Tag Archives: laughter

The Character Beneath



shopThe store I worked for underwent an overhaul a few years ago. Having sat comfortably on her stoical British bottom for slightly too long, she had realised that the young pretenders had been quietly taking over the high street as she dozed. She was dragged back to her feet, dusted down, and buffed and polished to within an inch of her life. New work practices were devised by earnest young executives sitting in air-conditioned ivory towers, far away from the mêlée of the shop floor. Monday morning meetings became an endless list of new rules and regulations, to be rolled out across the shop floor by myself and other equally fraught, and, at times, incredulous floor managers.

These actions were understandable, all businesses need to move forward. But one factor hadn’t been taken into consideration. And that was those staff members of a certain age, who had grown up with the comfortable slipper feel of their workplace, and weren’t impressed by the sudden switch to blood red stilettos!

My food department became the proverbial rug, under which these blots on the new sleek appearance were swept. I didn’t mind. Because I ended up with some of the most glorious characters I have ever worked alongside!

Merci was a tiny pixie of a woman, eyes dancing with mischief, a deep voice rubbed raw by years of smoking. She played the dizzy card to great effect, but was in fact possessed of a rapier sharp mind, and outrageous wit. Her sparse blonde hair was the bain of her life, and barely a week passed where she wasn’t trying some bizarre treatment in the hope of suddenly developing a flowing mane. One memorable month she gamely massaged snail slime into her scalp, despite the merciless teasing she received. Her personal life was marked with tragedy, but she was the consummate professional, and it was never mentioned at work. Most glorious of all was her frequent habit of using entirely the wrong word, with hilarious results. My favourite was one very busy afternoon, the two of us manning the tills, with a queue that snaked across the floor. A tourist asked her if everyone in Gibraltar spoke Spanish and English.

“Oh, yes,” came the reply. “In Gibraltar, we are all bisexual!”

And then there was Jane. Almost a caricature of an English shop assistant, lank hair held back from her face by two grips, shirt always pulled and gaping across her chest. Slightly stooped, sensible shoes, short socks, vaguely crumpled. No matter how busy we were, she moved at Jane speed, a slow careful crawl, with a slightly nasal voice that matched perfectly her pace. Apparently always in a semi-comatose state, she in fact did not miss a thing, and managed her section with frightening efficiency. A keen sense of the ridiculous hid beneath her surface, and would bubble up in unexpected moments. What fascinated me most about her was her true love story, which she told me one quiet afternoon. Forced into a loveless marriage at sixteen, with a small child, she had met the love of her life when she was eighteen. She was on a rare night out with her younger sister, and saw him from across the dance floor. He asked her to dance, and one week later, she moved in with him, and never left. When she told me of the moment she knew he was the one, it brought tears to my eyes.

“He asked me to dance, and took my hand, and I knew at that moment that I never wanted him to let it go again.”


25 Songs 25 Days #18 A Song You Love But Very Rarely Listen To



flanders and swanThe Warthog Song – Flanders and Swann

My primary school was a vestige of  Britishness, all blazers and straw boaters and speech days!! The headmaster would treat the sixth form to an hour of musical appreciation once a week, which involved him sitting, eyes closed, at the front of the class, a record playing on the small portable player. I seized the opportunity of the closed eyes to act out the story being told by the music, until one day my classmates were unable to stifle their laughter, and I was caught mid-dance, and henceforth made to sit at the front of the class!! That particular piece of music was Dance Macabre by Saint-Saens, but my most favourite of all was Flanders and Swann, giving me the chance to assume some incredibly mad characters! This particular song was the best of all, with its wickedly sharp lyrics!! So very English!!!


Round ‘Em Up………Rawhide


round em up

Two months ago, I started this blog. Two months!! It feels like I have been doing this for years! I had no idea what a blog entailed. My Torn-Apart talked me into taking the first step. Purely on the basis of the *emilys* I had written to him. Started to pester me, in fact. So I did a bit of research, and WordPress was the suggestion that came up again and again.

