The Sexy Chicken Book

“This train is for York. Please have your tickets and passes ready.”

Mother’s day, an audition in London or a party in another city. These things sound nice don’t they?

Wrong. They fill me with dread. I don’t drive so this involves getting the train. The train filled with mental people. Mental people who want to tell me things.

For example. I get on the train from Manchester to York to visit my family. I’m mentally preparing myself for my Mum’s lasagna. I’ve got a bag of washing stuffed in my suitcase for her to do as soon as I get through the door, she loves it.

I see a tragic looking man approaching me. The key here is to avoid eye contact. This tip is crucial. He sits down next to me. He sighs loudly and then tells me about being made redundant. It’s a long winded story. Why me? There is no advice I can give him. I just say “Oh shit” and then “Maybe view this an opportunity to spend quality time with your family.” He answers back with “My mum’s dead, my wife hates me and my kids have disowned me.”

This man has an answer for everything.

He says I’d be more appealing if I wore tighter clothes. I’m beginning to see why his wife hates him.

I glance down at my watch, only an hour and 10 minutes until I will be in York.

He carries on talking about his shambles of a marriage.

I glance down again at my watch, 45 minutes to go.

My mind wanders to looking longingly into my Mum’s well stocked fridge. That isn’t a euphemism. I’m not an animal. The woman just loves a well stocked fridge. Shelves upon shelves of goodies just waiting to be turned into delicious dinners. She’s an amazing cook but is clueless when it comes to portion control. The words ‘average sized serving’ mean sod all to her. It’s more of a challenge. It’s as if she reads the portion advice and thinks “Bollocks to that.”

Her worst nightmare would be to know that someone was in her house and hungry. In all honesty no one has ever, ever left her house without being deep in a food coma. She is the original feeder. Not a feeder in the kinky sense like I’ve seen on so many documentaries. Always Channel 5.

Channel 5 has a lot to answer for in terms of shaping my once naive, innocent mind.

Back to the over sharer sat next to me. He opens up his leather satchel and pulls out a book. Phew, he’s now reading a book. This must mean he isn’t going to try conversing with me anymore. I look at the front cover and my blood runs cold. This man has gone from a depressed over sharer to a full blown nut job, a mentalist. I won’t go on because I’m not quite sure of the appropriate politically correct term. I’ll tell you what the book is and then you can decide on his title for yourself.

It’s a picture book of women in latex clothing strangling chickens.

The book has so many pages and his eyes widen each time he flicks onto a new one. He’s been gleefully looking at the poor chickens for several minutes when he turns to me and says “What do you think of this one?” I look down to be met with the image of an old lady holding a whip in one hand and an unhappy chicken’s neck in the other. I still, to this day have no idea what the right answer is. If anyone knows then please get in touch. I just say “Ooh, I really need a wee.” I shuffle out of my seat, trying to make the least amount of physical contact with what I can only describe as one of life’s unfortunates.

I go to the bathroom, lock the door and take a long hard look in the mirror. Why does this keep happening? This is not a one off, the week before a woman told me all about her divorce from the ‘Hairiest Arse in Leeds.’ The day before that a man in a woollen suit showed me building plans for a conservatory he was planning to build for his wife and asked me which one she’d like the best. I felt like saying “I don’t know your wife, I don’t care and your suit is shit.” I didn’t say that though, of course. I instead opted for “The second one looks nice. Beautiful suit.” He smiled contently and said “Thank you sweetheart, you’ve made my day.”

My main issue was the fact he was wearing that god awful suit in the height of summer.

Still, it takes very little effort to make someone smile. If everyone did that then the world would be a happier place.

Right, I’ve been in this toilet long enough. Everyone will think I’m having a shit. That’s much more believable than hiding from a man with a chicken strangling fetish. I pointlessly wash my hands and head back to my seat.

He’s gone.

There’s a note on my chair and a KitKat. I eat the KitKat first then turn my attention to the note.

Priorities.

The note reads ‘Thank you for listening to me. I’m going to leave my wife. Take care’.

Chilling.

My first thought is “Why did I eat the KitKat so quickly?” I love KitKats, very underrated. My second is “Where on earth did he get that book from?” Asking for a friend.

In conclusion, my top ways to make sure no one sits next to you on public transport are:

1. Act mental – Note, this will only warn off normal people. The more mental you are the more the crazies will think ‘Yes, she is one of us.’ Use your own judgement here.

2. Avoid eye contact by instantly becoming fascinated with a loose bit of thread on your clothing or the dirt on your shoe. Anything to stop you from locking eyes with the nut job approaching you.

