To This Day, I Have No idea What We Were Thinking

I first committed fraud at the tender age of eleven, obtaining property by deception. The item in question: one child’s lucky bag.

Just to clarify – I did not steal the lucky bag; I merely purchased it under false pretences. That doesn’t however make this story any less embarrassing. Allow me to explain:

Lucky bags generally contain a mixture of vile tasting sweets, a miniature colouring book, one defective toy (usually a whistle or yoyo) and an extensive palette of three (yes, three) crayons.

At four years old, this would have kept me occupied for at least three days. I’d use the crayons for the Wassily Kandinsky homage on my bedroom wall, and then eat them for lunch. If there were any remnants left over – I usually stored them in my left nostril for later use. Beyond the age of eight however – lucky bags lost their appeal and suddenly seemed extremely lame.

At eleven years old, my best friend and I decided to be VERY cool and rebellious by purchasing candy cigarettes and pretending to smoke them in the park. The trouble was, we both also had a hankering for lucky bags that day – which quite frankly, at eleven, was social suicide. 

We took our chosen items to the counter and to avoid embarrassment, made a point of telling the cashier very loudly that the lucky bags were for our younger sisters and most definitely not for us, because we were like waaay too old for them. (I don”t even have a sister). Much to our surprise and delight – she didn’t bat an eye lid. It dawns on me now that this was because:

  1. We both looked seven years old.
  2. She did not care.

We paid for our items, and swiftly fled the scene of our crime. To this day, I have no idea what we were thinking. I certainly had no need for a broken whistle.

I’m sorry to say that was only the start of my life of crime. At sixteen years old, I managed to acquire a fake ID. I was utterly convinced that I could pass myself off as a thirty-two year old beautiful Latino woman called Carmelita Chiquita Estevez.

Apparently not.

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When I Fall in Love

Now I do not wish to boast, but I have been blessed with an extraordinary ability to trip over my own feet. This is yet to deter me from dancing. 

I vividly remember my first school disco. It took place in the summer of 1991; I was eight years old and the pressure was on to look spectacular – so I decided against wearing my usual turquoise shell suit, psychedelic slap bracelet and scuffed plimsoles.

My chosen dress was floral, frilly and adorned with bows. It complemented my favourite Alice band beautifully. Jelly shoes were a must, as were cycling shorts, beneath said dress to prevent inadvertent knicker flashing.

I accessorised with a plethora of friendship bracelets, my beloved Mickey Mouse watch and a Minnie Mouse purse (in which I stored my cherry flavoured roll-on lip-gloss). For my hair – I opted for very high pigtails, tied with purple ribbon. If the elastic hadn’t snapped in one of my knee-high socks, then my overall look would have been flawless.

Uneven socks aside – the disco was fabulous! My two left feet and I danced the night afternoon away with friends and loved every minute! I drank orange squash with wild abandon and made the most of the complimentary nibbles. I also learnt a lot in those few short hours:

1. I was in desperate need of air guitar lessons.

2. “When the working day is done, girls just want to have fun”. (Cyndi Lauper)

3. “If you want to know if he loves you so, it’s in his kiss”. (Cher)

4. “I’m not gonna spend my life bein’ a colour”. (Michael Jackson)

I fell in love with music that day. Years on and my illicit affair with it continues.

When my husband Tony and I first started dating and I was getting ready to go out – I used to listen to music in my room. There was one song in particular that struck a chord – and I played it over and over again. It’s a bit old-school, but I simply adored the sentiment:

I didn’t mentioned this to Tony at the time, but four years later, after we got engaged (and I knew for certain that he felt the same way) I told him that I used to listen to a song called “When I Fall in Love”. He immediately burst into song. Just not the one I was referring to:

If you watch the video from 2:14 to 2:48 you’ll see the particular snippet of this musical masterpiece Tony serenaded me with.

I laughed until I cried. 

He’s definitely a keeper.

I am a Genius (Einstein Said So)

After several failed attempts, involving one giant paper aeroplane, thirty-six helium balloons, a home-made tea towel cape and a regrettable leap of faith from my best friend’s swing set, it became apparent to me at a young age that I was not meant to fly.

Over the last twenty-nine years, I have also realised:

1. My tree climbing talents are pretty much on par with that of a goldfish, and as such I am unlikely to ever become an Olympic Gymnast.

2. Despite my love of snow, snowballs, snow angels and snowmen, I once got so cold and wet playing in the white stuff that I cried for three hours and wished my fingers would fall off. The Polar Expedition I had planned with my brothers, Rainbow Brite and Kermit the Frog was swiftly called off.

3. Someone put salt in the sea and it doesn’t taste very nice. As such, there is simply no way I will be able to swim the Atlantic, solo, coated in goose fat – as hoped. Devastated.

4. I was conned. My invisibility dust turned out to be run-of-the-mill glitter. I not only failed to steal the cookie jar unnoticed, but left a sparkly path in my wake. Cat burglar I am not.

5. Despite fine-tuning a professional pout; my total inability to give up chicken wings is probably to blame for the downfall of my modelling career. (When I say “the downfall of”, I mean “my totally nonexistent”). Nando’s have a lot to answer for.

After so many setbacks, failures, fractures and disappointments in my life – I’d probably be justified in thinking that I belong on the scrapheap, along with cassette tapes, floppy disks, Charlie Sheen and Justin Bieber. But, no. Occasionally (and I mean very occasionally) I have a moment of brilliance, which compensates for the fact I cannot fly:

After four fabulous and thoroughly loved-up years together, in the summer of 2009, Tony finally did the decent thing and got down on one knee at a local beauty spot and asked me to marry him. I squealed a little, cried a lot, leapt on him with delight, eventually remembered to say “yes” and then proceeded to fall down a rabbit hole. Needless to say – I was overjoyed. Within a week of our engagement I began to think of ideas for a suitably outstanding wedding gift for him. I mean EPIC. (Cufflinks were not an option).

