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!
Wow. It’s been quite the week, since my last blog. I didn’t realise how much that confirming something I kinda knew already would hit me like a brick.
I read a Facebook post from a friend with ADHD who said that when he was first diagnosed, he spent some time grieving. Now, am I just suggestible, so I immediately started grieving? Or did this realisation knock me for six? Who knows? (Fair to say, I’m always worth using for the placebo group in any clinical trial…)
But over the past week, it’s like my brain has exploded. I’m second guessing absolutely everything. Everything I knew about myself now seems to be a symptom (trait) of ADHD. At this stage, it’s quite possible that I have no personality at all – I’m just a list of symptoms.
I’ve been hyper-vigilant, hypersensitive, hyper-focused and… well, hyper.
My mental health plummeted last week – they say that ADHD is like having 40 tabs open at once – hard relate! Last week felt like 80 tabs, plus a running commentary of every one. I was aware of everything around me – playing tennis on one court, I could have told you the score 2 courts away. It felt as though I was being judged by everyone around me and my inner voice was shouting abuse too – it was utterly exhausting.
I’m trying to slow it down. Keep telling myself that nothing’s changed. I’m the same person as I was before – I’ve learned to love my eccentricities, my boundless energy, my doing 30 things at once, my craving for attention (thank you comedy, my saviour), my sensitivity to other people’s feelings (I think. Oh God, now you’re probably thinking that’s crap and I’ve got too high an opinion of myself, some kind of saviour complex. You’re probably right. I’m awful)
At the course I attended last week, we talked about how to make written communications more accessible for neurodivergent folk: shorter sentences, use of bold to make it more readable. And I’d noted that I don’t read books any more. The only book I’ve completed for ages was Sarah Millican’s How To Be Champion, which had short sentences, very short chapters & loads of jokes.
I’ve also always got to the end of a book and had zero memory of what happened, as soon as I’ve put it down. I’ve re-read favourite novels over & over, never remembering what happened, and enjoying them afresh each time. All ADHD traits, apparently.
So I ordered a book about ADHD in women. I thought ‘that’s bound to help’. It arrived today. Holy hell, it’s hard work. I’m sending it back, with the note that it’s inaccessible to people with ADHD. You couldn’t make it up…
I also joined a couple of Facebook groups, but they’re hard work too. Fully of hyper focused people! What’s that about?! I should’ve realised when they said ‘average 4000 posts per day’ (I’m joking. They’re lovely people. I’m still funny, right??)
The worst thing I did was attend a reunion of an antenatal group (I was their teacher). I arrived to meet 16 parents & their newborn babies. Someone said ‘Hi Pauline, how are you?’ and I said ‘OMG, I’m knackered like you wouldn’t believe!!’ Awkward silence.
It’s ages since I blogged. Been busy. Been putting it off. Wasn’t sure I had stuff to say. Had too much to say.
What I mean is, there’s a lot to say and I’m not sure how to say it. It’s all a big jumbly mess in my head. So this is probably the best place to say it – apologise if it turns out to be a long one, but blogging is a great opportunity to just spill it all out.
So, over the past couple of years, I’ve talked a lot with a dear friend* whose son has autism & ADHD – she’s looked at me hard a few times and we’ve talked about neurodiversity and what it means and how all brains are different and how she probably has ADHD and how I probably haven’t…
Then last year, a friend told me her daughter had just been diagnosed with ADHD. As we talked about it, I mentioned how many comedians have it, how interesting that is, how it’s not surprising, I guess, given that comedians view the world slightly differently… That afternoon I drove to Brighton & performed my new show. As I was preparing, the venue manager said ‘well, we neurodivergent folk…’ and I said ‘oh. I don’t… I mean, I’m not… I mean… obviously that’s cool and everything but I’m pretty positive I’m neurotypical.’
And she said ‘mmhmm’.
There’s nothing you can say to that, is there? I mean, I can’t argue the point without looking defensive, or like I’d have a problem with it. And I certainly don’t want to look as though I think ADHD would be something negative. It’s just.. you know, it’s just not me.
But I did go home and google the symptoms, if that’s the right word. And I was right. Nothing there about me.
