Authors: Marian Keyes
Further Under the Duvet
by the same author
Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married
Last Chance Saloon
Sushi for Beginners
Under the Duvet
The Other Side of the Story
an imprint of
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published 2005
Copyright © Marian Keyes, 2005
The moral right of the author has been asserted
All rights reserved.
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reserved above, no part of this publication may be
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Hello and welcome to
Further Under the Duvet
, the follow-up to
Under the Duvet
, my first volume of journalism. I say ‘journalism’ but the articles included here are mostly humorous autobiographical pieces about subjects like my great love of make-up and ill-health and my great fear of being trapped on a bus in a foreign country with forty Irish people (it’s the
). There are also a few more serious pieces about feminism, mediums and charity trips I’ve made to Ethiopia and Russia.
This time around, some of my short stories are also included. In fact,
of them seem to be, all seven of them. The thing is that I find it really hard to write short stories. (The clue is in the name: they’re too
. I’m only really getting into my stride with the characters and the plot, when next thing, it’s time to finish it. As a result I’ve written very few.)
Also included here is something called Mammy Walsh’s Problem Page. Mammy Walsh is a character who has appeared in several of my novels as a supporting character (a mother, as it happens) and over time she has developed a life of her own. In response to readers’ requests, she now dispenses no-nonsense advice from my website. I am slightly worried that by giving her a platform in this book, she’ll lose
the run of herself entirely; she’s pretty strident at the best of times.
Some of the articles in this collection have already been published and the various publications are credited at the end of each piece. Thank you to all of them, especially the wonderful Marie O’Riordan of
, for permitting me to reuse the pieces.
Now, just before someone writes and asks, everything in the non-fiction pieces in this book really did happen to me (yes, even turning forty), but occasionally I’ve changed people’s names to protect thegm (and sometimes me).
All my royalties from the Irish sales of the hardback will go to To Russia With Love, a wonderful charity that works with Russian orphans. And thank you very much for reading this book. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
The Nicest Thing That Ever Happened to Me
It was like a dream come true. My friend Aoife was made editor of an Irish women’s magazine; after I’d congratulated her, I said, ‘Give us a job as a beauty columnist,’ and she said, ‘Okay.’
I stared at her and went, ‘
!’ She said, ‘I’m serious,’ and for one brief moment the world stopped spinning on its axis.
‘I’m serious,’ she repeated. ‘I was going to ask you but you beat me to it.’ And I went home that night, thinking: I’m the luckiest person who ever lived.
The idea was that I’d have my own page in the magazine where I’d ‘try and test’ half a dozen or so of a particular product type and award them marks out of ten. Usually when I’m doing something new I’m nervous and I doubt my ability to do it well, but not this time – I was
for this. I knew my subject matter inside out. I could hold my own in any discussion on free radicals and sea kelp. I could differentiate between Stila lipglaze and Bobbi Brown lipgloss at a glance.
Aoife had said she’d contact a load of beauty PRs and tell them to send me stuff. So from the very next morning, I began to wait. All week I stood by the downstairs window, my nose pressed to the glass, waiting, waiting…
The days passed and no free stuff arrived and then, just
when I was starting to think it had all been a practical joke, the Lancôme lorry drew up outside. (Looking back, it was probably just the postman on his bike but it was so exciting that it took on mythical qualities.)
Himself answered the door, then placed a bulky padded envelope in my arms. With shaking hands I opened it, tipped the contents out onto my bed and nearly
with excitement. I had been sent their latest night cream – expensive and fabulous – but the real prize was a selection of the forthcoming autumn cosmetics. There was a blusher, a quartet of eyeshadows, a lipstick, a bottle of nail varnish and the best bit of all: a new shade of Juicy Tube. I’ll never forget it!
I made Himself play ‘Lancôme Lady’ with me. Sometimes he’d be the customer coming into the shop enquiring about the new season’s colours and I’d be the Lancôme Lady demonstrating everything for him. Other times I’d be the customer and he’d be the woman behind the counter. We played for many happy hours. I made him. Even when he begged me to stop.
Then my sister came over to share our joy, but when she saw the Juicy Tube things threatened to turn ugly. Especially when she discovered that it wouldn’t be in the shops for another six weeks. ‘I’ll buy it off you now,’ she offered. But no amount of money could have persuaded me to part with it. ‘Don’t make me have to steal it,’ she said gently. So I emailed the girl at Lancôme, telling her the whole sorry story, and guess what? She sent another!
Two days later, the Clinique lorry arrived, laden with goodies – lipsticks, an all-weather face cream and not just one, but
foundations. Shortly after that the YSL lorry
drew up outside with (what seemed like) most of their new autumn range for me to try.
It was like being in love, I was dizzy, giddy, giggly and my free cosmetics were all I could think about. I arrayed them in a little basket by my bed, so they were the first things I saw when I woke up. Even when I could no longer persuade Himself to play Lancôme Lady (or Clinique Lady or YSL Lady), I played by myself. Sometimes I arranged my products by brand name and other times by body parts (all lip products in one little heap, all skincare in another, etc.).
Every Thursday Himself and myself go to my parents’ house for our dinner, so this particular Thursday I gathered together all my free stuff, brought it with me and spilt it across their kitchen table to be admired. But instead of being dazzled, my mother was anxious: there had to be a catch. Then Dad came in, found the price lists and began to add up the value of all I’d been sent. (Once an accountant, always an accountant.) When he had everything totted up – it came to over three hundred euro – he could scarcely believe his own sums. ‘That,’ he declared, ‘is shagging well ridiculous.’
The magazine was fortnightly and, with a racing imagination, I began to plan my columns. First weeks, then months ahead. I had a big, big vision for autumn through winter, with the columns as follows: new lip colours, new eye colours, protective winter face care, winter hands, then as we came nearer to Christmas, a how-to-look-like-you-don’t-have-a-hangover column, a party make-up special, a gift-buying guide and, finally, an end-of-year thirty best products ever! Moving into January, of course, we’d start off with a detox special, then start focusing on nice stuff for Valentine’s Day,
then the new spring colours would be out… All this I’d already planned in September.
Novels piled up unwritten, promotional work was abandoned and friends and family were neglected, as I took up full-time residence in a delicious dreamworld of time-defying eye creams and lash-thickening mascaras. Because I’m a perfectionist (i.e. insane) I didn’t want my column to be just any old beauty column, a patchjob of rehashed press releases. I wanted it to be fabulously funny and witty, and there wasn’t room in my head for anything else. (Triumphs included describing Clinique’s Repairwear as ‘It’s night cream, Jim, but not as we know it’ and Origins’ Gloomaway shower gel as ‘Prozac in a tube’.) I wrote and rewrote constantly, cutting, adding, honing and polishing. I admit it: I was obsessed.
I had to give marks out of ten, but I was so in love with every product I got that the lowest score I could manage to give was eight. My ratings shuttled from eight to nine, passing all points in between (8.5). Occasionally, I gave ten out of ten and, I admit it, there were even times I gave eleven out of ten. Yes, and twelve. All the way up to fifteen, but
only when the product really merited it
Part of the job was having to bond with those all-powerful women, the beauty PRs, guardians of the freebies. I’d ring, nervous as anything, and rattle off my name and rank and finish by saying, ‘So if you’re interested in having your products covered, let me know.’ In other words, ‘Please send me free stuff. Like,