Daily Archives: February 5, 2010

The Visitors

The brave souls Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Gaelikaa, Ginger, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria, Ramana of the Loose  Blogging consortium (Helen is on sabbatical & Ashok might be otherwise engaged right now) once more entertain us with their offering on the topic for the week, chosen today by me.

Visitor or Visitors

We had the yanks coming home to visit, from time to time.

They were relations who had emigrated many years earlier, flute relations that might have emigrated many years earlier, friends of the relations who emigrated many years earlier and sometimes friends of the friends who emigrated many years earlier.

Some how they all landed on our doorstep at some stage of their visit. The landing at our door always coincided with or included invitations around mealtimes. Sure it was easy, the door just pushed open and the kettle was always on the boil. . I often wondered if there was a hidden mark on the gate post announcing – ‘Drop in Centre’ or ‘Free fresh home made food here’.

Dublin was the hub, and we were no distance from the airport, sea ports or major train stations with tracks that headed north, south, east or west.

Back in those days if Mary Kate* was travelling from Cork to visit her married sisters in London or Birmingham, sure she had to come to Dublin by train to catch the boat to Holyhead in Wales with onward travel to her destination by train. It was a long journey and the poor girl would need a rest along the way. It would also be insulting to go to Dublin and not visit her uncle and aunt.

Naturally she would phone a few nights in advance to ask if it was alright to call in for a short visit. Mary Kate was not daft, she knew full well that if her uncle heard he would offer to collect her from the train and bring her home to a 5 star meal made by my mother. Once she was fed and watered daddy would call time and Mary Kate was whisked away to catch the boat. As daddy waved her on her way, he assured Mary Kate of a repeat performance (in reverse order) on the return journey.

When the yanks were coming things were a bit different.

Well they were coming from AMERICA, and we all knew they were living in great big white houses with decks and dens and basements. They wore long sparkly dresses and dinner jackets and bow ties all day long while sipping on Martinis! Their bedrooms were the size of a warehouse with beds as big as football pitches dressed in satin sheets and large animal print rugs on the walls and the floor. Plenty of space too practice the tango and not a dirty sock in sight.

We knew all this was true, sure we saw it on the movies.

So when the yanks were coming……  It was time for a coat of the whitewash!

Living in Dublin we had no outhouses, so there was no whitewashing to be done, but we had to give the place a lick of paint and plenty of spit and polish. The best china was washed and the silver put out on display.The orders were dished out; the girls sent to the kitchen to bake up a storm while the windows were cleaned and the garden tidied up by my brothers.  There were plenty of moans, the boys were never very fond of working in the garden in the summertime, never mind on a bleak dull and dreary February day.

On one such visit the ‘yanks’ were friends of friends and they arrived early…. ‘too early’ was written on mammy’s face as she removed her apron on the way to open the front door. We never met these people before, daddy was forever dishing out these invitations, telling mammy what to cook and how to cook it, but of course he never lifted his hand to help. My mother was left to organise everything but today there was no time to check the handiwork of her sons.

The visitors were welcomed in and since it was a cold February day, they were ushered up close beside the fire.  Mammy sat and chatted as I carried in the tray of tea things.  The warm glow from the flickering flames, the tea, along with the scones and the cake fresh from the oven, soon had the visitors feeling like returned prodigals as they relaxed into a life where they felt they had always belonged.  Looking around the room their eyes were drawn to the view through the French windows…… With surprised exclamation they remarked on how colourful the garden was for this time of year, and as Mammy looked out, to her horror she noticed the garden was sprouting a rainbow of plastic flowers.

Brothers!  They would hear all about it when mammy returned to the kitchen to make a start on the dinner!

*Any one of my paternal relations