seamus, the Eircom man, who was tryng to repair our telephone line. He was up the road, out in the rain, sawing at bushes and branches. He said the branches had rubbed the cables and torn a coating off them and that is why we had no service. He would telephone Simon on his mobile and then one of us would run into the house to try to phone him back on the land line but then it would not work so we would have to go back out and call him from the mobile. These calls went back and forth and back and forth for several hours. Once we thought it was repaired but then it was not. Finally it was fixed and Seamus was very very wet. He left to go and see to some cables that had come down in the wind up near Ballinamult. He told us he would phone again tomorrow to check and see if it was still working. So far so good. After eleven days, it is very nice to have it working again.

30 October Sunday

There was a yellow bucket sitting in the herb garden. I had been using it some days ago while clearing weeds and small rocks. The job was not finished, but the bucket was left there. Then it filled with rainwater. Today I was passing and I thought I should empty the water out and then take the rest of the stuff and dump it. When I tipped the bucket, out flowed the water along with three dead rodents. I do not know if they were large mice or if they were young rats. They were a bit swollen and horrible from being in the water. I do not know why they all ended up in there unless they jumped off the stone all into the bucket one after another. Once again I have a small mystery concerning three dead rodents. I am not sure if it is that they are again three in number or that they are again rodents which worries me more.

28 October Friday

I went to collect Simon off the bus in Ardfinnan. I went a bit early to walk with Em along the river. There are always several groups of ten or fifteen geese walking along in the field or swimming. Em is not very interested in them, nor are they interested in her. They are lovely to see, but the area all along the bankings gets very slippery with the huge amount of goose droppings. At one point Em decided that she just had to swim so she hopped off the banking and into the river. She chose a steep drop off point and when she turned to climb back up she could not do it. The mud was slippery there. It was too steep and there were reeds tangling around her. She did not bark or whimper. She just kept trying and trying to scrabble up. The more she struggled the less possible it looked. I squatted down and tried to pull her by her front legs. My squatting position gave me no leverage. I only just caught myself from toppling into the water. The only thing I could do was to lie down flat on the ground and to pull her hard using her front legs and her long hair to lever her out. I got her up and out and she took off at speed to go back over the bridge. She stopped and waited for me at the far edge of the field. I was soaking wet and completely covered with goose shit.

27 October Thursday

As of yesterday at two o'clock in the afternoon, the presidential candidates had to stop campaigning. National radio and television stations stopped discussing the campaign. No more predictions and no more plugs and no more dissections of strategies or performances. There was a complete moratorium on all discussion about the election. Until 7 o'clock this morning when the polls around the country opened, it was as if the election were not happening. The only thing we have heard is that after the polls close at 10 0'clock tonight, the results will not be known until Saturday at the earliest.

25 October Tuesday

Today was blue sky beautiful. Em and I went up the boreen and collected drops from Johnnie Mackin's old orchard. With all the wind and rain a great many apples had fallen and they landed gently in the long grass. Since there were so many, the insects and animals had not yet had time to get at them. There were plenty for me and plenty for them. I filled a big backpack and left it at the edge of the path. We continued as far as the road where Coco came out to greet us. Most times of late, Coco just barks at us from the back yard while he gently bounces up and down on the trampoline. He is happy to stay there. I turned Em around after the visit and the sniffing and we went back down. My pack was so heavy I could not walk straight. At lunch, we listened to the news of all the devastation and the deaths which the heavy rains have caused in other parts of the country. There was the equivalent of a month of rainfall in eight hours. Everyone was taken by surprise. It was hard to believe it all as we sat here surrounded by sunshine. Now darkness has fallen and the rain is back. It is raining so hard it is impossible to even tell which direction it is coming from. Our telephone is still dead.

24 October Monday

Thursday is Polling Day. My voter registration card arrived this morning. We are choosing a new president and also deciding on two referendums. This is my first time voting in a national election. Up until now I could only participate on very local issues. Now, as a citizen, I have full privileges. A few weeks ago Simon recieved a notice about his postal ballot. He went into the council office and said that he did not need an absentee ballot as he is here now and he will be here on the 27th to vote. Last February when there was a General Election he did need one as he was going to be out of the country on election day. He had to get a special paper and he had to go to the Garda Station to get his identity validated and then the paper was sent to him here so that he could fill it in and return it. Now the council told him that since he had an absentee vote earlier in the year, he had to have one now. One is not allowed to be absent and requiring a postal vote for less than a year. This seems mad. He had to go again to the Garda station and again have someone sign a paper saying that he is himself. Then the ballot papers came by post to the house and he voted and posted them back. Why this absurd insistance that you remain absent for a year? And if you are absent for a year, why on earth would the ballot be sent to your own house? Surely you would not be there to recieve it.

23 October Sunday

Unbelievable lashing, torrential rain all day long. Even for here it has been unbelievable. We drove up into the mountains to have lunch with a friend who lives in a wonderful crumbling castle. It was cosy and dry inside but the sound of the rain on the roof was incessant. As we drove back home the water was rushing off the mountains and hills and down the roads. It felt like we were in a paddle boat on a deep and rushing river. There were no puddles on the road. The road was just all water. It was hard to see where the road ended and if there was any land at all on either side. The car window had been left open a tiny bit while we were visiting. I found myself sitting in a huge puddle of my own as I drove. My feet were splashing in water as I used the pedals. I was completely soaked from the waist down by the time we got home. The phone is dead. The winds and the rain continue.

22 October Saturday

Saturday is trailer day around here. Many vehicles are out and about pulling a trailer. The trailers might be the kind that have a horse or some cows or some sheep. They might be those little trailers with one small window and a peaked roof with racing greyhounds inside. They might be open trailers filled with firewood. They might be full of stuff for the dump and the recycling depot. Sometimes there is a cement mixer and other working equipment. Saturday is a busy day. There are a lot of errands being done and there are a lot of jobs being done. Many things that need a trailer seem to be done on Saturday. Driving without a trailer on a Saturday can make a car look naked.

20 October Thursday

In the morning, I put on my boots to take Em for her walk. It is not just her walk. It is my walk too. The putting on of the boots gets her excited. Some dogs get excited when they see their lead but she rarely goes on a lead so her excitement is for boots. I always tuck my trousers into my socks before I set off. The tucking in lets her know that I am ready. It is sort of the last thing I do before we leave. The boreen might be muddy and the tucking in is mostly just a mud deterrent but I am so used to doing it that I do it even if the world is dry. The boreen goes both ways past the house. One way is out and up to the farm and then on to the outside world. That is the direction that is driveable. The other way is only walkable. That is the boreen too. When I say I am going Up the Boreen, I could be going either way. When I arrive home, I do so by coming down the boreen. Any arrival is always Down the Boreen. I rarely remember to untuck the trousers from my socks when I get home. It is not unusual for me to spend the rest of the day with my trousers tucked into my socks. That is even the case if I change out of my boots.

19 October Wednesday

It is sad to see Teresa's house empty. There are many people keeping an eye on it. Maybe there are even as many as did so when she was ill. Some weeks ago, I stopped with my clippers and I deadheaded the rose bushes. Now I see that I should do it again. The roses keep blooming and they keep dying.

17 October Monday

There was a message on the answer phone asking us to be on the look-out for a Freisian Heifer who had escaped from someone down the road. I was pleased that anyone thought we would recognize a Freisian Heifer from any other kind of cow.

15 October Saturday

On the plane, I sat beside an older man wearing a baseball hat with a very long bill. He sat silently and completely still. He stared at the screen on the seat back in front of him. The screen showed the progress of our plane as it travelled across the Atlantic. After our food was delivered to us and we had eaten and the trays had been taken away, he turned to me and told me that he had made the trip in order to pay his American taxes. He told me that he had lived in Boston for 35 years. He had driven a truck for a living and he had bought a house. He was now 70 years old. A few years ago, he sold his home in Massachusetts and he went back to Ireland. He had a house built for himself in Sneem, County Kerry. The house had cost him 350,000 euro. It had 4 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms. He had no immediate family, so he said he was spending his money as he liked. There were some distant relations who were eager for him to economize. He thought they just wanted whatever might be left when he dies. In Sneem, he lives 20 steps from the pub and he has a stent in his heart. His doctor tells him that he drinks too much. He gets a little exercise because he has a small yard out front. The walls and a few flowers keep him busy. He does not bother with the land out back. After he finished telling me all this, he turned back to the screen and he did not speak again until we landed at Shannon. Then he said Good Morning and Good Luck.

27 September Tuesday

I was walking up the boreen with Em. I looked down and saw what I assumed was a little dead mouse. I almost stepped on it. It was a very small and very young creature. It was grey, like a mouse, but it had a long nose, almost like a little snout. I decided that it must be a baby shrew. They always look a little bit prehistoric. Ten steps along there was another one and a few more steps along there was a third. If some other animal had raided their nest, I think they would have eaten the babies. I could not see any signs of blood or wounding. It was just three dead shrews all in a row on the way up the track. Maybe they were running away from something or maybe they were just running. Cause of death unknown.

24 September Saturday

The village has been divided. The council is doing some work on the little bridge which goes right through the middle of the thoroughfare. They have closed the road to all but pedestrian traffic. People in cars are trapped on one side or the other. It is not possible to get petrol nor to get a tyre repaired if you come in from the wrong side. It is not possible to go the post office or the hardware shop if you come from the other way. People who are on the opposite side from the side we enter from have a very long roundabout journey by car just to get to Clonmel now. There are routes through Ardfinnan or up and around on the mountain roads just to get to places which are usually very close. It is all a bit confusing and since there was no warning a lot of people are very angry. There is a lot of walking up and down that road which is nice to see. People park on one side and walk along to get to the things on the other side. People seem to be very sociable even if it is only to complain. We are told that the repairs will be finished in three weeks but everyone is grumbling that it probably means that it will not be done before Christmas.

22 September Thursday

Hector, the golden retriever, was in the way as I was driving out this morning. He looked at me and at the car and he did nothing to get out of the way. There was not really enough space for him to squeeze between the car sides and the bushes anyway, but he did not even look like he would try. I got out and went to talk with him. I saw that he had a chain attached to his collar. The chain was long and it was attached to a wooden post. The post was big and heavy and he was obviously tired from having pulled it along for as far as he did. He had escaped from being tied up by pulling the post out of the ground and away with him. I picked up the post and carried it with both arms. It was taller than me and it was very heavy. It was awkward to carry. Hector walked calmly along behind me still attached to his chain and therefore to the post. As we got closer to the farmyard he got excited and started to run home. Our positions were reversed. I had to run in a staggering kind of way, barely able to keep up with my heavy burden.

21 September Wednesday

There is still a lot of stuff to collect: Blackberries, wild damsons, blotcheens, several kinds of rose hips, apples, elderberries, and field mushrooms. Everything is plentiful but there is just not enough time to get it all. The picking is only one thing. Once the picking is done there is the need to do something with it all. Freezing things or making jams & cordials is time consuming. I waver between feeling I should use every single thing and not waste the bounty, and wanting to get some other things done. I have taken to carrying a bag when I walk with Em. If she is slow and lagging far behind I can stop at any moment and pick blackberries. They are everywhere. I come back from each walk with a good supply.

19 September Monday

There was a dead bird on the step outside my room this morning. It must have flown into the glass door at speed and knocked itself out. I looked at it carefully and Em snifffed it carefully. Then I went to find a little shovel. I took it inside for identification. I looked it up and decided that it was a goldfinch. Simon confirmed that and, more specifically, that it was a female goldfinch. Female Goldfinch, dead in my doorway. It was one way to start the week.

15 September Thursday

The radio is full of news about the upcoming Ploughing Championships. Every time I listen there is some reference to the upcoming event. There are discussions about the traffic problems that there will be all around Athy. Every year the event takes place in a new location so every year there are new issues about parking and traffic and access. There are also discussions about farming problems and about farming issues to be addressed at the event. There are loads of things that will be happening besides the different kinds of ploughing competitions. I know that Shirley will be there with her little engraving van, inscribing beer mugs and coffee cups and dog tags or whatever for whoever wants something engraved. Every radio station is promising to broadcast some special programmes from the event. There is talk about mud and rubber boots and new equipment and counselling for failing farmers. It is still a week until it starts but already the name of The Ploughing Championships has been shortened to The Ploughing. I have been asked several times if I will be going to The Ploughing this year. I know who is going and I know who has not decided yet.

14 September Wednesday

One good thing about the onset of colder weather and chilly nights is the diminishing possibility of stepping on a slug when I get up in the night with bare feet.

13 September Tuesday

The winds are less strong but it is still breezy. I thought it might be a perfect day for drying laundry but there is still a strong enough wind to flip the clothes around and around the line until they are no longer blowing in the wind. I have been to untangle them a few times but now I will just leave them and hope the sun dries them even in their wadded up state. Most of the older places around have a stone shed of some sort which is used for many things. One of the uses is for drying laundry. The shed is usually open on one long side, so that the wind can come in and blow around but the roof keeps rain off. This way women were able to get their clothes and sheets and stuff mostly dry even in the wettest of weather. No one built a shed like this for the new houses. Some people have a garage which usually houses anything except a car. Some people just have a small wooden shed for garden tools, and maybe their stuff for recycling There is no need for a drying line in an open shed anyway as I think most people have clothes driers.

12 September Monday

The promised wild winds are upon us. The news is full of trees, and branches and chimneys falling down. Big lorries are being blown over. We feel very protected down here in our valley but walking out with Em this morning was dangerous. We had crab apples beating us on our bodies and our heads as we struggled up the boreen. Up on the road the wind was coming at us from all directions and so were the horse chestnuts. We were rained upon by conkers. Em was confused by it all as she did not understand where they were coming from and why she was being attacked. At one point I could hardly walk upright with the wind pushing at me. Em had her hair all blown back from her face so her head looked small and fox-like. She did not look like herself. The ceaseless sound of the wind is making me crazy.

10 September Saturday

The fig tree really suffered with the cold over these last two winters. This spring I was sure we had lost it for good. I broke off a lot of dead branches. They were too dead for me to even need a saw. A few very pathetic but hopeful ones remained. It took a while for any leaves to form. A few hard little figs appeared over the summer but they never reached maturity. Today, I snooped around under the big leaves and I found one perfectly ripe fig. We cut it in half and ate it. It tasted of warm places. It was perfect and not at all woody. One Fabulous Fig.

9 September Tuesday

Autumn Bliss. This is the name of my raspberry variety. I spent years waiting and waiting and waiting to put in some raspberries as I could not decide on the right place to put them. I wanted to build a cage so they would be protected from the birds. I waited so long that I sort of forgot about it every year until raspberries were in season. Then I always felt cheated not to have enough of them to eat. Last year, I put in a just a few bushes. I put them in an easy place. It was where the extra roof slates have been stacked for years, so I did not have a lot of heavy work turning over the soil. They are near the washing line and on the way to my room. This is good because it means I pass them often and I do not have to remind myself to keep an eye on them. For three weeks now, there have been increasing numbers of berries. Everyday I stop and I eat them right off the bushes. As I pass from different directions I see different berries. Some are not ready to eat in the morning but they are ready by the end of the afternoon. Usually there have not been enough to share. When there are a lot I take some inside and give them to Simon. I have told him to keep an eye on them and to help himself but he never eats any unless I present them. The autumn part of this bliss is that many of the birds have headed south so there is not too much competition for the eating. I believe this will go on right through October. Raspberries are my all time favorite fruit. I cannot understand why I waited so long to have my own supply.

7 September Wednesday

It is the season of the Dying Wasp. They are everywhere. They are on pieces of fruit, on the handles of doors and on cups and on pots. I find them everywhere in odd places. They are on the leaves of the basil plant in the window. They walk slowly up the glass of the windows. Mostly they just sit, barely hanging on. Barely standing. Barely walking. Not a lot of flying. I will be glad when this mass dying is over for this year.

5 September Monday

The outcome of the final was bad for Tipperary. Everyone around here is very subdued. I asked the postman if he had been up for the match. He had not. He had had tickets but he gave them to a woman and her son because they were desperate to go. He said it was disappointing for everyone who had made the journey and watched the game in the rain and the cold. Most people left very early in the morning in order to beat the traffic. They left so early that when they got to Dublin, they went out for big breakfasts. The match did not start until 3.30. I do not know what they all did all day. Tonight there is a huge parade and party in Kilkenny to celebrate the re-taking of the Liam McCarthy Cup. The winning team will arrive from Dublin on the train and then they will be driven through town on a double decker bus while everyone cheers. One man muttered that all we can hope for now is more rain.

4 September Sunday

Even on a rainy day the stream has no water in it. Em still insists on running down the slope and waiting for me to throw a stick down for her. The stick just rattles as it lands on the rocks. She grabs it with all the enthusiasm she used to use for splashing about in the water. There has been rain but it never seems to fill up the stream. I wonder if the flow has been stopped somewhere further up. The land is dry. It is deeply dry. We have had a dry winter and a dry spring and now a dry summer. The cold and grey of the summer makes it feel like it has been a wet summer but that is an illusion. It has just been dreary and cold. Grey and rainless. What rain we do get is never enough.

30 August Tuesday

The big All Ireland Final has come around again. Just like last year, the game will be played between Tipperary and Kilkenny. Just like last year, there is a fierce rivalry between these two neighbouring counties. On Sunday afternoon there will no doubt be more people from these two counties up in Dublin than there will be left down here. A woman I spoke to has to go to collect her elderly sister-in-law. The sister-in-law is inside in Kilkenny city living in a residential home. She has to fetch her out of there, over the border and back to Tipperary for the final. The sister-in-law is afraid that she will not be allowed to cheer for her own side as long as she is in Kilkenny. She does not want to be the only one cheering for Tipperary, in enemy territory, so to speak.

27 August Saturday

I have come to think of our walk in Cahir Woods as our Urban Walk. There are many things to make it feel different from any other walk that I take with Em. To begin, it starts in a car park. Simon drives us down and into the wood. We hop out of the motor, and he drives away. The early part is on a tar and gravel path which is two metres wide. The path follows the river on the left and there are huge trees and big rock formations on the right. It is always cold in that part of the wood in the morning. It takes time for the sun to heat things up in there. We come out of the wood into an open space with a field on the right. At this point, the river has moved sharply away from the path and it is no longer visible. Sometimes the field has a few cows in it and sometimes there are a few horses in it. The higher field on the right never has any animals in it but once a year it is filled with little Boy Scouts and tents and camping activity. Further along there is a golf course on the left. It looks like all golf courses. Both sides of the path are lined with enormous old chestnut trees. Then the path goes into woods again. This is a very dense wood and the path here is no longer tar and gravel. It is just soil and leaves. There is a sign with hand drawn and coloured images of local birds, and their names. It is the kind of sign which helps people to be out of doors. At the end, three different paths diverge. Each of the paths brings us back to the river. Each of the paths bring us to the car park at Cahir Castle. When we arrive we are right in the middle of the Farmers Market. There are people and conversations immediately. Em knows everyone and everyone knows her. She rushes around to the stalls to see if anything edible has fallen onto the ground. Starting and ending our walk in car parks would probably be enough for me to think of it as Urban. More than that is the fact that while I am walking, I see people I do not know. Some days we see tourists who are walking down to see the Swiss Cottage. Some days it is just other local people, people both with and without dogs. There are people in exercise clothes and people with headphones. It is mostly just that they are people who I do not know which makes it all seem Urban. As if that were not enough, there is a tiny pink graffiti on one tree and on some rocks too.

24 August Wednesday

The car mechanic always reminds me that I am not from here. It has become a bit of a game for him. When I say Two Thirty, he says Half Two. Then I ask if that isn't what I just said? He says No, you said Two Thirty. Here it is Half Two.

21 August Sunday

After she has had her walk down the meadow and she has eaten her little night snack, Em has taken to going back outside. She likes to lie by the back door with her head moving slowly from side to side. She looks out into the darkness and gives the impression of being ready for immediate action. I call this doing Night Dog. It is ironic as she often spends most of the day sleeping and not paying attention to anything or anyone. As Night Dog she is alert and ready. When I go to the door to see if she is ready to come in, she turns to look at me and then she shows me the whites of her eyes and she goes back to looking out at the night.

17 August Wednesday

I am now an Irish citizen.  I do not feel any different.  I did not really expect to feel any different, but I remind myself that now I am


The ceremony took place at the Garda training college in Templemore. It was a larger event than I anticipated.  There were 300 people there from 53 different countries.  I sat beside a young man from Eritria and another from Brazil. A family from the Sudan were beside us.  Those seeking asylum paid no money for their citizenship. The rest of us did. There were many tears. For so many of these people, it is the first time in a long time, or maybe ever, that they have had rights and the possibility of a passport which will give them the freedom to travel in safety.  I did not expect to be so moved by the whole thing. We were separated from our one guest each.  We sat on blue chairs up front and our guests sat further back in the gymnasium on black chairs.  We had red ribbons around our necks.  The guests had black ones.  We had to wait quite a long time for the ceremony to begin, so the Garda Brass Band played various tunes, mostly a medley of Beatles songs. The assembled people kept jumping up and taking photos of each other with their new Certificate of Citizenship held up in front of them, and even of all of us in the crowd. Our certificates were given to us in a clear plastic envelope and every single person held their envelope up in front of them for the photos.  I did not see one person taking the certificate out of the envelope to be photographed more clearly.  After a little while, and because the wait was so long, everyone started rushing up and having their photos taken on the stage. We were all wearing little enamel pins of the Irish flag. The woman who presented them to each of us told us that the Minister wanted us to wear them during the ceremony.  She made each request sound very personal.  The Minster would like You to wear this pin. As a group, we had to swear fidelity to the Irish state, and we had to listen to a little speech and then we all filed out and went into the huge cafeteria used for feeding the Garda trainees. There was a table set up with tea and scones and some cakes but the serving of the tea and cakes was a bit of a mess and they ran out of things to eat before everyone had had any.  We have all lived here long enough to know that many organized things are bit of a mess. There were several ladies marching off to a kitchen somewhere far in the back and returning with a pot of tea which only served about 7 people.  Then they had to make the long trip again. No amount of tealessness stopped the cheerful atmosphere, the endless posing with certificates nor the phone calls to family and friends who had not been allowed to join in.  As we drove away, everyone in the other cars or walking or waiting for the bus, waved like mad to each other.  We were all the best of friends for the day.  We all felt happy.

15 August Monday

I saw a sign as I drove through a village. There was an upcoming dance being advertised and the band playing was called BACHELORS IN TROUBLE.

11 August Thursday

Em and I are varying our walks. One day we do the short Perimeter Walk and one day we do our usual Around Walk. This variety seems to agree with her and we are making better speed on the longer walk. Today I was caught short and I was desperate for a pee. I tried to walk faster but I soon realized that I was not going to make it home. There was too far to go and I just could not wait. I hopped over a gate and squatted down out of sight behind the ditch. Em wiggled under the gate and came and squatted exactly beside me. We peed together. It was a very companionable moment to share with my dog. It is not the first time I have been caught short and it is not the first time that she has sat down beside me. It is not the first time I have marvelled that she knows exactly what I am doing and that she choses to join me.

10 August Wednesday

Last week in the paper there was a front page story about a local man who was arrested for sexual assaults on young children over a period of thirty five years. The area where the article was printed was underprinted with a soft gray to make it stand out from the other pieces. The article was very diplomatic. It did not mention the name of the village where the man lived, nor did it mention the name of the man. This is all to protect the victims. The article did tell the age of the man and it described him as a pensioner who cannot afford to pay his bail so he is being kept inside in the jail. It described that when he was picked up by the Garda, he was dressed in an open-necked shirt and a dishevelled pin-striped suit. It is a pretty specific portrait and locally we all know exactly who is being described. Everyone is being very discreet and everyone is quite actively not discussing any of this. No one knows who the victims, both male and female, are and no one wants to make it worse for them. It is the biggest story not being discussed.

9 August Tuesday

When we walk through the farmyard up above, Em always goes right to the side beside the wall of one of the stone outbuildings. There is a concrete channel going along the wall there. It is 17 metres long and it almost always has some water flowing down through it. It is a rare day when there is no water in the channel. Sometimes the water just looks like it might be rain water off the roof and sometimes the water looks filthy and horrible. Em does not care what the water is like. She always steps right into it and walks that distance with her feet in the water, and her side rubbing snugly against the wall.

8 August Monday

Every year in August, there are two weeks which are traditionally the holidays for tradesmen in the entire country. All of the bricklayers, blocklayers, plasterers, carpenters, roofers, decorators, plumbers, joiners, electricians, etc etc etc have the same two weeks off. The timber yards are closed. Many hardware and plumbing supply places are closed. I think the idea was that if everyone had the same time off then no one would miss the work or hold any one elses work up. I think this is that two weeks. This year it is particularly difficult to know because all of the building work has already stopped all over the country. Since so very many people have no work, there is not going to be the same sense of a holiday. The quiet has been here for a while.

7 August Sunday

The fourteen blackthorn sticks are back on the wall. I am very happy to see them again. We took them down once a long time ago and they went to be in an exhibition in Limoges. Then they went to the museum in Japan. When they returned, they spent a long time just wrapped up in bubble wrap. Now they are back and they look exactly right where they are. They were Willie English's sticks and now they are back in what was once his home. They look like this is exactly where they belong, although I do not know what Willie himself would think of his out of doors sticks being presented like this inside the house.

6 August Saturday

The various towns and villages around are working hard to get everything looking good for the yearly Tidy Towns Competition. It is always something to pay attention to. Some of the towns do the same things in the same ways and with the same coloured floral arrangements and hanging baskets every year. Some places get to painting buildings and houses. Some places paint the outdoor benches and the flower boxes as well as the buildings. Somtimes the paint is provided by a local business. Some places get very experimental and some do very little at all. On the road to Cahir, there is a low stone wall that sweeps around a long corner. On the side of the road where the wall is there is a field directly behind the wall. On the opposite side of the road there are six or seven houses. Someone has organized fifteen or sixteen wooden flower boxes along the wall. I have tried to count them as I have driven past but it is hard to keep my eye on them and to count while driving. They are spread over quite a long stretch and all have matching flowers in them. The strongest presence seems to be a lavender petunia. It is interesting to see these boxes where they are because the usual emphasis on the Tidy Towns displays is usually in the center of the village. This display is well outside the center of Ardfinnan. Will the judges even go that far to find it and to include it in Ardfinna's efforts? I do not know when the actual judging happens but later on the results will be on the television. The whole competition is usually sponsored by the supermarket chain SuperValu. It pits towns, cities and even little hamlets against equivalent sized places all over the country. The TV coverage is the only way that everyone can view each others efforts.

5 August Friday

Sometimes I am waiting for the news to come on the radio and when it does it is all in Irish. I am often surprised by it, but I never get any better at understanding it. I can hear words and names but unless I already know what might be being discussed, I do not know what I have heard. I have been waiting. I do listen. But when it is over I know no more than I did before I listened.

4 August Thursday

A few years ago we made a visit to Corn Close in Dentdale. Jonathan Williams and Tom Meyer lived there for many summers together but that was the first time we had been there since Jonathan died. It felt very strange to be in the house without them. We were remembering many past visits and feeling awkward and sad to be surrounded by so many familiar things but without the familiarity of the people. Simon sat at Jonathan's desk for a long time. He looked out the window and he looked at the wall. He fidgeted with Jonathan's cigar cutter. Just before we left the house he made a little rubbing of the cigar cutter with a soft pencil. Quite a long time later he found the little rubbing and he had some blocks made and he printed the rubbing onto a piece of heavy card. He printed with one colour that looked like graphite. The second printing, which was of the cutting part of the cigar cutter, was done with silver ink and thermographed. I helped with that. Then he came back and cut out a hole in every card exactly where the cigar would have gone into the device to be cut. The cards, printed and cut, sat around for a long time as Simon was not happy with the poem with which he wanted to finish the small tribute. At some point he decided to desert the project. That was how unhappy he was with it. The printed cards were relegated to the stack of spare paper and eventually I started using them for shopping lists. Today I was standing in line at the shop. I was waiting to pay for my goods and I was trying to think if I had forgottten anything. A little boy came up and asked if he could have a Go. He saw me twirling and twirling the thick card on my finger. My finger was pointed straight up in the air. The card just flew around it. He wanted to try it too.

3 August Wednesday

I took Em on the old Perimeter Walk this morning. I wanted to see how she would do on a short and gentle walk after a few days with no walking. We went up the steep field at a good speed. We had not been up there for a long time. There are a lot of passages into and out of Scully's Wood. It is a busy area for foxes. The sniffing and investigating kept Em busy. I was glad to be on the perimeter to see how many heavily laden blackberry bushes are lining the field. When they ripen, it will be a fantastic picking place. The bushes are hanging low and the access for picking will be easy. I was happy to look across at the view from up there too. It always amazes me how high that top corner is. Paul's cows were walking from their morning milking back up and toward a far field. In the distance, their long drawn out single file of black and white markings looked like a moving perforation in the landscape. Em and I followed Joe's fences and ended up low down near the stream. Em was very busy with all of her smelling so I did not see any of Sunday's slowness. I do not know if this means she is better or if she just rallied for the new route.

2 August Tuesday

When the postman arrived this morning, he announced that the hedge cutting had begun. It was a pleasure to hear him relay this news. Every day we have been apologizing to him about the impossible state of the boreen. Everyday we have assured him that the cutting will be done soon. Everyday he has listened but he knows that we have no more control over when the cutting will be done than he does. All any of us could do it hope. And wait. Everything has been waiting until there was a gap in the silage cutting. So today, when he said that PJ was in the upper half of the boreen with the machine, we were delighted. He dashed off and away quickly so that he would not be trapped by the tractor and its apparatus. The anticipation of the hedge cutter was great. First the news from the postman and then the knowledge of this long awaited activity finally happening. About an hour later I heard the sound of the cutting approaching. It is a combination of cutting and ripping, and tearing and crashing. It is pretty violent to hear even from afar. When the tractor got all the way down here I went out and waved. It was Ned in the driving seat, not PJ. The postman made a common mistake. They do look alike these brothers, especially from a distance. High up in the cab of a tractor it is an easy mistake to make. Ned had his dog in the cab with him. He waved to me in return and then he went back up the track. He went up and down and up and down and up and down. I do not know how many times he went up and down the boreen. He had to cut the tops and he tried to cut the sides as best he could. It is difficult to cut the sides because it is all so narrow. The cutting part of the machine cannot get enough space to get at the sides. We will probably have to do a little trimming ourselves later but at least the major job is done.

1 August 2011 Monday Bank Holiday

I met an older woman down at the shop who asked me how my dog was. I had not seen this woman for a long time. Whenever we see each other we always ask about the others dog. I told her about Em and her slowness and my concerns. She told me that her old dog had died. She said that losing her dog had made her feel like the back wall had fallen off the house.

31 July Sunday

Em was terribly slow walking up the boreen today. By the time we reached the tarmacadam road at the top, I decided to turn around and to go straight home again. She did not seem to mind. Usually turning around upsets her. Today, she just turned and continued in the same slow way all the back down. I do not know if there is something wrong. She does not seem to be limping anymore but there is no gusto and busy-ness in her movements. Maybe it is arthiritis. Maybe it is age. When we got home, she lay down to rest and to clean the millions of little sticky balls out of her fur. I went back out and took my walk without her. I feel very sad about a future full of walking alone. I feel sad about a possible future of walking without Em.

28 July Thursday

There is a sign at the recyling depot. It is a printed sign near to the bottle banks. It reads NO CERAMICS AND NO DELPH. Once this would have confused me. Now I know that dishware, that is china plates and cups and bowls, are all called Delph. This is an evolution of language from Delftware, which is the blue and white patterned china which was prevalent for many years. Delft originally came from the town of Delft in Holland. Now everyday china comes in many more colours and patterns and combinations. Now china dishes come from many places. But here, china is called Delph and after supper or after breakfast or after dinner it is always important to wash the Delph, to dry the Delph and to put it all away before the next meal requires its readiness.

26 July Tuesday

I keep a pen in the kitchen. It is tucked just inside the shelf where I have the ongoing list for shopping. The pen that has been there for the last year is a pink pen. It has a cute picture of a puppy on the removeable top. It has little white polka-dots over whole pen, top and bottom. I got this pen when I donated some money to The Irish Blue Cross, an animal welfare charity. I hate this pen. It is the perfect pen to leave on the shelf because I know it will always be there. Simon is terrible about picking up pens and walking off to some other part of the house or the world with them. This pen repulses him so it is safe. I always keep a few pens in the car for making notes and lists, or for leaving messages for other people. These pens also have a tendency to disappear. I can take five pens out to leave in the car but in a week or two there will no longer be anything there to write with. Again, I have the dilemma about a pen which is dependable and which writes smoothly but which is not desirable. I know banks have this problem and so they put their pens onto little metal cords. The postmistress has her pen tied onto a long and frazzled and grubby piece of string. My latest car pen is a biro with green ink. I hate green ink. I hope Simon does too.

24 July Sunday

Some of the EU countries have the same images on the obverse of all of their Euro coins. The Irish coins have a harp on every coin. It seems a little boring not to use the chance to have different things on the different denominations. Some of the countries do have varied images. The one we like the most is on the Italian 20 cent coin. This has Boccioni's UNIQUE FORMS OF CONTINUITY IN SPACE on the back. The futurist form is of a man as if he is walking in the wind or as if he is walking very fast. We try to look at our change whenever we get 20 cent pieces. We have been collecting these Boccioni coins for six or seven or maybe eight years now. We started in the early years of the Euro. So far we have twelve. They are lined up and stuck to the edge of a shelf with blu-tack.

23 July Saturday

Last week a chimney sweep came down to see about cleaning our chimney. He looked at our woodstove and he asked questions and then he said it would have to be done From the Top Down. Since it was raining he said he would not even consider going up onto the roof. He told us a great many dire things about the kind of chimney arrangement we have. He told us that we were foolish to have not had the chimney cleaned even once in 16 years. He said he would phone next Sunday and arrange to come by on Monday, if the weather was dry. When Simon eventually phoned him back he said he could no longer do chimneys From the Top Down. He had had one fall a few years ago and he did not want to climb anymore. He gave us the name of another chimney sweep who was happy to work From the Top Down. Today two men arrived. One was very young and one was older. The older man said he had broken his leg fourteen times by falling off roofs over the years. He no longer did From the Top Down. He said that is why he had the young lad with him. He was fearless about climbing. He was happy to do it. The young one went up his ladder and he shoved brushes down the chimney while the other man was inside the house. They shouted back and forth to each other. The man down below had an enormous vacumn cleaner. I thought that the room might get very dirty with the soot being pushed down, but he mostly used a little opening at the bottom of the brickwork. He had a sealing device that kept the soot being sucked right into the machine and not into the room. The room was left very clean but smelling like some horrible cleanser which he used on the floor as well as on the inside of the stove. The whole time the vacumning was being done the young lad was walking back and forth on the ridge of the roof. He pulled weeds out of the other chimneys which we are not using. He shouted down advice about how they should be sealed up to get keep the damp out. He was extremely tall and skinny. He walked around as if he were on level ground. It was terrifying to watch him. Before they left, the older man told us that back in the days when he still did From the Top Down, an elderly lady asked him to paint her chimney while he was up on the roof. She gave him a gallon of paint and he painted and painted and was shocked at how much paint the chimney seemed to be absorbing. The quick paint job was taking him a long time. She came out of the house and said she was worried. He thought she was worried that he was using all of the paint. She said yes she was a little worried about the paint but she was more worried that if he fell he would break her slates and she would have a hard time getting similar ones to replace the breakage.

21 July Thursday

The summer sound of haying and cutting silage is coming from all directions. The sound comes first from one set of fields and then from another set of fields. It goes on and on and into the night. We are still waiting for Ned to come and cut our very overgrown boreen but he is out doing silage so we have to wait until that is done. It is too much for him to change the cutting tools on his machine and then to change them back again. We just have to wait. After the silage. We must wait till after the silage. Some of the cutting goes on very late into the night. We go to bed and the sounds are still coming over the hills in the distance. The silage is being cut and baled up in the darkness. There are so many different kinds of machines on the job. Many of them are met on the road while driving or while walking. As always, this is a dangerous time of the year because the machines are so big and they take up the whole road. I am very interested in one machine I have seen working. It has long dancing things like fork fingers. The things move in a rapid circles low and parallel to the ground. They twirl the hay. It is beautiful to watch them. I do not know exactly how it all of it happens but I always observe the yearly silage operations with great interest. I never see all of the stages in a linear fashion but eventually I do see all of them. One day I see huge golden bales scattered over a field. A few days later those bales will all be lined up in two or three tidy rows waiting to be collected. Pretty soon all of the bales will be gone and I will not remember exactly when I saw them last.

19 July Tuesday

Now is the moment for meadowsweet. The meadowsweet is everywhere. It is especially plentiful and very visible all though Cooney's wood where so much tree clearing went on earlier in the year. The white blossoms look like fluffy flags.

18 July Monday

These days of endless grey and chill are very discouraging. There is never as much rain as is threatened. I would prefer to have more rain just to get it over with and then for the skies to be bright and the days to be warm. The vegetable garden is still suffering. The few days of glorious summer last week were not enough to make my courgettes take off. The plants have stopped growing while still in quite a small state. We are usually overrun with courgettes and wondering how to give them away and how to eat them in yet another way. This year they are tiny and even before they get big enough to eat they go all mooshy. I do not even know why I am bothering to write about them. Sadly, I think growing vegetables in this country without a poly-tunnel is probably a waste of time.

17 July Sunday

It is quarter past seven and we just finished the green lines. At first we wanted them to be very thin. We wanted them to be almost not there at all. They are not as thin as we first decided they should be. I am not sure if this is the result of technical issues, or just the actual doing making the solution decide for itself as we went along. We decided that it is more reasonable for fields to possess small undulations and to not always be seen as a perfect line. Our fields are green and bright and ever so good. Simon dipped each card into a shallow trough of paint while I tapped off any excess paint. I lined the cards up on the edges of my tables and the plan chest and the window sill. I lined them up so that the green edge was dangling in space and not touching anything. I used some box tops and some lengths of wood too. I was running out of places to put the cards and we were running out of paint and then we ran out of cards so it all ended perfectly. We shut the door and left all of the cards with their green edges drying. Tomorrow we will slip each card into its envelope before packing them up and taking them to the post office.

16 July Saturday

We have been printing my sister's wedding invitation today. It took us a while to get ready to print. We could not find the rollers for the Adana. We could not find them anywhere. Neither of us could think where or how we could have lost them. Finally we remembered that we had put them in the refrigerator during an unusually hot spell. Simon was afraid that their light rubber would melt. We printed the invitation with blueberry coloured ink on blue card. My sister and her partner have a blueberry farm. I am thinking about a bright green line across the bottom, with acrylic paint, as the whole event will take place in a field. I shall do a test and we can decide. Right now we are taking a break for a cup of tea. Simon has rushed in to watch a bit of the Tour de France. The riders are in the mountains today. The roads are lined with cheering spectators way out in the middle of nowhere. When our tea is finished we will go back to the shed to print the envelopes. We have to choose our moments to dash out in between the downpours.

15 July Friday

When we first came here, every Friday the frozen fish down at McCarra's shop would all be taken out of the deep freeze and lined up in rows on the top of the freezer. Most of it was so frozen and white looking with ice crystals that it was impossible to tell what kind of fish it was. I think a lot of it was smoked fish. This was a normal thing to see every Friday and I do not know when exactly it stopped. These days, I guess people are not feeling the same pressure to eat fish on Friday and even if they do eat fish on Friday, they have more choices about getting it fresh. And if they do not get it fresh many people have micro-wave ovens so the frozen issue is not so important. I enjoyed the fact that placing all of the fish outside of the freezer was a job that needed to be done on a Friday morning.

13 July Wednesday

A friend's elderly mother has been suffering with Alzheimer's for several years now. It just gets worse and worse. It will never get better. It is difficult for the family to stand by and to feel so helpless. Last week the mother started weeping. She was desperate to see her own mother, who was, of course, long dead. She simply would not be consoled. The weeping went on and on. The only option was to try to distract her from this impossible idea. My friend took her mother in the motor to the car wash. The suds and the water and whirling brushes were all very exciting from inside the car. The car wash proved to be a perfect distraction.

12 July Tuesday

Simon has become obsessed with the Tour de France. It is on the television every afternoon for a few hours. He takes his coffee in after lunch and continues to sit watching well after the coffee is finished. He sits with an Atlas Routier de France beside him on the table or on his lap. He follows the cycling route on the appropriate page. He is completely involved with the team strategies and with various individual cyclists. He speaks of the riders by name. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who follow the race throughout the French countryside. They sleep in tents and caravans and move along the route each day to be at special points for the next days racing. For Simon, sitting here in Tipperary, it is just a matter of turning the page. This will continue until 28 July.

7 July Thursday

The swallows have made a nest in the tool shed. Simon found them annoying. It was tiresome to have bird droppings on every single thing in the place. He boarded up the gap above the door where they were entering and exiting. I was worried because if the eggs or even the babies were already in the nest inside the shed, the mother would no longer be able to get to them. Or else the mother might be trapped outside while the babies were trapped inside waiting to be fed. Simon took the board off and now we are learning to live with the mess. The young ones should be off and away soon. We hope. The bigger challenge is remembering to bend from the waist immediately upon opening the door. The mother dives directly at whoever opens the door. It is essential to duck. Then she swoops out and away. I do not think she wants to attack. She is protecting her born (or unborn) young. She is just warning us.

6 July Wednesday

Em has taken to eating her supper lying down in the kitchen. She only does this if the door is open. Then she positions herself so that she can look out and perhaps spot the cat coming down the track. She eats in a slow and desultory way, keeping her dish near to her face but not feeling any need to rush. She does not gobble while on this watching duty. It is not quite dining al fresco. The open door is her own version of a television and the eating while watching is her TV dinner.

5 July Tuesday

Whoever I meet out walking or even in town, the first topic that comes up is the collection that took place at Teresa's funeral. I was correct to think that it is not a normal thing. Most people are outraged by it. They are upset too for the bereaved family. They are upset for people who had no money and who might have felt embarassed by it. Most people have a best suit but it is not the suit in which they keep any money in the pockets. Everyone is talking about it. Not one person has mentioned the plastic colanders. These must be what is normally used for collections at a regular mass so they do not even notice them. For me, they were astonishing. They were the very first thing I mentioned when I got home.

3 July Sunday

Teresa's funeral was today. I was driving to the church in Grange but as I neared the house I saw a group of people waiting in the road and on the lawn of her house. I pulled over and got out and waited quietly in the sunshine with everyone else. The six men carrying the coffin from the house could not fit through the opening of the gate while they were on each side of it. Another man stood in front and helped to lift it higher and over the opening while the men squeezed through and got back into their positions and then they carried the coffin to the waiting hearse. Everyone followed in a long slow line of cars all the way to the church in Grange. The church in Grange is much nicer than many of the churches around here. It is not as bleak as most of them. I had not been there for a long time. The sunlight was pouring in. The church was full. It was a lovely turn out for Teresa. There was a woman singing up in the balcony at the rear of the church which was very nice. It was not quite the same as having hymns where everyone joins in but it was beautiful nonetheless. Everything proceeded as normal. A lot of kneeling and standing and sitting and more kneeling and repeating. I mostly just sat. The singer was singing another song as two men came up the outside aisles carrying plastic colanders. These were brightly coloured colanders as used for draining vegetables. They passed these down the rows of people and money was thrown in. I had no money with me. I only had my car keys. I have never seen a collection taking place at a funeral in any kind of church anywhere. A neighbour nudged me from behind and offered me her purse so that I could put something in the colander. I refused as I felt this was not right. I was even more convinced that this was not right when a bright orange colander were passed to the grieving family who were sitting in the front rows, sobbing and sad.

2 July Saturday

We walked up the road to Teresa's house at 7.30. It was a beautiful evening and we were pleased to be out in it. People were gathered in the house and in the backyard. Someone led us into the living room where Teresa was lying in her coffin. A young woman left as we came in. She said she was just in there as she did not want Teresa to be alone. There is not much pressure to stay in the room for long. I did not like seeing Teresa in her lavender outfit and heavy make up. I did not like seeing her dead. We went back outside. Eventually the priest arrived and a great many people squeezed into the room and the hallway while the various prayers were said and repeated. We were outside and far away enough to not hear any of it. We just stood in a loose group of people who all looked down at the ground or up and across to the Knockmealdown mountains. The early evening sun was glorious. After that part was over people ate and drank and talked. Many of the men were wearing short sleeved shirts and it looked like a perfect summer evening. There were three little open sided tents with chairs and tables and then a larger white tent with long tables full of sandwiches and cakes and more chairs. Down below the potato patch, there was another large tent which Teresa's son had put up. He and his wife and their three children had been sleeping there ever since Teresa died on Wednesday night. I think there are a great many people staying in the house. We walked home again silently at ten o'clock. The sun was still bright and everything was still.

30 June Thursday

The bushes and brambles along the boreen are so thick and so strong now that they are pushing the side mirrors back as we drive through on the way home. And once again, it is nearly impossible to walk except down the very middle on the grassy bit as the thorns just grab at my clothes and face. The postman is not the only person complaining.

28 June Tuesday

I stood behind a woman at the shop while she was paying for her messages. She was talking about how useless her adult son has been to her since she was widowed. She said I would have been better off if it had been a lamb I'd given birth to all those years ago. At least then I could fatten it up and eat it.

27 June Monday

We still have our Parish Pack. I cannot decide what to do with it. I was told of its arrival before it actually came. It is the brainchild of the new parish priest. His name is Father Bobby Power. His area covers Ballybacon, Ardfinnan and Grange. I said that as we are not Catholics, it was perhaps not relevant to us. The woman telling me about it assured me that it was non-denominational. She said that it was just the new priest's way of introducing himself to everyone in the parish. The fat envelope arrived and it contained two colour images in ovals. One is of Jesus with a heart in his hand and Sacred Heart printed below it. The other is Mary, I think, also with a heart in hand and the words Immaculate Heart printed below. We also received a set of rosary beads, and a folded and laminated card with all sorts of instructions of how to use the beads and do litanies and other things. Far from being non-denominational this is a Propaganda Package. I am both fascinated and repulsed by its assumption that it is welcome here. Also included is a Parish Directory which mostly lists various religious events throughout the year and a bit of history about the diocese. There is a green census form which asks various questions about people in the house and about everyones participation in various local activities, mostly religious ones. We have the choice to return the form in an envelope marked Confidential to the Parish Office in Ardfinnan or to wait and perhaps someone will come to collect it. Everything is back in the original envelope. There is not one single thing inside that I want. I have no interest in filling out this green form. I debate daily whether I should return the entire thing to Ardfinnan, or whether I should just throw it all away. Eventually, I shall become tired of seeing it on the table and a decision will be made.

25 June Saturday

Em is walking a lot slower on the way around. As always, she is busy with many smells and examinations but her walking is not as fast as it used to be. Maybe her explorations of things along the way is just more thorough. It is hard for me as I like to walk with a good pace. In the boreen I have to walk more carefully and slowly, but on the tarmacadam road, I walk really fast. When I turn and look back, she is far behind me. I hate to just stop and wait for her so I sometimes walk back in her direction. This is confusing. She thinks this means we are turning around so she stops and turns herself and then she is walking further away from me with me in the rear. My newest solution is to walk towards her but in a curve. I walk the curve of the road's width and then I make my curve into a large circle. If she is very far behind, I might get in five or even six circles or ellipses before she catches up with me. When I do too many of these loops I can get a bit dizzy but at least I do not have to stop walking. The more I elongate the circle the less dizzy I get. She now recognizes that this is just something I do along the way and it does not stop her forward movement. When she is slow I call her a Slow Poke. Simon calls her a Slow Coach. I like the expression Slow Coach so I am trying to say that. It does not matter what we call her, she is still walking at her own speed.

23 June Thursday

I wonder if when the Queen of England visited last month she noticed the pillar boxes. All of the boxes for depositing ones post to be collected at various times by postal vans are tall and cylindrical. They are made of cast iron and they were once red. They were installed by the British during their occupation of Ireland. I think the earliest ones date back to about 1852. As they were installed around the country they would have the initials of whoever was on the throne at the time. The letters were cast along with the rest of the cylindrical shape. The monarch of the day is not separable from the box. Some of them reference George V, others Edward VII and some have VR for Victoria. I assume that all of the countries which were the Former Nations of The British Empire must have similar boxes. When the Irish achieved their independence, they painted the boxes a bright green. It would have been expensive and wasteful to destroy and replace them all. Some other cast iron boxes for collection have flat fronts and they are embedded in walls. These have also been painted green. As well as these green boxes there are a variety of private post boxes for home delivery. Many people have dark green boxes which have a curly hunting horn in black on the front. This used to be the symbol for the German postal service. The post horn was used by hunters but it was also used by the postman in rural places to announce his arrival with letters and news. These German boxes are very popular in both in the country and in towns. Occasionally, one sees an American aluminum mail box with a little red flag to be raised when there is something inside. I do not think there is such a thing as an Irish post box. There are just adaptations.

22 June Wednesday

I have searched out my copy of the Blandford Colour Series Pocket Encyclopaedia of Wild Flowers. It is a hardcover book which I bought in 1974 at Inverewe Gardens in Scotland. I wrote that and my name on the inside cover at the time of purchase. For many years, this book has been full of flowers which were being pressed between its pages. That is probably my excuse for not using it to identify wildflowers and grasses. Today I took all of the dried flowers out and placed them in a book with blank pages. What am I saving them for? Now I have no excuse not to use this book for reference. I have already happily learned to differentiate between two kinds of vetch. The inner flap promises 667 flowers in colour.

21 June Tuesday

Today is the summer solstice and it does not feel summery at all. The day is cold and windy. It does not feel vaguely like summer. It feels like a day to light a fire. It is the longest day of the year. Everyone here is moaning and complaining. They are in a panic that the days will be getting shorter and the nights will be drawing in and the winter will be coming. The consensus is that the advent of winter will start immediately after the solstice. The weather is making us feel like we have already missed our summer. People are mourning the passing of the summer, even while it is only June.

20 June Monday

The rain has been heavy and constant. Everything is soaked and squishy. It is cold and windy and horrible. These are not lovely mild summer rains. These are November rains. The farmer told me that even if it rained all day every day for a week, it would not make a dent in the water needs of the nation. The winter was dry and the spring was dry. The earth is just so deeply thirsty that it will take a lot of rainfall to turn things around. I know we need all of this rain but I still wish it would stop.

19 June Sunday

Here are two local expressions which I love:

Fresh as a bee.

Mad as a brush. (Mad in this instance meaning crazy, not angry nor annoyed.)

I cannot hear them often enough.

18 June Saturday

Today I was stopped by a neighbours child. She wanted me to see the shiney little cross hanging on a silver chain around her neck. She told me that she recieved it as a gift for her Holy First Communion. She then stood up tall and with the help of her fingers she listed off her other gifts. She told me she got six Fifties, and nine Twenties, and seven Tens and a Fiver. It took me a few minutes to recognize that these were amounts of money. The word Fiver is what gave it away. I was a little bit horrified and I did not know what to say. I thought the ritual was supposed to be about religion but she never mentioned anything about religion. Her interest was only concerned with acquisition. I guess that is probably a normal kind of kid thing. I told her she was a Very Lucky Girl. She said, I know.

10 May Tuesday

My father is dying. He is dying as I sit here. He is dying all day. The phone calls go back and forth. I am so far away. There is nothing I can do. The rain has been on and off all day. It rains very hard and then it stops. The sun comes out, and then it clouds over and it rains again. I am here and he is there. Joe came along on his tractor to gather up the cows. From this far field to the milking shed is almost a kilometer. I guess that is about 3/4 of a mile. Cows walk very slowly. They walk steadily but they walk slowly. It takes them a good while to walk that distance. The cows walked all the way down there and they were lined up and milked in turn. Now they have made the long slow journey back to the same field. The cows have returned and my father is still dying. All of his medication has been stopped. There is morphine to make him comfortable. The rain starts again and then it stops again. When the sun comes out there is a rainbow. I know the rain will start again soon. There is nothing I can do. There is nothing anyone can do. It is all happening so fast. It is the slowest thing I have ever waited to have happen.

9 May Monday

Em now has a yellow box. The box is a plastic delivery box with lots of air holes cut through it. Breda loaned it to us. She suggested it because she used to use something similar when Sam got old. We keep the box in the back of the motor. When Em is getting into the car I put it down on the ground and encourage her to use it to step up and into the back. She is getting used to it for getting in, but she is less willing to wait for it to be put down when she is ready to exit. Her age is starting to show when it comes to jumping. She is a good jumper when she is running. A running jump has momentum going for it. A running jump is often in pursuit of something so that is incentive in itself. A jump from standing is much more difficult. The yellow box is slowly becoming part of the ritual of going for a ride. Today she rushed to get out of the car and by not using the box she fell flat on her head. She was shocked and embarassed. I am not sure if dogs get embarassed. She was definitely shocked. She went right into the house and lay down quietly for a long time.

