“May is the month of Mary,
The month we all love so well.”
How vividly I remember our class of communicants, trailing around the perimeter of the convent tennis court, little girls in white ankle socks, rosary beads in our tiny hands, love in our hearts, singing out sweetly for Mary.
Mary, eternal mother, mother of mine, Mary, Mary, quite contrary. Our small worlds were awash with Marys: Marys who lost their heads, Marys who lost their lambs, Marys who lost their way.
Well, Mary, my old mate, it’s May again, and not a child in the house washed, as the saying goes.
May already, and the invisible enemy still lurks without, and maybe even within. And never mind the trauma of shuttered bars, of restaurants and theatres populated by dust, of weeds pushing up through the ground on Grafton Street (apparently – not that I’ve witnessed them myself), never mind the rope bridge to economic mayhem that we trail across, hanging on, white-knuckled, to the cables.
No, never mind all that; the thing that really got me this week, the overweight straw that broke the sodding camel’s back, was remembering to buy a battery for the weighing scale.
The only time in recent memory that I’ve stood on a weighing scale with anything less than trepidation was a couple of years ago, after I’d had a colonoscopy. As many of you will know, quite possibly from bitter experience, that procedure involves days of moderated food intake followed by imbibing a kind of Dyno-Rod elixir that temporarily does wonders for excess poundage. (Every cloud, eh?)
I’m certainly not recommending colonic irrigation as a DIY project, but in too many conversations and online interactions I’ve had in the past week or so, the talk has turned to weight gain.
It seems that everyone is eating too much, drinking too much, baking too much. People who may once have possessed a degree of mystery and elan now confess to sitting in front of reruns of Midsomer Murders in their pyjamas, with a tube of Pringles and a bottle of lukewarm Pinot Grigio in their well-washed mitts.
Personally I haven’t – yet – succumbed to afternoon television, but the overworked corkscrew is thinking of writing to the Labour Relations Commission.
Speaking of religious fervour (eh, were we?), I don’t remember any examples of overweight people in our catechisms and illustrated history books when we were little souls sitting neatly behind our wooden desks, trailing our fingers around the inkwells.
Joan of Arc certainly wasn’t popping in to her Slimming World meeting on the way to the stake. You don’t hear tell of St Peter asking the waitress to hold the mayo and go easy on the fries. Judas wasn’t looking for a lightly poached egg on a bed of steamed spinach before he betrayed Jesus.
And I certainly don’t remember Adam and Eve doing burpees under the vine leaves. (Burpees, for those of you yet to encounter that particular cruelty, is a kind of dynamic, gut-wrenching squat-cum-push-up. I tried it once and had to lie down for quite a long time afterwards with a Horlick’s.)
The only two historical characters I remember from our schoolbooks are gout-ridden Henry VIII (often accompanied by a ripe maiden and a suckling pig) and jolly old fictitious Friar Tuck, both of whom were far too fond of tankards of mead and way too pally with roasted rabbits. Neither looked too bothered to me.
Recently, some wannabe ascetics on the other end of my Zoom lens have suggested that for the remainder of our spell in Covid confinement, and given that today we turn the calendar on an as-yet-unsullied month, we should try to embrace abstinence, or at least restraint, from gastronomic pleasures. (And yes, that does include pink gin and chocolate-covered peanuts.)
I disagree, especially considering what abstinence did to the sixth-century “foster mother of the saints of Erin”, the revered Irish ascetic Ita of Killeedy.
Ita, a woman so disinclined to eat her lunch that God sent an angel to bring her a takeaway from heaven (macaroni cheese and a side salad, I think), eventually succumbed to a huge pig-sized stag beetle that dug into her side and gnawed upon her day and night. I don’t remember St Ita from the schoolbooks; maybe she was a bit too hardcore.
I dunno though – another few weeks of this shagging limbo and even stag-beetle-lovin’ Ita might’ve been lashing into the home-made jam roly-poly in her tracky bottoms.
Hilary Fannin’s novel The Weight of Love, published by Doubleday Ireland, is out now