Friday, 4 March 2016

Eddy's Mum

Eddy was sort of my best pal for most of my twenty or so years of living in London, or at least one of my best pals and I suppose still is providing you can square that with the fact that I've probably only seen him twice since I moved to Texas. We share some common tastes in music, film, comedy and what have you, although in other respects we are quite unlike. He once described rap as children's music, although there didn't seem much point in taking it personally seeing as it wasn't meant as such, and one of Eddy's more entertaining qualities has always been his near radioactive degrees of honesty.

'What did you think of my tape?' I ask, referring to something of my own composition which I spent weeks recording and re-recording.

'I thought it was shit, mate,' he explains.

It's a bit shocking at first but after a while you realise it's quite refreshing, and often - at least a couple of months later - I will realise that he was right. It really was shit.

Seemingly the last two men in London who actually enjoyed going to the pub of a Saturday evening without having to shout to be heard over the sound of either a massive telly or a thousand braying pricks, Eddy and myself often found ourselves at similarly loose ends at the weekend, being more or less the only two people we knew who hadn't quite succumbed to domesticity. So we'd end up at the pub if we could find one, or a comedy club, or we'd go to see a film or whatever.

Eddy was something of an anomaly in that he was a little older than me and was living with his mum in a council house in Bermondsey. I distinguish the arrangement from still living with his mum for two reason: firstly he'd lived in his own place for a while but it simply hadn't worked out for whatever reason; secondly he didn't seem like a man living with his mother, and had none of the weird, cranky qualities one might sometimes associate with persons in such circumstances.

To get to the point, this meant that I encountered Eddy's mum on a number of occasions, certainly enough to leave me feeling somewhat gutted by the fact that as of Wednesday 10th February, she is no longer with us.

She was an elderly woman of Irish extraction and still retaining the accent. She seemed sturdy rather than frail, not likely to run too many marathons but otherwise reliably healthy. From my possibly limited experience, she seemed disinclined to talk if she had nothing she wanted to say, which was always disconcerting when she'd ask some question giving away the fact that she'd been listening all along - how this was going, what had been happening at work and so on. Oddly this lent her a sort of ponderous yet fearsome demeanour, at least from where I was stood. It's always the quiet ones. You can never tell what they're thinking.

At one stage my yearly Christmas cards featured skeletal Mexican Death Gods because that was what I'd been painting - Nextepehua the Ash Scatterer one year, Ixpuztex or Broken Face the next. They weren't very Christmassy, but then neither was I. Eddy reported how his mother would shuffle them to the back of the cards lined up on the sideboard muttering what a terrible thing and asking what's wrong with that boy?, and I'd feel both amused and terribly guilty. Eddy more recently told me I think she secretly found the cards interesting.

For a long time she had a wiry little terrier of some description named Chip. Everyone liked Chip and Eddy's mum was very upset when she died. I did a small painting of Chip based on what I assume was her favourite photograph of the beloved hound, which she had hung on the wall and I hope served as some compensation for the Aztec Death Gods.

After I left London, I stayed in her spare room a couple of times during return visits to London, once when attending an interview at the American Embassy in pursuit of my K1 visa, then more recently when my friend Carl got married. It was awkward as I had the impression it was something of a disruption for her, which was understandable, although she never made me feel in any sense unwelcome and I always appreciated it. The most recent stay seemed to represent a particular disruption for her as it coincided with a medical appointment, something to do with a cancer screening, and sadly that was the last time I saw her.

Eight months later I find out that she's gone, and it feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth coming in a month distinguished by people dropping dead left right and centre - Lemmy, Bowie and Alan Rickman, friends of friends, people on facebook. It's true what they say about the mortality rate going through the roof once you hit fifty.

I didn't know her well, but I knew her well enough to know that she was a good person, and to experience that feeling like a punch in the gut when I heard the news. I probably didn't know her well enough to write a decent eulogy, but Nick Sweeney has kindly let me borrow the one he wrote on facebook:

Dear Mary Walsh, who died a couple of weeks back. She was always very welcoming when I went round to her place to make some noisy and terrible music with Eddy. I couldn't get to the funeral last week as I was away, so this is partly my way of saying goodbye. She had a broomstick (commemorated in an early punk rock pamphlet Eddy wrote and printed, if I remember rightly) employed on the ceiling whenever the drums from Janie Jones started up on the first Clash album, but she had mellowed out by the time I met her, and never used it in anger. Or maybe she'd sensibly bought earplugs. I last saw her a couple of years back, and she had the same welcome as ever, only smiled a little when she asked if I was still making music!

Which was quickly followed with Eddy responding, Mum will be up there with with the broomstick telling David Bowie to keep the racket down.

So that is that, I suppose. I'd feel weird calling her Mrs. Walsh or Mary, so thank you, Eddy's Mum.

It was a privilege to have known you.