Janey's Blogs - December 2007
Wednesday the 5th of December 2007
Working Class Leeds
I love Leeds, I am here for a week performing comedy at Jongleurs and the place is awesome. Very cosmopolitan, sassy and certainly a jewel in the north, but - and I say BUT very hesitantly -
If you want to catch a glimpse of the working class real Northerners, the Alan Bates type characters who are the solid bread and butter pudding of these people, you hang out at the outdoor side of Leeds Market.
There is a shoddy mish mash of stalls selling cheap stretchy pants, misaligned underwear and knick-knack-a- roonys, the likes of which people like me would balk at. Plastic clocks painted in cheap gold varnish, retarded-looking Georgian ladies parading as figurines made of plaster of Paris and painted with colours than you can lick off.
There is a concrete parapet where the ‘interesting people’ hang out. I always make an effort to be there and watch them, not out of any perverse voyeurism, but because they are genuinely fascinating.
I sat down on one of the many metal benches that line the concrete shelter with my polystyrene cup of searing hot tea and sipped away happily. Sat beside me was a huge fat woman. She was wearing a tent like pink cotton coat and had a bright floral scarf tied around her big head and it knotted beneath one of her many chins.
At her leg was a huge multi-coloured nylon bag that was bulging at the seams.
“It’s a pissing carry-on this Christmas shopping, isn’t it? I mean, I ordered a side table out of Argos two months ago and they told me it was out of stock, so this lady called me and told me they would send a pissing cheque I said ‘A pissing cheque? That no good to me, my young lady. I ain't got the money to go into town to cash the pissing cheque,’ then I got into town and pissing Argos told me the bloody table was now in stock and they were delivering that pissing day!" Her words came out in a torrent. I made apologetic noises and sipped my boiling tea; she carried on “Have you seen these?”
She bent down into her big bag and pulled out what I assumed was a tarpaulin. She unfolded the material and I recognised that it was, in fact, a big pair of black Lycra knickers. She pulled them to full stretch and I gawped and gasped: “Oh, my God! They are the biggest knickers I have ever seen!”
“Yeah, they will fit my pissing big arse,” she giggled.
“Or a ship,” I added.
She laughed a throaty laugh and we sat chatting some more.
Then along at the next bench I watched what I can only assume was a family of seven people of various ages and sizes.
All but one of the group was sitting down. I assumed this was the mother. She was a giant woman, her thighs spread over the entire bench and her girth took up the whole space. She had on a blue coat and a blue dress, her bare mottled legs were massive and her ankles were bulging. I couldn’t stop staring at her feet.
These feet were firmly strapped down by the industrially-thick brown leather straps of her sandals, the density of which could hold down a big top carnival tent or secure ships to a harbour midst a squalling storm. Swollen, burgeoning flesh popped through the spaces between the leather, like water balloons being squeezed between toddler’s fingers. Her fat ankles spilled over on their own flesh and doubled up as the leg met the foot. I wondered how she managed to walk.
Surrounding her was the family. There were prams with squealing babies and toddlers who ran around the group.
I genuinely had trouble trying to work out who were the men and who were the women. The entire group had short ‘bingo’ haircuts and they all had a big blotch of bleach apparently combed through the hair. Like someone had found a big tub of peroxide and they had experimented on each other and all enjoyed and celebrated the results!
Yellow-white short spiky hair was everywhere. They all had smallish heads, no necks and their bodies just got bigger and rounder as your eye went down, like Weebles, no distinguishable waists, hips or boobs…just rounded people with yellow-ish hair. All dressed in grey, black and blue sports wear.
Though I assume none of them were joggers or sprinters.
This was a sexless look and it was very popular, even the young teenager amongst them was dressed in this acrylic nightmare with yellow-ish hair. No one had dared to stray from the fashion, I looked at the babies in the numerous prams and wondered how long it would be before the peroxide would be slapped on their wee heads!
The group was loud with laughter, they chased each other around, they smoked, they swore loudly and they were affectionate with babies. Then they all moved off. I watched the big fat mother struggle to get off the bench and waddle off towards the bus stop near the market.
