Keeping the Meadows Sweet

On the flowers of Meadow Sweet there is a pale Mirid Bug, a species in the Hemiptera, that seems to occur quite often. Facebook has recently developed citizen scientist media streams for various topics. The Insects and Invertebrates Ireland page of Facebook, has as of August 2021 almost 11,000 members.

The altruism of providing language for names of things is an action of communal education on this webpage. Giving Latin names by specialists for photograph captions is both work of recognition and taxonomic identification and new learning rolled into one. The Latin name is the standard index keyword scientists use for all species in nature that we explore for in the landscape.

Plectania laplatensis is a black bugarioid discomycete from Tasmania, that has appeared on the media stream that has puzzled fungus photographers from Hobart and surrounds. I have been aware of black discomycetes, such as Pseudoplectania sphagnophila, as I wrote about in one of my first papers on discomycetes thirty years ago, but this one, laplatensis, was new to my ken from 5 days ago, when the latin name was mentioned in a tag or a comment on a photograph in this amazing mushroom and fungus media stream on the Tas Fungi facebook page. Bulgarioid is a reference to Bulgaria inquinans, a black jelly discomycete on shed oak boughs, that is gregarious and ruptures through the bark, in places with old oak trees such as Charleville Forest in Tullamore and Longueville House near Mallow. The Tas Fungi facebook page has been moderated since 2016 and now has more than 16,000 members.

These two examples of media streams in their own way are creating a new way of doing Natural History in Ireland and Tasmania.

Ireland suffers from unsettled weather in Summer, and that has a knock-on effect on what species are out and about year on year. Through the 2000’s we all learned from Donegal Hedgerow, an epic site active from 2003 that by 2007 had collated photography of 1300 species. Each year has its own specialities and population surges.

Tasmania is in a different situation. Science there has addressed moderate to high proportion of the species that are being uncovered by photographers of nature. Fungi are difficult subjects for natural history as they putrify and rot in a few days, but that said, if dried, labelled and curated for herbarium storage, then scientific progress can be built upon. As in many places, the quantity of taxonomic guide books that have been made is still very low, and knowledge divulgation to the core set of photographers is difficult. There is a clear need for a fungus guide to genera for photographers, so that they can tag photos with genus names for computing on the cloud.

That aside, people are learning about species every day on the computer with these media streams and that must be a public good. People seldom have the energy to do a review a series of signtings of a particular species, but whenthey do, valuable comparative notes are exchanged, which increased the visibility of species in nature by describing their ecolgy more objectively that has ever been done before. Dates of photographs, species associations across taxonomic groups in photographs and so on are valuable to index.

Keeping the meadows sweet will also have to consider Data Centres and their demand of electricity and computer power. Wind farms provide some of this power.

As a society, the computer people of Facebook need to be congratulated for really taking to this task of providing a citizenship of living things, where they live, where they can be seen, when they can be seen, what conditions they make do with, and information on all sorts of other species associations.  

The myths of biology are gradually been pared back with this new 2020 narrative order of nature. Biological explanation is just that, talk of parasitism, mutualism, photosynthesis, evapotranspiration, pollination, and all these ideas. There is now mush more clarity of what species these biological ideas apply to among the general nature educated public, and people are gradually beginning to move from beyond biology to aesthetics and beauty, and ethics and conservation, via concepts of sustainability in this climate crisis and this biodiversity crisis. We all know and can now clearly demonstrate that low powered mechanical intervention is the least damaging option for nature, and that in Ireland we are learning to see nature in all its variety, and in Tasmania, bush walks are valued for providing nature to contemplate, and allowing our vigil of nature to nourish our souls.

Howard Fox

756 words

An ode for Stewart Dunlop

An ode for Stewart Dunlop

Six spotted Burnets walked on to a bar

Having been seen by a steward, called Stuart

The felt the bar with their antennae

The crawled onto tubular galvanize and sat there

Each held their six black legs akimbo

until they started grooming their antenna

with their pair of front legs.

With dashing black and red spotted wings,

they were seen by a brazen cow,

who started to lick the metal of The Gate.

Yellow Ragwort flowers in the adjacent field

swished their Buachailaun Buis in the breeze.

