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Welcome! Come on in! You look LOVELY!

photo: Daniel Beacock

Thank you for visiting my blog. It’s about being middle-aged, ‘n’ stuff. Not quite fitting in any more, because the world seems to be aimed at people younger than me. It’s not, it just feels that way.

I’m the youngest of 4. The whole world was always older than me, everyone else knew what they were doing (didn’t they?) and I was too young to understand. And slowly, gradually, I seem to have become the grown-up, and it’s weeeeeird.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to be younger. I don’t have to do that stuff to my eyebrows, or my cheekbones, or my pubes… I’ve never had a spray tan, or gone on Tinder or watched porn (honestly, never!) and that’s fine with me.

When my kids say ‘EVERYONE knows this’ or ‘EVERYONE does that’, I think ‘no they don’t. I don’t.’ It seems that I’m not ‘everyone’ any more.

Welcome. If you’re here because you relate, hurrah! If you’re here to try and understand your mum better, that’s great too! The blogs will only ever be short, so you only ever need to make a quick visit. Unless you’d LIKE to stay longer, in which case check out the rest of the website and come and see me doing live comedy. I’d love to see you!

Late to the table, Eyre-Leigh Doors

Every comedian in the world has released a podcast in the past year. Well, every comedian except two. Because Louise Leigh and I are grown-up, sophisticated…um… ladies… or summink… and we didn’t want to go jumping on that bandwagon without careful planning, months of making each other GUFFAW on the phone and waiting til the lockdown was almost over and nobody was looking to start a podcast any more.

But for us, it’s been worth the wait. Eyre-Leigh Doors launched last weekend (April 10th) and is already, my friends, ALREADY the 53rd most popular comedy podcast in the UK. (And no, there aren’t 53 of them, there are 100s, so nuts to you!)

It’s a game show, basically, where our special guest each week gets offered the chance to step through the Eyre Leigh Doors and live in another dimension. A better world, where they can live out a fantasy with the person of their choice. Well, that’s what they’re offered, anyway. They’re also offered seven other doors, which take them to other dimensions. But they can only choose one, and some guests make the mistake of choosing too early, or too late, and end up in a Tesco carpark arguing over trolleys with Gripper Stebson off of Grange Hill, or worse.

Our first guest was perfect – Sooz Kempner. She’s got the BEST stories (follow her on @soozuk if you don’t believe me) and she shared some crackin’ gossip about some very cool people. Like, she’s FURIOUS with Olivia Colman – what?? Why?? Listen to find out. And to discover Liza Minelli’s little-known Welsh roots and Freddie Mercury’s (potential) response to a wardrobe malfunction in a luxury hotel room…

This week’s guest is Jenny Laville. If you’ve ever listened to Radio 4 comedy (like any of it, ever) you’ve probably heard Jenny’s name. She’s written her own sitcom and contributed to all the cool satirical news shows and she’s a delightful and hilarious guest. Again, the BEST stories. Susie Dent might never live this episode down…

The show’s about 45 minutes long (perfect while you’re running, cooking or having a 45-minute lie down) and new episodes are being released weekly. You can find the show here https://shows.acast.com/eyre-leigh-doors or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Please give it a listen, we’re mighty proud of it. And then rate it (5* obvs) and tell your friends.

Oh, and if you’ve got some tasty anecdotes that might be good scenarios for us to offer out guests, you can email eyreleighdoors@gmail.com and tell us all about it.

The Good, The Bad and the Podcast

Coming soon to Spotify – please subscribe!

Man alive on toast, it’s been a busy week! As the rest of the world starts to venture outdoors again, I’ve been tied to my insides (as it were), with admin and work up to my neck. What a lovely problem to have. I’m lucky indeed to have paid work again and to be embarking on a lovely new adventure!

Yes, 12 months after the rest of the comedy world started creating podcasts, my dear friend Louise Leigh and I are catching up! That’s the thing about middle age – no need to jump on the bandwagon just because it’s fashionable, we’ll wait, thankyouverymuch, and do things when WE feel ready.

