My best friend is my “Mammy”. She turned 75 at the end of January. Family and those close to her, know her as “Dolly”. To everyone else she is Maura, and on her passport she’s Mary-Teresa? Ireland in the 40’s was obviously a place where you could be christened one name, and randomly called whatever. Her granny nick-named her Dolly, after a pet horse Mam loved, well either that or Mam had a very long face back then.

Brian very kindly bought myself and Dolly flights to London as a Christmas present, (and not ONE hint from me!)  That’s great says I, I’ll focus the trip around celebrating the birthday and treat her to a lovely weekend with just the two of us. I booked a hotel in the centre of London. I emailed them beforehand and told them it was my mother’s birthday and wondered if they could upgrade our room, which they did for a small fee (a small fee my arse, what constitutes small? In hindsight a question I should have asked beforehand). Anyway, they also suggested leaving a dessert platter in the room on arrival, for another small fee…..”sure go on, she’s worth it”.

On arrival at the hotel we were greeted by a young handsome concierge. Can I carry your bags for you there, ladies?…I stopped for a second and asked, are you from Cork?…I am surely, was the reply. “Jesus we’re everywhere”, I said …”.are you from Cork?” he asked, “no sorry, I mean the Irish,”..Dolly giggled at the thoughts that we were from Cork…God forbid.

While lying on the bed of duck down pillows and a duvet sent from heaven, and trying to get some feeling back into the soles of my burning feet….. It hit me. Wouldn’t it be great if there was Tinder for over 70’s. I always wondered if Dolly was lonely. She’d been widowed 13 year,s but now there is Tinder!!!! Just log them on and leave them contently swiping away for hours. The screen would have to be massive though, but I think there is a market there left untapped. I asked Dolly would she ever marry again? There was silence for what seemed like an hour, and her response was more of a facial response. Her eyes became oriental in shape, her nose shifted up her face into a pointy position and she said” Wha!!!!!! Get married again. One man is enough for any woman!!! Oh the thoughts of waking up beside some aulde lad, oh Jesus Ciara why did you ask me that, I’ve a visual now. Oh God no, that’d be like having a child to look after again, sure I’m as happy as Larry looking after myself. No can’t say that I’d ever entertain another man, I know there are plenty of women out there that would love another partner but it’s just not for me”….. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much!…“The, Oh Jesus Ciara no way,” carried on for the entire evening, so maybe Tinder mightn’t work for my Mother but I’m still not ruling it out.

Our second day was spent sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere on the streets of London. We wanted to take in as much of the city as we could. The tower of London was just outside our hotel so that was crossed off the to-do list. We tubed to Camden Street, Oxford Street, Picadilly Circus, The West End and then we accidently ended up in Soho. Now Dolly is no green horn, at 75 she has seen a lot, and on all matters relating to sex she is no daw. However this had her speechless…..Soho had a reputation as a base for the sex industry. Since the 80s, the area has undergone considerable gentrification. It’s now a fashionable area of upmarket restaurants , with only a small remnant of the sex industry venues. It was one of the small sex shops that caused the very awkward silence between myself and Dolly that lasted for a good 20 minutes. We were sauntering around Soho, and having a girly giggle at some of the night attire that Dolly said wouldn’t cover your nether regions or stop a draft. Then the sex toys appeared!!!! Black, shiny leather “stuff”. I’m using the word stuff because,  knowledgeable as I thought I was,  some of the apparatus’s  left ME confused. Dolly had a blank look on her face, she turned to me and pointed at an item in one of the shop windows… my heart began to race.” Now, would you look at that yoke, Ciara” says she, “you’d swear that was a tongue made of black rubber.” I laughed nervously and said ”yeah you would too”. I tried to look ahead and quicken the pace, but no! “What is it Ciara?” “Dunno?”says I. “It’s hardly a tongue is it?” “ I really don’t know Mam, sure it could be anything”…..the next 20 minutes were spent in complete silence as the cogs in Dolly’s brain figured out what indeed that “Yoke” was…..

The final day, the plan was to visit the Tate modern Art gallery. We had to pack early and get ourselves organized in order to go straight to the airport after the gallery. Well I don’t know about you, but Irish Mammies of a certain vintage waste nothing. Example, because we were upgraded to a superior suite we had complimentary bottles of water, chocolate bars fresh fruit etc. That morning Dolly asked me if I wanted a bottle of water to take with me, as there were four on the table. “No I’m grand”, “sure you might as well take one Ciara there is no point in leaving them behind”. “No, honestly I’m fine, I’ll get something later”. “Now Ciara, put one in your bag and keep it for later, they are left here for us ”. “Honestly I have enough in my handbag without adding more weight to it”. I got that look, you know the one, a silent tut, and half a smile. Where you know if you were younger she’d have given you a clip round the ear and the bottle would be in the bag. I went to the bathroom and by the time I came out we were ready to hit the road.