I finished my tea, stubbed out my cigarette and headed off to the flat I am staying in here in Leeds.
Leeds is full if amazing characters and I love it.
Saturday the 8th of December 2007
Rainy days do get me down
I am still in Leeds. Life was in turmoil yesterday. My brother Jim now lives in Essex with his daughter and five lovely grandkids and I got a call saying he had taken ill. Jim is a complex person but I adore him. Regular readers of this blog will know that Jim has come through various drug problems, living with HIV and more recently he survived cancer.
Those worried I am spilling my brother's secrets on this blog will be heartened to know he gave me the say-so to tell all, otherwise I would not say anything!
He is my beloved big brother!
Anyway, it seems he was very ill and I wasn’t totally sure why. His daughter had been given conflicting news from the emergency docs at Colchester Hospital and I needed to find out personally.
I called the hospital a few times and luckily managed to talk to a Scottish nurse! She was very friendly and helpful and called me back with Jim’s exact location in the hospital and the number to speak to the doc treating him.
It seems he has pneumonia and some other infection. I was worried he was dying and would have to cancel my comedy gigs in Leeds and dash to London, but the news was good. He was stable.
I called back a few hours later for an update and a wee Liverpudlian nurse said: “He is still in a coma and there is no response”
“When did my brother go into a coma?” I screamed, alarmed.
“Erm….sorry I have got the wrong notes. I am really sorry,” she pleaded. “Let me find your brother's notes.”
After my heart beat normally, I found out Jim was still stable and being treated for the chest infection.
My mate John Fleming drove down to Colchester on my behalf and visited him and gave me the news. I have been onstage every night and have been rather worried, so John is a great mate for doing that.
So far Jim is OK and continues to get better daily.
So husband and I got up today and, despite the rain, we set off for Otley. It’s a small market town outside Leeds and home to Mr Chippendale (not the sexy dancer but the famous cabinet and furniture maker).
The rain pounded down, we arrived in a small village flooded with water with puddles that could easily handle a small canoe if we so felt like it. I tried to look at the wonderful charming street scenes but the fact that my trousers were flapping and soaked irritated me.
Then Ashley our daughter called.
“Dad!” she screamed.
Husband's face became ashen. I stared at him, my heart stopped, the rain soaked my head and splashes from cars soaked me as I stood stock still trying to decipher the look in husband's face. I wanted to rip the phone from his ear and find out what was happening to my precious child.
“Are you OK? Are you bleeding?” he asked, as the rain muffled his words.
My legs shook - what the fuck was going on? He directed me to a bar off the main road and we both walked inside, him with the phone still clamped to his ear. I wanted that phone NOW…I needed to know what is wrong with Ashley and he was talking too slow and not giving me any indication. Why did she want to talk to him? Why not me? I talk faster and process information quicker…
Husband finally passed the phone to me.
“Mum, I fell down the tube station in those evil brown lesbian-looking sports shoes you bought me last year,” she sobbed. She was really crying; big gulping sobs came through the earpiece.
“Baby, are you OK? Are you cut? Are you injured? Burn the lesbian shoes, throw them out the window, talk to me!” I spoke quickly. I almost lactated and had a breast leak. I haven’t heard her cry like that since she fell off her scooter in 1994.
Husband was shaking his head and patting my shoulder and trying to communicate something to me, but it was distracting me from my daughter’s pain.
“I really want my dad to come home. I miss him and no-one is here when I fall,” she squeaked…She sounded like she was five years old. “I don’t know why I am so upset, I really miss my daddy.”
She almost hyperventilated on the phone. I stood in front of a big crackling fire in a tiny wee bar in Otley surrounded by locals staring at me as I shouted about throwing lesbian shoes out of the window. I continued to get her to breathe slowly. People stared more, like I was trying to help deliver a child over the phone.
That was until I added:
“Breathe slowly, now hold it and breathe again, not too fast, take it slowly, now grab one lesbian sports shoe and throw it right into the road from the windows in the front.”
I spoke slowly and clearly.
Husband giggled and ordered tea.
