A WRINKLE IN TIME …. OR A LAUGHTER LINE…

A WRINKLE IN TIME…. OR A LAUGHTER LINE

Sometime during November 1998, at the fast approaching age of forty, I found my first wrinkle. Well, it probably wasn’t my very first one, I had lots of little ‘smiley’ ones that I kidded myself came from being eternally happy, cheerful and upbeat.

No, this was a huge, indented, massive, full-on, real life, old-age, feck off wrinkle, right smack-bang in the middle of my forehead.

I frantically mixed two different types of foundation together and smeared it on, but to no avail, it stubbornly remained. Adding a little bit of plain flour helped enormously to fill in the indentation, the gluey mess dried to perfection bringing back my smooth, unlined forehead…. until I raised an eyebrow in surprise at the price of a tin of beans in Morrisons. Then it all went to hell in a handbag as my cheap version of aesthetic filler started to peel away. By the time I got to the checkout it had dropped down to hang tantalisingly from the tip of my nose. I feigned ignorance and carried on packing my bags whilst the cashiers eyes darted from side to side, watching my accidentally fake booger swing like a metronome.

In sheer desperation and a desire to hold back the years, I then resorted to cutting in a fringe. It wasn’t as crap as the one my mum gave me in 1962 when she plonked my Nan’s ceramic pudding bowl on my head and cut around it, but it came a close second. As more little (and big wrinkles) appeared over the following years, my fringe was pulled, yanked, sprayed and arranged in various combinations to cover each new one. The downside was it now also covered my eyes which in turn caused frequent visits to A&E from falling over the cat or missing the top step on the stairs, catapulting me headfirst into the console table at the bottom.

Another nod to the ageing process was the realisation that gravity can be seriously challenged in the bedroom – and it’s not just the jelly belly or droopy nellies that fall foul of it. Taking down the large mirror from the bedroom wall for a spring clean, I chucked it onto the bed and set about giving it a vigorous polish. Leaning over it, giving it more welly than was really necessary, I sang along to Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. As my eyes focused on my own reflection, I was horrified to see my jowls droop forward and start to swing and wobble in time to Gloria’s dulcet tones.

Oh for crying out loud, my poor hubby! How on earth had he kept a straight face when I’d been erotically flinging myself around on top of him in our bed every weekend whilst my saggy bits had slapped him across the chops or almost poked his eye out….

Mortified, I decided the Missionary position would be the only thing on the menu in future so everything that now hung and draped across the silvered glass could be tucked behind my ears or under the pillow.  Well, it was that or turn the bloody lights off!

I really did try to accept and welcome growing old, even though it was costing me a small fortune buying every new anti-wrinkle cream that came to the market.

Receiving an invitation to a particularly exclusive up-market dinner party, I began my usual routine of agonising over what I should wear, wailing over the extra pounds I’d added to my waistline and horror of horrors, my baggy, wrinkled panda eyes, courtesy of shift work. Desperate to make a good impression for hubby and my fellow guests, I was excitedly first in the queue at the chemists the following morning for the much heralded Bright Eyes that promised to smooth eye bags and wrinkles and which had earned a coveted 5* review in the local Gazette. Maybe the solitary review should have set alarm bells ringing, but hell, I was desperate and past caring.  I parted with my hard earned cash and ran all the way home, paper bag containing my spoils clutched in my hot sweaty hand as it slapped rhythmically against my chunky left thigh. I couldn’t wait to look young again.

Utilising a magnifying glass to read the ridiculously tiny print on the instructions, I patted, slapped and smeared my Bright Eyes as directed and then waited, wafting my hands manically trying to speed up the drying process….

….five minutes later – voila!

I wanted to cry with joy.  Err okay, bit of an overreaction there, maybe just holler a little. It had knocked years off me. Bright Eyes! Mine were positively headlamps on an HGV.

I was over the moon as I sashayed out to the taxi, turning my face to the streetlamp for illumination in the hope that Bert the driver would notice the years falling away from me.
Arriving at Thornton Hall, my confidence knew no bounds as I took my seat at the long table set for forty guest. I laughed, giggled, smiled and chatted animatedly, amazed that a 15ml tube of liquid could make such a difference to how I felt about myself.

We had barely finished the main course, me being in full swing regaling everyone with what I thought was a fabulously funny story, when my OH frantically began pointing at me from across the table. I waved back and blew him a kiss, quietly mouthing ‘laters’… before returning to my tale.  Not to be deterred he tried again, but this time he was joined by the rather gorgeous young brunette who was sitting beside him.  She was so young she probably wouldn’t have to resort to drooling over a tube of Bright Eyes for at least another twenty-years.   Her look was one of horror mixed with pity as she pointed at my face.