So I took a deep breath, signed up, and dived into the Blogosphere! It is the best eyes closed, holding nose, jump I have ever taken! This is an absolute joy! What’s not to love? I get to write, laugh, share, read, investigate, talk, question, interact with the most amazing group of people ever. I have discovered that I really enjoy taking phoneographs, and sharing my thoughts on films and books. That the utterings of my geniuses delight others as well! That I can offload my angst, and other people understand. That I can make people laugh, so they feel better as a result. Which is, for me, the best thing ever. Most special of all, I have connected with the most amazing, talented, inspiring people, from places I could only hope to visit, and we have become friends.

So today’s assignment has been the most difficult. Include at least three other bloggers. Three!! I want to include everyone! I have written lists, categories, themes, inspirations. I have decided to go with those people who have inspired me, and encouraged me, from day one, and who continue to do this daily. But before I start, I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who is following me, and who has taken the time to dip into my madness!! OK, here goes!

Nate, because you made me feel that I could write. And for the amazing stories you weave around the family you have discovered.

Hugh, for facing up to that monster, and beating it to the ground. And for laughing with me!

Pavennah, for enjoying the nonsense that I write. And for being so very honest about your struggles at times.

Indah, for the amazing images and insights into your world and culture. And for sharing the laughter!

NS, for your constant input. And your sharing of your life, and those beautiful children,

Jules. For making me feel funny, and nominating me for a Liebster, which made me feel like an Oscar winner!!

Kat. For being the most amazing Mum ever. For sharing  your story, to make other parents feel they are not alone.

Maria. For liking my photos, and making me want to go straight back out there and shoot some more!

Athena. For being Athena! I adore you!! For your gut wrenching honesty!! And your dog!! And I can make you laugh!


Katie. Because Sass and Balderdash inspired me!! And still does!!


The amazing youngsters, Laura, Anna, Angelique,Sass, and Romeo! Smart, stylish, stunning ladies!


JenK  and Me, for being mums after my own heart!


Lucie. A newcomer. Check her out!! She is brilliant. Much belly laughing!! And she has my tattoo habit!!


Last, and most certainly not least……..Claudette!! Talented, tough, and as mad as a box of frogs!! My two-headed, Tasmanian, utter nutter!! Who can write. And make beautiful things.


Further Conversations with Teenage Son …………………



In the weeks before my first face to face reunion with Torn-Apart, I suffered a severe crisis of confidence. This was, after all, someone who hadn’t seen me for thirty years, at which time I had been a fresh faced young woman, barely out of her teens. Now I had hit the half century, had four children, and time and gravity had taken their toll.

The body part that  took, as usual, the brunt of my self-loathing, was my stomach. No amount of careful eating, or vigorous exercise has ever persuaded it to revert to its pre-birth firmness. One particular evening, as I stood in profile in front of the mirror, poking it with a despairing finger, my Littley walked into the room.

“What on earth are you doing, Mother?” he asked.

“Hating my belly,” I replied. “Look at it, revolting. Why can’t I have a proper flat tummy?”

His reply was unforgettable.

“Why would you want to have a *V* stomach? (Referring to the shape formed by perfect abs). A bloke would need a crab claw hand to get hold of that! What you have is an *O* tum, far more friendly and comfy, like a little pillow. Think of it as your own little piece of Playdoh. If the guy gets bored, he can make little models of stuff with it!”

I can’t claim that it did anything for my confidence, but it did make me shout with laughter!!


Oh, Doctor, Doctor……….



Yesterday, I had an appointment with a neurologist. So I didn’t shave my legs. Why would I? I was having my head examined, so he would have no reason to pay attention to my limbs. Except, yes he did, to check all my reflexes, and I found myself apologising profusely for my lack of sharp blade usage!

