Shit, allow me to introduce you to Mrs Fan.
'THEY"RE HERE!!!' My mother screamed, frightening me so much I almost almost dropped the vase.
'Jesus, will you oooowowwww -'
She slid across to grab my upper arm in a pinching painful grip.
'Is that her?' She said, as a small dark skinned woman in a red fleece stepped out of the passenger side.
'Well let me see, the tall man is your son and the woman driving the car is your daughter, so I'm thinking, yep, that's probably her.'
'Oh shut up.' she hissed, flew across the room and flung open the door.
'Huuuloooo there!' She cooed falsetto.
'Hey there Mam.' My brother, or rather the man inhabiting my brother's form, all lanky and longish hair, looking strangly blonder than I remember it, dropped his bag, bent down and gave her a hug.
Ma burst out crying. My elder sister rolled her eyes at me.
'Cat this is Grace.' My sister introduced me to my brother's wife.
'Hello.' I said, wiping my damp hands on my skirt.
'Hello.' she said and grabbed me for a double kiss.
'oohh.' I said. 'oh, yes ha ha.'
It was awkward, we both went in the same direction, behind her ma's tears were reaching the heavens, but I recognised the false ring... she was stalling.
I could see my brother trying to wriggle free.
'Come here you!' I said, forcing her to release him.
'And this is my mother.' I said as my brother finally broke free and gave me a hug.
She tried the double kiss on Ma, Ma stiffly stuck out her hand. I think it jabbed Grace in the chest.
Grace dropped her arms and shook her hand. 'Hello.'
'So you're the lady who married my son.'
My sister mumbled something about getting bags out of the car and bolted back out the door.
'Nice to finally meet you.' My mother said making 'meet' sound like 'murder'.
Eeeekk, I can see my mother look her up and down, her mouth tight with disapproval.
If Grace is offended by my mother's behind the gate growling she doesn't let on. My brother has probably briefed her well.
She is tini-tiny, she has long beautiful dark glossy hair and dark brown eyes. She is curvy. She looks about twelve-even though we know she is twenty-two. She also has a set to her jaw that I recognise, this one is no push over.
We go in. I show the bride and groom around the house. They declare themselves delighted, and they are also clearly exhausted. I promise them we won't stay long. My brother ruffles my hair. I'm beam at him like a moron. Eeeeeeeeeeee, it's good to have him back.
Back downstairs Etheline and her fiancé arrive, with Poppy. More hugs. Etheline gives Grace the once over and I see her lip do the exact same thing my mother's did. Poor Grace, the odd are stacking up against her.
We stay for a while, not too long. My mother ask my brother about a million questions which he answers gamely. He is very pointed though, he says 'We're thinking about this,' and 'we're thinking about that.'
My mother refers to him as 'my son' at every opportunity. She interrogates Grace, abetted my Etheline, where did she meet 'my son', what did her parents think of her moving to Ireland with 'my son', what made her and 'my son' get fucking married so quickly (she doesn't say fucking but you can hear it in the pause)?
I am amused to watch her grow more and more irritable as Grace-who, much to Etheline's annoyance, has Poppy on her lap - answers most questions and seem oblivious to her snips.
We prepare to leave, Etheline snatches her dog back, we make plans for dinner on Friday. My mother is at a loss. This Grace person is nice, seems kind, my brother clearly loves her and she doesn't seem to get rattled easily. Even Poppy likes her.
What is an angry middle-aged mother to do?
But Grace solves it all for us, by declaring she is dying for a cigarette.
'Don't tell me you smoke Grace?' My mother says, her eyes glistening. 'Oh now, all mine gave that filthy habit up years ago.'
Grace admits her efforts to quit.
My mother nods sagely. ' Oh yes, I believe it can be very difficult, such a disgusting habit, I really can't imagine how anyone in this day and age does it.' She sniffs. 'It is against the law in this country to smoke in bars and restaurants you know.'
'Mam, come on.' My eldet sister says glancing at her watch. 'I've got to get home and these two look like they're dead on their feet.'
We arrange dinner for tonight and after another round of kissing and shaking we make out way out. My mother has the light of a zealot burning in her eyes.
A smoker. The chink in the armour.
God help Grace.
Hollywood update- Charlie Sheen has been hit with another lawsuit: a woman claims he basically stole her life for a character on his sit-com, bad Charlie, bad boy.
Josh Holloway worries about his weight and claims he likes beer- oh Josh, Josh, Joshie poo. I would sooooooo not throw you out of bed for eating crisps.