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

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AUNTY AGATHA’S FINAL RESTING PLACE…..

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AUNTY AGATHA’S FINAL RESTING PLACE……………….

With the onset of winter I was extremely grateful for my little police car, Florence the Fiesta.  The steady 12 degrees that was pumped out by the fan heater warmed the cockles of my heart, well, not really but at least my nose stayed a more healthier shade of blue.

During late November family issues came to the fore as my elderly Aunt, Agatha Carter who was 89 years young became too frail  and cantankerous to be able to live on her own and subsequently we had no choice but to move her to sheltered accommodation.  .

Aunty Agatha had never married and had spent her entire life living with her sister Maude, who had also remained single.  They did everything together, Maude was the more lively of the two as Agatha had complained of seriously failing eyesight in their twilight years. Consequently this meant that Agatha sat there whilst Maude did all the running around.  I did seriously doubt the full extent of Agatha’s condition.  If you dropped a pound coin on her patterned 1930’s carpet, as you bent down to retrieve it, poor eyesight or not, she would drop to her knees and pounce on it, savagely scraping the skin from your fingers as she prised your hand away from it.

One day Maude, feeling a little jaded and unusually for her, took to her armchair in the back room.  Wiping her glistening brow with a screwed up paper tissue she beckoned her sister to her side.  

“Agatha, I do fear that I am somewhat incapacitated my dear, you’ll have to go into the village for bread and milk today.”  She pulled the throw around her and lay back in fevered rest.

Suitably miffed at having to do something after forty years of sloth,  Agatha put on her fur trimmed coat, chunnered a rather terse response and had reluctantly gone shopping.   Returning some time later she sat with Maude, cup of tea in hand whilst she regaled her with tales of village life and gossip.   It wasn’t until after the adverts in Coronation Street that Agatha realised that poor Maude still hadn’t drunk her afternoon tea or eaten her digestive biscuit and had not actually replied to any of her ramblings since her last appreciative nod of acknowledgement to her return some four hours previously.

It slowly dawned on Agatha that although Maude appeared to be slumped in repose in her favourite armchair, this state of tranquility had not been brought about by a simple afternoon snooze.

The fact of the matter was that Maude was rather deceased and probably had been for some considerable time.

Agatha was beside herself with the indignity that Maude could be so selfish as to die before drinking her tea after she had made such an effort to go out to fetch the milk…..

….and thus ended an 81 year relationship.

Now this was where we encountered a small snag.

Re-homing Agatha was most definitely not like re-homing a lovely fluffy, cuddly, cute kitten.   Agatha was neither cuddly, cute or indeed fluffy, but she did have claws.  The only ‘home’ that she would even remotely entertain or more to the point, that would entertain her, was one on my beat area.  It was a lovely place consisting of small one bedroom apartments which were all wired up with the best alarm and panic systems for the residents security and welfare and was warden assisted.  Much to her obvious chagrin, this was to be Agatha’s home for the foreseeable future.

Once settled in, I warned Pamela the Warden of her little idiosyncrasies and her occasional cantankerous outbursts.

“Mavis, please don’t worry…” Pam reassured me “…..my staff are extremely experienced, there is nothing we can’t handle.  We’re going to get along fine aren’t we Agatha?”  She gave Agatha a look of anticipated mutual understanding.

I looked at Agatha.

Agatha glared at me.

Taking out a delicate embroidered handkerchief from her tapestry handbag, she blew her nose, sniffed, and then much to my eternal embarrassment, she grimaced, lifted her left leg and deliberately forced out a rather loud fart as she shuffled out of the room muttering under her breath.

 “Handle THAT then..” she snorted whilst letting out another rasping bout of flatulence.

Pamela stifled a giggle.

“See what I mean Pamela? I absolutely despair of her!”  I shook my head as I watched her stomp like a petulant child along the corridor.

“She’s just a lonely old lady Mavis, there is nothing she can do that will shock me, I promise.”  Pamela leant forward, smiled reassuringly and patted my hand.

                                                                                            *******

The weeks quickly passed, Christmas and New Year came and went without incident.  Work was busy, as it always was at that time of year. as some in our Society seem only capable of having a happy Christmas if they have had the turkey thrown at them, the odd roast parsnip shoved where the sun don’t shine, got so drunk they’ve ended up as an extra decoration on the village Christmas tree sporting chunks of vomit on their best bib and tucker or have spent the night in the cells.  

I paraded on for a night shift, glad to have said goodbye to the over indulgence and revelry, ready to welcome what the new year would bring.  I had been upgraded from my little Florence the Fiesta, which I had actually become quite fond of in a perverse sort of way, to my dream car……
…..a Vauxhall Cavalier.

No more shiatsu beads and shouting ‘nee-nah’ out of the window on the way to jobs.  My car now had two tone sirens and a seat without holes and escaped springs.

My joy knew no bounds.

Less than an hour in to my shift I was sent to a serious incident of a criminal damage where a deranged female was smashing up a local residential home, the same home that Agatha had for the last few months reluctantly resided.   

I held my breath as dread washed over me as I edged my way into the foyer.  

Thousands of pounds worth of damage had been caused to the alarm systems, wires ripped out, pictures and table lamps destroyed in the communal areas and the night staff were cowering in terror behind the reception desk. 

