Diary of the Plague Year: Day 77 31 May 2020: A walk to Froe

The last day of May.

I decided to walk to Froe to collect some veg from J who lives in the Hobbit house.

The heat, even at 4.30, was blistering, and it is quite a steep climb, especially for a fatty like me who has not done a great deal of walking during this lockdown. Every day, I see the same people walking past the house on their constitutionals and keep thinking to myself that I will do the same.

The walk to Froe winds up a hill through woods and next to a stream for some of it. Three cars passed in the hour it took me to get there. All I could hear was birdsong, insects, the wind in the trees and a sudden waterfall. There were two horses in a field full of yellow flag and cow parsely. As I climbed higher, I looked back and the sea had appeared in the distance.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 27 11 April 2020: Hommage to Hieronymous

Having spent the last few days throwing my little mower around and really putting it through its paces I have grown very fond of it. It has mowed its way through really rough grass and weeds and sometimes to a horrible grinding noise as it came across stones, which it contemptuously spat out – sometimes as far as 15 feet. I am not given to anthropomorphism, especially when it comes to inanimate objects but I feel the little Bosch deserves a name, if only for conspicuous gallantry in the field – “arise, Sir Hieronymous”. It is a machine only meant for mowing small suburban lawns and it, like me, has had to acclimatize to a much tougher country life. Perhaps it dreams of a civilized semi-detached residence in Sunningdale …


I now have a haystack in the corner of the field and three distinct areas of mown meadow.

I have close-mown all around the trees in the orchard and have ordered wildflower seeds.  I had estimated the area by some fantastic amount but actually it is an area roughly 50 metres square. Somehow I had calculated 600 metres square!! I will sow the wildflower seeds here.

The next area is at the back of the house next to the painting shed.  I have close-mown here too and will just see what come up.  Ditto, the area across the path under the tree.

The rest of the meadow has been strimmed to height of about 3 cms and it will be interesting to compare.

It turns out I have done exactly the right thing if I want to sow seeds incidentally so am feeling quite optimistic about the wildflowers.

My lovely neighbour, Fionnuala,  has just given me a big bag of grass see which I really need to vamp up the paths in the orchard.  God, gardening is exciting …


Diary of the Plague Year: Day 24 8 April 2020: Wildflower meadow continued …


This morning started off very misty but the sun soon burst through and today was like summer. It was hot work mowing and raking.

According to the purists I have gone about this arse over tit.  The meadow should have been mowed in October/November. Well, I wasn’t here to do it so that’s that. It has now been mowed and I am in the process of hauling the cut grass off it. Some of it I have close-mown, leaving some of it just strimmed as a sort of control. It will be interesting to see what comes up. I just hope I haven’t thrown out the baby with the bathwater though I imagine any seeds in the grass will have been disturbed and dispersed and so as spring seems very late this year maybe no great harm …. what I need now is a deluge. The forecast is good for the next couple of days. I honestly didn’t think I would be happy for it to rain ever again after the winter we have just had.

On the radio – L’apres midi d’un faune.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 23 7 April 2020: An accidental fern garden

A fern and moss garden seems to have naturally formed along the old garden path.

A great deal of moss seemed to grow during the winter months and there is little colony of ferns and mosses forming quite serendipitously. It would be almost impossible to plan. I love it when this sort of thing happens in the garden and the plants seem to decide for themselves.

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 23 7 April 2020:


Into the garden this morning, the sun is out, cloudless.

The air actually smelt faintly of hot cross buns this morning. There is nothing like the air of West Cork. I think if I was lying in a darkened hospital room and someone brought in a bottle I would recognise it immediately. It is indefinable; a slight salt tang, grass, the inevitable undertone of slurry, though I would know it immediately. It is especially lovely first thing and in the evening. The air of an Irish evening after rain or a warm day … the lovely thing about getting up early is the morning air.

Gardening jobs can be divided roughly into two classes:

i.    hard work but enjoyable; and
ii.   hard work but deadly, deadly dull.

I have just come in from carting barrow-loads of hay off the meadow which I would definitely define under category ii.  If leave the mown grass it will mulch down and the goodness will improve the soil.  If taken off, wildflowers, in theory, should flourish as they prefer poor soil.

Am giving myself a well-earned tea break now and to listen to the no-doubt ghastly plague news.

Hot off the press:  Boris Johnson is in ICU.

If there is a God he is definitely an ironist.

Tea, news, a less-boring gardening job and then more barrowloads ….

Having reviewed my old notebooks recently I think I will start keeping one again. I thought this diary would take its place but actually there is nothing like the spontaneity of a book and pen.


Diary of the Plague Year: Day 22 6 April 2020

After yesterday’s deluge the sun is out – I am just scurrying out to rake up more grass and then start mowing …

Haymaking in April 6 April 2020

Fuck these April showers.

Another poem by Blake:

The Voice of the Ancient Bard.

Youth of delight come hither.
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new born.
Doubt is fled & clouds of reason.
Dark disputes & artful teazing,
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways,
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead:
And feel they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others when they should be led


Haystacks April 6 2020

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 21 5 April 2020: Haymaking in April

Well three weeks in.

Yesterday with the help of JJ the field was mown. This should have been done in October/November but as I was away until February it had to wait till now. The grass needs to be cut in order for the wildflowers to flourish. If it is left to rot on the surface the goodness will all go into the ground and wildflowers thrive on poor soil. This is the theory. So I spent a few hours in the lovely sunshine raking up all the cut grass. Lets see!

Today the weather is dreadful so am very glad we got the grass cutting done yesterday. Spent the day listening to the radio and cooking. I have made a lamb stew and as I usually do not make a note of how I cook thought it would be fun to actually document the recipe for a change. It is a very basic recipe which I made up as I went along and simple enough for a child to do. I can smell delicious wafts of it as I write this.

Afterwards watched Sympathy for the Devil a film by Jean-Luc Godard about the recording of the Stones song.

Decided to have a day off in this horrible weather and watch films.

Just about to watch Nightwatching, Peter Greenaway’s film about Rembrandt. I hope I don’t regret it. Well, I did regret it and had to switch off after half an hour.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.