BY FLOR MACCARTHY
AS Covid-19 restrictions ease this week and most of us can enjoy taking small steps back into our daily lives, spare a thought for those who are still in lockdown, and for one west Cork woman in particular.
When Eileen Twomey flew to Australia on February 6th for her grandson Max’s wedding, little did she think she would be celebrating her own 86th birthday there (with a virtual party) – on May 28th! What was supposed to have been a three-week trip has become a four-month odyssey, and there’s still no definite news on when she’ll get home to Dublin.
Ever the optimist, and despite several hospital stays, Eileen has been making the most of her lockdown down-under, spending time with her daughters Mary in Melbourne, Sinéad in Sydney and their families. As one of her grandchildren texted her: ‘There are worse places to get stranded Grandma!’
It’s her 14th visit to Australia since her daughters settled there in the 1980s, with each trip bringing different adventures: travels to Western Australia and Tasmania, and with maritime genes on both sides (the seafaring Nolan and Shipsey families of Baltimore), Eileen never misses the chance to ferry-hop around Sydney Harbour. As an avid tennis fan she’s seen all the greats in action at the Australian Open: Agassi, Sampras, Graf, Williams, Nadal, Djokovic, and her all-time favourite, Roger Federer.
Eileen herself was a favourite guest at the Melbourne Cup in 1993, as her daughter Mary explains: ‘While travelling to the famous event by train, she told anyone who would listen to put their money on Vintage Crop as Dermot Weld was a brilliant trainer. How I wish I’d listened more closely – the odds were 20/1!’
But Eileen says she’s now very homesick and can’t wait to land on home turf: ‘I’ve been lucky enough over the years to see much of Australia, but I think this is the end of my travels.’ Well, the long-haul ones maybe.
As she says herself, she’ll rest for a week once she’s home, then make a beeline for Baltimore and Sherkin as soon as she can. Unstoppable, as ever.