“You’re eyes..!” she hissed, handing me a small compact mirror.

Chuffed that she had noticed, I preened openly, wondering if I should let her, and the other six guests who were now also taking an active interest in me, into my secret.  I clicked the compact open ready to admire my new found youth.  The seconds felt like hours as I examined my reflection. I sat there, mouth open, frozen to my seat desperately wishing the ground would open up and devour me.

Flakey chunks of ‘Skin’ hung in strips onto my cheeks and a crackle glaze of what looked like dried egg white spread outwards from both eyes.

I couldn’t believe it, over the course of two hours I had morphed into an extra from The Night of the Living Dead.

It slowly dawned on me that if I hadn’t been so crap at French in school, the addendum on the instructions ‘éviter les expressions faciales excessives ou l’effritement se produira’, would have warned me that smiling, laughing, smirking, gurning or any other aspects of facial animation were detrimental to the temporary effect of Bright Eyes, particularly when you’d smeared it on with a trowel.

”You’re sort of falling apart…” Ms Brunette helpfully offered.

“Err – no shit Sherlock..” I mumbled as I staggered off to the ladies loos, to a back drop of sniggers and snorts of barely suppressed laughter.

So now, as I fast approach my 60th birthday, I can look back and laugh at the ridiculous efforts and ordeals I put myself through over the years, I even sometimes wish I was as wrinkly as what I thought I was when I thought I was wrinkly!  I try to forget the period in my life when I actually paid for the pleasure of electrocuting myself with GENIE treatments. Lying in the beauty clinic whilst my facial muscles took on a life of their own, sending my tooth fillings into hyper sensitivity and making the remaining hair in my sparse eyebrows stand on end, I would console myself that it was worth it for the 24 hours of lifting and toning I would get before it all dramatically dropped south again, normally whilst I was standing in the queue at the local chippy.

Asking for  “Chips…. oops shit…”  (brief pause whilst I tucked my suddenly slack jowls and wattle back into my turtle neck sweater)  “…. and curry, please.” made me a firm favourite amongst the local kids buying fish-bits who kindly nicknamed me ‘Theresa Tortoise’.

My eldest granddaughter, Olivia invented the word ‘prinkle’ when she was three years old to describe my facial lines.

I love that word.

I love it because she gave it to me, I love it because I’ve earned my prinkles, I love it because my prinkles mean I am living a life that is often sadly denied to so many who have not been blessed to reach an older age, an age that is long enough for them to earn their wrinkles.

My face prinkles because I laugh, it prinkles because when I talk, I’m very animated, it prinkles because I have the heart to cry, it prinkles because I pull faces to make my granddaughters laugh.

It’s a face that is well lived and to be honest, if all else fails…..

…… there’s always Snapchat filters, I’m sure I’d look a right doozy with a cute rabbit nose, spider eyelashes and dilated pupils!

Have a great weekend everyone, I’m off to practice my pout….

Gina x

Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong ©️ 2017

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot – The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton ©️ 2018 (publishing date 19 July)

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I SMILE BECAUSE IF I DIDN’T, YOU’D ASK ME WHY…..

I Smile Because If I didn’t, You’d Ask Me Why….

Norman Wisdom.  The Fool.  The sad, funny fool.  Norman Wisdom, my comedy hero.

I vividly remember crying big heaving sobs of wet tears at the age of eight watching Trouble In Store one Sunday afternoon on our big old lumbering black & white television as he sang Don’t Laugh at Me ‘Cause I’m a fool.

I suddenly had an affinity, I wanted Norman to be my friend.  I knew I would be able to look after him, to make him feel loved and happy, just like I loved my battered old teddy bear.  I couldn’t understand how anyone could hold such sadness in their heart, but be so incredibly funny at the same time.

At the age of fifty, I sadly found out the how and the why.

In the space of a few short years, I lost both my mum and dad to cancer and whilst still coming to terms with being an overgrown, ditzy orphan, I was diagnosed with a painful, life changing disease that eventually took away the career I loved.

Suddenly I had two options:

a) Walk around with the cares of the world on my shoulders, weeping and wailing with my now ever developing jowls smacking my knees and tripping me up in Morrisons Fruit & Veg aisle

or

b) Smile, laugh and be the fool whilst designating the melancholy and hurt to a little box, carefully tied with a mental bow, and pushing it to the back of my mind as in truth, nobody loves a misery-guts.

‘A‘ wasn’t much of an option as I actually shop in Sainsbury’s and vanity made me horrified at the thought of anyone seeing my jowls swinging from side to side knocking the organic carrots from the carefully stacked display.

