I know this is bandwagon-y but when I heard Gay Byrne died I thought of my grandmother and how I spent hours watching The Late Late show with her. Anyway, the bandwagon has left the station and it’s written this little thing so make yourself a frothy coffee and have a read if you want.
So long Gay Byrne
When I think of Gay Byrne, I think of my grandmother. She always said she wasn’t mad about him but would watch the Late Late Show every week. Really, I think she might have secretly fancied him. Gay’s wife had red hair like her and I wondered if she ever thought ‘there but for the grace…’ If only he had met Máirín O’Moore at a dance we could have been a showbiz fam.
Mo was the best type of grandmother in that she’d let us do things we would not be allowed to do at home/fell into grey areas legally. If she was going down to the shops ‘for a spin’, I was allowed to sit in the front seat and have some of her Wrigley’s spearmint chewing gum. If she went solo to the shops, I’d leg it upstairs as soon as the car left the drive, go up to her room and put a bit of her Coty L’Aimant perfume. She’d say nothing when she arrived back to me smelling like a perfume counter, wearing blue eyeshadow. If I was after a mind-altering experience, I’d pop on her reading glasses and walk up and down the sitting room staring at the floor. The prescription in them made it look like the floor was concave which I found entertaining. I was a simple child.
At the bottom of Mo’s fridge, there were always goodies which included little jam tarts you get in packs of six. My favs were the red ones. The duds were the yellow ones which I never chose and were only fit for the bin as far as I was concerned. I don’t remember her cooking much but chips from the local Borza were always on the menu when you visited her on a Friday; it would be cruel not to.
When she used to smoke (she gave up thank you) she would sometimes send us down to the shops to get her cigarettes. Her brand was More (More for O’Moore) which, if you’re going to fill your lungs with deadly smoke, are the most glam way to go about it. They were long, thin, menthols wrapped in dark cigarette paper and came in an emerald green box. She’d wrap the money in a note and the shopkeeper knew her well enough to give them to us. She’d also get us to get her the paper and did the crossword every day. We were always given a bit extra to buy even more sweets for ourselves as a reward.
Mo was the only one in our family who could do a French plait, which I viewed as a magic power. On special occasions, she’d weave a ribbon through it and I would request her to reef my head off so it didn’t fall out. She was smart, artistic, always coming up with ideas for her house and garden, could knit masterpieces, started her own businesses and put together killer ensembles when required. Mo loved a good frock.
When I first started to work in radio and do media bits, she was certain I had a hotline straight to RTE. She once come up with a format for a game show she thought was great and wanted me to pass it on to someone who’d know how to tidy it up. I found the envelope she wrote it on the other day. It was essentially charades but ‘with a twist’.
My brother would usually head off to bed early enough in the evening if we stayed on Friday nights. Some people just don’t have the fight in them. Not me. My goal was to stay awake for as long as possible with midnight being the goal. Watching the Late Late was all part of it. It seemed to go on for days and there was never any shape to it. I’d always be waiting for Gay to ask whatever guest was on to sing and would be disappointed if a week went by when no one did. Seeing an MEP launch into She Moved Through the Fair with the lights awkwardly dimming and Gay hovering just beside them in darkness was what I called entertainment. I loved Mo and watching the Late Late with her was a part of my memories of us together. So, so long Gay. Thanks for helping me stay up way past my bedtime.