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
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.
“Right you little monkey, come and sit here for a cuddle, I’ve got crisps, Twiglets and Chocolate Buttons.”
Ella’s face lit up as she bounced down on the sofa next to me. Clicking the video remote I started the film. Our favourite. Mary Poppins.
She crunched a Twiglet and pointed the remaining bit at me. “Mum have you ever seen a dead person yet, you know a real dead humung beening?”
I tried not to laugh. “It’s human being Ella, erm no, not yet….but that’s such a strange thing to want to know sweetheart.”
She shrugged her shoulders as her hand disappeared into the Twiglet tube. “I just wondered if they had wings when you found them or do they come later?”
Jeez, questions on Theology, I could spell the word, not have an in depth discussion on it.
“Err I’m not sure I get what you mean Ella.”
“Oh nuffink, I just thought it would make it hard to get them out of the front door if they were dead AND had a big pair of wings. Can I have another Twiglet?”
…and with that the conversation on dead people was over.
“Neighbour from No. 32 is reporting he hasn’t seen the old lady next door for several days Mavis, voters show an Alice Creighton, 87 years.” The ensuing silence from the other end of my police radio gave me time to think.
I groaned. Thanks Ella!
No sooner does she mention something, then it happens. I’d avoided the optional Post Mortem visit during my early probation as I didn’t quite fancy savouring my breakfast twice in one day. After all, I wasn’t going to be the one that had to bloody dissect them. I just needed to know how to deal with finding them.
Standing in front of the dull black door to No. 34, the abode of the unseen Mrs Creighton my heart sank. The backlog of newspapers and milk bottles could mean only one thing.
Grimacing, my stomach did a huge flip. It’s more the anticipation of death that is so disturbing, so unless someone has ever taken the opportunity to actually keel over and expire in front of you, the chances of seeing a dead body are probably few and far between.
I lifted the letterbox and had a discreet sniff. I baulked. Yep, something smelt very dead inside the little terraced house.
“Here yer are love, it’s her spare key, use this.”
The kindly neighbour from 32 proffered the shiny bit of metal on a piece of string. I looked at it, looked at him and looked at the front door. It was at this exact moment I realised that I was the one wearing a uniform, and as such, I was probably expected to do something about the unseen Mrs Creighton.
Why on earth couldn’t I have worked at Sainsbury’s, they never have to find dead people do they?
I let that thought hover in the air before slipping the key into the lock, tentatively turning it and stepping through the door. I glanced back to a sea of faces belonging to the concerned neighbours outside, watching in a medley of keen anticipation and sheer nosiness.
Just on the remote chance that there was anyone alive to hear it, although I did seriously doubt it judging by the stench, I loudly announced my arrival in a quivering voice.
“Mrs Creighton, Mrs Creighton, it’s the Police Mrs Creighton…….”
No reply, nothing. Not even a whisper.
I carried on along the hallway, checking each room in turn with no sign of Mrs Creighton. In the kitchen I found a pan of some foul smelling gunk on the old enamel gas stove. The furry growth on top had been fermenting for some considerable time. I held my breath, this was going from bad to worse. I tried again.
“Mrs Creighton, don’t panic, it’s the Police, just need to know you’re okay”
With my heart thumping in anticipation, I began to climb the staircase. Picking my feet through the threadbare runner, I swept my fingers along the dark brown bannister. I was utterly convinced I was going to find the elusive Mrs Creighton rather deceased somewhere upstairs.
Oh please God don’t let her be all horribly….. well, you know what I mean… just make her sort of fresh…ish…!
The first bedroom was empty apart from an old 1930’s wardrobe, several dead flies on the ledge of the cast-iron fireplace and a commode. Motes of dust whipped up, catching in the muted sunlight from the window. Coughing I closed the door. Creeping out onto the landing, I put my very sweaty hand on the door handle to the second bedroom, pausing long enough to control my breathing as my heart threatened to explode through my shirt.
I turned and pushed.
The door creaked open….
…… and there, lying in bed amongst her pink rayon sheets and green polyester quilt, mouth wide open and eyes hooded was Mrs Creighton.
Very grey, very still, very cold and very, very smelly….
……and in my expert opinion…. just a little bit dead!
Oh shit, I’ve got a dead body, a real life dead body.
Think Mavis, think. What did they teach you at Bruche?
For a split second I didn’t care what they had told me at Police Training college, it didn’t matter. All I wanted to do was to get the hell out of there…….
