Róisín Ingle on . . . a right, royal message

 

T his column comes to you by popular demand. Some readers have emailed to inquire after my boyfriend’s mother, Queenie, a regular feature of this page over the years, a woman with a disturbing kitchen roll fetish and a wardrobe full of clothes that she’s killed telling you were 70 per cent off in the sales. Apparently, I haven’t been writing about her enough. This is typical of your correspondence: “More Queenie please. Love her.”

This column also comes to you by royal command because, of course, she has got in on the act herself. Apparently nobody buys this newspaper in Portadown, Co Armagh, and indeed wider Northern Ireland unless she is mentioned, so it would be in my own interest to update readers on her “progress”.

“You’ll sell more papers,” she said, as though peppering The Irish Times with references to her would go some considerable way to halting the global decline of print media. “People will be wanting to know,” she said enigmatically. “Know what?” I mumbled under my breath. “That you are hacked off with TV schedulers because Winning Streak clashes with The Cube ?”

She claims there is an army of people across the North, asking why she hasn’t appeared for a while. A nun called Sister Yvonne is always asking Queenie’s friend Gwen whether it’s worth buying The Irish Times this Saturday, and then there’s the man in McKeagney’s chemist in Portadown who always mentions her appearances, and the woman in Derry who knows Queenie’s boss in Craigavon. Every Saturday they are full of anticipation waiting for the latest despatches from The Queen, and the sighs across Northern Ireland when they open the Magazine and she’s not in it are deafening.

I told her straight. “I can’t just write about you for the sake of it, there has to be something to say.” And I’m not saying she did it on purpose, but you can make your own mind up whether or not it is mere coincidence that shortly after she told me I should write about her, she suffered a medical incident. “Now!” she said, like a chess champion placing a closing killer move. “You can tell them about my eye.” Fine. This is what happened. She woke up one morning and her eye was a bit fuzzy. The optician said an artery had ruptured behind her eye causing a build-up of fluid and some blood. She was a bit worried for a while because he also told her that central retinal vein occlusion can happen for reasons such as high blood pressure or diabetes or high cholesterol.

But worry not, Queenie lovers, there are no underlying reasons. Just a random artery rupture. And she is now helping medical science by being part of the Crystal Study, a new research project funded by the Royal Victoria Hospital. The regular injections in her eye aren’t pleasant but “thinking about them is worse than actually getting them”, you’ll be relieved to know. And they seem to be doing the trick because last weekend she could see the big wheel in Winning Streak a bit more clearly. But sometimes she forgets she is temporarily disabled. Like the other day, she was trying to thread a needle to sew a button on her mother Sarah’s blouse and she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t get the thread into the hole.

I asked her for gossip from Portadown but she had none or in her words “there’s no crack at all” and I know she’s spelling it crack because she uses the word the non-Irish way, which is how we used to spell it until we started spelling it craic. (Perhaps, as a reader suggested by email once, crack cocaine gave “the crack” a bad name. This reader had discovered crack was actually a Hiberno-English word traceable to the 12th century, which meant “laughter resulting from someone making the sound of a loud bang”. So there you go. Crack is the actual word, not craic.)

“No crack,” said Queenie. “Nobody’s died, nobody’s getting married, nobody’s pregnant.” But then she remembered that Mackle’s ice-cream shop in Portadown is under new ownership, which is big news for anyone lucky enough to have had a Mackle’s ice-cream. It tastes the same, apparently, under new ownership. Phew.

So there you have it. Helping medical science, watching gameshows, testing ice-cream and trying to thread needles despite being temporarily half-blind. Sister Yvonne, Gwen, the man in McKeagney’s, the woman in Derry and the rest of the “More Queenie please” brigade – you are very welcome. Normal, Queenie-free service resumes next week unless, in the meantime, and I wouldn’t rule it out, she banjaxes the other eye.
roisin@irishtimes.com