A Test Of Tea & Turf

“Ah sure, folks around here are pretty open minded,” Mick told me one day. He and Mary live just down the road and were keepers of the keys when we were first looking at the cottage. As such, they were the only ones with any information on the curious tribe that was now inhabiting the place. There’s an American. But she’s there only part time. There’s a local man who bought the place with the American but he doesn’t live there. And then there’s the young woman who does live there but is no relation to the other two. The neighbors may be open minded but they were also desperate for more information. 

We did have a house warming back in June. The place was filled with laughter and music and about thirty of our friends. But no neighbors save Mick and Mary. A young local man had died and the rest of the neighbors had gone to his funeral, for as is the way in Ireland when someone dies, life and plans stop to honor that person.

When I arrived in Ireland last month Mary was in her garden as I drove by and I stopped briefly to say hello. We agreed to have tea after I returned from the tour. But no date was set, at least by me. It was through Jack that I learned our tea was set for the Sunday before I headed back to the States. But no time was given. So I stopped in to see Mary, who was clearly in charge of this event, at the charity shop in Gort where she volunteers and learned the time was set for 3:00. I had become aware that there was a neighbor very interested in meeting me and seeing the cottage and so I suggested to Mary that we might invite Teresa. “Oh, I’ve already invited her,” Mary let me know. Aha. Well what about Anna, the woman who sold us the cottage? “Oh, I’ve invited her three times now but I don’t think she’ll be joining us.”

My first hosting of an Irish tea. Concerned that it would be a success, several friends counseled me about the requisite tea, milk, sugar, biscuits, scones, butter, jam, and Irish tea brack. The latter seems to be Ireland’s version of fruitcake but, except for raisins, without the fruit. And of course I would have a turf fire going.

We had a delightful afternoon as I listened to their many stories of the cottage. Both women had been frequent visitors and knew the family well. They seemed delighted by what we have done with the place. And were most anxious to share all they learned and saw with others. Teresa excused herself to go to the bathroom and while she was there got a phone call. She was excited to begin the sharing and didn’t realize that we could hear her from the living room. “Oh, no. She’s not Irish. She’s American. And very lovely.” Apparently there were misperceptions running through the neighborhood and Teresa was delighted to be putting people straight. I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and we agreed that the next time I’m at the cottage we will arrange for another tea so more neighbors can drop by. Mary, of course, is in charge of that event.

Two days later when I was headed to the airport to catch my flight home Teresa was standing in the road at the foot of her lane waiting for a friend to collect her. I stopped to say hello and she said again what a lovely time she’d had and shared with me the many phone calls she’d made about our tea. Apparently I passed the test of tea and turf.

Judith – judith@stonefires.com

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