Last week was mad busy for TB&SS's family because her father turned 90 on Thursday 4th June and they had decided to trib their old man with a big party on the following Saturday. Everyone chipped in their contribution of some essential detail: the birthday cake; birthday cards; a pipe-band; a battery of barbecues and slabs of meat to throw on them; dhrink; a couple of dogs; a soccer team of grandchildren; salads for health; desserts for the heart; a tea-urn; borrowed china because paper-plates wouldn't be strong enough to hold it all; an industrial packet of dish-washer tablets. It was mighty and noisy and family. The following day at noon, TB had arranged with local historian and guide my pal Russ to lead a walk in search of the house where her great-grandparents had farmed at the turn of the last century. It was all really interesting not least because Russ had made contact with another branch of the family, several of whom were still living in the area and some of whom had also been to sea like the Old Man. In the chat, it turned out that the house in Bunmahon was party to another striking coincidence. The architect's wife had inherited the cottage from her grandfather, who had a sister who was grandmother to the chap to whom I was talking. The other sept of the family all knew that TB's parents were living in "Batty Casey's place out along the coast" and knew to a gene who was related to whom. As Martin's mother says "It's a small world".
I had a bit of that shrinking world sensation on my own account because I fell to talking with the wife of Batty Casey's gt-nephew, a lovely woman from across the river in Wexford. When we were nippers, pretty much every year my father would drag us across the Irish Sea to visit a steadily diminishing store of elderly female relatives. When in the Sunny South East we always had a week in The Hotel, Duncannon which I wrote about for RTE's Sunday Miscellany a few years ago. Later I remembered the long days on the beach, digging dams and castles and trekking huge quantities of sand across the lino of the hotel bedrooms. RTE didn't want their listeners to hear my reminiscences about the lightness of Nan Doyle's scones and sponge-cake or her deliciously fat-heavy fries, but the gt-nephew's wife did. She had worked in The Hotel during school holidays and remembered Nan far better than me. Six degrees of separation?? Not at all: two degrees is plenty for anyone in Ireland.