A Cattle Egret hopped from the cow’s back

onto the top rung and pecked.

He moved his binoculars.

No, it is not ! That is a Pied Wagtail.

This play is about five spotted Burnett’s

who walked on to a bar at The Gate.

In the Burren.

They ordered three red spots each,

and by Midleton

tucked them on to each wing

They were soon tidily …

Is this a red necked footman or what?

The whiskey made the cow red-green colour blind.

She now could not see the red spots.

It must be a Red Necked Footman, so.

She was sort of tidily too.

Friskily swishing her antennae.

And out with the Bodhraun,

And where is your cipin now.

Howard Fox

28 July 2021

Dark Mountain life in a North Leitrim townland

The townland where we live has a range of plants from which we, and all the insects in nature that eat plants, can draw sustenance. I am imagining a new untasted spice made from particular species of lichen that grows here and that we can grow and cultivate successfully here in this townland. I have been reading Dark Mountain this evening and I would like to share some of our cooking ideas augmented by foraged zuzaten, or ingredients. This is a step towards moth farming.

I am now really thinking of which direction to go for a walk, with a basket, where to get the species, what I need to wear to get there, and what I need to cast off from my life to distil this botany knowledge down to its elements. Where to find seed, what to sow, where to till, and what to collect and store in jars for later use. I have a botanical framework for 300+ species on the whole mountain on the computer. It is a matter of honing it, and beginning to cultivate ourselves to the mountain.

My first experiment years ago when I first arrived here was with cheese, by that I mean Crataegus monogyna, the leaves and fruit, the first which could make a lettuce for us, which I have re-eaten for the first time this morning in two years, and the fruits, a peppercorn substitute taken in pairs at the Organic centre.

The next Dark Mountain experiences will be with mint, sedges, dog lichen, and plants that are too specific to mention in print for fear of the pressure we are likely to put on this resource. We had a discussion yesterday on places to look for mushrooms in, knowing that 5 % of the species out there are edible. There are few palaeolithic ancient places here with the vegetation subtlety to match. I am a great fan of Bog Myrtle on the mountain, and every place with it needs sensitive land use. The spring with bog bean, Menyanthes is a special place in this townland, a recharge area that is deeper underfoot.

Last night, moth farming could describe it, I eventually found a way of living here, a Franciscan way, leaving the Augustinian sheep out of it. Some times your life changes. We walk woods through the summer. That is the plan for this year. I need some more pepper corns. The ingredients are a wheelbarrow, a reference to a limestone house in Roscommon, where people moved in and used a wheelbarrow for 6 months, getting the house ready. At the bend in the lane there are Irises roots, which were probably significant. Peter Wyse Jackson’s book, Ireland’s Generous Nature that I gave away to Ted Ahti when he called in to the old office in Dublin, as a gift of Irish botany to influence him when he was going back to Helsinki. Another reference I need to assimilate is Jim O’Connor’s and Paddy Ashe’s 2007 first article on insects that feed on trees in Ireland. This is all about moths, beetles and grasshoppers and would tell us about leaf miners. There have been no agrochemical sprays distributed on this place this year, and the year seems to be turning out well for insects. Another month and we will see.

Last year we were eating some elderflower pancakes, and this year I am looking to name the caterpillar found in the flower heads that turned up last year. Finding function in knowledge is slowly won, and now with this breakthrough, my mind is on fire. The possibilities are intriguing, and the utilitarian approach to plants in the landscape has been give a clearer ethical focus with Dark Mountain readings.

Howard Fox

618 words.

Selected reading:

O’Connor, P. & Ashe, P. (2007) Insects on Trees in Ireland, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera and Orthoptera. Bulletin of the Irish Biogeographical Society.

Watson, M. (2021) https://dark-mountain.net/when-we-eat-we-are-eating-the-world/ Dark Mountain. London.

Wyse Jackson, P. (2014) Ireland’s Generous Nature. Missouri.

Microscopy after midnight

It is low in the morning

as I yawn here in bed.

I am flattened with tiredness

but I’m awake in my head.

I am going to lift

the microscope into position

and make a few new slides

for I need to dream

of ascospores sized

or operculate lids.

