I’m sitting at my desk and enjoying a rare sight through the window – the sun is shining. We’ve had rather a lot of rain over the past few weeks, as I think a lot of you have. Here it has veered from long, sullen downpours to bursts of hail mixed with sudden bright spots. The wind has been ferocious and we are very glad we have managed to keep most of our trees safe, apart from the one faller early in the month. And the geese are making their way back too, though in limited numbers.
The old peat swamp is filled again, making a little lake across the road. There is a strange hummock in the middle and the first time I saw it I thought it was a cow – maybe some Highland cattle – stranded there. No, it is just some thick brown grass poking over the water.
Like the weather, this has been a strange, mixed fortnight. My new book, “Puppy Brain” was published officially on Thursday and the Kindle version is now up and available too. This is always a very exciting time. Even though it’s the fifth time for me it is still a thrill to open a box full of books I’ve written. Or co-written in this case. Then there was a bump in the road. It seems the main distributor to book shops won’t sell to small or independent shops. Relying of economies of scale, they demand a much higher discount for self-published or small press books. This results in the classic “Catch-22” situation. Without large orders the book is unlikely to feature in big, mainstream shops. Without sales in the big, mainstream shops there will be no large demand or orders. I’m working on it.
Meanwhile I’m sending out the signed copies promised or requested on Monday so look out for the arrival if you have contacted me. I have a stock I can dedicate, sign and send though these will incur postage from Ireland. Amazon has sold their stock already but if you want a copy from them don’t be put off by the “almost 2 months” delay. This is down to the algorithm and your order will arrive much sooner.
I have been musing on a feature of Irish society that impacts on us and, I suspect, many others here. With the cities increasingly overcrowded and horribly expensive, government policy is to persuade people to move out. There is a lot of space in Ireland, though building is still slow. People often buy an old-fashioned cottage and renovate it over time. In fact several estate agents have a whole section for “Derelict Property”, though at least one tarts it up as “Former Glory”. The advantage of these properties is almost all have a good amount of land – about an acre at least. The disadvantages are many. No roof sometimes. No amenities at all. Décor that shuns the name, no heating or insulation and often very small rooms. However, priced from 30,000 up they can turned into perfect homes with space and gardens – over time.
There are obstacles to the plan however. Out of the towns there are no services. I mean NO services. Mains water and sewage, telephone connection, cable and gas are all absent. Dodgy electricity and patchy wifi and mobile signals are common. Our problem with rubbish and recycling has been documented here, but it is a big issue. The largest firms have switched to long, very big wagons they can’t (or won’t) drive to more remote locations. Perversely they use the smaller trucks in town! And there needs to be proper public transport. We have none and all the local taxi drivers left during Covid.
This push into the countryside is not welcomed universally either. Some farmers (not all) are used to having free rein over the whole area, and resent the newcomers, or “blow-ins” as they are called. There are some really abusive areas of the Internet where posters jeer at new residents, laugh at their concerns and suggest they just sell up and move back to the city. The sense is newcomers don’t respect “country ways” and don’t understand the problems of farmers. There may be some who don’t but there are some farmers who flout the law and behave in a rather un-neighbourly manner. There can be shooting out of season, multi-shot guns used, slurrying next to domestic wells, electric fences that interfere with domestic supplies and intrusions onto private land, for example.
Many of them behave very well and live up to their image as “guardians” of the countryside. But not all. Last post I described the fallen tree onto the road from our land. We cleared it within an hour without damaging anything else – of course. Why would we do otherwise? I leave you with two images. First we have the neighbour’s trees lopped by Fergus to prevent accidents last year, at our instigation and expense.
Second we have the tree “pruning” we encountered along the road, by the same neighbour. I think it was done with a JCB. It is heartbreaking to see the damage to living, healthy trees.
So who would you say is the “guardian” of the countryside?