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.

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.

This Is Just So Unexpected…

My gracious loser face is well rehearsed. I have had many occasions to use it:

  • The karaoke judges at Haven Holidays failed to appreciate my flawless rendition of ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’. (When I say “flawless”, I may have exaggerated a little – there were a few tuning issues, I forgot the words and my performance was lacking in melody, harmony and rhythm).
  • I once came third in a Michael Jackson lookalike competition.
  • Despite 3,792 submissions, none of my artwork ever made it onto Blue Peter.
  • Simon Cowell was not amused by my recorder symphony of ‘Three Blind Mice’ – despite playing it through my nose.
  • I missed out on the best costume prize at a friend’s Halloween party in 1991. The winner incidentally wore a white bed sheet with two eyeholes cut out of it. Even at eight years old – I could spot a fix at fifty paces.

Having spent so many years being overlooked, underappreciated and totally misunderstood (that’s my defence and I’m sticking with it) imagine my surprise and delight when this humble blog of mine was actually nominated for something fabulous. It was just so unexpected! So I danced like a rock star to celebrate. 

Now picture my response when I received four further nominations for other awards – within ten days. (I might have self-combusted a little bit). 

Okay, so given my misspent youth, I’m no expert on acceptance speeches – but I think I have a reasonable grasp of the etiquette:

DO

  • Thank all the people who made this possible.
  • Say something heartfelt.
  • Recognise those you believe to be brilliant.

DON’T

  • Blub. 
  • Have a major wardrobe malfunction. Bras and Knickers are strictly off limits.
  • Forget anyone really important. Like your mother/father/border collie.
  • Offend people.
  • Get intoxicated.
  • Bring along a superfluous handbag, or lose a shoe en-route. Thank you Meryl Streep:

SO HERE GOES:

* Thank all the people who made this possible* I wish to express my gratitude and undying love to the following thoroughly upstanding individuals for seeing something in me that Simon Cowell clearly did not. Here they are, along with the awards they bestowed upon me:

Suburban Enlightenment

April Hawks

Twyste

TaylaAC

Arizona Girl

*Here’s the heartfelt bit* It means a lot to me; really. Thank you.

*Recognise those you believe to be brilliant* Having spent literally minutes on PowerPoint creating a totally made up, brand new, fancy schmancy award, I would like to present it to the following outstanding blogs for being ruddy marvellous. I highly recommend them to anyone:  

The Life and Times of Nathan Badley

Prawn and Quartered

Childhood Relived

Project 1979

Globe Tracer 

Life Outside the Wall 

I believe this is the point in proceedings when the producer goes to commercials, so before I forget – I’d like to thank my mother, father, lucky pants and dog Yoko – who also made me smile all over my face. (Apart from the time she ate my favourite scrunchie).

10 Things Children Know (and Grown Ups have Forgotten)

Childhood can be so stressful. Mine was no exception:

I got a splinter the size of a llama in my left pinky.

My brother Chris drew freckles on my hobby horse in indelible ink.

I once forgot to wear cycling shorts under my summer dress at school, so when practising handstands – inadvertently flashed my knickers at all the boys.

My Tracy Island looked nothing like the one they made earlier on Blue Peter.

A giant Stay Puft Marshmallow Man romped through New York City and I thought we were all going to die (so hid behind the sofa).

My parents banned me from:

  1. Riding a motorcycle.
  2. Having a pet tiger.
  3. Getting a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tattoo.
  4. Helping myself to any more of the grown-ups’ fruit punch.
  5. Microwaving any of my brothers’ toy soldiers (again). Especially the metal ones.

Okay, with hindsight – not having Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello permanently imprinted on my back may have been a good move – but I still want a pet tiger.

Children are a lot more intelligent than we give them credit for. I decided at 7 years old that I never wanted to be self-employed like my father, as he worked roughly 87 hours a week and we rarely got any quality time with him. I stand by this decision. Here are my top 10 equally insightful things that children know and adults have forgotten:

1. ANYTHING TASTES BETTER WHEN COATED WITH BREADCRUMBS AND SHAPED LIKE A DINOSAUR.

2. NOTHING HEALS A GRAZED KNEE FASTER THAN A REALLY AWESOME PLASTER…EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T ACTUALLY NEED ONE.

3. FOR A HANDY SNACK ON THE MOVE – INSPECT THE CONTENTS OF YOUR NOSE.

4. MONSTERS LIVE IN CUPBOARDS, UNDER BEDS AND BENEATH THE STAIRS.

5. ALL BODILY FUNCTIONS, WITHOUT EXCEPTION ARE HILARIOUS.

6. SANTA IS OMNISCIENT AND OMNIPOTENT. BE AFRAID.

7. SNOW IS ALWAYS A GOOD THING.

8. PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES ROCK.

9. YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO BUY WITH THE 37 PENCE AND 2 CHOCOLATE BUTTONS IN YOUR PIGGY BANK: A PONY.

10. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. JUST BELIEVE. (PLEASE SEE POINT 9). 

10 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School

I learnt a lot in school. These are the edited highlights:

  • Henry VIII put it about a bit. (Quite a lot actually).
  • Guy Fawkes was a pyromaniac.
  • When in an exam situation – if you can’t remember the year something happened, just put 1962. Lots of things happened in 1962”. (John Keenan, Media Studies teacher; legend).

I was fortunate enough to benefit from a decent education. That said, I did once spend an entire term in Metal Work making a pooper scooper, so arguably my time could have been better utilised elsewhere.

There are several things that with hindsight, I wish they had taught me in school. Here’s my top ten:

1. BULLIES NEVER PROSPER. Those evil witches who pick on you now, throw pencil shavings in your hair and spit in your pencil case? Get the popcorn ready – they’ll soon be regular guests on the Jeremy Kyle show.

2. DON’T BE A SHEEP. You’ll waste the first 16 years of your life desperately trying to follow the herd and fit in, then the rest of forever trying to stand out.

3. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW GORGEOUS YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. I don’t expect you to understand – you’ll only realise this in 15 years time, when you’re older, fatter and less firm.

4. FAILURE IS AN OPTION. You are not destined to be a Tomato, win The X Factor or marry Ronan Keating. Once fully disillusioned – you’ll learn a valuable lesson and go on to succeed in something you never expected – like Rubik’s Cube solving. A key life skill.

5. “BE NICE TO NERDS. CHANCES ARE YOU‘LL END UP WORKING FOR ONE”. Listen to that Bill Gates chap; he’s something of an authority on the matter.

6. UNIVERSITY IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION. Without it – you are likely to be just as successful, without sclerosis of the liver or a debt problem.

7. IF YOU DOWN 2 SAMBUCAS, 3 VODKAS AND 5 AFTERSHOCKS IN CLOSE SUCCESSION, YOU WILL BE SICK AND IT WILL GLOW IN THE DARK.   

8. NO, YOU CANNOT HOOVER UP PAPERCLIPS. DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT TRYING. The warranty will not cover damage caused by miscellaneous stationery items, Christmas ornaments or pet gerbils. House spiders however are permitted.

9. WHITE FOOTBALL SHIRTS DO NOT RESPOND WELL TO SHARING A WASHING MACHINE WITH RED SOCKS. Your husband and his team will not thank you either.

10. CAREER-WISE: HAVE A PLAN E. You are likely to need one.

Wait ‘til You See My Smile

It is fair to say that growing up – I was a crazy moo. Smiley, happy and mad as a box of frogs. I also had the energy of a Duracell bunny – on acid.

Then, at 15 years old – something changed. As an A* student, it was most out of character for me to fall asleep in my GCSE History exam. I ate iced buns by the dozen and endeavoured to satisfy my unquenchable thirst by downing roughly 396 gallons of water a day. It became an effort to walk 100 yards to the bus-stop, at 5’6″ my weight plummeted to 6 stone, I had constant halitosis and to add insult to injury – my hair started falling out. This was not the look I was going for to bag myself a hottie.

Being a teenager – I would rather have stuck a fork in my eye than talked to my parents about this – as it was, like sooo embarrassing. So I didn’t. I took the sensible approach of suffering in silence, sleeping 14 hours a day and almost failing my GCSEs. Genius, I know.

Despite my best attempts to hide the fact that by 16 – I had developed the get up and go of a 98 year old and the body of an 8 year old – my parents noticed. Damn them. One trip to the GP and a pee in a cup later and I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Admittedly, upon diagnosis, my life fell apart a little bit, but I soon moved on. 12 and a half years later – happy, healthy, energetic and mad as a box of frogs once more – I am able to share 3 key pieces of diabetic wisdomery with the world:

  1. Never ask a diabetic “Should you be eating that?” They will punch you in the face.
  2. Life is frickin’ awesome. Be grateful for it and enjoy every minute.
  3. Smile every single day.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when your mother full-names you – she means business

Allow me to demonstrate:

 “Charles Phillip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor – I think you’ll find young man that those are my Crown Jewels. Return them to the Tower of London immediately or I shall set the Corgis on you!(Circa 2011)

Your mother’s body language in this situation was always key. With an eyebrow raised and arms crossed – the death stare was employed. That was your cue to return her Crown Jewels / put down the hammer / take your brother’s GI Joe out of the microwave (even if he had decapitated your Tiny Tears).

