Across the road from our house in Kilkenny is a car park. For the past few months as my daughter makes obstacle courses of its walls and seed beds, I have been looking more closely at the ordinary things that make up this space. To my left is the Black Abbey. Built in the 13th century by the Dominicans, they took the time to partially rebuild it in the 19th. I am not distracted by that. Nor am I distracted by the medieval sarcophagi outside. Instead, I scan the floors and simple walls for slivers of stories from the people that made this small city.
The more I look, the more I see. There are seashell fossils in the limestone walls, fragments of medieval dressed stone and soft yellow brick, possibly from a demolished Georgian house. There are steps that were once the bases of iron railings. The setting sun shows up the initials J.F. and D.F. Particular time was taken by J.F. when making his or her mark. It looks like Times New Roman. There is also a simple cross, etched into the flat stone.
Up the hill, bounding a road raised to vault over the medieval city wall, is an Ordnance Survey benchmark. Used in the mapping of Ireland during the middle of the 19th century, the benchmark is upside down. Its host stone has been recycled. At the other end of the carpark more repair work to simple walling is obvious. A slap of concrete this time but embellished by rusting coins pushed into the mortar.
Close by at night, bats hunt for midges over the River Breagagh. I don’t know what type they are. I don’t really care. They are comforting all the same. A piece of the wild beside a car park.