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Tea, conversations over crochet and the enduring appeal of holiday friendships

Pierce Turner


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She was a confident raconteur and encouraged others to do the same, always generous with her response, even when she was intricately involved with a crochet pattern

She was a confident raconteur and encouraged others to do the same, always generous with her response, even when she was intricately involved with a crochet pattern

She was a confident raconteur and encouraged others to do the same, always generous with her response, even when she was intricately involved with a crochet pattern

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The blanket was heavy and intricate; it had some kind of fancy Welsh weaving that intrigued the living daylights out of me Ma. At first she kept it neatly folded on the bench behind her chair in the kitchen. It was her corner at the far side of the unused fireplace, she held court there all day long, and never tired of visitors.

Living in the centre of the action on the Quay really suited Molly’s personality, she had been on the stage for years with her dance band, and had never shied away from attention. She was a confident raconteur and encouraged others to do the same, always generous with her response, even when she was intricately involved with a crochet pattern she would manage a positive “tih, tih, tih”. 

Usually the blanket was kept out of sight until the conversation had lost its momentum. Yes, of course, it was a conversation opener when she first acquired it, but after a couple of weeks or so, it had moved down the list. Soon it would become what it was made for, a warm bed cover. “Ye see, if you turn it over, it’s a different pattern on the other side,” Molly proffered with a smile, and visitor after visitor would wholly agree that it was a spectacular piece of Welsh craftsmanship – more tea would be poured before they took to the Main Street to continue shopping.

Molly had met the Welsh family while she was on holidays in London. While shopping on Oxford Street with Patty, my sister-in-law, they had stopped off in Woolworth’s cafeteria to shut me up with some chips, and have a cup of tea. I accidently put sugar on my chips because it looked like a big salt cellar. The kind Welsh Lady, who was next to us, could see I was broken hearted, and took them back to the counter, where they said it was a common child mishap. I paid very little attention to the ensuing conversation about the wonders of knitting and the ancient tradition of Welsh Weaving, but heard enough to know it reminded me of Mass.

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For me Ma, this happenstance meeting was as exciting as meeting a fellow scientist that would help her get to the moon. Addresses were excitedly swopped, Molly would have to know more about Welsh weaving. That was the premise, but it was only a facet of their bond, most importantly they shared a generous curiosity to meet new like-minded people. Molly sailed out of that place, she had made a holiday friend, it was like she had won the lottery.

I knew there were letters, I saw them on the mantelpiece and with the daily shoppers stopping on the Quay for a cup of tea, Mrs Morgan’s letters became a regular inclusion. After a few months of lettering, the friendship grew to fever pitch, and soon Mrs Morgan herself was in the Kitchen presenting my Mother with the gift of the aforementioned Welsh blanket. She had brought her daughter-in-law and granddaughter with her, who had been present that day in Woolworths. They stayed at the Faythe Guest House, a five-minute walk from the Quay.

Gallons of tea were consumed over their short stay in Wexford, they were introduced to half of the town, and they even managed to serve tea themselves in the sitting room of the Faythe Guest House. Wales had graduated from an anonymous Protestant rain forest, into a land of surprising similarities, with warm people and craftsmanship.

Eventually Mrs Morgan faded away into that place where holiday friends go, but her memory lived on in that wondrous blanket.


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