Before moving here to Ireland at the end of 2020 (the very end, we arrived here on New Years Eve!) the last time I had been here was in 1985, nearly forty years ago. The whole family came courtesy of my late dad Paddy, he wanted us to all holiday in Ireland one last time before we all flew off in different directions. I was twenty-two at the time. I haven’t seen most of my Irish family since then. I left it too long.
Throughout my childhood it was always de-rigueur that we holiday in Ireland so my dad could see his family. The whole two weeks were spent visiting his vast array of brothers and sisters; and at every place you visited the table was laid and out came the soda bread, ham, jams, rich creamy golden butter the teapot and warm creamy milk straight from the cow, I can vividly remember it being whipped into mashed potatoes straight from the field, and dished up on my plate with a lump of golden butter that had been made by my aunt with the same rich milk. Nowadays people would balk at the thought of drinking unpasteurised milk, but I was blessed to have that experience.
One of my cousins, Patrick ’The Git’, as I like to call him, was a similar age to me, and with the benefit of hindsight we have always been very alike. He was the youngest child of my auntie Lal, one of my dad’s older sisters. My dad loved auntie Lal, so we were at her farm often, and Patrick and I fought like cats and dogs. I can remember one time we were high up on top of the hay bales in the barn kicking the crap out of each other and truly fighting. But it was one of those relationships where we still respected each other, we just wouldn’t admit it at the time.
Over the years Patrick came over to the UK for weddings and funerals, as is the norm sadly, and he stayed at my house when he came over to offer support when my mum died. Ever a dry bastard I cooked him and my cousin Martin breakfast with huge velcro rollers in my hair, when he asked me what they were for I said they were to ’Add volume.’ he quickly replied ’Sure aren’t you loud enough already?!’ That is Patrick, and despite him warning RD to run when he first met him, something he reminds him of every time he sees him, he makes me laugh, and our relationship has evolved to one of ribbing each other. But if we were both honest we both think the world of each other.
It has always been my plan to visit ‘the relatives’ way down in Tipperary, but we moved in the middle of a pandemic and two days after arrival everything locked down, so here we are fourteen months later and I still haven’t been to Tipperary. I think Paddy got fed up of waiting, so he came to see Donegal, and the Giants Causeway and stayed in a town near us, I am sure if he admitted it part of his reason for coming here was to finally catch up.
Now he was here in January and it was a time when were with no work and absolutely broke, so we couldn’t go for a meal with him and his ever suffering wife Nora. But Paddy being Paddy he insisted we met them for a drink, spurred on by the lovely Nora, who loves my cousin dearly, and when we arrived at their hotel they both insisted that we let them buy us a meal.
We had a fabulous time and the five hours just flew by, we had over eight years to catch up on since we last saw each other at my sister’s wedding. But add to that was over fourty years of things unsaid, about the history of Ireland, the history of my dad, and the fact that I had a cousin I didn’t even know I had! I think we could have stayed there all night chatting.
So, this summer Tipperary is calling, and I cannot wait.
In this world as it is today ’Life’ is reminding us all not to leave things too long.