Ashley finally calmed down. I finally calmed down. I hung up the phone and watched loads of wee old men stare suspiciously at me. I didn’t care, my daughter was scared and hurt and it’s my job to fix that shit.
“She is upset, tired and fell and misses her dad,” husband spoke as he poured tea into a cup for me. We both sat there in the wee bar in wet clothes and decided to head back to Leeds as the day was a complete wash out.
We got back to the car and… it would not start!
The rain lashed. It sounded like pebbles being battered off the roof and the fucking car refused to start.
I sat with wet legs, wet head and freezing hands. Husband called the AA and gripped the wheel in anger; he hates the frustrating feeling of things not working properly.
I knew Ashley missing him was upsetting him and he felt annoyed he wasn’t there for her when she needed him.
Finally the AA turned up, fixed the starter thingy and we drove back to Leeds in silence. I watched his face; his jaw was stiff and he was grinding his teeth. The rain slashed continually.
“I miss her,” he said.
“I miss her too. She is OK, you know. She needs to accept shit happens and she needs to know she will get over it. She really wants you home, but that doesn’t make you a bad dad for not being there. How do you think I feel? She doesn’t really miss me,” I said.
“You have been travelling since she was eight. I was always there for her,” he said.
“That sounds like I was never there for her> Am I a bad mother?” My heart sank.
“No, you are a working mother: that’s a good thing. I am a dad: that’s a different thing.”
We drove in silence, both of us trying to work out how to be a good parent, yet earn a living. I knew Ashley was having a bad day and would come through it all. She isn’t that weak or needy; she just must be feeling down; she is strong like me.
The phone rang again: it was Ashley. My heart missed a beat as I pressed the button and heard her shout: “Guess what? It’s snowing here in Glasgow! Wow, mum, I am so happy! I need to go, my as mates are here and we are going to a party tonight. Sorry I upset you. I just missed dad. I threw the shoes away… Love you mum!” and she hung up.
Being a mum and dad is fucking scary.
Being a sister is scary.
Being a comic is easy.
I am back on stage in Leeds tonight.
Life is OK.
Wednesday the 12th of December 2007
Leeds was lovely, but I am glad to be home. I have a sore throat and chesty cough and feel like shit. I had to get up today and drag my carcass awake. I managed to fix my hair nice and get my entire make up done as I was going to STV to do a comedy thing to camera. I felt like sleeping all day and ignoring my career and fuck TV shows. But I was good and did it; my body feels awful.
Baby Abi, (she isn’t a baby anymore she is four years old) came over and sat and watched Ratatouille the latest Pixar movie and loved every minute of it. I then put up the ironing board, covered it and let her paint for ages. She loves painting and the ironing board is perfect for adjusting to her height.
I have two days off before I head off to London. I am attending Christmas parties all this week, I have one tomorrow in Glasgow, then another on Thursday, one in London on Friday, another in London on Saturday and finally another one in London on Monday! I will partied out.
I am not very good at parties, I don’t really socialise well. I know I should but I am shit at it. You would think someone who talks for a living would be fun, but not me. I get insecure at parties and the more insecure I get the more inappropriate I become.
For instance, once at a party I got so shy and strange I asked a woman if she really wanted to be married to the stupid husband she introduced me to. Then I laughed out loud when her husband told me she was infertile, I didn’t mean to laugh but it was so insensitive of him to tell me and I got awkward and giggled.
I hope I behave better this year. I am going to brush up on my socialising skills.
Thursday the 13th of December 2007
My Favourite Christmas
Is it an age thing? Or does everyone hate shopping at this time of year? I get hot, sweaty and really annoyed at people who bang about and whack me with their heavy shopping bags. They ignore all politeness and manners; they shove, push and just rudely batter each other in the quest to get some shitty stuff at Christmas.
The shite Christmas songs wail annoyingly over every store's loudspeaker; there are kids running wildly or whingeing endlessly as I try to figure out what to buy for my husband.
I am starting to hate Christmas. That’s a bad sign. I am old and grumpy.
One of my favourite Christmases was in 1989. Ashley was three years old and at that age where she so believed in Santa and we owned a pub in Glasgow’s East End.
