Friday already. The days are flying by. Staying with Cousin is like stepping into a life I know but do not usually live. I catch up with her friends, her children, the dogs, her in-laws, our shared family.
Walking Westie Boy yesterday I met her neighbour Julie. “How long are you home for?” she asked. Home is a loaded word, and I am not sure I could ever live here. Apparently I am an Irish citizen by right and birth, but I am English in my core. It is England that has raised me nurtured me, made me who I am. Mostly. Because in England I am aware that under my Home Counties accent lies another self, my half-Irish self, complicated by it being a Northern Irish, Protestant self, which to some means a non identity, a non country.
Which I find odd; because my English self is descended from immigrants from both Germany and France, and maybe elsewhere that I don’t know about. Why is it that your claim to nationality in one country should depend on ancestors rooted there for millennia and in another by your ancestors desire to belong to that country?
After Mother died I donated her mother’s autograph book to the Ulster Linen Library. The entries were from before her marriage. Around 17th March many were signed by friends describing themselves as proudly Irish. There were carefully inked harps and shamrocks; poems about Ireland; love of country written in flowing copperplate. A few years later those same people presumably described themselves, post partition, as British. Nationality is a strange creature.
We met up with Mary today, Cousin’s older sister. Lunch at the refurbed Flax Café at Upperlands. I rather fell in love with the new floor tiles which strangely I did not photograph. The service was friendly, the food fresh and nicely presented. But oddly for a café which links itself to Upperlands linen industry, the napkins were poor quality and paper. This is one place where linen napkins would be more than appropriate, they would be a symbol of pride in Irish linen. It had rained in the night so we didn’t walk around the dams. It would have been very muddy and I haven’t brought my gumboots. Instead we drove along old familiar roads of our childhoods and returned to Mary’s for cake and a root through old photographs. Jim, Mary’s husband was in the farmyard. Which was just as well as a stray sheep from unknown provenance was skipping up the drive. It was quickly united with some of Jim’s fat lambs who showed a keen interest in it, and by the time we left was settled happily among them. The friendship will be of short duration though as those lambs are to go to market soon.
Tomorrow we mean to head for Belfast and I shall achieve my ambition of visiting the Titanic Quarter, my camera is on charge. So I hope to have some pictures.