On Saturday three weeks ago, I was up early and made a slab of flapjacks. I used the last crumb of oats in the house to do so. After breakfast, I divvied the cookies into 3 packets and set off to give thanks for the sheep. First I went off to Paddy the Shear. He lives so far up a really long crap-surfaced road on the other side of the mountain that a fit person could probably run there over the hill quicker than I could drive down and round and back and up in a car. He was out working, as he does every day of the year, but his daughter graciously accepted the flapjacks and gave me directions to the Mike who scraped up two of our three lost sheep and brought them home. I was glad I made the effort, because that sort of thing is a little out of the ordinary and it's no bad thing to be a little disconcerting in a rural community. If folks are uncertain as to how you'll react, they might pause before they poke you in the eye with a stick. But when I shared the good news that the final missing sheep had been returned to us by Neighbour Martin the night before, Mike replied "Yes, I heard that". You want to be really careful what you do, in the privacy of your own home-place, minding your own business: the least bit of strangeness or [mis]fortune will be broadcast across the parish before you next sit down to tea. Although, as I suggested last week, sometimes the bush-telegraph operates in your favour.
Now I'll tell you about a really peculiar encounter I had with my feuding neighbour, who cleaned up his shite out of respect for Dau.I's lungs. At the back end of 2009, Ireland was blanketed with snow from before Christmas until well into the New Year and we were besieged 300m from the county road for about two weeks. Then on 15th January 2010 it warmed up a little, we escaped in the car and drove to Dublin to visit people, deliver late Christmas presents and collect a crate of Seville oranges for marmalade. We got back late, unloaded the car, opened a bottle of celebratory escape plonk, had dinner and fell into bed. We must have slept soundly because when I woke the next morning to look the day, I found that the lane had been swept to buggery and was criss-crossed with knee-deep gullies. In the wee hours, a dump of warm rain had fallen on the equivalent weight of drifted snow above us on the mountain. That was like 10% of the annual rainfall falling to earth in about 4 hours. The drains were quite unable to cope with this tropical deluge and the raging water spilled out into the roadway carrying all before it.
That was unfortunate, especially because our car was in the yard; 300m up our impassably ruined lane from the county road. We called John-the-Digger and he said that he might come by that (Saturday) evening but it looked more likely Monday or Tuesday. I wasn't too surprised, therefore, to hear machinery in the lane well after nightfall. I walked down the lane to meet and greet but couldn't see much because of the headlights. I was amazed to find that it was Neighbour Gruff with his tractor and front-loader: "I'm just pushing the crown of the road into the dykes so that you can drive the car down". I thanked him, shook his hand, and walked away. The trial by silence was back on track the following day. There's nowt so queer as folk.