So ‘B‘ it was….. and that’s how I live my life.  Everyday I count the blessings I have rather than notching up the negatives.  I’m happy, fulfilled and nutty as a fruitcake!

I manage my condition with powerful medication that prohibits alcohol. Yep, no Gin, vodka, wine.  My saviour for so many social outings was banned, and in doing so, my false confidence went with it but on the plus side, no hangovers or photo’s of me I’d rather my granddaughters didn’t see.

I’ve always had this nasty habit of proving my hypermobility after a couple of vodka’s by throwing my legs behind my head.  All good fun until I realised I’d left my stiletto’s on and the heels had jammed behind my neck like Frankenstein bolts making it impossible to extricate myself. There were many occasions I was left rocking backwards and forwards like my nan’s old mahogany chair whilst everyone howled with laughter….

….and that’s where the how came into being.  Their laughter lifted my spirits.  It made me feel happy too, and I suddenly realised how he did it.  His character Norman Pitkin’s heart was filled with this special fluttery feeling because of the laughter and I wanted to feel like that too.

This past eighteen months have been amazing for me, to have my book Handcuffs taken up and published, was my dream come true.

But it has also been a difficult time too.  Sadly, my step-dad, who has been a father to me for over 40 years, was diagnosed with Alzheimers. It is a dreadful illness that destroys a little of him every single day and at the same time my health has deteriorated, giving me constant excruciating, unmanageable pain.  I could be sad, downhearted, miserable but that’s not me.  I have to see the positives.

When I first saw my GP he called it ‘non specific back pain’ and told me to live with it.  I completely forgot where I was and promptly replied “Well it’s feckin’ specific to me mate!”  I don’t think he appreciated my life observation or the slamming of his door as I left.  I was actually gutted as my display of pique and the impact I had wanted in hearing the wooden door hit the frame with force was lost in the slow squeak of the pneumatic safety door closer which completely ruined my dramatic exit.

Six months down the line I have now found myself walking around like a geriatric wearing extra-large, thigh chaffing incontinence pants.  Each time the pain travels down my legs I either howl, groan, ooof or uuuugghh, which makes me sound like I’ve got Tourette’s.  Not to disappoint, I’m currently researching swear words to make a greater impact in Sainsbury’s on a Saturday amongst the Derby & Joan brigade.

This week, after the results of an MRI scan, I am finally being referred to a Neuro specialist.  This has led me to two great emotions.

Elation that finally something might be done so I can live a normal, pain free life.  I want to be able to care for my Dad without feeling a failure due to my limitations, I want to run and play with my beautiful granddaughters, I want to have a proper nights sleep and I want to have lovely, romantic walks with my hubby, and it would be amazing to wear a pair of stiletto’s again without looking like Dick Emery in drag as I totter along the path.

And then there was the sheer panic.  Knickers, or thongs or G-strings or strips of nothing.  I would have barely a gusset between me, a backless surgical gown and some poor unsuspecting specialist with what was currently stuffed in my underwear drawer.

I would just have to go shopping.

Leaving the GP’s surgery with a prescription for some miracle drug called Gabapentin clutched in my hot, sweaty hand, I planned a trip to Primark to see if they had any knickers that actually had a bum in them.  It was also to be my first day of Gabapentin ingestion.

Oh dearie me, that definitely wasn’t one of my better ideas.

High as kite, completely bombed out of my brain, I took my dilated pupils into Primark for a wander.  Finding the Underwear department I suddenly and involuntarily, let out a very loud squeal of utter delight.  I was a child in a toy store.  As much as I wanted to stop the ridiculous display of elation I was currently experiencing, I couldn’t, Gabapentin had me in its grip, I was possessed.  Hubby, who had taken to hiding behind the  Onesies and PJ’s on a nearby stand, cringed with embarrassment as I went on a verbal rampage trying knickers on over my jeans and throwing a rainbow of colours and lace into the air.

Twenty minutes later I stood in the queue at the cash desk, several pairs of mahooosive knickers in my basket and one pair hanging from my head.  This had occurred purely due to the sudden desire to dance to the piped music with a cerise pink firkler draped over my pony-tail which had then become wedged under a hair clip.

In my floaty state I didn’t care.  I shoved the basket towards the cashier, my heart jumping with joy with each bleep of the scanned panties.  Suddenly remembering the pair on my head, I thought, what the hell, in for a penny, in for a pound.  What’s an extra pair between friends.

Much to the horror of Cashier No. 4, I promptly slammed my head down on the counter, proffering the knickers and their price tag for scanning whilst my left ear got jammed in the security tag removal hole.