…..and then I remembered. It all came flooding back, I knew exactly what I had to do.
My priority was to confirm that there was no output from Mrs Creighton, no breath, no pulse, nothing that could be resuscitated, no signs of life.
Way to go Mavis.
I held my breath and walked gingerly over to the bed, jumping as the floorboards creaked. Oh blimey, facial hair! Mrs Creighton has facial hair. I hesitated, wondering if she still had her false teeth in, which in turn reminded me of Marj at our first aid classes. A quick glance at the bedside cabinet confirmed that her teeth were accounted for, they were floating in a glass of disgusting yellowy green…err…. something.
Fantastic that was all I needed. I’d never get a good seal around her mouth for CPR if it was caving in through lack of teeth. The thought of shiny gums and spit made me feel sick.
Taking hold of her limp wrist, I bent over her to check for a pulse. As I tentatively moved closer to her face, I paused waiting to see if any air was being expelled from her nose. The hairs on her top lip remained static. Oh dear, this seriously wasn’t looking good.
I moved in closer, my own breath barely perceptable. At the exact moment my nose almost touched hers, her eyes shot wide open. A low moan drifted from her mouth as she suddenly sat bolt upright in bed. Every nerve in my body went into high alert as I stumbled backwards in fright, knocking into the mirrored wardrobe.
Letting out an almighty screech akin to a banshee, she flailed her arms in the air. “What the fuck are you doing in me bedroom……?”
Mrs Creighton screamed….
….and I legged it out of the bedroom in sheer terror, flying down the stairs, missing several steps as I went.
The neighbours, fearful of my findings and the wailing from inside the house, crossed themselves in godly reverence before disappearing back into their own houses as I fell over the door mat landing sprawled out on the pavement.
Standing alone outside, I gathered what was left of my dignity and quietly meditated my predicament before forcing myself to return inside the House of Horrors.
I made Mrs Creighton a cup of tea, washed her dishes and contacted a relative to advise them she had been suffering a rather awful bout of influenza, which had been aggravated by a Nightnurse induced coma.
Plumping the pillow behind her, I folded back the quilt and handed her a bowl of chicken soup the next door neighbour had brought round. “Here you go, that’ll make you feel better Mrs Creighton.”
She grumbled, sniffed, tasted the soup and let the spoon rattle back into the bowl. “D’ya know what would really make me feel better?”
I was mesmerised by the flake of chicken adhered to her top lip as her tongue snaked up trying to dislodge it. “Anything, just say and I’ll see if I can sort it for you” I gently crooned.
She wiped away the chicken with the back of her hand, flicking it across the counterpane.
“I’d feel a whole lot better if you’d just fuck right off…… and don’t let the door smack you on the arse on the way out…!”
Back at the nick I filled in my report on Mrs Creighton before going off duty, still stinging from her ingratitude and gobsmacked that an 87-year-old lady could actually know, let alone use, the F-word.
“There you go Mave…” Bob dunked his biscuit in the chipped mug, brought it up to his mouth with seconds to spare before it drooped, “…it’s the four S’s, you should’ve known that.”
I closed my notebook, “What on earth has sun, sea, sand and sex got to do with an ungrateful old biddy with Tourette’s?”
He grinned, cramming the rest of the biscuit into his mouth.
“Nope, it stands for not all Shitty Smells Sniffed are Stiffs….”
Extract from Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Primark Thong (c) 2016
Constable 6554 Dave Phillips wasn’t just a Police Officer, he wasn’t just a great guy, our workmate, our colleague and friend…..
………because first and foremost he was also a devoted husband, superhero daddy, brother and son. The heartbreaking loss of Dave has devastated everyone who knew him, this dedicated, kind, deep voiced, gentle man who was killed whilst doing his duty.
Two little girls have been left without their ‘superdaddy’ and a beautiful wife without her soulmate. In an instant their lives have been tragically changed forever.
This is for Jen, Abigail and Sophie, I am humbled by your quiet dignity and courage. For Dave, it was an honour to have known you. Rest easy big man.
I Am Here
From the gentle breeze that kisses your face,
To the tender touch of your hair,
This is me my beautiful brave lady,
Your very own ‘Poo Bear’.
From the Daddy tickles and super hugs,
To the warmth you feel in your heart,
This is me my beautiful brave girls,
We will never be apart
From the silent whisper you hear in the dark,
To the memories we made together,
This is me my beautiful brave ones,
Our love lives on forever
From the darkest nights with twinkling stars,
To the early morning sun,
This is me my beautiful brave girls,
I am here, I have not gone.