A lovely day was spent at the Tate gallery where I fulfilled a life- long dream to see one of my favourite artist’s work in the flesh, Robert Rauschenberg.

I don’t care what age you are but airports are stressful at the best of times. I am meticulous when it comes to going to the airport and making sure all cosmetics and toiletries are 75ml or smaller. Too many times my la Roche Posay facial wash has been confiscated cos it was over the legal measurement, so I’ve copped myself on. The new thing for Dolly and myself  at the airport was taking off your shoes and belt and putting them into ONE tray. Taking off the coat and scarf and putting them into another tray. Your carry- on luggage, hand bag, mobile phone, Jewelry and anything else that could blow up a plane had to go into another tray. Four trays for me and Dolly was coming up the rear with at least three. The noise,  and everyone rushing, bumping off you, standing on your toes coupled with the dread of walking through the scanner thing, led me dislike airports very much. But this time I had Mam and I thought it would be a little less stressful……YEAH!

I was really nervous standing waiting my turn to be scanned by a lady, who really takes her job very seriously.  It was my turn to walk through the scanner and thankfully I escaped, and continued on to collect my belongings. I went to the carousel and found my boots etc..but no sign of my handbag and then I noticed no sign of Dolly. Then I started to panic, but there was no need, it wasn’t that hard to find her. She was standing legs straddled  arms in the air with her passport in her hand. Smiley face who had let me sail through the scanner, found something suspicious on my Mother and she was trying to locate it. It was really surreal I was standing in my bare feet in an airport surrounded by strangers looking at my Mother, the criminal, hands in the air, Passport clutched tightly in her left hand, legs spread apart and apologising profusely. Oh for fucks sake!!!!!! What is she after doing now? That was my first reaction. Then I started to laugh cos she looked like she was in a western where the sheriff was behind her and had just yelled “Hands up or I’ll shoot”…I kept thinking that the others at home especially Brian would get months of mileage out of this if I could catch it on camera. Then it dawned on me, my phone! My bag! Where were they? I went back to the carousel confident in the knowledge that Dolly had left on some jewellery or still had her mobile on her and that in fact she wasn’t a danger to national security.

There was a white haired be speckled gentleman hovering over the tray which contained my belongings. “Who owes this tray?” he shouted looking all around for the owner. Sheepishly I said “I do”. Well something has shown up on the screen and I need to examine the contents…In my head I was going over and over what was in my handbag.  With that Dolly comes over panting, and in her stocking feet, all smiles. I forgot to take off the necklace that you bought me, throwing her eyes up to heaven. “Yeah well my bag is being examined for some reason.” Your man started to rummage through my handbag. Then he got this thing, that looked like a pot scrub with a handle, and started to swab my bag for drugs. Oh Jesus, my heart was pounding. Why is it, when you are 100% sure that you haven’t been using drugs or the worst thing you did in the past ten years was getting 3 penalty points,( which is a story for another day)but yet you’re staring back at your man like you’ve a bomb hidden in your eye-balls.

Anyway, having given permission (like you have a choice) to take the contents out of my handbag, what does he produce…… A bottle of WATER!!!!!!!!!!  I looked at Dolly and she just smiled and said she thought I might get thirsty. I apologised to the nice airport man, and said I forgot it was there and he could bin it, which he did. I could see Dolly’s heart breaking at the thoughts of the water being thrown out…Then, Dolly was missing HER handbag!!  Guess what the nice white haired be speckled airport guy had in front of him? “oh for fucks sake Mam what have you got in your bag?” He went through the same routine, but this time he threw in “you must have been let out for the weekend girls” We both laughed but in my head I called him a dick. “What have we in here,” says he, as he produces not one but two bottles of WATER!!! I threw my eyes up to heaven and said Mam you’re not allowed bring liquids through security, she winks at me. Mr. airport man then said, “You can drink a bottle in front of me or I can dispose of them now”. “Well O.K” says Dolly “I’ll drink one here so!!”

O.K picture a London airport, thousands of people, everyone going somewhere in a hurry, people in bare feet, trays been thrown left and right, chaos all around, and there’s my Mother, standing in the midst of the chaos in her bare feet slowly opening a bottle of sparkling water.” You don’t have to drink that Mam, I’ll get you one when we get inside”. “I’m actually thirsty and this man said that I had to drink ALL of this in front of him”. “No, he didn’t say you had to drink ALL the bottle in front of him, he said that you could DRINK it in front of him”. What seemed like an hour, ended with Dolly handing over the very empty bottle of water to the airport guy and thanking him ever so much cos she was fierce thirsty.

Not one word was said til we got through dutyfree, and were sitting in starbucks, when she shouldered me and said “wasn’t that some craic!!!”