Two hours later, Gabapentin fading from my system, I was suitably chastised by hubby, who was currently making a meal of untangling the laced edged frillies from my hair.   I began to ponder my disgraceful behaviour.  I wanted to be embarrassed and cross, I wanted to feel horrified, and I suppose deep down I did, but there was also an overwhelming desire to giggle.

It couldn’t happen to anyone, because it would always happen to me.  I was the proverbial fool, the idiot, the dipstick, the dork….

….but do you know what.  I actually didn’t care.  Whilst I was laughing and being a fool, I was hoping others would giggle too, and in turn any pain, hurt or sadness I felt would be forgotten because their laughter made me happy.  In truth, a smile disguises everything.

Some days it is easy, on other days I do struggle a little, but I will always find time to find something funny in life.  I wouldn’t survive without that hope, that glimmer of humour in every day situations, it’s my safe place, my hiding place for my heart.

I truly do smile because if I didn’t, you’d ask me why….

Gina x

A HUMONGOUS THANK YOU FROM MAVIS AND ME…

Less than three years ago I had the most amazing dream that consisted of three wishes, well, four really if you count my desperate desire to fit into the size 8 jeans I last wore in 1986.  My wonderful jeans have sat in the third drawer down in the spare bedroom, forlornly waiting for the day my waist would measure the same as my left ankle, thus rendering them useful once again.

Sadly, both me and my anorexic jeans are still waiting for our moment of glory whilst I play Homer Simpson faces with the excess rolls of tummy flab that have slowly crept up on me since I hit my fifties.

So, back to wishes 1, 2 and 3.

Wish number 1.  Write a book and get it published.  Simples really if you say it really quickly.  Being an ex-secretary I could type, I could spell and I knew some fabulous big words, although where I was going to fit supercalifragilisticexpialidocious into a chapter I had no idea.

Wish number 2.  Well that sort of followed on from Wish number 1.  If I managed to write a book AND get it published, I wanted to tread in the hallowed footsteps of Luca Veste, David Jackson and Jonathan Harvey by having my launch at the fantastic Waterstones in Liverpool One.

Sorry, just as a little diversion and to brag a bit, Luca Veste is my incredible nephew, David Jackson is my lovely neighbour and I spoke two words to Jonathan Harvey once AND I got a book signed by him.  I think the two words were ‘Eee Rita’ but nevertheless, I was beside myself with joy and hero worship for weeks afterwards and I still sigh in awe when I see his name on the credits for Coronation Street.

And finally…..

Wish number 3.  The potential for a ‘selfie moment’ in Liverpool John Lennon Airport with my book in the W H Smith Holiday shop.  Not a pouty, duck-faced one, as old age has given me lips like the arse end of a cat, so unfortunately lipstick and gloss bleed into the wrinkles and then come to a grinding halt at my carefully tended moustache.   The downside of my upper lip hair is my granddaughters now kiss the top of my head rather than suffer near fatal electric shocks from my bristles and nose hair.

Anyway, somewhere along the way, my Guardian Angel, who has been avidly following me around, ducking the occasional disaster or dilemma that had been flung my way, came up trumps.

After many months of frantic typing, coupled with copious amounts of biscuits, crisps and chocolate as I worked (ensuring those size 8’s would never, ever see the light of day or my chunky thighs again), Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong was born, followed by that email from Matthew Smith at Urbane Publications.

And the rest, as they say, is history!

This was the start of my amazing journey, a journey that has been made all the more special and magical by the lovely people I have met along the way.

I truly had no idea how fantastic the book world and Social Media could be to a novice writer.  From authors, readers, bloggers and reviewers to Facebookers and Twitterati, they all excitedly encouraged and supported me.  It’s a genuine support too, they love nothing more than seeing you succeed and helping to be part of that success.

I did worry what they would make of Mavis and her Humongously Large Thongs, I fretted over my own ‘likeability’ factor, I panicked about tweets/emojis/not tweeting/forgetting to tweet/saying thank you the right way/not saying thank you/retweeting/ballsing things up  and finally the horrors of predictive text that could turn a simple name like Georgina into a dose of the clap.

I wasn’t sassy and self-assured and I certainly hadn’t written a literary masterpiece that would be hailed alongside the works of Jane Austen and Mary Shelley.  I was also pretty sure that neither Jane or Mary had the added pleasure of packing 120 pairs of size 18-20 knickers from Primark that had their respective protagonists face emblazoned on the front as a PR exercise!  In the end, I plumped for being just me, accompanied by all of the above feck-ups.

To be honest, I don’t think Gonorrhoea Kirkham would be the same if she were sensible, full of her own self-importance and lost the ability to laugh at herself, do you?

It’s been a whirlwind of excitement, laughter, achievements and discovering new things about myself.  I have realised that you never stop growing (there’s those damn jeans again), never stop learning, never stop finding the fun in life.