The pub was all dressed up with decorations and a big tree set in the middle of the bar. Ashley had made her own wee decorations: a Santa made of cotton wool and a body of red cardboard. It stood pride of place at the top of the tree.
We had planned a big Christmas dinner in the flat as the pub closed on a Sunday between 2.00pm and 6.30pm back in those days. It was the licensing laws and Christmas Day fell on a Sunday that year.
We had my cousin Sammy, his girlfriend Pauline, husband’s cousin Stevie, our mate Andy, the barman Wullie, his girlfriend Michelle and their son Robert all coming for lunch.
I had never cooked for so many people and I was so excited.
Andy decided he didn’t want turkey and requested lasagne, Ashley was a vegetarian and she was getting a special meal of vegetables in filo pastry and I was getting nervous!
My cousin Sammy had set the table and kept Ashley occupied; she was so happy playing with all her toys that she got that morning. Being three was great for her: all the people in the bar adored her and, with a big family, she got so many presents it was overwhelming to be honest. I have a video of her opening her presents that morning and she burst into tears! There was just so much stuff.
She was exhausted opening gifts; she was deluged with Playmobil toys which were her favourites. She also got a doll's house and all the little people to go with it and those were just some of the gifts. It seemed a toy shop had been emptied and transferred its stock to our living room floor.
The day went great though.
Sammy managed to help run the bar and clear my living room of furniture, whilst checking on the dinner with me. Sammy and I had been raised together; he was more like a younger brother than a cousin.
His parents were dead. His father killed himself under a train in 1980 and his mother killed herself with pills in 1983 and my mum had been murdered in 1982.
Sammy and I had been through such crap in our young lives that we huddled together like a wee family. He had lived with me since he was 18 years old and, before that, we had lived together as kids. I loved him and he was so good with Ashley; he adored her and she truly loved her Uncle Sammy.
He would pick her up and she would wrap her legs around him and cuddle into him tight till she fell asleep on his shoulder. Sammy would simply carry her around and refuse to put her in her cot; he loved holding her. Sometimes he would just wrap a blanket around her body and keep her with him till he finally had to get her into bed.
That Christmas was great. We ordered some really fancy champagne and set the table perfectly. All the guests arrived and the whole dinner went great, I was exhausted and we knew we had to open the pub back up at 6.30pm that night.
Everyone had a great time and, although the house looked trashed, we all agreed it was a great time.
Sammy cleared up for me and got Ashley to bed as husband and I went down to open up the bar again for the late shift. The place was busy as hell and I wanted to go upstairs and play with my daughter, but work came first as always.
I knew Sammy would be good with her. They would watch a video, she would get her bath and he would have her tucked up for us coming up after 11.00pm shutting time.
We came up after midnight as it was hard getting rid of the late-night revellers. Sammy was lying in bed with Ashley, both of them fast asleep; all her toys were spread out on the carpet. The doll's house was laid out perfectly, the mummy and daddy standing beside the two wee children; the furniture all neatly arranged.
I looked at Sammy asleep and smiled; he had obviously created his own wee perfect family in the doll's house. A family he never managed to create or enjoy in real life.
Sammy is no longer with us.
I lost touch with him after we left the bar in 1994. We never spoke for years and the next time I saw him was in a coffin.
He started taking heroin in 1992 and eventually took some contaminated heroin the summer of 2000. He died days later.
I hated his heroin habit but assumed he would live long enough to get clean.
I miss him, but still can see his happy face on that video. I watch him as he is carrying Ashley on his hip and dancing her around the room as she squeals with happiness.
“Sammy, I am going to dance like this with you when we get married!” Ashley can be heard shouting over the music.
“You can’t marry me, I am your uncle and you are a Princess!” he laughs back.
“But I love you, Sammy,” she pouts.
“I love you too. Now sing for me!” he laughs as he swings her round and her blonde hair flies behind her, her legs firmly on his hips and his arms holding her tight.
I freeze the video at that moment and stare at his face. It looks sad and I never noticed that before. He was always sad somewhere inside.
At least he was loved. I miss him and that will always be my favourite Christmas.
