Shortly before Husband and I left New Zealand, Róisín called me.
“You know your mother?” she said.
“My, er, mother,” I repeated. Róisín’s conversational gambits are often challenging, but this was exceptionally quirky even for her.
“Woman who gave birth to you.”
“Oh, her. Well, can you ever really KNOW someone?” I said, playing for time.
“Ok look, how good is she at cakes?”
Here, in case you were wondering, is where this is going: my parents were going to London because Dad was fertilizing Lord’s with some dead bloke’s ashes – turns out there’s no legislation governing the public disposal of burned human remains in the UK, can you believe – so Mum rang Róisín to see whether she would like to meet up for lunch since Róisín’s the only person they know in London.
According to Róis, the phonecall went something like this (Note: any paraphrasing is a regrettable but necessary side effect of reporting this third hand):-
Mum: How are the wedding plans coming along?
Róisín: Feckin shite! I haven’t even got a wedding cake organized-
Mum: A cake, you say? I can bake. <in the background, to her friend> Dolly! DOLLY! Can you ice cakes? <mutter mutter> Royal or fondant?
Róisín: Sorry- what?
Mum: Royal or fondant? The icing.
Róisín: Oh. Er, white? I don’t really know- I’ve seen a picture-
Mum: How many tiers?
Róisín: Ah, two? Or three?
I thought it best not to get involved. In fact, up to the time I reached London, I considered it quite an achievement that I had successfully avoided any kind of bridesmaid duty.
Róisín soon addressed that by asking me to be her foot model.
You might consider this an odd request that mines virgin Bridezilla territory, but I felt I was getting off lightly. After all, I was only required to donate my foot temporarily, not a kidney or a husband. Anyway, I relish any genuine opportunity to show off my feet, because they are quite lovely: small for my size with perky arches and novelty toes that can perform a variety of tricks.
We were in a bridal shop at the time, and I have no idea why Róisín wanted me to model shoes for her, but I happily clomped around the place debating the aesthetic qualities versus comfort of a range of slingbacks, mules and court shoes. We got chatting to the shop assistant, who bore a striking resemblance to Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard. She sported a diamond on her ring finger.
I was in reflective mood upon leaving the store.
“I find it heartwarming that someone so ugly can find love in this cold, cruel world,” I said to Róisín. Indeed, I was genuinely touched that Vicki’s stunt double could attract a mate – although I didn’t want to go so far as to imagine what class of person it might be.
“What are you on about? That girl is no more engaged than you or me,” said Róisín scornfully.
“Well, before I say: REALLY?!, can I remind you that you’re getting married in three weeks? But apart from that, REALLY?! Also, what about the ring-”
“Fake!” said Róisín. “If you put a match to it, the thing would melt right off.”
Of course, I realized she was right, and Vicki’s stunt double is destined to roam the earth seeking her soul mate indefinitely.
Apart from shoe hunting/modeling, dress fitting and moral support, Róisín really didn’t challenge me; in fact, we hadn’t fallen out even to the extent of a minor disagreement.
Then the wedding cake blew up.
Not literally, but as good as.
Within about three minutes of her conversation with Róisín, Mum had baked three fruitcakes in increasing sizes. They smelled divine: rich, fruity and spicy; loaded with almonds and soaked in poitín. She sent the cakes to Dolly in Limerick for icing – which is around about where the thruster boosters get entangled in the space capsule when Dolly was felled by a vicious virus.
Mum is not an uncompassionate woman, but is occasionally undermined by an unerring instinct for a dramatic twist – especially if it comes with splatter related visual and/or sound effects. She’s not great at plots, but my god, she can sniff out a plot twist from five kilometers if the wind is blowing in the right direction. Therefore, a week before the wedding, Mum was providing five-minutely updates on Dolly’s condition and the state of the cake.
Dolly was too sick to shop for ingredients, apply almond paste, or drop the cakes up the road to Theresa The Fondant Queen. Furthermore, Theresa’s husband had emphysema and took a turn for the worse and wasn’t expected to last the week.
“Look,” said my mum, the soothing manner in which she said it swiftly dispelled by what followed. “If the worst comes to the worst, we can just slap on some icing. How difficult can it be? It’s just sugar and water.”
“Mum,” I said on a rising scream. “I’m not sure you want to be SLAPPING anything on a WEDDING CAKE. Slap something on a banana cake, maybe. Birthday cake, most likely. But wedding cake needs delicate application of fondant with the expertise gleaned over years of icing cakes-”
“I HAVE iced cakes before!” said Mum defensively. “I can cook!”
“Absolutely,” I agreed. “But let’s face it, you tend to sacrifice presentation and garnish for flavour and quantity.”
Don’t think I was unsympathetic; generally I approach cuisine in much the same way. Regardless of the presentation, it all looks much the same on the way out, so you’ve got to wonder what is the point?
However, I make an exception for wedding cakes.
In the end, Lucy collected the icing ingredients; Dolly rallied sufficiently to apply the almond paste; Lucy dropped the cakes to Theresa who, welcoming the distraction, applied the fondant; and Róisín collected her wedding cake last night. She pronounced herself ‘delighted’ with it, which is just as well