I also discovered that even though I’m fast approaching sixty, with arthritic knees and a bad hip, I could, in a moment of unbridled excitement, almost do a cartwheel or some other physically impossible action.  

The cause of this geriatric excitement?

A completely unexpected nomination for The Guardian Not The Booker Prize 2017 from the lovely Mark Mayes, a fellow Urbanite.  If the nomination on its own wasn’t enough to send me into raptures, the fact it had come from Mark was the icing on the cake.  Can you imagine how it feels to have someone you greatly admire and respect as a writer to believe in you.  Forget the cartwheels, I cavorted like a retired lap dancer at a bus stop!

Two weeks later, once my hip had set itself back into the socket and I’d extricated my Thong from where the sun don’t shine, I had cause for another bout of elation.  I had made the Long, Long LongList.

Now when The Guardian says ‘long’… it means long.  If you hit the link below and keep scrolling, by tomorrow you might have found me, but to honest I couldn’t care less if I have to scroll off the end of the iPad…. I was there, Mavis Upton had made it to the List, and public voting had begun with earnest.

I’m under no illusions, there are so many wonderful and literary greats amongst those titles, and Mavis may be a little out of her depth, but I’d love to think she’s holding her own.   The chances of her winning with Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong is roughly the same as Cilla Black getting a straight answer on what it’s really all about from her mate Alfie but to have even the remotest possibility of reaching the shortlist is like having Wishes 5 through to 10 all at the same time.

The Guardian Not The Booker Prize 2017

After gratefully accepting wishes number 1 and 2 as granted by my harassed, borderline-alcoholic Guardian Angel, the Not The Booker nomination and the added news this week that W H Smith holiday shops are to stock Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong from August, I am feeling untold joy and eternal gratitude to everyone who has done so much for me along the way.

I truly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 So, as I wish you a fabulous Sunday, I’m sitting here with my tongue hanging out in concentration using my trusty dried up Sharpie pen to cross Wish Number 3 from my list, whilst happily having visions of me grinnning inanely holding my book in Liverpool Airport.  The WH Smith sign is behind me as Loretta LoveHoney the blow-up doll on the front cover, bares her ginger ‘Dorrito’ to weary travellers and fellow holiday makers as I dance like there is no tomorrow hoping for a mention in the Liverpool Echo.

Gina x

©Gina Kirkham 2017

GIN,BOOK and LAUGHTER

GIN, BOOK & LAUGHTER

Opening one eye as light sneaked its way through the gap between my budget B&Q blind and the window frame, I stretched lazily out in eager anticipation of the summer day ahead.

Slipping out of bed, my knees popping and crackling like a bowl of Rice Krispies, I simultaneously chided myself for getting old and patted myself on the back for having managed to negotiate my way to the bathroom without falling over the cat.

This was to be my first day of no shirts to iron, no SWAT boots to polish, no shifts, no pub fights, no 999 response runs and no paperwork. This was my first day of retirement as a Police Officer.

I was a civilian again.

To be honest, my visions of slipping into Gin & Tonic induced ‘Nana Naps’ in the garden, shaded from the afternoon sun by dappled shadows from the trees, whilst the busy world I had been part of carried on without me, had seemed rather exciting.

Sadly, as romantic as this vision had appeared, it was doomed to failure. The reality was that the first three months offered only perpetual rain, high winds, which are the downside of living by the beach (along with globs of sand sticking to your lip gloss when you step out of the front door) and a huge price increase on the gin!

So, logs on the fire, a pot of tea on the go, half a packet of Ginger Nuts and three sheets of paper later, I had drafted out a plot, a character and a story and I was off on a most exciting adventure.

I was going to write a book.

It would chart my career in the Police, not as a Super-Detective or a muscle-ripped fighter of crime, but as an ordinary woman, a single parent, who looked towards humour as a coping mechanism in a demanding career. This book was not to be for public consumption, after all, I had never written before and I certainly wouldn’t dare to think that anyone would be interested in reading my ramblings. It was to be cathartic. A way of storing my memories of a fabulous career, honour those I had worked with…..

…. actually no, scrub that! It was to fill in the hours whilst the rain systematically destroyed any hope I had previously held of staggering around my back garden like a manic Miss Hannigan after a litre of homemade sloe gin once boredom had set in.

Within eighteen months I had completed my first manuscript, all 142,000 words, and had avidly scoured the pages of The Writers & Artists Yearbook 2014 for the do’s and don’ts of submitting and the etiquette of querying. By page 639 I was frantically editing down my offering to 78,000 words whilst wailing in despair into my coffee. For someone who suffers from verbal diarrhoea at the best of times, particularly when nervous, a reduction in words can be deemed to be complete and utter torture. I then had the added trauma of producing a work of art called a ‘Synopsis’.

