by H.St Vincent Beechey

The fact that I actually knew and had met Kevin Riordan, Joe’s youngest brother, in far away Melbourne, was the source of much wonder and discussion in the Riordan Family. It didn’t matter that I had spoken to him only twice and that our paths seldom crossed. I had met him, and as far as the Riordans went, I was now a member of the family.

‘Sure, and is it not the strangest thing’, marvelled Kitty Riordan, Joe’s wife and the voice on the phone made flesh. She turned out to be a small, plump, motherly woman with a hint of iron in her make up. It was easy to see why Joe was in awe of her.

In my newly elevated status of a family member, I had been taken to the Riordan house in North-west Dublin for inspection by the rest of the clan. The modest house, although in a rather run-down neighbourhood, was bright and clean, but hardly large enough to accommodate the kin who had come to inspect me as I sat in the parlour.

They were such genuine and friendly folk, this collection of aunts and uncles, nephews, nieces and cousins, that I couldn’t be offended as they used the third person to comment on my age, appearance and circumstances and the obscure ways of providence in leading me to Joe’s taxi. It was a bit overwhelming and I felt as though I was being licked by a large and over-enthusiastic puppy. Two toddlers regarded me with eyes like saucers from behind the skirts of their mother.

Kitty came to my rescue. ‘Will you give the dear man some room to do his magic’. She reminded me of Bonnie in the efficient way she cleared a space around me and my laptop. ‘It is nearly time.’

I opened a private internet relay chat line to talk to Kevin. As I typed, my message appeared in the top window on my screen.

‘”Good-evenin'”, surely, murmured a voice.

‘It is tomorra marnin’ in Australia’ another voice muttered scornfully.

‘Hush!’ said Kitty. They hushed.

A gasp of appreciation sounded as the bottom window showed the words

The more courageous of those present took it in turns to maintain the dialogue. For the timid, I typed their messages Certainly Kevin seemed to enjoy the unexpected communication with his family. He obviously remembered who I was, and had heard of my windfall. Apparently, my news had made the columns of “Computer Age”, a newspaper popular with Melbourne computer people.

We reluctantly ended the session before the laptop’s hardworking battery was completely exhausted, but not before everyone present had sent and received a message. We signed off with promises to exchange e-mail and the evening developed into a proper party. Up to now, I had confined my Irish drinking to Guinness, but now I was introduced to Irish whiskey.

‘”Eee Why”, and don’t you forget it,’ said Joe. ‘It is the Scottish stuff that is spelt without the ‘E’. I’ll not deny,’ he allowed, ‘That some of their single malts are quite good. But never forget, it was the Irish that taught ’em how!’

I didn’t argue, but I found myself wondering if I would leave Ireland an alcoholic.

On that first day, I had hired Joe and his taxi for a week in advance, and now the week was nearly up.

‘You should see more of Ireland than Dublin,’ said Kitty. She herself came from Cork.

‘With a name like Quinn, he should go to County Clare. It is lovely this time of year with the wildflowers,’ said Joe. He turned to me, ‘Do you know there’s a village called Quin, only one ‘N’, near Ennis. There used to be a famous monastery there in the ould days. They’ve restored the ould abbey and for the tourists, they have music and the readin’ on the tape recorders. Sure you’d swear there was an ould monk there right behind you. Very tastefully done, they tell me. It gives you a great sense of the History.’

We went into the matter of transport. I looked on my map. ‘I could fly to Shannon and hire a car.’

‘Why not hire one here,’ asked Joe. ‘It’s only about 130 miles and there’s manny an interestin’ thing to see on the way. You could take the N7 through Kildare and Roscrae.’

‘Better he should go to Galway first on the N6, via Mullingar and Athlone.’ Kitty was emphatic. ‘He’ll be wanting to go South after Clare and he’ll miss out on the Northwest unless he doubles back.’

While they were arguing my future, I remembered that Ireland is only one third the size of Victoria, and a sudden feeling of freedom filled me. It all suddenly seemed possible, even without Bonnie to organise me.

Bonnie. It was just over a week now. On impulse, I rang the Frankfurt hotel and asked to speak to the manager.

‘Yes, Herr Quinn, the young lady is still here, and yes she is quite well. How do you put it in English, “Having the time of her life.” She is very popular. She is keeping within the limits we expected and there have been no difficulties with the accounting. We are happy to be of service Herr Quinn.’

“Having the time of her life” eh! And suddenly, irrationally, my anger was renewed. Well, two can play at that game.

I turned my attention back to the Riordans. They explained the options open to me and helped me plan my journey.

It seemed very good advice.

 

© Copyright H.St V.Beechey August 1996

 

 

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