Roisin Ingle


. . . on epiphanies

This column comes to you from my boyfriend’s childhood home in deepest Portadown where, as in every house, Christmas is kept slightly differently. This meant the twinkly lights purchased in the pound shop by my mother-in-law-in-waiting Queenie only went up three days after the 25th. It also meant the artificial tree that I’ve seen once in the 12 or so Christmasses I’ve been visiting here remained in the “roofspace” throughout the festive season.The non-appearance of the tree is a valued yuletide tradition at this point.

Even though they don’t have a tree I knew it was Christmas because Queenie offered me an alcoholic drink which only happens at this time of year. The large vodka and lemonade nearly blew my head off. There is red and white Schloer (a non-alcoholic fizzy drink strictly imbibed only at Christmas) on tap but not much in the way of red and white wine.

When I told Queenie I had a column to file while I was there, she worried what I was going to write about because she’s thoughtful like that. Later, she appeared with a copy of a tabloid newspaper in which Ulrika Johnsson has a column. “Do you ever just look at what other people have written and do up your own version?” she enquired, thrusting Johnsson’s musings on Christmas in front of my nose. “Thanks,” I said, to be polite.

Then she asked when was this column being published. I told her January 5th and she said that’s the day before the Epiphany. “You could,” she said, “think of all the epiphanies you’ve had during the year and then write about them.” “Thanks,” I said, to be polite. And also because it wasn’t the worst idea she’s ever had and also because actually, I have had at least three epiphanies this year. (Thanks Queenie!)

1. Early in January, I met a friend for coffee in a nice hotel. She was wearing snowboots and thermal underwear, she confided, because at our age she reckoned comfort was king. “We’re not 90,” I said but I knew what she meant. All around us women were wearing their Christmas presents, elegant, uncomfortable looking shoes and, we estimated, carefully coordinated underwear that wasn’t comfortable but had other attributes. We marvelled at their ability to look so effortlessly glamorous. I spent years thinking that one day I would get to an age where I would look expensive and shiny and, I suppose, clean. I thought it would just happen. Epiphany A: If it hasn’t happened by now, it is never going to happen. Epiphany B: I don’t care.

2. At the end of October I found myself walking the marathon. I hated it: the crowds, the “you can do it!” posters, the general adrenalin-soaked atmosphere. Everything that was supposed to motivate me had exactly the opposite effect.

Epiphany: While I am no longer exercise-averse I am allergic to mass-participation exercise events. Unfortunately I keep forgetting this, so every time I get an email asking me to do a race I say “Yes! Fantastic!” instead of my real feelings which are: “No. I’d rather eat my own runners.” Actually, I think I’ll get that as a tattoo.

3. On Christmas Day this year, my mother walked in the door wearing a jolly-hued flowery number. “I love your dress,” I said, when what I really meant was “what is the story with your dress?”

“It’s really comfortable,” she said. It had been a present so she thought she’d wear it for Christmas Day. The dress distracted me all through the turkey and even through her award-winning trifle and eventually I had to ask her whether the dress might actually be a nightgown.

This had crossed her mind but she’d dismissed it because the person who gave it to her said “I thought they were your colours” and who cares what colours you wore in bed? I looked at the label. I did a bit of Googling and found a pair of pyjama bottoms in the same jolly-hued flower print. By the time I found the “dress” which was actually a “chemise de nuit” I had tears of laughter rolling down my face. She was just crying regular tears. On the plus side, she didn’t have to change going to bed that night. Epiphany: If it looks like a nightie and is as comfortable as a nightie, it probably is a nightie.

I have a feeling 2013 will be full of equally illuminating epiphanies. Can’t wait.