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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!

…and the BAFTA goes to…

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

paragraphs

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…

frightened

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.

Coz I’m really frightened.

But it’s probably nothing.

…and a narcissist was born.

Shappi bloody Khorsandi!

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.

It was full, honest!

The show must go on…

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…”

ah yes, him.
Stephen Aintree

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 mean…

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.

And it’s…

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.

Many happy (tax) returns

Been blocked about my tax return. Been really blocked. The accountant starts asking for the info in April, I usually have it done by September. Not this time. This time, I’ve just been…well… blocked.

And now, it’s REALLY late. It’s bloody January. No more putting it off. I’m right back on the bus, on the way to school, frantically trying to botch some homework together to hand in at 10 to 9. I ALWAYS cut it fine, handing my homework in. I always got away with it… just.

It’s ridiculous, coz this is the tax return for 2020/21. Nothing bloody happened. There was almost no work. And what there was was almost entirely online. So, very few expenses and very, very little income.

And so, why am I so held back?

I finally sit down with the paperwork. I start with the diary. It’s simple, it’s all in there. The online teaching, the Zoom gigs, the occasional paid quiz. Really. This is not hard.

Also in the diary: sort out my mum’s shopping… collect her prescriptions… pick up bits for her carers… they were left on the doorstep. I didn’t go in. Lockdown, wasn’t it? No visits.

And I remember why I’m blocked. Why I don’t want to go back to April, May, June 2020. Because there it all is in the diary. The funeral company coming to take her away, the notes about who to call, the arrangements being made, the saying goodbye…

It’s not as painful as it was. Really it’s not. I no longer consider myself broken. Just a bit tearful here and there. And mostly, when I think of her, it’s fondly and with love. And some longing. But I’m not ready to step back into those memories, that time. I want to move forward, to my recovery, to face-to-face gigs, to a future without those boundaries, without this bloody pandemic.

I’ve updated my gig list tonight (see the LIVE page) – 2021 was great, when things opened up. There’s lots to look forward to in 2022. If it happens.

Happy New Year, my friends. We have to hope, don’t we?

Marketing, innit

not even half full, is it?

Bloody hell, I’ve not blogged since September 1st! That’s not good. What a lazy cow, eh? Maybe it’s because since September 1st, I’ve gigged in the Isle of Wight, Stevenage, Surbiton, Taunton, Willingham, Manchester, Glossop, Islington, Girton, Swansea, Derby, Mill Hill, West Malling, Leeds, Buxton, Sale, Finchley, Plymouth and Felpham (not Bognor!). And a few online gigs. And a lot of podcast recordings.

Glamorous, huh? It’s one big adventure! I mean… it is, of course it is, but man alive on toast, I’m knackered! I’m 55! I’m not built for this. I’ve had some fabulous gigs in that time, and a couple of stinkers. But on Facebook, I’m living my best life. My BEST LIFE!

My friend told me how jealous she was of the amazing time I was having. And of course, the comedy is wonderful, really wonderful. It feeds me, (I mean it overfeeds me, but that’s another blog). It’s fulfilling me in a way I can barely describe. The shameless, narcissistic, ATTENTION that it gives me while I’m on stage is what I’ve craved since I was 5 years old singing at the Christmas concert, looking out at all the Mummies and Daddies, who were losing their mind at how damned cute I was.

Imagine that feeling – the entire room looking at you, mesmerised by how utterly adorable you are. If that doesn’t make you shiver with delight, then I guess you’re not the youngest child. Fair do’s. But maybe it’s worth finding out what does make you feel that way? Coz honestly, my friend, it’s worth pursuing.

Anyway, the point I wanted to make is about the marketing. I know you know this. It’s not exactly an original statement, but don’t believe all you see on social media, will you? A lot of life is pants. And most people won’t put the pants stuff on Facebook. (I would if it was funny, obviously…)

The stuff I’m not putting on my socials is the boring menopause stuff, the worrying about the kids, the days I lose on the tennis court (I don’t wanna talk about it, OK??). Coz that won’t get me booked at comedy gigs or corporate events or birthday parties. Telling you I’m howling at the walls, reminding anyone who’ll listen (my poor family) that she’s STILL DEAD ISN’T SHE, WHY THE HELL DO YOU THINK I’M CRYING?? won’t make that promoter think ‘oh yes, she applied for my event, I must book her’.

I’m ok. I’m definitely ok. And I’m going to be ok. But not as completely ok as my socials might have you believe.