8 May Sunday

The last remaining wood pile from the clearing of Cooney's wood was a high one. Now the various greens of grasses and weeds are growing up around it. Things are growing so quickly that the pile looks smaller and smaller every day. The boreen is getting narrower too. The cow parsley is fluffing up all along on both sides and on a wet day, we are again driving through the world's longest car wash. The primroses are barely visible. The violets and the celadine are over, or if they are not actually over, they are overwhelmed by the nettles and the honeysuckles and the wild roses and the ferns and the sticky plants and the railway plant and the other little purpley one which I do not know the proper name for and I do not even have a shorthand name for. When oh when will I ever make the effort to learn the names of all these things.

6 May Friday

This morning is beautiful with a kind of watery sunlight spread over everything. The sky looks too white to be sunny. The white looks a lot like the white of skimmed milk, or of milk diluted by water. But there are big areas of dark green on the fields where trees are throwing out shadows on the bright grass. After two solid days of thrashing and lashing rain, this tentative sunlight is very welcome. All of the greens are greener than they were and the ground is squishy underfoot. After so many, many weeks of dry, hot weather the soil was hard. The growth of everything had slowed down. Now things are growing even as I watch. Spring has arrived for the second time. The birds are noisy and busy. I am glad to hear the sound of The Telephone Birds. As with all of my bird identification problems, I do not have the proper name to give these birds. I am not even sure what the bird who makes this noise looks like. I call it The Telephone Bird, but in these days of so many different kinds of rings on so many different kinds of telephones, this one sound might not be so distinctly a telephone sound to anyone else but me.

5 May Thursday

Notice in the paper: A golden male Labrador has relocated himself in the Kilmoyler area when he wandered in through the gate of a family home. The dog was wearing a leather collar which looked to be made from a leather belt. If you are missing a dog of the above description please phone.

4 May Wednesday

It is raining hard today. This is the first rain in many weeks. We desperately need it. She told me that she was glad they had taken a day while the weather was holding fine. She told me that she and her husband had had A Farmer's Day Out. I asked what A Farmer's Day Out was. She said that for the farmers in her parts, it was Fish and Chips down by the sea in Tramore. Last year they had never gotten down there even once so she was glad they got it over with for this year.

3 May Tuesday

John Wall is the fishmonger in Clonmel. His sign reads JOHN WALL FISH SHOP Wild Salmon A Speciality. His shop is very small and very cold. It is also a bit dark. We do not go to his shop very often these days as we prefer to get our fish from Pat at the market. Pat has all of his fish out on ice and it is easy to look at things and to ask questions. Pat loves to talk about fish and he loves to talk about different ways to cook fish. John Wall, on the other hand, does not display his fish. He has a glass fronted case but it is usually empty. When you enter his shop he greets you and he asks you what you want. If you respond by asking What have you got? He repeats What do you want? All of his fish is kept on ice in boxes in the back room. This saves him the trouble of moving the fish out of the boxes in which it arrived. It saves him the trouble of presenting it for the customers. John Wall is old so maybe he finds it all just too much trouble. There is another man, also old, who stands beside him behind the counter. This man does not fetch the fish from the back, nor does he wrap it up. He only takes the money after John Wall retrieves the fish and shows it to the customer and weighs it and wraps it.

2 May Monday Bank Holiday

Maurice The Gloomy Donkey is gone. He has not been in his meadow for a week or so. The gate is open. Maybe he has been taken back to join the other donkeys. Maybe he has been sold or traded or given away. Maybe he is being used for the function of reproduction. He has been so unpleasant, I do not miss him. Em never even turns her head towards him anymore as we pass. I note his absence but it is not easy to care.

1 May 2011 Sunday

I have been compiling a list of abbreviations of names here. Sometimes I know exactly what name is being abbreviated and sometimes I cannot tell. The phone book is full of little mysteries. Michael is always Ml., and Patrick can be Pk., Ptk., or Patk. Thomas can be Thos. or Toss. I like Mce. for Maurice, and I like Mce.Snr. too. Mossy is a nick name for Maurice, so sometimes that is used. There are Jos. and Joss. and Jas. and Richd. and Robt. and Danl. and Jerh. Mgt. is for Margaret, which I would never have guessed, nor would I have known Vict. was for Victoria. Mo. and Lar. and Batt. and Edwd. I am still not sure what Cors. stands for.

29 April Friday

The Murder Cottage has been given a new name. The name is THE WHITE COTTAGE. This new name is written on a stone. The stone is large and roughly triangular in shape. It is a large flat stone. The surface of the stone has been painted black and there are sparkly gold bits in the paint. The words are not painted but they are stuck on with some thick plastic or rubber letters. The letters are small. They are only about an inch or maybe an inch and a half high. The words, all in capital letters, are in three lines. The top word is THE and that is red. The second word is WHITE and that is white. The third word is COTTAGE and that is green. The new name stone is leaning up against a fir tree on top of the stone wall. It is only visible from one direction and even then, it is not Very visible. For someone passing quickly in a motor, I do not think it will be noticed at all. Will we all learn to call the house THE WHITE COTTAGE now? It has been The Murder Cottage for quite a while. And before that it was Mary Corbett's Cottage, or Sean and Mary's. I think most people will have trouble using a new name, but maybe because it is literally written on a stone, this new name will catch on.

28 April Thursday

The swallows are back! Their arrival is an exciting sign. As always, they are dashing madly back and forth to rebuild their nests in the roof of the book barn. They are so busy it is hard to believe that this is their first day back. It is hard to believe that they were not here yesterday. It is hard to believe that they were ever gone.

27 April Wednesday

I was driving up the narrow road. Far up ahead I could see a cow weaving from side to side. Then I noticed a farmer walking along in his high rubber boots beside the car. I rolled to a stop and wound the window down. He ignored the window and got into the car beside me. I said you have a escapee. He said yes. Very slowly, I drove up towards the cow. She started to rush away but then she suddenly veered left and into the space of a gate. I pulled the car up and just a little beyond her and then in at an angle to cut off further escape in the wrong direction. The farmer said Thank you and got out of the car and went after the cow. I continued up the road. I could see them both in my rear view mirror. The cow was running far ahead of the farmer again, but now she was running downhill and in the right direction.

26 April Tuesday

After only just learning the word piseoige, it appeared again in a conversation yesterday. This time it was accompianied by the offer of a hare. Our friends have a hare in their freezer. They had been given the hare but they did not want to eat it. They had offered the hare to various other people but not one person wanted to eat it. We asked why no one wanted it. The superstition is that the hare is considered an animal with magical powers. I could not be sure if the superstition included that because of its magical powers it should not be eaten, or if the idea of magical powers just put people off. We described various rich and delicious hare dishes from different cultures. We said perhaps the magic of the hare will be passed on when it is eaten. None of our enthusiasm had an effect. The real power of the hare was such that the Irish were not going to eat it. Simon said we would be delighted to take their hare off their hands. We will have to be careful who we invite to eat it with us.

24 April Sunday

We had our own little Easter miracle this morning. Oscar came running down the road to greet Em and I. I had not seen him for weeks and weeks. I had not seen him since well before I went away. I feared he might have met with a road disaster. I was delighted to see him. He was delighted to see me and he was delighted to see Em. She did not care whether he was there or not. She ignored him as he leapt up and down all around her and all around me. Oscar is big and black. He used to sit up on the wall around Ken's house when Snoopy was kept prisoner in the upstairs room. Since Snoopy left for Ardfinnan, Oscar never sits up on that wall anymore. I call him Oskar Kokoschka, though I think his surname is O'Loughlin. Today he walked down the boreen with Em and I, and after a sniff around, a sleep in the sun and a drink of water, he went back home on his own.

23 April Saturday

A pitcher full of wild garlic sits on the table. The flowers are bright and white and they look like exploded stars against the soft green leaves I can never decide which smells stronger, the leaves or the flowers. I like seeing them and smelling them here inside the house but mostly I love walking through them outside. Then their tasty smell is on the walk with me.

21 April Thursday

I've learned two different springtime piseoiges in the last few days. First though, I had to be told that a Piseoige is the Irish word for superstition. One of these is that if you bury a hard-boiled egg in the soil of your neighbours potato patch before Easter, your neighbour(the victim) will have a wretched potato crop. The crop of yourself (the perpetrator) will be blight-free and plentiful. I do not know if the hard-boiled egg is supposed to be still in the shell or if it should be peeled before it is buried. The second piseoige is that it is bad luck to pick primroses and bring them into the house before Easter. This one was explained to me as we were marvelling at the hundreds of them growing down the boreen this year. With so many growing wild, it has never been a flower I thought to pick and bring into the house anyway.

19 April Tuesday

The census woman came down to collect the census form today. According to the instructions, all of the forms were supposed to be filled in on the evening of Sunday 10 April. She said that a lot of people have still not filled theirs in yet. She said that there was no worry in it and that they would surely have them done by the end of the month. I asked if that did not defeat the idea of everyone doing it on the same day. She said there was no harm in it and she felt that the same month was nearly as good as the same day. I did not tell her what one man said to me about the census. He said They only want to know Yes or No, so whatever the question, it is best to say No.

18 April Monday

I had not seen the postman since I returned from America. When I went out to collect the post this morning, he welcomed me home and he asked me about my father. I was touched that he remembered the reason for my trip. When I said that dad was not doing very well, I got choked up. I said that dad was actually terrible and that there was no chance for him to ever get better. He squeezed my arm. He spoke of losing his own mother and he said to me: You will never get over it.

16 April Saturday

Em and I walked the river path in Cahir today. We saw the Ancient Old Man and his Ancient Old Dog. I was pleased to see them. I always think seeing them is a good sign. The Ancient Man told me again that the Ancient Dog is not his dog. His daughter bring the Dog to his house every morning while she goes off to work. She brings the Ancient Dog to the house to keep the Ancient Man company. She brings the Ancient Dog to the Ancient Man so that they can keep each other company. The Man goes out for a very long walk every day. He goes for his walk whatever the weather. Sometimes the Dog does not want to go with the Man. On those days, she climbs up onto the chair and she refuses to go with him. On those days he goes without her. He told me that this was the third day in a row that the Dog had come along with him. She was very far behind him on the path, but as we stood still and talked, the Ancient Dog caught up with the Man. The Man said he often meets her on his way back and by then she is pleased to just turn around and walk toward home. I worry about the day when she can simply not walk any further. I worry about the Ancient Dog giving up halfway through their walk. I worry that the Ancient Man will need to carry the dog home. I do not think that he is able for it.

15 April Friday

The lower meadow is full of sheep. There are many little lambs. The grass is so long that it is bending over. The grass is so long that the baby lambs are nearly not visible when they are standing up. Hundreds and hundreds of dandelions make the meadow into a madly yellow polka dotted place, with lambs.

30 March Wednesday

We save all of our paper off-cuts. I always believe they will be useful for something. I have had to concede that there are just so many long narrow pieces of paper that anyone can use. Does anyone need this many bookmarks? There were so many of these off-cuts collected on one shelf that I decided the shelf would be better used for something else. Each tidy pile of hundreds of strips of paper was held together with two or three elastic bands. I gathered all the piles together and tried to think what I should do with them. Of course, I could take them to the paper recycling. Then I thought to offer them first to the day care centre in the village. I stopped there this afternoon after going to the post. I showed them to Marie with an apology as I realized that most of the paper was white and and there were some shades of brown. There were not many bright primary colours to excite little children. She gasped and said Oh my god, no, they are perfect. We are just making birds nests. These are perfect. Perfect.

29 March Tuesday

Ever since I wrote that the local daffodils are all in straight lines, I have seen dozens, if not hundreds, of sweeping swathes of blooms proving me wrong. Most of the very large areas are in parks and in front of hotels or on large areas of ground, but nonetheless there are a lot of glorious and generous groupings. I am delighted to be wrong.

28 March Monday

I spoke to an older man down in the village. He tried to tell me a long and rather complicated story but he kept forgetting big portions of the plot. Getting confused made him angry and that made him get more confused. When he could not remember the name of a woman who was essential to the narrative, he attempted to describe her. He hoped that his description would help me to come up with her name. He finally said, You know her, of course you do, she is a small woman. Like yourself, she is Low to the Ground.

27 March Sunday

Last night we moved the clocks forward an hour. Between 8.30 and 9.30 on Saturday evening was proclaimed Earth Hour. Everyone everywhere was asked to turn off their lights for that hour. We planned to eat dinner during that time. We got the food ready by candlelight and lit the dining table with candles. It was very pleasant to sit quietly. It felt darker and quieter than usual. We often eat by candlelight, but there was not even a light coming in from the kitchen. This darkness felt darker and softer. When Em could wait no longer, she started to nudge me and when I could stand her nudging no longer, I took her down into the meadow. I decided to walk without even a torch to guide me and I thought for sure that all of the lights on houses across the valley would all be turned off. I went out into darkness expecting total darkness. I expected that everyone would be participating in the one hour with no electric light. I think maybe a few houses were dark and I like to think they were participating but maybe they were just not home. Several houses were all lit up with their outside lights as usual and they probably were not home either.

26 March Saturday

Em had a small bone at lunchtime today. As always, she takes it outside. She goes to the exact same place on the grass where she always goes to eat a bone or any special treat which demands some time and concentration. With a bone, she drops it onto the grass and then rotates her head very slowly in each direction. She looks around for several minutes just to be sure that no one is going to steal her bone. Maybe I am wrong about this. Maybe it is not about being robbed. Maybe she would like someone to see that she has this treasure. Maybe she would like to feel their envy and to feel that she has to protect her bone. Maybe she is longing for an audience. Once she settles into the eating, she does not look around again. Sometimes I tease her by going and taking the bone from her. She does not snarl or lunge for the bone. She is gentle. She trusts me. She just watches the bone and looks at me with a terrible sadness and confusion, which of course makes me give it back immediately.

25 March Friday

We put a new bridge across the swampy mud down below. It is just a pallet and it is a little bit dangerous to walk over as the gaps between the boards are big. Em does not walk over it. Nor does she bother with the old plank which is mostly submerged in the mud. She just goes right through the mud as usual. These mornings are cold and foggy. I am back to needing a hat and gloves. By mid-morning the sun burns the fog off and then it is hot and beautiful. By late afternoon the cold is moving in again and the nights are very cold. Everywhere looks like spring but the temperatures keep it all a bit confused. There are buds and blossoms everywhere. Some plants have had buds in position for weeks now. They never open. They are frozen in some sort of Bud Ready Position. The boreen is lined with primroses both on the way down and on the way up. The chives have gone crazy. Their bunches are big and spreading. Did I ever mean to have so many chives? Have they always been so early and so plentiful? I have a few questions about chives. And the birds. The birds are making so much noise.

23 March Wednesday

We said good bye to dear friends yesterday. After fifeen years in Ireland, they are leaving and returning to Germany. I am happy for them as I know that they are making the right decision. I know that we will see them again later, in their new home and in their new life. I am sad for myself as I will miss having them in my life here. It is not as if we saw them every day or even every week. We just knew that they were there in County Cork. We knew that they were looking at the sea every morning while they ate their breakfast. We knew that two dogs from the neighbourhood arrived on their porch every day to join in with their dog Clara for a walk. We knew a lot about their life there as they knew a lot about our life here. We did not know everything. We liked the shared interests in our various activities. It is not so easy to find new friends as one gets older. It is one kind of thing to find comfortable relationships due to proximity. I think most of these are just acquaintances. It is another kind of thing to find real friendships. So many people are disappearing from our lives. There are so many illnesses and so many deaths. I know this is a part of getting older but I do not like it. Early this morning, Michael and Monika boarded the ferry to start them on their journey to their new life. I have been thinking of them all day. By tomorrow night the new life in Munich will have already begun. Clara will enter their new home and she will find some familiar smells and familiar furniture already there. She might notice that the cat is not there and she will certainly know by the smell that the sea is not outside. She will no longer be a dog who roams free with other sociable dogs who come visiting on their own. She will become a city dog who walks on a lead.

22 March Tuesday

In a newspaper report from the courts, the judge let a man go free 'on condition he be of good behaviour'.

21 March Monday

After all these weeks, the smell of something dead and rotting still lingers in my studio. It might be a new dead thing or it might be the same old dead thing. It is not too bad as long as I can leave the door open but the weather remains normal for March. Normal means a sunny and bright afternoon accompanied by a sharp and bitter wind. The cold wind forces me to close the door and then I am trapped inside with the smell. I have a little device which uses a candle to heat some lavender oil diluted with water. The lavender scent does not remove the smell of decay. It only covers it up. Today the afternoon sun was bright and it was not too cold. I had the door open and everything was pleasant. I heard Joe going back and forth on his tractor in the fields. After a while the stench of fresh slurry filled the air outdoors. He was spreading slurry and the slurry was spreading its smell. I could not keep the door open any longer. The smells inside and the smells outside were all horrible.

18 March Friday

Some years ago I was told that the paper-like cloth of the tea bag is made to be strong so that it does not fall apart quickly in hot water. Because of this strength it takes a tea bag a long time to break down. Ever since I was told this, I have torn my teabags before I throw them into the compost bin. I am so conditioned to tearing the cloth of a teabag before I throw it into the compost that I do this automatically even when I am in a city and nowhere near a compost heap.

17 March Thursday Patrick's Day

This is not a holiday I am paticularly fond of. The all day deep quiet of the countryside is the best bit. I never go to the bar on Patrick's Day. I cannot stand the implication that everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick's Day. Since I am American, everyone here assumes that I am Irish, and I hate explaining time and time and time again that I have no Irish blood in me. Not a drop. There is the assumption that all Americans are Irish. I know that I sound churlish when I point out the fallacy of this idea. If I explain the seven different nationalities mixed in my blood, and if I explain that all Americans are of mixed nationality and that the Irish are just one among many people and that they are not even the biggest proportion of the peoples of America, no one really listens. It is a conversation I now try to avoid. What I do like about this day is the 6 o'clock news on RTE. I love the coverage from all around the country of the various small parades. I love the homemade floats and the plowing machinery and the tractors and the boats on wheels and the small children in wiggly formations. My favourite marchers this year were a swim team in Waterford's parade. The team was a group of little boys, aged about nine, ten and eleven, I think. They flapped down the street wearing flippers on their feet and with their arms swimming along through the air in what looked like a crawl stroke. Most of them worked quite hard to roll their heads and practice rhythmic breathing as they swam up the street.

16 March Wednesday

Teresa is much better. I do not know if she is cured completely but she looks much, much better. Her two sisters from England have been taking turns staying here instead of both staying all the time. That seems like a good sign. The family from Fermoy have started to dig two vegetable patches out back. One whole plot is just for potatoes. The other one will be for Everything Else. This is a fine project. They will be able to come up and spend time and do things for Teresa but they will also have the activity of the garden to keep them all busy. Seamus is pleased that they are doing it, but he keeps mumbling how much he hates gardening. He is off to Fermoy himself tonight. He has been invited to judge a singing contest. And tomorrow he will spend Patrick's Day in Fermoy. When I spoke to him he was very excited to get on his way.

15 March Tuesday

The Bottle Banks down in the village are in the car park next to the church. It is often tricky to arrive with a load of bottles and jars for throwing into the recycling containers and to find the car park unexpectedly full of cars. If a funeral or some sort of church service is going on, it feels rude to start smashing the bottles. It is not a job which can be done quietly. I really hate driving back home with all of my rattling glass. Em loves going along for the Glass Crash. She likes the car park when it is empty. She follows smells all around the perimeter of the paved area. Then she goes up onto the grassy area by the stream where there are a few picnic tables. There is a lot of smelling to do as this is where many local dogs come to walk. In good weather there is also the possibility of dropped food. If I stop with just a small number of bottles to smash, I am finished too quickly and she has not had time for her full circuit. On these occasions it is difficult to get her back into the car. This is my excuse for leaving the bottles and jars to really add up and then I take a huge load down and Em has plenty of time for her investigation of the village smells.

14 March Monday

Today is the first day that the cows have been back in Joe's field. Many of them were young and very frisky but some were just quietly and busily down to the work of eating fresh grass. Em has been keeping an eye on them all day. She positioned herself very flat in the grass right at the edge of the field and under the fence. Her nose is in the cow's field and the rest of her is safely on our side of the fence. There is an enormous black and white bull who has been coming close and watching her all morning. As he hovered nearby to watch her, he was a massive presence in the long horizontal window of the book barn. I stood at the table pasting pages and the light seemed to be sucked out of the room. Maybe it was because he was so black on the side which faced me in the barn, but I think it was because he was just so big. It was the first time I have ever had my working light blocked by a bull.

13 March Sunday

Simon moved the small printing press from the book barn back up to the printing shed. He moved it down to the book barn in the first bitterly cold days of December. It was simply too cold to do any work up in the printing shed. By the time we got it ready for work with a halogen light to provide both heat and light, and extension leads coming from the window of the big room in the house and the ink left somewhere for at least an hour to allow it to warm and soften up, it was already getting dark and so much preparation work had been done that the work of printing seemed like one chore too many. Moving the press down to the book barn for a few months was an easier option. Now that spring is here the press has migrated back to its warm weather home. A form of transhumance.

12 March Saturday

Daffodils are fully up and there are buds ready but most of them are not in flower yet. Every year I intend to plant some early flowering bulbs but then, every year I forget, and my blooms are all a bit later coming up than everyone elses. This means that my daffodils are still flowering long after most of them are long gone. I get to enjoy them all. Ideally, some early ones and some later ones would provide a long and beautiful growing season. Perhaps this year I will remember but chances are that by the time the autumn arrives and the time to plant bulbs is upon me, I will again be thinking of something else that needs to be done. At least my daffs are in big amorphous swathes and not just in some straight lines along the edge of a fence or a bed. Everyone around here seems frightened to have their blossoms in clouds and clumps throughout grassy areas. Everything is controlled about the growing of local daffodils which I guess allows everyone to mow their lawns like mad well before the daffodils have died back.Or maybe there is not such a love of the word Swathe. I love the word Swathe. For me, regimentation takes a lot of the pleasure away from the yearly arrival of daffodils. I like being surprised by them every year. I especially like how the areas of blossoms make me walk across the garden in different routes. Getting across to the sauna is especially circuitous.

11 March Friday

The stream down below is very full. The rushing sound of the water can be heard from the top of the meadow. I love the stream when it is full and deep and noisy. The only problem is that the overflow area around the stream has become extra muddy. My plank bridge has sunk deeply into the mud. Em does not even bother to walk over the plank any more. She goes right through the deep mud. I would say it is knee deep on her but she does not have knees. Halfway up her leg is the way to describe the level to which she sinks. I shall look around for a new something to use as a bridge.

10 March Thursday

The starlings are back. They are beginning to build their nests in the barn. It seems very early for this activity but I think that I think this every year.

9 March Wednesday

Today is the first day of Lent. It is also Ash Wednesday. I have not seen many people today but everyone I saw had a grey smudge of ash on their forehead. I think the idea is that one leaves the ash smudge on until it wears off naturally. I think it is not to be washed off. In theory, everyone who is Catholic is supposed to give something up for Lent. Forty days of abstinance from a chosen something. When St.Patrick's Day comes along it is right in the middle of Lent. Everyone is allowed to give up giving up for that day. If chocolate was given up, it can be eaten on Patrick's Day. If alcohol was given up, it can be imbibed on Patrick's Day. Little wonder that this is a popular holiday.

16 February Wednesday

Every tree has buds at the end of the branches. The daffodils are pushing up green everywhere. It is hard to walk across the grass as they are popping up throughout the grass, but they are still green and I do not want to step on them. I know that their swathes are in the vicinity of the snowdrops and mostly that helps me to steer clear. From year to year I do remember where they are but then I am always surprised by them again. The tulips are sending up leaves. The sorrell is up and its leaves are large enough to eat. Mint is showing tiny leaves. Everything is happening everywhere. The birds are eating more than ever. I can barely keep their food supply stations filled. Even when the day is grey and gloomy, it is difficult not to feel good about absolutely everything.

15 February Tuesday

Making a postcard with my airplane drawing printed on it was an extra. The airplane block had been made for my concertina book. We have made six printings of the same airplane moving across six painted pages of sky. I love the airplane so much that I could not stop there so we printed the same airplane onto some blue card. What a card. What an airplane. I cannot wait until they are dry.

14 February Monday

Simon cannot whistle. I can whistle and I use my whistle often. Em stops wherever she is when she hears my whistle. She turns her head towards me, or runs to find me and she waits to see what is happening next. Max hears my whistle and rushes down his driveway to join us for a walk. Simon hears my whistle and responds too. If we are in a crowded place out of doors, he hears it and comes to find me. Sometimes I use the whistle even in a supermarket or a large shop if I have lost him. I have always wanted to be able to make a very loud two-fingers-in-the-mouth kind of whistle but I could never learn to do that. Now I am pleased with my whistle. It is not piercing, but it is efficient. When I whistle in public most people do not realize that the sound has even come from me. If a whistle can be quiet, then that is exactly the kind of whistle I have.

13 February Sunday

The smell of Rodent Rot is much worse. It is horrible. I was only able to stay in my room for about twenty minutes today. Simon thought I was exaggerating. He went in there to prove that it was not so bad. He could not stay at all, and certainly not for twenty minutes. I do not want to imagine the state this rotting body is in, but I hope it is moving rapidly towards desiccation.

12 February Saturday

There is a new Drive-In Movie Theatre in Cork. When it opened a few months go, it was proclaimed to be the biggest Drive-In Theatre in Europe. I am not sure but what it might also be the Only Drive-In Movie Theatre in Ireland. Among the things it offers are a system of awnings which cover each motor car. Once the motor is under the awning it does not matter if it starts to rain as the awning will keep the rain off the motor car. The awning means that the driver never has to turn on the windscreen wipers. Windscreen wipers would be a serious detraction from film viewing. The outdoor screen is huge. These days many people have large flat screen televison sets in their homes. People can sit on their sofas and watch film action which is as large or larger than a real life. If four or more people go to the new Drive-In Theatre they will be squished into a motor car together. The people in the back seat will be straining to look around the heads of the people in the front seat. And everyone will be looking through a windscreen at a great big screen down the hill. I think that looking through the windscreen will reduce everything back to the size of a smaller television than most of these people have at home. I have not heard much about the new Drive-In since the excitement of its opening. I wonder if it is getting much business.

11 February Friday

Something has died in the walls or underneath the floor in my studio. It is giving off an interesting brown smell. With all of Tipperary out there why did this mouse or rat or whatever it is have to crawl in here to die? I have spent two hours working in here and now I realize that the interesting brown smell is making me dizzy.

10 February Thursday

Em skirts wide when we pass the home of the two dogs who attacked her. She skirts wide and she keeps me between herself and their gate. If a dog could walk on tip-toe, she would be walking on tip-toe. She is eager to pass quickly and unobtrusively so that her presence is not noted. Susie and Shep are waiting and they rarely miss her. If she is lucky, by the time they begin to bark, she is well past their gate. By the time they begin to bark, she is down the road and no longer in tip-toe mode.

9 February Wednesday

It is quarter past six. There is a soft, soaking drizzle of rain coming down. I just walked between two barns and the house and back again. There is enough light that I can see to walk without a torch. There is not a lot of light. It is almost dark. But there is enough to still see colour in the grass and to recognize the clumps of snowdrops in the grass. It is not dark enough to worry about stepping on the snowdrops. I can see the snowdrops in the grass and I can walk around them. It is quarter past six and there is this much light even on a gloomy wet day. Even with the rain, it can feel optimistic.

7 February Monday

The national election is in full swing. Posters and signs are everywhere. Our local TD has left his party and is running as an Independant. He is hoping to distance himself from the destruction his party wreaked upon the country while in office. His vans are everywhere. They are all covered with pictures of his head as well as his name and his slogan. Because the vans seem to be everywhere, there is the impression that Mattie himself is racing around the countryside and that he is everywhere. We know that he has an enormous family and an enormous extended family. These vans are being driven by many different people. The vans are being parked here and there, always in highly visible spots. They work as mobile signage. Mattie himself is not everywhere, but his name and his face are everywhere. One bit of election advice is that you cannot win an election in this country without going to funerals.

6 February Sunday

Tom Cooney has new gates. They have been a week or so coming. I walked by one day and I saw that his very large gates had been cut off from their cast iron hinges at the place where they joined into the cement pillars. This was a big job as they were well attached and made of thick pieces of iron. The gate hinges had been cut but the gates were still there and they were leaning against the pilars. There was a piece of blue rope tying the two pieces of the gates together in the center. The rope seemed silly as the gates could just be pushed away by a strong person. A bit of rope was not doing anything. These are very large gates. When the two parts are open they are big enough to allow huge farm machines to go into the yard and deposit hay bales or whatever they need to do. I think that each gate is about ten feet, or three and a half metres long, so the whole opening must be about seven metres, or twenty feet. These are Very Large Gates. After seeing the gates leaning against their pillars for a day or two, I walked past and saw that the gates were gone. They were completely gone, not just leaning over against a building or lying on the ground somewhere nearby. They were gone. The open space looked enormous and naked without them. I kept meaning to mention the cut-off hinges to someone. I meant to ask about the leaning gates, and then I meant to ask about the missing gates, but there was never anyone to ask and by the time I finished my walk I had always forgotten about both the gates and then the lack of gates at Tom Cooney's farmyard. Today there are new gates. The new gates are not made of cast iron, but they are made of some heavy aluminum alloy. The vertical bars of the gates are made of square lengths of the metal so they are fairly thick but they do not have the fine appearance of strong cast iron. The top of the gates enclose a horizontal area of curlicues. I hate these curlicues. They look all wrong for the kind of gate this is and for the kind of job this gate is doing. They might be all right for a gate on the way into a school yard or maybe into a home. No doubt Tom Cooney is happy with these gates and whoever made these gates for him is proud of their work. It is none of my business. I know in a short while I will stop seeing the gates as things that loom awkward and ugly and they will just be Tom Cooney's gates.

5 February Saturday

Wind. Wind. Wind. It feels like these loud winds have been here forever. I think it is actually only three days. The sound is constantly in our heads. We can hardly sleep for the sound. Now we have heavy rain along with the winds. I am back into my supply of rubber shoes. Actually I am never far from my supply of rubber shoes. Some people have lots of designer shoes and boots. They have party shoes and city shoes and country shoes. I have lots of rubber footwear. I have very rough rubber boots to wear in the garden, and I have tall rubber boots to wear when walking through fields. I have rubber clogs in three of four different styles. Some of these rubber shoes I would wear if I were going to the shop but some of these rubber shoes I would not wear anywhere but here. There is one pair of rubber clogs which I only wear back and forth to the sauna once a week. It would be great if I loved rubber but I do not. I appreciate rubber for its usefulness. It would be awful if I had only canvas or leather shoes. There would be long stretches of the year when my shoes would never be dry. The trouble with rubber shoes is how very hot the feet get while wearing them. I wore my tall rubber boots to yoga class one wild and wet night. The women at class were aghast that I would appear in town wearing muddy rubber boots. I think everyone in modern Ireland now lives in houses surrounded by tarmac and gravel. The aspiration is to never have mud on one's shoes. I do not know if this is just a practical consideration or if this about not looking like one's grandparents.

3 February Thursday

A man came by to cut down Teresa's apple tee. She said she just could not bear the mess of the apples all over the ground. She just had to have the problem of that mess eliminated and she had to have it done now. She was on a mission about some kind of housecleaning and she was not going to be deterred. I reminded her of how beautiful it was when the huge old tree blossomed every spring. One of the sisters said Yes, but it does not last long, does it? Any old wind comes along and it is all over. The man was revving up his chain-saw as I left. As I write this I know that the tree is gone. The tree is now cut up into pieces to be dried for firewood. The pieces are already piled up in the shed. There are no other trees in Teresa's yard. There are bushes and shrubs, and there are mature trees around the edges of her land. There are no trees like that old apple tree. I shall miss it.

1 February 2011 Tuesday

Saint Brigid's Day. On the radio and in conversation and even in the newspaper, today is heralded as The First Day of Spring. There is no talk here of the groundhog seeing his shadow or not seeing his shadow. There is no talk of that shadow sighting being the harbinger of an early spring nor of there being a guaranteed six more weeks of winter. Here the first day of February is The First Day of Spring. Yes, we have snowdrops up and blossoming everywhere and yes, we have an inch or two of daffodil showing through the soil. Yes, we have tiny buds appearing on branches, but it is still very cold and the days are still short and it feels much too early to call this spring. I am alone in thinking like this.

29 January 2011 Saturday

We are all worried about Teresa Murphy. I stop by many mornings as Em and I walk past. I speak to whoever is in the kitchen. Sometimes it is one of her two sisters or sometimes it is Seamus. Sometimes it is Teresa herself. The early prognosis of the cancer was that it was discovered too late and that Teresa would not live until Christmas. Her two sisters came over from England and one of the sisters husbands came too. Her son and daughter-in-law from Fermoy drive up often. On Christmas Eve they came with their three children and everyone slept over in sleeping bags all over the house. They lit Chinese lanterns in the back yard and sent them up into the darkness of the night with wishes tied to them. On New Years Eve, the family came back and brought their sleeping bags again and everyone danced a Conga line through the house. The sisters and the husband are there to try to make life easier and to try to make life fun. In early January, Teresa got a new wig and she looks very youthful and lovely with it. Sometimes she looks so good, we all forget that she is ill. Sometimes she cannot get out of bed.

27 January 2011 Thursday

The men who are clearing Cooney's wood have finally come back and they are dragging the felled trees out and cutting them up into lengths of about two metres. These are not big trees but there are a lot of them. The piling up of the young trees is on the flattened out area where the rubble from Maisie's house was dumped. One day when the men were not there I climbed over the fence to try to find my collection of pieces of Maisie's green wall. There has been so much heavy movement on top of my gathering that I could only spot a few pieces. The trees are being piled up on both ends of the area. Every few days a lorry comes and takes away a load of the trees. Whichever end has been cleared then gets filled back up again. The men are working hard. Today, as I walked past, they were taking a break. All three of them were leaning against one car. They were very quiet. They were drinking steaming cups of coffee or tea from their flasks and they each had a newspaper spread out for the reading on the bonnet of the car.

26 January 2011 Wednesday

The lean-to has collapsed with the weather. This is not the big lean-to but the extra lean-to which was built onto the side of the big lean-to a year or so ago. At that time we needed more storage space for the firewood. Now the extra lean-to has been emptied of firewood. In the order of firewood rotation, it was time to use that supply. Perhaps the wood was holding the little lean-to in position. Now it has collapsed and I do not see any reason to rebuild it. For now, it is just pieces of wood and an old window.

25 January 2011 Tuesday

Yesterday, in the distance, I saw a field full of white plastic bags. They were not very big plastic bags and they seemed to hold a tight small bundle and then a tied off bit, with a bunch more plastic at the top. The bags seemed too small to be of any use to a farmer. They would not carry much. I thought perhaps they were holding something heavy and that their job was to be weights, but they were not weighing anything down, they were just scattered around on the grass. Then I thought that they might be some sort of quiet crow scaring device. The usual crow scarers sound like a gun shot and they go off at irregular intervals to startle the crows. The intervals can be anywhere from three to ten minutes apart, maybe more. They can be very annoying as some dogs bark every single time they hear the sound of the shot. Sometimes the crow scarers are hooked up to keep scaring all night. There is nothing more disturbing than falling asleep and being woken up to the sound of a gun shot in the distance. Anyway, as I got closer to the field full of white plastic bags, I saw that they were not bags but birds. They had seemed small as plastic bags but as birds they were big. They looked like swans or maybe geese. I met someone further up the road and asked if she had seen these birds. She said she had counted ninety-three of them the day before yesterday. She said someone else had seen one hundred of them. She told me they were Whooper Swans. She pronounced it Hooper but now I learn there is a W at the beginning. The swans are traveling in large flocks and they stop to eat wheat or whatever they can find in pastures and near water. They graze in one area for a few days before they move on. They settle onto several fields and eat away. They were beautiful to see. Today I saw them again. Maybe they were the same group or maybe they were different. How would I ever know. By going closer, I could see that they each had a very nice yellow beak with a little bit of black on the end. I do not know how anyone could count them, as they are constantly walking around while looking for things to eat. They made a deep honking sound as they wandered. The group I saw was no where near one hundred. Maybe there were fifty, but I did not even attempt to count.

23 January 2011 Sunday

I am rushed out of the house in the morning so that Em can get on her way for her walk. I have just realized that while I think of this as a walk, she thinks of this as work. She has places to check and things to examine and she does each job in the same order every day. The first thing is the single fat blackberry branch that hangs out and over our path right at the bottom of the meadow. Every time I see it, I think I should bring the clippers and cut it out of the way. Instead, I step over it. Em sniffs it very carefully. Some days I can see a little bit of hair stuck on the thorns. This might be from the fox, or it might be from another dog or even from one of those horrible wild cats. Then we walk down to the swampy area which might be wet and muddy or it might be frozen solid. We have both taken to walking over the little plank which I carried down there one day when the area was particularly muddy. Em does not need to walk over this bridge but this is now part of her official route. As we climb up the boreen, there are places where the badgers have dug paths and places where the fox crosses over. There are pheasants to flush. Further on, there are dogs to greet and dogs to ignore. There is the swim to be swum and there is the stick to be carried. All of this is work. I should no longer be surprised when she arrives home and sleeps for an hour.

22 January 2011 Saturday

The Man from Donegal was right. The cold is deep and hard and it shows no sign of letting up. I am now wondering if we should be worried about the water pipes freezing again. I have a supply of filled bottles and containers. These are my insurance but mostly I assumed that if I were well prepared, it would surely not freeze again. In the midst of this icy weather, the farm work continues. Farmers all around us seem to be on a scheduale to spread slurry this week. It is odd to see the tractors racing over white and frozen fields and to see the slurry spraying out but not to be able to smell it. Not smelling slurry is not such a bad thing. And today our whole world is very white. There is a freezing fog sitting low over the land so there is little visibility in any direction. Every branch is covered with a furry coating of ice. Even the utitlity cables look like fuzzy lines through a sky which is barely blue and barely grey but not really white either. The cables read as bright white lines drawn through a pale background.

20 January 2011 Thursday

We recieved a gift of a Canadian bird-feeder. It is a very fancy bird-feeder and it is especially made to keep squirrels from stealing the birds food. We do not have any squirrels around here, but if we did this squirrel-proof bird-feeder would defeat them. It is like a Rolls Royce compared to the motley selection of devices I have built and acquired to feed the birds. My old colanders and that little triangular plastic thing for the corner of a sink look droopy and crooked and sad compared to this shiny new Canadian apparatus. Every year we seem to have more and more bird feeding stations and more and more kinds of bird food and more and more birds coming to eat. Every year I think that this will be the year when I really learn who is eating what food. I shall learn which birds are which. I shall learn which birds bully which other birds in order to take over the food supplies. This winter is slipping by and I am still no wiser about who is who.

19 January 2011 Wednesday

When I came out of the shop there was a group of very small children being lined up on the sidewalk. Two women from the Day Care Centre had the children pressed up against the car. They were all reaching out and stroking the glass and making cooing noises through the window. Em had climbed from the back of the car up and into the passenger seat. The children were talking to her and patting the window as if she might feel their pats. Because I had parked so close to the curb they had a little height from the elevation of the sidewalk and they could look her in the face. She kept her head very close to the window and watched them quietly as they played at stroking her. When I saw what was happening, I offered to let Em out of the car so that the children could pet her. One of the woman said No No, don't even think of it! They would be terrified to see her in person. This way is better. It is like she is on the television.

18 January 2011 Tuesday

For a few years it was all about The Man from New Zealand. Everyone quoted him and his weather predictions. If he said things would be dry and warm, everyone was pleased and he was spoken of with great admiration and familiarity. He was nearly a saint. If he predicted dreadful cold and wet summers, he was quoted as a harbinger of doom. Whatever he said carried an air of inevitabiltity. His predictions were not to be questioned, and his voice was given more credence than anything from Met Eireann or anyone more local. I never checked his website. I think a lot of other people never looked at it either. They all just repeated the received information of the day as truth. For a long while now I have not heard anyone speaking of The Man from New Zealand. Now it seems to all be coming from The Man from Donegal. And The Man from Donegal says we are in for another bout of hard frost and deep, deep cold.

16 January 2011 Sunday

The days are lengthening. Everyday is longer than the day before. We all remark that there is a bit of a stretch in it. The light seems to be changing faster and faster. The shortest day of the year is the 21st of December but locally the visible lengthening of days is measured from the 6th of January. They call this The Cock's Step. Every little amount of each days extra daylight is determined by the length of his step. I understand that there is one minute and a half of extra light every day. I do not know exactly how this translates into the distance of The Cock's Step, but I assume he is rushing and then his steps would naturally be elongated.

14 January 2011 Friday

On returning from Paris, we found five dead birds tied to a stick. The stick was wedged up against the kitchen door. We examined them to see what they were. There were two small ducks, a large mallard and two pheasants. We moved the stick to lean against the bench so that we could get into the house. During the night, we heard the stick crash to the ground. The birds were being attacked by two wild cats. Luckily the necks had been well fastened to the stick with heavy twine, so the whole group was easy to pick up and transport to the shed. One of the cats ran away. The other cat was angry to be interrupted and robbed. Surrounded by feathers and bits of torn flesh, it stayed nearby and hissed at us. The next day, the man who shot the birds called by to make sure we had found them. He told us how long they had been hanging. We thanked him and he promised to bring more when he shot more. This afternoon, Simon spent a few hours plucking, cleaning and preparing them at the table outside. I thought Em would be fascinated by the smells and the buckets of feathers and innards and the raw flesh. I thought she would sit as close to Simon's feet as possible in the hopes that he would drop something for her. Instead, she refused to stay anywhere near the activity and she came inside for a nap.

5 January 2011 Wednesday

We have three enamel bread tins. None of the tins are new. One of them is white with a white lid. This tin is rectanglar in shape. It is 250 mm tall. It has the delicate black letters BREAD embossed on one side. It has black handles too. This one is the one in which we keep our bread. It stays on the shelf in the larder. There is another one, white with a blue top and very thick black letters for the word BREAD, which I keep under the table outside. This one has more chipped enamel than the one in the larder. It is also rectangular but much taller than the other one. It does not have handles, just indentations in the metal sides for ease in moving it. We keep washed and squashed metal tins in this one. When it is full we take it to the recycling depot. Everytime I go the man there asks me if I am throwing away the bread tin too. Every time I say no. The third bread tin is a strange old-fashioned green colour with funny little handles which are black and a handle on the top which is black. This tin is round and taller still and it has no writing at all but what else could it be but a bread tin. This tin is on the floor of the tool shed. It has five jars of sour dough mothers inside it. I am not sure if the mothers are still active and good but we know exactly where they are when we are ready to check.

4 January 2011 Tuesday

I went into town today to do a few errands and mostly to get the Motor Tax taken care of for the new car. The whole of Clonmel was heaving. There were cars and people everywhere. Everyone else had decided to come in to town to do a few errands too. Shops and offices were open but the schools do not re-open until the tenth. Everyone was tired of being trapped by the weather and the holidays and their families. The Motor Tax office was full of people. They were standing and sitting and there was no more space. The wait was long. When I finally got my turn, I had to leave and take my form down the street to the Garda Station because this car had not been taxed since August. I needed a Garda to verify that it had not been driven in that time or at least that it had not been driven by me. There was a small crowd at the station but after a very short wait, the officer on duty signed and stamped my form. He asked for no proof that the car had not been driven. My next wait at the Motor Tax office was not as long as the first wait but it was not as short as the one at the Garda Station. The whole thing took me one and a half hours. Now the motor is legal. I wonder will anyone notice that this is a new old silver Volvo or will they just think that it is the same old silver Volvo?

3 January 2011 Monday

I saw Oliver Hackett as I walked today. He was in the white truck which he uses to deliver blocks and bags of coal and bags of turf. He stopped in the road, and I opened his passenger door to wish him a Happy New Year. For a while, he was a bit bad tempered with me. He had been convinced that I was English just because Simon was English. When I corrected him one day, he refused to believe me. He was angry with me, not for being an American, but angry because he had been wrong. I do not know if he felt like he had been tricked or if he just did not like to be wrong. Anyway that was a long time ago. We discussed that fact that he had not delivered any firewood to us this year. He knew that we had quite a good supply stored up so he had not expected to hear from us until the spring or at least February. I asked how he was and he said he was not very good. He said he had terrible pain in his leg and his groin and his hip. He pointed to an aluminum walking stick on the floor of the truck and he said I cannot walk without that any more. He said I have crutches at home too but this stick is just for going out. I asked if he was able for driving at all. I said Isn't the clutch difficult with a bad leg? He said I can just about do it but I won't be doing it for much longer. He said there are a lot of jobs I would have done if I had known things would be going like this. There are things I would have done but now I cannot be doing them so they just won't be done.

1 January 2011 Saturday New Years Day

Two women in the shop were discussing which kinds of newspapers are the best kind for getting the fire started. One of the women confessed that she had taken to using firelighters in recent years but what with money being tight she was going back to starting the fire with paper and sticks. They both agreed that the colour supplements were completely useless and that any kind of shiny pages were not very good either. One of them swore by the Irish Independant and the other preferred the Nationalist. The Irish Times and the Times from England were about the same in terms of flammability, but neither of the women bought these papers often. South Tipp Today was reliable, and especially good because it was free.

31 December Friday New Years Eve 2010

We had a delivery of the post today. And we had a delivery yesterday. Before that there was a delivery on Christmas Eve. Now there will be no delivery until Tuesday 4 January. That will be four deliveries in 12 days. Even without the difficult weather, this country takes its winter holidays very seriously.

28 December Tuesday

Yesterday morning the waste pipes thawed and by this morning we have water flowing through the taps again. Eight or nine days was long enough to be without running water. We are delighted by how easy life has become. The whole morning has been taken up by reorganizing all of the buckets and big containers. I am refilling a lot of things as we hear threats that the weather will return to the deep cold in ten days. We might as well be ready. Meanwhile both the kitchen and the bathroom feel so much bigger without all of the lined up water containers.

26 December Sunday Stephens Day

We have been attending our own little Michael Haneke Film Festival as a distraction from the cold and the enforced isolation. It is depressing to watch one of his films after another, but we are making no attempt to stop. There are 10 films in this boxed set and we plan to see them all. Our other schedualed activity is chess lessons. We have started these lessons several times over the years but they have never lasted for long. Now we are so cold that it is not even possible to go to work in one of the barns. We are trapped so it is a good variation in amongst our survival activities. Simon hates to play games but he loves chess because it is about strategy. I love to play games and since this is the only one he is willing to play, I am working hard to learn it quickly. So far I keep forgetting how very useful my Queen is. This is good for Simon and not so good for myself.

24 December Friday Christmas Eve

The Council came and filled holes in the road yesterday. I have been trying to get them to come and do this since last winter. The track is still rough but compared to two days ago it is wonderful. This morning, we walked a mile and a half to a neighbours house to take showers. We took clean clothes and towels in our backpacks. We admired the hole filling as we walked up the boreen and then we admired it all again as we walked back down again a few hours later. The cold is not letting up at all. Our lives seem to be about nothing but survival and staying warm. Now the out pipes have been frozen for a few days too. Everywhere we have water in buckets and containers. There are ladles and small and large pitchers. There are bottles of bought water and there are water bottles filled with tap water from other taps than our own. There are different waters for different jobs. Everything, even washing a few dishes is a complicated job. The water needs to be decanted into a kettle or a pot and heated on the stove. Then it is poured into a small dish pan and a bit more is poured into another small dishpan. Things are washed and rinsed and then the water must be thrown outside. It is terrible to go outside with wet hands to empty the water. It is best to dry ones hands and put on mittens before doing even this very quick job. We are trying to use as few dishes as possible. Two water glasses sit on the big table. There is one for each of us. We have used these same two water glasses all week. We will continue to use them. I keep thinking of the farmers all over the country who are having a terrible time getting water to their animals. Their tasks are enormous compared to our small issues. In the middle of our own small issues I cannot really imagine their problems. Selfishly I can only think about the most immediate things, and right now everything is an immediate thing.

22 December Wednesday

The walk up the boreen is very icey. There are waterfalls frozen in formation all the way up and it looks very beautiful but it is very hard to walk up along and over it. The stones are covered with ice and the muddy places are frozen hard. It is difficult to find a foothold. Even Em with her four legs is slipping and loosing her balance. Up in the area of the Large Apple Walk, it is all a bit sheltered and less icey. The apple flesh has been eaten by birds or rats or both. The apple skins are shells which have been completely hollowed out. These shells sit like beautiful delicate porcelain bowls scattered on the old leaves. Em and I step carefully through them which is a pleasant change from just trying not to slip and fall on the ice.

20 December Monday

While standing in the library waiting to have my books checked out, I listened to the librarian talking with the woman in front of me. The woman was talking about the problem of reading heavy books in bed. She said that finally she had given up on large and cumbersome books in bed. She had taken to reading only certain kinds of smaller books in bed. She asked the librarian if she had the same problem. The librarian said that when she went to bed, she turned off the light and she went to sleep. She never read anything in bed. The woman and I looked at each other. We were not quite speechless but we both had a look of surprise on our faces. The woman asked me if I read in bed. I said Indeed I do read in bed. Bed is my very favorite place for reading. The librarian said that she has a small table in one corner of her kitchen. She has a good lamp on the table and her ashtray and she likes to sit and smoke cigarettes and read. She said that she likes to smoke almost every minute that she is reading. She said sometimes I do not know if I read while I smoke or if I smoke while I read. I have noticed that sometimes my library books smell like cigarette smoke. It is usually things like thrillers and mysteries that have the strong odour. I am never very happy to have this smell in the bed with me. Often I can still smell it even when the book is closed and the light is off. I have considered having a good sniff of my chosen books before I leave the library but I always forget to do it when I am there. Now when I next get into bed with a smokey book, I shall just assume that it was recently read by the librarian herself. I shall picture her sitting at her little table smoking and smoking endlessly while she reads for hours on end.

19 December Sunday

The water pipes froze last night. I was expecting this to happen as this hard deep cold has gone on for so long. I filled some extra buckets last night before going to bed. As much water as we put aside when we have running water, it looks like nothing when the water is no longer coming out of the faucets. There is still water in the tank so we are trying to use that sparingly. This cold is so deep and penetrating that the house never really feels warm.

18 December Saturday

The Liam McCarthy Cup is still doing the rounds of the county. Tipperary is a big county so it looks like this cup will be able to travel all year and it will still have more places to appear. We regularly see photographs of it in the newspaper. One week it will be shown at a school surrounded by students. The next week it might be at a sporting event. This week The Liam was being held up proudly by the Chinese family who run The Emerald Garden Restaurant. No one here would say that they saw this photograph in the paper. They would say that they saw it on the paper. If they read an article, they read that on the paper too. Sometimes, it is just: It was on the paper.

16 December Thursday

We went to fetch the new car at Mike's. He has had it at his garage since Tuesday. On Tuesday, he and Simon went together to Tipperary town and met a man in the supermarket car park. The man was on his lunch hour. They looked at the car and they all discussed it. They made test drives and then Simon bought the car. The car is not new. It is a 1995 Volvo but compared to our 1988 version, it is New. This one only has 170,000 miles on the clock. Ours has close to 400,000. These cars do go and go. It was extemely cheap because no one wants to bother with a car this old. Even though it was cheap, Simon talked the price down a little bit. This was all part of the accepted behaviour. After he paid the man the agreed price, the man took 50 euro out of his pocket and gave it back to Simon 'For Luck'. This is also agreed behaviour. Today, Mike demonstrated all the details and differences of this new model. The former owner had typed up little labels. These labels were stuck down on various parts of the immaculately clean engine. Each label identified when a new part had been installed and was followed by a number like 140K. This was his code to say, for example, that a new fan belt had been installed at 140,000 miles. I should make a list of all of these labels before life down this rough old track changes all of the clean labels and the clean engine forever.

15 December Wednesday

I was told today that a surefire cure for arthritis is to soak raisins in gin for one week. After that, eat seven of the raisins a day. I want to believe this cure. I have my raisins soaking already and they will be ready to start being eaten on the 22 December. The raisins I used were a very old and dried up bunch of raisins. I hope they are not too old to do the job. I would dearly love for my left thumb to feel as good and to work as well as it used to.

14 December Tuesday

A band made up of thirty five little boys in red and white Santa Claus hats played their instruments for passing shoppers in The Market Place. In three positions near to the band were pairs of boys also wearing the red and white hats. One of these boys held a huge plastic margerine bucket with a slot cut in the top. He shook the bucket so that we passersby could hear the sound of the coins inside it. He shook the bucket to encourage us to put money into the bucket. The other boy waved a tambourine at people and hit it against his hand or against the other boy at intervals. Each pair of boys were a bit shy about approaching people. They stepped back a few steps when anyone came to put money in their bucket. I would guess that they were all nine or ten years old. The bands version of O Tannenbaum was the worst I have ever heard. The teacher kept conducting and the boys played with enthusiasm, but the music got no better.

