A LIMERICK grandmother wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stop her from celebrating her 88th birthday at home.
Remarkable mum-of-three Elsa Shorten travelled more than 11,366km and crossed two continents to ensure she was home in Caherdavin in time for her birthday after she was stuck in Singapore for six months.
The pensioner had kicked off a three-month holiday to see her son Derek in Australia and her daughter Tracey in Singapore at Christmas.
But it was when she landed in the City State in south-east Asia that she was left in limbo for six months as the world plunged into Covid-19 lockdown and flights were cancelled.
As a result, she stayed with her daughter from March until this September.
But with her 88th birthday on the horizon – on Sunday, October 4 – Elsa wanted to be back at home for the big day.
So over the weekend, she set off on the epic journey from Singapore back to Shannonside.
“I was like ET – I just wanted to go home! Home is where the heart is. I knew I’d been on a lovely holiday, and I looked forward to coming home again. I’ve a lot of friends here, and there’s a lovely community spirit in Caherdavin. I’m a long time here, over 50 years, and was involved in the Girl Guides. I just wanted to come home,” she told the Limerick Leader.
And there is one thing, in particular, she is delighted to do now she’s home – read the Limerick Leader newspaper!
“That’s what I missed the most. The Leader isn’t the same when you’re reading it on a phone. It’s great to be able to hold the newspaper up and go from page to page to get all the information you need,” Elsa said outside her home, where she’s self-isolating for a fortnight following her arrival.
Elsa, who her daughter Tracey describes as a “lioness”, is re-acclimatising to the Irish weather. And although we are experiencing something of an Indian summer, it’s nothing compared to Singapore, where hot, and very humid weather, is the norm.
”Singapore is beautiful, but it’s so hot. At this stage in my life, going around sweating all day, having your clothes damp takes the good out of it. You’re talking about 32 degrees, and you look in your phone to connect yourself to Limerick, and it’s only 16 or 20 degrees. I thought I’d never get out to breathe the fresh air again,” she smiled.
Elsa journeyed back to Ireland alongside her grandson Mark. When they changed planes in Amsterdam, he went onto London, while she flew across to Dublin.
It was a surreal journey, she admitted, with carriage on flights at all time lows.
“The few people on the flight was unbelievable. There were two of us sitting there – me and my grandson, then there were only two people at the other side. It was so different from any other year. The airports were not packed at all. There was loads of room, loads of everything. I just wonder will some airlines survive at all? Those long flights are expensive, and if there were 50 people on our plane, we would have been lucky,” she said.
Elsa did pay tribute to KLM, who “couldn’t do more for me”.
“I travelled in a wheelchair. I couldn’t praise them enough, as everyone was so nice. They were treating me like royalty – wrapping me in cotton wool,” she said.
Speaking from Singapore, daughter Tracey revealed she had to renew her mother’s Visa to remain there every fortnight following a clampdown from the local government.
She admitted her “heart was torn” in letting her mother return to Ireland.
“But at the age of 87, she started saying she had to go home. That if anything happened to her, she’d want to be at home. That it was the best place for her. I wanted her to stay here, because at least if she’s near me, I am in control of keeping her safe and can make sure she wears masks, washes her hands and the other bits and pieces. Then we just wondered how we were going to get her home,” Tracey said.
“But to be fair to the woman, she is a Trojan, a warrior, a lioness.”
”The whole idea was to be home for her birthday. She camped out and stayed safe for as long as she could. But, at the end of the day, she wanted to come home to Limerick,” Tracey concluded.