All is ready

Leap up for the Matin’s call

Dimensions of Coprobia

Is the task that is set

Two slides to make

And return to the leaba

For a snooze.

I have no wish to be cast adrift.

My delusions of principle put me in the psychiatric hospital. In this short story, I wish to explore what it is like to have instability and turmoil combined with a veneer of easy-goingness and friendliness while homelessness bites.

What you hear back is perhaps what opinion I respond to most. Michael the motor mechanic said a nice thing the other day. I recall. Robert, he said, is easy-going isn’t he. I changed my name for the purpose of this Outburst.

I was crossing the street in Manor to go to Rooney’s and I met a chap who said he was stuck. What do you need? I asked. A lift out a few miles from town. He replied. I did not think about it, so I replied. Sure, I am parked under the shop. I will get the van, and I can do the run while herself is doing the grocery shopping.

So off I went, got the van, and drove up the ramp. I missed himself the first time, so I went around the block, and be-dad he was there. He sat in. He asked me to stop by the laundrette. He had an errand, in take away, and then he approached the van, and I pulled the door handle for him. He was heading out the Bundoran road. Meenagh it sounded like, I was not sure where it was but he could direct me. I handed him my card, fresh from the VistaPrint cache in my wallet. That’s me I said. I am from up near Kiltyclogher, staying. You will have to show me the way. The second errand he requested a stop for was in the grounds of the court house. Here he went to the side of the derelict building. I was a bit apprehensive. All was well when I saw him retrieve a new blue yard brush and a bushman saw blade. He asked where to stow it, and I took the brush handle into the cabin and set it in down in his footwell. We were on our way. The next left was the Bundoran road. Do you do welding, he asked. I have on the home place, we have welding kit there, but I have not done welding in a while. Do you like it here in Leitrim? he asked. I said, I loved it. It was quiet, and you only had to live with yourself, and if that was fine, then it was grand. It was cold last night, there being a frost. Do you keep a few sheep? Yes, he replied. Sean Dolan runs a few sheep, I volunteered, on the place we are at near Kilty. 23 lambs and 23 ewes arrived in about a fortnight back. I am a botanist and writer, so my card says. Do you do things. He was insistent. I said that not really, I was freelancing at the moment. So today, this gentleman has me back writing a Francis MacManus story. And being a botanist, I watched the trees by the road on the way out to his place, birch, willow, ash, hawthorn, nothing particularly unusual except for there was at one place a long leaved willow, I recall now. I talked more that he did, or I volunteered more perhaps. I asked if he had people looking out for him. He said he did. We passed the church, and he did a sign of the cross, as we passed. We met a tractor on the road, an International Harvester, it looked like a 574, with a smiling neighbour on it. He asked me to turn in up right. We drove up the lane to his house and I reversed into the place where one could turn a car. There was a car off the lane with straw on it and no number plates. He was slow to let himself out, so I did not hurry him at all, letting the conversation happen in its own time. He said would you be back. And this is your number. Yes. It is herself, the number on the card. Sure, maybe I could do an errand at some stage, but I would be starting from outside Kilty. So we left it at that. I had asked how he was finding the lockdown. Was it difficult? He said sort of. He had said it was quiet. Apart from that, he seemed fine. I found my way back down the roads into Manor. I came to a junction, not noticing the church, and I took it, and headed down this road which I felt would get me to the main road. Soon I was at the roundabout into Manor. I got back to Rooney’s, headed down the ramp, parked and went up in the lift to the shop, to find herself.

I met Jan and herself talking with a vegetable free trolley in the dog food aisle. Where have you been? Oh, sorry for being late, I was just doing an errand, I had to give a chap, who was stuck, a lift out of town. I selected a quarter pound of butter and some sliced cheese. When it came to do the till, I said it was like a shop not in Leitrim but rather from East Coast North America, Maine, like in a Stephen King novel, with the gherkins first on the conveyor getting confused with the previous person’s shop. He was not a vegetarian, beer drinker with long black hair, looking for all like the eyebrows of Colm Smith. I cannot handle anything else going wrong.