10 December Friday

We drove the little car over to Mike today. We drove very slowly. The car got very hot and overheated. It is all much worse than we thought. It took Mike forty minutes just to get the bonnet open. The radiator is completely destroyed as are a lot of other parts of the motor. It has been declared dead. It is not worth spending the money to repair it. The country is full of second hand cars. Everyone is selling and no one is buying. In this case, repairing is not a viable option . Mike drove us home in his Jeep. Once here, he towed out the big Volvo, which has been paralyzed in position by all of the ice for ten days. The whole exhaust system had been ripped off too. He fixed that and now we will leave it parked up at the farm until this ice melts or breaks up. Most of the roads around are quite clear now but our ice is not giving up.

9 December Thursday

Talking to other neighbours while out walking, I found out more about Susie and Shep. I had decided that they were the gentlest and most cowardly pair of sheepdogs ever. They are, in fact, a vicious duo. They build up a grudge against a passing dog and then attack whenever possible. Coco is one of their targets. Now I guess Em is too. Max is too big to attack and anyway they have known him since they were puppies. I am astounded at how completely I could misunderstand the charactor of the two of them. I have the same feeling about Maurice. All the time I thought of him as yet another Gloomy Donkey. Now I think of him as Malevolent, not Gloomy. When I pass his meadow, I call out Hello Maurice- You Beast! Sometimes he acknowledges my greeting and sometimes he does not.

7 December Tuesday

We walked our usual walk today. As we went past the gate where Susie and Shep live, I saw that the gates were wide open. Most times, this suggests that the two dogs are hanging well back and peering at the road from behind some of the trees. There are dozens and dozens of trees there. The yard is a densely planted forest. The owner intends to grow all of his own fuel eventually. His plan is a a constantly thinned forest making way for more planting at the same time as some larger trees continue to grow and grow. The dogs have only ever been barking and brave when they are behind the gate. Today was the exception. They rushed out of the yard and attacked Emily. She was on her back in seconds and she was struggling hard to fight off the two young dogs. She is old and and they are young and there were two of them so they were much bolder. Max, who was walking with us, and who was the biggest dog by far, barked and barked and jumped up and down. He did not help with the attack nor did he try to see off the attackers. He just barked. I shouted and then I whacked the dog nearest to me. I kept shouting and ordering them home and eventually they rushed back into the trees. Em ran down the road with Max rushing behind her. He was gleeful and she was shaking. When we got home, I found only one small bit of torn flesh, so the battle was not too bad. I think I am more upset than she is. We have never had a fight in all of the years of walking we have done around here.

6 December Monday

Last night, I heard on the radio that rats are suffering in this cold. They are desperate to get inside. They want to enter houses, barns, rubbish bins, anywhere at all to find food and warmth. The programme made the threat feel so real that I panicked. After brushing my teeth, I put the plug into the bathtub. Just in case.

5 December 2010 Sunday

Walking through the crunchy snow in a dressing gown and little rubber clogs was terrible tonight. My shoulders were hunched up as high as was possible up around my ears. I was wishing that I had worn a wool hat and a scarf and a coat and socks. I was wishing that I was fully dressed. As I entered the sauna, the heat took my breath away. Very quickly the short painful journey was forgotten. The outdoor tap is frozen so there was no chance of a cold shower. I did love strolling back across the yard, with the torch and the very dark night sky, crunching again, but not feeling the cold.

4 December 2010 Saturday

The roads are still coated in ice. We understand that the bigger roads are clear and safe but that is not much good to us because we cannot even get out the boreen. The track through the farmyard is sheer ice. The roads where I walk with Em are treacherous. I feel safe if I am walking with a stick, but even then I stay on the edge. I try to keep at least one foot in the snowy bit of the grass. As I was walking along today I saw someone elses footprints in the snow. That would not be so unusual, but what was unusual was that these footprints looked like those of someone who was wearing high heeled boots. These boots had a long pointy toe and a very small heel. The most terrifying thing was the complete lack of tread on the sole of the boot. I could barely stop myself from falling while wearing heavy boots with good rubber soles and good traction. I could not believe this person could have made any progress without falling. Even in the middle of a town these boots would be inappropriate in this weather. Here there are no sidewalks. The footprints continued for quite a long distance. Every time I thought they had disapppeared, there they were again. After a few dozen metres they stopped. There was no sign of a fall, nor of a stick. Probably the person got offered a ride.

3 December 2010 Friday

There is so much work to do just to keep warm in this old house and to keep the snow cleared and to keep the ice from forming and to keep the wood piled up inside and the fire going and the fresh water put outside for the birds and the various food and seeds for the different birds and to get the cars started each day so that the batteries do not freeze. There are the heaters to turn up during the day in the book barns and then the work we try to do in the barns but that is getting more and more difficult. I have been carrying trayloads of paper up to the house and then, after I have folded the pages, I creep back down to the barn for another load. It is a slow way to work but it is easier than trying to fold paper accurately with frozen fingers. Today I managed to stay down there while I collated all of the folded pages of MENDING into their two sections. It was only possible because I was moving fairly fast around the big table. There is no chance that I will be sewing these books in the barn. When I am ready to sew, it will involve a new set of transportation up and down between the buildings.

2 December 2010 Thursday

Simon drove down to the village this morning. He was nervous about driving over the hump-backed bridge but it was gritted and felt safe. When he left the bridge and got onto the straight, flat stretch of road the car slid out of control and he smashed into the stone wall. Then the car kept sliding around and he smashed into the same wall with the opposite end of the car. Both ends are a mess but the motor still works. He was able to drive home but was very shaken by it all. Since the entire country has no money, it is not a surprise that the county council has no money to spend for spreading sand and salt on the roads. In many ways this unexpected early winter weather is a great distraction from the ongoing discussions of the desperate economic situation but in other ways it just points out the ongoing inefficiency and the lack of planning which created the mess in the first place.

29 November 2010 Monday

The bitter cold and the icy roads and the snow are showing no sign of letting up. I brought all of the onions in from the shed. They are hanging in the pantry where it is not warm, but it is not as cold as the shed. I could not bear the idea of them all being frozen. We also picked the very last bit of fresh tarragon out of the snow. It tastes like a wonderful and exotic treat in this cold. The new wood stove is fantastic. We are wondering why we waited so long to replace the old one. It is still far too cold to be happy but these small pleasures help us to keep going.

27 November 2010 Saturday

Today was Tom Browne's funeral. It took place at the church in Fourmilewater. I had never been inside that church. It is a large building and looks larger because of the way it sits on a slope which leads down into the graveyard. We sat next to a radiator because the day was so bitterly cold. The radiator was warm but its heat did not radiate much. The inside of the church was painted pale yellow, except for the end wall behind the priest, which was painted pale green. Along the walls there were light fixtures comprised of two fluorescent tubes inside long rectangular plastic covering devices, not unlike what would be found on the ceiling of an office or a shop. These lighting units were hung vertically, placed between stained glass windows and at intervals up around behind the altar. Each unit started about eight or nine feet from the floor. I had a lot of time to look around as I do not participate in any of the kneeling and prayer repetition and responses which keep everyone else busy. As usual at these Catholic funerals, there was no singing and no music of any sort. At one point the two altar girls rang some bells in response to something the priest said. Through one very lightly coloured window, we all kept an eye on the snow which was falling faster and thicker all through the service. The priest placed various tools on Tom's coffin: a plasterers float, a trowel, a dusting brush and something else. Then he said he would cut the prayers short so that we could get Tom buried before the snow got worse. Once outdoors the bitter wind and driving snow forced everything to be shortened again. People jumped into their cars and many just raced home to beat the storm. We went along to The Hidden Inn, where there were fried chicken legs and little sausages and hundreds of small triangular sandwiches on white bread all waiting to be eaten. Copious quantities of hot tea were drunk. I had three cups in quick sucession. Everyone was frozen to the bone. After the tea, people moved on to pints of Guinness or glasses of whiskey or brandy and quiet toasts to Tom. There were many older men there who had worked with him over the years. There were a great many discussions about his strength and his gracefulness and his skill in his trade. One man said Tom Browne could draw out a dolphin in plaster without even thinking about it. Everyone found it funny that the tools on the coffin were all brand new. Everyone knew that Tom had never had new tools. He had fixed, repaired and improvised with what he had and with what he found. We did not stay for too long. I wonder if many people did. There was none of the music or boisterousness of some other funerals. Tom's absence over the recent years had not meant that he was forgotten, just that his non-presence was already a norm. The threat of the snow and the cold was not much incentive for people to linger.

25 November 2010 Thursday

Tom Browne died last night. He was in The Cottage Hospital in Irishtown.  The Cottage Hospital is not really a hospital.  It is a residential care home for the elderly, but everyone calls it The Cottage Hospital.  Tom had been resident there for most of the last three years after several strokes rendered him helpless.  He spent some weeks down in Waterford recently after it was found that he had cancer.  The radiotherapy was much too much for his already weakened system. He was sent back home to The Cottage to die.  Strong amounts of morphine kept his pain down.  We saw him a few weeks ago and he knew us but he could not follow a conversation for very long.  I marveled that his dark brown hair was still dark brown with not a bit of grey or white in it, even at the age of eighty.  I always thought that Veronica must have been dying it to keep him looking younger, but I was wrong.  He was very proud to have his model houses and his projects in the book we produced.  He kept a copy of the book on display near his bed all the while that he lived at The Cottage.  He liked people to comment upon it.  He liked to explain how he made things.

22 November Monday

I was driving down to the village this afternoon when I was obliged to stop for a big lorry which was parked diagonally across the road. I turned off my engine and waited while two men drove a few cows up a ramp and into the back. They shouted and waved sticks in the air but mostly they waited while the cows took their time. The back of the vehicle had slatted sides and an open top. I could see two heads raised up and moving around as the cows sniffed the air. Dvorak was playing on the car radio. It was a sad piece with a violin. I waited for the last two cows to get loaded and I felt depressed about this probably being a ride to the slaughter house. I like meat. I have no problem with eating meat and I think it is good to know where meat comes from. Living here and surrounded by farms, it becomes easy to stop thinking about where many of the cows and sheep are eventually headed. I drove slowly down the hill behind the lorry. There was a thin stream of excrement dribbling out and onto the road. Maybe these cows were just being moved to another field on another farm. Wherever they were going I felt less sad knowing that they had a roofless ride. They were not shut up in a dark place while they were being moved and they had a soft drizzle of rain on their heads.

21 November Sunday

We heard the loud sound of a flock geese passing in the sky. Looking up, we expected to see them moving in formation, but we saw nothing. It took a few minutes to recognize that the sound was not geese at all but instead it was a cow bellowing in the field above.

20 November Saturday

Everything here is done at the last minute. On Thursday, I got a message asking me to gather up books to take to a sale for fundraising. Everything at the sale would be priced at two euro. I thought it would be a good idea to sort out some things to take along for this good cause. Then I saw that the things donated must be delivered by the next morning which was Friday in order to be ready for the sale which was on Saturday. Why couldn't I be given more notice? That way my gathering together of stuff could be considered and efficient. When announcements are sent out for exhibitions, the theory here is to do it at the last minute because if it is done too far in advance, everyone will forget about it and then they won't come to the event. If no one can plan in advance for something that means everyone is always dropping things for something else more immediate. Death here is always demanding. If someone dies today there will be a wake tomorrow and the funeral will be on the next day. That is an immediacy which does not allow for any questions.

19 November Friday

We stopped in at the pub. Rose had been waiting to give me 58 euro. She had been saving it in a glass until I next came in. I had won the little lottery which they do there every week. It is predicated on the bonus number for the big national lottery. We do not usually buy chances on this but someone had convinced us to participate as they were lacking enough numbers that week. If they did not get enough numbers it would be a very small prize for anyone to win. The chart with the numbers is ruled out on a piece of cardboard. The cardboard is cut from the inside of a cereal box. It has to be drawn on cardboard rather than paper as it gets passed around a lot and some people spend a long time deciding which number they will choose. A name is written in the little box beside the chosen number. My winning number was 2.

There was an old man sitting at the bar. I had never seen him there before. He introduced himself as Mick. He had enormous ears sticking straight out from the sides of his head. He was down for the weekend to visit his niece. He had ridden on the bus from Carlow and she had collected him in Clonmel. When the bells for the Angelus began to ring on the television, he took off his flat cap and put it tightly under his arm. He said Now it is time to pray. He closed his eyes and his lips moved silently throughout the bell ringing. When the bells stopped he stopped and he put his hat back on his head. He continued to tell me things about himself. He told me that he Took Himself Off The Road after he had a run in with a tractor. That was some years ago. He no longer drives at all but he enjoys taxis and he loves sitting high up in the bus. It was good to hear him ramble on. There are so few of these kind of old men to bump into these days. They are either afraid of the drink driving laws or they are without money to come out for a pint or they are dead. He was not at all interested in my 58 euro win. In fact he was not interested in me at all. He was interested to do all of the telling himself.

18 November Thursday

With all the trouble that this country and this government are in, I was surprised to get my free stamp at the post office today. The yearly Christmas gift of one free stamp when one buys a book of 55 cent inland stamps has not come under the attack of the new budget, or not yet anyway. At 13 euro 75, 26 stamps for the price of 25 feels like a real treat.

17 November Wednesday

I have never had a chance to get to know Susie and Shep. They are sheepdog siblings and they are always behind a gate. They bark wildly at Em when we pass but they do not bark much at me. Their predecessor was Kelly. She was also a sheepdog and I really loved her. There was no gate on the drive when Kelly was alive. When we passed, she would come out of the yard and she and I would sit down together on the grass and chat for 10 minutes or so. Em always ignored Kelly and Kelly ignored Em. I stroked her, and then said goodbye and she ran back into her yard and Em and I continued our walk. A few years ago, Kelly died suddenly. She had been poisoned. No one ever found out why. It was shocking and horrible. Susie and Shep arrived many months later. When I walked by today, Susie and Shep barely had time for us. That was odd. Then I saw that they had a cat trapped up a tree. It was a tall tree but it was young and the bare branches were not very substantial. The cat was shaking and the tree was shaking. I did not know what to do. I did not know if the dogs would become brave and maybe vicious if I let myself into the yard. Finally I just did it. I let myself in the gate and made Em stay outside. The two dogs were so excited about the cat that they barely registered my arrival. They stayed poised with their noses in the air keeping the cat in the tree, fearing and hoping it would fall out of the tree. I got one of them by the collar and started to lead him or her down the drive. The other dog was torn about staying with the cat or checking out what we were doing. Finally it decided to come along with us and I put them both in their pen where they barked with excitement. The cat had not used their absence as an opportunity to escape. It was terrified. I talked it quietly down branch by branch. It was very slow work. All the time I was working on the cat rescue, Em was trying to squeeze herself through a narrow opening in the gate. There was no chance that she would ever fit through it. Even the cat did not consider her a threat. I finally got the cat to a place where I could reach and I took it out of the tree and across to the bushes separating the yard from the neighbours yard. I put it on the ground and sent it off to where I think was home. Even if it was not home it was at least away from the dogs. I let Susie and Shep out of their pen and they raced back to the tree. I let myself out and left them there still searching the upper branches for the cat. This was my first cat rescue ever.

16 November Tuesday

The Large Apple Path is more slippery than ever. It smells like a cider press as I struggle along it. In contrast, The Crab Apple Path is not breaking down at all. That section is still wildly precarious for walking and for balance. The colours are good. The colours are so exciting they look like it has all been planned. The crab apples themselves are bright yellowy green and they are scattered among leaves which are brown and yellow and gold. The leaves are all very small. They pile upon each other delicately. On top of the leaves are hundreds of bright red holly berries. In among all of this, there are stones covered with bright green moss. The moss is so bright it is nearly flourescent.

10 November Wednesday

This has been a big year for horse chestnuts. Every time I walk out I bring some home and put them in a bowl. I love how shiny they are. In a few days they lose their shine but I am always bringing more so the ones on the top of the bowl are always lovely and bright. On the road up by Maisie's old house, so many have fallen and so many have been run over and stepped on that the road surface is completely covered with a gritty chestnut meal. The tarmac has been obliterated.

9 November Tuesday

I have never been able to understand exactly when people here use the word 'so'. Someone might say I'll ring you later then so. They also might say the same sentence without the 'so'. When is it used and when is it not used? Is there a logic to it or is it just an occasional thing? I think that the use of 'Now' is always at the beginning of sentences. That is a way to begin the act of speaking. 'So' seems to come at the end. I shall try to pay more attention and see if I can define this. I do not think it is just Tipperary. The more I think of it the less I understand it. I rather wish I had not brought it up.

8 November Monday

The huge and terrible rains and flood were not so huge and not so terrible. There was plenty of rain but it did not wreak the terrible destruction which was threatened. We spent all day Sunday anticipating it. The morning was glorious with blue skies. The afternoon just got steadily greyer and greyer. We managed to get the structures for two new compost heaps built in the afternoon. These we made from the pallets that Dessie gave us weeks and weeks ago. At five o'clock the rain started, exactly when the weather people had predicted it would start. Then it just rained and rained and rained and rained until morning. Em and I walked out in the morning in a gap between heavy showers and not so heavy showers. The water has done a lot towards breaking down the Big Apple Path. It is mushy and it smells lovely. The Crab Apple Path is less damaged. They remain very hard and dangerous, these little crab appples.

6 November Saturday

I have just found out that the Gloomy Donkey is named Morris or Maurice. I think it is probably Maurice. I never thought of him as having a name. While I have been worrying about this Gloomy Donkey being lonely, I am now told that he has taken to biting people. The reason he is alone in the meadow is because he killed his baby and began attacking his wife. I have less reason than ever to stop and talk with this creature. I am curious to know why he is so mean.

5 November Friday

There are huge floods predicted for the weekend. Galway city and other places are in sandbagging frenzy. These floods are anticipated because of some high tide action which is going to occur at the same time as torrential rain. So far Sunday night is promised to be the worst of it all. It is not much fun to look forward to. Last week we had many hours of heavy rain. There was loads of it in a very short time. There were flash floods and traffic was diverted all over the place. That was all without this predicted high tide activity. The tides make the rivers run inland at speed instead of out to sea as they usually do. A woman I do not know stopped me in the village and asked if I own a cat with a red collar. She and her daughter saw a cat with a red collar up on the stone side of the bridge and then they saw the cat jump off and into the swollen rushing river. She was not sure if the cat jumped or if it got blown right off by the wild winds. Cats are smart. I do not think it would have jumped.

4 November Thursday

Yesterday the electricity went off at about 4 in the afternoon. I went and checked to see if the farm had lost their power too and they had. They have a generator for the event of a power loss but it was not wired up for some reason. I talked to the ESB men who arrived looking for a break in the cables. By the time I walked back home it was quite dark. I tried to get on with some things but it is amazing how much we expect everything to go on as usual and without electricity it just doesn't. Water does not even come out of the faucets if the electric pump does not work to bring it from the well. We gave up doing anything and went down to the village to see if the lights were off there. On the way we checked up on a few elderly neighbours to make sure that they had candles and torches. The lights were off everywhere and as we looked across the hills, we could see that everything was dark for as far as we could see. That is quite far. Everywhere was very very dark. The only lights we saw were the flashing yellow lights from the trucks of the ESB in different distant locations. We went into Rose's where a few people were sitting at the bar drinking things that came in bottles because of course the pressure pumps would not work for the draught drinks. There were a few candles lit on the bar and there was quiet conversation. A few songs were sung, again, very quietly. It was nice. One man had come down from way up the mountain. He knew that if it was just his own house without power, he would have to wait for some days to get it repaired, but if it was out everywhere it would be repaired quickly. He just had to come down to find out. At 7.30 or 8 o'clock the lights came back on and so did the television. A football match was on and together with that noise, the flourescent lights turned the bar into a completely different place. We came home and ate dinner by candlelight.

3 November 2010Wednesday

The walk up the boreen is a struggle now. At the best of times the old Mass Path is really no more than an old stream bed. With all of the wet fallen leaves the rocks are now quite slippery and because the rocks are mostly loose one slip of the foot usually means another slip. Up near the top there is a section about three metres long which is completely covered with crab apples. The crab apples make for dangerous walking. I imagine it is not unlike walking over ball bearings. Further up from the Crab Apple Path there is the Large Apple Path. This is a more narrow section, heavily overgrown with brambles and tall stinging nettles. There is a lot to pay attention to in this section of the walking because of the attacks from the thorns and the nettles. I need to look up and all around as I walk but it is essential to look down at the moving rolling apples. The large apples underfoot are really dangerous. There is not one single place to put a foot down on flat ground. Luckily the big apples are starting to rot. This is making things slippery but less of a balancing act. Hopefully the crab apples will soon start rotting too.

31 October Sunday

Tom is in the hospital. He has cancer and is not doing well with this on top of his many strokes His wife rang to see if we had a bottle of Guinness that she could take to him. The hospital had phoned her and asked her to bring in a bottle in the hopes of stimulating his appetite. I was quite surprised by this as a request from a hospital but apparently this is not an unusual procedure when a patient is not eating. I gather that it was more normal in the past, but that it is still a useful method when someone remembers to try it. Unfortunately, it is not possible to buy a bottle of Guinness anywhere on a Sunday morning so I do not know if she found a bottle, nor if it worked to stimulate his appetite.

30 October Saturday

Last night I walked down the meadow with Em. Something felt odd. I decided it was just the slippery wet grass with the lumpy ground underfoot. When we returned to the house I saw that I had pulled my rubber boots onto the wrong feet. That explained my feeling of not walking in a straight line.

29 October Friday

Having no children in the local school system, I am often surprised to see kids suddenly everywhere in the middle of the day. I never know in advance when a half-term holiday is coming. One way I have come to recognize that it is half-term is when I see children driving around in delivery vans and trucks with their fathers or brothers or uncles. They seem to delight in sitting up high while driving through the countryside. Some of them are very eager to help. They run in and out of shops carrying bread or boxes of fruit and vegetables. Others just sit in the vehicle and wait for the journey to continue.

27 October Wednesday

I drove to Tipperary town yesterday to take some papers to the accountant. Mostly we send things to him by post but since we are late with our tax forms, it seemed wiser to deliver them by hand. I had not been to the office for many years. I was a bit embarasssed by Simon's lumpy, taped together parcel of papers. I wondered why he had not put it into tidy folders or into a box. As soon as I walked in the door and put the parcel on the counter, it looked just right. The conspicuous consumption behaviour of the Celtic Tiger years never touched this business. The two story building was once a home and it still shows evidence of family life. The receptionists office was once a kitchen and it has all of the kitchen cupboards intact and in use. There is a worn linoleum floor and there are worn formica counter tops. The stove has been taken out and replaced by another cupboard. A sink and a small refrigerator are in place, no doubt useful at lunchtime and for the making of tea and coffee. The hallway has floral wallpaper, as does our accountants upstairs office. It appears that he is working in a bedroom. Enormous piles of papers and folders are on every surface and piled high on the floor all around his desk. The last time the room was wallpapered, a space was left for a standing wardrobe. The wardrobe is no longer there so another older floral patterned paper shows in that vertical rectangle. Also missing is the bed.

26 October Tuesday

A wet day. Simon was finally able to meet the delivery truck in a car park. Together he and the driver shifted the 28 boxes of books from the truck to the old Volvo in a fine soft drizzle. He drove home carefully hoping not to need to brake suddenly as the rear door of the Volvo does not work on its catch anymore. A sudden stop would mean boxes on the road. He then moved all 28 boxes down to the book barn using a wheelbarrow with a flat tyre. This involved a number of trips, all in a fine soft drizzle. We later learned that the other part of the shipment had already been delivered in New York four weeks ago. No doubt no one at that end had to unload and load themselves, nor would there have been any wheelbarrow activity.

24 October Sunday

The Gloomy Donkey is back in the meadow. He has been there for some weeks now. The llama has been absent from both fields for a long time. The donkey looks lonely and spends a lot of time leaning up against the bushes. At first I thought this was a way for him to shelter from the wind but now I see that he is pressing himself there on calm and warm days too. I wonder if it is a way for him to feel less lonely. He responds to my voice when I speak to him but I cannot get myself too interested to talk to him about much. Em has absolutely no interest in him.

22 October Friday

I was at the supermarket today and I went into the sheltered unit to return my trolley and to get my euro coin refunded. Between myself and the trolleys there was a small elderly man sheltering from the wind while having a pee. He waved to me with his free hand and said, No worry! I'd be nearly done!

12 October Tuesday

I am back to needing a torch when Em and I walk down the meadow at night. The days are closing in earlier and earlier. I tried to walk down without the torch on last night. I soon walked off the path and into the long wet grass. Em does not seem to see any differently in the day or the night. She races off barking and oblivious, led by smells.

10 October Sunday 10-10-10 Everyone is excited by this very beautiful line-up of numbers.

I have received three notices from the Warden at the Embassy in Dublin this week. Each notice tells me to be wary of crowds and of terrorist threats. It is obvious that they do not know where I live. Ironically, an article in yesterdays Irish Times said that the Irish are very safe from terrorism in far away places. It said that terrorists want their hostages to be British or American. The Irish are of no use to them. The only problem the Irish face in an attack situation with guns or bombs is that they always run right toward the noise and commotion instead of in the opposite direction. This eventually gets them involved. Sometimes it gets them into big trouble.

8 October Friday

The wind has been wild since last night. I need a latch on the inside of the door in my room. It is not a straightforward door. It is one of our homemade jobs. I can only close it securely from the outside. This is fine in the summer as I like to leave it open anyway. When the wind is strong like today, I simply cannot keep the door closed. It blows open and papers go flying everywhere. I have tried various rocks and bricks. I have tried a big wooden butter box. All of these things work for a while but a big gust of wind will still push the door open. Whatever solution I find eventually becomes a problem as I have to move everything again as soon as I need to leave the room. I have tried to convince Em to lie down and sleep in the little well space of the door so that she can hold it closed for me. This is not a good solution as she is easily distracted. I only think about this problem when it is terribly windy. When the wind dies down I will forget about it until the next time. I really must fix it before the next time.

7 October Thursday

I cut through the car park of the old Crazy Prices store in Clonmel. As I walked I saw a truck with a big white sign with red letters advertising CASH FOR CLOTHES. I thought about this as I did my errands so when I returned I went over to the truck to see what it was about. How is money being made with Cash for Clothes? It was yet another sign of the New Austerity and Hard Times, but I could not quite read it. There was a man sitting on a plastic chair inside the truck. He was drinking a cup of coffee. There were big black plastic sacks piled up behind him. They looked like they were stuffed full of clothing. I asked if he was really paying for old clothes. He said yes. I asked him how he paid. I was imagining something like a set price per garment. Like 5 euros for a coat, etc. He said he paid 50 cent a kilo. I said but you do not have a scales here. How do you know how much things weigh? He held out his hand and said this is my scales.

6 October Wednesday

The stream is just about dried up. The place where Em goes for her stick throwing has a little pocket of water but it is not flowing. The remaining water is stagnant and it smells. The flow seems to be blocked from further upstream. Now the woodcutters who are thinning the trees in Cooney's wood have dropped trees and branches all along and across the stream further down. If the stream does start flowing again these branches will surely clog it up. The cut trees are strewn everywhere. The forest floor is a mess. So many trees have been taken down. I am disturbed by it all. The light and space is certainly good for the future of the trees which remain. The gaping holes and the mess below have changed the lovely wood with a stream through it into a scene of devastation. The woodcutters are not finished yet. I hope that part of their job will be to clear some of the mess. The way it is now it would be very difficult to walk through the trees the way we used to. I shall hope for a good clear up. I look forward to walking through the cleared wood to see how it has been changed.

4 October Monday

Most of the day was spent sewing up books. This book needs to be finished and shipped out by Wednesday morning so we have been working hard to finish it. Once I got myself going, I counted to see how fast I was sewing. I did 30 in half an hour but I could not double that to do 60 in one hour. It ended up being more like 50 an hour. I had to keep getting up to let Em in and out of the barn. She could not decide where she most wanted to be. At one point I had to break off from my sewing to help Simon to print the covers. I could not get a count going on that job. We just had to do them all. Tomorrow when the ink is dry, we need to glue on the covers, and then fold in the flaps and tip in two images and then we can pack them. Everything needs to be done 300 times.

2 October Saturday

The Toothpaste House just up from Booding Bridge has been painted. It is now white. The minty blue-green colour which glowed from across the valley is gone. Of course toothpaste comes in white but we would never name a white house The Toothpaste House. This house is low and not too long. From here, its old colour sat on the hillside just like a line of toothpaste on a toothbrush. Now that it is white, it is just another house.

1 October Friday

The elderberries are really rampant this year. They look so beautiful with the bright black clumps of berries on their long red stems. Seeing a tree heavy with these colours just beside a bunch of bright orange rose hips is lovely. The blackberries are everywhere in the hedgrows. They are shiny black too and surrounded by the still unripe versions of themselves which are red. All this bright colour and and loads of wild honeysuckle still blooming. All this bright colour before the leaves have even started to change.

30 September Thursday

We woke up this morning with a cow in the yard. This made us certain that we were no longer in London. We dressed fast and ran outside. The cow was surprised to see us. She took off down the path into the meadow. How did a cow know to stay on the path? It is just a mowed path through the long grass but it is still a path. Simon and Em ran after her. I tried to figure out whose cow she was. Did she come through Joe's fence or did she come down the track from the farm? There were no visible breaks in the fence so I decided she must have come down from above. There were at least four huge pats of manure spread around and many hoofprints so it looked like she had been here for a while. Maybe all night. Simon came up from the meadow and said she had taken off up the boreen. That sounded dangerous as it is rough and rocky on that track. She could easily break a leg. I phoned to report the escapee and then suddenly we saw her racing through Joe's field. She had rushed out over the banking at the bottom of the meadow. The fence was broken there so that was how she had arrived too. Simon and Em took off in pursuit again and drove her back toward the other cows. They were all in a field about three fields away. I phoned again to de-establish ownership of the cow and then phoned Joe to say that Simon was driving this cow back to join with the others. I said she wouldn't have come all the way over here by herself, would she? He said Oh, she would if she wanted to.

29 September Wednesday

The sky is heavy and grey and dark. There is a strange quality of light through the darkness which makes the grass glow. This shade of green is one that I have only ever seen here. It is luminous in its brightness. The luminosity is not beautiful. It is somehow creepy and garish. If it were painted in a picture it would look wrong. If it were photographed it would look wrong. Maybe that is why it looks so wrong now as I look across the fields. It is an impossible colour.

20 September Monday

We have a local phone book which is years out of date now. This book was put together by a local group, Newcastle Foroige, as a fundraiser. All of our numbers have had a 61 added to them and now everyone has mobiles so it is hard to know where to start in re-listing alot of these numbers and many of the local addresses. The people do not move house very much but the numbers are all different. The book is so tattered and the blue cover is no longer attached. I heard a woman in a shop complaining that her address book was all filled up on the M and the O pages, and that she had never yet found an address book to accommodate those letters properly for the Irish. That is another problem to consider.

19 September Sunday

Em and I took the reverse route this morning. We went up the boreen to the farm instead of using that route for our return as usual. She was confused for a minute by our change of direction, but then she was distracted as we met the fox around the first corner. We were all surprised but he was the quickest and he was gone almost before we could register his presence. The reason I went that way this morning was because during the last weeks of Snoopy's incarceration, Em had taken to dropping her stick in front of the house there. Instead of carrying each stick from the stream all the way back home, she left each stick and walked home empty-mouthed. It very quickly became her pattern and I have no idea why. Maybe she was just distracted by my attention to the sad state of Snoopy. Maybe it was a gift. Today, I collected seven sticks that had been left there and took them back to the stream area. I have placed them in my little supply spot and now we will have seven days of guaranteed sticks awaiting us. We are recycling. When we walked down through Johnnie Mackins place at the top, I stopped and picked a backpack full of apples. I got quite a variety of sorts. Johnnie used to graft different apples on the stock of different trees so there are some odd mixes up there. The russets won't be ready for another few weeks but the other apples growing on the same tree are ready now. Every autumn that old orchard demands constant attention, and I still have not figured most of it out.

18 September Saturday

There is a lot of crossing of oneself as people pass churches here. I see people doing it while they drive. They do it when they walk. Today I saw a man crossing himself while he was driving and talking into a mobile phone at the same time.

17 September Friday

This morning, we made a label for the wild damson jam. We ended up with twelve jars after the making yesterday. The jars are all different sizes so it is hard to know exactly how much we made. The colour is a beautiful deep purple. Simon printed up a label using the same colour. Eating it on toast this morning was enormously satisfying. And lining up the jars with their labels makes me feel wealthy.

16 September Thursday

Irishtown is the part of Clonmel that is outside the West Gate. When the English were in power here, the Irish could work in the town during the day but they had to go outside at night. Only the English slept safely inside the gates. The houses and shops in the area outside the gate are still spoken of as being in Irishtown. There is a house a few blocks down from the gate with a big front window. I assume this house used to be a shop and that is why there is a large window. For several years there has been a dog who sat in the window. He sat in the window on a large sill which was once probably for displaying. A curtain behind the dog provided privacy for the people in the house. He watched people pass on the street. Sometimes he barked, sometimes he slept and sometimes he would not be there at all so he was probably hanging around in another part of the house or maybe he was out for a walk. The dog was small and fat and old. He was some sort of mixed breed, and brown in colour. I cannot even begin to describe what he was, but he was not attractive. He was very much a part of that walk up that side of the street in Irishtown. If I saw him or if I did not see him was not important. What was important was that I always looked to see if he was there. Today we walked past the house and there was a small wooden box on the window sill. It is the length of a shoe box but it is more narrow than a shoebox. The box is nicely sanded and finished with some matte varnish and there is a little metal plaque on the top with the name ROBBIE engraved on it. The box is not big enough to actually be holding the dog, so we assume that it is holding Robbie's ashes.

15 September Wednesday

I went down the meadow to pick plums this afternoon. It was a much needed break from hand colouring boats and from folding pages. I put on my Plum Picking Pot. The Plum Picking Pot is a large black plastic plant pot with a thick blue rope threaded through two of the holes on the bottom. The rope is knotted up high and I put this on over my shoulder and diagonally across my chest. The pot rests on my hip and can be pushed behind me or pulled to be right in front. I made this apparatus about ten years ago and I get it out every year for the plum picking. It is perfect for the job as it leaves my hands free. The wild plums, which are called Blotcheens, are a yellowish colour with a mottled reddish tone over the skin. These grow up on a banking so I have to do a lot of climbing and balancing and reaching and stretching to get them. It would not be possible to pick any at all if I had to hold onto a bucket or a basket. Em came with me as she always does. Each time I stopped to eat a plum, she waited for her bit. I only give her plum portions without the stones as she swallows the stone and all if I give it to her. She could easily be eating plums all day long as they are all around on the ground, but she only likes them when they are handed to her. After I filled the pot twice, Simon said we should pick the wild damsons up the boreen too. They are hanging low and there are lots of them this year. They are deep blue almost purple. Em and I went up there and I filled the pot quickly. Since these are not so good for eating, we decided that we should make jam. Simon went back up with me and he reached up for the very high branches and we filled up again. We had to stop several times to shelter under branches as there have been little rain showers all day long. None lasts for more than a few minutes and the sun comes out in between each shower. Now we are committed to jam making as we have so many plums. We can eat the blotcheens while we make the damson jam. I must now go on a hunt for empty jars.

14 September Tuesday

There are thousands of butterflies in the garden. Perhaps there are millions. I have never seen so many butterflies in one place. I have heard of this kind of swarming but I have never seen it before, and I have certainly not seen it here. These are all the same kind of butterflies. Simon tells me that they are Red Admirals. They are on flowers and bushes and even on the grass. Every day they appear with the sunshine and then they disappear by sundown. Every day I think it will be the last day for this magic. Em was sleeping in the sun yesterday and she was surrounded by a crowd of the butterflies all around her. She looked like a celebration.

13 September Monday

The excitement about the All Ireland win seems to have calmed down a bit. For quite a while there was little talk of anything else here. First there was the bringing of The Liam (which is how one speaks of the Liam McCarthy Cup) to Thurles and then it went to Mullinahone where the team captain is from. I think the cup gets filled up along the route and people drink a celebratory sip or gulp from it. This is a way to personally savour the win. I do not know how many places The Liam has been taken to. It might still be travelling around. Tipperary fans are now buying and wearing Blue and Gold T-shirts with the 2010 championship information on it. We heard that a woman in Kilkenny had ordered one thousand Amber and Black T-shirts printed with the words: Five in a Row. This was in anticipation of Kilkenny winning The Liam. I wonder what she will do with these shirts now. Rose said that the day of the match was very quiet in the bar. I assumed the place would be packed down there but she said No, most people went up to Dublin for the match. She said it took several days for people to make their way back home. She said many people were confined to the public houses. There seem to even more of these little yellow and blue yarn things. They are braided lengths of yarn, maybe a foot long at the most, and 8 or 10 pieces of yarn thick. They are tied onto mirrors, hats, backpacks, handbags and worn as headbands. I think they are made by mothers and grandmothers as an inexpensive way to show your county colours. There were lots of these around before the match, but they have proliferated since the big win.

12 September Sunday

I lifted all of my potato crop as there seem to be some little holes in many of the potatos. I do not think worms or bugs are still inside but I think the potatoes will be better out of the ground. Usually we just leave them in the soil and dig them as we want to eat them. I dried them off on the outside table for the day and have now put them in a big barrel. This is an experiment and I hope it works. The onions are now all tied in groups of three or four and they are hanging in a row in the shed. There are fifteen bunches. They are so beautiful that I have been walking into the shed all day just to admire them again and again. The smell is wonderful. It fills the whole shed.

11 September Saturday

This mornings weather forecast promised a day that would be light and breezy, sunny with rainy spells which might be squally and some heavy. This covers just about everything, except snow.

10 September Friday

Oh, Good News! Snoopy is alive. Snoopy is alive and living in Ardfinnan. He has been spotted by someone over there. Kenneth has been walking Snoopy around the village on a lead. He has put a very large dog house into the very tiny backyard of the house which he shares with his new wife. Now Snoopy is in residence there too. We are so stunned and happy happy about this. I can now pass Ken's old house without a sinking sick and sad feeling. We are all so pleased that Snoopy has a life without loneliness again. It is a terrible pity that it had to take so long. Snoopy has a life.

9 September Thursday

THE BOOK REMEMBERS EVERYTHING is on its way. The whole lot are traveling by ship from China to Rotterdam. From Rotterdam the books will be put onto another ship heading for Dublin. After they clear customs, they will travel by road to Kilkenny and then on to us here. This journey will take some weeks. With the world and everything in it moving so quickly, I find it reassuringly old-fashioned to have this element of time involved in the production. We even know the name of the ship: MOL MAXIM. Of course, Fed Ex or some courier could do it faster, but with Fed Ex we would not know the name of the ship doing the carrying.

8 September Wednesday

VICTUALLER is the name written over most butcher shops. It looks like a very old fashioned word, and it always looks very meaty to me. I never say it as I just cannot get it to work in my mouth. I rarely hear it said so there is no chance for me to get used to its sound.

7 September Tuesday

Tom Cooney's hay shed is filling up. He has one third of the place full of big rectangular bales of hay. One half is full of big round bales. There is still a little more space in there. I hope the third installment is a different shape or scale. He must be pleased to have got all that hay under cover before the big rain. Em and I walked and I looked for someone to talk to about the Snoopy situation. It is normal to see no one on my walks, so this was a normal day. In the afternoon I spoke to Teresa on the telephone. They are convinced that Snoopy is gone. They think that my letter was the final push that Ken needed and they are glad that something has happened. They were so worried that Snoopy might have to go through another lonely winter. It has been a year since his incarceration. I remember how angry we were over the holidays when the roads were impassable and no one had a key and we worried if Snoopy would starve to death. He threw himself against the upstairs window in a frenzy when anyone passed. He barked so much that he went hoarse. Ken did not seem at all bothered. And that was nine months ago. So I am glad that the situation has been resolved but I feel terrible that Snoopy might well be put down as even if he was taken to the dog shelter there are just too many dogs being dumped there in these hard times. He is too big and goofy to appeal to many people. When people are feeling poor and trying to economise, no one wants a large hungry dog to feed. He may well be put to sleep. Hi dulled eyes and scruffy fur and bleeding sores would do nothing to make him look desirable. He may be dead already. I waver between feeling like a killer and feeling like I did the right thing in the face of such ongoing neglect. I feel deeply sad and such relief all at the same time.

6 September Monday

What rain we had last night! I wonder if this was the tail end of Hurricane Earl? It was as though the three or four weeks of no rain at all came down in 14 hours. The wind was wild and ceaseless. The rain lashed down and because of the wind it kept changing direction. The leak in the chimney was activated and water ran down the wall. This happens very rarely and only when the rain is particularly awful. There was thunder and lightening and today everything is squishy and there are huge puddles on the roads and on the fields. I do not think the very dry land can absorb so much water so fast. Em and I set off to walk this morning in a moment of weak watery sun. We got wet walking up through the overgrown bushes and we got wetter when the skies opened up again. We were completely drenched by the time we got home. No sign of Snoopy.

5 September Sunday

The first Sunday in September is traditionally the day for the All-Ireland Hurling Championship Game. I am usually able to ignore this as I do not understand the game of hurling. Years ago, I was severely reprimanded for called the wooden implement that they use a stick. It is a called a hurley. It is flat and short with a rounded end. It is kind of like an abbreviated hockey stick. This year Tipperary is in the finals and the entire county is decorated with gold and blue flags and banners and bunting and shirts and scarves. Every shop and many houses have something blue and gold on them. There are signs everywhere that say UP TIPP! Cars have flags on the antennas and attached to the windows. People of all ages are wearing the same slippery jerseys as the players wear. This game has been hotly anticipated as it is against the neighbouring county of Kilkenny. Kilkenny has won for the last four years. They want to win five in a row which will be some kind of record. The entire county of Kilkenny is ablaze with amber and black. There have been border skirmishes. Kilkenny people come over the border at night and paint out Tipperary flags and change them to Kilkenny colours. There have been songs and chants being invented every day. Even the Farmers' Market was taken over by the Tipperary colours yesterday. With all of this mayhem, it was difficult not to watch the match today. I have a terrible time trying to understand what is happening. The game is very fast and very rough and the players have very little protection. They wear helmets which I gather is a recent developement. Their legs are bare. They say it is the fastest game in the world. The women's version is called Camogie. I do not know if it is as rough nor if they are as unprotected. Sometimes the players run with the ball in their hand and sometimes they balance it on their hurley while they run along. This looks very difficult to do. Points are scored by hitting the ball up and over the goal or directly into the goal. The expression 'puck it out' or 'puck out' is one among many which I have not understood. The goalie appears to have a bigger hurley than the rest of the players. The Tipperary team won today. As the cup was being awarded two groups of people came out onto the pitch with two huge rectangles of fabric. One piece was yellow (gold) and and one piece was blue. There were about 16 people for each piece of fabric and they stood with the two colours horizontal to the ground and they flapped the fabric gently. The 16 people were not standing at all close together. These were enormous pieces of cloth. This was a flat representation of the Tipp flag. Tomorrow night there will be a huge parade and party in Thurles. I expect it will be several days before anything gets back to normal in the county.

4 September Saturday

I am very worried about Snoopy. The window upstairs is sometimes open and sometimes closed. Snoopy does not look out even when called. He is not in the yard on his rope. This has been the situation for several days now. Is he gone? Is he still there and very ill? Has he been taken to the vets to get his legs seen to? I hope my letter did not make Ken do something drastic. I am glad that something is being done. How I hope it is something good.

2 September Thursday

I wanted to get back to work on my Green Room. I thought I would stop and clear all of the weeds from directly around the green shards and make a good photograph of the greens being overtaken by the green vegetation. I was not sure that I could get the camera directly over the area to get a straight down shot with no parallax. Since there is nothing to stand on and since I am short, I thought I would just do the best I could. I thought a lot about how to do this as I walked down the track with Em. When we reached the site, I was surprised to see the whole stretch of rubble covered with leafy branches. The wood cutters were in Cooney's wood and they were thinning out trees. This must be the job of the painted yellow and white stripes from last year. The sound of chainsaws was not too loud. They were deep into the wood with their cutting. I do not know why some of the branches were spread out and piled up on the rubble surface. They cannot be dragging everything all the way out of the wood just to pile it up there, but that looks like exactly what they are doing. I wonder if I will ever see Maisie's Green Room again.

1 September Wednesday

When a registered letter comes, the postman does not ask us to sign for it. Instead he just signs for it himself and drops it into our plastic post box. Sometimes he asks us a few days later if we got that registered letter which he put into the box. Most times he never mentions it at all.

31 August Tuesday

The boreen has been so clear and wide since the ditches were cut. On the whole, this is a very good thing. At first I was only disturbed that I could not smell the wild honeysuckle. Now I am annoyed that there are so few blackberries to collect on the way down. At this time of year, I depend on large quantities of available berries so that I can pick some on the last bit of the walk home. When I arrive with a handful of berries they can go right onto my cereal or into my fruit drink. Now I have to detour up into the field to pick my portion, or else I go out later with a container for more concentrated picking. I should not complain. There are huge amounts of berries to be picked in every direction. I cannot pick enough of them. I just enjoy the berries being so close to me in the boreen that I have no choice but to pick them.

30 August Monday

There has been a spider in the bathtub all week. It is a huge spider. I call this a Wood Spider but I do not know if that is its correct name. It is very large with a brown body and thick brown legs. It is about 4 inches wide counting the legs. This spider can stay very still in the tub all day long. Sometimes it is there for two days. Then one of us collects it up in a cup and we take it outside. The next day, the spider will be back. I am certain that it is the same spider. We think it climbs in and up the drain of the tub. Today he has a companion or a spouse with him. There are two spiders in the tub. I never see movement and there is never any sound. They are just together at opposite ends of the tub. Quietly.

28 August Saturday

It has been a fine summer. As a result of the great weather, the pigeons are really fat. The pheasants are really fat too. All of the birds are feeding off the fields of corn and grain. The fields are beautiful in their just harvested state. Their colour is golden and bright. Many of the big round bales of hay are still scattered around waiting to be gathered up and put under cover for the winter. It is scary to meet a tractor racing down the road pulling a large load of bales, but while the bales are still in the field they look beautiful. They give the landscape a different sense of scale. It is not a human scale, and it is not the same as the very same field when it is full of cows. The bale scale is seasonal and it is a thing in itself.

25 August Wednesday

Snoopy is still living his life as a prisoner with no fixed scheduale and very little human contact. We are very sad and worried about it all. Teresa has written several letter to Ken. I have written one too. It is impossible to reach Ken by phone as he has had the phone in the house disconnected and has changed his mobile number. He avoids me if I am walking down the road when he arrives at the house. He dashes into the house or into his car and drives away. He knows we are all angry and upset about his treatment of his dog. The running open sores on the front of Snoopy's legs was the last straw for me. I do not know how he got these wounds. Maybe they are from him rubbing endlessly against something or maybe he has gnawed at his legs because of fleas and now they are infected. Whatever the reason, any caring animal owner would notice and try to help to heal them. Not Ken. Day after day the sores look worse and more infected. I wrote about them in my letter. I have threatened to call the animal welfare people if something is not done for Snoopy soon. I hate seeing this loving pet being trasnformed into an abused watchdog. The confusion and lonelieness were bad enough but now there is physical pain too.

23 August Monday

Em still smells of the sea. The saltiness of her daily swims in the sea out in Kerry have returned with her. I know in a few more days she will smell of the long grass again. I like her smelling of the sea or of grass. Unfortunately, the slightly fetid odour of the stream will soon be her underlying odour. When the rains come again, the stream will smell fresh and good, but for now it is horrible in its near stagnant state.

15 August Sunday

I am giving up on the Green Room. The weeds are winning. This morning I spent more time pulling out weeds than I did finding more pieces of green painted plaster. Each time I have stopped there this week, I find fewer and fewer pieces. I have resisted bringing a tool to make the finding easier. The area of pieces which I have laid down looks very fine. The pieces hidden away in the rubble will remain hidden and this little area will remain my little memory of Maisie. When things die down in the winter, it might reappear. No one but myself will stop to look at it, but I will know it is there.

14 August Saturday

An Update of Garden Edibles

Potatoes-lovely and not at all floury. We could have started eating them weeks ago, but I was so late putting them in, I thought I had to wait and wait for the eating.

Courgettes-prolific as ever, we struggle to eat them all when they are small and tender.

Cavolo Nero-decimated by the white cabbage fly which looks more like a moth than a fly. The plants look like skeletons with skeletal leaf shapes. Why don't I just pull them out?

Sprouting Broccoli-one huge plant, one small one, everything else was massacred early on. More Brocolli and Cavolo Nero doing well in seed trays to attempt some more plants for winter production. I have noticed that the cabbage fly disappears with colder weather. I hope that is the case this year.

Onions-looking good, sitting up on top of the soil. I am waiting for their leaves to droop. The scallions have sort of disappeared, but maybe they will surface too.

One bean plant has resurrected itself. All of the others were slaughtered by slugs. I think I planted them out too soon.

Berry bushes in varying states. Blueberries look dead.

Apples and plums-ripening

Various salads and rockets and leaves- ongoing, productive and good. Radicchio coming along well, but none eaten yet.

Sorrell, chives, tarragon, parsley, dill, coriander, oregano, thyme, mint, rosemary, sage, fennel- all lush and plentiful.

12 August Thursday

We spoke to a dentist who was driving a bright red sports car. It was a two-seater with a convertible soft top. In the course of conversation he told us that he did not like to drive fast. He said that the only reason he had a sports car was that he did not like to have empty seats behind him when he drove.

10 August Tuesday

An old man from the Nire came into the bar. As soon as he arrived, Rose was busy trying to organize a ride for him. Someone had dropped him off and she knew he would never leave unless she got him going on his way. He had not even finished his pint of cider when she had a ride waiting. He quickly purchased a Naggin of whiskey to take with him. This was a new word for me. A Naggin is a quarter bottle, usually of whiskey but it might be brandy. This fellow, John was his name, slipped it into the voluminous pockets of his trousers. It was just the right size to fit into the pockets of that kind of trousers. I had not really felt like stopping in for a drink at Roses's, but the word Naggin makes me glad I did.

9 August Monday

As I walked up past Michael O'Connor's house, I saw his brother Johnnie loading up a trailer outside the door. I stopped to speak as I had not seen him, even to offer my condolences, since Michael died last winter. He knew that Michael called me American Lady, so he greeted me like that himself today. He told me he was there to clear out a few more things while he waited for the auctioneer. The house was already very empty. Johnnie told me how he and his wife had painted and fixed up the place 17 years ago for Michael when he moved back from England. He told me that they had been 2 of 9 children. He spoke of various deaths and of the order of the siblings and about who was left. There was a photograph of a much younger Michael in a group of people on the wall near the door. He told me various stories of Michael over the years. He said that Michael had never gotten his driving license but that he had taken lessons in England. He got to the point of actually taking his test. He drove around for a while doing whatever the examiner asked him to do. When they passed a pub which Michael knew well, he pulled up to the curb and said We'll have a drink here then, shall we?

8 August Sunday

I went down to the village to get the newspapers. Ever since they stopped performing Mass there on Sunday morning it is always quiet on Sunday. All of the chatting and visiting takes place outside the church in Fourmilewater now. Today there was an unexpected buzz. I thought it was just because of the sunshine and the warmth. Then I remembered that today is Vintage Day. The last two years have been so wet that the event had to be cancelled. Today's good weather makes the excitement that much greater. People were gathering with their machinery. Several very old tractors were making their way up to Michael Hallinan's field. One older man had a FOR SALE sign on his blue tractor. A huge lorry was arriving with a big threshing machine on the back. I say it was a threshing machine, but I only think it was a threshing machine. It was enormous and it had something to do with farming and it was being unloaded for the event. That is all I know. There were a lot of young men in front of the shop. They had cars with fancy wheelcovers. I assume they were there for the vintage day too. They all looked very young to me. Perhaps they are consider their cars to be vintage. It was only eleven o'clock when I went down and the event does not even start until one.

6 August Friday

Today we had a postcard from Lake Winnipesaukee. Yesterday we recieved one from Helsinki. It used to be so normal to get a good variety of postcards from other people's holidays. It was a nice way to experience someone else's summer vacation. It meant that they were relaxed and that they had time and that they were thinking of you. Most holiday cards do not say much. It is just the card itself that is the point. A lot of places do not even sell postcards now. They say that no one buys them any more. It is a little bit of a job. You have to buy the card, and then you have to write something on it. Then you have to have the person's address with you and you have to find a post office and buy a stamp. I guess most people just mark their trip with various electronic means and no one has to miss a moment of anything. Right now, we have four picture postcards of four different places spread along the windowsill. I have instant contact with four places in the world as I sit here in a valley in Tipperary. And I feel happy both to be remembered by people and reminded of places.

