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Buried Alive

June 21, 2008
by



Tea Time

corey says…Today was a sunglasses day. The bright sun returned, yet the temperature was brisk and cool.

Pat and I started the day with no plans, but it wasn’t long before our day was packed. Things started with a trip to Thurles…I desperately needed some cough drops, and we also wanted to have a cake on hand in case we did some visiting. From Thurles, we collected Tony.

THE VISIT
Now, our visit today was a bit of an experience. I’ll need to be sketchy on some details and even give our host an alias because I wouldn’t want my description to offend her…but I also can’t resist telling you about it.

We decided to ambush “Margaret” rather than call ahead…we’ve learned that making a scheduled visit often leads to the Irish going overboard with the food and drink, so an ambush is often more “rough ‘n’ ready” and there is much less fuss.

When we pulled in, Margaret met us in the yard. She was delighted to have guests and announced, “Yeer welcome. Yeer welcome. Oh, I’m afraid the house is ruined. I haven’t been able to tip up.” Suddenly, she was outlining a string of injuries and ailments. The story was quite woeful, but she spoke it in the most cheerful tone…as if talking about weddings and births.

In the house we went. The piles of clothes had doubled since I was there in October. Every flat surface was covered with garments and newspapers and the odd gadget. Plus, there were no more than six clocks in the room, with only one of them revealing the correct time.

Margaret cleared a chair for Pat…Tony and I were required to uncover our own seat. Tony found a niche next to the cooker…it looked as though he had settled into a grotto as the pile of clothing crowned his head and leaned away from the wall over him.

I camped out under the stairs. Directly in front of me, there was a tray of food scraps stacked on the cooker. Margaret was quick to point out that her home help attendant who comes five days a week was supposed to feed it to the dogs, but “she doesn’t do a thing. She has to be told to do everything.” Looking around the room, I couldn’t help but believe her.

Then again, I had heard the story from others…each time Margaret gets new home help (a social service for older people with difficulty) they try to clean up the place and somehow Margaret manages to get them to start contributing to the mess rather than eliminating it.

In fact, Margaret’s is the only place were the “invalid” makes tea and dinner for the home help…and this happens every single visit.

We were seated for about ten seconds when Margaret was raising her pant leg to show Tony her bruise. As a doctor, Tony can always expect there to be a detailed description of every medical ailment. Apparently, the bruise was a reaction to her medication…and it was a nasty purple bruise that started at her calf, wrapped around her knee and according to her, went up her thigh…her pant leg wouldn’t go up that high for us to see, thankfully.

Soon after, the dog settled his paws in Margaret’s lap and started licking her face and she patted his head. Suddenly, she pushed the dog’s head down and was sending him outside. As she returned to her chair she commented on the sloven dog’s mismannered behavior.

TALL GLASS OF WHISKEY
After about a half-hour, Margaret disappeared into the kitchen. From the sitting room we heard “glug, glug, glug.” She was pouring us a whiskey. Out she appeared with two large tumblers nearly full of whiskey and another filled with Bailey’s. There was well over a cup and half of whiskey in each glass…more than anyone should drink in one sitting.

To make matters worse, we suspect Margaret mixes her whiskey with potcheen (moonshine). This gives it a particularly unique flavor, and more kick than one would prefer. Tony and I gave the obligatory, “Oh, Margaret, this is too much.” The men were given whiskey and the Bailey’s was for Pat.

Margaret then returned to the kitchen to bring out a pint of water. Tony and I both added a few drops, but couldn’t add any more for risk of the glasses overflowing. A moment later, we heard Margaret rustling in the kitchen. Tony yelled, “Margaret, don’t fuss.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m just getting some biscuits.” Out she walked with a plate full of Jaffa Cakes…a cookie with orange jelly and dipped in chocolate. She had put nearly an entire package on the plate. She handed them to Pat and returned to the kitchen. We all nibbled on a few Jaffa Cakes…then Margaret returned with two more plates mounded with biscuits and placed one in front of me and one in front of Tony. In total, she must have emptied three packages of biscuits for us.

As we nibbled on our treats, she spit her time between chatting with us and fussing in the kitchen. All three of us continued to insist she not bother, but there was no stopping her. As she rooted around, we could hear her digging through the dishes stacked up in the sink and tearing through bags of groceries strategically placed throughout the house.

As she worked in the kitchen, Tony gulped down the pint of water, then poured most of the whiskey concoction in the water glass. He grabbed my whiskey tumbler and did the same. Then he darted out the front door. When he returned with an empty glass, he was sure to make a statement to Margaret about her yard and some of the details he noticed. She was pleased to tell him a few stories…all with a wonderful sense of implied drama.

NO FUSS TEA
We were later called into the kitchen for tea. Half the table had been cleared and wiped clean for us. An enormous plate of scones and bread, were surrounded by three plates of ham, sugar, butter, the rhubarb tart we brought and a second plate of scones and bread.

The rest of the kitchen was piled high with dishes in various stages of cleanliness and clothes and dishtowels and groceries. In some places the piles were only six inches from the ceilings. It was quite a sight.

On the chair immediately next to me, there was a George Foreman Grill. Clothes were piled on top of it and sticking out from underneath was was the drip tray filled with coagulated fat. For some reason, I wasn’t entirely bothered by the state of the house. It was certainly in the worst condition I had ever seen it, but it was what it was.

We enjoyed our tea as Margaret told us how she can no longer eat biscuits, luscious cakes, fatty meats…her doctor only allows her to eat “a bun with the odd fruit in it.” None of us challenged her statement, however, based on the sweets scattered around the kitchen, one might think she hasn’t entirely followed her doctor’s orders.

As the tart was being served, home health arrived. Tony had met “Iris” before, and she was delighted to meet us and show us photos of her new grandbaby. I had to agree with her statement that the little girl was among the cutest babies I’d seen.

We finished our tart and fibbed a bit when we told Margaret that we had to get into Nenagh. With that, we had left Margaret and Iris to return to their routine of apparently getting nothing done…and thankful we weren’t trapped under one of the piles.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

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