The repercussions came later. You had me worried. On the way back to Kilty, she wanted to know if he had had Covid, and would she be safe. I said I did not know. Who was he? I said I did not know. What age was he. I said in his late 60s. Was he washed. I said he was washed today. He said he knew Sean Dolan and that was good enough for me.

Her mother was in hospital, and we were heading south tomorrow, for a long spin, that would bring the van up to half a million klicks on the way. The amber light came on, informing me that I would need to get fuel in Blacklion, on the way. In my defence, I said that I knew where he was from, and I could get the track and trace done if needs be.

The pressure comes on when you are homeless in many different ways. The instability of it is something I cannot take for granted. When will I feel unstable? When will things get overwhelming. The Starlings probably lost a nest today in the sandblasting of the stone of this cottage. The boss is a boss and sometimes it is hard to know if we will be put out onto the street. If we do nothing, that is certain. We have been in refuge in North Leitrim, provided safe sanctuary away from and after my exodus from psychiatric hospital.

I struggled keeping down a job, while homeless, for a year and a half. August 2018 was when it started. The first few months in Tullamore, I was a guest in a wonderful building occupied by like-minded folk. After a breakdown in January 2019, my employer’s human resources chief went on the warpath. I could not hack the stress. For most of 2019 I was inside. When I came out, I went to a good friend’s house in North Leitrim, God be good to her. Sustainable relationships are essential, and now I am a Botanist and Writer. Eventually with Covid and remote working in the summer 2020, things at work became impossible. They threatened, then acted on it, and I struggled battling on every day until the date they were to let me go after Christmas 2020 arrived. From the 1st January I was on the dole, waiting until 11 February for the first instalment to come through. Thank goodness for Ireland’s civility. I am now better at budgeting, and not going anywhere. So enough about me. You, our poor reader is probably in no better boat. Ireland our home is been fleeced from under us. At least we have the wit to write, and let our story be heard. The Curlew was sounding on the Upper Lough Mac Nean shores tonight. Biodiversity extinction. The starlings, and a nest of a goldcrest is in the line of fire tomorrow. I have work for 2021 thanks to the Heritage Council on the botany of ancient woods. Linked In profile fine. Satellite Broadband since 8th April. Wonderful.

Too late for a submittable tale for the Francis MacManus, so it goes unheralded to lichenfoxie. It takes about 5 hours to work up a 2000-word story. 1500-words is enough on homelessness. The newspaper headline says the ministers today do not believe in the Homelessness crisis. Here lay I before you. A runaway in the refuges of Leitrim. Like the Phoenix from the ashes, I will arise and go now, from Corracloona.

Facing the music tomorrow of a negotiation with home, for a home, the prodigal son that I am. Renting is over, long live renting. Homelessness is real, yes, Minister.

Robert

8 v 2021

Some notes on sharing our observations of wild birds, and all biodiversity for that matter, living in North Leitrim

If you wish to contribute something useful on the Biodiversity Ireland portal for the windfarm information group, the following list of wild birds are species that are out and about in North Leitrim, H04 and G94. This list of birds is by no means complete, but is a shortlist of the English names of some of the most familiar species you might see, and we hope you will be kind enough to make a mental note of, when out and about in North Leitrim. Do you know these birds? Have you seen some of these where you live? When did you see that one last? These are the sort of questions that one as a member of the community can contemplate.

TABLE ONE – list of birds to look for in North Leitrim

RobinBlackbirdBlue titHooded CrowChaffinchSwallowRookStarlingWrenGreat titGoldfinch

Grey HeronMagpieJackdawDunnockMallardPied WagtailCurlewGreenfinchPheasantRaven

Long tailed titGrey wagtailGoldcrestRedwingMeadow pipitJaySkylarkReed buntingCuckoo

TreecreeperSand MartinFieldfareFeral PigeonWoodcockMerlinGrasshopper warbler

Canada GooseRed grouseHen HarrierSparrowhawkKestrel

In order to make a contribution to the Biodiversity Ireland dataset, one has to get with a few computer and data principles associated with biological recording. A biological record contains four main things – (1) a calendar date in the year of the observation – (2) the identity of the creature or plant recognised with its scientific English or Latin name – (3) a name of the recorder with an e-mail address to make submissions on the website from – and (4) a geographic Irish national grid reference raster cell of 1km, 10km or a coordinate of a more precise resolution. When you have marshalled these four bits of information that are necessary to make a biological record, in pencil on a sheet of paper, then you are ready to submit sightings to Biodiversity Ireland on the computer with wifi broadband internet. You will find more or less what you need on the recording page or Citizen Science portal on the Biodiversity Ireland website.