Monday the 17th of December 2007
My best mate Monica showed me a brochure for a very expensive spa in Central London. I don’t fancy it, but I didn’t tell her that as she was so excited. I have no intention of paying £250 to wear someone else’s over sized towelling bath robe and to let some skinny chick throw hot stones at me or rub oils into my scalp.
The salon is based on the smells and texture of Bali and to be honest it would be cheaper to actually go to Bali.
I have never really been a big fan of the Spa. I hate the fact you have get undressed in a wee bamboo-sheeted room and let some demented female pummel your back. You then leave the place and hit the streets with a greasy back and a sticky scalp, all whilst smelling of bergamot.
It’s a big con and men don’t fall for it for one real reason – a woman rubbing their naked skin is foreplay to them.
They fail to grasp the nature of stimulated lymph nodes and end up with an unwanted embarrassing erection whilst a young sexy female is pouring warm oil over their torso and I don’t blame them.
Men aren’t used to being naked and getting stroked without some sort of sexual payoff at the end of it. There is a reason that most brothels are based in massage parlours!
I sometimes feel some women like a warm near-naked massage as some form of human contact; maybe they need to feel touched. Although the premise isn’t actually erotic, it does fulfil some emptiness in their sexual lives somewhere.
I am not spending cash on a spa. I am going to ask my husband to massage me and if he gets horny and wants sex as we do this…then that’s a result in my books. At least his bathrobe is clean and I can fall asleep straight afterwards!
Thursday the 20th of December 2007
Christmas is coming
I finally got my Christmas tree up. Husband did drag it out of the cupboard and huffily dumped it on the carpet. I clapped my hands, I love my tree…he hates it.
Husband has an aversion to all things Christmassy and it annoys me to death. I felt like getting a bobble from the tree and shoving it down his throat.
I am not really prepared for the ‘big day’ as Ashley is in charge of the food and I am in charge of the presents. Ashley is getting a new computer and she has decided not to buy it till January as she will get more for her cash. Husband and I have declared a no present zone; he won’t buy me and I won’t buy him …anything.
I don’t need anything and don’t want it either. It’s a waste of cash.
So only my mum and dad are getting a gift this year.
I can’t believe it’s another year already. It seems like last month Ashley was singing in the school choir. Standing in her lovely green uniform and singing carols, me with a wee tear in my eye... Where did the time go?
Life goes too fast for me…I will 47 soon. The age my mother died.
Friday the 21st of December 2007
The Queue Nazi
Standing in the bank, I got pissed off at the size of the queue. The bank was crowded. In front of me was a really wee old lady. She was wearing a wee pink woolly hat and leaning on a stick. We had about nine people to go in front and I decided to tell the wee old woman to sit down.
“You go sit in a seat and I will hold your place for you,” I assured her. She thanked me and hobbled off to the seating area.
The queue started to gather up behind me. Then finally it was my turn which, technically, is the old lady’s turn so I turned round and shouted: “Hey there! Come on - it’s your turn!”
The old woman got up smiling and headed towards me when a fat woman in a big furry hat and woolly scarf poked me in the back and barked: “Actually, that’s queue jumping.”
“No, I held her place because I was being nice. I let her sit down and I held her position,” I snapped back. “Oh - and by the way never poke me in the back again.”
“Well, technically she isn’t actually in the queue,” the fat, middle class, posh-accent argued back. The old lady staggered off to the teller looking quite distressed at the situation.
“OK, technically you don’t have a conscience. What are you? The queue Nazi? The woman is old and infirm. I let her sit down… What part of this are you not getting, fatty?" I shouted.
“I am of Jewish decent and I find that comment offensive,” she smugly quipped.
“Well, technically we are all of Jewish descent. Jesus was a Jew and we are all his children so unless you are claiming to be actually Jewish then deal with it and, as far as I know, Jewish people are either Jews or not, there is never really a half way declaration on that situation. And I still think you are a queue Nazi, so shut up fatty you are annoying people because I helped an old lady!” I shouted.