I am the breeze, I am the sun,
I am that twinkling star,
This is me, a gift in nature,
I haven’t gone that far
I will be the dancing moonbeam,
Or the butterfly you see,
I will find a way of showing you,
I’m here, that this is me
From sadness will come laughter,
As you remember me with pride,
I will be your happy memory,
I will never leave your side.
So from the gentle breeze that kisses your face,
To the tender touch of your hair,
This is me my beautiful brave girls,
Your very own ‘Poo Bear’.
Gina Kirkham (c) 2015
WHY IT’S GOOD TO BE GAY…………………..
“Jump in Olivia, let me fasten you in.” I clicked the seatbelt across her, adjusted the booster seat and checked little Annie’s harness in her car seat. Safety for my two granddaughters, Olivia, a big girl at five and Annie two years, was paramount on our trips out.
“Nanny, can we open our nik-naks now I’m hungry?”
I looked at Olivia’s cute smile and did what any self respecting Nanny would do. I relented and handed them both their packets of nik-naks (crisps) that in an ideal world, were supposed to be for after Messy Play at the local church.
“Fank you Nanny” piped up Annie as the first handful disappeared from view into her mouth leaving a smear of orange flavouring across her chin.
I knew there wouldn’t be another word spoken by Annie until she had finished her packet, but Olivia, being a little chatterbox, had the fabulous ability to eat and speak at the same time. She also had the added talent of being able to spit various chewed contents of her mouth onto the back of my leather passenger seat. Words beginning with ‘P’ or ‘S’ were the ones I dreaded the most as they gave a particularly spectacular spray across the interior. I made a mental note to wipe it down after our little jaunt lest it should harden and remain there for all eternity – or at least until I decided to sell the car and give it its first clean since the initial purchase.
Listening to the rustle of the crisp packets in stereo I wound down my window to let in a little fresh air and to clear the odour of added cheese & onion flavouring and dollops of E621, better known as monosodium glutamate.
“Nanny I’m a Christian because I’m going to church aren’t I?” Olivia mumbled whilst spraying crumbs down her dress.
“Well, it takes a lot more than just going to church Livvy, the most important thing is to be kind with your heart, think kind things and do kind things for other people.”
“Mmmmm I see….” She paused to cram another handful of crisps into her mouth before continuing with a cough and a fair splattering of chewed potato onto the seat in front of her. “…..so you should forgive people and love them all the time then. They’re nice things to do aren’t they Nanny?”
I smiled as I looked at her face in my rear view mirror. I loved the innocence of a child not yet corrupted by the realities and cruelties of everyday life. “Yes, that’s right Livvy, we should always be kind to people and they will be kind back.” I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping my simplistic reply would suffice.
She sighed loudly, which was then followed by an unusual ten second silence from the backseat.
I waited with baited breath for another profound statement of Godliness.
“I really don’t like puffs though……”
I almost choked on the segment of Terry’s Chocolate Orange I’d just popped into my mouth. Slowing down to approach the looming junction, I changed gear and managed another quick glance at Olivia in the rear view mirror. She was happily staring out of the side window.
Oh my goodness, how on earth was I going to deal with this, to explain to her that it was not only something she shouldn’t be saying, it was most definitely not something she should be feeling or thinking. I mean, come on, what would you do? Ignore it, pretend she hadn’t said it. Was this even something that Nannies should deal with?
I decided to broach the subject with tact, diplomacy and care.
“Gosh Olivia, we don’t say that do we? We have to love everyone sweetheart, even if they are different.”
I rambled on and on, giving all sorts of reasons as to why people can be different, religion, colour of their skin, their hair, nationality, what food they liked to eat. I decided against a direct approach on sexuality, thinking maybe this was something mummy and daddy should deal with, and due to my fabulously rainbow coloured family where ‘spot the heterosexual’ would be enthusiastically indulged in after several Gin & Tonics at our fun-filled parties, I had a feeling it would have to be discussed sooner rather than later.
“……so you see Livvy, we should love everything and everyone shouldn’t we?”
There followed another ten second silence.
Ten seconds in which I had the time to seriously doubt my developing Nanny skills and suffer horrendous visions of little mouths uttering socially inappropriate one-liners to the gathered guests at our next party like a mini Keith Lemon.
