herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

i was the very odd one out in a scene from gulliver's travels

why do we sometimes remain oblivious to absolute signs that we're in the wrong place?

Have you ever attended an event at the wrong time?

LynnMarie Hulsman, my friend and fellow author with Harper Collins, admitted that last October when she attended a book festival in the UK, she arrived at the airport a day late for her transatlantic flight. This mistake cost her a large chunk of her spending money as she had to fork out for a new ticket. She then went on to admit that she almost made the same mistake again when she visited Ireland this summer!

Thankfully, a tweet from myself, on the morning of her flight, wishing her a safe journey, alerted her to her almost-mistake. Cue frantic throwing of clothes into her suitcase and a mad dash to the airport, where I'm happy to say she made her flight in plenty of time.

Mortifying

And I too have a right place, wrong time story too, that is pretty mortifying. And funny now that I've gotten over the embarrassment! I went to the wrong funeral.

Oh yes I did. This happened back in the day when I was living in Dublin. Late one afternoon whilst slaving away in my office, I received a call from my Dad, that went something like this...

"My second cousin has died," Daddy said.

"Oh God I'm sorry Daddy. Who?" I ask

He tells me, but I'll be honest, I didn't actually know this second cousin. Let's just call her Mary for the purpose of this story.

"The funeral removal is on tonight in Crumlin and me and your mother can't make it. You'll have to go and represent the family," he firmly informed me.

So, as I cursed under my breath, I promised to go and 'represent the family.' I finished work as quickly as I could and made my way to the church but despite my best efforts I was still about 10 minutes late and the evening service had began.

"No worries," I thought to myself. "I'm here and I'll slip in the back of the church quietly as if I've been here from the beginning and then afterwards have a chat with the family and offer my condolences."

I had a quick sketch around the church but couldn't see a single person I knew. Our extended family is big and I should have recognised at least one or two cousins.

Once the service was over, I went outside and joined the queue of family and friends who were waiting to offer condolences to the chief mourners.

I actually felt like I was auditioning for a part in Gullivers Travels. Our family are a tall bunch. I'm 5'10 in my bare feet, I have a brother who is 6'7. And standing in that queue I stood out like a sore thumb. I was at least a foot taller than the majority of people standing around me.

After a few more minutes of feeling conspicuous, I got to the top of the queue and I stood in front of a lady who was in her 60's. Mary's mother, I assumed.

She was flanked by several members of her family. I recognised no one. But as I said earlier, I'd not met Mary before.

This is how it went down.

"Hello I'm Carmel, Mick's daughter," said I. "I'm so sorry for your loss."

"Mick's daughter?" This with a confused raised eyebrow from chief mourner aka Mary's mother. She clearly didn't recognise me.

"Mick from Wexford," I explained. "He's so sorry he couldn't be here this evening. But he'll be here tomorrow."

"I'm sorry, Mick who?" she asked me again, looking even more puzzled, whilst simultaneously getting a crane in her neck as she looked up to the giant woman standing before her.

"Mick, your cousin from Wexford," I replied feeling slightly worried. "Mammy will be up too. Tina," I added helpfully.

In fairness, at this point she made a decision. She obviously hadn't a barney who I was, or indeed who Mick or Tina were, but a cousin is a cousin, even if she'd not heard of them before.

So she pulled me in for a huge hug and thanked me profusely for coming. I shook hands with the rest of the family and hugged a few more 'cousins.'

I began to feel less conspicuous about my giant like size and also about the niggling worry that I still couldn't see a single soul I knew anywhere.

"It's just so sad," I murmured to the ever increasing group of mourners who gathered to have a nose as to who yer wan' from Wexford was.

"Yes, it is." Mary's mother wiped away a tear.

"And she was so young. Just tragic."

"Who was so young?" Mary's mother asked looking puzzled.

"Mary, may she RIP," said I respectfully.

"Mary?' the chief mourner asked, looking around her for support. "Who's Mary?"

And it was in that moment that the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was at the wrong funeral.

Whomever was in the coffin sitting in the church certainly wasn't Daddy's second cousin. In fact, it wasn't even a woman. It turns out it was an old man. The woman's husband. May he RIP.

And so, I retreated, mortified.

When I got home, I quickly poured myself a large glass of brandy and called Daddy.

He answered the phone cheerily, "I was just about to call you. The removal mass isn't on until tomorrow night. I got the night muddled up. I can make that after all. No need for you to go."

Really Daddy? Really?

And that, my friends, is my tale of right place, wrong time.

Carmel's latest novel, The Life You Left was published in June; for more information: carmelharrington.com

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