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Letter to Mammy

By David Gardiner

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Dear Mammy,

Here I am in London! What do you think of that?

Iíll start by saying sorry that I didnít write sooner. I started a couple of letters but what I was saying seemed like such (word scratched out) nonsense that I just threw them away. It took me a few days to get the hang of the way they do things over here.

Anyway I arrived at Liverpool safe and sound and got the train down to London. It went at a hell of a speed and even though itís hundreds of miles I was there by teatime. Finbar met me at the station. Heís looking well but heís a lot quieter now than when we used to know him. At least it was me that did the most of the talking. He carried the big case for me and took me on a bus to the house heís living in. I couldnít believe how big London is. We were on that bus for the best part of an hour and even then we were nowhere near the end of London. Itís as if they took a whole county and built houses all over it. Even if you sit in the attic and look out of the roof-light you canít see a field or a hill as far as the horizon. Just houses made of red brick and joined together in rows, and they all look exactly the same as one another. I was afraid to go out at all the first day in case I got lost.

Finbarís house is big but it wasnít the best of the ones we saw when we were on the bus. It has a few broken windows and thereís a couple of places where the roof leaks. I said he should get on to the landlord, but he said there was no landlord, so thatís good at least I suppose. He and Eva seem to be living rent-free.

I must tell you about Eva. Sheís a foreigner, from somewhere in Europe. It seems there was a revolution or something and her country came to an end, and everybody ran away. She told me something very sad. She said that her mother and father and her sister were all dead and the only reason that sheís still alive is because she was able to run faster than them. I donít think she was joking. Isnít it a hell of a world weíre living in?

Eva has two bedrooms. Thereís the one she and Finbar have together and then thereís another one she has just for herself. The one she has for herself is the best room in the whole house - thereís a huge big double bed and a drinks cabinet and long mirrors on the wall. Finbar got her the big bed and put up all the mirrors and things because she isnít well, and she has to spend a lot of time in bed.

My room is downstairs at the back of the house. It used to be a kind of kitchen/diner but Finbar and Eva donít do any cooking in the house any more. Just make tea in their bedroom with an electric kettle. Finbar brings home fish and chips after work, or sometimes foreign food that burns your mouth, and Eva hardly eats anything at all. No wonder sheís thin.

Finbar works at London Airport. When he told me I thought he was a pilot, flying the planes, but no, heís one of the luggage men. They put your suitcases on big trolleys and load them on and off the planes. He works very funny hours, but itís a good job, and sometimes he comes home with things for Eva. Heís allowed to take home all the lost property, it seems, if it isnít claimed. Heís got loads of cameras and little computers and mobile phones, and sometimes he gets jewellery and perfume and bottles of expensive booze and god knows what. He keeps some of it and sells the rest to a friend of his. It was at the airport that he met Eva. Finbarís going to see if he can get me a job at the airport too.

When Finbarís at work I get the chance to talk to Eva sometimes. Sheís a beautiful girl, and very well-mannered. Talks with a funny accent, but then they all do over here. You would like her Mammy. Finbar is a very lucky man to have a girlfriend like that. I hope maybe youíll meet her and Finbar some day.

I was sorry for Eva at first because sheís in bed so much of the time, but she has a lot of friends and gets loads of callers. They all look very respectable and I know that a lot of them give her presents. If they call while Iím here I just send them straight up to her room like she told me to.

Finbar told me that Eva needs very expensive injections every day, and thatís one of the reasons that he has to do so much night work at the airport. I suppose some of the men who come to see her must be doctors. Iím sorry about Eva being sick because sheís such a lovely girl.

I asked Eva if there was any way she could get cured so that she didnít need the injections any more and could maybe get a job herself. She said there might be a way but she was scared to go to the special hospital where they do the cure. I think she was scared in case it would hurt and also because thereís some problem with her passport or something and she mightnít be allowed to stay in the country. Isnít that strange? Imagine sending somebody back to a country where all her family were murdered because they couldnít run fast enough? I donít think even the English could be that bad.

I asked Eva if she would show me where the special hospital was and she took me over there the other day. I said: ďYouíre here now, why donít you go in and talk to them? Maybe they donít need to see your passport at all.Ē But she wouldnít go in. She went back to the house - I think she was expecting one of her friends - and so I went in myself and I talked to the woman at the desk. She was very nice, even though she was English, and she said that there was no question of asking anybody for their passport, or even their address. If they needed treating, that was all that mattered. She said I ought to talk to Eva and get her to come along.

So I did talk to Eva, this morning after Finbar had gone to work. I said the life she was living was no life for a beautiful lady like her and she owed it to her mother and her father and her sister who were murdered to get herself cured and to live the kind of life that would have made them proud of her. She cried and I gave her a hug. I felt very guilty because I enjoyed hugging her and sheís really Finbarís girl.

It took a bit of time but after a while Eva agreed to go to the special hospital and we walked over to it together. She asked if I would wait for her, and visit her sometimes if she had to stay for a while, and of course I promised her I would. Thatís where I am now actually, writing this letter. Iím in a kind of waiting room and Eva is being seen by the doctors and theyíre going to examine her and see if they can make her better.

I left a note for Finbar in case he comes home and wonders where the two of us are. Itíll be great if this works out because then Finbar wonít have to work so hard, and maybe we can all have a go at fixing the windows and the roof or maybe even move to a better house.

So itís true what they say about England, Mammy, itís the land of opportunities. When Evaís better and weíre all a bit more settled maybe you can come over and visit us. You can stay in the room with the big bed, Eva wonít need it any more when sheís better.

Iíd better go now. I can hear Evaís voice with one of the doctors, I think theyíre coming back.

Goodbye and God bless.