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Posts tagged ‘neighbours’

What a difference a day makes – and two lovely men.

We are slowly chipping away at all the stuff that needs doing and are surprised at the end of each week at how much we have managed to do. This week we had some help, in the form of Will and Anthony, two of Derek Madden’s “Merry Men”. They were the crew who helped us move in back in February and they turned up on Wednesday to do a blitz job on some of the most pressing areas of the garden and surrounds. They had intended coming on Monday but the weather took a turn for the worst and the jobs were not the sort you want to do in pouring rain and high winds.

It was still a bit uncertain when they arrived but these two lovely men tackled the Majestic, moving some of the wood in to dry. They put more weed mat over the side ground, cleared out the gutters and then – tackled the front hedge. This had gone feral over the summer and the poor postie was in danger of losing an eye trying to get through. What a difference a day makes!

They were quite apologetic it was a bit ragged but it was way better than we expected. The growth has been enthusiastic but random and it will take a year or so to thicken up. Then we can think about shaping it a bit more. Will and Antony did an amazing job, even putting a bit of a slope on the front. It was too wet to tackle the grass but hopefully they might come back when we have a few fine days and work their magic on the back garden too. They also made Jacqui’s day. We explained we were struggling with these heavier jobs, with Jacqui’s health and our slowly advancing age. When they heard how old Jacqui was they paid a great Irish compliment.
“Jeez, but you’re fresh!” Another for the language list I think.

We have had a number of encounters with our neighbours this week. At the weekend we met Des from the farm across the field. We had already made friends with his partner, Julie, and she brought him around to meet us and discuss help maintaining the garden. A highly skilled gardener and tree man, Des is much in demand and we are pleased he might consider our sad little patch. He’s very interested in the wood and could be a godsend later. First we must finish the cutting down phase and move on to the building back bit.

On two separate days we met more neighbours (remember this means anyone who lives closer than 3 kilometres away). Noreen was walking along the track one afternoon as we came back from town. She was without her little dog Brandy this time but I’m getting a bit better at recalling human names. We had a nice chat and it is very reassuring to have a nurse for a neighbour, especially one so helpful.

Yesterday we met the man who walks Rocky, his friend’s dog – an exception to my name recall at the moment. He was the walker who stopped us early on and asked if I was the “writer lady”. He commented on my bicycle which had been out of the shed for a bit on Wednesday. It transpires he spent 50 years in the bicycle trade and identified (and admired) it immediately.

I’ve just got a stirrup pump for it and should be able to ride it again when the weather clears. Turns out there’s a locking joint in the valves of Dutch bikes and I need to turn this or “’twill never be pumped up, you know”. Well, I do now. No wonder I was popping my shoulders with the little pump.

Also his wife is the woman who makes the jam we love and always get at the Friday markets. A small world, Ireland. We’re starting to make connections with and between people too.

The bins are another story. In fact they are several stories ranging from “Health and Safety!” to “The driver lost his bonus collecting them and won’t come down the lane anymore.” I am hoping to have a little word with the closure department tomorrow and will give the details then. Meanwhile we are hunting for someone – anyone – who will do a rubbish and recycling collection. Keep your fingers crossed for us. It is getting a bit desperate.

And finally a question for those of an ornithological incline. We have another new bird in the garden. In fact it hops along the fence and peers in through the windows, not in the least scared by us. It looks a bit like a wren in body shape and beak but at least 50% larger. It has a sparrow-like back and wings but a black/very dark grey head and a white flash on its throat. There’s a white smudge in its chest and it has a russet belly. The tail can be fanned out and it takes delight in twerking at us a bit like a wagtail. I tried to get a picture but failed miserably.
Has anyone any ideas?

Travelling hopefully through the house dominoes

We have made some progress here this week. Several people have contacted us about the many jobs we need doing and our floor and joinery man came to measure up. We are hoping to have a floor down in the grooming room soon and then can tackle the dominoes. Floor down means the freezer, washing machine and dryer can go in. So can the sink for the dogs (that will please them!). We will then have enough storage for the cleaners and Hoover so can unpack the last of the boxes. And we had the log delivery that needs to go into the Majestic out of the rain and into the space made by moving all of the above. We are travelling hopefully and refuse to get upset or impatient about it.

Winter fuel – we hope

Make no mistake, the slowness is not down to indolence or lack of will. All the workmen we know are going flat out, taking on multiple jobs and working every hour they can. Most of them look exhausted all the time. We are a long way out in the wilds and understandably some are reluctant to make the trip but those that do have been wonderful. There is a sense of anxiety here as despite the boom in all types of construction they are eyeing the rise in costs and worrying about being able to quote competitively or cover materials up front.

Feral dogwood!

Many also remember the last boom, back in the days of the “Celtic Tiger”. Almost overnight everything collapsed and the whole economy went into recession. As most of them are sole owners or family firms this was – and would be – a disaster. The economic pattern of Ireland is quite different from the UK, mainly as there was no widespread Industrial Revolution. Whilst 40% of the (very small) population live in Dublin, the rest live in small communities or isolated farms. There is no post-industrial pattern to life or work and much is based on agrarian society.

This does have its upside – people do help one another out, even total strangers. Everyone knows everyone else, even through hearsay. We were, at one time, apparently the talk of the parish. Now we are obviously not holiday home buyers and people stop on their walks to chat over the gate or through the car window. We have had offers of help as Jacqui’s health prevents her doing much at the moment, at least in the hedge cutting and chain saw departments. A neighbour out here is someone “just across the road”. And that is within 3 kilometres. We have space but do not feel isolated or alone.

As winter draws near it brings some sense of relief out here. It does rain a lot. That is one stereotype the country upholds with great enthusiasm. However though it is cold in the mornings it is generally warmer than England. Certainly warmer than the north-east. And this means everything keeps growing. At least when the cold weather arrives we will have some respite and can maybe consolidate the work already done. We began cutting the hedges back but stopped in later spring when birds began to nest. Now we hope to trim and force them back so they grow straight and thick. At the moment they are closing in around the house and have overgrown the front gate. It’s like something out of “Sleeping Beauty”, to be honest.

The Postie deserves better than this!

There are many things the same here but small differences make every day a mini adventure. Take the use of language, for example. The vast majority speak English but with some differences. The word order differs on occasions and there are subtle changes in how some words are used. In England I might say, “Can/may I offer you something to drink?” if I was being formal. Informally maybe it would be, “Would you like something to drink?” Here I’ve found myself saying, “Will you take a drink?”

There are also some lovely phrases generally used. In response to queries such as, “How are you?” English people often say “Okay,” or “Fine thanks”. Even the rather dismissive, “Whatever”. Here it sometimes comes out as “Sure and you know yourself”. I love that! My favourite expression at the moment is a lyrical version of the English, “Well duh!” If something should be blindingly obvious the reply is, “Ah, the dogs in the street could have told you that”.

I’m enjoying the rhythm of the language and coping much better with the accent (except on the telephone where I do struggle a little). I have to be careful though. As speakers of Irish English surround me it becomes more familiar and can slip into an adopted speech pattern. Nothing wrong with that – except when I’m writing. Most of my characters are English and speak a standard version. Some of the Levellers use Somerset dialect. I have to be attuned to the odd Irish pattern slipping in, however much I enjoy some of the expressions. That way lies disaster.

Sure, the dogs in the street could tell me that.