Julie Jay: Ted happily plays with a box of nipple tassels

2022-09-17 05:34:55 By : Ms. Lilian Li

Comedian Julie Jay from Brandon West Kerry.

As a family who doubles as a travelling circus, we found ourselves at more than one gig during the recent Edinburgh Fringe with Ted in tow.

One of the shows is next door to a burlesque troupe and, as husband Fred and I do our best to appear to have our parenting act together in front of some impressively big comedy names, Ted happily plays with a box of nipple tassels and wears a giant paper maché breast as a hat.

To quote Marge Simpson, ‘I have always relied on the kindness of strangers’, and even more so since becoming a mammy. So much of being able to do these Fringe shows depends on organisers and fellow comics being empathetic and kind. Bringing a two-year-old to a gig was never our first choice, but it happened on a couple of days, primarily because we still haven’t mastered the art of Google calendar.

The real test in the faith I place in strangers came at my last compilation gig, a gig which came upon me like an electricity bill: without warning and leaving me completely shell-shocked.

On the day in question, I am sitting with Ted in a café, breathing a sigh of relief as he finally falls asleep in his buggy, and I take my first sip of chai latte. Edinburgh is a beautiful city and it is mediaeval — especially when it comes to the wifi. So bad is it that I have missed a rake of emails and calls and realise, to my utmost horror, that I am supposed to be at a lunchtime gig at that very moment. I pick up our Paw Patrol bag, dust off my red latex catsuit and run with the buggy to the gig, much like somebody might run if a bear was chasing them.

Arriving at the venue, I apologise profusely and insist I really want to do the gig. And could I bring Ted into the green room with me? The organiser is a truly lovely human, but her furrowed brow says it all: “The problem is it’s all steps”, she tells me. “And I’m not sure how we’d get him down there in the buggy.”

And that is when the tears come. I don’t know what it is, but my shoulders shake and I cry. I weep like a baby. Real, big tears. At that moment, I feel my failure is complete: failure as a mammy, a comic, a chai latte drinker. So much is the weight of it that I can barely speak. “I’m so sorry,” I gulp. “I just want to be professional.” (Because, yes, sobbing in your GAA mam jacket is anything but amateur).

This promoter then does something which I will never forget: she hugs me.

I rest my head on her shoulder and cry, and am reminded of every time a stranger was kind to me. I have been lucky to have been loved, really loved, by friends and family, but fleeting moments of human connection have also made a massive difference in my life: smiles from women who see you and understand, a passenger on a train who notices your tears and tells you everything will be OK, a comedy promoter hugging you at a sold-out show when the juggle gets too much.

I breathe, gather myself, apologise and ask if I can still do the gig.

“Of course”, says the promoter. “Why don’t we get somebody to keep an eye on Ted — but only if you still want to do the show.” I nod my head. “I do, please, if I still can.” Because I really do. Sent by the comedy gods, an angel called Ella appears and volunteers to sit with Ted. I peek into his buggy and tuck him in —  he is asleep, oblivious and utterly perfect.

The woman leads me down the stairs and into a green room with some well-known British comics. Nobody says anything about my lateness. Instead, one star leaps up to get me a glass of water, and another passes on kind words from another comic who had come to my Britney show earlier that week. They do not know me, but they are lovely to me.

My moment to perform comes, I step onto the stage and do it. At the risk of having my Irish passport revoked with immediate effect for crimes against confidence: I do great. I do great, not just because I want to do it for me or for my sleeping Ted, but for the woman who is no doubt still wiping snot from her waterproof gilet and who facilitated me doing the gig in the first place.

Afterwards, my heart bursts with faith in human beings and their capacity for infinite empathy. As we leave, we bump into one of our burlesque friends from the day before. She produces a nipple tassel and presents it to Ted. “You probably shouldn’t take things from strangers,” she says.

“Sure, if we didn’t talk to strangers, the only person we would know is our mother,” I say because even at my lowest ebb, I am, above anything, a philosopher.

She smiles, agrees, and scampers off, using her paper maché breast as a sunhat. At that moment, an audience member spots me and says something nice, and it means more coming from a stranger. Because strangers don’t have to love you or like you, which makes it so much special when they do.

Read MoreJulie Jay: Ted’s recent phase of eating my phone means most calls end in a Moby Dick-like terror

more parenting - baby articles

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

© Irish Examiner Ltd, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork. Registered in Ireland: 523712.