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My beautiful Daughter Hanna was married last week in Portugal. I intend to write snippets of that wondrous occasion bit by bit as the vino verde’s leave my system and clarity returns to my chilled out brain cells. One of my Sisters rang to thank me and also to impart this nugget of information as though to bring me back to earth with a thud and to remind me of the sort of family I belonged to but I had a small snippet of my own to add to her short sighted short coming…

Most of my mothers friends have gone to that place in the sky where mothers are rewarded for reproducing their genes and keeping the human race from extinction.

Those friends that are still on earth trudge along with pains and aches and walking sticks and false teeth.

Except for one who continues to stride forward without pain or prop.

I will refer to her simply as ‘ Mary’ (not her real name)

And she visits my mom every Tuesday without fail, where they sit and discuss we know not what and indulge in my mothers famous sandwiches and cups of Barry’s tea.

My mother’s sandwiches are a work of art.

Its not just the content that make them outstanding (Tuna with crisp romaine lettuce and tomato and just a dash of mayonnaise. Strong cheese with organic chutney. Egg and parsley with a hint of paprika. Slivers of Smoked salmon with cream cheese and a sprinkle of parsley) but how she presents them.

The crusts are cut off with precision.

Then each sandwich is cut ‘on the bias’ and pinned together with cocktail sticks and laid daintily side by side on a doily covered vintage china plate.

This definitely slows down the eating of them as they need to be much admired and discussed before they are consumed.

Needless to say we have only caught a glimpse of these delights during ‘Mary’ and my mothers friendship as, as I have already mentioned, we are not privy to these sessions, plus my mother is well aware of how quickly we would scoff them down given the chance .

My mother is an artist, who squeezed in her painting and creation of all manners of art works whilst rearing eight children.

I don’t know how she managed it as she also made all our clothes and ran a house too small for that amount of people. I mention the size of our house particularly, as my dad, an architect, fed up driving to his office in Merrion square, proceeded to move his large drawing board and other architectural paraphernalia home and placing it in the open plan living room/ dining room of his own design, erected a pair of wrought iron gates between these two rooms to keep us out.

Of course being agile children, reared in a garden of tree’s and wilderness, we easily scaled the gates and and reaching the out of reach latch, let ourselves in.

This arrangement must have been so tedious for my mother.

What housewife wants to invite friends in to such an environment. BUT those were the days when men ruled and women obeyed, So despite this my mom made many friends when, newly married, they built their house here. friends that lasted a lifetime. Friends that helped each other through potty training and teenage years.

I would suppose most of the women were in the same boat, with bossy husbands who, thankfully went out to work all day.

My mothers plight probably made others grateful for theirs and together they would meet in a more amenable house and chat and compare notes and jiggle their youngest on their knee’s and discuss the latest in washing machines.

I should mention here that my mother was a bit late obtaining a newer version of her old twin tub. (I know this because I have vivid memories till my early teen’s of her hauling wet washing over to the mangle, where I lived in terror that she would not remove her hand in time and flatten it between the rollers and then how would she cook those sumptuous sweet carrotty stews which she produced when we came running in from school at lunch time for) because when my dad gave her the money to buy a more up to date version of a washing machine, she instead went out and bought an original T P Flanagan oil painting, which she hung in her husband occupied living room. (she also had a liking for Gerard Dillon)

But back to those famous sandwiches.

My mother fell out through the back door last October. I know it was October because she sustained a large gash along her skull and as she was on aspirin , bled profusely, not only outwardly but inwardly as well.

By Halloween we could have brought her trick or treating with us .

Poor mom she was black and blue from the top of her head to her cheeks.

She sported this most ghoulish appearance stoically.

But even her great grandchildren who were at an age of unhealthy interest in all things ‘bloody’ turned away from her in fright.

But more importantly, since that fall she has given up making her sandwiches, leaving us to carry on the tradition. Whoever is around takes on the duty as she continues her Tuesday visits from ‘Mary’.

Yesterday my sister did the honours.

‘There is a lovely pot of Ballymaloe relish in the fridge’ my mother is getting dressed in the bedroom. ‘use it with cheese’

‘And don’t scrimp on it’ she adds.