Another independent web tool <<Irish grid reference finder>> works well with Bing maps is helpful in browsing maps and general terrain aerial photographs to get a coordinate for particular placenames, townland names and the precise position of your sighting.

The landscape impacted stretches from Glenfarne in the east, Kiltyclogher and Rossinver in the west, and Manorhamilton in the south.

In North Leitrim the two critical geographical biodiversity summary raster cells are G94 in the west and H04 to the east. By G94 and H04 we are referring to the 10km grid squares – a six mile by six mile square of territory in or Leitrim/Fermanagh/Donegal or Leitrim/Cavan/Fermanagh

The 1km raster cells on the Tobin map are supplied by the windfarm proposers in their first flier. This is a good basis for understanding the impact of this outrageous proposal on our environment in North Leitrim. When using a grid reference give the 100km code first and then cite the eastings first followed by the northings. We must insist that proper environmental assessment is carried out.

Biodiversity Day, The Organic Centre, Rossinver

Biodiversity Day 22 May 2021

The Organic Centre, Rossinver

11:00 to 13:00 hrs and 14:00 to 16:00 hrs

Maria Cullen & Howard Fox

Themes of the Day

What is biodiversity.

Biodiversity of trees on and with them (Willow, Holly, Ash, Elder, Elm, Apple).

Introduction to Biological Recording by ‘Bipedal Optical Scanners with Species Recognition Software’.

Phytosanitary issues of wild and cultivated plants

Biodiversity groups – All species in nature

Vascular plants; Woody plants; Garden plants; Wild flowers; Grasses; Rushes, Orchids; Cryptogams; Ferns; Horsetails; Mosses; Liverworts; Algae; Fungi including lichens; leaf rusts, leaf mildews, ascomycetes, bryophilous fungi. Insects, Bees, Ants, Wasps, Moths, Butterflies, Flies, Dragonflies, leaf galls, and so on.

Fauna and Flora Concepts – Group, Family, Genus, Species – all have Latin names at each taxonomic resolution to show the systematic placement and identification precision. All concepts are free science, open to pillory and constructive criticism.

Geography – Lat. Long. – Ireland; County Leitrim; Irish National Grid reference finder tool, 1km raster square, point recording. G9249 is our raster today. This is checked on OS map sheet 17.

Nature table – photography and google image searches on each latin name is a good way to share information

Focus – the resolution of recording and display vary according to communication needs – humans produce a fluent kind of assimilated spatial and systematic zooming in – Scientists produce tools to help biodiversity observations, such as identification books, national census; vice-county lists; 10km species lists, 1km species lists. For interesting species, we can note 6-figure, 8-figure and 10-figure grid references.

Flora and Fauna of North Leitrim is stored in electronic formats and not compiled equally. For the grid square G92, this covers Rossinver as well as Dough Mountain. Useful databases include bsbi.org and nbnatlas.co.uk and NBDC in Waterford.

Biodiversity models for a townland and regions for planning should include 500 to 2000 observations. The more observations the better science for decision making. Hence the need for urgent LWIG ecology desk and original survey work.

Some trees – Apple trees – Malus domestica; Elder bushes – Sambucus nigra; Willow trees – Salix vimnalis; Ash – Fraxinus excelsior; Elm – Ulmus glabra; Holly – Ilex aquifolium.

Graphic design – a challenge for communication, Anne Lamott’s maxim Bird by Bird is best. It is good to separate recording (1) the record and observational acts and (2) communicating resulting species distribution display

Handout design: Howard Fox, 21 v 2021

Corracloona Times

The word written emerges unscathed directly from my mind, to be expressed in ink upon this page. Sunlight warms my front, as I face the gradually filling page… less empty with each sentence. If I were to write a column for the Corracloona Times, there would be bits from the hedges. A primrose, the first of three were offered to me. In exchange I offered conversation on the identity of trees.

