Posted in comedy, humour

How Being Funny Saved My Bacon – What It Felt Like To Be An English Immigrant In The United Kingdom

The best thing about turning 50 is the amount of comedy material that generously lands in my lap. I’ve finally found my calling in life. Making people laugh by taking the piss out of myself. All those foibles and idiosyncrasies that Father Nature (Oh come on, it couldn’t possibly be a woman, could it?) hands out by the bucket load.

I’ve been on a bit of a roll writing about the menopause, middle age spread and heightened anxiety. Although something occurred to me the other day, what if I get better? I overcame a challenge with flying colours recently and I thought that that’s one less thing to be funny about. I’ll come to that one another time, but take my word for it, it was momentous.

I know I’m a funny lady because my Mum told me so. And I see the fruits of my labour on the face of the person I’m talking to as it contorts into the kind of expression reserved for private appearances only. That’s when you know you ARE bloody funny.

As a child my family moved around a great deal. This was very hard for my brother and I. Always the new kids on the block. The first day of school was like groundhog day for us. I recall on one occasion praying at night that I would wake up paralysed so that I wouldn’t have to endure being the new girl again.

Northern Ireland (NI) 1978 was a very bad time to be an English resident. Everywhere we went there were slogans screaming ‘Brits Out’, even cut out of the high mounds of snow piled up on the sides of the roads. The people of NI wanted the British Army to leave; bombing was at a peak; cars left unattended were taken away and destroyed in controlled explosions; soldiers with big guns patrolled the streets and we were searched in every shop we entered. If we got lost in the wrong area we were right to be scared with our English Registration plate.

My parents finally changed our car registration when my Mother was the target of makeshift missiles as she drove along the Falls Road in Belfast when Bobby Sands, member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army died on hunger strike in HM Prison Maze in 1981.

So, there I was, Little Miss English thrown into the Lion’s Den. Not the fault of the children, they learned from their parents that we/I was the enemy. I was 13 years of age, I could forgive the children, but not the teachers. It didn’t matter that I was of Irish descent, I was from the country that as far as they were concerned had stolen their land; I was an alien, an unwelcome immigrant.

This is when the humour really started to kick in. Not easy, but a necessity to survive. It’s awfully hard to kick someone’s head in when you are laughing so hard you almost wet your pants. I was talented and skilled at impersonations and accents. I knew the words and songs to every advertisement on the television. I could do all the voices, and Cilla Black was my pièce de résistance. Being funny and smart saved me from years of bullying.

I was saved from being bullied by the children, but not the teachers. I was in a school play just before we were about to make the move back to England. I played a Belfast woman, my accent was spot on. The next day the maths teacher commended me on my performance, the same teacher that would make me answer questions with the number eight in the answer because it sounded SO FUNNY. He said, “it’s a shame you are leaving just as we’re getting used to you”.

I learned how to judge and cater to my audience to save my backside. This is something that will live with me forever. Survival. Even if I am cured, I will always find the funny in everything. Being funny overcomes shyness, anxiety, bullying and insecurities. Laughter really is the best medicine, and nothing feels greater than being the one that makes it all happen.

 

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Posted in comedy, humour, women

Making Sunday A Fun Day – When You’re Billy No Mates

I found myself at a bit of a loose end on Sunday; I thought I should do something completely different (usually Sunday afternoon is spent in the pub). I would learn how to survive a Sunday on my own, not just survive but enjoy, without the pub. I pulled on my skin tight jeans, threw on my white blouse and scrunched my hair up into a messy bun (in my dreams, that’s the stuff Jilly Cooper is made of. Two hours of face painting and a comb over before I’m ready to pull on my high waisted jeans and a top long enough to hide my muffin top).

I walked with a jaunty step (still in chick lit mode) feeling determined and liberated. I planned  to pick up the Sunday papers and take myself for brunch. I had it set in my head which paper I would buy, but it appears the early bird catches the worm on Sunday mornings, how was I to know, I’d never taken flight before 2pm.  I was in a  bit of a quandary as I couldn’t possibly give money to the papers that fund hate. I didn’t want the local paper, if I read that I may well never feel safe enough to leave the house again. I chose one that I wasn’t sure if it did or didn’t fund hate. Had a fair idea it didn’t.

Feeling terribly cosmopolitan I pootled along to the cafe, newspaper at the ready. My cosmopolitan, liberated, jaunty mood subsided slightly as all the windows were steamed up. I panicked in case I walked in and there wasn’t a spare table, everyone would be looking at me. I would be awkward and clumsy and no longer the woman I had dreamed of being. I had no idea how important it was to be able to see through windows before entering a premises.

Good fortune shone down on me and I settled myself into a corner table with my back to the wall.  I always sit with my back to the wall if I can. Last Saturday I gave up my ‘back to the wall’ seat so a man who wanted to watch the rugby more than I did could have a better view. I discovered I had the right idea all along, people insist on touching your hair and stuff when you allow yourself to sit within arm’s reach of passers by. As another aside I did say to aforementioned man, “What the hell are you doing on your phone when I gave up my seat so you could get a better view!”.