And we DO feel ready! It’s been months in the planning, and we’ve devised a very silly, very funny gameshow, where we offer our guest the chance to live in an alternate reality – be that swimming in the Med with Clark Gable, wading through a river made of olive oil with Vladimir Putin or living in a world made of cheese with Tinky Winky.

We’ve recorded 7 episodes this week – SEVEN! And it’s been an utter joy!

I’m also doing All Change again online again (21st April – tell your friends/neighbours/therapist – tickets here https://www.tickettailor.com/events/paulineeyre/505888) and live, in-person comedy is coming BACK, baby! The diary is starting to fill for later in the year, so it all feels good.

And just as it was starting to feel like maybe the nightmare is coming to an end, and maybe things will be happy again, someone we knew in our childhood was mentioned in the paper today, and I thought “ooh, I must call my mum and tell her” and it all came crashing down again.

It’s a funny old thing, grief. I can talk about her, glance at her photo, laugh at happy memories and feel fine, but you never know when something will suddenly punch you in the heart. It’s a story I’ve heard other people tell 100 times, wanting to call the dead person to tell them something, but being a cliche doesn’t make it any less painful.

I guess, like lockdown, there’s still a way to go on my bereavement journey. But at least I have my show (“an unconventional love letter to her family, and in particular her mother”, “heartwarming funniness” The Reviews Hub) and my work… and the hope of opening the door to another dimension, where I’m hanging out in Berlin with David Bowie and Lou Reed eating pie…

Woman in comes up with novel way to deal with hot flush at work. The results will shock you!

Come & see my show live online this Thurs 11th March. Ticket link below

I’ve started working in a shop. I’ve got a pinny n everything! Our family income plummeted last year, so need must. It’s ironic, I’ve always been so sensible as a freelancer, making sure I had lots of irons in the fire and backing up comedy with a variety of other jobs, but apart from the teaching I now do on Zoom, everything else dropped off the pandemic cliff.

When I was little I always wanted to work in a shop, especially one with a big till with lots of buttons and that pleasing ‘ping’ as you jammed your little finger on the big ‘total’. Sadly the till is computerised in our shop, and of course everything’s contactless. I still get to say ‘is there anything else I can get for you?’ though, like a proper shop assistant.

Our shop sells frozen meals and a lot of the day is spent running up and down stairs and filling the freezers with stock. It’s hot work, especially for a menopausal comedian in the midst of a midlife crisis! I’ve found the solution: every so often I stick a facemask in the freezer and emerge smug and cool, with a slightly sweaty hairline.

My other menopausal moment came last week when I got so sick of my looooong hair that I begged my husband to cut it for me. It was great – he did an awesome job! So I…um…asked him to cut it a bit more. I now have a graduated bob like a 1920s flapper girl – or rather, her mum.

This will be just one of the HILARIOUS things you can laugh about this Thursday evening if you come and see my solo show All Change, Pauline Eyre live on Zoom at 8pm. If you saw the show pre-pandemic, and have kept in touch with my story here, the ending has, of course, changed. There have been one or two more big changes, which I’d love to tell you about. Tickets are available here:

https://www.tickettailor.com/events/paulineeyre/487139

The BEST bits about menopause

I know, right? Gorgeous!

Today my head is buzzing with stuff to share, but it’s all pretty same-y. I miss people, I miss comedy, I miss my mum, I miss everything that the pandemic has taken away. Most of it is temporary (most of it *sad face emoji*) and when those things return I’ll appreciate them all the more.

I’m trying to be more positive. At the end of every day I close my eyes and count my blessings. I give thanks for my kids and my home and my health and the fact that there’s chocolate. (I saw a Facebook post from a Covid survivor who now finds the taste of chocolate repellent and my blood ran cold)

I’ve even started giving thanks for my menopause. There’s a lot about it that’s crap, but when I read other people’s experiences of it, I realise mine is a little different. Being freezing all day and boiling all night is without doubt UTTERLY PANTS but other people find suffering in the bits I actually enjoy.

I think there might be something wrong with me. And I think I like it.

