IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO AN AUTHOR…….

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IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO AN AUTHOR …….

Since the publication of my first book, Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong and my rather off the wall, quirky humour, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have been invited to attend as a guest speaker for various events around the North West. This has held excitement, trepidation, crippling attacks of self doubt, nerves and dreadful Sweaty-Betty moments when I’ve momentarily forgotten what I was supposed to be saying to the gathered onlookers.

Lady covers nose with hand showing that something stinks, isolated on whiteI’ve quickly gained experience in knowing my audience, what to eat and what not to eat prior to an engagement, as there is nothing worse than horrific gusts of dragon breath in close proximity to the Lady President of a Womens Group when you poshly enunciate ‘How honoured hi ham to be here’ after you’ve over indulged in twenty-two pieces of garlic and cheese stuffed jalapeños. I also know that it’s not clever to self medicate for a nervous disposition with Gin/vodka/Carlsberg Special Brew before taking to the stage. Discovering the six steps you’ve just tried to negotiate to reach the platform are actually only three, takes smacked shins and stunt diving with your bum in the air to a new level entirely.

The art of dressing suitably for the occasion hasn’t totally bypassed me either. I’ve become an expert in the resulting stickiness of man made materials on glowing skin, cheap deodorant on a little black dress and the trauma of skin tight leggings, where your thong does away with the VPL but produces instead a rather disturbing camel toe effect at the front when you over exuberantly yank them up to meet your nellies as you rush out of the loos.

The one secret I have discovered is material should be cool, with a style that covers a multitude of ageing body sins and a colour that doesn’t drain my skin tone.  So I happily dragged all this experience with me when I went to find a nice little number for an up and coming speaker event, that promised a rather large, high profile audience.

B53964CF-884A-4611-8BFD-B2754192AC7DAt Bev’s Boutique in the posh part of town, I discreetly enquired if they had anything floaty that would hide the several spares tyres I was currently sporting just above the waistband of my pants whilst adding the all important requirement of a high neck to conceal my crepey décolleté and sleeves to cover my bingo wings.

Beverley sucked on her recently whitened teeth, looked me up and down, slid her glasses to the end of her nose, arched one of her black microbladed eyebrows and sniffed. “Bin bag, madam?”

This was definitely not what I had come to expect from an establishment that sold padded, underwired bras with removable glitter-gel inserts!

5B48A2D7-3FAB-44E2-BCC1-832CDFED948FFinally plumping for a rather delicious khaki and gold off-the-shoulder silk crochet number that gave me the appearance of a trout caught in a fishing net, I succumbed to combining it with an accidental purchase from the previous week.  Whilst browsing Amazon at 3 am, I’d fallen asleep with my finger still adhered to my iPad. Two days later I discovered I’d purchased through ‘one-click’ ordering, a strapless stick-on adhesive bra in a whopping ‘E’ size cup. I only know it was that big because it got stuck in the letterbox, traumatising Colin, our postman.

Not to be undeterred or waste the £3.99 I’d inadvertently forked out, I spent the best part of an hour trying to stick the ruddy thing on evenly and at an acceptable level. The adhesive cleverly stuck to every finger I possessed as I tried to position it, it then developed a will of its own as it attracted every body hair known to mankind within a 5-yard radius giving me very unattractive hairy nipples and then to top it all, steadfastly refuse to cling on to my boobs. After a further twenty minutes I reached the conclusion that if you’re anything more than a very pert B cup, this is not the bra for you…..

DB4DE1C1-5B18-4276-A0A5-5A733459DD3A….actually come to think of it, if you’re lucky enough to have a very pert B cup why on earth would you even contemplate trying to hoist them up with this contraption?

Having norks that your chin can rest on when you’re almost sixty is not really a believable look, neither is having one three inches lower than the other, but with the help of my hubby’s B&Q Spirit Level I persevered, shoved and slapped them into place and was eventually happy with my shape

After a final slick of my famous Coral Blush Lipstick, I was ready.

Halfway through nervously extolling the virtues of 21st Century Policing and my books to a large audience of women, the gentle first flush of perspiration was quickly followed by a fair deluge of panic-struck sweat as I forgot where I was in my mental script.

This in turn enlightened me to the difference between a £29.99 adhesive bra from the UK and the £3.99 one from the Far East that I was currently sporting.

It slowly began to peel itself away, first from my right boob, followed very quickly by a slight slippy sensation, as it lost its hold on the skin of my left one, slid down, juddered tantalisingly by my belly button for all of two seconds, and before I could react, it appeared under the hem of my top and dropped to the floor.

The faces from the first two rows of the audience spoke volumes. A mixture of mirth and horror as I took the opportunity to try and kick it under the table that was hosting copies of my books.IMG_9354

Unfortunately, the adhesive fared better on the leather of my shoe than it had on my skin, as it stuck fast to the toe of my stiletto, refusing point blank to budge. I feigned ignorance for the remainder of my talk, occasionally dragging the pointy toe behind me along the threadbare carpet in further attempts to dislodge it.

IMG_9356Exiting the stage, I hobbled to the bar holding one shoe whilst mourning the effects of gravity on a pair of unholstered norks in a gold lame fishing net and the consequences of seeking partial fame and fortune as a writer. Squishing my no-longer-adhesive E cup bra in my hand, I wondered how my hero, Enid Blyton would have coped. I dreamily thought of her calmly drinking Camomile Tea before and after her public appearances with an air of elegance and confidence. Definitely no camel toes, wedgies or uneven boobs for good old Enid!

Hanging from my chrome and leather bar stool, enjoying my third double Gin, I fondly remembered one of her famous quotes…

If you can’t look after something in your care, you have no right to keep it.”

Launching my ridiculous ‘one-click’ not so sticky bra towards a nearby wastepaper bin, I smiled smugly to myself as it hit the wall, temporarily clung to the red flock wallpaper, fell off and hit the bottom of the bin with a gentle thud as I toasted the wonderful Enid, the maker of my dreams.

Gina x

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU…….

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU……

On 12th May 2017 I woke in the early hours of the morning with a heavy, agonising pain in my right hip and spine. Thinking my Desperate Dan sized hubby had rolled onto me in the night, I executed a deftly aimed punch to his nose to encourage him to move. Unfortunately, as my fist hit the vacant pillow it quickly dawned on me that for the first time in our marriage – it wasn’t his fault!

By December that year I had permanent severe pain in both legs and a dropped foot which I found I could drag around Tesco in time to their piped version of M C Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This.  Even more startling was the sudden loss of use of my left leg which sent me crashing into the display of Frosty Jacks Cider in the booze aisle. The lack of assistance from fellow shoppers who tutted loudly and shook their heads in disgust as I lay spreadeagled on the floor tiles trying desperately to contain the avalanche of tinnies, brought the stark reality home that I was now pretty much on par with the local town drunk. The only difference being, I was sober and didn’t smell.

Every day became a struggle with varying degrees of agony in my legs and the inability to carry out simple everyday tasks, have days out with my granddaughters or even walk our two doggies.  Any evening ‘activities’ normally reserved for my long suffering hubby were quickly reduced to playing Monopoly or Snap which was a nightmare as he’s competitive and I cheat!

‘On a scale of 1 to 10, Mrs Kirkham, how would you describe your pain?’

‘Err…. do you have a 15 available by any chance?’ I eagerly enquired, a bit like asking for a particular raffle ticket number.

They didn’t and so began twenty minutes of bargaining. I eventually settled on a 9 as they told me nobody EVER has a 10 unless they were on death’s door.

Dragging my useless leg behind me, I burst out through the double doors of the hospital weeping loudly ‘I could be dying Johnny, how do they know I’m not a 10….. I could wake up dead tomorrow  – just like that and then they’ll be sorry!’ I pouted.  

He kissed the top of my head and gently comforted me whilst explaining, even by my standards of weirdness, the impossibilities of actually waking up AND being dead at exactly  the same time.

Finally, after months of being poked, prodded, MRI scans and x-rays, by June this year I at last had a diagnosis and a potential remedy.

TLIF surgery and Sacroiliac Injections.

This excited me terribly.

For some reason that acronym gave me a mental image of my once pert boobies being lifted and hoisted to new heights, thus alleviating the strain on my back and in turn the pain in my legs. Wow, an all-inclusive Nellie Lift, what more could a girl want?

As the glossy information leaflets were pushed across the Consultants desk for me to read, it slowly and disappointingly dawned on me that the ‘T’ in TLIF didn’t actually stand for ‘tits’.

Oh well, I’d survived worse and I knew deep down my sense of humour would always see me through, Tits or Transforaminal notwithstanding.

Checking into my room a few weeks later, a lovely smiley nurse offered me a small pile of stuff when I arrived, a gift of sorts, a gown, wrapped paper knickers and a pair of dreadful white support stockings. Before she left me to disrobe, she gently pointed out which way round the opening of the gown should be.  I snorted to myself.

As if I’d get that wrong, it was one of the oldest jokes in the book.

I sat on the end of the bed, robed and ready with the plastic bag containing the pale blue paper knickers in my hand. Unwrapping it and holding it up to the light, I came to the conclusion it was a DIY, one size-fits-all pair and as there were no leg holes, you were clearly expected to make your own to suit individual thigh size.  Although I’d had a bit of a random trim of the nether regions that morning, I definitely didn’t want anything stray to slip out of the sides and waft in the thermals of the operating theatres air conditioning, so in the absence of any scissors, I diligently and carefully tore out perfect made to measure leg holes.

To say the pants were a bit tight around the girth was an understatement, but I was pretty confident very few patients had managed to rip out neater leg holes. I snapped the elastic of the stockings against my thigh sending a tsunami of wobbling flesh from knees to hips. I was totally gutted that I’d gone to the effort of shaving my legs and big toes only to have them hidden underneath the thick, dense denier of these obligatory beauts, but nevertheless, I was ready for whatever could be thrown at me.

My spirits lifted at the prospect of being pain-free, life would be good again, I was on a roll…. until halfway down to theatre when the nurse innocently asked where my hat was.

‘What hat?’ I gulped

‘The paper one in the cellophane bag, it’s blue..’ she replied

‘I need to go to the toilet …’ I gasped.

Ten minutes later, lying in the anaesthesia room, I didn’t think anything could embarrass me more than being caught wearing a paper hat as a pair of knickers – until I was happily informed that I wouldn’t actually be wearing knickers for surgery anyway.  Plonking a ridiculous hat on my head, the nurse tucked my fringe in and gave me a complicit smile.

It was at this point I dearly wished I had splashed out on a full hit Brazilian!

As the anaesthetic began to take affect, I sent a silent prayer in the hope that I would be blissfully unaware of whatever was going to droop, drop, wobble, flop or spread over the specialist operating table during the coming hours.

’I’ll see you all on the other side…’ I dramatically whispered as I fell into a deep, dark slumber.

Now, between you and me, I had already run through the most likely dreamy sequence upon my awakening in the Recovery Room.  I would sigh, flutter my eyelashes and ask if it had been a success, desperate to know I hadn’t achieved one of the low statistics to become permanently paralysed from the procedure.  My delicate hand would move slowly to my lips, my chest would rise and fall, as I whispered heartfelt gratitude to the nurses.

But hey ho, this is me…..

My eyes shot open as I tried to bring my hand to my head, a myriad of tubes and drips stopping its progression, my lips chapped and dry under the oxygen mask.  The nurse sympathetically leant in close, desperate to hear my first words.  The room fell into reverential silence just as my hoarse voice loudly rasped out…..

’Oh jeez, I haven’t still got that that bloody twat hat on me head, have I?”

~~0~~

On a more serious note thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your lovely messages on Facebook and Twitter and for your cards and beautiful flowers.  I had to take a week or so out from it, but only because knowing my luck, high as a kite on meds I would have probably posted something outrageous.  Bit like drunk texting but without the hangover!

There is a special thank you to the very lovely Mandy Molby and Ansar Mahmood who were there to listen to my worries, calm me down and give me fantastic advice. I’m sure you both know how much it meant to me.

I will never be able to thank my Surgeon, Mr Annis, his team, the Anaesthesia Team and all the nurses who looked after me during my stay in hospital, enough.  If there is such a thing as miracles, then they have given me mine.

On Friday 3rd August 2018 I stood for the first time in 15 months, tall and without pain.  I’m not ashamed to admit I cried lots of happy tears.

Gina x

IT’S MY PARTY……..

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To…..

Birthdays!

We all have them, they seems to come with a strange sort of regularity – like each year, or 365 days or every 8,760 hours.

At six minutes to midnight on 31st December 1958 my mum was lying prostrate in the local maternity unit desperately trying to delay my birth as best she could. The promise of a years supply of terry nappies, several bottles of Napisan and a dozen horrifically large nappy pins were at stake. A gift from Johnson & Johnson along with an endless supply of baby lotion and powder to the first New Year Baby born in each County, or so the story goes.

Neither panting, grunting, puffing or singing could delay the inevitable urge and I was expelled into the world howling at 11.58 pm.

Much to mum’s dismay her fellow ward mate, Maude Sanders, fared better in the leg crossing game, finally producing at 12.00.03 am. a bouncing 9lb 6oz baby boy called Charlie.

Charlie was a ginger.

What on earth that had to do with it I’ll never know, but mum used to emphasise the colour of his hair as though it was a privilege that had won his mother the much coveted nappies. Dad’s theory, however, was the belief that ginger hair was so much coarser than my blonde hair and had conveniently acted as friction, slowing Charlie’s descent and ultimate birth for those vital seconds.

And so the misery of having a birthday on New Years Eve began for me.

At the tender age of 7-years, I objected profusely, by stamping on every tread of the stair in our 1930’s semi, to being sent to bed whilst mum and dad set up the Ercol sideboard in our best room with sandwiches, vol-au-vents and sausage rolls. With my head stuck between the bannister rails, I marvelled at the celery sitting ram-rod straight in Dad’s best pint glass and the hedgehog made from chunks of cheese & pineapple on sticks jammed into a silver ball. The twinkling lights from the Christmas tree reflected in the red polka dot plastic tablecloth and bunched balloons only added to my pique and misery.

Petulantly I stuck my tongue out. It was MY birthday so why on earth was I being sent to bed whilst the grown-ups enjoyed MY party. I was even more hurt that Mum and Dad hadn’t even had the decency to put out jelly cases with smarties on top.

Looking back, this was the first indication I had that I was going to be the child whose birthday wasn’t really important as I shared it with another, more special occasion that everyone else preferred to celebrate and attend.

NEW YEARS EVE….

Over the years I got used to coming second best to good Auld Lang Syne. My 21st birthday party was actually held on the 9th February 1980 as this was the only date available that would cater to everyone else’s New Year commitments, lengthy hangovers, post-christmas man flu/the shits/gout, and the needs of the majority who were apparently ‘heartily sick to the back teeth with Christmas, alcohol, parties and celebrations’

At the age of thirty, confidence having replaced my wall-flower existence I tried a new tack. Giggling after an excess consumption of Gin, I donned my fancy dress outfit for the New Years Eve party being held at our local Social Club. I would arrive fashionably late and by the time I’d finished with my little show, EVERYONE would know it was my birthday too.

Bursting in through the double doors, bottle of Prosecco in hand, dressed like a female Bob Marley in a vibrantly striped kaftan, guitar slung over my shoulder and a woolly hat, I began shouting ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEEE’ at the top of my voice.

Swinging my colourful dreadlocks around for full effect, I gave a somewhat surprised gasp as they inadvertently hooked themselves on the ornate light fitting on the wall. Desperately trying to extricate the long hairy extensions I swung round, only to come face to face with the buffet table heavily laden with party food.

Curly pasta in tomato sauce, penne pasta in a creamy sauce, pasta pizza, pasta bake, pasta tuna, spicy pasta, curried pasta, beefy pasta, chicken pasta  ….

I took in the surprised faces on the throng of elegantly dressed party goers, the glitter, the sparkle, the velour, satin and Lycra as it slowly dawned on me that this was not the Rasta Party I’d thought it was.

Staggering out, suitably humiliated by the sniggering which had then given way to raucous laughter, I vowed then that this would be the very last New Year were I would attempt to make it my day rather than anyone else’s.

I gave up.

That was until my rapidly approaching fiftieth birthday. I mean, come on, you can’t let your 50th pass by without some form of celebration can you?  This time, as Fred Pontin so succinctly put it, I’d Book Early so I could have a party that was all about me for a change, so after perusing the calendar, Saturday 29th December 2007 was to be the exciting evening.  As I began phoning around, booking the venue, catering, entertainment and picking the design for the invites, it struck me as to how much my childhood birthday disappointments had affected me over the years, this party, my ‘Please come to my 50th Party’ was going to be so cathartic. It would lay my ghosts to rest.

I was going to have a birthday party and it was on a day that was as close to New Years Eve as I could possibly get.

Two weeks later, tongue hanging out, I sat with my guest list. Using a special gold pen I’d bought from the Cheap shop, I wrote out my 150 invitations, stacked them in a pile and sat back on my comfy sofa to nostalgically look back over my 50 years on this planet. Hard to believe time had gone by so quickly.

I thought of the ginger-haired Charlie, wondered where he would be now. Would his hair still be ginger, or like mine, would it have touches of grey here and there.  Would he still have his own eyebrows or would he have to pencil them in like I did so I could show surprise, horror or amusement?  I doodled the decades on the back of a spare envelope, writing little memories for each one, each turn of the year. Where I was, what stage of my life I was at.

1958 my birth year

1968 ready to leave primary school

1978 preparing for my wedding

1988 starting life as a single mum with Emma

1998 a fabulous holiday in Crete

2007……2007!  Hold on, that didn’t sound right, a seven instead of an eight…

…. Shit!

If it wasn’t bad enough to have been born on a crap day, to have missed all the parties with jelly cases and smarties and to have bounced around as Bob Marley’s grandmother at what turned out to be a Pasta Party, I’d actually gone one better and excelled myself by inviting everyone to my 50th when in truth I would only be forty-nine.

As I set about cancelling the venue, caterer and band, I tearfully faced the realisation that the magic of a birthday party just for me had eluded me once again.

Fast forward ten years to New Years Eve 2017.

This year was destined to be a quiet one with family, a lovely meal and playing games with my granddaughters. Unfortunately the good old D&V bug has put paid to that. Poor Olivia, my eldest granddaughter, has been producing technicolour yawns with startling ferocity and regularity throughout the night, this in turn has everyone else in the family crossing themselves in fear whilst searching the house to ensure there are ample buckets, towels, disinfectant and Dioralyte at hand just in case of an epidemic.

I have felt a mixture of emotions today. No longer am I disappointed or sad not to have a birthday party, instead I am happy, counting my blessings that are my family and my friends. I am so grateful for the cards and lovely wishes you have all sent, they truly do mean the world to me.

I have felt a sadness that my mum and dad aren’t here to see another birthday and another year, and for the first year ever, my heart has been heavy because my step-dad’s Dementia is worsening, so it is the first year in my life that I didn’t get a card that said Happy Birthday Daughter. He has no idea that it is my birthday anymore.

It’s as though the title of Daughter has finally been taken from me. Even the feigning of surprise at the present I had bought myself, wrapped myself, with a tag written by me that said ‘To Gina, love Dad xx‘ wasn’t needed anymore. There was no one left to fool or humour. My lovely hubby, seeing my wobbly lip, rushed out and bought a Daughter birthday card for me but as daft as I can be at times, I did recognise that it was his handwriting. Nice try Johnny!

Regardless, there will still be laughter and happiness tonight, probably caused by me being incapable of pouring a small Gin, which in turn will no doubt have me skidding on my bum down two flights of stairs in my rabbit Onesie and fluffy slippers – without spilling a drop. I won’t have jelly and smarties or a cheese & pineapple hedgehog but I will have wonderful memories of a year that has given me so much more than my 2016 wishes asked for.

Thank you for being there for me, thank you for all your laughter, support and encouragement too. I would not have enjoyed the success I have been blessed with without it, nor would I have enjoyed it if you had not been there to share it with me.

Wishing you all much love and laughter in 2018
Gina x

Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong © 2017

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot – The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton © 2018  (summer 2018 Urbane Publications)

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 accidental 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

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