We would drop to our knees after our tea of soda bread, country butter and hang sandwiches

My young granddaughter’s life shows how much about Ireland has changed – and how little

Hang sandwich: Irish people also used to eat hairy bacon and cabbage in the middle of the day. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Hang sandwich: Irish people also used to eat hairy bacon and cabbage in the middle of the day. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

It was my sister who reminded me the other day that I used to do the exact same thing as Mini-Madam Ada. At 18 months, her new obsession is wearing her mammy’s shoes. Clickety clacking around their house in west Cork in a pair of size seven Converses.

As Breda reminded me during our weekly video chat, I was more of a thrill-seeker wearing white high heels with open toes, wobbling and wiggling across the linoleum in the sepia-tinged world of the early 1960s.

Imelda Marcos eat your heart out.

Another thing Ada likes doing these days is licking the screen of her mammy’s mobile phone when she is saying goodbye to Gwanny. That’s me, in case you haven’t guessed.

Meanwhile, I’m here in my screened eyrie up the coast in Westport splattering more saliva across my iPhone than a coronavirus tester would gather on a good day at the office.

It can be a battle to keep the attention of the bemused small person who regularly turns her oversized heels away in favour of a chat with Mindy the monkey and Gerry the giraffe. They usually accompany her on her audiences with the slightly eccentric ould one who regularly intrudes on her busy world.

“You don’t need to shout,” Ada’s camerawoman, my daughter, repeats on occasion.

But I’m too busy goo-ing and gaa-ing and Old MacDonald e-i-o-ing to turn my volume down. After a year of isolation I liken myself to a souped-up Dacia Duster with enough horsepower to cross the Alps in fifth gear, without backfiring even once.

Talking about horsepower, my own late Granny Guinan, unsurprisingly, became very suspicious of that celebrity talking horse, Mr Ed, after we got our first television in the early 1960s. Nana, as we called her, was often found peering around the back of the television in a bid to unravel the mystery of this most opinionated member of the equine family.

For those of you who are not aware that Irish people used to eat hairy bacon and cabbage in the middle of the day and drop to our knees every evening after a tea of soda bread, country butter and hang sandwiches, Mr Ed was a hit television series of those distant black-and-white days.

This famous talking horse only spoke to his owner, Wilbur Post, and for a four-legged creature was pretty smart and liked to read the morning newspaper, for example, and check out the stock exchange.

“Aha! Market drops five points. I’m glad my money is tied up in hay,” Mr Ed muses in one episode when Wilbur arrives to retrieve his stolen newspaper.

Of course, it is no surprise that my granny was confused by the new medium of television, with its rabbit ears and hissing noises. She was born in 1889 to Tilley lamps and horse-drawn carts. In those days a radio with a wet battery was the gateway to the big, bad world.

She couldn’t have even begun to imagine how cluttered our worlds would become with screens. The irony is that these same screens – small, medium and large – have helped save our sanity during this protracted pandemic.

But when we finally escape them, and feel the pulse of the planet, we will all need counselling of some sort.

Even our smallest citizens will need time to adjust to the panorama of the real world. And, indeed, to us grannies whose repertoire of songs and stories are far more compelling while sitting on our knees and eyeing up our Jimmy Choos.

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