Fast forward to December and as I’m driving, Woman’s Hour is talking about ADHD in women. The presenter asks the guest what the symptoms are, and how female ADHD brains are different from male ones. I said out loud to my radio ‘yes, come on then. Tell me the symptoms. Let’s confirm one more time that this isn’t me.’ And, of course, she described me. Like, down to a tee.
I’ve been mulling that over since. I do a lot of beating myself up about not being good enough. Not being like the other comedians, the ones who are good. The ones that are ahead of me in this game. Those whose careers I aspire to. Like a lot of people, ‘imposter syndrome’ (hate that term) is rife. And all the cool kids in comedy have ADHD. So I’m clearly just jumping on the bandwagon, aren’t I? If I start talking about this, people will think I’m just trying to be like them. Oh God, I’m such an idiot. No wonder everyone hates me. Etc etc etc.
I did a course for my day job last weekend. A study day on working with neurodivergent people. And of course, it confirmed everything. It added a whole bunch of information & research and other things (what’s the alternative to ‘symptoms’ here? This isn’t an illness! ‘traits’? I just looked it up in a thesaurus – it suggested ‘oddities’. FFS) traits. A whole bunch of traits that I identified with but didn’t realise weren’t neurotypical.
So yeah. This is me. I have ADHD.
I’ve told a handful of people. An autistic comedian said ‘congratulations’. ❤ The lovely friend* said ‘welcome to the community’. My husband said ‘it’s good to give it a name’ and hugged me. There’s nothing wrong. It’s all good.
But I’m feeling very weird. I’m tearful, I’m a bit freaked out and my mind is racing more than it ever has before. And yet, nothing’s changed. I just have to come to terms with the fact that the things that make me ‘me’ have a name. And that name is one that the world sees as odd, or weird, or different, or a reason to up your car insurance (WTAF???)
And when I’ve done that, I have to write some jokes about it. I guess. Or something else. I could write jokes about something else. There’s a lot of other stuff going on…
I was driving from London to Plymouth to open a comedy gig and I was half an hour away from the venue – so near and yet so far – when my lovely little car lost all power. I couldn’t pull over, because I was right in the middle of this:
It’s called Splatford Split and the bit I broke down on was that bit there on the right, heading towards the camera. On that tiny triangle. And the cars were WHIZZING past me on both sides, as they accelerated to get up the hill. And it was pitch black. I was nearly splatted. And split.
Long story short (because I’ve tried to write this a few times and it keeps re-triggering me, so sod that) I spent 10 minutes or so sure that I was about to get hit before Simon The Highway Officer And Utter Hero stopped the traffic and towed me off.
Apparently getting towed off by Simon The Hi-Vis Guy sounds proper filthy, so I’m keeping that in.
I didn’t open the gig… I closed it! Call me the headliner, baby! No idea what I said or did, it was all adrenaline tbh.
The next few days were tough – full-on trauma response – flashbacks, adrenaline rushes and lots of crying. Lovely friends who listened, lovely LOVELY husband & daughter who listened and hugged and stayed close and lovely me actually, who decided to take care of myself. You can, you see. Who knew?
Then yesterday I had to go to this do with him. He’d been nominated for an award and it was a posh do, all dressy and fussy. Not my thing at all. So I pulled out my dress, even dusted off the f*** me boots (haven’t worn them for YEARS!) and off we schlepped. I cried before we left, reapplied my make-up, cried on the way there and then cried because HE WON THE BLOODY AWARD!
Today has been a little hung over and a little tired but very, very happy and proud. I’m married to a fantastic person and everyone else knows it too.
For God’s sake don’t tell him I wrote that. (He won’t read this, are you kidding? He has to listen to ENOUGH)
It’s been a crazy week. I’m ready for a few nice easy, non-stressful days now.
I’m ready for them, but I won’t get them. Warwick tomorrow, Plymouth (again, dear God) on Friday and Cambridge on Saturday.
Why yes! I have a new show! Go and look at the rest of this website and see its pretty new page! It’s called Body: A Work in Progress and I’m bloody thrilled with it!
I’ve performed it 5 times in the last few weeks at the wonderful comedy fringes in Colchester Swansea & Hull and it’s had a 4 star review (“Her humour is extraordinarily infectious” British Theatre), which is pretty cool for a WIP!