Don’t get me wrong! I live in a hot climate where exposure of body is a normal state of affairs. So they were only at the *day three, just rough enough to file that annoying catch nail* stage, and not the *oh my god, for a moment I thought you were wearing mohair tights* stage. Which may have been better, because he may just have assumed that I was of the Julia Roberts/Madonna ilk, and not simply too lazy to care!

Given the inordinate amount of time I seem to have spent in hospitals, you would assume that I had finely honed my dress etiquette skills. Not so!! I never quite manage to get the damn thing right! Take the first time I had my varicose veins stripped (yes, you read that right, the FIRST time. There are hundreds of veins in my legs with a deep longing to be varicose, who knew?!). I thought legs. Not knickers. Big mistake. Prior to the operation, I was taken to a side ward by the surgeon and his trusty sidekick, where they made me lie down on a bed and raise both legs in the air. They then proceeded to massage a leg each vigorously from ankle to groin, and, once satisfied with their labours, strapped a rubber garter around the top of each thigh.

All of which was surreal enough, but they then asked me to stand in front of them. It transpires the reason behind this exercise was to establish where the vein had ceased to work efficiently. So. I am wearing a nightdress and two rubber garters. And a THONG. I was in my thirties, they were fashionable okay?!

“Raise your nightdress, please.”

I did, to a demure mid-thigh.

“No, right up, we need to see all of your legs.”

There then followed an excruciatingly embarrassing three minutes while I posed in front of them, from every angle. All it required was some corny music, and a bearded man entering the room to fix the photocopier, and it would have passed quite easily for a low budget porn movie!! I coped in the way I always do in these situations. I giggled. Hysterically!

(Incidentally,the etiquette thing doesn’t always work the other way either. Sometimes the medical professionals get it wrong, too. After the birth of my first son, I required stitches, due to a nifty bit of scalpel work by the attending midwife. Enter surgeon, who, on taking a seat opposite the area to be attended, uttered these ne’er to be forgotten words. “Good God!! Who got you? ZORRO?!!)


Dubious Conversations With Teenage Sons (#1,297)


question mark

I have just had one of many somewhat dubious conversations with my fifteen year old. The sort where I wonder whether I should really have found some excuse to go into the kitchen and thus nip it in the bud. Except I got the giggles, and allowed it to descend into ultra outrageousness!! I am still not quite sure which topic for discussion on BBC’s political programme, Question Time, triggered his train of thought, but I suspect it may have been his brother’s remark that one of the guest politicians was a w!#ker!

“Did you know that the taste of your sperm depends on what you have eaten?” he blithely announced.

(You have probably already realised that this is the point at which I should have left the room).

Noncommittal grunt from mother, snort from older brother. Undaunted by lack of enthusiasm, he warmed to his subject.

“How did scientists discover that fact? Does that mean someone tasted it?”

Brother showing interest now, mother trying to keep features arranged into facsimile of responsible adult.

“I mean, how did they advertise that  job? And who applied for it? Did they leave school with that as their career ambition? Or perhaps they were targeted as unsuspecting unemployed wine-tasters? Do you have a discerning palette? Are you looking for new challenges? Can you think outside the box?”

Features going into meltdown now, brother already cackling.

“”Hhhhmmmmm…….I’m getting hints of garlic, with high notes of chilli and cumin, and…….let me see……a backnote of german lager! Am I correct?” “Ok  Barry, lets do the reveal….. ” (brother does suspenseful drum roll) “….and you’re correct!!!!!””

Both boys now doing fake audience rapturous applause, responsible adult crying with laughter!!

The Joyous Art of Flirtation




 Gather round. I have something to tell you. Don’t let anyone else hear. Are you ready? I am a flirt!

There! I said it. So now you know! It’s ok!  You can let your husband back out of the cupboard. I am a flirt. Not a voracious, man-eating, husband stealing, life-wrecking, horribly promiscuous, despicable bitch. My heart was captured a very long time ago, and I have no desire to ever claim it back. But flirting?!! That is a whole different ballgame!!