All I need now is some sodding sleep…

I’ll Sleep Well Tonight!

looking good, babe

It’s a common thing people say, isn’t it? When you work hard, when you’ve been for a run, when you’ve had a difficult time. I used say it to myself all the time.

And then I hit menopause. And I heard myself say “I’ll sleep well tonight” and realised with sadness that I probably won’t.

The last few weeks have been crazy for me. Rather delightfully I have picked up with comedy a little ahead of where I left off before the pandemic, and it’s been a joy. I’ve been travelling the country, performing at paid gigs or trying out for professional promoters and I’ve LOVED it! Stoke on Trent, Hull, Ipswich, Weston-Super-Mare, Bognor Regis (“No! We’re Felpham!”), Godalming, Cambridge, Wivenhoe, Manchester, Lancaster, Bournemouth (those last three in three days)… I’m knackered!

You’d think I’d sleep well after all that, wouldn’t you? Nope! Even when arriving home at 3am, I’m awake at 7.30, bleary-eyed and mushy-tailed, wishing I could get back to sleep and mourning for the 2-3 times I got up to open a window or pee.

I met a group of new parents in the park (part of my day job, not stalking, that would be weird, what’s wrong with you??) and could honestly say I was as tired as they were. We shared tales of late night feeds (that’s me on the M1 at midnight, munching on carrots/Dairy Milk, depending on how the gig went), loud crying (over the Dairy Milk on the M1) and sore nipples (no longer a problem, thanks to HRT – hurrah!)

Did you know, ‘sleeping through the night’ means FIVE HOURS for a baby? Mate, that’s not through the night. That’s torture. Or being Margaret Thatcher. (It’s both, of course).

Mind you, I dream of 5 hours straight without a sweat or a pee break! Still, at least there are no dirty nappies to deal with. (Shut up shut up shut up! No that WON’T be next!)

I don’t have much to say today, but a few thoughts from a very tired brain…

I did a gig in Weston Super Mare on Saturday – boy, that’s a long way from London, when you drive there and back after a full day’s teaching on Zoom!! Anyhoo, two of the other acts talked about how they prefer older men, as their partners are in their 50s. So, I guess I prefer older men too. Seeing as how mine is, y’know, my age.

And being, y’know, my age, I’ve been doing a lot of resting since that gig. And lots of watching the Olympics. What a joy! Caught a bit of synchronised swimming today – brilliant camerawork on the surface of the water so you can see what’s going on above and below. Turns out, as their legs go bonkers on the top, their torsos are completely still underneath. They’re the opposite of swans.

The women’s long jump yesterday was magnificent – my God, they’re fabulous personalities, especially Rojas – she was AWESOME in every way. But of all the sports to be dominated by those teeny tiny shorts, long jump seems the most impractical. I mean, who wants sand in yer cervix??

The hockey semi finals were exciting – GB went to penalties! Dunno what happened to the Spanish goalkeeper – I think she must’ve been off sick or something, because they had to pull the mascot in instead (see pic above)

And finally, I was really excited by the GBR golds yesterday (OMG the BMX, so cool!) but I don’t really enjoy the national anthem bit. It’s not only ours, it’s all of them really. The lyrics tend to be about how ‘our country is the best’ and I really don’t buy in to that. So I came up with this instead. I like to think it works pretty well…

♬I’m from this country and
You’re from that country and
We’re worth the same.
You’ve got those colours and
We’ve got these colours and
We are all equal
But I won this game♬

You’re welcome.

Souvenirs from John Finnemore’s Programme

Stop what you’re doing. Listen to this https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000vqr4

John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme. It’s brilliant – I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. And I fight dirty. Like, with puns and slaps and crying. If you don’t know it, it’s a Radio 4 sketch show, but unlike most sketch shows, there’s never a weak bit. Never. The first 8 series have not missed a beat – always hilarious, absurdly clever and creative, gloriously written.

And then came Series 9. And Series 9 is, quite frankly, a masterpiece. I listened to the first episode and didn’t quite get it. It wasn’t rip-roaringly funny at every turn, it seemed like a muddle of different stories and scenarios. I felt a bit lost. And then I saw a tweet that said ‘stick with it’, so I did.

