Home > Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(5)

Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family (Walsh Family #6)(5)
Marian Keyes

So, say you’re at the airport trying to get to your ‘gate’ and a crowd of people are walking ahead of you and they’re going too slow, but there’re too many of them for you to get past and you’re getting ‘irritated’ and thinking, ‘Would you speed it up there, for the love of God!’ And it’s not like you’re worried about missing your plane, it’s just because it’s vexing.

Under normal circumstances you’d have to shuffle along behind them, going at their speed, letting them ‘set the pace’, as it were. But if you had your Eejit Stick, it’d all be different. You’d simply give one of the slow-coaches a touch of it to the back of their leg and they’d get a small electric shock and they’d realize they were being an eejit and they’d thank you for drawing their attention to it and they’d start walking faster. And once they were walking at the speed that suited you, you could stop giving them the shocks.

Well, the laugh Bernadette and I had about our ‘invention’! We decided we were going to go on Dragon’s Den with it and do a ‘pitch’. ‘We’re here to ask for four euro seventy,’ says she. And I said, ‘For a ninety per cent stake in our company.’ Because we weren’t being serious, like. Then we were thinking of how people go on Dragon’s Den to get investment in their chocolate company and they bring round a little plate for all the ‘dragons’ to sample. And we decided we’d ‘demonstrate’ our Eejit Stick by giving each of the ‘dragons’ an electric shock with it. Well, ROAR, as Helen says on the Twitters. Myself and Bernadette were laughing so much, tears were coming down our faces and we came to a standstill and a young woman with a pink wheelie bag bumped into the back of us and said, ‘For fuck’s sake. Why don’t you try walking, you pair of old boots?’

F is for Foundling. Oftentimes, when I was a girl growing up, I used to have this feeling, like, that I didn’t belong in my family and I used to ‘daydream’ that I was a foundling – you know, that I’d been found, as a newborn baby swaddled in a blanket, on the Maguires’ doorstep and they’d taken me in and were minding me as best they could, but they weren’t my real family. They knew it and I knew it. For a long time I was convinced that some day my proper mother and father would come for me and it would turn out that I was actually a princess.

But shur, doesn’t everyone feel like that!

F is also for ‘Feck’. It is fine to say ‘feck’. Feck is a very different word to the other ‘F’ word, which it is not fine to say. Those misfortunate souls who are not Irish often think ‘feck’ and the other ‘F’ word (the bad one) are the same thing and are shocked to hear a respectable woman like me say it. But they have it entirely wrong. It is a ‘cultural’ misunderstanding. I say ‘feck’ all the time – playing bridge, in Mass, whenever the situation ‘demands’ it – and I am not ‘swearing’.

F is also for Feathery Stroker. From what I can gather – although it’s not a question I’ve ever been able to ask outright – I’m the only woman of my age and station who knows about this sort of thing. No other woman of my vintage and decorum has to sit in a room with their daughters and their daughters’ friends and listen to them freely discussing sexual intercourse like I’m not even there. But my lot start up regardless of my presence, and, apparently, the very worst thing a man can be is a Feathery Stroker.

It was Anna’s friend Jacqui who started it. She’d met some fella and they’d ‘gone to bed’ and instead of ‘getting down to business’, doesn’t he spend hours and hours trailing his hands up and down her body in a light feathery way. He was at this stroking business for the Lord only knows how long and admiring her and telling her she was beautiful, and when he finally got to the ‘main event’ he stops, looks her in the eye and asks her if she’s sure she wants to go ahead.

Decent enough behaviour I would have thought. (Especially because another one of Jacqui’s boyfriends, some chap called Buzz, had tried to make her have a threesome with a prostitute.) But oh no. All the girls started screeching ‘Ewwww’ and ‘Creepy’ and I was surprised because normally they complain about men who don’t do any of this ‘foreplay’ (‘Two seconds of twiddling my nipples like he was tuning a radio and then we were up and running’).

Suddenly Feathery Strokers were Public Enemy Number One. Of course we’d all like to be flung across a bed and have the clothes torn off us, and be ravished to kingdom come and back again, but that’s just not real life, is it? You have to put up with what you’re given, don’t you? Nothing is perfect, am I not right?

Then the girls started extending their definition of Feathery Strokery. Like I said, it started with the poor divil who stroked Jacqui in a feathery sort of a way and then spread outwards, gathering up all kinds of other men who might never have actually stroked someone in a feathery fashion. Suddenly a man was an FS for the slightest transgression. Men who don’t eat lamb – Feathery Strokers. Men who glance at buns in cake-shop windows – Feathery Strokers. Men who carry rucksacks on both shoulders instead of just the one – Feathery Strokers. Men who do Five Rhythms of Dance (whatever the hell that is) Extreme Feathery Strokers (I believe a special extra-bad category has been invented just for them). Men with cushions arranged neatly on their couch – Feathery Strokers. Men who say the word ‘groceries’, men who pronounce ‘croissant’ in a French accent, men who’ve met the Dalai Lama, men who eat ice-cream cones in the street, men who like Downton Abbey, men who bake bread, but also men who don’t eat bread, men who ring their mother every Sunday, men who grow basil in a pot on the windowsill, men who are on speaking terms with their ex-wives, men who approach you with a lump of cheese on the point of a knife and say, ‘Try it, it’s amazing’, men who say, ‘That’s really sad’ when there’s a thing on the news about a five-year-old dying in a house fire, men who can’t swim, men who pass their driving test first time round, men who don’t have jump-leads, men who’ve failed their driving test three or more times, men who have Holland & Barratt loyalty cards, men who say, ‘Rise and shine’ when the weather is sunny – every single wretched one of them is damned as a Feathery Stroker.

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