Let’s face it – nothing else your parents said carried as much weight. You always knew better:

Being told “No you can’t watch that” merely resulted in you screening the desired 18 rated slasher horror psycho chainsaw massacre hell-raising blood-fest at your mate’s house instead. You’ve slept with the light on ever since.

As a child, being informed that something was prohibited, only ever made it more beguiling. As such, any of the following statements would have, quite rightly been wholeheartedly ignored:

“Your father’s nail gun is not a toy”

 “Calpol is not fruit cordial”

“Superglue, bleach and WD-40 are not fair weapons to employ in a water fight with your younger sister”

So, when stating the obvious didn’t work – your parents attempted reverse psychology:

 “I really love what you’ve done with your jeans. How do you get the waistband to sit just below your buttocks in that way? I hope you wear them like that forever”. If that failed, they resorted to outright lies:

My father used to tell my brothers and I “We’re nearly there” roughly an hour and a half into a 6 hour journey to Dorset. “I wonder who will be the first to see the sea?” he’d ask, midway through Luton. 

I had an epiphany in my late teens and I didn’t like it. I realised my parents actually knew more than me.

Here’s some whimsical wisdomness, from older, wiser grown-ups. Show-offs:

“Never be afraid to ask for help or say you don’t understand” Anon

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” Einstein

 “Be whoever and whatever you want to be” My Mother

“These are the days of our lives” Queen (Roger Taylor) 

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.

A Letter to my Younger Self

Dear 12 year old me,

I have some good news and some not-so good news about the next 17 years. Where shall I begin?

I HATE TO BE THE ONE TO BREAK IT TO YOU, BUT…

  • You do not marry Ronan Keating.
  • As yet, there’s still no sign of hoverboards. (That Michael J Fox has a lot to answer for).
  • Take That split up. Robbie Williams gets fat. Gary Barlow also gets fat.
  • You haven’t yet holidayed in Space. Though you do get as far as Cyprus – and it’s fabulous.
  • In your quest to find a boyfriend who looks like Grant Mitchell – you end up dating a lot of men who look unfortunately like Phil Mitchell.

GREAT NEWS

  • You are no longer a short-arse.
  • You know that gawky looking fresh prince of Bel-Air? Think of him as an ugly duckling.
  • Gary Barlow gets fit. Take That reunite.
  • We have progress: Hillary Clinton is now officially more powerful than her husband Bill. Rugby Union legend Gareth Thomas came out. A black man runs the White House.
  • The Lion King returned to cinemas in 2011, this time – in high definition and 3D. You still remember (some of) the words.
  • You fall in love and get married. Your husband makes you smile every single day. I’m pleased to report –he doesn’t look a thing like Phil Mitchell.

SPOILER ALERT

  • That thing you’ve heard about called the internet? It’s going to be huge. It may even compensate for the lack of hoverboards.
  • You change your mind about the whole teaching career thing. Have a Plan E.
  • Princes William and Harry actually become borderline hotties. (Briefly).
  • Beware: Facebook.

No need to thank me – I know I am brilliant.

Yours,

Me (aged 29¼)

Kisses xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

“Think Different”

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” John Lennon

There was a sweet little girl on the bus today, with big brown eyes, short curly auburn hair and a cheeky grin. She turned to her mother and said “When I grow up, I want to be a tomato”. What a brilliant suggestion, I thought. Why didn’t I think of that?

I had to admire her ambition. After all, many grown-ups have pursued far more ludicrous career paths, with moderate success. Take Kirstie Allsopp for example – she can neither sew, nor glue, nor stitch nor paint in any coherent fashion whatsoever. I’ve seen grasshoppers with more artistic flair. Yet she has 2 television series to share her creative arts and crafts ‘talent’ with the nation. By contrast – David Beckham once reported in an interview that “at school whenever the teachers asked ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a footballer’ and they’d say ‘No, what do you really want to do, for a job?’”

Unlike Beckham though – the vast majority of us never achieve our childhood dream of becoming a superhero / astronaut / secret agent / world-class footballer / piece of fruit. Occasionally, this isn’t such a bad thing:

Sir Elton John (back in the day when he still had hair and went by the name of Reg Dwight) wanted to be a footballer. Just imagine a world without the ‘Circle of Life’…No thank you.

Fastest man on the planet – Usain Bolt thought he was destined to play cricket. I beg to differ.

Luciano Pavarotti – wanted to be a goalkeeper. Enough said.

Thanks to Elton’s mother, Usain’s cricket coach and Pavarotti’s brain for drawing their attention to the far more sensible career paths of rock star, lightning bolt and operatic tenor.

I would like to dedicate the following clever piece of marketing to the adorable little girl who wants to be a tomato:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do”. Steve Jobs

Where’s Jimmy Savile when you need him?