The reviewer summed it up pretty well: “Do we really get to know our women, moms, daughters, grandmothers, nieces, aunts? Pauline’s stand-up comedy show is… about what it means to be a woman in your 50s learning to live maybe some of the most special and perhaps horrifying experiences of life”
My blurb is more succinct: “She’s had it all her life and now Pauline Eyre is ready to celebrate her Body. Guaranteed no nudity”
Sorry that this is more self promotion than blog, but the last few weeks have been beyond crazy. I’ve been flitting round the country like I was 25 or something, (honestly check out the Gigs page here, it’s been bonkers!) and I’m SO HAPPY about it!
Comedy is the bloody loveliest thing. It feeds me. Which is just as well coz none of us can afford actual real food any more, can we? Don’t start me…
Last night, I dreamt that I was on a riverbank with someone – not sure who, maybe one of my kids, certainly someone I was in authority over. There was a drain cover with loads of eels under it. We had to collect the eels in a bin liner.
I said to the person, ‘ok, you stand with the open bag, I’ll pick up each eel and put them in. But we’ll have to be quick before they…’ and I turned round and they’d opened the drain cover already and there were eels slithering all over the place!
I had to act really quickly. “OK quick! Pick up the bag, hold it open! I’ll do the rest!”
And I picked up one eel after another, as they wriggled in my hands, and put them into the bag. But there were too many of them and we ended up in great pools of eels, not able to move without stepping on them. And they were slimy. And it was horrid.
And I woke up and remembered that I now have six days left to write my show.
I always tell the truth on stage. An enhanced truth, yes, but generally everything I talk about on stage is true. I’ve been doing pretty much the same set for ages, adding bits, trimming here and there, but essentially, it’s one thing: I’m a middle aged, middle class, menopausal, married mother. And anything else you can think of beginning with M. Magnificent? Murderous? Minging?
I’ve had a couple of weeks away from performing, as I’ve prepared my twins for university and sent them on their way. It’s a lot for them to deal with and I felt the need to be present for them. It was a good decision. They did need me, each in their own way. From games of Uno to shopping for their new rooms, from talking through budgeting to making their favourite meals (freezing portions for uni), it was pretty full on.
And then they left.
First one, then the other.
And my nest is empty.
And off I trotted to a gig and out came the old set and… oh. My opening line: “I live with my husband, my children and my menopause” suddenly wasn’t true any more.
It’s time to write some new stuff. A LOT of new stuff. One of the big differences between me and my-peers-who-are-now-on-telly-i’m-so-happy-for-them is that they are producing a LOT of new content, all the time. They have to. Pootling round the country to local gigs means I never see the same audience twice, so I can keep the same set for AGES. And that’s made me complacent and lazy and I need to write more.
But it’s haaaaaaaard. It’s so hard. For the last week, I’ve sat down to write every day. And my God, I’ve been productive! I’ve cleared out a bedroom, decorated another, been to the dump and the charity shop and the school (there were a LOT of text books left behind). I’ve done a whole heap of everything-that-isn’t-writing.
I have loads of lists of stuff-to-write-about on my phone, on my laptop, in several notebooks… I’m amazing! I’m prolific! I have EVERYTHING… except the jokes.
So I guess I have to give up comedy. (Sorry for the click-baity headline, but y’know. If I’m not writing jokes, I’m not a comedian)
And then last night, I performed a 25 minute set to a non-comedy audience. I needed some relevant content for the group so I threw together a long-winded, (pretty-clever-actually) joke just for them. It went down a storm.
And I thought, oh. What a bloody waste. I can’t use that joke again, it’s niche for that group. And then I thought. oh. I wrote something. Does that mean I can write new jokes, after all? Does that mean I need to sit down and actually bloody write?
This isn’t really about the BAFTAs, I just thought I’d build the suspense a bit. Coz last time I blogged it was about being scared witless about having cancer, and now I have the results, so I thought I’d throw in some suspense.
I could throw in a bit more suspense, couldn’t I? Keep starting new
and build up the moment a bit.
But that would be in very poor taste.
It’s fine. I’m fine.
