My mother is due to arrive in Cork airport this afternoon.
From there she will be collected by my sister who is timing her own departure this morning from the boondocks of Sligo so that she might pick up my mother “at half three on the exact dot” — and transport her down to me.
My daughters have said to me they are “keeping out of all the chaos and coming down on the bus”.
My mother has said to me, “I wish I could keep out of all the chaos and come down on a bus”.
My sister has said to me, “what chaos?” for all the world as if she doesn’t know it’s big, bounding and runs off all the time.
“If there are any mishaps,” she continued, “I’ll call you from wherever and you’ll just have to drive up and collect mum yourself.”
Our husbands are abroad, skiing together, so my sister and I are alone in this undertaking.
But this morning, I do not have time to consider any mishaps that might defeat us: I am too busy making up beds and answering strident Whatsapps from family members abroad who do.
My London sister’s Whatsapp arrives first; my mother spent last night with her and my Devon sister. They went to the opera. The Magic Flute. The libretto was wonderful. The production was wonderful.
Breakfast this morning in my sister’s immaculate apartment was wonderful.
And the pre-ordered taxi bound for Stansted, which has just this minute arrived outside my sister’s front door, bang on time, is wonderful too.
Even the weather is wonderful. It is pissing down here.
“Mum says she’s nervous about your Nissan,” my London sister Whatsapps.
“I’m not picking her up in the Nissan,” I Whatsapp back.
“Mum says that’s cold comfort, she’s just as nervous about the Toyota.”
“I’m not picking her up in either. Gessi’s picking her up. She has absolutely everything under control.”
“Mum says, “god help me in the Wild West.”
She says she’s nervous about the absolutely everything. She says there are too many variables with both of you.”
“I will check with Gessi on her variables and get back to you,” I reply.
“Mum says what about your variables?” my sister responds.
The second Whatsapp arrives from my Geneva brother.
“Mum anxious about travel arrangements.”
“Gessi picking her up, not me. I am back-up in case of mishap.”
“Rock and hard place. That’s my point. Mum nervous of rock and hard place.”
I dial Gessi’s number and wait anxiously for her to pick up.
“When she picks up,” I think, “I shall just say that our reputations are on the line.
"That Ireland’s reputation is on the line; that things have to go as smoothly in the Wild West as they do in Devon, Geneva and London. I shall remind her that we are on our own in this.
"There will be no one to blame if things go wrong — not until our husbands return from the slopes.
"Petrol tanks must be full, I shall say. Bank cards must be in purses, mobile phones charged. There must be one working windscreen wiper and one spare tyre per car.”
Something extraordinary is happening on the phone line.
I shout into it.
“Gessi. Is that you?”
But it appears a sheep has answered the phone. Or maybe goat. It’s definitely not a dog. I listen.
“I’m in the shed,” my sister shouts.
“It’s terrible. I don’t know what to do. One of our sheep is sick. She’s pregnant. She’s in a prolapse harness. To keep the baby in. She can’t get up.”
“Mummy, what’s a prolapse?”
“When a uterus falls out, Marius. Oh my god she’s not right.”
“Does it happen to ladies too? Human ladies?”
“Marius. Go inside and get Rosie to call the vet.”
“Do human ladies have to wear harnesses, Mummy?”
“Inside Marius. Now. I’ll call you back,” she shouts and the phone goes dead.
My London sister Whatsapps.
“Mum in taxi”.
“All set,” I Whatsapp back, “everything under control.”
Mum says, ‘god help me in the Wild West’. Ireland’s reputation is on the line. Things have to go smoothly