I mean, come on….what’s that all about? Eighteen months of my life, a final 78,000 words, 1,478 mugs of tea, 23 packets of Aldi Digestive biscuits, 19 packets of Polo mints and a rather alarming increase in the size of my derrière, only to be told it all had to be reduced down – my writing, not my derrière, I hasten to add. Not to be downhearted I ploughed on, carefully creating ‘My Book of Submissions’.

This masterpiece was crafted with the best four-ring binder I could find, that sported a rather fetching picture of Joyce Grenfell on the front. Various coloured felt-pens were used to rigidly mark-up columns and headings with the assistance of a freebie Kellogg’s Cornflakes coaster in the absence of a ruler.

I was on a roll.

Each submission would have its own page so that I could meticulously keep track of who I had submitted to and who had replied. In the very real fear of forwarding spelling bloopers, poor grammar and dreadful predictive howlers, I read and re-read my first submission e-mail over and over again before my index finger hovered over that one button on a keyboard that could suddenly make even Donald Trump become super-indecisive.  The SEND key.

I pressed and clicked…

… and no sooner had the ‘swooooosh’ sound informed me that it had gone, did my keen eye catch my sign-off at the bottom. I felt sick. Hands trembling, a trickle of perspiration meandering its way down my back, I re-read my email to the poor, unsuspecting Literary Agent, again.

‘… thank you for allowing me the opportunity to query and submit my novel, Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Polyester Thong.

Kindest regards
Gonorrhea Kirkham’

Jeez, I bet my Mum hadn’t seen that coming when she’d christened me Georgina in the 1950’s pre-predictive text era.

If announcing the rather off-the-wall title of my book wasn’t bad enough, I had also fan-fared my name in a format that would never, ever grace the cover of a book on the shelves of Waterstones.

I also knew, with another bout of absolute gut-wrenching certainty, that after making a first impression of that calibre, I had about as much chance of getting a reply and an offer of a publishing deal as Elvis would for a comeback concert.

I’m just hoping the shortened version I now use won’t get me into trouble, although if you get rid of the ‘a’ and add Tonic…. I’m actually back where I started!

Gina

©2017 Gina Kirkham

First published as a guest post for the lovely Sonya on http://www.aloverofbooks.wordpress.com

Sheila….

SHEILA…….

‘It is what we leave as a legacy that is the measure of our existence’

On Thursday, 27th May 1937 a little girl was born to Harold and Florence (Flo) Marriott in a small fishing village in Hoylake, Cheshire.

They named her Sheila Jane, or ‘Blondie’.

The reference to the colour of her hair was frequently shouted by her mum, as with ten children, it was easier to go by the hair colour of her offspring than remember their names individually in the heat of the moment. More often than not, by the time Flo had shouted each one in turn, and finally found the right name, the moment had passed and she had forgotten why she wanted to chastise that particular child in the first place.

They all shared a small terraced house that had the added luxury of an outside brick-built loo with complimentary newspaper squares for toilet paper and a howling breeze under the wooden door which acted as an early prototype for our modern day Vent Axia to dissipate any unwanted odours.

Sheila wore knickers made from black-out material, had her shoes mended with the leather from her Dad’s old belts, shared a tin bath in front of the coal fire with as many sisters that could squeeze into the tub in one go and slept six in a bed. The war years were harsh; curfews, rationing, hand-me-downs and fear.

She left school at 14 with a limited education, but she never once let this deter her later in life. She never gave up, never admitted defeat. She worked hard to reach the dreams that she couldn’t touch in her youth. She won prizes for poetry, painted vibrant, exciting and passionate studies, she crafted pottery and created beautiful hand-knitted designer clothing and she began to write a book.


She loved life, loved to dance in her bare feet, swinging her shoes over her shoulder as she skipped, slightly worse for wear, from pavement to gutter to puddles on her way home from the pub. She wore silly woollen hats in bad weather, hunched under pasting-board tables with her granddaughter, trying to sell tat to passing neighbours to raise money for the Blue Peter Appeal. She played the penny arcade and Roll-a-ball Horse Derby, cheated relentlessly at Trivial Pursuit and gave the most amazing family Christmases full of fun, laughter, love, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and the famous upside down turkey that looked like it had been run over by the No.23 bus.

She could drink her weight in Brandy, fall asleep on the sofa, snore for twenty minutes and wake up sober. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t cough and fart at the same time. The fart was always on a hilarious three second delay.

She was always there for others, with her love, kindness, compassion and acceptance. She was the welcome ear to listen, the security of a warm hug and the wise words of experience.