For example, chin hair. The constant discovery of little dark sproutings on my chin & neck. I discover them, idly, when I… ha! Who am I kidding?! I look for them constantly! My thumb is always scanning my jawline looking for the little buggers. And most people my age seem to find that upsetting. Not me! I play with them constantly until I get to the tweezers. And it feels SO GOOD when you pull ’em out. I even bought a second pair of tweezers, so I can attack them upstairs or downstairs within minutes of their first appearance.

I was on a menopause forum and people were talking about HRT. Someone was saying she’d rejected the treatment because the hormone patches left stuff on her skin – you know that grey sticky plaster residue that stays when you pull it off. And I thought ‘WHAT?? That’s the best bit! I LOVE rubbing that off!’

Is it just me?

It’s just me, isn’t it…

Endings

This is my mum’s box of tissues. She would keep it on her lap constantly, because her eyes watered and she wanted to be able to wipe them. Always the same brand, with the jolly box, always on her lap. When she died, the box was quite full, and I took it home. I’ve cried a lot of tears into its contents ever since.

I’ve been having bereavement counselling. I was offered 18 free sessions, funded by my local council, and today was Session 10. The counsellor was provided from the organisation that my mum was a bereavement counsellor for 20 or 30 years ago. To say she’d approve would be an understatement!

The sessions have been brilliant. And as a comedian, the joy of having a captive audience to listen to my stream of consciousness every week is nothing short of a gift. In fact, the experience of stand-up helps – that ability to blurt out what’s on your mind, not holding back, not afraid to look a fool for saying something silly.

In comedy, it’s that ability to be child-like, to be the 4 year old who can play, that helps you find the funny. With counselling, it’s being able to find that 4 year old who cries when she’s sad, laughs when she’s happy and who’s not afraid to be accused of ‘just looking for attention’. Well of course I’m looking for attention. I need attention. My heart hurts and I need my mum.

I’ve had a lot of counselling before. I’m ever so good at it (I need an emoji here, but WordPress doesn’t offer them). I once had a first session with a counsellor who arrived home 10 minutes before the start to find me on her doorstep crying. She later said she knew this one was going to be straightforward – no need to draw out what was bothering this client!

And because I’ve worked through a lot of issues in the past, I knew what I needed this time too. I needed to feel less broken (see previous blog) and to deal with another issue that I knew was making this harder. The counselling was never going to fix everything. I’ll still be grieving for a long time to come. I was never going to recover from losing a 54 year relationship in 7 months.

For the first 8 weeks, I’d wake up on Wednesday morning knowing what I needed to talk about. It was all on the surface and I’d open up Zoom at 10 am and launch into it. The sessions were almost themed. And as I talked and cried and reflected, I’d find little lightbulbs of understanding about why different aspects of the experience were so painful, or reflect that it might be healthier to handle some things differently.

Last week was different. I woke up… quite happy actually. It was Biden’s Inauguration Day, the world felt a bit safer, and I didn’t start the day with ‘why does my stomach ache? Oh yes, she’s gone and I’ll never put my head on her chest again’.

I opened up Zoom at 10 and said ‘I don’t know what to say today.’ And we started talking about comedy. And the next 50 minutes were a joyful, celebratory, analytical, glorious, narcissistic conversation about the thing that feeds me more than almost anything else.

I miss it.

Almost as much as I miss my mum.

Today I woke up and again thought ‘I don’t know what to say today’. So I tried to think about what’s upset me in the past week and what I needed help with. And there wasn’t anything. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been upset. I watched It’s A Sin on Channel 4 – of course I’ve been upset!

But this morning, I realised that I don’t need the counselling any more right now. I’m doing ok. I’m still grieving, it still hurts, but I’m not blocked. When it hits me, I crumple and I cry and then I get up and carry on.

So we decided, I decided, that today was the final session. This was an ending that was in my control. I am grateful and I am full of love for this wonderful woman who has journeyed with me for the last couple of months. But for now, I can do it on my own. (If I need to go back at any time, I can)

We said our goodbyes and I left the meeting. And I reached into my mum’s tissue box and pulled out the last one. Had a little cry, blew my nose and put the box in the recycling.

And then took it out again.

I may keep it for just a little while longer.

