I loved Nana’s garden. There were flowers everywhere. When I was a little girl, I thought a giant had taken his huge paint brush and splattered colour in all directions in front of her bungalow. The little house that faces the beautiful Comeragh mountains. My favourite flowers in her garden were the hydrangeas. There were two large hydrangeas in the corner of the front garden. Right under her bedroom window. My cousin, Tara, and I would tear the petals off and pretend we were getting married. Two little black-haired brides.
“Throw the confetti on my head! Let’s take the net curtain down off the window and use it as a veil”.
Nana would always hear us when we were planning possible destruction.
“You will not take down the net curtain. No blaggarding now. Pick up those petals and let ye stop the messing!”, she’d say.
Then, the blaming would start. One cousin blaming the other. Nana was probably laughing at us in her head but maintained her air of authority.
“I don’t care who started it. Clean it up and come in for your dinner”.
Another thing I loved. Dinner in the middle of the day. We didn’t do this in Cork. Once you crossed the border into the Deise county, meal times were completely different. No banana sandwiches at half twelve. We’d eat them at supper time. Half twelve in the day and the smell of bacon wafted towards my nine year old nostrils. I looked at the Sacred Heart lamp on the wall in the front room.
“Please say she put milk and butter in the spuds. Mammy never does that at home. Bad for Dada’s cholesterol!”
Before I could finish my prayer for the perfect potato, a row would ordinarily break out at the table.
“Can you not just try a small bit, Tara? Haven’t I made a heap of it?”.
There was always a problem with cabbage consumption.
“Nana, I’ll eat it”, I’d say. If I ate the cabbage, I’d definitely get an extra Kimberley biscuit tonight with my tea and I’d get an extra pound in my paw for the trip back to Cork. I sort of liked cabbage as well.
“Nana, can we go up the mountain after our dinner?”
I don’t know why we asked. The answer was always “No”. When we asked why we couldn’t go, the reasons varied.
“Ye’ll get lost up there”.
“You’ve no wellie boots”.
“The banshee will get ye. Someone heard her up there a while ago”.
“What would happen if ye step into the fairy ring? What’ll we do then?”
That only made us want to go even more. The thought of battling with banshees and the possibility of seeing real-life fairies was too appealing. Why would we want to stay at home and watch “Mailbag” with Arthur Murphy or whatever Nana and Gaga were watching? We’d have to find a way to get up the mountain. Maybe Gaga could bring us?
“He can’t, isn’t he sitting on the wall outside talking to Paddy Daly. Go on out and play, let ye.”
Our imploring was turning into annoyance. If we were expected to go out and play, why can’t we play up the mountain? Adults made no sense at all. They were so confusing. We knew what would come next. A compromise. The definition of a compromise is that two parties meet each other halfway to come up with a solution. Nana’s compromises involved us going ninety percent of the way and holding on to hope.
“Right, lrene, listen, when your father comes up from Cork, he might bring ye. He might, I’m making no promises!”
Tara would turn to me. She was two years my junior.
“We’re not going, Irene. C’mon, we’ll go next door to Abbie Daly and ask her for Jelly Tots. She always has a heap in her press. I’ve seen them”.
It never dawned on us that it might be rude to knock on the neighbour’s door and ask for sweets. Well, it probably did, but we didn’t care. We’d deal with the consequences later. Getting in trouble as a pair was always easier to handle than taken the hit on your own.
The acquisition of candy didn’t take as much persuasion as we had anticipated. We had to think of something else to occupy ourselves.
“Science experiments”, I said. “I saw them on the telly. We can mix stuff in the kitchen and see if we can make a chemical reaction”.
“Might as well. We’ve nothing else to do”.
In the galley kitchen slash laboratory, we took out Nana’s best china cups and mixed all sorts together; custard powder, milk, crushed rice krispies, left over cabbage, whatever we could find. Add a drop of water and what was supposed to be a science experiment tuned into a game of dares.
“I’m not drinking that!”
“Go on, ya chicken!”
Our giggling and teasing was soon silenced. Someone was at the door.
“What are ye doing?”
It’s Gaga. Thank goodness for that.
“We’re doing science Gaga”, I said.
“Well clean up the science before Nana sees ye. Now, do ye want money for the shop?”