Home > Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(4)

Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(4)
Marian Keyes

E is also for Employment. I used to have a job, you know. Not a lot of people know that.

It was before I married, back when I was Mary Maguire and not Mammy Walsh.

Of course running a home and looking after a husband and five children is job enough for any woman, but I used to have a job job. One that I got paid for.

I’m not saying I was CEO of the interweb or anything! Don’t get excited! I was just a lowly clerk in the civil service and I had to hand up my wages every Friday to Mammy Maguire and she’d give me back enough for my bus fares. There was no going off living in a ‘flat’ with two other girls and getting scuttered every night of the week and buying shoes and whatnot. Nothing like that.

Of the six of us Maguire sisters, Imelda had the best good job. She was the ‘brainy’ one, so the money was found to send her on a shorthand and typing course, after which she got a post at Shannon Airport. That was ‘akin’ to getting a job in Heaven – everyone in Limerick wanted to work in Shannon, what with the planes and the glamour and the chance of meeting a pilot.

After a while of working there Imelda started talking with an American accent. That was perfectly normal, everyone who worked in Shannon did. We were very proud of her.

So I was working away in my little job and I must say I enjoyed it – even though it wasn’t too taxing on the intellect. I enjoyed the camaraderie and ‘banter’ amongst my co-workers and the way we did skits on Miss McGreevy (our supervisor).

Then I got married and I stopped working. Not because I wanted to – although it wouldn’t have looked right – but the law in Ireland at the time was, if you worked in the civil service, as I did, you gave up your job once you got married. The thinking being, I suppose, that now you had a man to take care of you, why would you need to be out earning your own money and at the same time taking away a job from a man who really did need it.

Things changed a lot for me. Mr Walsh and I moved onto a ‘starter’ estate and suddenly I had my own house and I was away from Mammy – I was mistress of my own domain – but I was staring at the inside of four walls, all day every day, while Mr Walsh went off to work.

In those days there were no ‘yoga’ classes or ‘boozy’ lunches with the girls. There wasn’t even daytime telly. And the women who lived around me weren’t exactly a laugh a minute. Then I got pregnant with Claire and I was too busy puking day and night to be lonely.

Sometime in the seventies – whenever it was, it was a bit later than in the rest of the world – Women’s Lib showed up, with the news that I didn’t have to be a domestic slave. But – and for the life of me I can’t really explain why – women of my ilk looked down on the Women’s Libbers. We mocked them for being shrill and wearing Dr Scholl’s sandals and drawing attention to themselves (the worst possible of all the offences; modesty was our byword). ‘Notice boxes’ – that was our damning assessment of them, as we discussed them over our back walls. Obviously, this is what the men were saying about them, but surely we had opinions of our own …?

All the same, some sort of seed must have been planted in me, because I started to yearn for … something. Something a bit more than cooking meals that were scorned and kicked around the kitchen by my five daughters. Maybe I could have gone back and ‘retrained’, whatever that is, but it wasn’t the done thing. Respectable women didn’t. It was like saying your husband couldn’t provide for you.

In a problem page in a magazine I read a letter from a woman who expressed similar urges to my own, and the ‘Agony Aunt’ told the woman to speak to her ‘spiritual advisor’ about it. I didn’t have a ‘spiritual advisor’ – until suddenly it dawned on me that the ‘Agony Aunt’ had meant a priest. Why she couldn’t have just said the word …

Anyway, one Saturday evening, I waited to be the very last person at confession, and in the dark dusty box I whispered my dirty little secret to Father Anthony – that I’d like a job. ‘But,’ says he, ‘you’re doing the most important job any woman can do, you’re being a mother.’ And suddenly I had such an urge on me to say, ‘Well, fuck you! It’s all very well for you. You’re a man!’ But I said nothing and he gave me fifteen decades of the rosary as penance for my audacity, and the moment passed.

It’s too late for me now, of course, but thinking back on my life, I would have loved a ‘career’. Doing what, I don’t know. I’d have been game for anything really. Although maybe not being a teacher, now that I think of it. I don’t know why. It’s because of the children I’d have to teach … being in close proximity to them. No, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t like that at all. Or animals. I wouldn’t like to work with them either.

But I like the idea of getting up really early and putting on a black suit and driving my red sports car out from my underground garage and going to meet my personal trainer before I go to the office. I like the idea of giving orders on my car phone while I’m driving to work – ‘Fax me the figures on Finland.’ ‘Find me the Fenugreek file.’

I really like the idea of firing people.

These days, from time to time, if Helen is stuck, she lets me help her out on a job and, all credit to me, I roll up my sleeves and get ‘stuck in’ with gusto. You can’t fault my work ethic, although Helen says it’s not work ethic, it’s just nosiness.

E is also for ‘Eejit Stick’. I’m laughing here to myself but at the same time I’m a bit ashamed, because I don’t know if I should tell you about this – I’m afraid it might show me in a bad ‘light’, but at the same time we have to have a laugh now and again.

Right, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to tell you what an Eejit Stick is. You see, myself and my sister Bernadette were going to Lourdes and we were at Dublin Airport and the carry-on of people! They were all walking at the wrong speed. Much too slow, like.

Bernadette muttered, ‘God forgive me, but I’m itching to kill the lot of them. I wish I had my axe.’ (Bernadette married a farmer. Sometimes she has to chop wood. She’s very attached to her axe, the way other people are attached to their ‘mobile’ phones.)

And there and then the idea of the Eejit Stick was born!

We decided it would be like a walking stick except it would have a small ‘doobry’ on the end that would deliver a mild electric shock to a person – only a mild one, now, we’re not trying to hurt people. Not really. Just to give them a bit of a start. And a small sting, maybe. We’re not trying to get revenge on people, exactly. It’s more like we want things to be efficient.

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