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Small family is big inspiration

I don't come from a big family. As far as first cousins go, I have just six -- unusual for an Irish person in their 20s. However, I do have a gang of second and third cousins, and those once-removed. This can get confusing as on the odd occasion we do meet up, certain people mix up whose children are whose.

Last Saturday was one such occasion. My dad's cousin and godmother returned home from Australia on a rare trip, so an afternoon garden party was arranged to celebrate.

Among those there were a new baby, and several new boyfriends and girlfriends. Plus, of course, there was the inevitable dissection of careers and relationships that we younger ones must be subjected to at these sporadic gatherings.

My cousins and I were quizzed on our jobs, our love lives and when would we settle down. At 28, I am at the top of the firing line, but had my piece well-rehearsed in advance of the party.

I've always been a family person, never forgetting any names on the family tree, and in between whispering with my brother in the corner over Prosecco about who certain people were (he can't tell a second cousin from a grand-aunt), I really enjoyed catching up with everyone.


Another guest of honour was dad's aunt from Liverpool who is just over four feet tall and 94 years of age. This amazing woman made the ferry journey to Dublin to meet her new great grandnephew and be made a fuss of by four generations of her extended family.

Between dozing off and enjoying several small glasses of wine, she was, understandably, more confused than most as to who was who -- but at 94, it's excusable.

While balancing a platter of smoked salmon on my knee, I filled her in on my life, pausing several times to clarify who had just squeezed past us on the couch. "Too many generations,'' she countered, and she was right.

Being women, the conversation turned to style. She complimented my blonde hair, reckoning I had inherited it from my late grandfather who had been "sandy".

True, I was blonde as a toddler but I didn't tell her that mostly it was courtesy of a salon on Baggot Street. It was lovely to see someone enjoy a party so much.

Returning her compliments, I admired how glamorous she looked, and was informed she had selected her patent shoes, lavender cardigan and slacks for the day very carefully.

It delighted me to see that looking good was still important to her as a woman. At 4ft tall and 94, she is an inspiration to all the family. Small in size, but large of spirit.