Don’t Mind Me: Protecting our reputation for glamorous grannies

Patricia Feehily

Reporter:

Patricia Feehily

The Royal de Luxe 'Giant' in Liverpool - which has now arrived in Limerick to begin rehearsals for the September show
HAVING been a granny myself for nearly seven months now, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m feeling a bit upstaged by this caricature of a giant granny who is going to be the centre of attention in the city from September 5 to 7. I use the word ‘who’ because according to her creator, she’s not just a mechanism. She has a soul. Dammit, sometimes I’m not even sure if I have a soul myself!

HAVING been a granny myself for nearly seven months now, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m feeling a bit upstaged by this caricature of a giant granny who is going to be the centre of attention in the city from September 5 to 7. I use the word ‘who’ because according to her creator, she’s not just a mechanism. She has a soul. Dammit, sometimes I’m not even sure if I have a soul myself!

She pre-dates the Big Bang if you don’t mind. If we’re not careful, we’ll get carried away and start offering sacrifices to her, making fools of ourselves in the eyes of the world.

Maybe I’m the only sourpuss granny in the country at the moment, but it’s the blatant stereotyping that’s getting my goat. We all love a spectacle and God knows we’ve been culturally starved for years when it comes to spectacular street pageantry. Now we don’t even have an All-Ireland to look forward to, although I think Granny might have got her up-uppance on September 7 if we had made it to Croke Park. Despite the hint of sour grapes, however, I genuinely believe that the City of Culture is on to a winner here, especially if it’s a money-spinner they’re after. Anyway who am I to say what is, or what isn’t, culture? I fancy myself as a follower of the Kavanagh school of thought when it comes to culture. The poet once in a disparaging mood remarked: “Culture is always something that was, something that pedants could measure: thigh of chief, skull of bard, or depth of dried up river . . . .” A gargantuan granny of Breton/Irish extraction, who has lost her figure thanks to the predominance of her Irish genes, can’t be any more ridiculous than those treasures.

Nevertheless, the spectacle of a 30 feet statue in a wheelchair, hopping up at times with her walking stick and extending a veiny and arthritic hand to those who want to engage with her, as she breaks wind and pees rudely in public, is not exactly the image that we grannies would like to project of ourselves. Come to think of it, wasn’t that the reason why Gulliver was arrested by the Lilliputians – for urinating in the street? And he was just trying to help them by putting out a fire! Anyway, it’s obvious that Royal de Luxe has never heard of Limerick’s reputation for glamorous grannies. Naturally then, I can’t wait to find out what kind of a myth they’ve spun for the city in the forthcoming pageant.

However, I have to say that I do love her dress. Most grannies I know wear trousers these days. In my day most of them wore shawls. The dress is quite an evocative fashion statement – for me 
anyway.

The last time I saw a shamrock design on a dress was on my Irish dancing costume when I was seven. Everyone else’s dress was festooned with medals won at feiseanna all over the place, so my shamrocks, without so much as a single medal to cover them, were particularly remarkable and ostentatious – and that was before I had even lifted a foot in the air.

But, if I’m to be brutally honest, what really offends me about this giant granny is the description of her as “endearing”. Now, apart altogether from the fact that we often find it difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy, especially in times of recession, this particular description is patronising to all grannies. When, and if, I ever reach the age of 85, the last thing in the world I would want to be called is ‘endearing’. But I suppose there’s no danger of that.

On the other hand, this spectacular piece of street theatre - once famously described by former Arts Minister, Jimmy Deenihan – as some kind of a puppet show, promises to be a huge boost to Limerick’s economy, if the predicted attendance over the three days of 200,000 is realised.

I hope to attend the extravaganza myself, not to engage with this soulful mechanical granny - although with my luck she’ll probably spot me in the crowd – but to be part of the crowd and to avail of the huge discount rates I’m told will be on offer in city shops to all visitors. That’s if I can find a parking place. Obviously, Granny and her entourage will take over the best places. I walked over four miles to see the Pope back in 1979, but I won’t do it for Giant Granny. Sometimes being a granny does have its challenges, especially when it comes to walking long distances without the aid of the Lilliputans, although I know of one granny who runs the Dublin women’s mini marathon every year at the age of 89. I know another who came off best in a fight with Goliath. But that’s for another day.

On second thoughts, if this mechanical granny with the soul, is that spectacular in height and magnitude, maybe when she stands up, I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of her from my front door on a hill above Killaloe, so that, in case she does become a legend, I can tell my granddaughter that I saw her.