I have now listened to all 6 episodes 5 times. And at each listen, I start crying a little earlier. Halfway through Ep 1, this time. My God, it’s beautiful. 122 years of vignettes telling the stories of one family. All those little family sayings and doings and foibles. All families must have them. I can’t get them out of my head. Tearing up Christmas cracker hats and “Half a glass” and 🎶Woof woof woof🎶 No seriously, listen to it. You need to love this stuff too.

And as I grieve for my mum and constantly think about this beautiful series, I start to wonder what the foibles are for us in my family. There must be loads.

There’s one that I talk about a lot in my show. (come and see my show, obvs). In the days before videos, when we couldn’t watch what we wanted on the (one) TV, my mum would say “don’t worry, if it’s any good, they’ll repeat it” which is a running joke in my family now. You only have to miss a bus, a train or a period and some smart-arse “if it’s any good, they’ll repeat it”.

There are others too. I’d be on the phone to my mum and she’d talk about what she’d been up to. “It’s been a really useful day – I’ve re-organised a cupboard and cleared the videos.” These days we’re making a valiant attempt to ‘clear’ Netflix – it’s extraordinarily virtuous.

During the Wimbledon final last week, my sister messaged me and said “Pliskova’s playing like a drain’ and my husband thought that was a weird thing to say. You mean, other people don’t use that phrase? Where did it come from? Did our mum invent it? Or was it from 3 generations ago, when someone hit a tennis ball so badly, it went into a gutter and was lost forever? Who knows?

We’ve invented a few of our own. There’s a turning onto the North Circular. Whenever we approach it, one of us will ALWAYS say ‘ooh, it’s really dangerous, this turning. You can’t see all directions’. And then we say ‘when I die, you’ll approach this junction and feel sad because I’m not here to say that’. We often don’t even bother with the first bit any more.

Will our children, and our children’s children, always answer “shall I put the kettle on?” with “it won’t suit you”? Will they raise their eyes to heaven and pretend it’s not the funniest joke of all time??? (I have a feeling that one might not make it into the family folklore)

What are YOURS? Please let me know. Do you say “wiggle a dumpster” when someone sneezes? Do you eat Christmas dinner backwards? Do you call crisps ‘packets of slice’? Tell me! I need to fall in love with your family too!

Going In

Rocky, innit

It’s the day after that football thing. Social media is awash with racism and anger about racism. (To be fair, the only racism I see on my timelines is shared by angry anti-racists – my own friends and contacts are all on the majority (correct) side of this.

I’m not into football. I normally dislike it (please don’t tell my wider family – it’s a religion for them!) I just find it a bit dull. Which I know is completely unfair, because it’s clearly incredibly skilled and all that. But I tried watching some the semi final and just couldn’t get into it. I decided to watch just the first couple of minutes last night… and then the whole thing, of course, because it was super blimmin’ exciting! And then I went to bed.

Today starts with my son learning he won’t be going on a school trip, he’ll be self isolating for the rest of the week. The kid he sits next to is sick with Covid. He won’t be going in.

And it’s annoying because I have a ton of work to do today.

I check my phone. There’s an absolute furore over the football and the penalties and the boys who missed their penalties. I decide not to get involved, because it’s not my sport, not my issue* and so many others are expressing it better than I can. I’ll just report a couple of racist tweets though, while I’m here. Oh, and there are some nasty comments here, so I’ll just report a few more… and I get through a few. Which is something.

(*I’m fully aware of how awful that sounds, of COURSE it’s my issue – racism is everyone’s issue.)

And then, someone posts in a Facebook group I’m in. A horrible, transphobic diatribe which sneeringly speaks of people who try to use inclusive language as ‘kind’, as though that’s a dirty word. And this is my issue. So I go in. And my morning becomes like a montage from Rocky. I get hit, I hit back. I use all my power and all my fight and all my training… which means I write a funny piece of my own, satirising the other article. Big, brave Pauline!

It’s 4.30 now and whoops, the working day is almost done. And I’ve achieved very little on my Stuff To Do list. I’ve got myself a bit bruised and battered (I made lunch and nagged the kid to do schoolwork), but I feel good for stepping in online, in the ways I know how.

I’m not exactly a 19 year old who stepped forward in front of millions of screaming people and took a penalty. I’m a 54 year old menopausal mum, who is just a bit tired of this shit. But I gave it a go.

It’s proper scary, standing up to people online. The very nature of who we stand up against means it won’t be a fair fight. Because in a space where kindness is a dirty word, it’s not an even playing field. Or penalty box. Or something.

Anyway, racism is wrong, trans women are women and menopause is exhausting.

How was your day?

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