DJ Taylor: Miserable old lady Mrs MacGready's air of permanent dissatisfaction is difficult to explain


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The Independent Online

Mrs MacGready won't be voting in the forthcoming general election, thank you very much. Politicians, you see, are only in it for themselves.

Neither does she take any interest in the processes of local government – no one ever collects her wheelie bin on time, whichever party gets in – or any social or religious institution worth the name. The church, you see, is "only after your money", and as for the people who stand in the street waving charity-collection boxes, well, Mrs MacGready knows for a fact that they go and spend the money in the nearest off-licence.

In her mid-seventies now, with an angry little nutcracker face and grey sausage curls cascading down the sides of her head, Mrs MacGready's air of permanent dissatisfaction is difficult to explain. For someone who takes no exercise and eats what she wants when she wants, she enjoys excellent health. Is she lonely? Certainly there is no Mr MacGready, who died some years ago, but his relict has six grandchildren living within 20 minutes' free bus ride, not to mention half-a-dozen pensioners' associations and old people's clubs crying out for her to join them.

Sadly, these are no succour at all, for Mrs MacGready doesn't want to spend her time playing bingo with a lot of old women who wouldn't say boo to a goose. Neither is she particularly fond of her grandchildren. Little Bradley, Tyler and the others are nice enough, but they're always on those phones of theirs and you wouldn't catch them talking to their old grandma.

It is the same, alas, with her recreations. No film or television programme ever existed that Mrs MacGready could watch without complaint, and the last comedian over whom she smiled was the late Tommy Cooper.

If there is one area of Mrs MacGready's life in which a few drops of the milk of human kindness are occasionally coaxed into being, it is her relationship with her elder son. Barry, now in his late forties, unmarried and erratically employed, is one of the few people on whom Mrs G positively dotes – a "good boy" who is "always kind to his old mother".

And while she has Barry (shortly to appear in court on a charge of handling stolen goods) to console her, there are other satisfactions in this outwardly joyless existence, too – not least the pleasure to be had from biting the hands that try to feed you.