AIDA AUSTIN: God knows how women manage to have hot flushes in Ireland. They should be so lucky — all that rain and cold

MONDAY morning, and I have the house phone to hand when it rings.

It is my mother, calling “nice and early”.

And we are straight in. “So,” she says, “did they turn out to be hot flushes then?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “My temperature returned to normal the minute I got home from Cornwall, but I imagine they were.”

“Well,” she says, “that doesn’t surprise me. I mean God knows how women manage to have hot flushes in Ireland. They should be so lucky — all that rain and cold. It would be a miracle if any Irish woman managed to generate an extra degree of body-heat to have a hot flush with.”

“I mean it was warm in Cornwall,” I say, “but not that warm. It was such a weird sensation. Like overheating suddenly from the inside out for a few seconds. For no reason.”

“Don’t ask me,” she says, “never had one. Had to get everything whipped out at 40. It was like my body said, ‘six children is enough for any body’. Which it is, let’s face it.”

“So it’s pointless asking you about hot flushes then,” I say.

“Perhaps,” she says, “you’ve lived in Ireland for so long now that your body doesn’t know what to do with itself when it goes somewhere warm. Perhaps, after all these years, your body is simply confused. I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“I don’t think such a thing as ‘body-confusion’ exists,” I say. “Well,” she says, “when you consider your bloodline, I’m not surprised you’re all over the place. You come from Italian stock. No wonder your body doesn’t know what to do with itself all the way over there, perched on the edge of the Atlantic. And how your poor sister manages all the way up in Sligo I’ll never know. I mean it’s even more Arctic up there.”

“Dad was Irish,” I say. “Yes,” she says, “but he looked more Italian than I do, apart from his height — not many Italian six-footers around, all midgets like me, poor devils — and his complexion was so dark his ancestors must have come from Spain or somewhere.”

“Still,” I say, “I don’t think bloodline has got much to do with hot flushes, Mum.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” she says. “You should be living in Pieve di Soligo where your ancestors came from and not the west coast of Ireland. By rights, you should be living in Pieve, eating polenta. Imagine the confusion your body must be experiencing.”

“Sounds lovely,” I say, “I wouldn’t mind being in Pieve, eating polenta right now.”

“Eating polenta is one thing,” she says, “but eating only polenta is quite another. Like your great-great grandfather had to do. And his poor wives and their 16 children. Those poor wives — he had two of them.”

“At the same time?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “the first one died. From overwork, no doubt. So he replaced her.

“Out in the fields all the time,” my mother continues, “both wives, poor things. Growing maize for the pigs and making polenta for their husband, who was very fond of himself, by all accounts.

“I bet those poor women never had time for a hot flush. They were permanently flushed, I’d say. Imagine! 16 children. Eight each.”

“I’d say lack of time has as much to do with hot flushes as bloodline,” I say.

“And they were all yellow.”

“Yellow?”

“Yes, your ancestors were all yellow,” she says, “my mother always used to tell me that.

“She went back to visit them, after she’d made her fortune in London.

“She said it was the first thing that struck her.

“Bright yellow,” she said, because all they had to eat was polenta. Turned them all bright yellow.

“Too jaundiced for a hot flush I should imagine.”

“Anyway,” she says, “enough of your ancestors. How are you?”

“I’m in great form,” I say, “glad to be living in the 21st century and eating a variety of foodstuffs.”

“And you’re still enjoying living in the town?” she asks.

“Loving it,” I say.

“And still no thoughts of moving back to the countryside?”

“None whatsoever,” I say.

“Though I will say one thing,” she says. “I doubt you’d have ever got a hot flush if you hadn’t sold your old farmhouse.

“Chance would be a fine thing, having a hot flush in that house

“You’d have been grateful for the bit of heat. Maybe you should move back there.

“That would see off any hot flush, I can tell you. That would definitely sort you out.”


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