Immigration to a new country and integration into a new society stirs up a whole host of situations and experiences which would not be experienced if living back in Ireland, where everyone for the most part is the same page. Living in Abu Dhabi in a compound of 1,300 houses and having children attending a school that has over 45 different pupil nationalities, it would be classed as a gross underestimation to say that it’s a melting pot, and as for being on the same page as your neighbours, you are lucky to find someone in the same library. Every nationality sports a different religious belief and to varying levels. Ranging from, for example myself, being a rather staunch but un-practicing Catholic to the devout Muslim and Christian communities.
Ever appreciative of the belief and customs of others, I show unwavering support by butting out. Never enquiring about the practices of others or forcing my skepticism on them. My deep-seated belief being that we do what we see being done, so if I was born in a different part of the world I would probably partake in animal sacrifice, however being raised in the Thatcher hating Ireland of the 1980’s, at a time when priests and bishops were ripping off old ladies purses and children’s innocence, I was proud to be Irish. Not because of political or religious reasons but because of the playwrights, poets, musicians, sportsmen, actors, comediennes, dancers, singers and songwriters that have been churned out over the years and continue to emerge and make Ireland proud all over the world.
So living in Abu Dhabi and hugely but privately proud to be Irish, no shamrocks, no harps, no lucky leprechauns, no imposition on others, you can imagine my surprise when my daughter handed me a note and asked the question, “Mammy, will you make me a crown to celebrate our Queens jubilee?” I had been keeping a lazy eye on current affairs in Ireland but to my recollection we had not appointed a queen unless things really had changed in my absence. She was aware that the Queen was the Queen of England and not Ireland, but having being raised with a strong Disney influence, my daughter was desperate to have a crown for the big day. Not wanting to dispel her fairytale Disney views, I promised that we would make the finest crown ever as I plonked the empty Cheerios box and the tin foil on the table. Delighted with my subdued enthusiasm , my daughter handed me the note which I was to sign and give back. The note made for astonishing reading and went something to the effect of , “To celebrate the Queen’s 60 years queening, please make homemade UK dishes for the teachers to enjoy”. Roly poly jam and custard, bramley apple pies, bakewell tarts, bubble and squeak, toad in the hole, yorkshire pudding the list seemed endless. Beside each of the traditional English recipes on the list was a parent’s signature leaving only one dish for me, Welsh Tarts. Ironically the very reason I broke up with my first boyfriend, a talented outhalf.
Not having the semblance of a cake tin in my kitchen I decided that unless a Welsh Tart could be cooked on a George Foreman, this task would prove difficult. Upon further research it transpired that the making of Welsh Tarts required basic culinary skill and so I decided my contribution to the jubilee would have to be shop bought. Trailing Abu Dhabi in an effort to find ready-made Welsh Tarts and failing miserably, I decided my offering would have to be something different.
I pondered on what would be a suitable replacement and finally decided on a nice Madeira cake, large, and only 25 dirham’s from Carrefour. The morning of the jubilee celebrations came, and having discarded all associated packaging, I carefully handed my daughter the cake which I had transferred onto a dinner plate for the real homemade look. Dropping her to school and watching her walk proudly across the sandy car park, the union jack daubed across her freckled face, wonky crown and perfect cake in hand, turning back she said, “but Mommy, I was supposed to bring tarts”, I replied, “Let them eat cake”.