5 August Thursday

There was a wide swathe of grain on the corner of the road coming down from Tullaghmelan. It was a beautiful golden colour. It was thick on the ground. Em and I walked through it very slowly. It was like walking on a sandy beach. We walked through it and then we turned around and we walked through it again. The grain fell off the top of a trailer as the tractor went around the corner. The trailer must have passed very recently as there were no tyre tracks through the grain. Our footprints were the only disturbance. I see a lot of grain spilled by the roads here and there. This was the biggest spill I have seen. In a few days it will all be pushed and blown about, and the beautiful swirl of it will be completely gone. Everyone is busy getting the harvest in now and everyone is in a hurry. The tractors and the machines race up and down the roads and in and out of the fields. As the machinery gets both bigger and wider, August becomes a dangerous time to be on the road.

2 August 2010 Bank Holiday Monday

I was back in The Green Room this morning. I feel very discouraged with my lack of progress. I do not want to begin a major job of removal. I do not want to play archeologist. I do not want to actually dig up the flattened down rubble of Maisie's old house. I just enjoy the collecting. I was eager to spread out my green surface before the vegetation took over. The vegetation is winning. Everything grows so fast here. One year we had weeds growing up out of the damp floor mat inside the van. Compared to that this arrival of weeds in an inhospitable area of old cement and plaster and stone is not much of a challenge. Maybe this Green Room I have in my head never was a room, but only a Green Wall. Maybe it was a section of a wall and not even a whole wall. Maybe my collection of the greens is not so far off the original size of that wall which Maisie painted green. I am trying to reassure myself but it is not working. I shall try to find out if anyone remembers the colour green inside her house.

31 July Saturday

There is a new batch of very young cows in Joe's field. As a group, they are trying out their new voices. They make deep moaning and bellowing sounds. Today when I heard one of them from over the bushes, I thought it must be the bull making such a noise. To see a tiny calf with such a big sound coming out of his mouth was a shock. Once one has made that noise they all have to try it. They will grow into these sounds. As they get bigger the sounds will be less surprising both to me and to themselves.

30 July Friday

Another grey and overcast day. Everyday has been grey and overcast. It has not been cold but it has not been hot either. Some days have had rainy intervals off and on throughout the day. Some days have had a few short intervals of sun. Mostly the dullness has just felt oppressive. Every day at about six o'clock the sun arrives. Then the sky changes from grey to bright blue, with or without white clouds, and the evening is glorious. The light is extraordinary. It is all utterly beautiful. We sit outside and watch the birds diving and swooping. Every evening we sit outside and we forget that the whole day was not as beautiful as the end of it is.

29 July Thursday

The ditches of the boreen have been cut from the road right through the farm yard and all the way down here to our house. Ned Shine was the man on the cutting machine. He had his dog in the cab of the tractor with him. He made three trips up and down. The sides are cut well back and the tops are cut well down. Instead of walking down the lumpy grassy middle and being whacked, slapped, stung and stabbed by various bushes and branches, I can now walk along in one of the outer tyre tracks and I am free from all attack. The sad thing is that the sweet smell of the wild honeysuckle is gone. The honeysuckle has taken a beating.

28 July Wednesday

I have done a few more days of collecting for the Green Room. That is how I think of the pieces of green from the rubble of Maisie's house. It is getting harder and harder to find the pieces of green and I fear that without a better tool, I will very quickly be finished with the collection process. I use whatever stick I have with me. It is usually the stick which Em is waiting to have thrown to her in the water. I can see a few large and thick pieces stuck firmly between other rocks and rubble. I cannot get them out by hand nor with a stick. I need a shovel or a spade or a crowbar if I am going to free these pieces. Most of the greens which I now retrieve are no bigger than a coin. In the beginning I could double the area size of the green pieces each time I stopped at the site. Now, with such tiny pieces, and even these becoming harder to find, I am lucky to add a narrow strip of colour down one side of my area. The dream of laying out the whole room has changed. Now I hope to maybe get enough pieces to equivalence one wall.

26 July Monday

I returned my library books today. I placed the books on the counter and I apologized because the books were late. I asked how much I owed for them. The librarian said I owed nothing at all. I said They are four days late, I must owe something. She said No No, you are grand. There is a one week grace period. You are grand. All this time I have been rushing to return my books promptly after the three week loan period , and all this time everyone else has known that the date stamped in the front of the book doesn't really mean anything.

22 July Thursday

Damp and grey and wet and cool. It does not feel the way I would like July to feel. Em is happy as she does not like warm mornings. She prefers this damp coolness. She is an Irish dog. I stopped again at the flattened area of what was once Maisie's Mountains well after it was Maisie's House. The area of rubble had been so firmly evened out that I felt certain that it would be years before anything grew there. Last week as I walked around on the hard surface, I saw that small bits of grass and weeds were already growing through the rubble. I began to pick up the pieces of Maisie's green painted wall. These pieces are just clumps of concrete with a skim of plaster on the flat surface. The green paint was painted over an earlier shade of green. The first green looks much greener than the second green. I gathered up a number of the pieces and placed them in a group green side up in the middle of the flattened rubble. Today I returned to this job and doubled my area of green pieces. Most of the bits are small. The largest piece I have found so far is no more than 8 inches across. All the time I was wandering about and collecting the pieces of green, Em was waiting for me down in the stream. She did not bark. She just waited. She stood in the water quietly looking up at the place from which I throw the daily stick. Every once and a while I called out to her and I said that I would be there soon. She could have come out of the water at any time and joined me on the rubble surface, but she has had no interest in that area since the mountains were flattened. I am becoming obsessed with this area. I wonder if I can collect the whole green room. I wonder if I can collect the whole green room and lay it all out on the rubble before the surface is overtaken by green vegetation.

21 July Wednesday

When I am out walking in the morning, it is normal to meet John the Post. Sometimes he just waves, and sometimes he stops to chat. If he has not been to our house yet, he gives me the mail. If there is a small packet or parcel, he asks me if this is alright. He asks if I can manage to carry the parcel or will it ruin my walk. I always say it is okay because he never gives me anything that is too large to carry. Today I took a few things from him and then he started to drive down the hill. He did not accelerate. He just rolled along in his van and I walked along beside him and we continued our conversation through his open window. We moved along like this for a good distance until another car came along and we had to move. We were taking up the whole road.

20 July Tuesday

Someone has moved into the Murder Cottage/Mary Corbett's house/Dessie's. The signs are down. Has it been sold or has it been rented? There is a blue car outside and there are some plants in big pots placed around the yard.

18 July Sunday

One day last summer, Simon came up from the barn with the tall wooden stool in his hand. He asked me if I minded him giving it to Maud. Maud was standing right beside him when he asked. I felt that I had no choice but to say okay. It was not as if the stool were valuable or extremely special in any way. It was a very tall and narrow stool with a seat that was too small to be comfortable for most people.

We got the stool along with a bunch of other things from a reclamation yard in Cork when we were first working on this house. We bought a big old Belfast sink which was badly crazed. We bought some wooden chairs. I do not remember all the things we bought. Simon saw the tall stool and asked the man how much it would cost. The entire seat was cracked into two pieces. It looked like a complete loss. It looked like something that would take more trouble to repair than it would ever be worth. It looked like if it was repaired it would still never be right. The man was amused that Simon wanted it so he threw it in with the rest of the purchases for free. It seemed silly to take it. It seemed even sillier once we got home. The whole house, and all of the out-buildings and the land were a mess. Everything was a mess and everything needed enormous amounts of work. A broken stool was a distraction and a totally unnecessary job to add to everything else that needed to be done. That is probably why Simon decided to do it. He fixed the broken seat with some strong glue and clamps and then with some kind of filler. The finished seat had a nice light stripe through it to define the repair. For many years, it stayed down in the barn just inside the door. When we were showing books or discussing a project with visitors, someone would end up perched upon it. It was obvious that no one was comfortable on it. Most of the time, we just put things onto it in order to remember to take them up to the house.

Maud took the stool away. I felt sad about it for a while and then I forgot about it. Today a message arrived. It was a photograph of her new piece. The piece is called Rumpus Room. The stool is in among a gathering of things. There is something circus-like about the grouping. I think Maud is enjoying the sound of the words Rumpus Room and making what she thinks the sound might look like. In Ireland, I have noticed that houses do not have basements. Without a basement, there can be no rumpus room because the basement is where a rumpus room is always located. Maud’s version of the words has made them into what she wants them to be. It is a fantasy place and there are fantastical things happily together in her fantasy place. It is nice to see our stool there.

17 July Saturday

The Dulux Man was very sad to tell us that his dog is now going blind as well as being deaf. He is extremely depressed about this. Every year he and his dog have entered the dog show at the Cahir Fair. Every single year that he has entered, he and his dog have won three prizes. This year he felt he could not enter the Tree Run. The Tree Run is when the owner tells his dog to run to the tree and back and the dog does exactly that. His dog could neither hear the command nor see the tree. He said the dog was Not Able For It. I do not know what the other categories were but he was most disappointed about the Tree Run.

11 July Sunday

I like that what I call The Yellow Pages are called The Golden Pages here. The telephone book is made of the same thin newsprint sort of paper and the shade of yellow is the same as it is in other places but here the pages are Golden. It makes them sound special.

10 July Saturday

Lashing pelting wild rain. All day rain. We have not had this weather for a long time. Actually we had this exact weather yesterday too but before that we had not had this weather for quite a while. There were discussions about drought and worries about crops. There was a lot of brown visible in the countryside, in places where we usually only see green. There was even talk of water rationing in the cities. This afternoon, I emptied the lake on the top of the post box twice as I ran up and down to my room. It has no doubt filled to overflowing again by now.

9 July Friday

Tomas O'Dwyer got married today. He and his wife drove off to their reception in a tractor. It was not his own tractor but a fancy one belonging to a friend. Or this is what we were told. We went into Nugents for a drink and as we sat there talking the room filled up with young men and women. The smell of aftershave and perfume was strong. There was a lot of hair gel and everyone was wearing their fancy clothes as opposed to their usual Friday night after work gear. Ironed shirts and pressed jeans. High heels and glittery dresses. Everyone was drinking and waiting. They were all pretty early, but the waiting was part of the ritual. Eventually the McCarras bus would come to collect everyone and take them into town for The Afters. The Afters is what happens After the church wedding ceremony and After the dinner and After the speeches. The Afters is the party which celebrates the marriage and everyone is invited to The Afters. Most times it is in a large venue like a hotel, but sometimes it is in a big tent set up for that purpose. There will be a band and dancing and a pay bar. It will go on until the early hours. It will go on until the bus comes to take them home. We left before the bus arrived so I do not know how much longer they all spent arriving and gathering and drinking and readying themselves. I should think some of them were going to be ready to pass out before they even got to the party.

8 July Thursday

At this time of year, there are a lot of insects in the house. They are everywhere with the warm weather. There are moths and spiders and flies and bees and lots of variations of each. The kitchen door is always open and the bees come right in. The honeysuckle is right outside, growing up and around the door. They drone about indoors in a lazy way for a little while but they always end up going back out to the fragrant blossom. The flies are the most potentially annoying but they mostly fly high up near the ceiling or bounce off the windows. They buzz about and then they too continue off somewhere else, or else they die. I sweep up a lot of dead flies. We have no screens on the windows. No one here has screens on their windows. I think that is more a characteristic of places that have a lot of mosquitoes. The windows are just open and the bugs come in and the bugs go out. None of these bugs are biters. We live together quietly.

7 July Wednesday

There are always small pieces of metal wired onto gates. These pieces of metal were once part of something else. They might have been part of a can or a metal box. The rectangular pieces were cut out and pounded with a hammer or a mallet until flat. Even if one side of the metal had words imprinted on it, the other side would be blank. That is the side that is used for a message. The words LANDS POISONED or LANDS PRESERVED or some other important message is painted on the metal with enamel paint. It is usually enamel paint or some kind of out-of-door paint which will stay on the metal and will not wear off with the weather. Whenever these signs are made, I think the effort has gone into the finding and flattening of the metal, and perhaps in locating the tin of paint. The brush gets very little consideration. This is obvious as the brush used is almost always too big for the size of letters to be painted. And enamel paint is difficult to manipulate at the best of times. Either two or four holes are made with a nail pounded into the corners and when finished, the sign is wired onto a gate. With this method the sign is guaranteed to last, in place, for a long time. It is not uncommon to come across a shiny little piece of metal on a gate with the words worn away. The small piece of flattened metal will remain long after its message has disappeared.

6 July Tuesday

I meet Michael almost every other morning now. Simon and I take turns taking Em up the boreen and around. She is happiest with this regular short walk and a swim. The one of us not going with Em is free to go the longer route around the fields and up Flemingstown way. Most days when I go the long way I meet Michael. We seem to be on the same time clock these days. He is on the way to help Joe with the cows. Somedays he is in the tractor and somedays he is in his car. If he turns off the engine, we are going to have a long chat. Sometimes another vehicle comes and that puts an end to the conversation but sometimes we spend 15 or 20 minutes before continuing in our opposite directions. Today the subject came up of people having to give up driving when they get too old to be safe on the road. He called it Taking the Father Out of The Car. We spoke of someone who is now 86. He no longer drives at night and he does not drive very far from his home. He drives very slowly and that annoys other drivers. We are thinking that he might have to give up driving soon. We spoke of various other local people who have had to give up driving and we spoke of the sense of no longer being in control of ones own life and movements. We spoke about the loss of independence. Michael said it was a terrible decision to have to make for someone else.

5 July Monday

There was a young woman in the shop. She was quite overweight, but she insisted on trying on a very tight dress. She was going to a party and she wanted to look terrific. She spoke in a loud excited voice so that everyone in the shop knew all about it. She went off to the dressing room and before long we heard her shriek. She said, I can't go out like this! I look like a cat in a sock!

2 July Friday

The Twelve Mountains of Maisie have been flattened. The area is now a hard surface with the bits of recognizable rubble all evened out. There are visible chunks of a wall that was once painted green. It was certainly an inside wall. It must have made for a very dark room. There are not too many other colours visible. Everything is cement grey or brown and a very dreary looking white. Somehow the overall colour feels light, so the new flat area is more like an interior space rather than the dark ground of the out of doors. The two big cubes of concrete have been pushed off to the side by the trees of Cooneys wood. They were not crushed. They look like large dice.

30 June Wednesday

For the first time in 18 months we took Em to the sea. She went completely mad and ran and ran and ran in and out of the water. Her eyes were those of a deranged animal. She was so wet and covered with sand and seaweed and barking hysterically that she frightened several small children. By the time we got home she could barely walk. I was worried. We had let her overdo the running. Her exhaustion was complete, but after a bit of rest, there was no sign of the old limp returning. The hill farmers from the Comeragh Mountains used to take their sheepdogs down to the the sea every year to sooth or maybe to toughen their feet in the salt water. I love the idea of a truckload of sheepdogs going for their yearly outing to the seaside.

28 June Monday

The airplane on the small round-about at Cork Airport is made of hedging plants growing around and within a metal stucture in the shape of an airplane. There is a stripe of red metal or maybe plastic running along each side to give the plane a realistic touch. The red stripe has little white rounded shapes along it. These are representations of windows. Sometimes the plane is very neatly clipped. At these times it looks sharp and airplane-shaped. Today it looked in need of a trim. The very soft shape made the airplane appear blurry. In this untrimmed state, it is out of focus and almost not readable as an airplane.

Waiting inside the new Cork Airport made me miss the old Cork Airport. The old building had fish tanks scattered about the interior. If one was waiting for a delayed plane, there were always fish to watch. The tanks were built into the walls at various locations throughout the building. There was a fish tank near the cash machine, which made waiting in that little line very pleasant. The most distracting tank was the very large one in the middle of the luggage carousel. We were all less apt to feel annoyed when the luggage was slow to arrive because we could stand and watch the fish. The fish had a calming influence. I assume the person in charge of the airport must have had a love of fish. Since a lot of people come to Ireland to go fishing perhaps it was also a gesture or a suggestion toward that activity. Unfortunately the newly designed airport includes no accomodation for fish and fish tanks.

25 June Friday

John the Postman always has an apple in his van. Sometimes when I see him, he is eating it and sometimes it is just waiting to be eaten. He leaves it sitting in the box with the letters which he has not yet delivered. I am wondering if he leaves his house each day with a large supply of apples for the mornings delivery route, or if he just takes the one.

24 June Thursday

If something is to be done later, or if it is just being put off, it is said to be Put on the Long Finger.

21 June Monday

Over the last few days there has been a lot of noise from up at Maisie's old house. A digger has been working long hours to move all of the rubble from the old house. It was all in a huge pile out back by the sheds, and the digger seemed to be sorting it. We noticed it every time we passed on foot. We could hear the machinery working all the way down here when the wind was coming from the right direction. This morning we saw that there are now twelve small mountains of rubble down near Em's swimming place. Twelve Mountains and Two Very Large Cubes of Concrete. The mountains are made up of the knocked down house materials. There are very few stones among the rubble. The large stones are still up the hill in the big pile by the sheds. This pile is a good distance from the new house. The digger spent those days carefully sifting and sorting and separating the stones from the rubble. It has all been transported quite a distance down through the fields to get to where it is now. Em and I walked in between the mountains. They are all the same size and they are all equally spaced. It is a tidy little installation in a very odd location. I guess it is the furthest point in the fields and therefore the least useful for growing things and for moving farm machinery in and around.

16 June Wednesday

I sometimes chat with Michael in the mornings when I have walked up and through Joe's fields. In the past, when I commented about how beautiful the land looked in a certain kind of sunlight or on a particularly frosty morning, he would always tilt his head and look at me curiously. He said: I am a farmer. I look at land for its usefulness or its fertility. The land is work. Beauty is not really a word I think about when I look at land. Then he would always tell me that he was not really from these parts. He has lived here since he was a young man, but his Home Place was down the way. It is only about 3 miles from where he is now, but that is Home and this is just where he is now. Now is going on for 60 years but it is still not the same as the Home Place. Today he surprised me. He announced that this is a very beautiful part of the world. He told me that he has travelled a bit in his life so far. He has been to Britain and to France and to Rome. He has also been to Croatia. He said that he appreciated how pleasant other places were but now he can see that this place is very beautiful and very special. He said that he never really knew how lovely it all was until he started working for the government. I did not know what he meant. Working for the government was his joke about getting a pension.

15 June Tuesday

The chives are growing like mad this year. They have spread and we now have a large area full of them and their purple tufty flowers. Each time I go to cut some for eating, I come back with a handful of the stiff stems with flowers too. It is not possible to cut any chives without getting the flowers so the little jug on the windowsill is always chock full of the flowers which come along but not to be eaten.

14 June Monday

My archive of printed books and cards are packed up in a plastic box which boasts that it holds 35 litres. I think of a litre as a liquid measurement. I wonder how many books it will take to equivalence 35 litres.

11 June Friday

THE PURE DROP in Ardfinnan is being painted. It is now becoming white and a brilliant shiny red. The name of the bar comes from Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene" though I do not know if anyone there knows or cares about that reference. The name has been repainted in big red letters on the side of the bar facing the car park. Since it is located at a little round-about we have often used The Pure Drop as a signifier when giving people directions. It is only recently that we realized that the name of the bar is not visible from the road if you are driving from Newcastle or from Ardfinnan or Cahir. It is only visible if you are driving from the direction of Clonmel. So we might say to take a left at The Pure Drop but a driver will never know when he or she has arrived at The Pure Drop. In future, we may instead mention the round-about as The Only Round-About in Ardfinnan.

9 June Wednesday

Simon went down to have a pint last night.While he was there there was a huge rain storm. Everyone who was in the pub was trapped in the pub. Several inches of water rushed down the street. There was thunder and lightening. The lightening knocked out the TV. Everyone who wanted to leave had to wait for a pause in the storm and then they rushed out to their car or their house. Some people just used the rain as the excuse to stay longer and longer. Simon came back all excited to tell about it. He had been through something Big. It was just a few miles away but here I was having had only a few tiny spots of rain and no drama at all. It was hard to share his excitement. It continued to rain all night and this morning there is a gray pall over everything. The drizzle is ceaseless.

8 June Tuesday

The cow parsley is starting to go. It does not feel like it has been here for long enough. The big frothy blossoms are looking less frothy. There is more green to be seen through the skeletal flower heads. The boreen is still densely full of them, but they are looking less robust. It is now full of lots of other things. The honeysuckle is here. The ferns are fine. The ferns, this year, are very fine. The route down from the farm is getting more and more narrow. The central bit of grass is clumpy and uneven to walk upon. The sides are so overgrown that is it difficult to walk down in either of the tyre tracks as the nettles and brambles grab at me as I walk. Now this end of the boreen requires long-sleeved shirts as does the other end. The boreen on the way up to Johnny Mackin's is closing in on the passage of a single body. The boreen back up toward the farm is closing in on the passage of a single vehicle. We already need to close the car windows before driving up or down.

7 June Monday

Michael O'Connor is dead. He has been dead for three months now. Maybe four. I commented to Tommie about the small car that is parked in Michael's yard. For as long as I have lived here, Michael has never had a car. He had a bicycle, but not a car. In the last few years, he never even went out on his bicycle. He stayed inside his gate and in his yard and he just walked about a little bit. Tommie told me that the car was there as a decoy. He explained that it was there so that no one would know that the house is empty. He told me that this was the function of a decoy. He told me this as though I were stupid.

5 June Saturday

When we go to the market in Cahir, we always park down by the river. In the last few months, we have met the same man every Saturday. It does not matter if we arrive very early in the morning or if we arrive towards noon time. He is always just arriving himself and he is getting out of his car as we walk up the hill. Each time he sees us, he admires and comments about Em and he wants to know how old she is. He then tells me about his own old dog. He tells me that his dog is 16 years old. He tells me that his dog is going deaf. In the time that we have been having these conversations, his dog has gone completely deaf. His dog is a sheep dog. He can see that Em has sheep dog in her but that she is mixed with something else. Every time I tell him that we do not know who her father was. Every time I tell him that we got her from the daughter of Mr. Fitzgerald, the local man who sold us our washing machine. He is also the man who repaired the washing machine later. He knows Mr. Fitzgerald and tells me this each time. He always tells me that Em reminds him of the Dulux dog on television. It is just that that dog is cute and black and white, and Em is cute and black and white too. They are not the same kind of dog at all. We have the same conversation every week. The only change is in the condition of his own dog. Otherwise the entire conversation is exactly as it was the week before. I have taken to calling this man the Dulux Man. Simon has taken to walking quickly up the hill and away as soon as the conversation begins.

4 June Friday

I am worried about Snoopy. We are all worried about Snoopy. Ever since Ken got involved and now married, he has been living over in Ardfinnan. He keeps Snoopy locked up in his house here most of the time. When he comes and lets the dog out for a few hours, he puts him on a rope. The dog is alone day and night. This dog was happy and lively. He would bark and leap and protect and play, depending on the situation. In these days since his new captivity, he sat and looked out the upstairs window and when anyone passed he barked and jumped up and down. His head got tangled in the curtains in his excitement. Now he is quiet. He watches us walk by and doesn't do anything even when we call his name. We think he is depressed. It is cruel for him to be alone so much of the time. I do not know what to do. I do not want to be a busybody but I really object to this treatment of what was once a much loved companion. I know other neighbors are concerned. Teresa and Seamus have made their anger and concern known to Ken. It is time for me to do the same.

2 June Wednesday

When I use the word ABROAD, I am thinking of far away places. I am thinking of a place usually overseas. I am thinking of a foreign place. Here the expression is used quite freely to describe someone being out and about. A farmer might be Abroad in the field. Or someone might be Abroad in the yard. They might just be Abroad, which suggests that they are somewhere other than at home, but definitely not overseas.

1 June Tuesday

Dessie's house has been painted both inside and out. There are two signs up outside. One sign is facing in one direction and one is facing in the other direction. Whichever way you are passing, you can read FOR SALE OR TO RENT. We are interested to see who will next live there.

31 May Monday

I was told years ago that the house on the corner down by the big tree at Knocklofty was inhabited by someone who sold guns. I never knew if this was true or not. I would think of it every so often as I drove by. I never saw anything that made me believe that it was true. I never saw anything that made me believe that it was not true either. I would study the gate or some aspect of the building and it's surrounding walls. I always felt that it was a very odd place from which to be selling guns. It is both too isolated and yet located right on a well used road. There is no sign to advertise guns for sale. Today as I drove by, a man walked from the house across the road to his parked car. He was carrying a long black zipped up case which looked like the shape and size of a rifle or shotgun. He was carrying a cardboard box of shells or bullets or cartridges. I know nothing about guns but that is what I decided that they must be. I am not sure that I know any more about the true nature of this house but it was quite a sight on a Monday morning.

30 May Sunday

The llama is back. I am not certain that he was ever really gone. He is just in a different field. This is not a field that I usually walk past. I will have to go out of my way if I want to continue my conversations about Peru with him. I do feel that he knows me now, and that he recognizes my voice. This is probably ridiculous. More likely, he is just bored and the sound of any voice is a change from his lonely isolation in a field in Tipperary. Still, I am happy to see him again.

29 May Saturday

The Cheese Lady was going to be away today, so we were invited to fill in for her at the Farmers Market in Cahir. We set up a small selection of Coracle books. Pat O'Brien loaned us an awning which was wonderful. It was like a little room. People could stand inside and under the awning while they looked at the books on our table. They were out of the soft drizzle and the books were out of the soft drizzle. Most of the time it was not raining. We had a thoroughly pleasant time. It was nice to be on the other side of a table at the market. It was nice for us to be able to show what we do to the people whose produce we buy every week. There was a lot of interest in the books and a lot of good conversation. Usually Em loves the market and all the possibilities of dropped food. She loves the attention and the petting. I think she found four hours of scoping for things to nibble just too much hard work. She ended up sighing and sleeping under our table.

28 May Friday

Siobhan wants people to close the gate when they walk through to the backyard. She does not want her dog to escape out onto the road. She has been looking for a sign to put on the gate but she can't find one that doesn't use the word SHUT. She feels that it is rude to say SHUT THE GATE or even PLEASE SHUT THE GATE. She is looking for a sign to say exactly that but she wants it to be more gentle.

27 May Thursday

Today was the day for the Used Clothes Collection Drive. This drive happens once or twice a year. A local club collects clothing, household textiles and footwear (paired) for homeless orphans in Kenya. They used to announce this request with a large plastic bag and a piece of paper describing the pick-up points, delivered by the postman. Now we just receive the piece of paper. We have to provide our own plastic bag. The first time I received this invitation to participate, I took it very seriously. I identified clothes and shoes that we did not need or want any more. I polished the shoes and tied them together with their laces. If they had no laces, I put elastic bands around them to keep each shoe together with its partner. I ironed clothes that were clean, but which looked rumpled, and I folded them all into neat piles. On the day of the pick-up, I placed everything into several black plastic bags and I taped the packages up into tidy rectangular bundles. I drove to Ardfinnan at the time listed on my piece of paper. There was a long truck waiting near the Community Centre. As I got out of my car and walked over with my bundles carefully held in my outstretched arms, a car came rushing up and it stopped right in front of me. A woman leapt out, and without turning off the motor, she heaved an enormous black bin bag into the truck and drove off before it even landed. Her bag had been neither tied nor taped shut so the clothes and things were stewn all over the floor of the truck. It was not just her stuff all over the floor. The man who stood in the truck was knee deep in textile detritus. I was shocked by the carelessness of it all. I wanted to say something to the man in the truck but I was speechless. He did not seem to notice that there were clothes all over the floor and that he was stepping on them as he moved about. He did not seem to notice that my bundles were tidy and that I placed them carefully into his arms. Since that first time of taking things to the Collection Drive, I am no longer shocked by the extreme slovenliness of the operation. On a day like today when I failed to get things organized to donate, I no longer feel guilty. When I do get there on the right day to make a donation of our used clothing, I look at the mess in the truck and I wonder if the orphans in Kenya dread these deliveries

25 May Tuesday

This morning, I passed young calves out in a field of tall grass. The grass wasn't so tall but it was thick. The calves were so tiny and their legs were so undeveloped, that they were having real trouble navigating their way through the field.

22 May Saturday

Simon made an experiment with cooking rhubarb in the sun. He put the chopped up pieces in a plastic bag along with some elderflower cordial and some ginger and a bit of caster sugar. The bag was sealed and left out on the table in the very hot sun. We left it there while we sat gluing books into their covers in the cool barn. By the time the sun lost its heat, we still had a lot of books left to glue but the rhubarb was cooked.

21 May Friday

People from outside Ireland do not trust our address. They ask again and again for us to confirm its veracity. Six lines. One word per line. No numbers. It looks more like a shopping list than an address. Sometimes we make up a post code just to make people feel better.

20 May Thursday

The boreen gets more closed in every day. Weeds and nettles and cow parsley look like they are doubling every day. Everything is growing extra fast after so many weeks of the cold and no growth. It is not possible to walk up through there without wearing long trousers and long sleeves. It is already too hot for long sleeves. Em is walking well now but even after this, our shortest walking route, she lags behind after her swim. This is no longer a problem with her ligament. I think this means that my dog is just getting old and slowing down.

18 May Tuesday

I went up to Johnny Mackin's old orchard to pick some apple blossom. I gathered a huge bundle, as much as I could carry down the boreen. As I reached up to cut the blossoms, I seem to have knocked loads of insects down my shirt. Ever since I got home, I can feel the bugs walking around on my back and my stomach and my breasts. They are not biters, they are just walkers. Even as I sit and write this, I wonder why I do not just go and change my shirt. Instead I keep flapping it and hoping that the bugs will just leave so that I can get on with the things I am doing without being tickled.

14 May Friday

Dessie is gone. He has cleared absolutely everything and moved out completely. The elaborate fences that he made out of pallets and attached to the fence have been detached and taken away with him. He told me many times that he made them and attached them with a special method in order to be able to take them with him when he moved. He said he would leave them with the house only if the landlord paid him for them. He remembered to take the Christmas bulbs and the Christmas lights off of the spruce tree. He took all of his odd bits of equipment and everything that was laying around outside. The paving slabs made from casting several sizes of buckets are still in the ground. On the iron gate there remain a series of old fire screens which he wired on in the early days to keep the puppy from escaping. The place no longer looks like a garrison in the Wild West. It just looks like a small empty white house in a field. I wonder if we will all revert to calling it the Murder Cottage, or will we speak of it as Dessie's House? Hardly anyone mentions it as Mary Corbett's Cottage any longer.

5 May Wednesday

As we walked up the boreen in the sun, I saw an explosion of feathers on the ground which told me that a pigeon had been eaten by the fox. There was nothing left but feathers. A few meters up the track I saw the wings of the bird spread out in a beautiful perfect line. They were exactly in the position that they would be in if the bird was still there in the middle of them. I admired them for a few minutes and then continued up the hill. Em did not come with me, nor did she answer my whistle a little later. When I went back down to find her, she was just finishing her licking and chewing on the remnants of flesh that the fox had left on the ends of the wings. I was shocked that she had ruined the lovely birdless wing tableau. Sometimes I just forget that she is a dog.

4 May Tuesday

The llama is gone. I walked by and immediately noticed that the field looked cleaner. The scattered hay was gone. The various buckets and water containers were gone. It was so tidy. It almost looked as if the grass had been cut. There was no one around to ask. I have made a point recently of asking anyone I speak to around here about the llama. Most people have little or no interest in him. Without exception, they mention that he is mean. They also mention that he spits. I have never been spit at by him. I wonder if he has been returned to the group of the other llamas in their meadow elsewhere. I wonder if I will ever find out where he has gone.

3 May Monday

None of these roads are wide. Today a farmer parked his car on the side of the road to go into a field and check on his cows. While he was getting things out of his car, a tractor came along pulling a big trailer. Then a motor car came from the opposite direction. He hooted his horn as he wanted to pass. Then he realized that he knew the farmer or that he knew the man in the tractor. He got out and greeted the two of them. Then another tractor came along behind the first tractor. He stopped too because he had no choice. Then he got out and talked to everyone else who was gathered there. Em and I just continued around them all as we were small enough to pass. We greeted everyone as we went and then we continued on our way.

2 May Sunday

Sometimes I spend so long listening to the Irish language radio that I forget that I do not understand it. I cannot tell anyone what I have heard, but I feel sure that I have understood it.

30 April Friday

Plain Crisps here are cheese and onion flavoured crisps. Salt and vinegar flavoured crisps might be considered plain too. Neither of these are plain to me. What I would call Plain Crisps are called Ready Salted, and they are rarely available. And since what I once called potato chips are here known as crisps, I now know to speak of French Fries as chips.

There has been cold rain and hot sun intermittantly all day. Each time the rain stops and the sun breaks through there is another beautiful rainbow across the far field. Each rainbow is a distraction from whatever I am doing. I have lost count of the number of rainbows today.

29 April Thursday

The low point of the boreen is in havoc. There are huge clumps of sticks and branches and rubbish and rubble which have been swept down the stream all winter. The sticks completely clog up the flow of the stream so it has all gone sideways and there is a huge swampy mess of mud where the path used to be. The sideways flow creates a new smaller stream leading into the muddy morass. One of the cement culverts which allowed the water to pass under the path has caved in with the pressure. The other one is too clogged to let anything pass. A few trees have fallen down too. We can walk through the mud and around the branches, but it is not very inviting. The only good thing is that there are a copious number of wild irises growing out of the mud. There are many more than we have ever seen down there. The yellow flags will be a welcome distraction to the wreckage.

28 April Wednesday

I was in a ladies room in town and I noticed that the rounded toilet paper dispenser was fitted with an ashtray on top. As a sign of a time already long gone, it was quite a startling sight.

27 April Tuesday

How I love to see Pigs Ears written on my shopping list. We buy five or six of them at a time and then we cut them up into small pieces for Em. The garden shears are strong enough to cut them but it is very hard work. They are tough and the edges of the ear and the gristly bits make the cutting difficult. I am getting better at choosing ones which might be easier to cut, but the nature of ears means that they will never be easy. As a result of the laborious nature of the job, sometimes Em receives an extremely tiny little sliver. I do not think she minds. It is just the ritual of getting a treat that matters.

26 April Monday

Em is much better. The only time we see a bit of the limp is when she first gets up in the morning. A little early morning stiffness is not anything to worry about. I am still taking her for shorter rather than longer walks and the boreen is just such a varied place for smells and exploring, I do not think she cares to go anywhere else anyway. Today as we walked along, Max joined us. He went for a swim in the stream with Em. Further down the road, near Ken's house, Oscar joined us and they both came all the way down the boreen and home with us. Em never dropped her stick and they never tried to take it from her. Oscar turned and went back home immediately upon arrival. Max stayed for a while, drank some water and then he continued up the boreen back to his own house. Em did not seem interested either to have them with here, nor to have them leave again. For many years she had Syd hanging around, so I guess she just takes male companionship for granted. The difference with Syd was that he would never go home. We used to try all kinds of tricks to sneak away over Joe's fields when we thought he was not around. We did lots of things to stop him from following us on walks, but he always figured everything out. Sometimes he would rush to meet us from the opposite direction at great speed and with great joy. When I sent him home at the end of the day, using my very stern voice, he would just go a little way up the road and lie down there. He was staying within earshot so that he would hear the car keys, the door, or any sound of food or cooking or walking or outdoor activity. Any of these sounds were enough to bring him dashing back into visible space. What he did not realize was that we could see the curve of his bottom just around the edge of the book barn, so we knew he was there waiting and listening even while he thought we could not possibly know that he was there. In the year after his death, Simon made a little plaque using two old tractor windows fitted into an oval wooden frame. The letters etched on the glass are in black and white, because Syd was black and white. Three times the name Syd is written and then the date of his death and the words, very small: He Lived in the Fast Boreen. This is fixed to the stone wall of the barn, quite low down. The white curve of the frame shows just a little bit around the corner of the building. From the kitchen door, we can still look out and think that Syd is lying there, and that it is his hip that we see. We can believe that he is just waiting for a single sound to bring himself rushing back into our lives.

25 April Sunday

We saw Dessie as we walked by the Murder Cottage. He was in his car and just about to drive away with a large horse box connected to the back of his car. There was manure all over the road which he had shovelled out of the horse box so that he could fill it with some stuff to be moved to the new house. He said he had changed his mind and that he would give me some of the pallets after all, as he had many more than he needed. He gave me long advice about which ones would be right for my compost heap and then he told me where he would leave them for me to collect. I reminded him about his Christmas decorations from Budweiser and his lights on the spruce tree and he said, Don't worry, I am not gone yet.

24 April Saturday

We drove over the Knockmealdowns on the way home from Lismore last night. It was dark. I was a little nervous as I always am when driving over the mountains in the dark. It is extremely dark up there when it is dark and there are many places where it would be easy to plunge off the road and to fall a long distance. As we came out of the wooded area into the higher parts of the mountains, we saw a red glow off to the left. Then we saw another red glow far off and up on the right. We thought this must be the burning of bracken which the hill farmers do yearly to keep the growth under control. It seemed very strange for it to be being done at night, especially on such a very dark night. There might have been a moon, but there was little light. Maybe it was cloudy. We kept coming across more and more small areas of flames, some quite close to the road. We had to close the windows as the smoke was choking us. We drove up and around one bend and saw a burning area straight ahead of us. The fire was right down the banking and on the side of the road. The already narrow road was suddenly a single lane road as the fire had engulfed half of it. I slowed down and did not know what to do, and then I accelerated and rushed through the fire. We could feel the heat right through the closed windows and the side of the car. I am still not sure if it was stupid or brave to drive right through the fire.

23 April Friday

Yet another flat tyre. We seem to have had dozens of them in the last months. It is the huge thorns on the blackthorns which keep puncturing the inner tubes. Simon put the spare on and I took the car and the tyre and the dog down to Anthony. While he was repairing and replacing, Em and I did the Waterfall Walk. I had not done this walk in a long time. It was lovely and quiet. Em had a swim. We saw young calves and baby lambs, and violets. The last bit of the walk is down the road. It is a quiet road with very little trafffic on a Friday morning. The stream runs parallel to the road all the way down and into the village. I found the sound lovely but Em was in a state because she could hear the water but could not get at it for another swim. The road is called the New Line. It is not a new road, but it was named that when it was new. Everyone called it the New Line then, and it has just never been changed. Em has a little sheepskin bed in the big room. We call that her New Bed, as opposed to her regular old bed. The New Bed is no longer new any more than the New Line is new.

22 April Thursday

We were coming back from our walk and as we approached the farm there was a cow who had just finishing giving birth to a calf. It was all a bit bloody and messy. The cow was trying to clean her baby but she was frightened to see Em. She was torn between doing the right thing for her child and protecting it. Em was just busy trying to get on the far side of us to put as much distance as possible between the cow and herself.

21 April Wednesday

There are planes in the sky again. We cannot hear them but we can see their paths. The gap in the Icelandic ash is allowing things to get back to normal. I asked the postman what was happening to the post. We have only had a tiny bit of mail this week. We have received a few things from here in Ireland and a few things from Britain. Nothing is arriving from any further away. He said if this went on much longer, they would start sending things by boat from America and mainland Europe. He said they are expecting a real deluge once things get going again. These days they have renamed Monday "E-Bay Monday" in the sorting office as there are always so many packages to be delivered on a Monday. He said they are now expecting a whole week of E-Bay Mondays.

20 April Tuesday

Dessie has taken to driving his car way back into the field while he is working on his wood jobs. He turns the radio on in the car and opens all the doors so that he can hear it while he is working. He keeps it at top volume. It cannot be easy to hear it over the noise of power tools. I went out there and asked him if I might have a few pallets but he said no. He feels that he probably needs all of the ones he has collected. He is cutting some of them up into small pieces for kindling. He says he will sell this kindling to a wholesaler. The other ones he is taking apart to provide fencing for his new house. There must be about 80 pallets piled up in the back. There are quite a few more in various states of deconstruction. He told me that they are no good for making a compost heap structure anyway as they will rot down too soon. As I left, I took a good look at his Christmas tree decorations. Most of the large bulbs have Budweiser written on them. They must have been some kind of pub decoration. Maybe he does not care about those, but I would think he would want to re-use his lights at his new house, if he ever does actually move.

19 April Monday

Em is always on my left when I open the kitchen door to let her out. If I do it wrong and I am on the left and she is on the right, she looks up at me and waits for me to move into the correct poisition before she goes outside.

18 April Sunday

We were supposed to have guests this weekend but since they could not fly from Britain, we have no guests. The day felt free in a nice way. Simon used the afternoon to install his old Mirroir poem in the bathroom. He repainted the wall white, and used dark grey letters. Since the poem uses reflection, we have the forward and backward version of the poem on the wall, and then we have the forward and backward version of the poem again in the big mirror. It is wonderful. Somehow the pebble and the ripple ripple ripple at the end works better than it ever has. I love it everytime I walk into the room.

17 April Saturday

I found a dead song thrush on the step outside the book barn. It must have knocked itself out by flying into the glass. I am glad I saw it on the way into the barn and not on the way out of the barn. I would have disliked stepping on it and its position made it inevitable that I would indeed step on it. The early morning birdsong is glorious this year. It is still very cold to leave the windows wide open, but we do it anyway because we like being awoken by songs at dawn.

16 April Friday

I made a big Acquisitions Mission in Tom Cooney's wood this morning. My supply of sticks for Em to fetch in the stream had really dwindled. At first I thought other dog owners had just taken them for their own dogs. Then I realized that my storage spot on the top of the wall was a bad spot. With just a small bit of wind, the sticks were being blown off the wall and into the stream. They were not being stolen by other dogs. I worked away in the wood for a while collecting my new supply. No more trees have been cut down, but there are still a lot of the painted dots and lines on various trees. I have still not found out which mark and which colour means what. It is tricky walking in between the trees as there are lots of drainage ditches cut through the land. The ditches are cut diagonally in the wood so it is easy to fall into one when looking for good sticks and branches. I fell a lot. Em was delighted to extend her swimming time and I am delighted to have a great new supply of sticks in a good safe spot. That should last us a few weeks.

15 April Thursday

I keep thinking it is time to empty the big basket and to put away the winter hats and gloves and scarves. Every time I start to do it, we have another frost predicted for that night. We have been having a frost almost every night. And the mornings are cold.

14 April Wednesday

I spent a few hours in Cahir this morning while Mike gave the car a check-up. It was cold. As I walked over the bridge, a woman wearing a heavy coat and mittens and a woolly hat nodded to me and said 'Back to the caps again!' There are not many errands that I need to do in Cahir. About half of all the shops are now empty anyway. Some have signs saying they are For Rent. Others are just empty. I bought a newspaper and took a free copy of South Tipp Today. I read both of them while I drank a coffee and ate a fruit scone. Then I went to the SuperValu and did some grocery shopping. I did not want to buy too many things as I knew I had to carry everything up the hill to Mike's garage. While there, I noticed another sign of the New Hard Times. The majority of products on the shelves were lined up along the front edge. Instead of an entire shelf being as full as it looked, it was very empty and dark behind a precarious single stacking. I went around and checked quite a few products to see if this was the norm. It was. On the way back up the hill, I noticed a charity shop. Since I was still a bit early for picking up the car, I went in to look at the books. I found several things that I would not mind reading, but I saw no prices marked on them. I asked the girl at the counter how much the books were. She said 'Oh god, you can just take them.' She gave me a paper bag and told me to fill it up. After I had found six books, I went back to the counter and asked again if I could pay for them. She said no because she has too many books. Many of her customers are Foreign Nationals. They do not want to buy books in English. They are shopping for clothes and household things. She said if I have some things to bring in one day, she would appreciate it but right now she is just desperate to get rid of the books.

12 April Monday

Two little girls named Ivy and Dora were visiting yesterday. They spent a long time collecting sticks for Emily. They eagerly offered them to her one stick right after the other. She finally chose one long one and went away from them to lie down in the shade for a chew of it. The girls piled the rest of the sticks outside her house. It now looks as though the dog is planning a huge bonfire.

9 April Friday

As the entire country has stopped buying new cars, the used car market has also suffered. There are a lot of people buying much more expensive cars than they would have been able to afford before. Every single car for sale is cheaper than it ever was. There are a lot of people driving BMWs, Mercedes and Saabs. I have been interested to see how ordinary these cars are becoming. All of the show-offy kind of specialness is missing. More than once I have seen a farmer parked beside a field with the boot of his BMW open. Inside the boot are all of the things that farmers carry around because they will surely need them. Things like wire fencing, and rope and pellets for cows and big pitch forks and buckets. A BMW is now a useful car because it has a good amount of storage space.

6 April Tuesday

Wild winds and rain all night. I kept waking up to the sounds of the gales. Today there is water everywhere. Every field has puddles and ponds. I am surprised that there is not more destruction visible after the strong winds. The water streamed down the boreen all morning as if it is was part of a river and not running down a rough road. As I write, it is afternoon and the sun has come out and everything is bright and a bit exposed. Things have been looking so dead and grim. Now they are looking dead and grim and drowned. Inside, here in the big room, the colour yellow is illuminated by the sun. There are daffodils and pears and bananas and chysanthamums. Even the old yellow rotodex joins these yellow things in looking cheerful. Outside the window the small forsythia is in bloom. It reflects light and bright back into the room. This is more than just a promise of spring. I think this is spring, even though it is extremely soggy underfoot.

5 April Monday

Em went charging down the meadow in the dark. She has hardly been anywhere lately so I cannot deny her this pleasure. Even if I wanted to stop her it is too late. She made sure that she was off and barking before I was close enough to say no. Her leg is much better but I am only taking her for the shortest of walks. Until tonight, she did not even get the meadow walk at night. The limp is mostly gone, but I have watched it return too often. I am trying to stay vigilent.

3 April Saturday

Good Friday in Limerick was a big news event. There were reporters from the USA and from the BBC as well as from the Irish press. The mayor was on hand to open the first pub and to raise the first pint. Bus loads of people arrived from as far away as Donegal. People were queuing down the street for up to two hours before the pubs opened. There were priests handing out leaflets and encouraging people to go to mass instead of going to the bars and the match. Many places, not in the city center, reported that it was just like a normal day. No big crowds and no big fuss. The Leinster team won so the celebrating was less effusive than it might have been if Munster had won. Discussions continue on the radio about whether it was right to open at all and what precedent has been established. In a few days it will all be forgotten and maybe next year the discussion will begin again.

31 March Wednesday

The decision has been made. Bars and Public Houses in Limerick will be open on Good Friday between the hours of 6 and 11.30. This is to accomodate drinking by sports fans who will flock to Limerick for the big match. The rest of the country must observe the usual abstinance. There is still a lot of discussion about whether this decision is right or wrong. One young man in the pub was speaking loudly against this deviation from the old ways. I suggested that maybe increased separation between Church and State was timely. He said that Good Friday was a day for people to have parties and to drink at home instead of in bars. I thought that the purpose of not selling alcohol is to force people to refrain from drink on that day, as decreed by the Catholic Church and through them by the Irish Government. If one believes this ban is correct and a good thing, then why is a drinking party at home the inevitable result of the ban? There are aspects of logic here which I will never understand.

30 March Tuesday

Wild rain and cold and gale force winds. There is snow in a lot of places. There is snow on the Galtees, and there is snow on the Knockmealdowns. There is snow on the Comeraghs and there is snow in Dublin. It is hard to believe that we sat outside with guests on Sunday and we ate a long and lazy lunch in the sunshine. It is as if that memory is for a different place.

29 March Monday

I need to make a new side for my compost heap. Actually I need to make a new pair of compost heaps. To make these, I must get some more pallets. It is nearly impossible to live in the country without pallets. They are useful in so many ways. We always put them on the ground when we stack firewood. That way the wood is held up off the ground and out of the damp or possible flooding. Farmers use them to block a broken fence or a broken bit of the ditch so the cows or sheep cannot escape. A pallet can become a gate. Dessie has three huge piles of pallets in his backyard. He has regularly deconstructed them and used them as building materials. I wonder if he is going to take all of the pallets to Burncourt with him. It will mean a lot of trips with his little trailer. I shall ask him if I can have either two or six of them. I must also remind him not to forget his Christmas decorations which are still up on the big spruce tree out front. Since they all face the road and not the house, it would be easy for him to forget them.

25 March Thursday

A bright morning turned into a wet and windy afternoon. I put on full waterproofs and went for a walk (without Em) at the end of the afternoon. Once I was outside, it was much less horrible than it sounded when I was in the house. I looked around in the old orchard up at Johnnie Mackin's. There are more daffodils out up there than there are down here. The ground under the apple trees is covered with wild garlic. The smell as I walked about was lovely. I filled my pockets with a few handfuls of the leaves. This is foraging. Foraging is the new word. I read it everywhere. Menus do not just mention a herb like mint. They announce that the mint has been Freshly Foraged. I do not think that you can walk out into your garden and pick some mint and call it foraging. If you knew where that mint was and if you were probably the person who planted that mint, you were not foraging. You were just picking. You might call it harvesting but even that is a stretch.

24 March Wednesday

I found a little manila envelope in my notebook. It has the word HOME written on it in brown marking pen. When we were away just now, I had put the house key, and some euros into this envelope as they were things I would not need during the trip. Each time I saw the little envelope, I felt happy. Now I find it again. It is empty and its function is redundant. I am at home, but I cannot yet throw it away.

23 March Tuesday

Em is still limping but she is no longer on the rope. The diet and the restricted movement continue. Every once and a while she rushes off across the field but mostly she just stays quiet. There are no walks and she has stopped getting excited when she sees me putting on my boots. She knows she will again be excluded from this walk.

22 March Monday

Against my better judgement, I have become fond of the llama in his field. I still think it is unnatural for a llama to live in Tipperary, but I have taken to stopping and talking to this llama as I pass. He runs to greet me when I call, so I feel that he knows my voice. This is probably false. He might just run toward any voice. His eyes are very sideways on his head. He turns his head this way and that as if trying to look in the direction of my voice. I have spoken to him about how disturbed I am about his presence in a meadow in Tipperary. I have talked to him about his isolation. I have described The Gloomy Donkeys who were in this same meadow before he arrived. Most recently, I have been talking to him about Peru. I do not know much about Peru, but I fear he knows even less than I. I mention words like Lima, and the Andes and Macchu Picchu because I feel these words are in his brain somewhere. I keep meaning to look up a bit more about Peru so that I can tell him more. I was talking to Breda about this lonely llama. She told me that there is a field not far from here with a whole group (herd?) of llamas, but this llama had to be moved away from the rest because he is so bad-natured and he is a danger to the others. This changes my feelings a little. This is a lonely llama with a bad reputation. I still worry that he is lonely, but I am glad that I have never tried to pat him. I was never certain that he would not bite. Now it seems certain that he will bite.

21 March Sunday

Yesterday, we sat outside in the first warm afternoon sun. We drank tea with friends who walked down the boreen to visit. The heat on our backs and faces and arms was wonderful. The little girl was happy to throw things again and again and again for the two dogs to fetch. Em and Figo, the visiting dog, were happy to fetch endlessly. What could be better? We were delighted that Em was so completely healed and strong again. By bedtime, she was unable to put her bad leg on the ground. She had become a very shaky tripod. We were so foolish and irresponsible to let her do all of that joyful running. Today she is back on the rope. She is very annoyed. She is sighing heavily, and often, and sleeping under the rosemary bush.

20 March Saturday

I have not seen Dessie in a long while. A neighbour told me that he had changed his mind, and that he was not moving to Burncourt after all. I do not believe this. There is increasing evidence that he is slowly removing himself from The Murder Cottage. The long platforms built for his potted plants have been taken apart and taken away. The pots are gone too. The grow bags and the structures to hold them up and the pots that were balanced on the stone wall are gone too. There is still a lot of stuff around. All of his specially made fences, which were designed in anticipation of this move, are still in position. I know that he has only to remove the wires and various holding up devices and he can easily load them and take them away. His special metal table which he uses with clamping devices to cut up found wood and palettes both for his firewood and his fences is still in position. And the house seems to be full of things too. This is not going to be a fast move but he is definitely going. Dessie made paving stones cast from cement poured into the bottom of a bucket. He made a little path from the gate to his door with these homemade slabs. I wonder if he will leave those where they are, or if he will take those too.

