A letter to Albert

We move on to 1958, three years after Albert’s first visit to Ireland to see his girlfriend, Kathleen, and his nephew. Jonah is approaching his third birthday and nothing has yet been resolved between Albert and Kathleen.

Albert was supposed to be coming over shortly for Jonah’s birthday. Kathleen wonders whether he’ll propose after all this time. She hopes that he won’t because she’s not sure that she still wants to marry him. She plans to have a serious talk with him this time. She won’t leave Ireland and if he isn’t prepared to live with her in Ireland, then where’s the point in carrying on?

They’d hardly spent any time with each other over the years and she hadn’t seen him for five months. His letters were becoming few and far between now – he always had too much on. He hadn’t come over for Christmas or for her twenty-first birthday. His excuse was that he needed to save for a better van. To add insult to injury, her birthday card came a week late and he didn’t send a present. Her parents noticed all this but maintained a diplomatic silence on the subject.

Jonah and Kathleen are now inseparable: he calls her Mammy. Business is booming. Some customers are now coming to the farm to buy directly and Kathleen sees an opportunity to serve them with tea and cakes, or lemonade for any children. This gives Jonah a chance to play with the children for an hour or so. All the locals know the story about the baby and think that Kathleen’s a saint.

James is really proud of his daughter. He also hopes that Veronica will never return. She’d have a fight on her hands if she tried to take Jonah now. He was amazed at Albert, wondering what was wrong with him. Anyway, Kathleen and her cousin Teresa were very close friends and had similar temperaments and sense of fun.

Teresa would be going to Dublin at the end of the month, and wanted Kathleen to go with her. Kathleen protested that there was Jonah and the business to look after, but Teresa told her that family had already been mobilised to do the necessary. Kathleen was really excited at the prospect.

Two days before Albert was due to visit for Jonah’s birthday, he wrote to say that his trip had to be postponed until the end of the month because the prospect of a big job had come up. The money was to good to pass up.

Kathleen was stunned and resolved to write to him to say that she wouldn’t be there because she’d already made other arrangements. She wouldn’t disappoint Teresa. She told her mam not to bother making up a bed for Albert. Maggie sat her down and asked her daughter how long she was going to put up with Albert’s behaviour. It was clear that Albert, having been brought up in poverty, was now making money his God. She asked Kathleen to compare her life in Ireland with what she’d have in St Helens. Kathleen thanked her mam and promised to write to him that afternoon – after she’d played with Jonah and her grandad in the garden.

Her letter to Albert was polite but pulled no punches. Kathleen expressed her disappointment in him; told him that Jonah hadn’t missed him at the party; there had been twenty-four people there, and all had enjoyed a wonderful time. She wrote how fortunate she felt to have such a supportive family around her, and now felt that she could never live anywhere else. She said that she was sure he felt the same, and that she was glad that no promises had been made. She let him know that she’d be going on a trip with her cousin, but that Jonah would be well looked after. She wished him well, but expressed her disappointment with Veronica. She promised though that she would keep in touch with him and his mother. She ended by wishing him well in his career and said that his family needn’t worry about Jonah – he was very happy where he was.

Tomorrow – a trip to Dublin’s fair city.

The featured photo today – and for the next few days – is of a different location in Ireland – the village of Eyeries near the north western coast of the Beara Peninsula in County Cork. The camera and is the same as in previous shots of Ireland in this series. The EXIF data are shutter speed 1/20 secs, aperture f/16, focal length 39 mm and ISO 400

A thought-provoking visit

We’re in July, 1955 and baby Jonah is four months old now, but there’s still been no word from Veronica, his mother, who abandoned him after leaving a letter asking Kathleen to care for him. Kathleen’s grateful for all the help she gets from uncles and aunts to help cope with the seemingly endless dirty nappies to wash. Jonah is also rapidly outgrowing his clothes, but again the family rallies around.

It’s as she’s hanging out some laundry that she notices Albert at the fence watching her and smiling with love in his eyes. She runs to him and he picks her up and swings her around. Her grandad comes out and tells her to put him down at once.

So, Albert now has a chance to renew his acquaintance with Kathleen and her family and to meet the rest of the clan. He also sees Jonah his nephew – his sister’s child – for the first time. They ask him about his job and he begins to learn about the burgeoning business being run by Kathleen, her grandad, and other members of the family.

He doesn’t seem to have much to say about any future that he and Kathleen might have together – just a lot about how hard he’s working to save money to develop his career. That night, he sleeps in the parlour leaving Kathleen puzzled as to why he hasn’t joined her in bed. Even though she knows that she wouldn’t want to leave Ireland and her family, she wonders whether he’ll be expecting her to move back to where his work is. If he really loved me, she’s thinking, there’s plenty work for builders in Ireland.

She considers, concluding that it isn’t as if he’s proposed or anything. He’d spoken about waiting two years – they were still young and it would give him time to get his business off the ground. After all, Veronica may have returned for the baby by that time.

That, of course worries her more than anything. She’s come to love Jonah. She wishes Veronica well but she doesn’t want to give Jonah back.

Albert stays for two weeks without either news about the missing mother or about plans for marriage. He seems convinced that Veronica will come back. He isn’t looking forward to going back to England without her, but he’ll come back to see her as soon as he can.

On the morning that he leaves, the family tell him that it had been nice to meet him and Kathleen drives him to the station. She has mixed feelings about his departure. She’s been so glad to see him but had been disappointed that things had not turned out as she’d hoped. They kiss before he boards his train but there wasn’t the same passion – and she shed no tears.

On her return from the station, Kathleen asks for a family gathering. They’re half expecting news of a proposal but she quashes that idea. She tells them that she’s decided that she’d like to adopt Jonah and wants their advice. Her Nan reminds her that she’s still only nineteen years old, that the baby already has a mother and that the law probably wouldn’t allow it. Her mother, however, fears that the authorities might take Jonah away as a foundling and put him up for adoption – that Veronica could be arrested for abandoning him and the family charged with concealment. Grandad advises her to do nothing: she has Veronica’s letter and the agreement of the baby’s grandmother and uncle. She thanks them for their advice and tells them that she’ll never leave Ireland – not even for Albert. Her grandad is moved to tears of happiness.

The following morning, her mam asks why Kathleen thinks that Albert hasn’t proposed. She tells her daughter that if he doesn’t get a move on someone else will beat him to it. She further advises Kathleen to start going out to enjoy her self with her cousins – that Veronica’s probably having a good time. She points out that she’s not engaged or anything; that she only has one life and should enjoy it. Kathleen asks where that would that leave Jonah. Her mam reminds her that there’s no shortage of babysitters in the family.

Tomorrow – Kathleen sends Albert a letter.

Today’s featured photo is the one that I promised yesterday of a different view of the rugged coastline at Allihies on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Eire. Like the others in this Irish series, it was taken with my Pentax K3-ii 16 MP cropped sensor camera using a 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 16 mm and f/11. The shutter speed was 1/15 secs and the ISO was 100.