Friday, 25 June 2010

A Corrugated Roof

the bijou cottage

the sleeping shelf

a faery post

The doldrums is a nautical term for an area of the ocean where the air rises and there is no wind, the term was coined by the seafarers of sailing ships. Therefore to be in the doldrums is an expression of having no movement and that is where myself and Mrs Heron are today.

The builders are due soon, firstly to erect scaffolding and then to put a new roof on this bijou cottage, not a big job. We are also to have new windows and a draught proof front door. Which I will enjoy for the last few winters, when the winds were from the north east, I sat with a rug around my head and shoulders. Fortunately we only get the wind from that direction a few days of the year.

In the meantime we have been doing some research on how long this place has had an iron roof. We used the on-line Census for 1901, identified our place and how may people lived here plus their names of course. In those times it had a thatched roof above stone walls and then we visited the 1911 Census to discover that the thatch had been replaced with corrugated iron and a different family was installed.

Which means for approximately 100 years it has remained with the same type of roof covering.

There are two distinct features inside the front room, called here in Ireland the kitchen. One is the wooden post in the corner, through which a ley line passes. I was told this post was the remains of a faery tree that was built into the cottage rather run the risk of cutting it down and receiving bad luck. The other feature which can be found in traditionally built cottages (modernly described as 'vernacular architecture') is the sleeping shelf above the front door. Up there would have slept the passing stranger or traveller. The shelf is approximately 6 feet long x about 20 inches high x 30 inches wide, suitable for a rather slimly built person !

Today it is a hideaway for odds and ends. The jug-like container in the foreground is yet another product of the Tinker, just as was the copper scuttles in an earlier blog.

The original building had two rooms: a sleeping room for the parents and the kitchen, which was fitted with settle beds that closed up in the mornings to provide bench like seating. In this confined space, a family of 6 children and their parents lived. It was from one of the sons of the family that I bought this cottage. By then an extra room had been added at the rear and I added more. I also dowsed and found a source of water within a few feet of the rear wall, a bore hole was drilled and water was brought into the cottage from the well by an electric pump.

The previous owner came visiting as soon as all facilities were connected and to him I gave the honour of using every item in the bathroom. He sat with me when I lit the stove and kept touching the pipes from the back boiler to feel the gradual heat that was emanating from them, as hot water flowed into the copper cylinder situated in the hot press. The year was 1991 and eighty years on from when his parents first moved in.

It is very hard now to imagine the privations that the family went through during the course of their lives here, such as walking a quarter of mile down the road to the communal well in all winds and weathers frequently throughout the day and every day of the year.

This is a cosy warm home in the winter and a cool one on hot summer days. Strangely when it rains it is not as noisy as you might imagine and when it snows there comes a soft swishing noise. It can be though quite worrying in high winds, for there is always a fear of a sheet of iron breaking loose and letting the rain enter through our wooden ceilings. All of these things we will miss and that is sometimes the price of modernization, in that we cut ourselves off from the natural world.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Summer's work - Winter's fuel

From the middle of May to July or even later the cutting and saving of the turf starts. It is an annual ritual for a lot of families in rural Ireland today, even though other fuels are used such as oil, coal and electricity. It is turf that is still the main fuel in the countryside and the rural towns.

The turf bank in the background & Bog Cotton.
In the last century it was quite common for these flowers to be
collected and stuffed into pillows.

The freshly cut machine turf drying in the sun, each piece
has to be turned frequently by hand before it can be stacked.

There are many different styles of stacking the turf
from the large heaps (that remind me of ancient beehive huts)

to these small stacks that are called footings.

In a wet summer the heap will dry qicker than the footings
because of the way in which it is built , it allows the rain to run off.
Constructed in similar style to the beeehive huts that are built
out of dry stone which is angled upwards, preventing the ingress
of rain into the chamber which remains dry.

When the Turf is brought home it is stored in a shed or built as a
large freestanding heap called a clamp in the backyard.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Life and ....

Several years ago an incident occurred at my home whilst I was three counties away on a sunny afternoon enjoying myself in the company of friends. Immediately on returning home I realized that all was not as I had left it.

For the back door was wide open, because robbers had forced their way into my home and every room had been disturbed, the bedroom was in complete and utter disarray.

I was numb with shock not really knowing what to do next, my first action was a 999 call to the Garda (Police) I then slowly took stock of the situation to see what was missing and what had been damaged.

The greatest loss/hurt was not monetary. It was the bald fact that my home and inner sanctum had been invaded by strangers, my privacy taken from me. My emotions were in turmoil as I went from anger to disappointment, to anger combined with sadness, to outrage. Finally I came through the storm to recover the status quo.

The experience enriched my senses for it gave me a small measure of what it must be like on a larger scale to have your home - country in a state of oppression and invaded by a foreign power.

Thus I have been feeling rather distraught and angry this week, after reading about the unnecessary deaths and injured activists that were on the Humanitarian Aid ship Mavi Marmara 130 miles off the coast Israel, in international waters.

This was an act of piracy and willful murder by Israel. The Somali fishermen are also conducting acts of piracy. To whit an international force is patrolling those waters in order to protect shipping. As I write this blog another humanitarian aid ship the Rachel Corrie is steaming towards Gaza with supplies - will it's activists too become victims ?

[Rachel Corrie you may recall was a 23 yr old American activist who was murdered by an Israeli Army bulldozer in 2003]

This madness, this sick disregard for human lives, the propaganda machine and aggressive military machinations of Israel have been continuously funded by the USA for dozens of years, costing them trillions of dollars.

All it takes is for one brave phone call from the President of the USA to put a Stop to this insanity!