Family matters: Pat McDermott hits high society
Hold the social pages! Pat McDermott is taking her lead from the upper echelons of society and vowing to dress for the occasion.
I’m a practical person. I never run out of tea or toilet paper and, after raising five kids, still get out of bed at 3am to check the porch light is off and the milk is back in the fridge. I iron tea towels. And singlets. For years, the family ignored my advice. They toppled out of mango trees, dated the wrong people, dislocated shoulders playing rugby and got parking fines. “Don’t ignore that ticket,” I’d warn. “Otherwise, you could spend the rest of your life behind bars!” The unopened envelope turned into a coaster for drippy coffee cups, then something to scribble shopping lists and telephone numbers on. In desperation, I paid the fine. Just like they knew I would.
I’m telling you this because even though I iron tea towels and wash colours separately, I do have a wild side. It’s completely out of character, but I adore glossy fashion mags, especially toney British ones full of pretty, shiny people with silly names. Please say hello to my friends Poppy, Felicia, Rupert and Dougie-darling!
I can’t help it. I love “top” people – the more “absolutely fabulous” they are, the better! They’re straight out of Bridget Jones’s Diary and shivering in stately piles all over England.
Of course, to be classified as “stately”, a house must be damp and draughty at the same time. Crumbling ceilings and a dodgy boiler are to be expected. You will find large wet dogs dozing on priceless 16th-century sofas. “Why is that?” “Sweetie darling, I would have thought it was perfectly obvious. The doggies are simply frightfully tired!”
Top people always have impeccable manners. If Dougie, Rupert, Poppy and Felicia spent the weekend at your place, they’d make the most terrific mess, drink all the gin and creep into each other’s bedrooms late at night, but you should expect charming thank-you notes by Tuesday.
These days, sadly, top people are often stony broke. You might want to count the silver before they leave.
Top people are very good at wearing the right clothes for every occasion. Top women wear filmy dresses, no discernible undergarments and heels so high their heads float above the crowd. This makes it dead easy to find someone more interesting to talk to than the person they’re with. “Darling, I must have a quick snog with Lord Delaware. Of course I’ll be back! But not, perhaps, in your lifetime.”
I opened my diary and realised it’s full of special occasions, too. This year, I plan to dress the part!
What I’m wearing To have a mammogram A stiff upper lip and a blouse that buttons down the front. I will observe the cone of silence in the waiting room and rip The Australian Women’s Weekly recipes out discreetly.
For a Pap smear
A shirt the size of a circus tent to make up for total absence of undies, darling! I will relax and think of England. If that doesn’t work, I’ll count the holes in the acoustic tiles. I won’t mention Donald Trump because top people
never discuss politics.
To take my granddaughters (six and three) to a café for lunch
Noise-excluding headphones. I will tell people I don’t speak English and, anyway, those aren’t my children.
To pick up an old friend at the airport after a long flight
No make-up, baggy track pants and a T-shirt with a hole in it. Top people always make friends look good.
To a funeral
A “touch of green”, a “splash of red” or a “chamber-pot on my head” if that’s what Uncle Joe wanted. Perhaps I’m mentioned in the will. Not that it matters.
At the end of my tether
A smile. Top people know you’re never fully
dressed without one.
Even though I iron tea towels and wash colours separately, I do have a wild side.