They called it the corkscerew hill and with 2 adults and 4 kids the Volks wagon made a heroic effort to surmount it, It almost sighed at the summit knowing the rest was downhill
- Then somewhere near Milltown you got the first sense of the sea ;. Coming rushing in from the cliffs over shorn fields of mossy grass strewn with rushes and fringed with sloe bushes.
From out of this field came a ruddy faced woman standing stoutly against the wind and cloud , carrying two clanging milking pails. As these swayed against the gusts of wind which had travelled across the Atlantic , broken only at the Cliffs of Moher .
She approaching car with a tilted head ; curious yet still hostile .
She stood uncertainly in the verge of the road craning with a curiosity and disbelief She put down the milk buckets and her brawny forearms red and turkey neck red fingers stretched in the window of the Volkswagen.
This was my grand aunt . She had been a nurse in the war. We hadn't seen her before but she resembled Nelly in a very certain way. My father stepped out on the road and she said .
- Jimmy ! and put down the buckets in shock.
He introduced us all . She looked at each one saying I see Thomas in him; she has her mothers eyes , he's got the nose- well its as good as a tonic for me to see them all Jimmy- and she ruffled my hair- well , will you look at that-and a phrase that had a slightly English accent ;
- well i never- its as good as a ten pound note to me to see them Jimmy. And my father took the buckets from her and my mother drove the up to the house.
At the top of the lane my granduncle stood in his Sunday suit. Imperious lofty aloof, swaggering all he surveyed. His thumbs pegged in his waistcoat displaying his gold chain of his pocket watch.
They were childless and whether they tolerated or indulged children they had a reserve or restraint, which forbade intimacy…
My uncle remote and scarcely interested asked what class we were in now, and who had made their communion and what we all were going to be. Was I going to be a pilot of an aircraft? he used the term aircraft which reminded you that he had a connection with the war . Aircraft were grey and had guns and turrets where aeroplanes had airports and hostesses. but it was my turn to indulge him.
- and do you know how the pilot finds his way to New Youk
- . no. no well he takes off there in Ryananna , and heads straight up to the clouds.
-Whoosh !!and when he sees the Aran islands he turns left.. and heads straight, again
-And he heads straight for the Empire State Building, and down he comes in New York!!
He nodded to my father. My aunt was in bed in the back room,. She had always been in bed .
She was not ill or infirm that we knew. She had just taken to bed some years before and didn't get up
The room was dark -as if anathema to the light and out of some respect for my aunt , the grandfather clock ticked in slow and solemn thuds in its wooden cabinet- looking like a coffin standing up.
My father bit his lower lip , inhaled thorough his teeth. He looked up at the dark ceiling and took off his coat. He rolled up his sleeves and reached up and took out the bulb and the shade, took them to the sink and the dust came up, in muddied bubbles i When her replaced the bulb he turned on the light the room lit up and the furniture which had been lurking in silent and huddled leapt at you in the light- the fireplace the hearth the mantle piece, the chairs-they seemed animated in the manner of the actors in a play when they take the curtain call seem to leap out of the characters they played and smiled and the applauding audience each looking at the other inyou in embarrassment of the deceit
- Tom -
The photograph on the mantle seemed to give them a place of unmoving permanence. where at least the past seemed certain in this moment of uncertainty -as if they hadn't seen one another . And then at us -the amazement - he took down a photo from the mantelpiece- -and shook his head handing it to her.