There is a new unwelcome addition to our local Parent & Toddler group this year. She is not a new mother and definitely not a toddler. She is granny age but most certainly not a doting grandmother. She has the sour face of Nanny McPhee but none of the magic nor even the interesting nose and wart. She is not a well-intentioned volunteer. She doesn’t clean, cook or welcome visitors to the community hall and tourist office. She is the most dreaded type of matriarchal figure in village life – the busy body.
I think Battle-Axe is an American term or maybe even more local to the Boston area or perhaps New England. While there are battle-axes in the US, I have to say Irish women of all ages are the most impressive battle axes I have ever met. The ‘Sister’s” on the hospital wards are probably the original cross between matron and nun that strikes fear in patients and visitors (probably Doctors as well). I have never been able to just ‘leave her at it’ and get along with this type which I think they can sense the minute they meet me and are therefore even ruder than usual to me.
Battle-Axe – Busy body = stern, brusk, dour face, usually squinty eyes behind thick frames (not designer geometric thick frames) who usually has short tight hair and appears stocky regardless of height and weight. She is partial to the sound “hmph” and phrases like “I tell it like it is” or “No point beating around the bush.” Her social graces reach as far as a “Who are you?” or “Who are you married to?” – both said in a voice that leaves no doubt of her real meaning, “What are you doing here and why should I bother with you?” She acts busy and in charge of everyone and everything around her but do not try to find out what she actually does.
Initially everyone assumed our new busybody was supervising the three women who have always cooked on Monday mornings in preparation for serving the elderly their lunch on Tuesdays. As in supervising on behalf of the community group that runs the center or on behalf of Fas, the job agency that provides them work experience and pays them. I suspected straight away she wasn’t a real supervisor – more the self-appointed matron or warden.
Then as we quietly asked each other “Who is that one in the kitchen?” The women who grew up in the village passed a few discreet comments – “No, she’s not on the community committee, no she’s not supervising the staff either, no she’s not a volunteer.” It takes a while to get to the truth in polite Irish company especially when someone is trying to relay what is a generally accepted but unofficial fact of village life. Eventually her status was confirmed in hushed tones.
“She has nothing to do with the hall or the kitchen – she just thinks she runs the place.”
This beauty has a group of grown women and mother’s avoiding the kitchen and running to the bathroom sink rather than risk her disapproving demeanor. So far she has told the woman volunteering to run the group that we are not allowed to sit on certain red chairs-apparently our rear ends are more destructive than the elderly people who have dinner there on Tuesday. She has stuck up a lovely sign – No Children Allowed on the kitchen door to ensure we don’t have the babies making coffee and scones while us moms chat. She has removed the rubbish bin while we are there in some attempt to make us bring home our orange peels, snotty tissues and Liga wrappers. She pretended to mishear us ask the cooks for a tea towel to dry up the cups we use and wash and then insisted that we have our own somewhere in a bag. I assured her three times that we do not have a pack of our own towels we bring but she just barked over me repeatedly that we have our own. No way am I buying tea towels to bring to a community kitchen. So while one poor mother goes down the hall to the toilet to empty our Aquadoodle pens and another shops for tea towels, I am planning how best to irritate her next Monday. Any ideas how to hassle the local battle axe?