DAY 71: Sat 23 May

Catching up with American cousins and bemoaning the weather.

Busy old day. Wild and windy outside, but I’ve let the chickens out. Plants are blowing over, and containers blown about the garden. The chickens’ feathers are permanently ruffled, but when I offered them the chance to return to their coop, they turned their noses up. More fool them. I am going to have a sauna. 

Except that the phone rings, mousetraps are delivered, and then it’s time for a family Zoom for my sister’s grandchild’s birthday – and that leads to a lot of chatting, and it is midday before I pick up Citizen Clem and head out to the sauna.

The winds have ripped fruit bearing twigs off the ailing plum tree, and I had to come out of the sauna to fill up the near empty water butts which threatening to be blown down onto the back door. I am really glad the eucalyptus tree was lopped because these scything winds would have brought some of its boughs down onto the roof. The chickens are cowering under what little shelter is provided by the honeysuckle that has surrounded its stump. I shepherd them back into their coop, and return to the cosy warmth of the sauna and the show burn which is Bew’s biography of Atlee.

Now I must get ready for the other family Zoom this afternoon with the American cousins, so a shower and a shave and a fresh set of clothes…

It is very odd staring at folk you’ve never seen before and looking for family likenesses up to three generations and thousands of miles apart. I am sure we were all intently scanning each others faces – though one was on a phone only – and there were occasional glimpses of shared genes. About a dozen of us Zoomed – with ages ranging from 76 to 35 – though occasionally children on both sides of the Atlantic popped into view for a quick wave. All have survived the coronavirus, thus far, and are beginning to witness a lifting of the lockdown in the USA – so some of the menfolk were off golfing, 

Apparently at least ten of our 13 shared ancestors left Co. Tipperary  for the States more than 100 years ago. The ties with Ireland remain strong on both side of ‘the Pond’ but this is the first time the Jempson branch of the Dempsey clan has had any real contact with our American ‘cousins’ (though I did meet some at the funeral of an uncle many years ago).

It would seem we have relatives in Queens, Long Island, Minnesota, Minneapolis, North Carolina and Virginia for starters. The American branch has produced one priest and one nun whereas the UK end only produced one (Redemptorist) priest who spent his life as a missionary in South Africa.

We chatted away happily for a goodly while trying to make sense of the family trees. Two of my UK-based cousins are working on the definitive forest, and drop boxes are now floating through the ether to make fresh links. It will take a while to work out all the back stories, but I am sure we were all relieved to learn that none of the our new found  relatives have much time for Mr Trump. But they had not heard of his nemesis Randy Rainbow so I was glad to introduce them. (If you haven’t dear reader, check him out on YouTube)

I Wikipedia-ed Minneapolis, not knowing much about it, to discover its name is a combination of the Dakota word (the Dakota tribe were tricked out of the land, of course) for water ‘mni’ (there are lots of lakes) and ‘polis’ the Greek word for city. It’s a centre for the arts and music with, allegedly, the largest LGBT population in the US, and is a focal point for alternative music including rap and hip-hop. It is also renowned as a bike-friendly city— so there are some resonances with Bristol.

After the call, since I was already sitting comfortably by my computer with a glass of Portuguese red, and with nothing better to do I watched Chloe on MUBI with Julianne Moor and Liam Neeson (obviously it would not have been appropriate for them to be there with me, but they were in the film). I had not realised that it was an erotic thriller, but whose complaining on a windswept Saturday afternoon.

My menu for Iftar tonight is very simple – a salmon carbonara with fresh eggs and herbs from the garden and a cold artichoke salad with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip. 

Then it was cursory glance at Britain’s Got Talent. (Why didn’t the Irish group of mental health dancers get the golden buzzer? Or the 10 year old girl who faultlessly moved from her chosen song to one that Cowell chose for her?)  

And then it was onto a recording of the final two episode of The State of Happiness. Call me a begrudger, but I feel slightly short-changed by Scandinavian series with a happy ending already predicted in the title. Perhaps it was chosen to cheer us up in our own dark days. I must say I miss a good Saturday night Scandi-noir.

To make up for the disappointment I caught up on another episode of Shtisel, instead of editing and uploading my diary.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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