Home > Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(2)

Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(2)
Marian Keyes

Mr Walsh is called Jack and I will tell you all about him under U (Useful). (He does the hoovering.) (And earns all the money.) (Not that I let him have any of his own. He’d only spend it. I’m in charge of that end of things.)

A is for Alcohol. Neither myself nor Mr Walsh is a ‘big’ drinker. Naturally, I’d take a spritzer or two if I was out for a ‘drink’, and of course Mr Walsh is allowed to have a pint of Smithwicks in the clubhouse at the end of his round of golf. So obviously I don’t know where any of them get it from, because they certainly didn’t learn it from us (although problem drinking does exist in the ‘extended’ family), but the minute they became teenagers, they all started it (except for Margaret, of course).

I had a lovely drinks cabinet, full of lovely bottles of drink. Now and again I’d dust them. Those were the days when neighbours brought you back bottles of drink if they were lucky enough to go on a foreign holiday, so I had Ouzo from when Mrs Hennessey went to Greece. My sister Kitty brought us Vermouth from the time she went to Rome and met that married man, but the less said about that, the better. Mr Walsh’s secretary (you were allowed to say ‘secretary’ in them days, not like now, when it’s personal assistant this, personal assistant that) used to go to the oddest places and brought back a bottle of Hungarian Slivovitch. Anna won a bottle of some funny-looking yellow stuff at the Vincent de Paul raffle. The thing is, no one drank any of this stuff, no one was meant to drink any of this stuff. They were ornaments, fine glittery ornaments, in the same way my beautiful Anysley vase was an ornament, until Claire threw it against the wall and smashed it, the time her husband left her for their downstairs neighbour, Denise. Or the way my beautiful ‘Crying Boy’ painting is an ornament.

Anyway, when Claire was about fifteen, doesn’t she start this lark, secretly going from bottle to bottle, taking a little pour from each of them, until she’d filled up a lemonade bottle, then drinking the lot. The Lord alone knows what it tasted like, but she didn’t care. All that mattered was that she got inebriated. Or scuttered. Or stotious, mouldy, spannered, locked, poluthered, crucified, twisted … They say the Eskimos have a hundred words for snow, but we Irish seem to have at least a hundred for the state of being intoxicated. Gee-eyed, that’s another one I’ve heard them use. So, without me knowing one screed of it, Claire was getting ‘gee-eyed’ on a regular basis, using my drink from my lovely drinks cabinet, and over time the levels on my beautiful bottles started dropping. So what does the bould Claire do? She starts topping them up with water, that’s what she does. And kept topping them up with water. And kept on topping, until some bottles – most importantly the vodka – was one hundred per cent water.

In the normal run of events I might never have found out, except that one Saturday night we had visitors over, our neighbours Mr and Mrs Kelly and Mr and Mrs Smith. (The reason we invited them was because the Kilfeathers next door had had a ‘do’ the previous week and had invited several of the neighbours, but they snubbed us and I suppose I wanted to show them that we had friends too. The ‘cut’ and ‘thrust’ of suburbia can be a savage thing.)

So in they came, the Smiths and the Kellys, and the thing is that, even though we hardly drank, these were the days that the few times anyone did drink, they were expected to drink spirits. Not like now when it’s Chardonnay this and West Coast Cooler that and if you order a brandy and port, they bundle you into the car and they deposit you at a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Myself and Mrs Kelly were ‘on’ the Smirnoff, but Mr Walsh, Mr Kelly and both Mr and Mrs Smith were drinking real alcohol and they ended up getting scuttered, stotious, poluthered, etc. and, to my eternal shame, doesn’t Mr Walsh admit that he’d found some loophole to avoid paying all our taxes! I was scandalized! (At people knowing, I mean.) (I was quite pleased with him for holding a few pounds back from the ‘taxman’.)

Then the Smiths ‘upped’ the ‘ante’ by telling us that Mr Smith had had an affair the previous year! Everyone was red-faced and in convulsions, laughing and roaring crying, except for myself and Mrs Kelly, who were sitting there stone-cold sober and far from amused. And then it dawned on me what had been going on …

Of course, I couldn’t forensically test the vodka there and then; I had to get the scuttered people out of my home. But the next day I established what my ‘gut’ had already told me. So what do I do? I moved my lovely collection of bottles out of the drinks cabinet and into a cupboard with a lock, that’s what. But within days, one of them – I suppose it was Claire, it was hardly Margaret – had managed to pick the lock, and this kick-started a kind of guerrilla warfare. I kept moving the drink – under beds, out behind the oil-drum, I even rang Mr Walsh’s sister, who, handily enough, happens to be an alcoholic, and she recommended the cistern in the toilet – but they kept finding it!

Even today, I can’t keep drink in the house. None of my daughters are living at home at this precise moment. But it’s only a matter of time before another of them has a crisis in her life and moves back in with myself and Mr Walsh. It’d annoy you – we don’t feel able to fully savour our ‘Golden years’. What if we wanted to up sticks and sail round the world? (Frankly, I can imagine little worse than being stuck in a confined space on the high seas, with no access to my ‘shows’.) (And if anyone was going to have the bad luck to be kidnapped by Somali pirates, it’d be us.)

B is for Bublé. As in Michael. I ‘fangirl’ this highly talented young man. A voice to match ‘Old Blue Eyes’ and a very kind heart – did you see on the YouTubes how he got that youth up on stage to sing with him? (I keep ‘abreast’ of technology. Helen shows me how. She’s not good for much, but she’s good for that.) Yes, Michael Bublé is a consummate artist. And he has a lovely chunky pair of thighs on him.

C is for Cooking. Like all Irish women of my generation I have a great gift for cooking ‘good plain food’. Eating my food is not a high-risk activity, as my daughters claim. It is not an extreme sport. It is not like playing Russian Roulette when all the chambers are loaded. They haven’t a clue, those girls. Boiling is a good thing; it kills off germs. And flavour is a bad thing; it can upset your stomach.

For years and years I was cooking dinners for them. I was trying this and trying that and getting recipes from the neighbours and tearing suggestions out of the paper, and all they ate was cornflakes, so in the end – ‘by popular demand’ says Claire – I gave it up. Yes, I had a ‘rush of blood to the head’ and I went and I put on my coat and I got my handbag and I said to Mr Walsh, ‘Come on, get up, we’re going out!’ ‘Where?’ says he, afraid he’d miss some of the golf on the telly. ‘OUT!’ says I. ‘And bring the cheque book.’

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