I digress. I took out the magazine supplement, I thought that was the safest bet as it would be awfully inconvenient to gather up a sprawled out broadsheet when my decaf tea and veggie all day breakfast arrived. I observed the other patrons and made some notes. I was surrounded by young families and couples. I convinced myself that that didn’t make me jealous or lonely as:

  1. You could stay at home eating breakfast and staring at your phones.
  2. I’m an independent woman of age, happy with my own company.
  3. I don’t have to sit trying to make conversation until the food arrives.

Going out for brunch seems to be a ‘thing’ these days. I get embarrassed if I say I’ve been out for brunch. When I say ‘breakfast’ they look at the time and correct me, “don’t you mean brunch?” What is this fascination with joining two words to make a whole other new word. Brexit. Guesstimate. Brangelina. Chillax. The only good thing about it is the word that describes that process. Portmanteau, beautiful word. I was only there for Breakfast Lunch because I didn’t have any food in the fridge and I was too hungry to go shopping and then go home and prepare it.

I’m lucky really, despite my idiosyncrasies*, that I do have the confidence to walk into a bar or cafe on my own. A good job really, if I didn’t I could spend days never seeing or talking to another human being. The moral of my story, if there is one; don’t get stuck in a rut. Even if you do the same thing everyday, try and do it differently. You’d be surprised how something as simple as having a pot of tea instead of a  teabag in the mug can lift your spirits. Carpe Diem!

*a fairly nice way to describe someone who is frankly a bit odd with a bucketful of anxieties.

 

Posted in humour, women

Carry On Caravanning – The Highs And Lows Of Being Off Grid

February has arrived. It’s that month when you start to feel that  Christmas is really behind us now. Time to start thinking about the summer and where to go on holiday. Fed up of the short, cold, days we dream of the sun on our face and sand between our toes…..

A few years ago I decided to buy a caravan, a static caravan in a field, off grid, back to basics, at one with nature. This was going to be all our holidays from now on, weekends, bank holidays, you name it we would be there. The first night we slept there I was awake all night.

“Oh My God! We are in a caravan at the bottom of a field in the middle of nowhere!”

“Oh My God, what if one of us needs an ambulance in the night, it’s so dark out there, they’ll never find us!!!” (If you’ve read my other posts this whole needing the police, or an ambulance, during the night is a recurring theme).

I got out of bed to check my purse for the piece of paper with the address of where we were, and placed it next to my mobile phone. Suddenly the thought of that dark, star filled sky lost all of its romantic appeal. My imagination went into overdrive as I pictured masked invaders smashing through the door. Wouldn’t be hard, that flimsy coffin I was suffocating in was a pushover!

“What time does it get light?” I blubbered.

The next morning I sat outside in the sunshine, fag in one hand, tea in the other, my chin down to my feet. I finally plucked up the courage to say that I couldn’t possibly EVER sleep in that caravan again. Needless to say, after spending two grand on that hellhole, my pleas fell on very deaf ears as Mr Happy positioned himself, eyes closed and face up towards the sun,  the corner of his mouth twitching slightly as he became heady with pleasure.

A few alcohol induced comas helped me through the nights on that first trip as we got stuck in to ‘rebuilding’ the interior. I might add at this point Mr Happy did advise me against buying the caravan. I have tried to curb my impulses since. Once we had everything looking just the way I had imagined, transforming a 1980’s static into a vintage delight (as long as you were only looking at the inside) I started to feel more comfortable. We bought a solar panel that charged two batteries and a 12 volt television. I was a green wellied water collector that didn’t brave the shower block until the smell got so bad Mr Happy had to start spraying me with Mr Sheen. As dusk swept across the field we would watch the bats do their evening dance around our heads and we felt we could live like that forever. Yes, I did at times suggest it would be the greatest way to live (curbed that impulse).

I became so ‘relaxed’ about it all that one Friday I decided to drive down to the caravan ahead of Mr Happy. I would fetch the water in, open the curtains and windows and prepare for his evening arrival. I felt amazing, so grown up and independent (I HATE driving with a passion – see travelling with anxiety). I drove my car across the field down to the caravan to avoid running the gauntlet of rabid dogs, and would move it when I had a dog handling expert at my side later on (weren’t supposed to have cars at the vans).

Once the curtains were drawn I spied a man I hadn’t seen before staring across at me.

“Oh Shit. I’m in a caravan all alone at the bottom of a field with no one around to hear my screams!”

“Shit, shit, shit!”

I jumped in the car, left it in the car park and started walking to the nearest village. I didn’t drive, as like I said, I hate driving and I’d done my bit for the day. I was wearing new sandals. Oh my poor feet. I jumped (more jumping, mainly out of my skin) on a bus and headed into Rye. Once I’d exhausted the shops I went on a pub crawl, intermittently phoning Mr Happy to explain my dilemma and beg him to arrive soon. I ended up back in the village, and headed inside the pub to wait for him. During the 3 hours I waited for him I was sexually harassed by the local drunk who wanted to take me back to his caravan for a bit of How’s Your Father. After he had smoked his fifth joint I had no concerns about being able to fight him off.

This is merely a snapshot of an adventure that spanned two years. Yes, I endured it for two years. The highs outweighed the lows and I learned a lot about myself. All bad. Look out for Carry On Camping – Didn’t I Learn Anything From Caravanning!?