Aside from me and rib-eye steak, one of the greatest loves of Tony’s life is Premiership football team Manchester United. So over the next two years I secretly sent 165 letters to 142 Manchester United players (past and present) in over half a dozen countries and many of them wrote back. I managed to collate over sixty-five autographs and best wishes on personalised Wedding Day greetings cards from some epic legends – including Ryan Giggs, Peter Schmeichel, Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Bill Foulkes, Nobby Stiles, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. I compiled them in an album for him to open on the morning of our wedding day. He says he didn’t cry when he saw it, but I like to think he did. 

Post Honeymoon, Tony took said album into the office with him. I received this email from a senior work colleague that afternoon. It made me smile: 

I’m with Einstein on this; everybody is a genius. You just have to unlock the potential from within – and realise that thirty-six helium balloons will be insufficient to power your flight to the moon. Several hundred on the other hand…

Oh to be ickle again…

THE WORLD IS YOUR LOBSTER

  • Jumping in muddy puddles will keep you entertained for precisely 4 hours and 27 minutes. Half the time it takes to get you clean again.
  • If you ask your mother “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…Why? Why?…Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?…Why?” constantly for 8 hours, her head will actually explode.
  • It may look like a drum stick to all the boring grown-up people, but to you it is a magical wand and you are not afraid to use it.
  • Fatigue is not an issue. You can always have a power nap in the dog basket.

YOU HAVE AN EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING­­­

  • “Daddy told me it was okay”.

IF IT DOESN’T HAVE A CHILD SAFETY LOCK ON IT, THEN IT’S YOURS

  • Left unattended for 2 minutes, any infant can eat half a pot of Sudocrem.
  • You can lovingly varnish your grandfather’s antique cabinet. Just don’t expect a ‘thank you’.
  • You look particularly fetching with your mother’s make-up all over your face. Very Eddie Izzard.
  • Toast really doesn’t fit in the DVD player. You’ve tested this theory, several times.

GROWN-UPS REMIND YOU HOW WONDERFUL YOU ARE AT LEAST 32 TIMES A DAY

  • Rapturous applause awaits you every time you count to 10 / clear your plate / pee in a toilet and not the waste paper basket.
  • Parents know nothing, but don’t worry – you can teach them the lyrics: “Twinkle twinkle chocolate bar, my best friend’s a racing car…”

NOTHING SCARES YOU

  • You get to dance with all the hotties.
  • You can drive without due care and attention and still not face a lawsuit when you hit a tree / cow / Lollypop Lady.
  • If you want to wear sunglasses with teddies on them, to match your teddy bear t-shirt, then you can and you will. You trend setter you.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FUNNY YOU REALLY ARE

  • When asked if you have ants in your pants – you need to consult the contents of your underwear to verify.

Having given the matter much thought, I have concluded that I would be willing to be a kid again.

Now who stole my Magna Doodle? I want it back.

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family”

1989 ROCKED

  • I was 7.
  • Kylie still loved Jason.
  • Alice bands, shell suits and scrunchies were in vogue.
  • I mastered handstands, cartwheels and cat’s cradle.
  • My troll collection quadrupled to an outrageously impressive: 4.
  • Wallace took Gromit on a grand day out and they ate lots of cheese.
  • A big wall fell down in Berlin and all the grown-ups got very excited.
  • My youngest brother Mike was born.

Admittedly, I didn’t necessarily greet the latter with the enthusiasm it deserved. I actually recall telling my parents in no uncertain terms to send him back.

My three other brothers failed to sympathise, as unlike me – they were delighted to have another man about the house.

After a year or two – I grew to love, adore and mother him.

Not just 2.4 children

There was a Simpsons’ poster on display in my father’s study for several years when I was growing up. It read –

“Remember, as far as anyone knows, we’re a nice normal family”.

I was never entirely sure what constituted ‘normal’ but I was pretty confident we weren’t it.

  • Oli was a nerd.
  • Chris sang. At all times.
  • I was the only girl and as such – terribly misunderstood.
  • Joe was into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, aliens and dinosaurs.
  • Mike liked whatever Joe liked.
  • Dad worked roughly 87 hours a week.
  • Mum was the glue that held us all together.

There were certain logistical advantages to being the only girl – I got my very own room for example. I also got a lot of sympathy from strangers. “Four brothers? You poor thing. They must pick on you an awful lot”. God no. I was a red belt in Tae Kwon-Do, they wouldn’t dare.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing however:

  • Oli’s bedroom was next to mine. He played Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’ on repeat at 140 decibels for about 3 years. I played Boyzone.
  • Chris decapitated my Tiny Tears doll. I punched him.
  • Joe shot me with Nerf bullets. A lot. I locked him in the garden shed.
  • Mike copied Joe. He also ended up in the shed.

Grown-ups (well, almost)

I’m pleased to report that Oli is still a nerd. A wildly successful one (they’re the best kind). As far as I know – he no longer listens to music that makes his ears bleed.

Chris no longer rips heads off dolls. He gets paid to buy stuff (genius I know) for the Royal Bank of Scotland.

I am still claiming to be misunderstood. On a positive note – I no longer have cause to punch my brothers or hold them captive.

Dad confiscated Joe’s Nerf gun on a Sunday afternoon in 1992, following an unfortunate incident with our neighbour’s pet goat. I don’t believe it was ever returned to him. He’s currently a Team Leader for Costa, loves playing host and is highly domesticated.

Mike no longer copies everything Joe does. He closely resembles a Wookiee and favours music that makes his ears bleed.

Families rule!