I had the blood tests, scans, hysteroscopy and blind panic when they answered the phone ‘Oncology?’ and then I got this letter from the nicest consultant in the world.
So that’s that, then. As you were.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, preparing to write a funny, lighthearted show about my body…
I haven’t blogged for ages. I’m so sorry. I hope you’ve coped.
Remember those lockdowns, where everything stopped (well for those of us who weren’t having sodding parties)? One thing I learned from those long months was that it did me the world of good to stop, to have less to do, to not be over-committed all the time.
I learned it, but I didn’t change my ways. Bloody idiot. So for the last few months I’ve been racing round the country gigging, been super busy at home and made the decision to put my show All Change to bed and write a new show in one month. In one month?? What an idiot! The last one took 5 years to write. Who do I think I am??
And then… just a little thing. Just a tiny thing. A weeny little bleed. Almost nothing. Post menopause, and on HRT. And I’d have ignored it, only a Facebook friend posted about this a while back. She had a wee bleed too, and it turned out to be cancer. So I knew this wasn’t something to ignore.
It’s Friday, I’ve missed the urgent GP appointments but I call anyway and the receptionist says “oh love. I’ll get someone to call you today.” Shudder. They call, I get an appointment in person on Monday morning at 9. IN PERSON. MONDAY MORNING AT 9. Oh love.
I spend the weekend trying (unsuccessfully) to put it out of my mind. See the GP Monday morning at 9. She’s not running late. Blood test Tuesday at 9. They aren’t running late. Phone appointment on Wednesday. Gynae at niney. Gynae at niney – I’m hilarious, me! (As my friend Faye patiently says ‘whatever gets you through, Pauline’. Bless her, I barely saw her eyes roll). They are running late. They call at 11. But don’t worry, the urgency is still there. Ultrasound Thursday at 9.
I tell you what, for all its faults, when the NHS moves, it moves.
It’s probably nothing. For the vast majority of people, it’s nothing. So that’s… something.
The blood test hospital is the one my mum was in for all those months. I arrive in her car, listening to her radio station – Classic FM – I haven’t felt ready to change the settings yet. It’s playing something manic. I have the blood test, stop at the cafe for, sod it, a croissant. Because she loved croissants. I walk back to her car, sit in the driving seat and look up at ‘her’ window. And eat the croissant. And Classic FM plays something calm and beautiful. And finally I cry.
Well, just the bloody loveliest thing happened. There’s a great story in this. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Around 7 years ago, I opened my local paper (remember local papers?) and saw that Shappi Khorsandi was performing comedy a few miles from me. I enjoyed listening to her on Radio 4 so I bought tickets. Then I tweeted about it, tagging her. As you do. But famous people don’t respond, do they? Only, she did! She said “I’ll be there #excited” and oh I was chuffed!
Then, a week or so before the gig, she tweeted “don’t suppose anyone is driving back to Ealing after the gig, are they?” and of course I replied “Yes! We are!” (Reader, it’s the other side of London, not exactly on our way home, but the chance to spend time with her after the show? Are you kidding me??)
The show was terrific, but during the interval I was in a bit of a state, to be honest. I sat with my husband and said “but…but… she’s just a woman like me, standing on a stage talking about her kids. That… that could… be me”.
Have you heard the saying ‘if you see it, you can be it’? It had never occurred to me before that I might do stand-up. I had barely seen live comedy before – Jeremy Hardy 30 years ago, Ross Noble when he played locally and we went to see whatever-was-on-at-the-arts-centre-that-night. We had some Eddie Izard tapes… so we liked comedy, but we weren’t especially into comedy.
Seeing Shappi that night flicked a switch for me. We drove her home and she was beyond lovely. We went in for a glass of wine and left, proper delighted with ourselves.
A few weeks later, I texted my new friend and asked her how I might go about trying comedy too. She suggested I try Logan Murray’s comedy course (https://loganmurray.com) and off I went. Logan asked us to introduce ourselves and say why we were here. My response was “Well Shappi Khorsandi suggested…” and a narcissist was born.