19 March Friday

There is some cutting going on in Tom Cooney's wood. The wood is planted with deciduous trees. The trees are still young trees, but they are big enough now that they are shading the ground below so there is very little undergrowth. It makes for a lovely dappled wood. The wood runs along side the stream. It starts at the point where Em goes for her swim, and follows the stream all the way down to our meadow bottom. It is a long, long narrow wood and it appears that it is time for some thinning. While I was recently scrabbling about for a supply of throwing sticks, I noticed that a number of trees had a thin line painted around them. Some lines were painted with white spray paint, and some lines were painted with yellow spray paint. Each line was about a meter and a half up from the ground. Some trees had a yellow dot too. Now, as I walk past or through the wood, I see areas where the trees have been felled. It seems that there are little circular groups being cut rather than every third or fourth tree. I always thought thinning was an attempt to allow more air and root space for the trees left behind. This clearing of small areas is odd. I would like to ask someone but I never seem to be passing when anyone is there and cutting. The other thing I want to ask about is why the trees are being cut off at this one and a half meter height. That is a lot of tree to leave. It is too much to call a stump.

18 March Thursday

We are still in a terrible quandry about our concertina card which arrived the other day from the printer. It is a third version of Simon's text from Brancusi saying that ALL FURNITURE IS SCULPTURE. This was to be accompanied by my drawing of a long bench. The bench was to be very, very black. The printer had the wrong kind of block made so instead of being black, and strong, like a silhouette, it is a dull grey and as dead as can be. Simon coloured one bench in with a marking pen and we see it as we would like it to be. The printer does not want to reprint it. He says his legs and knees are bad. He is finding the letterpress printing too hard. He is thinking of closing his business down at the end of the month. We are shocked and saddened. We have worked together for so long, it does not seem possible that he might ever close. We worked with his father too, for several years before he died. We thought the weathering of these difficult economic times so far meant that he had survived when so many other printers have closed down. We thought that he was safe now. We never thought of him having physical difficulties. We are torn between our sadness for him and his situation, and wanting our bench black.

17 March Wednesday

We have spent the day ignoring the fact that it is St.Patrick's Day. The post office and the banks and the schools are shut. It is a national holiday. Every year it gets bigger and bigger and more and more international. It is not even a day anymore. I have heard it called the St. Patrick's Week celebration. The large towns have huge parades and there are groups from all over who come to participate. The State Troopers from Massachusetts have a large contingent in Limerick. Who is maintaining law and order during the floods, wild winds and devastation in Massachusetts in their absence? In Dublin, there is a Brass Band from Switzerland, and there are Baton Twirlers from Texas, and Gymnastic Teams from Japan. In Tipperary town, there is a Bacon and Cabbage Ceili. What in the world is that? In Clonmel, a jug of water will be carried from St.Patrick's Well to the altar of a church in town for Mass. These are just a few of the things about which I know. Without trying to find out about any of it, the information just gets into my life. There used to be small parades of tractors, and scouts, and teams and homemade floats in small villages. Of course some of these still exist, but they are mostly eclipsed by all the big stuff. I liked it best when it was little and local.

16 March Tuesday

I saw my first primrose today. Still no daffodils, although the buds are more evident. Poor Em is on a rope which is just long enough for her to go in and out of her house and as far as the kitchen door. She was racing up and down the meadow and has damaged her leg again. I am hoping this is not a bad injury. I am hoping that the ligament is not actually torn again. I am hoping that a day or two of restricted movement might be enough to heal her. She is shocked and upset to be on the rope. There is no dignity in it, especially as Joe's cows are in the field. She longs to be chasing them and protecting everything that is hers.

15 March Monday

There is a big discussion on the radio and on the television and in the shops. A big match is to be played in Limerick on Good Friday. This kind of scheduling is apparently unheard of, but because it has been already scheduled it seems that it is now very difficult to change the match to Thursday or to Saturday. The dilemma involves the long standing ban on drinking on Good Friday. All bars and restaurants are forbidden to serve alcohol on Good Friday, as are shops from selling it. How can there possibly be a big sporting event if people cannot go to the bar after the match? And what about all the people who do not travel to the match but who go to their local bar to watch it on television? The people who want the laws altered are the publicans (of course), the fans, and those who are aware that between the smoking ban and the drink driving restrictions, bars have been closing down in huge numbers all over the country. It seems cruel not to let them have this one day of probably enormous revenue when times are so hard. Those who do not want the ban lifted for the day are, of course, the Catholic church (who are already on very shaky legs these days), and people who still believe that this ban means that people won't drink just because the church says so. Unlike in the old days, it is now normal for people to drink at home. One order of priests near to the stadium are threatening to picket the match if the law is altered. The discussion goes on and on, back and forth. If the ban is lifted for the day in Limerick, what about other people in other parts of the country who also might want to watch the match in their local bar? If the ban is lifted for this year, what happens next year? If the ban is lifted for only a few hours around the time of the match, can it then be back in place for the rest of the day? There are so many serious problems facing this country right now, I fear this issue about the leftover authority of the church is just a distraction. I am very interested to see how it is resolved.

11 March Thursday

The nights are very cold. Temperatures are below freezing and it takes all morning for the frost to melt off the barn roof and off the fields. The water butts are frozen every day. Apparently this has been the weather for the whole time we were away. Very little rain. There is not a daffodil in sight. The snow drops have had a good long run and they look so lovely on their own. I have always planted snowdrop bulbs in loose clumps in the lawn, along with daffodils, and I got used to seeing them like that. I never appreciated how splendid they are as large white swathes across the grass. I must remember this for future plantings. That, of course, is assuming that the daffodils have not been permanantly damaged by the weather. Lots of well established plants are dead. Not just here but everywhere. The deep cold and this continuing unseasonable cold is wreaking havoc. Every palm tree in the country is dead (they say). I have never really gotten used to the palm trees of Ireland. They always look wrong to me. With the Gulf Stream and the ordinarily temperate climate, they thrive here. What is the past tense of thrive? Maybe I should not rush to seek the past tense of thrive. Maybe they will return to life when the weather warms up. Amidst the devastation, and these strangely brown fields, the afternoons are beautiful: bright, clear, sunny and mild.

10 March Wednesday

When we fetched Em the other day, she had put on weight again. It was not as bad as it was before the big diet, but the extra weight was noticeable. This time, she had discovered the Milking Parlour. She made lots of extra trips up through the farmyard to lick up any milk available. It took a while before anyone knew what she was doing. She has always loved milk and any dairy products but I believe they are not really good for adult dogs. Since there were no other dogs staying down in the barn, she made herself completely at home in the house. Very quickly, she was sleeping on the rug beside Alma's bed. When we put Em into the car to leave, Alma cried. We felt like we were stealling her dog from her.

9 March Tuesday

Em and I went up the boreen today. We saw a few cars parked outside the old graveyard at Tullaghmelagh. It is a narrow bit of road and it is almost impossible to park and be off the road there. It is unusual to see even one car there. We continued down the road. Just as we reached the gate for the llama's meadow, a hearse came around the corner, very very slowly. I held onto Em as it passed. It is normal here for people to stop what they are doing and to stand quietly to watch a funeral procession, crossing themselves as the hearse goes by. I am not Catholic so I do not cross myself but I thought it polite to stand quietly as the car passed. I was not expecting 38 cars to follow the hearse. I stood there and Em stood there and every person in every motorcar passed very close to us on the narrow road. I could have touched each car without even stretching my arm out straight.. Instead I had to wave or nod to each car and its occupants, as they all waved and nodded to us. Everyones' face lit up at the sight of Em. The llama, behind us, was in a state of high excitement. It is rare for so many cars to pass. He raced back and forth like a mad thing. It took a long time for the vehicles to pass as they were driving so slowly. The llama did several lengths of his meadow, and I ended up kneeling on the grass, nodding and waving and holding Em by resting my other hand on her back. Most of the people in the cars were older, which perhaps explained their delight with Em. Even without seeing all of them, I would have known that the person being buried in the old graveyard was elderly as there are never any new graves dug unless there is already a family connection. I have no idea where all the cars would have parked up there. I guess the road was just completely blocked until the burial service was complete.

8 March Monday

Five weeks on the road in America was too long. Too many different places. Too many different committments. Too many different people. Too many different beds. It is good to be back home. It is good to not talk. It is good to be neither a guest nor a customer. In between my exhaustion, and the jet lag, there is so much to notice. It is lucky for me that I only write about here and not about elsewhere. It is lucky for me that I only write about here when I am here, and not when I am anywhere else.

30 January 2010 Saturday

A long time ago, we all filled in forms down at Nugents. It was some kind of promotion by Guinness, and Rose was eager to get as many forms completed as possible. It would somehow reflect well on her pub to show that she had a huge crowd of customers. I did not want to fill one in as I do not even like Guinness but she said that did not matter. Everyone filled them in and some people filled them in for other people who were not there, or for other people who could neither read nor write. Everyone was promised a free pint just for filling in the form. As a result of this form filling in, we have received mailings from Guinness ever since. At Christmas there is a free pint in the post. This summer was the 250th anniversary of Guinness so the printed note said: Erica! There is a free pint of Guinness Draught waiting for you in Nugents. At the time coming up to our birthdays, there has always been a card with A Birthday Pint Waiting for You at Nugents. Since I do not drink Guinness, Simon always has my pints as well as his own. A lot of older men have been rushing into the bar this month, complaining to Rose that they did not receive their Christmas Pint from Guinness. Another sign of the new Austerity. I suppose the birthday pints will disappear too.

29 January 2010 Friday

Em and I walked around this morning in howling wind. Each time I reached a turning or a rise in a hill or a dip in the land, I thought the force of the wind might drop. I thought that instead of me striding against the wind, it might hit me from a different side and maybe even push me along from behind. No such luck. It was against me the whole way. Even Em seemed to be struggling with it, and she is a lot closer to the ground than I am. When I looked back to see her straggling far behind me, I put on the big, gruff voice which I only ever use to demand Give Me That Stick! This is my method to make her accelerate. It works every time. It works if she is very far in front of me, or if she is far behind me. It only works if she is carrying a stick. Today she had a small stubby stick which looked very much like a cigar coming out the side of her mouth. She picked it up as we left the yard and she carried it the whole way without ever once being distracted into dropping it. Later, I heard that the winds had been so strong in Cork that the B had been blown off the sign for the Butter Museum.

28 January 2010 Thursday

The stream down below is so full and so loud, it sounds as though we live above a huge and roaring river, instead of a tiny meandering stream at the bottom of the meadow. We still can't walk through the big lake to go up the boreen.

25 January 2010 Monday

The Public Service Announcements come on the local radio station after the news. I used to wonder how everyone knew when someone had died. I assumed there was an amazing network of people telephoning each other with the news. Every time there is a removal, the street in front of the church is full of people by the time the hearse arrives. Finally I learned that everyone listens to Tipp FM. The name of the person and where he or she died is read, then there is an added note of the townland from which the person came. For married women, the maiden name is read too so that the family she came from can be known. Sometimes the visiting hours are at a funeral home, but often they say He will repose at home until being taken to the church, for arrival at 8 pm. I am especially fond of the expression He will repose at home. People can go to pay their respects at the funeral parlour or they can just go to the person's own home, or they can await the arrival at the church. A lot of options get listed in the very brief radio announcement. In the village here, the funeral is always the next day, and it is always at 11 am.

24 January 2010 Sunday

Snowdrops are popping up everywhere. Even though I basically know where the bulbs are planted, they manage to arrive as a surprise every year. Yesterday, we had to zig zag our way through them all the way to the sauna. Luckily, there was enough white bud showing in the frosty grass so that my lantern was able to light the way without me stepping on a single one.

23 January 2010 Saturday

Last night we went down to Rose's for an early drink. By 7.15, the whole place was filling up with people in anticipation of the big Rugby match. Munster was playing someone in a final. I have forgotten who it was already (Northampton?) but it was big and important. A load of local people had gone off to the actual match in Limerick. We said hello to a lot of people as we finished our drinks and prepared to leave. The pre-game discussions were already up on the television screen, as was the little white outline drawing of a pint glass in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. I always look for the glass. Rose had told us about this little drawing a while ago. When a pub or a restaurant has a subscription to Sky Sports, this little icon comes up on the screen whenever the station is being aired. It's presence means that the venue has paid it's Special Entertainment Charge. Without paying the fee, which I understand is very high, the venue has no right to be showing the station. The idea is that the venue is probably raking in the money with the extra audience brought in to watch the match. A spy, or inspector, for Sky Sports can walk into any bar during a sports event and if the little white glass is not on the screen, they will fine the bar. The fine is very high. To get around the punitive fines and exorbitant charges, some landlords have taken to painting the little pint glass onto their own screen with Tipp-ex. Somebody has even designed a tiny stencil to make it easier for those people who might not be very good at drawing.

21 January 2010 Thursday

Simon went in to the Turkish barber in Clonmel. He asked for his hair to be cut very short. The barber said, It is a brave man who cuts his hair short at this time of year.

20 January 2010 Wednesday

It has been difficult to work down in the barn this winter. Even now that the weather is warmer, the inside of the barn has held a hard deep cold. We were silly not to get the heat sorted out earlier. Now the walls are holding weeks and months of cold. Each time I go down to do something, I wear an extra sweater and a heavy overshirt or coat. I wear a hat. I wear a scarf. I stand on heavy floor mats. With all of this extra protection I still do not last very long. We keep bringing jobs up to the house. It is easier to rush up and down, and inside and out, with the cutting mat and straight edges and this and that, than it is to stay down there. The big room up in the house has the huge table and good light and warmth. I would rather make twelve trips back and forth than stay down there for one hour. I long for spring and the wide open door and the birds diving in and out. There is a long wait before that will happen again. It is only mid-January. It is too early to be fed up with winter weather.

19 January 2010 Tuesday

When I ask Alma how she is, she always answers "There's no fear in us!". When she asks how how I am, she says " So, there's no fear in you?"

18 January 2010 Monday

Em has taken to Walking the Houses. Tommie always used the expression Walking The Houses. He would come up here when we were away and he would take long and purposeful strides as he walked around each building. He was checking to be sure that all of the doors were shut and all of the windows were unbroken and securely closed. He was checking to see that all was as it should be. He once showed me exactly how he Walked the Houses. He wanted to let me know that he took his responsibility seriously. When Em Walks the Houses, she only goes around this house. She sniffs at everything all along the way, and inspects the bird feeding areas to see if anything good has dropped down to the ground. Sometimes she races very fast all around the house, stopping for nothing and looking at nothing. Other times she runs very fast all around barking like mad and turning her head this way and that as she goes. I love looking out a window and seeing her race past. This is all quite new behaviour. It is just since the very cold weather. She does not circle the barns in the same specific and choreographed way. Throughout the day she rushes around a lot in all directions and down the meadow and out into the big fields, so all areas are covered, but it is not the same. It is not Walking the Houses. It is just Walking the House.

17 January 2010 Sunday

There is a piece of white cardboard beside the petrol pumps at O'Dwyer's. It is nicely printed out by hand in clear big black letters. At the top of the card are the words: EMERGENCY NUMBERS. It lists all the telephone numbers one might need for the Fire Brigade, the Garda, local doctors, and the ambulance. The first number on the list is for the priest. Things have changed a lot in this country and the relationship to the church has changed enormously, but in certain kinds of emergencies, I guess the priest is still the first man to ring.

16 January 2010 Saturday

Several places locally have signs out front advertising Dental Repairs. These are often houses in the middle of the countryside. I presume there is a workshop in the shed or in a spare room. If the sign states While U Wait, there must be a waiting area where the person in need of repair can sit quietly while they wait for their dentures to be fixed. Maybe some people drop off their teeth and return later to collect them. Maybe they have a spare, older set at home or maybe they are happy to spend the day toothless. I never see one these repair places without thinking of an arranged meeting with elderly friends at a pub some years ago. They wanted to buy us a lunch in order to thank us for something we had done. They thought it would be more special if we ate out somewhere. Mostly, I think the woman was longing to be somewhere other than at her own table for a change. The food was the usual sort of fare in these places: Some kind of roast meat and roast potatoes and boiled potatoes and mashed potatoes, along with a selection of overcooked vegetables. While I was reeling in shock at the enormous mound of food on my plate, the wife nudged me. She wanted to explain why she was removing her teeth and placing them in her handbag. She wanted to explain before the teeth were out of her mouth. She said that the local man who did dental repairs charged too much, so her son had done her repairs for her. He used Super Glue, which I am sure was never intended to be inside a human mouth. The repairs were so thorough that although she was happy with the fixing, she was unable to eat anything at all with her teeth now.

15 January 2010 Friday

My various bird feeding devices have had uneven success rates. Several of them just blew away in the big winds the other night. One became a container full of a sodden porridgey mess, as I had failed to think about drainage when I made it. The ones on the table were visited by a rat. I watched the rat climbing up the table leg as I stood in the kitchen. That was disturbing. Now I am trying to provide only hanging options for birds and nothing at all for rats. I went looking for birdfeeders in the village and thought I might copy their ideas or just buy a good strong feeder if the price was right. Kevin told me that he has not one birdfeeder, nor any bird food, nor seeds, nor peanuts. He told me there is no bird anything available to buy. The whole country is feeding birds. This is good for the birds. I came home and made another hanging thing from a small square wooden cigar box. I drilled a few holes into the bottom of the box . It hangs from three points so it should remain stable. My other successful one hangs at a dangerous tilt as it hangs from only two points. The birds are able to perch on it's sides without the whole thing tipping over. It does not look very good but it works.

14 January 2010 Thursday

I took a quick look at my library books and I panicked when I thought they were overdue. I saw January 10 stamped on the insert. They actually read 26 January 10. I am not used to this 10 yet. Without fail, each time I write the date on a check or on a letter, I write 2009. I am now trying to write 2010 as often as possible to make it normal for myself. 2010.

13 January 2010 Wednesday

It seems impossible, but Ireland is running out of water. All through the very deep cold, people tried to stop their pipes from freezing by leaving their faucets running. I do not know if the faucets were left just dripping or if they were on full force. This excessive use has been exacerbated by many burst pipes within the system. These leaks are added to the already old and leaky pipes of the various water supplies. Quite a number of cities and councils have been both begging and demanding that people stop leaving their water running. They are asking everyone to reduce their water use in as many ways as possible. None of the requests and orders have achieved much, so now the water is being turned off from 10 at night until the morning.

12 January 2010 Tuesday

The water is working again. A torrential rain came and melted all of the snow and most of the ice and it was obviously enough to convince the well to start flowing again. I met an elderly man who was walking along carefully with his stick for support. He was very cheerful. He said, Isn't this a Fine Variety of weather we are having!

10 January 2010 Sunday

The pipes are still frozen. Greg and Breda walked from their house pushing a wheelbarrow with two large containers of water. It was wonderful of them to do this. The trip took them about 40 minutes as the road is so icey. On a normal day, it would take 25 minutes to walk from there to here. We still cannot drive in nor drive out. We brought in a few more loads of firewood. There are always two piles stacked on either side of the wood stove. Now we have made large extra stacks at either end of the sofa, just so that they are warming and drying in advance of us needing to use them. The cold from outside is so deep within the wood that the piles are still radiating cold after several hours. It is too cold to sit on the sofa at all now. The house is not so warm, so maybe this is no surprise. Our refrigerator broke at the beginning of December, but it has been so cold, both inside and out, that we have not yet needed to replace it. For quite a while we were bringing the gas canister for the cooking stove in every night so that it would not freeze, but we gave up on that and now we just use the Rayburn.

8 January 2010 Friday

Our pipes are frozen. We have been expecting it for so long that it is not really a surprise. The surprise is in how much of an inconvenience it is. A milkchurn full of water was delivered from the farm above. We have the churn standing in the kitchen with a ladle hanging inside it. Simon has calculated that it takes exactly twelve ladles of water to make a pot of tea.

6 January 2010 Wednesday

With all of the snow on the ground, everything looks very different. We are used to seeing our lives here against a constant backdrop of bright green. I was looking out at the book barn today and noticing the smattering of white which is spread over it's stone walls. This white is the remnants of a lime wash from long ago. When Tom Browne was working on the barn he took out a small window which was in the center of the wall and just under the roof. We had decided that we did not need this window. He filled the space with stones. He worked hard to make certain that the stone work fit in with all of the stone work around it. He was bothered that the stones which he used had none of the lime residue that was on all of the rest of the wall. He told us to take a little white paint, on a sponge, and to dab it carefully over the new stones so that they would blend in with the others around them. He said not to use too much paint. I promised that I would do it the very next time I had the paint out for another job. It is years ago now and I have still never done it. Tom Browne is sitting in a wheelchair in the Cottage Hospital after his many strokes. He has been there for several years. As I look at the barn and see the white of the snow and the white of the old lime wash, it all looks very beautiful together. The area where I never added the paint stands out a mile. Maybe it is just my eyes that notice this. Tom Brown would have spotted it right away. Tom Brown always had an eye for detail. He was right about this.

4 January 2010 Monday

It is still cold. It is very, very cold. We are quite pleased with the bright blue skies and the hard dry cold, but not everyone is so happy. When it is icey, the roads are impassable. When there is snow falling, the roads are deadly. No one has snow tyres. There are four snowplows in the entire country. There is not enough grit to put down on the roads. Absolutely every issue is a terrible surprise and absolutely every issue has not been prepared for as these issues are rare here. A lot of people are losing their electricity. Other people have frozen or burst water pipes. We are kind of surprised that our water has not frozen. I have filled buckets and pans of water and they are everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. The ones indoors are mostly in the way. I try to think of them positively. I try to think of them as insurance. My mother speaks of her always accumulating pile of books to be read as her insurance. We will be happy for this saved water if the well freezes up on us. I put little bowls of water on the outdoor tables for the birds everyday. The farmers have much bigger problems trying to keep water in a liquid state for their cows and their sheep. Peggy Byrne ripped a finger open as she attempted to hack into a water trough for her calves with a pickaxe.

2 January 2010 Saturday

The weather woman spoke tonight of snow and storms impinging on the northwest coast of the country. I was surprised to hear her using the word impinge like that so I went to look it up. The dictionary defines TO IMPINGE as to strike or to encroach. It still seems an odd word for an impending snow storm. There is a lot of language here that souinds to me like it comes from another time. People often use the word AVAIL. i.e. There is a new fruit and vegetable shop in town and you should be sure to avail of its many choices. This is not a word I ever heard in everyday conversation until I came to live here. I am glad that there are so many surprises.

31 December Thursday

I heard on the radio that there was to be both a full moon and a complete eclipse on New Year's Eve. It was to be the first time these three things had happened all together in 353 years. In truth, I mishead the bit about the complete eclipse and it was only a partial eclipse. We ran in and out and checked on the moon and we looked out the windows and kept track of it all, and only when we knew that it was over did I realize that it was never going to be a full eclipse. This second full moon in one month was a blue moon, which was of course another reason for excitement. The clarity and crispness of the night was perfect.

29 December Tuesday

The New Year's card has been rejected. I cannot convince Simon that the roughness of it is part of its charm. He does not do rough. He really hates the whole thing. It is getting very late to do something. Will this be our first ever foray into the world of e-cards? I am not very happy about that as an idea. We make things on paper. This is what we do. I feel like an imposter sending something electronic even though it is both cheaper and environmentally sound. I like to receive things in the post and I must assume that other people like to receive things in the post. An Post is only delivering and moving mail on Wednesday and Thursday this week. We had a delivery on the 23rd, but there was nothing on Christmas Eve, which was a Thursday. I guess nothing will get back to normal until the 4th or the 5th of Janauary. We might have time to get another card going by then.

28 December Monday

More dry and icey cold. As Em and I walked through the fields and onto the dirt track, I could hear a hard echo of my footfalls on the frozen mud. Simon spent the entire day in the print shed. He ran an extension lead out the window and turned on the halogen lamp which eventually warmed up the space. It also provided light for his work. He took the wind-up radio too. He wore a hat and a heavy sweater and stood on a thick mat. He was out there to print our New Year's greeting. He started with some very uneven bits of old grey card which made every single aspect of registration really difficult. He came into the house between printings to warm his feet and to get each new colour of ink. The inks were lined up near the stove so that they had a chance to thaw a bit before he needed them. By the end of the day he was frozen solid and completely fed up with the entire job. He threatened to throw away the whole lot. There is no doubt that he tried to do too many different printings with an awkward starting material. So many printings in such a low temperature was a bad idea too.

26 December Stephen's Day

Everything is covered with ice. The roads are completely impassable, even on foot. There does not seem to be any system in place for gritting or salting the roads. This is not normal weather for here so there are no normal solutions. As Em and I struggled to walk up the hill from Joe's gate, we had to walk on the grassy verge. The verge is covered with snow so it is not visibly grassy, but the grass underneath allowed for at least some traction. I had a stick with me so I could use that to help but as I squished onto the side of the road, I had a new problem of being grabbed at by the brambles. When I got stuck in the thorns, it was hard to turn and release myself without stepping out onto the iced over road and then making a wild skid. We walked onto the place where one of the dead foxes has been rotting for many weeks now. I was right in the middle of it before I recognized the bits of rough fur and a broken bit of skull and some vertebrae mixed with the snow underfoot. I spent many days walking well around the spot so that I did not need to smell nor to see the decomposition. It is so far from being a fox, or even a corpse now, that Em does not even stop for a sniff as she passes.

24 December Thursday

Heavy snow began last night and continued through this morning. Everything is white and new and beautiful. We have never seen so much snow in the whole time we have lived here. We dropped every plan for the day and put on our boots and walked the 3 1/2 miles to the village. Almost no cars were moving about and there is that lovely snow stillness in the air. We made some holiday visits and did some errands for people who could not get out. Then we had a drink at Rose's. We talked with Patsy Lonergan about the turkeys and chickens which he used to raise and sell every year. He stopped doing it because his hip was bad and he said that there was nothing in it as the price of the feed made the birds too expensive for anyone to buy. We are sorry about this because we found his chickens so very delicious. He was disgusted when we said that we were eating fish on Christmas. We were delighted with our fresh fish from the farmer's market on Wednesday. We have fish for the 24th and fish for the 25th. What could be nicer. Everyone here eats both a turkey and a ham on the 25th. There is absolutely no exception to this unless perhaps you are alone, or maybe just two people, and then it is acceptable to have a chicken instead of a turkey. This conversation in the mid-afternoon in the pub was unusual. Everyone appeared to have slowed down. Instead of rushing about because Christmas is coming, people seem to have decided that it is already here. The walk back up hill was slower and very slippery. The wind was much colder and it was against us. We were invited in for a hot whiskey about a third of the way up. That helped to fuel the final leg of the journey. Em rushed right into the house and ate her supper at top speed, before collapsing into a heap of sleep.

23 December Wednesday

I saw Dessie as I walked around today. He has been off doing a course in Limerick for a few weeks. In his absence, his sister has been feeding his new cat. When he set off for the course there were four huge bags of kitty litter on the windowsill in the porch.. I watched them disappear one by one over the weeks. Now they are all gone and Dessie is back home. We talked about his very fine new spacious driveway which is covered in gravel and has room for several cars. He said Yes, isn't it sad that I waited a year for the driveway and now I will be leaving. He has been offered a house over near Burncourt with more space for gardening so he will be moving soon. All of the very substantial fencing he made to keep the dogs contained has been designed to be removed and taken with him. The fences were made by taking apart old pallettes and re-using the timber boards. Some of the fence lengths have elaborate curved tops. These curvey bits are covered with white plastic. He explained that this covering was made by slicing open electric cable piping. The reason he put it on the tops of his fencing is not for the decoration but to keep the water from soaking into the end grain of his fence. The opposite piece of the fence, the piece which he cut off to make the curve, is lower down on the ground so that from the window he sees two wavey horizons topped with white.

21 December Monday

The winter solstice. It is the shortest day of the year. I am always glad to have this day over with so that we can at least pretend that the days are getting longer. More importantly, today is the day that John the Plumber came to hook up the new sink and to sort out various aspects of the plumbing for the seemingly never to be finished kitchen. It has been months and months since we started this work and I do wonder if it will ever be complete. Too much travel and time away has made the job like a stutter. When other people do a job like this, they say they are re-doing their kitchen and they have someone else come in to do the work. Sadly, we do it all ourselves (except the plumbing). When we say we are doing it, we are indeed doing it. We figure out what is happening as we go. Each step illuminates a new set of problems and we resolve the next step with invented solutions, sometimes the same solutions that I guess anyone would use. Some solutions are more specific. We often resort to going out to the printing shed to fetch a bit of printing furniture to help to make a little adjustment. What do other people do if they don't have a printing press and printing furniture?

19 December Saturday

When we go to the supermarket before Christmas, there is always one day, like today, when we are greeted by someone from a charitable organization who gives each customer a paper bag. The idea is that while we are doing our own shopping, we will also buy some things for other more needy people. The person giving out the bags suggests the things that might be useful and appreciated. When we leave the check-out, we each separate our purchases and put the things to be donated into the paper bag. On the way out of the store, we hand over our bag full of food. I have never seen this exact system anywhere else.

18 December Friday

Instead of everyone sitting at home and watching their own DVDs and televisions in these cash-strapped times, there is a big surge in cinema attendance throughout the country. I wonder if it is maybe that the cinemas are warmer than peoples' own houses or if people just want to feel that they are part of a group. Going out to see a film is cheaper than going out to dinner. And here there is the added advantage of the double seats. When we were first here, we noticed that the far ends of each row had a double seat. We discussed this between ourselves and finally we decided that perhaps it was a thoughtful gesture for overweight people. Eventually we learned that these seats were designed for young couples so that they could sit cosily together without so much as an armrest to separate them from each other.

17 December Thursday

Another Pre-Christmas ritual around here is that people go to the cemetery to clean the graves of their loved ones. New flowers or plants are placed in position. Old dead or dusty plants are removed. The gravel, if there is any around the stone, is raked and the headstone polished up a bit. This is in preparation for a visit to the grave on Christmas morning, either before or after Mass.

14 December Monday

Kenneth the Window Cleaner came by to see if we wanted our windows cleaned this morning. We do want our windows cleaned but it was far too cold and frosty for that today, so we had a cup of tea instead. We talked about this obsession the Irish have to have their windows cleaned before Christmas. It is an Absolute Must for them. I don't know why, unless it is just because everyone is getting their windows cleaned so everyone else thinks they must do it too. There is a lot of that kind of activity here. We decided to wait till January. Kenneth remarked on our complete lack of Christmas decor and then told us that they do not celebrate Christmas at all. Kenneth is a Jehovah's Witness. I never knew that they did not celebrate Christmas. Actually I know very little about them at all, but I believe they are always supposed to be spreading the word and seeking converts. We have known Kenneth for many years now and he only once said something about spirituality. Mostly we talk about politics. Since he is from Scotland, he and Simon enjoy raging together about UK issues and politicians. They used to curse about Tony Blair, but now they are just as happy to complain about Gordon Brown.

12 December Saturday

I was in the supermarket looking for the coffee. Everything had been moved and nothing was where it used to be. I asked a boy who worked there where the coffee had gone. He directed me to the biscuit section. He said, It's only logical. Sure, you wouldn't want a coffee without a biscuit, now would you?

11 December Friday

Today is the one year anniversary of Em's Imprisonment for the Healing of Her Cruciate Ligament and the Imposition of the Strict Diet. To look at her now, it is hard to remember that terrible limp. It is easy to remember her as a fat dog though, as we have so many photographs of her like that. People were always very diplomatic, in ironic kind of ways. They said She's a well fed dog. She has no trouble with eating her dinner. She will not be wasting away anytime soon. Now that she is so slim, she moves better and more youthfully and some people even think that she is a new, younger dog. That is a great compliment, but I am very glad that she is the same dog. There is no sign of the limp. She runs and races and chases and swims happily. Our walks are full of excitement.

9 December Wednesday

The oil men came down to fill the tank with heating fuel. We have only turned on the heat in the last few days. We hate to get going with the heat as it heralds the real beginning of winter. Old houses used to be desirable with their charactor and drafts and idiosyncracies. Now they appear more and more like obsolete monsters. A well-designed energy efficient house feels pretty marvelous and very enviable on a cold day. Some friends living in an envelope house use one piece of wood to heat the whole house for a whole day. Of course, if we had one of those wonderful houses we might not see our friendly oil men. Because our boreen is too narrow for a normal oil truck, we used to get a mobile tank delivered. The tank would be left here and Simon would pump it all out and into our tank by hand. Then, in a day or too, he would take the empty tank back to the oil company in the Nire. After a while, we found someone else who had a mobile tank which could be plugged in to our electricity, through a bedroom window, and the pumping out was much easier. Now the tank is brought on a small truck and it has its own generator. The pumping out and into our tank is even easier. The delivery is still made by two men, and we always invite them in for tea and biscuits. They like having tea and a chat, and I wonder if that is why the two of them come together. They say that they rarely have tea with anyone these days as no one is at home when they deliver. Everyone is out at work. They are also very complimentary about our tea because the water from our well has no chemistry in it and it does make a lovely cup of tea. They are not the only people to comment favourably about our tea. We sat and talked about many things. One of them has lost his wife since last year. We discussed that and we discussed the predictions for this afternoon's Budget. I offered two kinds of biscuits and pointed out that one kind was a ginger biscuit. I have noticed that a lot of people here do not like ginger biscuits, even if they are coated with chocolate. I mention the presence of ginger ever since an elderly friend took one bite and left the rest of his biscuit on the table. He never said a word but he has been skittish about any cookies offered here ever since. These two men loved the ginger biscuits, and they loved the almond biscuits. They did not even mind that we had no proper milk and that we gave them soya milk in their tea. When they left they thanked us for their lovely Christmas Party.

8 December Tuesday

Today is the day when traditionally the country people all went to Dublin for the beginning of their Christmas shopping. The trains and buses were full of people going to town for the day. Lunch and later some drinks at one of the big hotels was part of the day. Now everybody has a car, and the traffic around and inside Dublin is horrible. Everyone goes everywhere all the time. I wonder if the 8th of December is still a special shopping day for anyone.

3 December Thursday

The geese are flying by, heading south in huge flocks. The noise is often so loud that I rush outside to see them. It is just too big a sound to ignore. Every time it happens it is exciting. And every year it is exciting all over again. Em barks and races along the ground underneath what looks like a thousand geese.

2 December Wednesday

I saw Ken today for the first time in a long time. I asked him if the rumours were true. I asked if he was indeed getting married. He said yes, and he blushed and said yes, indeed it has been known to happen and now it is happening to me. I told him that I was very happy for him. I am not sure if the marriage has taken place yet or not, but he is living over in Ardfinnan with his lady. That is why I rarely see him anymore. Ken is in his fifties and very religious. I have always thought of him as a confirmed bachelor. As we talked, I saw Snoopy in an upstairs window, pushing the curtains aside and barking at us. I told Ken that I was a bit worried about Snoopy who is at home there all the time and mostly alone. He used to be outside all day long running about and barking like mad at anyone who passed. He also had Partner for company. Partner barked like mad too, but sometimes he would let himself out of the yard. Then he would walk calmly down the road and around. He was completely friendly and quiet when he was out and only barked from the safety of the fenced in yard. In the last year he became very deaf and a bit blind too, so he would often forget to bark unless Snoopy bumped into him in excitement. Now Partner is dead and gone, and Ken is away most of the time, day and night. Snoopy is in the house as a guard dog. When I told Ken that I was worried about Snoopy, he said What do you mean? He's fine! He's got an electric blanket in there and everything.

1 December Tuesday

Mary told me that an old house cannot be knocked down unless the old chimney has fallen. People who want to build a new house on the site of an old one will often go to the site and knock the chimney a bit to insure that the permission for a new house will go ahead. A fallen down chimney means it is okay to tear the rest of the house down.

30 November Monday

A phone call from Liam Harper was a big surprise. We had switched our electricity from the ESB to Airtricity to use a greener source. For many years Airtricity was only interested in commercial customers and we could not convince them that our remote locale was a viable business address. Once the switch was finally organized we never expected to hear from Liam Harper again. When he phoned, he said it did not matter who we bought our electricity from, because he was still the meter reader. We were happy to chat with him, and Simon went up on the stool with the torch and read the numbers out. I repeated those numbers into the telephone to Liam Harper.

26 November Thursday

It is Thanksgiving Day in America, but it is not Thanksgiving here. Some years ago I tried to make a Thanksgiving dinner at various times and I included other people but it is just silly to try to import a ritual which means considerably less than nothing to people who were not brought up with it. Simon has never been any help with Thanksgiving as he hates turkey and refuses to believe that it might ever be done well. If he is in the United States on that day, he will accept the occasion and the food with good grace, but when imposed anywhere else he considers it an unnecessary affectation. And that is probably realistic. For anyone who is not American, why would you be sitting down for a big feast in the middle of a Thursday afternoon. I cannot expect it to make sense. So we had some lovely pasta and a beautiful tarte tatin, some wine and cheese. Just a lovely evening repast interrupted by various phone calls from a holiday some where else.

25 November Wednesday

It is dry and cold today with a threat of rain in the sky, but Em and I walked up the watery boreen and all around without the rain actually coming. The stream is so swollen and flooded at the bottom of the meadow that we now have a large lake. Earlier we had a little lake, but there is nothing little about this lake. Simon has always fancied having a lake there. It is not easy to get though but at least today it was possible. For the last weeks it has been so deep that even rubber boots were not enough. When we got all the way up and around on the road, Em raced like mad to reach the stream. This is the same stream that passes below our meadow and which is now feeding the new lake. At the road, the stream is well below the level of the road and reached by a short steep banking. For years now, the ritual has been that Em rushes ahead to the gap and down to the stream. She then stands in the water looking up and waiting for me to throw a stick down into the water. Since her ligament recovery, I have usually stopped her from going down the banking because I do not want her to overdo and harm her freshly healed self. Today she just took off before I even thought to say anything. The usual beginning was for me to start looking for a good stick well before we got near the stream. She would register my looking as her signal to rush down the road and get into position in the water. If I failed to look for a stick ahead of time, I would end up near the stream with her waiting in the water and no sticks available. That is a always bad area for sticks. And that is where I was today. Not a decent stick in sight and Em in very deep rushing water. No barking, just waiting. I found a lousy little stick which hit the water and was carried off quickly before she could even get near to it. I threw one more like this and then I just left and continued my walk. Eventually she left the water and caught up with me well down the road. By then I had found a better and stronger stick which I threw just ahead of us onto the track and which she happily carried off towards home. This was an adjusted second part of the stream ritual. The rescued stick from the water is supposed to be carried all the way home. Today we got as far as the bend in the boreen near Scully's wood and the fox was suddenly beside us. We all three froze. Then Em dropped her stick and the fox ran away and we returned to the house. I am so happy to see our fox after so many weeks. I am happy to know that he is not one of the dead foxes by the road.

23 November Monday

There appears to be a new version of supermarket shopping. Very few people take a trolley, nor even a small wire basket. They walk around with as much as they are going to buy in their arms, or they buy only as much as they can carry. I wonder if this is a form of self-regulation.

21 November Saturday

Simon headed off to Cashel in the afternoon to do a talk about our books. The weather was still terrible. The weather is still terrible. With the roads flooded and detours everywhere, we were not sure if he would get there nor if there would even be an audience for him if he did get there. The talk was in the Bolton Library, which is on the grounds of the cathedral. His talk was being followed by another talk called THE MEANING OF LIFE. The priest who was doing that talk sat right beside Simon and looked at all the books as they were passed around. The audience was lively and the discussion good. Some of the people had come for Simon's talk and some had come for the priest's talk. Some seemed to be there for both talks, but some had come early for the priest's talk because of the weather and the inability to plan how long any journey might take. They were just there because they had made it through the rain in less time than they expected. Simon returned home wishing that he had asked the audience how many of them had actually come to hear him talk about books.

19 November Thursday

It is hard to talk about the hugeness of this rain and the devastation everywhere. I can see the news and listen to the radio but I only can see what I see here. Any place else is not really real. I have heard it reported that this is the worst rain and flooding for two years. It is the worst rain in Living Memory. It is the worst rain for 24 years. It is the worst rain for 1000 years. Everyone is trying to define how bad it is. We have not lost electricity, nor our water supply, as so many people have. We are sitting high and dry on our hillside. The news of bridges collapsing and being closed sounds terrifying. The power of rushing water is hard to believe. Thousand of people are evacuated from their homes and thousands of cattle and sheep are stranded. One man on the radio today spoke of an area near the Shannon where 60,000 acres of farmland are underwater. I cannot picture 60,000 acres. That is just one example. Ireland is Underwater. As I walk out, I examine the places where the road is just ripped away. Gravel and tar and stones are just gouged out of the road and huge long and deep gashes remain. Subside and submerge are oft-repeated words.

18 November Wednesday

A lot of our mail arrives, when it arrives, with the note: NO ACCESS ROAD FLOODED and the date pencilled on the top envelope.

7 November Saturday

The sound of ceaseless rain is driving me mad. The ground is soggy and the teasels are falling over. The grass is a brilliant shade of green and it is still growing. Everything is conspiring to make the wetness as unpleasant as it can. I looked into the cupboard under the bed and saw my old black and white photograph of Le Sommeil des Mages on the inside of the door. It is a 12th century sculpture from the cathedral in Autun. I love it. I made several painted versions of this sculpture years ago. I love to see the three kings sort of piled up on top of each other. I love finding this old photograph inside my cupboard. I have a few things on the inside of doors so that I can find them when I am looking for something else. I put an old chart of NUTS AND BOLTS on the inside of Simon's clothes cupboard door. I think it is from the 1920s. The drawings are lovely and so carefully done. I do not think that Simon ever looks at it, but I do. These are small things which cheer me as I live with this rain.

6 November Friday

Dance bands were very popular here in the fifties and the sixties but if they were trying to earn money playing the dance halls, they had to leave the country during Lent as there was be no dancing allowed. They would book themselves into the dance halls in Britain and eventually the US. Some of them did so much better there that they never came back. Some came back much later when they were famous.

5 November Thursday

TJ, the blacksmith, has a brand new trailer out beside the road. It is chained to the gate with a lock and a sign saying FOR SALE. It is his usual sort of trailer. It is an open trailer welded of strong metal. The outside is painted blue and the inside is painted a rich rusty brown-red colour. Most people around here know that TJ makes trailers and most people who have a trailer have one of TJ's trailers. We all know where he lives so anyone around here who wanted a trailer would just go by and talk to him. I have never seen one out on display like this. This is another sign of hard times and things for sale by the road.

4 November Wednesday

Em and I decided to go up the boreen even though I know it is terribly muddy and wet. The stream has been overflowing for days and for a while we had a real pond down there. Now the stream has subsided and the pond is gone, but the long grass is all stretched out flat on the ground in the direction that the water was flowing. I took a big heavy stick along to help me jump through the muck,and it was useful for going though the mud and slippery stones up the path. Since it was a heavy stick, I sort of assumed I would get rid of it when I got to the top of the hill. I kept walking with it and then I realized that I still had it by the time we had reached the Lonely Llama way down the road. The llama ran over to see us when we arrived near to his gate. Against my better judgement, I am getting fond of this Llama. He belongs in Peru. It seems cruel for him to be stuck alone in a field in Tipperary. I kept walking with the heavy stick wanting to get rid of it but not wanting to just drop it. It really was a very fine stout stick. I thought to leave it near the stone wall close to Teresa and Seamus' so that maybe Seamus would find it and use it when he went out for a walk with his dogs. I often see him walking with stick. This stick was more his size than my size. I had a chat with Teresa over the wall and when I left her, I still had the stick. I thought to leave it near the stream for someone else to find, but I didn't. Em took it from me and dragged it along for a while, but it was too huge and awkward to be fun, so she dropped it in the middle of the road. I picked it up again. I thought to maybe leave it near the sign, or maybe at the left turn into the boreen. Every time I thought about where it might be best to leave it and I made a decision to leave it at that spot when I got to that spot, but by the time I got to the spot I was already thinking of something else and I walked all the way home with the stick. It is now leaning near the back door.

3 November Tuesday

Throughout all of the rainy days we have been up and down to the barn collating Susan Howe's POEMS FROM A PIONEER MUSEUM. At one point I did not know which thing was making me the most weary. Picking up the 32 small white and 2 small green cards and putting them in order became an almost endless job. Marching around the table to collect each one, and to make certain that I had only picked up ONE, was like developing a stutter. Each time the act was finished it was exactly like the time before and sometimes I could not remember if I had already done that or if I was just doing it again. It is finished now. All the little sets are in their little green boxes, signed and numbered and put away. And the rain has stopped.

2 November Monday

The meadow walk with Em in amazing bright moonlight. I think the moon is full. I turned off the torch and the night was so bright that we ran up and down the paths in perfect blue/yellow light. Was it blue or was it yellow? It was so bright and so eerie at the same time. I am not sure what colour it really was. It was just beautiful, mostly because it had been bucketing with rain less than 30 minutes earlier. The whole day has been like this. Horrific heavy rain and then bright skies and dancing clouds. Tonight we had the rushing clouds in the bright moonlit sky, and now, as I write, the rain is lashing on the roof again.

1 November Sunday

As I walk out, I am looking looking looking for the fox. I am looking for our fox. I am looking to see a fox scooting down the field or maybe back up the field towards Scully's wood. I am hoping to see the fox tumbling over in surprise as I come around the corner in the boreen. I am ready to see him scramble to his feet only a few feet from me. I am eager to see him take off at speed. I just want to see the fox and to be absolutely certain that our fox is not one of those two dead foxes which are lying along the ditch on the upper road.

31 October Saturday

Three more nicknames, in common useage, which I never heard before I lived here: Mossie, Toss, and Batt. They are short for Maurice, Thomas, and Bartholomew.

30 October Friday

How can I keep writing about rain? How can I not keep writing about rain? What am I doing on this grey, sodden, bankrupt island? This greyness is making me feel like I am losing my mind. We were out walking today and the wind was so wild and the rain so noisy that I could not hear if any cars were coming. On any road bits of our walks, I usually walk right down the middle of the very narrow road, and Em dashes back and forth according to the smells which interest her. When we hear a car or a tractor approaching from either direction, we move to the nearest side and stand in the grass. Today's noisy wind made it impossible to tell if anything was coming until they were right near us. There were only two cars in the whole distance, and when one of them came along, I looked down and noticed that there was a dead fox at my feet. It was a freshly dead fox and it did not look like it had been hit by a car. It looked like it was asleep but its body was in a running position, not curled up. Both Em and I examined it carefully and then continued on our way. Half a kilometer later, we were passed by the second car of the day. Moving onto the opposite side of the road from our first stop, we saw a second fox. Again the fox was dead, but not messy in a way that would suggest a car accident. This fox was laid out in just the same way as the first one. I think both of these foxes must have been shot somewhere else and dumped here beside the road. It is just too strange a coincidence to see two very healthy looking grown foxes dead in the same position and so near together on the road. I did not look for bullet wounds, but I have been thinking about them all day.

29 October Thursday

There are huge piles of wood, pallettes, and junk in various fields. The piles have begun to get bigger and bigger in the last few weeks. These are for the Halloween night bonfires which will be lit all over the countryside in the darkness. They will be accompanied by fireworks. There is so much wet everywhere I wonder if any of the fires will even light. Yesterday was dry, but I think a week of dry sunshine might not be enough to dry the land and the wood. We have our own wet weather problem. The new (used) car which we bought in the spring was inexpensive and did not have very many miles on it. Our mechanic friend told us that it was a good brand and that it was cheap because the Irish do not like the Seat. He said it is in the Volkswagon family and that it is a good car, just unpopular here. I thought the car a very ugly shade of green and I thought the name Ibiza was dumb, but the price was right. We did not think to ask WHY people here do not like the Seat. Now we know. When this car goes through deep puddles and the distributor gets wet, the car loses power until it is just forced to stop. The car will not start again until the distributor has had time to dry out. This has happened twice and both times the car just had to stay overnight down in the village until it was ready to drive again. It is crazy to live down an old rough boreen which has very lengthy and deep puddles in multiple locations after every heavy rain. Heavy rain is not a surprise here. It is crazy to own a car that we cannot drive in the rain. The car is made for Spain.

28 October

It was a beautiful, blue sky day today. I had to go to town to the doctor, which was a bit of a pity as I would have loved to be out in the garden. As much as I dislike sitting in the waiting room with its ratty magazines and noisy television set, I enjoy seeing my doctor as we always have interesting conversations. The first time I went to her she stood up as I entered her office and she sang me a song in German in a sweet and quavery voice. It was a song about the flower Erica growing in the mountains. She finished the song and then she sat down. She had never met anyone named Erica so she felt she just had to sing that for me. Since then we have been good friends. She is now thinking about her impending retirement. She does not want to retire because she loves her work and loves keeping abreast of new medical developments and challenges. She hates the idea of missing anything. Her sister, who was another kind of doctor in Dublin, retired a few years ago. She was at a bit of a loss for a while and then she began to work as an extra in films. She has since become addicted to the very early morning starts on a film set, and to the hours of waiting around for ones little bit of an appearance. She loves the community of people on the sets and she loves finding out what all of them did before they came together for that particular movie. Doctor Rosaleen feels reasssured by this and now trusts that her own retirement will open up a new world for her too.

27 October Tuesday

It is one of those wild, rainy days. Again. Everything is blowing and gusting. At the shop, one lady said me: "This weather is so bad that if you hang a wash you nearly need to be standing there beside it". Nothing seems to dry wherever it is anyway. We have these old Horrible Towels which I put down on the rugs when Em comes in from outdoors during extended wet weather. Her first act is always to throw herself down on a rug and to begin to clean herself. The towels on top of the rugs keep the rugs vaguely cleaner, but the towels themselves are horrible to see. One of them used to be a gold colour and the other one used to be green. They are now both very faded and grey and filthy looking, even after they have been washed. We get very used to having them down on the floor, and we walk over them as though they are the normal floor covering. No matter how muddy and wet she gets, Em always cleans herself perfectly. We frequently receive compliments about her beautiful coat, and sometimes I am asked what sort of shampoo we use on her. No one believes that we never actually wash her unless she has rolled in a dead animal or something very, very smelly. She is an obsessive self-cleaner.

26 October Monday

The Tri-colour house has been painted! It is all painted, from top to bottom. No more cement colour and no more white. It is all yellow. When I started to discuss the cement colour, it was explained to me that cement is the compound which is mixed with sand to make concrete. Everything here is made of cement, but a set area of cement is called concrete. So a house is not made of cement. It is made with cement. I am still confused if the colour is called cement or concrete. I can call it gray but I cannot call it natural.

20 October Tuesday

The Lonely Llama has taken to racing over to the gate when we walk past. It never comes close enough for me to touch, but it seems very curious. The eyes are sort of far apart and on each side of it's head so the llama turns this way and that as it looks at me or down at Em. It does not look straight ahead. I do not really have any urge to pet the llama and I have no idea if this is a good or bad natured animal. Will it nip at me if I reach out to stroke it? I do not want to grow fond of this creature as its very presence here feels so wrong to me. Still, it has been all alone in this field for many months now. The baby llama is gone. Or maybe the partner and the baby are gone. I do not know if this one is a male or a female. It has sort of bowed legs and looks like a cartoon version of itself. I fear I am becoming more interested than I would like to be.

19 October Monday

Suddenly the rose beside the lower book barn has begun to blossom. Throughout our miserable wet summer, we have had very few roses. Now, as the nights get colder and the days get shorter, this plant has decided to make up for lost time. It is a climbing rose which I bought as a gift for Simon eight years ago. It has well formed blooms, cream coloured and edged with deep pink. Ordinarily the flowers are freely produced over a long season. Not knowing a great deal about roses, I bought it because it was called HANDEL, and at the time, we were obsessed by Handel's "Where 'er you walk....". We were listening to it over and over again. For some reason which I do not understand, we have since taken to calling that rose THE EDWARD ELGAR, and neither of us can ever remember that we have the wrong musician in mind. I guess we have changed the name of the rose. We have another climbing rose which is even more prolific but whose blossoms last only for one day. That one is on the side of the building where my studio is, and it is one of the few plants which was here when we arrived. I have been told that it was a favourite of Kathie English, who lived in this house for her whole life. I have tried hard to keep it healthy for her. This rose is a soft pink and is called Albertine, but it too had a bad summer.

17 October Saturday

Everyone at the Farmers Market was a little bit nervous today as the Health Lady was going around with a man and a clipboard inspecting everyone for cleanliness and adherence to hygiene rules. The cheese lady said that the Inspector is very stern and critical when she is on duty. On other weeks she just comes to the market as a regular person doing her shopping. The lady who makes the various pates has the most attractive and clever method for keeping her things chilled. She has filled some golden brown balloons with a small amount of water before knotting them. When they are frozen they apppear a bit fuller and more solid, about the size of a small fist. As the market progresses, they get limper. The mass of balloons together is beautiful. Her various bowls of mushroom, liver, or fish pates sit nicely in the nest of balloons, and the brown is a beautiful colour. I do not think that I have ever seen brown balloons.

16 October Friday

I confused Em when we went out for her night run through the meadow last night. I had a few things to hang on the washing line, so I went the opposite direction from usual, and then I had a struggle to pin the wet things onto the line in the dark. It was very dark. Very, very dark. I tried to hold a torch in my hand but I could not shine light on my actions at the same time as I was doing the pegging out. I just did not have enough hands. Marianne has a light which is attached to a head band. I think it is the kind of thing that people use when they are exploring caves. She uses it to go into the garden at night and catch slugs and snails. This might be a good idea for me ( the torch, not the slug hunting).