My sister spreads the somewhat lumpy and generously sprinkled with crushed black pepper relish over the cheese and slaps the slices of covered bread together crossly.

She is not happy at our mothers inference that she might be stingy.

‘Mary’ duly arrives and the two start chatting, my mother pouring the tea and Mary helping herself to a sandwich.She settles herself back in the arm chair and finishes it.

Then reaches for a second.

‘Delicious as always May’ She bites down greedily and chews happily,

My mother, finished pouring and milking their tea’s (ahh how lovely this friendship! so old they no longer need to enquire re amounts of milk or sugar or no) takes up a sandwich and bites into it.

And spits it out.

She frantically peels the two sheets of bread apart and stares in horror at the contents.

‘Stop Mary! don’t take another bite.’

Mary looks at her perplexed, her mouth open, the inside in which one can clearly see the remnants of mushed bread, cheese and black peppered relish.

‘Quick! spit it out!’ my mother shoves a napkin at her.

My sister on hearing the fuss comes running in.

‘Look’ my mother proffers the pulled apart sandwich at her.

my sister peers at it.’ I don’t see anything except a bit of pepper’

‘Fruit flies’ My mother shouts at her.

‘There are dead fruit flies in the chutney’

My sister who has suffered a detached retina and whose sight since then is not the best, goes red.

‘I thought they were crushed peppercorns’ she says timidly, then ‘but how did they get into the jar in the first place?’

‘Someone must have left the lid off the jar and the jar out of the fridge’ My mother glares accusingly at her.

She turns to ‘Mary’ who is sitting remarkable calmly with the remains of her half chewed sandwich on the napkin on her knee.

‘I’m so sorry ‘Mary’ My mother says glaring at my sisters retreating back.

I can’t tell you the end of this story or how Mary is today as this incident happened only yesterday morning and I have yet to be filled in.


I can tell you that my daughter and I had a similar short sighted occurrence recently.

At my elder daughters wedding in fact.

Of which I will write about in more detail later.

The wedding is over.

It has gone well ,extremely well.

Without a hitch or family row.

Friends and family continue to ring, thanking me for my daughters and son in laws hard work in making it so fabulous and wishing to rehash the wonderful sequence of events.

We are still here in Tavira preparing to leave.

My younger daughter, Emily, her husband and three children and myself are flying home on a late flight.

My ‘just married’ daughter Hanna and her new husband are leaving soon for an earlier flight to Paris.

Emily and I sneak out of our large and luxurious Villa (thank you Hanna and Rui)which has been our home and the scene of many happy friend and family gatherings over the last two weeks.

The cars are parked along the street outside.

We are armed with creamy tissue pompoms and a tin of shaving foam.

Whilst I decorate the newly wed couples car with the pompoms, tying them onto every place possible, the windscreen wipers, the bumpers, the door handles, Emily squirts JUST MARRIED in her best hand writing with the shaving foam on the back windscreen.

We run inside giggling like teenagers, so proud of our handy work, hugging each other in glee.

Chris, Emily’s husband, brings out the last of the empty wine bottles but is back within seconds.

‘You’ve decorated the wrong car’ He hisses ‘Hanna and Rui’s car is parked further down the road, same make but newer model’. The box of empties rattle wildly in his arms.

He is trying not to laugh

We run out in fright.

There is another ford fiesta parked further down the street, bare of any decoration.

Its new and its dusty, a sure sign of a rented car, and its Hanna and Rui’s.

In panic I run back inside for a scissors and am nearly knocked down by Emily running out with a bucket of water and a sponge.

Snip snip snip! I cut the pompoms off.

Swoosh! Emily sloshes the water over the back windscreen and shaving foam drips down over the bumper and onto the road.

We run down the street and repeat the decorating process on the correct car this time..

A car drives by.

Its a white ford fiesta.

There is one soggy pompom hanging off the bumper and trailing along the road.

Emily and I look at each other.

Portuguese is a beautiful language but a difficult one for explaining a short sighted mistake.

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