Olivia exhaled a rather long sigh for such a little girl. “Yes, I know Nanny but they do give me dreadful mouth ulcers…..”
Flummoxed at her reply, I pulled up outside the church, switched off the engine and turned to see her sitting with a bemused look on her face brandishing…….
….. a rather large orange Cheesy Puff pinched between her fingers that she had sneakily purloined from Annie’s crisp packet!
It is quite frightening isn’t it, to be so heightened by the fear of being labelled prejudiced, either through homophobia, religious intolerance, racism or disability indifference, that a simple word like ‘puff‘ fills you with immediate horror, until you realise that it is just a childish term for a brand of crisp.
This little incident with Olivia, although providing me with a smile and hopefully you with a giggle, sharply reminded me that ‘puff‘ was also a derogatory term that people I love dearly had to endure on a daily basis, along with other, quite vile, cruel chants, aspersions and demeaning labels.
We have come a long way in the fight for acceptance on who we love, who we worship, where we find our roots and how we cope from day to day with disability, but there is so much work still to be done.
Why is it still so hard for people to understand that love comes in many forms? Why is it still so unacceptable for some to appreciate that the love between two men or two women is no less wonderful and precious than the love between a man and a woman?
I introduce my family as just that – my family. My wonderful, happy family, which just so happens to have a high percentage of gays dancing around their handbags whilst laughing at the straight members of the clan.
I do not feel it necessary to explain their sexual orientation, whether they be heterosexual, homosexual or lesbian. That type of title does not make them any less of a person or any more of a man or woman. They are who they are; kind, warm, and caring. They work hard and have fun, in fact they have the most amazing sense of humour and sometimes are the first to poke fun at themselves in every day situations, as evidenced by the above paragraph that has the words ‘gay’ and ‘handbags’ in one sentence.
They also have a huge capacity to love and be loved and to make their own choices of who they share that love with.
They have never asked for the approval of those who disparage them for their sexual choices, but then again, neither have they asked to be treated cruelly because of it.
This blog post is important to me because I had a friend. A good friend actually, who although I didn’t see very often, still kept in touch via Facebook.
The operative word here is had.
I was horrified this week to suddenly realise that after all these years I didn’t really know this person at all. Even though he was fully aware of my family and my feelings, he chose to make appalling homophobic comments on a Facebook post. I was heartbroken and felt betrayed by him. He was unapologetic. He could see nothing wrong in voicing his opinions, it was apparently his ‘right’.
After very little deliberation, I chose to invoke my ‘right’.
I sat quietly, watching the now blank spot where his profile picture had been, sad that I had clearly made a poor choice in a friend.
As I shut down my laptop, I nostalgically remembered one Christmas more than thirty years ago. The year my cousin came out.
She chose to reveal this important piece of information just as the turkey had been cleared away and the Rum Pudding and Black Forest Gateau were being served. Great Grandma Pemberton, a very respectful 98 years old was presiding at the head of the table, wine had flowed copiously, which probably served to give Geraldine a little bit of Dutch courage as she wobbled to her feet, glass in hand.
“I’ve got something to tell you all, it’s very important…..”
A hush fell over the fourteen of us as we expectantly waited for her to continue.
“……..it’s just that……….well, err……….I’M GAY!”
Amid clacking of false teeth, slurping of port by Great Aunt Phyllis, the clattering of dropped dessert spoons and very obvious gasps, Great Grandma Pemberton raised one eyebrow, lifted her glass in toast and replied;
“That’s nice dear, we should all be very happy and very gay – after all it is Christmas!”
I couldn’t help but smile…
… Geraldine couldn’t help but be disappointed.
There is no person, no law or no God that should dictate who we choose to love, there is no gender, no colour, no religion or class that should influence our future together as human beings and how we celebrate our love.
Please remember how important it is to show love, respect and kindness to each other regardless of our differences, because it is not our differences that divide us, it is our inability to accept, nurture, cherish and celebrate them.
© 2017 Gina Kirkham
IT’S ALL ABOUT MAVIS….
I suppose at some point in our lives it would be amazing to think that we had achieved something special, or at the very least to shine a little bit more than the average person for just one day.
I think that is why we often strive to excel in something.
“Mavis you have a happy and generous heart my love, but unless you decide to become a comedian, which mark my words, women don’t do, I fear there is very little you will actually shine at..” Frederick Albert Upton – 12th December 1972
I’ll tell you what, before I go any further why don’t you grab yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee, a couple of digestives if you’re not on a diet, make yourself comfortable and I’ll tell you about me. It’ll be nice if you know me better from the beginning…..