Reading is hard to fit into the daily routine at the moment. The radio is silent. That is a help. Writing while reading what one is writing is really the type of reading that I am referring to. Reading with purpose, to enjoy the flamboyancy of one’s own turn of phrase.

Reading novels, I have delegated to Maria. I ask her to tell me the story of the novel and she obliges with a rundown on what has happened in the book. That type of spoken retained story of one’s reading is verging on a type of editing, and that is not the topic of this piece. Reading is. Selection of the bits of the story to paraphrase is fine as censorship when one keeps stum about a particular part of recent reading that one does not wish to raise openly for fear of digression. The story of Lorna Doone is, for example, an epic about a gang of outlaws that have sort of settled in Exmoor in the Devonshire and Somerset districts of South West England.

Reading what one is writing helps the flow of writing. Sometimes it does not and that is called writer’s block. That is not the phenomenon here. I write. I read. I read what I write, and judge not, for that would inflame my censorious editorial pique, a cultural reference to Mr. Murphy, the teacher in Corracloona National School who takes republican classes and all other classes including home economics – basket making, not that that happens in many households around here now.

Reading Mr. Murphy is like telling a story live in front of a camera to everyone in Ireland all at once, which is a national republican reading for the purposes of worrying the citizenry with trifles of governance. Now, now, we must be good readers and focus on our reading. Circular breathing and before the utterances are over, one makes sure that it comes out correctly.

Mr. Murphy, or the model I have for Mr. Murphy is the psychoanalysist, newsreader and poet, Mr. Murphy imagined as a schoolteacher in Corracloona National School in say 1963 when Henry and his son Fred Imshaugh are on their Caribbean adventures, after the Cuba Missile Crisis and the labour strikes om the wharf in Castries. Mr. Murphy is anything but not thorough. Mr Murphy the school teacher on the other hand plans ahead about an hour early in the morning so that he can keep one up on those Cullen’s, Dolan’s, McGowan’s, McGriskin’s and all those pupils of his, in the primary school, who arriving in on Primrose day, 3 March, 4 March, 5 March, take your pick. Imagining how to read like a schoolteacher who has had the experience of time travel through the world of television into the living rooms of the Cullen’s, Dolan’s, McGowan’s and McGriskin’s. And then there is the younger section of a well-known Kilty family of Rock’s. Back in 1963, there were Curlew all over Thur mountain. May I say their quaint whimbrelly call grace notes boomed over the moorland at the back of the school. So to the cast of characters in Corracloona National School, we need a few for a drama in which nothing much happens, followed by nothing much happening, followed by nothing happening at all, except… that when I was trying to calm the class down, didn’t a Curlew, no a Corncrake, appear, and kept me awake all night so the poor Mr Murphy was unprepared for school in the manner to which he had become accustomed in 1963.

Oberon squeals with my laughter. Writing and reading should be fun, and when I fart it ought not to be smelly. Prolonged seated writing and reading has the risk of blowing off, like any other risk, needs to be managed in Corracloona National School. The young Brian, a younger self in 1963 is off to make his name in America, or as we know it, Amerikaye. You cannot be serious. The orange light in the window is a reflection on the thermostat on the wall by the light switch. Maybe I am writing and reading upon empty, to use a fuel analogy. My Lamy is still flowing turquoise prose, but the sky is dimming over Corracloona this evening. Brian wakes all of a sudden and the young Cullen’s, Dolan’s, McGowan’s and that McGriskin lady lets rip in a burst of hilarity. Censor, Censor, tread carefully our reader, mind the verges.

Oberon leans rump forward when I cough, and back, when he is re-assured that I get over my spluttering. Mr Murphy is teaching reading, and today has no idea what is going on, not that he minds.

Yes, your hand writing is grand. Your composition however leaves a lot to be desired and a faint whiff of malodourous gas. Ammonia pipes up Cullen. Dimethyl sulphide, the seaweed gas. In order not to be diverted into reading about chemistry, he wants to bring the subject back to reading about reading.

