Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Northern Irish author Sharon Owens was invited onto Arts Extra, BBC Radio Ulster this evening to talk about her choice of summer reading. She chose Enchanting Alice -the story of Jane Costello a seventeen year city girl who marries a shy farmer, Michael. The piece Sharon read describes their wedding:
The wedding reception was at the grandest hotel in Derry. There was free drink and after a couple of quick ones Michael stood up and spontaneously announced he was the happiest man alive.
"That's the drink talking!" Cecily (his mother) muttered but she had the grace to twist her cross little face into an approximation of a smile for the photographs.
Cecily had good reason to feel sour for it was the rural tradition in Ireland that the newly weds move into the farmhouse and live with the old pair. From now on Jane would sleep in Michael's bedroom, she would be welcome to sit in the parlour; she'd have part of a shelf in the scullery to store her own food. Jane was marrying Michael but the reality was she would be living with his mother.
Nobody asked Cecily or Jane if they objected to this claustraphobic set-up, as intimate as marriage but with none of its compensations. Nobody asked if they felt they could tolerate each other in sickness and in health, for better, for worse, until death parted them. This was the rural Irish tradition. If you didn't like it, you didn't marry a farmer.
The Costello women, town people born and bred, loudly voiced their objection to wee Jane being made to move in with her mother-in-law.
"A young couple need their own house."
"Nonsense!" said Old Dave. "Temple is big enough for everybody."
"I give it three months," said Kathleen.