3. Always carry around strong smelling snacks – I’d recommend a garlic, tuna and red onion sandwich with a side of boiled eggs for extra effect.

I hope these tips work better for you than they do for me. Or, just learn to drive.

Me And My Recorder

“Carry on like that and you better pray God’ll help you young lady!” shouted my Glaswegian mum as I tickled my younger sister until she was sick. Literally sick.

I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I annoyed her so much with my constant and frankly, idiotic questions that in the end she got me a kids Bible. I read the whole thing in one sitting. I loved it. As soon I had read the last page I ran downstairs and said “What great stories mummy but do people honestly believe it? You can tell it’s all made up”.

Having said that, I still used to pray before I went to bed, mainly for a glittery pink pencil case. I prayed every night for a week and when I didn’t get one I immediately dismissed the whole idea of God. I gave him a chance and he blew it.

The following anecdote cemented my thoughts on the whole God thing.

I used to play the recorder, I use play very loosely. What I mean is I used to blow violently into a recorder and expect a round of applause. I was terrible at it. For want of a better phrase, I was totally shit at it.

Knocking out classic tunes such as Hot Cross Buns and Three Blind Mice all sodding day was never going to make me even an average recoderist. Everything I played sounded the same.  A constant blend of squeaks, an assault on the ears.

I was so bad that in primary school my favourite teacher looked straight in to my innocent, big brown eyes and said “Ilaria, you’re not very good at this, practise all weekend, play for me on Monday and we’ll see if you’ve improved enough for the nativity play”

Challenge accepted.

I practised like a mad woman for the next few days. So much that I needed to up my asthma inhalers. My mum was not a fan of my ‘music’.

The grown – up me would think “Well sod this” and throw the recorder away and have a gin. The little Ilaria was determined, blinded by the world and partially deaf to the feedback and hints to just stop. Stop Ilaria.

“Listen love, you’re more of a drawing person”

“No mummy, this is what I do now” I insisted.

“I’ll get you some lovely new colouring pencils this weekend” said my mum with desperation in her voice.

No! Im a musician now. I have been set a task. I must master the recorder. I will conquer the recorder and you will not stand in my way by tempting me with noiseless past times.

“But Ilaria, you’re awful at it, love.”

That’s the great thing about my mum. She’s always honest. A big fan of tough love. The woman does not hold back. She has pink hair and a sharp tongue.

In short, never ask her if you look fat in something.

I was momentarily distracted when my mum said we were having spaghetti for tea. But only for the amount of time it took to eat two bowls of spaghetti. That’s right I said two. The days of me inhaling multiple bowls of pasta are sadly/thankfully in the past. My love for the recorder is also dead and buried.

The second the plates were cleared I was back to my recorder playing a hideous, albeit, original  rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful. Being an asthmatic this was a terrible thing to persist with. The recorder has never sounded shittier than when played by an asthmatic kid with a point to prove. I’d like to blame it on my asthma but the harsh truth is that I’m just not musically gifted. I have skills in other things like falling over, eating all the crisps and letting down my parents. These are skills that sadly couldn’t be utilised in the nativity Christmas show. The show really lacked for those things I feel.

I went to bed on Sunday evening feeling out of breath and excited. Surely my favourite teacher would see how hard I’d tried and realise how much the school nativity needed me and my recorder? I knelt down by the side of my bed with my palms together and an earnest look on my face – I’d seen it in all the films. I’d perfected it. I prayed for everything to go my way. Please God,  please. I’ll be your best friend and invite you to all my parties. I really pulled out the big guns. My birthday parties were great. He wouldn’t be able to resist.

Monday morning arrived. I was extra chirpy. A final practise on the recorder, peanut butter on toast eaten and off to school I went. I saw my favourite teacher. Moment of truth. This was the biggest moment of my life to date.

I took a deep breath and played what I considered to be a beautiful rendition ofCome all ye faithful.

I waited.

My favourite teacher looked at me, her grey curls falling over her face.

She’s going to say yes…

“It’s a no Ilaria, you’re not good enough for the nativity play. Maybe next year.”

“Are you kidding?! I turned down colouring pencils for this!”

She shook her head “Sorry Ilaria. You can play the triangle instead” said my formerly favourite teacher.

“The triangle? The sodding triangle?!” I shouted.

That’s it, I thought. God, consider yourself uninvited to all of my birthday parties. Find alternative plans for every October 2nd until I die.

My once favourite, now most hated teacher looked horrified.

And that’s when I secured my ticket to Hell. A special kind of Hell that only little girls who exclude God from their birthday parties go to. It’s not as bad as regular hell, but its still pretty bad.