I am Mavis Upton; a mum, a daughter, a sister and an ex-wife. I have discreetly waved goodbye to my twenties and have now happily accepted my thirties with not too many tears, tantrums or a trip to the Aesthetically Yours Beauty Salon for fillers, Botox, lash inserts or Super Scouse brows.
I was born sometime during the not so swinging 50’s when fish & chips came wrapped in last weeks’ newspaper and skirts were still worn below the knee. By the time I had reached my first birthday, my mum had already left me in my pram outside Woolworths on two separate occasions.
“…..but Mrs Upton your baby has been here for three hours, we’ve had stray dogs claimed quicker than that” grumbled the local Constable who had been pushing my pram around to stop me from crying for the best part of an hour. Suitably chastised, mum smiled weakly, wiped the snot from my nose, examined the tissue and stuffed it into her pocket.
Although she fervently maintained it wasn’t three hours, I was still abandoned, unclaimed and probably traumatised for life before the age of one.
“…..Mrs Upton this is the third visit Mavis has made here in as many months, can the child not be controlled…?” A fitting tribute from Sister Jacks at the local Cottage Hospital after my three wheel trike hit a wall whilst I was chewing an elastic band causing me to excitedly swallow it. This was followed by two weeks waiting for it to re-appear again, which looking back must have been incredibly gross.
Two weeks later I was back again. This time for a serious, almost life threatening nosebleed after a head on crash into the garage doors when riding on the handlebars of my brothers bone-shaker bike. Admittedly this was aggravated by the fact that I had my right index finger inserted knuckle deep into my left nostril at the time of impact but it did teach me a very valuable lesson for later life…….
………..don’t pick your nose whilst availing yourself of any form of moving transport. It’s not big and it’s certainly not clever.
“….I’m sorry Mrs Upton, if we have to be called out again to Mavis we may have to start charging a fee…” A further tribute from Station Commander Cookson, Fire & Rescue. They had come to my assistance that particular Sunday morning after I fell from a huge tree in the local park. I had hit several branches on the way down, but was saved in my dramatic descent by a particularly robust twig somewhere near the middle.
Even at that tender age, I was mortified to be found dangling upside down by my shorts and pink Minnie Mouse knickers. My humiliation further compounded when I made front page news of our local paper complete with close up photograph and banner headline “Mavis and Minnie Take a Tumble”, in which the first paragraph provided the whole world with my name, age, school and finally my address. I spent three days staring at that photograph, turning it to every angle possible, willing it to become someone else so that I could continue my life of innocence without being known as the ‘Pink Knicker Kid’ for all eternity. Knickers apart, I also had the misfortune to notice that there was nothing attractive about a pudding-bowl haircut when being forced to swing upside down, bright red in the face for the best part of an hour.
“No Mavis, be sensible. I can’t afford Donny Osmond knickers nor can I afford another call out by the Fire Brigade.” Mum scowled as she wiped her hands on the tea towel. “……why can’t you be more like your brother and sister? You push me to the point of exasperation, you really do.”
In June 1962 I kicked my shoe on to the roof of the local Infants School, prompting the Caretaker to climb up in an attempt to retrieve it. I watched as he fell off the step ladders on the descent, fracturing his arm. Looking on with some sympathy as he lay prostrate and groaning on the ground between numbers 3 and 6 on the chalked hopscotch chart, with his arm bent at an impossible angle, I inwardly clapped with glee as all was not lost – he still had my shoe in his outstretched hand when he landed, saving me the inconvenience of having to hop home.
“….if yer think I’m goin’ to work one more day in this place with her….” The Caretakers arthritic bony finger shook as it pointed at me as I tried to hang my head in mock shame, whilst still giggling. “…well I’ll tell yer this fer nothin’ you’d better think again” he growled.
Another fitting tribute. Are you starting to see a bit of a pattern here?
The following month I swung elegantly on a lamppost outside my friends’ house and was knocked down by a passing Bubble Car, driven by Barry Bouffant the hairdresser who lived down the road, only regaining consciousness on my friends red Formica kitchen table. That in itself was a separate trauma; I mean, come on; red Formica!
It was the end of a hairdressing career in Mayfair for Barry. This event was so traumatic it left him with an uncontrollable tremor in his scissor hand. After several uneven fringe cuts, he announced his retirement in the Hairdressers Journal.
