It was the nurse who asked me 'did the family come to visit?' and I had to 'fess up that they didn't actually...apart from T and Ole Shit Legs of course.
And she was surprised when I said most of them have been, but dislike our life-style and don't much like Ireland either, and haven't come back again...
'But whatever is there about your life-style not to like' she asked...and that made me think a bit...
One close relative who came for a week brought four large suitcases...for three of them...filled with smart clothes and shoes and not a sign of a warm jacket and decent walking boots. They were bored to the point of tears when we took them to castles and forts and ancient abbies...thought us plain mean not to put the television on if there was nothing worth the watching and horrified by my insistence that 'The Child' should stay at the table until we'd all finished our meal.
Even if she was still eating with her hands at the age of nine.
They were afeared of the dogs and the donkeys...couldn't understand the neighbours accents and were suffering withdrawal symptoms from the lack of huge department stores.
But we had told them beforehand...spelt it out in simple words that good stout boots were essential...a warm jacket with pockets to shove your hands into was equally necessary...we'd told them about the donkeys and the small herd of milking goats and the dogs...asked if they were interested in history...told them it isn't in a tourist area...
Then another couple came. He is passionate about fishing...said they were 'the wrong kind of fish'...he wouldn't give Himself a hand with something or other I've forgotten about...said 'I'm on holidays...not here to work'...and this is Himselfs eldest son. His wife wore full make-up everyday which just looks silly when you're half-way across a bog and your mascara is running down your cheeks...and they didn't have proper boots or jackets either.
My son visited...and grumbled. 'It isn't as green as you said it would be Mother' 'Why don't you rent those sheds out?' 'But what do you actually do all day?' And his wife spent the week in floods of tears because there weren't any souvenir shops and she was frightened of Tom next door and his language and she rolled a spliff before she'd even eaten her breakfast and wouldn't taste the goats milk...never mind actually drink it.
Himselfs youngest daughter came as well...she only eats burnt sausages and we hadn't been told and I made a lasagne for the first night and she had a piece of dry toast 'cos I didn't have any sausages...burnt or otherwise. Her children were grand so...not a bother on the two of them...but they had to keep clean and neat and tidy and thought me totally mad when I suggested they roll up their trousers and go paddling up the river...
We went to the ocean and collected sea shells and fossils but they weren't allowed to take them home 'cos of being messy...
Everyone who comes to visit is taken to the stone fort near us...set in ancient woodland with nut bearing Hazel bushes and Irish Oak trees it is a beautiful place...there are wild Raspberries and assorted fungi and a carpet of violets and primroses in spring...our family picked their way carefully along the path trying hard to avoid wet or mossy places...totally disinterested in the Woodpecker holes in a rotten tree...shuddering when I showed them huge fungi growing inside another rotten tree...oblivious to tiny birds' nests woven from mosses and feathers...and bored to tears when we reached the stone fort.
I didn't tell the nurse that of course...she was only asking to be polite after all...
But it did make me wonder...our lives tend to revolve around the animals...and my art and sewing...and Himself mending fences and making new gates from pallets...looking out for the first swallows and exclaiming over dragon flies...we only watch about an hour of television a week and avoid tourist shops like the plague...hearing the little vixens bark is a joy...and finding the footprints of a badger in the mud beside the old bog road is to be celebrated.
We did emphasise what it was like and how we'd be spending the time with them...maybe they thought we weren't serious...perhaps the thought of going without lashings of mascara or wandering around a department store full of goodies was just too horrible to contemplate, so they pretended it wouldn't be so.
That's family I suppose.