It’s been a while…

dyed me ‘air, din’ I?

Sorry about that. There’s just been so much OF NOTHING going on!

I popped into a supermarket this morning. First time in over a month. I was proper nervous, practically ran in, grabbed the carrots I’d forgotten to order in the online shop and ran out.

Security guard wasn’t impressed…arf!

I’ve had a dilemma for the past couple of weeks. There are opportunities for performing my show All Change online and I’ve been wary. It’s not the same as seeing an audience in person and smelling the laughter. And if you look at the ‘All Change 2020’ page of this site, you’ll see that I had a LOVELY tour planned, and the only dates that happened in the end were in October in Brighton. They were SO delightful, but can I really recreate that on Zoom?

I was chatting with my bereavement counsellor about it (best decision, she’s fab and who wouldn’t want the chance to try and make sense of the world once a week at a time like this?) and this lovely woman, who normally watches me rail and grieve and ugly-cry on screen got to see what I’m like when I talk about stand-up. It gave us both goosebumps.

And it made me realise how much I love comedy and how much I miss it. And I have this show, that I spent a 5 year apprenticeship preparing for, and I’m proud of it and I want to perform it. So, here goes.

The first confirmed date for All Change 2021 is Friday 30th April at Flushfest, the Menopause Festival run by those brilliant people at Menopause Cafe. And I won’t have to travel to Perth for it, which I’m trying to see as a positive (but it’s so PRETTY and the people are so LOVELY!)

Maybe you could join me? You don’t have to be menopausal to come – I think we’re ALL aware that menopause affects more than just the people who experience it firsthand! More info and tickets here https://www.menopausecafe.net/menopause-festival-2021-flushfest2021/

Not Broken

When my mum died 6 months ago and people asked how I was, I would say “I’m broken’. I wasn’t prepared to be terribly English and say “I’m fine, how are you?” I was bloody broken and I needed to say it. I needed others to understand that I was absolutely and in no way ok.

I felt that while I was able to function and make the dinner and do my job (well, the one I have left as a freelance in 2020 blah blah) but I was functioning from a place of crumpled sadness. There was little to say about it (although, being me, I managed to find PLENTY of words!) – I just didn’t want it to be. I couldn’t bear the loss of her, I felt like a small child who’s been denied sweets at the checkout – “it’s not fair, I just want her!”

And I’ve grieved and I’ve cried and I’ve railed against the situation and I’ve written and I’ve had counselling and I’ve howled in people’s arms (again, in an appropriate 2020 bubbled manner) and…

…something’s changed. Yesterday a friend said “you’re… different. You’re… back. I can’t explain it, but you seem like you again”.

You see, I’m not broken any more. I’m no longer a functioning mess; I’m back to being a whole person again – one who might stop at any time to cry because my mum died, or because she’s not there, or because I can’t put my head on her chest – but essentially a human being again.

It may not look that different. From the outside, a crying middle aged woman is a crying middle aged woman. But from inside, I know I’m ok. I will survive. I’m not broken. I’m a middle aged woman whose mum died, and she gets very sad about that.

Yesterday I got the world’s greatest Christmas jumper. I’ve never bought into the commercial nonsense of them (an expensive garment you wear 3 times in December and takes up space the rest of the year), but this one is special. It’s very me. And I will be wearing it ALL YEAR. I shall be sweating in this in August, because this will NEVER stop being funny. LOOK at this joy! I can feel that! (Also LOOK at this jumper! LOOK AT IT!!)

Empty Shell

“I’m just popping over to my mum’s!” I used to call out behind me a couple of times a week as I left, to go and sort out her meds, empty the bins and get the best hugs in the world.

That stopped earlier this year when the pandemic hit and I couldn’t visit. Four miles up the road, but I was stranded a million miles away.

Since she died in June there have been countless reasons to pop over, as the house has been cleared and dressed for sale. There’s a lovely couple due to move in, with names which are a combination of my siblings’ – how weird is THAT? I met them and promised to leave the lightbulbs and fuses in place. (They laughed uneasily – this is why I should be left out of the responsible jobs!)