“It is with great sadness I am retiring from the hairdressing circuit. This is wholly due to one Mavis Upton. I cannot offer anything further due to ongoing legal matters with my Solicitors and the Upton family.”
I thought it was rather lovely of him to mention me.
Between the ages of five and twelve years I ballet danced, tap danced and sang dreadfully, adored art, learnt how to darn a sock and fell in love with ALL four of The Beatles. I bought Donny Osmonds ‘Puppy Love’ from Woolworths and this time remembered to take myself home just in case Mum forgot again.
A few months later, Donny Osmond and his puppies forgotten, I saved up and bought Alice Cooper’s ‘Schools Out’ as an act of rebellion and being grown up.
“Absolutely not Mavis, hand it over. I will not have you listening to this type of music….it’s degenerate. Whoever heard of a man called Alice?”
“Aww jeez Mum….”
“Don’t you jeez me or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap……”
Grabbing my prized 45 rpm single from me, mum disappeared into the kitchen leaving me to wonder how exciting being a degenerate would be – whatever one of them was!
After a week of searching for Alice, I found it stuck behind the tea caddy on the kitchen window. It had warped and melted in the sun. I cried at my loss and suddenly didn’t feel so rebellious or grown up anymore.
As the years passed I moved on from The Beatles to David Essex and David Bowie and truly fell in lust and love for the very first time with Graham, a boy from down the road, whilst listening to Barry White. This was a long lasting relationship which resulted in the ceremonial cutting of a sixpence in half as a token of our undying love for each other.
Walking me home one night, we stopped in the darkened back jigger. Flexing his fingers as though he was about to play a fancy little Minuet on the piano, the love of my life nervously leant towards me, flushed with impending excitement. As one eye settled on my chest, the other eye began to involuntarily wink.
“Mavis…ummm, errr can I….err…oh dear maybe not….oh God….it’s just that they are rather magnificent…” he murmured.
Blushing furiously, I pushed his hand away. “Absolutely not, we haven’t got that far in Reproductive Science yet; you never know what’ll happen if you touch them you idiot!”
Resigned to the moment, he was content with a bit of French Kissing which although terribly exhilarating, resulted in me rushing to the local Chemists the following day to frantically thumb through an information booklet whilst hiding behind the extra-large incontinence pants and castor oil.
By paragraph 3 I was relieved to find that swapping spit couldn’t make me pregnant, or give me acne, athletes’ foot or a hairy tongue. I did notice however that I had developed hairy legs but this may have been just an unlucky coincidence.
The ‘long lasting’ part of this relationship was to end in heartbreak with me staring out of the bedroom window, crying and snotting into my hankie whilst listening to Nilsson’s ‘Without You’. I dramatically mourned a love lost for several weeks…… and half a bloody sixpence I couldn’t spend!
As luck would have it, just when it mattered most, I suddenly developed that obligatory plumpness you get in your mid-teens. After endless diets and drinking gallons of P.L.J. Juice as recommended in the JACKIE magazine, that almost stripped the lining from my stomach, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t actually fat, I was just too short for my weight.
“If you hang on the back of a door by your fingers, it stretches your spine and makes you taller, you know.”
That pearl of wisdom came from my best mate, Corrine. At 5’9” she clearly had never had to consider door hanging herself. Unless she had and the 5’9” was the result.
Excited, I gave it a go.
Needless to say it didn’t work but it did give me an extra trip to the Cottage Hospital when Mum didn’t see me hanging on the inside and banged the door shut on my fingers – three bloody agonising times before she realised why it wouldn’t close.
By the age of eighteen although my waist and curvy butt got smaller, I developed to an immense extent on the front bumper section and had what could only be classed in simple terms as humongous boobs.
“I think you really do need to consider some sort of special harness for them Mavis” Corrine had happily imparted with a smirk.
Yeah, thanks Corrine, 5’9” and a pert 34C. Remind me again why you’re my best mate.
In desperation, I purchased a new to the women’s market Minimiser Bra in a beautiful shade of turquoise blue and was fooled into thinking it was the answer to my prayers. All I can say is they have to go somewhere, either under your armpits or pushed down to become an extra spare tyre around your middle, which then gets stuffed in to the high waistband of your 1970’s navy blue Crimplene Oxford Bag trousers.
Only a few weeks later I found myself reporting to the world that my wonderful Minimiser had tragically departed this life.
