stuck with me when I left the hotel. From one perspective, you might say, it was as if I’d replied that I was involved in construction, and she’d commented that she had a child who was ‘a navvy just like you’; or in medicine, and she’d referred to us as ‘quacks’; or I was a politician, and she said she had a child who was a liar just like me.
Though I am absolutely sure nothing negative was intended, I was fascinated by the assumption. It reminded me of when The Nualas played at another charity event a few weeks ago. After, a chap said to me, ‘What you do is marvellous.’ But before I could absorb the compliment, he added,
‘What you do is marvellous!’ I was complimented. Then
came the sting: ‘Would you make a
living doing that?’
‘Would you make a living doing that?’ I mean, it’s generally considered impolite to ask after the details of someone’s livelihood in casual social chit-chat, isn’t it? Or does being involved in the arts, in this ‘gypsy world’, mean that wackier rules apply and the parameters of ordinary exchange don’t come into it? What was he expecting me to say? ‘No, I sell my body on the side; are you interested?’ I wish I had now. Oh, don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington.
Then I look at the reality, and it’s far from flightiness. Take my friend and co-Nuala, Sue Collins. She’s a mum of four children under the age of eight. For the last few weeks she’s been shooting a new sitcom starring Katherine Lynch and Gary Cooke, booked to be available for up to 12 hours a day, five days a week. In between she’s been gigging and writing as Nuala, and rewriting a TV sitcom pilot for British television to a tight deadline with another comedy writer. It takes a supportive husband to juggle such a schedule. But sure, isn’t he another gypsy! Phelim Drew’s an actor, and recently he’s been rehearsing six days a week, for the current Abbey Theatre mainstage show, The Risen People, which opened this week. ‘Juggle’ is the operative word in their house. Both had famous, successful parents who were ‘in the biz’, so I guess it’s a fait accompli what their four kids will end up being drawn to into... yep, you’ve guessed it, law, medicine, education, the civil service... ie. anything but showbiz.
So then The Nualas had a gig in Clonmel last weekend. The car stuttered to a stop four miles from Callan, Co. Kilkenny. ‘Oh,’ said completely exhausted Sue (driving because it was her people carrier, child seats pushed aside for our equipment), ‘I forgot to get petrol.’ In the end a nice man (Phil O’Brien, thanks a billion) kindly gave us a lift to and from a filling station. But then the clutch went. There we were, side of the road, stuck, living the ‘gyspy’ dream. Eventually we got the car towed to Callan, taxied to Clonmel and got a lift home with another nice man, magician Jack Wise.
While the other two conked out, I spent the journey back sewing sequined breasts (don’t ask) onto our stage dresses for our Christmas show and chatting to Jack. ‘Remember this as a golden showbiz memory,’ I told him, showing him my glittery boobs.
As I write, I don’t know what’s happened with the poor people carrier. If you see a mum in the vicinity of Dublin 8 dropping her children off at school in a horse-drawn caravan — probably Sue. Ah, there’s nothing like it, the gypsy life.