I inherited the gene from my father. Along with my knock knees, hairy legs, terminal acne, and HUGE head. (You could quite easily land a small aircraft on my forehead!!)  He was not a pleasant man, small, stocky, and brutally violent. But maaan, did he have the flirt switch!! It was instantaneous, he could flip from psychotic to charming with a click of a finger. My bestest friend ever in the universe was once witness to this, and it traumatises her still.

Beauty is not a prerequisite of the successful flirt. Lets face it, if you are beautiful, you need only sit and wait for admirers to approach. I am not beautiful. See all of the above!! Oh, and throw in a nose that has been broken four times. My aforementioned bestest friend once announced that she was going to the loo to powder my nose, and that it would take a while!! My mother once described me as handsome, which has scarred me ever since.

I finely honed my flirting gift as a hairdresser. Hairdressing is one of the most poorly paid professions in the world (I am standing by my use of the word profession, we go to college, sit exams, and are therapists, not just of the beauty persuasion!), and as a result, we rely heavily on our tips. I realised very early into my career that excellent skill in my craft was no guarantee of hefty remuneration. And so I became an outrageous flirt.  And thus the tipmeister. Every Christmas, my colleagues would suggest we pool our tips, hoping to benefit from my efforts. I never agreed. I was a single mother, and that money fed us.

There is a time and a place for outrageous flirting. And indeed, an etiquette that must be followed. It is never acceptable to indulge with your friend’s husband, or your teenager’s friends. Nor should you partake if you know it upsets your own partner. And you should be aware that there may be unexpected consequences to your actions. As I found out.

My ex husband never really understood the concept of flirting. Scarily possessive, he would become enraged if I so much as made eye contact with another male. As a result, I only ever indulged my love of this art at work after our relationship commenced. The salon that I owned when we first met was on a military base, and subsequently, a large proportion of my clients were forces personnel. On one particular occasion, my junior and I had a ridiculously daft conversation with a guy, temporarily stationed in the garrison, who was bemoaning his lack of success in attracting women. A fact we didn’t believe, given that he was extremely attractive, and a rival for my crown in the flirtation stakes! The three of us spent a gloriously mad half hour suggesting ridiculously cheesy chat up lines that might be effective, and laughing until we cried. He paid his bill, gave us both a generous tip, and left.

A week later, and I was perched on a stool in my local bar, chatting to a friend. My not yet husband (this was only about a month into our relationship) was standing on the opposite side of the room, with some of his work colleagues. Suddenly, the guy who had needed chat up lines appeared in front of me. He kissed me full on the lips, and then uttered these immortal lines.

“Hi! I’m feeling horny! Fancy rubbing groins?!!”

And then walked out. Leaving me desperately suppressing  giggles, as I tried to explain to a very angry not yet husband!

Smile and Wave


Last week, I had my brain injected. Again! This is not something I choose to do on a slow week, when there is nothing remotely interesting on TV. Or because it is a new-age fad that will make me look seventeen again. Or because my kids have an evil plan to inherit my millions. Or because the local hospital is looking for volunteers, a bit like a hair salon. Unfortunately, in recent months, it’s become a necessity.

Last November, my brain exploded. Just a little bit. Enough to have an effect, not enough to kill me. Enough to interrupt the Monday management meeting though, for that I am secretly, maliciously delighted!  At first, I thought someone had hit me with a hammer, because blunt object wielding assassins are an integral part of any retail  ‘business is so bad you can forget a pay rise’ meeting. But the look on my colleagues faces gave me a hint that this was not part of a secret team building excercise.

I don’t do ill. I am one of those really aggravating people who breath deeply, whilst all around me people are choking to death on their own mucus. My immune system is cast iron, due in part, to my mother’s extension of the three second food drop rule to a minute and a half, and her actively encouraging me to play with anyone suffering from an infectious or contagious disease, in order for me to “get it over and done with!” Unfortunately, exploding brains wasn’t one of them!