The bank tellers were watching the situation develop; the other people in the queue were tutting and making exasperated noises, either at me or at the fat furry woman, I didn’t know or care.
Then it was my turn and I was being served and, at that point, the wee old lady with a stick came over to me and thanked me for my help. She then turned to the Queue Nazi and said with the most polite voice I have ever heard: “You, my dear, are an affront to human nature. This lady is a good Samaritan. You are a bad, spiteful, unhappy woman and your hat looks like a cat,” and off she went with her stick!
I laughed out loud. The Queue Nazi stood there embarrassed and everyone smiled as the old lady walked slowly to the automatic doors. She went through them, turned and waved at me through the plate glass windows.
I waved back and stuck my tongue out at the Queue Nazi and left the bank as well.
A good day all round as far as I am concerned.
Tuesday the 25th of December 2007
A Christmas Story
We all sat tonight in the flat - me, husband and daughter. The tree is up, the gifts are wrapped and Ashley has been boiling apples, pears and some cinnamon cocktail for a compote that she is serving tomorrow. The house really does smell like Christmas. She is making some elaborate dish involving her famous panna cotta as a dessert and there is beef or lamb in the main course. I am lucky to have such a gifted child.
I washed all the dishes and cleared out the kitchen in preparation.
It reminded me of my first ever Christmas with my husband as a couple. We weren’t married, we were just engaged and it was exciting to be together.
We lived with my old grandfather and his wee kitchen hadn’t seen a Christmas dinner cooked there for many years. I made roast chicken and vegetables.
I had cleared the big table in grandad’s living room and husband (who was then my 17 year old boyfriend) came through to the small kitchen to get the cutlery. He pulled open the drawer and there was nothing there…not even a teaspoon.
I was baffled. I had just acquired a whole set of good cutlery from boyfriend's dad’s local pub that he owned. I had great sharp knives, loads of spoons and a beautiful unusual white-handled cutlery service. I started searching the tiny flat for the cutlery and finally asked my grandad if he knew where it might be.
“Your Auntie Rita may have borrowed some of it,” he muttered.
His daughter Rita was my mum’s sister and she lived with her father-in-law, husband and brother-in-law not far from our street. I put the oven down low and went running out of the door and headed down to Rita’s flat.
My head was full of questions. What the hell was she thinking of taking my cutlery? Did she really have my cutlery? Why would granddad say such a thing?
So finally I arrived at Rita’s door and, after a good banging, she opened it. Her face was surprised but in her right hand she was clutching my entire canteen of cutlery!
“Rita," I gasped. "That’s my cutlery. Why do you have every single spoon, fork and knife that I own?”
Rita looked at it then said, “No, they are mine. I got the cutlery as a wedding present.” She pointed the clutch of cutlery at me and shouted: “This is mine!”
“Rita, they are white-handled, I got them from the bar my boyfriend’s dad owns. They are mine and you know it. We are sitting up there without a fucking spoon to stir our tea and your dad can’t eat his Christmas dinner with his fingers can he?” I shouted back.
She just held out the cutlery to me, shoved them into my hand and slammed the door!
I laughed my ass off and ran back to the flat to explain the mystery of the missing forks.
My boyfriend was bamboozled as to what kind of family he was marrying into. Who were these people that stole each others cutlery on Christmas Day?
We sat in our bedroom with dinner on our knees. Grandad was drunk as usual and I didn’t want to eat with him.
We were so happy. Just boyfriend and me eating a hot chicken dinner on Christmas Day.
Sometimes, when you have so little in life you appreciate it more. I seem to have everything I need today, but something is lost along the way.
I miss the hungry years.
Wednesday the 26th of December 2007
Christmas is done
Well it was a tiring day for us. I was awoken by at least five calls and ten text messages beeping on my phone. I am not annoyed, I have friends!
I got up and staggered through to the living room half asleep and realised it was 1pm. It was the middle of the bloody day! What ws everyone doing still asleep?
Ashley was tucked up tight and husband was snoring. I recalled the days when Ashley was up at 7am to rip open gifts but now, at 21 years old, she no longer needs stuff that much. She knows Santa is the Scottish name for the Visa card.