It’s easier every time, going round there. The trinkets have gone, and most of the furniture, and pretty much everything that made it hers. I can still sit in her armchair though, where she read to my kids. I can still gaze out into the garden where ‘her’ fox sat in the morning sunshine. There’s still that patch of carpet in the bedroom, where she fell… it’s not all happy memories.

This morning I needed to sort the boiler. I called out “I’m just popping over to my mums!” And then quietly, under my breath, I said “I wish she was going to be there”.

She wasn’t. The house is an empty shell. Where her love and warmth were is now a bright and sunny home, perfectly nice and a great place for that couple to make their new home. But she’s not there.

The day she died I popped over to my mum’s to say goodbye. I wanted to be there when they came to take her away. Seeing a dead body is a profound and beautiful experience. You GET it, you see that they’ve gone, that they’re no longer in that shell. As the undertakers gently carried her body out, I ran to the front door. And as they drove away, I stood on her doorstep and waved goodbye. As she did, every time we left, for years and years.

This morning, as I drove away, I looked back. She wasn’t on the doorstep. Her ghost was not present. I whispered goodbye under my breath.

“She’s middle-aged…”

I keep meaning to bring this blog back to comedy, but I also keep meaning to bring my life back to ‘normal’ – neither seems to be playing ball. The grief gets in the way of everything, it seems.

When I was very small, around 4 or 5 I’d say, I went shopping with my mum to Pearson’s department store in Enfield and I got lost. I remember the feeling of looking up and her not being there, and the feeling of blind panic. I was also a charming, attention-seeking little bugger (surprise!) and I quickly turned this into an adventure.

I knew to approach a member of staff, and I decided to produce my finest acting skills. This was a chance to practice for my future career. I was DEFINITELY going to be an ‘actress’, (as we called them in those days before we discovered that women can be actors too) so this was an opportunity to give my finest ‘adult’. I was going to be calm, sophisticated and grown-up and I was all set to speak with this shop assistant accordingly. She probably wouldn’t even notice that I was a lost little girl.

I remember it so clearly.: “Excuse me madam, I seem to have lost my mummy. She was here with me just a few minutes ago, but I think she must have wandered off”

She was completely charmed. I was NAILING this performance.

“What does your mummy look like?”

“Well, she’s middle-aged, she has a brown curly perm and is wearing a cream dress with oak leaves and acorns on it. It has a green shiny belt too”. (I still remember everything about that dress – the cut, the material, how it felt when you sat on its lap for a cuddle…)

The assistant laughed and called her friend. “This is so cute, Carol. She’s lost her mum and she’s just described her as ‘middle aged’ – precious!”

That was a weird comment. Of COURSE she was middle aged! She had a curly perm! She wore a dress! She was about 42! What was so funny about that? That’s how any adult would describe her!

They put an announcement out on the tannoy.

“There’s a lost little girl looking for her mum. Could Mrs Eyre please come to the first floor sales desk and collect her?”

This memory came crashing into my grief in the middle of the night a few days ago. As I lay in my middle-aged bed with my middle-aged husband gently snoring beside me, I realised that 50 years later, not much has changed. I’m still failing at pretending to be a calm, sophisticated grown-up and I’m still a little girl, trying to be brave because she’s lost her mummy.

And you can watch it!

So my last post was about how I did my show in Brighton, and how amazing that was. Well, the lovely people at Sweet (I mentioned them last time, didn’t I?) have recorded it and you can watch it on Sweetstream for a mere £6.

It was a small but perfectly formed audience (damn it, shoulda been the night before when it was sold out – you’d have been so much more impressed!) and it’s therefore the second time I’d ever done it, but I’m mighty proud of this little show.

It’s mine. And it’s my mum’s. And we came such a long way to get here. I will keep working on it and when you get to see it live, in 2021 or beyond, you can compare it to when I performed it right at the start. When I was raw with grief and roaring at being on stage after 7 months.

Watch the show here: https://sweetstream.co.uk/programs/all-change-pauline-eyre-full-production

And see if you agree with the review here: https://www.thereviewshub.com/brighton-fringe-all-change-pauline-erye-sweet-venues-werks-2/

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