So I have been poked, probed, prodded, and scanned to within an inch of my life. And now I need to have my brain injected on a regular basis. This means every six weeks, I have to venture out in public without adding a single product to my hair. I do not have the sort of mane that makes me a shoe-in for a head double on Tangled. In fact I have three hairs and a nit. Without any product, even the nit leaves home. I am an ex-hairdresser, for goodness sake. This is akin to making me walk through the streets naked!

Once at the hospital, I am then drugged liberally. I have a high resistance to anaesthetic (and indeed to alcohol, I am not a cheap date!) so must be given the same amount used to fell a small elephant. Once this has taken affect, the theatre nurses then amuse themselves by covering me in iodine, using the same paint splatter technique favoured by Jackson Pollock. By this time, I am so doped up that I find this incredibly funny, and give artistic direction. The surgeon then does his work (why, oh why do they insist on starting it with the line “just a little prick”?! In my drug induced euphoria, that is even funnier than the iodine wash!) and I am led out to recovery.

Our day surgery unit has very recently been refurbished, and last week, once I had sobered up sufficiently to stop giggling, one of the nurses suggested I might like to try one of their new, super comfy chairs in the day room. I wandered through, and in my normal unreserved fashion, collapsed back into the luxurious black leather upholstery, whilst smiling through my iodine splattered lips at the group of anxious relatives gathered there.

What the kindly nurse had omitted to tell me was that these were reclining chairs. Fully reclining chairs. With a remote control. Which I had unwittingly sat upon. With the result that the seat immediately opened out, much to my bewilderment, and I found myself lying completely prone.

I am English. We English are a strange bunch. In restaurants, we will happily eat our way through burnt offerings, rather than complain about the meal. And upon finding ourselves flat on our backs in the middle of a group of bemused strangers, we would rather have our livers poked out by an eagle, than admit that we are stuck. So I pretended that I had meant to activate the chair, and lay in that position, the remote control firmly wedged in my back, for half an hour, until my best friend arrived to take me home.

She is Scottish. She did just what any self-respecting Scot would do, when confronted by a yellow daubed sassenach lying flat on their back dressed only in a theatre gown. She laughed until she cried. And continued to laugh for the entire journey home.


This is Me


Hah! This should be easy, but it’s not. I don’t talk about me an awful lot, prefer to skim over that story. But it’s todays challenge, so I shall try.

I am old. At least I would be, had not my beautiful daughter arrived four days after my 30th, thus wiping my birthday from any calendar for ever more. I have four children, three boys, and the aforementioned girl. They are all young adults, super bright, fiercely opinionated, completely focussed, (perhaps not the youngest, he is still more focussed on his computer games), and they now gang together to tease me mercilessly.They are the funniest people I have ever had the priveledge to meet.

I am an incurable romantic, who fell deeply in love at fourteen years old, and felt my heart break when we parted six years later. My subsequent life has been spent waiting for him to find me once more. I have been married once, an experience I never want to repeat. Despite outward appearances, (loud hair, loud jewellery, loud laugh) I have virtually no self-confidence, or self belief. I have found myself in a series of awful jobs over the years, initiated by my uncontrollable urge to drop out of school, just to infuriate my father.

I had the most virulent pink hair in the early eighties, I pierced my own ears, and I had my first tattoo in my forties. I hate poor spelling, people who spit in the street, and bullies. I live in a women’s refuge, and yet people assume that my life is all gin & tonic and cucumber sandwiches because I speak nicely. I have a scruffy, smelly, stupid rescue dog that I adore, and a beautiful street cat that adopted me, and has a fetish for destroying kitchen paper.

And it never, ever occurred to me to write a blog, or anything else for that matter, until last year.