The cause of this wanton destruction?  One lunatic 89 year old woman who had become suitably pissed off with the staff for no known reason and who was now sitting serenely in the padded beige wing backed chair in her room.

Yep, you’ve guessed it – good old Aunty Agatha.  

My worst fears had been realised.

Agatha was moved to a residential care home shortly after this little night time soirée, but not before she had coughed up the money to pay for the damage rather than me having to face the embarrassment of arresting one of my own relatives.   

Sadly, less than two months later, Aunty Agatha decided that she had endured enough of this life and early one evening she shuffled off this mortal coil to join Aunty Maude, whilst half way through enjoying an ASDA Extra Cheesy pizza and a cup of Lady Grey Tea whilst listening to a recording of the Mike Sammes Singers.

Her funeral and subsequent cremation were quiet affairs, just as she had requested, but I personally felt that this was in some part due to her cantankerous  nature and the fact that she had outlived all of her friends anyway.

A week later I stood alone in the local cemetery as her sole mourner waiting for the arrival of the Vicar for her internment into the family plot.  Due to low resilience in strengths at work, I couldn’t get the day off, but the Sarge had given me an hour to show my respects and old Florence the Fiesta as transport.  Parking Florence out of view,  I quickly put my own jacket on to cover my uniform, hunkered down with my hands in my pockets and stood by the cemetery gates.

It was a particularly bleak, cold and windy day.  Eleven o’clock came and went with no sign of the Vicar, the Undertaker or Aunty Agatha.  As I stood shivering by the entrance watching the black clouds rolling across the sky, shadowing the vast Cemetery, I saw a vision in the distance.  Hurrying through the graves and tombstones, cassock billowing in the wind was the Vicar, closely followed by the Gravedigger with his spade and following them was the Undertaker carrying Auntie Agatha in a mighty fine oak casket.

The Vicar hastily brushed down his one strand of remaining hair, straightened his cassock, wiped the dewdrop from his nose and nodded a greeting. 

“My apologies dear, I’m unfortunately running a little late.”  He turned to mutter to the Undertaker that he had another funeral and expressed his desire to bury Agatha with speed.

At the beckoning of the Gravedigger we made our way to the CARTER family plot, where a small hole had already been excavated in anticipation of receiving the late Agatha Emily Carter.

Standing there, huddled together, the Vicar, the Undertaker, the Gravedigger and me, I watched as she was ceremoniously lowered into the ground whilst the Vicar offered words of blessing and offerance.  

“Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear sister, here departed…….”

…..and it was at this point that I happened to glance at the large gravestone marking the spot.  In gothic letters, aged with moss and grime it announced:

IN LOVING MEMORY

OF

ERNEST CHARLES WORTHINGTON

1889 to 1946

As the seconds ticked by, with the Vicar still beseeching The Lord to take good care of Agatha Emily Carter,  I wrestled with the knowledge that some dreadful mistake had been made.  Tapping the Undertaker on the shoulder, I pointed out this little discrepancy, explaining to him in hushed tones that this most certainly was not the CARTER family plot.  

He in turn tapped the Gravedigger across the back of his head with his book of prayer, who in turn hastily took out a battered old plot map.  As the howling wind whipped the corners, he let out a groan of horror.  

“It’s bloody 19c – CARTER’s on ruddy 19c…….. we should be over there………..”   He waved his leather-bound book of prayer towards the other side of the Cemetery.  

The Vicar faltered long enough for this little gem of information to sink in, as the Undertaker and the Gravedigger frantically looked around the vast expanse of the Cemetary.  I looked down, windswept and cold, into the hole on plot 19b, horrified to see that it now contained the earthly remain of poor Agatha AND Ernest Worthington.  

Smiling to myself, I suddenly realised that as Aunty Agatha had been fervently chaste in life, this lapse in direction by the gravedigger had made  it the only time she had ever been laid by a man!

The Vicar, who had clearly embraced the view that the ‘show must go on’ was quickly stopped mid blessing whilst Aunty Agatha was retrieved from the hole.  Inclusive of soil, worms and a sod of grass, she was plonked in my arms leaving me to watch in utter disbelief as the Vicar raced across the cemetery, cassock billowing in the wind, closely followed by the Gravedigger with his trusty spade and the Undertaker with his Book of Prayer wedged under his left armpit.

Running after them I could feel poor Agatha’s remains shifting from side to side as I hurdled gravestones and dodged trees.  By the time I caught up with them a new hole had already been hastily dug on plot 19c. The casket was wrenched from my hands and once again Aunty Agatha was shoved into the ground With very little consideration.  The Vicar offered three lines of blessing, wiped his nose, shook my hand, turned on his heels and was last seen disappearing through the trees towards the main gate, cassock still blowing and strands of hair flailing, with the Undertaker in tow.

I was left with the Gravedigger and Aunty Agatha half buried in a small hole.  I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry as he furiously shovelled the soil in to backfill poor Agatha, just as it started to rain.

The Gravedigger replaced the square of grass, turned and with both feet jumped up and down on it with his muddy boots whilst shouting into the wind spraying spit all over my jacket.

“Eeeh there yer are love, that’ll do reet nicely, once settled yer’ll never know she’s even been ‘ere…….” 

Agatha Emily Carter.

Peacefully at rest with Maude…………

We think!

 

(c) 2016 Gina Kirkham

Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Primark Thong