Off to Ireland - Westport County Mayo - to be with my three 'sisters' from Kenya days. Ann, Cath and Mary. Anna, Katerina, 'Mama Miti' (Tree Mother) and me, 'Nyako' (girl, in the Dholuo language. Wow, we go back 30 years - we all met on a training course in the summer of 1981, before we were all sent out to various parts of Africa. That was also exactly when the apparitions of the Virgin Mary started at Medjugorje in Bosnia, not that that has anything to do with it. I think.
It's always a bit crazy when we meet up.
We laugh and reminisce until the wee hours of the morning - the memories as crazy as the evenings. Quite embarrassing, those recollections sometimes. I won't detail them here, just memories of singing, and clothes, and the 1982 coup in Kenya, and who had a crush on who during the preparation course. Crazy people. Crazy memories. Age has NOTHING to do with it,of course.
It's always a joy to get together, but this time seemed crazier than others.
Then Cath, having checked in online for both journeys, gave in her boarding pass for the return journey by mistake. Fortunately, the airline staff noticed just as we were about to board the plane - or the return would have been very interesting.
Then, when we arrived, I couldn't get out of my seat - an unseen force slammed me back down again when I tried to get up. It was easier when I undid my seat belt.
Of course, there were lots of marvellously joyful things too. As Psalm 103 says: O my soul, bless God. From head to toe, I'll bless his holy name! O my soul, bless God, don't forget a single blessing!
Blessings of sitting together on the plane - despite making separate bookings and online check in, it all worked out.
Blessings of walking down the lane with dogs and children and conversation and talking and laughing and drinking wine and eating to-die-for homemade cake and chocolate and chocolate and jokes and laughter and...oh, blessings and blessings.
We visited a derelict abbey,
walked across a salt marsh on a causeway
and drank Guinness in a pub named after Grania O'Malley, 16th century Irish pirate queen; saw wiggly worms, wriggly sand eels and complacent jellyfish; met a charming boy who lives in a pre-famine cottage; paddled in cold Clew Bay and searched rock pools; and made plans. And plans. And plans.
So we sat on rocks at the waters' edge, watching seals sitting on rocks watching us. Up to 20 of them, though sometimes there are as many as 50.
Mullet leapt on the surface of the water. Rock pipits clustered along the shore, ferreting among the pebbles as sand martins ducked and dived over our heads. The grass was springy under our heads. We searched rock pools for fish and shrimps, finding mainly hermit crabs in periwinkle shells and dozens of stranded jellyfish. Their translucent beauty made for compelling photography.
Later, we wandered across miles of deserted sands. Paddled, and swam. (Well, some of us, braving cold, chills and jellyfish.) Only in Ireland could there be such space and tranquillity.
But then....a sudden attack of headache, sickness, nausea, chills, shivering and chattering of teeth. We bundled Cath up warmly, checked her breathing,lay her down in the car and rushed for home, only stopping for essential supplies of headache tablets, water, milk, mints and ice cream. And for Cath to throw up over a wall into a convenient garden. After a shower and a sleep she was fine. Phew.
And so the days continued...early morning tea at 9am, brunches, afternoon tea and cake, late evening suppers with glasses and glasses of wine - enough, but not too much; strolls through the town, absorbing the creativity that is Ireland - mohair scarves and cable-knit sweaters, ceramic art and intricate jewellery, filmy fashions and ethereal photography...; and talking, talking, talking. Mary left us for an urgent dentist appointment: in Dublin, four hours away by train: we missed her. The evening reunion felt as if a family, stretched and separated by adversity, had come together once more. As comfortable as really, really, really old shoes.
The days ended with sharing music: dancing to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and watching Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers sing together...
So we've enjoyed drinking tea like old women; sipping cappuchino coffees like the middle-aged professionals we are in other lives; throwing back wine like young bright twenty-somethings; hanging out like teenagers; giggling like little girls. Four friends of the Sisterhood.
Blithe times. Blessings. Bliss.
Tomorrow we leave.