Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A summer in the country - part seven.

Post 571 - One of the most anticipated aspects of my summer in the country was whole days spent on my own visiting nearby relatives. One of my favorites was my mother’s sister, Nanny, who lived in the village of Campile. Her husband, Mikey Shannon, had a butcher’s shop and general grocery store and all kinds of goodies awaited when I visited there. The Shannons had no children of their own so I got very special treatment. I always looked forward to the time I got to spend behind the counter in the shop being introduced to the customers. Another big attraction was the ready availability of lemonade which only seemed to be available at Nanny’s and was a special treat. They had a big collie called Shep who was great fun to play with (strangely enough for farmers, my grandparents never had a dog that I can remember). They lived next door to a handball alley where I could watch the local men practice in the evenings. I had some cousins who were particularly good at this sport – in fact one that I was particularly close to growing up, Matt Hart, went on to become a national champion in New Zealand during the time he lived there.

Like many young men of his time, his father’s farm went to the eldest son. Unless the younger children could buy a farm or a business or marry into one, their lot in life was usually to work for one of the others who had made more advantageous arrangements. Matt went to New Zealand to earn enough money to set him up with some land when he returned but he could never make a go of it and ended up living with one of his sisters who had married a big farmer in the nearby county of Waterford. His initiative to leave Ireland and seek his fortune in a strange land where he knew no one and no one knew him was a very inspirational example to me when I was young. It drove home the message that you were never trapped in whatever predicament you might find yourself in if you took the initiative to do something positive about it. And it increased my awareness of a whole other world outside of Ireland full of opportunities to be explored and enjoyed.

Aunt Nanny was a great fan of British royalty, and she took a lot of static from the rest of the family for her devotion to the queen. However, since she was the official family photographer (as she was the only one with a camera), her royal idiosyncrasies were readily forgiven. I used to spend a day now and then with another relative, Aunt Jo (Mrs. Henehan), who had a shop and a public house at the other end of the village. On one of these occasions, I spent an afternoon alone in the bar mixing and imbibing drinks using the various liquors available. The result was far from pretty – a very young drunk who was also quite sick. Aunt Jo probably figured that that this was lesson enough as she never reported my transgressions to my parents or grandparents, but just let me sleep it off before sending me home. She was right - I had learned my lesson and never did it again ... at least not until I was much older!

To be continued ...

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