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!
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!)
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!!)
“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.
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.
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.
Well, what a rollercoaster of emotions! I spent the weekend in Brighton performing with the lovely people from Sweet. Brighton Fringe was postponed in May and of course I agreed to defer the show because I knew damn well there was no way it would actually happen in October… ha!
The organisation was as Sweet as the outstanding production team (honestly, these folk feel like best friends within 5 minutes of meeting them) and everything was beautifully distanced and organised for maximum Covid-safety.
All Change had been about my mum and her survival from a nasty fall 2 years ago, but of course EVERYTHING changed this summer and I had no appetite for a rewrite. So, just as I did at school & university, I put it off ’til the last minute, half hoping we’d all be sent into Tier 3, so I could curl up under a duvet and not have to think about it.
A week ago I bit the bullet and started the painful process. By the time I travelled to Brighton I was yet to even read the script without gulping sobs, so I didn’t have high hopes. But that’s fine. Nobody was going to come, were they? It’s a much smaller Fringe, much less fuss, I hadn’t done much to publicise… yep, it had only bloody sold out.
And what a lovely audience they were. I got through it, they got through it, they laughed and they cried and it was… lovely! Sunday (after a lovely day in Brighton with an old schoolfriend – BONUS DELIGHT!) was a small but perfectly formed audience and also went well, so I couldn’t be happier. Well, obviously, I could be a LOT happier, but I have a show, I’m very proud of it, and it will move onwards and upwards from here.
Any opportunity to perform it safely and I will be there! I’m working on some exciting plans, that mean this show is definitely going to happen, whatever form that takes.
I did a gig! I did one! I performed! I remembered how! I even remembered (most of) the jokes! And the audience was loooooooovely. Of course they were, it was Bath, one of the finest places to perform live comedy (apart from where YOU live, obviously, coz you’re my favourite)
Turns out it is possible to stage live events safely right now, if you’re meticulously careful (as Nick Steel was in Bath). The event was ticketed, the tables were spaced, the walkways were masked and there was a friendly face shooting people in the head with a thermometer as they came in. Masks were worn, table service was arranged (but not during the acts) and a good time was had by all.
So now to my next two gigs. These will be very different. After the most bonkers of summers for us all, I am finally bringing back All Change, Pauline Eyre, my hour-long show about marriage, middle-age and menopause.
First and foremost, I want to reassure you that it’s funny. Menopause is ridiculous; menopause in a pandemic is hiLAIRious! It’s really funny, so funny, honestly so f***ing funny…
And there have been a couple more major changes in my life: one you know about (because you’ve been reading ALL my blogs, right??) and the other you don’t. Suffice to say, as the world has turned upside down, my family has kept me so much on my toes, my calf muscles are burning. (And let’s not even mention Couch to 5K – whose stupid idea was THAT?)
I was quite depressed when I wrote last night’s blog. I was wr… damn, I struggle with this one. I was wr… come on, Pauline, you can do it… I was wrong. There. I said it. It is utterly delicious and took me straight back to childhood birthdays.
In fact, it tasted of her love. Which is, rather alarmingly, my relationship with food perfectly analysed.
I’m actually having rather a lovely birthday. I also got probably the most 2020 gift it’s possible to receive…
54. I’m 54. And in no hurry to grow up yet, thank you very much.
It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m not big on birthdays these days. I’m not ashamed of my age (53 years and 364 day, since you ask) but I don’t really enjoy them as an adult. I was definitely spoilt on my birthday and I’ve never recovered…
I’m sure they weren’t all unadulterated bliss, but my memories of them are idealised, Crawling into my parents’ bed way too early in the morning, presents and cards (the joy of a pound note falling out of the card when you opened it!) and later in the day, the meal of my choice and CAKE!
It was the same cake every year (Caterpillar Cakes hadn’t been invented, kids of today, don’t know they’re born!): mine was chocolate banana cream sponge. My mum would make it from scratch, (ie Mary Berry cake mix), whipped cream and sliced banana. Then the candles, which I’d blow out after the song, of course, and only then, grated chocolate on the top. She couldn’t put the grated chocolate on until after the candle-blowing, for obvious reasons.
When I was a child, I’d be special all day on my birthday. It would feel shiny and I have a memory of my mum looking at me and smiling lovingly and she gave me the spatula to lick as the cake went into the oven. It’s not the same nowadays. I’m supposed to be the grown-up now, so after the morning ‘happy birthday’s and the birthday breakfast that I make myself, everyone does their own thing and I feel a little empty. And a little ashamed. I’m 53, for goodness’ sake, I shouldn’t need this.
And this year it’s that much sadder, because she’s gone. So I thought I’d make myself the cake this time, that’s the adult thing to do, isn’t it? I haven’t had it for years and years (there’s Caterpillar Cake now, for sophisticated ladies like me) but it felt like a nice thing to do.
I just made the cake. Horror of horrors, they don’t do Mary Berry cake mix any more (ridiculous when she’s way more famous now than she was then) so I had to google a recipe and make it from scratch-scratch. Here’s a thing: it was no harder than the mix, really.
I just got it out of the oven. It looks…
…a bit shit. Oh well. Ain’t that the icing on the cake…
Today was supposed to be my final preview of All Change. I would’ve performed it as part of the Camden Fringe, before heading up to the Edinburgh Festival later in the week. As things have turned out, it would have been terribly hard, performing my lovely show about my mum’s survival.
I’ve agreed to do it at the re-arranged Brighton Fringe in October. So I have 12 weeks or so to rewrite, not really believing that it will happen, that I’ll actually perform in a strange room, with chairs spread across the space, nobody sitting too close. I need to plan it, though. I need to rewrite it. To change the ending.
I always knew it was going to happen. I knew she’d die. I even wanted it I wanted the journey to be over, for things to be resolved. She was so ill so often, and she kept coming through it again and again, each time a little weaker.
I mean, I thought I wanted it. I had no idea. I honestly didn’t realise it would hurt this much. Because I thought when it happened, I wouldn’t need to mourn for a small, weakened life.
And I’m not. I’m mourning for a huge, momentous, long life, that was lived to the full and with love and generosity. I’m not really grieving for the tiny (so tiny!) elderly, sweet & smiling lady. I’m grieving for my mum when she was younger: when she washed my hair, made my birthday cakes, gave me 2.5p pocket money, nagged me to tidy my room. The mum I had to reach up to cuddle. Not the one I reached down to hold.
When my dad died, she started her life anew. She ached for him for years, but she didn’t stop living. She started doing things she couldn’t do before, when she was a wife. She found her friends (not theirs), she did voluntary work (she’d always wanted to be a social worker but y’know, she became a wife instead) and became a bereavement counsellor. She saw a TV travel show about Fiji and booked a ticket the next day. She vowed never to marry again, always felt she’d never be able to replace that side of her life. But she found a different kind of happiness. She was amazing. She rewrote her ending.
And she planned that ending meticulously. She sorted the paperwork, labelled every family photo, cleared out cupboards (“you won’t want to be dealing with that when I’ve gone”) and researched every care home in the area, so we wouldn’t be burdened with looking after her.
Dementia gave us many positive things (that’s probably another blog post) – one of them was that she slowly and gradually let us do more. And when it came to it, she didn’t want a care home after all. She wanted to stay at home, to die there.
And so she did.
I need to rewrite my show. I need to plan the ending. And to find the funny. It won’t be the show about my mum’s survival any more. It’ll be about mine.