14 OctoberWednesday

The new house just after the corner turn-off towards Neddins has been painted again, but not finished, again. For a long time it was just a gray, cement coloured house. I thought for sure it was going to stay that way. Many years ago I overheard two women discussing the one's newly built house. The one asked the other is they were planning to paint the house, or would they just leave it Natural? To me there is nothing natural about concrete. The colour of wood may be called natural, but not concrete. Anyway, this house was gray (natural) for a long time. Then it was painted white up to a certain height. I could not decide if the reason for it not being completely covered with white paint was that they had run out of paint, or if the ladders just were not long enough to go up into the gable ends. It stayed half painted white for 6 or 8 months, or more. Now it has been painted yellow but the yellow stops before the white stopped so now it is a three coloured house. I am interested to see how this will develop.

9 October Friday

It has been just beautiful, day after day. The sky is blue and clear and it is warm and sunny and lovely to eat lunch outside and to have tea while sitting in the late afternoon warmth. When the sun drops it gets cold very quickly. The dilemma at this time of year is wanting to have the doors wide open to feel the air and to continue with the feeling of summer. In the case of this past gloomy summer, it is more like trying to maintain an illusion of a summer which we never had. It is important to not let the doors stay open as this is the time of year when the mice are looking for an indoor option. We are struggling to keep the door shut, or at least the bottom half of the kitchen door. Em gets annoyed by any closed doors. She believes it is her right to wander in and out all day long, keeping track of which building we are in and what is happening. Closed doors restrict her freedom. In truth, the mice will squeeze in wherever they want to so it is not a certain way to keep them out. We are probably just trying to train ourselves for the coming winter cold.

22 September Tuesday

The Polish shops in the area seem to move about a lot. I am not sure if this is about short term leases or what it is, but sometimes there are three or four of them in Clonmel and then for a while there will be only one. The Polish and Lithuanians (Foreign Nationals) like to have their own foods and there is a big business now importing these things. I am a big fan of the Lithuanian breads and of the pickles.They seem to carry everything from magazines to meats, and biscuits to salt. Absolutely everything is being imported so that home does not seem so far away. Most of the suupermarkets carry a section of eastern European foods now too.. One shop that has lasted for quite a long time now is just outside the West Gate in Irishtown. It is called CHANCE or CHANGE. I am never sure which name is correct. The letters are hand painted on the wall above the windows on both sides of the corner location. The letters are about fifteen inches high, painted in dark red with a black shadow outline. I keep meaning to go in to ask what the name really is, but I have decided for myself that it is CHANGE. The shop used to be an equestrian supply shop and its windows were full of saddles and boots and horse feeds. Later it became a bridal shop with windows full of white fluffy dresses and various bits of wedding paraphanalia. I liked that it had gone from Bridle to Bridal. That is enough reason for me to call it CHANGE.

19 September Saturday

We weighed Em at the vet's office this morning. She rushes right in the door and gets up on the scales as if she is as concerned as we are about her weight. Unfortunately once she is there she is very wiggly and wants to rush right off again to find the resident cat and if not to find him, then to eat from his dish. We kept her for long enough to find that she has dropped to 17.8 kilos. This is such happy news. The regular walks added to the strict diet are succeeding. The walks are better and better and we are no longer restricted to the short Perimeter Walks. In fact we seem to go off in many different routes depending on the weather or the mood or if the postman is about to come racing down the boreen. It is no treat to meet him as there is not enough room to get out of the way of his van. If we are taken by surprise by the sound of his motor, we have to press right into the brambles and hope that getting unstuck from them is not too difficult. Sometimes I feel like every day's walk is blurring into the last walk,or into last week's walk. I look at the same things but they really are never the same and always a little different. A field just cut or well chewed over by the cows quickly becomes a field full of grass again. Maybe the variations over months and years are just more familiar. Does the familiar walk make it easier to clear the mind and to think about other things or do all of the little changes mean that there is so much to keep track of visually that I really do not think of that many things besides the walk. There are wet walks and dry walks. There are road walks and field walks. Most walks are combinations of several things and most walks are the only walk that I think about when I am walking.

18 September Friday

When money is being transferred from a bank to somewhere else or maybe just from bank to bank, the Irish Army is called into action. Soldiers in fatigues and carrying guns stand and guard the van which I assume is full of money and they walk in and out of the bank along with the special container. Sometimes traffic is stopped while this happens. Except for this domestic job, the Irish Army seems to mostly be off on peace keeping missions in other parts of the world.

17 September Thursday

There is no further development on the kitchen. We are just living with the things that we have done so far. Having a drawer to put the silverware into is wonderful. Forks and knives no longer sit in a tray full of crumbs and grated carrot. The new stove is such a delight that we hardly need to do anything else. The stove top does double as a place for a dish drainer, but this is not forever. If we are not careful this level of temporary will become the new permanent and another nine years might pass. There is a lot of book finishing work to do, and the out of doors is desperate for more attention. Somehow the push to get the kitchen finished does not feel so imperative, but that might be because the sun is out.

16 September Wednesday

The discussions about Swine Flu appeared to have gone quiet. We were not being overwhelmed by Swine Flu in the newspapers nor on the radio nor on the television. There are a lot of little bottles of disinfecting hand cleaner scattered about but the subject seemed to have settled down. Suddenly there is a new problem. When people go to a funeral or a wake, the priest suggests at a certain moment that everyone make contact with their neighbour. At this signal, everyone in the church, all of whom are standing up, are supposed to turn and shake hands with each other, and with everyone sitting in front of them and in the rows behind them. With the possibility of Swine Flue, to not shake hands is to appear un-Christian but to shake all those hands is tantamount to a death wish. A whole new reason for panic needs to be confronted.

15 September Tuesday

I went to the Recycling Depot at Legaun today. I went yesterday too, but they have suddenly decided to be closed on Monday. While I was writing down the new hours on a piece of paper, an old man got out of his car and came over to talk with me. He was the self appointed guard of the saw mill next door. I do not know where the saw mill men had gone. This man was quite disparaging about the new hours and the new regime at the dump. It is run by the Department for the Environment now and no longer by the council. As a result, no one is allowed to take anything away that they might find and want from there. He told me of an angle grinder which he had found a few years ago. He took it home and replaced a spring or a coil and then it worked like a dream. He did not have much use for an angle grinder but he was happy to have it just the same. Then someone told him that the Garda needed 193 guns cut up. These were guns which had been seized and which had no legal right to exist in the country. They paid him to destroy the 193 guns with his angle grinder, while a Garda stood on duty making sure all of the guns were rendered unuseable.

14 September Monday

After breakfast, Em follows me from room to room and indoors and outdoors. She mithers me without cease in the fear that I might forget that we have to go out for a walk. How can I forget? At any moment she could race across the fields or up and into Scully's wood by herself. She could run up the boreen or down the boreen. She does not need me to get exercise. She is not a city dog, nor even a town or suburban dog with a restricted little yard. She is a Free Dog. She is a country dog. The door is wide open. She can come in and go out freely. She can run about without any restrictions. Maybe once a month she is clipped onto a lead but for the rest of the time she is free to walk or run or explore without constraint. But the morning walk is all about ritual. Ritual must be maintained without exception. To ensure that we do not miss our walk, she follows as close to my legs as possible wherever I move in the house. Often I trip over her. When I change direction abruptly she is sometimes flustered as she does not seem to be able to back up. Do all dogs have an inability to back up or is this just her problem? I do not think I ever noticed that dogs do not back up.

13 September Sunday

I saw Michael O'Conner today for the first time in some months. He was standing outside his house and he saluted as I went past. As always, he was wearing a clean and well ironed white shirt, a tie with a tie clasp and his navy blue blazer with gold buttons. I stopped to say hello and to ask how he was. He called me American Lady, so I know that he recognized me. Sometimes he does not really know who he is talking to. For many years he called Simon The Austrailian. Then he was suddenly The Scotsman. Michael worked for many years in England. He was in the British army and then he worked in a car factory in Coventry. When we first came here, he used to ride his bicycle down to the village to get his messages and to go and have a pint at Rose's. He would buy ten or twenty scratch cards at a time and sit and study them for hours over a pint of Guinness. Sometimes he would pull up the sleeves of his blazer and show everyone that he was wearing 5 wristwatches on each arm. He was also prone to pulling up his trouser leg to display a wound or a partially healed scab from a fall off his bike. It was not unusual to come across Michael a long way in any direction from his house and as one approached in a car, he would stop and stand at full salute until the car had passed. These days he does not wander very far from home.

12 September Saturday

Em and I walked around the Flemingstown route today. It was very misty as all the recent mornings have been. The early mornings are cold and the long grass is very wet.When the mist burns off the days become hot and sultry. Then we feel like we are in Italy. As we walked over the fields we couldn't see Joe's cows anywhere, and suddenly they were just there right in front of us. The fog was so thick that we had very little distance visibility. Once we were on the road, we saw Michael driving along. He stopped his tractor in the middle of the road, turned off the motor, and opened the door so that we could have a chat. Everyone has time and everyone is in a good mood with this fine weather. After a little while, Peter Ryan came along in his red van and we had to end our conversation as the road was not wide enough for him to go around the tractor. It is probably just as well, as Michael was just getting going about Obama's health care legislation and that discussion would have kept us there for a long time.

9 September Wednesday

I was just about to do some page folding, and suddenly I found myself in my blue paint suit painting two walls in the kitchen so that we could get the stove hooked up and in position. Every time I paint anything I put on my long sleeved zip up paint suit. Every time I put it on, Simon says You don't need your paint suit for this as it is just a little job. I never listen to him and I always wear my paint suit. He does not seem to understand the freedom the suit gives me. I am completely covered so there is no need to be timid. I can wipe my hands on myself. I am much more efficient when wearing my paint suit, but he makes fun of me and it everytime.

5 September Saturday

We went and bought a new stove today. This is a huge thing for us. For all the years we have been living here, the kitchen has been in an extended state of temporary. We have used a camping stove and a small convection oven for cooking and everything has been very makeshift and very rough. Most people are shocked by it, but now that we have started to fix it up, they keep tell us that they feel sad about it changing. Of course, they have not had to live with it. With each change that we make we have to sit back and look at things for a few days before we do more. It is now in a new state of temporary, but the temporary is changing more often. That means that it really is temporary, rather than the temporary that had become permanent. When we bought the stove, the man in the shop gave us an attachment and some small clips for the hose which has to go through the wall and outside for the gas canister. He held the items in his hand and looked around for a while until he saw a paper bag in the wastepaper basket. He emptied a coffee cup and cake wrapping out of the bag and then put our clips into it. He handed it over with a big smile and he said "I'm recycling".

1 September Tuesday

Pat told me that the width of a boreen was determined by the length of a cow measured from head to tail. A farmer did not want to give up any more of his arable land than was absolutely necessary. This was considered the minimum, and the bor of the word boreen was the word for cow. Do I believe this?

31 August Monday

I took a little afternoon tea break sitting in the sunshine in the green chair. The green chair is an old wicker chair which belonged to Simon's parents. We brought it here some years ago, and it has recently been moved from indoors to outdoors. It has floated around outside for a while, without ever finding a permanent place. For the last few months I have had it positioned very near to the wooden fence, just to the right of the stile. I enjoy sitting there and looking out across the hill, and down to the meadow and beyond to the foothills of the Comeraghs. Because the chair is very low to the ground, I look through the top and bottom boards of the fence. The rectangular space made by the fencing makes a frame. Most times, as I sit and look, the picture is just a very quiet landscape. I could call it a still-life. If the wind is blowing gently, I can see grass and trees and bushes moving slightly. Sometimes, Em goes out into the field and walks around. Then my landscape becomes a little film.

28 August Friday

Today has been a big day for Emily. She and I walked up the old mass path in the boreen to Johnny Mackin's place and all around the old route. She has not been on this walk since early December. I have been buildiing up her leg strength with our daily Perimeter Walks and I just felt today was a good time to try something more. It was a good day for her. She flushed a pheasant, raced up and down bankings, got barked at by several dogs, looked in the gate at the Llama and met Oscar. This and loads of sniffing and peeing. Since she came home she has been sleeping on her woolly mat . She did not even wake up to let me know that it was supper time. The fact that it was autumnal and cool on this August morning meant that I could wear two long sleeved shirts and long trousers to protect me from the overgrown nettles and the brambles. I got lots of stings. My legs and arms still tingle these many hours later. I was nervous about walking past Dessie's place because I did not know how his young Staffordshire mastiff or bull terrier or whatever it is would deal with Em. I met someone before I got there who told me that the dog, whose name I never learned or chose not to remember, had become a constant problem. Everyone was afraid of it and everyone complained. Dessie's mother refused to have it back and Kenneth said he would take it but he never did. The higher the fences and the more elaborate the structures which Dessie devised to contain the him, the dog always escaped. Titch, his other small dog, was very sick for a few days and finally he decided he just couldn't deal with it all. He took the Staff to the dog shelter where the people there told him that someone would have the dog within ten minutes. He said people in the town want these scarey dogs. When Dessie came back home, Titch was dead. Apparently it was a case of poisoning, but no one could tell what kind of poison it was. Someone else further up the road lost two dogs to poisoning earlier this summer.

26 August Wednesday

When Joe came to collect the cows for milking yesterday evening, he stopped his tractor up in the high corner of the field. With some kind of cutting or pulling forked device on the front of the tractor, he started to rip at the trees on the corner of the wood. It made a terrible noise. I could not imagine why he was attacking the trees. He did a bit more further up the way and then stopped, rounded up the cows and drove them away over the fields to the farm. When Em and I walked up there this morning I realized that he had been using the dead and torn trees to block off the ever widening ramps into the wood. I think of these as the entry ways for the fox, or foxes, who live in the wood. Sometimes Em and I go in there. It is very dark and there is almost no undergrowth any more as the ceiling of branches and leaves no longer let any light in. It is a gloomy wood not a dappled wood. We don't enter very often. The cows must have been climbing up the banking and going in to walk about and explore. By closing off the entrances with branches, Joe no longer risks a cow breaking a leg while trying to scramble back down the banking.

24 August Monday

We finished planting a little row of Yews along side of the slate path. As with all digging here, we thought it would be a quick job. As usual,we were very wrong. The copious amounts of shale mean that every job is half digging and half scrabbling through the soil by hand pulling out rocks and stones. When we first dug out the vegetable patch some years ago, Simon promised he would do it in an afternoon. Instead, it took a week of both of us working very hard. There are three huge piles of rocky stuff beside the line of yews. Now we have to find a place that needs to be filed with these rocks.

22 August Saturday

Before we went to the Saturday Market, we stopped at Keating's Cross to wait for the bicycle race to pass. We were the first to arrive and there was only a single Garda waiting at the road to stop traffic at the right moment. We had been told that the cyclists would leave Clonmel at 10, and that they would be in Ardfinnan at 10.21. These were very specific times, so we did not want to miss them. We stood in the sunshine and talked to the Garda about it all. The ride for the day was from Clonmel to Killarney, which is 196 kms, with about 8 very, very steep kilometres up the Vee before they go over the Knockmealdowns. He told us that the last vehicle in the support team would have a sweeping brush sticking up from its back to signify that it was the last of the race: The Sweeper. Apparently this is normal for every bike race but I never knew it. As we chatted, all sorts of neighbours and local acquaintances began to arrive. It became a very social event. Everyone was excited that the famous Lance Armstrong would be among the riders, but no one mentioned the names of Marco Pinotti or Mark Cavendish. We all knew that it did not really matter who is in the race as they ride so fast and pass so quickly that it is not possible to recognize any one rider. That did not stop a lot of cameras being readied. All the Garda motorcycles and the support vehicles and media cars went racing along, then came the cyclists in a dense and colourful pack, and then some more support vehicles with all the extra bikes on their roofs, and more media and an ambulance and then came The Sweeper and then it was over. As we drove on to Ardfinnan on our way to Cahir there were still lots of people dotted along the road, chatting and enjoying the sun and waving to cars that passed.

21 August Friday

I feel a bit like Christopher Robin every time I walk out over the fields wearing my shorts and my rubber boots. Today we saw the fox as we reached the top corner of the far field. As usual, I do not know which of the three of us was more surprised. The fox hesitated and then raced into the woods. Em hesitated too and then she raced to the place where the fox had been. I always think that she likes to be sure that he gets away before she has any chance of getting near.

20 August Thursday

Dessie has been doing a lot of work on his place. First, large piles of wooden pallets arrived and he started to make fences with them. The wooden slats were nailed on to the already existing fence. Sometimes they are just tied up to the fence with wire or with string. The idea of the new fence is to try to keep the new dog inside. He told me one day that the dog is never out and about when he is not at home. We all know that the dog is always out and running free when he is not at home. I do not know if the dog goes back into whatever place he has been assigned when Dessie comes home so that the illusion is maintained. The fencing which he is building is getting more and more elaborate. It is as if there is another building around his building. The stone wall which he knocked to make a parking place has been rebuilt very nicely. It is a rounded end to the wall and it looks good. The bumper which was off his car for a year or so and sitting on the pile of rubble is now back on his car too.

18 August Tuesday

Driving out in any direction, I see that everybody has something to sell. In some areas, the roads seem to be lined with stuff. Things are outside houses and in lay-bys. Mostly, it is cars and motorcycles being offered for sale. Today I also saw a ride-on lawnmower, several car trailers, and a pair of elaborate gates with gold painted tops and an electronic opening device. There was also a long white Rolls Royce being offered for servicing weddings. Actually, I am not sure if the Rolls was being offered as a service to weddings, or if it was for sale and the seller was suggesting a possible use for a potential buyer.

17 August Monday

I just found a newspaper clipping which I had saved from a few weeks ago. I still marvel about it. This is it: "Deliberations in the trial of five men accused of involvement in a 2.28 million euro 'tiger kidnapping' robbery will not begin until next week because several jurors had tickets for last night's U2 concert."

15 August Saturday

The Wexford strawberry vans are everywhere. The little covered trailers are all along the sides of roads. There is never a car near the trailers so I guess they are just towed and dropped off there for the weeks of the strawberry season and used during the day as a tiny, opene ended storage place for the strawberries and whatever else is ripe and ready. The little trailers have small wheels, often painted white. I don't know if the wheels are just an axle end awaiting a tire or if these are just some very small wheels. I do not thnk they are made for going very long distances. Each trailer is white with hand painted strawberries on the outside, usually just one big berry per side. These painted berries are visible from far along the road. They are not very well painted but I do enjoy seeing the variations around the area. It would be easy to make a stencil and to have all of the strawberries look the same, but each of these strawberries is different from the others, different from the ones on the various sides of the van and different from any strawberrries further down the road. It makes it very interesting to keep an eye out for the next one. There might be another sign leaning up against something which uses painted words to offer New Potatoes, Plums or Apple Juice. Only the strawberries are given pictoral form. A young person sits in a chair beside the little trailer, usually with a book and a small table. If it is raining there is an umbrella up over the table. I am not sure how many hours the salesperson has to sit there, but on a cold rainy and miserable day, any amount of time would be too long. The salespeople never have a car or a bicycle near the stand so they must all be collected by a van at the end of the day.

12 August Wednesday

Simon has made a second fig tart. The first was mixed with plums and had a very lemony crust. This one is all figs and is more like a cake. They have both been fantastic. If the figs continue to ripen at this rate we will be eating fig tarts and fig cakes every day for a month.

Today Em had her yearly check up and her shot and a flea and tick dose. She is healthy and weighs in at 18.2 kilos.  We will keep at the diet to reach 17. No visible limp and she is enjoying the daily small walks. She is a new dog.  Her growing out hair gives her a rather scruffy presence these days, but it does show off her new slim shape. She liked seeing the black cat who lives at the vet's office, but she did not like having a thermometer shoved up her bottom.  Well, who would like that?

11 August Tuesday

A beautiful sunny day. It has just been a perfect day. We spent a few hours filling the craters left by the invasion of the cows. We are lucky that these escapes do not happen more often.

The woman reading the weather on the radio has such a terrible cold that it is difficult to understand what she is forecasting.

10 August Monday

I have just learned that my laundry basket is not a laundry basket. It is an oyster basket. We saw a bit on television about the oyster beds out in Galway, and they had the exact same basket. They are made of some metal alloy and painted dark green. They appear to be made in several sizes. Some are very tall. The one I have is short. The basket is placed in the water and is heavy enough not to be pushed along by the water when it is empty. All of the openness allows the water to flow through it and the oysters are just dropped into it until it is full. When the full basket is lifted up, all the water drains out and it is just full of oysters. This explains why it is a heavier and sturdier laundry basket than any other I have ever seen or used, but I am very fond of it. Sometimes the weight of it when it is full of wet washing is nearly too much for me. I do like that I can leave it out in the rain and it never rusts. Of course, a plastic one would not rust either and it would be much lighter.

6 August Thursday

The woman from the Environmental Health office came down to test the water in our well. She was outraged at the state of the boreen and was convinced that her car has been irreparably damaged by the brambles and branches. She was wearing little white ballet slipper shoes. I did not think she was very appropriately dressed for going off into rural places to take water samples. Most people who have wells do not live in the middle of towns. People in the middle of towns do not have wells, but they usually have nice tarred roads and clear access. I gently suggested all of this to her but she was not very interested. We had a bacteriological sample taken but decided to forego the chemical sample this year. The cost of the chemical test has gone from 35 euro to 100 euro. This is a shocking jump in price. Have they not heard of Border Shopping?

4 August Tuesday

At about 10.30 last night there was a huge racket outside. Cows were moaning, and mooing, and the tearing and chomping of grass seemed louder than ever. We ignored it for a while, but then I looked out the window and saw the yard full of cows. They had broken out of the field into the garden. I am not sure if it was a break out or a break in. All the cows who were left out in the big field were racing about and charging the fence and making a lot of noise, while the ones in here were just eating like mad things. We rang Joe and then we both went out with sticks and torches to try to keep the cows who were here under control. Two of them raced off down the meadow. We could not figure out exactly where they had broken through, so we just tried to contain the group. It was very dark and moonless. We were lucky that they were black and white cows because the white parts made them easier to keep track of. I think there were about seven of them up here. They were delighted to be eating bamboo, and tansy, and the cherry tree. Michael arrived down the boreen in his truck and eventually Joe appeared across the fields with his tractor. I am always amazed at how many lights there can be on a tractor. It was very exciting. He used the tractor to start to round up all of the bellowing crowd on the field side of the fence. There was a really hysterical feeling out there and the cows started jumping and racing and running in many different directions. Joe's daughter and I went up the boreen and stayed near the gate there which Michael had opened. As he drove the escaped cows up towards us, our job was to send them back into the field. Simon ran down into the meadow and chased the two who were down there up and all around the house and eventually up the track with the others. It was all very relaxed and very chaotic at the same time. I loved it and I could hardly go to sleep later because I kept thinking about all of it. This morning, the grass looks like it has huge polka dots all over it. The heavy hoofs have made a real mess of the very wet lawn, and lots of things are very chewed over and ravaged, but nothing is destoyed. I expected everything to look much worse in the morning.

3 August Monday

This has been an especially bleak day. We appear to be living in twilight perpetually. In perpetual twilight? The few moments of sunlight are not enough to replace the gloom. One good thing was that I found and picked the first blackberries of the year today. It was just a small handful but the taste was wonderful. Blackberries do not seem to care if they get much sun. The plants are so tough that they just grow and grow and produce without giving a damn about anything like weather. From now on I will have to take small bags or cups with me whenever I go out.

I am not sure if it is just the weather but the service for our mobile phones is worse than ever. We are quite used to not being able to speak or to receive calls here, but usually texts can come and go freely. I tried to send a text today and since it would not go, I kept wandering around, first in the house and then outside. Eventually I found myself standing up on the stile at the edge of the field waving my phone back and forth in the air above my head, in the rain. The text did go.

2 August Sunday

Em is walking at least twenty minutes each day. Somedays she looks like she could do more and somedays she looks exhausted by what she has done. I often go for a second walk after taking her out as twenty minutes is not enough for me. She has dropped another few grams and is now weighing in at 18.3. Today we walked on the track past an entire field of reclining cows. They saw us and suddenly they were all jumping up and running over to the fence. To a cow, they all started mooing or braying and jostling to get a good look at us. There were about 50 of them and I worried that one might get trampled in the mayhem. Joe has told me that occasionally they do kill one of their own in their excitement about something. He implied that it was usually about food. Today was about Em, and she avoided it all by skirting way away from the fence and going deep into the field on the other side of the track.

1 August Saturday

There are pink rose petals in the bathtub. There is no water in the tub, just a small scattering of tiny petals. The old ceramic ink pot on the narrow shelf has a few Albertine roses and a cutting of honeysuckle in it. I put the flowers there so that they would reflect in the mirror. Now the petals in the tub have made another kind of reflection.

31 July Friday

Wednesday afternoon and evening and all day Thursday passed without any rain. It was still grey and overcast but it did not rain. By early afternoon on Thursday, the sound of tractors, combines and all of the machinery for bringing in the hay and winter wheat were going. The sound of machines came from all directions and it continued into the night. At midnight we could still see lights from tractors working on the hills way across the valley. Now there are golden fields cut short with huge round bales of hay sitting out and waiting to be collected. The farmers who got their hay cut and baled yesterday must be feeling happy and maybe a bit smug, but probably more relieved than any thing else, as today the rain has been falling all day long without a break.

I've never known exactly what the Pioneers were. I knew that they wore little lapel pins and that they did not drink any alcohol. That is all I knew. Now I know that they are an organisation affiliated with the Catholic Church. When young people are about to make their confirmation and communion, they are asked to sign a pledge saying that they will not drink any alcohol until they are 18 or 21. (I think it used to be one age and now it is the other). After that age they have the choice to re-make the pledge, which some people do, and some people do not. There are regular meetings of Pioneers, but they do not appear to be out and about seeking converts all the time. That is what I thought they did. They are just a church club of like-minded people. I assumed that they would never ever set foot in a bar. Apparently they sometimes join together to make up a team and to participate in pub quizzes. After 25 years of abstinance, a special pin is awarded.

30 July Thursday

I keep telling myself that I need to make a bigger effort to work and think with metric measurement. I am so conditioned to think with inches, feet and miles. Although many things here are metric, nothing is consistant. For many years, all of the major road signs gave distances in kilometers, but the speed limits were still in miles per hour. Now the miles per hour are changed to kilometers per hour but the car's odometer still records our speed in miles per hour. And not all signs have been changed. On back roads, it is common to come across an old cast metal sign that will still give the distance to a destination in miles. The sign would not mention miles. For someone from somewhere else, there might be the assumption that this sign was stating kilometers. They would be wrong. At the butcher shop or the green grocers' we can order our food in either pounds and ounces, or in kilos and grams. It would be easier for me if we just had one method. If I had to desert my old ways and only use metric measurement, I would get better at it more quickly. I would have to throw away all of the rulers that are in inches, and I would buy a measuring tape that was only metric and does not offer an option. I always revert to inches when I have a chance.

29 July Wednesday

Em and I took a short stroll through wet fields.. There is watery sunshine, but it is not the kind of sunshine that cheers me up. The lower parts of the fields were so wet that we simply could not walk down there. This weather is annoying. We are all tired of talking about it. We are tired of listening to the promises for more. We are tired of complaining and we are tired of listening to other people complaining. I, for one, am very tired of the word DESPERATE. Another word used in conjunction with the rain is PERSISTANT.. When the weather report says that "There will be scattered showers in the morning, clearing and giving way to persistant rain", it doesn't mean clearing in any sense that the rain will be clearing. It means that there will no longer be any clear bits, there will just be the persistant rain.

In spite of all the dampness, it is warm and many vegetables are coming along well. We have been eating potatoes in a wide variety of forms. Rostii, potato and garlic soup, gnocchi, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, and probably some more modes that I am forgetting. The courgettes have been small and few, but very delicious. The cavolo nero is fantastic and the beautiful bushy coriander plant is the bestever. The salads are doing well although I need to get some more plants started. The various red leaf lettuces are usually quite unattractive to slugs but this year there is such a boost in the slug population that they are everywhere. Washing leaves before lunch is a job for which I now need my reading glasses. When we walk down through the meadow in the evening, the mown paths are teeming with long slugs, some black, some brown, all horrible and prehistoric looking. It is impossible not to step on them. There are more than you can count, if indeed you wanted to count them. Somehow, and luckily so, these are not the ones in the vegetable garden. Or not that I have seen. Sadly, I am coming to the conclusion that it is not really a good idea to grow vegetables in Ireland without a polytunnel. It might be fine if the proposed harvest is just to be potatoes and cabbage. I am not very fond of polytunnels, but maybe I can learn to love one.

28 July Tuesday

We have been on a big search for a typewriter. Once we decided to use carbon paper for a project, we had to have a typewriter. Computers can do most things that typewriters can do, but they are not made for carbon paper. Our own old Olympia was down in the book barn with a hopelessly jammed carriage. We have a few people out on the hunt for us now. Who would have thought it would be so hard to locate a typewriter.

27 July Monday

I went to the dental hygenist this morning. The hygenist's room is very small. At some point someone cut a rectangular hole into the door. It looked like it was waiting to have a small window fitted. It has been like this for many years. Now, I think the idea is that the hole is just there for the air. There is a large wall clock leaning against the wall on top of the radiator. When I lie back in the chair I can tell the time by looking down between my feet. I always assumed that the clock was leaning there just waiting for someone to hang it on the wall. This has also been like this for many years. Today I noticed that the room has been freshly painted and the clock, which must have been removed for the painting, is back in its place on the radiator.

26 July Sunday

If half of the cows in a field are lying down and half of the cows are standing up, we know that it will rain. If all of the cows are lying down, we know that it will rain. Probably if none of the cows are lying down, it will rain anyway. We expect nothing less at this point. This has been announced as the wettest July since records began. Em and I went through some really wet and muddy places in the lower fields today. At one point I was in water to the top of my rubber boots. Em even swam at bit. We have been extending the Perimeter Walk a little bit each day. In doing so, we found two old and gnarled hawthorn trees where there is a little path that circles around and behind each tree. When we get to these trees we both take the little turn-off route behind the tree. For a minute, or a few seconds, we are invisible from the field. It is hard to figure out how these little ways were made. Do Joe's cows walk around there the way that we do, and by repetition make these paths?. How can they go through here and not break their legs on the roots or the rocks? Do they like the feeling of being invisible the way that we do?

25 July Saturday

I painted the new little fence a very soft green which makes it rest very quietly against the long grass. As I was finishing the second coat, and expecting a downpour at any minute, the men from the broadband company arrived to check up on our very erratic signal. It has been in and out all week, and making us a little bit crazy. We thought one man would arrive on Friday but when he did not we thought we would have to wait till Monday. Instead, at 6 o'clock, three huge Landrovers arrived with great long ladders on two of the vehicles. There was one Irish man, and four Polish men (Foreign Nationals). One of the guys went into the house with Simon to check on the computer and to attempt re-setting the signal. Another one of them fetched a pair of binoculars which were eighteen inches long, the longest ones I have ever seen. He was trying to make sure that our Line of Sight was still working. We recieve our signal off Michael Hickey's roof just over into County Waterford. These radio signals bounce all down the country from place to place. We still find it amazing that we can even get it here in this valley. The Irish man, who was huge and fat, walked around outside smoking cigarettes and the other two Polish guys came out of the house and started to ask me about finding mushrooms in the area. They said they try to stop in woods and forests on their way home every night to forage for mushrooms. They like to get at least enough for that nights' supper. They cannot believe that the Irish seem to have no interest in finding mushrooms. They said this is a national family activity in Poland. I was pretty useless at directing them to a source. Later, I realized that they must have noticed the copy of La Cuisine des Champignons en 200 Recettes which was lying on the table in the big room. That is why they thought I might know where to look. They managed to get the Broadband sorted without using any ladders.

24 July Friday

I have spent parts of the last two days painting grey rain on blue card. I am making a postcard version of my windscreen wipers, but this time I am painting the rain with a brush instead of with spray. I got the colour right so that it is not clear which colour is painted on to which colour. It is a pleasing bit of illusion. The rain outside is lashing down off and on as I work. Whichever direction I painted my rain was okay. It is all realism with the wind blowing and thrashing it around.

23 July Thursday

The newest offer from the world of supermarkets is what is called Border Shopping. For several years now, people from the Republic have been driving over the border into Northern Ireland to do their shopping. Everything there is much cheaper. In the last year, with the English pound dropping and the Euro getting stronger, there were buses being hired to take loads of people up from Dublin to Belfast and Newry. Sometimes the buses were free. Everyone returned laden with bargains and savings. Many of the savings were at stores which have branches on both sides of the border. It became increasingly hard for them to justify these enormous price discrepencies, especially when some of them really like to market themselves as being Irish companies. The first sign of change was when some stores dropped their euro prices to the same level as pound prices for an area as far as 15 miles south of the Northern border. That prompted questions for the rest of the country. If the prices can be lower there then why not here? Now we have this treat called Border Shopping being offered. And here we are, nearly 200 miles south of the border. It does not excuse the rampant inflation of everything else down here but maybe it is a start. I fear it won't last.

22 July Wednesday

Maisie's house is gone. I walked up by there the other day and saw that the slate roof and all of the windows had been removed. I thought this meant that the house would be retained, and rebuilt. But the entire building is gone now and there are two large piles of rubble off to one side. The rubble was the house and now it is just rubble. Maisie Gleason lived there for a long time. I don't know exactly how long but I think it was a very long time. She was the housekeeper for Tom Cooney's aunt and uncle. When they died they left Tom all of the land and the house. He told Maisie that she could stay there for as long as she wanted and needed. When she died a few years ago, she was 93. By the time she died, she had an enormous number of cats living inside with her. I had the impression that she and the cats lived mostly in the kitchen but I never went inside to verify this. The smell was impossible. I usually spoke to her from outside the kitchen door or from outside the gate on the road. When she invited me in, I always made excuses about being in a hurry. The smell of cat pee, both old and new, was overwhelming, even from outdoors. I gag now just thinking about it. When I consider the permeating quality of these smells maybe it is better that the house was torn down. Still, I feel sad that another old building has disappeared and will most likely be replaced by something awful and ugly.

Thinking of Maisie reminds me of how consistently surprising and interesting it is to be surrounded by women with names like Maud and Maisie, Fidelma and Geraldine, Breda and Philomena. Some of these are the names of saints but some are just old-fashioned names. They are names which never stopped being in fashion here. I never thought I would know people with these names. Actually, I never thought of these names at all.

Many years ago we were at Cork airport about to go somewhere, and we realized that my ticket was incorrectly written. It was for a Breda Van Horn, and of course, the name did not match my passport We phoned the travel agent and asked for an explanation and hopefully for an immediate solution to the dilemma. Her immediate response was: But don't you have a Breda in your house?

21 July Tuesday

Five days of the joyful Perimeter Walk, and suddenly Em has started to limp a little. Where has this come from? It must be cat chasing as the walk has been the same and gentle. No walk tomorrow. I shall give her a rest. We came up from the meadow in the evening and stopped to watch a crow climbing up the slates of the roof. It clawed its way up and then slid back down. This went on a for quite a few tries. Em got bored before I did and she went inside to have her night time biscuits. I could not figure out why the bird did not just fly up to the top of the roof, instead of this slipping slipping on the wet slates.

20 July Monday

The intermittant rain has become annoying. The sunny moments are beautiful, hot and drying, but the rain is winning and we are all sick of it. Desperate is the word. The Irish do not have 300 words for rain. They have DESPERATE and SOFT. There are probably a few more that I can't think of right now, but those are the two most used around here. The farmers are very fed up and there is a lot of concern about getting enough hay and silage in to get their cows through the winter. There is less and less money each time an animal or a pint of milk is sold. Someone told me that a farmer has to sell of six pints of milk to get the price of one pint of Guinness.

19 July Sunday

Simon finished the two tables that he has been working on. The repaired big table on the grass now has strengthened legs and a new top of some wide and well seasoned boards which had been being saved for just the right thing. He built a whole new table for the patio. The patio is not really a patio by any one else's standards. It is just a concrete platform that connects to the floor of the former milking shed. When we were removing walls in what is now The Big Room, there was a huge amount of rubble, three walls worth, to get rid of. It was big work to get it all out of the house.We had to decide whether to take it down the hill and bury it in a pit, or what to do with it. Finally, Simon and Tom Browne made a frame and put all the rubble into it and then poured cement into the frame so that we have a platform on the edge of the slope, with a fantastic view down the valley. It is a completely different place to sit than at the table on the grass. We haven't used the patio for a while as it's table was so old and weather-worn that it drooped in the middle and felt to be on the verge of collapse. The new tabletop is made up of some odd lengths of larch which were left over from the walls of The Big Room. Simon keeps telling me that it is very Japanese. I don't think it is even vaguely Japanese but it is a good and strong table and I like how it gives the patio a new life. The two sections of wooden fence which were the mainstay of Em's non-functioning holding pen are attached (how?) to the end of the downhill side of the patio, with a space between them to walk through. We will have to make a step as the drop off from the platform is a bit steep and before this opening became so inviting, no one would have ever gone that way. Now it is an invitation to a broken ankle or leg. At least we can sit at the new table and drink a coffee while we discuss how to best make one step or two steps.

18 July Saturday

After the Farmers' Market, we stopped at the vet's to buy a new sack of Low Fat Dog Food and to weigh Em. 18.5 kilos is the good news. 18.5 kilos and no limp. All the news is good news. Suddenly 17 kilos does not seem like an impossible goal. We walked another round of the Perimeter Walk. I think we will continue this for a week, and then extend the journey a bit. She is a bit tired even at the end of this very short route. By walking this way, so close to the edges of these fields I have located some fantastic places for blackberry picking. There are masses of flowers with the promise of a lot of berries in a month or so, and the access is easy and low to the ground compared to many of my usual locations.

17 July Friday

I took Em for a small walk this morning. It was her first walk since early December, not counting the Kerry walk. We went to the top corner of the High Field and then down the dirt track for a while and we circled back along the edges. This is the walk I call the Perimeter Walk as it is just that. It is a good walk for a late winter afternoon when it is almost dark but I just need a bit of a stretch. It seemed a good walk on soft terrain for a small dog who couldn't believe her luck to actually be off for a real walk, somewhere out and beyond. She wanted to keep going and going, but we want to keep the progress slow and gentle. No limp visible!

15 July Wednesday

I met a woman out walking with her dog today. I did not recognize her and thought she might be new in the area. We spoke a little and I found that she is not new, but that she has just taken to walking in a bigger loop from her house. I knew her family and their fields and it was interesting to put her into context. She knew me by sight and knew our house. She said Ah, yes, you are the people who live in the house with words on it. I was interested that that is how our house is described. We have three of Simon's poems letttered on the exterior walls. THE IVORY VEINS OF IVY is now obliterated by ivy, but still, we know it is there. The large (22 inches high) metal letters of Hotel Metropole go around the corner on the boreen side of the house. We saw these in a skip in Cork many years ago and thought they were too good to go to waste. When Jenna was about to open a shop, we tried to get her to create the shop name from some of these letters, but she wasn't interested in the offer. She named her shop Atomic Age, instead. The shop didn't last long and the letters are still here.

13 July Monday

The potatoes were good. I cannot say that they were the best potatoes that I have ever eaten, but they were good and not very floury. They had a fine taste and that unmistakeable freshness of just dug potaotes. I think we probably could have been eating them for several weeks now, but I just sort of forgot about checking up on them. Now I thinkI should probably dig them all up so that they don't rot or get eaten by slugs and bugs. Storing them somewhere cool and dark is the question. I fear the mice might find them in the shed. I have to think this one through carefully. Once, years ago, we stored three big crates of apples in the book barn before it was finished. We were away when the mice found them. They ate every single one.

We are keeping a careful eye on the fig tree. The figs so far are really big, but there will be a moment in their ripening when we are in big competition with the birds to see who will get the most fruit. So far, we have never had particularly good ones for eating as they are always a little bit woody. This is Tipperary. I think it is astonishing that we can grow any figs at all here. So far they have always been fantastic for cooking. There is the promise of a lovely fig tart in the very near future.

12 July Sunday

All day long we have gone back and forth between bucketing, lashing, hard rain and glorious hot, hot sun. The wildness and intensity of each kind of weather reminds us yet again of our life on an island. Surprisingly, we managed to get quite a lot done outside, as the sun was so warming and the breezes were so thoroughly drying. Simon started work on converting the huge old outdoor table into a newer slightly less huge version of the table. I already love it. We trimmed the overhanging roses and blackberries and nettles that were lashing at cars as they drove down the boreen, causing the postman to complain. It was getting a bit dangerous as with an open window, you might have your face torn by a thorny intrusion. We wandered up one side and down the other as far as the farm, using just clippers and garden shears. It is about half a kilometer each way. We did it in three installments between showers. And this after Simon did a big job with the strimmer just a month ago. Later there will be the man and a big tractor hedge cutting machine job, but for now, this makes daily passage possible. I guess we will need to do the other bit, between the farm and the road too. Em has been busily chasing both the fox and a cat and she has been running and running with no sign of her limp. I dug up the first of my potatoes and filled a huge bucket. I know they are going to be floury and that I will probably be terribly disappointed when I finally eat them, but for now I am nearly exploding with pride and I keep detouring to the kitchen just to admire them in their soil covered state.

11 July Saturday

There has been torrential rain ever since the early afternoon. Flood Alerts are in effect all over the country. We took a sauna this evening and I walked out to it with an umbrella. My shoulders were hunched and I was cold in my dressing gown, and wishing that I was not outside. By the time I walked back from the heat, I did not feel anything but good and the rain felt refreshing and lovely.

9 July Thursday

The Polish, Latvians aand Lithuanians who have been living and working in Ireland for the past few years are always referred to in the news as Foreign Nationals. I am not sure about the reason for this. I do not think that a French or German or English person working here is called a Foreign National. In fact, all of these people are part of Europe. Maybe the fact that these newer Europeans are still more foreign-seeming is why they get a special form of description. There is a spot beside the river in Cahir where some of the Foreign Nationals regularly gather and drink beer. Sometimes I think they do some fishing there too. There used to be big piles of empty aluminum drink cans at the base of the wall. Now someone puts black bin liners on a home-made device by the wall and on a Saturday morning when we go to the market and walk along that river path, there are usually two bags already full and neatly tied at the top and two more bags fitted into the hanging devices. This may be the same for every morning. The term Foreign Nationals is just a way to clump them all together as most of us cannot tell the difference between a Polish person or a Latvian. There seem to be a number of Moldovians locally too.

29 June Monday


We have had this quote from Jonathan Williams up on the blackboard for more than a year now. I wrote it there at some time in the months after Jonathan died. We were both reading a lot of his work. We were going back and finding favourite bits and discovering new things. We would point out passages or poems to each other as if one person would not find that exact thing unless the other of us made a point of directing them to it. It was a way of feeling that conversation with Jonathan was still happening and that that conversation would continue. I think this was something that he wrote about his own father's death. Already I have forgotten it's context, but I look up often, re-read it, and I feel time passing.

28 June Sunday

The weather just continues to be wonderful. Dessie, at Mary Corbett's old cottage (The Murder Cottage) has got all sorts of things growing on the dry stone wall in front of the house. First he had Grow Bags opened and distributed along the top. These are large bags of soil that are made to be split open and used for the growing of tomatoes or whatever. I gather they are planned to have just the right sort of a mixture of soil in them so that there is no need for a transplant to a pot or a bed. I don't know if they have holes in the bottom for drainage or how the excess water gets out. I do not think they are designed to be on such display. They are just desigend to be useful in a particular kind of place. The bright printed plastic is very gaudy lined up along a stone wall, and really there is no need for flowers in them as all you can see is the bag. Anyway, he has had his very colourful flowers growing along the wall in these Grow Bags with a black plastic plant pot in between each bag. Just the other day he put long pieces of wood along the sides of each Grow Bag, I don't know if this was to cover up the noisy looking plastic or if it was to keep the bags from toppling off the wall. The back fender of his car is still on the heap of rubble along with an old gate and lots of roots and rocks. The car without its bumper looks a little naked from behind.

26 June Friday

Em continues to move well. She is favouring the bad leg only a tiny bit and not too often. We see it early in the morning or when she has been a little too active, with a visiting dog or after pursuing the wild cats who come down the boreen to investigate things here. We are still barricading the sofa at night so that she can't climb up onto it. I think that the half sleepy push to get up or down from there was an unnecessary strain on the healing ligament. A few more weeks of no walks and then we will slowly begin to give her more exercise. She was very nice today when I smashed my head coming out from under the lean-to too fast. I fell hard onto the ground, crying and clutching my head. After a few minutes of noisy sobbing, I was reduced to a quiet cry. I felt her warm body pressing against my side. She waited very gently for the ten minutes or so until I opened my eyes. She had placed her rubber hamburger just beside my face so that it would be the first thing I would see when I opened my eyes.

24 June Wednesday

The long bench outside of my workroom was a good idea. When we made it, we planned it for sitting and for admiring the view from a pleasing vantage point. The deep overhang of the eaves means the bench is protected from most rain. It spans the length of the front of the building between the two doors. It is five and a half metres long and a little bit higher than I would like. When I sit on it, my feet dangle off the ground. It ended up a bit high because when the blacksmith came with the metal brackets he had made, he had to put them into the stone wall in a place where the wall would take them. There was a bit of lumpiness down near the bottom so the bench got higher off the ground. The smooth wooden boards make a wide and comfortable surface, but in spite of the generosity of the width, the bench seems to be used for everything except sitting. Underneath it has become one of our firewood storage places. It is a good and protected spot for wood, and what is stored there now is dry and will be ready for next winter. I use the bench as a kind of table, an extension of my workroom. Right now, I have lined up a fine selection of the rusted objects I have found and collected, both here and from up above at Johnny Mackin's old place. It looks as if I might be opening a little shop. We spent a lot of time as children making shops to sell groceries. We emptied my mothers cupboards of the cans and containers. We made labels for empty boxes and assorted packages to further fill our shelves. I do not remember ever getting to the point where we sold anything to anyone. The whole activity was about setting up the shop. My line-up of rusty things is for no purpose. It is just nice to see them together and to admire them as I walk past. Sometimes I bring things inside to make drawings of them. There are a few carved pieces of slate at the far end of the bench. Two of them are square shapes with letter carved permutations of the Ivy poem. The long tall one is Aerial Propaganda. These are works of Simon's which he leaned up against the wall at some moment and they have been here ever since. The wall is very fine. It is a white wall made by mixing cement with a fine white sand. It is whiter than a white from paint and different from a white painted with lime. The wall is luminous. The bench is a bit high and the view is lovely, if and when I choose to sit down.

23 June Tuesday

I found a pigeon beside the road as I walked out this morning. I stopped to look at it to see if it was hurt and to ask why it was walking. I went up very close and it did not seem nervous or frightened or eager to get away. It just continued an unhurried little movement through the verge. As I looked more closely I saw that it had two little bands with numbers, one on each leg. One band was yellow and one was orange. I think these are the identification bands for Homing Pigeons. I don't know if this bird was lost or just resting. She did not seem to be wounded in any way. I tried to think if I know anyone who is a Pigeon Fancier, so that I could ask what to do, but I don't, so I continued my journey and I assume that she continued hers.

22 June Monday

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice. It was the longest day and it was a lovely day. It was still brightly light at 10.30 in the evening, and after that the light just dropped slowly slowly until it was night. This summer just seems to be progressing from one pleasant day to another. So much of the horrific heavy rain that has been threatened has not come and that which does come is often at night and just exactly what we need. The breezes in the daytime, which are cooling and comfortable, are drying out the soil a bit more than we might like. After all of my manic haste to get the Elderflowers gathered and made into the cordial syrup, I look around now at masses of beautiful blossoms in every direction. There was absolutely no need to rush. They are everywhere and they are beautiful. Alexanders have replaced the Cow Parsley in the hedgrows. In one way they are not so different from Cow Parsley but in fact, they are completely different. I love the delicate flowers and stems of the Cow Parsley. Alexanders are so sturdy and clunky in comparison. I understand the stems can be peeled, and cooked like asparagus and eaten, but we have yet to try this. It is an interesting fact but still does not make me any fonder of them. All of these umbel blossoms at the same time. They are so varied and all white. The wild honeysuckle in the hedgerows is rampant too. As I walk in the narrow confines of the boreen the heavy sweet smell makes me dizzy. Bringing even the smallest bunch of the honeysuckle into the house fills the room with perfume.

The Eternal Flame still burns. We really got this one wrong.

21 June Sunday

We use the simple wooden table outside the kitchen door as an extension of the kitchen. Simon used it to open oysters today. Often it is where something taken off the stove is put to cool. We eat on this table, but only for lunch and only when it is just the two of us. The other two outdoor tables are better places for eating outside and for being in the open and for having a view. We store things on this table. We pod peas while sitting on the bench there, and we sort salad leaves. The first kitchen door table was made out of a wooden pallet, but this one is built with pieced together planks of wood. It is strong and probably a little bit big for it's location. We simply cannot live without it. I wonder often how other people manage without such an outdoor table. People who have bigger kitchens probably don't need an outdoor table. I don't think this is just about need. We really like doing kitchen jobs outside.

20 June Saturday

I have all of these things which I mean to ask people about at various times. I should carry my list around with me and look at it carefully and choose who to ask about what. I don't know who I could ask about the blinds. Everywhere there are scalloped blinds in the windows of houses. Sometimes they are a repeat scalloped shape, and sometimes they are a scallop and a wave-like shape intermixed. They never seem to be just straight-edged blinds. They are almost always white, or light coloured. If the house is a bungalow, the blinds are pulled down to a height about one quarter of the way down the window. This height is repeated in every window all across the front of the house. Every blind is at exactly the same height and the line is even all across the house. If the house has two-stories, the blinds upstairs and downstairs will all be at the same level. Is this a discussed and long decided plan? Do people talk about it or do they just do it? Every house is sporting their decorative blinds at the same height. Every house has the same variations of decorative blinds. If someone has their blinds up and down at all higgledy piggedly heights, does it mean their world will think less of them? Do people really care this much to conform like this? Heaven knows how far down the order we must be since our house is without any blinds at all.

19 June Friday

The Eternal Flame is STILL going. This bottle of gas just refuses to run out. And as long as it continues, we can only continue to marvel and to comment on it each time it makes another pot of coffee or cooks another supper. We may need to take bets on how much longer it will last.

I have begun to take Em down the meadow again at night. Every since we were in Kerry where she had both a good walk and a little swim, her leg seems to be better. That was the first real walk she has had since December and I was fearful that she would be nearly crippled again the next day. She was a little bit limpy, but after one day she recovered and now she is like a new dog. We are still not taking her for every day walks. I think we will give this a few more weeks, but going down and through the meadow at night is a big and exciting step. Each time we go out, she goes only as far as the vegetable bed and then turns to look at me. When I nod or say yes, she takes off like a mad thing and barks and races down and around. She is so happy to have this ritual back in her life. So am I. I like to examine the various trees and the growing apples. I like to admire the wildflower meadow which is truly wonderful this year. There is a lot of sniffing around that she does. I guess I am just sniffing around too. Sometimes we both end up back at the top at the same time, and sometimes one of us has to wait for the other. We are back to our old habits exactly as if not a day had been missed.

18 June Thursday

I drove along the valley road from Clogheen back to Newcastle. At a house near to the turn off for the Vee, there was a sign saying FUNERAL IN PROGRESS GO SLOW. There were lots of cars parked on both sides of the narrow road near a house, but not another house nor a hearse nor a graveyard anywhere nearby. Perhaps this was the wake. I asked in Newcastle who had died out Goatenbridge way. Rose thought it might be a certain woman, but Seamus corrected her and said No, she can't be dead because she's dead already.

17 June Wednesday

I forgot to note that Em had her yearly haircut on 5 June. It is almost two weeks now since I took her to Debbie. The shock has worn off for us, but each time someone sees her who has not seen her for a while, we are reminded at how foolish and different she looks. Her ears seems very long and pointed and with her new svelte-ish shape, people often think we have a new dog. She is a lot cooler in the heat and seems to move differently.

I never get this business of CALL and RING right. When I say to someone that I will call later, I mean that I will telephone but they think that I mean that I will drop by or call in. They say, Oh, no need to call, just give us a ring.