Two weeks ago, I get a phone call. It was Shappi. She’s playing my local arts centre tonight. (I knew that coz I couldn’t go this time – I have a gig). Only, she’s asking me if I fancy opening the show for her. I turn her down. Well, I have a gig. I call a friend. My friend says “you f***ing idiot, you turned her down??”
I call back. “I think that may have been a little stupid. Could I change my mind, please?”
And I open for Shappi Khorsandi. Li’l ol’ me. I stand on a stage and I talk about my kids and it’s glorious.
I was so looking forward to last night’s gig at Hot Water Comedy Club, which had turned into two gigs – the early show and the late. It’s got a great reputation and I was trying out there for the first time, eager to impress, of course, and also to get one of their great video recordings. All the cool kids have a 5 minute set from Hot Water on YouTube.
I don’t often do 5 minutes these days (get me!) and I spent some time in the days before, choosing the right material to use – it needs to be tight punchlines, rather than storytelling – show them what you’ve got, make ’em laugh and get off.
Because it was Liverpool, I treated myself to a train ticket and a (very) cheap hotel. I went to university in Liverpool and it holds a special place in my heart and for my family.
Then in the morning, devastating news that my lovely friend from uni, Steve, died that morning. He’d been ill for some time, we knew it was coming, but not yet. I wasn’t ready. I full-on howled. Steve was a very special talent. We studied drama together and my goodness, his performances were amazing. His portrayal of the serial killer in Christie In Love was one of the most powerful and haunting pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen. He was a beautiful singer too and went on to a career in the West End and on TV. Never the major star, never as successful than he bloody should have been, but a ‘character actor’. You’d recognise him if you saw him. “Ah yes, him. He was in that thing, you remember, with that other chap…”
I took the train to Liverpool, glad of my facemask and glasses, heavy silent tears most of the way there. I arrived at Lime Street, stepped out of the station and oh, St George’s Hall. My Liverpool. Where Steve lives. I mean, lived. But I can’t go and see him.
Checked in to the hotel, where you have to push the mattress out of the way to open the bathroom door – did I mention it was cheap? – and sat on the bed, having another little cry watching Pointless. Steve was on that a couple of years ago…
Message on the phone from another act – ‘sorry, running a bit late’. Wait… what? I’ve still got a couple of hours before the gig, haven’t I? Checked the call time again – 7pm. Shit!
It’s not too bad – half an hour to get ready and go. I throw on some makeup, set the maps on my phone and head out for the 6 minute walk. Get to the address… no comedy club. I ask in 3 bars – each one says it’s ‘further up the road’… doesn’t make sense. Turns out, Maps has Hot Water in Seel St, when it’s actually in Hardman St. Shit again! I reset Maps with the correct address and set off. My phone shows my ETA as 6.56. I’ll make it. It’s fine.
I walk as fast as I can up Duke St, glance down and the phone says ETA 6.57. I speed up some more. Look down again… 6.59. WHAT? It’s sending me in the wrong direction! Gleefully!! I reset again and it changes the route to a more direct one (ffs) and the ETA is now 7.06. Pants! I message the gig.
When I get there, they’re turning audience away at the door because it’s packed and…er… the MC is on stage. Turns out, the SHOW is at 7, not the call time. I’m hopelessly late. And I’m second act on. I get my shit together, stand at the side and the tech person says ‘don’t worry, you’ll be fine’. They’re being SO nice, when I’m SO late and SO unprofessional!
I manage a weak smile and mouth silently ‘5 minutes, yeah?’ And he mouths back ‘No, 10 minutes’.
I reset my buzzy watch (it vibrates when I have to get off stage) from a 5 to a 10 minute set, the MC announces my name and I’m on.
lovely. Fantastic atmosphere, crowd totally up for it, amazing room… I’m a comedian. This is what I do. Even with a broken heart and a racing pulse and a voice in my head screaming ‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?, I perform. I tell my jokes and they laugh and we connect and it’s… home.
It’s only when I get off stage that I start shaking. Try to find some people to apologise to but they’re all too busy being lovely and running the show.
I perform the second show. Also lovely. I say to the guy running the club “is it ok if I leave?” and he says “I hope you will, nobody should actually live here!” and I go back to the hotel, clutching a bag of chips. And I sit on my bed at 11pm and eat crap and watch crap and cry a bit more.