And this is where it gets interesting. The writer gets nervous and is unsure what to write next. Get over it. You will be fine.

Oberon sighs, his writing does not smell too bad. Who let the Pseudomonas out, quickly changing topics to microbiology. Back to Mr Murphy, who changes into pajahamas and gets ready for bed at home. The composition is chaotic with regard to a timeline of events. Mr Murphy is tired and ready for bed. Oberon exhales and snores quietly from this moment on, until his slumber was disturbed by a more methanogenous emission. The school bench, elbow into the ribs, keeps the pen flowing, the Sligo light house desk lamp is perfect, art deco with some Robin guano near the switch and Andy’s dust from the plasterwork on the house and a FSC badger brush to tidy up for page 10.

Letting the tales emerge, Mr Murphy, is part of the magic of reading. In the 18th century, people who read, came out will well-formed sentences, as if my magic. Reading and writing and arithmetic are the staples of the school syllabus. Reading allows us to inform our imagination, Reading allows us to write, just as we have seen examples of. A lack of cogency we cannot, or can, fix, if we edit the text, leaving that for a better moment, like the present. Mr Murphy came from a long line of Mr Murphy’s that stretched into the future.

Imagining primary school again, for me is imagining two very different teachers. Miss Edith Taylor, and Miss Gloria Carter. Miss Taylor taught at the Cosby National School in Stradbally, before the village became of the Electric Picnic in County Laois.

She was a slight woman, who lived with her sister at the top of the town, and she would wander back up the street after school. She was always engaging, with a smile or a chuckle when she was listening to a child explain what they understood by something.

What am I doing, imagining myself a Mr Murphy, in the school in Corracloona in 1963, when the Imshaugh’s were exploring the lesser Antilles and their lichen biota. Something interesting is going on here in your imagination as a writer and as a reader of your own writing, you are becoming absorbed in composing of a piece of writing about reading writing. At this interlude Mr Murphy takes the badger brush and dusts the Sligo lighthouse desk lamp near the switch, and sees the orange lamp in the distance, just one at the thermostat.

The mechanics of writing and reading are a dance a dynamic parody of fun and nervousness, all rolled into one.

Andy has his home compositions and he is studying for a course of a Monday evening with a tutor in and of Puerto Rico. I have Harris’s Puerto Rico lichen keys here in Corracloona, a solitary bit of American and Puerto Rican culture in the house, apart from a conference abstract book on fungi which sits here too. Following the mushrooms and lichens in Puerto Rico, there are a few references cited in our Saint Lucia studies of 2014. Puerto Rico is warm, pleasantly warm, still in post Hurricane mode, whereas Corracloona is cool, not that I am not warm enough here.

Brian the writer may not be that well, and may have had a few difficult times over the winter. This outburst, to take a Portlaoise analogy, may allow me to centre as a writer to understand the mechanics of writing, reading and may I even dare to say it, reflection, not of the Thermostat lights, but rather of something rather more Puerto Rican. The streets of San Juan and shopping for groceries during the fungus conference. Meeting mycologists at street corners and falling into step to explore the downtown. So where does that leave Corracloona National School grounds, the souterrain of the ancestors, on the upper road in the farmyard where there have outhouses but few sheds. Typing pool calls. End it soon. Both the inside and the outside of the glass pane reflect the orange light of the thermostat. The two orange eyes are of the Corracloona tiger in the woods above Paddy McGowan’s. Nothing much happens in Corracloona, when one is walking from Clancy’s. The emigrant returns, step off the bus and sets forth towards Glenfarne chapel and to the gates of the wood to the shore road around the lake through Carrickreevagh, Meenagh and now the Corracloona link, where the orange eyes of the tiger dance upon the glass pane.