16 June Tuesday

We took down the little fenced-in prison around Em's house today. We have not even bothered to try to shut her in for many weeks now. The door has been dangling open and she has been wandering in and out of her house through the little pen, just ignoring it. It all looked so ugly and the grass inside was long and there was a huge wildflower that was becoming a shrub and blocking her entry and exit a bit. I can never remember the name of this one. It has long narrow leaves and becomes more and more of a shrub the more years that it grows in one spot. The flowers are purple and a little bit thistle like, but not prickly. They are soft and I really should remember the name. I will remember, but not now. The complete failure of a holding pen is gone. The grass is trimmed. The wildflower stays the same but now she just veers a little to the right as she leaves the door of her house in order to miss it. She does like being in her house at moments during the day, and spends a lot of time in there if it is raining. She takes a lot of things like yoghurt pots and rubber toys inside with her. Over the years I have put a lot of photographs of other people's dogs in there on the right hand wall. On the left are photos of cats. It is more of an office than a house as she never sleeps there at night. It is just somewhere to go during the day.

15 June Monday

Last night I strained and bottled up the cordial. I ended up with nine bottles of half a litre each. The ninth bottle is not quite full. Simon printed my labels for me with the drawing of a single blossom which I use every year. This time we gave the label a greenish tint which is nice, but not so nice that I would do it again. Also I must remember to make the labels a little bigger next year. But these are fine and I cut them up and glued them onto the bottles. As always, I rubber stamped the date onto the labels, and noted that the stamp had not been used since my last years' batch which was made on 20 June 2008. When we offered some cordial to someone recently, we had to explain that only a small amount is poured into the glass and then water, plain or sparkling, is added to taste. This man asked if I was planning to sell the cordial. I said no, it is just for us and for our friends. He was completely confused as to why in the world I would make such a carefully printed label if I was not planning to sell it. I was obviously talking to the wrong person, otherwise I might have been able to say that making the labels is just about my favourite part of the process. I do enjoy lining up the neatly labelled bottles and admiring my work and feeling the same feeling of wealth that a well stacked pile of wood gives me.

The Eternal Flame still burns.

13 June Saturday

At the end of the afternoon, I heard the weather and then checked the forecast for the week. We are promised ceaseless rain and wild winds. I feared for my cordial making and decided that I must rush out and pick the flowers immediately in the bright sunlight. I have always been told that picking the blooms in overcast conditions results in the cordial tasting like cat pee. I don't know if this is true or not but this is not a risk that I want to take. As usual, the blossoms, which look to be everywhere, are very hard to reach. I was wearing rubber boots and shorts and most of the bushes were surrounded by great high growths of nettles. There was too much bare leg for so many nettles. It was not easy to get my sixty blooms but I finally did it by wandering out of the fields and a long way up the boreen and even out onto the road. Two batches have been made and are now soaking in a bowl for 24 hours.

12 June Friday

We boxed up my little edition of ten Rosemary plaques. The cardboard boxes were a little deeper than they should have been so after a long look around we found some spongy green rubber material which was just perfect as padding and filler. There were two different kinds of this matting kind of stuff and it took a while before we remembered what we had bought it for. We have a wooden chair which Roger Ackling made in 1982. The chair has long narrow slits cut into it, and originally it had some green rubbery material woven in and out of the openings on both the back and the seat. The material eventually cracked and these two kinds of rubber that we found were bought in the hopes of re-weaving and replacing the original, but the two versions bought were both too fat for the slots. So now we are reminded once again to try to repair the chair but meanwhile my enamel plaques have nice little beds of rubber. I sort of wish I would put a photograph of the plaque in here but I am not sure how to add photos into this journal. If I start to fill this up with photographs, I shall probably become lazier about describing things.

11 June Thursday

Back this evening from a few days in Kerry where the sun was shining. The threatened rain has still not arrived. We stopped in at Rose's before arriving home. We bumped into Paddy there and listened to his anger about the changes in the world at large, and more specifically in his world. He spoke of going out with the dog in the early morning and not hearing any of the starting up sounds of machinery. This, to him, says the most about the lack of work in construction and the recession biting. The quarries are quiet. He said Daphne is most obsessed with the rubbish that is being dumped in the woods. People are trying to save money by any means possible so they are trashing the woods rather than paying bin charges or driving to the dump. Since they don't walk there, they do not give a damn. She is very depressed by it all. Her beautiful and peaceful world is being violated. I am noticing how many men I see walking children to and from school or pushing prams, or in the grocery store with small children in tow. This has not been a weekday sight here until very recently.

8 June Monday

The landscape is suddenly full of the ripe blooms of elderflower. They look like huge gatherings of polka dots. The creamy yellowish white blossoms, while looking beautiful, threw me into a panic. I have not done a thing to get ready for the making of my Elderflower Cordial. I went into two different pharmacies in Cahir to buy Citric Acid. I needed to get enough for two batches so that meant 75 grams for each batch. I had 30 grams left from last year, so in fact I only needed 120 more. One shop had one container of 50 grams. I bought that and went down the street to another shop where they had several containers, this time 100 grams each. I have never been able to buy my supply from one place and every single pharmacy sells it in a different quantity. Sometimes it is in pots of 60, and sometimes 80 and this year 50 and 100. Now my big question is do I use the 30 grams left from last year or just go quickly and easily with the 100 + 50 and leave my 30 grams for another time? This is like a mathemetical exam question. After all these years in Britain and Ireland, I have still never bothered to learn to weigh things for baking or cooking. I revert to cups and tablespoons or I just wing things by eye.

The Eternal Flame is still burning. More than four weeks ago, we bought a new canister of gas for the kitchen stove as we thought it was almost empty and Simon did not want to run out while cooking dinner for visiting friends. It has gone on and on and on and still it has not run out. Every time we use it we remark on it yet again.

7 June Sunday

After yesterday's torrential rain and the promise of more to come in the week, I thought I should get everything that was still in a small pot or planting tray out and into the garden. Some of the plants were really struggling to stay alive in the pots. The coming rain and cold might kill them but at least they will die out in the real world. I worked in a frenzy for a lot of the afternoon expecting to be rained on at any point. The rain never came and I got everything into the soil. The onions which were planted many weeks ago are doing really well, but for someone who has never grown onions before I now have a sizeable plantation. The little bulbs were sent by a friend in France and I felt I had to plant every single one of them, since she had taken the trouble to post them. I must look up some things about onions. I don't know how you know when they are ready since everything is happening underground. And the dreaded floury potatoes are doing well. There is a lot of salad, probably too much with all I put in today, but no doubt the slugs will get a bit of that. I put little plastic collars around each little plant to protect it for the start. These same little collars, cut from plastic water bottles come out every year. Since we almost never buy water or drinks in plastic bottles, it took me ages to build up such a collection and at the end of each planting year I put them all away and then get them out again in the spring.

6 June Saturday

All this rain! It is a shock. We have had ten days of hot, dry and sultry weather. It has been the kind of weather that almost immediately feels like normal. It feels like it will always be like that. It has been hard to do much, especially out doors. Having this wretched cold gave me further cause to just stop. I couldn't do anything anyway. Now the rain has arrived and suddenly that too feels normal. This too feels like it will always be like this.

1 June Monday

We sat out in the still warm evening sun with three friends last night. We moved chairs every once and a while as bits of shade fell upon us. We ate walnuts and then oysters. We drank beer or wine or elderflower cordial, according to taste. We discussed the very rectangular and handsome woodpile which we used on this years' New Year's card. It was right near us in the garden and it had a really large convex bulge in it. We could not help but notice and comment on it. Simon reassured us that it was stable and that it was three logs deep and not going anywhere, or at least not till the winter when the wood might be dry enough and ready to use. In spite of this reassurance, no one wanted to sit very close to it. We woke up this morning to find logs all over the grass. The pile had collapsed (or exploded) in the night. It is much too hot to re-stack it.

8 May Friday

We are waking at 5 am everyday with a cacaophony of birdsong. It is an extraordinary amount of noise and a high contrast from the tearing of grass which is the cow sound. That is really quiet in comparision to this bird chatter. I should be calling it the dawn chorus but it is too raucous for a chorus.

Right after breakfast, we had a swift in the kitchen flapping against the window and desperate to get out. It was quite a feat to get her out from behind the parsley plant and the water glasses full of lovage and dill, but we did it. Em was so excited by it all.

Lots of bird action in every direction. I found a circle of woven hair and moss and sticks on the ground outside my room. This little mat was seven inches in diameter. It was mostly Em's hair, very beautifully formed together to make this part of a nest. The birds must have found the hair in the compost heap as that's where the big clumps go after a brushing. I put it back up onto the grass roof in the hopes that it will be re-found and re-incorporated into a home.

6 May Wednesday

Election posters have begun to appear all around the countryside. Distances are long and some people travel far but others stay right near their homes. It is a big job for the politicians and hopefuls to get their name and face out and about. Most of the posters appear on trees and telephone poles. Sometimes they are stuck in the ground on a stick. My preferred solution to this is the little tent-like structure on a tiny trailer. The trailer is left beside a road somewhere and the two sides of the tent have a poster on each side so that they can be read from opposite directions. After a few days someone collects the little trailer and drives it to another spot for more exposure. I think the element of surprise works with this mode of advertising because just when you get used to the trailer and its candidate being there, it is gone. You might see it somewhere else, but you might not.

5 May Tuesday

A man on the radio was talking about the economic situation and he said, It's another example of the old saying about Playing Handball against a Haystack.

4 May Monday

The wild winds and bright sky of today have been fantastic. Once again we are reminded that we live on an island, even us here in our valley surrounded by mountains. Its a different kind of wind than usual. I am sure the direction would explain it but to me it is just everywhere and there is excitement in the air because of it.

The cow parsley is back and starting to bloom. I am happy to have this white froth along the roads and paths again.

3 May Sunday

In this unofficial competition to grow two kinds of potatoes, neither of which I want to grow because they are both floury and I hate floury, I have to report that the British Queens are doing really well. The Great Scotts are not even visible yet. I don't want either of them, but still, I can't help but feel proud as they appear.

A long day of work in the garden. All day there was the threat of rain, so I just kept working, expecting to be interrupted at any moment. Since the rain never came, I never got to stop so I am really exhausted now. I am deeply deeply tired. There has been so much rain and everything is so sodden, that each day of dry sunshine feels like a week. Even an hour here and there feels good. The nights are still cold. I have lots of little plants in trays and I still do not dare to leave them outside over night. I cannot list all of what I did today. The garden just continues to finds work for me even as I set out to do completely other things. It would be good to get the rest of that manure spread on things in the next few days. I transplanted some more of the wild primroses from up the boreen. They are doing well along the edges of walls and in hidden places. One of my major activity seems to have become to provide sanctuary for wild things. I am moving them around and letting them proliferate and take over. An aspiration towards disheveled nature. The wild garlic is really thriving. I moved that in last year and have added some more just now. It would be fine to have the whole meadow full of it. The smell is fantastic, especially when stepped on. The taste is green, fresh and sharp. The wild teazels are rampant after a few years now. They move themselves about with complete freedom and with great authority. I can see where they have positioned themselves for this year. Simon is making a soup of green peas and nettles and lovage for supper. What could be nicer?

2 May Saturday

I received a message from the Warden at the US Embassy in Dublin today. There are various bits of warning and advice about Swine Flu. Does every embassy send out this kind of information to their citizens abroad? I do not like being on their mailing list. It feels like an invasion into this quiet vallley. Often I get warnings about places that I should not travel to, even when I had no plans to travel.

30 April Thursday

I was in Cork today for a few appointments. I try never to visit the town without stopping in to buy two rolls of SilverMints from the tiny shop on the corner. The old man who runs it is even now the same degree of ancient as he was when I first visited. It is a small, dark and narrow room with candy, cigarettes and not a whole lot else available for sale. There is often another elderly man inside with him when I stop in. One of them behind the counter and one on the customer side. They pretty much fill up the place. I usually feel that I am interrupting a conversation when I enter, but I also feel that they do not mind the interruption. It is gloomy because of lack of light but it is a pleasant place. The street outside is changing all the time, with new shops and building projects and scaffolding as close as right next door. I do not know how this shop has survived and not been squeezed out. It feels nearly invisible with all of the rushing and movement outside its door. I worry that no one goes in. My small very occasional purchases will not keep the shop afloat.

23 April Thursday

Em is limping less. We weighed her again. 19.1. Still a long way from 17 kilos. She still behaves as though we are starving her. The enameled pot on the floor beside the Rayburn is where we brush the crumbs from the toast which we make on the hot plate. When she is feeling very starving and hard done by, and wants to let me know, she goes to the crumb jar and snuffles around in it for a long time. She snuffles for much longer than there are ever crumbs in the pot.

MEDICAL HALL is a name for the pharmacy. I always feel that it sounds very grand. I am not sure if there used to be a doctor on hand at a Medical Hall, or if it was just a name to imply the serious nature of its interior and contents. Were all pharmacies called Medical Halls? Another thing to ask someone about.

22 April Wednesday

I was on my way to the hospital in Kilkenny and I was late and I did not know where the hospital was. I stopped at a petrol station and asked the girl at the counter for directions. She had no idea where it was. A postman came in so I asked him for directions. He gave me a direct and simple route to get there. Even I could not get lost and I got there on time for my appointment. As I was leaving through the main entrance about two hours later, someone tapped me on the shoulder and said hey, hello! It was the postman. He was delighted that I had gotten there okay and just wanted to tell me that.

21 April Tuesday

I managed to walk past Dessie's without any dog action. I noticed that the pile of rock and soil and rubble which was pushed aside for his parking place is now topped with the back bumper of his car. He had it tied on with string for quite a long time. I am not sure if he just backed into the pile and the bumper fell off or if the string gave out and he threw it there just as a place for it to be.

20 April Monday

The coracle painted on the rock at the end of the boreen has been worn away by the ricochet of pebbles shot from the road.

19 April Sunday

We went to the Farmers' Market in Cahir yesterday. It has been a while since we got there as we have been attending the Clonmel Market instead. Jim and Keith wanted us to explain how it was there and to find out what the competition was like. We tried to explain some things, but did not tell them that the organic vegetables are much more plentiful and better in Clonmel. That would make them sad, as they are the vegetable men in Cahir. We do love the friendliness of this market. The small physical space and the open attitudes of all the people make it a very welcoming place.

There is an elderly man who only started there last year. He usually has a few boxes of eggs and some potted plants. I asked if he would like me to save some egg boxes for him, otherwise I would just be putting them onto the compost heap. He said yes, I would be happy to have more boxes if you think to bring them, but both are nice things to do with an egg box. I used to take empty jam jars to Mary, the cake and jam lady. After a while she would pick through whatever I had brought and reject any that were not her exact kind of jar. Some days I was leaving with as many jars as I came with so I have stopped taking jars to her. She doesn't seem to mind. She probably has a shed full of jars by now anyway. When we buy a jar of jam from her, the jar is carefully placed in an empty sugar bag. This same Mary is a huge fan of Grieg. She has made several trips to Norway. The trips are pilgrimmages. She goes to sit on Grieg's bench and to hear Grieg's piano being played. She knows every piece of music he has written and her eyes light up when she speaks of him.

17 April Friday

Em has been very stinky lately. She rolled in some manure out in the field. I gave her a wash and cut off some of the clumpy and horrible bits of matted excrement and hair. It all seemed better but there was still a whiff of something sort of dead about her. It was an occasional smell, only coming in whiffs here and there, so we thought it was most likely going to disappear soon. This morning I looked into her house and saw a dead crow in the corner. The crow must have zoomed in and knocked himself out as he hit the back wall. I can't imagine that killing him, but I can't imagine Em killing him either. She is only interested in birds like starlings and swallows which swoop and dive. She races on the ground and barks at them, but she has no interest in catching them. Maybe the crow was just killed by her smothering him. She has obviously mashed him into the corner like a cushion over the recent weeks. We found a dead bird in her house some years ago, but it was older and less smelly than this one. Simon scraped this one out and threw it into the ditch.

Another death: This one in the sauna and this one also a repeat. There was a dead mouse in the bucket of water the other night. Lucky for us, Simon noticed it just as he was about to throw a ladle full of both water and dead mouse onto the hot stones. The stench would have ruined the relaxation of the sauna. The last time we had a dead mouse in there was before we had a little grate over the floor drain. I don't know how this one got in.

16 April Thursday

GOING TO THE ROOMS is what someone would say about going to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. It sounds to me like an expression from the past but I am not sure that AA existed in the past here, or in how recent a past. I must ask about this. I should also get some information about the Pioneers. They are people who have taken a pledge to never drink. Often people take the pledge very young and never ever drink. I assume it is a bit mixed up with the church. Pioneers often wear a little lapel button, so you know who they are. I don't know if there are meetings and such.

15 April Wednesday

A completely grey and drizzly day. The hills in the distance have disappeared. This feels like a day which will never clear so I will try not to let it get on top of me. I will just live with it. Or underneath it. We woke up in the very early morning to the sound of Joe's cows chomping on grass in the field. It is a very nice sound in the dark. I did not want to let Em get into her aggressive protection mode with the cows. Rushing at them and prowling around what she considers to be her perimeters would be more strain for her leg. After breakfast, we put her into her enclosure and she accepted without too much attitude. She immediately disappeared into her house for her first nap of the day. I was delighted with the ease of it all. I looked out the window every once and a while, and stayed satisfied that she was resigned to her captivity. After an hour, I looked out just in time to see her escaping , not too easily, but more easily than I would like. She is in the house now, and the cows are clustered around the fence, excited by her pre-escape barking. Jostling right in the front is the very old cow which I followed up the track the other day. Her udder was full and drooping low, and her back was boney and she looked as though she might topple over at any moment. I spoke to Joe about her when we reached the farm. He said she is one of his oldest cows right now. She is about 11 years old. I should have asked how old a cow can get and still be a useful milker. Just the walk up and down from the fields to the milking shed twice a day must get too much eventually. But seeing this old girl jostling with the frisky young ones at the fence makes me realize she is tougher than I thought.

Simon went into town in the morning, and I thought I might go with him and do some errands while he went to the dentist and then we might go out to lunch. The more we thought about it the less it seemed like a good idea. The lunch options are bleak, and even the bleak choices cost more than they should. With the exception of the falafal shop in Irishtown, we almost always feel disappointed. Recently, we went to a small cafe with a bakery and a sort of cafeteria line to go along. Halfway down the line there was a huge tray full of dozens and dozens of slices of freshly baked soda bread, each one buttered. It did not seem to matter whether someone was buying a cup of tea or a sandwich or a full hot lunch, when the person got to the cash register, the woman there asked if he or she had got their piece of bread. A slice of buttered bread came with everything.

14 April Tuesday

Dessie's dogs are all over the road these days. Dessie lives in the Mary Corbett's old house, better known as the Murder Cottage. He has changed the place enormously in the year or so since he has been there. Mary would barely recognize it. After trying for months to sqeeze his car right up close to the stone wall to keep it off the very narrow road and doing various things like even clearing off all of the ivy to make the most of every teeny bit of space, he gave up. He had a friend knock down some of the stone wall and made himself a muddy parking spot. Then he cleared and made a vegetable patch, which has been covered in manure all winter. For a long time, he kept asking me if I was Canadian, but we seem to have finally got that settled. Often his little dog Titch comes racing out, barking like mad. It leaps out in front of cars and seems to have a death wish. I have rescued it several times. Dessie told me to just kick it. I said No, I don't kick dogs. He said its okay, its okay, I do it all the time. Just kick it. It's the only thing it understands. I said I would not be kicking the dog, now or ever. I said that there are other ways to train a dog. Now the other little dog which we all thought was a Pit Bull is growing up and growing taller and stronger. This is the dog which Dessie gave to his mother and which she gave back to him because she was frightened to have such a dog. It turns out that it is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier not a Pit Bull. Oscar, a very friendly Labrador from down the way, has been driven off by this dog. I spoke to Dessie about how agressively the Staffordshire is guarding the whole length of the road. I also asked if he had heard about Michael Kennedy getting attacked. He had heard, of course, and said maybe he should get a muzzle, because he did not want anyone to be afraid of the dog. He asked if I was afraid and I said yes, it is going that way as the dog gets bigger and bigger. He built a kind of pen for the two dogs with wooden pallettes. He said the Staff is never out and loose when he is not at home. Twice in this last week, the dog has been out policing the road while Titch the noisy but harmless little one is safely locked up. Dessie is not at home, and there is no muzzle in sight. I do not like where this is going.

11 April Saturday

Beautiful sunny day. Simon was printing away in the little shed on his pages for ONGLET. He called me to take pages and to interleave them. He was printing images and was worried that the pages might offset onto each other. The first one was a fine (slightly larger than life-sized?) image of his mother's thimble. I was very happy to look at it 140 times as he passed each page to me. I had to hover around while he prepared the next image. I looked around to find a little job that would not make my hands dirty. I decided to sweep up some of the moss which had grown onto the cement. The ridged platform was once the floor of Willie English's milking shed. Much of my sweeping was more like scrubbing to loosen the moss. Simon had trouble getting his next printing positioned, so I got a lot done. The second printing was of a clove (clou de girofle). It was a half-tone of a clove, and again, very pleasant to look at again and again. When he had more positioning problems, I read and re-read the text on the strip of wood along the ceiling edge of the shed. It is a home-made copy of Robert Barry's 'Marcuse Piece' which reads: "A place to which we can come and for a while be free to think of what we are going to do." This long white strip of wood was up high in the front room of workfortheeyetodo in Hanbury Street and then it came along to Tipperary with us. The vinyl letters are curling and some seem ready to fall off, but it is continues to be a good thing to re-find and to re-read.

10 April Good Friday 2009

As lovely a day as yesterday was foul. The countryside has that deep silence about it. Many things are closed as usual: Bars, restaurants, banks, schools, factories. Farms, of course, keep at the work of farming and supermarkets seem to be open. I saw a sign: THERE WILL BE BAG-PACKING IN SUPER VALU ON GOOD FRIDAY AND EASTER SUNDAY IN AID OF SOUTH TIPP HOSPICE. Bag-packing is a way for various organizations to earn money for their cause or their project. At the pay out counter there will be someone there wearing a Tee shirt or a hat which advertises their good cause. We hand over our shopping bags to them and they pack up our purchased items for us. Then we are obliged to put money into their collection can. We, the customers, are a captive audience and I should think such collections are very successful as we can't really say no to their packing our groceries, and once they have done so it is difficult to not pay something in return.

9 April Thursday

Wild all day rain today. It started last night with winds and noise. It has not stopped since. Sometimes it is like a billowing cloud of rain, moving to the left and then moving to the right. It's a very fast, tumbling kind of cloud. The rest of the time, it is just sheeting down in hard diagonal lines. Simon wanted to continue printing this morning but there is a leak in the shed just above where he stands to print. We tried to figure out a way to deflect the rain, with a hat, with tape or even with an umbrella, but really it is just too miserable to be in a dripping shed working with paper. His self imposed schedule for this book is to print two pages a day. He will just have to print four pages tomorrow.

Yesterday was a glorious summer day. It is already hard to remember it. We ate a long, simple lunch outside. I had to wear my sunglasses because the light was so bright on my white plate. We just wanted to linger and linger over coffee, and it was difficult to make ourselves go back to work. Had we realized what today had in store for us, we would have stayed outside all day.

7 April Tuesday

Every rural place has bathtubs in fields. It is a way to get rid of old tubs and it is useful for drinking water for the cows. I like a bathtub in the landscape.

5 April Sunday

The big surprise this morning was to see Em trying to get INTO her pen. She wanted to get at the remnants of yesterday's bone. I let her in and closed it up and put the bricks around the bottom on the escapeable side and she settled right in to work on the leftover bone. After a while I looked out and she was sleeping. Minutes later she was scrabbling at the bottom edges, and at the previously loose side. I thought I had her securely entrapped at last so I ignored it all for a while and then looked out to see one leg and her head out and herself completely stuck in an uncomfortable and immoveable position. On release, I brought her into the house again and she has gone right to sleep. That is as good as the cage I guess.

4 April Saturday

The boreen is lined with hundreds of primroses. They have really multiplied this year. There are none on the bit of track between the main road and the farm, and they only start well past the farm on the way down. That says plenty about the poisons and weed killers being used up there.

3 April Friday

I took Simon to the bus in Cahir and stopped at the butcher shop to get a bone for Em. At one o'clock, when she usually has a small lunch snack, I put the bone into her new cage. She looked at me in disbelief, but I outstared her and eventually she entered the cage and began examining her bone. It was quite a big one, so she was busy with it for an hour or more. I looked out the window often. I congratulated myself on being so clever. She would accept her confinement if it came with the promise of such tasty treats. I could not provide such fattening incentive everyday, but perhaps the mere possibility of a delicacy would convince her to stay put. Some time later, I looked out and saw her wandering across the yard sniffing at bushes. Another escape. This is a very badly made cage.

2 April Thursday

Another trip to the village with the big detour around to Ardfinnan . What is usually a quick jaunt has now become a very long trip. Because the weather is so fine, our world is overrun with tractors all out and about. They travel slowly, turning in and out of gates and often with big machinery attached. Some of the things are so big that it would not be possible to pass them even if the wiggly road allowed for it. There is no place for two of anything with them on the road. They are as big as the road. The slow journey was even slower as a result. They are promising to finish the construction work under the road on the village side of the the bridge by tomorrow evening. The structure of the underneath bit was eroded by water after just too many floodings. Apparently complete collapse was imminent. I needed to get to the shop to pick up a package left by Fed Ex, and I needed to buy chicken wire and some of the stakes that the farmers use for fencing. Simon did not want to do it, but I insisted that we make a small narrow caged area for Em outside her house. We had a few lengths of wooden fencing from our first plan to confine her. The vet originally said she needed an area no bigger than 1 meter 80, so that was what we hoped to provide. Her leg is much worse after the visit from our Japanese friends. She was in high spirits when they came and went right into her most hysterical hosting mode. They threw the rubber sandwich and she fetched and frolicked and had a grand time. They shouted and complimented her in Japanese and she was delighted with all of the attention. They loved it and she loved it and now she is limping like mad again. We just must fence her in if she is ever ever going to get better. We built the pen and we put her in it and she looked disgusted to be there. I worked on some weeding and small jobs nearby. I talked to her the whole time and said nice gentle cooing kinds of things to make her feel good about it all. She made no efforts to escape. After a while I went into the house to get something and within minutes she was in the house right beside me. She had just been humouring me by staying in the pen. Apparently escape was easy. Simon was delighted and very proud of her. I will have to work harder on this prison.

25 March Wednesday

Michael Kennedy is a farmer. He lives right in the middle of the village and he does his farming just outside the village. He was walking his small dog at 9 am recently and a huge Staffordshire Bull Terrier came rushing out from somewhere and tried to attack his dog. Michael is a tall man, and he is strong. He picked up his dog and he held it up over his head with both arms. He kicked the Bull Terrier again and again to try to get it to stop lunging up at his dog. The dog bit his forearm and would not let go. Finally he got his own dog's lead wrapped around the neck of the attacking dog. He squeezed and squeezed until he killed the dog. Not many people would be strong enough to do that. Nor would they have the presence of mind to do it. He is wearing a big bandage on his arm. He was wearing his rubber boots when he kicked the dog and he said his foot has been hurting all week. It was like kicking a wall, he said.

24 March Tuesday

There are some nice things about living in a cold house. It is sometimes hard to remember them when it is really really cold. The room with the fire in the woodstove is wonderful to enter from the bigger cold room. The warmth is as welcoming as a hug. And I always leave a glass of water on the dining table before bed. If I walk by in the night after going to the loo, the water in the glass is absolutely perfect. Cold and refreshing.

19 March Thursday

We took Em in to be weighed this morning. 19.2 is better than the 19.7 which was her last weight, but I would like her to be dropping a little bit more a little bit faster. 17 kilos seems a very long way to go. She acts like I am starving her each time I present her with her supper. She is still limping off and on. There have been too many rushes out across the fields. The vet said it could take up to 6 months for complete healing, but he was talking back when her limp was barely noticeable. Now she is often regressing back to her three legged hop. Today the world outside still stinks so strongly of slurry that I have kept the door closed and therefore it was easy to keep her quietly indoors. Good for the dog but otherwise terrible to keep the door closed and the windows closed as it is another bright blue skied and sunny day. There is a cool breeze but the sun is warm. Unfortunately sitting or working outside is not an option.

18 March Wednesday

Slurry spreading in Joe's fields has rendered the out of doors unbearable. The stench is awful. It is not the throat-burning kind of slurry smell. This is just your basic gagging smell with a headache that hovers in the brain. We started the day with the kitchen door wide open, and windows all open. I hung a laundry on the line. It felt like summer. But now it is summer and we are trapped inside, looking out at the perfect day. Em was annoyed as she loves cruising in and out without waiting for the door to be opened for her. The laundry can just stay out there until the smell of the slurry gets blown off it.

17 March Tuesday Patrick's Day

An amazing hot and sunny day. We spent the afternoon attacking blackberry bushes on the banking and making a big fire to burn them and to burn lots of other prunings off the apple trees and other trees and bushes. A lot has piled up in five or six places even though it seems like the winter and early spring work has been erratic and weather controlled. Simon spent a lot of time tending the fire. Once he makes a fire he becomes reluctant to continue with work. The fire becomes the main work. I slogged away at the blackberries for too long and my arms are all scratched and bloody. Working in a tee shirt at this time of year was a treat but a mistake. We had hoped to finish it all, but it is a huge job and it is not easy to work on the sloping banking. Today is a national holiday and the world was very very quiet from our valley. We went for a pint. The bar was very quiet too.

15 March Sunday

A fox in the upper field drove Em mad yesterday. She raced up and down and barked like crazy. Then she stopped barking and sat down. She watched the fox from the yard. The fox sat at the top edge of the field and watched her. They both sat quietly for about fifteen minutes and I think they forgot all about each other while they enjoyed the sunshine. After a while the fox just wandered off into the trees and Em limped back to her house. The leg was badly overused. It is not fair to leave her free out doors as we never know when the fox or the horses might come and encourage her to race about wildly. The ligament damage is not having time to heal. I must get tougher about it all.

12 March Thursday

We went to Pa Byrne's funeral this morning. There was a large crowd. The farming community and all of the immediate neighbours were there as well as many others. People really turned out. I was very surprised to learn of his death as it seemed sudden to me. I saw him so often to wave to as he passsed in his tractor, or to chat at the fence or to call out over the ditch. I didn't remember the last time I had seen him, and I did not even know he had been in hospital. People said he had been unwell for a while. His fields are full of new lambs. He and Peggy worked so well and happily together. They always seemed to me to be the very best of friends. The priest at the service said something about them being sublime dancers. I never saw them dancing, but I like to hold this image of the two of them. Watching them in a field catching sheep showed a lovely kind of companionship and an ease of working together. The day was beautiful and sunny and dry and the procession of people walking behind the hearse up and over the bridge to the new cemetery was very moving.

3 March Tuesday

While I was out walking today, I saw a dead fox on the tar road just below Teresa and Seamus' house. It is a very young one.

2 March Monday

I received my free seeds and free seed potatoes today from the Irish Seed Savers Association. I have been a member for many years now, but I have never taken advantage of the offer for free seed each spring. I have had quite a few apple trees at the special member rates. I like getting the old Irish varieties. It feels important to keep planting and growing them. Every year I ask for a Mother of Household which is an old Tipperary apple, and every year I am too late. Every year they plan to graft some more and they promise me one and every year I have not had one. Yet. As for the potatoes, I have been reluctant to ask for the potatoes as I hate the very floury potatoes which the Irish love. When we were first here I remember asking a greengrocer about the potatoes he was selling. He said that they were wonderful and that they would explode in my face. For me, this was not a positive attribute. I like waxy potatoes. Here, Waxy Potatoes are called Wet, and people sort of sneer when they speak of them. Most of the potatoes offered by the Seed Savers are of the floury variety, but this year I noticed some Rattes from France and another waxy one called Ulster Sceptre. I could have chosen three kinds, but I had no idea how many free potaoes I would get. I did not want to be inundated with potatoes to grow. Today I received two little paper bags in the post, each with five potatoes in it. Both of the varieties sent were not the varieties I ordered. Both of what I received are floury varieties. I don't feel too threatened. Ten potato plants will not be an overwhelming crop.

28 February Saturday

Today is the first day this year that I have been outside to hear the Ardfinnan church clock strike six. The wind needs to be in a certain direction for us to catch the sound of the bells from there. It was still light and the sky was a bright blue with big pink clouds picking up the dropping sunlight. A beautiful evening. The bells play the Angelus. If one is watching the news channel at 6 o'clock, the bells ring and there is a minute of silence, or rather a minute of bells and just silence from the listeners. On the television, we are shown people stopping and crossing themselves and listening to the bells each with a thoughtful expression on his or her face. On the radio, there is just the sound of the ringing bells. In the bar, people usually stop talking and some of them cross themselves. I am always interested that the sound of the bells comes from the TV or the radio, rather than from real outdoor bells. Even as a non-participant, it seems important to be quiet and respectful of other people's silence.

27 February Friday

The Murderer (from Mary Corbett's House) was caught trying to escape from prison. He is serving a Life Sentence in Limerick Jail. He and his cell-mate, who is also a murderer from the area, were found to have a saw blade behind a poster in their room. They had been slowly sawing away at the bars of their window. In the newspaper, their methods were compared to those used in the film The Shawshank Redemption. These two also had hidden maps of Ireland and Germany. They have been now been put into separate cells. I am not sure who got to keep the maps.

24 February Tuesday

Weather permitting, I have been glueing ovals (15 per book) into my ALBUM OF INTERIORS. It took months and months for me to get Simon back to cutting the ovals out on the Adana. I just couldn't do it myself. It is a height problem. And it took Stuart months and months to finish the binding. Now that I am on the job again, I realize that it is probably just as well that we have waited this long to get back to the job. I have been using the bench outside the barn to spray the glue on so that I don't kill myself with the fumes. This wouldn't have been possible even a few weeks ago because of the cold. Now I have a problem because the starlings are building their nests right above the doorway and right over the bench, as they do every year. After I got a few downy feathers stuck onto my ovals and a few near misses of bird droppings today, I set up a narrow table beside the stone wall across from the barn. It is a bird free zone, but still out of the wind. It is probably just as well that I am not spraying onto the bench as the feathers have already started to stick all over it.

21 February Saturday

Cold and crisp and sunny today. For the first time this year, we sat outside the kitchen door having a cup of tea in the afternoon sun. It has been a beautiful spring day, even if it is still only February. The cows started chasing after me as I walked on the track through Joe's fields. They were all so young and frisky and light on their feet. They just rushed along with me for the sake of somewhere to go. Quite a crowd of them ended up all the way up at the barn and it was a good three hours before their milking time. When I walked through the other Joe's farm on my way back down here, another very young crowd raced along beside the stone wall and then along the fence following beside me as if where I was going was someplace to be going.

19 February Thursday

The car is indeed as bad as the inspector threatened. Apparently there is a bit of brake cable that could go in a second. And that is just ONE of the problems. We have to decide if it is worth it to spend a fair amount to repair a 17 year old car yet again, or is it better to think about a new car. Old cars are very cheap right now. We should really have just one car, but with second hand cars, it seems one is always breaking down. It is difficult because we live in such a car-dependant location. I never had any fondness for this particular motor so I am not sad to say goodbye to it. I do worry what I will do with all of the cassettes that we have. That car was the only place left for playing them. It is sad to think of a lot of music that I don't have in any other form. Compilations made over the years by friends and old stuff that I would never buy again, but I do like to hear every once and a while. Has everyone else just thrown all of their cassettes away by now?

18 February Wednesday

I took the little car to have its NCT test today. The whole system used to work like clockwork. Today I arrived fifteen minutes early but waited for 25 minutes past my appointed time to get seen. We were all crowded into the waiting room area. There were at least 6 people standing at any one time. My favourite part is when the inspector takes the money, car details and keys from the next person and then he or she goes out to fetch the car. They drive around the corner and into the building, tooting the horn as they go. It is very cheerful. I know they are just testing the horn but I think it makes everyone feel a little happy. Once the car is inside the testing area, there is a lot of revving of the engine. The sound is very loud in the waiting room. Everyone looks around and raises eyebrows at each other. One lady today said 6 or 8 times that her husband would never race the engine like that in a century. She seemed quite thrilled with the naughtiness of it. My car failed the test. The young man seemed very worried that I was driving away in it. He said that the brakes were really dangerous and that he wouldn't let his mother or anyone in his family drive my car. I drove away (very carefully) and went to the garage to see Mike. He thought maybe it was not as bad as the test sheet suggested. I left it with him, and he promises to put it up on the lift tomorrow.

16 February Monday

Timmy the Postman died. It was very sudden. He had a stroke and was in hospital in Clonmel. They took him up to Dublin to have a stent put into his heart, but the Dublin hospital said that he had been brought on the wrong day, so they sent him back to the hospital in Clonmel where he had another stroke and died. I am sure the trip, even in an ambulance, did him no good. Why couldn't they just do the procedure, wrong day or not. It is a long way up and down to Dublin. Everyone was shocked and saddened as Timmy the Postman was a youthful and energetic 60 year old. His stroke came as a surprise and his death came as a shock for the whole community. Timmy was the postman for Newcastle. We never really knew him except to wave to. John is our postman. He is often away for union business, so we then have Lee who does the route at top speed. When Lee is on duty, our post arrives at 8 am. Otherwise it could come anywhere up until lunch time. We still never fully expect to see any post on a Monday since it is just after the weekend, and often there is nothing on Friday because it is almost the weekend. On Saturday there is never any post, except for a few weeks before Christmas. We can depend on receiving post on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. Anything after that is extra. John has been arriving in a white van for the last week. His regular green An Post van got caught in a flooded bit of road a few weeks back and the water damage was serious. He says the green van should be ready by tomorrow.

14 February Saturday

Today is my birthday. There is no plan to go anywhere, especially not out for dinner. Valentine's Day has become more and more commercial. There is no pleasure in paying of money for heart-shaped red and pink food in an falsely romantic setting. Simon shopped in the English Market to prepare dinner for us here. He cooked dinner on his own birthday too. It is a way to make sure that he gets the food that he wants. Tonight's dinner will be lovely except that he is threatening turnips. I am not a big fan of turnips. These are beautiful small French navettes. I know they will be delicious, thinly sliced and buttery, but I just feel threatened by turnips. He printed out the same card for me as he did last year, but he crossed out the printed 2008 and added on 2009. It is a good bit of typography so I am happy to have it again. He is now thinking of making it up as an enamel placque to be brought out once a year. I would have loved to have gone to the sea for a walk today, but we just can't imagine going there and not taking Em. If we did take her, we would have to park well out of view of the sea. She loves the ocean in a near hysterical way. It would be cruel to get her that close and then to deny her the mad racing about in and out of the water. It is okay to just walk locally today. (Each time we go for a walk now, we leave her in the house and tell her that we are going down to the barn to work.) And it is good to stay here because the phone keeps ringing and I have been having some wonderful birthday chats.

13 February Friday

The feeling of spring is permeating a little more every day. The light is lighter, the weather is milder and the days are longer. Someone told me that we are getting ten minutes more light each day. I believe it. It really feels like that much of a jump is happening. What I don't believe is the Irish belief that the first of February is the First Day of Spring. Up until a few minutes ago, we were living in what looked like Switzerland. The Galtees, the Knockmealdowns and the Comeraghs were all heavily covered with snow. The land in between the mountain ranges looked quaint and tidy. It didn't look like the Tipperary landscape we know. The disheveled quality was gone. The green fields did look like something on the way into the Alps. That is all gone now. There are a few lumpen snowmen melting in yards. Or a few lumps of what were snowmen. They are particularly bleak when they are surrounded by green grass and mud. The cows are out of their winter quarters during the daytime. They must be so happy to be eating grass again. I feel very happy for them. There are starlings nesting in the barn already. This is very early. Everything is happening and Em's leg is much better.

7 February Saturday

A huge step backwards in the Emily Recovery Department. I just do not know what happened. Either she jumped out of the car in a terrible rush or at a bad angle, or maybe it was when she moved from the back of the car to the front seat, and back again. Maybe it was when she raced down the hill. She could have slipped on the iced over grass. She is limping again, using only three legs. It has not been this bad for 6 weeks. I feel completely discouraged. We have been giving her more and more freedom as she appeared to be healed. This is a terrible state of things. Even earlier today, as I took a walk, I was thinking about when she might be able to join me again. It seemed imminent, but I kept thinking we should give the healing a longer time than we deem necessary just to be certain. Every dog I meet on my walks greets me and then looks around or rushes around to find her. They still cannot believe that she is not with me, and it is almost two months now.

5 February Thursday

We stopped in at Nugent's last night after picking up a book delivery at McCarra's shop. It was early, about 6.00. We were talking with some people when the phone rang. There is a pay phone in the bar and even with the many mobile phones around, the pay phone gets a lot of use. Coverage for mobiles is often a bit dodgy with the mountains, or just generally in such a rural area. Usually when the phone rings it is someone looking for someone else and whoever answers calls out to ask if that person is there. If the person is there but doesn't want to found they just shake their head and the one who answered the phone says no, he or she is not here. Often it is just someone being beckoned home because their tea is ready. I was the nearest to the phone , so I answered it. A man asked me if this was Nugent's Bar? He asked if it was Newcastle? He asked if it was County Tipperary? I said yes to all three things. Then he asked me how to get there. I asked him where he was. He said he was in Dublin. I asked the few people present who would want to give directions and John, who lives in France, volunteered. He gave the directions from Trim, in County Laois (not Dublin) to Newcastle and then he handed the phone to Christy who likes to be introduced as the Mayor of Newcastle. Christy spends most days sitting in the bar, always on the same stool. Christy asked this man why he wanted to come to Newcastle from so far away. The man said he was coming down to paint the telephone exchange building, and some Eircom men had given him the phone number of the bar to get directions.

4 February Wednesday

One thing I have noticed about this New Austerity is the lack of new cars. It used to be a real sign of the New Year and a sign of the prosperity of the country to note all of the brand new cars which appeared at what seemed like the very minute that January began. This year I have not seen one single car with an 09 registration. This is a small thing but a telling one. The whole place is falling apart and it all promises to get worse. Listening to the radio yesterday, people were calling in to say what they were giving up as a result of their pensions, or their salaries, or their jobs getting cut. I was shocked to hear that so many were not going to pay for their rubbish removal any more. They will try to dump it at their workplace or in someone else's bin.

3 February Tuesday

A few days of snow have been very beautiful in the morning but the snow doesn't last, especially on top of such sodden ground. The snow on the Knockmealdowns has stayed all day and it looks beautiful. And the hills we look across at are perfectly delineated by their ditches and forested areas. The whiteness makes everything look clean and good and different. I steppped on a lot of snowdrops in the grass because they disappeared in the snow.

1 February Sunday

Clonmel is still all closed off. The floods from the weekends rain have made all five bridges impassable. I think at least 40 houses have been evacuated. This just keeps happening. There are lots of discussions about flood defenses and money and planning and this year there has been a lot of work done in a few places along the river. The problem is that too many things were built on the flood plains, and there is now no where for the water to go. Permission granted for all this building was a crime. Now the kinds of solutions that are being found involve building up and blocking off the river, both from the view and from the life of the town. The wood road, which we always called the river road, until we were corrected, is really a river road now. It is completely under water.

27 January Tuesday

A trial has begun in Cork. A man and his son were found to have hundreds and thousands of pounds hidden in a safe in their basement. One point five million, I think. The assumption is that this is the money from the big robbery in the North. The radio report says it promises to be a long trial. The Judge has offered everyone on the jury a free flu jab, as he does not want anyone falling ill during the lengthy process. He said that the evenings will be long and light by the time this trial comes to an end.

26 January Monday

Simon took the Volvo for its car test this morning. All of the men in the NCT centre left the other cars they were testing and they swarmed all over it. There is a concerted effort to get old cars off the road. Once a car passes all of the tests for emissions and safety things, they can only pick at small details. A car with more than 300,000 miles on the clock is not just a dinasaur, it is a Major Undesirable. The only things they could find wrong were a headlamp which was somehow less than perfect and the number 8 on the license plate. The top bit of the 8 was filled in with black instead of white. That will be corrected with some white paint, or some white-out as used for a typewriter. It seems a hundred years ago when I took my old Citroen van to be inspected and because it was registered as a commercial vehicle, it was supposed to have very heavy duty tyres on it. The garage where it was being fixed took the appropriate tyres off a Post Office van, and put them on my van. They told me to hurry right back after the test so that they could replace the tyres on the Post Office van. That was the old Ireland. The filled in number 8 is the new Ireland.

25 January Sunday

Another Sunday of horrendous, lashing, pissing, pouring rain. It has been going all night and all day. The boreen is not a road. It is a river rushing down. It swerves just short of the house and has drowned the herb garden. We have puddles ten inches deep in places where I have never seen puddles. The sound of the rain never stopping is making me crazy. Again.

24 January Saturday

We took Em over to Cahir to be weighed at the vets. 20.0. Not so good. She raced up and down the steps by the Farmers Market which was also not good. She is supposed to avoid all steps and climbing. I should have walked her around on the road. She has spent the rest of the day lightly limping. Ligaments take a long time to heal. Breda loaned me Sam's ramp. He used it to get in and out of their van when he was quite old and crippled and blind and deaf. He enjoyed getting into the van whether or not they were going anywhere. He enjoyed it more if they were actually going somewhere and he looked all around as if he could see where he was going.

23 January Friday

We came off well with the electricity outages last night. Ours went off at about 10.30 and returned at 4 am. Most of the people in the village and down the valley had no power until 1 pm. Some people are saying that some swans got mixed up in the wires and that is what caused it. Cables are drooping down everywhere. Wooden fences are falling over everywhere. I don't know if that is the wind or the extraordinary amount of rain that has just softened the ground. What could stand up for long in this water? Newcastle now has a huge series of lakes around it. The lakes are full of swans. Maybe they are the swans who are usually in Ardfinnan. Or maybe some are swans and some are geese. A lot of damage is still unrepaired since last Saturday's winds. Paddy, down the road, lost the roof off his tool shed. It blew quite a good way from the building and into someone else's field. All of his tools are destroyed. This is the same Paddy who has been going back and forth to Geneva to woo a young Phillipino woman. She is a lot younger than him. They are planning to marry next month in the Phillipines.

21 January Wednesday

We watched the Obama inauguration in Stanstead airport. It was not the best planning. We went into the bar and asked the manager if he could change the multiple TV screens to the inauguration instead of Skye sports but he said No. We went to the far end of the departure area and found a large screen tuned in to Washington D.C.. We all sat on plastic chairs and strained to hear above the noise of nearby construction work. Every once and a while someone consulted their watch or their phone and trundled away with their suitcase to catch a flight. Someone else quickly took their seat. Huge drilling interrupted Obama's speech, but we caught a lot of it. I think I was the only one who cried. Coming home and finding the first snowdrops in bloom was a good sign.

11 January Sunday

It has been raining for almost 24 hours. I should be glad that it is mild and the bitter cold has gone, but this rain and the endless sound of wind in the ears is a bit crazy making. I went for a walk before lunch, just a short one, (without Em as is now normal, sadly....) up the boreen and around. I dressed in full waterproof gear with a wool hat under my hood. As I started up the boreen, I decided that I was glad to be outside after all. The rain seemed less pounding and the wind less wild when I was outside and in it. Of course, I was not thinking of how sheltered I was on the old Mass Path, surrounded by trees and high walls. When I came out onto the road at the top, the rain was suddenly ferocious. Rain poured off my waterproofs and onto the ground even as I rushed along. When I reached the corner, by the field of the Gloomy Donkeys, the wind nearly knocked me down. Getting from there to the turn down the boreen to home was a kilometre of very hard work. I am small and the wind was strong. I still feel completely beaten up by it. The rain continued to bucket down but I forgot it with the fight against the wind. The wool hat was a bit of a mistake.

The Gloomy Donkeys (now two of them and a baby in the field) looked as miserable as ever. They are something I am now just accustomed to, but I still don't like them. What really shocked me the other day was seeing a Llama in the next field. Expensive, rare breed French donkeys are a surprise in Tipperary, but a Llama leaves me speechless.

10 January Saturday

We FINALLY finished the second edition of FORTY FUNGI. They are covered, wrapped in groups of five, boxed and stored in the book shed. It seemed to take forever to do them. Many pages of reporting in today's Irish Times of the Young Scientist's awards. My favorite project was the one done by two girls from County Offaly. They found a way to use Bog Moss as a salad crop.

9 January Friday

I am wondering how long we will continue to say Happy New Year to each person we see who we haven't yet seen in the new year. I don't remember how long it usually goes on. Or maybe I wonder this every year and then forget it again. There must be a cut off point when the newness of the year is not an issue anymore, and we just go back to saying Good Morning or Good Evening (afternoon) or Hello.

We spent a lot of time today finishing folding on the covers of FORTY FUNGI. The day being milder was a help. When the deep deep cold was upon us it was impossible to be down in the barn for more than an hour. Even an hour was hard, and sometimes I was so bundled up that I couldn't work very quickly. It is a terrible mistake to let editions hang around for so long unfinished but in this case it was all interrupted by Japan. And we had to finish THE QUEEN OF FLOATS for Greville before we could go on to this. Two more things to finish now.

8 January Thursday

Today was the big day for Em to go back to the vet. The weight was the first thing to check. She was happy to sit on the scales: 19.7 kgs. Whew. Almost a kilo was great news, and Folke was very happy with her progress. There was no limp at all that I could see, but he wants her to stay on the diet and under House Arrest for another four fun in sight. He has a new vet who has come from Germany to work with him. She was sort of hanging around as he examined Em and he told her all about the torn ligament condition as he had first seen it and that Em had been Grossly Obese one month ago. I protested at that. On the way out, I got a huge box full of bubble wrap from Tommie Who Runs The Office. He keeps it all behind some display units and it sticks out above the shelves when he has too much. He is delighted to get rid of it in a useful way (ie not throwing it away) and I am always delighted to get it. I used to get the bubble wrap from Tommie the Framer as he got huge flat pieces that came wrapped around sheets of glass, but I don't seem to get over to him since he moved his workshop. We post a lot of packages and since we have been getting bubble from these two Tommies, I don't think we have bought any for 5 or 6 years. There are a lot of Tommies and Toms in my life here. As always, I feel that there aren't too many different names being used in Ireland.

7 January Wednesday

The bitter bitter deep cold continues. The rooves and the ground are all white and frosty and the frost never melts all day. Every day I put some bowls of water out for the birds as everywhere where they usually drink is frozen. The house is really cold. Another reason why I hate all this stone and cement. I feel happy in a wooden house. Older people here are very suspect of A House Made of a Tree.

6 January Tuesday

Today is Epiphany but here it is called Little Christmas. There is a tradition for women to go out to dinner together to celebrate the end of the holiday season. No men. No children. Just women together celebrating the end of cooking and serving and cleaning and doing all of the holiday stuff that they do. I wonder if that is happening this year as the New Austerity settles upon us all.

I went back to the library today to return the books I took out just before Christmas. When I walked in, I was greeted by the same elderly woman with whom I had had a chat that day. She was returning her books too. We had both been looking at the table of recent acquisitions. She told me that she found it terrifying to think of going through the Christmas period without a supply of reading material at hand. She had brought her elderly sister with her that day so that she could take out four books on her card and four books on her sister's card. All of the books were for herself. Her sister was blind and deaf, and sat quietly nearby during this conversation. I asked if she could have just brought her sister's library card and not her sister since the sister obviously couldn't look at or read the books. She said it was good for her sister to get out. She said "She is listening to us now even though she can't hear it."

1 January 2009

New Year's Day. Em used the end of the year as an excuse to do a dash down the meadow when we went out before bed. That is the first time she has managed that since the restrictions were established. I couldn't really get angry. She is just so sick of not being able to go anywhere. Her trips down to the village are her big pleasure. Barking hysterically in the car lets off masses of steam. She and I both went to sleep before midnight. I am waiting for the 20th of January for my New Year to begin.

26 December Stephen's Day

No one here ever mentions a Saint's day with the word Saint. They speak of Patrick's Day and Stephen's Day. In Newcastle it has become the tradition to have a Vintage Tractor Run for charity on Stephen's Day. It started with a lot of ancient tractors being pulled out of the barns and cleaned up for the day. Now there is a lot of activity about using the old ones. A few of them get used to drive to and from the pub, on a pretty regular basis. Simon was trapped in the village as the tractors set off, so he watched the whole procession as they drove away, probably to Ardfinnan on one road and back via another road. He had gone down to collect Veronica as she wanted to go and spend the day with Tom Browne and the Ring-a-link bus was not working today. We offered to take her in and to collect her later. It would save her a lot of money in taxi fares. She was especially eager to get in as today there were big races on at Leopardstown and her job was to run down the street to the bookies and to place bets on horses for Tom and another man in a wheelchair. When Simon returned from dropping her off, he met the Tractor Run on its return loop, so he watched the whole thing again. There were a fair number of vintage cars in it and some kind of old tank too. I felt quite envious that he had seen the Run twice and I had missed it completely. When I took a walk around later (without Em!) I found a paper plate with the number 27 written in black marker. There were two little holes above the number. Simon told me these plates were tied with string into the radiator grid in the front of each tractor. I drove into Clonmel to fetch Veronica later. None of their horses came in.

