Monday 8 June 2015

Two degrees of separation

Just over 25 years ago, The Beloved's [TB] senior sister [SS] was living in a garden flat in one of the leafier Dublin suburbs. She got to be quite friendly with the people in the big house next door - an architect and his wife. She knew that they had a holiday home near Annestown, Co Waterford but didn't make much hay out of that bit of information. At about the same time, after 20 years of gypsying round the country in rented accommodation, TB&SS's mother and father came to shore in their own house a mile from the sea just outside Bunmahon, Co Waterford. Buying the teeny-tiny cottage with an acre [0.4 ha] of salty meadow out back was quite a process. The auctioneer maintained that there was another party, with remarkably deep pockets, who was also interested in buying the property. A rather shady bidding war ensued until the other chap suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke leaving a whiff of sulphur suspicion that the auctioneer had been taking 'bids off the wall' to inflate the price. We were all jubilant when a deal was eventually struck and a section of family went round the corner from the solicitor's office for a massive Chinese meal to celebrate.  A couple of days layer SS heard that her neighbours were delighted to have off-loaded their dacha at a sparkling price given that the country was still in the 1980 recession and the housing market was stagnant. If the said neighbours hadn't snobbishly held that their cottage was in tony up-market Annestown rather than honest mining-village Bonmahon, a better deal might have been had by all and a shady auctioneer might have been cut out of the equation.  My college landlady had had similar pretensions of grandeur in 1973.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment