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

Advertisements

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