Home > Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(11)

Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(11)
Marian Keyes

Mammy, of course, would be in convulsions. She had a great sense of humour. ‘Don’t let on you’re ascared.’ She’d be thumping the ground with her stick from laughing so much. ‘They can smell the fear, they can smell the fear.’

Not everyone saw the good in Mammy the way I did. After my father died, Mr Walsh said – mind you he had a few drinks on him – that Daddy had probably committed suicide by persuading his heart to stop. (The laugh is, his own mother, Granny Walsh, was an absolute demon. She’d growl at you if you tried to take her perfume away. And the only reason she’d be holding onto the perfume with a death-grip was because she’d drunk everything else in the parish.)

When my mammy, Granny Maguire, used to come on her holidays to us, she’d use her stick to bang on her bedroom floor for attention, looking for help to ‘go’ to the bathroom, as it were. Downstairs in the kitchen we’d be drawing straws. Just a little ‘game’ we had. Especially if she hadn’t done a number two in a while. Oh, she was a character! She certainly livened things up. You’d miss her now that she’s gone.

M is also for Mickriarch. It means an Irish matriarch. Obviously, I am a matriarch. Obviously, I am Irish and Irish people are often called ‘Micks’. When they are not being called ‘Paddies’. I have a ‘niggling’ suspicion that being called a Mick is not exactly respectful. I’m not sure I should be glad to be called a Mickriarch. The ‘jury’ is still ‘out’.

N is for … Well, do you know something? This will give you a laugh. I can’t think of a single word that begins with N that is relevant to my life! I’m racking my brains here. N is for nappies, of course, but I’ll tell you something: my nappy-changing days are over. I did too many for too long and I’m not doing any more. If my daughters want to have babies, that’s their business and good luck to them and I will ‘mind’ the child if they want to go on a ‘date night’ with their ‘partner’. But I’m not changing any more nappies. I’m sick of it.

O is for Outspan Head. Outspan is a brand of orange. I don’t know if they’re still on the go, but it’s a brand name for orange, just to ‘put’ you in the ‘picture’.

The thing is, I like to look after myself, beauty-wise. And that time when Margaret shocked us all by leaving her husband and losing her job and running off to stay with her friend Emily in Los Angeles, I decided I’d visit her. Just to see that she was all right. I mean she was behaving badly out of character and I was worried about her – she’d been through a lot – and also … I have to admit … I’ve always wanted to see the Hollywood sign and drive along Sunset Boulevard in a silver car with the roof down and, at traffic lights, lower my sunglasses and make eye contact with the man in the car in the next lane … Anyway!

Yes, as a concerned mother I decided to go and visit Margaret. But I can go nowhere or do nothing without my ‘entourage’. Will they be as quick to jump in beside me in my coffin when I die, I often ask them.

Mr Walsh is fine, he is no trouble. But Helen – of course – decided she wanted to come. And Anna, who had just begun her transition from useless, badly dressed layabout to a valued member of society, wanted to come too. So, with a heavy heart, I booked four flights.

The thing is, that summer was particularly wet in Ireland. Water bucketing from the skies morning, noon and night. I’d been hoping to pick up a bit of a ‘colour’ before I arrived in Los Angeles. I didn’t want to get off the plane looking blue-white, like a milk bottle, the way all Irish people do.

So I treated myself to a can of fake tan. I bought it in the local chemist and maybe that was where I made my mistake. Maybe if I’d gone into town to one of the department stores I’d have fared better.

Anyway, what happened was this, the night before we left for Los Angeles, I put some fake tan on my face and neck – plenty, plenty (a bird never flew on one wing). And I went off to occupy myself, because the waiting makes me nervous.

After a good half-hour had passed, I looked in the mirror and I was still as pale as whey and I wasn’t at all happy. However, I went and watched another of my shows to take my mind off things, but the next time I looked, still nothing had changed. Nothing. And maybe, like Margaret said when she eventually saw me, I panicked. I put another thick layer on. And half an hour later, another layer. I mean, I know they say it takes a while for the colour to ‘come up’ but nothing at all was happening and I couldn’t handle the thought of standing out in Los Angeles like a big, pale, just-off-the-bus eejit.

Before I went to bed, I put on another layer. And when I woke in the morning and sat up in the bed and put on my glasses and looked in the mirror, I thought I was having a vision. I was orange. Bright glow-in-the-dark orange. I was like a space-hopper.

Clearly, I’d been given a dud batch of tan. I must admit I ‘harboured’ suspicions that it wasn’t a proper brand of tan at all, that ‘Jade’ (she says that’s her name) in the chemist had been knocking up batches of it in her back room and filling cans and ‘flogging’ it to the likes of me.

Well, the shrieks of laughing out of Helen! They probably heard her on ‘Mulholland Drive’. Even Anna was laughing a lot. But Mr Walsh wasn’t laughing. He was worried that everyone would be looking at us on the plane. (Not that his ‘look’ was much to write home about. The whole time we were in ‘LA’ he wore shorts, Argyle socks and his good black brogues, his ‘funeral’ shoes, I call them.)

I couldn’t admit I’d been ‘at’ the fake tan, because that smacks of vanity, so I insisted I’d got a lovely colour just from sitting in the back garden. (Even if it hadn’t been raining badly enough to start rounding up animals into pairs, I’d never sit in our garden. I hate the place – the cord from the telly doesn’t stretch far enough. Mr Walsh was meant to sort out an extension lead, but he didn’t because no one does anything around here, only me.)

I was that close to putting a paper bag on my head for the plane journey and I wish I had because Helen kept pressing my call button and saying made-up things to the air hostesses like, ‘Outspan Head here needs a blanket – to cover her face.’ Then ten minutes later, she’d press my bell again and when the air hostess appeared, Helen would say, ‘Outspan Head wants a glass of wine to take the edge off her shame.’

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