I turned fifty. My brain exploded. And HE found me. Suddenly, my life was flipped over. When your brain does one, it is the scariest feeling in the world. I found myself suddenly totally out of control. And then he reappeared. And pulled me back. And talked, hugged, kissed, laughed, and made me shine again. We wrote endless emails, about anything and everything, from what had happened before, to what we longed for, and what made us laugh, head back, fullbellied laughs. And I devised a character, and wrote imaginary letters, silly, mad, bizarre stories. And he said “Write.” And now I am.

I have no definite direction at the moment, I just let the words flow as if I were talking to him. In a years time, I want to have that focus, rein and train my imagination. I love writing, I feel guilty if I miss a day. I want to produce something more tangible than just a few sentences here and there. And I am old enough to feel thrilled at the prospect of having the opportunity of being in contact with people all over the world. And share ideas, and stories, and laughter. And if I find myself in contact with a few others who say ‘Sod you, life, bring it on!!’, it will be worth it just for that!

Golden Years


http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/writing-challenges/golden years                                                          We are all born to die. That is a given. Not one of us has an agenda, handed to us at birth, that maps our future. So why our obsession with age. Looking back with regret is fruitless, since we cannot change what has been. Looking forward, in trepidation, serves no purpose. Mourning the physical loss of youth is pointless, for each day that has passed has gone forever, and no matter how many creams, and potions, and patches we apply, we will never recapture that freshness.  Life should always be about now. About finding joy in what we have. Celebrating what we have become.

I am not advocating lack of responsibility. Our actions define our lives, and resonate on those around us. In particular, our children. If we choose to bring them into the world, then it is our role to nurture them, and to encourage them to spread their wings. To let them discover the boundless opportunities this life can offer. And learn from our mistakes, and theirs. But they have a life of their own, and we should not lose sight of ours, and become a vague shadow as a result.

We all have a period in our life that defines us, those golden years that we revisit over and again. A certain song, a perfume, a quote from a book or film can transport us there instantly. A point in time when life seemed to be perfect, when we ruled the world. Often, our appearance reflects this, a haircut that has barely changed, a style of dressing we never grew away from, the way we speak. Our comfort zone, a place in which escape  when the world seems a little bit too mad. For me, it was my late teens, a heady, intoxicating mix of love, and laughter, and music. When I decided to ignore the demons that had dominated my life, my lack of beauty, and grace, and took on the persona of the kick ass bitch. It was short lived, but wonderful, and I have never forgotten a single moment. So in my head, I am the eternal teenager.

Age, to me, can be measured in the eyes. They really do reflect the soul. The spark that burns bright in an octogenarian, defying the ravages of time, compared to the flatness in the beautiful young woman you spoke to today. I don’t notice lines, or wrinkles, or jowls, only smiles, and wit, and laughter, the most wonderful gift of all. Because without it, there is no point to life. And laughter is ageless, forging bonds between different generations, a common spark that can unite even the most disparate of people. A face bathed in laughter is instantly more youthful than one artificially plumped and smoothed of expression.

Of course there are constant reminders of the passing of time. Long gone is my ability, or indeed willingness, to stay up all night. The bed that I fought so long to stay out of as a child, is now a blissful haven. The small boy that I once carried on my hip, now has to bend to kiss my cheek. My attitudes have subtly changed, a cupboard full of food being far more important than a new pair of shoes, an evening spent eating with a few close friends more appealing than a nightclub and an excess of alcohol. I would rather remain single than accept second best for the sake of having a partner. And I am now totally honest about my feelings, even when I know others may not be happy with what I have to say. But some things don’t change. I still play my music far too loudly, music which my sons tell me I am too old to have on my playlist. I had my first tattoo four years ago. And then a second, and a third, and then a fourth, just because I was told I shouldn’t! I still stick my tongue out, or make rude gestures behind the back of some-one who has annoyed me. My hair will never be grey, or bland, or long! I will always prefer jeans and boots to heels and frocks. I will always prefer motorbikes to cars.  And I will never, ever play bingo, or discuss soap characters as if they were real people!

Every year is a golden year. It may be your last. So just do what you were born to do. Live, really live, before you die.