Oberon paws the couch, resettles on it in a rather uncomfortable looking way. This is writing. Resettling on my bench, I feel comfortable. A kiltorcan fossil sits on a green box of slides. The Kiltorcan Monkey Puzzle Pot with its peppercorns deserve an intervention. The tiger now a Malagasy tiger. Peppercorns crack and the taste fills towards my tongue and buccal cavity lining. The tiger in the forest stares back at me, Sarea resinae eyes of the larch in Paddy’s; two points of an ellipsis … Typing pool, darkness. Dusting the lamp makes it gleam, a writer’s studio. Nothing like Brian’s, a school house surrounded by a dynamic set of antiques. This calls for Fillet of Cheddar and peppercorns at three, in the morning, or a Leonard Cohen tune for an hour later. Typing pool, or continue with Tiger? He waits and no tiger fender erupts. The thermostat went off. No tiger eyes in the forest, now, eh… A click, and the tiger eyes are back …

I feel good. My artefacts are nest on the desk, maybe a peppercorn would destroy the humour. Tiny one or a few. After some, typing pool gets my votes… a confident change in activity. Corlea. Seating with back support required. Elbow’s in. Director’s Chair. Some alternative tactile activity, pencil topping, resume in three… Reverie or sleep… Ink or to pencil… Typing pool or sleep… Reading or writing … I glance up at “No tiger eyes”.

Fred used to take Maalox to counter stomach ulcers. Since found to be caused by a spiral bacterial vibrio infection, a spiral microbial plaque that in the mouth Bonjella would soothe. Each choice is a reference point back to my beginnings. Ink pens, Lamy, Waterman and Parker, Christmas presents in the 1980s. For ever getting nibs out of floorboards. Working out all the little cures, from snooker in Carlow, various autobiographical features. A gra to a residence in Annaghmakerrig. Packed and ready in a whisker, of a cat. The tiger is asleep. Fine fire grates, Irish Writers Centre subscription, reminds me of a reading, octagonal table legs. Just need a shoulder massage, another hair combing, armpit pressing into the matins of a Sunday. Zeit fur slapfen.

Typing pool, too long his worry said in a Pranomesque Chantaranothai kind of hiss. Cut to 1989, Mainstreet, Kinlough, cattle wander down the middle of the road heading North, Sunday too, and an excursion to show Pranom about. Not very different from Thailand, Chang Mei, Ireland, J.F.G. Kerr, Irish botanist in Thailand. Another taxonomist story not widely known here in Leitrim, which brings me, to hereby offer to compose a new piece on the Kinlough botanist to the Leitrim Guardian for 2022. Zeit fur tasse gron tee bitte.

Heinrich, How, did he weather the Covid storm. Typing pool. Dead Poet’s Society. American thriller actor Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, Cassablanca. Too many film references. The engineer was correct.

Rubbing shoulders with Jeremy … You are a tall chap, he called, as we fell into step heading down the stairs together, he actually rubbed shoulders with me … a pleasure one of those quintessential moments a star understands. Share. Shave. You will feel better. Flustered ambassador of West Cork crafts. Brideshead revisited. Charisma. The Mission. Stories of the Jesuits. Zoilomastix of Philip O’Sullivan Beare. The stories of Mike Pollard. Spectacles of Samuel Jackson. Typing pool.

Howard Fox

2236 words

05 to 16 March 2021

EMBERIZA

EMBERIZA SCHOENICLUS, reed buntings eat porridge.

Maria took excellent photographs with the camera of an unfamiliar bird to us today 11 March 2021, the Reed Bunting. She made photographs of a male, and then of a female, walking and feeding on oatmeal on the patio, photographed from our menagerie of porridge eaters here in Corracloona.

On a day with squally winter showers, the male Reed Bunting dipped into a wall crevice to dodge the hailstones in the late afternoon, and then moved on into the shelter of a grass tussock under a hawthorn bush. After the hail shower was over, his porridge eating resumed.

Maria has been providing porridge every day for several months as gruel for overwintering birds in Corracloona. Oatmeal is an excellent bird food, through the winter, very clean, free from impurities, and is easily spread on the patio. This attracts a wide range of birds. Robin, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird, Great Tit, Magpie, Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Fieldfare, and now Reed Bunting have made an appearance over the last few months. All have been witnessed eating porridge oatmeal.

Thanks are due to the McGriskin’s in Kiltyclougher for keeping our Corracloona menagerie stocked up in Flahavan’s finest oatmeal.

Howard Fox

11 March 2021

209 words.