How do I know all these things about Sheila?

I know because she was my mum. My fabulous, wonderful, beautiful mum.

And today would have been her 80th birthday.

I’m sitting here sadly wondering how she would have been at Eighty. My loss as raw today as it was when she left to jump puddles, barefoot into the afterlife without finishing her book…..

……and then as the tears fell, I remembered.

I remembered her vibrancy, her laughter, her joy at living and her legacy in me, my daughter and my granddaughters.

It was how she had lived not how she had died that became my abiding memory, and with it came a perfect picture of mum at Eighty.

She has remained untouched by the passing of time, still blonde, still smiling, a Brandy in hand as she smokes her cigarette with her pretty bare feet dancing in time to the music whilst her party guests enjoy her home-made ‘Mary Roses’ eggs …. and she is still coughing fit to burst to try and cover up her turkey induced, three-second-delay farts!

So, Happy 80th Birthday Mum. Wherever you are, keep dancing, keep laughing and hopefully you will have mastered the art of good timing by now…but if you haven’t, I think it’s highly unlikely your guardian angel will be standing behind you when you cough!

My love today and always,
Gina x

The Most Perfect Gift…..

The Most Perfect Gift….

Oh….err….it’s lovely Gina, how clever…….”

I watched mum lovingly caress the soggy brown toilet roll tube in her hands whilst discreetly wiping the vivid, still wet, purple paint from her fingers onto her pinny. She grimaced as the pink pipe cleaner I had twisted into a myriad of coils before gluing it onto the cardboard, pricked her thumb.

“….I’ve never seen such a beautiful umm.. beautiful… robot, yes it’s a robot isn’t it?” She looked at me, cheerfully expectant.

I felt a deep stab of disappointment as one eye started to sting with the onset of tears. That was something else I would ponder in years to come. Why, when I wanted to cry, did only one eye fill up and brim making me look like I had a festering eye infection rather than a dramatic display of pique and mortal hurt.

I was distraught. Only the week before I had failed in my quest to obtain a Blue Peter badge….. and now this!

“It’s a oonicorn mummy, a purple oonicorn.” My bottom lip quivered.

Mum looked at the creation again, turned it over in her hands. “Yes, of course it is, how silly of me…” She placed it on the kitchen window sill in the weak March sunlight and then turned to fold her arms around me. “… and it’s a very beautiful unicorn too, I’ll treasure it forever, thank you sweetheart.”

She kissed the tip of my nose and then carried on stirring the gravy as Cilla Black belted out Anyone Who Had a Heart on the red Roberts Transistor radio.

This was my forever memory for Mothers Day, 8th March, 1964.

Many more years and many more Mothers Day’s were to follow. As those years progressed I fell away from the self-made creations and started buying, firstly from the local stores and then as my earning capacity increased, from Debenhams, M&S and Lewis’s. Each year, I felt the need to outdo the previous years offering, searching for the ‘perfect gift’.

“Bloody hell Gina…!” Mum sat on the sofa, wrapping paper strewn across the multi-coloured shagpile carpet as she held the most hideous silver blue FM stereo radio in her hands. I grinned, safe in the knowledge that neither my brother or my sister would outdo this years little offering. I had used a fair whack of my clerk typist wage to purchase this fabulous 1970’s piece of equipment to replace her old Roberts one, which was only just about managing to pick up signals from passing police panda cars, let alone the Bee Gees squawking Stayin’ Alive in falsetto.

She sat with it perched on her knee.

“Look mum, see this button here…” I excitedly pointed to the highly polished chrome disc. “… if you press this…”.

My finger hovered momentarily…….

…. and forty-five minutes later we were ensconced in A&E, mum with a cotton wool plug stuffed up her left nostril, whilst we waited to be seen. I sat next to her, meekly pondering the speed in which a telescopic aerial, which with one press of the button from my deftly positioned finger, had shot right up her nose with some considerable force, whilst at the same time nostalgically musing the benefits of bog roll tubes and Blue Peter creations.

The following year I duly arrived on mum’s doorstep, a bunch of daffodils clutched in my sweaty hand along with a carefully wrapped present and card. After the previous years fail, I was desperate to compensate and had opted for a very muted, safe gift to show my undying love and appreciation for all the years mum had tolerated me and my unintentional attempts to kill her, the aforementioned radio episode being merely one of them.

“Oh it’s lovely Gina.” Mum smiled as she read the words inside the Hallmark card, pecked me on the cheek and then placed it with a flourish of pride next to the other two cards on the mantlepiece. A knot formed in my stomach as my offering suddenly became wholly pathetic in comparison to the cards my brother and sister had sent. It sat in hunched desolation, dwarfed by padded satin on one side and glittery crystals on the other, a lost sub-standard exhibit displaying a curled up 35 pence price tag.

