Firstly, I got very bored and tried in rainy Manchester so I booked myself in for a beauty massage. I waited outside the salon and had a hot chocolate in a smart coffee bar. Beside me was this very old, yet extremely poised elegant lady. She was smoking those pastel coloured cigarettes Sobraine, so I leaned over and said “Wow, I haven’t seen those fancy fags in years”.
The elderly woman smiled, flicked the pink ciggie and replied in the poshest Queens English “Actually I buy them from Harrods where I used to live, but now I live here near my family and there is only one shop in Manchester that sells them”.
She then went onto tell me her ENTIRE life story, how she won the Burma Star for services as a nurse during the war and how she ‘Will never buy anything Japanese as they are a dirty evil cruel race”, then she told me how her two grand daughters are training to be barristers…by this time I want to talk, but she is a professional talker and sussed me out as scum, therefore knowing my station I let her talk…Fuck I was frustrated, but NO, I cant talk as she is TALKING and has photo’s.
The most surprising piece of information was that she told me the latest news about ‘That gay chap, pop star George’ I answered “George Michael?” “No…not him, the fat common George who dresses with very down market hats”.
“Oh Boy George!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, apparently he thought his apartment was being burgled, he called the police to his place in New York and the found copious amounts of cocaine and he is now facing 15 years in prison” She added.
Well, can you credit that? I knew nothing…and an 85 year old Dame was giving me drug and pop news all at once. Anyway, I left got my massage and had a great gig coz England won the match….thank God!
So this morning I woke up really odd and sad as I had been dreaming about my mammy all night. I saw her, I held her and hugged her near…it broke my heart, to leave her and wake up.
The ache nearly killed me, I walked slowly to the train station, got on the train and sat down and wrote my mammy a letter. I know that sounds mental, but it felt right as I had no other way of expressing the pain as I faced a five hour journey feeling so low.
My mammy was murdered in 1982 by her then boyfriend Peter, he killed her and left her in the river and he even escaped charges. This year after much searching for Peter, I discovered that he had himself been murdered back in 1996. So here is the letter I wrote on the train today. Hope its not too sentimental tosh.
To my Mammy,
Dear Mammy, I am nearly the age you were when you died. I find that hard to believe that you were in fact so young, yet I thought you were so old back then. It’s true that youth is wasted on the young. I dreamt so clearly about you last night mammy and it was so strong, I smelt your hair. I was in a Thistle Hotel in Manchester, all alone. I don’t work in the pub anymore, that pub was where I was when I heard you were in the river in 1982. I am now a stand up comic and writer mammy. Remember how we used to listen to Billy Connolly LPs on the old Dansette record player and we would laugh? Do you remember how I used to say “I want to do what he does and make people laugh” Well that’s kinda what I do, but not nearly as good as Billy Connolly.
It may please you to know that the press (Yes! I know people in the press, a lot of things have changed since we last saw each other) well the press and critics say I am the ‘female’ Billy Connolly! I am not sure how he feels about that or even if he has heard it, but it is a strange image eh?
In the dream a few hours ago I looked at your short grey hair and saw how unruly it looked, your piercing eyes were staring at me and you wrapped your cardigan tightly around you, then you tap danced perfectly, then shuffled your feet, moving like Ginger Rodgers in an old Hollywood movie.
I loved watching you dance, you were truly magical. I wish I could move like you-graceful yet sassy!
I spent my 42nd birthday in Hollywood a couple of years back. I was alone there as I was coming home from New Zealand on a comedy tour that I had done. Your birthday had been days before. I went into the Hollywood hills to look at those big letters that you so wished you lived beneath, when you had those big dreams of being a dancing star! I then went into the Hollywood walk of fame and left a bunch of flowers in your memory and imagined you were up there with Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra.
Now I don’t know if women from Glasgow get into “Hollywood Heaven” but I am sure your gift of the gab and sheer pzazz would have gained you entry into the velvet rope area of dead stars!
Just to keep you updated, I am still married to my husband, him of “Two left feet and canny dance for neither love nor money” fame. We are 25 years together now. You were right way back then- we were too different, I talk too much and he stares at things that aren’t there and never utters a word of interest….but we have made it now.
It has been very hard mammy, he hasn’t been the easiest person and to be honest I should have left many times…but strangely I wanted to change him…some women do that with men eh?
If scandal can pass through “Heaven” and the freshly dead can bring up the news to you people, then I am sure you will have heard from recently deceased pal Katie McGregor (she died last month) –that I have had my autobiography published and told everything about our family, secrets and all. Yes. I told about your beloved brother David sexually abusing me mammy…I told them.
I am worried how you will feel about it all and knowing your pal Katie, in her ghostly manner and insistent gossiping, she will give you a shit version of the book, as I knew she hated me writing it. She told me so when she was alive!
I wish you could read it mammy and let me know how you feel about it all. If you are angry, you will have to wait a while to tell me off as I intend to outlive everyone…Still I hope you like it as you always loved reading and passed that love of books onto me. Remember how you would stay up all night to finish a book, then tell me the whole plot and what you thought of it? I do that as well and have passed that onto my daughter.
Yes I have girl, you never got to see her, she is called Ashley and you would love her mammy, she has so many of your characteristics and loves Musicals. She can dance and sing. She has your attitude and spirit, she could talk the birds out of the trees and is so tall and beautiful that sometimes I think I am so blessed to have such a happy girl I feel guilty.
Ashley is 19 and is off to University (she made it mammy I never!). She is studying filmmaking and screenplay writing, she does my all my press and helps me when I am performing comedy. She swears she is going to make it and go to Hollywood. Wonder where she gets that from?
You would love her, as she is one of your kind, the kind that laughs at life, the kind that always sees the best in everyone and is ready to take on the world.
Like you once were, like I imagine you were at 19 years old. What became of that young woman you once were and when did you get to be the old woman with grey hair and no teeth? When did you give up and become the woman who let a man hit you and eventually kill you?
I know that’s a bad thing to say, I am sorry mammy, I love you and miss you dearly and would sell my soul to sit beside you again and count the golden flecks that would light up the pupils of your eyes. Do you still have nine in one eye and four in the other? Remember you let me count the unique wee sparkles that made your eyes dance?
Mammy, I am 44 years of age now and I have made some awful mistakes that I regret. Sometimes they keep me awake, is that normal? Do you forgive me for all that I have done? God can wait for his apology, he never heard my prayers, so it’s hardly likely he will hear my sorry-ness, I want you to forgive me and share your wisdom. I ache and yearn for that.
Am I someone you are proud of? I am trying not to cry as I am on the train and I hurt thinking about you and how much we have missed together, I really needed you sometimes. Things went very wrong in my life and I had no one to share that with…I am sorry.
So here it is. I wrote that book to the best of my ability, I told the truth and you are very much a part of that. I don’t regret anything I wrote about you mammy. You were a good woman who never made it as a dancer, who never got the right chances, who never let disappointment soak your soul, even when you knew life was fucked and men would never save you.
I am sorry you died alone in that water, but mammy you need to know this…life, men and loneliness will NEVER screw me up, not now and you gave me that. Keep coming back in my dreams, I cherish those moments of peace I have with you.
Keep watching me mammy, go and dance with Elvis, Frank and your beloved Judy; they will be in good company.
Your daughter Janey._