A bright spring day and I had decided to emulsion the kitchen ceiling while my five year old Elly was at school. She would be there until 2p.m…. I would have time to clear the counter tops, lay the protective sheets, paint and then eat a sandwich while I changed out of my painting gear, before walking/running a mile up to the school gate. The painting sheet on the floor and the washing of the brushes could wait until I came home. That was my idea!
I had laid the sheets, stirred the emulsion. and climbed the set of steps when the doorbell rang. Muttering to myself I went to see who was there.
A crafting friend, had come to ask my advice about a sewing problem she was having with a project. She remarked on my navy overalls with the red belt and matching embroidered strawberry motif, on the collar and the mobcap to protect my hair from splashes. The problem looked easy to sort out, so I made us both a coffee while I explained how to overcome it.
She realised I had other plans for the morning, so apologising for the intrusion she went on her way, happy to finish the alteration at home. That short intrusion had eaten into an hour.
Back to work. I gave the paint another stir, turned up the music and concentrated on the brush in hand. Two thirds of the way through I had a phone call from my mother, she sounded worried about something so that took time to sort out. Time was ebbing away, I would manage to finish the ceiling, but the sandwich would have to wait until I came back from school.
I was running late. I took a quick look at my work and gave a sigh of relief. Putting the brush in a plastic carrier bag I wrapped it to keep it moist until I came back home and had time to clean it. A quick change of clothes, run the brush through my hair and oh dear… clean the emulsion from the bridge of my nose.
Whaaa! Again. Someone was dancing a jig on my door bell!
It was Mo.
Mo looked on me as the daughter she never had. She had been married to my late uncle. It was not unusual for Mo to make snap decisions. Here she was unannounced, not alone, but with a car full of her relations as a surprise for me and to let them see my home in County Antrim.
It turned out that this plan was hatched the previous night, but of course Mo never thought to phone and tell me. I could have given her directions door to door.
Mo was allergic to maps. I knew from years of experience that even with an expert navigator beside her, she did not listen. A straight forward journey lasted double the time because Mo would take it into her head that she had gone astray and needed to turn right or left. Back in those days it was not a good idea to go willy nilly round the byroads of Northern Ireland in a South of Ireland registered car. The licence plates made the cars stand out.
For all this spontaneity, Mo was actually a nervous driver with an over active imagination. A man up a pole, repairing the phone or electric lines was a member of a terrorist organisation in her mind. Whatever danger was there in a mini minor with four members of the white hair brigade inside it?
So they landed on my doorstep, stiff from sitting cooped up for hours and starving. They were all known to me, three were on their first visit. What to do? Ten minutes to school bell time.
I gathered up the paint sheets and threw them in a bundle outside the back door. Then cleared all the kitchen clutter from my dining table and replaced it with a cloth. Setting dishes and cutlery down I told my visitors to sort it out themselves. I cut some bread, some cold meat from a joint and set a dish of salad with them in the middle of the table and I made a pot of tea.
Mo was the first to sit down, but I told her she would have to wait for lunch and drive me to school to collect my neglected daughter. Back then I did not have my own car, normally I did not need one. Days like this were unusual.
We eventually reached school but Elly was not there, she had gone back into the school. Thankfully there was a teacher to give her comfort and of course it took more time for me to explain my most unexpected lateness.
Back home once more I made more tea and coffee and we soon were all fed and sorted. Jack was home before they left. While we talked the rains came on. Mo refused my offer of dinner, so that meant that Jack had to wait until they were gone before we began preparing the evening meal.
After dinner I had a bundle of soppy wet painting sheets to deal with as well as emulsion brushes to clean.
With just one phone call the previous evening from Mo, I could so easily have given directions, prepared a proper lunch and arranged for someone else to collect Elly and bring her home…. and left the ceiling for another day.
I have another Mo story for tomorrow.