After giving it a good scrub in the kitchen sink for a night out with the girls, it needed to dry quickly. No central heating in those days, so I had a bright idea of stuffing it under the grill of the cooker.
Turning the dial up to 6, I promptly forgot about it and went to wallow in the bath and shave my hairy legs. What seemed like minutes later, I heard mum’s high pitched voice gravitating up the stairs.
“Think your bra’s ready Mave!”
I jumped out of the bath and opened the door to be met with dense smoke on the landing. After nearly an hour of toasting my wonderful Minimiser had burst into flames to become an offering to the Mammary Gods. All that was left of my expensive purchase were two wires, a stringy bit of melted turquoise in the grill pan and an extremely uncomfortable evening with an unholstered set of nellies that kept knocking the drinks off the table in the pub.
After wasting three Bacardi & Cokes, two pints of bitter and a Babycham, I made a decision to save for my ‘Diddybooby Fund’ to pay for a reduction at Doctor Blenkinsop’s Internationally Renowned Clinic in Accrington.
Unfortunately I got a bit side tracked and raided the account to pay for a holiday to Ibiza. There I learnt that maybe my ample melons weren’t such a curse after all and I came to accept them as part of my life, so long as I didn’t run, jump or lean forward too quickly as any one of those actions would render me back in the Cottage Hospital.
To this day my ‘Diddybooby Fund’ still stands at a rock solid £3.46 pence, a Spanish peseta, two buttons and an elastic band.
Between the age of seventeen and twenty five I managed to have a successful career in plumbing, the watery tap kind, not gynaecology or urology, get married and get pregnant, all in that order. This was much to the relief of Mum who had frequently threatened me with death or banishment if the latter had manifested itself before the white dress and wedding breakfast.
And so, it was with much relief that in the early hours of a very warm August morning, my beautiful daughter decided it was time to make an appearance. Hubby pulled up outside in his bright yellow Bedford works van as I stood panting on the doorstep wearing what could only be described as a two man tent; with the men, sleeping bags and rucksacks still in it!
Opening the passenger door I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Jeez, couldn’t you have cleaned it out a bit before I got in”
Hubby rolled his eyes and just shrugged.
Kicking the chip wrappers, cigarette butts and his collection of cassette tapes featuring the Rolling Stones and the much sought after K-Tel compilations to one side in between contractions, I heaved my bulk into the front seat.
“Bloody hell Mavis, watch what your sitting on, it’s me latest Cliff Richard single.”
Grunting through another contraction, I glared at him. “I’m sure Cliff couldn’t give two bloody hoots if I suffocated him with both ass cheeks, just get me to be bloody hospital….NOW!!”
Forty five minutes later, after much unladylike swearing and no pain relief whatsoever I heard her first cry as the midwife wrapped up my little pink bundle.
“You have a daughter Mavis, a gorgeous daughter”
Looking down on this beautiful, tiny miracle I knew in that instance that my life would never be the same again. Kissing her forehead and breathing in her baby smell, I felt my heart would burst with a new found love. “Welcome to the world little one, I’m your mummy.”
And with that my little miracle let out the biggest fart I’d ever heard, smiled contentedly and went back to sleep.
It only took me three weeks to actually end up committing the ultimate in child neglect just as my mum had done all those years ago outside Woolworths. Two miles from home, driving over the ‘humpy bridge’ I did my mummy impression as the car lurched forward over the crest and dropped down again.
“Oooh little bumps for little girls” I simpered whilst half turning to look at the back seat. To my eternal horror it was empty – apart from Humphrey the Hippo, who was nodding his head and glaring at me in a most disgusted and accusing manner.
I panicked as the realisation hit me. I had actually gone one better than my Mum.
I had left MY daughter at home…….
……..on the coffee table!
Sadly, although nothing to do with me leaving our new born baby abandoned in her carrycot on a £14.99 MFI coffee table, my marriage was not to last and I soon found myself alone with Ella, living a contented, simple life in our seaside cottage with our kitten who is quite simply called Cat.
So there we are. The life and times of Mavis Upton, an ordinary, accident prone but happy girl with several testimonials from the Police, Fire Service, National Health and the general working sector…..
…. and a Mum who didn’t quite know what to do with me apart from two episodes of futile abandonment.
(C) 2016 Gina Kirkham
Mavis will be happily recounting more stories in Spring 2017 in her book, Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Polyester Thong to be published by URBANE PUBLICATIONS 😊