Ashley finally got up and started preparing dinner: we were eating at 7pm as opposed to lunch and we don’t eat that early. Husband stayed fast asleep.
Ashley gave me my gifts which included an extensive selection of body scrubbing materials; I may have flaky skin and smell too much if these gifts are in any way representative of why gifts are given in the first place.
Husband got his usual favourite DVDs that Ashley buys him every year.
Husband and I never got each other gifts as we agreed not to in advance.
It was a nice day. Husband got out of bed, Ashley’s friends arrived and we all had a big giant feast of a dinner. I am stuffed and I am sure my knickers are about to burst under the strain.
So there we have it another Christmas come and gone.
Thursday the 27th of December 2007
I have decided to stop smoking and get fit. Yes…I know …it’s that time of the year when we realise that we are going to be fat and old for another year. This time I know I need to do something about it as I am about to turn 47 years old in January.
This is a really important birthday for me as it was the age my mother died at.
She was murdered in 1982 at age 47. Her boyfriend back then was called Peter and he took her a walk along the River Clyde and she never came home, but her body was found floating four days later. He never got charged for her killing but often boasted about doing it to anyone who would listen for many years after.
I thought back then that my mammy was an old woman at 47. I was so young and never realised that one day I would reach that age and now I am about to hit that date - I don’t feel old. So I need to feel better about myself.
My mammy was called Annie. She never got to do or see much in her lifetime. It bugs me and lately I had been feeling very strange about my mammy’s untimely death.
Have I done enough? Would she be proud of me? Would she have loved my book? Would she hate me spilling out the family secrets? Would she read my column in the Scotsman newspaper?
I know she would hate me spilling the big dark secret about her brother David Percy sexually abusing me.
I don’t regret speaking out about the abuse, so she would just have had to deal with that one!
I wish she had done more in her life; she never got to fly in a plane. She never got further than Yorkshire on her travels. She never got to stay in a five star hotel or eat in a decent restaurant. She never went into town and got to buy herself wonderful clothes or decent shoes.
She never had much. Yet she never complained much either. She accepted her poverty and pain the way people like her too often do.
Her life was her lot and she took that on without much comment. We lived in a dirty flat, we were penniless and lived hand to mouth from week to week. Everyone was in much of the same mess.
I always wanted more; I never wanted to live like that. I challenged how we existed and dreamed of a better life. I never once accepted that living in poverty was an acceptable situation. I hated everything my mammy represented - yet I didn’t hate her. I got annoyed that she never wanted more or fought against the shit she lived in.
Maybe she was beaten a long time ago?
I never wanted to raise a child in poverty or live on benefits. I know that it's not easy for people to get out of that trap and it can be so bloody difficult to try to, especially when the government make it harder.
My way out was easier, I suppose. I married a man whose father owned bars, so I automatically walked into a career. In actual fact I got paid less than the staff who weren’t family. Work that out! But I stuck that out for 15 years.
I never wanted to be a barmaid. I hated everything about it. But I knew if I worked there I could save up and get my child into a private school. So I shut up and carried on. I saved and saved for years. I never got new furniture or fancy clothes, I never owned jewellery and I never drove a fancy car.
I saved every penny I could.
I realised whilst writing this that I have achieved something I promised myself way back then. When I was young and living with my mammy, I swore an oath to myself that my child would never worry about the electricity getting cut off, being evicted, being dirty or being poor.
I have achieved all of those things. I am proud of that and I know that my mammy would be proud of that too.
Ashley has never been poor or hungry or dirty. She has always been secure and safe in the knowledge that she would be given shelter, love, confidence and a belief in her.
I did that.
I just wish my mammy was here so I could do that for her as well.
I am going to be 47 years old soon and I will be OK.
Sunday the 30th of December 2007
My First Time…
It was 1979, I was just eighteen years old and this was my very first time. People had told me it gets easier the more you do it, but I wasn’t too sure.
But how hard can it be… running a bar on your own?
My boyfriend’s dad George took me down to this old pub he owned in the Calton area of Glasgow. The ancient pub was on the corner of the main London Road. It had a huge crumbling brown tenement above it and the walls on the outside of the bar were pretty dire. The whole place looked rundown.