23 December Tuesday

We were very proud at how rigidly we are BOTH sticking to Em's diet. I went back to the vet for a weigh-in today. We took bets before I left to see where her weight would be. On the 11th, it had been 21.2 kgs. On the 16th, it was 20.6. We were both sure it would be a good drop today, but she had not lost a thing! 20.6 again. I even had Tommie help me and re-weigh her in the hopes that I had done something wrong. Very discouraging, but I guess losing weight with no exercise is twice the effort. That first week the grams just fell off as she was racing around and walking a lot compared to being in kennels. Now she is living under partial house arrest. We still have not erected the fenced in structure inside the house. We have various methods of keeping her quiet and contained in the house, and she is hardly outside at all. I know this is not enough. I guess we are being selfish. The poor dog is so confused and does not understand why everything is different. No ball throwing. No walks. No snacks. I brush her often, but as a treat I think that offers limited appeal. Every night we were making elaborate structures to keep her off the couch at night. She got passed everything we made, so now we have given up. Jumping up, and down off a sofa cannot be good.

John Carney came today and replaced the pump on the heating system. Yesterday the stove man was here and did some electrical replacements but the pump had to be done for the whole system to work again. Five days without heat was enough. We were afraid we would have to wait until after the New Year as most everything closes down here for the Christmas /New Year period.

20 December Saturday

The heat is still not working. Simon keeps thinking he can solve it and the stove people never seem to answer their phone. These days you wonder if that means they have gone out of business. Now we have to wait till Monday even to pursue them. The post arrived today which was a surprise. I forgot that this is the extra Christmas push by An Post to get everyone's everything everywhere. There will be a delivery on Sunday too.

18 December Thursday

We were off to Kilkenny today so we thought we would take Em in the back of the Volvo, as that was a restricted space and she would stay quietly there and sleep. Also, she enjoys being in towns where she can watch the people and activity from the windows. I think of it as her version of going to the cinema. We don't have one of those metal grid things that keep animals from moving around the car, so Simon said he would make something. He made a little wooden frame and said there was absolutely no way she could get through that. We left her in the parked car with a bowl of water and her new car bed and the new barricade. About an hour later I returned to drop some shopping into the motor before lunch. Em was sitting in the front seat, behind the steering wheel. She had climbed past Simon's device without dislodging it, and dropped into the back seat and squeezed though to the front. None of this good for the ligament, I'm sure. We stopped at Pollard's and asked Kevin to make a little picket fence structure to put into the big room so that we can reduce her movements but still have her in the middle of our lives, as usual. We don't really want to do it, but we know we must.

17 December Wednesday

Simon went to the bank to change some Yen into Euro. When the woman gave him the rate and the price for the money exchange, he asked if the fee should not be waived as he was over 60. The woman looked up his account details and said he was not registered for GOLDEN YEARS. He said okay, but Look at Me. Can't you see my age by looking at me? She waived the fee.

Trying to stop Em from moving is giving us a lot to think about. When I took her out last night for her evening rush down the meadow, I had to shout to tell her to stop and not go down. The wild barking and the wagging tail stopped and she looked at me as if I had hit her. All joy evaporated. I stood there and wept as she had her quiet little pee and followed me slowly inside.

16 December Tuesday

We took Em in to the vet for her X-rays this morning at 9 am and picked her up later in the afternoon. Folke took us into a room and showed all of the x-rays and said that her condition is a Cruciate Ligament Tear. He explained that the cruciate is a ligament that crosses over the dog's equivalent of a knee. We could see the wear on the bones as a result of the ligament not working correctly anymore. There are various options possible but for the moment we need to get her weight down. I had been doing well with this before we left for Japan, but one month at the kennels and hanging around in Alma's kitchen put loads of weight back on. Fat dogs are more apt to get this ailment and if it is not solved the other leg will go too. The surgeon in Cork who specializes in this won't even consider operating on a fat dog. So we have three weeks to reduce her volume and hopefully with the help of anti-inflammatory drugs and box-rest, we might not need the surgery. Box-rest is a scarey thing. Folke said she should be kept in a space no bigger than 1 metre 80 square. He said we should then carry her outside and put her on the grass to do her business. Em is far too lady-like for that. The closest to the house she would go is out behind the barn, never in proximity to the house and never in any one else's sight.

11 December Thursday

I took Em to the Vet in the afternoon. She is still limping and holding her left rear foot off the ground whenever possible. I thought the medicine and the rest at Alma's might have solved this by now. It is now more than two months of this limp. We must return on Tuesday for x-rays.

10 December Wednesday

We are back from one month in Japan. There is so much that could be said about that that I don't think I can say anything. Maybe it will come later, but for now we must get over this jet-lag. I feel really ill with it.

6 November Thursday

Already the excitement and joy of the Obama victory is being absorbed into life here and gloomy predictions abound. The national news and our postman are grumbling about how he will woo all of the American businesses back from Ireland, and even more jobs will be lost here. Since the tax incentives are not as good as they were and the labour is not cheap and running costs are crazily expensive, many businesses have been moving out already, and not just the American ones. This is not being commented on. Already Obama is taking the blame, and he has not even taken office yet. In contrast, the small village of Moneygall is very excited. They claim a distant relationship with Obama's mother. They are anticipating their village becoming a place of pilgimage for old and wealthy Americans who want to pay tribute to their President's roots. They know that Obama will visit when he comes to Ireland, so they are happy to be put on the map just like Ballyporeen was elevated for attention by Ronald Reagen.

5 November Wednesday

There is just nothing more to say about the Obama victory last night. We have used up all of the words for wonderful. We stayed up until 4.30 in the morning watching and watching and listening to all of the results and discussions. Brian phoned from Chicago and held up his phone so that we could hear the crowds. It wasn't like being there but it was pretty good. Nothing could be like being there, but I am so happy that this anxious feeling has finally lifted. This is a happy day.

3 November Monday

Teresa rang last night to say that the puppy had been claimed. Dessie, the man who is renting Mary Corbett's house (The Murder Cottage), came by asking if they had seen the puppy. I knew he had a small dog, and I know what it looked like so I never even considered that this would be his dog. He told Teresa that it was his mother's dog. What kind of mother has a pit bull as a pet? Then he told her that he had given it to his mother and then she decided that she didn't want it so she gave it back to him. What kind of son gives his mother a pit bull terrier as a pet?

2 November Sunday

It has been a busy day and it is only lunchtime now. Em and I walked up the boreen and around. We saw Seamus and Teresa outside in their yard. They had a shiney brown puppy with them. It had arrived the night before and they were loathe to put it out onto the road. It was a friendly little fellow, obviously fed and cared for. We thought it might have been frightened by the halloween fireworks and run away from it's home. Both of their dogs and Em ignored it and the cats were not interested either. Seamus kept moaning that he was hopeless about animals and that he would never be able to turn one away. He didn't want another dog but how could he refuse. He and I put it onto a lead with a collar borrowed from Sandy, their little dog, and we walked down the road to ask at a few houses. The Lonergans were checking cows in their field and had no idea whose it was but determined that it was a pit bull puppy. My feelings for it changed immediately. We went futher down the road. Kenneth had been up a ladder painting his house a bit before going to mass. He had pulled on his work overalls, but now, on taking them off, he found the top of his suit jacket and his tie and shirt and shoes were all speckled with primrose yellow. His trousers were paint free. He didn't recognize the dog. Seamus went further along the road to talk to some other people. Teresa had phoned around and they were to be outside waiting for Seamus so they could have a look at the lost dog. Em + I continued on our way home. We jumped into the car as soon as we returned to go down and get the Sunday papers. As I neared the new graveyard at Moloughtown, there were dozens of cars parked on both sides of the road. There was a small sign saying Funeral in Progress, so I slowed down and continued on down the hill. Then I met the entire funeral coming up the hill toward me. The hearse was driving very slowly and everyone was walking along behind it. I didn't know what to do so I just stopped the car and turned off the motor and sat quietly in the car. The hearse moved over a bit and the people went over to the side of the road and sort of oozed around me. Em sat quietly in the back. The people were quiet. It was all very quiet. Just toward the end of the people, Kathleen O'Keefe separated from the crowd and ran over to my window. She said a bucket had been standing inside the church door to take a collection for the Clogheen Hospice. She had forgotton to take it with her. She asked if I could collect it and take it into the shop for her to pick up later. I said of course, and then I asked whose funeral it was. She said oh, it's my sister, and dashed back to join the mourners. There was a great long line of motor cars following the people, and the village was full of parked cars too. It was a huge funeral. The collection bucket was right where she said it would be, so I took it to the shop, as requested.

30 October Thursday

Suddenly there is a buzz of excitement about the US election here. I have been sporting my badges and my bumper stickers for a long time now, but there has not been much discussion out and about. During the primaries there was a lot of Pro-Hillary conversation because it was understood that of course she would be a friend of Ireland since her husband had been a friend of Ireland. Even if it that was true, there was no possibility that she might have her own mind about things. The issue of green cards and the recent US clamp-down on illegal residents was the other main thing to be considered about any candidate. Simon has great conversations with the pharmacist who is always on line hearing every Obama speech and knowing every detail of the entire election. He told us this week that Paddy Powers (the bookies) were already paying out on bets for an Obama victory. I am too anxious to be that certain! Three women in the opticiens were all in a state and said if he does not win, then it is a fix. They said it cannot be like the last election otherwise the world cannot respect the USA on any level.

29 October Wednesday

The road is still closed between here and Grange. People are driving all over the place to get small distances. I met the milk truck on a terrifyingly narrow bit of lane up past Tullaghmeelan yesterday. It was supposed to be one week of closure for this work, but it is more than two already. Someone told me they had driven the equivalent of going to Dublin and back twice. And this man doesn't even drive.

27 October Monday

The big move around is still going on down at the shop. Now there is a huge empty space in the middle as you walk in. I told Martina that they could have a dance in that space. She said it was all ready for THE SEIGE OF VENICE. I had no idea what that could be. She told me that it is a dance done with lots of people at a wedding party, changing partners and making lines. I didn't really understand it but now I hope to be invited to a wedding where it happens.

21 October Tuesday

The car broke down yesterday. I think it was the accelerator cable. It was a lot of trouble. A very nice man helped me and I eventually managed to get down in to the village at about two miles an hour. I got Veronica and her groceries home, and then John gave me and two big boxes of books a ride home. He even carried them down to the barn for me. He looked at our new very square wood pile and asked if that was wood for fuel or just for decoration. Today the tow truck picked up the car and took it to Mike. I can't think how many times I have broken down in that car.

18 October Saturday

A beautiful and dry mild day was forecast, so I went down to the shop to buy the papers and some undercoat for the door frame in the kitchen. Jack told me he had sold loads of paint this morning. Everyone is trying to do those last few outside, and open door jobs before the hard weather comes upon us. We got loads done outside. Simon cleaned out his wooden gutters on both the barns and the house, and we planted the sour cherry trees. I put the Sweet Williams into the ground. Simon's beautiful new long and tall glass piece with the 'eyelids/eyelets...oeillets des poetes' sits on the windowsill waiting to somehow be incorporated into the growing Sweet Williams.....I don't know what he will do with it exactly, but I hope the plants from the old man at the market take. It seems very cold to be planting outside, but the man said now was the time to do it so I did it.

16 October Thursday

The clock has stopped. Again. I don't know if it is because we failed to wind it or because it has just stopped again. I spoke on the telephone with my mother and I mentioned that it was working. She was pleased. She and dad spent a lot of effort trying to get it into good working order before they gave it to us. Somehow our conversation got onto the dampness. I think I told her that the shoes in our closet had mould on them. She was horrified. I can't really blame her. I am not too happy about it myself. She tried, in a very diplomatic and tentative way, to suggest that maybe we need a de-humidifier. I told her that we own FOUR de-humidifiers and that I feel my days are marked out by emptying the ones in the book barns and the two in the is too bloody damp in this country. A summer without a summer has made it hopeless for anything to dry out.

15 October Wednesday

The cutting-out of the envelope interior ovals goes on and on and on. Simon attempts to do a batch of one or two hundred a day. I wish I could do them myself, but I need to stand on a small step ladder to get the pressure right, and even then, I am not as efficient with it as he is. I am preparing endless quantities of the envelopes....really sorting through my almost twenty year supply....I am really really tired of cutting off the little cellophane windows and preparing a great big envelope into what becomes a small piece only useful for about two ovals.....still, we are aiming for 3400 pieces for these two shows, so the cutting and sorting and cutting must go on.

14 October Tuesday

Lashing rain. Ceaseless. The Eircom man came down and fixed the phone line which had been knocked down by the tractor when Michael brought us manure. The phone man did not seem to care about the rain. He climbed the banking, went up and over the Galty Tower and into the fields and then went up a ladder. He never wore a rainjacket, nor a hat. He just pushed throught the branches and bushes and his sweater got stuck here and there but he didn't care and he didn't bother with the rain. Em and I took off to walk in what I thought was a lull, but it did not last, and we were soaked after our 5 km.

The clock on the mantel piece is still ticking. It started last week by itself and we have been winding it up regularly ever since. It is not A Grandfather Clock, but it was my grandfather's clock. The tick is very companionable. Last time it started to function, it lasted for about two weeks and then quit. It has been about 7 days now.

13 October Monday

Suddenly everyone seems to be painting their places. The hairdresser's premises in the village is now a bright bright white. It is startling in its whiteness. Kenneth's house is being painted yellow. A soft yellow with a lot of white in it, but bright. The little house belonging to the Late Late Shop O'Keefes has also been painted white, but this is a quiet white. And almost immediately, they have new tenants installed.

10 October Friday

I went to visit Tom Browne in the residential home. My timing was poor as I interrupted his favorite television program. He didn't turn it off, but he lowered the volume and let his eyes flick over it every once and a while as we chatted. This show is about forensic science and it shows police from various departments in the USA. They solve every single crime that comes along, and the solution is always in the attention to tiny, tiny details. Tom Browne watches this program often. He watches the re-runs of it too, which is why he was not bothered about being interrupted today. Among other thing, we talked about the surprise of Bill Cooney's death. Apparently, Tom Browne was not surprised. He said he had known, for as many years as he'd known Bill Cooney, that Bill Cooney would end his life by his own hand. He was most interested to tell me that he had spent a long time figuring out how Bill could have hung himself in that new, single story bungalow. Bill Cooney was a tall man, so a door would not have worked. Tom Browne thought and thought and he finally figured out that Bill Cooney would have opened the little trap door into the attic space and looped a rope over a beam and down into the house. Tom Browne was pleased with himself. He had never visited the scene of the death, but he managed to solve the question he had about the suicide while sitting in his wheelchair in Clonmel, in between episodes of Forensic Invesigation.

9 October Thursday

Walking around with Em today in a fine drizzle and the promise of more. I bumped into Seamus and Teresa who I haven't seen for ages. Seamus has a huge scar over his eye where he had a slip in the mud and a fall against the bad gate. I am not sure if it was a piece of the gate or a thorn that ripped through his eyelid and up into his forehead. Teresa found him lying on the ground after hearing him call out her name weakly. It was sort of a bleat. His head was covered in blood. She called some neighbours to help. (It was the same neighbours to whom the murderer ran after his horrible attacks.) They got him to the hospital where the doctor told him that he was within a breadcrumb of losing his eye.

8 October Wednesday

An absolutely beautiful autumn morning, with blue skies and bright sun after a cold and dewy start. We ate lunch at the small table outside the kitchen door. It was so hot that I was happy and comfortable in a sleeveless shirt, and I even needed sunglasses. Every bit of sun like this feels like a bit of the summer we didn't have. Unfortunately, it did not last for the entire lunch. Just as we started our coffee, the sky clouded over and the rain poured down. It was grand while it lasted. The rest of the afternoon followed that pattern, bouncing from sun to rain to rainbows and more sun.

6 October Monday

The best thing about Clonmel in the autumn is the smell of apples which fills the whole town. The big cider producers Bulmers, or Magners (they go by both names: one for the North and for Britain, and the other for here) have huge production facilities on the outskirts of town but for some reason there are still these long narrow places, with high sides, where apples get dumped and maybe weighed right in the middle of town. The access to these dumping places is down a narrow alley so it can't be easy for a big truck or a trailer load of apples to be delivered there, much less to be collected and taken away again. My theory is that Bulmers keeps this In Town Delivery Place for the apples just to remind everyone that this is cider country. It is a wonderful smell, but such a pity that the cider they make is so homogenized and un-appley. By the time they are done with it it could be made of anything. The very good part is the smell of the apples on delivery.

2 October Thursday

Working away on putting the covers onto FORTY FUNGI. It is rare for us to do a second edition of something but now here we are doing it for two books at the same time. The other one is Colin's BLACK BOB, which will have a pale green cover this time instead of the pale blue of the first edition. It is a beautiful colour. FORTY FUNGI is part of the new series of books with wiggly flaps, drawn by me. The first edition was in a case binding. This one is smaller in dimension but feels fatter and very satisfying for the hand. The cover putting on is going well. Just perfect work for a another grey day.

30 September Tuesday

There is a Baby Gloomy Donkey now. I don't know where the other three adults have gone, but the Baby and Mother stand around together looking as gloomy as ever. How can a baby look so miserable?

26 September Friday

I think the National Ploughing Championships are finally over. They were held in Cuffesgrange this year and the traffic was extraordinary. The road from Clonmel to Kilkenny was a huge mess all week. That is about 50 kilometers of backed up traffic. People were caught in five hour delays. All movement around Clonmel was a mess, so Kilkenny must have been even worse. I have never been to the Ploughing Championships but they are obviously very popular. Loads of people drive over from Kerry, and Cork and other parts west, and north. There are exhibitions of livestock and machinery, as well as about 300 kinds of competitions. I gather they do plowing with horses, and without horses, and with tractors, and all different age groups compete for titles. The television and radio were full of reports and the people I talked to who actually went said the biggest issue this year was the dust. The ground was so dry that everyone was choking with the dust. After this summer of nearly endless rain, it's incredible that dust even exists here, much less that it is a topic of both conversation and discomfort.

23 September Tuesday

We just learned that Bill Cooney is dead. He hung himself in his house on Thursday and he was found on Friday. The removal took place on Sunday and he was buried on Monday. It all seems very sad, both the suddenness of it all, and the taking of his own life. He always seemed such a cheerful man. He drank way too much. Perhaps that got him depressed. He was from up the Nire. I think maybe there was a wife, and some sons too, but he had been living on his own in the village for a few years now. He came up to get a door from us one day. It was a door that we got when the butcher shop was being re-done. They were throwing out the door and we thought it might fit our shed, but it didn't. When Bill Cooney mentioned that he needed a door for his garden shed, we offered him this door and he happily took it away. While he was here, he looked carefully at everything we were growing. He loved gardening. After that visit, he would often leave old books about gardening in the bar for me to borrow. When I was finished with them, I would give them back to Rose and eventually he would collect them and then leave me another. He gave me one to keep. It is called HARDY FRUIT GROWING, and it belonged to his mother. It was often hard to understand him, because of the drink and because of his lack of teeth. I liked the fact that we communicated with these books about growing things. Bill Cooney loved to dance. He would jump in his car with a friend and head off to a dance in Durrow which is probably and hour and half drive from here. He should never have driven that far. He should never have driven anywhere, as I think he was never not drinking, and he never drank just a little. He liked to dance so much that if there was music, sometimes he danced around the bar with a sweeping broom. Bill Cooney was tall and thin, and very graceful. In the shock of hearing of his death, we were stunned to find out that he was only 65. I just assumed he must be in his late seventies. He wrote a note before he hung himself. It ended with the words "And God bless you all". The priest read the note out loud at the funeral and ended his talk by saying,"And God bless you too, Bill Cooney."

20 September Saturday

There are loads of blackberries this year. I am told that might mean that it is going to be a very cold and long winter. I am picking as many as I can. Some go into the freezer and some go into apple and blackberry pies and some we just eat by the bowl fulls. I try to pick some every day, and I am finding several places which replenish themselves rapidly and regularly. So many of the great bunches that I see are just too high for me. I am too short. The nettles and the thorns make the reaching and stretching very tricky. It is amazing that after such a wet and gray and cold summer, we can have such plenty. The plums and the apples really suffered. My washing on the line often suffers too as all of the birds join us in eating the blackberries.

12 September Friday

Another bit of snack reduction for Em has been the cutting up of the Pig's Ear. She likes a bit of chewing at lunch time, but her earpieces have been getting smaller. For a while I used the garden shears to cut them into two pieces. Now I am trying to cut them into three or even four pieces. It is not easy and sometimes I can't cut them at all. They are horrible tough things. Whenever we are in Cork, Em knows exactly where we are when we turn onto a street with a pet shop. There are three pet shops which she knows and which we cannot pass without her dragging us in. She knows where the Pig's Ears are stored in each place. She likes to sit in front of the cages with gerbils and hamsters and birds and to watch for a while. I always feel this is a fair trade for her having to spend the day on a lead and in the car.

11 September Thursday

Em has been told to lose 3 kilos. Actually, we have been told that Em needs to lose 3 kilos. Her ideal weight would be 17 kilos. It is not easy to imagine her that much thinner. The vet seemed to think that the reduction of snacks would be enough to force the weight loss. Dinner could stay the same. Snacks are the issue. Snacks are the problem. There are no longer two morning biscuits. There is one morning biscuit broken into two pieces. There are no longer two evening biscuits. The evening biscuit is broken into two pieces. The dog can count but so far she doesn't seem to notice the smaller quantity. Luckily she is already out of the habit of going to the bar. Many years ago, Rose used to slide a digestive biscuit under the little door in the bar. Em loved this and considered it complete magic. She would lie down close to the crack under the door and watch for hours just waiting for another biscuit to whiz out. Sometimes two or three would appear in one evening. And Bunny used to reach into his bag to bring out something leftover from his lunch, usually a cookie or a KitKat, and he would feed it to her very slowly, crooning softly to her all the while. We put a stop to all of those sweet treats a long time ago, well before Bunny died. Em still keeps an eye on that crack under the door even though nothing has come out of there for many years now. If anyone in the vicinity opens a bag of crisps, she is beside them immediately and she rests her head gently on their thigh to encourage them to feed her. Yes, it is good that she rarely goes to the bar these days. Besides her other exercise I am trying to take her out onto the platform for some regular chasing and fetching. I am not a very strong thrower so I find throwing downhill makes the ball or toy go further. She then has to run both downhill to fetch it and uphill to bring it back for more. The current throwing favorite is a bright pink hedgehog with its face chewed off. It is kind of clunky and not as easy to throw as a ball. Twelve or fifteen good long downhill fetches and she is ready for a rest. So am I. It gets boring. For some reason, I insist on shouting On your mark, get set, GO! every time I throw.

24 August Sunday

Em & I thrashed our way up the boreen to Johnny Mackin's to check on the apples in the orchard. I had to walk most of the way with my hands straight up in the air just to get through the nettles and the blackberries. Everything is so overgrown. I wore full waterproofs as protection against stings and thorns as much as against the rain. Foolishly, I forgot to wear my waterproof trousers outside of my rubber boots. By wearing the trousers tucked into the boots, all the water off the wet vegetation rushed right down and into my boots. My socks were soaked before I was halfway there. The nettles in the orchard were over my head and the few apples on the trees were not ripe yet. No sun. There will be a good crop of plums in a few days, if I can get to them before the birds do. I continued on to the churchyard to make a photograph of the little carved head. It represents either an abbott or a bishop. I love his very small carved ears. Several years ago, we had a plaster cast made of it. We have had lots of interesting conversations about it recently with various visitors. I have been encouraged to be in touch with the people at the County Museum and with those doing an archeological survey of the area. Part of me feels that this little head is a secret just to be enjoyed by those of us who know it is there. I don't want it to be removed and put in a museum. I don't want it to be stolen either, nor do I want it to crash to the ground. Dick, who is from the Conservation Department of Clare County Council, told us it was probably 12-14th century, and that the mortar holding it in place was very poor. I think that has been what finally pushed me to make some phone calls on the head's behalf.

23 August Saturday

The newspaper and radio are proclaiming that this is the wettest summer in Ireland since records began being kept about such things. On one day, Dublin boasted more rain falling in one hour than usually falls in the entire month of August. I am not sure if we are supposed to feel cheered about all this. A record is a record after all. I am wearing wool socks as I write. This will go down in my personal history as the summer that never arrived. There are lots of promises, predictions, and hopes for September's weather. It is being called Indian Summer. In New England, Indian Summer comes later, in October, after the first chill of autumn has set in. Then you are given back a bit of summer. I don't think you can have an Indian Summer if you never had a summer at all.

19 August Thursday

As I finally insert the finished SHORT-CUTS concertinas into their little archival cellophane envelopes, I wonder yet again why we seem to keep making things which we feel need to be put into these envelopes. Environmentally, it is wasteful and probably unnecessary. Of course, it is all unnecessary. If we made a version to float away on the internet that would be that. We can't do that. We need to make things that we can touch and that can be touched by others as they read and look at them. Perhaps the plastic envelopes have to do with my life in this dripping valley.

At 2.45, the sun came out. At 3 o'clock, the sun felt hot. I left the lower barn and lay down on the bench just outside the door. The bench was as dry as if it had not been raining off and on all day. At 3.20, the clouds covered the sun and I went back inside to work. At 3.45, the rain was so loud on the roof of the barn that I had to turn the radio up louder. I am really sick of this.

18 August Thursday

Dead mouse in the wine cupboard. A good chunk of hair and flesh was stuck to the bottle I pulled out. It is not a fresh corpse. There is no smell at all. Still, I wonder what sort of job I can promise in exchange for Simon cleaning it up.

15 August Friday

Rose's was so empty yesterday that she went off to take her dog for a walk and left us there in the bar. A man came in with a sticker that said CANCELLED in red letters. He put it diagonally over the poster for the Vintage Rally. No need to explain further. Soggy field.

13 August Wednesday

Ever since Sally was here, I have been looking for ants. I can't remember how the subject came up. We spoke about ants as an integral and normal part of summer. It was then that I realized that I have never seen an ant at Ballybeg. I am not sure if this is true for all of Ireland, or maybe just here? I don't really remember many ants in England either. Do I remember any ants in England? Not just many but any? Ants are not really something that I think about much, except when they are being a bother. That image of a long line of ants trailing into a kitchen or out of a pile of sand exists as a cartoon image for me, even though I know it used to be real. I remember the ants in NH coming in and taking over the food in the dog's dinner bowl. Ants are no longer part of my life. No flying ants. No black ants. No soldier ants. No red burning biting ants. No ants.

12 August Tuesday

Still folding the SHORT-CUTS, although my sections are all finished and I am waiting for Simon to do the last two folds before we flatten them under weights and put them into their little envelopes. He is terrible about finishing things like this. I insist that we finish an entire edition of something in one period of time. I hate to come back six months or a year later and to try to get back to that exact fold for that exact paper, or to hunt out that same thread. It is like having a stutter to just keep starting again. For me, it is a waste of brain power. I guess more people do this than not these days. If you make a small number of things and you print them off your computer, and especially if you don't number them, you can come back and print and fold and sew another ten, twenty, or fifty at any moment for the next ten years. This is the ideal of Print on Demand, especially on a small home-made scale. If I think about it for a while, it is the ideal solution for us. Since we are not printing on the computer, that part is not an option. We could pile our printed things up and fold and sew slowly over time, but new projects are always coming along. Many years ago, we pulled out a very long well wrapped parcel of Lassus' Les Pins. It was at least twelve years since the first lot had been produced and no one had ever finished the production. I spent one day trying to learn and perfect the complex folded concertina, and then I gave up. We threw the parcel, carefully re-wrapped, away. As upsetting as I found the waste, it was less upsetting than finishing someone else's unfinished work from all those years before. I will push Simon to finish this small concertina soon. (As I write this, there is hail beating on the roof.)

11 August Monday

The weather is still abysmal. If you leave a car for even a few minutes it is important to wind up the windows. The downpours start and stop so quickly and with so little warning. The forecast for the week is rain. Cloud and rain. Sun and rain. Cloud and cloud. Tonight there is a 24 hour deluge promised. Can't wait.

10 August Sunday

A day of Stonethrower Rally entrapment. We could hear the Rally cars going round and round. They use some kind of special fuel that makes their exhaust pop like fireworks. We walked across Joe's field for as far as we could go and when we got to a road where they were zooming past we turned and continued a meandering kind of perimeter walk. Overall it wasn't too noisy in our valley. We are very protected down here, but next year I may make a point of being somewhere else for the day.

9 August Saturday

Em and I went round for a walk and forgot about the Stonethrower men and their day of Scrutiny. I should go back and read what I wrote about them last August, but I am so annoyed with their return that I don't want to remember how exciting I found it all last year. There are all sorts of red and white plastic tapes and arrows, first yellow arrows, and then red ones, to anticipate a corner. Some corners get a big white sign with big black letters saying BALE. This is to remind whoever is on bale duty to leave one, two or four big bales of hay (wrapped in black plastic) there in case someone misses the corner and crashes. I gather this happens a lot. A lot of fences and walls get smashed into. The cars seem to lose control sometimes even when they are going straight. When I went down to the shop in the village just before 7 this evening, I was amazed at how many cars where there. Everyone was at Mass. The church must have been packed. Since lots of people are to be trapped at home from 8 am tomorrow, there is no possibility of anyone getting to Mass. I assume the new priest must have been doing the service so that would be a big draw too.

8 August Friday

There is a new priest in the village. He was in the bar tonight, talking to everyone and admiring the picture of Paddy on the wall. Brendan did a very fine imitation of Paddy singing "Do What You Do Do Well" for him. Rose got out a photo album and started to show all sorts of pictures to illustrate the local history. I would not have known he was a priest. He was wearing a green and white striped shirt and jeans and drinking pints of lager. I thought he was someone's relative who was in a great mood as he was visiting from Dublin or somewhere.

7 August Thursday

Simon went down to the pub tonight. He had a chat about wind turbines with the brother of the murdered girl. We never remember this brother's name. We all remember Eddie's name. It was Eddie who was stabbed nine times, and who no one thought would live. Now Eddie is back and alive and everyone treats him with great respect. Everyone asks Eddie how he is doing, and everyone tries not to stare at the huge wound around his neck. Anyway, Simon had a chat with one of Eddie's brothers and came back with news of the Stonethrower's Rally. It is back again this Sunday. How did I get the idea that it only happened in this area once every ten years? For some reason the men who went around to inform people about it missed us. Our boreen looks so rough and uninhabited, they must have thought no one was down here. We are invisible, especially to people with new cars.

6 August Wednesday

I drove to Kilkenny in the rain and got there just in time to catch the train to Dublin. The whole station was full of people waiting to go. No one wanted to wait outside in the rain. When the train pulled in the cars were lettered A, B, E, D, E. My ticket said C, so I decided the first E was probably doubling as a C. I got in and asked a woman if this was C. She said it didn't matter, and that I should just sit down. I looked for my seat which was number C32. There was an elderly man sitting in my seat so I moved along to another seat. Another woman told me that the seat numbers don't matter, and that we can just sit anywhere. The conductor came to punch our tickets. I asked him if it was okay for me to take a later train. I was booked for the 15.05 return. He said fine. I said, It's okay then? He said if you have a ticket you can get on any train. It doesn't matter. The whole train smelled like bacon. Everyone was talking at top speed and top volume. It was impossible to read or to sleep. Nothing matters.

2 August Saturday

The white flowers of the McGrath's field of potatoes are beautiful. It is an enormous field (maybe two acres, maybe five, maybe ten?) and the blossoms are so plentiful and luscious that it looks like a flower garden, rather than a vegetable crop.

1 August Friday

I was warned that it was a bad idea, but I did it anyway. I placed a huge pot of sweet peas over near the fence and I put some fine strings up to help them to start to climb and tumble over the fence. (Actually it was linen bookbinding thread which was all I could find in a hurry because my garden twine had disapppeared) It all looked lovely for about a week. Joe's cows spent a few days in that field and ate everything. I now have some very short plants left in the pot. I don't know if they will ever recover. The cows have eaten the linen thread too.

31 July Thursday

It is a big effort not to mention the weather. It is imperative to get my mind onto something else. I spent some time in the barn making the first folds of SHORT-CUTS. It has been a long time coming into being. It was my mother who first asked me about TWITTEN and about SNICKET. She remembered those two words, from Hastings, and from Yorkshire, and she wondered if there were other words like that, meaning the same thing and equally local. I only knew a few, mostly from Derbyshire (like JENNEL and JITTY and GINNEL). I started to ask friends around Britain. They all seemed to know at least a few words. Many of the words overlapped and were used in different, and quite widely separated places. I spent a lot of time trying to make an orderly explanation of where which words appeared. It got really confusing, so eventually a list of the words felt sufficient: A collection of local terms for the short-cuts and ways through towns. In America, I think they would all be called alleys, but these ways are different and were never wide enough for cars. They are very much for people on foot and for a quiet and more direct way to move through a place. Simon came along and helped me to finally resolve the list and what we have made is now a little concertina of the wonderful words. I have no doubt there are more, but this is as many as I collected over this few years. I simply had to stop somewhere.

30 July Wednesday

Two nights (and a lot of daylight hours) of solid lashing rain. The ground is sodden and the puddles are enormous. Breda and I managed a rapid walk around without even needing our rainjackets this morning. We met Pa and Peggy at the entrance to one of their fields. Immediately the conversation went to a discussion of the rain and to the huge number of SHALLYKABUKIES seen. They all exclaimed and commented as to how they were seeing vast numbers of Shallykabukies and in places where they had never before seen a Shallykabuky. I had no idea what they were speaking about. I had to interrupt to ask. Shallykabukies are the little snails with yellowy striped shells, which I had noticed were quite plentiful after rain, but I never knew they had a special name. It must be a word from the Irish, so I will have to find out. No doubt my phonetic spelling leaves a bit to be desired. Even misspelled, it is a grand word.

29 July Tuesday

We have had a small brown wren inside for most of the day. We chased her around for a trying to catch her gently to put her back outside. Wherever she was, she would swoop and rush and suddenly be on the other side of the room. We closed doors to keep her contained but she was able to whiz throught the smallest cracks. Each time we thought she was gone, she would reappear rushing out of a cupboard, or down from a high shelf. We ran around for quite a while and finally we gave up. Every window and door was open and ready for her departure, but she didn't want to go. Simon named her Nuala Quirke, which is his most recent favorite Irish name. When we mention Nuala Quirke, Em rushes out the door barking with excitement.

24 July Thursday

We were down in the pub at the end of the afternoon. The whole family of the murdered girl was there. We had heard that the trial had ended that day and that The Murderer had been sentenced to life for the murder of the girl and to 15 additional years for the stabbing of her brother. The trial had only begun a few days before and The Murderer had begun by pleading Not Guilty. The police had 100 witnesses lined up for various degrees of observations, witnessing and charactor assessments. One friend told us that she was number 79, and didn't know when or if she might be called to go down to Cork. The very next day, the murderer changed his plea to Guilty for the murder. The next day after that, today, he pleaded Guilty to the stabbing assault and the whole case ended immediately with his sentencing. The entire family was in the court, but then there they all were in the bar waiting for the 6 o'clock news as if it would be news to them. There was a lot of rushing in and out of the toilets and from the outside smoking areas, and finally everyone was gathered along the bar (several people deep). The news of the trail and the sentencing came on. The whole bar was completely silent. There was no cheering nor any cursing. I was worried that the whole lot would go wild. I was wishing that we were not there. Instead, the whole family just moved outside as a group, and they all lit cigarettes. The father joined them a few minutes later. He had missed the whole thing as he was in the toilets.

21 July Monday

We just learned that this part of Tipperary is called Iffa and Offa West on some old maps. Great words. They sound completely made up. We must find out more.

7 July Monday

It is four weeks of rain, grey skies and generally unsettled weather. I am in a foul mood. It is hard to keep thinking that this is allright. There are droughts and heatwaves in other places. I am wearing wool socks and sweaters. There are wet dishcloths and wet walking gear hanging everywhere. Nothing is drying. I refuse to turn on the heat, but the endless damp is making me crazy. What are we doing here? Last year was like this and we thought it was a freak. To have it again is just too much. This will be the second year in a row that summer clothes are not an option. Most of the vegetables in the garden have rotted, but ironically I have my best crop of salads leaves ever. That should cheer me up, but I feel rather determined not to cheer up. I went down to the shop for the post and for a few errands. I complained to, and with, everyone I saw down there. The postmistress outdid me. I asked her if she was cycling down in these deluges (yes), and I also asked how her driving lessons were going. I asked if she had managed to BEAT THE UNACCOMPANIED DRIVER DEADLINE. (This is how the papers were headlining it.) This was the wrong question to ask. She exploded, and went off into a rant about the injustice of it all, and how in the world was she to learn to drive if she couldn't drive on the roads by herself, etc etc etc. I interrupted her to say that that is normal, and that in most countries, it is illegal for people to drive alone without a full license, and in many countries being accompanied by a licensed driver is not even enough, but you have to have a fully trained driving instructor with you. She didn't listen to any of that and continued raging. For a short time, I forgot my own wretchedness. Then I went outside and it was pissing down and I wondered yet again what in the world I am doing here.

4 July Friday

The good news is that Em has lost more weight. Not quite another kilo, but she has dropped from 21.20 to 20.50. When we arrived at the vets' she raced to stand on the scales. We used to have to drag her there. Not so good news is the Ear Mites. She has been shaking her head in a quick manner which causes a flapping and snapping of her ears. The snapping noise was so loud that it would wake us up in the night. The vet said she has an infestation of mites and the right ear is badly infected. We are doing daily clean outs and we will go back next week. The really scarey thing is the lump on her leg. The vet is worried about it so I am even more worried. When we return for the Mite inspection, the vet will check the lump again and then she may have to do a biopsy.

2 July Wednesday

The rain is just LASHING down. Just now the sky has gone dark and the wind is wild, but sometimes the sun keeps shining as the rain comes down. The fennel has been beaten to death. We have a few hours here and there without rain, but then it comes again. There were twelve straight hours of rain on Sunday night. Everything is looking greener than ever. There is a completely unreal glow on this world. As I dash up and down to my room, I try to keep remembering to empty the water from the top of the postbox. We have a large plastic box with a snap-on lid for the post. There is a big rock inside it to keep it from blowing around and another rock on the top to keep the lid from being lifted off. After a good rain, the raised sides of the lid turn it into a big flat water dish for Em.

29 June Sunday

We spent the afternoon in the printing shed. Simon is working on a small print of Jonathan's cigar cutter. When we visited Corn Close, he saw it sitting on the desk. He made a little rubbing of it with a soft pencil and then put it back where Jonathan had left it. Now two printing blocks have been made. I was drafted for the first printing which Simon did in light blue, and then we lightly coated the area with silver thermography powder. My job was to hold the printed and powdered paper close to a very bright halogen light which I had turned away from my face. It was still very bright and very hot. I have special goggles of dark glass over clear glass. The dark part can be flipped up. To see if the powder had beaded up yet, I moved each page into the bright sunlight. Doing one page at a time, it was slow work but it was very satisfying. The brown cover folder has a bit of thermography on it too, but that went a lot faster. The printing shed is tiny. It is perfect for one person and maybe for another to move pages or to do what I was doing. When Emily insists on lying in the middle of the space it becomes an impossibly small place.

28 June Saturday

There was a squeaking noise near the tool shed. I walked over and looked around but I could not see anything. A few hours later I heard it again and looked more carefully. Feathers were sticking out a crack of the old corrugated metal front. The feathers were moving around to accompany the squeaking. It didn't sound like any bird noise but the feathers were definitely bird feathers. I fetched Simon who took a crowbar to the edge of the cladding. The trapped bird flew out and away. It was a young Bluetit. We now have a curl in the front of the shed. It will take some hammer whacks to get the metal to lie flat again.

23 June Monday

There is a woman trapped in her car which is underneath a tractor or some kind of very big farm machine. The postman just came and told me that. They were going in opposite directions. The accident is down by Liam Boyle's house on the Knocklofty road. That's all he knew. We can barely think of anything else.

22 June Sunday

Torrential rains started on Friday night and continued all night and all day on Saturday and all Saturday night. If we had been somewhere else we would have been in trouble but somehow the water all finds a place to go. The light today is weak, not bright, almost as if it is a bit watery still. SOME ALTERNATIVES TO FLOCK is finished and wrapped and boxed. We spent a few hours sorting through boxes to find out which books were out of print, or almost out of print. I am painting my birthdates, again and again.

21 June Saturday

I found out why the young calves are drinking from these various feeding machines, and why they are separated from their mothers. I thought the separation was to make them strong and brave, and independant. The real reason is that both of these Joes are running dairy farms. The last thing they want is for a mother cow's milk production to go down the throat of a baby calf. Instead, the calves are fed on some kind of formula to fatten them up and to get them growing good strong teeth, so that they can start eating grass. (Do cows have teetch when they are born?) If the formula is potentially more fattening than regular milk, I really must stop Em from drinking it. She doesn't need any more fat. Now that her hair is shorn, it is very difficult to believe that she lost a kilo. I must be more rigorous with her diet.

18 June Wednesday

Tom Smoke is dead. He was trapped in a burning apartment. He was from the Nire and he had a house and some land out there. He sold off some land and went to live in town for a bit of excitement. At first it was some woman that he followed there, but then I think he stayed for the company and for the variety of town. He lost his license at one point, and spent some weeks in Limerick Jail. He came out raving about how great the food was and that it was served right to you three times a day.

Tom Smoke called every woman Mary. It was alright if your name really was Mary, but if not, you had no choice. One whose name really is Mary is known as Mary the Halfway, because she runs the bar called The Halfway House. It is sort of equidistant between Clonmel and Dungarvan. Tom Smoke went in there one day all bloody and Mary the Halfway asked him what had happened. He said he had fallen down. She said "Ah well, Our Lord had three falls before he died. There's no shame in it." Tom Smoke answered, "Yeah but Our Lord didn't fall off a Honda 50."

Another time he ran into some Garda in Limerick who stopped him because they recognized him. They asked his name and where he lived. When he told them, they asked why he was 45 miles from home. He said he was meeting a girl. The Garda said, "What? All the way over here? 45 miles from home? Aren't there any girls where you live?" Tom Smoke said "If you lived where I do you'd be over here too."

Tom Smoke's name came from cadging cigarettes years ago. He did not want to buy a whole pack because he didn't want to smoke them in the morning. He would get a smoke off someone in the bar and then buy them a drink in payment.

After the funeral, there was a whole evening down at The Hidden Inn with people telling one Tom Smoke story after another. He had great long sideburns which flared out at the bottom, and long thin hair. He had a look like no one else in this decade, and a way of living in this time as if it was another time too.

17 June Tuesday

There are a lot of new young calves around. I must ask why they are taken from their mothers so soon. One Joe has a red tank which can be pulled behind his truck or the tractor. It has bright pink rubber teats all around it, at just the right height for the baby calves to suck. The other Joe has a blue plastic container which hangs on the side of a gate. This too is at the right height for the calves. He has a smaller number of calves and they push to drink from the single row of teats. In their excitement, there is usually a lot of milk spilled on the ground. Em sneaks her head under the gate to steal the spilled milk. When she does this, the young ones back up and stare at her. I don't know if the staring is with disbelief or just with interest.

15 June Sunday

The first haying of the season is finished. It has been several days, and late into the bright nights, with the sound of the big machines circling and circling through all of the fields around us. As soon as one farmer's fields were done, another's fields would be started. The various machines, tractors and picker-upper things and baling machines follow each other around fast and as if they are choreographed. When it all stops, in every direction, there is a grand silence over everything. And for now everywhere looks manicured. Some of the fields are chewed down to lawn-like evenness by the cows and others by the haying. Both walking through and viewing from afar, we wonder where the rough edges have gone. It is the disheveled quality that we miss.

12 June Thursday

As suddenly as it was everywhere, the cow parsley is now gone. The blossoms are gone, just leaving their skeletal structure. Now the hedgerows are fulls of wild honeysuckle. Some kinds are pink and yellow and some are white and yellow. It is all so heavily perfumed that while walking the very narrow and overgrown boreen, I feel dizzy with the smell. The elderflowers have just blossomed too. Their creamy white flowers are so big and so bright, it is as though the landscape is covered with polka dots. I am all ready to make my yearly supply of Elderflower Cordial. I have my bottles and my lemons and my labels (the same label I have been using for years, but this year Simon scanned the drawing and printed it with a green tone. It is lovely.). The recipe is out on the table. I am waiting for a bit of bright sun. I am told that if the flowers are picked on an overcast day, the cordial will taste of cat pee. I am willing to wait for the sun to reappear.

11 June Wednesday

Em has been in a nervous state for the past two days. Joe's cows are in the field adjoining our land. Whenever they are there, she becomes very protective of her world. She dashes across to the fence and rushes at the nearest cow or group of cows. After they scatter, she lies down in the grass on their side of the fence. Before her haircut she was very visible in the high grass as her hair floated around her like a fluffy bunch of blossom. With her newly shorn self, she disappears a bit. That is partly because the grass is so long, but partly because all of the big white fluffy bits are cut off, and from a distance she reads as more black. Her whole point seems to be to lie very very flat and still, presumbably so that the cows won't know she is there or at least they will forget, and then they will try to come closer and then she can leap up and scare them away. All of this has to be done while she is still rushing back and forth to keep track of us as we go between the barns and the house. It is hard work for her to keep track of everything and everyone. Last night she collapsed into her bed at 8.00, while we could still hear the cows munching loudly outside. The bad aspect of this cow duty is that sometimes she lets the cows come right over to her, and then they lick her. We have never been able to understand why she lets this happen when most of the time she is so agressive towards them. The smell of cow saliva is not very nice but she wears the odour with great pride.

10 June Tuesday

I forgot to mention the other thing I saw in Cahir yesterday. THE WAREHOUSE OF WONDERFUL ART has re-opened. It is only a summer thing, probably because the windows are missing throughout the building. I think it was once a grain store. It sits on the opposite end of the bridge from the Cahir Castle. At Christmas, there are usually Christmas trees sold from there. Each window has a plank of wood covering about a third of its opening. There is no glass. For the summer, a painting is displayed on each plank, in each window, four stories high. I think that is about 16 windows (or maybe its 20?). That's at least 16 paintings one can view from the road while driving past, or from the pavement across the road if one is walking.

9 June Monday

I went to the Super-Valu in Cahir today. It was very busy so I had to go to the far end of the car park. I had forgotton about the plaster Madonna who stands at the corner of the car park, to the left of the bottle banks. She is just off the tarmac, raised up on a pedestal, where the hedges meet. Maybe I had forgotton about her because the bushes had grown over her for a while. Someone has just done a very careful job of trimming the hedges up to and around her. She has her own little green aura.

7 June Saturday

We are scoring, folding, glueing and pressing and packing SOME ALTERNATIVES TO FLOCK, John Bevis' new book of poetry. It is a nice job to return to as an escape from the garden or from other things. The finishing work does seem to be going on for a long time. Perhaps because we are only doing an hour here and there? It is lovely to work with the doors open, the birds so noisy and busy, and the dog snoring.

4 June Wednesday

Em had her yearly haircut today. As always she was excited to get to the vets and to find the cat in his bed under the shelf. The whole place is full of smells and excitement. She rushes to be everywhere at once. We cut through the back rooms to Debbie's Grooming Shed, and all her enthusiasm disappeared. She tried to take a quick right for an escape. She hates the shower and the shampoo and she hates sitting there getting clipped, but once she is captured, she accepts defeat and sits quietly. She now looks ridiculous. She has gone from being a huge fluffy sheep dog, to being some sort of sleek terrier kind of dog with huge pointed ears and a rat's tail. The beautiful plume is gone. Last year I thought she looked like a fat seal. This year she is a less fat seal.

3 June Tuesday

We have been back for a week, but I just have not been able to write yet. Going away makes for such a pile up of THINGS TO DO. There are the things which were left and now need to be dealt with. There are the lists made en route. There are thank you notes to write and messages to return. There is the garden. Best not talk about that. The garden seems to be a mess. I gather there was a cold east wind and a fair bit of rain while we were gone. A rabbit, or the slugs, decimated quite a lot of the small things which I planted out in a rush before we left. Maybe they were still too small? It was so cold that the grass did not grow.

We had wonderful weather for our walk in Yorkshire, and for the extended trip to revisit Corn Close in Dentdale . We were in a tiny band of good weather, while most of Britain was in torrents of rain. We ended our first days' walking, which took us over Sutton Bank and onward, with a terrific evening of dinner and drinks at Shandy Hall. We explored the gardens before dinner and the house and its collection after dinner. Since Laurence Sterne was born in Clonmel, the walk became a pilgrimage (of sorts) for Simon and I. Before we left, we tried to find something to take from Clonmel to Patrick at the museum. Sadly, the best thing we could find was a stick of Clonmel rock with an image of the West Gate (out of Irishtown) on its label. The gate has a poorly carved likeness of Sterne on it. This is not visible on the rock's label, but we know it is there. Now that I am back, I have given myself the job of finding out as much as I can about Sterne's presence in Clonmel. I will make a list of everything I can find out. Before we left I went to the library to get a copy of TRISTAM SHANDY. There is only one copy of it in the library, and it is not for circulation. Reference only.

13 May Tuesday

When we take our stuff to Legaun for recycling, we are required to have a label on each bag. The bags are clear plastic and contain clean and dry plastic and paper. For two years we have taken the bags of paper and plastic, along with other stuff for recycling, and we have taken our pale blue self-adhesive labels every time. We have never once been asked to put labels on the bags. The labels are wrinkly now. They have been through the laundry in various pockets a few times. We are always ready to use them, but we never need do. I think they will wear out before we are ever required to use them.

12 May Monday

The cow parsley is out. The grassy sides of the roads are getting that frothy look that only cow parsley can give them. As more and more blossoms appear, it becomes truly luxurious. The boreen is so narow that the drive down to the house becomes a natural car wash on a damp day, or a dewy morning. As I walk, I like to pick a large piece of cow parsley and wave it about in time with my stride. This morning I was making large horizontal figure eights as I walked at a fast pace down the hill. While I walked and lashed my cow parsley through the air, I sang a whishing kind of chant. Maybe I shouldn't call it singing. It is FWEE HAH, FWEE HAH, FWEE FWEE FWEE HAH. I seem to be able to chant this forever, and I can speed it up or slow it down. It is the same tuneless chant that appears in my mouth every year when the cow parsley appears. I was a bit surprised to find myself being watched over the hedge by a local farmer this morning. I did not say hello for fear of having to explain myself. I just waved my cow parsley at him and kept walking & chanting & lashing....

10 May Saturday

There is a new tenant in Mary Corbett's cottage. (The Murder House. The House That Nobody Will Ever Live In Again. The House That They Will Have To Tear Down.) This new tenant is outside puttering about all the time. He seems to be a real do it yourself kind of find it and fix it man. His car has a droopy bumper, so he poked two holes in it and laced some string through the holes. The strings are attached to something under the bonnet of his car. When the bonnet is closed the strings are tightened and the bumper no longer drags on the ground. I am interested each time I pass to see what he is doing or what he has done. Em is interested because he has a puppy.

8 May Thursday

We were having some trouble with the broadband again, so after trying this and that, Simon called the company in Clonmel. It seems the whole complany has been sold and the new owners and their office are now based in Waterford. While trying to find out the name for the new company, Simon was told that: "It was bought by the guy who owned it."

7 May Wednesday

Sign in the cafe in Cahir where there is a juicer and a price list for smoothies and juices but the counter is pushed up against the wall and the fruits and vegetables on display are either fake or disturbingly old:

ORANGE JUICE freshly squeezed orange juice

APPLE JUICE freshly squeezed apple juice

CARROT JUICE freshly squeezed pineapple juice

5 May Monday

The little hut is still in the high field. It is still a surprise every time I see it. A lot of things are a surprise in that field as it's ground level is about 2.5 metres above ours. it is not uncommon to be sitting down in the house and to feel like you are being watched. A cow or calf looking over the fence can look right into the window, and they often do. I asked Joe about the little hut. It is there to provide shade and shelter for some of his sick calves. They are in that field as a form of quarantine as they have some kind of lung infection. The ones who have recovered are in an adjoining field. They leap and play and have shiney coats. The sick group look pretty miserable and they lie down a lot.

30 April Wednesday

I spoke to Kenneth while walking with Em. We chatted about this and that. I said I had not seen the Gloomy Donkeys for a while and asked where they were. As they move from field to field, every once and a while they end up back in their owners own fields. He told me that these are not just any old Gloomy Donkeys, but that they are very special French Donkeys which their owner breeds to sell. He says each donkey sells for 2000 euro. He told me that the man also has a Llama. I feel depressed by both of these pieces of news.

29 April Tuesday

A booklet came in the post today. I