How many cousins do I have?
I remember once as a little girl asking my Mum how many cousins I had.
Mum was an only child so the number of first cousins on her side was zilch, of course.
Dad was the eldest of 9 so there were (at that time) quite a few cousins. Now I can categorically state that I have 29 first cousins. I counted them, with my Aunty Roberta, four times, with much hushing of questioners and hasty recounts (does Worra have 5 or 6? Who came next in Tess' 4?) and we decided that, yes, I have 29 cousins.
With my family there are 33 cousins on our step. (Cousins in my house are always done by steps; that way you can actually get first and seconds and removals into some sort of order) We don't assemble often; Dad's homeland is Northern Ireland and a trip there is not usually in order. It's a shame, but that's life.
But last August I am glad to say that the saddest of events lead directly to a happy event. My Uncle Kevin died; that's Aunty Roberta's husband. He was a lovely man and a lot of cousins made the effort to get to the funeral. And in the mad meetings that form an Irish funeral the cousins there complained that it only seemed to be sad events that pulled us together.
And that this was wrong; that good things should unite us as well. And so, Cousins Day was born.
Last Easter Monday 19 full cousins and sundry other halves and second cousins all assembled at Collow, the family homestead, and had a fun day. We shot rifles, did clay pigeon shooting and archery and had altogether too good a time.
There was a trophy and a presentation ceremony and a winning team, and a barbecue and cakes and always, always a lot of talking. Meeting cousins that were only teenagers last time you saw them, meeting children that were babes in arms, talking to cousins that you hadn't seen in years and more years. It was lovely.
I have cousins and I like it. My childhood years were spent in exile, due to the troubles in Ireland and the cost of travel, and I wonder whether I would be closer to some of my cousins than I am had I spent years looking forward to a summer spent roaming the hills of Tyrone, but that is sheer regret. Circumstances beyond my control.
All I know is in my middle age I have a sense of family and forefathers that I could never be sure of in my youth. I am half Irish and proud of that, much as I am half English and proud of that, too. And the event was so popular that it must happen again (2 years time is the rematch)
And the winners? Meet my cousin Amanda, my cousin Fiona, my first cousin once removed Bronagh, my nephew Michael and me. We won! (winners photo is not uploading yet; I have to cook lamb & potatoes; will post it on later!)