Suddenly my ‘safe’ gift, still clenched in my hand, seemed even more of a disappointment. I could visualise through the brightly coloured paper the two pairs of carefully folded M&S belly-button hugging knickers complete with airflow crotch. Why I had thought an airflow crotch would be gratefully received by mum, I had no idea, but it had sounded rather exotic and useful at the time. So having toyed with fanciful visions of mum being able to fart in complete comfort as she perused the Biscuits, Crackers & Tinned Fruit aisle of the local Co-op whilst wearing a pair of these beauties, I had parted with my money to the snotty sales assistant.

Needless to say, mum unwrapped her gift, smiled happily, held them up so that the sunlight broke through the perforated holes in the airflow crotch and uttered the same words she always did….

“Thank you sweetheart.”

If she thought they were as hideous as last years radio, she never let on. Over the years, every gift I produced, with either a flourish, a hint of one-upmanship over my brother and sister, or just plain gut-churning excitement, would just be happily accepted with a smile. I remember feeling a sense of achievement that as an adult, I could now buy better Mothers Day presents for her, take her out to a posh restaurant for dinner or buy her a bottle of her favourite tipple. The naff hand-made stuff she had endured year upon year had been resigned to a mere embarrassed memory. Now my mum got only the good stuff.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? The hype, the lush Mothers Day ranges stocked by supermarkets, the bigger gifts, the better gifts, the more expensive gifts.

……that’s what I thought too…. until 26th March 2006.

This was my first Mothers Day without my mum. She had sadly passed away the month before from cancer and I was to experience this day, the one that had played such a huge part in our family life, without being able to buy that all important present, without being able to kiss her, tell her I loved her, to show my appreciation of her and to thank her for being my mum. Instead I took a bunch of her favourite roses and placed them on her grave.

It struck me that day that I was not alone. Each grave bore the telltale signs of a son or daughter visiting their mum. There were so many flowers, so many graves, so many lost mums.

I realised in that moment that I didn’t care anymore about silver blue radios, Ponds Cold Cream, M&S Knickers with Airflow crotches or even our lighthearted one-upmanship with cards. There would never again be a need for me to excitedly choose a different gift as every Mothers Day would now be the same, just a heartbreaking sense of loss and a bunch of roses from Sainsbury’s.

I sat down next to her grave and wept.

Two months later I finally plucked up the courage to go through mum’s things. As the clock ticked away the hours, I filled boxes with clothes, handbags and shoes, sorted donations for the charity shop and the local hospice whilst keeping a separate box for anything that was sentimental. As dusk descended upon the spare bedroom, one small, battered box remained. I lifted the lid, pushing the cardboard flaps to one side…..

…..and there it was.

My ‘oonicorn’. My beautiful purple ‘oonicorn’.

Squashed, faded and missing half of the pink fluff that made up the pipe cleaner, but there was no mistaking it. It was my unicorn and mum had kept it.

Just as she had said on the 8th March, 1964…..

“I’ll treasure it forever.”

… and for over 42 years, she had.

A huge lump formed in my throat. As my rogue one eye, still doing its party trick, brimmed with tears, I broke down sobbing. Holding mum’s treasure in my hand, I knew then, just as I had on the day I had given it to her in my childish innocence, it was and always would be, the most perfect gift.

It had been there all the time.

Grabbing the nearest thing to hand, I used the soft cotton to wipe my eyes and blow my nose. Holding it up to the fading light to check what ghastly deposit I had just snorted on it, I started to laugh…..

….at the rather large pair of M&S knickers complete with an Airflow crotch and a price tag, that was dangling from my fingers.

Happy Mothers Day, Mum…. wherever you are!

My love, always,

Gina x

© Gina Kirkham 2017

Guest Post by Gina Kirkham

A Lover of Books

gina-kirkham

The fabulous Gina Kirkham has written a guest post for my event.  Her debut novel, ‘Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong’ is being published on the 18th May 2017.

GIN, BOOK & LAUGHTER

Opening one eye as light sneaked its way through the gap between my budget B&Q blind and the window frame, I stretched lazily out in eager anticipation of the summer day ahead.

Slipping out of bed, my knees popping and crackling like a bowl of Rice Krispies, I simultaneously chided myself for getting old and patted myself on the back for having managed to negotiate my way to the bathroom without falling over the cat.

This was to be my first day of no shirts to iron, no SWAT boots to polish, no shifts, no pub fights, no 999 response runs and no paperwork.    This was my first day of retirement as a Police Officer.

I was…

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