The streets were so dark; there were a few jagged remains of demolished buildings on the other side of the road peering out through the last shafts of the dying sunlight. It was like being in a foreign land.
George took me by the hand into the pub, he opened the door that led behind the bar, let a blonde woman out, locked me in and said ‘Goodbye’.
I tried to run after him, but the wee wooden door was locked and I couldn’t fiddle with it fast enough, I saw him through the pub window. I was shouting: “George! Don’t leave me here!” but he carried on walking.
He got into his car with the blonde and drove off.
I slowly looked around the pub.
There were two really old men standing at the long part of the L-shaped bar and one big fat hairy-arsed biker slumped at the bottom on the counter, fast asleep.
I gulped and smiled.
I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know the prices or how to work the till. What the fuck was going on? I was only eighteen years old. I was scared.
The biker slowly raised his head and smiled a big toothless grin and slumped back down again. His enormous baldy head made a scary thump on the bar.
It shook his beer glass that lay next to his head and the liquid went foamy with the vibrations. ‘Well that was one way to get a head on your beer’ I thought to myself.
Just then a loud screech came out of the ceiling and a three-legged cat leapt onto the bar and ran up to me, its hobbled gait was really horrifying and it was all scabby and tufty.
“That’s Tripod,” said one of the old men. “It’s because it only has three legs.” Then he threw his head back and his big gumsy mouth fell wide open and let rip a big raspy laugh. It sounded like a steam train slowing down in a station as his smoky lungs forced out a noise.
Then the two old men looked at each other and then looked at me.
“Say press up,” the smaller elderly man hissed.
The two old guys had faces like melted buckets, their chins were bent up towards their foreheads and there were deep wrinkles all over their wizened faces. Neither of them had teeth, nor any facial bones by the looks of it. Soft squishy sock puppet faces was all they seemed to posses.
“Say PRESS UP!” the taller man shouted.
“Press up...” I whispered.
The two old men fell to the floor disappearing behind the wooden bar counter. I had to jump up onto the bar to look to the floor to see where they had gone. The three-legged cat jumped with me, its tail flicked.
The two old boys were on the floor doing press ups: “One! Two! Three!” they were shouting.
I was aghast. They must have been 80 years old apiece. They will die doing press ups!
“Stop!” I shouted.
Just then one of the old guys flopped on the floor and the taller one jumped up to his feet and ran around screaming: “I won... Now I get a whisky!” he yelled as he thumped his grizzly hand on the bar.
The biker lifted up his fat head and whispered: “He wins; you have to give him a drink,” and slumped back down again.
I gave the old man a whisky. The other elderly bloke was still on the floor. I was hoping he wasn’t dead.
Just then, at the other end of the bar, the biker sprang to life; he stood up and I noticed he was wearing really tight clothes. Either he had been wearing the same clothes since 1975 and grown too fat for them or he just liked wearing too-tight clothes. His blue tee-shirt was right up past his fat belly and his jeans were literally garrotting his waist.
“I am GAY!” he screamed. He threw his beer on the floor, he knocked over a chair and ran for the door, the three-legged cat ran after him hissing. He kicked the main bar door open and ran into the street, the cat still in chase with its hobbled run.
At that moment, another scream came from the floor in front of me.
The old man on the floor sprang to his feet and wrestled his elderly mate for the whisky. They punched and struggled and ended up spilling the golden liquid over each other and fell back to the floor. Kicking and spitting at each other.
I was so frightened I didn’t know what to do next….so I ran and grabbed the old pay phone. I pulled a 10 pence piece out of my pocket and quickly called my boyfriend.
“Help! This place is mad!” I screamed as he answered the call.
“Let me guess. Did two old boys do press ups and a fat biker scream that he was gay?” he asked laughing.
“Yes, how did you know that?”
“That’s OK. That’s a Tuesday,” he laughed back. “I will be down there in twenty minutes to help before the old boys start drinking petrol and show you their fire-eating skills.”
That was my first time.
People are right: it gets better the more you do it.