Recently I loved reading ‘Me and Mine’, a memoir of life in 1950′s London by Anna May Mangan. It was just a human joy-and-sadness injection, straight to the heart.
I think every person is interesting, a wonderful and idiosyncratic jumble of traits. Good and bad bits , annoying and fabulous bits, it’s genetic inheritance mixed with environmental chance, all overlaid with skin care routine and properly fitting underwear. JK Rowling in A Casual Vacancy described it beautifully, that .’…behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland.’
Different combinations make for different flavours. You might recognize a Scottish Protestant style of being in the world. A Lebanese Christian one, perhaps. Somali? Chinese? Filipino?
I’m from Irish Catholic stock myself. I think it’s fair to say there is a particular strain of eccentricity that runs through our blood. I find myself relating on some deep genetic level with Mangan’s mother, as described here.
Sunday wasn’t Sunday unless you went to Mass, according to my mother. But, once you had been to church, then the world and all its vices were there to be enjoyed. Sights set firmly on some Sabbath bingo and roulette, she would speed-roast a lunch – and it was alwasya roast on a Sunday, even if it was just parsnips and potatoes in the roasting tin. After the meal she would clear the table quickly and head for the front room sofa, where she had a legs-akimbo restorative nap that lasted two and a half hours exactly.
At 5pm on the dot and without any need to consult a clock,up she’d spring to do her pre-bingo ablutions. These never varied: a rinse of her dentures under the hot tap, an application of Rimmel lipstick (in the shade ‘Talked About’), several hearty dabs of Coty face powder and a jumbo squirt of 4711 cologne. Finally, a quick change of cardigan and she was good to go.
This heartwarming book would make a lovely present. Especially if you have a crazy Irish Catholic to buy for.
If you’re interested, other Bookshelf posts: